Monday, July 13, 2009

Etsy Mud Team Feathered Friends Challenge

7/12 through 7/20, the Etsy Mud Team is hosting a challenge for functional items made specifically for birds. There's a screen shot below of some of the entries (mine is in the bottom left corner). To see the rest and vote for your favorite, you can go directly to the team website here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


What is enough work? Since preschool ended for the summer have been sorely missing my chunks of work time. It's been difficult with the new schedule, and teaching kids classes, and summer shows, and a disastrously messy studio (that I've been trying to clean out) to get much in the way of actual clay work done.

However, I have been spending some wonderful quality time with my daughter. We've made cakes and cookies and bread, practiced reading, played with play dough, sang silly songs together, and read our way through wonderful novels like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Dragon Rider, and some of The Series of Unfortunate Events. I'm insanely pleased and proud of the way she's started reading more difficult words on her own, and the way she likes to read easy readers to me "without help". I know that I will miss all of this when I go back to school in the Fall and she goes to full-time preschool, so I try to make the most of our time together. Still, I have a nagging itchy feeling when I'm not able to devote solid time to working with clay and I wonder at times if I'm just being lazy when I sit to cuddle with my little one and watch an episode of Star Trek from our recently purchased DVD collection.

In many ways, whether what I'm doing is "enough" comes down to who I'm trying to be. I often feel pulled a million ways by mothering, housework, extracurriculars for my little one, teaching, and making pots. Do I "really" want to be an artist, a supermom, or a teacher? And what if I want to be all of those things at once? Something has to give, and right now I feel like it's the art. Maybe that's ok.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Birthday Cake

Last year, when my daughter turned three, I made a flowered cake for her. This year, she wanted to make one with me. We bought colored fondant and a cutter/press to make flowers with. She cut out the flowers and sprinkled them with sugar. We laid them in a cupcake tin to set the curve and then the next day, put the cake all together. She especially enjoyed tasting and coloring the frosting and sprinkling sugar on everything. The whole time we were working on the flowers and the cake, she kept commenting, "I'm so glad we're making these together!"

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

This week, my local paper featured my polymer clay work in their arts and entertainment section. They talked about my clay work as well as my polymer clay stuff. Here's an excerpt from the article:

BOUNTIFUL — Loving one art form doesn’t mean that a girl can’t have fun with another.

After the economy caused pottery sales to slow down considerably, local potter Tara Robertson started creating whimsical animal and flower jewelry with polymer clay. Those birds, bugs and flowers have expanded enough to earn Robertson feature artist status June 5-8 at, and gives her the chance to explore her flights of fancy.

“Polymer clay comes in these bright, beautiful colors,” she said. “I try to use it to its advantage and make things that are bright and colorful.”

Robertson’s introduction to polymer clay came when she started teaching kids’ classes using the material, and found that it was the perfect thing to take along when the family went on vacation.

“It’s a really good way to keep my hands busy,” she said. “It’s not as if you can take a pottery wheel on vacation with you.”

The speed of polymer clay jewelry also appeals to Robertson, allowing her to see a design come to life much faster than with pottery.

“With the polymer clay you can go from start to finish in about a day, where with pottery it takes about a month,” she said. “It’s kind of instant gratification.”

That immediacy also allows Robertson to fold her work into playtime with her young daughter.

“She’ll just say ‘oh, let’s make birds,’” she said. “She’ll sit down and squish her clay, and I’ll work on my stuff.”

So far, Robertson is planning a future that holds both pottery and polymer clay jewelry. She’s planning on going back to school in the fall for ceramics, and this summer she’ll continue teaching mixed media and polymer clay jewelry classes at her home studio in Bountiful

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Newly glazed Birdhouses

There is a little robin that lives in a tree in front of our house. Every day, several times a day, it will perch on the ledge of our big front window and sit for a while looking in. My daughter has named it "Cinderella" (you'll never guess where she got that name from) and will come sing to it when it perches there. I finally finished and glazed my new birdhouses, so maybe I'll put one outside and see if another "Cinderella" or even an "Aurora" comes to roost.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Beehive Bazaar

I just set up for the Beehive Bazaar last night. I'm really excited about this show, walking around, I loved the style of most of the booths. I even bought a purse from Noelle O Designs with cute appliqued birds and a t-shirt from Scatter Brain Tees that says "Buy Handmade" with a totally awesome illustration. The show started last night and will run through Saturday. If you're local in Utah, this is one not to miss.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Playing on the Wheel

