Shepherds Grove Studio Goes Solar

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My ceramic studio is attached to our family’s home and I love the convenience of being able to wander out to the studio anytime I want to work on my dog pottery.  The combination of our household and studio energy costs/consumption was a bit excessive so my husband and I began to think about solar.

If you’d asked me years ago if one could generate enough solar in our often foggy and overcast coastal town, I would have said no.  But after friends and neighbors started putting up solar, and reporting that the solar production was really good, we looked into it.  Our solar panels went up in July and, now that they’ve run for more than a month, we’re seeing really good output such that our electric consumption is negative.  Pretty darn cool.

I love the idea of my pottery being fired from the sun that hits our roof.  Plus, solar fits with my goals of wanting to run my studio as cleanly and efficiently as possible.  I already recycle most of my scrap clay, keep my water usage to a minimum, and use non-toxic materials to make my dog breed pottery.  The big test will come over the next couple months when holiday shopping drives my firing frequency to its peak.  It will be really interesting to compare last years bill with this years.

Until next time,

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My German Shepherd Turned 13 Today!


Dante, my very sweet and handsome boy, turned 13 today. This is quite an accomplishment for big breeds such as German Shepherds . Our last German Shepherd, Boomer (another great friend) was with us for just about 10 years. So I feel very blessed that Dante is still gracing our lives with his presence.

Dante’s in pretty good health, for the most part.  His backend is on the weak side and he’s a little stiff. There are times when his back legs seem to be out of his control and he finds himself doing the splits. But we’re still walking twice a day, very slowly, but still walking. And even at that very slow pace, it’s nice to be out with my dear friend early in the morning and in the evening. 

Dante’s  such a good guy and still gets excited about car rides, going to the lake (which we will be doing this weekend for Labor Day), his food, going for walks – watch out if he sees a cat because then he’s like a two-year-old.  Let me just clarify, I love kitties but Dante’s has never warmed to them. 

We will be celebrating tonight with a doggy birthday cake and some gifts for my very special boy. I love you Dante ❤️

Shepherds Grove Featured on “Barking Backward” Blog

Ok, so I’m not proud to admit this, but 2 months have passed since my last blog post, though I had written a couple drafts.   I’m especially ashamed that I didn’t publish the one I’m about to tell you about because it was such an honor for me, and the fact that I didn’t share this experience when it happened might suggest otherwise.  But that’s really not the case.  The truth is, sometimes my creative business has me going in multiple directions that I don’t always navigate well.  And BAM, before I know it, two months have passed.  But now I would like to share what happened.

A customer, Mr. Jameson Parker, who ordered one of my dog breed mugs during the 2016 holiday season, followed up by email and confirmed a suspicion I had about selling my work online.  He indicated that when he purchased the mug for Christmas, he wasn’t sure what it would really be like.  Ok, I thought, that’s only natural.  When you buy something online, how can you really know if it’s going to meet your expectations?  This is a challenge for all folks selling their handmade items online and something I need to address to help my customers.  If any of you have any thoughts on this, I’d love some comments.

Any how, after receiving the one item and liking it, Jameson ordered a few more pieces of my dog breed pottery and then surprised me with a request to interview me for his blog.  I rushed over to his blog, Barking Backward, to read it and spent a long time there.  His writing style is a pleasure to read and the content is interesting, varying from nature to politics, book reviews, guns, artisan made, Hollywood, and pretty much any darn thing he wants to discuss (as he told me himself, though he might have used a different word for darn).

Jameson is an avid writer.  He writes novels, magazine articles, and his blog posts (his blog posts, unlike mine, are consistent and reliable).  And what was really fun to find out was that he is the Jameson Parker that starred in one of my favorite TV shows, Simon and Simon.  I’ll admit I got a little giddy when I found that out – I’m allowed to be a little star-struck, right?

During the phone interview, Jameson asked questions about my craft, how I got into it, where I live, and other things that you can read in his “The Artisans: Shepherd’s Grove” blog post.  We also discussed his dogs – two Australian Shepherds named Bear and Daisy Mae and a Cardigan Corgi named Lola.  It’s very clear from talking with him, and reading his blog, that he adores them very much.  I guess that’s pretty much what you’d expect from customer’s who buy pottery made for dog lovers, but I love when I get to hear  stories about my customer’s dogs.  Anyway, the interview was really like having a conversation with an old friend, talking about our lives and our dogs.  It was pretty darn cool.

I send my heartfelt (and somewhat belated) thank you to Jameson for featuring my studio on his blog and helping spread my reach.  His thoughtfulness and beautiful words are much appreciated and I will remember the experience very fondly.

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Bernese Mountain Dog – Dog of the Month

I’ve been wanting to add the Bernese Mountain Dog to my list of dog breeds for quite a while.  I’m always struck by how beautiful these dogs are – their coloring is rich and coat so luscious. I had the privilege, years ago, to make friends with a Bernese Mountain Dog.  He was friendly and sweet, probably the most relaxed dog I’ve ever met.

The Bernese Mountain Dog originated in the mountains of Switzerland, mainly around the city of Berne.  It was kept mostly as a farm dog – a companion animal and watchdog for the farmer and his family.  It was also used to pull carts to deliver the products of farmers who could not afford  a draft horse, or whose farms were too small to require one.   Today, Bernese Mountain Dogs are still companion animals and farm dogs, are used as therapy dogs, and they compete in draft competitions,  tracking, obedience, and even agility.

