Thursday, December 27, 2012

thoughts for the new year

For 6 weeks I poured every ounce of myself into mugs, bowls, hand formed tree branches, owls,and jars. Let'a not forget the Birds Nest casseroles,which shipped in large batches the same day they came out of the kiln. Packing was never finished until midnight. Emails poured in from around the world from happy buyers. I admit that there is a buoyant trancelike high that comes with intense focus,hard work, and success. Doing something well is very satisfying. Getting recognition for that is a sweet intoxication. I didn't hit the wall of burnout this year but I wound up exhausted in that braindead bone weary state where you can't really sleep because stacks of orders and unread emails haunt your dreams.

My husband and I took a short trip over the weekend to soak in the mineral waters of Hot Springs NC, just an hour north of Asheville. We stayed at River Dance B & B, which has one of the most spectacular views. We watched the stars come out over a steep gorge where the Laurel River makes a sharp bend. We hiked, and visited artists' studios in nearby Marshall. We also treated ourselves to an herbal body wrap, massage, and facial before soaking in the mineral water. I want to spend some time doing creative projects that don't involve clay, making long slow meals and having conversations that do not involve electronic devices. Just for  a few days. I do have new designs in pottery brewing. My New Years goals are the same as last years. THIS time I will be fully prepared for the 2013 holiday buying spree. One can dream.... Maybe I need to book my spa weekend in advance. Crazy has away of putting on a new face and slipping in my back door no matter how many times I kick her to the curb. At least she has good stories, and the best jokes.

Its time to find that perfect balance between crazy and peace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

the home decor outside your door

I have gathered dried stalks, seed pods, fallen pine cones, and twigs. The many shades of brown are as remarkable as a rainbow now that the loud autumn has gone. There are also green textures, bright berries, and a few hearty asters. Here are some arrangements I've made with my daily finds. First, here is what I've gathered today:

I like to add some drama with gold, silver, and a bit of neon paint.If you do this sparingly,  it looks like natural pops of color in bright natural sunlight.

Here are some arrangements I've made:

I used this for a diner party:

When guests compliment my work I can talk of things made by hands and how I found a hollow log, a perfect pine cone, or cluster of purple berries; all that I find exquisite. One free thing can set you free. Occasionally.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wisdom of my cat

This is Wally, who was born in my closet, manages my studio, and has shared with me much wisdom.

Everything is simple.

Love is like a war. Easy to begin but hard to end.
Treat everyone to the same affection you show a cat. 
I advise everyone to follow their dreams. Except the one where they forget to feed the cat.
Unless you are absolutely sure, sleep on it. And don't be sure all that often.
There are only 2 philosophies. Hiss and purr. Mine is purr

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Bird plates
Two things have influenced how I see beauty lately- age and TM meditation. Something shifted in me as I turned 60 this year. The voice that mourns for my youth and freaks out over the size 8 jeans that don't fit no matter what I do shut up. Thank you! It was getting on my nerves. I have also resumed TM meditation, joined by my husband and daughter who learned for the first time last month, so we practice as a family now. Twice a day, 20 minutes of the deepest relaxation imaginable. My husband's blood pressure went down and he no longer needs medication for insomnia. My daughter said, after the first week, "I feel happier." I have resigned my position as micro-manager of whether he sleeps or she smiles. I feel calmer! Freer.

Beauty is becoming more like wisdom in my eyes. It is a graceful sway to the silent music around us.

Monday, June 18, 2012

two kinds of flowers

Each day begins with meditation, then coffee, then  a look at the lists of undone tasks and unreached goals. Meanwhile the garden calls to me with unspeakably solemn lilies, wide open. I have planted my entire life, in one way or another. Why should I not merely sit all day and enjoy it? The bills are paid, the children are grown. 
Meanwhile requests for my pottery overflow my inbox and compound daily. They come in faster than boxes go out. There is a second successful garden I've grown, and this one has flower bowls. Unlike the lilies, these call out "Fire me!" "Glaze me!" "Photograph me!"

I'm learning to let both flowers have their way. It has dawned on me lately that there are also 2 gardens. One is what I have made and the other is what I am. A life of prayer and meditation have turned my jagged inner rocks into rich soil. Something else plants in this garden. 

