25 Apr 2014

Looking to north.

Posted in Art making

Things in the studio are looking up and I’m pretty darn pleased. Deadlines are a blessing. Stressful blessings.

Hank Dreams of Espresso (But He Knows He is a Bison) Sarah Regan Snavely

First there was the sculpture of the bison with pigeon on his back. Look there, all finished. With finished walnut base and everything!

Hank Dreams of Espresso... Sarah Regan Snavely

This is where we last saw Hank the Bison on this blog – in his unfired clay state. He rested comfortably on his side, spending his days slowing drying.

The finishing process was uneventful – save for my minor meltdown questioning my design choices. Well just the one design choice: What was I thinking when I decide to make a standing Bison with all that weight on those little legs? I had no plan for how I was going to fire this guy.

I figured it out.

So this is Hank dreams of Espresso (But Knows He is a Bison). Hank is on his way to an exhibit at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Primitive bison Sarah Regan Snavely

The next deadline is the raku firing at Dickinson State University. This time I made a series of little bison. Two and a half inches long. Roughly.

The first firing – the bisque firing – will reach a different temperature than what I usually fire work. Will this make a difference?

I have big dreams for this herd to expand. More on that later.

Bison Sarah Regan Snavely

And then the possibility of an exhibit with other North Dakota artists arose. Short deadline, but I’m motivated by deadlines, right?

I can enter three works for the jurying process. The committee with pick one or two or all or none. Since it is a North Dakota show, I wanted work that had some connection to North Dakota. Sure there is that Custer-owned-Greyhounds thing, but I wanted something a little more specific.

I started a jackalope piece earlier this year. So I finished the antlers and rocks that make up the base. The jackalope piece is drying comfortably.

Also in the studio is a Pronghorn/Greyhound piece I began ages ago. It is both weird and requires hanging in a somewhat complex way. This might make display in the exhibition space impossible.

Then I started this big Bison. Big is relative. This time I thought about how I was going to fire him before I started construction. I wanted this piece to be as large as possible and still be fired in one piece in my kiln. The kiln shelf this work is sitting on in the photo above is 23″ in diameter.

Bison - Sarah Regan Snavely

I should buy a bigger kiln. To get the one I want I would have to spend around $7500. Or I could build one. Can only muse about this now. Must stay on task. Deadlines!

Now I wait for big bison to dry so he can be fired. Will that happen before the deadline for entry?

2 Apr 2014

The big blizzard.

As far as blizzards go, this last one was uninspired. Eleven inches of snow, schools and businesses closed, and the threat of one to three more inches of snow today. Eh. I’m thankful the power stayed on, that area ranchers didn’t lose livestock, and that my back muscles got a free workout courtesy of shoveled snow. But this blizzard did not have that distinct feeling of slowing down life to a maple-syrup paced crawl.

I blame Facebook.

“I’ll make a cup of tea and curl up with that book after I take photos of the snow, my dogs running around in the snow, the ice sickles on my neighbor’s shed, the snow plow, etc.” Must let everyone I know (and barely know) that it is snowing in North Dakota!

Factor in the time spent looking at the road conditions map and at everyone else’s snow pictures on Facebook, and inventorying and procrastinating the household chores that must be done, I barely got a page turned or a sip of tea.

Plates - Sarah Regan Snavely

Feeling like it’s time to wean myself from the cell phone/iMac/iPad. Unless it’s for audio books. I need these devices for audio books! And email… Maybe just a Facebook sabbatical…


Earlier I unloaded the glaze kiln. Plates and mugs occupied the majority of the firing. I did take some time on Blizzard Day to contemplate the results. I am pleased. The plates are almost dinner plates and salad plates. Clay shrinks. Must get those dinner plates a little larger.


Making plates is a new thing for me. I worked on form – trying to get a pleasing and functional shape – and also finding designs that decorate the form without interfering with the function or obscuring the purpose of the plate. Fun brain puzzle.

Unloaded several mugs also, some with new glazes and combinations of glazes. 


Next step is to measure and photograph each of the mugs. This batch is for the online shop – the next batch of mugs is for the Greyhound Gathering in Kanab. Lots to do in limited time. What I need is another blizzard.

26 Mar 2014

Social media.

