27 February 2011


At 44" this is hard to photograph...
A detail in the shade
I made 8 of these so far...still need stoppers
I think this 'slate colored junco' must have been stunned as I was able to get within a few inches of it.

23 February 2011

Mug Making Ideas

A couple of months ago John Bauman wrote a post about making mugs and I've had it in mind to respond ever since. John makes an argument for a simple straight sided cylinder with a turned foot and he extolls the virtues of those horrible diner mugs (the ones that often come filled with tepid hot water for your tea!). I hope that this doesn't end our 'bro-mance', but I must wholeheartedly disagree! My pots are almost always about curves and the intersection where two curved lines meet. I make two basic mug forms: one is a tankard style based on those found in medieval European pots and the other form is a smaller round cup. 
gotta love the slip...
I've seen this round cup form in lots of old pots...Persian, Chinese, medieval and English slipware, but nobody made it better than Eddie Hopkins. I'm sure I've written about this before, but I have a small series of slides of Ed throwing and handling 500 mugs like this in less than a 5 day week! The beauty of this little one is a full round outward curve which changes rather abruptly to an inside curve that flares out just a little bit. Someday I'll write about the different ideas of 'round'. This size is made from about 3/4 lb. of clay and usually gets a 'one finger' handle.
18 ozs.
This tankard style is the one I've made the most of...thousands and thousands. It has the extra added fun of having three distinct segments and I play with the different relationships between them...sometime the bottom bit is very round, sometimes more subtle like the one above. And sometimes the 'waist' is higher or lower. The handle springs from the rolled ring that I leave at the top. That little feature is one of the threads that holds my work together. I like how glazes break and salt attacks there.
This is the fruits of last fall's labors...
Because I see mugs as an everyday item and I make lots of them I would never put a foot on mine. I do give them a fairly thin lip...anyone (man or woman) with a serious mustache will know that thick rims can be dangerous!

Next Up: TeaBowls: Overhyped Juice Cups 

18 February 2011

Expanding on an Idea

Jason and I fetched more wood for the kiln yesterday and there is a few years worth on the site now! Wood has been a struggle lately and my friend Rudi's connection to the old saw mill in Massaponax is the gift that keeps on giving! We will go back again next month for more. 
9" high - this is a (successful!) prototype modeled on a drawing I did of an ancient pot.
Today I was able to spend the entire day in the studio. I threw parts to make a half dozen more of these 'carafes' (above) which I think are quite jaunty. I'm thinking that they need some kind of a stopper. After the last firing and the success of the birds I filled pages in my composition notebook with sketches of new possibilities. Making a totem pole was one of those ideas. I'm not a great big-pot maker, but I can stack forms to the moon (or rather, to the top of the chamber...)
the first bird totem  pole in progress
This will have 4 birds in all...that's 4 beaks, 8 eyes, 8 feet and who knows how many hundreds of little balls of clay for feathers...it might take a couple of days to finish making it...I'm thinking about a bird bath next.
44"high/18 pounds...reminds me of those Volkous/Soldner pots from the '50's!

By the end of the day I had attached these bits to the lids and 'beaked' them. I'm enjoying the character variations that different bases and body shapes seem to take on. I hope to finish these in the next couple of days.
future bird jars
I was trying to make a bowl-shaped pot here below, but it ended up being too much like a teapot missing a lid. I have another bowl that I pulled oval and I'll put a head on each 'corner'.
another prototype...it might pour...

15 February 2011


1976 - Tempe, Arizona
I must say that blog awards strike me as silly at best. In fact, I'm not too big on awards of any kind...somewhere in my attic are the various ribbons etc. that anyone making art for decades accumulates. Years ago I got a best in show award at a local fair...my sweetheart at the time was over the moon with the ribbon...I myself was much more interested in the check that came with it. She got the ribbon...I got the cash!
    You might have guessed by now that I have recently been given one of these blog awards by Meredith. Normally I'd ignore it, but I really enjoyed meeting Meredith and Mark when they visited recently and out of respect for her and in the interest of general prurience, here are 7 things you may not know about me!

