Even though the leaves are still green and the temperatures still hot, the days are getting shorter and fall will be here before we know it. I am very excited about creating harvest themed ceramics! My new projects for this year are wheel-thrown acorns, pumpkins, and gourds. Perfect for seasonal harvest arrangements and decor. The gourds can be turned around just for Halloween to display a spooky face! Afterwards, flip back around for the rest of your fall holiday season. I can’t decide which place to display them, but I’m leaning towards the bookcase or the mantle, or even my foyer accent table. I might just have to put up more than one! The gourds will be available in three different sizes; small, medium, and large. We also crafted a solid gourd as a focal point for a Fall Harvest arrangement or table centerpiece. Take a look. A variety of sizes and shapes are available in our Esty shop and on our Leaman Pottery website.
I have to admit, I got a little nostalgic carving the spooky faces. It reminded me of carving pumpkins with my children when they were little…so many years ago. Although I’m glad these aren’t as messy to display as those real pumpkins! Plus they will last a lot longer too! However, this project hasn’t been without it’s messes. One of the new glaze colors we were experimenting with melted off the gourds right onto the kiln shelf! Glaze is actually a type of glass, so you can just imagine the mess I found when we opened the kiln! Needless to say, we are starting over with that gourd color! You might see it available next month, if we can get it right. The whole process takes about 4 weeks, so it’s a big gamble making new glaze recipes. Waterfall Brown glaze was a new experiment last year, and that is now one of my favorite go-to colors.
The hot and humid summer weather has finally arrived in the Catoctin Mountains where we live. Thank goodness my studio is in the basement where it stays cool and not too humid. The air conditions actually impact potters. We have to work with the clay differently to compensate for change in temperature and humidity. It significantly impacts the drying process of the pieces that just come off the wheel. During the winter, we heat the studio with a free standing wood stove. It keeps the air around 68 degrees with very low humidity. Our work actually dries much faster in these conditions than in the summer when the humidity is higher. I know fall has arrived when newly thrown pots start to dry to the trimming stage overnight instead of a day and a half!
Our focus this month is on birdhouses. I have completely sold out and need to make more! The next batch is currently drying and will get posted to our Etsy shop in the next couple of weeks. We are also starting to make bird feeder trays, which attract additional bird species to expand your viewing pleasure! Our resident cardinal family will only eat from a tray or the ground. The same it true for our blue jays. Here is some of our work in process:
We are still social distancing, and nervous to leave our home, but we are fortunate that our county has very low covid numbers compared to the rest of the nation. We so miss seeing our customers face to face, and are anxious to share our work in person. We are continuing to work on our online presence to help keep everyone safe at home.
The coronavirus has changed all of our lives. We have more studio time than ever because of the quarantine and travel limitations. So now we visit family via Zoom, use on-line shopping sites, and limit errands away from home. We are not attending any shows this year and have decided to just keep going with our Web Site and Etsy offerings. We are excited to be working in this direction and are concentrating on pottery that can’t be found in regular retail stores: items like fermentation crocks, French butter keepers, custom growlers, and garden accessories.
The growlers are the most challenging to make because the measurements need to be exact for the snap-closure to work and they need to hold a specific amount of beer in order to have them filled at your local brewery. They were a fun challenge for Father’s Day and we hope they will make good holiday and birthday gifts as well.
We always have items that are great for unique and special wedding gifts. Take a look on Etsy or our Web Site.
Jim and I are the owners of Leaman Pottery, a cottage operation in the Catoctin Mountains. We suspect we live somewhere near Camp David but have never tried to determine exactly where Camp David is located. Its highly unlikely we would be invited in any event, so it really doesn’t matter!
As an introduction to Jim and me, we are a retired couple that have been dabbling in clay for over 30 years. We both had very respectable professional careers, but I always wanted to make and sell handmade pottery. Jim has been an enthusiastic supporter and loves to fire the kilns, especially the gas kiln. Between us we have 10 children, a gaggle of grandchildren and, now, the chance to run our Pottery full-time.
