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Custom Dog Bowls (a tale of two tails)

waiting patiently for my new bowls, my person is GREAT!!

Peppa Jane waiting patiently for new bowls, my person is GREAT!!

I have always been open to making custom orders, I prefer them to be in my ballpark but if the idea intrigues me and I have the time, well I’m a sucker for a challenge, and it’s a perfect excuse to try something new.  Experimentation being the soul of creativity.

I recently received two commission orders for matching dog food and water bowls, so I documented the process for both.  Each order was unique, as is each dog.  As I put this post together I realize I didn’t take any pictures of the forming process.  I will update with pics of my next 3-D dog dish……. but meanwhile

One customer wanted an extreme slow food dish with the raised center to be an English Bulldog face and his name on the outside, “McKensington”.  I asked for pictures because if you’re doing a face you may as well be specific with the markings.  I thought he would be older…

 

I was completely smitten when I saw the pictures of little McKensington and I was determined to make him a bowl he could grow into.  My first task was to draw a face.  I did this by looking at clip art and photos of English Bulldogs and making a drawing that would fit into the proposed bowl.  After making my drawing in my sketchbook to size, I traced it onto another sheet of paper that I cut out and cut along some of the lines in the face.  I also needed a name for both the food and water bowl so I made a template with cutouts.

Photo on 6-15-16 at 1.44 PM

After throwing the bowl, I used the paper face to cut it out of the bottom of the bowl.  When cutting I always angle the cut so the piece will drop out of the bottom and sit inside overlapping along the edges.  I attached the cut out face onto the bottom of the bowl by scoring and slipping the two pieces together being careful to retain all of the detail.  I then used the paper to add the lines and markings on the face.  All of this was done on soft clay, after the bisque firing the lines were “set in stone”.

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glazing the face and looking at the drawing with markings

 

 

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At the last minute, I did a modicum of research, little pink noses usually turn into black noses.  A quick e-mail confirmed, “Yes please go black”.

That's right I made two, got a dog named McKensington?

That’s right I made two, got a dog named McKensington?

The glazing process included several “Stroke and Coat” glazes from Mayco.  When I  do my detail work, the lines that I carved into the face allow me to contain colors.  I then wax the glazed parts and dip into an overall glaze.  In this case the over all glaze was to be “Sea Green Pearl” from Columbus Clay Co.  http://www.columbusclay.com/

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the water bowl only had a name, solid green inside

the water bowl only had a name, solid green inside

The second custom dog food and water bowl order was for little Peppa Jane, she’s a little older than McKensington but just as cute!!

 

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Oh so adorable Peppa Jane,  this is the bowl that inspired this custom order.  I was requested to add the name Peppa onto the pig in a food and water bowl.

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I made the bowls much like the ones before but the pig is only slightly raised, a medium slow feeder.  I made the pigs so they could face each other, or not.

bisque fired food and water

bisque fired food and water

I was halfway through the process when I realized that I didn’t have enough of the old brown glaze to cover two bowls.  I usually use brown glazes for accents on my Greenmen and Twig Teapots and don’t keep a large bucketful, so I bought more of the glaze and did some tests.  It didn’t go well as they had changed the formula.  After much fretting I asked the customer if she’d be happy with another background color.  She liked blue, blue is grand, I had more than one to choose from and we settled on the cobalt blue.  The pig is glazed with Stroke & Coat “Cheeky Pinky” the name Peppa was carved and filled in with Stroke & Coat “Bluebeard”.  This was covered with wax and the rest of the bowls were dipped into my big bucket of “Ultramarine” blue from Columbus Clay.

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The tail is a 3-D curl of clay with gobs of glaze to keep it easy to clean.  I hope to update this post with pictures of the bowls “in action”.  You can see where the two dips into the blue glaze overlapped to create a wide dark blue line.  I position my dip to make this overlap make sense in the overall design ie a horizon line.

 

My New Medusa

DSC_0481 If you’d like to read chapter one of this saga go to the “Don’t Count Your Chickens” entry of May 2015.   So, some months after I recovered from that disaster and I had a Green man commission I decided to make another Medusa too.

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I didn’t take any pictures of the process this time but it is essentially the same.  Start with a hand made face and add snakes to taste.

