14 April 2014

Follow Me!

I am grateful to Mr. Blogger for the free use of this enlightening media. But I'm moving on to WordPress as I unleash my new Social Media Center (glorified website). I will continue to write and I hope that you will reset your various dials and robots to:
or start at my website, where you'll also find my new 'store':
Thanks for reading!

29 March 2014

Making Choices

I am choosing pots for my upcoming exhibition at the Cooley Gallery in Leesburg, Va.  
The opening is this Friday night, April 4th, from 6 - 9pm. I have participated in very few exhibitions over the years and when I have, they have tended to be as part of a larger group show. This, for me, is a rare one-man show and while it is modest in size it still takes me way too long to choose the work than ever it should. Part of my dilemma is the result of having such varied interests in clay that I have to decide which of my interests in clay to show. My youthful tendency was to show a bit of everything, but I know now that a  well edited and focused body of work makes a much stronger statement. I think that this is true of most big craft fairs as well. I didn't do many, and seldom did much business, but I always had ten different ideas on hand at any given point.  This way of working served me well as I settled into my retail shop, where I sold most of my pots for 20 years. The variety made it more likely to connect with a customer on the streets of Fredericksburg.  In the midst of aisle upon aisle of vendors at a show, a single voice has a much better chance of standing out in the crowd.All of this is by way of saying that this particular vase pictured here is a current favorite of mine and I will build around it as I make further choices. It's about 14" high and will be available at the gallery and on their website starting Friday.

26 March 2014

Old School

As promised, here are some of the earliest things I made while in college. The photos are rough but I still enjoy remembering those early days as I began to explore the possibilities and the limits of clay. I was lured to the ceramics class during my freshman year at S.U.C. at Geneseo, NY. after seeing some of the students do a raku firing in the middle of a snowstorm. The sound of hot pots whistling through the snowbanks where they threw them after reduction is a permanent one in my brain. My first few teachers weren't very interested in wheel throwing and I followed their lead. 
    I wasn't much of a photographer in those days, which saves you from some of the other ideas I was playing with in those days...lots of kewpie doll molds, there was an architectural phase and then there was 'the penis people'(!) to name a few.  They were all terribly interesting to me then and now don't necessarily 'stand the test of time', but I have always taken pleasure from exploring new ideas in clay. That's still true today I'm glad to say.  
This work is circa 1974-1977 and is all raku fired and chronological. 
I have continued to use this idea of stretched slabs from time to time, but since these early days I have always worked in stoneware. I'm a big fan of the permanence that high firing begets.
This is the first thing I made that other people really responded to...I confess that like that feeling.

I think I called this one "Siesta" 
I made a whole burnt out western movie set.
 I modified a pizza peel to move these big flat wall pieces.
This is about 20" across. broken and reassembled after reduction. I wish I still had this one.
Tomorrows big thrill...my first pot.

22 March 2014

To NCECA or not to NCECA, that is the question...

    I've been making pots now for 40 years and I've attended the NCECA conference just once (in Loiusville, Ky.) Each year as it approaches I have an ongoing internal struggle...it is a thrilling idea to  be surrounded by like-minded folks and to see all of the  exhibitions and sit in on some of the panel discussions, but is it a valuable use of my time and resources? Of course, NCECA is primarily about education and academia, with a few bones thrown to the working potters of the world. This year there is a panel discussion titled "Where have all the Potters Gone?" led by Mark Hewitt, Tony Clennell and Lisa Hammond. This should be a great conversation and I'm sorry to miss it, and I'm sorry to miss Cynthia Bringle's closing talk. I think that my own answer to the question is "not to NCECA because I have pots to make!".
    But, I also think that it is an overly dramatic question. There has been talk about the greying of the craft world for 20 years now (maybe more) and yet I continue to be impressed by the great work that continues to bubble up from the younger folks who are drawn into our world. I can't say that I'm anxious to see another mug decorated with decals anytime soon, but in general there is fantastic work being produced across the spectrum of ceramics and there has never been a better appreciation for the value of that work. In 1980 I was selling mugs for four bucks, for goodness sakes...we have come a long way, baby, and I think that it is a perfect time to become a maker.
   I suppose that a question like "Where have all the Potters Gone" is more logical if you are only looking at the periodicals that represent us or observing the work produced in academia, but I know lots of people making some or all of their living from their pottery. They aren't making a lot of noise...they just get on with the work, building a way of life that has rich rewards and deep fulfillment. 
   I still wish that I could have been there, but perhaps next year. I thought that I would be loading my kiln, but instead, I'm recovering from a hernia operation. That's not a story I'm interested in telling.


