Tiny Ceramic Vessels

As a nature enthusiast I find that I like to pick up and collect little things while outdoors and bring them back into my studio for inspiration.

Some of my favorite things to collect are seed pods, small flowers that my kids pick for me, and just about anything with cool textures.

Rustic Seed Pod Collector Vessel

Rustic Seed Pod Collector Vessel

And with my body of work going more towards these organic shapes, textures and color palettes, it just seemed natural that these old seed pods would find a home in these. I also liked putting a little air plant from the local garden center into them!

Hanging Ceramic Vessel with Air Plant.

Hanging Ceramic Vessel with Air Plant.

Here is a bit of a visual insight into how I create these and make them ready for you to use in your home:

Ceramic clay rolled out into cones, holes added, set up to dry, then bisque fire.

Ceramic clay rolled out into cones, holes added, set up to dry, then bisque fire.

Layers of glaze applied to bisque pieces. Pieces are suspended during the glaze firing (over 2200 degrees F).

Layers of glaze applied to bisque pieces. Pieces are suspended during the glaze firing (over 2200 degrees F).

Soft copper wire (16 or 18 gauge) is oxidized and cleaned for a rustic look.

Soft copper wire (16 or 18 gauge) is oxidized and cleaned for a rustic look.

When working out an idea, one has to start with what you know.

When working out an idea, one has to start with what you know.

Just like with jewelry design, every piece needs to details attended to - no wire ends poking out.

Just like with jewelry design, every piece needs to details attended to – no wire ends poking out.

This beginning phase is a good place to try out technique to see how to get to the end fastest without compromising quality.

This beginning phase is a good place to try out technique to see how to get to the end fastest without compromising quality.

Some things work, others don't. Taking pictures and notes help with remembering lessons learned.

Some things work, others don’t. Taking pictures and notes help with remembering lessons learned.

Nylon jaw pliers are great for cleaning up those bends from forming.

Nylon jaw pliers are great for cleaning up those bends from forming.

Time to gather Seed Pods and the vessels to take photos in natural daylight.

Time to gather Seed Pods and the vessels to take photos in natural daylight.

I love the way this torn Seed Pod Collector Vessel looks.

I love the way this torn Seed Pod Collector Vessel looks.

Rustic Seed Pod Collector  or Air Plant Holder Vessel.

Rustic Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder Vessel.

Glazed Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder.

Glazed Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder.

Royal Blue Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder Vessel.

Royal Blue Seed Pod Collector or Air Plant Holder Vessel.

These will start out in my Marsha Neal Studio Etsy shop where most of my OOAK work is.

My Marsha Neal Studio website is still there – especially for individual silks. One week I will sit and get it all reorganized so people can shop in either places.

Pugmill Finale For This Year

It feels great to have finished up all the pugging of my ceramic clay just before we start to hit freezing during the nights!

De-Aired Pugged Clay 12 rows wide by 3 rows deep by 7 rows tall.

De-Aired Clay Pugs 12 rows wide x 3 rows deep x 7 rows up.

It took me about 4 straight days of pugging (10 hour days) to reclaim about 1000 pounds of useable clay.

Wet and Dry Scrap Clay Combined in Pugmill Mixer

Wet and Dry Scrap Clay Combined in Pugmill Mixer

Then add in time of lugging the buckets up and wet clay back down… Pshew!

Dry Scrap Clay into Pugmill

Dry Scrap Clay into Pugmill

Here is what it looks like adding a bunch of the dry scrap (both bone dry and leather-hard).

Clay slurry into pugmill with dry clay.

Clay slurry into pugmill with dry clay.

And here is the slurry that I also had – this is like muck and slime – completely saturated particles of clay in water.

Pug of Clay starting to emerge de-aired from pugmill.

Pug of Clay starting to emerge de-aired from pugmill.

Hard to believe that after just 5-10 minutes of mixing once you get the proportions of dry and wet right, you get clay coming out that is totally usable.

Finally done with the buckets!

Finally done with the buckets!

And out of all of these buckets I have been using for years and years, I am finally able to get down to keeping just about 8. The rest will be put into the recycle bin and made into something else down the road.

Pugmill put away for the winter.

Pugmill put away for the winter.

And now we can have our garage back. The pugmill is all cleaned up, sealed up, and ready to chill out until spring.

I plan on throwing quite a bit on the wheel this winter and I really hope that I can use this machine more regularly to get my money’s worth out of it.

Mixing and Pugging Ceramic Clay

A few years ago I made an investment purchase. A Bailey Pottery de-airing Pugmill MXP-50. This was when the economy was still pretty good and I was selling buckets of beads…

When making ceramic clay pendants – I was using a lot if textured clay slabs. All of those scraps from cutouts were put into buckets for recycling.

Always use a dust mask & mix outdoors to avoid breathing in ceramic clay dust particles. I added the scrap into the hopper, closed the lid & ran it to break down any larger particles.

