for lovers… book lovers

I love making buttons. I love selling buttons. I love SEEING my buttons on projects.

For a person with such an obsession for making small flat items, my problem is an unexpected one. For most of my family and my friends, they just don’t use buttons. They could replace their current buttons with my buttons but they aren’t the type to make things that need new buttons. They don’t knit or crochet, sew or make. With this in mind, I’m at my worktable trying to figure items that will capture their hearts like the buttons are capturing the hearts of crafters.

I have trouble stepping into the minds of non-crafters – what can I make that you want? What can I make that non-button-lovers would covet? Since I can’t step into your mind, I stepped into my own.

The mugs I drink from every day are all pieces that I have made. They are functional art, turning my boring morning coffee ritual into something meaningful, contemplative, beautiful. The ceramic lip of my mugs are thrown just so to meet an approaching lip. The mug is thick enough to retain the heat of the  drink and thin enough to feel light in the hand. The handle, flat and wide for easy of handling and the body a perfect rounded angle to cup your hands around, absorbing the heat of the coffee on these cold mornings. As I drank this coffee, I look around at the activities I enjoy. How can I make them more beautiful?

On the table is my newest find from the library. As much as I use the e-library and ebooks, I read real books more often than not. My husband and I have three large bookshelves holding our favourite copies, to be read, lent out and read again.

It only makes sense that my newest experiment be bookmarks. As a bonus, the half moon and circular tops are as fun to make as buttons. I have enjoyed figuring out the process and, not only can everyone I know enjoy them, I can also put them up in my shop for others to enjoy.  I popped my first batch up on my etsy shop, posted a Facebook and Twitter advisory, and these babies were almost sold out within the first 24 hours.

In a world where I thought the ebook was the majority, I’m very happy to be wrong.

It’s not a surprise that I’m working on a larger batch this week. Do you have any ideas for the tops? I’m imprinting textures, dreaming of glaze combinations and looking forward to these being a permanent fixture in my shop, and in my own books.

making season

With the chilling wind coming straight down our road, snow deep and my urge to hibernate growing stronger, it’s that Making time of year. The summer activity has died out, the filled event calendar no longer exists and I am able to settle down and get into the studio more often.

Today, buttons and stars! These need a light sanding and are ready for the kiln:

I’m also trying out the new Amaco semi-moist underglazes on porcelain. These will be worry stones and I’m very excited to see what colour they are after firing:

And with that, I’m off to make a few custom orders and snuggle on the couch with my little family. Happy Saturday!

You know what’s exciting?

ZOMBIES

We are able to help out an amazing organization this Halloween season: Thrill Calgary. On Oct 27, they are participating again in the Guinness World Records event of the largest coordinated Thriller Dance. The zombies will take over Eau Claire Mall in Calgary, dancing and supporting their chosen charity this year, the Calgary InterFaith Food Bank.

Thrill The World

kiln beauties

A quick note to show you two wonderful prizes that caught my attention during this glaze firing:

1. BUGS! Holy cow, I love these!

2. Remember the crooked wheel’s tea cups from back in the early summer? They turned out just perfectly:

I haven’t photographed the rest of the non-button kiln gems but I can tell you that another set of red koi mugs turned out perfectly! As much as I intended to sell them, I’m not sure I can because I want to see them everyday with my morning coffee.

I’ll post more finished objects as they come. Also be sure to check out the etsy store for the newest buttons.


Vacation, all I ever wanted

One of the activities I look forward to when vacationing is finding other makers. I search regional info booths for brochures from artists in clay or fibre because I love to spend time with artists. I always add to the inspiring collection in our home.

This time was no different and Caracol Clay Studio in East Coulee satisfied. Located just outside of Drumheller, the studio itself is intriguing as you walk up to the front door past a garden of clay creations, bones, plants and treasures on your right with peaceful clay cast faces of the resident artists watching over. (the face casts reminded me of another ceramic artist, Ronda Wood, from Cranbrook)

We had the opportunity to meet Janet and John and see the beautiful work they produce, inspired by the land and history of the region. I love making rattles and I really love raku which are a couple of items that Caracol specializes in. Their work can be seen throughout Alberta, including at the Drumheller Royal Tyrell Museum gift shop and Millarville. If you get a chance to visit, you should! They are friendly, talented and overall a great Alberta studio.

image from Alberta Craft (www.albertacraft.ab.ca)

Caracol Clay Studio
This gallery and working clay studio features art inspired by prehistoric Badlands fossils. Owners Janet and John also take the time to teach visitors about the clay making process. Caracol Clay Studio is located at 169 6th Street in East Coulee (just outside Drumheller). Call first for hours of operation: 403.822.2258. You can also find them at the Millarville Market.

