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Journal

News from Dowd House Studios: places to find our pottery, exhibitions, classes & workshops, new forms and exciting projects.

Filtering by Category: Pottery In Use

Display Ideas

Jenny Dowd

One thing I love about making things out of clay, besides ease of use and overall helpfulness, is the challenge of finding solutions for display. I'm always rethinking how to make objects that are helpful and highly functional, plus looking for good ways to display them- I like it when a story can simply be told through the juxtaposition of a few objects. 

A few weeks ago at the August Art Fair Jackson Hole I was across the isle from Sita Sabina. She saw a helpful potential in my "stuff holders." By using these little dishes to display her rings for people to choose from, she also created a beautiful and simple display that offers good ideas for storage (or home display) of precious objects.

Recently metal artist, Jen McNaughton, asked me to make necklace display stands and I got pretty excited about this project. I'd never thought of making ceramic display stands!

I started out by making a cardboard pattern. This template helped me think through the angle which it would sit at as well as size. It also gave me a good visual before cutting into the clay- the necklace needs to stay put on the top and hook somehow into the back, so I came up with a few ideas before getting too far into clay work.

After lots of smoothing and assembling I added a little decoration- like a frame around Jen's pendants. This needed to be simple and not distracting, underglaze inlay seemed to be a good fit. I drew a design into the clay with an xacto, coated it with underglaze, then wiped the excess away.

And the results! The notches at the top hold the necklace in place, while holes in the back supports give options for chain length, plus a little anti-theft. 

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Come to the Takin it to the Streets fair on September 9th on the Jackson Town Square to see these in person. Well, come to see Jen's jewelry, really- you won't even notice the stands! And I'll be a few booth away with my pottery still thinking about new ways to display things.

Sometimes for fun

Jenny Dowd

Sometimes I make silly things that are just for me... these plant pots were demo pots made while teaching youth and adult handbuilding in the spring at the Art Association. The submarine started out like a regular pot, then transformed into something truly silly that I couldn't wait to get into my garden! The whale came along second as a response to the submarine.

It might be rare that I have an excuse to use a cake stand, but it's fun to use them! And I do think they get sad when they go too long without cake (oh, and I get sad too.) This cookies & cream icebox cake was extra yummy since the cake stand was involved!

Sometimes cake stands crack in the kiln- in my garden those turn into plant stands.

I have a few more silly things at work in the studio- starry garlands for my art fair booth and a sea monster paint brush holder... I'm looking forward to putting these to use soon! 

Pottery in Action: The White Buffalo Club

Jenny Dowd

I have been working on custom pottery for The Restaurant at The White Buffalo Club in Jackson for over a year. This is the first in a series of big orders and even though it still seems like it takes me a long time to finish anything- I can tell that I've gotten faster and more consistent thanks to this project!

At the start I met with Chef Joel Hammond to discuss plate forms and glaze colors. We started out with 1 bowl and 3 plate forms with 3 different glazes. Since completing these, we've started adding specialized plates and ramekins.

For the pieces shown here, I used stoneware with satin glazes that highlight speckles from the iron rich clay. All of these pieces were made in the clay studio at the Art Association, so in snatches of time between classes I often took over a few tables with stacks and stacks of pottery. (Check out my past blog post The Studios for more on how I balance work spaces.)

The speckles and satin earth tone glazes really fit the theme that Chef Joel has created at the White Buffalo Club. He sources local and regional products that highlight small ranches and farms. This extends to local handmade products- not just pottery, also the tables in the restaurant!

One plate form was totally new for me, a shallow flat plate with straight sides. While making the form was simple, I wanted to also ensure that the plates stacked well- imagining a busy kitchen. I came up with a simple solution to bevel the bottom edge- so each plate fits slightly inside of the plate it is on top of.

Working with chefs to create custom dishes to support their vision has quickly become one of my favorite parts of being a potter. Joel came by the studio one day to try out an idea- I made a deep wide bowl and he pressed in and shaped the side... now I'm replicating this form and I can't wait to see what will go in it! I am also currently working on a specialized steak plate. So stay tuned, there is much more to come.

