lately

(You may have noticed we've been a little absent here.  Because, well, toddlers + home renovation + running a business. No matter. We have missed you, and where better to start than the present? :) )  

Lately, we have been . . .

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Making . . . yes, pottery! It might sound obvious, and I'm sure most people think we do this every day of the year (that would be so nice, eventually, we hope!) but pottery making has been the major thing missing from our working lives because we are also . . .

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Renovating.  We spent the bulk of the winter months purging and packing the entire contents of our 1850's farmhouse in preparation for completely gutting the upstairs.  It's a huge project, brought on by the need for a little thing called insulation, and we find ourselves banging nails, running wires, and coordinating all the contractors and pieces and decisions at the same time as we try to prepare 800 pots for a firing.  I assure you, this was most definitely not the plan.  The renovation was supposed to happen in our "off season."

But there you have it, and so it goes . . . fortunately, we are comfortably camping out in the 600 square feet above our studio space, so we're not feeling too rushed to get the project done on a deadline (right now, anyway, check back with me at the end of the summer ;) ).  For now, not feeling too rushed plus not actually living in the mess, helps tremendously.

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Taking a deep breath.  Apparently winter ended last week, and now it's summer.  Popping leaves, birds, green growing grass, daffodils, warm sun, mixing glazes outdoors.  We'll take it.

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Prepping.  For our big firing of the year at the very end of June/beginning of July. We are so grateful for the energetic crew of potters and volunteers who help us with the four days of the firing itself, and all the tasks that go into being ready.

We had a really fun and productive work day a couple of weeks ago, where we stacked the holes in the kiln shed full of freshly cut slab wood, and started in on grinding and cleaning the kiln shelves.  We ate good food and laughed a lot.  It was the BEST of reminders of why we became wood-fired potters in the first place.  We can't do it all ourselves.  Exactly.

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(Thank you Matt, Harrison, Jill, Lexi, Patty, and David!)

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Lately, we are also . . .

Testing.  For Christmas, Nathan and I bought ourselves a new electric kiln. (Practical and romantic! ;) ) For various reasons since we met (as potters in separate states) it's been seven years of driving various fragile pieces to fire in other peoples kilns. (We can't thank you enough Tiffany, Stephanie, and Joan!) However, we decided we'd like to move on, and that we were ready to have everything we needed right here.

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Although most of our pottery is single-fired in it's raw state in the wood kiln, the small electric kiln will allow us to bisque fire a few pieces for the wood kiln that are better glazed when not leather hard, which is how we typically slip/glaze our work.

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Additionally, and most excitingly (that's a word?), we'll use the kiln the fire small batches of finished work - remember the silky white glaze with designs?!  It's actually quite nice, if I do say so myself, and the good news is that the preliminary results were really good.  We'll be able to finish small batches of work in between our every six-months-to-a-year wood-firings.  Hooray.

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Enjoying.  Playing in the sand in the driveway, digging in the garden, splashing in water and moving rocks and feeding chickens and . . . oh we're having so much fun with our little one.  She's 1.5 years (wait, what?!) and so talkative, funny, happy, strong-minded, and loving.

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We are tired (ahem) at the end of every day, and yet sooo ready to scoop her up again come morning.

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Readying. For VT Open Studio, this coming Memorial Day Weekend.  Our studio - and over 200 others around the state will be open Saturday May 23rd and Sunday May 24th from 10am to 5pm.  We love this event.  (Can we top last year?!)

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Join us for the Tour in our area, there's lots to see!  downloadable and printed map request here

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You guys, we hope it won't be so long before we check back in.  Stay with us. :)

Fondly,

Becca (and Nathan)

upcoming . . . this summer's events

We've got some great events coming up in the next three months!  Hope you can join us at one of them.

