Creating New Designs

Posted by Sheree Burlington on Mar 24th 2015

I've been in Museware Pottery design mode for the last month. When designing, I am a twisted combination of exhilarated and depressed. One day, my designs are brilliant. The next, they suck. I love the process. No, I fricken hate it. I've spent 30 days flying high and then crashing. I'm exhausted.

Creatives are almost unanimously plagued by uncertainty. That's because the creative process is actually one bad design decision followed by another. After discovering all of the ways not to do something, we eventually find something that speaks to us. This is what designers call voice. It's our own particular way of carving away the unwanted until we fall in love with what's left. It's an unpredictable, organic process and one that does not adhere to a time line. I've often said that it's like childbirth - you wonder how you'll survive it and once it's over, all you care about is the awesome new thing you've created. I have a similar relationship with writing. To quote author Dorothy Parker. "I hate writing. I love having written." 

Because creators have to create, I'm driven to try new things. Last year, I began hand sketching. Armed with photocopy paper, a pencil, eraser and a Sharpie, I obsessively drew page after page of crooked flowers. Hats. Kitchen utensils. Tea cups. Alphabets. I have literally hundreds of pages of childlike, really naive sketches. They make me laugh - because I'm both embarrassed and entertained by them.

This is a series of sketches I did for a surface pattern design class I took on Skillshare. The instructions were to photograph things in nature and create simple sketches inspired by those images. New England received over 6' of snow during the assignment period. Since nature in my world was pretty much buried, I turned to Pinterest for nature inspiration.

While sulking at my computer over my lack of direction, I picked up one of these sketches. Huh, I thought. Those little leaf stem thingies are kind of cute. I like that flower. Probably not that mosquito. Maybe that little wreath thing. At least it was a start - so I tossed them into the scanner and brought them into Photoshop. I put this here, placed that there and moved things around. I tweaked, scaled, rotated and layered. When I was satisfied, I printed the results and taped them to our pottery shapes. Then I showed them to The Women. They raised their eyebrows and smiled.

Since we all liked what we saw, I moved on to the next step. Stamp making used to be torture. Like stay the hell away from Sheree when she's making stamps because she's Psycho torture. The reason I was psycho was because the process took forever, the material was expensive and the results were completely unreliable. I'd spend all day coughing and hacking over caustic chemicals only to create crap stamps that ended up in the trash. About a year ago, our supplier introduced us to a new, way more expensive product that changed my relationship with stamp production. I am now a Stamp Making Machine. The girls aren't scared of me anymore.

And just look at these gorgeous stamps! I even made the little fonts in that wooden tray. Bought long square dowels at Home Depot and had them cut into 1 1/4" pegs (not recommended.) Cut out and glued 26 letters and 10 numbers onto each little peg. I cannot tell you how impressed I was with myself. Or, how long it took. 

Stamp making is followed by stamp testing. Here are our first freshly made samples (I drew all of this stuff!) So far, we still like the results. This can change at any time, but for now, we're moving forward. We'll glaze them & let them dry overnight. They'll go into the kiln in the morning. Once in the kiln, they'll fire to 1835* for about 9 hours. 

Pulling new designs from the kiln is a lot like Christmas morning. I'm like a kid hovering around the hot kiln, waiting for it to cool enough to open - just so I can peek. These plates were so hot when they came out that Nicole brought them to me wearing gloves. There are more samples firing as I write this. And more in my head.

We are so excited about this new collection and cannot wait to share it all with you. Look for our new Sketch Book Collection on our site sometime around April 15th (5 days after my 60th birthday.) 

Oh - here is the design that was created for my surface pattern design class. You'll recognize those amazing trees from my sketches. Wicked fun. Read about my pattern making journey here. 

Thanks for visiting. TTYL.