03 March 2014

Pottery Economics pt. 1

This little teapot sits tucked into a corner of my kitchen counter, always ready, willing and able to brew just the right amount of tea to get my day started. It takes a level teaspoon if the the tea leaves are 'fines'...a heaping spoonful if it's whole leaf. I usually steep it much longer than advised...I like it strong, and a tea cosy keeps it piping hot.
    Many of you will recognize it as Muchelney Pottery piece. I bought it about 20 years ago and think that I paid about 38 pounds for it. That's about $60 bucks these days. I never did know if it was made by Johnny or Nick, and I long ago decided that I didn't care. They are both brilliant makers and their partnership over many decades is admirable. Johnny and I were both teaboys at Winchcombe when we got our start, and his pottery in Somerset is a beautiful reflection of that grand old pottery.
    It's GIO (glazed inside only) with a beautifully flashed surface from the wood firing. It's a very different form than my own aesthetic...a low slung body and a flat lid with no catch...but, it's small scale negates the need for a more sophisticated lid and I like how the line from the low belly follows through the spout. It is stained with years of use and brings me daily comfort.

 But back to Teapot Economics...If we round off some numbers we see the following:

365 days in year
20 - years in use
7,300 days
1 Pot of tea per day =
7,300 pots of tea total.

Cost of teapot = 38  British pounds sterling divided by 7,300 cups of tea = 0.0052 British pounds per serving. (That's less than one U.S penny)

Final analysis - Excellent value for the money

Next up: The price of all the tea in China.

13 February 2014

Bubba's First Christmas

    I chose not to fight my way through the snow/sleet/rain today, but I'd really like to be making pots  instead of bouncing around the house. I've spent way too much time at the computer lately and that makes it even harder to keep the ol' blog going.
    I mentioned in my last post that I'll soon be moving over to Wordpress as I unveil my new website/social media conglomeration, and it seems like it's just the right time. According to my blogger statistics I got over 1000 hits on my last post...but only 2 comments. Methinks that something untoward might be going on?
    I'm spending so much time at the computer as a result of all the opportunities that have come my way this year...the latest is an invitation to the American Pottery Festival in Minnesota in September. I feel like an overnight sensation after a 40 year career! Each of these inviters wants different material for publicity and it's forced me to rewrite a biography and artists statement and update my resume and pick out new photos...and I'm also working with Adam on photos of pots for the "shop" on my new website. So, yes, I'd rather be making pottery. But I am willing to do what it takes. I just worry a bit about getting all the pots made that I need...I won't lack for motivation this year, believe me. The studio is beginning to fill up and I'm really enjoying the work...I have a small one-man show coming up at The Cooley Gallery in Leesburg and then my return to Bob Briscoe's for the St. Croix River Valley Pottery Tour in Minnesota for Mother's Day! That's where most of what I'm making will go. I continue to bounce back and forth between birds and everyday pots and I won't make any more 'furniture' for the garden until I've fired the ones that I made. 
    I'm playing with a little brushwork decoration which harkens back to my earliest work in Fredericksburg. That was inspired by the delicate decoration of Trudy Finch at Winchcombe. Her brushwork (and mine too, just not as well) was very calligraphic and I'm breaking that down even further at the moment by using a single brush stoke coupled with some sgrafitto, which I've always loved. I'm looking for a lighter background slip and a blue slip for layering on top in different ways.
    As is our custom, even when we get a big storm in Virginia it is a mixture of many different forms of H2O...It snowed and sleeted last night and in the morning we had a layer of heavy snow 7-8" deep which quickly began to melt as a gentle rain fell. Later it was raining, sleeting and snowing all at once and now it's returned to snow. After it freezes tonight it will be doubly treacherous tomorrow. That's the difference between winter in the north and winter in the south...ICE! 
    In case you've stayed to the end and you've wondered about the first photo...It is indeed titled "Bubba's First Christmas" and was part of a lengthy series of photos that I took along with my old friend Shannon. I found the doll on the edge of the Rappahannock River and he soon became the star of a whole series of adventures...he went cross country with a band of plastic comrades. maybe I'll dig them out one day. they always amused me.

