Tag Archives: pottery

the outdoors, northern new mexico and more pots

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Last weekend, we drove up to Northern New Mexico, where one of A.’s coworkers owns 220 acres of land that’s been in his family for a century. He’s an Army guy who went to West Point and carries a gun on his hip (but I didn’t see it). It was the first time I’d chatted with his wife, and she was easy to talk to and had many qualities I admire (easy going and a problem solver).

We stayed in the house that’s been in the family for 100 years. It was built in 1898 and there are no hallways. The house feels like it’s out of the ’50s, with a TV from that era, a kitchen with a stove that has an opening to burn wood and a toilet that’s so low it was easy for my 4 year old and 2 year old to get on it.

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There were Readers Digest books from the ’40s on the shelves. The floral curtains and the smell — oh that smell — reminded me of my grandma’s and grandpa’s house in Flint, Mich.

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The next morning, we drove up to the land. Open, beautiful land where elk and bears roam at almost 9,000 feet. The leaves were starting to turn color. A. brought a newly crafted tire swing for the boys, and another guy made ribs on the slow cooker. I had decided to go home that night because L., at 2 1/2 months, is a bit young to camp — he’s already had two colds in his short life — and the temps got down to the 30s. But I enjoyed my morning/early afternoon out there and I know it was the right decision, even if I missed the ribs and the stars. Just being out in the fresh air and staying in what felt like a museum invigorated me.

Another thing that has invigorated me: I opened my Etsy shop (Erin Killian Pottery) more than a month ago and already have 15 sales and 9 good reviews. I was worried I’d be overwhelmed — you know, with three kids under 5 including a newborn — but I haven’t felt like that at all. It’s a fun challenge.

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The pace has been perfect — a sale every few days. With the two older boys in preschool three days a week, I’ve been able to get an hour in here and there to throw more.

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And I was pleased with my last firing. One of the potters at New Mexico Clay, where I do my firings, said, “They’re looking really good,” and she sounded surprised when she said, “You did all of this with a new baby?” Well, babies do sleep a lot and L. is particularly chill. (Besides a few days of gas, but gripe water helped with that.)

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I bought a book Mastering the Potter’s Wheel: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks for Potters, which has some important tips for me and is also inspiring. I keep waiting for my love of pottery to wear off and it hasn’t happened yet. So I’ll keep on throwing and keep on growing and keep on finding ways to feel invigorated. I’m sure the cool fall air will help with that, too, and getting ready for family to visit soon. Here’s to making the most of life and living in the moment. Hugs to you all.

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on healing, exercise and pottery

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It’s been six weeks since my surgery, and I feel back to normal. Well, as normal as you can feel with a newborn. Luckily, L. is a decent sleeper. Usually. OK, last night not so much, when he was up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. But three nights ago my little 7 week-old gave me a 6-hour stretch, which had me dancing to “Foot Loose” around my living room. (Another exaggeration, I can’t help myself today.)

I’ve been walking and I tried to run a few days ago. That wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to run after a pregnancy, but now I have a surgery to contend with, so it will take more time. I’m trying to be patient.

We took the boys rock climbing in the Jemez mountains yesterday and A. set an easy climb for them (and me), but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Rock climbing is harder when you’re carrying extra weight and I have 10 more pounds to go. But it was lovely being in nature — trees! Fresh air! Sunshine! I’ve missed day trips like this.

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In other news, I opened an Etsy shop to sell my pottery. I was simply investigating how to do it, and then suddenly it was done. I went with Erin Killian Pottery so it’s easy to find. My sister-in-law is a graphic designer (check out her stuff at Beth Killian Design) and she whipped up a logo for me.

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I haven’t formally announced the shop to family and friends yet — I want to tweak it a bit and maybe add a few more items. I’ve read it’s good to have 20-30 items to start and I have 16 up there. Who knows, that might be enough. On Saturday, I started to throw again for the first time in two months. I made four mugs and three small ring bowls and felt relaxed and in my element. I’m pretty sure I think better when I’m throwing clay. A. said, “Look at you, you’re filthy!” and I nodded and gave him the biggest grin. It feels good to be back to myself again.

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getting ready for babe no. 3

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I’m two weeks away from my due date, and feel like I’m barely holding this baby in. Achey back, waddling when I walk, pressure on my bladder, swollen ankles. The baby is doing constant dance parties inside of me and punching me in uncomfortable places. I’m amazed I ever worked in this state. I’m eating well — I cut out all ice cream and treats in the last three weeks — and yet I’ve still gained 45 pounds. This pregnancy? Hardest yet. It’s probably because I’m 39. And because we’re living in a dry climate at almost 6,000 feet. And I’m spending my time with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. And it was 100 degrees today.

But the end is near. And the sleepless nights holding a sweet newborn are quickly approaching. We still don’t have a name. A. is finishing up a dresser for the big boys — made entirely out of 2x4s — so we can move the one with a changing pad into our room. I registered at UNM hospital last week, and A. installed the car seat (three seats in the back of a tiny Mazda 3, thank you very much).