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I did make one update on this Medusa, the cobra that forms the frame around her face is hollow.  This allowed me to get a bigger platform to attach the snakes heads and a faster drying time.DSC_0475

She is available for sale on etsy

https://www.etsy.com/listing/455954672/medusa-stoneware-clay-wall-art?ref=shop_home_active_1

Slow food dog dishes

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inspiration

Every dog is an individual with all the quirks and preferences that entails.  Some dogs like to savor their dry kibble, some can’t woof it down fast enough.     I was chatting with my Vet about making a dish that would slow down the eating so I would have a chance to exit the room before they finished, she suggested a raised area to make it impossible to take great big bites.

what's wrong with these tennis balls??

what’s wrong with these tennis balls??

 

My first thought was “What would a doggie like to see in his or her bowl?”

How about a tennis ball, or better yet three?

Bones are always appreciated.

an example of an extreme slow feeder

an example of an extreme slow feeder bowl

 

a less extreme bone bowl in a pretty speckle green glaze

a less extreme bone bowl in a pretty speckle green glaze

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been throwing dog food and water bowls for years with pencil drawings of bones and fire hydrants in the bottom.  My first 3-d bowls had the bone, ball or squirrel pushed up from the bottom but this severely limited the depth.  I now cut the shape out of the bottom of a hand thrown bowl and reattach it inside.  For tennis and baseballs I use a press mold to make the ball and add it or them to the thrown bowl.

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brown squirrel in a large teal green bowl

a field of dreams

a field of dreams

a small bowl for that little dog that will leap into water for any reason

a small bowl for that little dog that will leap into water for any reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

These bowls and more are available for sale in my shop.  Some have sold out but I can always make another.

Don't forget the matching water bowl!

Don’t forget the matching water bowl!

Luna and Basil checking out their new bowls

Luna and Basil checking out their new bowls

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Basil lives in Australia, he’s got a big bowl to grow into

Working with a Diva

Let me start by admitting that the reason I work alone is because I am a diva.  Well that felt good, but of course any one who knows me knows that’s no secret.  But the Diva that I refer to here is that little black cat, Liz.  If you’ve been keeping up you’ll know that the little………… cat …………………. sorry I was trying to come up with some PG adjectives for her.  I failed.

you weren't busy were you??

you weren’t busy were you??

is this seat taken??

is this seat taken??

Long story short, she’s been confined to my studio during the daylight hours for the sake of the Hummingbirds and Barn Swallows.

 

 

 

She doesn’t seem to mind.  In fact I usually have to wake her up and kick her out at night.

 

 

 

 

I decided to try and exploit her for some photos of my little cat food dishes.   Anyone who’s ever hosted a cat knows that they are the masters of exploitation, so try to stop laughing long enough to see the results.  I started by offering food, the good stuff!

OH YUMMY! WET CAT FOOD!!

OH YUMMY! WET CAT FOOD!!

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You know, it’s rude to watch people eat.

 

That was a start, what else ya got

That was a start, what else ya got

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She made quick work of the food and moved on.

What's in this one?

What’s in this one?

A clean cat is a happy cat, you don't mind a few hundred black cat hairs on your white background.

A clean cat is a happy cat, you don’t mind a few hundred black cat hairs on your white background.

Oh wait I missed a spot

Oh wait I missed a spot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, after a snack and a bath she was bored with the whole thing, and sauntered off.   I kept shooting the pottery and just as I was finishing up, she waltzed back onto my table and settled in for a nap.  So I started putting dishes in front of her and clicked away with my camera, and after all that I got my picture.DSC_8421

If you’d like an autographed copy just contact me.

Who let the cat OUT !?!?

The usual cry around here is “Who let the cat IN!!”  This spring however we have had to lock up Liz for the sake of two Bluebird,one Tree Swallow, and three or four Barn Swallow nests.  Oh yeah, let’s not forget the Hummingbirds.

she looks so sweet

she looks so sweet

We live on an 80 acre farm with several out buildings including a huge barn so all nine of the cats live outside my house.  There are exceptions for illness and old age but they are only allowed in my pottery studio and the breezeway.  As long as they don’t break anything.

