29 April 2009

Odds and Sods

I just got a box of books in the mail , ordered via mail from a remainders company. Al Capp wrote and drew 'Lil'Abner' a comic strip that was groundbreaking for it's time. I like some of the old comics a great deal, 'Pogo' especially. "We have met the enemy, and he is us"!

I've still been in the studio, steadily working towards an early June firing. This is a week for mugs...I always promise myself that I'll make a hundred. I usually fall short. Back in the day I made lots of batches of hundreds.

Thanks to Dave Breedin for leading me to this great pile of wood for the kiln. Hardwood edgings, ready to go.

26 April 2009

Weekend Update - third in a series.

We all love these 'wet slip' photos. The way it pools accentuates the faces in a way that cracks me up.

1 pound vases. These got handles and lugs and sprigs. I'll slip them tomorrow.

This is the strap that I pull before cutting it in two and applying to the sides of this big bread crock. I should have taken a side view to really see how it works, but this profile is always important to me.

This is a little sgraffito calligraphy. I'm drawn to the old pots that had place names or numbers that referred to gallons of capacity stamped or painted on them. I filled the lettering in with my cobalt slip.

I have been on a roll lately, getting to the studio almost every day. I like it...

This Weeks Nature Report

Earlier this week I wrote about the gypsy chickens that I discovered in the middle of the woods and the possible coyote sighting in the same area. I'm more and more convinced that it was a coyote....and the chickens are definitely gone. Coincidence?...I think not.
The weather has turned summer hot (90 degrees!!!) but up until a couple of days ago it has been a lovely spring and all god's creatures seem to be enjoying it. This is a bad photo taken with my little digital camera's zoom of two wild turkeys that sauntered through my field on Thursday afternoon. I haven't seen turkeys in a few years and they are known to be elusive, so this was a treat. They wandered and pecked their way across the field and then slowly made their way into the woods. I'm hoping that they'll come back.

Earlier the same day I drove through a field that must have had close to 30 American Black Vultures on the ground. They remind me of morticians in their somber black and gray. They certainly have a rather grave occupation.

Last year this hawk must have been love sick...he drove me a little crazy with his relentless and plaintive screeching. This year there is a pair nearby and I like to believe that he met his match. It is much quieter this year, anyway.

Driving out late last night 9 deer just stared at me while they enjoyed a snack in the fields. No fear at all...usually they would 'high tail it' out of there. And then there are the rabbits that eat the road!?!

25 April 2009

Tools Of the Trade

Michael recently wrote about standing at the wheel vs. sitting when throwing a pot. My own wheel is set up half way between the two. My measurements are based on the English wheels that I got to know. They are a much more substantial machine than most of our wheels here in the U.S. The seat is high enough that my legs are completely extended and I'm almost standing...but not. It is easy to step away and get a better look at the profile of a pot. I also like plenty of padding on the seat!

Like all potters, I've accumulated loads of tools over the years, but most of the pots I throw are made with these four basic tools. A scrap of sponge. A needle tool. A butter knife with the edge ground down. And a stainless steel, kidney shaped rib with one end cut square. Everything else is an extravagance.

I weigh all the clay out before I begin. Most of my scales I've used are these old, fairly inaccurate scales that are easy to find in thrift stores. This one is red...one of my favorites

Some three pound lumps ready to go.

A gratuitous photo of the pocket door in my winter studio.

22 April 2009

Poultry on the Lam

Once I turn down the dirt road to my studio I'm entering a very different world. It's a mile or so down a rough, potholed track that traverses farm fields of corn, soybeans and right now, winter wheat. Halfway in the woods take over and there is always good wildlife viewing here. Wild turkey and deer, rabbits and hawks are common. Wet, discouraged chickens, however, are a rare sight. The last two days I've come upon these two forlorn chickens on the edge of the woods. There are a lot of geese migrating back north these days...perhaps they are en route?! I'm not sure where they could have come from. Today they were absent, but as I left this evening I saw a critter that resembled a coyote/dog cross the field in the same general vicinity.

I've been getting to the studio regularly and the pots are flying off my fingers. I've got these 9 seven pounders to slip and glaze tomorrow. Made in two parts. The two in front get lids.

I continue to be on a bottle kick and these little guys are made with one pound. I could make them for days and I really like them with the face sprigs.

I also finished up a dozen bread plates and a dozen soup bowls. These all have a kaolin slip on them and are inspired by a beautiful pie dish from the last firing. I love revisiting the old combing tricks. This slip sets up beautifully on the leatherhard pots and allows me to move a little slower than I have in the past. I feel like I'm making a 'cleaner' pattern this way. Anyway, I like them a lot. I should take a photo to show, but the comb is just a piece of a flexible plastic lid cut with teeth of various sizes and spacings.

