30 March 2009

Matt and Shoko

While I was teaching a workshop this weekend, Matt Kelleher and Shoko Teruyama were teaching at Baltimore Clayworks. They stopped by on their way home to the mountains of North Carolina and we had a great visit. It's easy to take for granted what a great little town Fredericksburg is and walking around, looking at it with fresh eyes, is always refreshing.
We met at Penland a few years ago when they were Residents there. They are now renovating a place for their own pottery and home about half an hour from Asheville. We always have a good time talking about pottery and life and baseball. Matt grew up in the Midwest and is a Cubs fan. I believe that 'long suffering' applies here!

29 March 2009

Too Many Photos...

...but then, nobody's making you look...

I had just a couple of hours with the pots this evening after wrapping up a very easy going workshop at LibertyTown. It is good to challenge these eager learners and everybody learned something, I hope. Even if it was as simple as pulling your handles with the right hand...(ahem)
Upon second glance I'm still happy with most of the results from firing #6. I'll give 'em a real going over in the next couple of days. I need to set aside pots for two shows. I'm going back to England in June and Toff and I will do a two man show at his place in Conderton. In August I'm doing a show with Michael Kline at the Washington Street Gallery in Lewisburg, WV. I hope to fire again before I leave, but I'm never entirely in control of my schedule. So I'll save some nice pots just in case I don't get it done. I'm still not adjusted to firing such a big kiln. I can't be my usual last-minute self.

So, here are some quick photos I took today. They're too shiny.

These teabowls belong to Hollis Engley. He always gets nice pots from my kiln!

I'm guessing that 10% of the work is seconds, none so dramatic as this one below. We were reveling in the pots as they sat in their places, when that glorious and dreaded t-h-w-a-a-k sounded from this lidded jar! It was right on the bagwall and well reduced. It tore itself to bits throughout the evening. Who needs fireworks?

These last two are little bud vases that remind me of the crystalline sandblasted glazes of John Tilton. John hasn't blogged in a while. He's probably making pots instead.

28 March 2009

A Very Good Day

What better way to start a day than Kathy Harrigan's mighty fine baked goods?! I am leading a two-day workshop at LibertyTown and it is nice to bring 'home' some of the ideas that I talk about when I'm teaching elsewhere.

I threw a bunch of simple pots this morning with the idea of putting handles on tomorrow. The afternoon was for the students to throw and I tried to give some guidance. It's a really nice group.

Afterwards I sped out to the kilnsite to unload .
I was pretty sure that this firing was much improved from the last. It felt good while we were firing and the peeks I could get from pulling rings and sticking a flashlight in the spy holes gave me great relief. I'm happy to report that it is the best I've had by a long shot. Good temperature, reduction and salt with very rich results and few seconds. I even got some flat flatware!

I'm sure I'm giving Lou and Jerry some kind of lecture, here. I can't help myself...
I didn't give a lot of respect to the wood chamber this time. It's one of the reasons that I put the two giant coil built pots in. So, of course, whether it was the openness that that created, or the baffling I did in the space beneath the shelving or the change in dampering, the bloody chamber was beautiful...toasty and lustery where it should be. We certainly made more black smoke this time and the flame from the blow holes really had some vigor.
I really liked using a new to me clay that has a bit of color and iron specking and flashed nicely in the wood. A french kaolin that I'm using as a slip in the salt is an amazing orange color. I'd like it to be a little more satin and a little less shiny, but that is a very minor detail. Next to the french slip the 6 tile looks a little bit brown, but I think I just need to apply it more thickly.
There are too many good things to mention! Isn't that sweet? A bunch of cool bottles...the largest teapot in Caroline County...a nice batch of mugs. I won't get to take a real close look until Monday. Pottery is a great teacher of patience.

26 March 2009

The Promise of a Ring...

