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Adventures into Making Large Owls!


I normally stick to making things on the wheel, but this spring I ventured into making animals with armatures. The art studio where I work puts on workshops a couple of times a year. This Spring was an animal building workshop taught by Ariel Bowman. I learned so much and am excited to share some of it with you! She is a wonderful artist! You can check out her website here:

We got to choose what animals we made so of course I chose an owl. Since I have made a few dozen small owls (you can see how I make those in the post titled “Owl Mania”) expanding the shape to a large one was a little easier than an animal I am an new to making.

I started out by drilling a galvanized pipe to a board. The pipe allows me to work with a lot of heavy clay with out it collapsing. The use of armatures refers to using dowel rods and metal pipes to support the body, arms or legs of the piece. I had never done this before. This way of building is heavier because you are molding a solid piece of clay verses coil building and the inside of the piece is hollow. The heavy solid clay tends to collapse under its own weight.


You can see in the picture above the beginning shape of the owl. It starts out very rough and gestural. The process reminded me a lot of the gestural drawings I did in college. We started out with the rough basic forms of our animals then slowly added details, adding and removing clay along the way. I worked from a picture to help me get the proportions correct. You can see the picture I worked from above.


Once I got the proportions the way I wanted them I dried out the piece. It is best not to put much detail or texture on the piece at this point because the next step is to cut it up and hollow it out. I did loose some of the detail on my owl, but it was easy to put back. Ariel had us dry the piece out a lot before we cut into it. If you cut if up and it is too wet it will be unable to support itself and collapse. The out side of my piece was not quite leather hard when I started cutting him up. I was surprised to find how wet the interior of the piece still was.


It was very nerve wracking to cut him up, but it went better than I thought. I used a regular wire tool to take him apart. Ariel had us make guide lines along the area we cut to make sure we could get it realigned properly when we put them back together. If you look carefully in the first picture you can see how I took a small chunk of his head off so I could hollow out his head. I could have cut straight through the face but then I would have lost the detail around his eyes. You can see in the picture above right that I hollowed out his head. I used large loop tools to scoop out the interior clay.


I reattached the top of his head and wrapped it up tight in a bag so that it would not dry out.  You can see the pipe sticking out in the pictures above. The electric tape I wrapped around the pipe made it surprisingly easy to get the pieces off. I cut his bottom half one more time and hollowed out the last part in two pieces.


The pictures above are him all put back together! Reattaching was done by the classic slip and scoring. I placed a coil along the seam and used a scoring rib to really score it well to make sure the two pieces melded together.

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I had a lot of fun making the texture. The key to any good texture is finding the right tools. Above is a picture of some of the tools I used. The loop tools were used to hollow the inside. The wooden tools were used to make his feather texture. My favorite tool to use for the feathers was the wooden one with the teeth (second from the top). I got most of these in one package at Michael’s.


I let him dry out about 3 weeks before firing him just to be careful. He made if through the first firing with out any cracks! Yay! You can see in the pictures above he has only been through a bisque firing. I haven’t quite decided yet how to glaze him. Once I have I will upload some new pictures! Thanks for reading and happy potting!


Succulent Pots


This post is about how I made the ruffled succulent pots. They were easy and a lot of fun to make. I love being able to choose the color of the pot to compliment the color of the plants. You can read my previous post for succulent type and care information.

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The first step of throwing on the wheel is to center the piece and open. I leave a quarter of an inch on the base so it will stand up to being moved around. For succulent pots it is important to have a whole for drainage. They do not like to stay wet, because they will rot. I make the whole before the piece is tall because it is easier to reach the bottom.

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I leave the walls pretty thick so I can cut into the sides with my cheese cutter. I replaced the wire of a cheese cutter with the spring of a pen so that I can create the ruffled shape. I place the cheese cutter at the rim of the pot and aim about half way through the rim. Then pull straight down. I have cut through the side of my pots many times, but with practice have gotten the hang of it.

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The ruffled edges of the rim would be sharp after it is fired so I smoothed them down with my finger. Now the pot is ready to be dried out and fired. I only glazed the outside of my pots. The unglazed inner walls will absorb some of the water and help it dry more quickly. I made plates for my pots since I keep them inside on my windowsill. I hope you enjoyed and can now go make your own ruffled pots! Check out my window garden below!

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Growing my own succulents

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I have recently become obsessed with growing my own succulents. Watching new plants spring from their parent plant and then transplanting them to new pots has been a lot of fun. I received a few plants last summer and those have easily expanded to a large succulent garden in my window. In the above picture are two parent plants with baby plants in the pot below. I have done some reading online to learn how best to care for then and help them propagate. As a potter I get to enjoy making the pots my plants grow in. I loved choosing glaze colors that would compliment the colors of the plants. In this blog post I will give tips on how to care for your succulents and the types of succulents I am growing. In the next post I will show you how I made the ruffly little pots.

