…in pursuit of what makes life good.

In the Making: Honeycomb Studio

September10

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One of the things I find so inspiring about running this blog is all the people I have been able to connect with because of it. The “In the Making” series has become one of my favorite posts to do because I get to have real conversations with real people. I love being able to share the beautiful work that people can create but even more I love showing a little peek at the labor of love that goes into that work. As I’m learning more and more everyday, it takes a lot of persistence and passion to pursue your creative craft. One such lovely lady who I reached out to is Courtney Hamill of Honeycomb Studio. I’ve been following her on Instagram for quite awhile and when she agreed to share her process on here, I was thrilled. Courtney is based in Atlanta, Georgia. She creates hand-made, wheel or mold-cast, porcelain sculptures.

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Maybe it’s the movie Ghost, but when most people think of ceramics, they seem to think of the pottery wheel. If you’ve never thrown on the wheel yourself and have only seen professionals shaping a bowl or a mug, ceramics may seem to be a peaceful, meditative exercise – the lump of clay seemly transforming shape at the slightest touch. It can be meditative – don’t get me wrong – but the reality is that ceramics is usually dirty, frustrating, back-breaking work. It often takes up to two weeks to move a single piece from beginning stage to final product, with acute sensitivity to the needs of the different stages of drying and taking care to move neither too fast or too slow, knowing that you might lose the piece at any phase of the process. All of this effort for a material that we use everyday without a second thought.

So why do ceramicists do it? I can only speak for myself, but I think my experience is common amongst potters. You become addicted to the clay – touching it, altering it. When you take a break from ceramics, your hands almost physically ache to feel it. You begin to understand it on an instinctual level – when it wants to give and when you should leave it alone (kind of like a relationship). Potters are strange creatures: artists, tinkerers, chemists and engineers. You learn to love the process, so that when the actual object breaks, you’re not as attached to it as you might have otherwise been. Although that’s not to say that I don’t swear a blue streak when I have a bad kiln firing, because I definitely do, but then it’s time to move on.

Although people seem to be most familiar with ceramics on the wheel, there are many methods ceramic artists use to bring their designs to life. Most of my work utilizes a practice call slip-casting, which involves finding or making an original object, and then casting that object in plaster. The mold making process itself takes a full work day and by the end, I and half of my studio are am covered in plaster dust. The mold must sit for 1-2 weeks before it has cured enough to be used.

Once the mold has cured, it is filled with liquid porcelain called slip. Within a few hours, a chemical process in the plaster pulls the water from the slip, leaving behind a solid form. Once it’s solid enough to be removed, I carefully pull it out and let it set up for a little while more. I then trim, alter and patch the form as needed to transform the original form into one of my designs. Once the object has dried, we begin the long firing process. Most of my work is fired three times, with each firing taking a full 24 hours. The first firing (called the Bisque Firing) removes any moisture from the clay, strengthens the clay so that it’s harder to break, and prepares the body for the glaze.



Each piece is then sanded with fine sandpaper to create a smoother body, wiped clean, and then painted one at a time with a hand-mixed glaze. After the object is glazed, it’s fired for a second time to about 2300 degrees so that the glaze chemically bonds to the clay (which is why glazing is different than painting).

Finally, if needed, the gold or metallic details are added using a special metal compound and then fired one last time. This compound (called a luster) contains real gold, extremely expensive and incredibly toxic. I have to use gloves and respirators during its application to protect myself from its dangerous fumes.

Of course, many pieces are lost along the way to cracks, warping or the many other pitfalls that can occur in this multi-step process. Ceramics is an extremely time intensive, and time sensitive craft, that requires a great deal of patience and perseverance. Hours of labor went in to every handmade ceramic that you own, and the difference between the elaborate sculpture you may have seen in a gallery and the mug with which you drink your coffee is probably less than you would think.

Thank you, Courtney, for sharing a bit of your process with us. I’m in love with your work (those antlers!) and I am honored to hear what makes each piece so special.

You can find more of her work in her shop and she just released a new line of lighting.

Process photos taken by Kimberly Murray and product photos by Whitney Ott.

Pin Love: Plant Obsessed

September07

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I’ve been obsessed with all things plants lately, especially succulents, cactus and ferns, as I think is obvious for anyone who follows me on Instagram. I have this small private garden area outside my studio. When I work at my computer I can gaze out at it and it gives me so much peace. I like to take breaks and go out there and do a little gardening. It’s such a great way to get away from my computer and give my brain a break. I’ve just started really focusing on the space as a little retreat, transplanting succulents and working on my collection of cute little clay pots. I have big plans for the little space and I am looking forward to making progress on it so I can share it on here. One of the challenges I am up against is the drought here in California, this why I am focusing on low maintenance succulents and cacti with a few statement plants. Pinterest has been such a great source for inspiration. I love seeing how new ideas develop just by perusing (spending hours and hours!) on this wonderful site.




