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Garden Sculpture in the Works Part 1

Garden totem in the works!  Quite a few years ago shortly after I met Steve Fabrico I went to his studio and took a weekend workshop with him on his handbuilding technique.

I’ve done a couple of these sculptures with the techniques he taught and am pleased I’ve got time to do this type of work again.


The pieces are super soft at this stage and since they are quite thick I’ve put them back in their molds (except the roundish one) so the pieces would keep their shape until dry. I had to shorten the tall mold or it would not have fit into my kiln. I’ve made a top and a bottom of each piece and put them together.

My next issue, how am I going to get the base piece into the kiln without damaging it? I think I’ve got that figured out too. Wrap in paper, put back into mold, put it on a small kiln shelf that I can leave underneath the piece while it’s being fired.

Most of the pottery I do is low fire earthenware but if a piece is going to be out in the weather it needs to be stoneware. What’s the difference?

From “The Basics of Pottery Clay” by Beth Peterson….

What is clay? Is it simply dirt? Well, yes and no. “Dirt” covers a lot of ground, so to speak. We can break dirt into several sections: topsoil, clay, inelastic earth, and rock. Topsoil contains a lot of organic material, which makes it good for growing plants. Clays and inelastic earths are the results of decomposing rocks, in which the particle size is extremely small. Rocks include bedrock and boulders all the way down to fine sand. Most clays contain several different types of clay minerals with different amounts of metal oxides and organic matter, this is what sets the different types apart. 

Clay differs from the inelastic earths and fine sand because of its ability, when wet with the proper amount of water, to form a cohesive mass and to retain its shape when molded. This quality is known as clay’s plasticity. When heated to high temperatures, clay also partially melts, resulting in the tight, hard rock-like substance 

Classes of Clay

There are many different types of clay bodies you can work with.  Clay can be divided into several classes, based on characteristics and at what temperature the clay must be fired to in order for it to become mature, or reach its optimum hardness and durability.

The three most commonly used clay bodies are earthenware clay bodies, mid-fire stoneware clay bodies, and high-fire stoneware clay bodies. 

Earthenware Clays

Earthenware is the most commonly found type of found clay. Earthenware clays were some of the earliest clays used by potters, and it is the most common type of clay found. These clays are highly plastic (easily worked) and can be sticky. Earthenware clays contain iron and other mineral impurities which cause the clay to reach its optimum hardness at between 1745°F and 2012°F (950°C and 1100°C).   – Unless totally covered with glaze it will remain somewhat porous.

Stoneware is fired at very high temepratures. 

Stoneware clays are plastic and are often grey when moist. Their fired colors range through light grey and buff, to medium grey and brown. Fired colors are greatly affected by the type of firing.

Mid-Fire Stoneware Clay Bodies are formulated to fire to maturity between 2150°F and 2260°F (1160°C and 1225°C).

High-Fire Stoneware Clay Bodies   fire to their mature hardness between 2200°F and 2336°F (1200°C and 1300°C).

When fired to maturity some of the clay particles melt and the clay turns to stone, making it impervious to water.

I hope I’ll have time over the next year to do a lot of sculpture!

Phase two – bisque fire the individual pieces.

Next post – figuring out my glazes and sculpting the top.

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Road Trip Savannah – Post 2 also where I’ve been artwise and where I’m going

Savannah is not the city it was when I first visited in the early 70s. So glad! It seems since SCAD opened in Savannah in 1978 the cities treasured buildings have taken on a new life. Every time I go it gets better and better – at least the historic district and the restoration of buildings. To date SCAD (Savannah School of Art and Design) has restored over 65 buildings, many around the famous squares. Which has encouraged others to restore even more buildings.

When I visited in the early 70s the bones were beautiful but it seemed like the city was rotting away.

What a transformation!

What I love – those of you who know my work know this already – is architecture, gardens, and birds. So that is what I’m usually taking photos of, hoping some day to have time to paint some of the things I see, either on clay, canvas, or paper.

If you ever see a photo on my blog and say to yourself, “I’d LOVE a painting of that” just let me know by commenting on this blog post at the bottom of the page.

Leaving Savannah I took a leisurely drive up Hwy 17 which leads directly to my home in New Bern.

Along the way I stopped in Charleston and Beaufort to take a few photos.

In Charleston a couple places I always like to stop are Charleston Cooks, while I don’t like to cook I love a kitchen shop, it’s all the gadgets I guess. Well much to my dismay I saw their building was empty, I thought they had moved, no, they closed last year. Bummer!

So on to my next favorite place. Art by Laura DiNello 

She does these interesting “paintings” that look like a mosaic but are really pieces of canvas cut up. I’m thinking when I get ready to do the mosaic in my pottery I’ll first do my image on canvas using her technique to work out the design. I’ll keep you posted on that project. I know I won’t have time to even start on it until after Christmas.

This is one of her pieces. Most are very large, like I said look like mosaic but are canvas so very light weight!

My 3rd favorite place is a little shop called Indigo.

Always has a nice mixture of hand crafted and not, cute, whimsey, well done.

I have been an artist my entire adult life, most of the time I was employed at a “real” job I was involved in the arts, doing my fine art on the side.

I started my career working with senior citizens and teaching art classes to them, then the regional commission on aging where I wrote produced and printed a newsletter going out to over 10,000 people (among other duties), which was my intro into the printing industry, then I moved to the art department of a commercial printer which taught me so much and has served me well as I pursued my life as a fine artist, then to Aspen Colorado Arts Council, the art department of the Aspen Times, and finally starting and working at Carolina Creations in New Bern for 27 years.

I feel like during all this time I’ve never been as creative as I am right now. It’s all because of time. I now have the time to experiment and not always worry about having to make a living. I feel blessed!

If you are interested in reading about what and who have influenced me through the years you could read my old blog and my 31 Days of Thanks posts, here is a link if you are so inclined.

Back to the trip!

This is not a good photo but something I would like to paint. Most of my photography is for that purpose, not as as finished product but something I might paint.

As many times as I’ve been to Charleston I’ve never seen the shell house. It is on the campus of Ashley Hall, and was originally built as an on campus aviary for exotic birds.

Still blooming in November!

A fun unplanned trip! I thought I took photos in Beaufort, SC but guess not! It was beautiful driving through, I forgot how beautiful!

Next planned road trip DC.

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First Presbyterian Church New Bern Christmas Card

Every year since 1990 I’ve created a New Bern Christmas card. This years card features First Presbyterian Church to celebrate their 200th anniversary.

2017 marks the bicentennial celebration year of First Presbyterian Church of New Bern. The formal organization took place on January 7, 1817, at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Minor. The Reverend John Knox Witherspoon established the church with 13 founding members. Construction began in 1819, and the sanctuary was dedicated on January 6, 1822. Painting and copyright – Janet Francoeur. (Original is sold.)



8 cards and envelopes for $10.50

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Celebration Pottery My Christmas Pottery Designs for 2018

Last year I was talked into doing Christmas Pottery. I did some and was really surprised at how it was received, I sold a LOT of it!! So this year I’ve come up with four newish designs.

But the best part was how happy people were that I had done it!

xmas 2017 santa and sleigh

Santa and sleigh

xmas pottery trees

Christmas Trees

xmas santa

Santa Face

xmas holly

Holly with Cardinal

A 9 1/2 ” plate   $32

Wavy Dish

Long Skinny Dish

Candy dish

Mug $26

Large Turkey Platter $94

thanksgivingI can do these pieces with names and dates on them for a small additional charge.

I won’t necessarily have every piece at Carolina Creations  at all times but you can say what you want and I’ll do it for you.