DIY lightbox

The vast majority of items that I create are sold online, and for that to be a successful venture, my photos have to be eye catching, colour-true, and show every angle for the remote customer. It is incredibly challenging to attempt to capture every angle in 5 photos to give that potential customer enough information so that they’ll be compelled to press the “Add to Cart” button. Each listing has a description however, the photos that display in searches are what will bring a person into the listing, into my shop, and into my “Sold” listing. I started taking product photos (the fancy term for “pictures of my buttons”) while crouching in the garden. When winter hit, and this is Alberta Canada where -20C (-4 F) is the standard, garden photos were difficult because my hands kept freezing. I started procrastinating about photographing my items, my shop started to empty because I wasn’t adding new items and… it was time to research another photography solution. My home is surprisingly lacking in natural light, something I’d never noticed until I had my camera out in an attempt to take these photos inside. As I balanced myself on the only window sill that had the right light, buttons falling everywhere as the precarious setup I was attempting fell over, I decided there had to be another solution. To be honest, I swore quite a bit while crawling about searching for the strewn buttons that had fallen off the box that had been balanced on the back of my couch. THEN I sat back and knew I had to find another way. There was: a light box. These boxes reflect light within, reduce glare, and make for a repeatable set of conditions for taking photos of smaller items. Since researching light boxes, or light tents, I’ve learned about light temperatures, background staging, reflection, and consistency. If someone shows up in the Etsy shop and all of my photos appear slightly different, I’d imagine confidence drops that the photos aren’t really an accurate reflection of the item up for sale. With that in mind, my goal was to 1) make every photo consistent, 2) make every photo true to the item, 3) reduce or eliminate the time I am spending in Photoshop to modify the photos so that they fit goals #1 & #2. With a very limited knowledge of my manual settings on my camera, I set out to learn about using a light box, and how to use my camera to get the best results. My lightbox isn’t anything stellar or spectacular. I used these instructions to build my own DIY lightbox, which recommend a cardboard box, a couple of meters of white cloth, an exacto knife, tape, glue stick, and a large sheet of white bristle board. I’m crafty (I make tiny buttons out of clay!) and it was an easy and inexpensive build. I then added three inexpensive floodlights with 6500K bulbs. The entire setup was so easy to create that I kick myself for not doing it sooner. I set the box up, lights on, used the white bristol board to set the white balance on my camera, and VOILA! Beautiful, true photos of my tiny little buttons that require NO EDITING. No editing means I take photos and upload them without having to spend extra time (aka labour) to edit each photo for colour/brightness. With this, my profit margin moves up a smidge and I don’t have to increase prices. Ode to my lightbox, a saving grace for me.  


from instagram Nov 25, 2013 @ 12:15

The Sask Legislative building shows off Rider Pride


from instagram Nov 19, 2013 @ 00:00

math is fun #D20 #GameDay


not buttons

An artist needs to be taken by the wind of creativity when it blows. Tiny mushroom houses for a tiny terrarium project: Then on to Scottish thistle pendants. The prototype is on the left.   I have to zip off to mail some parcels! Happy SPRING!


in action

You know what I love? What brightens my day? What makes me giggle with joy? Photos of my buttons in action is my high: These buttons are part of the “oak series”, created with a stamp inspired by an oak leaf. I am thrilled at how perfectly they match and how delicious they look on this sweater pair created by the talented Tabitha at WishFox DyeWorks. The yarn colours are so rich and beautiful! If you’re in the market for luscious yarn, please go visit her on Etsy. What are you waiting for? Go take some photos of Chasing Fire buttons, bookmarks, pendants or whatever I’ve made that you’re loving and send them to me! Thanks Tabitha – you made my week with these darling sweaters. -Cara


Vacation, all I ever wanted

One of the activities I look forward to when vacationing is finding other makers. I search regional info booths for brochures from artists in clay or fibre because I love to spend time with artists. I always add to the inspiring collection in our home. This time was no different and Caracol Clay Studio in East Coulee satisfied. Located just outside of Drumheller, the studio itself is intriguing as you walk up to the front door past a garden of clay creations, bones, plants and treasures on your right with peaceful clay cast faces of the resident artists watching over. (the face casts reminded me of another ceramic artist, Ronda Wood, from Cranbrook) We had the opportunity to meet Janet and John and see the beautiful work they produce, inspired by the land and history of the region. I love making rattles and I really love raku which are a couple of items that Caracol specializes in. Their work can be seen throughout Alberta, including at the Drumheller Royal Tyrell Museum gift shop and Millarville. If you get a chance to visit, you should! They are friendly, talented and overall a great Alberta studio. Caracol Clay Studio This gallery and working clay studio features art inspired by prehistoric Badlands fossils. Owners Janet and John also take the time to teach visitors about the clay making process. Caracol Clay Studio is located at 169 6th Street in East Coulee (just outside Drumheller). Call first for hours of operation: 403.822.2258. You can also find them at the Millarville Market.  


