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Ceramics journal plan

What do I want to document in a ceramics journal?

  • Name or identifier of item
  • Clay used
  • Photo of sketch of greenware form
  • Notes on greenware construction and decoration
  • Greenware dimensions
  • bisque firing date
  • Bisque dimensions
  • Bisque decoration – glazes used, how applied, number of layers.
  • Photo pre-firing
  • Glaze firing date
  • Any post firing processing (eg grind down dripped glaze or apply over glaze)
  • Final dimensions
  • Notes on final result.

If I keep this here, I can do one post per piece, publish when piece is finished?


Simplicity Pattern 1165 – finding my size

Source: Simplicity Pattern 1165 Misses’ Pull-on Pants, Long or Short Shorts

So, my cold-weather PJs were all looking a bit worn, and I picked up this pattern because it looked like it’d work for that purpose.

But the measurement table said I should be a size that’s about four sizes higher than I wear in ready-made clothing.

Well, I thought, I guess pattern sizing doesn’t really correspond to ready made. Better to make it big and maybe have to take it in, rather than making it too small and wasting all that effort and fabric.

So I made it up in the size indicated by the chart and ended up taking it in a LOT. Dropped down a size, tried again, still too big but closer to reasonable. Today I cut out a size smaller still, and we’ll see how it turns out when I get it sewn up.

I suppose I should learn to do things like measure on the actual pattern to see if the measurements look similar to what I need them to be, rather than just trusting the chart?

Chilly day comforts

It’s a chilly, grey day and I was lacking in grand ambition.

So I pulled out a quilt to mend, and curled up on the couch. I entertained myself with Online videos – first watching people build various things for their wood shops and then watching some geometry videos from Khan Academy.

The wood shop videos were looking for inspiration or answers because I would like to build a mobile stand for my benchtop drill press… but it’s a very heavy, very top-heavy tool. So I am worried that it will topple unless the stand is as heavy as the top. I watched a half-dozen different projects and only one of them accounted for that in any way – by building in a compartment at the base that held a bag of cement, which was sort of clever. So I am still musing on my options there.

The geometry is because it’s been decades since I studied any math, and I find I have forgotten a lot. I have this idea that I will review everything I supposedly learned before using self-study, then perhaps I will consider taking a few courses beyond my previous level just to see if I can. I reviewed algebra last fall, and plan to tackle geometry this spring.

But mostly, I am lazing about today. I have plenty of company, given the trifecta of my quilt-covered legs, a sunny window, and a chilly day.

Holiday letter notes

My “write something” resolution for the past couple of days has been subsumed into the task of producing and mailing our holiday letter.

We haven’t done such a letter in many years. Somehow there were always more pressing tasks, and the steps to get a letter mailed didn’t all get done.

But it’s been a peculiar year and one thing I actually have this year is time. So, we made a letter.

Writing the letter text is just the first step. Then I had to choose appropriate photos, trim and arrange them nicely around the text, put together an address list, order stamps and envelopes and paper that would support printing photos on both sides… so this post is to note down how I did that, so I can just do the work and skip the research next year.

Letter composition: I prepped most of the photos in photoshop, but used word for the actual letter. You can do a ton with overlapping photos, uploading png files with irregular shaped edges and wrapping the text right around the image, etc. Word also supports producing a PDF version to send out electronically, and seemed to print up nicely. Maybe if I knew how to use indesign I would prefer that, but I didn’t need to be learning a complex new program for this project.

Paper – have discovered that 28-weight bright white paper works to print decent looking photos on both sides of the page.

Addresses: I knew in the past I stalled at the stage where I needed to actually address and mail the things. So I wanted to just do address labels that I could peel and stick quickly. I discovered you can do an export of addresses from either outlook or Google contacts into a csv file, edit them as needed, then there is a template from the company (Avery) to set up the label printing. Their online tool is pretty neat, allowing you to design label art and configure your fonts, positioning, etc just right before generating a merge document from your address list.

So that’s the things I don’t want to forget next year. Hope people like their letters.


It’s late and I am tired… but also wired because so much has happened today.

Today, a mob invaded the US Capitol in an effort to overturn the legal election. They were explicitly encouraged by the outgoing President, and were not treated harshly by police or security as they rampaged through. They broke things, invaded and vandalized offices, stole “trophies”… and were not arrested or detained in any way. And far too many people seem to think this was all perfectly reasonable.

