The Shark Pot

It has been snowing all day.  I didn’t feel like trudging to Herman’s Coffee Shop so I missed my Wednesday afternoon coffee group.  I wasted most of the afternoon struggling with an extremely buggy upgrade to iWatermark Pro.    But I digress.

The Shark Pot got its name from my studio mates who thought it resembled a shark.  Indeed.  Is it the mouth of the pot?  Is it the flipper-like attachments?   The Shark Pot brings other disturbing images to my mind which I will not share here.  Suffice it to say that a visiting neighbor was so taken with its novelty and potential for horror (as a vessel for a Venus Fly Trap or maybe even sinister flora à la  Little Shop of Horrors), that I felt compelled to send it home with him before Boris could break it.








New Ideas for the Workshop

I have gathered up a few tips and ideas that I am using in my workshop as I continue on my current obsession with learning how to make rings.

Plier Holder- Thrift shop find – a paper towel holder.



Rolling Mill Holder: Bench grinder stand from Harbor Freight and a couple of sturdy C clamps.


Sawblade Holder: Spice holder.  Another thrift shop find.



I keep most of my stones in photo slide pocket storage pages in a three-ring binder.



I raised up my bench pin by securing it to a wooden box


1.BenchPin copy

I made a holder for flex shaft and rotary tool attachments.  I found a wood box at the thrift store and drilled holes in the top.


And I can keep a few more items, like collets which I am always misplacing, in the box.  It makes it easier to find things so I can spend more time learning and making things.



My Introduction to the Construction Junction.

My husband is a silly man who often claims, when I ask him a question, that I am “grilling him like a salmon.”  But he is a good sport.  After all, he married me, didn’t he?  So when we were in Pittsburgh last year for the opening of Into The Forest, he agreed when I told him I needed to make a stop at the Construction Junction. He even opened the door for me!


The Construction Junction is a nonprofit used and surplus building material retailer.  It accepts all kinds of donations-construction materials, old appliances, electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, tools, lighting, building materials and many other things too numerous to mention.  This keeps stuff out of landfills and gives it a second life when it leaves in the hands of a customer to be used in a new project.



But the construction junction is also a mecca for creative types.  I found some embossed tiles there that make perfect polymer clay texture sheets.  I got some brass pipe and metal parts that I will recycle into jewelry.   If I wanted one of the vintage stoves that seem to be all the rage these days,  I could pick one up at the Construction Junction and restore it to working order.




The place is HUGE, the staff is friendly and there is plenty of parking.  Check it out if you find yourself in Pittsburgh.



Clayathon: Another Look

Lindly Haunani arrived at Clayathon on President’s Day and informed us that  Tory Hughes had died of ovarian cancer the day before, on  Sunday. Tory was just 59.  Not everyone at Clayathon was familiar with her body of work.  She was one of the first to develop polymer imitative techniques.   and to get on the video bandwagon.  She made a series of polymer videos that are still in circulation. But she was more than a pioneer;  she kept pushing herself and growing as an artist and teacher.  Her work kept evolving.  Cynthia Tinapple interviewed Tory in 2013,  and you can watch the video here. To learn more about Tory and her work, visit the Polymer Art Archive, here.
Sherman Oberson runs a great auction. Here he is with his assistants.


There were a number of  old-school polymer  pieces for sale at the auction (which raised more than $3,000.  A big chunk of it went to  Ron Lehockey’s Heart Project.) An anonymous donor contributed a number of items by City Zen Cane, Grove and Grove, Pier Voulkos, Kathy Amt and others.  Here are some pictures.  I wish I had taken more.

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And Sue Springer came through again orchestrating a collaborative mirror project. (She did this for the first time at Clayathon 2014)  The finished mirror, which was also auctioned off, went home with a very happy person.


And finally,  Cynthia Tinapple came to Clayathon this year and made a great video of the highlights.  You can watch the video here.    And if you want to learn more about  pioneering polymer artists and their work be sure to check out the Polymer Art Archive.

Back From Clayathon

I got back from Clayathon today and I am so tired I can barely see straight.  But we had a ball,  all 110 or so of us.    The Stockton Seaview, where the event is held, is a luxury golf resort with a spa, pool, fitness center, a fireplace in the lobby and a big bowl of apples on the hotel’s front desk. It’s a great place to unwind and have fun.

This years’ Clayathon attracted clayers from as far away as California, Texas, and Canada.  Each Clayathon attendee got a 6-foot table as a workspace.  We had ovens for baking, buffers for buffing, drills for drilling and electric pasta machines out in the hall.  Donna Kato was this years’ guest artist and taught a class before Clayathon started.  Sarah Shriver, Claire Maunsell, Lindly Haunani,  Melanie West and Jana Roberts Benzon taught pre and post-conference classes, too.

