Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Tribal Tundra Sapphire Hoops by Pippi Jewelry

Some things, it's obvious that it took insane amounts of time and care to create, like these earrings by my fellow Wire Artisans Guild member (you need to click the link and look at the listing to appreciate the detail on these, this picture makes them look huge but they're not). Still, unless you've bent a wire or two, I bet you have no idea how time intensive something like this is, or how long it takes to build up the calluses that make this not a painful venture. And how hard it is to get the wire to do your bidding, not kink, all that.

But some things, the craftsmanship isn't quite so obvious if you don't know what you're looking at. I'm getting an education in pottery by visiting my friend Patrick at Misty Mountain Pottery. Russ is going to be taking a class from him (and maybe me too). But when we visit Patrick will pull out something and explain to us what it took to get the glaze to look like that, where I hadn't really seen anything but a pot, before, however pretty it was.

And it always occurs to me - the public needs to reconnect with artisanship. You don't have to do every craft to appreciate it. I doubt I'll ever be as passionate about bowls as Patrick is, even if I do throw a few some day. But meeting the people who make things, learning about the process, is eye opening. I was wandering through Wal-Mart (I HAVE to go there sometimes, for a lot of things it's the only place I can get it in town... which i find sad) a few days before Christmas, and I saw a platter that I thought would be perfect for the cheese Russ is enjoying so much these days, but then I thought: I'd rather have a handmade one.

YAY! It's awesome to think that. I'm sure the handmade one will cost me two or three times what that one at Wal-Mart cost (I didn't even look). But something that someone created with their hands, their expertise, their imagination, that has a story, a history. A story that doesn't exploit anyone in a third world country, too. It's awesome if you know the story but even if you don't, the energy that was put into a thing matters.

So my new MO is education. People need to know what it takes to create hand crafted things. Chances are good, if you read my blog, that you make something yourself. Take some time on your own blog, or in another way, to explain your craft to people, especially kids.

It's my hope that I can be part of this artisan education process in days to come, starting with some classes taught at the Fragrant Mushroom Gallery next month. More commentary on a handmade life versus a disposable goods society in days to come, so stay tuned :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Mug Collection!

I decided last year to start replacing my assortment of mugs with handmade ones. So far I have 3 of Thor's at Fragrant Mushroom and one of Patrick's from Misty Mountain Pottery. Both of those guys are friends (and I'm sure I'll buy more of their mugs). But I was perusing Etsy for the fifth mug in my collection today and came across this amazing potter from Pittsburgh who is firing decals onto his pottery with some awesome results. I was attracted to his shop first because of the mugs with the bamboo carved on them (and I may well end up with one!), but when I saw this decal fired dragon I bought it. Check out his shop for other awesome stuff, especially if you enjoy a bit of Oriental flavor to your pottery!

Even better, a portion of his profits support youth art education in Pittsburgh, which I definitely appreciate supporting anywhere!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I think I might've shared my wassail recipe last year but I'm sharing again, because this a HUGE hit at holiday parties. Someone asks me for the recipe every year. Perfect after caroling (does anyone else still go caroling?) Do get yourself some handmade mugs for your warm winter drinks... there's nothing cozier than a warm fire and a warm drink out of a handmade mug.

Holiday Wassail
Corn syrup (this year I used maple syrup and I liked it better - use the real stuff if you do, not Aunt Jemima)
3 Tb. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tb. butter
3 small applies (I like green ones)
1 gallon apple cider (I have a second gallon on hand to top it off usually, it goes fast)
1 lemon (and I added an orange this year)
3-4 cinnamon sticks
whole cloves
Slice applies into 1/4" slices. If you cut them horizontally it shows the pretty star pattern. Remove seeds. Dip slices in syrup, then in cinnamon mixed with sugar. Fry in the butter.
Fill a 4 or 5 quart crock pot with the cider and then put the apples in when they're done. There will be gooey buttery cinnamony goodness in the frying pan, throw that in too. Stir. Toss in the whole cinnamon sticks. Slice the lemons and oranges, if you're using them, and stud each section with a whole clove, and put those in the pot too.
Some years I'll add a little bit of another kind of juice, such as cranberry or pineapple, for a little different flavor. Just a cup or two.
Once everything's in the crock put, put it on high for about an hour to two hours, then turn it to its lowest setting to keep it warm during your get-together.
And of course, a little brandy or rum or even white wine added as its served never hurts... if you put it in the crock pot when it's hot the alcohol cooks off, though. Serve with a cinnamon stick and a curl of lemon peel, if you want it to look pretty.
If you make it once for a party, prepare to make it every year for the same party!