My budget is pretty low so here are a few DIY projects I’m considering:
Love this hanging planter idea.
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Can’t decide between this hanging lounge chair and this hammock chair. Love the way the first one looks but it looks a bit complicated.

How cool are stag horn ferns and this awesome way of mounting them?

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I can’t wait to get this project completed so I can share it with you all. This is the first time I’ve designed an exterior like this. Wish me luck!

In the Making: Heather Day Art

September03

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Today’s “In the Making” post features the beautiful and talented, Heather Day. She lives and works in San Francisco. She “creates work that involves a process of layering paint, fibers and various energetic marks.”

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a San Francisco based artist. I moved to the bay area about 2 years ago from Baltimore, where I attended Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). I’m originally from Hawaii but I moved around quite a bit when I was kid. I spent part of my childhood in the Washington DC area and went to high school in Chicago. My background is in painting and art history so it’s safe to say, I haven’t strayed too far from my field.

Have you always been artistic? What made you decide to pursue art as a career?

One of my favorite quotes is by Picasso. He said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. This quote is so iconic and sounds a little cheesy when I say it out loud. I still couldn’t agree with it more. I’ve always been an artist and so were my peers as a kid. For me, art was something that just always made sense. Most of my childhood memories are based off of positive experiences I’ve had with people involving art in one way or another. A career in art was always in the back of my mind but I never imagined it was something that I could do for a living. I went to an arts high school in Chicago before attending an arts college in Baltimore. Even with those bold decisions at a young age, I always had a backup plan. I made the big career jump this past Spring when I left my job at the design center to pursue painting full time. It was a tough decision but backed by the support of designers, galleries, collectors, family and friends.

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Can you briefly walk us through the process of creating a painting?

Once the stretcher bars are built and the canvas is stretched, the painting starts with a few quick marks. A blank canvas can be daunting so making a mark without much thought is the easiest way for me to begin painting. At this point, every decision is a reaction to a mark that was previously made. These reactions are made through various methods of painting such as pouring, scraping, drawing, dripping etc. I usually have 5-10 paintings in progress at any given time. This allows me to carry ideas from one piece to another- similar to pages in a book. Working on several pieces also helps prevent me from overworking a painting. The amount of layers of paint and marks depends on each specific piece. Some paintings are complex with 10-15 layers of paint while others are quick. The quick gestural paintings are usually reactions to paintings that had more invested time.

What inspires you in your day to day life and in your artwork?

I’m inspired by architecture, people and nature. These subjects always involve an experience that is similar to the process of painting. I’m constantly thinking about interaction and how that can translate into color and form. Combining nature and architecture is most interesting when thinking about organic marks in contrast with geometric forms. I try to take these thoughts with me to the studio.  We live in such a concrete world. It’s nice to take a break from it and make art that isn’t so matter of fact.

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I find that sometimes the creative process can be messy, frustrating and ugly. Do you ever experience that and if so how do you get past it?

Yes! Sometimes, I’m a few marks away from completing a piece. I’ll stand in front of it for several minutes thinking and practicing the direction my arm will go to create the energy of the mark I need.  This can make or break the painting. When things don’t go as planned, I usually take a break. An hour later, I’m usually able to go back into the piece and make the accidental marks seem more purposeful. That’s really what my work is all about. There’s a sense of upkeep and maintenance.

Can you share with us a lesson you’ve learned along the way that led you to grow as an artist and individual?

I’ve learned that being an artist has so many levels. Ultimately, I’m running a business. Stepping more into this role has been eye opening. I’m learning more about finance, marketing and networking. Aside from business, I’m beginning to understand more about myself and my tendencies.

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So, what’s up next for you and your artwork? Any new plans or projects in the works?

I’m talking to a few large companies about collaborating through social media as well as specific product design. My main goal for the coming months is to continue exploring the process of painting and finding new ways to push the boundaries.

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Thank you so much, Heather, for sharing a bit of yourself and your creative process with us. I love hearing about your life as an artist and creative individual.

You can follow along with Heather’s day to day life on her incredibly inspiring Instagram feed or hear more about her recent work and her adventures as an artist on her blog.

Photos by Kathryn Rummel and Heather Day.

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