We'll have a table of our pottery at the 3rd Annual BALE fest in South Royalton, VT, on Thursday June 13th, from 3pm to 7pm (although the festival runs 'till 9).  It's a celebration of the growing strength of our local economy, including a farmers' market, educational workshops, live music, all kinds of food, stuff for kids, even a place to get your bicycle tuned up!  more info

We're also open at our home studio on *some* Fridays and Saturdays this month and next.  We'd love to show you, your friends, and family, around our new studio, showroom, and wood-kiln.  Find us open on the following Fridays, 2-6pm : June 14 & 21, July 12; and the following Saturdays, 12-4pm : June 15 & 22, July 13.  Stay tuned for updates on late summer + fall hours, and please call ahead if you're coming from a distance!

We're returning to the Lebanon (NH) Farmers' Market!  It's a wonderful, family-oriented market on the Town Green with live music, and local food galore.  You can almost always find tasty food for dinner, and enjoy the open-air concerts to follow at 7:30 in July and August.  more concert info  The market runs Thursdays 4-7pm, from now until Sept 26th, but we'll be there on June 20, 27; July 11, 25; August 15, 22, 29  (Please call us to confirm that we'll be there if you're coming from a distance!)  more market info

And we wouldn't want to miss the Yarmouth Clam Festival Craft Show!  Look for our booth:

Becca is celebrating 10 years (!) showing at this juried event, which takes place on the lawn of the North Yarmouth Academy, in Yarmouth, Maine.   The show runs July 19th- 21nd, from 10am to 9pm (Fri & Sat), 10am to 5pm (Sun). more info

And last, but definitely not least, is the 80th Annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's Fair, referred to by some as "Sunapee."  It takes place at Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH (near New London/Dartmouth-Sunapee Region), from August 3- 11th this year.  It's the oldest craft fair in the country, running for nine whole days, with literally hundreds of handmade exhibitors, performances, and demonstrations.  The fair is open from 10am to 5pm daily, and open until 7pm on Friday the 9th!  We'll be in the same spot as the past few years - the very front of Tent #6, Booth 628.

If our July firing goes well, we'll have lots of brand-new wood-fired pottery at the Clam Festival and Sunapee Fair . . .

Hope you can join us!

Questions?  Need directions? Want to schedule another time to see our work?  Reach us at (802) 234-1320, or nathanandbecca@gmail.com.

 

 

studio building - almost there

We. Are. So. Close!  The last few weeks of work on the studio have been huge and exciting.  Nathan and I have adjusted to a "new way" - one where we actually hire out some big parts of the process. For the last three years, we've literally place every brick and nailed every piece of wood ourselves.  We wanted to get the wood kiln just right (and the kiln shed, and the showroom, and the tractor shed, and . . .)  all the while making decisions as we went.  In some ways, much of it was work that only we could do.

But when it comes to things like dense-pack cellulose, hanging and finishing drywall, even doing a large scale paint job - well, sure, we could have tackled the learning curve and done it ourselves.  As the saying goes "You can do anything.  But you can't do everything."

So with lots of pottery-related things to do before we get to potting and firing, we decided to hire these big jobs out.  After all, these folks are pros- they do this every day, more efficiently and expertly than we could have.  And we (most likely) make pots better than they do.  That's our job.

That said, meet Alex and Matt.  These are the awesome guys behind Central Vermont Insulation (Bethel, VT), who did the tough and dusty work of crawling around on planks in our ceiling to dense pack cellulose insulation into the rafter bays, the drop ceiling, and the diagonal wall cavities.

We actually hung the foil faced foam on the underside of the rafters with a couple of friends, strapped it, and they came around with typar and netting and sprayed the recycled newspaper + borate into the bays.

We ended up very insulated - much more than our old house, in fact!  We can't believe how well the building holds heat and warmth from sunshine.  (Wait, why isn't this our house??) :)

Next up: Cal and Dennis of Cal's Custom Drywall (Braintree, VT) hung nearly 3000 square feet of sheetrock up, down, and all around the building.

It was amazing to watch them work - the tricks and skills these guys have were better than anything we could have hoped for.  They did an absolutely beautiful job, all the while laughing in disbelief tolerating at the antics of our dog running off with their tools, coffee mugs, and lunch boxes.  (Mmm hmm.  He's a nut.)

Meanwhile, Nathan and I worked on framing an interior wall for the utility room below the stairs.  Our rough-cut hemlock framing doubles as adjustable pottery storage. (More on that later.)

