29 November 2012

History of the Birds (pt. 1)

I posted a photo of a couple of my biblio-birds in progress on my facebook page a few days ago and got comments from both of the Bringle sisters so I figure I must be on to something! 
As this is my 500th post, I thought I'd mark it with a little backstory.

    I'm not sure what it is that is so satisfying about making these birds...parts of them are downright tedious and I did grow weary of them for a while, but after giving them a rest I've been back at it again. It takes a different state of mind to make them than throwing my 'proper pots' does, and it still feels luxurious to spend so much time on just a few pieces.   
    I first became aware of the Martin Bros. back in the '70's when I was getting into clay. There was an article in Ceramics Monthly (b/w photos in those days) about the 4 brothers who ran a pottery on the edge of London at the turn of the 20th century. They made an extraordinary range of work including what came to be known as "Wally Birds" after Walter, who was the idea man behind this series of pots called 'tobacco jars' modeled in the form of anthropomorphic birds. They were amazingly expressive and nowadays are highly collectable. They were salt glazed and I must have seen a few photos of them in an early salt glaze book as well.
    When I first learned about them it never occured to me that I would ever make anything like them, but they tickled my fancy and then receded to the back of my mind. I would bump into them in a book or auction catalog from time to time and then 8 or 9 years ago I visited a collector in England who owned dozens and dozens of them and I got a real good dose. I still had no idea that I ought to try and make them, but I sure found them intriguing.
    And yet, several years ago, on a goofy whim and completely out of the blue, I made one, or at least my version of one. I like to suggest that the final inspiration came from watching my bird feeder while throwing pots, but who knows...a preponderance of intriguing encounters, birds on the brain, asking the 'what if' question, and there you have it...one answered question has led to a whole new body of work. I have always made other things in addition to the tens of thousands of useful pots that have paid the bills all these years. Usually they are much more esoteric...I'm still not sure how to label them.
    I see my interpretations as more cartoon-like versions of birds than the fairly realistic Martin Bros. work. And I quickly found other forms to apply to the idea to.
A Martin Brother's "Wally Bird"
    I often work this way...ideas fester and percolate for a long time and are usually rooted in historic work. I then use an idea as a jumping off point, but I'm not interested in reproduction. Whether it's my desire to make work that is appropriate to this day and age, or whether it's my interest in exploring or even my need to leave my mark on things, I find that I am most excited about moving an old idea forward, and at it's root, that is what I think 'tradition' or 'traditional pottery' is all about. Tradition does not mean stasis, and our traditions continue to have value as they evolve.
    So, Here's a bunch of photos from the last 2 years. I'll post more soon. 


2 feet tall
* P.S. "The History of the Byrds" is one of my all time favorite albums...with apologies for lifting the title!

11 November 2012

For Tony

I enjoy reading Tony Clennell's blog...he's a good writer and potter and he wears a good hat well. He also writes as if he is the only man with a handle fetish. Below I submit my own visual confession! I admit when he put handles on the knobs of his teapots a while ago, I was ready to surrender!
I haven't made these lately because everything flat warps in my wood kiln. I'm working on it...

Chattered w/ash glaze poured and sprayed

Chattered first, then crackle slip with wood ash glazes.

Crackle slip, ash glazes

This one isn't quite as bright as the photo.

05 November 2012

John Glick Bowl

When I was a young lad, just discovering that there was a world where people made a living working with clay, there were very few 'role models' for life outside of Academia.  John Glick was one of the very few that I was aware of back in the 70's and he continues to make wonderful pots with distinctive character today. When I first started writing this blog he contacted me out of the blue to compliment me on my work. That was a big deal for me...and a completely random act of kindness!
I just bought this bowl of his on EBAY and I'm really happy to be able to hold it in my hands and imagine something green in it. I'm on a cabbage kick at the moment.
Other potters that I knew back then: Cynthia Bringle (I took a workshop with her in 1976!), Dave Shaner and Byron Temple. Who else?

