The Stagecoach Story

 

There was a very personal angle to this summer’s Stagecoach Inn project. The Inn, just down the road from my parents’ home in Belton, was the elegant special occasion place for me and my family. My late husband John and I held our wedding rehearsal dinner there in 1970. And my parents celebrated their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries, among many other family milestones, at the Stagecoach.

It has been a thrill to see the wall sconces handmade in our shop lighting the way in the newly refurbished Stagecoach and an honor to have some small part in bringing the Inn back to life.

 

Custom Sconce for Stagecoach Inn

The Stagecoach order for 175 sconces is the biggest lighting job we’ve ever had and custom to boot. It was a satisfying experience for many reasons. The design was well within our customary technique and the folks at Clayton & Little Architects who commissioned the work were flexible and friendly. They first asked us to come up with a design reflecting the pattern on an antique door at the Inn. But when their design director came to the studio to see the preliminary work, he noticed other finished work on the shelf and changed direction. We worked together to come up with a coach-sized sconce with an old school pull chain. The hand formed terra cotta bead on the end of the chain added just the right rustic touch

We’ve done a lot of custom work over the years, and that creative collaboration can be a joy. I remember opening a kiln full of happy looking frogs all ready to jump from the        firing into their role as fountain spouts. The frogs were part of the 2012 renovation of the Perry Estate reflecting pool in Austin.

So don’t be afraid to ask about custom.

frogs in kiln copy

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Boteco Food Truck

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We have a new food truck! Boteco sells Brazilian street food and has done a great job sprucing up area where they serve their food at handmade picnic tables under the shade.

I had the pastel de carne and yuca fries, and it was delicious!

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Day of the Dead (and discount code)

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It’s safe to say that Day of the Dead is our favorite holiday here at Clayworks. When we were kids my dad made paper maché heads to put on sticks to line our sidewalk at Halloween. And he loved making colorful death-inspired masks out of clay in November; in fact the one playing the flute with his bony, skeleton hand was inspired by my clarinet-playing husband.

Masks

The “Night Rider” tile was one of the last tiles my dad made before he got sick, and was designed in collaboration with my brother. He also loved, each year, waiting outside his shop on East 6th Street for the Viva la Vida parade to come by, Austin’s 35-year-old Day of the Dead parade.

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So as a way of celebrating the people we’ve lost here (and they are, unfortunately, too many in our small, extended Clayworks family), Angelica and Stewart are making old and new Day of the Dead tiles, candle coves, and masks. Come get yours.

Everything from the Day of the Dead collection on our website is 15% off today through November 7th — just use discount code “Day of the Dead” at check out.

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Reviving Mud

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The beautiful, all-knowing, Angelica Fabian mixing clay from scratch.

Written by Alice (the potters’ daughter)

The last post from Clayworks here on our blog, Mud was in 2013. I’m not sure what happened in 2014, but I know why there were no posts in 2015, ’16, or ’17. In 2015 my parents became grandparents, and a few months later my dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. We lost him in 2016. Our personal lives, and our Clayworks lives, were shattered.

There were times we wondered if it might be better to just let it all go. Clearing out forty years of Clayworks (forty years of my dad) from our East Sixth Street galleries was too much to bear. There were days when everything came out of the kiln all wrong: things cracked, glaze colors were off—and we didn’t know why. There were projects where we simply gave up and refunded customers.

There were days we brought hand-written formulas to Armadillo Clay and asked them to help us decipher what materials, exactly, my dad had written down on the back of this scrap of cardboard taped to the (now empty) glaze bucket. Please help us, we said. And they did. So many people did.

Thank you artisans of East Austin. So many of you served as resources in our first year doing this on our own.

We’ve streamlined our glazes and our products, nearly all our firings have been good this year. Angelica knows our clay materials like the back of her hand, Stewart knows what goes in the glazes. We have a new website, and things today are relatively quiet (in a good way). Our galleries are leased to the energetic, creative guys at Volcom, and we work in the old studio out back. Interesting work keeps coming our way, and Stewart, Angelica, and my mom have taken on custom projects and more.

We have spent the last two years building ourselves back up, and we are ready to launch our new website, reconnect via our newsletter, and revive our blog, revive Mud.

We are glad to still be here. We think my dad would be glad we stuck it out too.

John Gray at the wheel -Bill McCullough Photography

Photo of John Gray at the wheel by Bill McCullough

 

 

 

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Making a Tile Address Plaque

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Soldner Clay mixer at rest

Making a tile address plaque begins with the mixing of clay. We buy clay that has been mined, dried, pulverized, screened and shipped to our local clay supplier.  These various clays come from various parts of the country, but since we add the water here when we blend and mix our clay the shipping weight and carbon use is diminished by about a third of what it would be to transport wet clay. IMG_0751

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To make a tile number we first create a clay slab either by extruding or rolling.

Molds, which we create here in our shop either from plaster or rubber, are pressed into the slab and the number is then cut to size.DSCN7149

DSCN7148Drying is accomplished by placing the number in the sun onto expanded metal which allows the clay to dry equally on all sides and greatly reduces the likelihood of warping.

After  the clay has dried, we either bisque it or glaze it green. To bisque means to do a preliminary firing, usually at a low temperature. A green tile is one that is dry but not fired.IMG_0763

At our studio we have traditionally done most of our glazing on green clay but recently we have begun bisquing  the tiles which are decorated with the use of a syringe. For some reason we have been getting a greater percentage of tiles with faults that need to be reglazed a placed back in the kiln when we use green tiles. So we are bisquing most of them now.

This is how we get the glaze on the tiles. This is a veterinary syringe.

The glazed tile is now ready to be place in the kiln along with other objects.  We try not to fire a kiln unless it is full.IMG_0746

Firing the kiln takes about 15 hours. Six or seven of those hours, only the pilot light is on. Slowly raising the heat to about 300°F and holding it there ensures all the clay objects are dry and will not crack from steam escaping the clay.

IMG_0749 IMG_0750We usually have an inventory of finished numbers and decorative trim peaces so that our clients won’t have to wait the 2 or 3 weeks it takes to complete the tile making process.DSCN7167

Here you can see how we put our plaques together. Thin set mortar onto concrete board. After the mortar is dry the piece is grouted .  Notice the predrilled holes in the corner tiles for attaching to the wall with screws.

DSCN7168The finished plaque is grouted and can have various colors surrounding it.

More number styles can be seen at http://www.clayworks.net

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Two Craftsman Sconces

IMG_0698Two unglazed, unfired craftsman sconces are drying on a shelf and waiting to be glazed and loaded into the kiln.

We will post photos of the sconces after they have been glazed red-brown, fired and fitted with art glass windows.

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Branded Sconce

A customer ordered 7 sconces with a custom design; a Texas ranch brand.  They provided a thumbnail image.  We took it into Adobe Illustrator, traced it and saved it as a vector file.  Then it was scaled to fit the sconce keeping in mind that it will shrink 12% after firing.  We printed, traced and carved this pattern into clay.  Then we poured a polyurethane mold.  Once the mold has been removed, it’s ready to use as a custom design stamp.  The brand will be pierced so that light shines through at night.

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