Botanically Illustrated

Botacnically Illustrated Simon's Rock last kiln 015

I didn’t post many pictures of my newer botanically illustrated work what with the transition this summer and getting a new job. Above is a sandwich plate decorated with a prickly pear cactus. I entered it into an exhibition, but they didn’t like it as much as I hoped. I have been fairly quiet about entering shows lately. I looked up the new call for entries list and didn’t see anything up my alley until January.

I did enter a show sometime back in April and got in. It was a cup show in Duluth Georgia at the Hudgens Center for the Arts. I sent three sets of new cups to them:

May Pots at Simons Rock 113

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May Pots at Simons Rock 115

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Brush to Clay, Brush to Paper

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I’ve been home from Massachusetts for exactly three months now. I made a small body of work this summer at the university, but cleared my things out before the school year started. I knew it would get too crowded for me to use a whole table in a public space for my work every day. I haven’t worked with clay since halfway through August.

After I left the university studio and drove home to Wyoming, I started looking for a job almost right away. I like to keep busy in productive ways, and I need to build savings for grad school. I applied at Shopko, but that same day one of my old employers sent me a message saying that one of the mugs someone had bought was cracked and she asked me if I could replace it. I sent her photos of all of my newest mugs to choose from, and she ended up wanting them all, plus some bowls. She buys pots in bulk/wholesale from me. I packed them up and took them to her that afternoon. I mentioned that I would be hanging around the valley for a while and that I had applied to Shopko.

The next day, she asked me if I would like to come back and work for her again. I said I would love to, so now I have my old job back from years before at the botanical lab/health food store, but it’s better now. I mainly just run the botanical lab operations: making tinctures, blends, salves, categorize the data for each batch, and pack and ship orders.

Now that I have work to keep me busy during the week and a comfy routine, it lets me relax enough to think up creative ideas. This weekend I decided to start painting again. I haven’t done much painting since high school, but I think I am better at it now than I was then. Usually I paint on clay, but paper will do for now until I figure out my next clay opportunity.

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Hour Glass

My time on the east coast is soon coming to an end. It will be sad to leave when all of the leaves are finally on the trees and there are cool fungi and flowers growing in the woods, but I am ready to go back home to the west. There are a few things that I’ve never quite gotten used to here.

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Photo: young Trillium plants I found while walking a few days ago

Last summer when I got here, I was blown away by the green beauty of this place and how the trees and vines just want to overcrowd everything. I was inspired by the fireflies floating around the edges of the yard at night. I was awestruck with how heavy the rainstorms are here. I will miss some things about this place, but I feel like I have experienced almost everything I can from this town (with the exception of a few restaurants). I have experienced summer, autumn, a long cold winter, and I am experiencing the spring. I’ve walked every trail I could find nearby, and have a few others planned for the upcoming weeks.

I feel like I have made the most of the studio space and time I’ve had, so much so that I have too many pots that I’m trying to figure out what to do with. I have built better habits of taking images of my work, and I have experimented with a whole bunch of new surface decorating techniques. I’ve built up a good starting selection of photos to apply to grad school with. I feel like when I leave Massachusetts I won’t have regrets about things I didn’t get to do that I wanted to. So here’s to the next chapter of my travels!

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Botanical Plates!

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Red Slipper Orchid Plate (Paphiopedilum), Porcelain, cone 10. 9″x9″x1″

When botanists and scientists hear the word “plate”, it usually isn’t interpreted literally as something you can eat your lunch off of. There was a time when I thought I had a future as a real botanical illustrator, right around the time when I just discovered ceramics in college. I was working at a herbarium pressing plants and gluing them to archival paper, and my boss took an interest in my ability to draw. She even had me to go the university greenhouse to draw cycads for a day. Although my drawings aren’t quite refined enough for scientific recording, I still pursue my interest in plants with my ceramic work.

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This ginkgo leaf plate broke in half when I turned it over to sign the bottom before firing it, but I put it in the kiln anyway because I wanted to see how the decoration would look glaze fired.

