27 January 2009

Snow Day

I've resisted showing photos of our big snow today...almost 2" which brings this part of the world to a complete halt. I wish I could have been making pots in the woods on such a rare day, but I'm building a wall in one of the studios at LibertyTown to create a little storage hideaway instead. In the meantime, until I get back to the studio, here are a few photos to tide us all over starting with one I appropriated from the web.
This is a great one of Ray Finch throwing a jug/pitcher with Eddie Hopkins in the background. This had to be taken around the time I was working at Winchcombe with these two icons of the English pottery world.

I finished slipping and glazing last weeks pots. I don't often put images on my pots, but I find that some of my favorite fellow bloggers do a lot. Anyway, these two are planters.

I was lining the insides of a bunch of mugs and got to thinking about where I got the original ideas for the different forms I make. The finished pots come from my cupboard.

23 January 2009

Pouring Slip

I raw glaze and slip most of my pots, but rather than dip them I invert them over a series of containers set in a wide plastic pan. This is a typical group; it varies pot to pot. This allows me to pour everything which gives me more control of thickness and drips. This whole arrangement is sitting on a banding wheel so I can rotate it with ease.

Here's a planter perched upside down.

This 1 quart pitcher has been my #1 glazing tool for more than 20 years and I've never found another.

I was holding the camera left handed while I poured with my right.

A Good Week

It's been a quiet week as I've been staying on the farm looking after dogs, cats and horses while the Cymrots are away. Our freezing temperatures have remained and I've been chopping through ice to keep the horses in water. But the days are clear and this is my kind of weather. In case you aren't in the know, I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. (average snowfall...96") and I still like to have a taste of winter. Sometimes we seem to skip it altogether here in Ol' Virginny.
The rest of the week has been full of potmaking...mugs and planters and finishing up a group of lidded 'ginger jars'. I started making these only recently at Emily's request. It seems my love of big fat jars is at odds with the counter space she is willing to devote to storage. I remembered this shape from Nick Mosse, an old Harrow student and friend of Toff's. Now I call them Emily pots.

19 January 2009

Weekend Update II

Living so near to DC, it is hard not to be caught up in Obama fever. I had dinner with Hollis and a bunch of friends who are all here for the festivities. As I am allergic to being surrounded by millions of people, I won't be there for the event, but it was good to be in the midst of all these hopeful friends. I must admit that my cynical self can't quite share their optimism. I'm not so sure our 'system' can be fixed...but I do hope.
I got to finish up a bunch of pots Saturday and this last one I dated to commemorate my 54th birthday, which was Saturday. Thanks, Mom!

We are preparing for our 10th Empty Bowls fundraiser and Sunday we invited our students, friends and fellow potters to join us at LibertyTown to make bowls. We provide the clay and firings, Kathy Harrigan (queen of Baked Goods) provided soup and other goodies. We have raised a stunning amount of money over the years and the community really rallies behind this idea. It has been a sellout year after year.

I'm including this photo of the young potter/blogger/birthday boy from college days at Arizona State. (circa 1976) Dig that crazy hairdo!?!

15 January 2009

R.I.P. - Ratzo Rizzo

For those of you who are paying attention, I will now tell you about yesterday's mystery.
A few days ago my assistant, Beth, mentioned that she had seen a big mouse or a small rat in the pottery studio at LibertyTown. Eventually, with the help of Stephanie's dad's Hav-a-hart trap, we caught him/her. I never got to see it until it was trapped, but it was apparently quite bold. It sucked the entire innards from 2 of Neal's clementines!
The dilemma when trapping a critter is where to release it and somewhere out in the woods would be as good a choice as any. So I put the trap in a crate and the crate in my Jeep and drove out to the studio. (What's really weird is that last summer I had a mouse that lived in my jeep for a few weeks and I'm pretty sure it went to Maine and back with me! But that's another story.)
I then walked to the top of the field and through the woods to release him, thinking I had completed my mission.
At the end of the day I put a few little 'dust catchers' on the handles of some pots and when I arrived the next day and uncovered them, they had been nibbled as you can see here.

My first reaction was to blame the mice the reside in the studio but then I looked past the pots to a towel nearby and there was the RAT!!! And, alas, he had expired! I am still completely 'gobsmacked'. I can accept that it followed my scent back to the studio, although it was a long way. But I have no idea how it got into the studio, which I built myself and know well. And why did it just go for these little 'prunts' at the top of some 18" high pots covered in plastic? And then why did it die? I know that this photo might be a little bothersome, but this is how little Ratzo left this mortal coil and all he left behind are mysteries. The wonders of nature...