I’ll write more on Clayathon next week, I hope!  In the meantime, here are some pictures.


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For more Clayathon reportage, go to Lisa Clarke’s blog here.

Embrace the Handle

Many people, including yours truly, are daunted by the thought of pulling a handle for a mug. So rather than face the task with fear, I decided to pay special attention to my mug handles to see whether I could come up with handles that are fun to make. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1.IMG_20180209_113045But I will not be making mugs this week because Clayathon starts today!  And I’ve been looking forward to it for some time.  To read about past Clayathons, press here.

In Honor of the Eagles’ Super Bowl Victory: A Dessert to Knock Your Booties Off


I live in Philadelphia and I suppose I would be remiss if I did not take passing note of the Philadelphia Eagle’s recent Super Bowl Victory.  Before the game started, however, victory was far from certain.  Knowing that the only other kind of “bowl” that could bring such joy to my husband was a bowl filled with something chocolate, I decided to make a chocolate creation worthy of the Super Bowl and so delicious that if the Eagles lost, we would still have the dessert as consolation.


I searched the Internet for a flourless chocolate cake recipe and found one on the Finecooking.Com    The recipe is easy to make and held up to my minor alterations.  One thing I did was to use my husband’s favorite Icelandic Chocolate from Whole Foods.  He is trying to cut all milk products out of his4.IcelandicChocolate diet (for some reason, this does not include butter.  Don’t ask me to explain how butter is not a milk product.  But Icelandic Chocolate contains not one speck of milk product so it’s OK.)    The second alteration was to use a springform pan which makes unmolding the cake much easier.  I changed the icing too, adding cocoa and powdered sugar  And I serve the cake frozen. You would not believe how much better this makes the chocolate experience. That and an Eagles’ Super Bowl  victory. Here is the recipe:


Super Bowl Flourless Chocolate Cake

  • 12 oz. Icelandic Chocolate (about 1 3/4 bars)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 5 large eggs at room temperature (cruelty-free, please!)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup or so powdered sugar
  • 4 tbs cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.  Cut a circle of baking parchment to fit into the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan.  Spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with cooking spray and dust with cocoa.  I like to sprinkle some granulated sugar into the pan too.  Combine the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until the mixture becomes thick and fluffy.  This is a simple step but I tried to find a site on the Internet to illustrate it for people who have not done it.   I saw so many different instructions that I gave up.   Here’s what I did: I threw everything in the bowl, including the cocoa, 3/4 cup butter melted and cooled, and beat the mixture for about 5 minutes with a Hamilton Beach 6-speed hand mixer using the mixing paddles and not the whisk.  I used the number two speed.    The batter fluffed up beautifully.  (Remember, my cruelty-free eggs were at room temperature. )  I scraped the batter into the prepared pan and baked the cake on the middle rack for about 40 minutes.  The knife I inserted in the middle had a smidgen of batter on it, but I did not want to over bake the cake, so I took it out.   I let the cake cool for about 20 minutes, ran a knife around the edges of the pan, and put the cake, still on the spring-form bottom, on a plate, and into the freezer.

Then I made the icing

I melted the remaining 1/4 cup of butter in the microwave, put the remaining 2 oz. of the Icelandic chocolate into the melted butter, and stirred the mixture until the chocolate was melted. Then I added 3 tbs of cocoa powder, about a cup of powdered sugar, and a tsp. of vanilla.  I beat the mixture with the mixer, adding just enough water to make it pourable.  I took the cake out of the freezer,  poured the icing over the cake and let it drip over the sides and returned the cake to the freezer,  When the icing set up, I covered the cake with plastic wrap.

Some recommendations

This cake is best served frozen.  You can eat it as soon as it cools, but it is so much better  when it’s frozen.   If you have trouble cutting it, try dipping the knife in hot water before slicing.   The cake is so chocolatey that a small piece will quell your inner chocolate monster.  In fact, this cake is too good, it will knock your booties off.  Go Eagles!

Pottery, Cats, and Clayathon

I’ll start with the bad news.  Boris broke the Picasso Vase!  He was flinging himself to the top of his cat tree to claim a treat and everything between him and the treat was, shall we say, fodder for collateral damage.  He got the treat and the vase hit the floor.   I repaired the vase today with some 23k gold leaf and epoxy (Kintsugi) and might still put it in the Fleisher Art Memorial’s 2018 Student Show.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I have been working on soliciting auction and goody bag donations for Clayathon 2018. There are going to be some wonderful items this year and one-third of the auction proceeds go to  The Center for Pediatric Therapies and Ron Lehockey’s heart pin project.