1) I am the oldest of 6 kids in my 'small' Irish family (5 boys -1 girl) and I went to catholic school until leaving for college. (8 years with the Sisters of Mercy - an ironic name at best - and 4 years with the Jesuits).

2) My first interest in the arts was theater...Tom Stoppard is still my favorite playwright after W. Shakespeare.

3) I went to college planning to be a lawyer. Instead I discovered clay.

4) I didn't own a car until I was 25...this led to lots of hitchhiking...a trip to NYC, then on to Montreal, then Bartlesville, Oklahoma before including several cross-country trips back in the swinging '70's.

5) I am a huge sports fan...I played lacrosse in college and Ultimate Frisbee for close to 20 years after I moved to the 'Burg. I think that athletics could be described as a  'physical' art...the movement of the human body interacting with others across a field is a beautiful spontaneous expression. Just as I train myself to make better pots, a ball player trains himself to be ready for the challenges of the moment.

6) I did a two-month, 1,500 mile bicycle/camping trip through New York and New England in the summer of 1977 with a great friend of mine.

7)  I was a rock'n'roll roadie off and on for a couple of years, working a hundred shows or more...some of the acts included Frank Zappa, Blue Oyster Cult and Johnny Winter...also acts like Dolly Parton, Bill Cosby (the biggest hand that I ever shook!) and the Vienna Boys Choir.

11 February 2011

A Whole New Pace

I'm starting to get an idea of what full time bird making is like. I am used to making LOTS of pots when I get to the studio...some weeks I'd throw and finish a 100 pots or more. That's the Winchcombe way and it has served me well all these years. Now it can take all day to finish a couple of pieces...and I'm starting to grow more comfortable with this new series of 'tasks' that make up a clay  day.  Throwing the pieces happens in just an hour or two...assembly is another story.
 Putting the birds on top of pots is an obvious next step and each becomes it's own little (or eventually big) pedestal. I plan to keep the bases very simple this time around, but there is lots of potential for involving them more in the future. 
These Martin Brothers inspired pots are starting to morph into something more 'me' as you can see from the photo below. I've twitching I'm so excited about making a giant 'totem pole' version of this.
My first 'Bird on Bird on Bird Action'

04 February 2011

The British Are Coming!!!

OK  kids, it's time to mark those calendars and make a date to join us as we spend a weekend with these two masters of red clay 
Hannah McAndrew and Doug Fitch! 

You can join us here in Virginia...or with Hollis and the Cape Cod Potters in Massachusetts to the north of us, or with Ron in North Carolina (which is, of course, south of us). 

Please help us pass the word around....we already have folks from Ohio and Pennsylvania signed up to come! Don't miss out.

In addition to a reception Friday evening we will have some sort of social event/meal planned for Saturday night. This is a rare treat and I know that we are going to enjoy ourselves!

Check out our website at www.libertytownarts.com or phone us at 540-371-7255

03 February 2011

The Year of the Bird!?

It's been several months since I've made pots (such is the life of an art center owner) and this week I've been slowly working in my studio, trying to build some momentum. The studio starts out somewhere between 32 degrees F. and 40 when I arrive, but my little heater gets it up to the mid-50's in an hour or two and I'm happy with that. 
While I can quickly clutter the studio with every tool and teacup and notebook until there is no more useful horizontal space remaining, I try to begin each cycle with everything in it's place.
I wasn't sure what I'd feel like regarding bird making after a long layoff...they're such a departure from the last 30 years. But I find that I'm still having fun making these and I really do have pages of new doodles to try and bring to life.

So. I apologize in advance to anyone celebrating the year of the rabbit, but I declare, in the land of Dan, that this is to be the year of the wood-fired salt-glazed birds! Look out world...