26 February 2010

Finding a Groove

I've been thinking about rhythm today...a question in my morning crossword sparked it.  We potters talk about rhythm all the time. 
Right now for me that means a series of steps as I progress through my day in the studio that includes:
Turn on the heater 
Take off any plastic that's been covering pots.
Fill kettle and turn on camp stove.
Put batteries in boom box for satellite radio. 
Put out bird seed. 
Then the real fun begins...when I'm in a groove there are pots at several different stages:
-First come the pots ready for a glaze liner. I'm using a mix of old shino glazes these days for most things.
-Next I move to slipping pots that were glazed the day before. 
-Some pots receive another layer of 'accents' ... brushed and poured slips and glazes.
-Then I will finish pots that I threw a day or two before...trimming or 'thumbing' the bottoms of pots.
-I usually throw for the last couple of hours of the day. It takes a long time to finish pots anymore so I don't spend a whole lot of time on the wheel. Today I threw 50 shot glasses, first time I've ever made a serious batch and just about the only time you'll catch me throwing off the hump.
Then, come back the next day and repeat.
This red bellied woodpecker is shy but persistent. It wants my birdseed, but doesn't want it's photo taken and forever has it's eye on me in the studio.
Bowls are all turned now...or is that trimmed?!  Let's just say that they are 'footed'.

I slipped and combed about two dozen bowls. I'm not alone in combing these days!

'Mr Fatstuff' all slipped and glazed and ready to face the fire!

21 February 2010

Odds and Ends

It's been a rare snow-free week and now the big melt is underway. In the city, everything is turning black and mushy, while out at the studio it is turning brown and slushy. We've all grown a bit tired of it.
Just the same, I'm still grooving in the studio and really enjoying it. Bowls are being trimmed and slipped and more birds and trees are lurking.
    The first three photos show some of my tiles in use at LibertyTown...filling in gaps, calling attention to a step and surrounding some utility sinks.

Here are some of the ovals after they've been slipped, glazed and decorated. I'm doing a number of line blends with decorating slips this time around.

And here's a rather atmospheric photo of a bowl after turning/trimming. I like these thin foam pads...very kind to rims.
Michael was thinking out loud in a recent blog about  handles and bowls and I promised a photo of a Winchcombe pot with a nice solution to that question. Shaped a bit like a beavertail it is applied to a lidded soup pot (sorry I didn't shoot the lid). This is one of Sid Tustin's. There happen to be a bunch for sale on Ebay right now.

19 February 2010

40 by 4

I still can't get a pot made before noon, but just a few minutes after that I cranked up the satellite radio and turned on the Honda generator (or vice versa) and threw 40 bowls in less than 4 hours.  It's a real good batch, made with 2 lbs. of clay and just a little bigger than the last time. It felt great to fall so easily into that semi-conscious and I'm still kind of reveling in the feeling while I sit here hours later. There was a time when I made big lots of pots all the time...multiples of 50 and 100. Times have changed as has the way I work. And my tiny studio can only cope with so much wet work at a time so I ended the day by throwing some parts to assemble as they are much slower to finish. One advantage of my cold studio is no 'chasing plastic'...everything dries slowly. That's particularly nice because I slip and glaze everything raw. 
 I was outside getting rid of some tea I had drunk earlier and saw two adult bald eagles chaperoning a teenager right overhead! They were gone in a flash, but low in the sky and traveling together closely like they were out on a school field trip.

18 February 2010

Tobacco Jars

Almost everything I've made since getting a new start in January has been extra labor-intensive and I've been quite content to roll with it. But I've been promising myself that I'd begin some serious throwing and then I don't, instead I carry on the bird and tree theme. But as you'll see at the end here, I did warm up with a few bowls. Tomorrow's challenge is 36 by 6 (pm that is).
 In the meantime, I revisited my homage to the Martin Bros. tobacco jars ((loyal readers will recall that I made the first one last spring).  It's made from 3 thrown parts and LOTS of little balls o' clay. The beak is my favorite part. This one will get a crackle slip and some ash based glazes. It's a bit of a rip off, but it sure is fun! And I'm obsessed with the birds...it might be a reaction to the snow covered ground and the company of birds that I'm feeding at the studio.

I did make another tree, this one starting with a thrown base and why didn't I think of upside down birds before?
This shape is my version of a Winchcombe salad bowl form. Mine emphasize the change of form and really define several planes, where WP bowls are rounder and softer. Emphasizing and defining the point where forms change is an essential element of my work. I'll take better photos tomorrow...the light was fading.

