Working with Queen Anne’s Lace



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Queen Anne’s Lace is one of my favorite wild flowers, and I often use it in my botanical pottery pieces. In Vermont, where the growing season is short, the Queen Anne’s Lace is starting to go to seed.  Though there has been plenty of time to work with this plant, my summer was quite full running Clay Play Camp and doing a myriad of other things, so I am feeling squeezed to make the Queen Anne’s pieces that I had hoped to make before their season ends.

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Just as its name suggests, this plant is both delicate and regal.  Like a queen, it has a certain strength.  It doesn’t blow over in the wind, or bend with heavy rains, and its white flowers stay proud and white before curling up to a strong boney frame that lasts through the winter months, poking out of the snow so you can remember the warmer days behind you and those yet to come.  In the summer it grows in fields and on roadsides, volunteering itself with ease.  Yet, when you go to pick it, it doesn’t break free from where it has rooted itself very easily.  I must remember to collect it with clippers in tow and a bucket of water to place the picked flowers in.  For if the Queen Anne’s Lace is without water, it quickly shrivels up into a wilted mop, and its white petals become dust.

In Victorian times, flowers and plants were assigned meanings, and remembering this symbolism in modern day is still popular.  I enjoy thinking about these meanings when I work with a particular plant.  In the secret language of flowers, Queen Anne’s Lace is a symbol of femininity and represents perseverance in love.  It is a prolific plant which spreads its seeds in the wind and is even considered an invasive plant in some states. Originally a native plant of Europe, Queen Anne’s Lace was popular in the during the reign of Queen Anne. It is also known as Wild Carrot because it is related to the carrot, but it is actually in the parsley family!img_0268

Queen Anne’s Lace has medicinal uses.  The seeds have been used to help clear out urinary stones, and the roots which are like carrots, have been used as antacids.  A poultice of roots can be used to relieve itchy skin.

Invasive or not, I love the wispy appearance of this plant despite its true tenacity.

To see my Facebook Album, “A Step-by-Step Process of Working With Queen Anne’s Lace”, click on the following link. Botanical Wall Hanging: From Field to Firing

 

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Turning A Hobby Into A Business

I love my studio!
I love my studio!

It felt somewhat daunting to carry out my big idea of turning a small barn on our property into a pottery studio, but I have had a lot of fun along the way making a dream into a reality. I have discovered that a lot of small steps can add up to a big accomplishment, and that is how my pottery business was born.

When I first had the idea to make pottery, I had no plans to turn it into a business. Our family had moved into an old farmhouse with an empty barn, and with the enormous support of my handy husband, we decided that the barn provided an opportunity to create a studio. I always liked making crafts and enjoyed working with clay, but it is a difficult medium to use if you can’t fire the clay into pottery. So I bought a used kiln, a few bags of clay, and a how-to book for beginners. My focus was on setting up a hobby studio on a small budget and figuring out how to fire a kiln. My first pieces were pretty awful, but I paid attention, took some notes, and then made more work.

After a while I needed a way to pay for my somewhat expensive hobby. My kids were school age, and summer camps were expensive, so I had the idea of bringing camp to us. Clay Play Studio Art Camp was born on a shoestring and with no grand plan beyond the first summer. It started as a fun idea that would incorporate my love of clay with my love of teaching, but little by little it has grown into an established program with a full time assistant. Many campers return year after year into their teens, and I am proud to say that I fill up early each summer.

Inside of the studio I have a big table my husband built for me to do my hand-built pottery.
Inside the studio I have a big table that my husband built for me to do my hand-built pottery.
My older daughter during one of the first summers of Clay Play Studio Art Camp.
My older daughter during one of the first summers of Clay Play Studio Art Camp.
My younger daughter with her clay creation at clay camp.  It lives in our kitchen and holds yummy things.
My younger daughter and her clay creation at clay camp. It lives in our kitchen and holds yummy things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two years ago I started my online Etsy shop. It felt like a monumental task before I started, but as I took the steps to make it happen, I was surprised by how easy it was. The financial investment was so small that I felt compelled to give it a go.   I still have a lot to learn about how to photograph my work, how to describe the pieces, and how to ship, but it has been so exciting and so much fun to learn. Previously I had been selling my work on a very small scale locally, so it still amazes me that I am now shipping my work around the world!

Most recently I took a step out of my comfort zone to develop this website. Believe me, I am about the furthest thing there is from a techie. In my household I am better known for messing up the computer than for making it work. The idea of building a website by myself seemed like a tremendous task. I have been surprised that it has been easier than I thought it might be, and as I take on the endeavor piece by piece, my site is taking shape. The other day I even figured out how to add a plug-in and create a widget, two bits of terminology that I never heard of until a few weeks ago. Now readers can sign up to subscribe to receive future blog posts!

Many years ago when out on a walk through the Vermont hills with my dear college friend, Grace, she said to me, “walking is so easy, you just put one foot in front of the other.”   I was chugging along on that walk, and it didn’t feel so easy in the moment, but it made sense then that just one step at a time added up to a significant walk. “One foot in front of the other” has turned into one of my self-talk mottos for how I approach my life, as each small step I take leads me towards a bigger goal. When I first got the idea to make a studio at home, I could not have envisioned how my desire to make some pottery for fun would have impacted my life so much today. By pushing myself to take each next step, even when it has felt a bit overwhelming, I have experienced one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my life. As my children could tell you because they have heard it so many times (possibly to their annoyance): “It is better to do something than nothing at all”.   When new ideas came to me, I could have done nothing, but all of those times that I did one more thing added up to turning a hobby that I loved into a successful business.

Getting pottery organized for a fair outside of the studio.
Getting pottery organized for a fair.

 

 

Winter Studio Down Under

Every winter I have to close my studio because the little red barn is difficult to keep heated 24/7.  When the temperatures drop I carry all of the clay and glazes into the protection of my basement for the coldest months of the year.  In former years I used the winter time to take a forced break from my clay work.

Last winter I decided that instead of taking a break from my work during the winter that I would set up shop down under.  I did, it was cold, it was poorly lit, but I was productive and I created a new line of work.

When we purchased the farmhouse, the basement had a dirt floor with little head room, but some years ago my husband dug it out (literally) and we had a concrete floor poured. The basement has a stone foundation that is over 200 years old, there are hardly any windows, and the ceiling is still pretty low.

Winter studio in the basement of our 200+ year old farmhouse. Notice the stone foundation.

*Winter studio in the basement of our 200+-year-old farmhouse. Notice the stone foundation.

Fast forward to this winter. I told myself that this year I really was going to take a break, and that I was not going to subject myself to the cold damp and dark work environment. Then I received a custom order that I really wanted to make. So here I am, back in the basement. And I am happy.  In fact I can’t even imagine if there was no clay in my hands!

Winter as it turns out is a great time to make pottery.  The busy days of the holiday season are behind me.  The garden is not calling.  Life is fairly low key.  I am grateful for my basement.

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*Pottery and a wall of shipping boxes surround the ping pong table.

Clay camp tables and shelves come out of storage for the winter studio.

*Clay camp tables and shelves come out of storage and are recycled for the winter studio.