Liz lounging in the barn doorway, now that's a breezeway

Liz lounging in the barn doorway, now that’s a breezeway

Most of the cats have had their summer of carnage when they were young but usually some strategic mouse traps at the base of the bluebird houses, a well thrown glass of water or letting the dogs out kept things under control.  But Liz is a holy terror.  She hides under the red poppies to grab unsuspecting Hummingbirds.

I love red flowers so do Hummingbirds

I love red flowers so do Hummingbirds

She also thinks it’s a great good game when the Barn Swallows dive bomb her.  She waits for them to swoop into range and tries to grab them out of the air.  Barn Swallows build their nests in the most unreachable spots you can imagine, not even a coon could get them.  Yet they insist on putting themselves at risk and of course if the parent dies…

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Barn Swallow nest stuck in a corner of the porch roof

Most cats outgrow this penchant for birds, they get harassed too but they keep their head down and move it along.  They sleep under the car instead of on top of it and I even had one old cat, Floyd that laid out in the sun and let the Mockingbirds slam right into him.

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Floyd and Trip, two old cats

So we’ll see who wins this battle of wills.  My plan as usual is to feed her till she’s too fat to care.  It’s worked on most of them so far.

dry cat food again?

dry cat food again?

excuse me

excuse me

perhaps you didn't hear me before

perhaps you didn’t hear me before

The real question is what level of damage can I stand!

Then I remind myself, baby birds are baby birds,

cats are cats

and clay is dirt.

Time?  That’s all I have.

PS.  Cali was another holy terror (she nailed a squirrel when she was still a kitten) but these days all she wants is IN !

Cali blending into the clay

Cali blending into the clay

 

 

 

Don’t count your chickens…

Well I was planning to write this post as My New Medusa, but the kiln goddess decided to take me down a peg.  After many years of experience and many hard learned lessons I apparently needed a refresher course in the perils of firing damp pottery, the importance of providing air holes to places that need them and taking the time that is needed to dry out an item that took two weeks to make.DSC_7893DSC_7892

Indeed my outdoor walls are festooned with Green Men that died in the glaze kiln.  I like to think those aren’t my fault but seriously, is there any one else  in the room? perhaps the cat sleeping under the chair?  Perhaps.DSC_8153DSC_8151

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However blowing a piece up in a bisque fire is ALWAYS a function of water inside the piece that is trapped when the outer skin is dryer and the resulting steam can’t escape.  But it does escape in a most spectacular way.

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In my defense it rained for about two weeks straight.  I’m kind of surprised more things didn’t blow!

Scarred Woman

Scarred Woman

Glazing Pottery

Glazing is one of the most nerve wracking and at the same time the most satisfying aspect of making pottery.  The transformation from a dull dusty finish to the shiny colors of finished pieces is nothing short of amazing.   Before we glaze the pottery must be bisque fired.  This turns the clay to stone and allows easier handling and better absorption of the glaze into the pores of the ware.  It’s important to glaze soon after the bisque fire to avoid a build up of dust and grease that can inhibit the glaze from staying put during the next firing.Photo 33In the bisque fire the green ware can be stacked and stuffed in pretty tightly.  I put enough items in this bisque fire to do two glaze firings.fired bisquewareAfter the firing everything is unstacked and laid out on the table.  I use a white and a dark brown stoneware for handbuilding.  The white cylinders hold up the shelves and must be a little taller than everything else on the shelf.DSC_7426So, we have lots of glazing ahead but first we must wax our bottoms!  Glaze melts and if it is left on the bottom of a pot and placed on a shelf and fired it will turn from art to artifact before you can say “another kiln shelf ruined!!”.DSC_7434Speaking of things getting ruined, any place that wax is, glaze will not stick.  We must be careful not to put waxy fingerprints or drips on places that want glaze.  The only remedy for sloppy waxing is a refire in the next bisque to burn it off.  So with one hand for the pot and one for the wax we press on.DSC_7450I usually start with the accent glazes in multi colored items.  These accents can be covered by a dip in another glaze, or I might cover it with wax to make it stand out more.  I do many many test tiles with different glaze combinations to see what works and then I WRITE IT ALL DOWN!!  It is so important to keep records of firings, glazes, how applied, how thick etc.  It really cuts down on the clinkers!DSC_7459

