Sunday, February 16, 2014


     Well if you have been following along on Facebook, you know that things are really coming together.
     It is an exciting time for sure and lots of things going on behind the scenes.  I am thrilled to announce that Ann D. Masch has come on board as my new Studio Manager.  Ann and I will be at the studio quite a bit this coming week taking inventory and getting things in place to open.  We plan to open by March 1st at the latest, and possibly as early as February 22nd.  We will keep you posted.
    As we have experienced weather delays with the WONDERFUL Virginia winter we have had, our opening date had to be pushed back a bit.  As a result our classes will begin the first week in April.  This is the class schedule as is stands now, there may be some slight changes, but I think it will ultimately be quite similar to this listing:


TUESDAY 9:30 - 11:30 am - Wheel Throwing for the Novice Potter - Adults and Teens, Ages 14 and up  $185, plus $12.50 for tool kit; and $25 for one bag of clay which includes glaze and firings.

TUESDAY 1:00- 2:30 pm- Hand-Building for the Beginning Potter  Ages 9 and up Pottery for Home School Students $ 130; and $25 for one bag of clay which includes glaze and firings.

WEDNESDAY  6:30 - 8:00 pm -Hand-Building for the Beginning Potter - Adults and Teens Ages 14 and up $130; and $25 for one bag of clay which includes glaze and firings.

FRIDAY  9:15 - 10:15 am - Mommy and Me in the Mud - Ages 3-5 (and an adult helper), $120, all materials, and firings, included. (Great class for Moms, Dads, Grandparents, or other adult care-giver to do with that special little one in your life.

FRIDAY  10:30 - 12:00 pm -Hand-Building for the Beginning Potter - Adults and Teens Ages 14 and up, $130; and $25 for one bag of clay which includes glaze and firings.

SATURDAY 9:30 - 11:30 am - Wheel Throwing for the Novice Potter - Adults and Teens Ages 14 and up, $185, plus $12.50 for tool kit; and $25 for one bag of clay which includes glaze and firings.
Pottery Open Studio, Available Monthly - Includes use of Studio and all equipment. $130.00 per month; tools and tool kits available for purchase; $25 for one bag of clay which includes glaze and firings.  Big Dog Pots only fires pieces which are created from our clay.  Contact the Studio if you need a specific clay manufacturer, type, color and we will do our best to obtain it for your use.

Additional classes will be coming in May!!!

SIGN UP ON LINE to be on our class mailing list.  Classes will be small so you will want to keep up on class information.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Websters defines "provenance" as "the place of origin or earliest known history of something." It is a wonderful concept when applied to all sorts of things, a name, a recipe, a picture, an idea....but for me it seemed to come home in a simple concept of creating a logo for my new Studio. 
New Logo For Big Dog Pots Pottery

I want my logo to elicit an immediate response from people who see it.  I want them to actually feel a warm, happy, relaxed feeling when they look at it.  For me, it made sense to share what makes me feel the same way when I look at it - or in my case - them.  I decided to include Daisy and Max in my logo, and I am just thrilled with the outcome.

It started with a photograph that I took of Max a year or so ago.  We went on a family outing to a local orchard and took the dogs with us. They LOVE being at the orchard. They love the smells, the wide open spaces, visiting with kids who have come there with their families, and of course trying to figure out what we are doing climbing up those trees!

I took this picture of Max.  He was sitting in front of me watching my husband up in a tree, handing apples down to the kids.  I absolutely LOVE this picture.  Even though it is a picture of his back, you can just SEE him smiling!  He was SO happy and excited, and even from behind you can tell.  
Max at the Orchard

When I printed this out later and looked at it, it made me realize that Max's "expression" was universal to dogs everywhere.  It is an expression of love, an expression of anticipation, an expression of joyful waiting. All of these things I attribute not only to Max, but to the many wonderful animals who have shared their lives with me.  I guess, if I had to describe it in a few words, it would be "quintessential unconditional love and joy."

Daisy and Max
I thought what better than to share that "feeling" with everyone who comes into contact with Big Dog Pots Pottery Studio.  And so, in addition to our Max, I have also included Daisy as a part of our logo.  We added a little heart to her hindquarter because after she had her open heart surgery and her port was healing, the hair in that spot grew back in brown.  We look at that spot as her "badge of courage" and wanted to show it in our logo.  These two souls have brought tremendous joy into our lives, and we are thrilled to share their joyful antics with everyone who visits Big Dog Pots.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Finding Balance.....

