Fellow Artisan: Home Thrown Pottery by Esther Schletz

Esther will be at the Elora Handmade Market with home thrown pottery. Come check it out, along with food, live music, and 50+ other makers at the Wellington County Museum & Archives Barn on Sunday, October 23, 10am – 4pm.

(click to see larger images)

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Home Thrown Pottery by Esther Schletz

Products: Pottery

Price Range: $2 – $200

How did this all begin:
I’ve always been artsy/crafty. Trying any creative thing that I could find. Almost 3 years ago my mother in law asked me what I would want for Christmas, and all I could think of was pottery lessons. So that’s what she got me. After the very first lesson I was completely hooked. A year after starting I joined the Guelph Potters Guild, and within a year and a half I had bought my own pottery wheel and 2 kilns and started to set up my own studio in the basement of my house. Now, if you’re trying to find me, that’s the first place to look

What were your goals when you started? Did they change?
I was just looking for that next great hobby that would keep me busy for a few months. I never anticipated it turning into something to share with people outside my family. Now I can’t imagine NOT doing pottery, and my long term goal is to make this my full time career.

What inspires new products?
I am still new enough at this that everything that I come across inspires new ideas. Studying forms in nature has given me some interesting ideas. I’ve recently started incorporating actual leaves, branches, stones, etc into some of my pieces (as texture). I also love looking at what other potters have done, on Pinterest and Instagram, and try to figure out how they got the shape or glaze combinations and then try it out for myself. But as I am still fairly inexperienced in this medium, I would say that the potter’s wheel and I are still learning to dance with each other. Some times the wheel decides what a lump of clay is going to turn into, and sometimes I wrestle it into submission and actually make exactly what I had intended to from the moment I wedged the clay.

What’s the most challenging part of your work?
There are numerous challenges when working with clay. The first is making sure that I wedge (knead) the clay properly so that there are no air pockets. Bubbles in the clay can tear your piece apart at the very moment that you think you are almost done. Another challenge is finding the right glaze combinations. Each glaze reacts differently to other glazes (or even to other clay bodies). Sometimes two glazes will react where they become extremely runny. This can cause the glaze to run onto the kiln shelf and, besides ruining a perfectly good piece of pottery, can also make extra work by needing to break the piece from the kiln shelf and then having to spend hours grinding the shelf to make it usable again. The last major challenge is dealing with the Kiln gods. Each item I make has to be fired twice ( about 18 hours is spent in the electric kiln). The first time is called Bisque firing. This is where you “cook” the clay so it becomes hard and has less of a chance of breaking. Clay has a lot of water in it. And even once it’s dried for a few weeks, and feels dry to the touch, there is still a high risk of things exploding in the kiln if you don’t time temperature increases properly. And on the second firing there is, as I previously mentioned, the chance of glazes melting to the shelves or even to other items next to them.

What do you do when you are not working on your business?
I am a mother of 3 wonderful children, (aged 14 to 22 years old), a loving wife, and as my “day job” I am an Administrative Office Assistant and a Supply Secretary with the school board in our area.

Find Esther’s work on Facebook and Instagram @estherschletz.

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All images used with permission.

100 days of ornaments – Part 2

I’ve done a few different “challenges” in the past year or so. First there was the 30×30 nature challenge in May 2014. Then there was a 6 week fitness challenge from the Cornerstone Studio in January. Last month there was the May_Be2015 creativity challenge, plus SaluteTheSun21. And now the 100 needle felted ornaments (explained in an earlier post).

I like the accountability factor, the prompts and the routine in challenges.

The 30×30 nature challenge got me consciously outdoors. We live in an extremely walkable neighbourhood. I hang my laundry on the line once summer hits. We have been hiking with our homeschool group for years. Once the weather gets nice our group heads to the beach on a regular basis. So I am already outdoors quite a bit. But during that challenge I became more aware of my surroundings and started having a bit of morning quiet time on the deck. It was a nice addition to my day and I enjoyed listening to the birds and watching the trees fill out. I also moved my work and the boys’ out to the deck when it was feasible. We started eating 3 meals a day  on our deck when the weather was nice and the wasps didn’t chase us back inside. Several of these things stayed until the weather cooled down, and now that spring is back we are starting those things again.

The 6 week fitness challenge got me out to different fitness and dance classes 6 days a week for 6 weeks, and I ended up liking it so much that I became a member at the studio. I am there 5 days a week and am still very much enjoying it.

The May_Be2015 creative challenge got me drawing (I now carry my sketchbook and pencil wherever I go) and writing in cursive (something I hadn’t done properly in decades) regularly. It made me think about different forms, ideas, printed photographs, and my creative habits/routine (or lack thereof), among other things.

