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It all started this past July with an inconspicuous email.  I had no idea at the time what magnitude this pottery request would have.  Someone was simply requesting 30 to 60 custom mugs.  The twist was that they wanted to know if I’d use the clay they found during their construction of a 16-mile highway project designed to bypass Portsmouth, Ohio.  I replied to the construction company who is building this highway, and received another reply back the very next day.  They asked, “How many mugs is too many?  I talked with the CEO today and he would like 100 at the least and upwards of 500 at max.”  And so began the wonderful 500 mug story.

Five days later, my husband is home alone & a knock on the door startles him.  On the other side of the door stands the CEO of Portsmouth Gateway Group, his wife, and two 5-gallon buckets.  I had tried to warn my husband with a text message earlier that day saying, “A man with two buckets of clay is coming to the house.  Please accept buckets.”  He greets the couple & realizes he has no idea why they are bringing us buckets of clay.  Naturally, my husband politely offers them a complete tour of the clay studio and they accept.  I get a call later from my husband admitting he “just gave two strangers with buckets of clay a tour of our clay studio… They were very nice people, but I have no idea who they were!”  I tried not to laugh &  proceeded to explain.  The buckets of clay were wild clay that the construction company found on site while building the highway.  When a potter acquires clay from the clay supply shop, it is normally a fairly sophisticated blend of several clays.  Wild clay, on the other hand, could be unpredictable.  So the testing of the wild clay began.

Approximately five tests later, it becomes apparent to me that the wild clay we are dealing with was going to bubble up like warts & warp & even melt a little when fired in the kiln.  I tried my usual temperatures in the kiln first; then I tried very low temperatures after that.  Nothing would work.  On a total whim, I made a last minute decision to take some watered down wild clay & “paint” it onto the side of a couple mugs before whisking them away into the kiln for their first firing.  Magically, this little experiment totally worked!  The wild clay could survive the kiln firing if it was just a thin layer painted on.  I now had a way to incorporate the company’s wild, native clay into their mugs!  The design came along & was finalized by November.  An Ohio cutout of clay would be added to the mug, the wild clay painted over the Ohio shape, & the mug would be two earth tone colors.

On November 18th, the construction company had a board meeting planned.  As the board members filed into their meeting, a Highway 823 mug was set out for each one of them.  This was the beginning of the company-wide distribution of mugs for each and every employee.  There are 500 employees.  Let there be 500 mugs!

By November, I also had decided I was in way over my head.  There was no possible way for me to single handedly make 500 mugs in a timely manner.  I reached out to one of my pottery class instructors who in turn suggested asking four local potters.  All four accepted my plea for help!  First on board was Adena Griffith who is an amazing ceramics instructor and taught me everything I know about silk screening images onto clay.  Then I reached out to a potter that I was recommended to me who I never met before, Liz Delatore.  Liz is a talented ceramics sculptor & also uses the potter’s wheel quite well.  Finally, I asked potter couple, Sandy Lang & Walter Weil & to my delight they also said yes.  Sandy & Walter have made a fulltime career of being professional potters & are vastly experienced in the world of ceramics.  After getting help from these four local potters, it became clear I needed even more help.  So I asked my husband, Nick, & his sister, Rose.  They also both agreed to help and worked on adding handles, attaching Ohio’s, and painting clay over the Ohio’s.  Then Nick & Rose also helped stamp the mugs with “made in Ohio” stamps, waxing the mugs’ bottoms, & glazing them.  I owe everyone a great big thank you!

Today was the day I was able to finally say to the construction company’s CEO “The 500th mug has entered the world!”  It’s been a long road to make the 500 mugs, but it’s been a great road.

Thank you Adena Griffith, Liz Delatore, Sandy Lang, Walter Weil, Nick Singer, Rose Singer, & Portsmouth Gateway Group.  You all made it possible!

This project took approximately five months, 750 pounds of clay, seven potters, & exactly 823 words to tell the story.

#500mugs

 

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We are most honored to announce that our plates are now in a sensational restaurant here in the local Columbus, Ohio region called Veritas. Veritas is a newer restaurant, opened up in roughly late 2012, that has already earned quite a reputation as a top notch culinary destination. Crave Magazine recently named Veritas as the number one restaurant in all of Columbus. This is a tremendous honor for Veritas, especially since they are technically located in Delaware, Ohio which is about 20 miles north from Columbus. Despite their location being slightly north, they absolutely deserve the title as number one restaurant of Columbus. We have been to Veritas a number of times and we are always astonished and amazed at their culinary genius. We are beyond excited that Veritas, known for their small plates and highly eclectic cuisine, has chosen us to provide them with their plates. The plates will be used on several occasions including large parties and for serving specific dishes such as their scallops plate. We are convinced that if you go to Veritas and request “Crafty by Nature” plates that they will not disappoint.