It occurs to me that I have been enriched by the experience of making the flower bowls more than the experience of smelling the flowers. Pottery has always been my passion in this life, and perhaps my calling as well. I have hired an assistant to help me with the overflowing inbox, and plan to hire others to meet the demand. I'm not doing this to grow my business, as in profiting from the labor of others while I stockpile more cash. I am growing my business as a way to pass on the privilege it is to make beautiful shapes in clay, to master the skills, to refine one's attention to detail. I don't know yet how big it will be. I am excited to find out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

hiring in the New Economy

If we had written a prediction way back when I was in art school that a time was coming when artists and potters would be thriving while accountants and business majors suffered, it would have been considered a  science fiction farce. It's funny how things change.

Last week I interviewed a woman for a packing position in my start-up business, Lee Wolfe Pottery. It started up in 1976, and became something you might recognize as a business in 2009. Suddenly everything I've ever loved about pottery is wildly popular, and demand for my work since I discovered internet sales is way up. I've managed this growth by making multifunctional work stations in my home such as ping pong table/pack and shipping center. Dining room/order processing.

While this now looks entirely ordinary to me, I could see the interviewee, a 40ish woman, trying valiantly to hide  her disbelief that she was even in a place of business, let alone one in a rapid growth phase with opportunities for advancement.

When offered an hourly wage projected to double in the first year, she decided she was better off with her Plan A, which is to pay for more courses in Excel, tax preparation, and accounting. My husband kindly pointed out to her that these jobs are now easily outsourced to India for $3/hr. She gave another dubious look, matching the one I saw as I said "here is my studio," which looks like someone set up a summer camp in the 2 car garage. I know what she is probably thinking. Her kids are grown so it is time to resume the life she gave up to raise them as a single mom. She will go to college. She will take the practical courses.

So much has changed! Little internet home based businesses just like mine are doubling our numbers every 3 years. We are hiring, while 65% of recent college grads are unemployed. You might just want to learn what it takes to process shipping from someone's ping pong table while we find something on Hulu to watch and take breaks in the backyard garden. Welcome to the new economy.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bowls that hold memories

My new works celebrate family. I have designed my popular love birds bowl to include family groups- mama, daddy and small birds arranged in gestures around the rim of a hand built bowl. I will have some listed around June 1st on my website.

This little bowl was designed for Mothers Day, and I saw myself and my daughter as a young toddler in it. I recall that time when I was always turned partly towards her, one eye watching.

This morning I saw these bowls on a shelf and another image came to me from long ago, of Marcella wearing those saggy jean shorts that go over a diaper. Her dad was changing a tire, and she stood by his side, holding that spokey tool that has something to do with lug nuts.

One of Ken's favorite pictures is he and the boys when they were impossibly small, one on each side, Ari no longer than his arm.

And I recall my own father, listening to the update on my day at school, as if this were the more important news of the day.

And I thought, if these bowls bring back so many memories of the good stuff from my own past with merely a glimpse, the series will be one that I will pursue for a long time.

I put this Daddy and Baby Bird bowl   (yup, same bowl, seen in a different light) on Pinterest this morning. The first one sold within 5 minutes. I hope the buyer saw a moment from his own life, one that brings him pleasure, as he decided to purchase it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Opening the Kiln

Penguin wedding cake toppers

On Sunday morning, I get up early to unload my kiln and list new pieces in the afternoon. Here are the penguins! They were thrown, off centered and thrown again. Then the features were sculpted. I'm so happy with the lifelike expressions.
Here they are with the rest of the kiln load. The Birds Nest casserole is also pretty awesome, as are the flower bowls.

These are the Mama and Baby Bird bowls. Most of them are already sold but a few are still available, at LeeWolfePottery. Each of these birds is formed individually, so it takes hours to make this many, yet I never rush through it. Each bird must have a lifelike gesture to it. Some come alive quickly and some take more time, and they all get as much attention as needed. The little hand built bowls must be carefully formed, too. This rustic style doesn't mean that they are carelessly made! I like a certain flowing gesture to my organic shapes.. They must also sit well without wobbling, and support the birds in balance. One of the rewards I get is knowing that dozens of moms will open their present this Mother's Day to find a little piece of art.

Now I have some time to plant a few container gardens with organically grown violas we got yesterday at the Herb Festival.  Hope you all have a day of smiles.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lessons from the nesting birds

This morning I awoke to a furious lecture from doves nesting in a tree. My cat had crept too close to their home, and the daddy shooed Wally away with wings opening and shutting in wild menace. Mama bird sang with frenzied staccato. Wally backed away.

