21 July 2013

Home Away from Home

Toff and Georgie's home in the Cotswolds

I depart for the U.K. tomorrow for my 34th visit. I first came to that Sceptered Isle in January of 1978 and I can't explain how much I value all the time I've had and friends that I've made...I love being a part of this tiny village and the community that continues to welcome me. I always think that i should arrange a show somewhere with Toff, but then there is tea to drink and cake to eat and plums to pick and before I know it, I'm back on the plane home! But I'm open to suggestions...
Parry, my arch enemy. I have 5 lbs. of peanuts for you, pal.
The old bottle kiln at Winchcombe.
I'll be recording my cider friends history.
Important to avoid the sheep poo.

18 July 2013

"Just Before I Go- Again!"

    I leave Monday for my summer retreat to the Cotswolds (that's England don't you know!) where I'll spend a month with Toff and Georgie Milway, beating the heat of Virginia and enjoying the company of my many friends there. When I return I must turn my mind to some serious wheel throwing to prepare for the 2nd annual "Pottery on the Hill" show in D.C. 
    This has not been a big year for pot making with workshops in East Lansing and Penland, my trip to the St Croix show in Minnesota and selling Libertytown all filling up the time.
    But I have been playing with a new variation on an old theme of mine and these slab dishes are the result. Mostly to amuse myself I have long made a body of work that I refer to as 'Bedrock' pots. Rough and stressed and often massive, they are the polar opposite of my finely wrought functional work. I have always kept a number of different explorations going with clay. It is too great a material to limit oneself!

    So, here is my summer tile and slab works...an old laboratory table top with a well liner as a base...
 ...And...my favorite...my mortuary sink 8' of enameled cast iron goodness! I don't reuse my scrap clay to make new pots with...rather I dry it out in the tub and break it into chunks and then add several buckets of coarse wood shavings before slaking it all down and 'harvesting' it when it is still a bit sloppy.
 I have made a bunch of these tile frames and I soak them in water before using them. Lately I've been coating the inner edge of the frame with sand from the property to help with the 'release'.
 I tried these little 'l' brackets as handles, but I don't like them. I have another idea to help remove the frames a little cleaner. This frame is set on a piece of concrete backer board.
 Then I sprinkle dry clay inside.
 I just put a big handful in and then work it to try and fill the frame well. But I don't strive for perfection....it's the anomalies that I think make these work for me.
 Sticky stuff.
 Here I've finished forcing in...in the old days they called the stick I use for leveling a 'slicker stick'.
Scraped and compressed.
 I place a board on top and press it down while lifting the frame off.

I use a piece of newsprint to keep the board on top from sticking.  

I then let them get stiff-ish.

This is a tile after I've flipped it back over with the dry clay on the surface.
 I place a piece of wood (or two) in the middle.
 And then I flip it over again, gently persuading the slab to bend over the wood form and give it shape. I use a paddle and or a paint roller to help give the curves that I want. 
These are thick!
 Once again I flip the slab back with my foam to maintain the shape.
 And then remove the wood block.
I'm trying different proportions of blocks/frames and having a great time. Lots of these small ones will be stacked on edge on the bagwall. I intend to glaze the inside square and leave the rest to the wood and salt..

06 July 2013

Big News!

Here is the letter that I sent out to the artists and a supporters of LibertyTown. I have always called myself the accidental developer and I have been an even more reluctant administrator, so, as the song goes, "it's been a long time comin' but a change is gonna come..."

Twelve years ago I was looking for a new space to expand my tiny pottery school. It had never crossed my mind to start an art center, but the idea quickly took shape as I first looked through the glass front doors of the old plumbing supply building on Liberty Street. I  was looking for 2,000 square feet - LibertyTown is more than 12,000 square feet. So, there was plenty of space for the school and a whole lot more!

With the financial support of 23 friends and supporters we built a school, a gallery and 30 studios for artists and craftspeople. Once the foundation was laid in the early 2000's, it has been the collective efforts of all the artists and students and clients and visitors that quickly turned LibertyTown into an important community and cultural center. Our visitors often tell us how much they value us and the diversity and quality of our work. I'm not sure that I really knew what it was that I was beginning all those years ago, but I am very proud of what it has become.

Now it's time for LibertyTown, Chapter 2! I will be selling the business as of July 15th, 2013 to D.D. and Kenneth Lecky, two great young supporters of ours who are very excited about the prospect of making us an even better place. I am pleased to able to return to my own studio work and I feel fortunate to have found such a fine pair to follow my lead. They are both artists themselves and also bring great business experience and enthusiasm.

This doesn't mean that I'm going anywhere...I will continue to live in the same home, work in the same studio (out on Claremont Farm), keep the same cat and sell my work at LibertyTown. I like to think about it as moving to the other side of the counter, where Aline and Beth will continue to hold things together.

The Lecky's do have some exciting ideas but don't expect major changes - they have a good understanding of what makes us work and their aim is to improve on what we've got and add more layers to the mix. It is my hope that you will continue to be just as supportive of them as you have been of me.

Thanks as ever for your support,
Dan Finnegan

Beth and Aline, LibertyTown's heart and soul!
the Fredericksburg Spinners and Weavers Guild