Today marks the beginning of the second week in March, and I have vases on my mind as I look forward to fresh cut flowers and spring time!
This barnacle vase was hand-built. After making the vessel I added texture, shell markings, and dozens of hand pinched barnacles around the piece. After a bisque firing 🔥, next step --- glazing!
I am most proud of my ability to embrace "kaizen" the philosophy of continuous improvement. I'm on a lifelong journey for knowledge and pursuing new ideas through experimentation.
Expanding upon my early work which featured wood firing, now in my studio I mostly fire in an electric kiln and use techniques that mimic the results of a wood firing.
I use shells and other natural materials to create a strong texture on my work and then stilt the vessel on its side with sea glass and a combination of glazes and allow gravity the chance to work its magic, resulting in a waterfall of colored glass.
(Queue Blink 182's "Small Things") There are so many small details (things) that go into my handmade pottery. On the surface, I use a rib tool to add texture, which mimics rolling ocean waves. The motion is unique to each piece, I'll never be able to do this exact texture the same way again. I like to add this because it catches the glazes and gives each piece a nice variety.
A few words to describe me: ceramic artist, teacher, wife, mom, and lover of nature, food, and color. As a child I enjoyed playing outside, collecting sticks, and making mud pies, so I guess there is a part of me that will never grow up.
I've joked that art and pottery is the essence of my soul, and there is some truth there. Every day I interact with art, and it's become a family affair. My husband helps to photograph my work and maintain my website, and my two girls are still young and refer to our basement lovingly as 'the studio' and can't wait to create and play every day possible. I'm so thankful for your continued support of handcrafted pottery.
Pottery In Use (part 1)
Handcrafted pottery is both beautiful and functional --- it's art in your hand. Rise and shine each morning to a fresh cup of coffee. ☕ Artisan coffee pairs excellently with artisan made pottery! #Mugs
My latte mugs feature a shorter wider profile, perfect for #latte or #cappuccino #Plates
The "Blue Ocean" plate is a newer creation. I love the subtleties in the glaze on this form. All of my pottery is made for everyday use with food safe glazes that are also safe for use in your dishwasher and microwave.
Pottery In Use (part 2)
It's 5 pm on a Friday. Time to unwind, close my eyes and imagine I'm on a beach somewhere sipping on cocktails after a long day. #BarnacleCup
Each barnacle cup is handmade with coastal colors and accents (blues, oranges, greens, pinks). Add your favorite cocktail and a tiny umbrella and you might just hear the ocean calling your name 🍹 🌊
Custom orders have a way of pushing me to make things outside of my comfort zone, and explore some new forms I otherwise might not of worked on. Each custom order reminds me of Van Gogh's quote: “Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” I view each order as a challenge and opportunity to grow and learn something new.
Making Connections. Every time I have the opportunity to join a ceramic workshop, I try and jump on the chance to connect with, and learn from other great potters. Thinking about this workshop from a couple years back, and some great potters: @dalehuffman, @dicklehman, @thusfarceramics @zachtate_artist, @toddleech27, @parkermhunt
Focus & Priorities
It was nearly 1 year ago to the day that our routines were interrupted by COVID and the first stay-at-home orders were issued last year. As a result many events were canceled, and most of my sales shifted from in person to online (thank you all for your continued support to buy handmade!). I've missed meeting friends, family, customers, and art-lovers alike at my annual Open Studio as well as several festivals, galleries, and shows this past year.
One of my priorities for 2021 will be to continue building up a portfolio of work to take to a gallery/ show. I'm hoping soon that as things open up again, I'll be able to see people's first reactions discovering my work (in person) at the next show!
From The Archive
When people ask me how long it takes me to make a ceramic mug --- I will frequently share it has taken over 15 years of experience, workshops, and experimentation that went into making that handcrafted work of art. Thinking back to some of the many milestones along my ceramics journey, here are a few from the archives I'm celebrating:
Where my barnacles began: 2010 - Remembering Denmark. While in college I had the opportunity to travel abroad for a ceramics workshop in Denmark. This is where the idea for my barnacle cups originated. Quite by accident I was making spikey work, which bumped into clay and made a hole, and I started exploring what barnacles would look like. Pictured is my first ever barnacle cup in our wood firing, and as they say the rest is history.
2011 - Remembering my first firing in my Skutt kiln. My first standalone studio was an old milk shed I rented on a 250 year old farm in Valley Forge, PA. Since that first firing 10 years ago, my studio has moved with us twice to Kennett Square, PA and my kiln is still going strong! Proud to have my pottery #madeinadaskutt.
NCECA 2018 - Remembering NCECA 2018 I traveled back to my college town of Pittsburgh, PA and was honored to have my work in an exhibition at NCECA, and to connect with so many fantastic artists
In my studio every piece of handmade pottery starts as a single ball of clay. I use several different methods to create ceramics, forming by hand, throwing on the wheel, or using a slab roller. After drying, each piece is carefully loaded into the kiln and is bisque fired 🔥, then layered with a combination of glazes or oxides for the final glaze firing 🔥.
Underwater life is bursting with color, and my barnacle cups capture some of the amazing hues of nautical life: #SeaFoamGreen, #HangTen, #RipTide, #Coral
Today's focus is on #SilverLinings, and looking back over 2020, one of the things I enjoyed was meeting so many new customers (virtually) from across the US who purchased work from my online shop! Thank you for shopping handmade, and sharing your stories of how my pottery was being sent to family and "besties" from afar, steins to prost! (I learned a new German word for cheers), and gifts for retirement/ housewarming/ anniversary and all of the special milestones. When my pottery sparks joy in others, that it just about the best compliment an artist can receive!
