a minimal modern handmade ceramics studio by shelley martin. portland oregon usa.
recent photos i posted to my @vitrifiedstudio instagram feed
When people ask me what I make, I used to just say something about minimal modern functional ceramics. But now I’m pretty proud to say I mostly just make urns now. I still make dinnerware, utensil holders and spice bottles, but right now I love making the urns. Here is a photo from a customer @stillbeingmolly , go check out her Instagram feed to read her story. It’s her words and all of my other customers personal stories, photos and notes that make me really love what I do. I am hoping to get a little faster on my orders this month, I think I am going to catch up thanks to the help of a friend in the studio. I really want to make all of my customers happy, because I know just how meaningful these are for them.
Another round of orders were shipped this week, here are a few of my favorites or unique ones (I included the backside for some of these too). I have another big bunch coming of if the kiln tomorrow and this weekend, and then I hope to follow it up with some more early next week. I thought I was back to shipping on time, but it looks like I am still running a little behind. Hopefully next week I will be back on track.
We are working on a space adjacent to my studio so I will be able to have a fall studio sale/ open studio event. I will also be able to use it as a play space for the kids to play in while I do some light work in the studio. We will also be finishing the walls in the studio, to cover up all of that insulation. Hopefully next year we can add windows to the space, but at least for now the walls will have sheet rock and can get painted.
I’ve been slowly reducing the sale % in my Etsy shop, it’s currently at 20% off for custom urns. I hope to soon go through all of my listings and do a big update with the color, font and stamp palettes, as well as use the new variation tools in etsy to make it easier to order. And my lead time is still extended. I’m making and shipping as fast as possible, but right now things are just taking an extra few days. I have a big batch of orders that will be shipped on Monday and then another big batch more hopefully a few days later.
My daughter asked to use my second wheel this week. So I plugged it in for her, and then she said she wanted to be just like me and make pottery. I’ve helped her with the centering and opening a little but after growing up in the studio, she seems to know just what to do with her hands for the shaping and throwing on the wheel. I think I went a little overboard with the stamping on the backside, but she was pretty specific who this piece was for (not for me! ☹️). I have the video of her making it in my personal acct.
Drying some in progress orders on the back patio. I feel like I am up to my eyeballs in open orders. There is a load in the kiln, and a load ready to glaze in my studio, and probably about 100 more open orders that I haven’t started yet. Every week I think this is the week that I will catch up on my open orders but it just doesn’t happen. The kilns are still not fully functioning, I am hopeful that the power company will sometime soon give us the power upgrade so I can run my largest kiln to glaze temperature and run kilns simultaneously so hopefully I can get caught up on orders for once. I am also thinking of getting some help in the studio, someone to actually make the custom orders alongside of me. What do you think about potters using assistants/ hiring other potters to make their work with them? I am feeling torn about the concept, but maybe it’s time to take the big step and finally get the talented and skilled help I really need in the studio of bringing on a second potter. My daughter asked me yesterday “momma, do you work ALL of the time?”. It’s feeing like it right now.
This very beautiful custom urn is getting shipped off today, I love how it turned out with the gold accent in the tiny foot stamps. I am also grateful for this customer that also requested extra cards for the infant and child size urns with their order to share in care packages to bereaved families. Thank you for this special request.
Here’s a photo of a glazing session before anything had been glazed. Everything organized by glaze color with the order slips paired with the pieces after they came out of the bisque kiln. This batch has 17 different glazes I will be doing. I think I have about 30 different glazes that I currently use. I got behind this past weekend as I had an infection that hit me like the flu. It took a few days to recover, so all the pieces scheduled to ship Monday are going out tomorrow instead. It’s just me here in my studio, so when I get sick or my kids get everything stops including making work, emails and order updates. Back to glazing and getting all these orders ready to be fired and shipped!
So many sweet custom urns shipping out this week. I’m still waiting on my electrical work, it’s driving me a little crazy as we wait for our power upgrade. A few more batches of custom orders in the next few weeks and hopefully some electrical work will finish up, and then I will be back on track!
Birthday hike for me yesterday, with a whole day of activities and treats planned by my daughter. Lower and Upper Latourell falls, the western most waterfall in the historic Columbia gorge stretch. Many of the other falls were burned and the forest left charred in last year’s huge forest fire. Most of the area is closed off still, but there are some trails starting to re-open after extensive trail repair from the fire related landslides and erosion. This waterfall and hike was untouched by the fire. We are also researching native plants as we hike, for our own forest restoration project in progress at our new house.
My daughter (3.5 yo) often decorates some of my pottery when she visits me in the studio, but yesterday was the first day my son (13 mo) also wanted to join in. They used my clay stamps and some sticks from the forest.
