29 September 2010

Brenda's Question Answered

Brenda inquired about the rectangular baking dishes in the last post. They are indeed made without a base, reshaped shortly after throwing, and then attached to slabs that can be thrown or rolled out by hand. I do both, depending on my mood! Today I'm pressing apples to make more 'scrumpy'!

Some say jugs...others say pitchers.

27 September 2010

"Clay and Blogs : Telling a Story"

If you put your ear to the ground the rumble that you are beginning to hear is made by the potter/blogger fellowship as we make our way from near and far to North Carolina and the exhibition organized by Meredith Heywood that opens this weekend. Hollis and Dee visited this morning for breakfast as they wend their way south from Cape Cod. They might get the prize for coming the furthest?!
     I won't be there myself, but it will be a terrific show with the work of 50 potters who also write. Perhaps some are writers who also make pots?
The exhibition is titled: "Clay and Blogs : Telling a Story" and will be held at Campbell House Gallery in Southern Pines, NC for the month of October.

    I also spent some time today on a project that I'm now calling the British Invasion (part II). We are bringing Hannah and Doug to the US next spring (!) for a series of workshops and there are lots of bits and pieces that need attending for it to be a success.

I've been passing this sign on the way to the studio for a week or two.  
Sounds painful...
A while ago I showed one half of the mural that covers most of my old shop on Hanover Street. Here's the other half for your viewing pleasure.
I love how it is eroding...sorry about that, Warren!

from l. to r.  Mick Casson, Maria Martinez, Warren McKenzie, Beatrice Woods, Elijah Comfort 

You've seen this right hand side already...if you're really paying attention...

25 September 2010


    As more and more lumber mills add chippers to their production, finding wood for my kiln has become trickier than I'd like. My fuel of choice: soft wood offcuts with plenty of bark...but I end up using all kinds of things. The lack of a consistent source is maddening because it means that each firing has yet another variable to deal with.
    When Rudi mentioned the chance to visit an old lumber yard I was a bit skeptical, and maybe I should still be, but I think he discovered the holy grail of fuel for me! Beck lumber was a big, sprawling mill producing hardwood flooring and frames for box spring mattresses with the lower grade woods. Mr Beck passed away and his wife has sold off most of the equipment and inventory, but no one wants these pine 'stickers' and there are mountains of them!!! 'Stickers' are used as spacers between all the boards as they were cut to allow them to dry evenly. They are all cut to length (4' x 1 1/2" x 1 1/2") and should be perfect for my use. I will see for sure in November when I fire, but mostly I'm trying to figure out how to move a substantial amount of this to my place. I got two trailer loads, which is close to a firing (I think), but if it works there is years worth of wood here!!!  My only complaint is that it is still TOO BLOODY HOT!!! The evenings are nice, though. 

Lifetime supply...
All these gears for an old table saw.
A hell of a saw...
I have been moving along in the studio as well, making baking dishes and small jugs and lidded casseroles...more of the basics if you will.
Getting ready to pour slip over a baking dish.
Slipped and combed.

22 September 2010

(Re)Quest for Fire!

My friend Ashraf Hanna is studying for a Master's degree at the Royal College in London this year and he has asked me to ask you to send him any "interesting and dramatic photos of fire and firings along with a brief description" that he might include in his dissertation. Here's a good chance to show off some of those great shots you've taken over the years.
Please send them to Ashraf at 
Jennifer Dyson stoking the kiln at Muchelney Pottery.
The start of a 24 hour fire.
Big slabs in the firebox.
My kiln at the start.

19 September 2010


This has been a quiet week, mostly getting some rhythm going on the wheel. It always seems to take a while to get my mind and body on the same page and keep out the distractions that life brings.
   Sadly, a quiet week is still busier than I'd prefer...this week's list included visiting my surgeon for a check-up, a farewell party for Anna Branner, picking apples in preparation for this year's cider making, testing soil on the farm for next year's garden, and spending a bit more time with my chainsaw. Imagine the pots a man could make as a hermit! 
    Why is it that as much as I enjoy throwing, I have to work myself up to begin?  It is always useful to start with something old and comfortable, and I have been making these oversized pie dishes for more than 30 years. They just about make themselves, they are fun to comb, and I love pie. But then, you know that by now. And if you are going to make a pie, a standard 9" is hardly worth the effort, so bigger, in this case, is better. They also make a helluva quiche...I use a grated potato crust that is tasty...
    I always think of Eddie Hopkins when I make jugs...and Ray Finch...and, added to that list now is Doug Fitch. I think of my belly when I make a pie dish...
'1/2 gallon jugs'
pie dishes
I know that I promised to leave the birds out of this for now, but they keep happening even as I get back to 'honest pots'. The two with handles are also jugs with a stopper on the top for filling and beaks for pouring, I know not how well. There are also some bowls happening now, but honest, I'm getting over this 'avian' flu!
'Yaz' and 'Zeke'
'Agnes' and 'Xavier'

It is always flattering when a new follower joins up here at blog central. I recently lost one, though, and I'm not sure what to make of that.

