A little “goodbye, economy” gift!

Okay, yeah, this is cheating a bit cus I usually show off something handmade, from Etsy. But I found a good use for that cash from the pottery cup sales yesterday – a pair of boots, massively on sale! Hurray! And just in time, since it’s starting to get a little chilly out here.

And that’s really it, as far as winter clothes shopping goes for me. Trying to save money, what with the economy on the brink of collapse and all that.

But hey, if everything goes to hell in a handbasket… at least I’ll be wearing some damn sexy boots!

Published in: on September 30, 2008 at 12:28 am  Comments (7)  

Ooooooh, baby!

Yes, yes, yes!!!!

Well, spending another 18 hours of my life in front of a broiling hot kiln suddenly feels like a small price to pay. Almost everything came out brilliant!

A few pieces were real knock-outs, especially some of the new oval serving dishes I devoted almost the last month to making. Soooo pleased with how they came out! Plus there are new covered jars with little lug handles (too cute, if I do say so myself), a zillion cups and a bunch of big serving bowls. A few things came out either darker than I expected, or a very bright bright gold without the dark lo-lights. But I’d say 90 percent got that rich luster I love. Oh, and I sold four cups to a studio-mate while they were still hot (literally). So that made me feel pretty damn good!

Three pieces that I made out of a different type of clay (not my usual porcelain) shattered into a zillion, million bits. But that’s okay. I can afford to lose a couple of experimental bowls – they luckily didn’t destroy anything else in the exploding process! (In the picture, the bowl still looks pretty whole. It shattered further when I touched it a few seconds later).

I basically had to throw everything in boxes and run off to work this afternoon, so you won’t see these new pieces up in my Etsy shop until a little later this week. But to give you a taste, here’s a little photo documentary of the unloading:

Here's the beast itself, cooled down to a mere 300 degrees, and almost ready to open!

Here's the beast itself, cooled to a mere 300 degrees, and almost ready to open!

Still too hot, but we're peeking inside anyways!

Still too hot, but we tried to peek inside anyways!

That damn tenth cone STILL is barely melted! At least the rest of 'em fell!

That damn tenth cone STILL is barely melted! At least the rest of them fell!

The first few pieces are still too hot to hold without gloves.

The first few pieces are still too hot to hold without gloves.

Some of the new beauties!

Some of the new beauties!

Check out those colors!

Check out those colors!

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 11:06 pm  Comments (12)  

All fired up and ready to go…

So, I forgot to bring my camera to the kiln firing. But that’s really for the best.

You would have seen me looking cool, calm and collected as I loaded about 150 of my pieces in. Nervous and excited as my teacher helped me get the firing underway and the temperatures started to rise. You would have seen me squinting into the kiln peep-holes during the morning, watching as each of my temperature-measuring clay “cones” melted away, perfectly on time.

But by mid-afternoon, it was a different situation. After my teacher left, and I was left alone with a couple of friends to keep watch during the second half of the firing, things started to go awry. You wouldn’t have wanted pictures of the scene when the old, beat-up pyrometer, used to measure the temperature electronically, finally broke. You would have seen us running around in a panic, raiding the closet for pliers, screwdrivers and anything else to put it back together. And of course, dropping the display monitor in the process, knocking loose an internal computer chip. THAT was a scary moment. And when we finally had it put back together (minus the false start where we screwed the wires in backwards and got a negative temperature reading) we discovered…the kiln had stalled.

It wasn’t increasing in temperature any more. I loosened the damper, waited. Edged the air flaps open. Waited. Turned the gas down a hair. Waited.

The temperature started crawling forward again. Hurray! But wait – the flames aren’t licking out the peep-holes the way they should – I gave it too much oxygen. I turned the gas back up. Waited. Squeezed the air flaps closed. Waited.

The flame came back, but the temperature stopped rising again! Yaaarrrgh!

By about 10 p.m., in the 13th hour of the firing, I’m sure we looked dirty, crazy-eyed and desperate. I pleaded with the kiln to go up. Threatened it. It reached about 2060 degrees F and wouldn’t budge.

The pyrometer finally broke for good around midnight. We threw it aside in disgust and decided to finish the job old school – keeping a close eye on the glowing hot cones inside, and on the color of the flame jetting out the peeps. All we had to do was keep riding it hard until the tenth cone melted. We were stuck around number seven.

By 2 a.m., we were feeling ready to give up, but we soldiered on. The ninth cone slowly dropped down. My flames were barely visible, and I had to keep lighting sheets of newspaper on fire to make sure we still had pressure coming out the peeps. We started getting silly, and comparing past love affairs.

At 3 a.m., in the 18th straight hour of firing, the cone finally started to curl downwards. We had run out of gossip, and out of music, and I decided, “Hell, it’s close enough for me.” I cranked the gas off, choked the air, stuffed every crack with insulation and called a cab.

