30 September 2009

On The Cusp

I'm feeling a little out of synch with my fellow bloggers...it seems like everyone is rushing to dry the last pots for a firing and I myself am slowly creeping towards the beginning of a cycle.
I've been wrapping up a bunch of projects so that I can start to make pots (maybe tomorrow... I've been saying the same thing each day since the weekend). The wrapping up always goes on longer than I think it will....the thing is, I know that once I start to throw a few pots the obsession kicks in and I don't want to do anything else, so getting some items crossed off my list is big.
I juried the "Portraits" show at LibertyTown this week. We had more than 140 entries!!! and 77 were particularly interesting. That's a lot of work to hang in the gallery and Beth and Elizabeth did a fantastic job. That and cutting wood and clearing up the property and giving my new booth it's second coat of paint (I mixed a pint of matt and a pint of satin black) have been keeping the days full.
I built a temporary wood fired pizza oven on the stone wall at Paul and Emily's last week. We're going to build a more permanent one when we are sure if the size is right.

Toff and Georgie just shipped off the pots that I made this summer. This is a view of his latest firing...pretty heavy reduction, but it looks pretty rich to me. I tested a couple of my own slips and will be interested to see the results. Can you tell who's are whose?

This my 'temporary' wood buck. It's light and sturdy so I can move it around to the various wood piles.

Beth is standing in front of the wood rack...and my pickle bucket water retrieval system. I use these edgings in the salt chamber and bigger slabs in the wood chamber.

Here are a few of the teapots in my collection.

27 September 2009

Scrumpie...m-m-m Good!

Inspired by my old friend Ken Hussell over in Conderton, I came back from England determined to make some alcoholic cider from our locals apples. Sadly, it has been a very weak crop, but we pressed what we could today and got 4 or 5 gallons all together. We used this great old chipper/grinder/press and enjoyed some beautiful autumnal weather at Jason and Lisa's farm. I'm looking for more apples if your nearby and know of any.
After a couple of weeks I'll add sugar to the juice and then wait a few months while it does it's magic. Stay tuned...

What sort of footwear do you wear to write your blog? I read a review of a book on blogging recently...6 years ago there were 100,000 blogs...today there are 184 million!!!

What You Missed...

On a somewhat grim and rainy night, a small but fortunate crowd joined us at the Purina Tower building for an evening of gorgeous music with Shannon and the boys. We've been trying to lure Shannon here for a couple of years and it was well worth the wait. She and Jon and Matt are all excellent musicians and her writing is heartfelt and often melancholic. Plus she has a rare voice that you've got to hear to appreciate. Sorry if you missed it... Thanks and a tip o' the hat to John Sovitsky, photographer to the stars!

24 September 2009

Shannon Whitworth - Great Live Music!

If you are within the sound of this Blog you should seriously consider joining us this Saturday at LibertyTown for Shannon Whitworth and her band. Shannon played here several times as a founding member of the Biscuit Burners and now fronts her own band playing 'Americana" music. She plays the banjo and every other instrument that comes with strings and if that wasn't enough, she has a glorious smoky, sultry, mountain voice! And she writes....and she's a lovely soul...and best of all, she's a fine potter, although I doubt that she gets much time for clay these days. Come join us...I'll give you my money back guarantee that you'll love her!!!

23 September 2009

Snakes Alive!

I pass through a farm gate to get to my studio and I keep a key on a nail inside a hollow in a nearby tree. Today as I started to reach in for it I was greeted by this black snake! Luckily it was sticking it's head out to smell the roses, or I'd have stuck my hand right into it's mid-section! I have a rather biblical response to all snakes...not my favorite! You can see the key on the lower right.

I have a short drive to my country hideaway (11 miles) and the view quickly changes from old town architecture to vinyl suburbia and then vast fields of corn and soybeans, all before I venture into the woods and my studio. Just now the farmers are working long hours harvesting the corn crop and the smell that it leaves in the air is truly of the earth.

I'm on the cusp, at the tipping point, on the verge of beginning a new cycle of making pots for a November firing. Once I start throwing, obsession kicks in and I lose interest in other projects, so I'm wrapping up my display building and getting the studio ready to roll. Autumn is here and the energy level is high!

20 September 2009

A New Display

I sometimes watch Ebay for interesting pots and recently scored a major haul!! These were originally purchased from Winchcombe in the '60's and have the lovely, soft matt glaze called "mw" by those in the know. It was later altered with zircon to please a client (Crank's Restaurants) and was never as nice after that. It got 'waxier' and less 'buttery'. Someone outbid me for the plates. I don't believe that any of it was ever used! Quite a serious purchase, but they would have cost pennies in those days. They were in Chicago when I bought them and now they are in Fredericksburg.
This October I am going to be exhibiting at The Westchester Craft Show just north of NYC. It's not too far from my old helper Andrew in Port Chester and my niece Courtney in Manhattan and my old stomping grounds of Poughkeepsie and Mahopac and Clinton Corners. I haven't ever been a big fan of craft shows and except for my early days when I went to wholesale shows, I really haven't done many. Most of my pots have been sold right here in the 'Burg for almost 30 years. It's been more than 10 years since I've done one and this looks to be a very high quality show and I'm feeling fortunate to be included. But I have to create a brand new display and thats what I've been up to this week. I've stolen ideas liberally from Toff and then modified them to suit myself. Later this week I hope to get back on the wheel and begin making for a November firing.
I started by making a bunch of small pedestals and here are the before and after photos. I like the mitered edges and masking taping them together makes it easy to glue them up. I will paint these black in the next day or so.