Motherhood brings out this strange layer of love. Parenthood makes of us both nurturers and warriors. I will remember this as I make my mama and baby bird bowls. How love is both tender and fierce.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Forty Years of Zen

new flower bowls, available soon on Lee Wolfe Pottery

I have practiced Zen meditation for 40 years. Perhaps I have been practicing longer, as I recall days as a child watching leaves float on a stream and letting my mind float out of myself into the flow of fresh water, and letting an entire summer day pass in this serene mental vacancy.

Quite paradoxically, I am prone to ranting and swearing over a news story, an opinion I don't like, or how the type is getting smaller I SWEAR IT IS! on every single publication the older I get.

I like to think that the real me is the Zen-ified one, and that the angry raving person is just a reasonable reaction to all those freaking idiots who haven't learned to keep their mouth shut!...but essentially, I feel very at home in myself when I'm raving, and sometimes I even enjoy it, especially with other people who like to get pissed off and make snarky remarks while we are drinking their good wine.

I thought, many years ago, that the anger would leave me entirely one day and I would be left with only perfectly loving feelings and a desire to serve humanity. This has not occurred, so far. Lately, I notice a kind of paradox in everyone. The people I know who are the absolute smartest in some ways are appallingly dumb in others. The kindest people can be mean to themselves.

In case you were wondering, this hasn't the slightest thing to do with flower bowls. These are just the empty vessels my hands shaped while I was thinking about all this.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Works in Progress

My work is not made as one might bake a cake, from start to finish. I work in cycles. One day pieces are thrown on the wheel, the next day trimmed and embellished. Another day is spent hand building plates, small bowls, and sculptures. It takes an entire day to glaze for a kiln firing. 

Last night I loaded the kiln with noodle bowls, flower bowls, dinnerware, small bird and owl sculpted bowls. As these fire, the pots for the following week are set atop, to dry in the radiant heat. 
You can see that next week's kiln firing will have penguin wedding cake toppers, owl soap dishes, birds nest casseroles, pea pod casseroles, and Urban Rustic bowls. You will be able to see most of these in 

Why not on Etsy, you might ask. Well, Etsy has been redefining "handmade" lately. It now means 'anything someone claims to make with their hands, or somebody's hands, even if the individual handmade artisan is also a wholesale importer and distributor of things that are identical to that which one is handmaking. Or having other people handmake.' This blog explains it all, if you  haven't been enjoying the latest debacle.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Artisan Food, Artisan Pottery

I've been working on texture in clay, if you can even call that "working"; it consists of pressing, poking, and dragging things into the clay to see what happens. I've also refined how to roll clay into a circular shape so that the edges are the natural, untouched texture made by the process. they are not cut into shape. This is my first nesting bowl set made in this manner. You can find it on my website here.

I've also been studying a bit of food styling. Here is a simple shot, using some melon balls to show scale in my nesting bowl set. My props are beginning to tell a story about my bowls. The gray placemat was made by stamping onto fabric, a technique similar to my textured clay. the melon balls visually articulate the intention of my Urban Rustic series, which is to showcase wholesome, artisan food, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables.

My new frontier is to integrate my love of food with the styling of my pottery. My ceramic work is shaped in part by my own needs as a home cook and hostess. Here is a recipe I use all summer long. You can use the syrup sparingly for a light fruit salad or lavishly for a very tasty dessert. It is ultra-simple. Everyone wants seconds and the recipe, too!

Melon Balls in Grand Marnier sauce

3 cups- cantaloupe or mixed melons (watermelon is great in this), balled or cut into cubes

1/2 cup orange juice
sugar to taste (4-5 T approx)
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur

whisk sugar into orange juice. You will need a little less or more depending on how sweet the juice is. Fresh squeezed orange juice needs a bit less.Then add the Grand Marnier.

Pour sauce over fruit and allow to marinate 20 minutes- 1 hour before serving.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Dinnerware sets

This is an old dinnerware set that I decided to revisit. I quit doing the flat bottom lace plates because they cracked so much that it got annoying.... okay, now that I think about it, an inch away from batshit crazy might be more accurate. These colors still draw me in, though. I had to reformulate a blue glaze but I think I may have it right. This one is Beach Cottage.