Saturday I slept like I hadn’t in a week, and spent the day trying not to worry. The kiln slowly cooled.

On Sunday afternoon the moment of truth will come: we’ll find out if I got it hot enough to melt my glazes and mature my clay, and whether I balanced the oxygen in the fire well enough to turn my colors golden and rich.

Cross your fingers, cross your toes and pray to whoever you’ve got. I’m counting down the minutes…

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 12:40 am  Comments (8)  

Busy times

Oooh, boy. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It will be the last day of a week of getting up extra early, glazing until I can’t see straight, hopping in the car and rushing to work late, working the evening shift at the newspaper (car crashes, fires, dead bodies, political baloney), coming home at midnight when there’s no parking spots left…. and then doing it all over again the next night.

But Friday. Ahhh, Friday. On that day I will park myself in front of a kiln for 12 hours and watch it burn, burn, burn. And the next day I will sleep.

Until I have time for the next post, enjoy a treasury I managed to catch tonight! Some old friends, some new…

Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 11:59 pm  Comments (8)  

My Dad the Hero

An excerpt from an email I got from my dad today, edited for space. Photo courtesy of the super-powered cape-maker, Mahalo!


Judy and I are in Montreal for a nursing conference. Yesterday we spent most of the cool, but sunny day on bikes, riding the paths and burning off the petit desjuners of crepes and coffee and the midday repast of patisseries and espresso.

After we got back to the hotel, we drove downtown and I dropped Judy off at HSBC to use the ATM. I thought it best not to hang there, so I said I’d go around the block and pick her up in front of the bank.

Bad choice.

As I headed down Avenue de Rene Levesque, deeper and deeper into the heart of downtown, crawling in the left hand lane, it became apparent that no left-hand turns would be allowed. Several blocks later, I started my way around the block, worried about what Judy must be thinking, when suddenly, I heard the screech of tires. As I glanced into my right side mirror, I caught a glimpse of the black Porsche that swerved from behind me and shot past my right side as we both made the right hand turn onto University Ave.

Turning now to look ahead of me, I watched as he flew across three lanes, left and then right, attempting to maneuver through the thick downtown traffic. He swept sharply to the right and in so doing struck a cyclist, throwing him to the ground in a screech of brakes.

Instantly, the driver leaped from his car and rushed to the cyclist, who was pulling himself up from the ground, and just as quickly, he grabbed the cyclist, threw him against the car parked at the curb and then down to the ground, pounding him with his fists as they screamed at one another.

I immediately pulled over and jumped from the car and ran to the two men on the ground, now surrounded by a crowd of anxious bystanders, everyone shouting in French while I attempted to pull the driver from atop the cyclist. As I pulled his arm away, the cyclist took advantage of his momentary freedom and let a punch fly that knocked the driver’s glasses into the road. Suddenly I imagined the police hauling the three of us off to the station, all while Judy was left standing somewhere on a corner, wondering.

It was now more than twenty minutes since I had dropped her off and several bystanders were calling 911 and cars were piled in the busy intersection in the busiest heart of downtown on a Monday afternoon.

I decided that the police would have a better time handling the participants and that I needed to get back to Judy who didn’t have her cell phone and wouldn’t know even where she was, much less where I was.

The next nail-biting 15 to 20 minutes I spent stuck in traffic in a maze of one-way streets and no-left-turn, no-right-turn signs, fretting my way back through unfamiliar territory to Judy. To say that she was happy to see me when I finally made it back is no small understatement. Fortunately, I had a good excuse for my absence.

Fortunately too, there was a precinct station right on the corner of the street where our B&B was located. I went in and gave a statement of what I had witnessed. They confirmed by computer and by radio that the Porsche driver had been arrested and was now in custody. I don’t know anything yet about the condition of the cyclist.


The rest of the email is about my Dad getting lots of various parking tickets. He said “It’s not 8:30 yet and I’m feeling like taking a vacation from this vacation.”

Well, the vacation may have to wait, but it’s comforting to know that in times of trouble, Canada has a good ‘ole American vigilante at their service!
Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 11:07 pm  Comments (4)  

But don’t take my word for it…

Just look at what the others are saying!

Yup, I finally got my act together and posted a testimonials page so you can read all about how awesome I am. Er, I mean, so you can read about my happy customers.

I’m also going to refer to it as my “Page Amy reads when she’s sad” section.

In other news, I’m firing a biiig kiln on Friday (maybe I’ll get my act together and take some shots of the firing process for you!). I’ve got a whole bunch of new kinds of pieces in there, including some serving dishes and jars that I’m really, really happy with. I can’t wait to show them off!