Visit the White Buffalo Club's Facebook page to see more images of my pottery in action, with yummy things on them. (All food photos on this post are from this page.)

Better yet, make time for dinner- The Restaurant at The White Buffalo Club re-opened May 11 for the season, so stop by to see what's new!

Make & Reuse

Jenny Dowd

I'm always looking for ways pottery can be helpful. 

Bronwyn, Director of Programs & Events at the Art Association, was looking for a way to provide reusable cups at gallery openings and events. Pottery ended up being part of the solution.

Jam jars solve the problem of trash (and cost) generated by throw-away drink cups, despite the extra work of washing, they feel great to hold and at the end of the night the trash cans are light. (If you are in Jackson and have jam or small jars that are not going to get filled with more deliciousness- bring them by the Art Association and put them to work!)

The another reusable option is something you can use and take home with you! I've been making small ceramic cups specifically for the gallery programs. During events the gallery offers the cups for $10- which we split, I see it as a small way I can help support the Art Association, and give a shout out to the ceramics program.

Since the clay studio is right next to the gallery it is always easy to find serving options for the snacks!

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I was focused on seeing this idea put into action Friday night, I also enjoyed the artwork, but you'll have to stop by to see the annual Member's Show on your own as I didn't take any photos!

Pottery in Action: The Wild Sage

Jenny Dowd

Here's a behind the scenes look into a project I've been working on for the past few months. I'm currently working on pottery for several Jackson area restaurants (more updates to come!) the latest one is the Wild Sage located in the Rusty Parrot

I've not been great about photographing the work, I was so excited to deliver these pieces that they went straight from the kiln into boxes. That just means that now I have an even better excuse for dinner out! (Besides, pottery always looks better with food.)

Last fall, Chef Travis Catanzaro contacted me to discuss new pottery designs for the restaurant. Since then I've been making sauce bowls, pitchers, ramekins and bread baskets with a stoneware, earth-tone inspired palette. 

One of these forms, the bread basket, is intended to replace the metal woven baskets they have been using. After measuring the existing baskets, my first thought was to find a form that I could slump the clay over. I wasn't terribly excited about the simple oval form that would be created, so I took some time to think.

Eventually, I wondered if the clay could be folded into the squared oval shape that I was seeking. After a few paper test pieces, I was able to make a pattern. Rolling the slab of clay onto burlap gave the outside texture. The walls were folded up and since the baskets are the same size, they also stack. (The first few were pretty wonky, I learned that the template was really important.)

Amazingly, when I sent Travis a photo of the prototype basket, he told me about a bread dough that is wrapped in fabric with texture similar to burlap, the process then transfers the texture to the bread!

These ramekins are a new form for me as well. As an extra challenge I had to find an oven safe clay that could survive the thermal shock delivered from the oven. The dishes are wheel thrown and then slightly pressed on the sides to create the oval shape. When glazing I used 6 glazes in a variety of combinations- you can see by my notes (on the left) how I had to make a plan to keep things organized.

So if you are in Jackson, be sure to stop by the Wild Sage for dinner. I know I can't wait to see these pieces in action!

Pottery in Action: Healthy Being Juicery

Jenny Dowd

For the past year I have been making pottery for Healthy Being Juicery in Jackson. The shop features my handmade mugs, bowls, teapots and cups with saucers along with cookbooks, teas, and snacks. My large salad bowls are also used in the cafe for serving beautiful, tasty, and nutritious salads.

I love seeing my pottery in action and I also enjoy the opportunity to create something specific to embrace the spirit of a store or restaurant. In each location the process and outcome is different, but each starts with a conversation. I love making items to compliment the healthy and delicious lifestyle the juicery promotes.

This Friday in celebration of Healthy Being Juicery's 5 Year Anniversary, they are throwing a party! Be sure to stop by for yummy treats, shopping deals, and say hi to their potter... me!

