30 December 2010

Whynot Pottery Visits Fredericksburg!

It was so great to meet Meredith and Mark today...they are on an extended holiday journey and kindly included us in their plans (and returned pots from the blog show). I gave them the full-on tour which includes a walk through LibertyTown, lunch next door at Primavera and then the 11 mile drive out of town to my country studio. We had a lovely day and conversation came easy... a lifetime spent making things means that we have so much common ground to compare...and contrast. They live amidst close to 100 other potteries in the Seagrove area and have had the chance to rub shoulders with lots of other wonderful potters. My pottery connections are few as I've spent most of the last 30 years selling my pots right here in the 'Burg. Fun to talk about the pluses and minuses of each lifestyle. I'm happy to live in a world where there isn't a potter around every corner, it means my world is full of interesting and different folks. But I miss having a community of potters to interact with sometimes (this is where a blog is a very useful thing).
Anyway, now I know why Hollis and Dee found M & M such good company. Thanks for the visit, I look forward to seeing your place sometime soon!
Pottery Security - don't leave home without it!
Meredith and Mark in front of my kiln.

28 December 2010

Long Time, No See

Hello there, old friends. The combination of a gimpy computer and a hectic holiday season has conspired to keep me from any posting lately. I hope that you enjoyed seeing photos of John and Yoko and Allen Green in the meantime.
A nice teapot group.
   We had a stellar December at LibertyTown and our best year yet, but it comes at a price for me and the staff in long hard days. The pace has been relentless since September when I returned from England... I'd barely looked at the pots from the firing and it was time for Christmas business. I spent a couple of weeks alternating my evening chores from taking photos one night to making and freezing cookie dough the next.
    I've sold many of the best, but there are still plenty of good pots available and I just might get a little online sale together soon. Most of the birds (except for the 3 biggest) sold in a 24 hour period! I've never seen anything like it...still trying to figure out what it all means to a mug maker such as myself, but it's exciting to see the strong response (I can't help feeling that I missed the price...did they sell too fast I ask myself...?!)
    I made a few more birds which I fired in the electric kiln at LTown, using the glazes there. I wanted to give a few as gifts and it was odd to work in such unfamiliar waters. I'd been thinking that I needed to expand my palette so this was a good opportunity to see them with more color. Some were pretty cool; one looked like it belonged in a Hallmark store at Easter time! I'll post a photo another day.
    There's plenty more to tell...my conversation with tourism/economic development employees from the city about LibertyTown's future, the arrival of my new assistant, Jason Hartsoe, from North Carolina, my plans for a gas fired salt kiln and my response to John Bauman's  blog about mugs from a week ago or so. Don't touch that dial...I'll be back after these messages from our sponsors.     

08 December 2010

The Copper Shop...and a Tribute

When I was a kid and everyone had to choose their favorite Beatle I was firmly in George Harrison's camp. As I grew older and more rebellious my loyalties shifted to John Lennon. His shooting and death really knocked me back 30 years ago. 

I visited My old friend Allen Green yesterday to drop off a pot I'd made for him. Allen and his dad, the Codger, have made beautiful copper lighting since the 1970's and, back in the days when I first came to Fredericksburg, they made weather vanes as well. The Codger passed away a couple of years ago and Allen still carries on their work today.
We joke these days about being the senior members of the craft community here in Fredericksburg...he being a bit longer in the tooth than I makes him our fearless leader and me #2. The shop is in a great old red brick commercial building and it is a true emporium of artifacts, tools and Fredericksburgiana!
The workshop is a bit lost amidst the stuff, but it's in there.
You can see a version of their lamp in the middle of this photo.
Allen himself.
The guitar is a weathervane and Dylan is, well, Dylan.

05 December 2010

Student Pottery Sale

I made Rabah pose for me. He might have a future....
It's not too late to stop by LibertyTown for the last day of our annual Student Sale. It's great to see our newer students get the courage up to put their work in front of the public and take home some cash for their efforts. I had a very hard time parting with my 'precious' pots the first time...until I was able to go home for the holidays on the money that I earned. That was a long time ago, but a good lesson learned...
We are open today from noon until 4pm...come on down (or up as the case may be).
Just before the mob shows up...