30 January 2014

A Winter Post

Last night's sunset
    I had hoped to show you a few short films from the studio, but as is too often the case, Blogger won't cooperate. This seems fitting as I am about to move from this platform to wordpress. I am having a very sweet new website built by Adam Desio that we should have ready in a few weeks. Adam is a very talented artist in his own right and I'm excited with what he's done so far. I seem to always be a bit behind the times, but this new site will connect all of my social media stuff to my website and I will be adding a shop for all of you folks desperate to buy my work!? He's encouraged me to join Pinterest which I just did, so more photos will be forthcoming. Just in case you don't already spend too much time on your computer..
My studio door!
I grew up in Buffalo,NY and I still love it when we get a bit of winter here in ol' Virginny, but it has slowed me down and giving my a major cold so I'm happy to see the big thaw coming this week-end. I just finished over 100 big mugs and next will be a bunch of smaller ones. But, for the evening it's beer and poker...there's more than one way to pay the bills!
Snow lobster?
The squirrels are great athletes.

22 January 2014

Artistic Obligations

I have several exciting opportunities to show and sell my work this year and I've been revisiting the obligatory Biography and Artist's Statement    

"My work stands at the intersection of traditional and contemporary pottery.  I have a particular interest in medieval European salt glaze and 17th century English slipware as result of my training at the Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire, England, but my earliest work in clay was sculptural and those two disparate bodies of work continue to inform the pots that I make today. 
    I started making my own pottery in 1980 In Fredericksburg, Virginia. Making pots for a living is satisfying on many levels. I enjoy working long and hard and being productive, all of which are necessary to success. Of course, the opportunity to go in the studio each day and exercise imagination and skill is enormously satisfying. I believe that my job is to make each pot as well as I possibly can. No shortcuts!
    Making pottery is a lifestyle choice as much as it is a career choice…it is an integrated way of living, where work and play and everyday life all dissolve into each other and that suits me. It also allows for a great deal of variety: not only do I make pots, but I teach workshops, exhibit, write a blog and promote a show.    
    My own pleasure in making pots is made all the better by the pleasure that they bring to others. I've sold most of my work directly from my studio and the opportunity to meet and talk with my customers brings me great satisfaction.
     I enjoy the aesthetic challenges of making pots as well as the physical labor that being a potter and firing with wood entails. It is important to me that my work be finely crafted and made to a very high standard. I love the architectural qualities of clay, the permanence of stoneware, and the sweet magic that occurs when good pots, good food and good people come together!"

Any critique is welcome. I'd like to sound smarter than I am.

08 January 2014

Dan Finnegan - Dumb Ass

Another good title for this would be "Pride goeth before the Fall"
My studio is a fairly primitive place...no running water and no electricity (I run my wheel on a generator) and the littlest gas heater I can get away with. This is mostly by choice, both environmentally and financially motivated and a wee bit dictated by location. I am overly proud of my self regarding this and I've paid a price this week that has put me back in my place. 
I thought that this color enhanced the icy cold feeling!
When I leave the studio in the evening I turn my little heater off. This means it can be very cool the next morning...38 degrees F is not unusual. But Monday night's big chill should have made me reconsider...and I didn't. I discovered several big pots ruined by freezing the next morning. That hurt a bit, but I got over it quickly and then filled the studio with 8 pound bowls planning to leave the heat on all night. Which I did. But the gas ran out. And the bowls froze even worse than the previous day's jars! I lost heart and left early (after buying more gas and leaving the heater on....again!), But not to worry, I'll be back tomorrow and get back on the wheel. But I do hate work that's gone to waste. 
 Even a tough day is improved by wildlife encounters. Today I came across at least 40 turkeys feeding on winter wheat in a field near the studio! I've never seen so many in one spot before and I got to watch them for a while. That lifted my spirits!