Big Ceramic Store Blog

Monthly Archives: June 2015

  • In our post on June 17, 2015, we talked about where to find inspiration for your pottery projects. In this post, we want to talk about what to do when you're in "inspiration overload."

    Have you ever gone to bed, hoping to get some much needed sleep, just to wake in the middle of the night with a racing mind? You've got all these great ideas for projects, swirling around in your brain, and you just can't shut them off.

    Tossing and turning, flipping and flopping, pulling the covers up then pushing them down, UGH... you just want to get some sleep! At this point, my husband usually wakes up and says, "Will you just get your sketchbook and draw it out already?"

    What a smart man. I used to lay there and draw it out in my mind, however; that didn't help me get back to sleep. Now, I pick up that sketchbook, write a few notes or draw a picture.

    Whew! Now I can go back to sleep... or can I? Most of the time, putting it down on paper, solidifies my thoughts and stops my mind from spinning. Sometimes however; it just isn't that easy. That's when I say, "I'm in inspiration overload."

    Inspiration overload, for me, is when the picture in my mind is so awesome, a sketch just won't do it justice (really, I'm just not that good at sketching). Time to put on my slippers, head out to the studio, and put it down in clay. With a little luck, it will turn out as envisioned, and I can catch a nap a little later in the day.

    Do you have any suggestions for getting back to sleep when your mind is racing? If so, we'd love to hear them. I think we've all had a sleepless night (or 20), and would be willing to try just about anything. Help out your fellow mind-racer by posting a comment.

    Do you have an idea or project you'd like to share with us? Shoot us an e-mail at

  • Becky Breach

    Becky Breach Headshot

    Becky Breach, our BCS Community Manager, manages the blog, which means that not only she writes the posts but recruits them as well. Want to try your hand at an article? Shoot her an email at

    When she’s not working on the blog, Becky keeps busy with her pottery business, Mountainside Pottery, LLC in Catawissa, PA. Check it out here and be sure to like Mountainside Pottery on Facebook.

    Colin Gray

    Colin Gray is the friendly potter behind the how-to videos as seen on our blog and Vimeo channel.

    Originally from Indiana, Colin has since moved to Vermont and his ceramic creations reflect the inspiration of the beautiful landscape he lives in, showcasing a dedication to long-forgotten production techniques and historical accuracy in his utterly unique tobacco pipes, stemware, and shaving kits. Check out his work at


    I've been making pottery since I was a kid, but until a few months ago, I never had my own studio. Now I have a few wheels, a kiln and some shelves, but I had never thought about all of the little things other studios had that made producing pottery a little easier and more efficient. Here are the five things I did to make my home studio feel more like a real studio.

  • If you are anything like me,  you have a scoring system for the level of enjoyment you get from each step of your work. For instance, throwing = 7, hand-building = 8, sculpting = 10, and so on.

    On a scale of 1-10, what score would you give glazing? For me, I'd probably go with a (-2), that's if my scoring system went that low! Glazing is definitely my least favorite aspect of the job.

    I look forward to sitting at the wheel, rolling out a new slab, or sculpting a great piece. I don't even mind the bisque firing process, although, I do find it a bit time consuming, and a little boring. So, I had to ask myself, "what can I do to make glazing fun?"

    Here are a few tricks I've tried:

  • Every now and again I find myself sitting in the studio with "Potter's Block." I just can't seem to come up with a creative idea for the blank slab laid out in front of me.

    I pull out my stack of templates, dig through my "texture trove," and look at the sketches I've made. Still, nothing pops out at me. What to do now?

  • Last year, I was invited to be a vendor at a local wine festival. While trying to decide which pieces I would take, I thought it would be nice to make something tailored to the event.

    I'm a huge fan of hummingbirds, and at first, considered a wine bottle shaped hummingbird feeder. While designing it (in my head) I thought, this is a wine festival duh, there will be hundreds of empty bottles why not make something to hold them? So, I sat down and drew up a template for hand-building a decorative strap system.

  • How many times have you opened the kiln, after a bisque fire, and found broken wares? I don't know about you, but for me, it has happened a few times. One particular piece comes to mind.

    I had made a large platter for my daughter, in North Carolina, and we were planning a visit in less than two weeks. Hoping to take it along, I rushed the firing process. Needless to say, the bottom ruptured, and I thought it was a total loss.

    The piece itself, was beautiful, and I had put a lot of time into hand painting blue crabs with cobalt oxide.

  • Even as a professional potter, there are things I struggle with. Making multiples is one of those things. I dread it when a customer orders a "set" of mugs, bowls etc... You see, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and it is very difficult for me to accept anything less than perfect.

    Working with a mentor a while back, she gave me some good suggestions. I was too stubborn to put those suggestions into practice at first, so I continued to struggle.  Finally, while sitting at the wheel one day, I decided to throw just for fun. I had a blast!

    Surprisingly, a lot of the pieces were similar! More importantly though, it reminded me that clay is supposed to be fun, and I was wasting fun on worry. It was time to buckle down, and try some of those suggestions, before I gave up all together.

    That being said, I've learned how to appreciate the fact that I'm not perfect. There are ways around achieving "exact",  and accepting "close" is getting easier.

    Here are a few of the tips I learned:

  • Did you ever have one of those days where you wake up feeling great with a plan and envision the awesome pieces you were going to make for the day? You have your cup (or 3) of coffee, eat a little breakfast, browse the local paper and excitedly head to your wheel.

    After wedging a couple pounds of your favorite clay, you throw it down on the bat. Wetting your hands a little, you start the centering process. Here it is, the first frustrating moment of your perfect morning... you just can't seem to get a good center! Compressing it again, you start over... still not perfect but you figure it will work itself out when you open it and start a small pull. UGH! You just can’t get the wobble out.

    At this point, you figure there is something wrong with this piece of clay so you start again with a new piece. It centers perfectly, the opening and first pull are great. You've just found a renewed sense of the vision you had earlier. All of a sudden, you get a high spot and a little wobble. No worries, using the needle tool, you trim off the high spot and use a little pressure to get the wobble out. Whew, that was close, your perfect piece almost got wonky on you!  All is well, until you reach for a sponge, and bump the pot.

    Now you've got a dent to work out. After a bit of squeezing, pulling and crossing your toes (since your fingers are already busy), it's been saved again... or has it? Because you've used so much water and manipulated it over and over again, the walls are too wet and thin, the belly starts to sag and the lip flops over. Your perfect morning just went out the window!

    At this point, you wonder if there's a way to save your pottery day. Here’s how.

    Tips for getting back on track

    * On the bright side, you're not alone. We all experience days that NOTHING goes as planned.

    * Flip your piece, still on the bat, upside down over an open box. Once it's soft leather hard, add some "fun" to the pot by manipulating it into a funky shape... You'll be surprised how nice your "flop" turns out!

    * Think technically. Why couldn't you get a good center in the first place? Was your clay wet enough? Does the bat have a warp in it? Were your expectations too high?

    * Visit our blog for some great tips.

    * Pick up a pottery magazine or book and look for some inspiration.

    * Roll out a piece of clay and hand build something simple. This will give you tangible evidence that you are not a quitter!

    * If all else fails, search the web for testimonials of potters all around the world that have had a "bad day."

    Have you ever had a day like this? Let us know in the comments!


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