Panopoly: Ceramic art and craft, by Lynae Zebest

New Reasons to Smile

Lately I’ve been on the lookout for alternatives to commercial toothpaste, for a lot of reasons. For one, I have a high sensitivity to minty/”fresh” flavors and it’s really difficult to find non-minty toothpaste in the grocery store. I also have some concerns about my level of fluoride intake, since it’s added to my local tapwater supply already. And between you and me, I never feel like my teeth are very clean after brushing them with toothpaste. So I decided to experiment with some more “outside the box” options.

First, on the recommendation of Chicky Bandita, I placed an order for some of Rose of Sharon Acres’ Tooth Chips. They come in many different flavors,including anise and orange cinnamon (the latter being my favorite!) and offer a couple different sample pack options, so it was really easy for me to give them a trial run.

The tooth chips are basically little shavings of a soap that’s specially made for teeth. You just put one piece on your moistened toothbrush, and start brushing away. The idea of literally washing your mouth out with soap takes a little getting used to, but although you can tell that the soap is soap, it doesn’t taste bad like putting a bar of Dove in your mouth, or something–just a little odd. The chips immediately lather up as soon as you put brush to tooth, but it’s not the thick foam you get from toothpaste. It’s just like regular soap lather. I liked that because I hate feeling like I’m drooling while I’m brushing. The tooth chips made me feel very fresh and clean. When you’re done brushing, you’re supposed to rinse three times, which felt like just the right amount for me!

After I ordered the chips, I thought I’d do a search and see what else Etsy had to offer in their vein. The other item I found that looked really interesting was Bloodroot’s Toothpowders. I chose a (very affordable and generously-sized!) sample amount of the ginger toothpowder.

The tooth powder is, literally, a powder, that’s comprised of various herbs plus baking soda. You wet your toothbrush, sort of dunk it in the powder, andget to work. When I first tried brushing with it I was a little surprised by the taste. I think I was expecting an unsweetened herbal powder to taste like a ginger snap cookie or something, which was my problem, not the product’s. It actually tasted quite good. I was totally shocked at how fast my teeth got clean–they felt squeaky before I’d barely begun to brush! At first I found the texture of ground-up herbs to be a bit odd, but I quickly adjusted. It was also a little weird to see my mouth full of greenish-brown foam, but everything washed away easily when I was done, and the results certainly didn’t lie. This stuff works great!

I liked the both of these so much, I may have to order full-sized amounts of each, and then alternate between them based on my day’s scenario. If I’m gonna be snuggling with the boyfriend, I’d rather have my breath smell like ginger than faintly of soap, but if I’m getting ready to go out and I’m wearing a light-colored shirt, I’d rather brush with white lather over earthtones, just in case I make a mess 🙂

These are both great products and I encourage you to try them out if you’re looking for a better option than regular toothpaste, or even if you’re just curious or adventurous. These are also awesome examples of the neato things you discover when you choose to buy handmade!

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!

The Sick Laptop

I have had my laptop for two years. I bought it new. After about 8 months it started having all these problems with its display. Then the hinges started getting all floppy. After about a year I had to have the entire top half of it replaced–and the hard drive too.

A while ago it started overheating all the time. Then the hinges started getting floppy AGAIN. Then it started having mostly mild, but noticeable, problems with the display. Again.

After talking about it with the boy for a while, we decided that maybe the overheating was caused by dust, and maybe the hinge/display problem could be fixed this early on. So he cleaned out the fan–which, because my laptop was designed by morons (Sorry, Hewlett-Packard, I don’t care how many other good products you make, or that two of my family members work for you, but this thing really is kind of a POS.) required basically taking apart the entire machine–and sure enough, it was all full of dust.

So the overheating problem got solved. And once the screws on the hinges were tightened, that problem got solved too. But the display problems are still there, and more importantly–the machine now just plain turns off at random intervals, with no warning, with no apparent cause. And refuses to turn back on unless it gets left alone for a few minutes first.

