24 November 2008

Wieliczka, Poland Salt Mines (100th blog)

One day I would like to see this place...just about everything here is carved from salt. It goes on for miles.


For those of you who are not salt glaze potters, you might not recognize the pattern that develops on the bottom of silicon carbide shelves during the firing (see below). It reminds me of the pattern on the black and white composition notebooks that I've been filling for close to 40 years. It's probably a good case study for the chaos theory. Seemingly random and patterned at the same time.
One of the best books I've read in a long time is "Salt - A World History" by Mark Kurlansky. It is a fascinating look at world history through the procurement and control of salt all around the globe.
Salt is the only rock essential to human (and animal) existence.
Many of today's roads follow paths once worn by animals seeking a source of salt.
Controlling the salt trade led to great power...the Roman Empire did it...the British did it in India (think of Ghandi's great act of civil disobedience...going to the sea and 'making salt').
Until refrigeration and canning food, one of the only ways to preserve food was salt.
The Wielicka Salt mines in Poland date back to the 13th c. Miners have been carving in the salt for a long time and it is now a tourist attraction that contains a cathedral and a lagoon with boats and statues and chandeliers entirely of...you guessed it, salt. Toff Milway brought some for me and I used it in the first firing of my kiln. I think we might have sprinkled a little in the kiln at Penland as well.
I could go on, but I won't. If your still reading this, you ought to get the book.

21 November 2008

Caroline County Meander

I drove to the outer reaches of the county this morning to deliver some pots to the gift shop at the new Visitor's Center in Carmel Church. They have a big fossil of a whale hanging in the lobby. It was dug somewhere nearby. As I headed back to my studio I took some back roads and discovered Boone Antiques, the biggest, baddest antique store I've ever seen. Really, it's a warehouse and maybe as big as 30,000 square feet. Mostly full of old furniture, beautifully cared for and lined up as far as the eye can see (almost). Literally thousands of pieces. Nothing I could afford, but a real treat to see so much beautiful old wood. I have a thing for chairs and a couple of the photos below show the entire floor full of amazing ones. Probably 100 genuine Windsor chairs, each being sold for more than $1,000.00. Almost no pots, sad to say, but I did buy a nice salt glazed crock that I'll show you later. This first photo is a three-drawer chest with the best fake books you'll see.

Eventually I made my way to Bowling Green and had lunch at a little 14 seat restaurant that serves burgers and fries and Thai food! How can I resist? Tofu with cashews...mmmmm.

19 November 2008

Solar Power

My studio is only 10 miles from town but it is very remote just the same. You could call it 'primitive' since there is no electricity or running water. It is certainly basic and one of the results of that is that I pay extra attention to managing my 'utilities'.
Dave Twinberrow is an ancient friend of mine who still resides in the Vale of Evesham (England). He has a beautiful plot of land that is rich with fruit trees, flower and vegetable beds as well as various sheep, goats and fowl. There are also sheds both large and small all over the place and I had to ask him about it one day. Even in rainy old England, he explained that every inch of roof could collect water. I've always admired that. I think of his place as I've been developing mine.
Dave would approve of the little solar electric system I moved today. I bought this kit a few years ago for less than $200 and I think it is cool that even on this cold day it will produce enough light for me to work well into the night. I hope one day to put together a system that would drive my wheel for a couple of hours a day. That'll take a bit of cash.

Of course, my outhouse project is part of my 'green' studio. This is the rear view (pun intended) 12' high to the top. It's coming together nicely. I love that curve.

17 November 2008

Weekend Update

Next up for my 'comfort station' project is roofing and a door. I was trying to puzzle out why I'm feeling compelled to build this (aside from the obvious reasons...) at this time. Today's theory has to do with results. After a rough firing, when pots that I had high hopes for have not met expectations, it is satisfying to make something that I don't have to subject to the vagaries of kilns and firing. "plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt." (lyrics from The Fantastics). I plan to build a ladder up the back so that I can access the roof. All kinds of wildlife passes by when your up off the ground.