We have delivered 26 total plates to Veritas and we encourage you to come to Veritas and explore their inventive, original, and refreshing menu. It is well worth the drive to come to Veritas for the culinary experience. Plus the plates are not too shabby! Visit Veritas at www.veritastavern.com or 15 E Winter St, Delaware, OH 43015. Reservations are always a good idea, so just give them a call at (740) 417-4074. Enjoy the great food and tell them Crafty by Nature sent you!

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We are going to have a great month full of craft shows to peddle our wares. We’ll have all our latest pottery as well as all our latest soaps and lotions on hand for these shows. If you will be in the Columbus, Ohio area this month, you should definitely stop on by! We will be one of many vendors at these events so the great news is there will be lots of diversity of all sorts of art and crafty goodness to select from and browse.

Our show schedule is up on our website here at http://www.craftybynaturestudio.com/upcoming-shows

This Saturday will be the wonderful Columbus Craftacular, held at Whetstone Community Center in Clintonville!

Next Saturday, May 11th will be the Migratory Bird Fest, Plant Sale, and Arts/Crafts Day at the Audubon Center!

The following Saturday, May 18th, Will be Green on the Green in Worthington at 161 & High St!

ALL THREE FESTIVALS are ecologically friendly themed. We are right where we want to be!

See you there! Mention this blog post and get 25% off any item in our little shop. Woo hoo!


I am working on a bunch more pottery projects right now but here are a few of my recent ones that came out of the kiln.

I am currently working on this Neti Pot as a gift to my man. He requested one since our old one fell off the bathroom sink and broke.

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Then there is the plate I fell in love with and almost, just almost, could not bring myself to selling. But alas, I will have to make more of these!

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Then I made a special plate for a good friend of mine. I can’t say who because it is a Christmas gift surprise! But here is the plate. I handbuilt it, used a plastic doily to impress the pattern, covered the whole plate with floating blue glaze and wiped it off as to leave it only in the cracks, and clear coated it with a clear glaze.

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And finally, I made a buckeye leaf platter for a good friend who is obsessed with football. For those of you who are not local Ohioans, the buckeye leaf and nut are both symbols for the Ohio State Buckeyes football team stationed here in Columbus, Ohio. You may hear people screaming “Go Bucks!” at random times when you are in Ohio. It happened to me one day when I first moved here from the East Coast that a random stranger guy screamed “GO BUCKS” to me and I just kind of stood there totally confused. Sometimes I still am confused, but alas, here is the Ohio State Buckeye platter, made using a real Buckeye Tree leaf.

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Wishing everyone a wonderful Winter Solstice and beyond… Each day after December 21st promises to have more and more daylight gradually each day up until the Summer Solstice. Let’s enjoy the increased daylight and the wonderful winter season. May it be bright and full of merriment for everyone. I look forward to creating a ton more pottery this winter in preparation for the craft shows next year. We are planning ahead although we don’t know all the craft show dates just yet, and looking forward to an awesome and auspicious 2013!!!

Here’s our plans for shows so far…

http://www.craftybynaturestudio.com/upcoming-shows

Happy Solstice everyone!


I decided to make a cute little bug out of clay and use high fire wire for its legs and fire it in my kiln. I absolutely love this cute little bug! I really need to make more of these. I added a little notch underneath the bug so that he can be attached to a bamboo kabob skewer and used as a decorative stake in a houseplant or the garden.

LOVE IT!

Everyone needs a cute little bug!!

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Step 1: Make some plates out of porcelain clay on the potter’s wheel, trim them, and let them dry halfway, at which time you will place Queen Anne’s Lace flowers on the plates and push them into the clay to make a good impression.

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Here is another picture of the fresh Queen Anne’s Lace pushed into the clay.

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Step 2: Fire the pottery to bisque (12 hours in my kiln up to 1828° F). Then, despite all your instincts, blob a bunch of black glaze over your entire flower impression.
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Step 3: Wipe away the excess black glaze using a natural sea sponge, as to leave only the impression with black glaze remaining.
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Step 4: Apply a clear coat of glaze over top to make this food-safe and fire it in the kiln again (this time I fired for 8 hours up to 2167° F)
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Queen Anne’s Lace plates:
made of porcelain on the potter’s wheel with a real Queen Anne’s Lace flower impressed into the clay.

I really love this set of dishes and how they came out!!! I am looking very forward to next summer’s Queen Anne’s Lace blossoms so I can make a bunch more!