Well, here we are in the home stretch of renovations on our new Studio/Gallery.  It has been a LOT of work, a lot of fun, and an interesting journey for sure. As my thoughts for the Studio are coming more and more into focus, the realization that I cannot do everything is certainly sinking in.  I do, after all, only have 2 hands!
I have read over the years in various ceramic journals about "finding balance" and over the past 7 years, I have tried to find a balance between home, life, passion, and pots.  Now "balance" is going to take on a new dimension as it relates to custom work.
My ETSY store has been quite successful, and many customers have been thrilled with my custom pieces. While it has been a fun adventure, working with customers and gaining insight into how others view pottery creation, it has also be quite time consuming and stressful.  All those wedding trays!  When my Thank You trays are given to the parents at the rehearsal night dinner, they have to be there on time and in perfect condition.  All of my brides and grooms to date have been a true joy to work with, but mother nature intervenes, or my LIFE intervenes (think 2 kids, 4 cats, 2 dogs - one with a serious cardiac condition), and hard deadlines have on occasion become stressful all day/all night events in the Studio.
I am proud to say that with almost 350 online orders, I don't think I have missed many dates, if any at all, and certainly, I have not missed a rehearsal dinner - even one that took place in Paris, France!!!
For a one person potter, working out of an unheated space with no running water, I am pretty proud of this accomplishment!!!
As I look to my new Studio and Gift Gallery, I see a different type of work, and a different type of work pattern in my future.  I will still create custom pieces, but now they will only be available through the Studio.   By offering ready to ship pieces via ETSY, I see myself actually having more time to create the pieces I would like to create, and growing in my journey as a potter.
While I realize that I will be making a shift in my work, I think it will actually be more of a return to what my life as a potter had been like before the "Custom Frenzy!"
So, in the end, I believe this decision will offer me a less stressful life, with more time to enjoy life, and enjoy creating pottery...and in the end, for me - that is what it is all a peaceful life and making pots!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Choosing A Pottery Wheel.....

Picking out a pottery wheel, my method behind the myriad of choices. It is a tough choice and it gets more difficult when you are buying multiples! There is little real information on overall satisfaction from potters themselves about wheels and their highs and lows.  Yes,there are forums, and discussion threads, and large sales companies who write up the products they are selling.  There are some very detailed reviews on wheels available online.  What I was searching for was a more "ethereal" view point from the potters themselves and how the connect with the wheels they use.  Although I am sure I did not hit ever nook and cranny of information out there, I am confident in my choice, basically because of the way I feel when I use it, and my overall level of comfort with the design.

Basically, I am a Pacifica GT800 potter, and I will tell you why....  I have thrown on Brent, Thomas-Stuart, Creative Industries, and Shimpo wheels of varying ages and styles (including the stick shift version), and not being a kick wheel user, I did not investigate those options.  Of the wheels I have used I just keep coming back to my Pacifica.

While a number of the manufacturers listed are substantial and venerable for sure, for my purposes, and the students I anticipate working with, I believe the Pacifica wheels will do a wonderful job.

I am not going to go through all the other styles and tell you what I liked and disliked about each and how they stack up against one another. Instead I thought I would simply share what I LOVE about my Pacifica GT800  which I have been using, basically on a daily basis, for the past 6 years.

Me Throwing on a Shimpo Wheel
First, it is solid.  It doesn't move, rattle, clank.  It stays still and lets the wheel head do its job.
Next, it is QUIET.  Very important to me because for me wheel work is often meditative and quite is paramount.  No distracting noises, none. The splash pan is super easy to put on and take off and I never seem to hit that "oh, I have the pieces reversed" dilemma. I really like the non-porous work table that is built right in.  It has lots of room for tools, water buckets, and all those other nick knacks you just have to have when you sit down to throw. Finally, I think it is important to purchase enough throwing power so that as you progress and build your skills you are not limited by the size of your horsepower.  The GT800 has 1.0 hp which is all I will ever need.

So, this was my process.  It was not scientific, but I am confident my students will enjoy throwing on these wheels for many, many QUIET years to come.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Down to Earth....

As we are closing in on the last few days of bringing the construction phase of our "little project" to a conclusion. I am beginning to think in earnest about all the details of what, where and why in setting up the Studio and Gallery.  We have made some last minute changes, and I am thinking that the changes will work well and allow for lots of interesting opportunities.

First up is the actual layout.  We decided that in order to better use space and keep the actual creation processes on tile surfaces (think muddy here), we will be adding some additional Gallery space.  This will serve several purposes, first to encourage visitors to feel welcome past the first two rooms and encourage them to go "behind the scenes" into areas of the Studio where work will be in progress. Second it will allow for additional area for sales of both work by our Studio Artists, as well as some of my favorite non-pottery art work which I have discovered along my journey into mud.

Having participated in many Fine Art Shows over the past 7 years, I had the joy of meeting and getting to know several artists who create phenomenal work, and yet like me they strive to keep their prices down to earth and affordable.

