Panopoly: Ceramic art and craft, by Lynae Zebest

Kiln Woes and Planning

The small kiln in my apartment, which I use for all my small-batch firings and touch-ups, is currently down for repairs and has been that way since December. I have, honestly, been avoiding dealing with it. In the meantime, I do have a huge lovely kiln sitting in my dad’s garage–two hours away from here. The main result of this has been a longer delay for custom orders, although it has of course slowed down my general production too.

However, I went a little clay-crazy last fall and have a few big boxes of items that still need to be photographed and listed in the shop, so I have no shortage of “new” things to share. Aside from the kiln problems, this has been very helpful to me because a lot of things have kept me away from the mud since the beginning of the year.

I was sick three times between January and now, both of them seeming to linger forever. This winter was just intolerably long and cold and gloomy for me, and my health seemed to be indicative of my general mood. On our first sunny day, Orin and I went to Golden Gate Park and I was practically swooning from joy at the sunshine.

And meanwhile, I have been planning a wedding–our wedding. This is so exciting but totally out of my range of experience. We’re getting married on May 15th, in this amazing train museum, out in the country. It’s going to be awesome, but ugh, the planning! Fortunately we have slowly built up a “team” of friends and friendly vendors, which has helped a lot.

The florist and I have been talking about how to incorporate my ceramics into the reception. We’re currently thinking about using some of my wee planters, filled with succulents, as favors at the place settings.

colored succulents

succulent pots

We’re also going to have some of my bisque plates for people to sign.

signed plates

I feel really great knowing that I’m going to be able to share my art at a day that is so important to me personally. I had some crazy ideas when we were first engaged–making all the dinnerware for the reception, making ceramic invitations for everyone, etc. It was just too much. But I should be able to do this, at least!

Recent new listings in the shop:

wee bowl -- eggshell

wee bowl -- eggshell

place setting for one -- mint

place setting for one -- mint

vodou veve plate -- loco

vodou veve plate -- loco

vodou veve plate -- samedi

vodou veve plate -- samedi

A Quick Peek at Things Yet to Come…

Many Colorful Wee Bowls

Bokeh for Wee Bowls

A new batch of wee bowls will be going into the shop later this week. Lots of different colors available, and almost all the same size, so you could make your own little set if you wanted!

Some New In-Progress Photos for You

I don’t think I ever even wrote about this here, but for this past Christmas, my dad gifted me with a much larger kiln than the one in my apartment, so that I could finally start making larger ware with more regularity. It’s big and beautiful…and unfortunately can’t actually live with me here in San Francisco. Theoretically I could rent studio space for it, but practically that’d be way outside my price range (which is about, uh, $0). However, my dad also recently bought a house in my old hometown, Sacramento, which is less than 2 hours away from me. The house has a large empty garage, so we decided to install the kiln there.

Kiln in the Corner

Because of the its size, and the travel involved, I decided to only use the big kiln when I have a lot of stuff to fire. This means slower turnaround times, but gives me an incentive to make stuff on a larger scale.

Full House

Earlier this week, I finally decided I had made enough greenware to make it worth the trip. Two days ago, Orin and I carefully loaded the backseat with well-padded boxes of goodies, and off we went. Everything survived the drive intact, which pleased me very much!

My Bowls Runneth Over

My dad’s house is in a very picturesque setting, right over the levee from the Sacramento River. While I unloaded the boxes and snapped some photos, Orin climbed the tree in the front yard.

Boy in the Tree

Then he helped me load the kiln, which I think took at least a half an hour to do.

Totally Stacked

It takes my kiln about 8½ hours to heat up to Cone 07 (roughly 1800 degrees Fahrenheit), and then probably another eight or so hours to cool down again. We took the time to relax and have a little “vacation” of sorts.

Then, yesterday afternoon, everything was ready to come out again.

Zee Kiln

I remember, when I was in ceramics classes, my instructor often said that our ware would be hard to recognize after it came out of bisque fire, because everything shrinks, and items sometimes warp, crack, etc. And sometimes things sat around for so long before firing that you’d even forget you made them! Indeed, I remember occasionally not knowing my own work, and only realizing it was mine when I saw my signature on the bottom. It’s hard to say whether or not that has changed simply because, you know, everything in the kiln is made by me now. I would rather think it’s because my work is more defined now, because at the end of the day my work simply looks like mine. Which is a good thought to have.

Bowls of Goodies

And now I’m back home again, with my bisqueware in three big boxes, waiting to be glazed and fired again. I really like making lists, so here’s a nice numerical rundown of what I brought back today:

  • 6 burnished white stoneware plates, for me to try some maiolica-style illustrations
  • 1 special white stoneware plate with a complete poem stamped into it
  • 12 (4 sets) descending canvas vases, in a couple different size variations
  • 10 ice cream bowls in both red and white stoneware
  • 6 wee succulent pots, significantly larger than that first prototype
  • 18 wee bowls in red stoneware clay. I’m going to be streamlining my wee bowl line so that they come in two standard sizes; these ones will be the smaller size
  • 102 flat porcelain buttons, in various shapes, sizes and textures.
  • 31 rings; hopefully, counted among this number are the myriad custom sizes I’ve been trying to get for the last couple months
  • 3 new button molds
  • 29 poem drop pendants
  • 5 big beads. My beads have suddenly decided to get popular, possibly due to some advertising I’m doing on Ravelry, so I’m planning on making a lot more of ’em in the near future
  • 22 big shank buttons. I’m really excited about these. I redesigned my shank buttons so they’re bigger, and made entirely of clay, rather than metal in the back. I’m making them from molds of vintage earrings.

Also: I’m now making all my little ware (beads, buttons, rings, pendants) out of porcelain, for extra strength and durability.

Plates, Bowls, Vases

Ready to Fire

A quick heads-up…

…that the restaurant carrying my wee bowls, Contigo, is going to be open starting today, March 3rd! I’m going to be visiting later this week, and hopefully you will soon, too. I’m so excited to finally get a glimpse at their menu. And here’s some photos, courtesy of Brett Emerson:

Outdoor Seating and Edible Garden

Beautiful Kitchen



Front Counter and Kitchen

Big Order, Little Bowls

My first big custom order is almost complete. A restaurant here in San Francisco, Contigo, asked me to make about 30 of my wee bowls for use as salt dishes. Making the wee bowls has always been fun but sometimes it can be challenging to have that much fun… if you understand my meaning. It was quite an odyssey to make that many bowls, all within identical specifications. Let’s just say I was glad to get the order and glad now that they’re done. Tomorrow they will set out into the world, to be set out on tables in my own town. I’m fairly sure the owners will like my work.

However, complications do happen. After their second glaze firing I discovered that I’d somehow forgotten to inscribe anything on them. Blast! Inscribing is important: it makes each item personal, it let’s people know that someone actually hand made them, but more importantly who hand made them. I experimented with an overglaze but, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any good way to fire them (I simply don’t keep that many tiny kiln stilts around). Now I’ve settled on the unlikely choice of marking them with an ordinary everyday Sharpie. Yes—as simple as that. Provided my handwriting is careful enough, things should finally be complete. 

If you’re ever in town, if you’re ever hungry, and if you ever visit the soon-to-open Contigo, carefully check under the little ceramic salt bowl on your table. Know that it came from someone who enjoyed making it, from someplace quite like this:

Bon appétit!