Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Something Different

I got to Clayworks early yesterday for class so I decided to play around a bit. I made these small plates from our recycled clay and poured white slip on them. This morning I incised them with some images from my journal. I would like to cover these with clear glaze and do some pours of a transparent green to one side or in an abstract manner. We'll see.

I worked hard today trying to catch up from Monday. No images yet but stay tuned. It was a bit frantic trying to keep up with things. It seemed like things were wet one minute and then when I checked them again they were on the verge of drying out. So I had to keep up with getting handles on, bowls trimmed, and things slipped. I had made four teapots but only kept two.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Few Pots

I got lots made today but only shot these two boards. The jars in the back will get birds, and those ovals up front will get turned into faceted bottles tomorrow. I made some teapots and plates too. Maybe I'll get those up tomorrow. There are still lots of pots under plastic from yesterday. Tomorrow will be a day of finishing. I did get some handles on these lobed bakers below.
I am off to Charlotte to get some help designing my postcard for my Spring Sale and then later I'll be going to teach my class.

Holiday Weekend Update

My three day weekend was very productive. We worked on the renovation both Saturday and Sunday, hanging drywall and doing some last minute electrical work. It went smoothly but there's still more to do. I am at a halt until we do some work on the windows on the west wall. Then we can hang the drywall there and move on.
We had a cook out Sunday evening with my family, it was nice to get together and the food was great. Nothing like hamburgers and hotdogs off the grill.
I made pots on Memorial Day. Sarah was off work and it was wonderful to have her here all day. It was like when we both worked at home full time. We had lunch and then a nap and then back to work. I miss having her here, but I am happy that she is doing what she loves, and of course the security of a regular paycheck is very nice.
I am off to the studio now and then I'll go teach tonight. I'll try and get a photo or two up before I leave later in the day.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Listen Up

May 24th was a day for potter's on the airwaves. Warren Mackenzie was featured on Minnesota Public Radio and was interviewed at the Rochester Art Center. Follow this link to hear the interview with Warren (scroll down to 'Midmorning with Kerri Miller' , the 10 am slot). Most of you know he is my pottery hero. I loved hearing Warren's voice tell the stories of his past. At 83 he's still in the pottery everyday at 9am to make pots. Click here to read about Sarah and me visiting Warren's studio a several years ago.

Also on the radio yesterday was a favorite potter of mine,
Joe Bennion. I was hooked early on by Joe's salt glazed work. He and his wife, Lee Udall Bennion live in Spring City, Utah. WUER spent the week in Spring City and interviewed Joe and Lee yesterday. Here's the link to listen. Sarah and I visited with Joe a few years ago in his studio on Main St. We came away with some great pots that we use all the time. Joe was very inspirational in my approach to marketing my work, he encouraged me to start my Newsletter, and I mirrored this blog after his online potter's journal. Thanks Joe for all the help and inspiration.

If you'd like to read more about Warren visit the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Here is a
link to a transcript of an interview with Warren from 2002.

Okay this should be enough to keep you busy over the Holiday weekend.
Peace. Ron


Today I'll be mixing clay and finishing up some pots in the workshop. I have a Home Sale coming up at the end of June so I am working towards that. I had planned on firing twice before then but I am thinking I may only have one firing. We are leaving for a week in June to go to the coast so that is going to cut into production and firing time. Also with gas prices on the rise I am feeling the pressure to be very selective about what I fire and how often. Hopefully my propane costs won't hit the roof this summer. One way I have been thinking about offsetting this is to fire to a lower temperature. I used to fire to cone 10, which is around 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. More recently I have been going to cone 8 or 9 which I am happy with as the pots seem to have more of the color I am after. I am seriously considering dropping on down to cone 6. This would decrease my firing time and the amt. of propane used. Of course if it changes the pots in an unwanted way then I'd stay with the higher temp. and longer firing. I've always preached that longer firings are better, and I think this is true. So we'll see what happens, for now I'll be forking out the dough to buy more propane.

