Thursday, September 1, 2011

Beautiful Steel Patina - aka rust!

Two questions I am asked frequently about my Tile Plaques are "What is the backing made of?" and "How did I get that beautiful patina?"

Well, the backing is a mild steel that I've salvaged in sheet form from a local scrap yard. I haul it home in the trunk of my car to store until I need it. (Side-note: I haven't figured out how I'll do this with a car seat now in the car? This just adds to the growing list of why I officially want a mini van now. There. I said it. My secret is out.)Anyway, this ladies and gentlemen is my "Steel Storage Area" otherwise known as the pile of sheet metal stacked up on cinder blocks outside my studio. The cinder blocks just help with drainage and keep it a bit dryer. You cant even see them in the photos.Yep, that beautiful patina I'm always asked about is All Natural! I just leave the metal outside to rust.Then when I need them, I haul the sheets inside, cut them with a plasma cutter...
And then coat the front and back each with 2 coats of satin polyurethane. Done!
LinkAny questions? Holler at me. Or if you know of any other fun metal patinas, I'd love to hear about them.

Oh yeah, and I just listed 6 new Tile Plaques on Etsy this morning! Three of which incorporate slumped glass which I don't do too often these days.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Glass and Clay workshop at Arrowmont

Just got back from another amazing week at ArrowmontSchool of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. Possibly the best workshop I've had yet! Everyone had such a positive attitude and Bill May, the new director, has brought great energy to the campus. They have some exciting things planned for the future of Arrowmont, so keep an eye out.
We worked on 2 main clay and class projects. One that incorporated fused and slumped glass into the "window" of a low-fire, slab-built form. The other project was also slab-built but this one incorporating kiln cast glass. These techniques can be adapted to any clay and cone firing range and we talked about that as well. I uploaded a bunch of photos to my Facebook page, so pop on over and follow me there.
Most of the photos are compliments of Sandy Batts, one of my talented students. Thanks for taking photos all week Sandy!
And it looks like I'll be heading back next summer to teach a similar workshop. Whoohoo! Stay tuned as we work out the details.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Arrowmont - tuition discount!!

UPDATE: May 15, 2012 - discounted tuition rates no longer apply. However, Arrowmont is an amazing, life changing place so it is totally worth it! Attend a workshop.  You will not dissappointed. 

Holy Smokes! I just got a phone call from Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN asking me to pass along this news -

They offering 20% off of tuition for 2011 if you mention you saw this here. What a killer deal! Amazing classes at great prices! Whoohoo! There are workshops in clay, metal, glass, fiber, photography, painting, wood, and more!

I only have 4 or 5 more spots open for Clay and Glass: An Exploration in Combining Materials August 21 - 27th too.

You can register online or call them today at 865-436-5860.

Here are a few photos from the Mixed Media workshop I taught last summer.

If you've been to Arrowmont you know what an amazing place it is. One week at "art camp" can change your life. Seriously. It did for me the first time I went back in 2002.

So, register today and cash in on your 20% discount.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Clay and Glass Workshop Opening

Due to a recent cancellation, I have now ONE spot open for a Clay and Glass workshop I'm teaching here at my studio in a few weeks.

Here are the details...

Upcoming Workshop:
July 16, 17, and 23.

Glass and Clay – An Exploration in Combining Materials

This interactive workshop will introduce the fundamentals of glass fusing and clay hand building. Learn how to create simple, slab-built earthenware forms that incorporate fused and slumped glass. Some experience with glass or clay is helpful, but not necessary.

Maximum class size: 3 students

Class hours:

Saturday, July 16 from 10:00-5:00,

Sunday, July 17 from 10:00-3:00,

and Saturday, July 23 from 10:00-5:00

Lunch provided

Tuition: $250 + $60 for materials and firings.

Location: Ocala, FL

If you're interested, let me know ASAP. I like to keep classes small so there's lots of hands-on time.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Silver Lining" - newest mixed media sculpture

There are always challenges with new work.

Aesthetic challenges. (Does that look too much like an alien head?) Technical challenges. (Did this piece really take me 16 firings!?) Conceptual challenges. (How can I express the ideas in my head?)
But you've just gotta push through and make your work. What's that saying? "The answers for your next piece are always found in your last?" Or something like that.

I did finally finish up the new, experimental sculpture I was working on for the Arrowmont Instructor Exhibition. A week late (Karen, thank you for the generous extension!) but better late than never. And it arrived before the Opening. whew!

