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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: Custom Design

Market Update

Jenny Dowd

Last week I showed a bit of the process behind the pottery I’m making exclusively for Market. I opened the kiln on Monday to find that for once, everything in the kiln looked great! (See last week’s post here)

Garden themed pots: Swiss chard cups, cherry tomato salad bowls, plus a salt cellar and garlic keeper.

Before this load could be fired, I had to solve another problem. The shelves were in serious need of care, the bottoms of the pots had been sticking - leaving behind tiny shards of fired clay. Not only is it annoying to constantly clean the kiln shelves, but it meant that a lot of my pots had bits of clay missing from the feet and it just looked bad.

Fixing this means another step, but one that is worth it. I’m now coating the foot of each pot with a mixture of brushable wax and alumina. This ensures that nothing will stick to the kiln shelf and the foot of each pot will look how it should! I also scraped each shelf, and coated it with fresh kiln wash - which dried out in front of the space heater with a little help from Merlin’s studio water dish.

I’m also making ornaments specifically for Market, with the Vertical Harvest logo on one side, and a ripe juicy tomato on the other. The logo is hand drawn onto the porcelain disk using an underglaze pencil. I found that I can go over the lines with a little water on a brush to make it look more painterly.

It’s a few months away, but now I can’t wait until I can grow Swiss Chard and cherry tomatoes in my own garden, right outside of my studio!

New Work for Market

Jenny Dowd

Lately these quiet snowy days have been helpful in the studio, where I’ve been working to design a new line of pottery to be sold exclusively at Market. This shop is inside Vertical Harvest, the amazing greenhouse that grows beautiful greens and tomatoes all year in Jackson, Wyoming.

This project has taken since last spring, working through sketches, testing glazes, and mostly just thinking about how to make colorful garden themed designs - while working on all the projects that kept me busy last year. My goal was to make garden themed pots for dining: cups & pitchers, serving & salad bowls, as well as helpful items for the kitchen: garlic keepers & salt cellars. It’s been nice thinking about garden parties during this ultra-snowy winter!

In January I finally made some actual pieces. New ideas don’t usually take this long, but this time the process is such a departure from my usual, and I was a little stumped. Usually I decorate the surfaces while the pots are still wet, using inlay and sgraffito techniques. But what was bugging me was that I wanted these images to have a gestural line feel, more like drawing. So I bisque fired the test pieces and ordered a few underglaze pencils.

A neat trick when working on bisque fired pottery is that a design can be worked out with a graphite pencil - any unwanted graphite can be washed off with a sponge but it will also burn away in the kiln. So I worked out some of my drawings with a pencil first. Then went over them with the underglaze pencil. (Which is a very cool decorating tool - it looks sketchy like a pencil and yet will fire to a permanent line!)

I drew Swiss Chard on the cups & pitchers, tomatoes on the bowls, micro-greens on the salt cellars, and garlic on the garlic keepers. Then started in with glaze - only using copper green and red right now; colorful, but not too colorful. Similar to the first colors of spring. The glazing is a bit tedious - starting with the greens, once the leaves are brushed on I went over them with wax resist. This way I can glaze with the second color right up next to the first color. Red goes on next, then wax over that, finally clear over everything.

This is how the prototypes turned out and I’ve got a whole kiln load right now that I can’t wait to see. So stay tuned for an update!

Special, Special Orders

Jenny Dowd

Just about every time I think that I’ve got too much to do and shouldn’t take on any more special orders - I get the most amazing requests. These are the things that, although they take me off my path, they make me realize that my path can (and should be) be wider than originally thought.

Just this past week I finished and delivered two of the most special orders. Each were commissioned by someone as a gift for another person or family, each very personal.

The pitcher and cups are for someone who has just moved into a new home that she has named “The Sunny Spot.” This inspired me to made a few little wall tiles with whimsical little hills, and a path to the sun and stars. Luckily, Sam and I had planned a soda firing and I was able to make these pieces and get them into the kiln in time. (This is a laborious process that we love but only do a few times each year. For the whole story on how these pieces happen check out my past journal entry here.)

This teapot and cup set is also extremely whimsical, full of special meaning, and commissioned as a gift. While working on these pieces I fell in love with the clouds - I’ve put these on succulent planters in the past, but this time it was if I saw them differently…. and they will be showing up in the future.

Every order, every piece of pottery that finds a new home, each one is a gift. When I stop to think about my work out there in the wild making people happy, it floors me and energizes me at the same time.

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!

Custom Mugs: JH Book Trader

Jenny Dowd

Earlier this year I was commissioned to create mugs to compliment the upcoming redesign of the Jackson Hole Book Trader. A few prototypes resulted in my most custom created mug yet, and it's a good fit- a mug for tea or coffee plus great books- the recipe for a perfect morning (or afternoon or evening)!

The mugs are first wheel-thrown, then I used multiple techniques to create the surface design, each happening at just the right moment in the span of clay dryness... 

The letters were individually stamped into the damp porcelain. Much as I tried for even rows, the letters are a little wobbly and some impressions are deeper than others- similar to my old typewriter. 

After brushing black underglaze onto the letters and letting it dry a little, I wiped a sponge over the letters to leave each inlaid with black. For the logo I made a simple stencil out of contact paper. This helped quickly transfer most of the open book logo onto the cup. I went back with a small brush to fill in the details and clean up the edges.

The logo and text is the same on each mug, yet the black and white surrounding is opposite, resulting in two complimentary designs.

It's complicated, but I simplified and streamlined the process as much as possible so I can easily recreate the mugs for future orders.

Be sure to stop by the Book Trader to see the whole remodel, it is bright and open and beautiful. My favorite is the fireplace and comfy chairs, and now you can take home a handmade mug as a reminder of this beautiful bookstore!