31 October 2009

Culpepper Purple Stone

Putting down a good bed of gravel in the kiln shed has been one of many items stuck on my list for years...thanks to Mr. Michael Littlefield I can finally cross it off (NEVER use pea gravel underfoot, friends...it forever shifts beneath your feet). Purple stone is an extravagance, but I'm a sucker for pretty things.

This has been a big week for projects including this lightweight cover for our tile making operation. The mortuary table, full of wet clay, is underneath.

Every Halloween for years Laura Shepherd creates a paper mache sculpture at the entrance to Downtown Greens, the community garden that she founded There have been giant pumpkins and witches and bats and spiders and plenty of other scary icons. A couple of years ago I rear ended a fellow with my car because I had turned to see what she was making that year. Art can be dangerous!

Many years ago a consortium of friends rented this warehouse together. God help us if we ever have to move!

Tomorrow's blog promises to break new ground...

25 October 2009

Summer Arrives in a Crate

It seems a long time ago, but while I was in England this summer I had the great pleasure of sharing some excellent time with a few fellow bloggers. Hannah McAndrew and Doug Fitch arrived at Toff's bearing these fantastic gifts for me! I was bowled over!
I have a wooden crate full of treasure that was shipped back to me recently by Toff and Georgie.
It was full of pots I had made or collected there, a whole bunch of Tiggy's soap for the Emporium at LibertyTown, books, damson and cherry plum jam, and box upon box of lovely tea. But these two fabulous and robust jugs are surely the prizes of the lot. They look perfect amidst the fall foliage.
I spent this beautiful autumn day helping Anna move and then clearing up some fallen trees in the woods beside my studio. Perfect weather...'nuff said.

22 October 2009

Leaning Tower of...

...Things Stacked On Top of Each Other. I took it down today before somebody got hurt.

A bunch of pots on the window ledge.

You remember Ellie Bird, I'm sure. Here she is with her dad, Paul Cymrot, proprietor of Riverby Books (along with his dad, Steve Cymrot.)

Ellie and her 1,000 watt smile!

19 October 2009

New York Review

I am back from the show in New York, unloaded and ready to figure out what's next. The Westchester Craft Show was a moderate success for me... it is a very high quality show and deserves its reputation for sophisticated buyers. It is a real pleasure to be included among such accomplished makers.
There were lots of great jewelry, fiber and a very eclectic and diverse group of ceramics as well as wood and glass.... I was the only one there with mugs. There are so many things about being near NY City that are so cool...ethnic diversity being one and I love to hear all the different NY accents! My biggest sale was to a couple of women from Croatia. I asked them if there was much of a pottery tradition back home and they said ' No, everything comes from China' !
I'm reasonably pleased with my new booth and will do just a little tweaking before the next one, although I don't know when that'll be. You can never have too much lighting is one of the lessons I've learned.
In addition to doing business I got to spend Friday with my adorable niece, Courtney Parks. Courtney is the only daughter of my only sister and she is a delightful person. She lives in Chelsea in NY City after finishing her degree last spring.
And Andrew Coombs came from nearby Port Chester to join us for a delicious Indian meal. Andrew was my assistant for 3 years before going on to grad school. He's now one of the artist-in-residences at The Clay Center there, teaching and making very nice pots. He's a good guy, illustrated by the fact that he showed up to help me both set up and break down. What a gift! It is hard work and the help and company were both excellent

These photos are pretty awful, but they're the best I've got.

I tried to convince Toff this summer to put fewer pots in his display and yet I can't resist myself. What do you do when you make so many different things and you only have a 10'x10' world to display them?!

14 October 2009

On the Road...Again

I've traveled more than 20,000 miles this year.
It's been ten years or more since I've done a craft show. No doubt I said I'd never do another... and now, I'm all packed up and ready to leave for New York early tomorrow morning. If you find yourself in White Plains this weekend stop by the art deco civic center for the Westchester Craft Show.

12 October 2009

West (by God) Virginia

I took a drive yesterday to visit Gary Roper at his Washington Street Gallery in Lewisburg, WV. I needed to pick up leftover pots in advance of my trip later this week to New York for the Westchester Craft Show. It is 201 miles each way and takes me from just about sea level here in the Rappahanock River Valley over the Blue Ridge Mountains (4,000+ft.), down into the Shenandoah Valley and up over the Allegheny Mountains. The weather was perfect and the mountains are newly kissed with a rusty red color. I do like to drive, it gives me the space to let my mind wander and there seems to be a lot to wander through these days. Among other things, I'm giving a talk at the show this week on my 'Green' pottery practices and I'm still working out my message.

What a simple and profound sign!

West Virginia is easy to poke fun at...$100.00 is big bucks!

08 October 2009

Mortuary Sink

I've always made tile of one sort or another...sculptural ones, backsplashes, fireplace hearths and lots of individual tiles. For a while my assistants were making hundreds of square feet of stamped 2" squares. But I've always wanted to make more massive floor tile and today Beth and I put together our first effort. Using clay re-constituted in an old funeral parlor sink/table, we mushed gooey clay into wooden frames. The clay is a rough mix of several stoneware clays, grog, sawdust and bonding clay and has a lot of texture to it.

I made frames for 4", 6" and 8" squares...the newsprint is to keep the clay from sticking when removing the frame. They sit on a slate-like table sprinkled with dry clay and we are pretty pleased with the process. I've always thought that my bagwall should be tile...I'm not quite sure how to pull that off, but I do want them to get strong flashing.

I also slipped and trimmed all the breadplates I made earlier this week and I wish I had a hundred to play with. It is such a satisfying technique...the wet slip flowing from the teeth of my plastic comb, thickening on the borders of the simple pattern. I slip them before I trim them.

After trimming I use a blue/black glaze...both as dots or pouring.

05 October 2009


I've been making lists like the one from my last post for a long time. Many of them are between the pages of these composition notebooks...I've been filling them for more than 35 years.

A list of pots is more of a guideline and it's usually a little ambitious...I always yearn to have way too many pots to fill the kiln's two chambers.
My old nemesis was back the other day, guarding the same tree where I hide the key. It had a very symmetrical wiggle and didn't want to back down.

There are always bugs on my pots...

Brandon Newton is opening up a gallery in the new hotel downtown and he's invited me to include some pots. He's a terrific young painter and I think our work will be a good fit.

04 October 2009

39 Down...261 To Go

It takes about 300 pots to fill my kiln and hence the making cycle is a long one. I find that I procrastinate and find reasons not to begin. It's not because I don't want to make pots, because there are few things that bring me as much pleasure and contentment. I think the real reason is the certain knowledge that once I'm underway, nothing else is very interesting...the obsession takes hold again...so I dither, taking care of business that I'll soon be ignoring.
One way to delay is to make a list.

Eventually though, I weigh up some balls o' clay and sit myself down at the wheel. It was a perfect autumn day and the view and the gentle breeze were delightful. 2 and 1/4 lb. bread plates are an easy warm-up and I made 30 this afternoon. Some of my favorite pots from the last firing were these simple pots with old fashioned slip combing.

There was a time (about 20 years ago) that I altered the shape of lots of my wheel thrown pots. I got over it and concluded that it was too much about cleverness for me and lacked the simplicity that I strive for. But these little oval pots continue to amuse me, and I plan on making a bunch.