Soon, Dick Ratico the electrician (Solar Wind Electric, Bradford, VT) and Tim (Brownelle Plumbing, Norwich, VT), will get all the necessary panels and water heaters installed in the space behind this wall.

(I LOVE this as the back of my studio!)

With the drywall done, and the first phase of interior walls complete, we spent a day cleaning out the building of our tools and tables and staging and accumulated stuff to ready for the next and nearly last phase.

It feels so good to see it all cleaned up and emptied out . . . full of promise.

And as of this week, Gerry Vargo and his crew (Braintree, VT) are cutting, rolling, and spraying this building crisp and clean white.  (With one little color surprise to be unveiled later!)

While we probably could have made pots in here once we were insulated, we are pretty sure we'll never regret having all of this big, messy work done BEFORE we move in.  I can't imagine moving and covering all of our stuff once our potting was underway.  And we probably could have done the painting (actually, we love painting) - but who would cut and sand the ware boards, or scrape and clean our kiln shelves, or teach pottery class, or cut the wood for the upcoming firing?

In short, we are very happy with our choices, and full of gratitude for the folks who've helped us get here.  And we are in awe of the beauty of this structure.

We just can't quite believe this is our life's work space . . . . . . and that we'll be making pottery in just a few days' time.

~Becca

studio building - little things and big things

We are in total studio building immersion these days.  Despite the tiniest indications of spring, the weather in Vermont has continued to be wintery and cold, adding to the sense that we are in some kind of crazy time-warp where we are always building and it is always winter.

We've gotten a lot done, though!

The last few weeks have been punctuated by some very big things (a concrete floor! the last door installed! wiring! stairs! a heat source!), and some little things.  First the little things: the gable ends got finished - photo above.  (No more staring at purlin overhangs and the underside of our metal roofing.)  We also made soffit/vent boards out of pine and bits of screen for the eaves, and installed them.  (OK, we haven't totally finished the south side . . . but progress, nonetheless.)

Nathan continued trimming the underside of our windows, and we worked inside to fill the smallest triangles with rigid foam so our cellulose installer will have less hassle.

Nathan has also been busy with the foam gun - using the expanding stuff to seal the edges of the triangles and rafter bays (in pink, below), while I trim it back where necessary.

We insulated the entire cupola with rigid foil-faced foam for the highest possible r-value - in a space where a lot of our heat is likely to rise.  (Until we get a ceiling fan, that is!)

We also roughed in the wiring in the parts of the studio that will soon be buried in cellulose insulation.  We're still running off extension cords for now, but soon we'll have outlets for pottery wheels and tools!  And overhead lights, entry fixtures, and switches in all the right places.  Even a motion sensor that will kick on for those dark evening trips to the studio to attend to drying pottery.

Here's the big picture on the first floor - which will be our primary "making" area.  It's about 800 square feet.  (And yes, still very much a "work zone!")

But enough about the small stuff.  (OK, maybe you can't call any of that "small" stuff - but you can argue that the next parts of the project are a lot more exciting. :)

We completed the pick-up and installation of a new-to-us wood stove!  (Made, incidentally, by Vermont Castings, whose plant is less than a mile from our house.  Yay local.)  It's so nice to have a source of heat in the building - although insulation will make it a lot more effective! ;) Nathan worked diligently at installing all the components of our metal asbestos chimney- which begins way down on the first floor and reaches through the peak of the roof and up past the cupola.  The wood stove will be our main source of heat until the radiant system is hooked up, which likely won't be until next heating season.

But it wouldn't really make sense to light up a fire without first closing in the building completely - during a mid-March snow storm no less.  (And to think last year it was 80-degrees at this time of year!)

After some additional framing was completed in the rough opening, the last of the siding was installed under the awning, and the door went in and got trimmed out in record time.  It's so nice to have the last (south) side of the building complete from the outside!

Next up on the list of big accomplishments: stairs!!  We can now walk between floors of our studio without traipsing through the snow, mud, or any combination of the two.

