A Year to Remember

Well, it’s been a long time. Too long. Going into last spring, I had plans to stay in touch every few weeks throughout the pandemic. In fact in mid May I was conjuring up a post about my adventures with sourdough. But then George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers at a convenience store two miles from my house. Needless to say, his tragic death and the crazy events that followed in my neighborhood made it seem pretty ridiculous to be posting about sourdough. So my 16-year-old and I headed down to Lake Street with heavy duty garbage bags and shovels to help with clean up. My husband and I attended neighborhood meetings, helped with a food drive at the local middle school, and tried to learn about other things we could do to help. We support locally owned businesses in the neighborhood whenever we can. There’s so much more we could do, I’m sure.

I’m starting small. Kind gestures toward neighbors, friends, family, and those I see while out walking in the neighborhood. Giving others space, a little bit of grace, and the benefit of doubt. This year’s resolution is to go into each day with a kind and generous heart.

Navigating this shift in mindset from negative to positive isn’t easy…in fact, I think I’ve posted about this very thing before. I’ve always been a glass-half-empty kind of gal. And I definitely have a long way to go. But I’ve been trying to make choices that lead to a happier disposition. Less Facebook, more Instagram, for example. Getting out for a walk or run most every day. And keeping some form of creative spark in my daily routine. This act of making can be anything, but over the past year it’s leaned heavily toward pottery.

For my 50th birthday in April, my husband tracked down a pottery wheel for me. With studios closed all over town, I had been missing working with clay. So I did the research on setting up a bare-bones studio at home, including finding a local place where I could fire my work and figuring out the clay and underglazes that would make the most sense with limited access to studios. I ordered supplies locally through Continental Clay and discovered that I could fire my work and use the glazes at The Workshop Mpls, a sweet studio less than 10 minutes from my house. And, I decided to try sgraffito, a pottery decorating technique that involves carving a design into a brushed on underglaze or slip (colored, liquid clay). With sgraffito, I could apply the underglaze and carve designs at home, have them bisque fired at the Workshop, and then use their glaze bay to apply a clear glaze on site. Here are a few of my first sgraffito projects.

In the meantime, a friend convinced me to sign up for a virtual handbuilding class through Northern Clay Center. This was pretty eye opening. The pieces I made were kind of clunky, and too thick, but I really liked our instructor, Marion Angelica, who’s all about adding texture to handbuilt pieces. And the designs she shared with us for the class were fun, useful pieces with graceful design elements. I was kind of hooked on the instant gratification of rolling out a slab of clay, cutting out a pattern, and folding or piecing it together.

Lanterns from virtual handbuilding glass (and a cute little cup I made).

In September I was able to sign up for a handbuilding open studio in-person class at Northern Clay Center (masks on, of course). The class was totally self-directed, which I loved. For months I had been filling my Instagram feed with the posts of potters who’s work I admired (Hat tip to MODHome Ceramics, Melissa Weiss, and many others for inspiration!), patterns for folded handbuilt containers, and projects using slump molds and other forms, so I was full of ideas. I’d also been wanting to try decorating my pieces with ceramic transfers, so I stocked up on a few floral patterns to try in class. I had so much fun, and left class with a few platters and bowls that I’m pretty happy with. I made a couple of berry bowls, using the cardboard berry boxes from farmers’ markets as a template.

Then I found a couple of patterns for folded bowls and lidded containers that were really fun to make.

And I used some of the molds available in the studio to make a couple of sgraffito platters, one rectangular, and one oblong.

Sgraffito using white slip on stoneware.
Sgraffito using black slip on stoneware.

I’m having so much fun exploring handbuilding that I signed up for another class that starts this month. In between classes, I’ve been making bowls and mugs on my wheel at home. As you can imagine, the bowls, mugs, containers, and platters are starting to pile up around here. In November I finally got around to opening up my Etsy shop, Fickle Heart Goods, where I’m selling my origami bags, hand embroidered felted hearts, and my books. Eventually, I plan to add pottery to my shop. But right now I’m just enjoying the process of trying different techniques, some with success, and some not. But these little goals make me happy, putting me in a better mindset when I do venture out in the world.

Here’s hoping 2021 gives us all more reasons to be happy. Be kind to each other!

Check out my Etsy shop: FickleHeartGoods

Follow me on Instagram: kari.a.cornel1

2 thoughts on “A Year to Remember

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