Handcrafted pizza. I've now designed and built several of these 'pizza-gama' cob ovens over the years, and continue to perfect a few signature pizzas from the Bergman Family (including a fan favorite: fig, prosciutto, and arugula pizza). Cob ovens are as classic as they come, made of sand, clay, and straw on top of a foundation.
Perseverance. I love artists who create despite the odds or approval of others, like van Gogh or Yayoi Kusama. A lot of artists were told to give up, and instead they made history. I'm dyslexic and struggled early in school and was told at one point I might never go to college. Through a lot of hard work and after graduating with honors, landing a rare teaching job in the arts, and obtaining my Master's degree in Education, I like to think I proved the naysayers wrong.
Hands On. I tend to get work done in my studio the same way my cell phone provider used to give out 'free minutes' -- on nights and weekends (remember those days?) My hands are always busy either pinching clay to make barnacles, applying texture, or throwing on the pottery wheel. Everything is very hands on in the literal sense.
Today in my studio I'm hand building the barnacles to attach to barnacle cups. Every barnacle is as unique as a fingerprint. I like creating them all by hand so that each one is different and looks more organic like it came from nature. After creating a ceramic form and adding texture, finishing touches are added, with shells attached to the face of the piece.
Wrapped & Packaged
When you order handcrafted ceramics, I want you or your loved ones to be excited to open a one-of-a-kind treasure. I personally wrap every piece of pottery, and include tissue paper, a handwritten thank you, and well wishes with my newly designed "fragile handle with care" stickers.
♻️ In an effort to be more sustainable, I use a honeycomb paper wrap which is a sustainable, biodegradable, and recyclable solution to traditional bubble wrap. (As a ceramics artist bubble wrap is somewhat unavoidable for my most delicate pieces, but I will also try and reuse lightly used packing materials wherever possible).
Every piece of handcrafted pottery has a story to tell, starting from a single ball of clay, and whether thrown on the wheel or hand-built is transformed into a work of art. The beauty of pottery is that there are tiny details that as a potter I will add to each piece to form the clay and give it personality.
When I throw on the pottery wheel, after centering the clay and pulling up the clay, I'm thinking about the function or purpose of the vessel: if I push with my outside hand the piece will be taller like a cup or vase, and if I push more with my inside hand the piece will be wider like a bowl.
Other work I create includes hand building techniques. Some pieces are thrown then altered by adding details, such as barnacles to a jar. Others are completely hand built like my barnacle cups or wall tiles. I tend to sketch out what I envision a piece to look like, but throughout the creative process will experiment and add personality to make each handcrafted ceramic piece a truly one-of-a-kind work of art.
My favorite t shirt 👕 reads: "You can't buy happiness but you can buy clay and that's pretty much the same thing". Just this week I bought more clay so I’m ready for spring break (and am pretty happy about that 😊). My favorite thing to make in my studio are my barnacle cups. I enjoy the process to create each one and how each piece comes out with such personality every time. My ceramic barnacle work captures so much movement and depth through the extreme texture and shadows. I make them to be both sculptural and functional. It’s art that’s meant to be picked up and bring happiness.
Vases & Cut Flowers 🌼: The first fresh cut flowers of the season! A true sign of spring is when the daffodils come out. I love having vases to put fresh cut flowers throughout the house. As a maker I use my products so I can design and make the next ones better. I find that I like small vases with a bottle neck opening so that I don't need a whole bouquet of flowers to have a beautiful vase arrangement. A small bud vase can sit on the counter, table, or even a window or ledge and can spread joy throughout all of the seasons! 👉 This little white bud vase and several other vases are available in the online shop
Teapots. When the weather is dreary, nothing warms the soul quite like a hot cup of tea. As another nod to Japanese style pottery, I love designing and making these "yokode kyusu" style side handled teapots. The teapot was thrown on the pottery wheel and altered. Similar to my barnacle cups, the piece is faced with shells, texture, and attached with a large barnacle handle, then for the final glaze firing is stilted and side fired to let the glazes and gravity work its magic. 👉 Check out the Barnacle Teapot and "blue ocean" style mug available in my online shop
Claymation Reel 🎥: When I really get in the groove to make my barnacle cups, I'm thinking about the form from every angle, placing barnacles and shells in strategic places, so the cup is comfortable to hold and admire. There are dozens of shells & barnacles added to every piece, each meticulously handmade and attached. 👉 See my latest creations in my online shop
I started with a small idea - creating a barnacle and attaching it to a cup, and fast forward 10+ years later these barnacles have truly grown on me. I've explored a RANGE OF VESSELS 🍶 🏺 🍵 and attached barnacles to hand-built pieces, like my barnacle cups, bowls and sculptures, as well as wheel thrown pieces, like my vases and jars; a RANGE OF FIRING METHODS 🔥 from electric, gas, and even wood fired; and a RANGE OF SIZES 📏 — from the tiniest barnacle sipper to sculptures that barely fit in my kiln. I am proud of every handmade treasure that has made its way into the homes of art collectors near and far from my studio in Kennett Square, PA. 👉 Shop online anytime
I’ve so enjoyed sharing a behind the scenes look at my process, inspiration, and more about me as part of the Meet The Maker series. After Spring break I am looking forward to teaching a full school of eager, excited young artists as my day job. My studio will continue to be my creative outlet where I will find joy and experiment and perfect my ceramics (with my studio assistant who crashed this photo 🐈⬛).
So what’s next in the months ahead? I'll continue exploring ways to throw and alter pieces with my hand built barnacles. I’m looking forward to putting a fresh spin on some old favorites, and experimenting and making new creations. And as always each piece of handcrafted ceramics will be made with love ❤️ right here in Kennett Square, PA.
Thank you for your support. Be well, and let’s keep in touch! Follow me @mvbceramics
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