Thursday, September 6, 2018

beach dunes and ocean blues

A few years back, I had created a set of beach-inspired vases for an installation in Wellfleet, Cape Cod at my friend Susie’s gallery. The last of these beauties is now heading off to a summer cottage along with a set of ”beach dunes“ cups inscribed with peace, happiness, love, and beauty. Plus a tiny glass bird, hand-blown by my friends at Henrietta Glass, a small woman-owned studio in Pawtucket, RI. Putting together gift sets like these is just so satisfying.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

30 years of clay in my life

As I celebrated my 50th this month, I kept thinking how clay (gleena in Russian) has been a companion, muse, and guide for 30 of my years on this lovely planet. From the very first shapes that emerged back in 1988 while I took a hand-building elective at University of Cincinnati:

to building large pinchpots on the kitchen table during my time in NYC:

to throwing 100 pots, each a different form, for an independent study:

to RISD grad school installation of slip-cast pieces that hooked me on the process I still use today:

to an independent studio and shop owner:

Having lived in 5 big cities, 12 homes, and 5 studios, gleena has been a stabilizing constant in my life. I feel fortunate, and grateful.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

oh the beauty of west coast nurseries

My friend Lisa and I decided to visit the nurseries of San Francisco on my last day in California. I have been falling in love with succulents for the past few years, and have started carrying them in the shop in greater numbers. I love the variety of textures and colors they offer. And love when they bloom for me. We started our day at FlowerLand, with a delicious latte and scone in hand, it was a joy to walk around the Berkeley neighborhood nursery. The diversity of gardening products gave me a few ideas for gleenashop. I dream of partnering with a coffee shop to be able to offer a similar environment in Cleveland. Maybe some day.

The second stop was Flora Grubb Gardens in the Bayview neighborhood. Nestled among industrial wholesale warehouses, Flora's nursery is an unexpected oasis. Lush spectacular plants line the walkways, and hang from walls and trellises. Entering, I was transported to another country, expecting to see monkeys and colorful parrots in the gently swaying giant palm leaves. Hours can be spent there finding treasures. Coffee and baked goods are also available, and the bathrooms are gorgeous.

For lunch, a delicious All Good Pizza food truck is parked in a lovely courtyard across from Flora Grubb. Looks like the gardeners from FG have done some work there, it is surrounded by pretty plantings of succulents and cacti. The pizza is delicious. What an inspiring yummy day!

Monday, February 19, 2018

a day at the shop

Saturday was such a fun day at the shop.

I had a wonderful conversation with a couple that stopped in after lunch at Melt, they found a perfect addition to their bird-themed wall-hanging collection. The next day I received a photo of their wall, with the new addition perfectly perched.

I met a sweet new customer, in town for a weekend, who exchanged a piece that was purchased for her in Rhode Island. She found three wee cups with her favorite animals on them.

My window-washer came, and excitedly shared that he and his fiancé are pregnant.

A neighbor stopped in, and told me that he and his wife will be moving back to Nashville to be near family. He purchased a candle to make their home smell yummy for showings. I will miss them, and wish them the best.

I love love all these interactions. Being  a shop owner, I have connected with my community on a completely new level. I share in the joys, loves, worries, get to meet the kids, meet the parents visiting from out of town, hear the local news, laugh at silly jokes. Sounds old fashioned, like something you would see in a film from 50 years ago.

After the NY wholesale trade show, I was a bit down. There are just not as many buyers walking the show, and my guess is that a lot of smaller, craft boutiques have closed. I know of a few in Cleveland that just couldn’t compete with online shopping opportunities, a sad loss for all of us. Coming home and seeing familiar faces at the shop was uplifting. I am so grateful that my community values tiny @gleenashop, and I feel fortunate to live, as well as work, here.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What a colorful year 2017 had been! Opening a shop was a big risk for this introvert used to working behind closed studio doors.

Thank you Cleveland, for your heartfelt welcome, for the amazing conversations, and for a successful first year. A huge thank you to my online community, you have been my inspiration and support for many many years, thank you for the best year to date. The email exchanges I have had with so many of you have been a joy.

And of course I am so grateful to the retailers who choose to carry gleena in their shops. Having a store of my own has shown me the amount of work that goes into putting together a cohesive retail collection.

Wishing everyone a wonderful, light-filled 2018, full of magical surprises.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

handmade for everyone on your list

At gleenashop, I am committed to carrying works made by fellow small-studio artists. So I decided to put together a hand-made gift bundle. All the items together are $100, which includes shipping, a wonderful gift to a special someone, or gifted individually to many on your list.

What is in the bundle:
• soap by Keats, made in Cleveland Heights
• porcelain peace bunny, made by gleena
• terrarium pencils by June&December, made in Detroit
• PF Candle incense, made in LA
• porcelain heart by gleena
• LoveWild lavender bath salts, made in Brooklyn, NY
• handkerchief by Bittle & Burley made in Brooklyn, NY
• roundie bowl by gleena

This bundle can be shipped anywhere in the lower US. Or stop into the shop, it smells wonderful full of evergreens! Open Tuesday-Friday noon to 6, Saturday noon to 5pm. Located at 2114 S. Taylor Rd. Cleveland Heights, OH.

or email info (at) for more info.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

forming and finishing the edge of each gleena piece

first, the edge is trimmed with a surform.
second, the edge is smoothed with a sponge
this hand process is repeated on every piece, creating its unique personality.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

day’s work: mixing porcelain slip

There are five ingredients in my porcelain slip: English porcelain, kaolin, feldspar, silica, and frit. The combination of the five yields a very smooth, ivory finish when fired to a high temperature (2300F). I mix 20 gallons of slip at a time, wrangling 50lb bags of clay. A good workout resulting in great arms!

