29 March 2014

Making Choices

I am choosing pots for my upcoming exhibition at the Cooley Gallery in Leesburg, Va.  
The opening is this Friday night, April 4th, from 6 - 9pm. I have participated in very few exhibitions over the years and when I have, they have tended to be as part of a larger group show. This, for me, is a rare one-man show and while it is modest in size it still takes me way too long to choose the work than ever it should. Part of my dilemma is the result of having such varied interests in clay that I have to decide which of my interests in clay to show. My youthful tendency was to show a bit of everything, but I know now that a  well edited and focused body of work makes a much stronger statement. I think that this is true of most big craft fairs as well. I didn't do many, and seldom did much business, but I always had ten different ideas on hand at any given point.  This way of working served me well as I settled into my retail shop, where I sold most of my pots for 20 years. The variety made it more likely to connect with a customer on the streets of Fredericksburg.  In the midst of aisle upon aisle of vendors at a show, a single voice has a much better chance of standing out in the crowd.All of this is by way of saying that this particular vase pictured here is a current favorite of mine and I will build around it as I make further choices. It's about 14" high and will be available at the gallery and on their website starting Friday.

26 March 2014

Old School

As promised, here are some of the earliest things I made while in college. The photos are rough but I still enjoy remembering those early days as I began to explore the possibilities and the limits of clay. I was lured to the ceramics class during my freshman year at S.U.C. at Geneseo, NY. after seeing some of the students do a raku firing in the middle of a snowstorm. The sound of hot pots whistling through the snowbanks where they threw them after reduction is a permanent one in my brain. My first few teachers weren't very interested in wheel throwing and I followed their lead. 
    I wasn't much of a photographer in those days, which saves you from some of the other ideas I was playing with in those days...lots of kewpie doll molds, there was an architectural phase and then there was 'the penis people'(!) to name a few.  They were all terribly interesting to me then and now don't necessarily 'stand the test of time', but I have always taken pleasure from exploring new ideas in clay. That's still true today I'm glad to say.  
This work is circa 1974-1977 and is all raku fired and chronological. 
I have continued to use this idea of stretched slabs from time to time, but since these early days I have always worked in stoneware. I'm a big fan of the permanence that high firing begets.
This is the first thing I made that other people really responded to...I confess that like that feeling.

I think I called this one "Siesta" 
I made a whole burnt out western movie set.
 I modified a pizza peel to move these big flat wall pieces.
This is about 20" across. broken and reassembled after reduction. I wish I still had this one.
Tomorrows big thrill...my first pot.

22 March 2014

To NCECA or not to NCECA, that is the question...

    I've been making pots now for 40 years and I've attended the NCECA conference just once (in Loiusville, Ky.) Each year as it approaches I have an ongoing internal struggle...it is a thrilling idea to  be surrounded by like-minded folks and to see all of the  exhibitions and sit in on some of the panel discussions, but is it a valuable use of my time and resources? Of course, NCECA is primarily about education and academia, with a few bones thrown to the working potters of the world. This year there is a panel discussion titled "Where have all the Potters Gone?" led by Mark Hewitt, Tony Clennell and Lisa Hammond. This should be a great conversation and I'm sorry to miss it, and I'm sorry to miss Cynthia Bringle's closing talk. I think that my own answer to the question is "not to NCECA because I have pots to make!".
    But, I also think that it is an overly dramatic question. There has been talk about the greying of the craft world for 20 years now (maybe more) and yet I continue to be impressed by the great work that continues to bubble up from the younger folks who are drawn into our world. I can't say that I'm anxious to see another mug decorated with decals anytime soon, but in general there is fantastic work being produced across the spectrum of ceramics and there has never been a better appreciation for the value of that work. In 1980 I was selling mugs for four bucks, for goodness sakes...we have come a long way, baby, and I think that it is a perfect time to become a maker.
   I suppose that a question like "Where have all the Potters Gone" is more logical if you are only looking at the periodicals that represent us or observing the work produced in academia, but I know lots of people making some or all of their living from their pottery. They aren't making a lot of noise...they just get on with the work, building a way of life that has rich rewards and deep fulfillment. 
   I still wish that I could have been there, but perhaps next year. I thought that I would be loading my kiln, but instead, I'm recovering from a hernia operation. That's not a story I'm interested in telling.


03 March 2014

Pottery Economics pt. 1

This little teapot sits tucked into a corner of my kitchen counter, always ready, willing and able to brew just the right amount of tea to get my day started. It takes a level teaspoon if the the tea leaves are 'fines'...a heaping spoonful if it's whole leaf. I usually steep it much longer than advised...I like it strong, and a tea cosy keeps it piping hot.
    Many of you will recognize it as Muchelney Pottery piece. I bought it about 20 years ago and think that I paid about 38 pounds for it. That's about $60 bucks these days. I never did know if it was made by Johnny or Nick, and I long ago decided that I didn't care. They are both brilliant makers and their partnership over many decades is admirable. Johnny and I were both teaboys at Winchcombe when we got our start, and his pottery in Somerset is a beautiful reflection of that grand old pottery.
    It's GIO (glazed inside only) with a beautifully flashed surface from the wood firing. It's a very different form than my own aesthetic...a low slung body and a flat lid with no catch...but, it's small scale negates the need for a more sophisticated lid and I like how the line from the low belly follows through the spout. It is stained with years of use and brings me daily comfort.

 But back to Teapot Economics...If we round off some numbers we see the following:

365 days in year
20 - years in use
7,300 days
1 Pot of tea per day =
7,300 pots of tea total.

Cost of teapot = 38  British pounds sterling divided by 7,300 cups of tea = 0.0052 British pounds per serving. (That's less than one U.S penny)

Final analysis - Excellent value for the money

Next up: The price of all the tea in China.