For more details, check out the Facebook invite!

Product Testing

Jenny Dowd

I take my job seriously.

As a potter I make dishes that are meant to be used daily. These items add something special to our daily rituals. And it's a tough job but someone has to make sure that everything works.

So have no doubt, I test my pottery thoroughly.

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Will this little plate hold cookies? How many? Even if they are warm from the oven?

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Wine cups. Yes, but do they work? 

Busy studio day? No matter, it's still important to test that coffee mug to make sure it can do it's job. The coffee pour overs always get tested, this is a form I'm still tweaking, I don't want that tricky design to get the best of me! (And nearly every day I use my favorite mug- a puff fish made just for me by Sam.)

I lost some sleep worrying over this one, but rest assured, when I finally settled on a vanilla lavender cupcake- I meticulously tested the cupcake stand. In fact, it worked so well the poor little cupcake didn't even make it off the stand.

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I even had lunch this week at Healthy Being Juicery to make sure my big salad bowls were doing their job. (This tasty Baja Salad totally made my day!)

I work hard to make the pots and will continue to make sure they work, it's a difficult job, but I'm up for the challenge! 

Pottery in Action: Just Picked

Jenny Dowd

About this time of year I get a little itchy for the end of winter and start dreaming of summer and my garden. It's Wyoming, there are still a few more months of snow and then mud, so I'd better snap out of my pity-party soon.

To remind myself of what's to come I turned to the weekly web series, Cooking Through a CSA, launched by a friend last summer. Designed to inspire in the kitchen this beautiful series combines the bounty of local organic farms with on-site cooking.

A few of my plates as well as dishes made by Sam and many other local potters make an appearance as well. It feels good to be part of this farm to table circle. 

Check out this series with Chef and Host Eric Wilson and Co-founder Arden Oksanen, read more about their inspiration and watch the whole series at www.foodterra.com 

 

Water Pitchers

Jenny Dowd

 

Since 2011 I have been making stoneware water pitchers for the rooms in the historic Wort Hotel in Jackson, WY. Yesterday I delivered a new batch for the Silver Dollar Mercantile near the lobby of the hotel. This has been my longest account and I'm happy to have my pitchers featured in the rooms while encouraging less use of plastic water bottles. 

The pitchers and saucers are wheel thrown from stoneware. I usually make them in the ceramics studio at the Art Association where they are also fired in the gas kiln. The Art Association is just down the street from the Wort, so when they are ready I put them on a cart and push it down Glenwood Street. I love deliveries in a small town!

Pottery in Action: Part 1

Jenny Dowd

Just about 2 years ago I had an opportunity that not only changed the way I look at my pottery and how I view myself as a potter but has also opened doors to many more opportunities.

In January of 2015 I met Chef René Stein. He had a vision to create a series of pop-up dinners in Jackson, WY during that winter and spring. Not only was he sourcing local ingredients right down to the salt, creating parings with local wines but he was also looking for local pottery to serve on. After a studio visit, where I was delighted to learn that he was not looking for white dishes, I put together sets of my black & white sgraffito porcelain ware, thinking that this might be a one-time thing.

Luckily, I couldn't have been more wrong. The first event, Pioneer Pop-Up, was held at the Ringholz Gallery just off the square in Jackson. It was amazing with every detail beautifully realized. After a series of pop-up dinners and a wonderful buzz through our community, René became the Executive Chef at The Rose.

The magic continued at The Rose, where my black & white plates became part of every special dinner, an evening of 3 - 7 delicious, locally sourced and creative courses.

René brought me requests for dishes: super flat plates, wide pasta bowls, wide based soup bowls as well as ideas for glaze colors. In the summer of 2015 I made a set of shino glazed plates, bowls and cups (in the photo above and to the left.) Shino glazes are notoriously active and hard to predict, the recipe I used could range from orange to white to charcoal to gold. It made me so happy to see how such an active glaze surface could also be activated and complimented by artistic ingredients and arrangements. 