We have been putting together an 'Empty Bowls' fundraiser for a number of years and last night we had dinner with some of the other potters and coordinators as we plan for this winter's event. It has become a wildly popular social event in town and a lot of cash is raised for a very good cause. Dinner was at Poppy Hill, a very good downtown restaurant. (pumpkin ravioli)

15 November 2008

Privy News

I think that every potter has a bit of architect in them...and I know a couple of architects that have pottery envy. Kurt Vonnegut's father was an architect who struggled all his career, finding satisfaction in his retirement as a pot maker. Making pots...making buildings...they both share ideas about interior and exterior space..line and form. I often describe potmaking as architecture on a personal scale.
All this is a way to explain my lifelong interest in building things. The outhouse is shaping up. It was a tricky thing to get the arch forms up that high by myself...today if the rain isn't too thick I'm hoping to put most of the siding up. I need to get back in the studio, but this sure is fun!

13 November 2008

SOFA Review

The sensory overload of a show like this is amazing. 100 galleries were there representing thousands of artist and craftspeople. The quality of the work boggles the mind. There are so many great makers in our world and it is easy to be humbled by such a display of talent. The show was dominated by glass and wood. My other response was that strong color and figurative work dominates this show. There wasn't as much clay as I would have hoped to see. One artist I spoke with said that the 'real estate' cost too much to show pots. I saw a vase sold for $20,000! It was a nice vase, but I am always a bit bemused by the distance between a vase like that and one that I might make.
It was great to get up close to the work of Voulkos and Chilhuly, Notkin and Bennett Bean. I always look forward to getting back to my studio when I leave a good show.
Chicago is a great city and I walked so much I hurt myself. As I was slowly walking to my gate at the airport to head home I looked up to see one of my oldest friends in the world, Gerry Hersh!
I've been negligent in keeping some old connections alive and this amazing meeting has been a big reminder to me of the value of friends. I learned a lot from Gerry a long time ago and that continues to have value to me today.
Sorry about all the photos. Of course, you don't have to look if you don't want to......


larger than life size - Ceramic

folded paper


11 November 2008

Windy City Scenes

No time to write this morning...I'll post some SOFA photos later. The best part of the trip was in the airport as I was leaving!....more about that later.

05 November 2008


I have been curious about the SOFA shows for some time and a couple of weeks ago I made a Priceline deal and I'm getting on a plane tomorrow in DC and flying to the city of Chicago. Blues music and the Loop and The Art Institute and Edward Hopper and architectural ceramics and the Great Fire and "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair and two old friends to see. I'm looking forward to the break and I love to travel. I'll bring a report back with me.
Everywhere you look these days the leaves are lovely.

03 November 2008

Random Weekend Events

Here's a little photo review from the last few days. I spent Saturday working on the world's coolest outhouse. My instruction manual says the hole needs to be 4'11"(!?) deep. I gave up at about 4 and a half feet. My pottery sits on ancient riverbed...compacted sand and clay makes for tough digging. More on this later.

Anna turned 30 and once again, Kathy Harrigan, queen of the baked goods, provided excellent dessert for us. Anna is the reason that I have websites and a blog...my technical expert...and a fine friend. Anna sometimes visits and 'corrects' my blogs....if her picture disappears you'll know who did it!
Merri had a birthday too...age is just a number, girl!

The carrots and rabbit are made from marzipan. Edible art is alive and well in the 'Burg!

Last, but not least, here are Gabriel Pons and Diego...we had a sweet baby shower for the boys and especially Scarlett, who is close to birthing baby #2.

01 November 2008

Pumpkin Love

I've spent most of this last week cleaning up after the firing and getting ready for winter, which seems to be coming sooner than later. I'm moving back to my cosy little insulated studio. Most people with winter and summer studios have one in Maine and one in New Mexico...mine are 60 feet apart.
I really need to get back on the wheel soon, but I've been planning the world's coolest outhouse and for some reason, this has turned out to be the time for digging a big hole. I've been building a library for it for years. And I don't mean the old Sears catalog!
I did have cold visit to Emmett Snead's farm for some pumpkin pickin' with Emily and Ellie Bird. He grows these lovely, warty old varieties.

Ellie hypnotized by chickens.