A satisfied customer with Beth (you gotta love those blonde curls!)

I like it when the buyers dust the pots as they inspect them!

Marion and Els 'working hard for the money'.

01 December 2010

Heading West

I am heading to Lewisburg, WV this morning in the rain and wind to deliver a bunch of small pots and a couple of birds. Gary Roper and his family have a wonderful gallery that is always full of beautiful work. It's the Washington Street Gallery is you're ever in the neighborhood!

26 November 2010

More Photos of the Fledglings

From 3 1/4" to 6" tall
I've had very little time to inspect pots and I'm hoping to get an early start tomorrow. but I did have some time to take a few more photos of the wee ones. I'm pleased with these photos, but as always, they can be better. I think I need to adjust the 'white balance' of my camera (help, John!) because the white foreground turns to this cream color. And I have to paint the walls white  because of a crazy green that the dark glazes pick up. Are you bothered by the hotspots?

And check out Charle's comments from my last blog about ETSY and John Bauman wrote an entire blog response that added some great thinking about the site and selling online. Well worth the time.
Tomorrow: Poker tournament!

It's a bird...no, it's a salt shaker...no, it's two. it's two. it's two pots in one!
Rear view

24 November 2010

Taking Photos Already

(Check out my last post for photos of the pots in the kiln. And don't forget next week's online sale!)
I was able to sort through pots most of the day and just started rubbing them down before it grew dark. I'm done with 12 hour days for a while! There was one little area of bloating and it wiped out the first cup/saucer sets I've made in years. Other than that it seems to be a very clean firing with just a few seconds. All the major pieces are sweet!
This was the last of the bird pots that I made before firing and the first to be photographed. I had a very kind email today asking if it was for sale...this was before I showed it in it's fired state! It will take me a while to sort and figure out what's for exhibitions (in case I ever get another invitation!?), what to put on my blog sale, what's got to be photographed and even what's for Christmas presents. And, maybe most importantly, what to charge? I always struggle pricing new work and these guys are a big departure for me and consume big time to make, unlike the 99 mugs that kept them company during the firing. So, it may take a while.
7" high
The little ones are ridiculous...I want to make enough to rival Emperor Qin's terra cotta army....and like George Ohr, I want all these 'mud babies' to stay together! Fat chance.
from 3 1/2 " to 7"
P.S. I mentioned that I don't like Etsy and I should explain. I suppose that I'm a bit of a snob...but there is so much junk on that site that I don't really want to be associated with it. Also, it seems a tedious process, they get a cut however small and I'm convinced that there is a simpler way.

Full Frontal Pottery

I thought a provocative title might attract a few more readers this morning. (if your reading this perhaps it worked!?)
Here are shots of the pots and birds in situ...I barely got them out of the kiln before dark so I've only had a brief look. I plan on spending the next few days getting to know them better!
A couple of interesting observations: 
    I use a series of wood-ash based glazes over the crackle slip and most, but not all, have a crystally(sp?) matt surface that is quite beautiful but very unusual. It looks like you could just wipe it off, but of course, you can't. I'm still trying to work out the whys and wherefores...is it the ash from the firing making a change?...or is it a slower cooling cycle? (it was slower, but not radically so) or my overstrong reduction? Inquiring minds want to know!
    I use a simple wadding mix:equal parts alumina and EPK. I added about 25% fine sawdust and the wads just fell away. I've been meaning to try that trick for a long time. 
    The wood from the source that I mentioned last month worked just fine and I will be arranging a convoy to get much, much more. There is many years' worth of firings free for the taking! A big problem solved! (I hope you find your fuel, Brandon, I sympathize, everything around here is chipped for industry).

Lots more to learn today. The birds are outrageous, the pots rich and I'm still worn out. I'll take better photos. 