There are phrases I don’t need to hear again. Point in time. Politically correct. Safe haven. Social media. One must be able to find better words in our rich vocabulary of possibilities to describe these things?

And – oh no! – Facebook is changing the reach of its pages feature. What will we do without Facebook disseminating information!? I think I’ll keep blogging and building my email newsletter (and still posting to Facebook and Instagram occasionally).

And, hey, I’m going to the Greyhound Gathering in Kanab, Utah. If you are going too, we can talk without the aid of these computer-thingies!

Smoke firing in a barrel kiln

Many things to be done to prepare for the event in Kanab, Utah. I’m also looking to have an online mug sale between now and then. I’ve been working on throwing pleasing bottles and plates. Firing more mugs right now.

Last week I ferreted out all the mugs and bowls I consider seconds. Some are not-quite-right. Others are pieces that are functional but not a design I want to make again. All are coming with me to Kanab. Three big totes of seconds with reduced prices. All are too good to subject to Mr. Hammer, but not good  enough to photograph and measure and list on the online shop. Come to Kanab!

Sarah Regan Snavely Bison

I’m also working on an exhibit for Dickinson State University. I’ll be exhibiting with fellow North Dakota artist, Cris Fulton. Excited. My plan is to work out some of the ideas that have been living in my sketchbook – work about living in North Dakota. The photo above is an early look at one of the bison for the show. Challenging. The form is one thing, but the narrative is another. How to revise the story am I trying to tell? Time and work.

Sarah Regan Snavely plate design

Art & fine craft is social media. I make a mug and you use it to drink your favorite tea. My sculpture reminds you of your greyhound with the big ears and extra long snout. It is the making of social objects – over and around which we share stories and thoughts and experiences.

10 Mar 2014

Yesterday was 61.

61 degrees Fahrenheit. Really! And now the time change. Spring must be coming soon. Even to North Dakota.

It has been a long winter. Even for North Dakota. The winter malaise seems to have struck everyone around me. Include me in that too. Keep plugging along. My north facing driveway is almost ice free.


Work in the studio has been going well. I’m pleased about this. I gave the last of the low-fire coarse earthenware clay body to the high school for use in their sculpture class. If I don’t like  working with that clay, why should I keep using it? Time to move on. Tomorrow I’ll take 250+ pounds of Raku clay to the University for the students there. Good deal. Someone can use it and I don’t feel the guilt for throwing it out.

Time to move on.

Here’s the other thing on my mind: I need to take a break from tile making. The tiles in the online shop are going to be the last of them for a while. I’m thinking I’ll retire most of the designs, maybe all. And start over. Or not.

There are new ideas to try. Must make room for them. 

11 Feb 2014


Posted in Art making

I love raw clay. It would be helpful to the blogging process if I could articulate this. I’ll try but with all great love affairs there is that part that is unexplainable. Yes?

The first time I remember being aware of the love of clay was in a Sculpture 101 class in college. The assignment was mold making – to sculpt an object out of clay that was then covered with plaster. Into the plaster mold went hydro-stone or some other artist’s plaster stuff. Making multiples was the object. Good stuff to know.

I made an Afghan hound. All that flowy hair was helpful – no undercuts. A ceramics major in the class – a girl I regarded as a mean girl – came over to my work table. She shifted her weight to one hip, raised one hand to her chin, and eyed my piece. I braced. Here it comes.

She reached out and ran a finger down the spine of the Afghan. “Shame it can’t be clay forever,” she said.

At the time, I didn’t know what to say. I remember saying something like, “sure,” or something else short and non-committal. Experience with previous conversations with her had taught me to say as little as possible. But I didn’t understand, really, what she was talking about that day.

Clay Rabbit on armature

Of course, I figured it out long ago. (I’ve been out of college for how long? Sheesh…). Now when the sculptures reach the point like the one above – what is called leather hard – I wish, wish, wish I could keep it in that state.

Impossible. Not practical. The work must be dehydrated – dried and fired. Turned to stone.

It’s okay. But I’m thinking about the surface of these pieces a lot lately. Changes afoot.

5 Feb 2014

About making jars & work

Posted in Art making

There was a kid standing in front of the library desk the other day. She’s a nice kid. Clever. She looks at me like I’m the lamest person in the world if I tell a silly joke, then she’ll roll her eyes. But I can tell she likes it.

