31 March 2010

The Cyclops Genie Cookie Jar

A Littlefield Production....I'm using Michael's drawing to guide me as I attempt to make a pot for his twin brother, Keith. One day if your extra good I'll tell you the story.

30 March 2010

Chinese Medicine

With the gentle prompting of Pam Gallant I had a session with Steve Chin, a highly regarded practitioner of Chinese medicine. He gave me an intense acupressure treatment, focusing on my abdomen and the scar tissue that remain from my surgery (if your new to my blog, check back in November's posts). It was a positive experience and I'll return next week for another session.
(the hands belong to Ellie Bird and me) 

29 March 2010

March Mudness

Once again, the skies opened up last night. The endless rain keeps falling. I hate to complain, but between feet of snow and inches of rain, I'm weary of the mud. As the water poured over the road a blue heron stood in the middle fishing a very shallow patch. I've seen this happen for years and I imagine it to be the same bird. It is as close to cheating as nature comes.
On one side of the road were these two whirlpools...the suction sound was amazing!
On the other are these two outlets.  Coincidence???
 I've been waiting for a year for the perfect day to set fire to my burn pile. I was smart enough to cover it with a tarp and after all this rain it couldn't be a safer time to enjoy a little pyromania. My great redneck indulgence (and an homage to my father) is to pour a little gasoline on the pile to get it going. I love the  wh-o-o-o-m-p-h it gives off when it catches. You can feel it's percussive force!
 Big pots, big combing
3 lb. planters
Handle detail

26 March 2010

Slightly Sprightly Spring Sprigs

A cool and rainy day...perfect for spending in the studio. 

This is the scene out my kitchen window.
Andrew asked about my sprigs, so here's a photo. All but one are carved into bone dry, very fine, white stoneware and are then biscuit fired. The little seed pod, bottom left, is an impression of something Emily brought to the studio one day. Applying these takes a little care, and paper clay would make it much easier.
Gratuitous wet slip (slightly blurred) photo.
Slipped and decorated and inscribed on the bottom. I can't wait to fire this one!
A ten pound vase. I am making this size in two pieces...capping as MK would say...I wish I could throw a 10 pound pot in one shot. Cardew thought nothing of throwing 25 - 40 pound jars!!!
A 12 pound storage jar...I'll slip and comb this one soon. I'm combing more than ever.
A scene from the drive home. And check out the fantastic Wally Bird that Hannah has posted from her visit to the V & A!

24 March 2010

Wednesday- in Two Parts

    I spent the first half of the day at Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) celebrating the life of Mrs. Mary (IB) Bridgewater, an extraordinary woman of 85 who touched a huge cross-section of our community. She led an amazing life of service to anyone that crossed her path. I feel fortunate to have known her just a little bit. Her only daughter, Pamela, was the U.S. Ambassador to Benin and Ghana and Mrs. B. traveled the world with her, making friends with heads of state, royalty and common folk where ever she went.

I got to the studio mid-day to work on a few things.
Every year the lady bugs return and it can feel like working in a war zone full of kamikazes. They are on the pots, the windows, the throwing water...they've even invaded my cup of tea. This character was walking along the coil that I applied as if it was a lady bug highway.
I put a handle on the bottle from yesterday and then went to work turning it into my version of a 'Bartman'. The handle is a little undernourished...I'm still finding a comfort level with this scale. I over did the next bottle I handled, leaving more clay than it required. Sometimes the 'pendulum' effect prevails.
I couldn't avoid adding my version of a pulled strap handle. I then finished it off like the German pot from yesterday's post and I'm not too sure that the transition is as graceful as it might be. Still, I'm always willing to try and be wrong. In fact, I've built a career on that very idea!
I also have this big fat vase going...like the bottle above, it's made from 12 lbs. of clay. I don't often make a vase out of this form (by that I mean such a minimal neck as wide as this)...it always seems to ask for a lid but I'm glad that I resisted. It's like an old crock ready for a cheesecloth cover tied around the rim. M-m-m-m pickles

Small Faces

Some details from the exhibition.
This next one really cracks me up. I love that the potter that applied this sprig had his/her thumb slip and 'erase' the top of the face. Better yet, they left it as it was and passed it on to be fired. It suggests a certain casualness to the process

Sorry this is blurry, all of these were taken through glass. Some of the Bartmanns were refined, some simpler like this one. Most of the master molds were carved by professional carvers.
These handles have something going on...

22 March 2010

The Right Choice

I'm still digesting all the information packed into the wonderful conference on saltglaze at Colonial Williamsburg (Anna will say she told me so...). Most of the lectures were fascinating, a couple a bit dry, but it was a real pleasure altogether to be amidst such passionate and bright scholars and collectors. The exhibition is fantastic and I've included a bunch of photographs.
The subject was saltglaze stoneware from Germany, England and the US prior to 1800. Of course, salt glaze started in Germany and my friend Gerd Kessler gave a great paper about the developments in medieval days that led to the great wave of export to the colonies....before the British swiped the technique and then the trade.
This is part of the gallery.
These are all 'made in the U.S.A.' Lots of mention of the famous 'watchspring' decoration being a uniquely American motif. Of course, there is little to distinguish an American aesthetic at this time with pots coming from all over. One of the lectures discussed the use of hi tech imaging that allows scientists to determine the chemical analysis ofa fired pot without harming it in any way. When you know that British clays contain hematite and German and US clays do not, you can determine where a pot comes from with more certainty.
I'll probable babble on about the conference for a few more days. I met lots of great people and I'm more excited than ever to learn more about the history of high fire ceramics.

