31 May 2009

The Big Event

Friday evening we hosted a fundraising event at Libertytown that turned out to be a great financial success as well as a whole lot of fun. We called this evening 'The Big Event' because it concluded something that we started a month ago.
Here's the idea, which came from the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia, just an hour up the road from us:
We asked artists affiliated with our gallery to donate an original piece of work worth at least $150.00...we ended up with 53! donations of everything from oil paintings to mosaics to pottery. We installed them in our gallery and opened the show last First Friday.
With 53 pieces in hand we then sold 53 tickets for $100.00 each (in less than 3 days!) with the understanding that at the end of the month we would hold a drawing. That's what we did Friday evening.
With all the ticket holders or their agents on hand and plenty of friends and supporters to cheer us on. We began pulling names from a lovely handmade basket. The first name pulled can choose any piece in the show! The second name picked goes next on etc. down the line until there is one last name and one last piece! The real challenge for the ticket buyers was to prioritize the work because they wouldn't know in which order they would be picked. We provided a list which you can see is blown up on the wall (that's Beth Jordan keeping track below).
We've never had a more scrutinized exhibition as everybody came by at some time this month and spent hours reviewing their possible choices.
Spirits were high and folks were very prepared. We planned on 3 minutes per choice in case people were stumped, but spirits were high and we moved along quite briskly. The adrenaline and anticipation made for an exciting time. I was the MC for the evening, with Aline and Elizabeth and April keeping everything tight.
Thanks to everyone that donated or bought or helped or attended...it was a fine evening... our town at it's best!

Everyone looking to see the latest piece picked.

Notice all the folks holding or checking their list.


I never get tired of folks who enjoy my work. Karen Johnson visited from California with a local friend and she swept into Libertytown Friday afternoon, full of enthusiasm and compliments. I'd never met her before, but she is a fine ceramic artist in her own right and somehow she has remembered my work from a couple of rare Ceramics Monthly appearances. She is the director of the Charles Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. She really made my day...who doesn't like to be told that they are wonderful?!
Thanks, Karen!

26 May 2009

Martin Bros. Homage

Here's what became of the recent coin banks. This could be the start of a blogging revolution. Perhaps AKAR will one day have a sale like their Yunomi show...think of it, hundreds of people saving money by buying our handmade pots!

The banks were fun, but this next piece has me close to giddy. I have admired the salt glazed pots of the Martin Brothers for a long time. Years ago, Toff and I toured the house of an eccentric Englishman (is that redundant?) who had dozens of pieces. Having seen them I liked them even more and I finally decided to take a run at making one of my own.

Just like the Martin Bros., this is a lidded jar. They made all kinds of exaggerated and grotesque animals. I don't have much of a palette to do it justice, but this might be one of several over time. I once undertook to make 100 vases shaped like fish (fodder for another blog). I doubt I could make 100 of these, but a few more might be nice.

My Generator

I was asked a while ago about the equipment I use at my studio since I don't have electricity. This is my super quiet Honda generator. Pricey, but worth every penny. I also bought myself a Shimpo Whisper Wheel. It is half the horsepower of my ancient Brent CXC and much quieter, but will still handle way more clay than I would ever throw.


Sunday was the last day I could spend on the wheel and I decided I'd finish up with one last batch of mugs and coin banks. I ran out of steam at 75 pots! I used to throw like this all the time. Simple pots made quickly...the Winchcombe way. I'll spend a couple of days putting on handles and glazing and then it's time to begin loading the kiln. I hope that I have enough pots
( I always have this worry).
There seems to be a pack mentality to this blogging world. Both Hannah and Doug have also made coin banks in the last week and I'm stealing a few of their ideas as I finish mine. And Michael is now threatening to make some. Anna Branner at LibertyTown had made some as well. It's got to be the economy!?

More nature photos:
I don't like snakes...my response is rather biblical. But this black snake was full of some rodent and I had to take a photo. It's close to 5' long.

And here's a little cheesecake for the ladies...Ryan Olsen has been helping me this spring...cutting wood, moving brick and generally tidying up the pottery site. This bird had crashed into a wall and he held it for a long time before it regrouped and flew off. A regular Dr. Doolittle!