SaluteTheSun21 got me out to watch the sun rise. Now whenever I’m awake at 5:15am either due to insomnia or because I mean to, I head down to the beach and watch the sun rise. It is an absolutely fantastic way to start the day. A beautiful promise that every day is a totally different and fresh start. My friend who started the challenge decided on day 22 that she did not want to stop, so she is down at her beach each morning for the dawn of every new day.  I’ve seen a lot of sunsets over the years but I’ve got to tell you that the sunrise is a different thing altogether. You should try it sometime. Even if you have to wait until fall when the time of day is a little more reasonable.

The common thread? I start these challenges on a whim, and later find that there are lasting benefits and changes with each one.

The wool ball series of ornaments started late last year. I was working away making snowmen when I just got tired of it. I was eyeballing this ball (the snowman’s body) and I thought, “What could I make with a wool ball?” Then I proceeded to make a few things (mostly animals) for my next holiday show and my Etsy shop. I ended up madly needle felting ornaments during shows and in the evenings as well. I was playing catch-up so I stuck to the first few animals that I had created: frog, elephant, cardinal, narwhal, robin, penguin, owl, and panda.

This year I have started early and have time to explore. Because of this 100 day commitment, my sketchbook is filled with ideas – I need content!

About a month ago I was listening to a podcast where the interviewer asked what  were the interviewee’s “golden hours” – when a you work the best, you are at your most attentive, and most focussed. I’m not sure if everyone knows their golden hours, but I have known for a long time that I am best in the morning. First thing. It also happens to be a time of day when no one else is up, so it’s a perfect time to get a few things done undisturbed.

IMG_7618I hadn’t been using that time productively. But as of 12 days ago, I do. This challenge has forced me into a routine that really works for me. No email, no social media, just my notebook sketches, wool, and tools, until the job is done. And the job is always a fun challenge. With my sketchbook, I have a visual list of creative possibilities from which to choose every day.

Now I’ve decided that I’ll try to make 2 of whatever it is I’ve decided to make that day (if I have the time before the family is up) instead of 1, to see how closely I can match the first as well as build up some stock.

So the 100 ornaments challenge, by day 10, had changed my routine, just like the other challenges. But it did a few other things as well.

I now look forward to getting out of bed, since I have a creative project to get to.

I’m keeping on top of creation of the wool balls that are the core of each ornament (a 2 step process that needs lead time: the balls are roughly needle felted, then wet felted and need a couple of days to dry) since I don’t want to run out.

I’ve had several people tell me that they look forward to seeing what I’ve created each day, which is such a kick.

After 10 days I did a roundup and asked people on social media what they would add and people did not disappoint (see below). So I have what the marketing folks like to call “engagement.”

You guys are fantastic! Thx for the #100NFOrnaments feedback!

A post shared by Lynn W, Amherst Is. ON Canada (@lynnslids) on

I think, with my existing sketches (6 pages worth), the suggestions, and a few of the old favourites (snowmen and Santas), I probably have enough to fill my 100 days.

Added June 15:

What I forgot to mention above is that because I am making something different, and because I am making every single day, I am improving and likely getting more efficient as well. Another added bonus to the challenge!

Feel free to follow along on instagram, facebook, or twitter.

100 days of ornaments

You know that #May_Be2015 creative challenge that my friend Rozanne had me guest post for? Well, she’s at it again. But this time Rozanne and our mutual friend Brooke are doing a writing challenge: #100Scribbles (100 days of scribbles – free writing). They really enjoyed the daily creative prompt (as did I, although I didn’t partake in every one) and wanted to keep up the momentum, but to concentrate on writing. (By the way, check out the #May_Be2015 Instagram feed – it’s filled up nicely!)

Rozanne put the call out there for people to join, but I thought that my attention needed to get back to my work. So I have tweaked the challenge to be: 100 days of needle felted ornaments. I lack a productive routine, and I need one if I am to get things created for fall (and to list on Etsy and my web shop) and not be in pain with repetitive strain injury, so what better way to get into a routine, but to commit to one for 100 days? So first thing in the morning, it’s up and needle felting! (I am actually going to be making other things as well, but the ornaments are fun and

If you have a favourite animal (or other) that you think might work for my Wool Ball ornaments series, please comment. If you’d like to follow along, check out my Instagram feed, or the hashtag #100NFOrnaments.

I love that I’m not the only one who has taken the 100 days theme and run with it. One friend is doing 100 days of wild edibles and another is doing 100 things that make her day!