I will post a picture of my Bernese Mountain Dog design when I get it finished.  I must admit that I’ve fallen slightly behind with my dog breed art and have not yet completed last month’s artwork for the Shiba Inu, though I’m very close.  There are just so many fun things to work on in my business…it’s wonderful to have this type of problem 🙂

 

 

 

Preview of Dog Breed Salt and Pepper Shakers

I made a little video of one of my new salt and pepper shakers – this one features a blue merle Australian Shepherd.  I am just beginning to make these so do not have many blanks on hand, but I do have a couple sets for anyone interested in having their favorite breed on a pair.   The price for a pair is $42.   Contact me if you’re interested.

Shiba Inu – Dog Of The Month

Shiba Inu - Dog of the Month at Shepherds Grove

I chose the Shiba Inu for my Dog of the Month because it’s just so “foxy” and adorable.  I have a friend who has a Shiba, and I am taken with just how intelligent and dignified her dog is – she’s not one to really frolic or roll over for a belly rub, but she is inquisitive and kind.    As always, when I choose a dog to work on, I get to learn a little more about the breed.

The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the Spitz dog breeds in Japan and is considered the oldest breed, according to the AKC.  They’re agile and compact and have very keen senses, which made them excellent hunting dogs that could easily navigate the steep hills in the mountainous regions of Japan from whence the originated.  The Shiba ancestors that were brought down from the mountains to more populated areas in Japan were courser looking and larger boned than today’s very elegant Shibas.  WWII brought near extinction of the breed and there were three bloodlines remaining.  It is from these bloodlines that the modern Shiba has evolved.

Well, I can’t wait to have Shiba Inu gifts among my dog lover pottery.  I’ll post my finished design when I get it done.

Warmest regards,

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p.s.  Join my email list and you’ll receive a 20% off coupon on your first purchase of handmade dog lover gifts from my website!

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Dog Themed Salt & Pepper Shakers In The Works

Dog themed salt and papper shakers in progress

Dog themed salt and pepper shakers in progress.

A couple of weeks ago I received the salt and pepper shaker ceramic molds that I ordered, so I have been working on making them.   A customer actually requested these and I thought it would be great to add dog breed salt and pepper shakers to my dog themed gift line-up.  I’m excited to see them finished.

Every new item that I add requires getting used to the ceramic mold and the resulting shape – they all have their own idiosyncrasies.  The salt and pepper molds were straight forward to use but once the pieces come out of the molds, there were things to deal with that I’d never had to deal with before.  Holes need to be made on the tops for the salt and pepper to shake out of, and then the bottoms need to be plugged with a stopper, luckily I’ve found a vendor for these.

The holes on top were a little tricky because they need to be the right diameter for salt and pepper to flow out of at the right rate. Things I had to consider:  whatever sized holes I make are going to shrink 12% once the pieces go through the final firing (because that is how much my stoneware shrinks); and the holes will tend to clog with glaze when the shakers are dipped into the glaze.

I’ve used a drill bit that is 2mm in diameter to hand drill the holes in the tops once the shakers were leather hard. I marked the location of the holes using a template I made (based on similar sized salt/pepper shakers I’ve seen).  When the piece goes through the bisque firing (the first firing), the holes will shrink a little.  The shakers are glazed at this point, and the holes completely plug up with glaze, which requires that I use a needle tool to open them up again.  The glaze I use is a non-moving glaze, which means that it doesn’t shift during the firing (a necessary feature because I hand paint my bands and stripes on top of this white glaze, and don’t want my lines moving all over the place), so there’s little danger of the holes plugging up again during the firing.

My first shaker attempt just came out of the kiln today and now I can check how well it performs with salt and pepper. Back from my salt and pepper test.  Things worked pretty darn well.  Now that I have a final piece that works and know the final overall size of the shakers, I can design the artwork that will decorate them and order the stoppers for the bottoms.

I will report back with a finished and decorated set of dog themed salt and pepper shakers.

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day From Shepherds Grove!!

 

Dante-Shamrock

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from Shepherds Grove Studio.  Dante, my older and distinguished German Shepherd, took time out of his busy schedule to “pose” for a picture and attack an innocent shamrock,  in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day.  Hope yours is just as jolly!

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How It’s Made – Shepherds Grove Dog Pottery

I recently made a short video that shows the overall process I use to make my handmade dog gifts.  I posted the video on the shepherds-grove.com “about” page but thought I would share it here as well.

I’m planning to add more video to my website, especially product videos.  Sometimes it’s a little difficult for someone unfamiliar with me and my work to know what the pottery items are really like.  Hopefully seeing them in action will help a little.

Bye for now,

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For Labradoodle Lovers!

I received a request for a Mini Labradoodle mug and went to work making the new Labradoodle design.  I always appreciate when my customers write me about the products they ordered.  This customer was very happy with the Labradoodle mug she had ordered for her daughter.  I have such a fun job 🙂

The Labradoodle design is available on all of the pottery shapes I make, which can be found on my Labradoodle Gifts page.  It is currently only available in red, but if you need a different color, just ask.

 

labradoodle-lover-mug

 

 

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