Oooh, boy, are we excited about these winding beauties!  (Thanks to Bob for all the tricky math. :)

There are still lots of little things to do - and at least one major thing before we can get to making pottery - insulation!  We are used to working in the cold at this point, but we'd rather our freshly-thrown pots didn't freeze overnight. ;)  (We've been through that before.)  Here's a preview of the next insulation stage, during which our entire upstairs will shine like a new rocket ship . . .

. . . to be followed closely by dense-pack cellulose in the walls and ceiling . . . and a big 'ole drywall job!

Counting the days until we get to make pottery!  (Will we remember how??)

Happy Spring,

~Becca

studio building - a smooth studio floor

Just yesterday, our studio floor got a whole lot more hospitable to actual pottery making.  It wasn't very long ago, though, that the first floor of our studio looked like this:

Yikes.  These days, it's easy to forget how much ledge we worked around to get this building out of the ground!  A couple of weeks ago, it was looking like this inside:

And then Nathan and the guys got busy with the sub-floor foam insulation and tubing for our eventual radiant heat, and things started to look like this:

With the tubing installed atop four inches of insulation, we lined up the crew to manage the pour, and waited for the timing to be right.  As it turns out, by the time we were ready, our road had been "posted" - prohibiting trucks over a certain weight limit- most definitely including concrete trucks- for travel.  (During mud season, as we call it in New England, the messy thaw between winter and spring can make the unpaved roads downright impassable, with ruts so deep, you could lose a small car in them.) Gulp.

Fortunately, we were able to work with our town (thank you, Bethel, VT!) to get a temporary waiver for a very cold morning when the ground- and our yard, for that matter- would be frozen enough to handle two 80,000 pound concrete trucks.  We were good to go.

The crew was here by 7 am, and the two trucks got across the yard without a hitch, thanks to a nine-degree night.  The heavy loads were emptied and the trucks were gone before even the slightest thaw began that day.

The crew was great.  It didn't take long for the initial leveling and scree work to be done.  I set the anchor bolts for the sill plates around the door in the front, and the waiting began.  The crew spent the entire day smoothing and polishing the surface in several intervals as the concrete set.  They didn't pull out of here until 8pm, with a light snow falling all around.

The building stayed warm enough over night, and by morning, we had a hard surface showing good signs of drying and curing.  We'll score the floor tomorrow (to prevent cracking), and start work in the building again on Tuesday.  Having this piece finished is HUGE - now we can proceed with the lower door, and connect the two levels with stairs.  Needless to say, I am very excited about this . . .

~Becca

 

bitter cold and the thing we said we'd never do

This was supposed to be a post about how we'd finished the siding on our new studio.  Instead, it's a post about something altogether different, something we swore on multiple occasions that we would never do: we made a studio in our house.

{very chilly building & very frozen eyelashes}

A prolonged and bitter cold snap in our region prompted some rethinking of our path.  Our main goal of the winter has been - and still is - to get the new shell of a studio ready for pottery making.  Winter, however, has had other ideas.  With the out-of-doors practically inhospitable (we're talking days that don't reach above single digits with sub-zero wind chills and 50 mph gusts), we found ourselves INSIDE.

There is still plenty of what we call "G.C." (general contractor) work to do on our part, and we've certainly been at it - educating ourselves on our insulation options, getting bids on said insulation, discussing our plans for radiant floor heat with a plumber, researching said systems, procuring floor drains, and the rest of the pieces of our as-yet-to-be-poured concrete floor on the lower level - we've been staying focused on studio planning, if not physically building.

But with the days and weeks ticking by (how is it almost February?!), we were feeling a bit antsy about the time and number of pieces it takes to fill our wood kiln.  And thus the unthinkable happened: we moved our wheels out of storage and into an upstairs bedroom of our 160-year old farmhouse.

I'm sure there of those of you who are thinking, "Well, what were you waiting for?  You had unused space that could have possibly been construed as a studio?!" A fair question. (You might also wonder why we have an unused room in our house - short answer: the upstairs has been awaiting a much needed renovation.  And not just a lets-make-it-prettier reno; there are actual holes in the walls from a previous project, and asbestos-containing insulation in the eaves. Not to mention Nathan brushes the top of his head on the drop ceiling.  So, yeah, we haven't been living up there much.)

