Thursday, August 30, 2007

From the workshop

Here are these new deep soup/cereal bowls I mentioned the other day. No foot, thrown with soft clay on my slow moving, low momentum treadle wheel. The lobes sort of made them even better I thought, 'lobing' seems to be my new element. I am going to try to work it into some ovals tomorrow, and maybe some mugs. This is my favorite stage of the pot, soft leather hard. I made two boards of these, ten in all. I can't wait to get them fired. I love to pat these edges, the clay moves up in a natural, soft, friendly way. I like for the pots to show the process and not be too 'finished' or pristine looking. Cutting pots off with a twisted wire leaves another 'signature', process mark. Little things like this are what I love to see in pots.
I finally got these ovals handled today, but they'll have to wait until tomorrow to get a coat of slip.
And some square mugs. I should have taken a pic of the bottoms of these, they are rather nice. I'll try to remember tomorrow.
This jar was inspired by Mackenzie, there was a large one similar to this (better though) in the exhibit. I am not sure where this shape comes from but I'd guess Korea. I'll have to check it out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

For Doug

From across the Atlantic

New Start

Monday and Tuesday have been productive days. Here are just a few of the pots I made on Monday. I also made some shallow ovals, mugs, tankards, and oval vases. On Tuesday I threw some new cereal bowl shapes, dinner plates and small mixing bowls. It's nice to just get in the workshop and make pots that are uncomplicated. I am trying to work slowly, meaning 'slow wheel', showing movement in the clay, gesture, 'the hand of the potter'. I'll get some images of those cereal bowls up later and you'll see what I mean.
Today, Wednesday, I have to go to Charlotte and then on my way home stop by the grocery. Everything is wrapped up in plastic out in the workshop since I won't get in there till late. I hardly ever work evenings but tonight may be an exception. My Home Sale is in a few weeks and I'd like not to fire at the last minute.

I am reading a great book, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It's a fiction set in India in '75 during the State of Emergency. I am a little over half way through. Last night I came upon the passage in the book from which the title is taken. "You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and dispair."

Also I have been listening to
The Current from Minnesota Public Radio. Great programming.

I was turned on to the book and the station by Linda Christianson. I hope you'll check them out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More Pots

Here you can see a variety of color on these mugs. All have the same slip, the lighter ones were in the back of the kiln and the one on the front left was up front. My refired jar improved a bit, it went from metallic black to blue. Three small ovals. The two on the left have the same slip. The one on the right is bare clay and was right up front in the middle of the stack, it got hammered with soda.
Here are a couple pilgrim bottles. Sorry about the glare. We have one of these we keep by the sink for dish washing detergent. They are good for cooking oil too. You fill them through the spout.
These pots will be going to the Circle of Eight sale that's coming up in a few weeks. I'll be posting more about it later.


I had a good firing. There was a lot of variety in color from front to back. The front is usually more reduced and hotter whereas the back of the kiln is more neutral/slightly oxidized and cooler. The front will get cone 10 and the back is somewhere around 8 or 9. This doesn't bother me really as I can use one or two slips and get a lot of different looking pots just from where they are in the kiln.
The past two firings have been totally salt. Most of the time I do a combination of salt and baking soda, sometimes some borax. For this firing I went with all soda ash and the results were good. In my last firing I used almost 20 lbs of salt, I don't know where most of it went but I had little orange peel. In this firing I used less than 3 lbs of soda ash sprayed in as a solution and got great orange peel. Some pots in the front got hammered but all in all it was a good mix.


Unloaded yesterday.
I was pleased with the pots.
Pics coming later today.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kiln Loaded

I got the kiln loaded today before lunch. It went pretty quickly since I had prewadded most everything. I will light the burners tonight and fire off tomorrow. I loaded fairly loose in anticipation of using mostly soda and less salt.

My clay is coming in out of the racks. I am looking forward to getting back to making next week. After seeing all the great pots on my travels I am really inspired. I am going to try some new large jar shapes as well as some faceted bottles and vases. I have been jotting down my 'to make list' over the past couple days.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I am slowing getting back to work here. My clay is coming out of the racks. I fired a bisque yesterday. I am planning on firing the salt/soda kiln later in the week unless I decide to just keep making pots and fire twice in early September. I don't know yet.

My friend Tom wrote asking me how I was impacted by my pottery trip and what effect, if any, it will have on my work or way of thinking.

First off, I've never traveled much by myself. Actually this is the first long distance trip I've ever done alone. So just in doing that I feel like I have more confidence in that I am capable of going off by myself. I did have times when I felt like I should have been doing more or spending my time in some 'exciting traveler' way. But I did what I wanted, when I wanted and that's fine. I feel like I got way out of my comfort zone by going alone. I made an effort to talk to strangers and to relax and let things happen. I am one who tends to 'plan, plan, plan', often I try to plan things I have no control over. So going with the flow was fun and scary for me at the same time. And I survived.

