Welcome to Inside the Studio!
Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you’ll leave comments! As an incentive we offer a free prize each week to bribe you to use that keyboard. The following week we choose a random winner.
Congratulations Michelle W.! You have won a set of heart pins in your choice of finish: 6 in Sterling Silver or 10 in copper, antiqued or shiny or a mix of both from Rebecca of Songbead
and The Curious Bead Shop
. Please send Rebecca an email
with your information so she can mail these out to you!!
Today we visit the studio of
My studio is inside of an 1850’s dairy barn. There was a time about 20 years ago that we had an operating dairy farm. Where I work in my studio was once where our beautiful Jersey and Holstein cows lived.
photo of our cows in the field in the fall
And before we lived here several other families had Holstein dairies housed inside. So I feel that my studio has very good Karma.
I thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures of the structure of this lovely barn that has been saved from the fate of many in this large rural county in Northern New York. All the work has been done by my wonderful husband and with the help of friends.
This first picture gives you a glimpse of the very large beams that were used to make this barn. The part that I am in is just to the right of this section and is actually the older part of the barn.
This picture is taken from the oldest part of the barn. Those burgundy doors lead into my studio. They are kept latched to keep out dust and cats etc. They also give me a much needed level of privacy and quiet. If you look up at the ceiling you will see more of the rough hewn beams that were used to build the barn. Also of note is that the ceiling is fairly low about 7 feet. Right above the burgundy double doors you can see one of the very large beams. The ceiling height at the top of the double doors is about 6’2″. Not sure why the ceilings were so low but it did help keep this part of the barn warmer and allowed for more room above for storage of hay.
Another view of the very large rough hewn beams. You can see the axe marks on the edge. They were roughed out by hand. Note how they are given additional support from the steel posts under them.
Upstairs or above my studio and this part of the barn, my husband is making a book store. This is the area where we used to store two thousand hay bales. Notice the dark wood above the shelves. The large beams have been integrated into the book shelf structure.
an upper level in the bookstore to be
Back to my Studio
My studio set up. This table closest to you is where I do the hand painting and glazing of my ceramic beads, buttons and pendants. I try to keep this area very clean. Clay can be quite messy and the dust from clay can cause serious lung problems. It is best to wear special small particle mask protection and clean up dry clay with a wet cloth so the dust is not dispersed. Dust bits can also get into the clay glaze and distort the surface of a piece.
Here is a picture of one of my ceramic kilns. All three of my kilns have digital controls which means that a ceramic clay firing program has been keyed into the computerized controls and will go through the steps of the firing without out any help from me. In the past kilns had to be turned up for each step of the firing and then turned off at the end. Many potters have gone over to the digital method but some still prefer to hand manipulate their kilns and use actual Orton cones to determine when the clay is ready. All ceramic clay needs to be fired i.e. heated up to its chemical maturity in a kiln. Clay matures at temperatures that are much higher than can be achieved by a kitchen stove or a toaster over. Ceramic kilns are built to handle these high temperatures and are made with a special kind of ceramic brick that can withstand these hot temperatures. For example, one of the clays that I like to use which is classified as an earthenware clay needs to be fired to at least 1820 degrees Fahrenheit to mature. Many ceramic bead artists use stoneware and porcelain clays and these require even more heat to mature: about 2200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Recently I have been working on making a number of toggle clasps and hearts. Some of these will be going to the Bead Cruise
All of these have been fired 3 times in my digital kiln. Each firing has a special purpose. The first or bisque firing it to initially harden the clay enough so that it can be colored with glazes. I like to do a second firing after I have used stains to color the white clay and add contrast to my image.
These 2 hole beads are drying in a food dehydrator and then will be sponged off to remove rough spots and put in the kiln for that initial bisque firing. These bead seem hard at this stage but they break easily and if they come into contact with water they will dissolve into mud. and just wash down the drain ( not a good idea for your plumbing.)
These beads have been through that initial bisque firing and then have been stained and fired a second time. Now they are ready for the hand painting and the final glaze firing.
Leaves which have been hand painted and are awaiting the 2 coats of clear glaze they need before the final glaze firing.
Now that we have had a tour of the barn and my studio, I have a question for you. As you can see my studio is not inside of my home. I love that it is in a place that can handle messes and keep the clay and glazes away from my living space. I also love being able to focus totally on my creative work when I am in my studio as there are few distractions and I can’t exactly double and triple task while I am there. On the other hand, on days when it is very cold outside, or when I have a lot to do in the house, I think I would like my studio to be in my home.
Where do you think is the best place for your creative activity? and why?
Tell us by leaving a comment below and I will enter your name to win ONE of my ceramic leaves like the ones above. But of course they will be all glazed and bright and shiny. Like these below.
ceramic leaf pendants by Mary Harding
Thanks so for stopping by. The winner will be announced next week.