Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Finding Some Old 'Friends'

At this point I'm almost like an antique which has led many lives.

Much like the old phrase, "butcher, baker, candlestick maker," I've been an artist, painter, potter, mercantile keeper. I don't usually dwell on the past, but recently found two of my old pieces of pottery at thrift stores. Also a piece I had saved for myself in a long lost tote.


Finding my own pottery in Chicagoland thrift stores really shouldn't be a surprise---for a period of roughly some 30 years, I sold my hand-thrown pottery and porcelain jewelry (15 years) at art shows through out Chicago and neighboring states. I made thousands of pieces each year, some utilitarian and some OOAK art works.


I remember this was one of six experimental pieces in this series. In the 80's I had been doing lace impressed terra cotta wall pockets and then switched to the stoneware pockets glazed in white in the 90's. These sold very well, and I tried to incorporate the lace into the pottery, but also make it sturdy enough to use for serving. All my pieces were utilitarian, dishwasher safe, and lead-free glazes.


One thing about making sculptural pottery is 'problems.' Heavy applications of clay to a thrown piece adds stress and must be done on very wet pieces. Clay has memory and when it is fired--will do funky things--reacting to pressures placed on it in the wet state. Shapes sometimes go back to what happened during the forming process. Warping on smooth edges and rims wasn't uncommon.
I combatted these issues by using a 'grainy' clay that gave more room for expansion/contraction, rather than a 'tight' smooth stoneware clay.


Back in the 90's the pink/white shabby chic look began---I took advantage of this and produced a wide variety of garden pottery in pinks, blues, greens under white. Roses I found to be a particular problem as they were too dense to dry at the same rate as the piece. Their edges came out naked and crispy, despite the three coats of underglaze and my thick white glaze. I quickly abandoned the roses for sweet peas. 


I did this plate in 1991, like I said it was an experiment, all 5 different shapes sold at the first show. (One was a total kiln failure and discarded. Trimming on large platters was avoided, as it added to additional stress on the piece while firing.

Moving forward two years to 1993, this piece I kept for myself.
In 1991 I began working with sweet peas, calla lilies, and underwater sea shells. 
I would cut out serpentine areas of a wet shape and then apply the tendrils, flowers, and leaves or shells and octopus tendrils...These were mostly done browns under white.


I always loved this teal blue glaze with cobalt overtones under the white glaze. The soft greens were made by using a strong dark green underglaze. Under the white semi-gloss glaze all the colors had the softer tones that were being used in home decor at the time. I loved it for the blue.

1993 Stoneware Sweet Pea bowl. Notice the finger ridges bathed in the white glaze.

Found in a thrift store, this little cutie is one I produced in mass. Pink/blue/green kitchens were 
popular in Country America in the 1990s. I produced canister sets, lamps, dishes, children's dishes, just about anything you would use in a Country Home. I had a booth in a Country Sampler store and sold well, until they brought in imported mass produced ceramics. I down-sized my huge booth and eventually left. So, much for made in America.


The handles were produced by a guy in Texas. I would order grosses of three different sizes, and was constantly running out.


Selected pieces of this line including lamps were sold wholesale at the Chicago Gift Show. The first day....I wrote 10K in orders and was promptly throwing up in the bathroom. That was a lot of orders to fill in two months and there was still 3 more days of the show. But, it supported my business during the slower months of February, March and April.

Where did my inspirations come from. Probably my love of my Danish heritage and Danish porcelain. The vintage vase is a Royal Copenhagen vase of a lighthouse on the North Sea. Hand-painted on porcelain in dreamy soft colors....this must have been part of my journey.
I was injured in the early 2000's and unable to throw anymore. 

Sadly, I kept only a few pieces of my own, thinking I would always be able to make more. 

Now, finding even the humblest piece, is like finding an old friend. 

All the opinions and photographs in this blog are my own. I have not been paid or reimbursed in anyway for my opinions, posts or any products shown or anywhere I shop.

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