Because of that I’ve spent all day backing up all my data. I don’t want to do anything that’s particularly important on the laptop, especially anything that doesn’t automatically save itself frequently, which is why there were no new Etsy listings today, despite the fact that I have lots of new photos up on Flickr and took even more goodies out of the kiln this afternoon. But now that everything is pretty much moved over to my desktop computer, I hope to get some stuff listed tomorrow, and maybe take some more pics. Meanwhile, here’s a little sampler of things to come:

Orphan Bead Grab Bag
Since they were popular in the past, I’ve put together a few more “orphan” bead sets, sort of samplers of my work, including beads that are, for various reasons, one of a kind.

Ring Prototypes
I’m still doing work perfecting the process of making handmade ceramic rings–I can’t find any information anywhere about how to do it, or even find any people that are doing it at all, so I’ve had to find my own way. These two little guys are by no means my final “look,” but I tried them out and found them to be attractive and wearable nonetheless, so I thought I’d list them and see what happens.

Lapis Blue Beads
I can’t quite decide what these 11mm rounds look like to me–the glaze was intended to look like lapis but I think they might more closely resemble some other natural stone–what do you think?

Super-Belated Christmas Photo-Op

So, I promised a roundup of things I did during December, and Christmas goodies in general, and now I’m fiiiinally making good.

The boyfriend got a new DSLR camera for Christmas, and with it came the obligatory handmade accessories, courtesy me and my Etsy search savvy. Here’s a picture he took of his goodies:

Camera Strap and Custom Camera Bag!

First up is a hand-decorate DSLR camera strap made by ManonD. The strap itself is a professional commercial strap, but has been jazzed up with a cool fabric.

But the main gift was a custom camera bag. I picked out all of the fabrics for him, and the wonderful lady behind Wicked Stitch Designs put it all together! I was super-pleased with the result. The bag was ridiculously well-made, and is th eperfect size to hold all his accessories and camera, safely and securely.

Speaking of bags, after Christmas I bought myself a little present too! I spent something like 2 weeks searching for the perfect bag, and finally I came upon this lovely bag by Elizabeth Gwen Originals, shown below:

And meanwhile, what was I doing the whole Christmas season?

Making these ornaments, for my family:

Pile of Ornaments

I Make Stuff for People to Make Stuff With

…and so do a lot of other people. But even on a relatively well-organized site like Etsy, with a “handmade supplies” section, it’s still difficult to pick out the “handmade by the shop owner” supplies vs. the “handmade by someone else and being resold” supplies. Not to mention the listings where one person made one supply once.

Not that these other things are bad. But as a handmade supply crafter/seller, I’d really like to encourage people like jewelry makers to go that extra step in quality and community support and use handmade to make their handcrafted pieces.

Dappled Blue Handmade Ceramic Beads

So, I’m’a gonna make me a list. And make a webpage to put it on. And stick it up on teh interwebs. A list of shops run by people who make handmade supplies, organized by the supplies they make. And hopefully people will like it.

Supplies

I have this love/hate relationship with commercial supplies on Etsy. I mean, I sell destashed supplies myself; I just listed some today. And I like buying from Etsy people, particularly those who otherwise contribute to the site. I like supporting Etsy and its awesome design and great interface. I want the commercial supplies to be there, and not just because I sell them.

But I worry, because soon I’m going to be selling my handmade supplies, and I feel like even non-supply items on Etsy often get overwhelmed by commercial supplies. I’d like there to be a way for them to be there but only if you look for them. For example, commercial supplies don’t show up in searches unless you search for “commercial supplies.” I wouldn’t want to cut down on people’s sales, but I don’t think it would because, well, I’m pretty sure most people who buy supplies are looking for supplies.

It gets complicated, though, because of things like the Time Machine. It’s not fair not to include them at all…but maybe, once again, you’d have to opt in to see newly listed supplies? And the front page…well, it should probably stay how it is.

I’m not an expert; these are just my thoughts. I want to have my cake and eat it too, I guess. But in this cake I think that’d work just fine.