Last year we got our feet wet with sales in boutique shops in Historic Downtown Frederick, attendance at various craft shows, and a very rudimentary start at on-line sales. We also started teaching 2 one-and-done classes in Frederick. “Take a Turn at the Wheel” and “Clay and Chardonnay”. These have been very fun for both of us and the participants. We look forward to continuing these this year.
Our other big project for this year is to get our Leaman Pottery Shops on-line, stocked, and functional. A big endeavor for this year, but we are looking forward to learning how to take the photos, present on-line effectively, and, hopefully, provide folks outside of Frederick a chance to enjoy our work.
I though it would be fun to share the ups and downs of this journey on our web-site in case other potters are interested in the process and time involved in marketing a small pottery business. We are also interested in feedback, especially when we run into the inevitable snags along the way.
In my next post, I will describe my attempt to find the correct photo set-up and why we chose what we did and the effort and time to make the props.
With the holidays over and family obligations now at a minimum, my throwing schedule has taken on a new rhythm. I was thinking today of the things that make throwing pots on the potters wheel as a full-time clay artist more enjoyable than working at clay part-time with the responsibilities of a full time job outside the home the 1st priority.
Part-time potters are always struggling to work on their pieces when the clay is just the right consistency. I don’t know how many times a piece has dried in the damp closet because I just couldn’t get back to it or I ruined a piece because I tried to trim it before it was hard enough to retain its shape.
I always had lots of scrap clay that needed processing so that I could use it rather than buying new bags of clay at $25 a bag. Now the scrap clay is minimal and I simply use clay directly from the bag, almost eliminating the time spent on continual clay re-cycling.
I don’t have to rush as I throw, and no longer experience the disappointment of starting over on a piece because of the precious time lost on a less than satisfactory first attempt that went awry.
My work space is much cleaner and I am not spending time searching for tools, sponges and examples of what I want to add to my inventory.
I have time to throw a series and determine the best shape, proportion, and composition. Because I am with my pieces all day, I find that I am tweaking my shapes to make them better as they dry.
Retirement suits me! I love pursuing my favorite activity and creative outlet. I look forward to every day that I can play in the mud.
Spent a great day in the studio today. Everything out of the kiln was perfect and I actually managed 3 out of 3 double chip and dip bowls without any cracks. This is a first. I think I have finally mastered the assembly of this piece. They seem to make great wedding gifts. Started on a series of batter bowls and syrup pitchers for pancakes and syrup for gifts. Opening an Etsy shop today as well.
Here are the glazed brie bakers, colanders, berry bowls and mugs for this spring. We have decided to open an Etsy shop as well as show my work in the Little Pottery Shop. The new owner of the Little Pottery Shop, Dana, is keeping me busy with French Butter keepers and berry bowls as it is wedding season and they make really nice wedding gifts. Take a look!
The new owner at the Little Pottery Shop has sold a canister set that had been “hidden” on the back of a shelf for 3 years. He has painted and redesigned the displays and sales have picked up. Of course the weather has helped tremendously now that the very short spring and summer have arrived. Have a list of things to throw to restock items that have sold. YES!
After a very long winter, surgery, rehab, and taking care of my Mom, finally throwing again this spring. Spent a fabulous day in the studio yesterday making brie bakers and French Butter keepers. Hope to have them glazed by next weekend. Have a large number of mugs glazed and ready for the last fire along with some other specialty pieces. Hope to have pictures posted soon.
After several joint set-backs, I am now “fixed” with new hip and new back. I have discovered a winning glaze combination and I am currently in the process of throwing a whole set of dishes and serving pieces for myself. I have also been asked to join the Pottery Guild of Frederick and will be training the month of March. I am excited to have the exposure on Market in the heart of Historic Frederick as well as on Shab row. I also will soon have mugs in “The Main Cup” in Middletown. The food and coffee at “The Main Cup” has fabulous food and many thanks to Kim for selling a variety of mugs from local potters including her son who has amazing talent at a very young age. I look forward to showing my work on my blog again as I continue to throw and keep really busy.