there was a crooked wheel…

I am passionate about working in clay. Passionate. I use it as a meditation, creative outlet, to show love to others, to show love to myself. The calm I feel when on the wheel is sometimes all I need to center myself during a stressful day. When people ask me what I make on the wheel, I want to say “peace” (and then I want to gag because that’s pretty darn cheesy). I tell you this because something pretty serious happened on Saturday. My pottery wheel stopped working. Well, it didn’t so much stop working as… well, I couldn’t throw. I struggled so much when making the first in this new tea cup series last weekend. It was wonky and I had to work longer and with more concentration than I have in years. I thought I was having a Bad Day or had low blood sugar or the moon was in mercury so I focused on other things for a week. Then I came back and tried again and when the next two were even more difficult to throw, I realized that Something Was Wrong. At first I thought I was succumbing to fumes since I share space with my husband and he had been working on something smelly the night before. I opened the overhead doors and took a break but upon returning, my mugs were still wonky and hard to make and I was starting to think maybe, just maybe, I was having an aneurysm. Or I’d forgotten how to throw. Midway through Saturday, neighbours came by to visit and while standing across the room, I glanced back and WOW, that wheel was hella crooked. The difference in height on each side of the wheelhead was almost a quarter inch. “Hallelujah! It’s NOT me!” I said to myself. And then it dawned on me. Or more like hit me like a bullet. THE WHEEL WAS BORKED. My first reaction? PANIC. My second was to call everyone I know for help. Unfortunately, that “everyone” was a writer, an accountant, an office manager and my husband who, although mechanically inclined, was having one of those back-pain episodes that is best described as incapacitating. My mom was out of country but I didn’t think calling her would help because I’d just bawl into the phone. Telephoning sometimes does that to me. I called the only ceramics dealer in the area but they were already closed. Once everyone had left, I did the only thing I could think of and I marched into the studio, grabbed a big bin of metal thingies and I started taking my motorized kickwheel apart. With TOOLS. I used a rubber mallet at one point. It was liberating and terrifying but I thought “self, it’s completely borked. It’s rotating off by at least 5 degrees. You can’t break it any more than it already is”. I then took a bit of a break to cry. I’m not ashamed. I was so angry and panicked and generally out of my comfort zone by about a lifespan that I just had to sit for a bit. I stared at my wheel and knew she was dying. That didn’t make things any better so I imagined I was the ambulance crew and dammit, she’s not going without a fight! (plus replacing her is a minimum of $600 and that brought me to tears again so I really really needed to figure out how to save her). I did find out what was wrong and we all scratched our heads. The entire wheelhead and flywheel mechanism was tilted in a way that the wheel didn’t shudder or wobble – it was evenly tilted but crooked enough to make throwing a struggle. But how to fix it? The husband had recovered enough by Monday to figure that the entire frame of my wheel had been twisted rather severely. Was there a tornado we’d missed? Was there a mosh pit in the studio while we were on vacation? No matter – his welding magic had my baby leveled in time to try it on Monday evening. Throwing is easy again. The wheel is fixed. So let me introduce my new line of spiral lotus flower tea cups – born from struggle and surviving in peace. They’re in progress here while I decide what colour they want to be:


prototype: cuff links

Sweet, right? A different set is heading west for a friend to test drive. Before I start creating cuff links as part of my regular catalogue, I really need these babies to be tested in the real world. Sure, the jewelry adhesive comes with wonderful recommendations but if I sell these and they start falling apart? That’s just not going to fly for me or for customers. I love the leaf imprints. I did many circular designs as part of this prototype run but the square motifs are my absolute favourites. I’ve added some new listings to the shop today as well. The weather has been horrible however I did get a few moments of sun this afternoon to photograph some new buttons to list. My focus in the last month has been on creating greater quantities in each set because sweaters and such usually need 8-12 buttons and my lovely yet low numbered sets are less likely to be worn on amazing knitted and sewn works of art. So, more is IN! (I have a feeling I mentioned this before – it’s definitely on my mind.) If you’ve purchased buttons or other works from chasing fire, please send me photos pf your finished projects to be featured here. If you’d prefer to keep your finished pieces private, please indicate that but know that when my little creations are used, it gives me a HIGH and I hope you’ll share with me. I’m off to check the mail for my new packaging bags. I work so hard to buy local – I purchase my clay, glazes, textural stamps and tools right here in my city (and the clay is actually mined within the province as well!) however, I couldn’t find a local source for clear bags in the size I need. I’ve test driven two local suppliers with no success so Ontario may be my “local source” for the button bag packaging. I’m eagerly awaiting these bags! Cheers! -Cara



