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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.

STONEHENGE

Stonehenge, a circle of enormous stones brought to that spot by people working with stone and wood tools.  Two different types of stone, one for the posts and one for the lintels.  Knobs carved into the uprights and holes carved into the cross stones to hold them in place.

 

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Not much is known about the people who built it but we can surmise that they were well organized and had the time and desire to build a place that was concerned with the passage of the sun.  Early peoples were much more acquainted with the changes of the moon and sun cycles and the effects on their everyday lives.

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the following is an excerpt from wikipedia, there is a lot more info there

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“Stonehenge evolved in several construction phases spanning at least 1,500 years. There is evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape’s time frame to 6,500 years.  It is in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.[1]

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The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.

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Evidence of the second phase is no longer visible. The number of postholes dating to the early 3rd millennium BC suggest that some form of timber structure was built within the enclosure during this period.

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Archaeological excavation has indicated that around 2600 BC, the builders abandoned timber in favor of stone and dug two concentric arrays of holes  in the centre of the site. These stone sockets are only partly known (hence on present evidence are sometimes described as forming ‘crescents’); however, they could be the remains of a double ring.

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The north-eastern entrance was widened at this time, with the result that it precisely matched the direction of the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset of the period. This phase of the monument was abandoned unfinished, however; the small standing stones were apparently removed and the holes purposefully backfilled. Even so, the monument appears to have eclipsed the site at Avebury in importance towards the end of this phase.

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During the next major phase of activity, 30 enormous OligoceneMiocene sarsen stones (shown grey on the plan) were brought to the site. They may have come from a quarry, around 25 miles (40 km) north of Stonehenge on the Marlborough Downs, or they may have been collected from a “litter” of sarsens on thechalk downs, closer to hand. The stones were dressed and fashioned with mortise and tenon joints before 30 were erected as a 33 metres (108 ft) diameter circle of standing stones, with a ring of 30 lintel stones resting on top. The lintels were fitted to one another using another woodworking method, the tongue and groove joint”

the guides were very well informed and they worked for peanuts!!!