And stay tuned late next week for my first ever on-line pottery sale! I'm thinking of calling it my "ITCHY" shop, as I'm not a fan of ETSY. 
First Chamber/front stack
(8 lbs. salt)
First Chamber/back stackFull frontal

Second Chamber/front stack
(18 lbs. salt)

Second Chamber/back stack

23 November 2010

Special Sneak Preview

I just returned home from the studio after spending the the day unloading the kiln (and talking). In brief, I can happily say that it was the best firing yet with lots of gems and tons of good, everyday pots. I love warm pots but the top of both chambers are still too chocolatey as I try to balancing reduction with even heat from top to bottom. My brother Tim and I are off to celebrate with Parthenon pizza and cold beer. I'll provide all the gory details tomorrow. Lot's to show you!

21 November 2010

Now, the Long Wait...

We finished firing 23 hours ago and even after a 10 hour sleep I am feeling depleted. I wonder how many calories are burned, how many electrolytes are consumed, how much weight might be lost? Where's that personal trainer, chef and masseuse when you need them? 
Michael Littlefield and Luke tending the fire. As I was figuring out how to set the proper amount of reduction, Michael asked  how we were doing on the 'deduction'!

After 8 firings I approached #9 with a lot more calm and confidence. It takes a while to really understand how all the various bits and pieces fit together to make the kiln machine perform at it's best. There is still much to understand, but I've put all the different 'tools' through their paces and know their basic characteristics now. By 'tools' I mean the active and passive dampers, the primary, secondary (and tertiary!) air, and the firebox itself.  
 I also have some great friends and assistants who have served their 'apprenticeship' and are now serious stokers. (I almost wrote 'professionals' but then I'd have to pay them!) Except for the early morning hours which I now spend by myself I barely put a log on the fire anymore. Beth and Elliot, Michael and Dayton and Luke and Bill Harris and Karen all pitched in and their help and knowledge make things easier. I can pay attention to the fire itself and make the adjustments that are needed.    The weather was absolutely GLORIOUS all week long and is supposed to continue through Tuesday's unloading. I got a quick peek in this morning and there look to be some treasures as well as some brown pots which are my speciality. In pursuit of overall reduction I may be toasting the top too much. So much more to learn!

    It was really nice to hear from so many of you commentators on my last entry. No one knows what this is all about like you fellow travelers... how much of our labor, our head and our heart are invested
as we strive for our own particular idea of beauty. I always appreciate your thoughts and reactions.

A spyhole in the first chamber. Camera flash off.
Same spyhole with camera flash on. Where'd all the heat go?
Nice ash on the shoulder. And excellent placement of the salt shaker, eh?

19 November 2010

All Set

I don't usually shoot the kiln from this angle...the chimney is rising there on the right and the wood pile is on the left. Two chambers and a firebox in between. Ready for a 24 hour marathon. ( Dennis Allen says he likes to see the kiln in all it's glory. It is my pride and (sometimes) joy!

18 November 2010

Foregoing Poker

You know it's crunch time when I pass on the fortnightly poker game with my pals, but I'm worn out and I light ol' #9 tomorrow evening. Instead it'll be a bowl of soup and a wee nip of scotch before an early bedtime. Stay tuned for a full report...

17 November 2010

A Long Wednesday

First chamber pretty much done
75% loaded. Still have the front stack of the second chamber...and then the wickets (that's the door for you modern types). Totally different weather today brisk winds, clear skies and a bit warmer. More perfection! Thanks to Beth for heroic wad making and other mundanities. 

Second chamber two shelves deep.
Each chamber has a pair of 12"x 24" shelves on the ground making one stack and then a 18"x 24" stack in front. That's 42 cu. ft. packing space per chamber.

16 November 2010

Rainy Days and Tuesdays...

...are perfect for kiln loading. Wadding doesn't dry out! What a gift! I'm working long hours and, as ever, enjoying the exquisite pain of assembling the 3 dimensional puzzle that we call a kiln. My back aches and I can't wait to get back to it tomorrow! 
The last pots for this firing...combing and pouring
 Here's a series of photos showing the top layer being loaded with a bunch of birds and odds and ends.It's 24" to the top o' the arch here.

I think I count 9 birds.
This is the first chamber two shelves deep. One more stack to go in front.
I loaded the  half of the second chamber before heading home.
As I was locking the gate the light from the jeep on the leaves was lovely.