I spent a few hours cleaning up at the kiln site and taking quick peeks inside. I also pulled rings from the salt chamber. They show great promise and everything I could see made me hopeful!
Both chambers were hovering around 1200 degrees F. and felt too hot to look for long. This is always a time of the most exquisite agony.
Everything about the wood chamber felt better this time around and while I expect that the reduction in the salt chamber is still uneven, I kind of welcome that. There is a nice variation from light to dark that works just fine for me when it varies like that.
I am still exploring the active/passive dampers as they relate to the second chamber. Creating some back pressure seems to slow the cooling of the first chamber but really increases the smoke and flame in the second. It's possible that this would give me more even reduction?
The cooling of the first chamber while firing the first is perhaps my biggest challenge.

And Now, The Wait...

The firing seemed to go as it should...better even temperature in the wood chamber with some new ideas about small side stoking to keep the front hot on both chambers. 18 lbs of salt. A good crew ( thanks to Jeff, Beth, Bill, Michael and Elliot) makes this all possible. And a couple of future stokers in Ellie and Baxter. Baxter enjoyed my rolling playpen!
I'm teaching a workshop at LibertyTown this weekend and I'll be dashing out to the pottery Saturday night to see the results.
Of course, I'll be out this evening with a flashlight to get a peek!

23 March 2009

Firing # 6 in a Series

The world's slowest loader of kilns is almost there. I added another day to the schedule, which is a great way to take the stress out of the situation. The salt chamber and Jeff are below. Jeff very kindly bricked up the door while I worked on the wood chamber. Did I mention that I'm slow? Not that I am apologizing for that. I don't have a deadline at the moment, which makes it easy. And I enjoy the steady, thoughtful pace, especially in the perfect spring weather we are having.
There are a lot of pots in this chamber that could be pretty juicy if all goes well.

This is the back two shelves of the wood chamber. If you recall from my previous firing, this chamber was pretty awful. So I'm going into new territory with it this time. I've loaded two extra large handbuilt pieces and it is way more open than anything I've ever been around. I don't know how it will respond. My theory is it can't be worse than the last one! I still have the front stack to load tomorrow.
I'm changing the firing schedule, too. Up until now I've begun at midnight with the idea that two chambers might take 20 hours or more. But after 5 firings, the average length is more like 17 hours. So I plan to preheat Tuesday night and then begin for real around 5 AM Wednesday.
I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but I'm teaching a workshop at LibertyTown this weekend and there is still a space or two available for the hands-on part and anyone can come to the demos (for a small fee). Call LibertyTown for details.

20 March 2009

Sprung is Spring

Today is the first day of spring and everyone and everything seems to have gotten the memo. Trees and bulbs and bushes are suddenly in bloom, rabbits are everywhere, a couple of red-tail hawks were courting overhead and lovely temperate weather seems to be here for awhile. Here in Virginia, we always hope that spring lasts for more than a week or two before summer bears down on us!

The last month has been close to frantic...lots of traveling (something like 10,000 miles) and now that I'm back home I'm loading the kiln for a firing next week. This is the official 'before' photo. #6 in a series.

I decided to set the salt chamber first this time instead of the wood. Trying to change the luck...or karma...or feng shui or whatever it was that undermined the last firing. This is the back two shelves loaded. I'm the second slowest kiln loader I know; Toff is even slower...I hope.
I'm still trying to leave more space between and among.

19 March 2009

Cape Workshop Report

I got home early this morning from a wonderful visit with the Cape Cod Potters. Michael Giaquinto and his staff did a fantastic job of arranging the almost 300 pieces in the show. I gave a speech at the Museum in conjunction with the exhibition that I judged for them. It gave me the chance to talk about why pottery belongs in Art Museums and why it might be that it is a rare thing. Maybe I'll post some of it later. I then gave a two day demonstration workshop for a lovely group. I really enjoy the chance to meet with fellow enthusiasts and from all reports, the attendees got their moneys' worth! I like the challenge of teaching and entertaining at the same time and to that end I tell a lot of stories about my English training as well as giving some insight into my 30 years of making pots. It is still a bit odd to reflect on what is now a fairly long career as a potter, but it certainly provides fodder for telling tall tales.