Based on the patterns coming out of the kiln, I must have caught spring fever early this year. Leaves, dragonflies, flowers, birds… I can see exactly where my mind was at during the creation process. Here’s a few samples of my latest little gems to show you: A subtle bird that pooled the glaze just right. At first glance, it’s a large brown oval and then when the light hits, the bird indentation catches your eye: Frost blue flowers that would be perfect on a wee cardigan (in itself, a spring concept): This larger triangle dual-tone green button was a glaze tester because really, I’m still in search of a crystallizing green that can also highlight detail. This is a definite success. The little swirl detail reminds me of the seedlings that are on their way:   Next up, I present a couple of multicoloured buttons because I just have to share that everything has a purpose.  I have a glaze that I want to love. I do. I put it on bowls, mugs, jewelry and it just… hasn’t worked for me. The green isn’t “pretty” enough for food and it has brown flecks that, although interesting, also didn’t appeal to me on foodware or resting against a wearer’s neck. I am overjoyed to find it a home – it definitely was made to be on these buttons, brown and green blooming on the blue. This brown beauty with a lace embossing is on its way special delivery to a very loving button jar on the prairies: Even though the snow is still flying, I can’t wait to get into the studio and continue on my “spring” theme. Cheers; – Cara


overwhelmed with potential

Some mornings I wake up and think of all the things on my “Want To Do” list. Every day I see another technique that I’d like to try, item I’d like to make, idea I want to expand on. I think it’s the gift and the curse for every artist – so many possibilities, so little time. With the opening of the studio, that has increased one hundred fold. I have a kiln, wheel, several varieties of clay, handpicked glazes,  tools, space. I have inspiration. (oh boy do I have inspiration!) I have been focused on functional wheel-thrown works for as long as I’ve been working with this fabulous medium that is clay. Mugs, bowls, plates, teapots have been my repertoire and, although I didn’t know it, my limitation. Now with the studio ready, I see endless possibility. I’m not limited to one two hour class per week for the next three months doing specific skill building assignments come up in class. I’m no longer limited by the hours of the community studio, travel time, childcare to allow me to create. Suddenly, I can choose my own skill-building activities, my own timeline, my own experiments.  As long as I have time (which is a whole other post), I can do what I want. And with that, I’ve been feeling almost overwhelmed. The urge to quit my other (equally loved) job and spend my days rolling, throwing, pulling clay is overwhelming some days. For now, I’m going to try to define my focus to just a few things so that I’m not scattered – walking into the studio these days and deciding what to DO is taking too much time! Next up: glaze testing!



I keep a sketchbook and a black marker pen in my purse. When I see something inspiring or I’m working out an idea (or I’m on hold), I doodle. Sometimes these ideas make their way into reality: Every page is not a gem, that’s for sure. For every bit of notation that carries its way to reality there are more ugly scribbles that seemed like brilliance but, in the light of day, are more meh than aha. Even at its weakest, the sketchbook is an ongoing record of ideas, potential and inspiration and I keep it tucked with me. We were staying in a remote cabin on our vacation and I spent every morning admiring the hodge podge collection of wheel thrown mugs that is only fitting in the kitchen of a summer hideaway. I would throw open the cupboard, choose one and pour myself a fresh cup of coffee. Although many of them were not my particular style, they reminded me that their difference is what held the charm. I sketched up some mug shapes and mug carving ideas on our long drive home, excited with each new shape that I put on the page, inspired by the oddball mugs. I have thrown the same mug shape over and over and over and whether I find success or not, it’s time to try something different. This is my goal next time I’m on the wheel to try to throw a “new” mug.


On the road!

We’ve been on the road for two weeks, camping from Calgary to Abbotsford, BC then taking the adventurous route up to a cabin on Desolation Sound. My regret is that the ferry timings made it nearly impossible to catch up with Sunshine Coast potters and every “Artisan Potter” sign we sped by nearly broke my heart. I did manage to get in a quick visit to <a href=”Artique in Powell River at the start of our long travel day back to Vancouver and nabbed a fab mug by local potter Darlene Calwell. The two tone celadon/turquoise glaze caught my eye and I love to sip my coffee from inspiring art pieces so this piece is a lovely addition to my kitchen. Today, we continue the journey home after a few wine-soaked days in Kelowna. On our way east, we’ll visit the talented Doug Ganshorn of Cedar Creek Pottery in Salmon Arm, BC. His functional pieces are graceful and meticulous, and we’re looking forward to seeing his latest creations at his studio on Christison Road. Until we get there, it’s the sights along highway 97 to keep me company: Not bad at all! -Cara


Neighbourhood Clay Sunday!

Our first Clay Day was a success! 8 kids and 4 adults unleashed their creativity, making coil pots then moving to votive holders, plates and rattles. With bisquing scheduled for July then another Clay Day for glazing shortly after, it’s almost too much to have to wait nearly a month to see these beauties finished. I’m really really hoping they like Midnight Rain glaze.