Friday, September 14, 2018

"weathering Florence..."

  While, North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes, they make for a pesky deterrent when we are only about a month away from the 15th Annual Hilton Homeplace Pottery Sale.   I had sort of planned for the next 5 weeks to be filled with as much pottery as possible (nothing like last minute, huh?)  But Florence has put a "damper" on that plan, ha!  (pun most certainly intended!)  With a Category 4 hurricane headed straight for us, it looks like my efforts will need to be placed in the jewelry making portions of prep. 

  Even without power, I can make jewelry by the candlelight, ha!  One of the new ideas I had this year was to create essential oil or perfume necklaces.  Simply place a few drops of your favorite oil or perfume on a cotton ball and drop it in the little pocket and enjoy the aroma the rest of your day! 

Of course there will still be many other items.  I have a line of sayings that help you remember who you want to "bee" that say things like: be kind, be confident, be strong, and other little reminders.  

So as you all watch the weather channel and play "where in the world is Jim Cantore", you know what my hurricane party consists of...jump rings, chain, and pottery beads!  Come by and check out the goodies at the 15th Annual Hilton Homeplace Sale on 10/13/18!

Monday, May 7, 2018

back in the saddle...

  Well, it seems like forever since I touched clay, but I am back at it...sort of.  For those of you who know me, you know that the last 6 months have been difficult.  The love of my life was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disease called Myasthenia Gravis.  We've been living in and out of the hospital, touring all the different ICU rooms, and spending so much time there that we know the doctor's schedules as well as they do. 

  Hit me up if you need to know which days are the best at the cafeteria...  But I'm hopeful we are out of the woods.  Tam's surgery to remove the tumor in her thymus went well and we are hoping for a complete remission.  She's doing well, and I appreciate all the prayers and well wishes you have given us.  This is a pottery blog, so I won't get too deep into the medical stuff, but in the fall I'll have a few pieces available where the proceeds will be donated to the National Myasthenia Foundation of America for help in research and developments in hopes of finding a cure for MG. ( for more information about MG visit )

  Okay, back to the pottery part of this...I'm back!  One might even say I'm "back in the saddle" so to speak.  I'm working on a few horse themed items as I was inspired by my mom & Tommy's relocation to my cousins' farm.  Belveu is home to some of the most beautiful Walking Horses you'll ever see, along with an alpaca, some cows, several dogs, a bee hive or two, and a whole host of kiddos to keep everyone in line. 

  But not to worry, I haven't forgotten the most important things in coffee!  There will be plenty of mugs available this fall for the 15th Annual Hilton Homeplace Sale. (Can you believe it's been 15 years? Neither can I!)  The Hilton Homeplace crew suffered a tremendous loss this year when our beloved Jerry Hedspeth passed away after a long fight with Pancreatic Cancer.  He was loved by many and will be missed by us all.  Our condolences and prayers go out to Sybil and her family.  Here's to sunnier and healthier days in the future for us all! 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Curiosity glazed the cat...

You've heard the saying "curiosity killed the cat" right?  Well, in this case, curiosity glazed him instead.  (more on that in a few)

As we prepare for the Fall Hilton Homeplace Sale on October 14th, the ever-growing pile of bisque pieces haunts me to start the glazing process.  That's always been my least favorite make something and love it until the color doesn't come out like you've planned.  (Maybe that's the reason there IS a pile of bisque!)

Well, as you may have heard we also have a pile of kittens who are growing up quickly and have decided they belong in the pottery shop.  There are 4 "teenage" kittens now, but three of them are primary pot shop (from left to right) named because he thinks he is smarter than everyone else and heaven help you if you end up in "his spot".  In the middle is Pep-purr, so named because her purr sounds like a Harley-Davidson it is so loud.  On the right is Jenner...who got his/her name because for the first 6 months or so we thought he was a boy, but turns out he's really a girl.  They have a sister (not pictured) we call two face because her face is half black and half calico and her whiskers are long enough to braid. 

Okay back to the cat glazing story...for those of you who have seen our pieces dad typically glazes in a color he calls oatmeal and then trims in other colors.  Because it is his primary dipping glaze it lives in a 20-gallon drum...sort of kitty cat swimming pool sized if you are trying to picture it.  Well, Sheldon, being the curious cat he is decided to hop up on the glazing table to see what I was doing and didn't realize the pool was open for the summer and took a deep dive into the Oatmeal glaze...dunked tip to tail he quickly realized this was a bad idea.  The Hilton Homeplace has been home to 5 Generations of Hiltons, and countless babies and dishes have all been washed in the farmhouse sink, but I'm pretty sure Sheldon was the first cat bathed there.  

  He hasn't given up on being a shop cat, but I think he may stay in the turning end a little more and is much more careful before he decides to go for a thick, oatmeal colored swim.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I still hate balloons...

  Finally back playing in the mud a little.  I managed to make a few new coffee cups with fun little messages inside and came up with a new idea how to get the words to stand out a little better.  I'll underglaze them before I bisque and that way I can sand off any excess when they are leather hard making the color more distinct.  (keep your fingers crossed this is still just a theoretical fix) So after a good day of turning I had quite a few "word mugs" ready for the test.

The good news is, this idea appears to have worked out quite well...Once bisqued the words came out much darker and more detailed than the mugs I've tried in the past.  Hopefully, this theoretical fix will actually work.  