22 May 2009

A Week to Go

I only left myself two weeks to make pots for the wood chamber and the clock is ticking ever faster. I plan to fire then sort and ship and then it's off to merry ol' England for 7 weeks! (life is tough!). I've been revisiting some of my 'production potter' chops to make a lot of pots fast. These bowls will be boxed...that is stacked rim to rim and foot to foot.
Paul and Emily and Ellie return early next week so my retreat at the farm is coming to a close. All I've been doing is making pots, mowing grass and watching late night NBA playoffs. Oh, and drinking tea. I could get used to this simple life!

I made a few 12 pound vases...still beyond my comfort level to work this big, but I'm getting there.

Here are two pieces after I've just put them together. The next photo shows what I did with it.

17 May 2009


This, as always, has been an action-packed few days with the highlight being a brief visit from my brother Mike's two kids. Michael Murray Finnegan on the left and Madison Finnegan to the right. It's been too many years since we last met and I was really happy that they made the time to visit. Michael is working for the AHL hockey team in Rochester, NY and Madda is in college for business in Buffalo (our hometown). They are both a lot of fun.

I'm still in charge at the farm and I thought I'd share the scene from the porch where I've been enjoying my toast and tea in the morning.

The weekend started Friday, setting up at the Reston Art Festival with Susan Wyatt. We were showing a bunch of our collaborative work as well as Susan's own work.
First thing Saturday morning we had our annual artists' Yard Sale at Libertytown. About 14 artists set up and we did steady business all morning. Nothing like a sale. I sold seconds for the first time in 25 years! I had very few when I fired with gas, but the wood kiln is not quite as predictable....which is why I like it...and why it can be maddening.

Sunday it was back to Reston for the show and taking it all down. I've never done too many, but I am always reminded of how much work they are. It was great to see some old friends...Tom Clarkson and Terry Gess and Jeff Kleckner...plus I got to meet Richard Aerni...all excellent potters and really good guys. Below is part of our display.

Just before the show was over this little guy came cruising by!He constantly worked his back legs even though they were held up off the ground by this contraption. Indomitable!

13 May 2009

A'Cozy' of Teapots

How else to describe a group of teapots???

10 May 2009

Weekend Update III

I've had a great couple of days in the studio; the weather today was exquisite. This is a robust vase that I'm pleased with. Thankfully the mice have left it alone.

I haven't made banks for coins in a long time...perhaps inspired by our economic woes!?

A couple of little oval vases with different handle placements and a few of the cruets finished yesterday.

Now I've got teapot parts everywhere...

09 May 2009

Everyone's a Critic

I'm farm sitting for the next few weeks which means that I'll be sitting in front of my computer a little less frequently. It's a bit like a retreat...taking care of the horses, dogs, cats and gardens, and making (I hope) lots of pots. I've got to fill the wood chamber...fast.

I'm overrun with mice in my studio and I'm growing weary of them chewing on the sprigs...the photo is a little out of focus, but you can see they are not showing me any love. Everyone's a critic!

05 May 2009

A Book, a Technique, a Result

One of the many rewards of my time spent at Winchcombe is the aesthetic foundation that it gave me. Ray Finch distilled the ideas that Michael Cardew explored and ever since I worked with Ray I've been using those distilled ideas as my own. Building my wood burning kiln has inspired me to pay more attention to the pots that were the original source of their inspiration and this book has become a constant companion.

If you've been reading this blog you know that I'm besotted with making bottles and using sprig molds... the book is full of Bartmann or Bellermine pots and they are covered in shallow 'sprig' molds like the ones below.

I carved this rather primitive version, which, as I've said before, really has me amused lately. I could put it on just about everything I'm making these days if I wasn't such a sensible bloke.

And here are a few minis from the last firing. The tallest is about 5"high.

02 May 2009


The last few days have been centered around our First Friday Exhibition Opening at LibertyTown. We're having a fundraiser this month and the support has been wonderful. I''ll write more on that later.
I did get back to the studio for a few hours today to finish this batch of mugs. I'll throw more tomorrow. Time's a'wastin'!

I like a strap handle on most things like a mug...mine have grown broader than at Winchcombe, but relative to many, they are somewhat understated.

I put several different 'dust catchers' where your thumb falls on the top of the handle. I like how this one mirrors the same shape as the handle itself.