Handmade pottery for the thoughtful home.
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Read the blog for updates on the studio and new works. 

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On Minimalism
 
 Photo by  Jack Li

Photo by Jack Li

So, this is me in what I consider to be "a lot of look," wearing a new hat with one of my favorite coats. I'm a bit of a minimalist and believe in owning a few high quality items I can use daily. It's no coincidence that I bring the same values to Monsoon Pottery. Sometimes friends will visit my studio, pick up one of my seconds and say, “what exactly is wrong with this?” and I respond with a problem that’s imperceptible to them. 

Minimalism puts you in a mindset of, “why should this have a place in my life,” which, as a result, drives my quality standards to a potentially unhealthy extreme. Instead of making work around the idea of what might be fun for the season, I’m thinking about how I hope my pieces will be inherited through generations of families as treasured heirlooms.

Sometimes it feels crazy to contextualize my work on such a long timeline but it would honestly make me feel so bad if a piece of Monsoon Pottery wasn’t perfectly beautiful, functional, and durable for you. If it doesn’t show up for you 100% every day, it’s disposable. 

 
Night Sky Mugs
 

INSPIRATION

Have you ever noticed how clear the night sky looks in winter? There's actually two reasons why--the first is that colder temperatures make it harder for the atmosphere to hold moisture and the second is that we (in the northern hemisphere) face the outside spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy in the winter. In the summer we face the center of the galaxy which is far more dense with stars.

These two effects combine to create vivid night sky viewing conditions in the winter. I'm fascinated by the universe and stargazed regularly growing up in upstate New York; a hobby that eventually led to studying Physics and Astrophysics in college. I know. I pivoted. Hard.

After the production madness surrounding the holiday retail season I needed to work on a passion project to bring me back to sanity. I notice the superior stargazing conditions every winter and wanted to design a mug that captures that beauty. 

 

PROCESS

One of my favorite techniques is sgraffito--carving a surface away to reveal a surface with a contrasting color beneath--and it's perfect for creating the effect of point-like sources of light shining through a vacuum of darkness.

I throw each mug starting with a cylinder of porcelain clay on the wheel. After drying for a few days in a damp environment, I trim it on the wheel to smooth and remove excess weight from the bottom. Before I start trimming I pull handles for all of the mugs so they can dry while I trim. Once all the mugs are trimmed and the handles have dried to leather hard, I attach each handle by hand to the cylinder by scratching the joints and "glueing" the pieces together with slip (liquid clay). 

Sgraffito [is] perfect for creating the effect of point-like sources of light shining through a vacuum of darkness.

I wanted to leave the exterior unglazed for a rougher texture on the hand so I made slip with the same porcelain clay and dyed it with black mason stain. I painted three coats of this black slip on each mug. Once they completely dried, I etched the stars into the mugs to reveal the white porcelain beneath the black slip. 

Each one signed. Each one unique. 

I tried to carve stars on every handle. 

The process from here is pretty standard. The mugs were bisque fired to 1830 degrees Fahrenheit and then I applied a silky black glaze only on the interior. Then I fired them a second time to 2350 degrees Fahrenheit to finish. 

When I took the mugs out of the kiln I noticed some bubbling on the unglazed exterior where I applied the black slip. This is a sign that my mason stain concentration was slightly too high; however, after sanding the exteriors down, it created a very interesting crater texture. If the moon were small enough to hold in your hand, I like to think it would feel like these mugs.

Like all Monsoon Pottery wares, these mugs were a labor of love and totally worth it. 

 
Persimmon Old Fashioned
 
 If you'd like to recreate this scape at home, shop our  cocktail set . 

If you'd like to recreate this scape at home, shop our cocktail set

I never expected so much interest in the cocktail recipe when I posted this photo on Instagram but I guess it makes sense. Chicago has gone full Chiberia in the last couple of weeks and there's nothing that warms up your insides like a glass of hard booze. 

I love persimmons and I love cocktails but some winter cocktail recipes are a little much. I'm sure this cocktail would taste better if you made a syrup with the cinnamon and star anise (and you're welcome to do just that) but I like to get a taste of the season with more or less the same process of a classic old fashioned. 


Persimmon Old Fashioned Recipe

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients

  • One slice of very ripe persimmon, peeled. 
  • 1 teaspoon of light brown or brown sugar
  • Dashes of Angostura bitters, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon tart orange juice like satsuma or lemon juice
  • 1.5 oz whiskey or rye
  • Giant ice cubes

Method

  1. Peel a very ripe persimmon with a paring knife and slice it crosswise to reveal a star shape in the center. 
  2. Place one slice in the bottom of a mixing glass and place the mound of brown sugar on top. 
  3. Drop the bitters onto the sugar--we like to use just enough to moisten all the sugar. 
  4. Muddle the persimmon slice, sugar, and bitters until all the sugar is dissolved. Take your time. 
  5. Add the orange juice, whiskey (we used Koval), and one giant ice cube. Stir for 1-2 minutes to melt the ice slightly. 
  6. Place a fine mesh cocktail sieve over a rocks glass with a fresh ice cube and strain the mixture into the glass.*
  7. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a dried star anise. 

* I'm not so fussy as to strain our regular old fashioneds but persimmon has a viscous texture and the pulp detracts from the taste of the cocktail. 