 

the new girl in town

I love my husband. Today, if it’s possible, I love him even MORE.

As we feasted in honour of our 13th wedding anniversary:

J: “I made a decision about what to do with that extra cash” (selling stuff on kijiji is lucrative)

C: “Oh?” (this was in a tone attempting to be casual without being “oh crap, what the heck are you buying? A taxidermied duck? A boat? Gun? Hookers?)

J: “I want to buy a new wheel. Happy Anniversary.”

C: (stunned silence)

J: “Yes, really”

C: TEARS OF TEARS WITH MORE TEARS

I’m awestruck. A new wheel is better than any diamond, especially after the drama of my current wheel going off level and my intense emotional reaction to not having a wheel for even a few days (reminder: my reaction was panic and attempting to use socket wrenches and lots of prayer to every god/goddess I could think of)

I wasted no time and I quickly found a thrice used wheel that needed a new home.  We brought her home last night.

Introducing my new (still nameless) Shimpo VL-Whisper:

She runs in near silence. I mean, SILENCE. I wouldn’t know it was running if I wasn’t sitting right there with hands on the wheel-head. I tried her out last night and after having the rattling and humming of my current wheel to intuitively judge speed and power, the Silent Queen was a big change – I was zipping way too fast, not realizing the speed or sensitivity. It will take a few pots before I adjust to the power, the silence and the responsive pedal action.

I am so excited that I’ll be able to listen to audio books while throwing.

Jay pointed out last night that the wheel just looked familiar . Well, duh – she’s destined to be mine so of course she looks familiar! On second inspection, sure enough, this is the style of wheel that I learned to throw on so many years ago. It’s fate, people.

Can I cancel our family vacation to stay in the studio and play with her? Every two year old would rather play with clay rather than go visit dinosaurs, right?

So today while I daydream of my new wheel, the bisque kiln is started and I can’t wait to get this load glazed and up for sale. There will be  some really cool mugs looking for a new home and with the new wheel, much more functional pottery produced in the next little while as I completely immerse myself in my new girldfriend.

I’m off to find a Giffin Grip – is there any place to find such a thing used?

-Cara

there was a crooked wheel…

I am passionate about working in clay. Passionate. I use it as a meditation, creative outlet, to show love to others, to show love to myself. The calm I feel when on the wheel is sometimes all I need to center myself during a stressful day. When people ask me what I make on the wheel, I want to say “peace” (and then I want to gag because that’s pretty darn cheesy).

I tell you this because something pretty serious happened on Saturday. My pottery wheel stopped working.

Well, it didn’t so much stop working as… well, I couldn’t throw.

I struggled so much when making the first in this new tea cup series last weekend. It was wonky and I had to work longer and with more concentration than I have in years. I thought I was having a Bad Day or had low blood sugar or the moon was in mercury so I focused on other things for a week. Then I came back and tried again and when the next two were even more difficult to throw, I realized that Something Was Wrong. At first I thought I was succumbing to fumes since I share space with my husband and he had been working on something smelly the night before. I opened the overhead doors and took a break but upon returning, my mugs were still wonky and hard to make and I was starting to think maybe, just maybe, I was having an aneurysm. Or I’d forgotten how to throw.

Midway through Saturday, neighbours came by to visit and while standing across the room, I glanced back and WOW, that wheel was hella crooked. The difference in height on each side of the wheelhead was almost a quarter inch. “Hallelujah! It’s NOT me!” I said to myself. And then it dawned on me. Or more like hit me like a bullet. THE WHEEL WAS BORKED.

My first reaction? PANIC. My second was to call everyone I know for help. Unfortunately, that “everyone” was a writer, an accountant, an office manager and my husband who, although mechanically inclined, was having one of those back-pain episodes that is best described as incapacitating. My mom was out of country but I didn’t think calling her would help because I’d just bawl into the phone. Telephoning sometimes does that to me. I called the only ceramics dealer in the area but they were already closed.