I also recently bought some alphabet stamps so I can make customizable pieces that display a special message. I have some samples in the kiln and I’ll be showing you those as soon as they’re out! I think I’m going to set the end of October as a deadline to order custom pieces for the holidays, so if you want one, it’s the time to start planning….

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 11:26 pm  Comments (4)  

Writing Critique #20

Tonight’s special will be a whole-fried Writing Critique served on a bed of humor, with a side of cheesy metaphors…

Yup! I’m back with another Writing Critique today, and our brave volunteer is Julia, of Materialised. Her bright, colorful felted brooches are snazzy and jazzy, but her descriptions don’t quite capture it for me. I would love to see her descriptions match her pieces: Snappy and fun.

Here’s her listing for a knock-out flower pin:


If your searching for something different and fun – this cute handmade Flower brooch might be perfect for you.

It was designed for the young ,or even the young at heart and is 100% hand made by myself.

It’s part of a series of needle-felted and embellished brooches I’ve been working on.Each one slightly different and unique.
The brooch is made from wool fibre and a mix of fabrics ,which are fused together with the help of a needle felting machine.It has a wonderful textured surface.

I embellished it with beads,sequins and buttons – all sewn on by hand to make this a truly beautiful and unique piece.

There’s a gold coloured metal fastener on the reverse so you can become firmly attached to it!

4 and a quarter by 3 and a half inches (approx)
(9cm x 5cm)

Please contact me if you would like to know anything else about this item.I’m happy to help!


First off – “might” be perfect for me? Oh, it is, Julia, it is. Let’s take out the hesitancy.

Second, this description is just too long. It’s not that there is any information that Julia should get rid of, but I think it could be slimmed down by condensing and cutting. Especially look for phrases that take up space, like “100% handmade by me,” that could be reduced to a simple “handmade.”

Third, the adjectives. Different, fun, cute, different, unique, wonderful, beautiful, unique. That could pretty much describe any handmade item on Etsy, so let’s hunt out some words that really show it off. I have a particular ax to grind with the word “unique.” Try describing something that really is unique about the piece – it will get so much more across then just using the word (imagine you spent an entire date just telling the other person, over and over again, how “interesting” you are, without demonstrating it. Sooner or later they’re going to think you’re actually pretty boring.)

Now, obviously, you can start this description with some straight-ahead info, but for the sake of fun I’m going to open it with the way this brooch makes me feel.

And with that, here comes the re-write:


Jump out of bed and greet the sun – another beautiful morning!

Bring a little sunny-time thrill into your life with this bright felted brooch.

Part of a series of handmade, needle-felted brooches, each one is a dazzling expression of colour, texture and mood.

This brooch is crafted from wool fibre and a mix of fabrics, fused together with the help of a needle felting machine, and then embellished with beads, sequins and buttons. There’s a gold coloured metal fastener on the reverse so you can become firmly attached to it!

4 and a quarter by 3 and a half inches (approx)
(9cm x 5cm)

Please contact me if you would like to know anything else about this item. I’m happy to help!

Oh, and some of the spellings might seem funny to us North Americans, but Julia is from across the pond!

I hope that helps and much good luck to her and happy sales!


Interested in a critique focusing on language and writing? You’ve come to the right place! You must leave a comment on THIS blog post to be considered for next week! (Even if you have volunteered on a previous week!)

Also check out the Writing Critique archives! (There has been some technical trouble loading more recent critiques, but all the older ones are there!!)


Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 9:55 pm  Comments (10)  

Thoughts of home

Annnd as long as we’re talking about winter, and snow, and Upstate New York, how about a little glimpse of my home?

This shot, by the lovely Shannon, of Square Effects, captures an iconic scene at Watkins Glen, not too far from where I grew up in Rochester. I really miss all the lovely parks, hikes and lakes we have up there… I know we don’t get a lot of attention out in the Western half of the state, but believe me, New York is a lot more than just the Big Apple!

P.S. Critique tomorrow! I promise! No excuses!

Published in: on September 20, 2008 at 5:24 pm  Comments (5)  

Praying to the snow gods

When, oh when, will it get frosty and cold? I love winter like the true Upstate New York girl I am.

Sure, I complain when I can’t feel my toes. But who needs toes when you can wrap yourself all up in cozy wool and hand-knit scarves?

Maybe when the weather changes I’ll buy a skein or two I’ve been eying at Wild Hare’s shop…

Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 10:19 pm  Comments (8)  

Blood and Gold

These earrings by Indiayaluna are so evocative, I could probably sit here all night waxing poetic about the sunset and the desert… But I’ll spare you.

Instead, I’ll just let nature do the job for me:

P.S. That’s Botswana, and I’ve been there, and yes, it really is that beautiful…

Published in: on September 18, 2008 at 10:30 am  Comments (3)