This is another older pattern- one of my most ordered dinnerware sets, Organic Soul. I had to remake it 3 times on my last order due to all the cracking. It was a bridal registry that just went on and on, week after week of dealing with those cracked plates. But I am trying to bring it back, too. I think that throwing a foot rim on the bottom may stop the tendency to crack along the rims. Anyway, I have a revised set of each in the kiln that will be out tomorrow.

Wish me luck!
If they come out well, i will list sample sets on my website, LeeWolfePottery

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter! Happy Pesach!


My home celebrates Passover and Easter, so my table is prepared to transition.


Passover bird plate




white bird plates


Blue bird plates

Wherever you are, and however you greet the spring, I hope that you set the table well!

Monday, April 2, 2012

by believing passionately

Believing in the nonexistent
What drives me in pottery, after all these years, is not to give birth to stuff that merely decorates. I believe that if you are decorating, you are already dead. The places where we dwell, the room we awake into, the table we set are not reflections of who we are. These are the molds that shape who we are. They create us, and we are reflections of what surrounds us.
minimalist set 3 copy
When I create pottery for the table, it is with the intention to nourish the soul, to open interesting discussions, to leave imprints of wild and organic shapes in the memories of those who gather.
easter styling 1
In learning to style my photos I am reading techniques so that I might bring the possibility of beautiful, wild, organic living. The regimented geometry of where things must be placed is stifling. I love creating flow and movement and pushing the boundaries. Technically, I am still pretty basic. This will improve over time.
nestin bowls 2
Pottery displayed available here
Do you believe passionately in something that still does not exist?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cake Stand –works in progress


Here is my first prototype for a woodland cake stand. This project began when a fellow foodie asked if I would make  this woodland planter as a base for a cake stand:

Cake stands are notoriously difficult and temperamental pieces but I just have to try it.

CAUTION: This is not a DIY post. This is a copyright protected original design in progress. Do NOT try this yourself. If you do, or pin it to a DIY board on Pinterest, your left eyeball will ooze green puss and black hairs will emerge from both nostrils. Don’t say you were not warned.

Here are my small prototypes:


The bases were hand built hollow sculptures and the tops were thrown on a wheel.


A coil of clay was added to the base and thrown on the wheel so that the top is perfectly level. Tree branch stumps were added.


The top was joined to the bottom, with slip between. Coils reinforce the joint.


Of these three small scale works, I like the flat top without the skirt the best. I chose this one for my large prototype, but also made 2 more in case this design cracks or warps in the firing. I may have to repeat this design process 2-10 more times if I want a cake stand that I can reliably produce as a small scale production piece. Additionally, the glaze I intend to use may need to be reformulated to work in these varied surfaces.

I have weeks and sometimes years of design hours in most of my work, and that is before I begin messing around with the styling, description, and market testing.

Why would an artisan such as myself, in the middle of Wedding Season with orders on hold, bother to create something new? Why would I not just do what I already know, make what will effortlessly sell?

Sarah-Lambert Cook gave her reasons in this post, which started me thinking about why the idea of a woodland cake stand displaced my love of abundant cash, and trust me, I do love that, too. There is something about having what I see in my mind’s eye emerge into a tangible thing that gives me great joy. So I guess, essentially, I do it for the fun.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hand built bowls

20 cup bowl, textured lace exterior


textured vine salad bowls

ceramic bowls in the Urban Rustic series

bowl shopify

As spring ushers in pops of color upon the softness of old leaves, bare trees, and stone, I see how my Urban Rustic series emerged. It’s that rich excitement of color played out against the undulating mountain landscape.

These are my favorite pieces today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Easter Table

birds nest 1

ceramic birds nest $14

I played around with table settings for Easter today, using my small birds nest ornament, my bird plate, and my textured lace plates. I tied the napkin with a chive from the garden. I like the simplicity.

Here are some other shots I took

birds nest 2

This one adds a little blush pink with a white zinfandel in a champagne flute.

birds nest 3

And this one has a cloud glazed plate. I don’t have the bird plates in stock right now but you can message me on Facebook if you want to know when I do have some ready. I sell them in sets of 2 for $40.

I can’t decide which shot shows the birds nest best, so if you have a preference, please let me know.

Thanks, and hope the spring breezes blow some enchantment your way today.