It would seem obvious, on some level, though, that after years of trucking our pottery home from our rented space, we wouldn't just do this in the first place.  Oh, but we had our reasons, and some of them are good.  The chief reason NOT to put a studio in our not-so-large house is DUST. Clay dust is insidious, and can cause serious health problems when inhaled.   If we're not neat about it, it gets on our shoes and clothes and up our forearms - and is then sprinkled imperceptibly but insidiously through our living space.

This time we promised ourselves we'll keep it neat.  Very neat.  As in, one pair of studio shoes that stays in the studio.  No clay on our clothes.  Plastic on the floor.  Wipe up clay while it's still wet.  So far so good.

Truth be known, it's pretty delightful to put a meal in the oven, a log in the wood stove, stream some podcast of some kind, and just mosey on up the stairs to work, with the puppy/dog to make trouble keep us company at the top of the stairs.

We're keeping things small (or so we tell ourselves) - there isn't much room to really produce plates or large bowls, (heck, there's not even room for us both to turn around carrying a board of pots) so we'll stick to small numbers of things that take time and attention.

For now, it's keeping us busy while the arctic wind blows, satisfying our need to make, and getting us just a little bit closer to our next wood firing.  We will, however, be back on that building just as soon as it warms a bit!

I continue to chuckle at how Making A Plan (I believe my exact words were "the next pottery we make will be in our new studio") is the very best way to get Something Else to happen. :)

{looking out from our temporary studio to our future studio . . . <3)

Stay Warm,

~Becca

 

 

studio building : ten days in

It's really quite hard to believe we're only ten days into building.  (With wood, that is!)  It is amazing what can be accomplished when you combine time, drive, passion, skill, experience, determination - and the threat of impending winter!

This past week brought many productive days, during which we put the purlins onto the rafters, as well as framed for- and built- a cupola.  (The floor with ladder hole (below) is just a temporary platform from which we built the cupola, whose main purpose, besides adding a bit of visual interest to the building, is to flood the new showroom and the upstairs with natural light.)

The views from up there are AMAZING!  (And we thought our kiln chimney was tall.)  We sort of wish it could become a reading nook or some such thing, but hey, the aforementioned natural light wins out for now.  Plus, we can't wait to be throwing pottery at our wheels on the ground level, and look up through the opening in the floor straight up to the sky!

We were also pleased to begin some diagonal framing, an aspect which makes George's buildings very unique.  Instead of putting the studs at right angles, he cuts them at 45 degrees.  They remain 16" on center, which meets building code, but creates a rigid and economical structure, and eliminates the need for sheathing - saving money and lots of toxic glues.

We enjoyed learning more about the process of diagonal framing, and appreciated the many years of experience George brings to this approach.  (He has a good head for math, as you can imagine!)  It is a beautiful end result, one which uses far less lumber than a conventional structure, and will contribute to less overall setting of the cellulose insulation we plan to blow into the wall cavities.

Nathan and George also took some time to build a reverse gable on the north wall. (photo below)  There will be entry doors there, into the showroom, and we wanted to ensure the snow sheds well.  We also think it makes for an appealing entrance!

If all goes well, this next week will bring framing of the lower level (where our workshops will be), roofing (metal), cupola windows and siding, and perhaps wrap!  We are also looking forward to windows and doors and eventually - before Christmas?! - ship lap siding.  Wow!

It's funny how hard it is to reflect on this project in a bigger sense - we're so deep IN it now.  I'm sure reflection will come later . . . but there are plenty of moments when we come up for air, take it all in, and feel downright giddy at the prospect of working in this gorgeous space, on our land, towards our shared passion.  Having the chickens clucking and scratching about the yard is more than just scenic - it's a nice, grounding feeling - that we're headed in the right direction - towards our "pottery farm!"

~Becca

P.S. We've decided last minute to have a Holiday Open Studio and Sale next weekend, December 15th, from 11 am 'till 4pm.  Hope you can join us!And yes, we'll be most certainly giving tours of the new studio!