This particular Pugmill is so freaking amazing. Just using it – I just can’t help but love it for the ease of mixing consistent batches of useable clay from scrap clay regardless of size and dryness. And not to mention how much wear and tear a tool like this saves on my wrists and body.

I add water and check the moisture level of the clay. Mix more, check it, add more water (and I add beer to aide in the growth of bacteria while it is sitting in clay storage in my studio). And every batch is different depending on the moisture level of the clay being recycled. Lots of babysitting here…

Once the clay is at the right consistency – it’s time to pug the clay. This pug shows me priming the pug after it sitting for 6 years (sealed so well by my friend Tracy – the last woman pugging clay for me) that it was almost like a few days ago vs years.

Then once ready, I kick on the air pressure for de-airing the clay and the pugs start to look more like this. Awesome!!!

Sometimes the clay is a bit too moist, but at least it it’s fun to poke at. And it is so much less effort to dry clay in the studio than lugging it up and down stairs to mix it like this.

My friend Jenny Davies-Reazor stopped over for some lunch and clay chatting. It is great to have another ceramic artist over to talk clay and studio setup. Especially cool because of her knowledge of mixed media and jewelry making so I can make the best use out of my studio space (some areas translate well for overlapping use).

And then she left me with a little clay smile…

Which will be stored along with the other clay pugs – to be found weeks, months or even years down the road.
How Fun!!!

Since this process is ongoing over the next few weeks, I need to seal the Pugmill up when I am finished for the day. I simply repeat what Tracy had done – add extra plastic bags to seal any gaps where air could get in and dry out the clay (you never want to let the clay inside the Pugmill dry out).

Then 20lb bag by bag – back down the stairs into the studio. Such a process. One must really be in love with a medium to do all this…

And through mixing – I took a couple minutes here and there to just sit and observe the suburban garden view from my garage. It was time to reflect on how fortunate my life is right now, and to remember all the hard work that has happened to arrive at this point.

I am fully aware that at any moment all of this could be gone – as life is full of change. My aim is to enjoy every day as it comes and make more work that stems from my interest in nature and gardening. So these steps of organization, purging, and studio preparation – will all hopefully get me to my goals of leading a more creative life every day.

And there are always curious little hands here. It is my responsibility to teach safety, correct use, and make sure that my two little ones are knowledgable about what they are allowed to touch and do while I am working. It always keeps me on my toes to keep them safe yet confident and interested.

Nearing Final Studio Overhaul

After glazing some orders and firing my kiln, I continued with my studio overhaul.

I had this back area piled with newspapers and containers of dry mixed glazes from my college years (13-15+ years ago). Time to get those put away.

I’m actually going to look at my old notes and see what kind of glazes these are. All base glazes as I remember. I have plenty of ingredients for color variations if I like them for my current work.

This dead storage space is now transformed into a small crafty corner…

I pulled out a lot of my arts and crafts supplies and fully intend in teaching myself and the kids how to use them.

For these kids – never too many cheap brushes to experiment with. Although I think when we get into serious lessons – limiting brushes to get more out if them will be fun. But for now – this works for experimenting!

We LOVE glitter here! And Chloe is going to be the glue and glitter glob master soon…

I was SO excited for her to get home from school to see this new part of the studio…

And once she got down here, she didn’t want to leave!

And of course – little brother wanted to create too. There is plenty if room for two (no fighting please!!!). Ugh – studio mates – lol…

And Dave put my kick wheel together for the third and hopefully last time for a long while (the two other times were in previous houses). Hope I get to use it this time!

Just freaking beautiful! I cannot wait to get lost throwing on it…

And now – instead of seeing piles of crap I need to go through – I see creative potential and joy…

Now to finish purging some piles, then start to mix and pug all of that clay. I really need to also get my website & Etsy shop updated. It is in fact "that time of the year"…

What a wonderful journey this has been getting my studio and head space clear!!!

Studio Reorganization Mid-Point

I had about 2 really good days of purging going on before the weekend (and non-stop kid activity) set in. And I am quite pleased where I arrived before the break.

There were so many projects lingering from my studio life before kids, before economy dump, while pendants were my focus. These unfired glaze test tiles are now out of date. Most of my glazes have changed…

50 pound boxes of clay ordered years ago so I could try out and find my clay body… Still sitting there as a cluttered mess.

Where drywall boards used to lay against the wall & towers of buckets holding dry clay scraps – all wasting space – there is now room.

Table top cleared and movement down the wall, clay storage underneath, plaster mold making supplies there too. Now ready to see action in new work instead of being a catch all storage place.

Looking down the galley part – more space is seen. Better use in mind…

And there is space for my kick wheel as it was originally intended when this space was laid out.

So now to go through these objects and rid this space of even more clutter.

And to begin reconstituting all of this clay sitting in buckets in the garage.

All of this is "work" to me. Work that may be forgotten when I look back, but work that needs to be done.

And then I can create again…

marshanealstudio

marshanealstudio

Ceramic Artist. Garden and Nature Enthusiast.

View Full Profile →