On the bright side, Georgia elected two Democratic senators, which will help move forward with repairing some of the damage done in the past four years.

So now I have to try to put it all out of my mind enough to get some sleep. My prayer is that those folks could all have a few moments of true insight into what their actions look like to the rest of us. I expect they don’t see themselves as horrifying human beings, so if they realized that’s exactly what they are being, perhaps they’d stop.

Little garage projects

The weather was gorgeous and my schedule open, so I devoted yesterday and today to working on improved organization for my garage wood shop. I am working toward wall storage for all the tools, using French cleats for flexible hanging schemes.

Yesterday was frustrating because I started out on a project, then ended up spending a disproportionate amount of time trying to repair my cheapie brad nailer. After completely disassembling the thing and putting it back together, it went from not working at all to working unreliably… which I found to be somewhat inadequate as an improvement.

But I did get a start on a hanger for my jigsaw, which I finished up today:

Then I finished assorted other tasks as well. I made a hanger for a small circular saw:

Then I added cleats so I could hang a dovetail jig:

I have a vise which I hadn’t mounted on anything yet. I decided to mount it on a piece of flat board so I could clamp it to the workbench in whatever position seemed useful for now. And of course added a clear under one edge so I can hang that, too.

Next I tackled trash collection area. I have to allocate a section of the garage to storing trash and recycling, because there is really no other space for it in our common driveway. I wanted it to be contained onto a shelf so it wouldn’t take over too much space, but wanted the option of moving it out of the way for cleaning and rearranging and storing things on the wall behind it. I used sections from an old shelf, a couple scrap pieces of 2×4, and the castors from an old luggage dolly (I like to buy luggage dollies when I see them on sale because they’re usually cheaper than it would be to buy the castors individually). The end result isn’t pretty but it works. I also made a wood lid for the cat litter bucket which holds the daily box scoopings which will be added to the big trash bag when we take out the household trash.

The day wasn’t without further mishaps – most notably the handle broke on my miter saw. For now I have patched it together with tape and zip ties, but I will likely need to figure out if there’s a replacement part I can buy eventually. I also gave up on the nailer and decided I will order another – several others, actually, since this was a combination nailer and stapler and I thought maybe I’d rather have single-use tools for each of those purposes and then I found a set that had three sizes of nailer (from pin to brad) and a stapler. So that’s on its way and I’m sure I will enjoy playing with those.

Tomorrow is supposed to get cold, and stay that way the rest of the week. So I suppose I will shift to indoor projects. And following the national political news with far more anxiety than I like in my life.

Analysis Paralysis

I am lucky to have some nice space in which to do creative work. There’s a substantial corner of a large room for my sewing and crafts and indoor projects, and there’s a two-car garage that only houses one car for my projects that are loud and dirty. Both are filled with tools and materials for future creative endeavors.

“Filled with” becomes a problem. Inside, I have boxes and piles of fabric and old clothes and half-finished projects, as well as bins and drawers of tools and supplies. Outside, the pile of scrap lumber has grown to the point that it interferes with productivity in the shop. It strikes me that I have a materials hoarding issue.

So why don’t I just start making stuff, which would entertain me, clear away the supplies, and leave me with whatever cool thing I made? Well, there’s sometimes a disconnect between the items available and the stuff I want to make – I’ll have woven fabric when I want a knit, or small pieces where I want to make something larger. Sometimes, I am frozen in action because I can think of three or four possible uses for a good item (like a large or nice piece of wood) and so I hesitate – because if I commit to making one of the items, I won’t be able to make the others. And sometimes, I am sure I know what I want to make, but I become frozen in place because I don’t quite know how to do it and I don’t want to ruin a bunch of materials doing it wrong.

All of this is irrational. Fundamentally, none of the things I want to make are essential, so there’s no harm in picking one thing to work on and delaying the rest. If I actually finished one thing, it would give me tremendous pleasure to see and use the item and know I made it. I can afford more materials and there’s even pleasure to be had in shopping for them – yes, right now I’m avoiding stores but the pandemic won’t last forever, and most of what I need can be found online. If I run out of lumber – well, lumber stores are probably safer than most, given that they tend to have high ceilings and plenty of ventilation and not many shoppers at once. Even then, I might be able to manage a phone order and delivery. And, if I try something and fail… at least I’ll have learned in the process.

So, it’s a gorgeous day outside, bright and warm, and I plan to go outside and see if I can manage to produce something cool in the garage. Wish me luck.