Today I had the pleasure of speaking at a women’s teacher’s group at one of their meetings.  I had met the president of this group at the Worthington Green on the Green festival last year.  She bought an “I Love You Lotion” and mentioned her group and that she might contact me to see if I’d be interested in speaking about my small woman-owned business to her group.  Well that day finally came and was today.  I went through the history of how my little business got started and how we have progressed.  It was great because I hadn’t realized the dates of some of my milestones that had occured until I looked them up on old blog posts actually.

Some of our milestones for Crafty by Nature have been…

2009:  I developed our first product which started out as a Christmas gift, but ended up as Working Hands Skin Repair.

2010:  I vended at my very first Art & Craft show at the Grove City Art & Craft Show

2011:  I developed the recipe and made my first “true” lotion called “I Love You Lotion.”  I call this a “true” lotion because it is emulsified oils, water, and wax that stays blended.

2012:  I made a great journey to Rapidan, Virginia to learn soap-making from one of the pros, my soap mentor and now friend, Michele Blackwood.  I knew of her through buying her soaps and absolutely falling in love with her soaps.  Now I can make my own soaps that are awesome, using my very own recipe I wrote.

After my talk with the women’s teacher’s group, members of the group bought a bunch of my lotions and soaps.  It was really rewarding and wonderful to be able to spend time with this group and give everyone the opportunity to really learn about my business and my products.  I went over some of my pottery workshops information as well and some were interested in taking a potter’s wheel class sometime.  Overall, this was a really rewarding and exciting day for me to introspect and learn about my own milestones in my little business and share everything I have learned along my journey so far with some wonderful women today.

I am thankful for this opportunity.  It really allowed me to stop and look back at my prior milestones and see how far I have come and gives me hope and inspiration for carrying on into the future!  I feel so motivated now!

Yay!


Autumn is proudly here displaying gorgeous leaf colors on the trees, wonderfully cool temperatures, and naturally we are firing up the kiln in the spirit of the harvest.  Today we loaded the kiln with greenware, which is basically raw or un-fired pottery.  Pottery is very delicate in greenware stage so we are always sure to be extra cautious.  So far no breakage and everything made it safely into the kiln and we really jammed it full of pottery.

The sunny, bright, yet cool and refreshing autumn day is a great day for firing.  The kiln works best when the temperature is over 40° outside, especially since our kiln room is our garage which is not terribly insulated.  Today was a lovely day and a temperature of 65° according to the kiln’s temperature reading when I started it up.  3:30pm is when we began the firing and this being a bisque load should take about 12 hours of firing time.  That takes us to the kiln shutting down at about 3:30am.  That’s when the big wait begins.  The kiln will still be 1828° fahrenheit when it shuts off at 3:30am.

For obvious reasons, we must wait until the kiln and its pottery cools to a much lower temperature of about 130° fahrenheit before unloading.  That is the temperature that I like to say “no longer will burn your hands” when unloading the pottery.  Some people wait less, and some people more, until unloading time.  I just find 130° to be what I prefer.  I know some potters who unload at 150° and still others who prefer to wait all the way until the kiln reaches room temperature.  After the 3:30pm shut off time, we’ll have to wait another 19 hours to unload according to how the cooling went for my last bisque load.  19 hours seems endless when you are so eager to begin glazing so you can final fire your pieces and start using them or give them as gifts or even sell them.  It is possible the long wait may be less hours this time because we are enjoying such a cool wonderful autumn day.

At any rate, I think we will be able to begin unloading and glazing by about 10:00 pm or so tomorrow night.  Of course that will be Sunday night and I’ll have little time at that point to be glazing since I will have to go to bed so I can do my 9 to 5 Monday morning.  Sometimes, I even unload the kiln Monday morning before work at 6am or so.  I get so excited to get all the pieces of pottery out that we have worked so diligently on.  It is very rewarding unloading the kiln.  Every time I unload a kiln, I feel like it is Christmas and my birthday all at once.  I love it!  In this kiln load, I have some special porcelain pieces that I can hardly wait to see.  I made designs on them with black underglaze color on top of the bright white clay.  I had to etch, or sgraffito, areas of each design to make them more sharp, crisp, and detailed.  One bowl I made this way has a gorgeous black and white tree with heart-shaped leaves on it.  Then I made a matching mug companion which also has the gorgeous tree of hearts design.  Finally, I made the last porcelain bowl with my “king bird” design.  I handpainted a bird in black and white and gave him long skinny legs and a crown on his head.  I’ll have pictures in about a week, after our final glaze firing.

