Sunday, August 31, 2008

New pots at Hatchville today

I always open a new kiln with a mix of expectation and trepidation. It was the same way this morning when I opened the door and looked inside with my flashlight at about 7:30, before I took Dee to church in Woods Hole and I went on to Coffee Obsession to meet friends. It looked okay ... not bad in the front ... hard to tell about the back ... oooohhhh, that ash glaze ran off that vase ... cups look okay ... copper red's nice ... and I only had a minute to look at it.
We came back about 10, had breakfast and then began the serious business of unloading. A fair number of pots that need grinding on the feet, where Phil Rogers' standard ash glaze ran over the wads and onto the shelf. I'll have to add more clay to the next batch. The brown clay body jars glazed in a carbon trap Shino and then overglazed in ash look good. They're dark, somber pots. But with a load of autumn dahlias they'll look wonderful.
The temmokus look fine, too, good reduction and nice breaking of the glaze on the edges of the marks impressed on them. There are a couple of white Shino plates with swirling iron brushwork showing through. I like them right away. And there are eight cup-and-saucer combinations, glazed in the Rogers ash glaze, that look pretty good. Rough, but just fine.
I've got to get to the grinding right away and decide what gets set aside for shows and what goes out into the gallery. And as I do all of that post-firing work I'll get to know the pots a bit and decide which ones I like better than others.
Not a bad firing, overall. Darker than usual, but that's mostly because there was a predominance of brown clay in there, with relatively little of the semi-porcelain B-Mix that is my usual clay body.
Here are a couple of photos. Tell me what you think.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Waiting for cool pots

I candled the kiln overnight, six burners set very low from about 11 p.m. Friday night until I got out of bed at 5 to turn them up. Five a.m. comes very early. Dee often has to remind me why the radio is suddenly blaring next to the bed, in the dark. "Don't you have to do something with the kiln?" she asks, pushing me rudely.
The pyrometer showed just over 750 F. when I went down, as usual. I turned up the gas, went back to bed, then got up in an hour and did it again. Made coffee, made breakfast and made sure we got an early reduction when cone 012 was over. That's usually the routine on firing days. I don't leave the property when the gas is flowing. I make breakfast and stumble through the morning.
This morning, I checked the cones at about 9:45, when the color coming through the upper peep seems to be more on the yellow/white side, usually meaning that we're about to reach temperature. Sure enough, cones 9 and 10 were down and 11 was bending. Turned down the gas a bit, opened the damper and let it run another ten minutes or so in oxidation. Then I shut it down.
Rode my motocycle into town for my customary post-firing cup of coffee at Coffee Obsession, then came home. Now I need to go out to the studio and put the glaze buckets back where they belong and straighten things up a bit before opening the kiln tomorrow. We'll see what's in there.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ready for a Saturday firing

You'd think that loading a 17 c.f. kiln wouldn't take three days. Or even two. But it usually does. The longest time seems to be spent on the lowest layer of pots, two 12x24 shelves with nine inches of space before you get to the second layer. Lots of pots on those two shelves.
I finished glazing and loading today at about 2 p.m., just about fitting the big jars between the top shelf and the kiln's fiber ceiling. I didn't count the pots that went in, but there are usually about 90, from small faceted dishes to big jars or vases. There are two different shino glazes on some of these pots, an ash glaze recipe from Phil Rogers' book (tweaked a bit with extra Grolleg to keep it from running), a Pete Pinnell copper red, a Rob's Green, a Hamada temmoku.
With a museum show submission deadline this coming Wednesday and a show at Libertytown in Fredericksburg VA in October, many of these pots will be held back from the gallery. With luck, that is. I never know until I open the door the day after firing.
Anyone looking closely at this photograph will see that a plate on the left side of the fourth shelf up has tipped on its wads. I caught that as I was loading the photo for the blog entry and went out and set it down so that it wouldn't weld to the shelf above it. Don't know how that happened.
I'll start the natural gas burners on low tonight before going to bed. Then I'll get up at 5 and turn them up, get up again at 6 and turn them up again and then one more time at 7 or so. The past few firings have been over around noon, when cone 10 is down and cone 11 is tipping over. The work cools about 12 hours and I usually open at 11 the next day. Sometimes with help, sometimes not.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good pots, good food

OK, I'm delaying glazing for a few minutes here to post a photo of part of the August harvest. This is the kind of summer thing we dream about here on Cape Cod when the freezing northeasters blow in during February.
We've got four or five different varieties of tomatoes planted in the little garden near Dee's garden shed and my gallery. I start the garden in May, nicely organized in rows of plants and seed and in hills of squash. But July, all of that organization has gone to hell and it's a jungle. So it is this year. The Asian squash has sent a long runner out toward Boxberry Hill Road and the bean poles have cucumbers (and even some beans) hanging on them. Everything is everywhere and you have to move ten different leaves of one kind or another to find all the produce.
We like the green confusion of the summer garden, we like the honeybees and we like eating the vegetables from pots made here and elsewhere. This particular pot is one of mine. You can't see much of it because of the glorious reds and yellows of the cherry tomatoes. It's a small bowl fired in Chris Gustin's beautiful big anagama in nearby South Dartmouth MA. The liner glaze is my studio version of Phil Rogers's Standard Ash.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dry-stacked kiln before firing

