Green Man a how-to-tutorial

I recently got a commission to make a Green man and I took the opportunity to document the process.

I make my green men and women using basic hand building techniques.  I start with a large lump of clay 5-6 pounds and I form a shallow bowl just like a large pinch pot, slowly pressing into the lump and squeezing until I have an oval shape that is 1/2 – 1″ thick, and the sides are 2-3″ tall.  The bowl shape is about the size of a large face.  I go large because fired clay shrinks with each firing and I want them to be on the monumental side.


Then I wait,,,when the clay is ready, and this is crucial, it’s time to start pushing, pressing, shaving and adding clay to form a face.  The clay needs to be pretty pliable but not so soft as to collapse.  The thickness of the bowl helps by giving without ripping.  How long to wait? That depends on the humidity and can be slowed by wrapping tight or loosely in plastic.  Resist the temptation to hurry the drying as this will probably just form a stiff skin on the out side making it hard to push.DSC_5402

I use photos of faces, my own face and my fingers as a ruler to rough out the proportions. I concentrate on eyes, nose and mouth since the rest will be covered by leaves.  It takes several days working a few hours each day to finish the face.  The clay is kept moist by sponging with water and wrapping in plastic during the forming phase.  This is important so the leaves will adhere properly.  It also allows for fine work at the end of the process.DSC_5418 DSC_5420


The leaves are cut from slabs of clay about 1/4″ thick.  I use real leaves collected in the fall, green leaves rot quickly but some have to be used green for example grape and paw paw because they don’t store well.  A large green man can take up to 36 leaves.

The assembly must be done on the kiln shelf because the piece can’t be moved once it is dry.  I add a coil of clay in a circle around the face to attach the leaves and give a little space for fingers to pick it up.DSC_5443 DSC_5445

After the piece is completely dry, it is bisque fired to cone 04.  The item featured here took over a week to dry because mother nature brought on the rain that week and even with fans I had to do a two day slow dry in the kiln to be sure.  Be careful drying in the kiln, you can dry out the skin and leave a bit of moisture inside leading to a spectacular explosion and a pile of shards.



still drying....

still drying….

After the bisque firing the piece can be handled, the dust washed off, and glaze or stains applied. One more firing to a higher temperature, cone 4, and then we wait,,,,,, for everything to cool off!

all fired up in the kiln

all fired up in the kiln


after the first firing

after the first firing


The Hungry Hordes are at the door

The winter of 2013-14 has been relentless.

The deer have annihilated my arborvitae and the HOLLY BUSHES, I mean, who eats those prickly things?  Hungry deer that’s who, come to think of it pine is one of their favorites, ick.  We have electric fencing but you can’t fence in everything.

four does

deer in the back yard

Turkeys have been spotted in the front yard, thanks to Xena who lit up like a christmas tree when she saw them working their way down the edge of the garden.DSC_4680

Blue Jays and Cardinals have been emptying the front porch cat dish.  I do keep five seed feeders full and two suet spots, I guess the birds prefer a meatier diet in the winter. DSC_4985






Larry does NOT find this funny!!!!


And the horses would love to see some green grass.  They are so stoic.



It was great good fun  to escape the great white north for a few days for the sunny warmth of Florida.  Eating, reading and relaxing along with staying hydrated were the only order of the day (naps optional).

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

We used a regional Airline, Allegiant, and flew nonstop from Huntington to Sanford. TRAVEL HINT; It’s almost impossible to lose luggage on a non stop flight.

After a nice visit with family it was off to the beach.  TRAVEL HINT; yes you can burn on a cloudy day under an umbrella on a WHITE sand beach.


We stayed at a lovely little place a ten minute drive from the beach and I found it on the Tampa/St Pete visitor site. TRAVEL HINT; they had a whole page of nice places with NO website!!! so they weren’t listed on any of the broker pages.

Back in town still not thrilled with the weather but refreshed and ready to ROCK & ROLL!!DSC_5174

Who Who Who? Owls that’s who!!

The owls have arrived in a variety of sizes and colors.

who's on first?

who’s on first?


Still working on a poem, these things take their own time.

who are you?

who are you?




They are a HOOT to make so more will hatch…………

Here’s the poem!!



poems are included with each owl printed on bright card stock and tucked inside.


Who sits silently in the trees

Who takes flight on the midnight breeze

Scourge of rodents near and far

Sage of the woods Who sees all

Who’ll keep watch all through the night

Counting stars while you sleep tight

Bacchus /Dionysus Greenman

A new Greenman has made it through the fires.  It’s been awhile since I’ve made one and I started this guy in September when I picked a variety of grape leaves.  They must be used fresh unlike oak leaves that last for years.

Detail of Bacchus

Detail of Bacchus

Bacchus is the Roman god of wine and Dionysus is the Greek god of wine.  I like wine too.  So I combined the Greenman  with a couple of gods and voila!!

The addition of grapes & curlicues completes the references to the fruit of the vine.  I finished this piece with a spray of various green stains that are fired on at stoneware temperatures.  Ready to hang indoors or outside.

To read more about the process of building a green man see the Women of Appalachia post.