14 September 2010

More Uses for Cone Box Foam

A couple of days ago Michael Kline wrote a post about reusing the foam from a cone box....
It reminded me that we used to entertain ourselves around the wood kiln in western Maryland by coming up with overly obvious tips for Ceramics Monthly's "Suggestions from Readers" column. 
I offer you these photos in that same spirit...  
Emergency Kneepads
Sweat Band
Photography Backdrop
Neck Warmer

13 September 2010

New Blog by a New Friend

(This is my new teaball...a genius idea and totally unconnected to the following post...)

I want to introduce you to Brenda Hornsby Heindl and her exciting new blog. libertystoneware.blogspot.com 
I met Brenda last March at the Colonial Williamsburg conference on 18th c. salt glazed stoneware. She attended Berea College in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky where she got a good foundation in making useful pots. She is also a graduate of  the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. Her academic interest in historic pottery is a big influence on her own work. Brenda recently moved to North Carolina with her husband to set up their own businesses. I hope that our North Carolina bretheren will give her a particularly warm welcome!  

09 September 2010

Enough With the Birds, Already!

    As the temperature and humidity drop, my energy rises and it just might be the leading edge of autumn that we are experiencing. Thank goodness. It is always a bit of an interesting adjustment, returning home after significant time away, but throw in the tail end of a virginia summer and I find that I am not overly motivated. Momentum is needed and there's nothing like picking a firing date to increase the pace of work. I will set that date soon, but it's easier to stay relaxed until I do. 
    And I need to get this bird obsession out of my system...but each time I make one I think of two new wrinkles to introduce for the next. Years ago I made a series of pots I called 'Flounder' pots because of their narrow profile. It seemed obvious to turn a couple into birds. Here are two I finished building today. I might have to set a moratorium on more photos until I have some proper pots to show...maybe even a 12x12 morning to break the spell. 
trying a more wing-like wing here on the right...
On the left is 'Ulswater' and on the right, 'Victor'.
(not many good "U" names)

05 September 2010

Traveling Remnants

    Toff and I stopped by Winchcombe on the way to the coach station which took me to the plane station and eventually home. We spoke with Ray for a while, getting his critique of the recent salt firing. Way back in 1978/79 we three spent lots of time doing much the same thing. 
    We were there as Ray was exploring salt glazing for the first time. That was the most intense learning experience I ever got as a young potter. Ray has always held Toff's opinion in great regard, particularly when building and firing kilns is concerned, and while I provided all the young muscle I got to be a part of the give and take between them as they analyzed and theorized and made further plans as they figured it out.
               We are all three STILL trying to figure it out. 
Toff Milway and Ray Finch
Three more reasons to visit the Cotswolds...
(L to R) Linda, moi-self, Jane and Carol

Just before I left Toff and Georgie's I made this bird with a toffmilway fish in it's mouth. I found it difficult to get a good angle for photographing it. The bird is about 14" tall.

01 September 2010

British Cavalcade

Hannah, Paul and CAKE!
    You might want to avert your eyes from this post (Caution: contains 22 photos. That's 22,000 words if each is worth a thousand!) So, I'm back at my desk on Winchester Street in the good ol' US of A. I've been back home for a week now and I'm just now getting my bearings. So much to digest from my travels and so much to get underway here AND trying to get some momentum in the studio takes a bit of aimless wandering at first.
    But the fog is lifting and all systems are go. Before I move any further I need to put this 5 weeks of adventure and conviviality on record. It is short of all the stories that should accompany them, but you'll need to track me down in person for all the inside scoop. 

This is the view down into Ulswater.
To pick up where my last real blog left off... I left Jan and co. in Blairgowrie and headed west to visit Hannah in Dumfries.
Her wee studio
...and her wee self!
Inner Sanctum

From Hannah's I drove  down to the Cotswold, loaded up the van  and drove back north to Penrith for a great Pottery Festival. We also visited the Lake district for a day. Way too brief a visit.
(The photos keep jumping out of order, so I'm sorry about that. I thought it was my old computer. Maybe it's a flaw in Mr. Google's system?)
These delightful fellows provided the Dixieland music!
Only in England...
Lots of British potters make animals and birds, much more that in the US. And many of them are wonderful.
Inside the walled garden at Hutton-in-the-Forest. This is the site of the festival!
More Hutton
This is Ashraf Hanna with me. There will be a prize for the best caption!
Ulswater, in the Lake District
I had my first proper English beer here in the winter if 1978. It is still my favorite...SBA, please?! 
The old hearth in the pub
Cousin Vernon's cider works, brewed in used bourbon barrels! My highest recommendation...
Toff's stand at Hutton.

Choosing between ancient standing stones and the history of pencils, I took the pencil history and that has made all the difference. Maybe I'll tell you more about it one day

Ray Finch in his greenhouse, fretting over his tomatoes. He always does. Kind of like his pots...never quite satisfied.

I always take pictures of the old bottle kiln. I'm sorry that I never got the chance to fire it.

This is where I learned to throw lots of pots. A shot of the showroom.
I love a good stone wall.
And, of course, a few English birds!

If your still with me, what's up with photos that run off the page. Have I pushed it too far with too many photos?