Scott Cooper

This week I reconnected with potter Scott Cooper from Indiana. I had found Scott's website years ago and really enjoyed the pots he was making. It turned out that he had a treadle wheel made by Mark Polglase. I had been wanting a treadle for sometime so I contacted Scott to see how he liked his. Of course he had good reviews on the wheel. I called Mark up and ordered one. I love it and as Scott said to me I couldn't imagine making pots without it.

If you get a chance visit Scott's website, the pots are really fantastic, strong forms with simple, sometimes playful decoration. The website itself is first class too as Scott was once a full time web designer. There is a ton of information here including photos, sketches, recipes, process photos, and some well written essays under 'Rare Earth'.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ovals and Squares...Woof

Some images from today. These big ovals aren't quite finished yet but I thought I'd go ahead and put them up. These first three are the bigger ones made from 6 lbs. of clay. This first one has a new handle.
These little guys below are made from 1 1/2 lbs of clay. I also do a medium oval.
Square mugs ready to be slipped.
Here is Karma the studio dog. She's happy as can be after chewing up a stick. Sweeping is an everyday event.

Step by Step

One of my students said to me a while back, "You're very methodical aren't you?" I think I was demonstrating how to cut feet on bowls and I was going through the do this, then this, then cut in here, then here, and look at that, and that's it. Hum. Maybe I am. I didn't take it as a compliment at first, I don't know that it was meant as one, just his observation. But I have thought about it off and on and yes I am methodical in some aspects of making pots. I do things over and over a certain way because they work and produce the results I am after. I guess I was a little irritated because I feel like I should be 'spontaneous' and that I should respond to what's happening in the moment, at all times. Making pots yesterday I noticed how both of these parts come into play when making work, the responsive/in the moment part and the methodical/step by step part.
When throwing I have steps I follow... center, open, pull up etc. As I do this I have a shape in mind that I am working towards, but I try to pay attention and not force this too much. I like to have more of a sketch than a masterpiece when finished. The gesture of the throwing is important and I try to just let that happen. Not over working the pot is important here. When I do my finial ribbing (two times) is usually when I see the pot come alive. Sometimes a new shape will catch my eye and I'll take it and set it aside for later as I carry on with the rest of the run.
I noticed that I am not so responsive when cutting feet. I tend to do this more like a machine, with a certain outcome in mind. I do have a bit of carefree attitude when I go about it, I like those tool marks and broad strokes of removing clay.
I make handles a certain way. Roll this out, flatten, pat, squeeze, score, slip, stick, push, push, push, pinch, pull, curve, cut, smooch, smear. Done.
So as I think about all this I see that I am both methodical and responsive, I do things over and over in a certain way but with my eyes open and feeling my way along. Technique is nothing in itself, there has to be some feeling and sideways looking along the way. I have areas that lean more toward one side than the other.
So this is good stuff for me to think about. Check in later and I'll have some pics of pots I make today.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I love to see pots lining up on boards in the studio. I like to see the repetition and pattern of the pots all together. It would be cool to do some sort of image or photograph by lining the pots up to really emphasize the pattern and positive and negative spaces that are created from the pots. I shot these bowls that I threw today some have 3 lobes, some 4. They will get footed tomorrow. Here are the luncheon plates all footed.
And some mugs from yesterday.
I like these black and white images. Maybe I'll play around with this some more later in the week.

Monday, May 21, 2007

More Inspiration

Awhile back I mentioned the online collections at the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Well last night I discovered the National Museum of African Art online. Check out the collections as well as everything else on the site. There are some great pots, textiles, baskets, and other works of art to see.

