Friday, November 16, 2018

Making Clay Hearts November 14, 2018

Today we met at Sterling House to learn from the expert heart maker, the best way to make the perfect ceramic hearts. Despite her modesty, Patti, the president of the Newtown Hearts of Hope chapter, makes the most perfect hearts I have ever seen. Watching her make them is like watching a Master Class in sculpting. It's not that she has her technique perfected, but when she has each heart in her hand and is shaping and molding the edges, you can actually feel and see the love she is imparting into each one.  It is not a tedious task for her, it is truly a labor of LOVE, and when you watch her, you see it and feel it, it really is something to behold!

So as she was setting us up, I took pictures so that the next time when we are doing this on our own, we hopefully will be able to remember all of the steps. Making these hearts is not as easy as one might thing. 

Before you even begin to think about cutting into the 25 pound block of clay, you need to get everything set up ahead of time so you are not running around looking for the heart, the hole maker, the stamper, the water, the putty knife, the towels, the sheetrock, the pillowcases, the plastic to cover your table, the advil or aleve (because trust me your back is going to hurt after a few hours of this), and I know I am forgetting something. Oh yes, set the depth on the rolling table to the proper setting or your hearts will be too thin or too thick, and we need them to be as Goldilocks would say, Just right!

The clay comes in 50 pound boxes, so you will need to pull out a 25 pound block and lift it on to the table... this is one reason why your back will need Aleve. 
Using the clay slicer, cut about a 1/2 inch of the clay slab, Patti makes it look so easy, trust me, my slices were not neat nor perfect like hers. 

Place the clay slab on the pillow case. We use a pillowcase sandwiched in between the canvas because it leaves less imprint on the clay, which makes a nicer heart. 
Cover the clay slab with the top layer of the pillowcase. 
Cover the pillowcase with the canvas.
With the slab roller set to the appropriate thickness, turn the wheel and the canvas will be drawn through the wheels, flattening the clay. 
Be careful to watch the end of the canvas to see if some clay is shooting out the back end. You may need to trim some clay off, you don't want it to get caught in the metal rollers. 

Pull back the pillowcase and canvas and your clay is ready to be cut into hearts. 
Before putting the clay on the plastic, Patti recommends putting a lot of water down first. This will make it easier to lift the hearts when they have all been cut in the rolled clay. 
Be sure to WET the cutter and the straw each time before putting it into the clay. While the heart cutter is still in place, use the straw to make the hole, this seems to help in stopping the clay from cracking around the hole as it dries. 

Time to cut another slab. 
We don't waste the leftover clay, we rework it into the new piece very slowly and carefully so we don't get bubbles that will explode in the kiln when fired. 

Rewet the plastic before putting the new rolled clay down!

Now it is our time to try making hearts! Good luck, Marianne!

...and Bobbi!
Time to use the stamper!

Bobbi is a Master at stamping!
Three hours later and we have 55 hearts. These will have to dry for a week, then fired in a kiln. 

And then one day, they will be turned into beautiful gifts of art that will be given out thanks to caring people like you. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Painting for Peace in Pittsburgh November 13, 2018

Last night was a unique night.

It should have been a big, happy party where we were gathered together to celebrate our chapter's 2nd birthday, which is something to celebrate, and thank our sponsors, thank our talented ornament artist,  and thank our volunteers, which we did.

But in many respects it was also a somber night because of the cause that we were painting for ...Painting for Peace in Pittsburgh. Gathering together we try to make sense of something that makes no sense, wanting to help those affected the only way we know how, with our small gift of art on a heart and a message of caring.

And like all communities that go through tragedies, as you mourn, you still need to remember to celebrate the little things in life as they come along, like birthdays and friendships and people helping people.  And I think we were able to do all that last night, friends and families gathered around the tables, people came together as strangers, hopefully they left as friends. It was nice to see friends come together, mothers with their children, a grandmother with her granddaughter, and sometimes a person all by themselves because they heard about the event and wanted to do something to help those affected. I hope everyone came away with the feeling that they made an impact on someone's life tonight. I have delivered hearts like these, I have seen the impact they have on the person who receives them...they do matter...they do mean something to the person receiving them...they mean so much more than you will ever know.

Click on a photo to be taken to a larger view. All photos are downloadable once in larger view.

My former student and one of our HoH volunteers, Sasha

One of the reasons we LOVE Riverview Bistro is the amazing food. It is so great that we can eat while we paint!

Terry and Patti
 Marianne and Connie (all the way from South Carolina)
 Patti and Patti
 Carolyn and her granddaughter
 The Basciano crew

 Amanda and her son
 my friend Michael

Linda and Sharon

 our talented artist and creator of the Soto ornament collection Alise Tate and her daughter Bay, who is also one of our high school volunteers

 Our team member Joanne, even a hip replacement can't keep her away


The Port 5 gals
And of course there were speeches thanking our sponsors, volunteers, our artist in residence (Alise Tate), as well as reminding people about our ornament and necklaces that we have for sale. 

 Thank you for all the food you brought in for the Sterling House Back Pack Program!
 Of course what would a party be without a few surprises. We had a check for the Vicki Soto Foundation from our ornament sales. Did you know that 20% of each ornament sold goes to the Soto Foundation? It's not to late to pick of a few for the holidays at Mellow Monkey or our website at
 We also had a check for Sterling House to thank them for all of their support and to support them with their programs. 
... and what would a birthday party be without cake!
 Yes, they made me hand over my camera and took a photo of me. Don't get used to it, I hate having my picture taken. I am much more comfortable behind the camera.

 Here are just a couple hearts from last night...

a few more of the hearts painted at the event