Test Tiles

Test tiles are a pain but essential if you are interested in refining your work.  It helps you test combinations of glazes as well as provide you with something tangible to see what glaze looks like on different clay bodies. Otherwise, if you’re like me, you forget very easily.  There are many different ways in making test tiles. Test bowls (or seconds) work well because they can catch a glaze that becomes too fluid. They can also show you how the glaze acts on both vertical and flat surfaces.  In order to make these test tiles, you will need to throw a shallow, bottomless bowl with a flange on the inside and outside and when it’s dry, tool the outside of the bowl and then make vertical cuts. This will give you upside down T shapes with a slight curve test tiles.  Another way of making test tiles is to make slab cuts (which you can see in the featured photo). I made rectangular test tiles because I’m testing underglazes. I’m more interested in the color when it’s fired than the fluidity of the glazes.  Regardless of shapes, here are some other general ideas to think about when making test tiles:

  • Texture: Adding texture to your test tile is a great idea so you can see how the glaze will respond to texture and carvings. I carved a line down each test tile for a little bit of texture.
  • Marking: Put some type of word, number, or code that reminds you what glaze this was, what clay it was on, and even firing temperature. Or you can simply number them and keep the details in a notebook by number.  I gave my test tiles codes and wrote all the details down in my notebook (which by the way, every potter should have a detailed notebook!).
  • Holes: Adding a hole to your test tile is great for organization because you can hang them on a wall board or off the handle of the bucket. I am going to string mine together by clay type.
  • Dipping: It is best to do three dips. First dip covers the whole area. Second dip covers 2/3 of the area. Third dip covers half the previous dip. In my case, I didn’t dip because I am testing underglazes which has a thicker consistency. I will be doing the triple dip when it comes to regular glazes.

After a year, I finally decided to make test tiles. I’ve ruined enough pottery pieces with glazing and I don’t want to make that same mistake again. I hope this information helps you as it did for me!

I got this information from Big Ceramic Store.

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Washing and Dusting

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Pablo Picasso

I am usually exhausted coming home from working in a laboratory all day. Sometimes, I practice yoga or read on the couch but most of the time, I find myself reaching for that clay. I don’t consider pottery “work”. Throwing on a wheel is therapeutic–the every day stresses of life just melts away. I plan on having instructional videos up one day and you’ll see what I mean! But for now…I’ll take it one day at a time.

The coffee cups in the featured image above are custom made for a very special person. He is technically my first customer! The other pieces are items that I will be posting on my etsy shop soon. It’s amazing how far I’ve come with practice. Have you seen my very first piece (see first post)?!

Support System

I am so incredibly blessed with an amazing support system of family and friends who encourage me every step of the way. My very traditional parents gifted me with a pottery wheel so I can create at home instead of making an hour long drive to the studio. My friends ordered custom pieces from me and are endlessly sharing my work with others. My boyfriend who helped me cultivate the courage to pursue my passion by being my very own personal cheerleader in everything that I do.  He was the one who said “Don’t worry. Not many people are going to read your blog. Just write for yourself.” in an attempt to get me to hit that publish button after drafting a post for three weeks. (Yes, he totally saw the irony in all this).

Support systems are beautiful. They give you the strength and courage to take that leap of faith in following your dreams.

I realized that support doesn’t have to just come from loved ones. It can come from complete strangers as well. For example, the blogging community is another beautifully warm-hearted support system. Yesterday morning, I woke up to a wonderful surprise. Ben Huberman wrote an article about WordPress’ new default theme for this year, Twenty Fifteen, and my blog was one of the three featured! I have never created a blog before so I took a little extra time and effort to build something that suited me. I never imagined that someone would actually notice! My visitors went from five to over three hundred in one day. And although it might be the design that had people initially click on my blog, many wonderful bloggers stayed to read my story. That is truly amazing and warms my heart.

So thank you blogging community for welcoming me. Thank you to everyone who took the time to visit my blog, read my posts, and leave me a kind or encouraging message. It really means the world to me.

The Beauty of Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

My pottery pieces are not perfect.  There are so many steps that go into making a finished piece and “mistakes” can happen during any one of these stages–wedging the clay, throwing (which is an entirely long process in itself), drying, trimming, more drying, bisque firing, cooling, sanding rough edges, glazing, firing again, and then sanding once more.  I’ve had my fair share of uneven trims and messed up glazing but I feel that there’s a certain beauty to these so-called imperfections. That is what makes it hand made and there is something authentic and unique about hand crafted items in a mass produced society. Everything made by hand are truly one-of-a-kind.

That’s the beauty of Wabi-Sabi.

Letting Go of Fear

I finally did it. After months and months of dragging my feet, I finally launched my etsy shop! It was such a long process–creating enough inventory, taking photos of my pieces, researching pricing, and writing listing descriptions. I was getting anxiety from doing all of this and the doubts came pouring in.

What did I get myself into? I don’t know anything about business. Am I really an artist? What if no one buys my pieces? Am I good enough?

And that’s when it hit me. The real reason why I delayed in setting up an etsy shop was because I was scared. Scared of rejection and scared of asking. I was conflicted because I had a difficult time identifying myself as an artist. I don’t have the education nor do I have the experience. I took a few classes at the studio and basically taught myself how to make pottery through trial and error. It was extremely vulnerable to let go of my pieces and to put it out there for the world to see especially when I put so much love and care into each piece that I create. On top of all that, I am asking for money for my work. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to set aside these fears without the support of Ryan and my friend, Michelle. They believed in me and encouraged me to open up my shop.

I haven’t fully let go of these fears yet but I am working on it because in doing so, I allow space for creative and personal growth. There is still some uncertainty and I am okay with that. However, there is one thing that I am certain about…

I am an artist. I am a potter.

Spice Pot with Spoon

Allowing Myself To Be Creative

Have you ever found yourself wanting to try or learn something new but never actually did it? Maybe something was holding you back or you couldn’t find the time or were just too scared to step out of your comfort zone.  Whatever the reason, you never experienced it but thought about it often.

I felt that way about ceramics. For the longest time, I wanted to try my hand at pottery because there was something so beautiful and therapeutic about the process.  But something was holding me back. It was ME.

Growing up in a strict household, I’ve never had the opportunity for self expression or creative interests when I was younger. Math and science were considered important subjects while art was secondary. When my classmates registered for electives such as ceramics and painting, I had to take a computer course or an additional science class. Because of this, I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone because I didn’t think I could be artistic.

Through the years, I’ve slowly broken out of my shell and pursued artistic hobbies that interested me such as photography, water colors, and drawing. These were solo creative outlets that I didn’t really share with anyone in fear of criticism. But with the encouragement of my supportive boyfriend, Ryan, I worked up the courage to take my first pottery class in June 2013. I was nervous, excited, and I had no idea what to expect.  I was completely out of my element because the perfectionist in me was screaming at me to make something beautiful. I ended up making the ugliest plate/bowl/piece I had ever seen. It was hideous but I had never been more proud of myself.  I even showed it to Ryan!

I’ve come a long way since then and pottery has become my passion.  To me, it is a form of meditation where I am able to let go of the everyday stresses of life and just be free to create which is such a novelty for a microbiologist. The entire creative process is incredible—throwing on a wheel, trimming, glazing, and firing a piece.  I love seeing a lump of clay transform into something truly unique.  When I work with clay, I never really know what I am going to make. I free my mind and let my hands do the work and as a result, I feel that every piece I make has an element of imperfection and I believe that there is a certain beauty derived from these so-called imperfections.

It has been an incredible journey in allowing myself to be creative and I am so excited to continue down this path.