Getting Some Pots Made

I am hoping this week will be more productive than the last. It seems all I did last week was run around. So today I made a good start and got some pots made. First off I threw 15 luncheon plates to go with the dinner plates I made last week. Below are the first 12 of these. I'll get the feet cut tomorrow. These animal jars got finished up today too. Lots of critters. I even made a pig this time, after all this is North Carolina and barbecue pork is king. I'll probably make another board of these this week as they are good sellers and I have none in stock. Here is a shot of the tray I mentioned last week. This is a special order for a customer of mine. Her husband wants it for bringing meat in off the grill. It's really big, I've never made a tray like this so I hope it makes it through the firing. I have a back up just in case. I like these lugs.
I also made some cups today and worked in the house. This Saturday is 'drywall day'. We are planning on getting as much hung as possible. I'd like the have the finishers in here in the next week or two.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Clayworks Sale

Later today I'll be in Charlotte for the Clayworks Spring Pottery Sale. The sale is tonight from 6 pm until 9 pm and Saturday from 10 am until 3 pm. I went and set up my pots yesterday afternoon. It all looks great. All the instructors as well as studio and resident artists will be selling. There will be a display of student work also.
The address is 301 E. 9th Street, Charlotte. Tonight there will be lots of food and drink and merriment, and pots, so I hope you'll come out if you are in the area. I am happy to be part of the Clayworks community. It's been really great for me to get out of my studio and have some interaction with others. I am looking forward to seeing everyone tonight.

Off the Hook

I was glad not to be selected to serve on a jury yesterday. I have to admit that once we all got moved from the waiting area into the court room things were much more interesting. The lawyers for both parties and the judge asked questions of the potential jurors. This was all very new to me and as I sat there I became aware of some of my bias and prejudices. I think I am open minded and can be objective but as I sat there I wondered if I would have been able to let go of these things and give each party a clean slate. I felt triggered by some of the questions and if I would have been in the jury box I think I'd have spoken up and admitted it. Once both sides were satisfied with the jury all the rest of us were free to go. Much relief among the 25 or so of us not chosen. Now that I have been to the process once I don't think I'll be so annoyed if I am called again, sure it's an inconvenience, and the first part of waiting around in a room full of people with the stupid TV on is torture, but I do see the value in this system and I have more respect for it now. Of course the pay sucks, $12 a day!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Back to the courthouse

Not too much to report on potterywise this morning. I have to go back to the courthouse this morning for jury service. I hope I don't get selected to serve. I know I'm gripeing about this a lot. Okay enough.

Here's a pic of me talking to Janet Mansfield at NCECA back in March. Janet is awesome. I'd love to visit her pottery someday. She was a presenter at the NC Potter's Conference a year ago. I must really be giving her hand a good shake, look at that blur. Ha!

Okay, have a good day. Hopefully I'll be dismissed and back home before lunch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Waiting, Waiting

I have spent the morning waiting. First off I had to be at the court house at 8:15 am to appear for jury service. After spending almost 2 hrs there we were all dismissed as we were not needed for a trial today. I still have to go back in the morning again and may get selected to serve on a jury.
Now back at home I have been out to the studio and uncovered all of the pots from Monday and Tuesday. None are ready to have handles attached, feet cut, or whatever. I decided to pack my pots to take to the Clayworks Sale while I waited. There's not much sense in getting too many new things made today, I'll be overwhelmed when it gets all leatherhard at the same time. So I think after lunch I'll mow the lawn and then hopefully get to turn the feet on my plates.
That's my quick update. If you wait a little while there will probably be more....

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back to Work

It's been a good Monday. After a quick trip to town this morning I got into the studio and made 5 boards of plates (four shown here). I am working towards a dinnerware order that is due in October. I'd like to go ahead and knock it out early. So I got those made before lunch and then threw some 3 lb pitchers and worked on a slab tray. This tray is going to be a challenge. It's a special order and they want it to be pretty big. I don't know if I can pull it off but I am going to give it a few shots before I have to call in my handbuilding consultant. These jars were demos from last week's class and I got the birds added to them today, almost a week later. I've never made the tall, faceted one before. I am finding I'll try things for my students that I normally wouldn't do in my studio. Often this leads to new pots for me, or at least some play time that helps generate new ideas.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Guild Pottery Sale

I had a great day at the guild sale yesterday. A fellow potter shot this photo of me as I was finishing setting up my booth. The weather held out until about 3pm and then everyone packed up a bit early to avoid an approaching thunderstorm.