Some of the enthusiastic workshop group.


I made the trip back home in a day, with a brief stop in Port Chester, NY to meet up with my old assistant, Andrew Coombs. Andrew is Artist-in Residence at the Clay Center there and we had a great visit. I got a tour of center, had a nice conversation with the director, Rina Kashyap and an excellent meal before getting back on the road. This is Andrew in his studio. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can get a better look at the sweet pots he is making these days.

11 March 2009

Cape Cod Potters

Several years ago (5!) I taught a workshop for the Cape Cod Potters group that was very well received and I'm happy to be going back for a second command performance this weekend. The CCP asked me to judge an exhibition that opened a couple of weeks ago at the Cape Cod Museum of Art and the weekend will begin with a talk there by yours truly followed by two days of demonstrations at the Creative Arts Center in Chatham. I understand that the CCP is offering bargain basement prices for the workshop, including lunch, so if you're in the neighborhood, there's no reason not to join us! I usually tell lots of tales of my days in England while making a variety of pots. The photos below are from my last appearance there.

08 March 2009

Kiln Shelves

I won't load the kiln until I get back from Cape Cod in the middle of next week, but I'm doing all I can to be ready before I leave. Painting shelves always makes takes my mind back to Winchcombe. The wood kiln has about 140cu.ft of packing space and was fired every 3 weeks or so! That's a lot of pots made by a team of 6. Anyway, one of my jobs was painting about 120 shelves, often in a cold, unheated kiln shed listening to BBC Radio 1 (Rod Stewart's 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?'...early Police...the Talking Heads). The kiln wash mix we used was alumina hydrate and wallpaper paste. After the firing we just brushed the alumina off and used it again because the paste, being organic, just burnt away. I've never tried this with the salt kiln. I ought to at least try? Today was a perfect day for this chore. I'm not feeling all that well and a nice mindless job in the sun was all I was up to.

04 March 2009

Hollywood Preview

The confluence of traveling to England and back, 8" of snow, postponing the firing and car trouble have left me out of sorts. I need to find new momentum. The only thing I've really accomplished lately was writing a 'speech' for my visit next week at The Cape Cod Museum of Art. I judged a big show there...a survey of potters from all over the Cape that opened last Friday to a throng of people. According to Hollis's report, close to 600 people attended! There are some good photos on his blog. I will be giving a talk at the Museum Saturday afternoon (14th) and then teaching a two day workshop. Gail Turner, who has been working really hard on behalf of the exhibition and me in particular, reports that there is already a good group signed up, but if your nearby, please join us. The more the merrier. I'm sure to be writing more about it soon.
Today was much more productive...Paul Cymrot and I hung the "Hollywood" show at LibertyTown and I got the Jeep fixed. Here are a couple of preview photos. The gallery looks outrageous!

02 March 2009

Kilnus Interruptus

I had a tight window of opportunity to get a firing in between my trip to England and my trip to New England and I was excited about seeing some of the last weeks' work finished. But the gods have conspired to thwart me....7"-8" of snow last night and car trouble means that I need a new plan. It'll have to wait. I'm not happy about that....
Still the snow is absolutely lovely, the light fluffy stuff that piles up quickly. I started to shovel the lot at LibertyTown, but happily paid a guy with a little bucket truck to clear it all. I spent my childhood shoveling snow. I'm not too keen on it anymore.

I set aside each layer of the kiln in my studio before I actually load it. It saves time when loading and lets me know that I have the right mix of pots. This is the bottom layer of the salt chamber. I usually put planters there.

After the last firing I covered the firebox end with two layers of fiber paper to seal it from sucking air. The hard brick left an interesting pattern.
My kiln has a 'gasket' made of this stuff, with a layer between the inside and outside rows of brick. It is mighty tight!

My back yard on Winchester Street.


LibertyTown in purple and white.