I got home Saturday evening and Sunday morning I was back in the studio, throwing a few extra robust bottles while the 'spirit' is moving so strongly in me.

17 March 2010

16 March 2010

Choosing to Look Backwards

I spent some time torn between two very cool conferences coming up this March....NCECA is coming to Philadelphia, which is sort of local to me, and is the big annual celebration of contemporary ceramics with an emphasis on education. I visited the one in Kentucky a few years back and left with mixed feelings... dozens and dozens of great exhibitions all over Louisville. But the actual conference really wasn't very relevant to my pottery world. And so instead I've chosen to head down to Colonial Williamsburg's DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum to attend the conference with the very long winded title of: "Pottery with a Past: A New Look at Salt Glazed Stoneware Collections, Research and Archeology"! Scholars will be lecturing on the production and distribution of salt glaze from Great Britain, Germany and the US in the early days of America. 
    One of the presenters is Gerd Kessler, whose family made salt glaze pots in the Westerwald area of Germany for generations. Westerwald was a major exporter to the US in the 18th and 19thc. Most of the pots arrived full of foodstuffs. I stayed with Gerd and his wife Rosemary years ago on a trip I took with Toff . I should tell you about that trip one day. (we bought 100 bottles of Sancerre and some of the stinkiest cheese known to man while in France)
   The conference coincides with an exhibition and a book signing for this new book, which Michael Kline recently featured on his blog.
   I think I made the right choice, and I'll give you a full report when I return. I still have the chance of blasting up to Philly for a day or so if the spirit moves me. It's just hard to leave the studio.

15 March 2010

Symphony for Cider Jar in 4 Parts

I made a couple of bigger pots again today after finishing up all the slipping and glazing of porcelain. Ryan Olsen has been helping harvest some of the wood that came down in the heavy snows...I'm planning a firing in a year or more using all the pine and cedar branches that have come down. Everything is sodden and we spent a little time getting the Jeep and trailer unstuck from the mud.
I made a really tall one (over 30") but it got away from me and drifted off its axis. I had to put it out of its misery.
It's been a while since I've included a photo of Ellie...she loves her pink...and purple!
I made this planter in England last summer for my dear friend Jill Rushbrooke but never got to see it fired. It's a beauty if I do say so myself. It sits next to a sweet old Winchcombe redware pot. Thanks to Will Hall for the photo.

14 March 2010

Before and After

I've grown comfortable making pots this size, using a 4lb. piece as the base and 3lb. piece on top before adding the collar that you see here. I use a small soldering torch to firm things up, something I avoided for a long time for reasons inexplicable. The collar or 'cap' is made from a little more than a pound. I love the challenge of making these classic shapes with a seamless lines. I'll put a hefty handle on this bottle in a couple of days.
Everything I make is an homage to someone or something or other and this is no exception. Ray Finch made the most wonderful and robust cider jars, some as tall as 4 feet!. I aspire to make pots that great height one day. These really should have a spigot attached at the base to properly serve cider.
I made this vase before the bottle above. It's widest point is a bit low for my tastes, but by the time I add handles at the top I think it will change the visual balance enough to pass muster. I dropped that little porcelain cup in front for scale, and the bird head is there because it cracks me up as it rises through the table...

12 March 2010

Friday Night Roundup

A week of mild weather and few outside distractions allowed me to get a lot done in the studio this week. I don't make many jugs/pitchers these days... there was a time that I made 100's of little individual creamers. It's a form that I don't always get right....the round bellied one in front pleases me...the taller one on the left seems top heavy.
I threw some 3 lb. storage jars at the same time as the jugs and I can't help but think of Doug now when I apply these vines and sprigs. I'm bound and determined to make a real tall one and cover it with thousands of bits and pieces just like the man himself.
Combing: To be horizontal or vertical, that is the question?
I made a few more combs today and thought they'd be easier to find if I highlighted the tips. Future CM tip o' the month?!

I can't stop with these Martin Bros. birds. This is the 4th and the biggest so far. I have an idea now for a crazy big piece using some of these elements, but I might wait until the next making cycle to do it. I've got a studio half full of wild and crazy things already.

More Porcelain for the People...I say 'clam' they said 'calm' others call 'em 'oyster'. I threw more of it today and it really does throw and turn beautifully.
More lidded pots... I make them with the lid dropped in...and not. I like both styles.

And, finally I started carving these stamps years ago and then ran out of steam. I just recently finished the last few letters so I can now write F.R.E.D.E.R.I.C.K.S.B.U.R.G in tile.