A Few Types of Succulents

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First I will tell you about the types of plants I have and how they propagate. Then I will explain how to care for them. My plants did not come with labels but a search over the internet was helpful in discovering which types of succulents I had. The picture above is a type of Sempervivum which are also called “Chicks and Hens.” They are so called because new plants (chicks) grow out from the base of the parent plant (hen). Once big enough you gently pull or cut them off making sure to keep the end of the chick from tearing. They are pretty easy to just pop off where it connects to the hen. Once detached leave the chick out to callous or dry at the bottom. This is important because if you put the chick straight into soil it will absorb too much water and rot. After you let it callous for a few days put in appropriate soil (read below) and water. Soon it will grow its own roots! The picture above shows the hen to the far right, and chick in the middle, and to the far left the old stump I cut the hen off of. After the hen gave me several chicks it was getting very “leggy.” So I chopped it off with scissors below the leaves and left it out to callous. The stump is now growing new plants in pretty much all the old leaf growth spots and the hen has established a great new root system! Succulents are prolific!

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This green succulent is a type of Sedum nussbaumerianum. It propagates several ways. This succulent readily grows a new plant from cuttings. In the first picture just above, the pot to the right shows a cutting from a stem growing happily. Just use scissors to cut off one of the branches and leave out to callous. Once the end is dried out plant and water. In the second picture above you can see how they grow from a spot where I pulled off a leaf. Once it grows long enough I will cut if off to callous and grow into a separate plant. Another way is to gently pull off a leaf which will grow a new plant off the end. Growing plants from the leaf requires different care than the parent plants. After pulling off the leaves, leave out to callous. If the leaves are torn part way or not pulled off completely in tact they will not grow a new plant. Once they are dried out place the end in quick drying soil (described below) and wait for roots to grow. Once roots start growing, use a spray bottle to water every day and saturate the soil. I didn’t water my first leaves every day and some of their roots dried out. They are also growing much faster with regular watering. The leaf picture above has leaves from several different plants. The leaves of this plant are the dark green ones.

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I am not completely sure but I think this light blue succulent is also a sedum nussbaumerianum. The leaves appear to grow in a similar pattern to the dark green sedum nussbaumerianum and they propagate very similarly. The main difference I have found is that this plant doesn’t grow branches out from the stem like the dark green above does. This plant shows what they look like once they start getting “leggy.” “Leggy” describing how the leaves start to spread out and fall off at the bottom leaving the top fuller. An easy way to improve the look of the plant it to cut off the top and replant. That is what I have done in the first picture. When you cut off the top save the lower leaves to grow new plants, dry out and repot the top. The old stem will grow a new plant. You can see a new plant growing from a stump in the the first picture. You can see in the second picture the light blue/pink leaves growing new plants.

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The plant on the left of the above picture is an Aeonium haworthia ‘Kiwi.’ This is my favorite plant. I love the flower like arrangement of the leaves and in the summer with more sun the dark green leaves turn a beautiful yellow with pink around the edges of the leaves. New plants will not grow from leaf cuttings, but branch out from just above where the leaf connects to the stem. Leaves will just wither when pulled off. You can see a new plant growing beneath some leaves in the second picture. This plant also wants well drying potting soil, but does like  a little more water than other succulents.

How to Care for Your Plants

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The keys for keeping succulents alive are soil, water, and light. All my succulent plants have been potted with a mixture of fast drying potting soil, sand and perlite with a drainage whole. I found everything I needed to mix my own soil from Home Depot. I was surprised how inexpensive the sand and perlite was. You can see the bags I bought in the picture above. At Home Depot you can also buy a role of window screening to cover the drainage whole of your pot. This will help the water drain without your soil mixture falling out. See the picture below.

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Succulents like to be throughly watered, but they do not like sitting in water because too much water causes rot in the roots and leaves. Let your soil dry out between waterings. Press your finger in the soil to check if the soil is dry. Depending on the temperature and humidity in your home you will water every 2-3 days. Water with room temperature water as cold water will shock the roots.

Succulents also like warmer temperatures and sunlight. They will grow well in strong indirect sunlight or direct sunlight for part of the day. If they get too much intense, direct light they will sunburn. They will be happy on a well lit, warm window sill. They can also be happy outside. They don’t like freezing temperatures. They will do ok outside in the heat of summer, but if too hot will become dormant until the weather cools off. I hope you found this informative and can now go grow your own plants! Below are links to some websites I found helpful.

