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The day I fell in love with clay.
The truth is that I did not fall in love with clay the first time that I used it.
Nor, the second, third, or fourth time using it. The first time I touched clay was in high school.
I cannot recall the year I discovered clay as an adult. I think it was around 2011.
In high school we had one week to make something in clay. I made a solid clay heart and gave it to my boyfriend.
I was in love!
I still have the heart and the boyfriend is now my husband.
The heart sets out and I see it everyday.
It has taken me a while to get to this place with clay and art. I had a career in computers while raising my children. My children are now adults, and I have more free time. I teach at a studio downtown and spend the rest of my time in my own private studio. It truly is a love affair in every regard!
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. Deer Isle, Maine.
I arrived. Ready. Open. Willing. ~I met a tribe of clay lovers from around the world. Things got messy. Clay is very messy. I sat at the potter's wheel and could not throw anything worth keeping. It was my first time using porcelain. It was fussy, finicky, and wonderful.
I met some of the most interesting people and terrific ceramic artists at Haystack. Chris Staley was our professor for two weeks. Chris provided demos and discussion that I will not be able to forget. And, the students added to the lessons. We all left camp welled-up with sincere emotions toward finding meaning in our work and much more.
I dried out my recycled clay and shipped it home hoping to try porcelain again. It was a mess when it arrived; clay dust everywhere. What was I thinking?
I stayed in deer Isle a couple weeks longer to hike the area with my husband. It was such a memorable month in Maine. Each time I visit, I find another reason to fall in love again.
Making mugs is something that I enjoy doing.
Personally, I prefer to use and make mugs without handles, but I do make mugs with handles, too.
There are so many steps in making a handmade mug.
To begin, a lump of clay is centered on the potters wheel.
This is my favorite part above all the other steps.
When the clay is spinning smoothly, without any wiggling or jarring against the inside of my hands, it feels like the world is balanced, if only for that split-second of time.
Next the centered clay is opened and now vulnerable to all the next steps.
In a few pulls, the bottom of the clay is pulled up to form the walls of what becomes a useful vessel.
I have never timed how long this process takes, but I do know that I get ‘lost in time’ during this part.
All of my focus is on that one vessel, that one mug right in front of me. The wheel is spinning under my control and my hands collaborate with the clay.
This is where the initial shape and size of the mug is determined.
My mind feels most present at this stage of the mug.
It is the point where I believe energy is transferred from me to the material and vice versa.
To finish making the mug, I smooth the rim, let set for a bit, tool the bottom, let set for a bit, attach the handle, stamp the logo, then begin the process of slow drying the mug.
Drying the mug is a process of its’ own.
If the mugs dry too fast, the handle will crack.
So there is a little bit of trial and error in getting this right.
The weather outside impacts this part of the mugs caretaking.
I call this stage; babysitting the mug.
Eventually, the mug is bisque fired at about 1800-1900 degrees.
After the first fire, the mug becomes a solid piece and is wiped, dusted, waxed, glazed, and fired a second time at above 2100 degrees. After the second fire, the bottom of the mug is lightly sanded to help avoid scratching furniture when used in daily life.
If all goes well with each and every stage of the mug, it is sold or gifted to its rightful owner at a fair price.
The process of making a handmade mug is quite the journey.
It may help explain why you see ceramic artists working in batches or prices a bit higher than in commercial stores.
It takes a while, time and skill are involved, and there are occasional casualties that can happen at the very end of the cycle, which cancels all of the upfront work invested in the mug.
Zero dollars and less mugs produced is inherent to the work of an artist who makes handmade mugs.
Misfit mugs are just part of the process. This has taught me a few lessons in “detachment” that I have applied in other areas of my creative life. The misfit mugs are usually still functional and hold a value of their own.
It is a glorious moment of satisfaction when all goes well along the way and one more mug arrives in the hands of another human-being!
I do not not do much so called, “hustling”, but I do sell my mugs and other handmade pieces outside of my online shopping cart and via private orders.
Harless & Hugh coffee shop is one of my favorite places to sell my mugs.
Mugs belong in coffee shops, tea houses, and kitchens where they can be used.
Perhaps, I will blog about some other places later.
For now, I have an order waiting to be delivered to Harless & Hugh downtown Bay City, Michigan.
There you will find great people, coffee, tea, food, and they carry a small inventory of mugs and other items for sale. When you get a chance, be sure to pop in and check things out at H&h. You will not be disappointed and maybe even pleasantly surprised.
Featured here: Harless + Hugh Coffee