But here it is. I'm still planning on investigating this form and developing the concept, so this is really just a starting point. It's a small piece - about the size of a grapefruit. I plan to increase the scale with the next one too.

Silver Lining, Earthenware, fused and slumped glass. 4 1/2" x 6" x 4 1/2".

Here's the Artist Statement that goes along with this piece:

"It’s 3:00am. Or is it 4:00?

I was just drifting off when I heard his small cry pierce through the walls. He must be hungry again. Already? I check the clock once more, but my brain is too cloudy to register the red numbers glowing back at me. Pulling my exhausted body out of bed, I pause briefly, take a deep breath, and walk to the nursery.

We settle into our worn, green velour chair. His small head rests in the crook of my arm. I fight to keep my eyes open. My mind wanders. I am filled with anxiety and uncertainty.

Then, there’s a brief, silent pause.

He looks up at me with a tiny grin, and I can feel the silver lining."

Looking forward to the next round of challenges - personal, professional or otherwise!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ben Chaney - Concept Artist

Let me just take a minute here and brag about my little brother - the awesome concept artist. Yep! That's a self-portrait he did of himself as a pirate. He has a sense of humor and amazing talent.
Here's what he has to say...

"I started like so many others in this field did, growing up on three main activities: watching TV, playing video games, and drawing. Fortune blessed me with parents that tolerated the first two, and relentlessly encouraged the last one. They even went so far as to send me to the Savannah College of Art and Design for a degree in Sequential Art.
I graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2006 and then gradually made my way into the game industry, starting in Game Testing. Being a North Carolina resident at the time, I had many amazing companies to strive for nearby. My experiences at Redstorm Entertainment and Epic Games were unforgettable and invaluable, demystifying the seemingly magical process of game development. Gone forever were the illusions of "tightening up the graphics". I currently work as a Game Artist at Schell Games in Pittsburgh, PA, creating anything from concept illustrations of characters to volumes of user interface designs and assets. In such a flexible company, I've had to adapt to new challenges and adopt new skill sets on every project. It has been and continues to be an incredible experience!" -Ben Chaney

Here are a few images from his portfolio. (Yes, I am one very proud Big Sister!)

Environments - Characters -
Textures -
Personal Work -

Holy Smokes! His work blows my mind!

It's true. We were blessed with parents that completely supported our artistic pursuits. And we both know how luck we are because of this. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

Ben loves his current job, but is looking to move away from the icebox of a place he's been calling home (aka Pittsburgh, PA). He's hoping to settle in with a great company somewhere warm; possibly even in North Carolina and closer to family.

So, if you or someone you know is looking for a creative, dedicated concept artist, look no further. Ben's your man.

You can check out more of Ben's work at
Or shoot him an email:

Meagan (aka Big Sis)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Ceramic and Glass Sculpture - problems with progress

I've been working on a new, experimental sculpture for the upcoming Instructor Exhibition at Arrowmont and I'm pretty excited about it! Sketches for this piece have been in the works for awhile, but it just wasn't sure how to build it. Then I watched the demos at NCECA, and a light bulb went off.

Unfortunately, I'm having problems with the glass slumping through these little windows. The problem is easily corrected by re-firing, but I'm running out of time. (Work is due to Arrowmont next Friday!)

Whoops! See that ugly gap! Time for a re-fire.

Thankfully, my new test kiln is making those firings a lot quicker! Looks like I may be cranking her up everyday so that I can make that deadline. More pictures soon. And keep your fingers crossed that I don't run into any unexpected disasters or delays!


Monday, April 11, 2011

New Skutt GlazeTech Kiln - Hooray

Another little addition... My new Skutt GlazeTech Kiln!

While this may seem to come out of the blue, I've actually been saving up for a test kiln for quite some time. Even when we were building the studio back in 2008 we added enough power and an extra electrical outlet for the test kiln I hoped to have one day. Yesterday was That Day!About 18 months ago I got serious about saving up and researching what I would need. First of all, why did I want a test kiln? Well I am obsessed with glazing and glaze testing and a smaller kiln will make this process faster and more efficient. I'm hoping all this testing will help me transition into making a new body of work. And, after talking with other clay mamas, there seems to be a consensus that after children the scale of the works decreases as does the quantity you're able to produce. (at least for a while.) A mini kiln just seemed to have the answers.