I’ve been trying to keep the boys engaged with fun summer activities while I rest. Play dough, ice pops, the trampoline park, playing with the hose in the backyard, play dates with friends, library time and dinners on the deck.

Today, I picked up the last batch of pottery I’ll do for a while. My mind spins daily thinking about different combinations of glazes and what my “style” is. I’m cleaning up my shop, knowing I’ll have to shut it down till probably the end of August, though the thought makes me cringe. Then, I’ll throw more and open an Etsy shop. I’ve realized I can’t keep this hobby up without selling — it’s expensive and we can’t keep everything I’m making. And the truth is, I’m excited about a new challenge, but I won’t be able to launch it till the fall. Until then, I’ll put my energy into three boys under 5 years old. Wish me luck.

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throwing, throwing, throwing: my love of pottery keeps growing

I’ve mentioned before that I’m hooked on pottery, but this weekend it reached a fevered pitch as I tried to replicate vases and mugs from my last batch.

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My lovely teacher Lois Hinman (click to see her work!) in Ridgecrest, Calif., always told me that she started selling her pots (decades ago!) because it’s an expensive hobby and she couldn’t take the money from her family. I’m starting to feel that way, too — each firing (including bisque and glaze) is close to $100, not to mention the clay and the glazes. And we don’t have enough cupboard space for all that I’m making!

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So, now I’m thinking about how to sell — where, what that means, coming up with a plan, etc. Of course, I’m also 28 weeks pregnant  (entering that third trimester, yeesh!) and slowing down physically, so that will keep me from doing it anytime soon.

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But, I like the idea of creating a plan and having inventory for when I’m ready to enter a show or put pieces up on Etsy. Maybe I’ll do it sooner than later, but given how tired and achy I’m starting to feel, I doubt much will happen before baby boy no. 3 is at least three months old.

IMG_7025What I love about the process is not only the physical act of throwing and creating useful, beautiful things, but also the challenge — starting a “business” is scary. And entering a show is scary. And I don’t even have a kiln yet. Once I get a kiln (after we move out of our rental) I can start to mix glazes. There is always, always more to learn with this craft. And I have a long way to go to be really good.

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But the bottom line is I love it and that passion isn’t going away.

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If you are a potter or artist with a small business and have any tips or suggestions along the way, I’d be grateful!

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how I’m spending every spare minute

You know you found a passion when you spend all of your free time dedicated to it. For me, unsurprisingly, it’s pottery. My “shop” — the shed in our backyard — is in full force. I go in it daily. This weekend, A. laid bricks for a path to it through our backyard.

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I picked up my first batch of 34 pieces two weeks ago, which I had fired at New Mexico Clay. I was surprised by the results; it was completely different from anything I’ve tried before. I experimented with four clays (three stoneware, one porcelain), eight glazes and, for the first time, I had to paint on the glaze instead of dip it, which gave me wildly different results than what I’m used to. The hottest temperature I can fire at New Mexico Clay is Cone 6 in an electric kiln, by contrast my friend and teacher Lois in Ridgecrest, Calif., fired at Cone 10 in a gas kiln.

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Each time I sit down at the wheel — relaxed, focused and listening to NPR One — I see progress. The walls on my pots are more even. The feet aren’t as chunky. And I can throw bigger and higher. The feeling is incredible. When I sit down to write, I work through problems in my mind, and I have breakthroughs, too, but for me working with something physical is more immediate, and often more gratifying.

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I’m toying with buying a kiln, but I’m not sure I can yet because we’re renting and not equipped for the size I would want to buy. But it would be nice to make my own glazes, test tiles and really immerse myself in this art more fully than I already am. Someday I’ll make it happen, I’m sure of it. But for now, I’m trying one glaze combination at a time and seeing what I can create. Slowly, surely and patiently.

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managing the letdown at the end of a pottery class

Whenever I take a pottery class, I feel an intense letdown when it’s over. Where we live in the desert, I can only take a class every few months — so I know that I won’t start up again for what feels like a long time.

At the end of each session, after all of the pieces are fired in the gas kiln, my teacher holds a potluck party at the studio. Everyone brings a guest, we drink wine and we walk around and look at the finished results. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. The day of the party, I get so anxious about seeing the pieces, I have to train my mind to think about something else. And as soon as I see how they turned out, I want to start creating again. Immediately.

My last class ended Tuesday, and this time, somehow, the letdown feels more intense. I learned how to make a lamp, where I threw two separate pieces that totaled about 10 pounds and attached them on the wheel. A. says he’ll wire it when the shade arrives from World Market this week. I also finally got comfortable making mugs — I made nine of them, five of which I love.

When we move, I’ll be able to take classes consecutively, or throw from home and glaze and fire at a community kiln. But for now, I’m trying to manage my latest letdown — and dream about what I can make in the future.