My daughter tried out the wheel for the first time last night. We coned up and down and she made little bowls by pushing her fist down into the middle of centered lumps while it was spinning. While we were working on her pots, she positively took charge. "Look Mom, I'm going to show you how to do this because I don't think you know how." What on earth would I do without her?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Sale and Open House
Saturday, April 25th from 12-7, I'll be hosting my semi-annual home show. I'll have some yummy food and music playing, and of course, all my pottery out on display.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

New Work
I've been working on making a birdhouse. I figured with spring (hopefully) on its way and the birds starting to show up again it would be fun to make some funky birdhouses. Here's my first attempt from yesterday afternoon. It has not been fired yet.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Mother's Day Contest on Giveaway Today

Do you know a mom who deserves to win something special this Mother’s Day? One who works hard, shows an abundance of love, and knows just the right words to say and when to say them? If so, you can nominate her to win one of three amazing Mother’s Day packages on Give Away Today. Give Away Today is a great blog that does pretty much what it says: gives away great products. My Smoky Pendants Jewelry shop is featured on the site this month.

Here are the great packages being offered:
They will choose one mom who is from the state of Utah. She will win:

“The Utah Package”:
A Sitting and Photography Package Worth $250 from Amanda Alexander Photography
A Sego Lily Retreat Package (includes a massage, facial, and pedicure)

a second mom who is expecting a baby or who has had a baby within the past year will win:

“The Newborn Package” will include Products from:
My Simplicity Boutique
Close to My Heart
Smoky Pendants

Our third Mother’s Day package is open to anyone who is already a mom or who would like to become a mom. She will win:

“The Mom Package” will include Products from:
Scentsy Gift Package
Dimples in Dresses
ShopbyM Jewelry

To enter a mom you know (she could be your own mom, your mother-in-law, your wife, your sister, your neighbor, etc), please email by midnight MST on April 15th. In your entry you must include the following information:

*Tell in 350 words or less why the mom you are nominating deserves to win one of our Mother’s Day packages.
*You must indicate ONE package you would like for her to win.
*You can attach one image if you would like.

The picture above is my wonderful Mommy with my daughter last summer.
Check it out, and turn in your entries at Give Away Today

Friday, April 03, 2009

Preschool is Expensive SALE

I stayed up late last night thinking about where my daughter should go to preschool and arrived at one conclusion. Preschool is expensive. Help me save up for it by purchasing my jewelry this week for 30% off at

Just type "Preschool$" in the notes to sender and wait for a revised invoice.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

New Love Mug Sets!

I love making these things

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Didn't make the cut

I posted a while back that I had applied to graduate school. I received a letter yesterday that I was not being considered for the program. I always knew that the school I was applying for was very competitive (they only take 2 new students a year) but somehow I always felt like applying for the program was the right thing to do. It's close to home, and they have excellent pre-schools on campus. The timing seemed so right, too. My daughter has two more years before she can go to elementary school--my program would take two years. So she could come to school with me everyday and I could drop her off at the excellent pre-school just a hop, skip, and a jump across campus.

Now that one avenue has closed for me, at least for next year, I need to consider what to do next. Of course, I'll apply again for 2010. But in the meantime, do I want to go back to school and just take courses till I can get into the program I want, or find a job, or create more art and try to get into more galleries and shows, or teach more classes at home? What's the best choice for my family? What do I want to do?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fun with a Clay Gun

Orange Lizard, by boy, age 9

I got a gift certificate for for Christmas. When I saw an industrial sized clay gun, I just couldn't resist. I justified my purchase because I thought it would be helpful for making the sides of my short trays that I put with my love mugs and because it was heavily discounted after Christmas. But really, I thought it just sounded "cool" and that the 8-10 year old boys that I teach in clay class would really go for it. The clay gun is big and golden. In demo, I held it up like a rifle "Wha!". I let the children choose different dies and design an animal with dixie cups as support for longer legs.

Here are some of the things they came up with:

Horse and Saddle, boy, age 7

Poodle family, girl, age 8

Sheep, girl, age 8

Snake Family, Boy, age 7

Friday, March 06, 2009

This Spring, I will be participating in several local boutiques (trying to save money for grad school). The Spring Spectacular Boutique in Salt Lake City will feature my smoke-fired ceramic jewelry, as well as some newer polymer clay work. I've attached the official flier below.

