Friday, June 29, 2012

Michigan Artisans Grand Opening

Just got back from dropping off some more work to Ramona and Dree at Michigan Artisans Gallery at 1400 E. Fisher down in the Eastern Market area. Be sure to stop by tomorrow evening 7-11 for their grand opening!
Dree Chartier and Ramona Martin (owner of Michigan Artisans Gallery)
with some of the Gerbera Daisies I dropped off this afternoon.
Hypertufa stepping stones and candle holders from
Chris Hopp of Farmbrook Designs
Hand-dyed Ts, dresses and scarves by my good friend
Glenda Hopp of So Many Colors
Beautiful woven goods, including rugs and purses.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On-Line Native Plant Article

Check out a new on-line interview about native plants generated by the article I wrote which appeared in the May 2012 Michigan Gardener magazine. Emily Bingham of came across the Michigan Gardener article, found herself reading it (out loud to her friend) compulsively, finally contacting me for a phone interview, which we did last week Tuesday. We had a great time chatting about native plants, gardening in general and how the two intersect. Once you've had a chance to read the interview (I didn't realIze I talked like that!) - located at - be sure to check out the rest of the site!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Royal Oak Clay, Glass and Metal: Art that Sizzles!

Come out and get a cool look at the cream of the cream of the "hot arts" - clay, glass and metal artists at the Royal Oak Clay, Glass and Metal Show. I'll be at Booth 31 with Black Cat Pottery work old and new - stop by and say, "Hi!"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Garden Tour Today!

Come one, come all, to the 2012 Annual Spring Black Cat Pottery/English Landscape Garden Tour, open to the public, free of charge, 10a-2p, today, Saturday, June 2. Come see a unique, small urban garden incorporating usual numbers of Clematis (40+) and native plants (150+), observe alternative methods for growing marginal plants as well as green gardening solutions in action.

Visit with the gardener (me) - author of a recent article on native plants which appeared in Michigan Gardener magazine - as well as local garden artisans; enjoy locally-made refreshments; and possibly some live music (keep your fingers crossed that Charlie Palazzola can make it and brings at least one of his guitars)! (I've also invited my friend/massage therapist Justin Phipps to come do chair massage - not sure he can make it.) Call either of the numbers in the information block listed to the left for location and directions.

A shout out here to Sharon Bass (terrific basin installation assistant), Stephen Hulbert (lawnmower extraordinaire) and Chelsea Martin and Chris Hopp (for perfect trough delivery, fountain reassembly and large pot relocation efforts) for helping me get it done. I may do most of the work but I certainly don't to it all!

Can't make it today? Book a private tour for your garden club or other group or come visit on August 18, same time, same place, for the 2012 Annual Summer Black Cat Pottery/ English Landscape Garden Tour - with even more attractions!

Remember - every day is a different day in a garden!

Hope to see you - soon!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Deluxe Sunflowers: Starry Night

When I started working on new ideas for my Deluxe Sunflowers - designs in which I added clay to the base of the center of the sunflower, I was working with a basic set of tools consisting of a cake decorating set (which I used with rather thick slip, or liquid clay), numerous Kemper Tools Klay Kutters (plunger-style tools) and a Kemper Tools Mini Klay Gun, a mini extruder with a series of dies. I had used this last tool with one of its dies to make the "Pasta" Deluxe Sunflower design.

Years ago, I had experimented with some of the other dies in a series of sushi plates I made. I used the Sasaki Colorstone Stoneware Salad Plate as my "mold" for these giving them a gentle curve, cutting them in round, square and triangular forms. I used half-round, square and triangular extrusions from the Klay Gun to embellish these pieces. I hadn't used those dies since.

I rediscovered the triangular die as I as coming up with new ideas for the Deluxe Sunflowers. I initially used the die to create a new toadstool master, finding it interesting how the clay would curl as it was extruded. I made a new toadstool design consisting of arabesques to which the triangular extrusions seemed to lend themselves. This gave me the idea to do a similar design for a sunflower.

Unlike the "Cake", "Seed" and "Pasta" designs, in this case the center composition had to be completed before the petals were applied so it would completely fill (and even break the frame of) the flower's center. My first attempt was quite successful, actually, although I learned that it was best not to score the entire center surface, as most of it would not be covered by the design and the scoring marks could show through even after glazing; I wanted the center to be as clean as possible so the arabesques really stood out. I did, however, score the area where the petals would be applied so as to not disturbe the central design when I went on to next steps.

The best method I've come up with this technique is to make sure the clay surface is somewhat wet, so I do slip it initially and then spray with water as I work. Extruding a section of clay (fill the Klay Gun as full as possible, with highly plastic clay that will extrude easily; dry clay will tend to crack more easily), I work it into an arabesque, starting in the center of the flower. I work around the surface, well below where I think (based on experience) the petals will begin, even making "half circles" to imply the continuation of the design. For my first attempt, I just did the arabesques. Once the center is completed, slip and begin to apply petals, working from the largest on the outside, finishing with the third row of smallest petals.

I used my typical Amaco's Potters Choice Temmoku for the center. I can't get enough of this glaze 0 although it can look very different on different surfaces, I'm never unhappy with out it turns out, as the warm blackish-brown satin finish subtly plays up the surface without being distracting. I generally blot on three coats to get a really rich, opaque finish. I used Albany Slip Brown from the same glaze collection for the petals, a rich medium red-brown glaze that pools to a lighter orange - it's one of my students' favorite and mine.

Although I was very pleased with the result of my first attempt, after that piece sold and decided I made another, I felt it needed "something more", so I rolled out a thin slab of clay and cut out small circles, which I scattered throughout the composition, usually at the center of an arabesque or in the interstices between them. This is now the template for this design, as you see here.