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pottery in my garage

A couple of months ago, a friend of one of A.’s work friends gave us a kick wheel. Scott drove over in his pick-up truck and unloaded the wheel caked with white clay and mounted in a wooden bench. He and his wife were moving; he had an electric wheel and didn’t use the kick wheel anymore. It was all ours.

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It sat in the corner of the garage through the holidays and our travels, buried in strollers, bikes and wood. But two weeks ago, I decided to order bats for it. I finally got some clay, a few buckets and I was ready to try. A. reorganized the garage and instead of watching the Super Bowl (we don’t have a TV anyway, and I confess that I dislike football — everything about it makes me recoil), I sat at my kick wheel and threw. I hit my shin against one of the boards (ow!) and CP woke up from his nap soon after I started, so I didn’t make much progress. But it felt like progress just getting going.

And now I’m feeling motivated. The weather helps — it’s a high of 70, sunny and the birds are singing. This morning I took CP out on our front patio and we listened to three owls hoot and a rooster crow. It rained a few inches this month, so grass is sprouting up everywhere. For the first time since I moved here, I’m seeing green in the desert near our house, and smelling damp soil and it fills me with gratitude. I’ve missed green while living here.

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Today, I threw a few pots and then I watched videos of people throwing pots while A. improved the wheel — he added a weight to the bottom to balance it, and he’s putting a shelf up top so the boys can’t grab the tools while I work. He’s also enclosing the bottom of the wheel with wood so CP can’t put his hands on it while it’s spinning.

We don’t have a community kiln in town, so for now, I’m just practicing so that I’m better for my next class with Lois, which starts next month. And because I find it relaxing and soothing to zone out and feel the clay mold between my hands. Also? It’s pretty cool to have dates in the garage with A. while he does his woodworking.

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a new batch of pottery (and relief that i can throw again)

A few days before I pick up my next batch of pottery, I have that burst of excitement I used to feel as a kid the night before Christmas. I push the feeling away so that it doesn’t consume me, but I really love seeing how the glazed pieces transform into usable dishes. They shrink so much that they’re often unrecognizable — I have to check the bottom for my initials to be sure they’re mine.

Earlier this year, I was feeling out of sorts and frustrated on the wheel because I had a newborn and was getting zero sleep and I felt like I forgot how to throw. I couldn’t make a mug, and I felt so frustrated, I wanted to crush the wet clay and slop it into the recycle bucket. This session, I finally felt better. In general, I feel more like myself: I’m getting (a little more) sleep; I’m editing confidently; I have my body back (mostly). I’m still tired — but it feels good to be (almost) back.

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my pottery mojo

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When CP was three weeks old, I started the next pottery class. I knew I was exhausted, but my dear pottery teacher gave me a slight nudge. “How about you pay for half of a class?” she offered. “Just come when you can.”

That first evening, I left CP and CM with A. and my in-laws. I was a half hour late. It was the witching hour, so I was nervous about leaving a crying baby.

And here’s what happened: I forgot how to throw. I couldn’t center the clay and I felt cloudy and woozy. My body and mind were way more exhausted than I realized. I was putting everything into my little one and I was still recovering from giving birth.

“I lost my mojo!” I told Lois, panicked.

I usually make 15-20 pieces during a class. This time I made seven. My goal was to throw mugs, and I couldn’t form it into the right shape.

When it comes to creating art, I knew I had to be flexible and forgiving. So instead I learned how to throw a lid and I practiced throwing a plate.

And I gave myself the gift of pursuing a passion during a time when I’m giving so much to others.

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antsy to create

Two weekends ago, about 30 artists in town — painters, wood-workers, potters — opened their studios to the public. It was to raise money for the local museum, and for the artists to show off their creations. Lois, my pottery teacher, invited three of her students to throw pots in her studio while she sold hers. She opened the floor-to-ceiling garage door so we could see the mountains on a gorgeous October weekend, and we threw pots from 9:30-5 both Saturday and Sunday. We chatted with the crowd, ate taquitos and meatballs and chips, wiped clay all over our pants and helped Lois wrap her sales.

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My butt muscles hurt at the end of the day, but I learned how to throw plates and I honed my skills to throw big bowls and mugs. I threw 16 pieces, which I’ll go back to glaze in the next few weeks. And again, I walked out invigorated, like I do every time I spend my days on the wheel, chatting with wonderful women.

I said to A. that Sunday evening, on our one-year anniversary, while we gazed at the Milky Way from Robbers Roost, about 20 minutes out of town: “I could do it all day every day.” And he said, “Wow, have we found your next profession?”

I confess that I have looked into fellowships, and the closest community kiln where I could fire should I buy a wheel. I’m still not ready to pull the trigger, especially with baby no. 2 arriving in four months. Chances are, we’ll move to a bigger town after living here — with a university where I can take classes. But I do think I’ve found a hobby that I truly love.

Since then — knowing I have to wait a few months till the next class — I have an insatiable urge to create. One thing that mildly tempers it is crocheting. I made my first full-sized blanket and some baby booties, and I’m thinking of what I can do next. I’m antsy — and I’m exploring this crazy feeling and how to satisfy it.

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