I learned a different way to look at form; very flat plates being good for meat dishes, wider based soup bowls that would be better for plating. Bowls that have very high sides can be difficult to see into once sat on a table... all the little things that I add to my list of "observations that make for highly functional and pleasing pottery."

This summer I made a series of wide pasta bowls and plates with a curved rim, glazed in snowy satiny white and charcoal. I've enjoyed seeing how René embraces mixing and matching the designs and forms, finding just the right compliment to his creation. The plates may be pretty on their own, but I think they come to life once food touches the surface.

These photos are from a special dinner held last weekend in the gallery of the Art Association. It is a special experience to be present while Chef René is in his element.

René and his family are soon headed to Germany for his next culinary adventure. While I will miss his style, I am grateful for this opportunity that sparked an excitement to be a potter at just the time I needed it most. 

Last night Sam and I enjoyed a final meal at The Rose with Chef René at the helm. What a treat! While I eat off of handmade dishes at home (a collection of many potters, a few of mine and a few of Sam's) it is truly an honor to be served from my own collection. It is also a humbling experience that has solidified my desire as a potter to enhance these daily rituals and continue to learn.

If you are in Jackson or planning to be in the area, I highly recommend treating yourself to a meal at The Rose, where René's vision will continue and my dishes live happily.

Stay tuned, this series has only just begun!

Kimchi Update

Jenny Dowd

Last week I started a batch of kimchi to test Sam's fermenting crock (check out last week's post for details.) After 5 days of semi-patiently waiting and looking at the crock sitting on the counter...

I took off the lid to find a delicious batch of spicy veggie kimchi! The crock worked well and also gave us ideas for design improvements. While this crock holds almost 2 quarts, I think a 1 quart capacity would be helpful. We also have new ideas for how to make the weights.

Whether you are just starting out or have been making kraut for years, let us know if you have any suggestions or ideas that would help your process, crock size, handles, width of top opening... Leave a note in the comments or send an email: dowdhousestudios@gmail.com

What's next? I'm branching out and will soon be starting a batch of Curried Cauliflower Pickles. I'm totally hooked. 

 

Around the House

Jenny Dowd

I always tell my ceramics students to try out their work. It's an easy way to learn how objects function and also make future improvements.

Often I am asked to make items that I normally do not use or in some cases, have not heard of. While I enjoy the challenge and research behind making new items, I feel a little uncomfortable making an untested form and sending it out into the world. I always ask for feedback, but also follow my own advice on testing.  

A few years ago we started getting requests for fermenting jars. I happily let Sam take on the research behind this form and he came up with some beautiful pots. Every time someone asks for these jars or we sell one, I get a little nervous. I know nothing about fermented foods. So I did some research and bought a cookbook: Ferment Your Vegetables

Yesterday I started a batch of kimchi and am testing out this small fermenting crock. In a week or so I'll let you know what happened...

The Garlic Keeper also started out as a request. I did a little research, made a cute little jar for a customer then just kept making more.

This jar helps garlic stay fresh longer thanks to holes that allow air to circulate. We use a lot of garlic, so when a jar came out of the kiln with a tiny crack in the bottom, I decided to put it to use. Not many things match in our kitchen, but I am also using one of my utensil holders- seen in the background of this photo.

Speaking of the kitchen, I looked around and found that I regularly use several of my pots. I made this stovetop spoon rest for my first apartment while in college. The soap dispenser was another form that I wanted to test before selling, and as a bonus the cute stars brighten up the sink area. 

Sam and I both make a lot of little bowls, we keep several in our kitchen for cooking prep as well as serving garnishes and dips. Most of our dishes were made by other potters, but I did recently keep 2 of my favorite form- an 8" salad bowl. These are perfect for so many meals.

I learn a lot from using my pots and the work of other potters. Plus it's a great excuse to use beautiful objects!