Owl Mania

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I am finally creating a new post! It has been a while since I have written, but I have still been busy making pots. It has been exciting to see people reading my blog even though I have not been able to write. I began my blog three years ago as I struggled through my internship as a counselor finding a job and working on my hours. This month I have finally finished all 3,000 internship hours! Helping people through difficult times is very rewarding, but it has shown me how necessary it is for me to remember to take care of myself. Part of my self care has been taking time to create and play with clay. I find the creative process of taking a lump of clay and turning into a cute owl or beautiful bowl relaxing and rejuvenating. One of my favorite things to make is owls and in this blog I will show you how I made them. I have made dozes of owls and each one is a little different. Each one starts out as a little pinch pot and then is shaped to a unique form. All you need is a bucket of water, a small lump of clay, and a wooden clay tool.




I form the lump of clay into the general shape of the owl to start. Rather than being round I make it into a egg shape with a flat bottom. As you can see in the picture above the shape is closer to a cylinder with a rounded top than a circle.



The flat bottom makes the clay easier to shape and allows the edges of the piece to be more even. Begin the pinch pot by pressing a whole through the bottom of the clay with your thumb. Make sure only to press your thumb three fourths of the way in so that you have some clay left to shape the head later.


A pinch pot is formed by pinching up as you turn the clay. Rotate the clay in your hand as you pinch the clay out and up to thin the walls of the clay. In the picture above you can see how the walls of the piece are thinner and the form is longer. Avoid making the walls too thin or you will have trouble keeping the piece from collapsing as you form it later.


Thanks to the beginning lump of clay being a rounded cylinder shape the pinch pot is already beginning to take on the shape of the owl. Next you will shape the ears. I shape the ears  and head first because it puts a lot of pressure on the bottom of the piece. Previously when I shaped the head last the bottom was more likely to collapse.


I begin the ears by pinching the excess clay into the corners with my thumbs.




I continue to shape the clay until the ears look like cute little triangles. There are many possibilities of how the ears can look but you can see my favorite shape for the ears in the above picture.


Now time to make the eyes. I use my knuckles to create the circles for the eyes.



Once I make the initial circles I continue to press out the eyes with my thumbs. I found the cuteness of the owl directly relates with the size and roundness of the eyes. I think they look cutest with wide eyes.


Now that the head is formed I want the body to be rounder and look more fluffy. In the picture above you can see how I pressed from the inside out to make the sides rounded.


In the picture above the right side has been pushed out and the left is still the same. How far you push out determines how fluffy he will look.



Next I shape the neck with my thumb just below the eyes. Sometimes I push the side out again after I form the neck depending on how round I want the owl to be.



Next I use the side of my thumb to shape the wings. I support the inside with my pointer and middle finger and press in with my thumb from the outside.



I like to give them little feet. I use the round end of the tool to make gap between the feet. Then I use the flat side to  make the toe gaps.



I don’t put beaks on all my owls but I decided to put one on this owl. You can see in the picture above I used the flat end of the tool to remove excess clay to create the triangle shape for the beak.



I also don’t always attach round eyes, but decided this would be cute with them. When I don’t attach the clay eyes I just paint a dot when I glaze them (you can see an example in the first image of the blog). For the clay to attach to itself you have to slip and score the area you want. Slip and score means to scrape or scratch the clay and then add water. This is will allow the eye to attach and not fall off later.



Sometimes I like to make pupils for the eyes by using the pointed end of the stick.


Next I create the wings and tail on he back of the piece.


I use my thumb to create the “V” shape for the wings. If you want the wings to look more rounded or fluffy you can push out from the inside.



Sometimes I stop there and am happy with the way the owl looks. For this owl I wanted him to have a fluffy texture so I used the flat end of the tool to create small triangle shapes. I cover his entire belly.





Then I use the same part of the stick used for the feather texture on his belly to put feathers around his eyes.


Lastly I use the side of the flattened end of the stick to create lines in the shape of feathers all around the body. There are many ways to do the lines but you can check out the photos below to see how I do it.





I have tried many glazes on this type of owl, but I prefer just to rub red iron oxide onto the textures. I love how the sandy color  and texture of the bare clay stands out when they are finished. There are many ways to make an owl so I hope you will enjoy making your very own owl.

Carpet Bowls – Kind of

This project was inspired by a clear class bowl I got from my grandmother. Wondering what I could put inside the bowl other than fake fruit I remembered seeing decorative balls made with feathers, rope, and fabric. Since I had just finished making many, many Christmas ornaments I decided to adjust the same process to make ceramic decorative balls. Apparently the decorative balls I was thinking of are called “carpet bowls.” From what I read online they are not “carpet balls” but “carpet bowls.”  During the Victorian area these collectable antiques were used to play a game of bowling on a carpet or outside. They were fun to make, but I don’t think they would work very well for carpet bowling since I put different textures on them.

