Sunday, November 16, 2008

Skilled potter shares secrets of trade

Successful Etsier and offline studio potter, Deb Babcock of Steamboat Springs, Colo., has worked with clay for seven years now, but each new piece often is her favorite.

She admits, though, teapots hold a special place in her heart. "I love making teapots because of the animation and personality that you can put into one," says Babcock, who started working with clay after she left a corporate job in Michigan.

"I love working in clay -- it's very meditative." Babcock says. "I especially love working with porcelain on my wheel because it can be thrown very thinly and then altered in beautiful ways such as softly rolling over the rim on pieces. Glazes on porcelain are so clear and bright."

Having studied under such renowned potters as Clary Illian, Meira Mathison, Sylvie Granitelli, Julia Galloway, Bonnie Seeman, Sarah Jaeger and Sandi Pierantozzi, Babcock says she is grateful for the the skills she's learned from each potter.

"From each of these wonderful artists, I usually take away a new technique or way of creating that I then incorporate into my own pottery voice," she says.

Babcock has taken classes at Anderson Ranch in Aspen, Colo., and at Laloba Clay Ranch, as well as some college courses at different universitites in the state. "What I've liked about each of them is their willingness to share techniques and their philosophies about the art we make. For the most part, they were all very approachable and down to earth despite being so well-known and sought after," Babcock says. "I'm still in contact with many of them."

Living in a town of only 10,000 people, Babcock says she loves the extra reach Etsy allows her.

"In terms of reaching people throughout the world, the comraderie among etsy sellers, and the opportunity to sell my work to such a wide audience," she says.

Her advice to other Etsiers: "Communicate well with your customers; they like reassurance that the purchase they made from you was a great choice and that you'll stand behind your work. Promote yourself, because if people don't know how to find you, they can't see or buy your work."

She has a Thomas Stuart electric wheel. "I throw standing up. And an L and L Kiln that I love."

Babcock says she makes most of her own glazes and has experimented with layering the glazes to achieve some deep, rich color combinations.

"I've recently started experimenting successfully with crystalline glazes, which require Lithium in order to grow crystals in the kiln," she says. "It happens that Steamboat Springs is home to one of only two above-ground Lithia Springs in the world (the other is in Germany). I use water from this spring to make my crystalline glazes."

Babcock has words of wisdom for those who want to work in clay but don't have equipment: "Most towns (even small ones like mine) have art centers where you can go and use their facilities and equipment. If that's not available, go online and find classes or workshops you can take at art centers in other cities. Or, make friends with a local potter...she might let you use some of her equipment and/or fire work that you made at home!"

Babcock says she loves hearing feedback from customers on Etsy, and with nearly 500 sales under her belt since she opened shop in August 2006, she's gotten many responses.

"Probably the one that stands out most in my mind is a woman who bought one of my handmade cups for a friend who is going blind," Babcock remembers. "She told me that the feel of a handmade cup like mine would help her friend always be able to tell which coffee cup was hers even if she couldn't see it. Doesn't that make your heart race a little faster?"

Babcock's work is available at

She has graciously agreed to a giveaway. Here are the rules: For one week, from Nov. 17 to Nov. 24, anyone who makes a purchase from her shop and mentions seeing Babcock's profile on this blog will receive a porcelain holiday lapel pin.

And the winner of the drawing among those who comment here will receive one of Babcock's dragonfly anything dishes.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dollmaker offers modern twist

Belinda, better known as Bee to her friends, makes clothespin dolls in her Victoria, Australia, home.

The 30-something mom was searching the Web one day, found the pin dolls and thought, "Wow! I would love to give that a go!"

Always ready for a new challenge, Bee started making her own style of pin dolls a few months and found a whimsical release in the making.

"The first lot were kind of OK, but by the time I had the second batch done, I was happy with the style and clothes, faces, etc. and had a great time making them." Bee says. "They are addictive. They all have different little personalities and the end product surprised me sometimes."

Sorting out personalities and looks for each doll is a joy in itself.

"I'm not into prim style, so I have made them more to my taste and put a modern twist to most of them," Bee says. "And I LOVE fairies!"

As many Etsians can attest, posting on the site often leaves sellers buried in troves of new items posted and reposted every hour.

"I love selling on Etsy, but being such a large site you seem to dissapear a bit," she says. "I also sell on a smaller Australian site and offline to friends and family."

Her flickr site is available at

Bee's target market for her charming dolls is collectors or young adult girls. "The dolls are not really made for playing with, more as a keepsake/collectors type of thing."

Asked her favorite thing about selling on Etsy, Bee says: "I really love when someone receives their item and takes the time not just to leave feedback but to email me to tell me how happy they are with it. I get a buzz out of that."

Now you can own one of these great pin dolls! Bee has graciously agreed to a giveaway. Simply comment on this post or tell us about your favorite creation by Bee. Between Nov. 16 (today) and Nov. 23. Leave your comments here. We will choose a winner at random.

So which adorable doll will the lucky winner get? Maisy!!

She is the little fairy pictured at left.

A talented go-getter, Bee has a few words of advice for dollmakers just starting out on Etsy: "Just make what you love in the style that you love, and it will show through in your work.

"Work on your own style and get them to a stage where you are completely happy with them, and go for it! It's wonderful when someone loves your items enough to purchase them."

Bee's shop is at

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Scrabble tile pendants

I just got my Scrabble tile pendants from Home Studio in the mail. They are perfect! So well done! They are having a great sale: 4 pendants for $25 or 4 pendants and chains for $35.

At left is my favorite. I'm giving away the other three as gifts. Sterling chains at Home Studio are only $5, which is a great price.

The chain I got was superb, looks just like the one in the photo. It takes a great eye to pair the chain to a pendant. It's a subtle but important, and they do a great job!

Check out Home Studio at and my shop at