My first kiln, Lily, is an L&L kiln and I love her! But for this purchase, I had narrowed it down to a Skutt KM 818-3 or KM 714. I was afraid the 818 was still a little too big for what I needed so I was leaning towards the 714, but wanted to check them out in person at the Skutt booth at NCECA.

My new (still-to-be-named) kiln and Lily my L&L. Funny, they look about the same size in this picture.

Well, I was initially disappointed when I didn't see either the 818 or 714 on display at NCECA. But they were more than happy to show me their new GlazeTech kiln. Honestly, I was initially skeptical and not impressed. I think because this kiln is so much different is size and shape than the others I was considering and has a different style computer.

But the salesman (good salesman that he is) kept talking and I began to turn around. Actually, a square kiln does make more sense to test square tiles - you can fill the space more efficiently. And the similar controller still had all the capabilities of the fancier one, just less buttons, so it made the kiln more affordable.

And Atlantic Pottery Supply was offering a 30% NCECA discount! (Which they are still running through the end of April on kilns, wheels, slab rollers, etc. Check it out! Kathy Goldstein over there was so helpful and patient as she answered all my questions.)

Here she is coming off the truck. Oh Happy Day!

So, I did it! I finally bit the bullet and ordered it. Now we just need to hook up the vent and do an electrical update and she'll be good to go. I already have so many things planned for her. Don't worry, I'll keep you posted and will share any exciting glaze recipes I find.


Want More???
**Click here or check out the Studio Construction tab to read more about how we built the Studio.
**Speaking of glazing - here are some of my favorite cone 04, low-fire glaze recipes
**Check out Atlantic Pottery Supply here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Etsy - 25% off for Spring

Well, my Etsy shop is on "vacation mode" no longer. After 6 months of maternity leave, I finally got around to adding 20 tile plaques last week. So, to celebrate Spring and this re-opening, I am offering 25% off your purchase now through April 30. Just use Coupon Code: SPRING2011


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back Home

Whew! NCECA was great but we sure are all tuckered out..

Got some great ideas from lectures and panel presentations. Especially the demo with Deborah Schwartzkopf and Brian Kakas and the Emerging Artist talks Saturday morning.
Cant wait to get back into the studio to experiment with some new forms and surfaces!


Friday, March 25, 2011

NCECA and The Sunshine State

Lately, there are three reasons why I'm glad I live in Florida:

1.) It's been warm, sunny, and gorgeous since mid-February (think blue skies, azaleas, camellias, jasmine, Japanese magnolias, etc)

2.) No state income tax (and April 18 is quickly approaching)

3.) The Sunshine State is hosting its first NCECA Conference (National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts) and I'm going to be one of the 5000+ ceramic people descending on Tampa/St Petersburg next week!

Tampa/St. Pete is just 1.5 hours from us and where my sister-in-law calls home, so we'll be able to stay with family. That's right. I'll have Cooper in tow. (Thank you ergo baby carrier!) My Little Man is just 5 months old, so it would be tough to travel far for a conference. And even tougher to leave him at home for 4 days. (That's a lot of milk to pump!)

I am definitely looking forward to seeing folks and talking clay, cones, and kilns again! That part of my brain feels a bit rusty after of months of conversations that focus on diaper changes and spit up.

As a Florida resident and UF Alum, I do wish I would have been able to take advantage of more of the NCECA exhibition opportunities that came my way. But I had to make my peace with that back when I was pregnant and deciding on maternity leave. I know Cooper isn't built of clay, glass, or steel, but I still believe he's the best thing I've ever made!

So, come on down to The Sunshine State! We hope to see you at NCECA next week.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts on Time and Tranistion

Here we are. The end of March 2011. The past year has been a blur of inspiration, excitement, and change.

I finished a post-baccalaureate ceramics program at The University of Florida, went to my first NCECA conference in Philadelphia, spent a month in Montana as a resident at the Clay Studio of Missoula, taught a workshop at Arrowmont, took a class with Michael Sherrill at Penland, oh, and had a baby!!

(Ceramic Wall Mosaic at Penland School of Crafts)

My head is spinning! I feel like I have hardly had a moment to process some of the ideas that started forming last March. March of 2010.

I still have boxes of work from traveling and teaching I haven’t even unpacked. (And if you know me, that totally goes against my ultra-organized way of life. Those packed boxes are driving me crazy!)