The first few steps of the decorative balls are just like the Christmas ornaments. I begin by opening up the piece like a bowl and slowly closing the top to create a closed form. Once the clay is closed the air trapped inside prevents the clay from collapsing so I can shape the piece into a round ball.

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Using a metal rib and a corner from my wooden rib I created designs in the balls. Some I decorated with swirls, curves, or indentations.

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After they dried to leather hard I trimmed them in a similarly to the Christmas ornaments. It is quite difficult to center the balls in order to trim them, but Kristen lent me her tiny level to place on top which reduced the trimming time. For the last touch I put a small whole with a needle tool to let out the air, because as the piece dries and shrinks the trapped air inside would cause it to crack.


It was a lot of fun to glaze the pieces! I tried out several different glazes and painted designs with the black slip. Firing created a bit of a problem since they would roll around the kiln unless they had wadding. In order to attach the wadding some of the piece will have to be with out glaze so I decided to put them in the salt kiln since the unglazed areas look really cool. Below are picture of the finished decorated balls! I am excited about how well they turned out and will definitely make more!

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Finished Christmas Ornaments!

The best Christmas ornaments are bright, shiny and a bit gaudy so I decided to fire my ornaments in the raku kiln so I could use our copper glazes! I enjoyed making ornaments so much, I just kept making them until I made 40! It took three raku firings to fit them all. The copper raku glazes vary from being shiny and smooth to crackled and crusty. We even have a white glaze that has a crackled effect from the process.

The copper gets its beautiful color and the white glaze crackles because we pull the pieces out of the kiln while they are still red hot, place them in metal cans filled with wood shavings, and create a seal with the lid. The trapped fire, smoke, and lack of oxygen inside the can produce the colors of the copper. The “airtight” seal is created by placing wet newspaper and a lid on top of the can. I say “airtight” because some smoke always gets out and I end up smelling like I have been using a grill. The trick is to get the piece into the can quickly and cover it quickly so it is exposed to as little oxygen as possible. Copper that got too much oxygen turns green, but if it avoids too much oxygen the color varies beautifully from gold to orange or dark purple. One of my favorite glazes is called shiny James which frequently turns a bit blue along with the gold color.

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In these pictures Kristen is pulling the ornaments out with large metal pokers. She has had lots of practice so I let her pull them while I quickly put on the lids. It would have been very sad for me to drop any of them! Jay is my third person who opens and closes the kiln door so that it does not stay open too long. Then I have to wait about 45 minutes for the cans to cool down so I can open them up and see how they turned out. It is always a surprise how the colors of the copper have varied. Below are some of the pictures I took with the ornaments on my tree! My blog about Christmas ornaments comes a little late in the season due to the fact, like many others, I was sick a lot of the holidays. But here they are! Your wait for finished pictures is now over!

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Christmas Ornaments!

My new favorite piece to make is a Christmas ornament! I did not know you could throw them on the wheel until I saw my teacher Kristen making them. Kristen seemed to have so much fun making little ornaments in all different shapes so I decided to give it a try. Since throwing them also looked very difficult I new I had to try it for myself! Plus Christmas is coming up and it would be fun to make ornaments for my tree!

These Christmas ornaments are challenging because they are made as a closed form that must be light enough not to pull on the tree. A closed form is begun on the wheel like regular cups or bowls, but then closed off at the top. A closed form utilizes a hollow center to make the piece lighter and trap air inside so that the ornament can be shaped with out collapsing.

Centering the small amount of clay needed for an ornament is difficult so “throwing off the hump” makes the process a lot easier. I began with a four pound lump of clay and just centered the very top of the lump. From this small amount of centered clay I throw the Christmas ornament. During the first part of throwing the piece looks a lot like a small cup.

Then you can begin to collar the rim in to get the top to close. I had to practice before I got the clay at the right thickness to be able to close up the top. If I got the clay too thin it would wrinkle up as I pushed it in, but too thick and it would be too heavy for a tree. After the piece is finally closed it can be shaped in an almost endless number of fun forms.

Metal and wood ribs are useful in creating indentations and curves. I have pushed through the clay and created cracks so even with the air trapped inside I still have to be careful. Once finished I cut the ornament off with my wire and begin on the next one. After the piece is shaped it is important to put a whole in the bottom because the trapped air that helped shape the piece can also put added pressure and contribute to cracking as it dries.


The not so fun part of the Christmas ornaments is the trimming. A necessary evil, trimming makes the piece lighter and creates a clean shape at the bottom. I used Kristen’s trimming tool to help keep the ornament in place but it still tended to move around. After trimming several I started to get the hang of it. Now they are ready to be fired! Below are some ornaments after the first firing. Soon I will glaze them and post more pictures of the final ornaments! I am having a difficult time deciding how to glaze them!