Progress Photos

I took photos at all (most) of the stages of work on a large vase, and thought I’d share a look at my process here!

Large clay vase, freshly thrown out of dark brown clay. It's sitting on a throwing bat on a table in a pottery studio.
Step 1: Throw vase form and add tiny handles. Wait for it to dry just enough that the surface is dry to the touch. Not pictured: paint the vase roughly with 1-2 layers of white underglaze, and let dry.
An in-progress sketch of two women, one with wings. Also visible is a pencil, pink pearl eraser, and a mug.
Step 2: Figure out the size your image needs to be to fit on the vase. Decide on your image and sketch it out. (Netflix and tea optional but preferred)
Line drawing on plastic of the same sketch, finished. A winged woman with a crown holds a shorter woman with braided hair and a dress. They are framed by plants.
Step 3: Trace the drawing onto a piece of a grocery bag with a permanent marker. The grocery bag plastic is sturdy enough for gentle drawing, but thin and flexible enough for the next part.
Ceramic vase lying horizontally on a piece of foam. The drawing on a piece of plastic is pinned to the surface with sewing pins.
Step 4: Position the plastic drawing on the vase, and gently pin it into place. If possible, I aim the pins at spots where I will carve a line – they do leave tiny marks in the underglaze.
Unfired ceramic vase lying horizontal on a piece of foam. The image of two women is lightly indented into the surface.
Step 5: Gently go over the lines of the drawing, through the plastic, with a dull pencil or other small rounded tool. The impression it leaves will be visible even if it isn’t carved. Trace as much of the drawing as necessary. (not recommended: remove plastic and realize you forgot part of the drawing)
Same vase with the wing and some details painted in purple, and a framing border and some details painted in yellow.
Step 6: Paint in any colored areas with underglaze. This allows me to get the carved lines more precisely if that comes after the last layer of underglaze.
Same vase with the majority of the lines carved to reveal the dark brown clay under the white and colored underglaze.
Step 7: Start carving! There’s not any good way to ‘erase’ a mark you don’t want, so I always start with the faces. They’re the trickiest part, and if a face gets messed up completely, it’s not worth continuing the piece. From there, I just work on whatever feels right, paying attention to which bits need to overlap other bits.
Same vase, now standing on a wood table, with the entire drawing complete.
Step 8: Continue to finish the drawing and add details as desired. The smaller details on their clothing and the shading on the leaves were decisions I made as the image came together.
Finished vase. It has a rounded body, flared neck, and two small handles by the neck. The handles and neck are dark brown, the body is painted white with a blue and yellow image carved with dark brown lines. A winged woman holds another woman in her arms and they look lovingly at each other. The image is bordered by a yellow line overlaid with sprigs of the deadly nightshade plant.
Step 9: Bisque fire, clear glaze, and glaze fire. Marvel once again at the fact that your blue underglaze looks purple until it’s glazed.

The basic process (make piece, paint on white underglaze, carve image) is how I do all of my illustration pieces. I don’t always go through the process of sketching beforehand and transferring the drawing using plastic. Usually for my birds, moths, and snakes, I just freehand the image right onto the pottery. But for people, where the proportions are more important (let’s avoid the uncanny valley), for more intricate designs with multiple parts that need to play well together, and for larger pieces where I need to get the layout just right – that’s when I pull out this multi-step process.

Hope you enjoyed this peek into the studio!

Diverse Perspectives

The Diverse Perspectives show in July was, as always, a wonderful event. A beautiful garden setting, tons of art, friends, and family, and a unifying commitment to surviving the Nevada summer heat!

Pottery display using wood crates and small boxes on a blue striped tablecloth. The pottery includes illustrated plates, vases, and jars. There are evergreen trees in the background.

In addition to the ever-lovely Bardy (who is growing into a very well-behaved dog), I also got to meet the neighbors’ new golden retriever puppy, whose name I’ve forgotten. He was extremely fluffy and adorable, and really wanted to get through the fence to the art show where all the exciting people and smells were!

A small golden retriever puppy trying to squeeze his head through a gap in the wire fence. His paw is also reaching through to dig at the dirt on the other side.

On a personal note, I continued to develop and improve my tent set up. This year I have my own (brand new and shiny) 10×10 tent. I also had custom crates made by my wonderful wife – they do double duty for display as well as transporting all the pottery on the long drive to Reno. I was very pleased with how the whole display came together!

Wide view of the same pottery display - two tables with crates and pottery set in an L-shape on a lawn, under a white canopy.


I’ve struggled for a while with feeling like everything I create I have to sell (or try to sell). This stems from a couple different reasons – one, I feel like I have to do everything I can to make extra money for rent (which somewhere along the way morphed into ‘everything I do has to make money’). Two, why shouldn’t I sell what I create? I make nice stuff, I put effort into it, and other people do great selling their [jewelry, art, etc]. Three, I like to create, but at a certain point I’ll have nowhere to store anything!

So for a few years I’ve worked on selling my art, but without any sense of consistency. I go off on tangents of jewelry making or embroidery or watercolor bookmarks. Which in some senses has been great – I get to focus on whatever is currently catching my attention and then just list it online. Every now and then something sells, and I have some great followers who stick with me through all the changes in media.

Now for the bad part: it really isn’t fun anymore. Every time I sit down to make something I’m already thinking about how I’m going to sell it, what the pricing should be, whether it’s something that’s easy to ship or not. And the quality of my work suffers – I simplify designs so that I can sell them without severely underpaying myself. Everything becomes about getting it done fast so that it can sell, and at a reasonable price point.

Which brings me to a few ideas I’ve come across over the past few months. First is that when you turn your passion into your work, you lose the love for it. Now I don’t necessarily think that’s always true, but you do have to be careful about how you handle it, and it really does have to be something you have real passion for in order to survive through the business plans and marketing and customers. Second is that not everything you do has to create income, despite everything we’re told in our capitalist society. It’s ok to have things for yourself that make you happy even if (especially if?) they don’t contribute financially. Third is that as an artist who makes a living (or a portion of it) through your art, you need hobbies outside of your art business, no matter how much you love it. You need that creative outlet that doesn’t come with the pressures of business and marketing, the freedom to just create and play without limitations.

I’m still going to be launching my pottery business, since that’s been my plan for years, and pottery is the one thing I’ve always really wanted to share with the world. But everything else is going back to being a hobby. I will spend time thinking up projects that really mean something to me or to my friends and family – the more complicated, the better! I’ll spend weeks and months adding detail without worrying about how long it’s taking and just revel in the act of creating.

So I’m going to be clearing out my Etsy shop and my Square shop – go ahead and claim anything you’ve had your eye on. If you’re poor like me, feel free to use the code CLEARANCE for 50% off. If there’s something you love and still can’t afford it, contact me and we’ll see if we can work something out. I’d rather have my art loved and viewed than sitting in a drawer!


Mugs in Progress

One of my first big projects now that the new wheel throwing space is set up, is a set of custom mugs for my friend Jen. She owns and teaches at Blue Plume Studio, and always has tea available for her students. Her current set of mugs is not handmade, and has lost a few of its members to sudden falls on the hard floor. About a year ago we were talking about how she needed handmade mugs once I had access to pottery wheels again, and I’m really happy to finally get a chance to make them!

Basic shapes fresh off the wheel!

Stamping her studio logo into the barely-dry-enough clay



The bottoms were still really soft, so they had to dry upside down for a while before finishing

Drying before the bisque firing

The mugs just came out of the bisque kiln today, and I’m waiting on a shipment of new glazes (should be coming this week). I’m excited to get them glazed and finished – I’ll post pictures when they’re done!