Solstice Tradition

a line of spruce trees looking back toward the house

a line of spruce trees looking back toward the house

My husband and I have been tree huggers since before we met and one of our most enduring traditions is planting a solstice tree every year on or about New Years Day.

Planting a living being that will hopefully outlive you is a very positive way to start a new year/rotation of the sun.  Even on those days when it was cold, muddy, windy etc.  and all I wanted to do was stay inside, I warmed with the work and felt very satisfied with my small contribution to Mother.

all decked out 2013

all decked out 2013

This years tree is a Norway Spruce.  We favor spruce out here over pine because pine is like chocolate to a deer, not that they can’t damage a spruce tree by rubbing antlers on the trunk.  Weird fencing usually thwarts this, I have also used some of the spray repellents but beware they smell BAD and if it’s close to the house well, ……….yuck

That reminds me of a funny story, one year our tree was waiting outside for it’s big week (that’s right only ONE week indoors) and I was sprinkling kelp water on some outside shrubs when I had a brilliant idea, kelp is for stressed out plants and a newly dug tree was surely stressed, so I thoroughly doused said tree in fishy kelp.

Cali kitty keeps company

Cali kitty keeps company


on the porch ready to go out to the field

on the porch ready to go out to the field




After my ever patient  spouse washed the offending tree three or four times and we tried to shake off most of the extra water, it still smelled.  Not so much that we didn’t give it a week of glory with all the trimmings!  And maybe a spritz of scent.  I think I went thru an amazing amount of scented candles that year.

Where's Jay?  He's pulling a Tree.

Where’s Jay? He’s pulling a Tree.

Once the week of glory is over and its time to plant the tree, a hole must be dug.  We favor smaller trees.  They are easier in all respects and more likely to survive.  Some tips for the survival of a newly planted tree: Dig your hole wide, but only as deep as the original rootball.

Dig the hole wide but only as deep as the rootball

Dig the hole wide but only as deep as the rootball

Fall and early winter are great times to plant trees as the roots will grow all winter.  For the first year fertilize lightly and water heavily.

The last step when planting especially in winter is mulch.  We do a whole bale of hay, laying out the flakes in layers around the trunk.  This helps prevent heaving by insulating the rootball.

hauling hay under the watchful gaze of Xena

hauling hay under the watchful gaze of Xena



Throwin the clay

I don’t throw very often these days but I do enjoy it .  I recently broke a little pitcher that Jay uses to brew tea and I also wanted to replace Xena’s food dish so I bought a fifty pound box of porcelain and got to work.  I love porcelain for kitchen items because the small particle size makes a very dense finished product that is chip resistant especially if you give it a nice fat lip.  The down side of fine particles is more shrinkage, a tendency to warp in the fire and slump on the wheel.

gettin artsy in the photo

gettin artsy in the photo

Patience is a virtue that I don’t have much of, but to throw a successful pot, it must be exercised.  First if the clay is not just right moisture-wise don’t even bother to try.  Once the clay is ready, weighing out the lumps and wedging into a cone comes next.  Wedging looks a lot like kneading bread.  The purpose is to remove air bubbles and align the plate shaped particles of clay so they can slide past each other in the throwing process.  This is the secret to clays ability to be stretched and shaped into any form.

Pale blue band on a serving bowl

Pale blue band on a serving bowl

mini tea pot just because it's small dosen't make it easier

mini tea pot
just because it’s small
dosen’t make it easier







Jay loves his new pitcher and I have some for sale, along with a new mini tea set and a few new single serving size cat food dishes (can’t have too many of these with eight recalcitrant cats to contend with!)



Women of Appalachia

Scarred Woman

Scarred Woman

This work was recently juried into the fifth Women of Appalachia Art Exhibit on display in the Multicultural Center Art Gallery, Baker Center, Ohio University.  The exhibit runs through December 10  Then I believe it moves on to Chillicothe, OH.

There will be two events with spoken word and musical work performed on Nov 1 and Nov 7 details at

“Scarred Woman” above epitomizes the Appalachian woman who has been through the fire and may be marked by life but not broken.  The resilience and creativity that my friends and neighbors bring to every day life is truly inspiring. DSC_0008_4

Paw Paw Green Man Sun

Paw Paw Green Man Sun

Paw Paw Green Man is also in the show hanging beside his sister.

The process for making my green men and women are basic hand building techniques.  I start with a large lump of clay and form a shallow oval bowl shape about the size of a face.  This is pretty thick and the sides are 2-3 inches tall.  When the clay is ready, and this is crucial, it’s time to start pushing, pressing, shaving and adding clay to form a face.  The clay needs to be pretty pliable for the first roughing in but not so soft as to collapse.

I use some photos of faces and my own face to get the proportions and I usually go large as the clay shrinks in the fire.  I only need to do eyes, nose and mouth because the edges of the face are covered with leaves.

It takes a few days of a few hours each to finish the face.  The clay is kept in a plastic bag so it will dry slowly.  This allows for finer finishing at the end.

The leaves are cut from slabs of clay, using real leaves.  A large Green Man can take up to 36 leaves.

The assembly has to be done on the kiln shelf as the bone dry piece is very fragile.  After the piece is completely dry it is bisque fired, if it survives I either spray on stains for a soft finish or dip into glaze for a shiny finish.  It is then fired again to a much higher temperature.