New! Flat Coated Retriever Design

Flat Coated Retriever Wine Stopper from shepherds-grove.com

I’ve created a new dog breed design for the Flat Coated Retriever.  What a pretty dog this is.  I honestly didn’t know about it, which you might think is strange given that I make pottery for dog lovers.  But there are 193 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.  The cool thing is that I got to learn about the Flat Coated Retriever.  The standard colors are black or liver colored, and there is a yellow variety.  From my conversation with my customer who owns one, and from what I’ve read, they’re positive, playful and friendly.  And, very good at retrieving waterfowl, as their name implies.

I’ve completed my design but it is not on my website yet, so if you’re interested please email me and let me know – contact@shepherds-grove.com.  The Flat Coated Retriever is available on all of the pottery shapes on my website.

Take care,

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February Giveaway Ending Soon

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Just a quick note to remind you that my February giveaway will be ending Thursday so be sure to enter.  This month’s prize is a set of dog breed salt and pepper shakers, which look super cute on the table, and make a unique gift for dog lovers.

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Have a happy Tuesday and good luck!

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p.s. Please forward this to anyone who you think would be interested in winning.

 

Cocker Spaniel Pottery – Kiln Opening

Cocker-Spaniel-Pottery-Kiln-Opening

A quick video showing me unloading my Cocker Spaniel pottery from the kiln.  I had a couple unwelcome surprises but wanted to share the good and the bad.

Have  great weekend!

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Decorating Cocker Spaniel Pottery Video

Cocker-Spaniel-Ceramics

This video is a tad long.  It shows the process of how my dog breed artwork is made into ceramic decals which are applied to my stoneware pottery.

 

I’ll follow up with a video of the finished pottery.  Bye for now!

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English Springer Spaniel Pottery

English-Springer-Spaniel-Pottery

Just a quick post to let you know that my new English Springer Spaniel design is now available on my website’s English Springer Spaniel Gifts page.  I’ve put up listings for all of the available pottery shapes in two color variations – black and white and liver.

I’ll be posting soon about next month’s Giveaway so check back!

Have a good weekend,

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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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Spring News from Shepherds Grove Studio

Happy Spring!

New Designs from Shepherds Grove

Cavalier King Charles Sugar Bowl and Creamer by www.shepherds-grove.com

Cavalier King Charles Sugar Bowl and Creamer.

I had several customer requests over recent months for new breeds and variations and thus have added several new dog designs and color variations to my line-up.  These include Norwich Terriers, Beagles, Bull Terriers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and apricot and silver Poodles.

I also added a couple of new pottery shapes to my handmade dog gift offerings –  a sugar bowl and creamer (pictured below).  They’re very sweet and have been well received.  I will be adding them to my website soon but in the mean time, you can contact me if you would like a set made. You can have them made with any of the currently available dog breeds or, if your breed isn’t on the list, you can make a request.  This is how I typically add new dog breeds to my list.

I am currently working on a few other shapes and should have my test pieces done soon.  These items include three different plate sizes (dessert plate, salad plate, and dinner plate) and a welcome sign.

Help Me Improve

I am always looking for ways to improve what I offer so that I can provide the best experience for you.  Please take a moment to answer a very brief survey (3 questions).  Just click on the link below.  Thank you in advance for your help!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZB5CQP7

Making Pottery – Banding and Striping a Mug at Shepherds Grove Studio

There are several steps that my stoneware dog mugs have to go through before they can go to new homes and one of them is banding and striping.  After I’ve applied my white glaze by dipping the mugs into the glaze, and the glaze has dried, it’s time to add my accent colors of blue and golden yellow.  This short video shows the process.

Making A Dog Mug at shepherds-grove.com

Dog Mugs – How They’re Made at Shepherds Grove

Making A Dog Mug at shepherds-grove.comI spent a little time and made a video called “Making a Dog Mug at Shepherds Grove” that covers the basics of how my handmade dog mugs go from gooey stoneware slip to the final decorated product.  I love the process and it’s fun to see it condensed into under 4 minutes of video – the real process takes days from start to finish.  There is a lot of drying time, firing time and the like, but that time gives me the opportunity to work on designs, photographing items, listing items, making videos, etc…

Enjoy!