We will spend nights after work all this week carefully glazing our work.  Then next weekend, we will fire the glaze firing which is the most exciting of all times to unload.  Unloading a glaze kiln full of glazed, finished pottery, is perhaps like the Fourth of July, Christmas, my birthday, and St Patrick’s Day all happening at once.  It is like a wonderful expression of the harvest.  Someone has gathered the clay, the ingredients for the glazes, and we put our heart and soul into each piece of pottery combing the clay and glazes and all our efforts.  The result is harvesting the pottery that will be used for years to come.  We cherish each piece and appreciate them greatly.  These are the gifts we are given and can also give.


We loaded up the kiln yesterday afternoon and set the kiln for a bisque firing that takes 12 hours to fire up to 1,828° F.  This is some of the pottery before firing, once loaded into the kiln:

After the 12 hours of firing up to 1,828°F, the kiln must cool for an additional 19 hours.  Now I say 19 hours to cool when we are firing in pretty warm weather here in Columbus, OH.  I think the temperatures have been in the upper 80’s to lower 90’s here during the time of the kiln attempting to cool.  So of course in January, we will see very different cooling times.

Here’s what we have for the bisque.  Notice the light pink coloration of much of the pottery.  This is a temporary color that will change and mature into a tan color upon glaze firing the pieces.

We fired one really large (15 inch) buckeye leaf plate, three large (10 inch) collanders, a wall hanging sconce (oil lamp), a wall hanging buckeye leaf on (white) porcelain, 22 Ohios made of porcelain to be turned into magnets, a “flower petal” bowl, a sponge holder, a self draining soap dish, and two Cocker Spaniel Bowls.  Cocker Spaniel bowls are designed especially for cocker spaniels to keep their long ears out of their food and water.

Next up… Glazing all this pottery!

Just renovated and revamped our website too.  Check it out at www.craftybynaturestudio.com


Becki Cooper, director of Avant Garde Art & Craft Shows, was interviewing me and posted this little article on their blog.  We will be at the Columbus Avant Garde Art & Craft Show on August 19th from 1:30 to 6:30pm.  We will be there along with 125 other local artists and crafters.  It is at the Greek Orthodox Church in the Short North.  The location more specifically is The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral-               555 N. High St, Columbus, OH 43215.  Admission is $3 and proceeds benefit Local Matters, a non profit that educates people about healthy local foods & produce.
Hope to see you at the Columbus Avant Garde, and now here’s the blog interview…
Meet Karen Buoncristiano from Crafty By Nature…
I can’t stop making my own ceramics, lotions, and soaps. After I got married and no longer had a wedding to plan, I became stir crazy and needed a new challenge.  Most years for Christmas, I began making gifts by hand for at least a good portion of our gift giving. About 10 years of dabbling in all sorts of various arts and crafts, I narrowed it down to two categories I truly loved: ceramics and handmade bath & body goods.
    I am married to a wonderful husband who also loves making pottery on the potter’s wheel and he is doing great, picking up lots of skill. We spend a lot of time with our two loving dogs, hiking around for some fresh air and to immerse ourselves in nature.
I have been a potter for about 8 years. I have been a lotion & soap maker since 2009. I have been creating a wide variety of art as well as crafts since about 1992. Before that, I spent my entire childhood drawing, sculpting things, and painting.
My creativity is such a huge part of me, that I think it has always been there. My parents were both artists and showed me a lot of encouragement for doing art. I was definitely raised with the idea that art has a lot of value and appeal. I thank my parents for that.
I started making ceramics in the early 1990s and have always loved it. There is only so much of your own handmade pottery you can fit in your house, so I began selling my work. The reason I got into making my own lotions & soaps was curiosity. I wanted to see if I could make lotions & soaps, and I found out I can!
How I got into selling my craft.. One year for Christmas gifts, I decided to make up my own recipe for gardener’s hand salve and include it in a garden themed gift basket. People LOVED this hand salve and insisted I make more, and asked me if I would begin selling it. I said yes and the rest is history!
My creative process.. Sometimes I just make something on the potter’s wheel and I feel like “it” decides what it is going to end up as. Other times I plan ahead. For lotions and soaps, I try to think what would smell really great and yet be very moisturizing at the same time. Sometimes it takes several attempts at a soap or lotion recipe before I get it good enough for my standards.
I think my most favorite item so far would be my “little bird” teapot.  I really love how that turned out and it makes a great cup of tea!
I am hope is to one day be able to leave my full-time job and do Crafty by Nature full-time. I’d love to be in many more retail stores, do more craft shows, and make much more ceramics. Time is sometimes a constraint for me at the moment, but nothing will hold me back from creating!
Lastly, I’d like to thank my husband for the faith he has had in me and especially the patience he has displayed when I said “I just bought a potter’s wheel,” and “I just bought a seven cubic foot kiln that weighs 280 pounds!” He has been very patient with me living my dreams, and he has even become a potter himself too! Thanks Nick!