Panopoly: Ceramic art and craft, by Lynae Zebest

…And, the Redesign Is Now Live!

That’s right, the long-anticipated spiffing-up of my blog is now (mostly) complete! Thanks so much to my boy Orin Zebest for the redesign and for all his help and patience.

Speaking of Orin, he has lots of new photos from my last two craft fairs!

First there was the Renegade Craft Fair: San Francisco, where I, along with many other SFEtsy members, helped to stock the Etsy booth with lots of crafty goodness.


Here’s my display, with handcranked‘s also visible in the background. We were right by the entrance–it was so exciting!


A close-up of my bead and button display. I used a vintage half-sized letterpress drawer.


My ring case. It’s a modified cigar box.


A close-up of the rings, on their bed of rice in the box.

And next. only two weeks later, there was the SFEtsy Handcrafter’s Faire, at the home of Linda Davis Designs.


Some of the members of my new line of Animal Friends, which will be going up in my shop any day now.


Napkin rings — more goodies to watch out for in my store!


I made a lot of new beads for this event, only some of which are seen here. There are also lots of new buttons, slightly to the left of what you can see here.


And probably my most exciting new project, this is a display of my Poem Drop Pendants–wee little ceramic droplets stamped with phrases or lines from poetry. These should start trickling into my shop today!

And there are already some new things in my shop today, including this new ring:

Desert Sage Ceramic Ring

These last two craft fairs were fun, but I will be taking a break from public events for a while, to finally make time to organize all my small business registration gobbledegook. I will be doing some fairs in the fall/winter, hopefully, and in the meantime, I will have more time to devote to my online shops!

(“Shops”? Yes, there’s a plural now, because although I pretty much opened and then ran out of time to devote to it, I now also have a shop on the Euro-based site Dawanda, which will hopefully make my items more accessible to international customers, as well as those closer to home!

Coming soon to my shop…

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

Newly Added to the Shop

Orphan Handmade Ceramic Bead Set
Orphan Bead Set

World-Weary Blue Handmade Ceramic Beads
World-Weary Blue Beads

Light Aqua Teardrop Handmade Ceramic Beads
Light Aqua Teardrop Beads

Orphan Handmade Ceramic Bead Set
Orphan Bead Set–SOLD

Matte Purple Handmade Ceramic Ring Prototype
Matte Purple Ring Prototype

New Clay Woes

Firstly, I’ve added those blue beads and the red ceramic ring prototype to my Etsy shop.

Meanwhile I think I’ve finally discovered the solution to a problem I’ve been having for a while. It’s been really difficult for me to get my beads glazed thickly enough. I originally painted on my glaze, which is apparently the “normal” way bead makers do it, to keep the glaze from getting in the bead holes…but it was really hard to figure out how many coats were enough (my glaze manufacturer said “two to three coats,” which was clearly too low), plus because my beads are pretty small I was still getting glaze in the holes…plus, between you and me, it felt like I was often removing just as much glaze as I was putting on with each additional coat.

So I came up with two solutions: the first one is the one I’m trying now, which is to hold the beads between my fingers, covering the bead holes, and physically dip them into the glaze. This is kinda messy, and I then have to do touch-ups to the area my fingers covered. I’ve only done one test fire of beads glazed this way, and the results were kind of disappointing. The beads tended to me more glazed on one side than the other, and many of them were still not glazed thickly enough. So I’ve done another test batch that will hopefully fix both problems. I have yet to test my second solution, which is to fill the bead holes with wax resist and dip them entirely into the glaze.

But I think there might be another factor entirely that’s contributing to my glazing woes, which is the bisque temperature.

A few months ago I starting using a new kind of clay that I haven’t been terribly happy with. It’s called B-Mix with Sand, and I think it’s by Laguna Clays. There’s probably nothing wrong with it for other uses, but for me…well. I suppose the problem was that I told the lady at the store that I handbuild, as opposed to working on a wheel. Which is true. However, it automatically led her to believe that I needed clay with lots of grog, which is (basically) sand, because my work needed more support. This is not true, because of the scale of what I generally build, and how I build it. As it is the gros makes it a bit harder to get nice smooth beads.

Wth the new clay also, apparently, came a new firing range. I usually bisque (this is the first fire, before the glaze is applied) at cone 06. But if you bisque your ware at too high a temperature, it will make it much more difficult to get enough glaze to absorb/stick to it. (If you bisque it too low, it can absorb too much glaze and become brittle.) So next time I’m going to try bisquing at cone 07, and see if that helps.

And I’m probably going to switch to another clay when this runs out, too.

Also, entirely unrelated, but: Did you know that my Etsy shop (and every other Etsy shop) has an RSS feed? Well, I didn’t until a couple days ago! Nifty!

Whee! Mostly done!

Mostly done with a few things: First off, my spiffy new layout, which is obviously well on its way to being done. The styling just needs some tweaking, which is the fun part!