She asked for a page to color. I did a google search. Post-modern life has no room for the bound newsprint based pictures. Google brought up an image of an owl. “Nope, too hard” she said. Then another. Same response. I think she’s a fourth grader.

Too hard. Really? She’s not the only kid that says this. “Too hard.”

Greyhound jar Sarah Regan Snavely

I wish I could remember what I was like in fourth grade. I wish I could teach this kid how much I enjoy doing hard things. How much value there is in the process of trying, and, sometimes, failing. That the process has value.

Granted, it’s only a coloring page. I would understand if she said boring.

Sarah Regan Snavely rabbit jar

I’ve been making lidded jars. Some have two lids – a flat, knobbed interior lid and a cupped exterior lid with figure on top.  Some have only the cupped lid with figure. Some of the bodies of the jars have drawings. All are to some extent tests. Glaze tests. Shape tests. Lid design tests.


I’m having so much fun making these jars. Man, is it difficult. I struggle with centering the clay, making shapes that I find appealing, incorporating a narrative in the drawing, engineering a lid that fits, maintaining the integrity of the figure on top while keeping scale and proportion in mind, and applying glaze with efficiency.


Then the tail cracks, the clay warps during drying or firing, or the glaze is uneven or unappealing. But this shape is more successful than that shape. This lid fits really well. This design is visually harmonious. Next time they will be better.

Jack Rabbit jar Sarah Regan Snavely

We continued the search for the coloring page and settled on one that was more difficult that she liked. A little more complex. Slightly.

28 Jan 2014

From the land of sleet and snow

Had enough of the cold? Yes, me too. It occurred to me as I was clipping the Greyhound’s toenails that I have clipped the hound’s nails many times this winter. And that frequency of dog toenail clipping is directly proportional to how long the winter feels. Poor dogs. Long toenails equal not enough walks and exercise. Our world is bitter cold and icy this winter.


Then again, plenty of studio time to be had. And plenty of time to chew on bully sticks (the dogs, ahem, not me. Ew…)

Started a new toy poodle sculpture. Look closely and you’ll see his little maquette next to the sponge. The big/little guy has a tongue and some teeth now and less buggy eyes and is missing that slightly unnerving pipe coming out of his neck.


One benefit of winter is there are plenty of opportunities to try the mugs I’ve made. This is is my current favorite, funky rim and all. More mugs are on the agenda. Sale soon. Pinky swear.


Speaking of sales, the latest batch of memory boxes will be available in my online shop beginning Thursday, January 30th at Noon Eastern time. The photos and information are in the shop now if you’d like to view the boxes before the sale opens. You know the details: they are all one of a kind, handmade, individuals.

5 Jul 2013

Small jobs.

Posted in Art making

The fourth of July has passed? Already? How can that be?

Greyhound sculpture © Sarah Regan Snavely

Time zips along… faster than a speeding greyhound. Or something like that. Where are the long summer evenings I remember as a child? Does it feel like time is rolling faster than it used to? Like life is speeding up rather than slowing down?

Greyhound sculpture © Sarah Regan Snavely

For the month of June, I tracked my time. Really how much time am I at the computer? At the library job? Working in the studio? Working on non-studio art related things? I guessed. So full steam ahead, I downloaded an app on my iPhone and pledged to track every detail of the entire month. I discovered I work about 60 hours a week – thats studio + non-studio art related + library job.

ceramic box urn © Sarah Regan Snavely

I was surprised by this number. This month didn’t include time sucking activities like an exhibit or event. “I’m tired,” I thought.

Greyhound sculpture © Sarah Regan Snavely

And then, like magic, the universe provided a break. Long ago I decided to have a dental implant installed(?) to fill the gap where my left eye tooth used to be. I put this off. For years. Then I decided to buck up, let’s move this thing along, stop being a chicken. I talked to people with dental implants. No problem. Mild discomfort. I went ahead with the procedure.


And thanks to some funky complications – hello, sinuses, you are the bullies on my elementary school playground – I’ve gotten my break. Turns out, I hate breaks. I want to work. I love work.


So small tasks and more drugs. Why does everything have to be a learning experience?

29 May 2013

Perfectionism is a brain eating zombie.