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Spring Spectacular Boutique

Saturday, April 11, 2009

10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

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Courtyard by Marriott

10701 S. Holiday Park Drive

Sandy, Utah 84070

High quality vendors & crafters!

Raffle & door prizes!

Participating Retailers

a Bit of Color

Bead for Life

Chic Boutique Jeans

Close To My Heart

Elv Stitches

Full Give

Handmade Cards

Lia Sophia

Lily Pond Soaps

Little Keepsakes

My Daisy Diva

My Shoe Shoppe

Purse Party, Inc.

Salt City Design


Smoky Pendants

Tastefully Simple

The Cupcake Goddess

Tomboy Tools

Tweedy Baby

Tweedy Lane

Friday, February 27, 2009

New Smoke-fired Post Earrings

I've been experimenting with making smaller designs to use for post earrings. First, I make a prototype out of soft clay. Then, when that has completely dried, I press the prototype in soft clay to make my mold. I'll usually impress the the actual mold some more to make elements that will pop up rather than recede in the final piece. Finally, I press the actual pieces into this mold. With this style, I like to press the clay into the mold lightly, to give them very loose weathered feel. I'm hoping this will mesh well with the smoke-fired finish. Here are some pictures from my first batch of finished products.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stamp Exchange

The Etsy Mud Team is having a stamp exchange. As a texture junkie, I am more than stoked to receive some new stamps from other team members. As my part in the exchange, I've made two polymer clay stamp sets. I went with poly clay because it works well with ceramic clay and, frankly, because I didn't know if I'd be able to get some regular clay ones through bisque in time. One has a heart pattern, the other is abstract lines. I'm shipping them both off in different directions tomorrow and will post the new stamps I receive when they arrive.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kid's and Clay Face Jug Project

I just got some of my kid's classes Face Jugs out of glazing last week. As always, I was impressed by the incredible creativity in my groups. It would be nice to be so uninhibited when creating new work.

The assignment was to create a jug from two pinch pots joined in the center with a coiled rim and foot. We spent one week (1 1/4 hour) making the jug and another class period with the facial features.

We talked about the legend in the Appalachians where face jugs were made and used. People would place a face jug on the grave of a family member after they died. If the jug cracked, it meant that person was "wrestling with the devil".

Children were encouraged to make their jugs "ugly". I was hoping this would free them from trying to make it look like a real person, and allow them to have fun with things like warts, beards, funny teeth, etc.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mommy's Little Helper

Whenever I have my 3-year-old daughter come to the studio with me, I am amused by her choice of activity. I offer her clay to play with and she'll putter around for a little. I offer her paintbrushes and paints and she'll do that for a while, too. But the whole time, what she really wants to do is.....clean. That's right, clean. She'll beg me for a sponge and a bucket of water. She LOVES cleaning the bits of clay and smudges off of my wheel, cleaning my bats till they shine, and even sponging the floor. She loves what I usually avoid at all costs. I don't get it, but I'm not going to complain :)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Featured in a Local Newspaper

My gallery show with all the Offspring vessels was recently written up in our local newspaper. Below is an excerpt. To see the full story, click here.

"For Cindy McConkie, Scott Nelson Foster, and Tara Robertson, all of whom have work on display at the Bountiful/Davis Art Center (BDAC) now through Feb. 16, the proximity between the three artists shows off several different parallels. From the different ways that an artist can play with light to the fluidity of images, the work highlights all different kinds of connections."

"Potter Tara Robertson, whose work sits in the center of the gallery, reaches out to McConkie’s art in the way that her work flows and twists. Unlike the other woman’s abstract swirls of light, however, Robertson’s work is meant to be evocative of a very real woman holding her child.

The series, which Robertson has named “Offspring” as a whole, evokes mothers and children of all shapes and sizes through the use of different heights, thicknesses, and curves where shoulder meets body and neck meets head. Taken together, it seems to say something about the universality of motherhood, drawing lines between different people in a way that connects all of humanity."