So now that those pots from the last series of photos are in the kiln, I’m back at the wheel working on the next batch. Simultaneously responding to customer convos and phone calls, trying a few times to get the 13 month old to fall asleep upstairs while our amazing part time nanny plays in the inflatable pool with our 3.5 year old. I’m really grateful to be able to run this business in the home, and grateful for the support with the kids so I can keep working when I need to, and the flexibility to be able to be there for the kids instantly when they need some time with me. Hands and phone covered in clay as I write this, at the pottery wheel.
Here they are right before they headed into the kiln. These will be in and out of the kiln 2-3 times depending on the details of the order (bisque kiln cone05 glaze kiln cone5 and the optional gold luster kiln at cone 018). They should be all cooled and ready to pack on Monday. I think I will keep following this batch through my studio so you can see the full process.
And here is the final photo from the day. After popping them off the plaster bats, a quick rub and press on the bottom as I don’t trim these. Then add the text and stamps, using my little printed order slips and constantly referencing my phone for updates to the orders, and asking questions if needed. 46 finished urns, all made today. Drying for the kiln now, it’s hot and dry here so they will be ready to fire tomorrow with a preheat. Ready to glaze on Saturday night, and luster fire on Sunday night or Monday morning depending on how the kilns cool. I try to stay on top of my glaze, cork, and packaging supplies orders so the next steps go without a hold up. 6 enormous bags of compostable peanuts arrived today, a 3 week supply. These should all be ready to ship by Monday or Tuesday. I hope to make another 30-40 tomorrow, and stagger that kiln with the others and hopefully have those ready to ship by the middle of next week. And do it again and again. It feels endless and overwhelming, and it always feels like I am never working fast enough. I give it my all and spend way too much time working lately and not enough time with my kids. There are always upset customers for lateness and mistakes, but I just keep trying to do it faster and do it better and I remake them as needed. Time to nurse the baby again, for what will feel like all night long, and then start the race again tomorrow. And hopefully soon I will feel like I am caught up.
Here’s the end of the day, after a day of work with many many kid and heat related distractions. I started popping some of the half dried pieces off of their plaster bats. They will all be ready for the text impressions tonight. I just hope my little 13 month old will sleep well enough that I can leave him for a few hours tonight and do the text impressions. These will dry fast in this heat and be ready for the kiln soon. Each of those little papers is the etsy order printed out with notes added, they follow the orders along all the way to the end. I don’t ship the printed orders with the finished pieces as by the time they are finished they are covered with clay, glaze, cork sawdust and luster.
This is what the beginning of a making cycle looks like. I lay out all of my open orders for a specific shipping date range, organized by clay type and size and shape. Then I throw them all at once, and let them sit for 12-24 hours before they are ready to pop off the bats and do the text impressions all at once. Then they start to dry for the kiln. Once I have the text impressions done, I usually have time to do another batch of throwing. And I am able to push two big kiln loads of work out of the studio at once (staggering the firing as only one of my big kilns can currently hit my glaze temperature). Usually about 60-80 pieces total. You can see I am currently using that red post as my standing support as I throw. I have to keep all of the doors in the garage shut on these warm days to keep everything from drying too fast. Soon I will start using the metal cabinet to slow the drying process, but this garage studio seems to stay pretty cool.
These past few days I shipped out another big batch of orders, I took photos of a few of my favorites. For a brief moment today, I am caught up on my open orders. BUT it will be a few more days until the next batch is out of the kiln and ready to ship, so tomorrow I will behind again. I am hoping in a week or two to be able to reduce my lead time and be more caught up on my orders. I have the flash sale turned back on in my Etsy shop until I can get my lead time back down to a normal length of 2-3 weeks. The Last photo shows the “before” shot of the extra land beside our house, we (meaning mostly a landscaping crew because I get so itchy around those vines) are going to start to cut and pull out all of those invasive plants next week and start restoring that landscape back to the native forest. I can’t wait to get that started, the forest really feels overtaken and I know it can be a beautiful forest again someday. I am so excited to get to share that native plant forest and creek with my kids someday soon, but right now it is completely inaccessible from the thick mass of plants.
Another round of orders headed out, and I grabbed some photos of some of my favorites. This includes that new pink that I am trying out, and a newish clover green color. I am back at the wheel now trying to get another big batch of orders made, and then I think I will finally be all caught up and ready to start new and different projects!
I’ll be doing one more round of shipping tomorrow am, and then I am back to the wheel again to start working on all of my open orders. I have been packing boxes in the daylight lately in the new studio so I have been able to quickly photograph some of my favorite custom orders as the come out of the kiln. I really love when the customers use the options to design a very special urn and really make it all their own. I love seeing what customers come up with. I hope to upload my new stamp, font and color palettes into the listing very soon.
Thank you everyone who shopped the flash sale! It should be turning off any time now. I will keep my extended lead time up until I get back on track with all of my orders, hopefully just a little bit longer. If you are sad that you missed the flash sale on custom urns in my etsy shop, please send me a convo on etsy or an email and I can send you a coupon code to use in the next day or two to extend the discount for just you. I know the urns are a hard decision to make and they might take some extra time for you to decide what to order. Thanks!