I've just reached the end of a making cycle, with the last pots for this week's firing just coming out of the bisque kiln. "Making cycle" sounds pretty organized and scheduled, but for me it's anything but that. I make the pots I need to replace sold inventory, some that I've got orders for, and some that I just feel like making. Then I look at the bisqued pots stacked in the studio and I think, "I must have enough for a firing."
There are cups and saucers in this next load, something I haven't made in more than 10 years. We'll see if anyone on Cape Cod goes for what today is a rather old-fashioned and slightly formal dining room item. The saucers are "big enough to hold a biscuit," the English way Dan Finnegan taught in the Art League School in Alexandria, VA.
There is an order of eight cereal bowls in there, made for a nice woman from Wellsley who bought a pot from me at Falmouth's weekly art market and then came out here to the studio to see if I would make her these bowls.
There are plates in there, as well, and several jars that you can see on the top shelf in the photo of the stacked kiln. And there are teabowls with iron sand from the beachfront cliffs of Truro wedged into the clay. We'll see what the iron sand does to the glaze.
I have two shows coming up in the next couple of months. One - with my friend Lorraine Colson, who makes dazzling crystal-glazed pots - is at the Libertytown art center in Fredericksburg, VA. The other show is next April at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis. It's a show of pottery from many Cape Cod potters and entries for jurying are due in early September. Many of the pots in this firing could end up in one or the other of those shows ... barring disaster.
You can see from the photo that I dry-stack the kiln before glazing. That is, I load the 17-c.f. kiln with unglazed bisqueware in an attempt to plan the stack, figure out what can fit into this firing and what cannot. Maybe everyone does this, but I first saw it at the studio of Toff Milway, a fine saltglaze potter in Conderton, England, in the Cotswolds ( When the buckets are all out and I'm ready to glaze, I take the load out shelf by shelf and begin glazing.
This firing should happen about mid-week.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I've been making teabowls lately. One-pound teabowls, really not much bigger than wine cups when they're fired. My friend Jo Ann Muramoto told me once that my teabowls were too big for women's hands, so I started making them smaller. Some of them, anyway.
I've always loved the simplicity of the teabowl and the intimacy of it. Like a mug, you use it by putting it to your lips. If I'm stuck for something to throw at the beginning of a day of work, I'll throw a few teabowls to warm up. And if I have a pound or so of soft trimmings on the table after throwing bigger things, I'll wedge up the pile and throw a teabowl to end the day's work.
People who buy cups like this from me often call them "handleless mugs." OK by me, if it works for them.
Years ago, when I was just starting to make pots, I found a lovely Warren McKenzie temmoku teabowl in the kitchen cabinet of my teacher, Dennis Davis. It was a tall cup, very much in the fashion of some by Hamada, with an indentation in the side where the thumb or forefinger naturally fit. I stole that indentation from McKenzie for many of my own teabowls. People who buy from me often mention the fit of the dimple on the pot and I always give Warren credit for it.
The pots in the photo above are some from our own kitchen cabinet. Left to right, the potters are Phil Rogers, myself, Joe Bennion, Willi Singleton, Jeff Oestreich.

Friday, August 15, 2008

An introduction to Hatchville Pottery

Summer is winding down in Falmouth, here on the west end of Cape Cod. The Falmouth Road Race was last Sunday, putting more than 10,000 runners on the 10K road from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights. The coffee shops and restaurants swell with out-of-towners in Nikes for a few days before and after the race, and then things begin to settle into an autumn mode.
Usually we see a few Road Race visitors stopping in to look at and buy pots. We're a bit remote out here in Hatchville, six miles from downtown Falmouth in what used to be farm country. Increasingly, this summer, I've noticed that people find us via their dashboard-mounted GPS units. A young New York City couple came by yesterday, directed by their GPS when they entered "pottery Cape Cod." They bought two serving bowls and a teapot. Good for them. And good for me.
Most of my work is sold at craft shows, open houses and kiln-openings here in Hatchville and in Pocasset in the fall at the home of my friends Donna Sutherland and Kevin Steele. Donna's a talented painter and sculptor and their house is perfect for the kind of joint Friday night dinner party and show that we have done the past couple of years. Our December holiday show, with Donna's work, mine and the work of maybe five other craftspeople, is another annual event. And my work is in the two Coffee Obsessions in Falmouth, one downtown and one in Woods Hole, as well as at the Inkwell bookstore on Main St. in Falmouth, at Dana's Kitchen on Sippewisset Road and the Daily Brew, a great coffee shop and restaurant in Cataumet, just over the Falmouth town line on Rte. 28A.
I will use this blog to post notices of upcoming sales and other events, and to let those people who care about it know what kind of work I'm making. I've admired what my friend Dan Finnegan, a potter in Fredericksburg VA, has done with his blog. He turned me on to Michael Kline's blog and after looking at both of them I thought this might be a worthwhile thing to do.
Take a look at the Hatchville Pottery website ( to get an idea of the kind of pots I make. Feel free to be in touch. Stop by the gallery if you're in Falmouth.