Things start to get more organized as we glaze.   I am currently having fun with a line of glazes, Stroke&Coat by Mayco.  They come in a rainbow of colors, won’t run or react to each other, can be mixed or laid one color over another.  I also use them to sponge onto some of my big bucket glazes.DSC_7452These Victorian house bird feeders had accent glazes painted on to shutters, doors etc then wax on the color, then dipped in my half filled 5 gallon bucket of “white enamel”.  I use a sponge to dab off any white glaze that sticks to the wax while it is still wet.DSC_7542These turtles have been dipped in “lemon yellow” glaze, the one on the left has a layer of stroke & Coat orange underneath.  After wiping the bottom of their feet they are loaded in the kiln.  Everything gets on last once over with a wet sponge to remove any specks of glaze on the bottom.DSC_7549We then load the glaze kiln, where nothing can touch, and must be about a 1/4 inch away because as the firing progresses everything will get larger, and then shrink to a smaller size than when we started. DSC_7460Hello Alice, we are in wonderland now.Photo 9After 8-10 hours in a hot kiln and another 12 hours cooling off…..DSC_7470DSC_7471Magic has happened!DSC_7767All that was dull and dusty is now shiny, bright and new again!DSC_7539I like to play around with possible combinations, the roof and porch are not attached so they are interchangeable.  The leaves in front are awaiting a copper wire to transform them into Woodsprites.DSC_7554Having a cat wandering through makes life so much more excitingDSC_7731A formal picture and a posting online completes the cycle, time to clean off the table and begin again!

 

Ode to Kato

With a bladder the size of a peaDSC_6340

and the attention span of a flea,

 

 

 

DSC_6322I romp through my day

and sleep where I lay

I think this life is the bee’s knees!!

 

 

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The world’s my favorite chew toy!

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I’m gonna grow into a big boy!

 

 

There’s just one command

I won’t understand

Why must I go out to make wee wee!!!

I said he'd grow into a BIG BOY but I had NO IDEA HOW BIG!!

I said he’d grow into a BIG BOY but I had NO IDEA HOW BIG!   This pic is Kato on his first birthday 6-30-15 it’s the same flower pot different flowers.

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Victorian House Bird Feeders

There’s been quite a building boom going on here at C McDonough Designs.  I received  a commission to build one of my Victorian House bird feeders with a bright turquoise roof, porch and shutters and yellow/green windows.

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As any potter will tell you never make just one!!!  There are three reasons for this rule.

1: one is the height of hubris, the kiss of death and just plain silly!!

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2: If it’s a tall item, you’ll need other tall items to fill the shelf.

 

3: You will eventually sell another one so be prepared!!

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Puppies are a great help in the studio, dog hair is the best sweeping compound EVER!

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Opening glaze kilns is one of the most satisfying part of my job, I love shiny things!!DSC_6951

Tufted Titmice like black oil sunflower seeds.

 

Any photo on my blog is taken by me and can be ordered as a print or a note card.

Barn Swallows nesting on the front porch

The nest is in the upper right hand corner.

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About two days after a pair of Barn Swallows successfully fledged a brood of four babies from their usual nest spot in the attic of the grainery, they got busy building a new nest on the front porch.  They started building on June 15.

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they collect mud and plant

fibers to build with

 

every 10-15 minutes another bit was added

 

 

 

 

DSC_6068 as you can see it was hot outside and you might also see a reflection of the glass as I did my documenting in air conditioned comfortDSC_6073

 

 

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it is a two birdie job from sun up to sun downDSC_6084

finally on or about June 19-20 (solstice time) eggs were laid and sitting ensuedDSC_6227

EUREKA the feeding begins July 17  I hope you enjoyed your down time MomDSC_6233 DSC_6237 DSC_6239 DSC_6250 DSC_6251 DSC_6253

Looking like some pretty angry birds there are four but it’s hard to get a good group shot with all the jostling  I kept the cats away with some well placed glasses of water
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and then there were three…

DSC_6284 and then there were two…DSC_6288 and then they came back for visits for a few days..

DSC_6293hope to see you all next year…….

If you would like a cd of the pictures in this or any other post for a screen saver contact me.