I donated some pottery last year and it was pretty popular so I decided to contribute two lidded vessels to this years’ auction.


The vessel on top is screen printed with underglazes and the lower one is painted with underglazes.    The vessels are hand built using the tarpaper technique.

Here’s a  picture of the vessels before they were painted and a picture of the finished vessel I showed you in the tarpaper technique post.    I call it the Sassy Box and plan to make some mug handles with the same design as the handle on the Sassy Box lid.

Octavius Catto’s Quest For Parity


Philadelphia unveiled its first public monument to an African-American in September 2017.  “A Quest For Parity” is located on the south apron of Philadelphia City Hall.

Who was Octavius Catto?  He was an athlete: He established the first successful African-American baseball club in Philadelphia.  He was an activist and a key figure in the protests that led to the desegregation of streetcars in Philadelphia.   He was an educator, teaching at the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth.  He was a soldier: when the Confederates invaded Pennsylvania in 1863, he raised a company of Black soldiers, one of the first volunteer regiments of volunteers in the Commonwealth.   He served as a  Major and raised a total of eleven regiments during the war.  


I ‘ve always thought of Octavius Catto as a Philadelphian even though he was born in South Carolina.  He settled in Philadelphia and met his fiance Sarah Le Count here.   The building that housed the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth still stands on Bainbridge  Street a few blocks from my home, as does the spot on South Street where Catto was gunned down in an election day riot in October 1871.  He was 32 years old. Too soon for his work to be done.

The statue of Catto is beautifully rendered by sculptor Branly Cadet who designed and executed the monument.  The picture at the top of this post shows the gleaming metal ball that sits in front of the statute and reflects Catto, Philadelphia, and the passers-by. 


The twelve-foot bronze statue is imposing and lifelike; Catto seems about to tip off the pedestal.   Is he running?  Is he making an impassioned speech?  Cadet aptly portrays   Catto as a man of action, an activist, passionate and relentless.


If you find yourself in Philadelphia, go see the monument.    To read more about the monument and the artist, press here.  To see a documentary film about Octavius Catto, press here.



A Cure for My Wintertime Blues

I lost my hat.  I lost my favorite hat.  I suppose I should be seriously bummed but, with all the problems in the world, it’s not worth the effort it would take. Besides,  the loss of my beloved chapeau has given me the opportunity to go hat shopping. Traditionally,  I acquire my hats in one of three ways: online shopping, someone gives me a hat, or I find the hat.  Literally, find the hat.  I found my favorite hat on trash collection day a few years ago.  It was tucked into a Neiman Marcus box that was sitting on top of a pile of garbage.  I could not resist looking into the Neiman Marcus box and there was my hat.  It needed no adornment.  I could wear it right out of the box.  And wear it I did during the cold weather.  I have one more hat (given to me by a woman I hardly know) that I wear during the coldest weather.  I have an in-between hat.  I bought this hat in a store, but after I brought it home I put it away and could not find it for two years.  And then I set it on fire by accident.  Don’t ask.  It is a small hole in the brim.  I sewed it shut and no one notices it until I point it out.  Which I do.  And I have some summer hats.

So I have been auditioning new hats.  I like to decorate my hats with flowers made from cloth or felt.  Which brings me to the cure for my wintertime blues that is the title of this post.  Homemade bread and soup are good for the wintertime blues,  but they reinforce the fact that it’s winter.  Flowers, on the other hand,  even felt ones, point to the Spring and Summer that are sure to come.12.BigGroup2_1

So I have been making felt flowers.  Once I start doing something like this, I can’t stop.  (Before I got on this kick, I was making stacking rings like there was no tomorrow and only stopped because I filed holes in my thumbs and I had to let them heal. ) (And now I have thumb protectors.)

Needle felting can be tough on your fingers.  (I prefer needle felting to wet felting.)  I have gloves and finger cots and finger shields, but so far have managed to not innoculate myself with the felting needles.    I use felt sheets that I make from fulled 100% wool sweaters and scarves, and I adorn the flowers with roving, wool yarn and bits of craft felt.   I have not seen anyone who makes felt flowers in quite this way so I will post a tutorial sometime in the future.

You could use the flowers as brooches or corsages.  Each one as a pin sewn on the back.  But I prefer to use them to decorate hats,  Here are some pictures of my hats festooned with felted flowers.  Spring is just around the corner.