And I’m mostly done with a bunch of stuff: I have a whole tray full of beads and other doodads waiting to be bisque-fired, and some other goodies that need to be glazed and/or go through their final firing. I also have some things that are ready to be listed and are just waiting for me to take photos, price them, etc.

And I’m mostly done making myself a new teapot, too! My first teapot. It’s sitting there drying on the shelf, and I’m so excited!

Starting next week, I think, I’ll start doing some item reviews, crafty interviews, and/or something along those lines. We’ll see!

Favoritism

I love some of these new beads so much they’re hard to let go…

Steel Grey Handmade Ceramic Beads

Deep Brown Handmade Ceramic Beads With Blue Flecks

It’s weird. I don’t think most people would consider handmade “supplies” to be personal works of art…but to me, and I think most other makers of such things, they are. I made these with my own two hands. It was a delicate process that could have gone wrong many times down the way, but it didn’t. They came out just right, and they’re beautiful, and I made them. And if this kind of satisfaction isn’t art, I don’t know what is.

Almost Firing Time

At this point I’m just waiting for a couple things to finish drying before I do my first bisque fire. This was my workspace yesterday:

My Workspace Yesterday

As you can see, I’ve made lots of beads, I appear to have successfully made several bead molds, with more on the way (we’ll see how they survive the firing) and I have some other misc. stuff in the works–not pictured is a vase I made last week, plus today I made a dozen teeny little pinch pots, intended for use when I’m sorting out this big bag of mixed-up glass beads I have. And, later last night I also finished the big cup you can see in progress in that picture.

I’ve been trying to make a massive amount of test tiles, but I can’t find an efficient, uniform way to do it. I’ve decided to find a simple cookie cutter, or make something similar myself.

Big Holes (and How to Work With Them)

Nope, that title’s not a euphemism. I’m reposting my response to a question on the Etsy forums, from another member who asked why the holes in ceramic beads are relatively large in comparison to other beads:

Generally speaking, the holes in glazed ceramic beads have to be a certain size because the only way to glaze the entire outside of the beads is to string them on short lengths of high-temperature wire, which is a standard thickness. Thinner wire would sag and ruin the beads in the kiln.

I recommend stringing ceramic beads on beading wire instead of thread/floss. You could also try putting a dab of epoxy glue inside the hole of the bead when using thinner stringing materials, which should hold it just as well as knotting would.

The heads on headpins are often too small for the bead hole. The best solution I’ve found is what I did with these earrings: Below the bead that’s too big for the headpin, place another bead that is small enough to stay on the pin, but larger than the hole in the bead above it. If the small bead is the same color/metal as the pin, it might even look like you’re using a fancy ball-head pin!

MsAnomaly also suggests:
“If the holes are too big on a bead, I ‘stuff’ it! What I mean is: insert a thin bugle bead or even some very small round beads inside the large hole. It keeps the large-hole bead nice and straight on the line, and prevents it from ‘wobbling’ and looking off-center. Since the small beads are inside the hole, you can’t even tell they are there!”

Experimenting

I still haven’t done my first ceramic firing. Some things weren’t dry enough today, and without them I don’t feel I have a full enough load. I don’t really like the three pinch pots I made yesterday, now that they’re dry, but they’ll still be good to put beads in or something later on. I also made some larger cylindrical beads, which look quite nice. I had tried to make some bead molds but discovered I made them wrong–apparently I have to coat the beads with vegetable oil to keep them from sticking to the clay as it dries around them. Oh well.

Today I made some tiles to use for testing. I used a method I really wouldn’t recommend–I was just trying it out. I took a wooden picture frame and pressed clay into it until it was tile-shaped, using the flat bottom of a glass to smush it in and a piece of plastic to scrap it flat.

Actually, the method itself wasn’t the problem–that worked quite well. The problem was that the frame had a bevel on the inside, the outside edge of the clay had to be trimmed. I also trimmed that rectangle into three smaller rectangles, since the frame was rather big–apparently, according to the internet, I should have waited until the clay was leather-hard to do this. They seem to have turned out okay thusfar, but it remains to be seen how badly they may warp or crack.

I also spent about 8 hours yesterday filling orders of decanted perfume, a side-hobby of mine, and getting Etsy orders ready to mail. I think I have something like 35 envelopes to mail in the next two days. Yikes.

Build & Fire Guides

Following up on the last entry, sometimes, the internet is exactly the wealth of resources and information that it should be.

See, everybody needs references. And today, I needed a refresher on some very basic stuff. One quick search, and I find a photo tutorial on how to make a pinch pot, which is what I need, because I’m making glaze test pots instead of tiles.

Speaking of glazes, I found those online too–well, specifically, I got a few bags of dry glazes for $1 each, courtesy of SCRAP, which I originally found online and have been visiting regularly ever since.

And I needed to know things about ceramic beads, and sure enough, I found out the best way to glaze them and the best way to load them in a kiln.

I found all sorts of little pointers here, too. I like having my own ideas confirmed by more experienced people.

The internet is great for coming to your own consensus. It won’t always give you a straight answer, but it will often help you get your answers straight.