29 October 2012

A Wonderful Weekend

The first fine misty rain that has since become a hurricane began to fall just as we packed up the last of the exhibitors and sent them on their way last evening. The timing was more than fitting for a flawless weekend in our nation's capitol. Everyone arrived and got themselves situated throughout the day Friday and then returned for the Evening's festivities. There is nothing like the excitement of a 'first'time' event...I was nervous as the day approached but once all of these great potters arrived and seemed to like the set-up, I was ready to enjoy my self. We had a wonderful crowd, some waiting in line to get first dibs! Sales were brisk throughout the week-end and we saw new collectors as well as folks who have been buying pots for along time. There were also plenty of people who saw useful handmade like this for the first time. To tell you the truth, it must have been a bit overwhelming...everyone arrived with a lot of work x 14 potters in an intimate setting! Most of us were able to have a meal together on Saturday night and as always, it's often the highlight of these gatherings to break bread away from the show itself!
Michael Kline
Ryan Greenheck
Bob Briscoe part1
Bob Briscoe part 2
Sam Taylor
Sam Taylor
Mark Shapiro
Mark Shapiro
Matthew Hyleck
Matthew Hyleck
Warren Frederick
Warren Frederick
Catherine White
Catherine White
Trista Chapman
Stacy Snyder
Michael Hunt and Naomi Dalglish

Bruce Gholson
Bruce Gholson
Bandana Pottery 
Samantha Henneke
We sold many hundred's of pots and met lots of wonderful people. Working with the staff at the Hill Center was a dream. It was a lot of work, and without Beth and Jason, my friends from LibertyTown, we would have been lost. We also had a great contingent from Fredericksburg which I'm really proud of!

25 October 2012

Finally Here

I'm sure that you will all be happy when The "Pottery on the Hill" show is over and I stop writing about it. It's here at last and all that's left to do is set up the pots and wait for what I hope will be big crowds of buyers. You never know with a new idea, but we've done a good job of promotion and now it's up to the universe. My friends below, Ken and Vernon, urge you to attend!

22 October 2012

Ultra Secret Sneak Preview

I spent Saturday amidst the splendor of the Virginia autumn, figuring out how to put together my display for the show this weekend. By now you know that the "Pottery on the Hill" show is this weekend and soon some of my favorite potters will be gathering to share their amazing work at a brand new venue. I have been working along with a bunch of other folks for some time on this and now all the preparations have been made. 
Kilns are still being unloaded, vans are being packed and  the anticipation is killing me! 

Jason and I spent three days last week building 28 of these.

16 October 2012

I Didn't Mean to Lie...

...it's just that I'm a poor typer and proof reader. Yesterday's group of tall pots stated that they were made from 7 pounds of clay and were 18"high. They are actually 16 " high, a mistake that made it obvious to me that you readers are actually  paying attention!
I love handles...and texture...and glazes that move!
Pedestal Bowl 16"w x 7"h

15 October 2012

First Taste

Handle detail
I haven't had much time to savor the pots from last week's firing, nor has there been much time (or energy) for taking photographs. But today I'm starting to feel like things are under control, that we've done the best we can to make the Pottery on the Hill show a success and maybe I should stop stressing out. It's a risky thing to start a new show like this and it's impossible to predict how it will turn out. We  do know that it's a great group of people and it will be a treat to spend a week-end with them!
I have been feeling a bit guilty about my lack of posting here...I have dipped my toe into the Facebook world and I'm trying to figure it out. Perhaps because I'm into the blogging groove, I 'm not sure that I get the social media world. There were some great photos on FB of cider jars made by both Ray Finch and Doug Fitch. This is my stoneware version. It's about 17" high and would hold several gallons of cousin Vernon's cider!

I have been in love with this tall narrow form for some time now. They are thrown in two bits using 7 pounds of clay altogether. 

This firing was mostly loaded with my domestic ware for the show. I made a lot of things that I haven't made in a while. But I also made a few avian things and these two "Biblio-birds" are pretty sweet.

This is the 'tracheotomy' bird 
Check out this old blog post if you don't know what it's name is about!