Next step is to figure out how to glaze the insides clear so the words are still visible and manage to glaze the outside in other colors.  I started with the clear far so good.  (but the hard part is next) 

So I saw this really cool idea online. (stop laughing, I know you all do that too) In this guy's post he was using a balloon to keep from getting the glaze on the insides of his mugs, a problem I am intimately familiar with when trying to glaze the inside and outside 2 different colors.  

  The joke here is that I really hate balloons...REALLY hate balloons.  When I was a District Manager my store teams used to call and ask where I was going to be on event day because if it was their store then they knew there were NO BALLOONS!

  I had to give it a try...and guess what, it's really awkward, and a little scary, but it works!  Stay tuned to see if these mugs survive their battle with the kiln (the kiln is always the enemy!)

  I don't know that I am quite ready to give up my dipping tongs, but I may have a little less hatred for the balloons after this endeavor...until next time, stay muddy my friends!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lookin for some hot stuff...

  Are you all singing disco tunes yet?  I can't help but do so whenever I start to think about these trivets!  It never fails when we all get together for a Holiday the table fills with wonderful family recipes there isn't enough room for everything and Grandma's antique table inevitably needs to hold the overflow.  (insert shameless Hilton Homeplace Cookbook plug here, available at

Sure you could use a pot holder...but why not a beautiful pottery trivet?  So I set out to make some!  It was a lengthy process, but a lot of fun!  First there have to be molds...

Now we are let's mix the plaster and be ready to pour...(and I mean ready quick because it sets faster than you can imagine, which I learned the hard way...both figuratively and literally) 

Next you have to peel out the goodies and see what you're left with in the negative space!  

Next comes the fun part...add clay, smooth the backing and use those "rice bags" we made in a previous blog post to ensure they all dry flat...a crooked trivet will do no good. 

Off to the bisque kiln!  

Now for some glaze...and another firing! 

Open up the enemy's lid, and see what we have! (The kiln is the enemy) 

Not too bad!  Now let's repeat this process a few times and get ready for the October 8th Sale!  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Don't get it twisted...

Ever made something you love only for things to go horribly wrong?  It doesn't have to be pottery...what about that cake you saw on Pinterest?  Or the makeup tutorial on YouTube...We've all had a few #nailedit moments!  (Seriously, if you haven't seen these google the Pinterest "nailed it" photos...when you stop laughing till you cry come back to finish this blog...")  For me the "nailed it" saga stretches far beyond pottery, but when I'm in the shop trying to "nail it" most of the time I blame the Kiln...but THIS one time I will blame Mother Nature. 

When Clay is drying it warps and bends and tries to do anything except stay where you put it when making flat things like trays or tiny little jewelry pieces.  So usually you make flat pieces on rainy days, (or in the south on any day where you walk outside and can't breathe due to the humidity.)  But on occasion one may need things to dry flat on a sunny day.  Well, where there's a need there's usually an invention! (and this is no different) 

So...what can keep flat things flat?  Lay another board on top? Sure, but it could scrape the face of your piece...How about turning it upside down for drying? Sure, unless it has a lip or bend like the edge of a tray. So what will wick out moisture and allow any shape to remain  undamaged? Bags filled with something heavy!  Sand, or bb pellets, or marbles? 

 It should be heavy, but not too heavy...and nothing that could leave marks on the body of the clay...  Rice!  Rice is the magic ingredient!  I can make bags and fill them with rice! ...but how much rice? Well, let's see what they have at the grocery store and start there.  Score!!!! Giant bag just waiting for after the toddler sized 20lb bag of rice was strapped in and safely riding home in my convertible, I got to work.  

First, I made bags from an old cotton little pillow cases for my pottery. 

Second, I filled the rice bags with 5-10 lbs of rice!  (No my whole floor isn't covered in rice, the carpet is just the same color...ha!) 

Thirdly, I sewed them shut...and thought hmmm, maybe just for safekeeping lets top stitch around a few of the the edges again for extra rice containment...

Then tried it out!  Worked great!  Large things, small things, detailed things...all things stayed flat and no warping!  

Now if only I could get them glazed and fired as easily...fingers crossed! (The kiln is still the enemy) 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Going "bat-ty"...

I'm baaaaccckkk!  I know you all thought I had disappeared, but I've just been so busy with the real world I haven't been able to escape to Pottery-land.  Well there is no better time than Father's Day weekend to spend a few days with dad!  

You know those "5 year projects" the ones that don't take more than a day or two but don't get done for 5 years because they keep getting pushed to the bottom of the "to do list" over and over?  Well, check "making new bats" off that list!!! 

Now don't get me wrong, I didn't actually make any bats, dad did all the work...but I documented it for publication...ha!  

Step 1...acquire all the tools found in a professional level machine shop. (men and their power tools...)

Step 2, cut the particle board into squares.  Use saw to cut into circles. 

Step 3, drill pin holes in the exact position to fit the wheel head.  You could measure twice and drill once...or you can use and old bat and clamp it to the new one, and drill through both. 

Step 4, put the freshly drilled bat on the lathe and finish up those edges. Good to go!  

Done-zo!  Wait, last step.  Brand new bats fit really well, which means they wobble a lot less, but they are also harder to pick up.  Problem...solved!  Insert "finger notch" so you can pick it up.  Pretty nifty thinking dad...

So somehow for Father's Day I ended up with all the gifts...but the most precious one is the time with dad.  Happy Father's Day 2016!  Now there really are NO EXCUSES for not making pottery!  (No pressure there, ha!)