 
Holiday Pop-Up Schedule
 

'Tis the season, friends. You'll have many opportunities to shop Monsoon Pottery in Chicago this holiday season and we'll be creating special pieces that will be sold exclusively at our pop-ups. Check back regularly for updates! 


MONSOON POTTERY HOLIDAY POP-UP SCHEDULE

 

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Thanks for coming!

Past Event

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 25, 11AM-7PM, Small Business Saturday
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 26, 12PM-6PM, Holiday Market Art Pop-Up
Kick off the shopping season with a holiday market that starts on Small Business Saturday and continues through Sunday. At the same market, shop Handmade by Michelle, Yarnies by Mikey both days, and Allison Mooney Design on Sunday only.  

StudioUs
4806 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640
Facebook Event


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THANKS FOR COMING!

Past Event

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10, 10-5PM
HoliDose Market at Morgan MFG

We're super excited about this one. Shop Monsoon Pottery and over 120 vendors at one of Chicago's best holiday markets. Buy tickets for $10 in advance (or $12 at the door), of which $2.50 goes to The Kitchen Community, connecting Chicago kids through read food and Learning Gardens. Support a great cause and your local businesses in one highly curated food and fashion-focused event. 

Morgan MFG
401 N. Morgan Street
Chicago, IL 60642
HoliDose Website


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THANKS FOR COMING!

Past Event

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 10AM-3PM
Willis Tower Holiday Market

Willis Tower
Tower House, 33rd floor
233 South Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
Tower House Website


SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16, 11AM-6PM
Pop-up at Humboldt House

One of our favorite retailers in Chicago is hosting us for their Small Business Saturday series. Come get your last-minute gifts and shop at our pals' pop-up, Lost Girl's Vintage.

Humboldt House
1045 N. California Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
Humboldt House Website

 
How It's Made
 

Jack and I created an exhibit for the StudioUs show that describes the making process at Monsoon Pottery. We're reprinting that exhibit here so everyone can get to know our process. 


How It's Made

Each piece at Monsoon Pottery is designed and handmade by Danielle Chutinthranond.

We purchase prepared clays and wedge, throw, trim, glaze, and fire everything in our home studio.

The most common question we hear is: “How long does it take to make something?” It depends. Clay takes a long time to dry and, during rainy weeks, even longer. We fire each piece twice and, including cooling times, each firing can take up to three days. Aside from these fluctuations in drying and firing times, our process can be summarized in these photographs.

Photographs by Jack Li. 

Wedging

Wedging stoneware. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Wedging clay gives it a uniform texture and removes air bubbles. While tiny pockets of air may seem harmless, they can cause a piece to collapse on the wheel or, even worse, explode during a firing. We wedge every piece of clay at least 100 times.

Throwing

 Throwing stoneware. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Throwing stoneware. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Wedged clay is centered on the wheel at high speed with plenty of water. Centering aligns the molecules of the clay to make the throwing process easier. Once centered, the clay is shaped into plates, bowls, cups, or vases.

Finished pieces are left to dry until firm and barely damp to the touch (”leather hard”). This can take one day for small pieces or at least a week for plates.

Trimming

 Trimming stoneware. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Trimming stoneware. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Trimming, or turning, is the process of refining and finishing the bottom of each piece. While the wheel is spinning, metal tools carve away excess clay and shape a foot.

The piece is signed and left to dry completely, or until “bone dry;” a process that usually takes three days. 

Bisque Firing

 Bisque fired porcelain. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Bisque fired porcelain. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Bone dry pieces are carefully loaded into the kiln and fired to cone 06, about 1850 degrees Fahrenheit. Reaching cone 06 takes between 7-10 hours and the kiln takes over a day to cool down.

The bisque firing makes the pieces hard and porous, ideal for absorbing glaze.

Glaze Firing

 Glazed pots in the kiln before firing. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Glazed pots in the kiln before firing. Photograph by Jack Li. 

We mix all of our glazes at Monsoon Pottery. Most pieces are dipped into glaze after applying wax resist to areas that come in contact with the kiln shelf.

The kiln is fired to cone 10, about 2350 degrees Fahrenheit, transforming the glaze and clay into the ceramic material you see in this gallery. 

Finished Product

 The glazed pot from the previous photograph is transformed by the glaze firing into an object to be enjoyed for generations. Photograph by Jack Li. 

The glazed pot from the previous photograph is transformed by the glaze firing into an object to be enjoyed for generations. Photograph by Jack Li. 

Making pottery involves careful planning, strength, patience, and relinquishing control. A single piece can take weeks to make, but we think it’s worth the wait.

 
Holiday Show at StudioUs
 
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We have a holiday show this year! It starts October 10 and goes through the end of 2017. Join us at the opening reception on Friday, October 13th at StudioUs from 8-10pm. There will be a vinyl set from DJ Pompey and accompanist Keith Harris.

This show coincides with Andersonville Arts Week. In addition to the objects at StudioUs, we will be decorating a tablescape at Guesthouse Hotel, just up the street, for Arts Week only (October 10-15). 

Hope to see you there! 

StudioUs
4806 N. Clark St.
StudioUs offers year-round, weekly fine art classes for students age 4 and up.

Guesthouse Hotel
4872 N Clark Street
Andersonville's luxury home boutique hotel. 

RSVP on Facebook