As far as pottery goes, I don't know that I am going to do much different in my work. In visiting all the potters I saw that everyone is working very hard to make a living. Some do shows, some sales from home, exhibits and often some form of teaching. No one seems to have all their eggs in one basket. I feel like I am on the right track. Linda's advice was 'keep making'.
I did come away inspired to continue to make simple functional pots. Seeing the work of Mackenzie from the past 50 years was inspiring in that most of those pots were modest pots, many of which had been used in peoples home. There were 'show pots' too. Bigger jars, platters, bottles, vases. Again eggs in different baskets, but none of these were pots that were loud, or complicated in any technical way. They were deep in their simplicity and history. That is inspiring to me.

I would like to pay more attention to my lifestyle. Slowing down is important. Eating well, exercising, reading, listening to music, taking time to play and relax. I'd like to draw more and cook more. I feel like I am pretty involved here in the community, I'd like to get folks out to the pottery to my home sales. I am planning on continuing to teach at Clayworks and I'd like to teach some workshops. The Circle of Eight is going strong, and I think that avenue is going to help all of us with our careers.

So for now that's how I feel. Maybe other things will come up or change. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Visiting with Linda

My visit with Linda Christianson was really wonderful. She and her family welcomed me into their home and Linda took lots of time to spend with me. When I arrived Linda showed me around the new studio that she and her husband Jeff have been working on for the past few years. It is nearing completion and it is a wonderful space. Linda's two chamber, bourry box, wood kiln is finished and has been fired 3 times since the spring. Her studio space is almost finished too. We discussed all the options for lighting. Jeff has a wood working space and a nice area for hot glass.

Over dinner preparation we discussed favorite radio stations, books, pots and caught up on what has been going on since we last saw one another. I spent the night out in the studio and it was a beautiful cool night. I got up once very late and walked outside to look up into sky. It was a dark clear night and there were a million stars visible over head. The next morning after breakfast we looked at images of pots on my laptop and pictures from home. Cecilia, Linda and Jeff's daughter, joined us out on the porch. She's grown so much since I was there last. The day went on and I got to check out some nice pots that Linda had in her cupboard from the UK. We used a nice bowl of Lisa Hammond's for mixing up a fruit salad for lunch and Linda showed me her favorite bowl to use for cereal, one by Micki Schloessingk. These are two of my favorite potters so it was a treat to see the pots.

After lunch I selected some of Linda's pots to purchase and bring back home. I got a nice cereal/soup bowl, a square mug, and a slab tray. I would have loved to have had more but I can only get so much on the plane.

We ended the visit by me giving Linda and Cecilia a little ride up to the mailbox in my rental car, a PT Cruiser, which everyone said looked like a little German car. Linda marched up and down the drive like a soldier as I drove off. She made me laugh more than once while I was there. She's a very kind and generous person and I am grateful to know her.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Minnesota Cont.

I am back home now. I wanted to post on the last few days of my trip after my visit at Warren's. Below is a shot from the banks of the St. Croix river in Stillwater. I went down one evening and enjoyed some music along with all these folks. It was nice to just relax, everywhere I went on my trip felt comfortable and homelike. On Thursday I headed up towards Taylor's Falls. On the way I stopped by to visit Guillermo Cuellar's studio. He was in Peru (and thankfully uneffected by the earthquake), however his wife Laurie showed me around and I bought a nice bowl and yunomi. Guillermo has worked on and off with Warren through the years and I really like his work.
After that I stopped by Franconia Sculpture Park. It was nice to just hang out there and walk around the fields looking at all the art work. There are several residents working there. The big farm house is for their housing and there is a big work yard with hoists, welders, and all kinds of stuff I don't know anything about.

I also visited Taylor's Falls. It's a nice little town with shops and resturants etc. There I went into Interstate State Park and climbed around on the rocks and enjoyed myself up high above the river. After a couple of hours I headed in to town and had coffee before going off to see the potter Linda Christianson.

I'll write about my trip to Linda's later so check back in .

Thursday, August 16, 2007

From Minnesota

I am having a great time here in Minnesota. The Mackenzie exhibit in Rochester was amazing. The space was huge. There was no photography allowed so I have no images to share. The pots were all displayed on eight tables that were about 8' x 8' and knee high. There were also lines on pots on the walls, jars, platters, bottles, and serving plates. It was so cool to see pots from the last 50 years or so all brought together. I could tell many had been in regular use and some had been repaired from chips or breaks. On entering the exhibit space I was confronted by a large white wall with 3 long inset shelves each holding 7 yunomi. This was a dramatic display too. There were large photos on the wall of Warren working and images from the past. There was a beautiful display of a dinnerware set made early on (I'll check on the date) and decorated by Alix. Also 3 Hamada pots and 2 Leach pots from Warren's collection.

Yesterday I started the day by going to visit Warren for a few hours. I had written and called weeks ago so I was expected. I was greeted by Nancy, Warren's wife, and also by Joan Mondale who had just arrived also. Joan and I went down to the workshop and talked to Warren while he made yunomi. It was a great visit, made easier for me (I'm somewhat shy) by Joan's presence. We all chatted and Warren and Joan worked along until lunchtime. We went to the house for a nice lunch with Nancy who was also stewing plums for jelly and cooking Japanese eggplant for a later meal. After lunch it was time for me to move on and I headed into the city to the Northern Clay Center.