(Test tiles I made while at The Clay Studio of Missoula that are still waiting to be unpacked!)

The bottom line is that my experiences from the past 365+ days have me itching to make some changes in my work.

What changes? I’m not exactly sure yet. Do I switch to cone 6? Try a new clay body – porcelain or white earthenware? What new, exciting glaze recipes can I find? Do I continue to make wall sculpture? Slabs or extruded forms? How can I incorporate more cast glass? Oh, oh, and that mold making, resin-casting technique John Byrd demoed at Penland still has me thinking.

I imagine the changes I make will be gradual. As a new mother, the world I lived in for 30 years is now different. My perspective and experiences are forever altered. Even time has new meaning.

So, as I slowly sort through these ideas, I also wonder what I will be thinking next Spring as I watch the azaleas bloom, Cooper toddling alongside.

(Photo by my wonderful father-in-law during Cooper's first beach trip.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Clay Damp Boxes - My new best friend

Anyone who has worked with clay knows there is a lot of process involved. Certain things need to be done at certain times. But what do you do if your time and the clay’s time aren’t in sync?

Well, I’ve used Damp Boxes and kept clay wet for up to a year in these babies. And I’m finding this method is perfect for the brief intervals of time I’m able to sneak out to the studio. It’s a cheep and easy solution.

In a nutshell, it works because of the way plaster absorbs water. If plaster is dryer than clay, it will draw moisture from the clay. If the plaster has been soaked I water, then it keeps the clay from drying out and maintains a humid atmosphere within the box.

I cut these circles out in early October before Cooper was born. When I finally got around to turning them into Minis, it was the end of January but the clay was still perfect to work with!

Here’s how to make a Damp Box:

  1. Fill bottom of plastic tubs with 1 -1 ½” of mixed plaster. Plaster mixing guidelines here.
  1. Allow plaster to set/dry.
  1. Add water. How much?? Depends on the size of the box. I add water till there is 1/8” of water and then wait till that is absorbed. With a new damp box, it could take several rounds of adding water and letting it absorb. My damp boxes are 7 years old, so I occasionally add more water to “recharge” them. Basically, you want it to be wet without having pools of water on top.
I've also heard of people using styrofoam coolers or old refrigerators to help control the drying process. What about you?


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mixed Media Wall Commission - progress report

Moving right along with that large mixed-media wall commission.

Thanks to two 30-minute naps and one long nap (probably brought about by today's visit to the pediatrician for more shots. boo for the shots. yay for the long nap!)

The 23 ceramic forms are complete and hung for a quick layout review. (Well, the ones that would fit on my design wall are hung at least)
Now, I'll be moving on to making the cast glass and steel pieces. That's what's gonna go where those circles are drawn.
I might have started 2 months ago, but I'm making progress none-the-less. And, afterall, slow but steady wins the race!


Hey - Want to see other posts of this project. Check here and here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The 30-Minute Challenge

The Challenge, should you choose to accept it – set a timer for 30 minutes and GET TO WORK!

Focus. Forget Facebook. Ignore email. Avoid the dishes and laundry. You will be surprised just how much you can get done when you get to doin’ it!

This is how my days go. Cooper (aka our 5-month old Cat-Nap-King) is content to sleep for 30 minutes 3-5 times a day. I used to think that a 30-minute blurp of time was hardly worth going out to the studio. Now, not-so-much. Those 1800 seconds are precious, precious time!

So, give it a try. Maybe you have kids and have experienced the child enforced 30-minute Challenge first hand. Or maybe you just need that extra little boost to get things going.

I’d love to hear about what you were able to accomplish in half an hour.

Is your timer going?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thank you Summer

No, not the season. (Though many of you in the cold, snowy North may be desperately looking forward to warmer weather.)

I'm talking about my Summer Best View video monitor. (Don't worry, I'm not going to turn all mommy-blog on you either.) Thanks to you and two 30-minute naps today I was able to finish up some work and get the kiln loaded.

You read that right! My kiln is firing. When I went to write the details down in my kiln log, I could hardly believe the last time I fired was October - just 8 days before Cooper was born!

That monitor truly is amazing! Firing the kiln again feels like such a huge accomplishment. And I must say, I am proud of myself!


Monday, January 31, 2011

Fusing Glass in a Ceramics Kiln

I'm often asked about my firing methods. Since I work with both clay and glass, many people assume that I have two separate kilns. Nope!