19 April 2009

Flying Disc Tournement

For more than 30 years friends of mine have organized a frisbee tournament here in Fredericksburg. It started when they all attended Mary Washington College here. 4 events are held over two days (golf, distance, maximum time aloft and freestyle) with an overall winner declared at the end as well as individual winners. I've been making trophies for most of those years. It is all sponsored by 'Laszlo's Weenie World', a loose consortium of good hearted people who work most of the year to provide delicious food (all vegetarian!) and entertainment and what we call 'goof factor' for a couple of hundred people. Competitors come from all over the US and, just like the pottery world, there are a lot of gray haired folks about! I got to visit for a couple of hours this afternoon and see the finals of the freestyle. It is a great scene.

18 April 2009

We Shove the Poles in the Holes

On yet another glorious spring day, Nicky and Michael drove down the hill and we planted three willow trees. We've talked about planting trees ever since I began building on this spot. Maybe 10 years...and except for a failed plum tree venture, this is momentus. A little triangle of willow. They don't show up too well here, but they are close to 10 feet tall and are a fast growing tree. Nicky enjoyed using pink material to tie them off. I need to replace the rainbarrels I lost to freezing this winter. Keeping them wet this summer will be critical.

I started making some 7lb. bottles and bread plates.

And here are the planters from earlier this week, glazed, slipped, handled and ready to go.

Once again, my title is plundered from a song. Any guesses?

17 April 2009

Who Needs Lunch...

...when Emily and Elle Bird show up with rhubarb/raspberry pie!?

16 April 2009

A Question of Balance

It is a rare occurrence that I drop a pot, let alone three. Yesterday was one of those rare ones. As much as I hate to admit it, it feels like putting a match to some money. Losing the effort, the time, the cash...it all bothers me. Now that I'm a Blogger, reactions are compounded....first it's "Damn#%&*%$"...then it's "I better get a photo of this"

Other than wrecking pots, I had a good lunch with Bea, Paul and Rudi and then made another batch of planters, this time with a darker clay for the wood chamber. I do put holes in them, to answer Patricia's question. On big ones, I put several holes in the side instead of the bottom. Better drainage.

Extra credit for naming the band who's album title I stole for today's title!

14 April 2009

Planter Day

I have always loved making pots for plants....I've never been a big gardener myself, but I have always known passionate gardeners and they do wonderful things with pots and plants. Aline is my current collaborator. I find making planters quite liberating...I'm usually using more clay than normal and I know I'm going to add all kinds of handles and the form and shape are less proscribed in my mind than pots for food might be.
Sometimes the bottom of the kiln is cooler than the rest and putting pots there that have less invested in them is often my strategy. Planters fit that bill. This last firing the planters were beautiful and I've already sold a bunch. Good pots always sell first.

This next one is a 15 pounder. It will go in the back bottom of the salt chamber eventually.

I'm also watching these 'Emily' storage jars. They have a ginger jar type lid and it is still a new idea for me. I usually find a way to alter or add a handle or two to any pot that I make, but these seem to insist on austerity and I'm happy to oblige. There are also some trophy mugs for Laszlo's Weenie World.

13 April 2009


Nothing like that wet slip glistening on a leatherhard pot. A week or so ago I made an optimistic but knuckleheaded decision to move to my bigger, unheated studio and it's been cold and windy ever since. I've finished off this batch of vases and finally gave up and dragged my wheel, generator and basic tools back to my cozy and heated little studio this afternoon. I made a bunch of 'Emily' ginger jars and finished up some mugs I made as awards for the frisbee tournament this weekend. I've been making various awards for this event for almost 30 years.
I also mowed the grass...first of the year. It's so satisfying.

10 April 2009

Caption Contest

Here's a scene from the farm today that deserves a better title than I can come up this weary evening. Any suggestions?

Today was near perfect. Beautiful spring weather and an entire day to spend in the studio. 22 pots to finish - 44 handles. I almost counted the # of sprigs , but I resisted. But I do wonder...how many little tiny balls of clay the size of a cooked grain of rice can a man make in a day? I really liked a round vase from the last firing so I made a whole bunch of variations on that theme. Putting them together takes about twice as much time as throwing them. I am deliberate these days in how I do that. I like both processes...throwing takes more focus for me, finishing/handbuilding is more relaxed. And all of it is good when listening to the Piedmont blues, drinking cups of tea and watching the goldfinches at the feeder, sometimes 7 at the same time.