30 June 2009

More News from England; week #2

The Milway's are off to Tewkesbury to get their final shots before departing for Uganda (lot's of malaria in that part of the world and plenty of other strange infectious beasties!), so I have a rare quiet moment to myself.
After our exhibition here last week we put the pottery back together, moved the sheep back into the apple orchard and drew a quick breath before driving down to Oxford to pick up Milway daughter Elizabeth's worldly possessions as she has just finished her three year course in Bio-chemistry. Plenty of stair climbing to keep the legs in shape. I love the city of Oxford and plan to revisit on my own before I return. I also find it thrilling any time I visit a college campus. Although my own college days were somewhat erratic (3 different ones over the course of 5 years with no degree) I continue to be moved by the life of the student, who's main job it is to LEARN and expand the mine. Sometimes, like so much of life, it is wasted on the young. We met some of Bizzie's friends who were delightful and for dinner that evening I chose artichoke ravioli with watercress pesto...who says English food isn't good?! oh, and I had a lovely Hook Norton beer with my meal...and another for dessert (all desserts are called pudding over here).
Upon returning we packed up the camper van and drove off to Rufford Park in the East Midlands for the annual pottery show there. There are so many things we potters share across the Atlantic and so much that is different. Only in a country this small can the very best makers get together to sell their work in a most dramatic and beautiful setting. The site is a ruined Abbey and to see exhibitors tents lined up within the roofless walls and the courtyard is quite breathtaking for an American boy, even one so familiar with this place.
Many shows here exhibit only pots and I really like the concept. 90 exhibitors means it is very manageable and collectors find it very focused for their particular interests. And it really did have many of England's best, including our blogging cousins (as Michael calls 'em) Doug Fitch and Hannah McAndrew. I met or reconnected with many fine folks and I'm happy to say that most seemed to be doing very good business. In spite of weird economic times, I'm convinced that quality and integrity will survive just fine and I believe that we who make a living as potters represent that idea in a big way.
There's much more to tell and I'll try to get back to the keyboard soon. But, Hughie and I are off to a big cricket match soon and there is the wood fired pizza oven to rebuild for the party on Saturday and dinner at David and Bridget's and on and on.
Oh, dinner on Friday night was in the beautiful town of Lincoln with the spires of the cathedral out the window and Sherwood Forest down the road. Dinner was Risotto with Stilton cheese and peas...and a good local beer for dessert. Best of all was the adorable waitress Emily who would make any man's heart skip a few beats. A rare girl!
That's it for now...tea and cake await.

22 June 2009

Beware of Bloggers Bearing Gifts!

It's seems odd not to be including photos, but I've yet to figure it out from here (here being England) . I arrived safely and all has been frantic and wonderful as we prepared for the 'Open Weekend'. All went very well and lots of pots were sold, but the highlight was seeing Doug and Hannah and Matt (I hope that this link is correct,Matt) and their friend whose name now escapes me walking up the driveway bearing gifts!!! It was wonderful and a little surreal to meet these folks who feel like old friends and yet be meeting them for the first time.
I now own a gorgeous Doug Fitch harvest jug (I am not worthy!) and a beautiful jug of Hannah McAndrews' as well (eat your heart out, Anna Branner!). They were too kind to bring presents and I felt foolish not to be better prepared to reciprocate.
I look forward to more face time this weekend as Toff and I are off to a show at Rufford where they will also be. It was a little too chaotic and overwhelming for a proper chat yesterday, but I'm glad to report that blogs tell a lot about the writer and that they are as lovely you would glean from their writings and photos! (actually, I thought Doug was taller from his photos and Hannah is even prettier in person...that's for you, Hollis!).
I am so happy to be here with all the great people I've gotten to know, some for more than 30 years, and I am reminded of how rich my life continues to be.
More to come...stay tuned.