The bare bones of this new set up... trestle tables made from luan doors with pine boards on top to create shelves. The back is all open for storage etc. Every thing will be black...a mixture of fabric and paint. Most of my pots being rich oranges and browns should be pretty striking, I hope. If you look back on my business card ideas, it really should work well. I still need to figure out lighting.

Bill Thornton's truck. A national treasure!

13 September 2009

Castle Hill Workshop Report

Brendon, Jim, Cherie, Linden, myself, Pam, Shelle, Gail, Elaine and Stewart.

Here's the firing team from last week's workshop at Castle Hill in the town of Truro on Cape Cod. It was a wonderful group and we worked very well together, sharing lots of laughs, good food and good conversation about pots and wood firing and glazing and health care!
I'm a wee bit weary from the trip, but it was a wonderful and gratifying 8 days. This was the first time I flew and then rented a car to teach a workshop and I managed pretty well without all my toys. The weather was cool and the air was salty and the skies bright and blue.
The firing was pretty smooth and the results were lovely. Everyone got some real beauties. There were a bunch of big pots included that were made during Kevin Crowe's workshop earlier in the summer and I think that they were all very successful.
The kiln is called a train kiln and I'm afraid that you must jump to Hollis's blog to see a complete picture of it. We fired it in 31 hours using mostly hardwood, which probably isn't the ideal fuel, but it did work. I think more softwood would have helped heat the middle.
Most of what I teach at workshops is the fundamentals of making classic pottery forms with strong handles a nd lids with an emphasis on fine craftsmanship. I also ramble on about my days as a young lad at Winchcombe and how that opportunity has influenced my work. And of course, the subject of pie often comes up...

Martha had to leave after we fired so she's not in the group photo. Neither is Ray, who had some of his first pots fired in this kiln. Martha is a musicologist with several books and other writings to her credit! She's glazing this oval pot of hers with Linden in the background.

The kiln is built a few miles from the studio on property owned by the Federal Gov't. The former Air Force base was built to monitor the nukes that we feared were coming our way during the Cold War. The same nukes that we hid from by hiding under our desks at St. Ambrose grammar school back in the day! It is an eerie place and this was the gate we went through at 6 in the A.M. to light the kiln.

A before shot.

This building was renovated and a concrete pad several feet thick was poured at the cost of $80,000.00!! That's what happens when too many people have a say so. Someone has decided that the site could become a cultural and scientific center, but interfacing with the U.S gov't makes it difficult. It certainly has potential, with lots of random buildings throughout the property. It is bordered on the east by a cliff leading to the Atlantic. The winds can be troublesome, but we were more than lucky to have a still couple of days to fire.

Our first peek. This is the middle of the kiln with pots stacked to the front and rear.

Nice shino glazes.

Brendan has been exploring these loose, almost battered pots and they have great feeling. It is his most personal work. We agreed that a paler clay might be more suitable, but there's no doubt that he's on to something exciting.

Elaine's beautiful decanters.

04 September 2009

#200 in a Series

200 blogs written in little more than a year! I'm not certain what it says about me that I have set aside the time to write about my self, my work in clay, and the ideas that rattle around my brain that many times?! But I do know that I have grown to count on the news from my fellow creative souls out there. I love the quiet of my studio in the woods, but I also enjoy the knowledge that so many of us are exploring and creating in similar or at least familiar ways. So, onward to 300...
I'm still decompressing from a huge crowd at our First Friday exhibition opening. I'm guessing that we had 500-600 people attending this evening, which means we were full up all night. This was a two-for-one with the work of Hal Wiggins and our very own Artist-in Residence, Elizabeth Siever. Elizabeth has worked very hard in her first year as A-i-R and she has found a wonderful new direction in her painting/collage work depicting wildlife with the emphasis on wild. It is a great show and sales were brisk!
I spent the morning in the Circuit Court building as a member of a potential jury pool but was not selected. The building itself was designed by James Renwick Jr., the same architect that designed the "Castle" on the Mall in Washington, DC (our nation's capitol).
I'm flying off in the morning to Cape Cod to teach a wood firing workshop for a week. I'll be reporting on that trip when I return. Stay tuned...

02 September 2009

...and the Winner Is...

Don't feel spurned, gentle voter, but this my new favorite, a last minute entry from Anna that we both really like. The only question I've got is...should the handle be 'off the page' or on?

This week has been filled with out of town visitors, a new water pump for my truck and hanging the new show in the gallery at LTown. I haven't been in the studio in a while and I'm off Saturday for my workshop in Cape Cod. It will be good to see Hollis and some of my other friends there.