16 February 2010

Birds of a Feather

I added a bunch of birds to this tree-like vase and several leaf sprigs before slipping and glazing it. What this has to do with making pots for everyday use I'm not quite sure, and it verges on being cute, although the palette and trial by fire should mellow it nicely. I like the challenge of giving these tiny things a unique character...kind of like the terra cotta warriors, each an individual (how's that for presumptuous?!)
 My good friend Bill Thornton finished hooking up LibertyTown's new electric kiln. I don't think that there is any one worth buying except L. & L. and Bill heartily agrees. Great design and easy to maintain. We're challenging Beth to keep it this shiny for a long time!

 This gives us three kilns now and should make everyone's life a bit easier.  They have a programmable computer and I've never learned how to fire them (on purpose). I am not a mechanic and if it weren't for Bill I'd be lost. Wood kilns, I understand.

14 February 2010

Ron's Answer (and Oval Pots)

Ron asked about coin banks and the existential question "to put in a stopper or not?". I would rather not do it myself, but experience shows that the consumer prefers easy access to their cash. A lot of old timey banks didn't have a stopper, and I still believe that any coin that fits in the slot will come back out. Of course, that doesn't solve the paper money dilemma.  Most of the shapes I like to throw for banks aren't conducive to turning a hole in the bottom, so I cut it by hand, using this plastic lid as a template for the hole. Once fired, these nifty rubber stoppers make a good seal.
I spent the day putting handles on 21 oval pots. Some are pitchers, most are vases and some will get sprigs before they're done. I'm big on handles...most of my pots look naked to me without some sort of appendage or other. In case you don't make pots and are reading this, these pots are thrown on the wheel without a bottom. I then reshape them and later add a slab built base. I think it is a very graceful shape.
I put this 'tree' together with the idea of covering it with little birds tomorrow. It makes me think of old folk pots.

12 February 2010

Frozen Waves of Snow

The snow continues to be incredible and wonderful...we are approaching 50" total accumulation and it still sounds like there's more to come. I've been spending most of my time on the farm, which allows me to share my 4-wheel drive Jeep with Paul and Emily and Ellie AND to reach my studio instead of driving out from town. But that means a good 1/2 mile walk there and back through feet of snow, some of it falling furiously. Mixed with all that snow is a melted layer that has frozen and a layer of sleet as well...plenty of trees have lost big limbs or have come down altogether, mostly pines and magnolias and others that hold their leaves this time of year.  All through the woods are trees bent to the ground as if in supplication. It's magic. 
Yesterday was warm enough to start the big melt and the roofs are slowly shedding their icy blankets. Hanging 3 feet or more off the edge, it eventually breaks off in big lumps and chunks making a sound  more felt than heard. But before than it looks like a wave frozen in time. Just don't get caught underneath when it goes!
 Once I get to the studio and warm it up I've been pretty productive, finishing a bunch of coin banks and nearing the end of the ovals I made earlier. I'm going a bit crazy on the little birds lately, which is not an unusual behavior for me. I'm trying to dream up a vehicle for a pot that would be covered with dozens and dozens of 'em. I can't help it, I'm a pottery binge-er. 
Who doesn't like those beautiful brown salt glazed silos? This bank turned into one with out much trouble at all.
I showed you in an earlier blog my attempt to make a Kline-ish crock so as I was slipping it I decided I might as well carry on the game and try my hand with a little brushwork. I used some simple brushwork on my work for about 5 years in the early 1980's, applying an oxide mix over a neutral semi-matt gray glaze. I liked the simple use of shapes by the likes of David Leach and Nina Davis and Ray Finch. It felt forced and I eventually gave it up. The truth is, I've always had a strong sense of what form is right, but I've been all over the joint when it comes to surface. Anyway, it was fun to revisit.

06 February 2010

Snow-pocalypse...and my Crazy Cat

At one time last week they predicted 3' of snow...it wasn't quite that spectacle, but it did snow pretty steadily for 30 hours or more...and something like 18" fell. I took a great walk with Tom O'Hara and his fireplace as my destination. I dropped off a copy of Tom Wait's newest live vinyl release, 'Glitter and Doom'. A touch of Irish whiskey to ward off the germs and I then headed back home to carve my LibertyTown currency. I know I've said it before, but I do love this winter weather!

Two of the city's finest stuck on a little hill.

I think Miss Moneypenny heard a bird squawking about the lack of food outside and the snow is piled up at this window so high that she had to do this to see out!