I had good sales during the morning hours. Thanks to everyone who came out! My animal pots were especially popular. I sold a nice platter and lots of other pots too.

This next week I'll be digging in and getting back into throwing mode. I have a dinnerware set to make and I need to make some animal jars, I am down to one.

I will be at the Clayworks Studio sale this coming weekend. I'll post details this week.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday's Images

I took these images today as I was getting ready to pack up for my show tomorrow. I did more decorated pots in this kiln. I haven't made these star mugs in a while. I had to throw in that white one. These plates were fun. I went through a 'dot phase' a few years ago, I brought it back on these plates and included some crossed lines. A simple pattern and pretty effective.
Luncheon plates.
Spouted mixer. I like that the blue slip can also be this black color if it gets little salt. Most of this load was on the lightly salted side. I am really fond of that look although I tend to go back and forth between light salt and really juicy orange peel. The cool thing is that I can get both in one firing.
So tomorrow, May 12th, I will be at the ClayMatters Pottery Guild Sale in Charlotte. The location is 8300 Monroe Rd and it's from 10am till 4 pm. If you are in the area please come out and see me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I was too lazy to cook tonight so Sarah went out and picked up some take out at Chen's, our favorite Chinese restaurant. We had vegetable lo mein. Sarah claimed the bowl on the right when she got home from work. I liked this yellow one. I may have to make us four or five more of these for the kitchen.


I was very pleased with my firing. I had some great color. I think doing a longer body reduction has really helped in that area. The slips had some great variety. I want to shoot some close ups tomorrow that will show this. There were lots of cups and bowls and yunomi in this load. All my tall bottles came out great as did my new wide bowls. I'll be posting images over the next day or two so keep checking in.
I didn't have many blue pots in this load. I did have quite a lot with the slip pours. The one blue baker I had sold about an hour after it came out of the kiln!


There were a lot of these cups in this firing. These are a few of my favorites. Tall neck bottle. These all came out great too. This is a new shape of teapot for me. I think I like it. That long spout is pretty cool. I haven't tested to see how it pours yet.
These wide bowls are new. I made six, each with a different rim. Sarah claimed one as soon as she got home.

Thoughts (random) on Pots

I feel like I have pretty much made the pots I've wanted and not compomised myself for the sake of selling or trying to follow fads or the market. My customers know what to expect when they come out here. When I had my little electric kiln early on I was using glazes that we had at the the community college. I also came up with a blue and a cream glaze. I saw some of these blue pots at my sister's the other day. They aren't bad, well not too bad, but I am glad not to be making them. I've always had this adversion to blue pots. Leach didn't have nice things to say about blue, and I none of the potters I really liked early on made blue. So I was in the anti-blue pot crowd for a long time. Blue seemed a sell out. 'Cash flow blue' was the name of a glaze. That to me said enough. Sometimes I'd give in on my salt glazed work and add some blue dots. They sold. Even on a bad pot.

I have educated my customers about salt glaze and about functional ware. I hope most of the pots that leave here are being put into use. I feel like that is the case. I would like to think I've challenged my customers in some ways too. In this day, pots aren't really necessary. They are a luxury. I feel they improve our lives and bring beauty in our homes and to our everyday rituals of eating and drinking.

I make some blue pots now. I have a blue slip that goes all wet and juicy on a high silica clay when bombarded with salt and soda. It looks good on certain pots, cups, small jars, low bakers. I tried it on a pitcher once. Once was enough. I love Jane Hamlyn and Walter Keeler's blue salt glazed pots. I use blue now, sparingly, not because it sells, but because I like it, and I think I've matured a little. A whole kiln load would seem daunting to me though, of course a whole kiln load of 'brown and round' pots is probably a nightmare for some out there.