15 June 2009

Travelling Shoes

Beth is coming to pick me up in 33 minutes for the drive to Dulles Airport. By 9pm US time tomorrow I'll be back in the bosom of the Cotswolds in the shadow of Breedin Hill with the Milways. That's Gloucestershire England for those of you not in the know, where I bumped into the Winchcombe Pottery by accident and thereby set the course for the rest of my days. I'll be gone for 7 very busy weeks and I'll keep you up to date as I can.
The last few months have been relentless: In mid-March I gave a workshop and speech in Cape Cod then returned to fire the kiln. Since then we've had three new shows open at LibertyTown and our big fundraiser and I did the Reston show with Susan and made and fired the kiln again. Even a plane ride seems restful!
I'm happy for a change of pace and scenery. And, when I'm there, I'm no longer the 'Decider' I just go with the flow. Blissful. Later folks, Dan

13 June 2009

A Well-Soaked Kiln

I began loading the kiln early last week. Almost every day was marked by torrential rain with more than 12" in 10 days time! One day we had 5" in 24 hours. Much of it was accompanied by lightening and thunder storms and on two occasions hail. It made for a disconcerting week. Sometimes the noise on my tin roof was so intense that I'd end up staring out at it instead of working. Difficult to concentrate.
So Tuesday was the day to fire, and the rain kept us company that day as well. We often get dramatic weather in the summer...as the heat and humidity rise through the day it will build to a dramatic storm towards evening. Tuesday the first storm began at 7AM (unheard of!), 3 hours into the firing. An hour and a half of crazy rain. I was feeling smug that I've built such a grand kiln shed so that survival was possible in these conditions.
By the evening the rain returned with a vengeance...2 more hours of insanity.
There is no doubt that this effected the chimney and it's ability to draw. In spite of it and the challenge to stay on task with such distractions, the firing, I am pleased to report, was fabulous.
Here are too many photos. I'll write more tonight about my trip to England that begins tomorrow. Thanks to Stephanie for the outdoor photos.

I pulled these reduction cones out after they melted and the one covered in carbon was a worry. It led to some very dry surfaces illustrated by the pot below.

Wood chamber pots.


My new iMugs!

My first bird!

07 June 2009

Lucky # 7

I decided to put off firing for a day after the week of rain we had...everything is damp and moldy. I put the wicket up yesterday (that's the door for you Yanks) and cleaned up the site. 4am tomorrow I'll be lighting up. It's going to be warmer out than I'd prefer (85 degrees). I'm hoping my luck has changed as well. Friday was a tough day as you'll see from the next two photos.

I locked my keys in the car and spent most of an hour in the rain prying the lock open. Earlier in the day the bottom dropped out of a box of pots I was carrying and they all broke!!!
Next morning I had a flat tire...I'm looking for some different mojo!

05 June 2009

Monday through Friday

With firing # 7 coming up on Monday, I've been trying to keep my focus on loading and all the bits and pieces that come with this step in the process. But the rain has been torrential...biblical...relentless... and disconcerting. We've had something like 8" of rain or more...day after day. Midweek we had crazy rain and 'popcorn' sized hail. The road in to my studio is always a challenge...1 mile of dirt road potholes. But now there are large stretches of flowing water.

Everything is damp...the wood, the kiln, the pots and the wadding doesn't dry out but I'm soldiering on just the same. Below is a shot of the bagwall with a barnacle encrusted pot made by Mike from Culpepper.

The back stack of the salt chamber.

Front stack of the salt chamber.

I'm firing Monday...or maybe Tuesday!?

01 June 2009

Where Clay Comes From...

I spent a good chunk of time today roadtripping down to Richmond. I delivered pots to be shipped to England for the show I'm doing with Toff in a few weeks and then wandered back to the studio via some lovely country routes. I stopped at a couple of antique Emporiums and actually bought a couple of nice old salt glazed jugs. I'll post pictures soon. I'm not an extravagant spender, but I'm still a sucker for pots.
When I got back to the studio I proceeded to glaze my Martin Bros. piece. I let it get a bit too dry before raw glazing and it cracked! from a point at the rim where I had created a registration mark. It is pretty wrecked, and certainly can no longer 'go on the market', but I will still fire it just to start working out the glazing part as well as get some fruit from the labors of making it. It took hours. I don't put bad pots in a kiln as a rule. But I'm also famous for making exceptions.

I love towns with unique names. Frog Level is down rt. 301 in Hanover County. In England I know a village named 'Crinkley Bottom' !