Later, I drove west to Randy Johnston's pottery in River Falls. Yes, I know I'm going all over the place. That's the great thing about traveling alone and having no agenda. I got to Randy's around 4 and made a selection from the showroom. I walked up to the workshop and who did I find there with Randy? Warren. It was sort of funny. They were busy talking about glaze materials, so I talked with Jan, Randy's wife and a great potter. Anyhow I didn't stay long after Warren left as it was late in the day and Randy and Jan were preparing to go off to teach at Anderson Ranch for two weeks.

That's it for now. I'll post more later. I have a busy day planned today, I am heading north. I have one more day tomorrow that is pretty wide open. I feel like after today I will be more than ready to get back home.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Here are some images from the studio. Pots waiting to be bisqued or glazed. I am getting my things together today to go to Minnesota. All this stuff will be waiting for me when I get home. I'll have a bisque and then fire the salt kiln hopefully around the 24th. I may post some while I am away so check back and see.

Clay mixing

This morning I mixed two racks of clay. Each will yield around 250 lbs of usable clay. You can see it's mixed really wet, that way all the clay particles get wet and it makes for great clay. I'll cover each rack with tin and it will take 10-14 days for the clay to be ready to come in. I store it in big trash cans and pug it when I am ready to use it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Beating the Heat

It was over 100 degrees here again today. Early this morning I did some yard work but soon retired indoors to the studio to tidy up and make some cone packs and basically do little else. I have managed some computer work and went to town for some odds and ends in anticipation for my trip to Minnesota.

Here is a picture of Sarah from Wednesday when we attended a wedding at South Mountain State Park. My little wild flower had to get in the river and cool off. I should have done the same but I was a bit over dressed in slacks.

I am presently enjoying a banana smoothie. Here's how to make one: Freeze two bananas (peel before freezing). In a blender combine the bananas, 10 oz or so of soy or rice milk, a couple table spoons, more or less of chocloate syrup, and some honey if desired. Blend until smooth, you may have to add more liquid. Drink slowly to avoid brain freeze.

Tomorrow morning I am heading to Charlotte to help my friend Julie with some things at Clayworks and I will also pick up some materials to mix clay. Hopefully I'll do that Sunday. That way it can be in the racks while I am away.

All for now. Have a good Friday evening.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thursday. Already.

This week is flying by. I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone or something, the time is passing and I have no recall of what I've been doing. It must be this heat.

Yesterday I had an old friend from school come by, I've not seen him in over 15 years. He lives with his family in Orange Co. California. It was good to catch up.

Sarah and I attended the wedding of our good friend Sally Jacobs late yesterday afternoon. Sally is an awesome painter and just finished her MFA. She's lived in Italy, and Charleston, SC before ending up here. She now has the position of the head of the art dept. at Cleveland Community College here in Shelby. I am glad she'll be here a bit longer. Congrats to Sally and Scott!

We got to sit with Bob Trotman and his wife Jane last night at the reception. Bob is an awesome sculptor. It was good to get to know him a bit more.

I am out of clay, so I will be mixing some glaze today and firing a bisque. Here are the last pots I made to clear out the clay bin. I'll bisque again when I get home from Minnesota and have a salt firing soon thereafter.

Monday, August 06, 2007


I didn't realize I hadn't posted since Wednesday. So here is a quickie.
Over the weekend we painted our renovated area, there was some question about one of the colors so that set us back alittle but all is decided now.
I cleaned the whole house on Friday and baked a cake. I also went to the Asian market to get some supplies for a special dinner. This was all for Sarah of course. Her birthday is today but we've been celebrating all weekend. After painting all day on Sat. we had dinner with some friends. She's had a good birthday I think.

I made pots today and finished up a few things. Sorry no pics. I am out of clay for all practical purposes. I'll get mixing towards the end of the week and also get a bisque fired. I leave to go to Minnesota next week and I am getting excited about that.

It was 96 degrees here today and dry as can be. The air quality is awful and we are both suffering with sinus problems.

So that's the long and short of it. More later.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Making Pots

Yesterday was pretty much shot after I went to the Arts Council. I spent the rest of the day working downstairs knocking a hole in the floor to get rid of the old water inlet pipe and then repairing the hole.
So today I got back in the workshop to finish up some things from Monday. These tall footed bowls got cut. The ones on the left will get birds tomorrow. Small ovals got bottoms and handles today. Same with this big oval.
The board of spoon jars on the left got slipped. These are quick and easy pots that I sell a lot of. The board of cups in the middle got handled and slipped and I made another board of cups today (right)
I am still waiting on some bigger bowls to dry for footing, so maybe get to those tomorrow. Sarah called at lunch and I was happy to get out of the shop to go out with her for a bite to eat. I miss having her at home.
My work day ended at 4pm in order for me to get ready to drive to Charlotte for our Circle of Eight meeting. I am looking forward to seeing my clay pals.