Find my ceramic work for sale on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/KiraCallCeramics

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A New Chapter: My Inner Botanist Returns

Paphiopedilum glanduliferum, WIP illustration on porcelain:11128454_10206445949095687_1851097705_n

Although I don’t want to completely ditch “The Pebble Line” of my work, my decorative process has evolved in a satisfying way that I must pursue. My new process involves drawing an outline of my subject (usually plant-themed) in graphite pencil, using my underglazes like watercolors to fill in color and some light fine lines, and then I wax resist the whole surface and carve the outline and defining details that I want to be bold and black, then fill in the carved lines with black underglaze. When I am painting with the underglazes, I think about the layers and which ones will show through after the firing. I painted the maroon lines first on the orchid above, and then used watered-down green to blend over the top of it and create shaded areas, because I want the green to appear on top after the glaze firing, but I also know that it is the weakest color here and that the maroon will blast back up through to the surface.

This is one of 4 dessert plates with different species of Paphiopedilum orchids illustrated on them. As spring here on the east coast creeps its way in, I will most likely be illustrating collected plant specimens. As part of a late New Year’s resolution, I decided that I want to start making a personal plant specimen collection, complete with professional scientific data, field notes, and photos. I plan to collect duplicates to send to the Intermountain Herbarium at Utah State University. The idea of my resolution is to bring myself back around to my inner botanist by practicing what I learned in the four years I worked in the herbarium. Guess I should shop for an Eastern North American plant key…

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Is it spring yet???

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I decided not to go to NCECA this year. The thought did cross my mind a few months ago when I thought about how close Providence is from here. I could easily take a bus and go for one day, if I wanted to. I just didn’t want to. Maybe it’s partially because I am lazy, but I just don’t feel the need to go every year, and this year I couldn’t find any compelling reasons. Maybe in my future I will be part of one of the fancy clay booths (probably after grad school) or in grad school if I am part of a guild I might go to promote the grad program, but for this year, I’ve already researched grad schools I am interested in, and the next step is to visit. If NCECA were held somewhere a little warmer, I might have thought more about it. It doesn’t matter how close the event is to me, it’s about whether I care to go or not.

On another note, I have been really busy in the studio. It is the tail end of the two-week spring break for the students. I’ve had the entire studio almost to myself for the last week and a half, and making good use of it. I glaze fired two kiln loads of pots, imaged them, and for the last three days I have been working on a giant coil pot planter for the wood firing coming up. I’ve also started making some elongated plate forms. In this post are three of my most recent photos of work 🙂

1. Two Teal Pebble Mugs, stacked

2. Pebble Tea Set in Plum Purple

3. Pebble Tea Set in Green (this set is available for sale on Etsy! https://www.etsy.com/listing/226930845/pebble-tea-set-in-green-and-black?ref=shop_home_active_1)

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The Mad Tea-Potter!

white teapot

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my grad school portfolio. The application deadline is about 10 months away, but one of the things I have lost sleep over before is wondering whether I have images of work that I am satisfied with, and more importantly, that I should start thinking along the lines of cohesive pieces– like tea sets, sake sets, dinner table settings, and pairs and sets of things. I also decided to focus on refining my teapots. I came up with a teapot design that is unique, spunky, and fun and easy (relative to wheel throwing) to make. Two teapots that I unloaded from a bisque kiln yesterday had THE most perfectly fitted lids I have ever made. The teapot above is an experiment of removing my colors from the equation and letting the porcelain clay stand on its own (with some black embellishments). It is a test of the clay to see whether it slumps when made into a teapot, and whether the seams stay put. I am also curious to see if it stays white after the glaze firing– it is a different porcelain recipe than I used to use.

Below is my first official tea set. I am considering the idea of making tea cups without handles, a more Asian design opposed to English teatime. The handles are a little awkward when trying to arrange the cups in the tray, but otherwise I am really happy with it 🙂 I’ve got two more sets almost completed, one in spring green and black, and the other in turquoise and black. This one is plum/mauve and black.