Yes, there will be a few items that will be in higher price ranges, but overall everything in the Gallery will be affordable art for everyday, or for that special day when something unique is needed. All of the pieces that I create will be available for custom order with choices of text, impression, clay base and glaze colors.

It is my hope that the Studio will be a welcoming and friendly place where people look forward to come and explore being creative, or come looking for unique creations.

In the meantime, we are setting up all the needed "number things" book keeping, scheduling, ordering, and ultimately, very soon  MOVING IN AND SETTING UP !!

Friday, December 13, 2013

All That is to Come...

These past few months have been quite busy.  In addition to my day job as mom to 2 teen age kids, 2 dogs, 4 cats, and wife to busy corporate executive, I have also been working on getting a new studio renovated and open. On top of that, my lovely and talented daughter had the lead in her school's musical, and my son began his journey into College! PHEW!  Just listing it all makes me tired :).

When my "pottery hobby" over ran the two studio buildings my husband had built on our property, we decided it was time to take the next step.  Instead of building a third, and probably fourth outbuilding on our property, we took the plunge and purchased an old house on Main Street here in Marshall, Virginia.

The property has a lot of visibility on our hometown thoroughfare, is zoned for Commercial uses, and was previously used as a dog grooming salon (this in particular felt like great karma to me!). The structure was built in 1890 and was constructed without the benefit of pressure treated wood, and with the added misfortune of being situated on top of some moderate shrink swell soils.  The end result....LOTS of rot.

We have had to gut most of the floors, replace most of the sills, band-boards, and of course floor joists and floors.  Here are some before and during pictures of the floor process to date.

The first cut is the deepest!
Exposing what was beneath.

Clearing out down to the dirt.
Original rock wall foundation.
LOTS of rot!!!
Once we removed what underneath 4 of the 6 rooms, we began to carefully rebuild with modern materials and technologies.  After monitoring the water drainage around the foundation for several weeks, we decided that we needed to attend to the outside of the foundation as well as the interior. So, we installed french drains around the perimeter of the structure.  Once in place, they will work to trap water filtering down beside the foundation and draw it away to several underground catch zones. It was a LOT of digging, both by hand and by machine, but we are hopeful that it will create a lasting difference for drainage on the property.  
Here is what that process looked like....
No doubt it looks like FUN, but it was a lot of work

Careful to make sure the water would drain properly and slope correctly.

Taking a much deserved break!

While we were at it, we added a few coats of water sealer to the outside wall.

Next came the rebuild....but I think I will save that for the next post!  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Looking Ahead to 2014 and Learning from 2013....

"End of December, the sleepy brown woods seem to nod down their heads for the winter..."
Dan Fogelberg, Lyrics to "Old Tennessee"

Lessons Learned

As I write this in mid December, I am coming to the close of my 6th year in the world of custom, personalized pottery.  What I have learned this year can be summed up in the simple thought of "let the customer lead!"  Some of my best pieces have come from ideas that my customers have shared with me.  I keep and open ear and do not fear doing something differently just because it is something that I would not have done.  Some of my most interesting, and successful pieces have come from my collaborations with customers. That said, it is also important for me as an artist to continue to create all those pieces I have floating around in my head.  I find that if I share my studio time with pieces that I have been commissioned to create with those that I "need" to create for my own artistic venting, that I have a good week.  Keeping time set aside, and kiln room set aside for the pieces I want/need to create has been a happy medium for me this year and a lesson learned for sure.


Looking ahead to 2014, I just downloaded Pantone's Wedding Colors for Spring 2014. There are a lot of great shades to work with for my custom pieces, as well as for my ready to ship items.  In particular, I will certainly be playing with Pantone's Freesia - a beautiful vibrant yellow; Dazzling Blue - a wonderful full bodied shade or royal blue; Radiant Orchid - a fabulous shade of violet; and Celosia Orange - a terrific, subtle shade of soft peachy/orange.


Moving forward, one of the things that is beginning to whisper to me from the furthest reaches of my mind, is the notion of preserving my artistic ideas in the pieces I am working so hard to create.  Imitation is certainly the sincerest form of flattery, but within the artistic world it is a big no-no.  While, I have thankfully not been subjected to any other pottery taking my ideas and reusing them, I will be looking into protecting my ideas moving forward for sure.  Being a fairly "type B" person - sort of a more "whatever" type personality.  I have a natural resistance to pursuing such legal protections, but many of my customers, friends, and family are encouraging me to at least look into it.

So, if you have experience or ideas on how I should go about doing this, I would sincerely appreciate your input and experience.  For now, I am focused on responding to my Christmas orders, and finishing my new Studio which should be opening in January 2014. 

It is an exciting time here at Big Dog Pots Pottery, and we are hoping for even more exciting times ahead.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy Holiday Season, and a wonderful 2014!