My mixer is a very low-tech set up: a powerful motorized blade on top of a garbage can. It works perfectly.

One scoop at a time of dry material is added to a vortex of water and Darvan 7 (a suspension agent):

The mixture starts out lumpy:

and then gets ice-cream-smooth in a few hours:

The slip will thicken up over the next few days as clay particles absorb the water. A proper thickness is necessary for easy pouring and smooth casting. To thin out the thickened mixture, I add a 50/50 of water/Darvan 7 to get the correct consistency. After 10 years of mixing, I still learn something new about slip every time I mix a new batch. It's a finicky material to work with.

Friday, September 1, 2017


Imagery has been a part of ceramics for centuries. There are many ways of applying an image to a ceramic surface, and “transferware” is a particular style of decorative ceramics.

Transferware is created by transferring a printed image onto the surface either under or over a glaze. This transfer technique, the predecessor to a more modern technique I use on gleena, was developed in England in the mid-18th century, particularly around the Staffordshire region.

The process starts with an engraved copper plate similar to those used for making paper engravings. The plate is used to print the pattern on tissue paper, then the tissue paper transfers the wet ink to the ceramic surface. The ceramic is then fired in a low temperature kiln to fix the pattern. This can be done over or under the glaze. The process produces fine lines similar to the engraved prints in old books. Before transfer printing ceramics were hand painted, a laborious and costly process. You can find more information, and sample patterns, on the Transferware Collector's Club website.

I love the backs of the plates, shown below with the mark of the maker, just as much as the fronts, if not more. This is where graphic design has met ceramics over the centuries.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

lil BUB wees, the making of...

This is a story of how the Lil BUB wee teas were made. It was Lil Bub’s third birthday on June 21st, and as a gift, a limited edition of wee teas were created with all proceeds going to charity. We raised over $6000 for Lil BUB’s Big Fund for the ASPCA, it sure felt good to contribute to the aid of animals with special needs. Here is the making process:
after the cups are hand-poured and popped out of a mold, each is stamped with a vintage letterpress Caslon 540 letter.
the edge is smoothed out with a sponge, so it is nice and round and feels good when you are drinking from it. any excess porcelain bits are reclaimed and used in the next batch. we mix our own porcelain slip (liquid clay) in the studio.
after the cups are completely dry, they are fired to 1948 degrees F, this firing is called a bisque.

as an aside, you might ask "why do we bisque?" porcelain is notorious for cracking, and a bisque makes it stronger, therefore easier to handle while glazing. there are clays that don't necessarily need this step. heath ceramics, for example, has developed a strong clay body that can be glazed without the bisque.
the bisque cup is then coated with wax on the bottom, to prevent the glaze from seeping in. the bottoms cannot have glaze on them, or they will stick to the kiln shelf once they are glaze-fired.
the wax has to dry out for a few hours before glazing can proceed.
while the wax is drying, the next batch of wees is already on deck to be bisqued.
glazing step one: the ivory glaze is poured into the bisque cup.
the glaze is swirled around, and then poured out. any spills over the edge are wiped off with a sponge, the excess glaze is reclaimed. we mix our own glazes, too.
glazing step two: once the inside is dry, the cups are dipped into the color glaze. you can see where the glaze rolled off the waxed part. the cups are left to dry overnight, and in the morning loaded into the glaze firing. the cups are fired to over 2300F, called a high-fire, which works well with porcelain.
after the glaze firing, the image and typography are applied. the image is printed in-studio onto a piece of film, and then transferred to the cup. each piece of image has to be smoothed out to eliminate air bubbles.
the transfers are left to dry overnight to ensure proper adhesion to the cup.
the image firing is taken up to 2100F. since the bottoms are placed directly on the kiln shelf, sometimes parts of the transfer stick to the shelf. i am ok with that, it gives the logo a unique vintage look.

transferware is a very old form of decorated ceramic, see more images of it here. we just take the modern approach and use a laser printer instead of a copper plate to print the image.
the bottom of each cup is sanded with fine sandpaper for an amazing feel, and individually wrapped for safe transit.
double corrugated packing is used to make sure the cups arrive safely. we don’t like to use styrofoam peanuts, and so far the flexible, recycled corrugated has worked great for cushioning.
designing the packaging was an extra treat, graphic design was my first career, and package design is my favorite.
it took three trips to transport the packed and labeled boxes to the post office. all were shipped via Priority Mail, and so far have safely arrived. whew! good job post office!

and good job BUB fans, i am so grateful for all your kind notes.

and thank you BUB and DUDE (who happens to be my brother). so fun to have family one can do meaningful projects with. it has been an incredible experience all around.