After lunch I'll be unloading such a kiln. There will be some nice flashing, some reds and oranges and creams in this kiln. Some pots will have blue and white and yellow pours. I'll take these pots to a pottery sale this weekend where they will be in the minority. Actually there is no one in our guild making salt glazed pots. I will stand alone among the bright and shiney blues and greens and reds and purples. (Purple...don't get me started.) I will talk to people about my work and how it is quiet and not too demanding. How it works in your kitchen or for morning coffee. I'll show them my long spouted mixers and how fun it is to use them for mixing eggs on Sunday mornings. These are pots (hopefully) that will stick around for a long time in people's homes. They have a timeless feel and are comfortable to use, they challenge the Wal-Mart mentality, and the bland cheesy coffee cup with 'world's best mom' printed on the side. They are this and more. These are my pots.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Freer and Sackler Galleries

Need some inspiration? Look no further than this site. The Freer and Sackler Galleries have an awesome website. Be sure to click on the current exhibitions, 'Parades' and 'Taking Shape' are awesome. If you are a fan of Gwyn Hanssen Pigot be sure to see 'Parades' this is an exhibit of still lifes but instead of using her pots she chose from the gallerie's collections. It is quite amazing. There is a good short video on the 'Taking Shape' page too.
By clicking on "The Collections" you can browse through tons of artwork, much of it ceramic. I'll be spending lots of time here for sure.


I think my firing went well. I will unload tomorrow and get some images posted. If anything I could have probably put more salt in.
I have been at the Arts Council most of the morning and afternoon helping install a sculpture show. It opens on Thursday and looks quite good.
I am off to teach shortly. Sorry for the slack posts lately. I have been reading some interesting essays on Rob Barnard's site and on Maybe if I re-read one or two of them I'll share my opinions.
Check back later tomorrow for some images of new pots.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pots in the Kiln

Today was a perfect day to load the kiln, it was sunny but not too hot with a good breeze blowing. I finished up in a few hours and most of the pots made it in. I am really looking forward to tomorrows firing. It's good that after years of doing this I feel like I am still as excited to fire my kiln as the first time back in 1996.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I'm Still Here

I'm falling behind on my posts here aren't I?
I have been thinking lately about how much time I spend on this machine. I admit I can get sucked in and even use it as sort of a distraction from reality. I would like to cut back my daily computer time and try to be very intentional about what I am doing while online. Not just spacing out and wasting time.
Last week I tried to draw everyday. I did pretty good. Mostly simple things, my morning cup of tea, some books, things around the house. I would like to post some of these if I can figure out how again. I'm having some issues with my scanner.
I have a strong desire to use my free time in a more creative manner. I want to be drawing, reading, spending more time out in nature, writing, making pots, cooking....things that nuture me. I find I have to really put forth an effort to do these things, otherwise I am zoning out or just rushing mindlessly through my day.
Tomorrow I plan to load the kiln and to fire on Monday. So you can expect some images.
I'll leave it at that for now. Check back soon.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I had a request asking to see an image of the feet I cut yesterday. So here they are. This first one is from the tall footed bowl shape. Those are thrown with a solid stem of clay for the foot with the top being the bowl. I use an L-shaped turning tool to get way down in there. Here are a few of the yunomi feet.
And here is a paddled bottle shape I made for a demo for my class last night. I threw it a little thick and later fluted it with a Dolan triangle shaped trimming tool.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Last Pots for This Load

I finished up these yunomi this morning, cutting the feet and... well I still have to slip them but then they'll be ready. I made these five from my fireclay body which I am happy to be returning to. They threw nicely and the feet cut well too. These have all been squared and decorated in different ways...stamped, sprigs, roped, finger mark, and a plain one with just the marks from the rib.
A while back I bought a jar from Rock Creek Pottery that had a nice tall foot. I thought I'd make some pots with tall feet too. I had intended for all of these to be baskets but wasn't sure how to solve the handle. So there's one with a clay handle, one with lugs that will get a wire handle, and for the other two I gave up on the basket idea because I thought they might look good with a bird on the rim. I am sure I'll be making more tall footed pots, it's very dramatic. We'll see where they take me.
These are the last pots for my upcoming firing. Things are drying out quickly so I'll get in a bisque soon and then fire the salt kiln next week.