30 April 2010

Friday - Prelude to #8

Even with an extra day I'm pushing hard to get all of my final preparations crossed off the list. Today was a short day...only 12 hours!  I gently preheated the first chamber (to 120 degrees F.) while I started to clean up the site. My studio is complete chaos and there's still the grass to cut, a little remedial work to be done to the firebox door and some laundry to deal with. I've got a great crew of helpers including the Littlefield twins! and baked goods from Anna. Who knows, maybe Paul will bake some of his famous scones Sunday morning?!
4 months of making thousands of dollars worth of pots, and all of it subjected to the whims of the 24 hour fire. Wood firing isn't for sissies! Best of luck to all the others who might be firing this week-end (Michael included) it's supposed to be a hot one...the weather AND the kiln.
    The photo is a piece of a mural painted by my friend Bill Harris on my former shop on Hanover Street. It is a bit faded and peeling which just seems to add to it's cool factor. Perhaps a wee prize might be found in this firing for the first to identify all the potters?!

29 April 2010

Out of Time - Prize(?)Winner

    I'm not certain why I decided I could get this beast loaded in 3 1/2 days. I really need 5 and why is it that we don't load our kilns and then take a couple of days off before firing? With the kind agreement of most of my firing team I am putting off my firing for a day, lighting up Saturday evening rather than Friday. I might have pulled it off as planned but I would have begun the process exhausted from the start. Not a good idea. Still, today's weather was in the top three days of spring, I got the second chamber loaded and I've never had such an interesting and diverse load of pots in this kiln. 
    Also, have I mentioned that I'm salting both chambers for the first time. Light in the first chamber, heavier in the second.
And the grand prize winner of the mug no one was sure they wanted is...Cindy Shake! Alaska is probaly just far enough away for some! Condolences are in order, my dear, send me your info and I'll send you your prize!
    Here's the first chamber, which I loaded second , making it.....I'm too tired to figure it out.

Half Way

I've been behind schedule from the very beginning...I enjoy loading kilns but I'm feeling a little stressed which is not ideal. Ideal is the right word for the weather...absolutely perfect spring days! Lighting up Friday night! Please consult your kiln gods for good karma. It's almost been a year since my last firing...I hope that I remember how!

26 April 2010

Spreading the Word

We had a full house at Mountain View High School this morning where I did a demo for almost 50 students under the direction of their awesome art teacher, Rachel Siegler. The kids were great and I really enjoyed my visit. If I weren't pressed for time to get loading my kiln I would have enjoyed hanging out longer. I used to do more of this sort of thing. It's important to let young people know that there are many ways to make a life and a career. Thanks to Rose Taylor for inviting me and baking me a 3 berry pie!!! A couple of years ago her sister Rachel invite me to do the same for her class and she made me a pie then. What a great tradition! (the school has around 2,000 students...roller skates would be useful to get from one end to the other!)
I'm such a show-off...but then, you knew that.
The view out my studio window on a damp Monday...very green! At times the rain came down like 'stair rods' (one of those British expressions that I love)
I eventually got to the studio and put the first layer in the salt chamber before dark descended.. Each chamber has two 12"x 24" shelves and one 16"x24" shelf per layer. This one happens to have two of the last pots I made and two of the oldest pots laying around the studio. The bird head falls somewhere in the middle.
Tomorrow, a prize winner!

21 April 2010

Another Contest

The gift shop at Colonial Williamsburg has a big display of these mugs for sale. I was fascinated by them and creeped out by them at the same time. On principle I'm opposed to these white cylinders that many people pass off as a mug and yet, covered in all of these great salt glaze images, I wanted to buy one in the worse way. I was able to justify the purchase by thinking of you, dear reader, and of a prize for my next contest. So, here you go, in honor of my last throwing day (more mugs, of course) before firing #8, I offer you one of these immaculately crafted muglike objects. Let me know if you want your name in the hat. I'll pick a 'lucky' winner over the weekend. Extra credit if you're a 'follower'. (It's never too late to join up!)

18 April 2010

Fighting to Keep Focus

The weather has turned glorious...spring at it's best...and I find it all distracting. With less than a week to make pots before I begin loading the kiln, I can't decide whether I should be planting things and working on landscaping or throwing more last minute treasures...or hanging out at Laszlo's Weenie World for the Virginia States Frisbee Championships...or...you get the picture. I know that I can put a lot of things off until after the firing, but the weather is bound to get hotter than I prefer by then. 
Still, at least some of the time I'm get to the studio. I've got 50-60 mugs made...I want 100.
These next two are the last of the big'uns...18" - 20" tall. I added lots of dots with my black glaze which you can see on previous posts.
I like to have at least one "Fredericksburg" pot in each firing. My calligraphy skills are crude at best.
Here's a peek inside some biscuit fired pots.I raw glaze/fire most of my work but I've never been able to make my crackle slip work on wet pots. (truthfully I haven't tried all that hard. Yet.) I should write more about raw glazing soon. I love it. The difference in how a pot takes the glaze is subtle but important. Biscuit fired pots suck the glaze up almost frantically as opposed to the way a slip or glaze glides across the surface of a raw pot. Try combing a biscuit pot after applying a slip and you'll know what I mean.