14 January 2009

More Sprigging

I appreciate the responses to my last post and as you can see from the second photo I've taken a little advise by combining stamps and texture. The pot in the first photo has been slipped and I really like how it runs off the sprigs...it's subtle, but it varies the thickness in a way I like. I'll brush a little cobalt slip over the sprigs tomorrow and then I'll be done. It's great to be getting back in the groove. The days are chilly and bright and invigorating. To make a good day even better I joined Paul and Emily, Ellie and Bonnie for tea and homemade scones.
The third photo is a sort of a quiz. I unwrapped two pots with the identical damage this morning. I'll tell you what happened tomorrow. It's an odd story.

12 January 2009

Sprig has Sprung

I've never seen myself as a decorator, but that's mostly because I have a narrow sense of what that is. (I'm not proud of that fact!) When I use that word I'm thinking about work that involves brushwork like Michael or sgrafitto like Neal or even the overglaze work of Susan. Just the same, I have often made marks on the surface and even more often created textures. For almost 30 years form has been my constant, and I've explored lots of different surface treatments.
I've written before about my growing fascination with old German saltglaze and that's my jumping off point for now. My favorite work often takes an old idea and makes it new. I guess that's what I think I'm doing with the bottle below.

Mostly these pots are fat and jolly, but this one is pretty cool long and lean. The surrealist painter Rene' Magritte painted a series of paintings that included dozens of bowler hatted gentlemen raining down out of the sky. That image of random multiples has always intrigued me...hence the raining sprigs.

It is very rare for me to make vase like this and not add a handle...or 2...or 4. But because it's also long and lean with that hard edged neck I let it be. Because it is a bit severe, I added this scratchy texture to the bottom. I like the contrast. Those are seed beads pressed into the sprigs.

Tomorrow I'll be back on the wheel. That's always a good thing.

10 January 2009

Bottled Up

I can never make these bottles without thinking of Ray Finch. Like Cardew before him, these were one of Ray's signature pieces. When I was training at Winchcombe I took a series of black and white photos of Ray making one almost 4 feet tall! I'll have to digitize them one day. Toff and Georgie own one of his that is salt glazed. It is on my 'top 10 pots' list. I covet it.
I'm making more these days, although the market isn't the same. Sadly, I don't know many bootleggers.
I spent part of today adding sprigging to this and a few others. It is a slow, quiet way to work. Rolling out skinny little coils and making lots of little pea-sized balls of clay. Pressing them into little stamps I've carved and sticking them on the pot. Doug does this exceedingly well.

09 January 2009

Back To Work

It's really good to be back in the studio; the weather was very English (cold gray relentless rain) for a few days and then turned to clear, bright and cold. I'm not as tempted to work outside and once I make that first pot the obsession is unleashed again. It is good to wake up thinking of pots. It's only in the last few years that I started making anything of any scale. I have always viewed myself as a maker of 'domestic' ware...pots for the table and the kitchen and that remains important. But I am enjoying making bigger things and I started out this cycle with a group of 7 lb. bottles and vases. I throw them in 2 and sometimes 3 parts and I'm really getting the hang of it. I firm up the bottom with a soldering torch and the trick is getting it to stand up and still be malleable. So many choices to make...bellies and necks and rims and handles. This batch are on the skinny side. I'll make some fat ones soon.

The last photo is this season's 'Epic' pot. I've been starting each firing cycle with a coil built pot. I'm still not sure about this one. Making a bird was more elusive than I thought.

06 January 2009

A New Season/ A New Cycle

After a long season of building (outhouse and emporium) and the end of the holidays, I am getting underway with work for my 6th wood-firing. I'm aiming for an early March firing so I will have new work for the first of two workshops this year in Cape Cod.
This could be a big year for traveling; I am also planning a trip to England in June (and maybe a surprise visit for Toff's 60th birthday...he never reads my blog, so I think I'm safe here!). I used to get to England almost yearly. It's been too long. It's the LibertyTown factor.
I'm including some random photos from the holiday season. Today I'm happy to say I'll be taking pictures of wet pots!

We've had a lot of weather lately...

Ellie in a Christmas hat!

Paul's work in the woodshop

When you can't make pots...make cookies!

...or fires and gingerbread!