Meet Lily. My L&L Kiln. (Easy Fire e23-3) I love her! We've been working together since November of 2003. I bought her in South Carolina from, and we've made several moves together. North Carolina (Raleigh and Asheville), Gatlinburg, TN and now Ocala, FL. She's a bit shorter than many "standard" ceramics kilns - only 2 sections/rings rather than 3, but she's perfect for my needs. (Purchasing her his another story that I'm especially happy to share with any recent or upcoming graduates.)An article recently went out in the Skutt Kiln newsletter Skutt Hot Topics Yes, Virginia, you can fuse glass in your ceramics kiln that discusses this in more detail. I'm not sure of the author, but it goes on to explain the difference in the two "types" of kilns, and how to load a ceramics kiln for glass.

I'd like to add a few things to the article.

1. - While you can fire glass in a ceramics kiln, it doesn't necessarily work the other way around. Glass kilns traditionally don't get hot enough to fire even low-fire clay. Here are the glass firing schedules I've worked out for my ceramics kiln.

2. - I do have two sets of shelves. The kiln wash/shelf primer used in ceramics is usually thick and gloppy. I use Bullseye Shelf Primer for my glass shelves. It's thin and goes on smooth which is important since the glass will pick up any texture or brush strokes from the shelf/primer.

3. - I also have a Vent-Sure downdraft vent system. This does several things. It helps the kiln fire more evenly - important in clay, glazing, and especially glass. It also helps remove any potentially harmful vapors. Good for your health and the kiln. Less of these volatile vapors are absorbed into the kiln bricks/walls so there's less of a chance your glass will become cloudy from cross contamination and off-gassing.

If you have any questions, drop me a comment. I'm happy to share what I've learned!

Happy Firing!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What comes next...

...bust a move!

Had a great week back in the studio! Actually, I was amazed how much I was able to get done.

My studio time has become precious, and I'm learning to make the most of every minute. When I walk in that door, it's on! I thought I was an efficient, productive worker before. Oh no! You haven't seen anything yet!

So, with my wonderful in-laws in town babysitting, I worked in 1-2 hour shifts between feeding Cooper. All 23 of the clay forms for that commission are finished.

And I have 40 new Mini Sculptures in progress to send to The Society of Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, PA. (No photo just yet, sorry!) Hoping to fire by this coming Friday.

I've got a lot of other big changes going on that I plan to share with you soon, but I'm still processing some of them, and will try to squeeze in time to write about it asap! (Fingers crossed "someone" takes one of his long afternoon naps tomorrow!)

Anyway, I'm off. Laundry is calling my name.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Baby Steps towards a Big Commission

Well, I brushed the cobwebs of my newly acquired "mommy-brain" and headed down to the studio for a couple hours yesterday.

I have a large commission due the end of April, and it's time to get started on it!

Normally, a ceramic and glass wall sculpture this size would take me about 6-8 weeks. Since I will now be squeezing work time in during Cooper's naps, between feedings, on the weekends, or when my in-laws come down next week to babysit (Thank you Betsy and Al!), I've broken my tasks down into smaller, more manageable sizes.

My goal yesterday was to sketch the piece to size. Check! (It's about 3 feet high and 8 1/2 feet long - my design wall is only 6'.)
And make the paper patterns. Check!
The next phase of the project will be to roll out the clay slabs. Two slabs will be cut from each paper pattern - one for the back of the piece, and one for the domed/puffy front.

I figure I can get one, maybe 2 patterns cut out during one of Cooper's (brief, ugh!) naps.

Ok, off to get some sleep while I can. Thanks for reading!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Returning to Work...

Oh, getting back to work after having a baby... I have such conflicting thoughts on that statement.

I am beyond grateful that I have a job that allows me the flexibility to be with our son!!
There's a part of me that wants to spend every waking moment watching Cooper learn and grow. (And believe me, there are still plenty of WAKING moments!) And then there's the part of me that aches to be out in the studio - feeling creative and independent.

Some days these thoughts are at peace with each other. Other days, honestly, it's a struggle that leaves me feeling frustrated, upset, angry, frightened, and at a loss for knowing what to do or how to proceed - both in and out of the studio.

And then, this toothless grin smiles up at me, my heart melts, and all is right in the world.
I know I will get back into the studio again. Until then, Cooper and I will be spending lots of time together. I want to treasure these moments because I know they are brief.

And the studio will still be there when we're ready.