What makes a good New Year’s resolution? It should be focused on something that you believe will make your life better. It should be specific enough to honestly judge whether you’re achieving it or not. It should be something that really takes all year to work on, but where you can assess your progress frequently. It needs to sit in that sweet spot between “too easy” and “too hard” – something you legitimately need an extra push to get moving on, but it still needs to be achievable. “Lose 40 pounds and run a marathon” is not a good resolution because most people wouldn’t be able to achieve that. “Eat lots of pizza” fails in the opposite way; most of us don’t need a resolution to achieve that.

So in thinking about “what would I like to achieve”, there’s also a question of what is possible. Last year, I told myself that I’d fulfill a long-held dream of learning to make ceramics. I identified some great resources – a community college class, a makerspace with equipment and kiln where I could practice – and just as I got all those ducks in a row, the world shut down and those resources were no longer available to me.

This year, I’m going to keep things a little less specific. My first resolution is to write or communicate more – but I’m going to be flexible about the details. Blog posts are great, but I’m also going to allow myself to choose to sit down and compose a letter or postcard to someone I love. If there’s a homework assignment that requires writing, that’ll count. If I’m utterly without words, I’ll be content with finding or creating some sort of image to share. But, I’m hoping to achieve something in this domain every day.

There are some other things I’d like to work on but I’m not going to frame them in terms of a specific resolution. I’d like to be a bit stronger and more fit, so I’ve started trying to add in some longer or tougher exercise sessions into my routine. I’d like to continue to learn new skills that express my artistic and creative side, so will be taking some classes and pursuing projects to achieve that. I have noticed a tendency to delay and avoid tasks when I’m not certain I know how to do them – I’m going to work on becoming braver about trying things even if they might fail.

But, the big one is writing. Like I’m doing right now.

Covid thoughts

A health department random survey in the Houston area found 4x more people with COVID-19 antibodies than was suggested by official case counts.

What to make of this?

My first thought was to wonder what the levels might be now, since that study was done a few months ago. The September numbers showed between 10 and 18% of the population had already been infected, depending on neighborhood. Since then, the official case count has increased by a factor of 1.5-2 (depending on when in September the study took place). So, do we assume that the new range is somewhere between 15% and 36% of the population? That assumes no fundamental changes in Houston’s testing rate, which seems legit since there’s been no real policy changes since then. It also assumes that those who had antibodies in September are still immune – which may or may not be true.

That’s nowhere near high enough to provide any sort of meaningful herd immunity, but I suppose every little bit counts – everyone who is walking around in a recovered state with antibodies is one less potential vector for infecting others.

I understand that not everyone is comfortable with the idea of getting a vaccine. So if the question is how long it will take to get to herd immunity, then we’ve got two groups to follow – the group of people willing to get a vaccine (or forced to, by an employer or whatever), and those who won’t. For the first group, the question is how long it will take to get the vaccines produced, distributed, and dispensed. For the second group, the question is how long it takes for them to get infected and either recover or die, I suppose.

Vaccine distribution is a huge challenge, especially if you mix in questions like whether anyone can be required to be immunized. But the really complicated thing to predict would be the trajectory of natural infections in the unvaccinated population. Because that depends so much on how everyone’s behaving, and as more people get vaccinated, behaviors might change a lot. People may start to spend more time unmasked in public places, for example, because they and their loved ones are vaccinated and they don’t care much about protecting strangers. Plus there’s the new mutations that seem to be more transmissible, mucking up any model you might try to devise.

Frankly, while it’s interesting to think about what the variables might be, I have no idea how long it’s actually going to be until we can get back to life as we want it to be. My resolution at this point is to keep rolling with the punches and try to stay informed, and hope the ones I love are smart enough to stay home and stay safe.

Old bathrobe becomes cat pillow

My husband had an old flannel bathrobe which he wore until it was so worn out it was falling apart. So I got him a new robe and took possession of the old one.

There were a few spots where the flannel was still intact and strong. I cut pieces from those areas and sewed them into a pillow, sized to fit a basket that our cat likes to sleep in. Then cut the remainder of the robe up into small bits, which I used to stuff the pillow.

It made for a reasonably soft and fluffy pillow, and Gracie cat signaled her approval of the project by sleeping on it all morning.

Making a pillow is a simple enough process, but next time I make an oval-shaped pillow, I will mark some point on the fabric so it is easier to line up the two pieces!