I love the different perspectives I get when other people comment on my work. The whole thing sounds so much grander than me playing in the mud in my garage :)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Applying for Graduate School

This last week I finished and turned in my application for graduate school. I want to get an MFA in ceramics. I've been thinking a lot in the last month about how I got into ceramics and where I want to go from here. I owe a big thanks to my hubby who read draft after draft and kept telling me to be more confident. Below, I've copied and pasted part of my finished draft of my letter of application.

I became involved with ceramics during my undergraduate work in Elementary Education. Once I took my first clay class, I became infatuated with the medium and just kept finding ways to come back. After years of taking ceramics classes on the side, I found that I was much more interested in a career making and teaching ceramics than that of a full-time elementary teacher. However, by this time, I was nearly finished with my degree and several months pregnant. When I gave birth a month after graduation, I decided to use my “time off” from work and school to explore my possibilities with clay. After nearly a year of creating, experimenting, and developing a coherent line, I started submitting work to galleries, selling at fairs and festivals, and getting my work online. I’ve used knowledge gleaned from my education background to develop child and adult courses in clay. Between selling and teaching, I have managed to build a professional ceramic career while being home for my daughter’s early childhood.

My practical and professional experience with clay before and since graduation has been extensive. I run and manage my own ceramics studio. I mix all of my own glazes from scratch, many of which I have developed for my own personal preferences. I am experienced at loading and firing electric, gas, and wood-firing kilns at low, mid, and high-fire temperatures as well as saggar, pit, barrel, and raku firings. With Clay Arts, Utah, I participated in a saggar-firing experiment in which we tested several additives for fuming effects over a 13-week period. As an active member of this group, I have attended several workshops and taught a section at their first Educator’s Workshop this past year. My work has been juried into several local and national exhibitions, one of which was juried by Val Cushing, whom I was privileged to meet at the opening reception in New York. Through gallery shows and online sales, my pottery has sold all over the US and Canada. In addition to preparation for an upcoming solo show at the Union Station Gallery in Ogden this summer, and filling orders for galleries and individuals, I currently teach clay classes for children and adults.

My recent work has been moving towards more sculptural and abstract vessels. My main emphasis is an exploration of attitudes and relationships. I like to manipulate the stance of a vessel and look at what it implies about the emotion or personality of a pot. Especially in my Offspring series (currently on display at the Bountiful-Davis Art Center), a group of paired works with a parent and child figure, I explore how two vessels can interact, and how differences in sizes, stances, and attitudes change dynamics between vessels. I ask myself questions like, “Is this one too overprotective, crouching over the other?” or “Does the way these tilt away from each other show emotional distance between them?” I draw inspiration for this series from my work as a stay-at-home mom. Technically, I have been striving for larger works, experimenting with creating plaster molds to further stretch my size and shape capabilities.

Ceramics is much more than a hobby for me. I am somewhat obsessive when it comes to clay, and always eager and willing to learn and grow. I feel the MFA program at the University of Utah will help me further expand my abilities and open up increased opportunities to teach, especially at the college level, where I am most interested in working.

Wish me luck! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gallery Show

This last weekend was the opening night for my first large gallery show. The show featured 17 of my Offspring sets, all grouped together in one of the large showrooms.

My Offspring Vessels have evolved from the idea that the parent and child relationship is complicated. These vessels show two individuals, one small and the other large (and somewhat chubby around the hips--I wonder what this is saying about myself?). The parent pot supports the child which literally cannot stand on its own. However, depending on how you look at the vessels, they are either facing away from each other, beaks held high (everyone tells me they look birdish) and ready to leap away from one another, or looking at one another in rapt attention with crazy hair streaming out behind them. This contrast embodied in the work and peoples competing perception of it explains my feelings about motherhood. My daughter and I support one another. She still needs me for so much of her daily necessities. And I need her in so many ways. We face away from one another towards our separate interests and desires. Sometimes I feel slightly trapped or smothered in a relationship with so much daily demands and long to turn away. I'm sure my daughter feels "trapped" being with me sometimes--especially when i enforce time outs. But at the same time, we mirror one another, and in a very real way complete one another. She is my inspiration and my friend. My companion in good times and bad. Just like these pots, we make a pair that looks incomplete without both pieces.

It was especially enjoyable to see several of these pieces placed together. While creating and selling, I've usually thought of these as individual sculptures. When put together, they look like several moms in conversations while holding their little ones. This larger context of how mothers relate to one another was an unintended result, but one I'd like to explore further.

Here are some pictures from the show.