Posted in Art making

There is an idea eating my brain today. Perfection.


It started this morning. I packed an order and I wasn’t too pleased with myself since it contained a tile that I’d forgotten to send with a previous order. Somewhat embarrassed I wrapped the tile in bubble wrap. It was a small tile so required minimal amount of time and money to ship it. Nothing compared to a memory box. My head latched on to the time and cost spent anyway. When I discovered that I didn’t have the tiles to fill the next order, my head shifted into second gear. We were off.

“Why do I mess things up?” Shifting into third.

“Why don’t I have a better system? Why do I make so many things that are so many different sizes requiring so many different sized shipping boxes?” Fourth gear.

“Stupid. You’ve been at this awhile. You should have figured out a better storage/inventory/web store/restocking/workflow method by now.” Fifth gear.

My internal critic is sailing down the road in a red convertible with the top down, singing her favorite song at the top of her lungs.

Everything she says is correct. She’s right, except for the stupid part since I, too, know I need a better system, that some of my work habits are counterproductive, that there is efficiency to be found. The sketches of storage systems, packing stations, and work-flow options litter my sketchbook. I know that I should hire someone to be my pack and ship person since time is precious and studio time is even more so. I know I need to have some continuity with my glazes and that time has come to retire 95% of the tile designs and come up with new, exciting work. I know I need a big studio clean out that is going to take a tag sale or seconds sale or a visit from Mr. Hammer. I know I need buy that heavyweight shelving for both the studio and the storage room, set up the tables dedicated for packing and shipping, and get that spare computer set up with the scale and printer so I don’t have to handle the packed boxes so many times.

I also know that when my internal critic shows up it is indicative of one thing: I’m getting closer. I am making progress. Can’t let the fear stop me now. Must. Keep. Going.

This will be true too: no system is perfect. I need to learn to let some things go.

7 May 2013

10 ways my concentration is shot.

I know I need to write a blog post about how the mugs in the shop will go “live” and be available for sale at 7PM Central time tonight. That is number one on the “to do” list.

Greyhound mug ©2013 Sarah Regan Snavely
Also, I need to finish glazing the tiles for the firing on Wednesday. Then there is the raku firing on Friday. And I can’t forget the appointment with the dentist on Wednesday. They changed the time. Can’t forget that either. I should remember to write it on the calendar.

I wish I had some post-it notes next to the computer. They would be so handy there. I must remember to buy some the next time I’m at the big-box store.

Read in the newspaper today the new Ace Hardware is opening on Monday. I love hardware stores. The only hardware store in town closed down about a year ago. I need a chuck key for my 3/8 drill. I should put that on the list.

Clay rabbits ©2013 Sarah Regan Snavely

I also need to order the tie-dye supplies for the Summer Library Challenge kick-off party. I’ve got the new book bags designed and ordered. I should design the poster, submit advertisements to the local paper and put an ad on the Community calendar on the radio. Also the events calendar for June and July’s library programs needs to be finalized. The library budget meetings are coming up too. Didn’t we just do that?

1978 Paragon Kiln

I should start saving for a new kiln. I could sell this one, buy one with a different shape that would fit my work better. I wish bigceramicstore.com had a wish list/shopping list function.

Reduction firing at Dickinson State University

I wonder how the reduction firing turned out. I will find out on friday at the raku firing. I wonder if my sleeping greyhound and rabbits will look good raku fired? Maybe I want a raku kiln. I know I want a gas kiln. I want every kiln.

Greyhound mugs ©2013 Sarah Regan Snavely

So 7PM Central time is 8Pm Eastern Time and 6PM Mountain time. All the mugs are in the shop now so all I have to do it flip the switch and they’ll be ready to go.

I’m going to write note…

1 May 2013

Watching and waiting.

Posted in Art making

Kiln full of mugs is cooling. This is the hardest part. Waiting.


These are the best mugs I have made so far. Or they were when I put them into the kiln. Glaze firing is a major factor in the outcome. I want to be pleased. This is a problem. Between now and tomorrow afternoon when the kiln is cool enough to open I’ve got to lose my expectations.

But I so so want them to turn out well! The shapes are more confident. The designs are fresh. Overall the mugs should be larger too. Questions answered tomorrow.