17 April 2010

Friday's Report (on Saturday)

I've got just one more week of making before I begin loading the kiln for ol' firing #8. This has not been my most productive week, but I'm certain that I have plenty of pots already made. I like to have many more than I need because it makes it easier to load if you you have choices, but at the same time I hate it when an exciting pot doesn't make in. Such difficulties in a potter's life!?
I don't think that Rudi and Els read my blog, so I can show you this plate I made for their golden anniversary. Don't any of you LibertyTowner readers spill the beans, please!
When given the chance, I usually will put a handle on anything I can. Once in a while I let one go. I'm not sure if it's because I like to see the handles or because I like to make the handles; hopefully a bit of both.
At some point I always have a little panic about not having enough to properly fill the kiln. That moment came last weekend and I threw some bigger things to assuage my fear.

09 April 2010

(four blogs in a row for friday) 1/4- Skunk in Hole!

We noticed the dogs acting odd around the post holes Ryan dug for me...I took a peek over the edge and, and it took a moment to process the fact that this very white critter was a skunk! The photo is foreshortened, as the poor guy is 3 feet deep. Luckily they won't spray in close quarters, but still, how to get him/her out? What would you do? A rain storm was coming. Anytime we went near it just tucked its pointy nose under its belly. My solution was to build a little skunk ladder , stick it down the hole and hope for the best. I'm happy to report that all was clear when I returned this morning. Have you ever seen such a white skunk? I'm going to ask Gerry Hersh. He's my skunk expert, going back more than 30 years.

2/4-The Other ACC

I have been nominated and seconded for membership in The American Ceramic Circle, which is a non-profit educational organization committed to the study and appreciation  of post-medieval pottery and porcelain in Europe, Asian ceramics from all periods and anything ceramic in North America. The 400 strong membership is made up of museum curators, collectors, institutions and dealers. And hopefully one potter.
As I reported earlier, the conference in Williamsburg was wonderful and two of the many folks I met there have put my name forward. I feel very honored and I hope that I can be a bit of a bridge between those of us who make pots and those that study them. My university education taught almost no pottery history and it is a subject I've pursued on my own for a long time. I'm excited to have access to all these great scholars!

3/4-Food Show 2010

The Food Show is our longest running competitive exhibition and continues to be a big hit with our visitors. The gallery show includes 45 entries and Ariel Freeman won first place for her fantastic watercolor full of apples.
On opening night we also have a competition for the best artwork made from food which is judged and eaten by our guests. It is a whole lot of fun.
We also provide a space for the local Food Bank to raise funds and they were VERY pleased to raise more than $700.00! Well done, friends...
 This piece could have been entered in either show!
These pears of Carol Josefek's are juicy!
This is not the first time that Kathy Harrigan has honored me in baked goods! The ultimate compliment from our dear friend.
Ariel can also create in three dimensions!
This was the "People's Choice"! Way to go, Sharon!
These are cupcake owls made by our intern from UMW...a giant hit with the 7 year old set.

4/4-Previously Owned Art Center For Sale!

Over the last few weeks I have been slowly revealing to the world that LibertyTown is for sale! I could write a million words about why, but for now I will just say that it is time for me to return to my studio full-time and time for me to figure out the best way for the Art Center to go forward. More than 50 artists work and exhibit here. Hundreds of students take classes every year. Thousands enjoy rambling through the maze of studios and galleries. It has quickly become an important place in our community and I think that there is still a great deal of room for growth.
Let me know if you are interested!

06 April 2010

In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King

I seldom make commissioned pots anymore, but 'The Littlefield Project' was impossible to refuse. While I was making it I was thinking of Edan Schwartz, a student of mine at Penland years ago, who made very expressive face mugs by pinching and folding thrown pot. Since taking this photo I've made a few changes...eliminating the uni-brow for one. If you roll back a few blogs you'll see Michael's drawing.
I planted a couple of fig trees in front of the studio yesterday. Already dreaming of fresh juicy fruit...

03 April 2010

How to Know Which End Is Up?

A long time ago one of my art teachers suggested turning something I was working on upside down to look at it with fresh eyes. That lesson stuck and I often turn things this way and that to see if there is a new idea there. I attended a workshop with Paul Soldner way back when (1977!) and he was throwing these large closed forms then flipping them over and tearing an opening in what had been the foot! And Byron Temple often made his famous boxes in a similar fashion...turning an opening and a gallery in the bottom and then adding a thrown lid. Ideas stored up like that become part of a personal encyclopedia...

This group of vases have a foot thrown on them inspired by Khymer pottery that I have long admired. I like them up or down.
This is a bit of a 'classic' for me. Nice fat form with lobes and a strong but understated rim. A great form for a bunch of flowers.
I made a quick 'sketch' in clay, trying to figure out how to make 'the Littlefield Crock'. I threw a bigger version today.
Speaking of that encyclopedia of ideas, this bird is inspired by a Cyclidic pot from the 7th. century B.C.  I've been looking at for years. My bird-mania has no bounds!
This is a drawing I did to help that memory...I like this rather dense sgrafitto decoration. It doesn't have to be feathers to suggest 'bird'.
And finally, A nice shot of my stamp...my mark...my chop. Not to be confused with Doug Fitch!