 

What is casting slip?

An Etsy customer recently asked what “slip” is (because it is listed under my material section for most of my items) and then, a day or so later, my husband asked what slip casting is, even though he see’s me pouring slip all the time – I suppose he just didn’t know the name that is attached to the process .  It’s another occasion where, because I know what something is, I assume others do too.  So, I though I’d explain this mystery substance that is the basis for most of my products.

Slip is a liquid clay and can be any type of clay from earthenware to porcelain clay.  Water is added to help achieve a liquid state but there is not as much water in slip as you would think.  Actually, slip contains only a little more water than clay that you would use on a wheel or use for slab building.  The magic ingredient that makes clay castable is deflocculant, solutions that contain sodium ions (+) that act to keep the clay particles from packing together and settling.  Of course there are other things that go into making a workable slip, ratios of different raw materials, etc.  But that’s the gist of it – clay, water, deflocculant.  It seems pretty straight forward until, like me, you add too much deflocculant and end up with slip that performs horribly, either gums up or gets so liquid it settles out.  So, on my creative quest, I had to call on my science background and start measuring things like specific gravity and viscosity.  After leaving college chemistry classes, I never thought I’d use a triple beam scale again, let alone own one.  But I do and I use it every week to measure the weight of slip and divide it by the weight of an equal amount of water to determine the slip’s specific gravity.  I’m shooting for a range of 1.74 – 1.76.  Then I take my stoppered Erlenmyer flask and time the amount how long takes for 500 ml of slip to flow out.  It’s all very scientific and important, hee hee.  But really, all this measuring has helped me get a handle on mixing and working with slip.  Thankfully, there is wonderful information in books and online which has helped immensely.  These are a couple of my favorite books The Essential Guide to Mold Making & Slip Casting (A Lark Ceramics Book) by Andrew Martin and Slipcasting (Ceramics Handbooks) by Sasha Wardell.  These deal mostly with porcelain and not stoneware, which is what I use.  Thankfully, Jaun from Laguna Clay has been helpful along the way.

Each day I pour slip, I mix it up well (because it thickens as it sits) and then fill up my molds.  Water from the slip travels through the plaster molds via capillary action, leaving behind a coating of slip on the inside of the mold.  This coating, the cast, gets thicker the longer the slip sits in the mold.  The amount of time that slip is left in the molds varies depending on what it is – a small dipping dish takes about 30 minutes and a stein mug about 60 minutes to get to the right thickness.  When the cast reaches the proper thickness, the slip is dumped out of mold.  The coating of slip that remains inside the mold is allowed to dry until the piece can be handled – this us usually a few hours.

casts of mugs in molds

Casts in molds waiting to be removed.

Then the mold is taken apart and the cast removed.

Stein mug and handle in ceramic mold

Stein mug and handle in ceramic mold

At this point the spare clay from the mold opening is trimmed, attachments (like mug handles) are added

Removing slip cast stein mug from mold

Removing stein mug from mold

Adding handle to mug

Adding handle to stein mug

and and the seam lines (ridges of clay where two mold pieces come together) are removed.  The piece is then let to dry a little more and final trimming is done.  Once the piece is bone dry, it is further sponged to remove any residual traces of seam or other blemishes and to smooth out edges and remove any dust.

Greenware stein mugs

Greenware stein mugs

It is then ready for firing, decorating, glazing……

Golden Retriever Stein Mug

Golden Retriever Stein Mug

I love the process – I was attracted to it immediately.  I thought it would be simple but turned out to be more challenging as I got more into it.  But I’ve meat every challenge with enthusiasm to learn more and am thankful for my achievements.  I look forward to continued learning on the subject of slip.  ‘Cause, just when you think you’ve got something down, the Universe throws a curve – just so things don’t get boring.