Once everyone had left, I did the only thing I could think of and I marched into the studio, grabbed a big bin of metal thingies and I started taking my motorized kickwheel apart. With TOOLS. I used a rubber mallet at one point. It was liberating and terrifying but I thought “self, it’s completely borked. It’s rotating off by at least 5 degrees. You can’t break it any more than it already is”.

I then took a bit of a break to cry. I’m not ashamed. I was so angry and panicked and generally out of my comfort zone by about a lifespan that I just had to sit for a bit. I stared at my wheel and knew she was dying. That didn’t make things any better so I imagined I was the ambulance crew and dammit, she’s not going without a fight! (plus replacing her is a minimum of $600 and that brought me to tears again so I really really needed to figure out how to save her).

I did find out what was wrong and we all scratched our heads. The entire wheelhead and flywheel mechanism was tilted in a way that the wheel didn’t shudder or wobble – it was evenly tilted but crooked enough to make throwing a struggle. But how to fix it? The husband had recovered enough by Monday to figure that the entire frame of my wheel had been twisted rather severely. Was there a tornado we’d missed? Was there a mosh pit in the studio while we were on vacation? No matter – his welding magic had my baby leveled in time to try it on Monday evening.

Throwing is easy again.

The wheel is fixed.

So let me introduce my new line of spiral lotus flower tea cups – born from struggle and surviving in peace. They’re in progress here while I decide what colour they want to be:

prototype: cuff links

Sweet, right? A different set is heading west for a friend to test drive. Before I start creating cuff links as part of my regular catalogue, I really need these babies to be tested in the real world. Sure, the jewelry adhesive comes with wonderful recommendations but if I sell these and they start falling apart? That’s just not going to fly for me or for customers. I love the leaf imprints. I did many circular designs as part of this prototype run but the square motifs are my absolute favourites.

I’ve added some new listings to the shop today as well. The weather has been horrible however I did get a few moments of sun this afternoon to photograph some new buttons to list. My focus in the last month has been on creating greater quantities in each set because sweaters and such usually need 8-12 buttons and my lovely yet low numbered sets are less likely to be worn on amazing knitted and sewn works of art. So, more is IN! (I have a feeling I mentioned this before – it’s definitely on my mind.)

If you’ve purchased buttons or other works from chasing fire, please send me photos pf your finished projects to be featured here. If you’d prefer to keep your finished pieces private, please indicate that but know that when my little creations are used, it gives me a HIGH and I hope you’ll share with me.

I’m off to check the mail for my new packaging bags. I work so hard to buy local – I purchase my clay, glazes, textural stamps and tools right here in my city (and the clay is actually mined within the province as well!) however, I couldn’t find a local source for clear bags in the size I need. I’ve test driven two local suppliers with no success so Ontario may be my “local source” for the button bag packaging. I’m eagerly awaiting these bags!

Cheers!

-Cara

today’s clay adventures

In today’s clay adventures, I plan to include:

– sheep sculpting

– spindle doohickey making

– ladybug pendants (actually bugs bugs bugs on everything)

– an attempt at nested bowls

Or, with the severe thunderstorm that just settled in, I may be abandoning the clay table to convince the dog and toddler that thunder is COOL and not scary. They currently disagree with me.

It may be time to reserve a day to work in clay from morning until night because I have not created much since the last big kiln fire. Why is the summer a less productive time? Is this the same for all ceramic artists? The weather is lovely but the activities (camping, weddings, festivals) take over all our family’s spare time, days flying by with no scultpures, bowls, buttons, mugs or pendants to show for it. I will take a stand – this summer will be different! I have big plans for mug sets and nesting bowls and in order to get them done, I’m going to need to actually book dedicated clay days in my calendar so that my time can remain loyal to my passion.

I’m off to calm the weeping masses that are calling my name (or whining – poor dog is upset that the young boy is upset) and hopefully, get muddy.

-C

buy handmade: may 26 calgary

If you’re in Calgary on May 26 near Sunnyside/Hillhurst, you should go meet some amazing potters and pick up some lovely pieces:

I am not one of the artists displaying and selling work but I will be trying to get down to find a perfect fruit bowl to beautify my kitchen.

Buy handmade!

-C

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