purple teaset

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Hudson Farmers Market

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The farmers market went pretty well yesterday. I didn’t sell as many pots as I had hoped I would, but I had a great time and still made a profit. The other vendors were amazing. There were at least four different pastry/baked goods vendors, and I enjoyed treats from three of them. I indulged in a croissant, bought some nice bread, had a fresh raspberry tart, and bought a couple of bialies. I also visited a couple of cheese stands and bought at least a pound of yummy cheese. I’ve never been to a farmers market with such class or variety. There were a few vegetable vendors as well, and a bulk herb vendor that I hope to visit next time around. I didn’t get something from every vendor, but I was tempted. Over all, it was a great experience, and I have been invited to continue selling in future markets. I plan to be there on February 28th and a few times in March and April as well 🙂

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Finally getting somewhere

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Above are my newest latte mugs. They turned out brilliant! I’ve found that blending my colors with a gradient of black makes them feel more united, and the surprise of turning the mug over to look at the bottom and see the vibrant color and detail gives a fun sense of satisfaction.

Here is what the mugs look like upright from a side view:

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They are fairly big, making room for a bunch of delicious milk foam 🙂 or a giant cup of tea. I haven’t measured just how much they can hold yet, but my normal cup of coffee looks like a puddle at the bottom when I fill my french press full and pour it in the mug. I bet they will sell like hot cakes at the Hudson Farmer’s market!

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This teapot is what I am really excited about. It turned out perfectly. I was worried that the glaze might run and make the lid stick, but to my pleasant surprise, when I pulled it out of the kiln the lid wasn’t stuck at all, and the glaze turned out fabulously smooth and even. ANDD… it pours like a dream. I have finally succeeded with my square hand built teapots.

After more than 7 of them split at the seams last fall I was considering giving up the idea, but instead I just played around with different clay bodies. I was working with a clay body that I later decided didn’t have enough feldspar, and before that I was working with porcelain, which split at the seams even worse and the handles slumped. It could have also been too hot of a firing, but in any case I’ve got a better clay strategy now 🙂 I will be entering teapots like this one into shows ASAP, and I’ve already got a request for one in different colors. I usually don’t do commission work, but color requests are simple. They didn’t used to be 😉

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Subzero

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I have a very vivid memory of standing at the bus stop when I was 7 years old in a purple padded coat. It was 50 degrees below freezing that morning, or so I was told once I got to school. I was too young for the internet, and didn’t care much for the news. All I remember is that I was standing there, waiting for the bus, my hair dry but frozen crispy. I could bend the strands of my hair and hear the frost break. It seemed like forever before I saw that big yellow box pull up 15 feet away. I was standing about 40 feet from my house in the circle driveway, waiting with a group of other elementary-aged kids. I remember thinking about how some kids dared others to lick a flag pole and said that your tongue would stick to the metal. Once inside the bus, I remember the metal window panes were coated with frost and I knew it was a dangerous idea. Still, I couldn’t get the dare out of my head. I bent over towards the frigid window pane and touched the tip of my tongue to the metal, just to see if it was true. I pulled it away, a small piece of skin missing. Once my tongue was back in my mouth, I remember the subtle sting of my skin warming back up and the open wound soaked with my own saliva. It was a silly thing, but I had to experience for myself if it was true and possible. I remember that I was sitting alone, and didn’t want anyone else on the bus to know that I had to try it. I remember my friends talking to me later, and the 7 year old boy who held back the sixth graders so that I could be the first one to get off the bus, unaware of the missing piece of my tongue.

It is a reminder that the cold here in Massachusetts is trivial to what I have experienced in my past. I am now 23 years old, and there is a “wind chill warning” in effect tonight. The lowest temperature is predicted to be -8 degrees Fahrenheit. I walked home from work a couple of hours ago. It was about three or four blocks, and I didn’t really notice the cold. I was properly bundled up, but when I got home and Peggy was calling outside for the cat, she was in shock that I would be walking home in this weather. Every time I hear word that the temperature will dip below zero, I am reminded of that wait at the bus stop, and remember how it was cold, but it wasn’t so bad.

Take it as an inspiring metaphor, if you want. The truth is, just because I have seen worse cold doesn’t mean that I don’t wrap up in a blanket when it gets colder than 68 degrees inside 😉 but still, I am from Wyoming! #bornandraised #wyomingirl #youdontknowcold

Just a thoughtful recollection from my past. It is completely true, if not written a little more poetic than I could have done at age seven.

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