Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Low-fire, hand-built functional dough

Is there anything that looks as good right out of the oven as a pile of biscuits? Toasty brown a bit on the top, fluffy inside, asking for butter ... my, my ...
These biscuits came out about a half-hour ago, destined for consumption tomorrow morning after the "We Gather Together" 5K road race in Sandwich, not far from here. Pre-Thanksgiving breakfast after a brisk walk while the more athletically inclined - likemy wife - actually run the race. I'll walk, thanks.
The biscuits will be cut in half, buttered and thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma will be slipped inside. My version of what they call a "ham biscuit" down in Virginia and points south. In Virginia and elsewhere in the American Southeast, a slice of hard, salty country ham goes in there, but we don't know from country ham here on Cape Cod. So the prosciutto will do very well.
Today was a firing day, and I started the burners on low at 11 last night. I was up at 5:30 a.m. to turn up the gas. Cone 10 was flat top and bottom by 10 a.m. and I shut things down a few minutes later and went in to Coffee Obsession in Falmouth to get my ritual cup of post-firing coffee and visit with friends.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the States, so we'll be at the in-laws' in the next town for turkey and mashed potatoes and squash and ... the usual stuff. I'm providing appetizers - in this case, Greek olive tapenade, crabcakes, cheese spread, lobster and corn chowder.
I'll unload the kiln maybe tomorrow night, then start packing for the New Bedford show at Hatch Street Studios, which starts Friday mid-afternoon.
It's going to be a busy few days.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tall pots for the top of the kiln

I've got a firing coming up next week, making pots for the New Bedford show after Thanksgiving at Hatch Street Studios. And I've planned some tall pots for the top shelf, which will fit around a couple of birdhouses that I'm firing for my friend Lois Hirshberg. These are two-piece pots, a couple with a torqued base. I've been making forms more or less like this every now and then for probably 12 years. One of these days I'll get it right. Frankly, I think these will work better in a wood kiln, but since I have what I have, I'll adapt the carbon-trap shino and ash combination. Probably.
The past few days have been damp here on the Cape, so things are drying slooooowwwwwllllyyy. But yesterday the bases of these taller vases were dry enough to hold up to the pressure of adding the tops. And today the whole thing was dry enough to begin finishing the pots with handles and decoration of one kind or another.
I don't usually sketch out ideas for pots, by the way, but I found it helpful this time to do a little bit of that. I had the bases thrown and wanted to get an idea of the difference between an inward-tending top and a wider, vase-type top. It seems to me the inward one is more sculptural, while the outspread one looks a bit more flower-friendly and functional. Whaddaya think?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A few mugs ... or tankards

Doug Fitch in Devonshire wanted to see some of what he called "tankards" that were in my last firing, so here they are. I usually make pretty simple mugs, though it varies from session to session. Lately, I've been making simple cylinders, with the sides tending inward toward the top, tankard-like. And I've also been leaving the throwing rings on many of my mugs and teabowls. Just a temporary thing, probably. But I like the way the rings catch the ash glaze and slow it down a bit. And I like to show the throwing process sometimes.
I use temmoku a lot, a recipe called "Hamada Temmoku," shared with me by Falmouth potter and landscaper Angela Rose. And I often dip the rims in a Pete Pinnell copper red so that the red blends and runs subtly down the side of the temmoku. I pour my ash glaze over my shinos sometimes. The ash glaze is Phil Rogers's "Standard Ash," with a bit more Grolleg to stiffen it up a bit. It's all rather random.
Oh, and I usually cut the rims of the cylinders after the first pull, creating a bit of an up-and-down rim that matches up well with the asymmetrical rest of the pot.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Party, party, party ... pots, prints and glass

It was a raucous Friday evening at Donna Sutherland and Kevin Steele's house in Pocasset, with 120 people, more or less, availing themselves of the food and wine and checking out my pots, Donna's prints and Bryan Randa's glass. As it has been the past two years, the evening brought together a mixture of several different social groups, friends of each of the artists who don't ordinarily see each other in social situations. It was a good, if exhausting, night.
Oh, and some people bought some of the work on display.
The photos above are from Friday night, with people wandering through the house and the show. Drinks in hand, Chris Bromfield and Denise Marcoux smile for the camera. They live in Falmouth. Chris is a transplanted Englishman (from Somerset, Paul Jessop) and thatcher and all-around handyman. Chris built the little deck on our gallery here. (His claim to pottery fame is that he had a hand once in thatching the roof at Johnny Leach's place in Muchelney, Somersetshire.)
Saturday was, as it usually is, much quieter. Rarely more than a couple of people looking at the show at any one time. Sometimes an hour goes by with no visitors. Still, they do buy and all three of us sold work Saturday, which is sort of the point.
We got things wrapped up and out of our hosts' way by about 6 p.m.
It's beginning to be possible, I think, to see the effects of the so-called economic downturn on sales of art and crafts on the Cape. I now have two recent shows to judge by, with another coming up just after Thanksgiving. Both the Wellfleet OysterFest and this show were down about a third from previous years' sales. Maybe even a bit more than that. So we'll see what happens as we get deeper into the real holiday season.
Now, back to the wheel to make and fire more pots for the annual Hatch Street Studios Holiday Sale in New Bedford Nov. 28-30. The Hatch Street building is a former factory converted into three floors of art and other studios. It's always fun and sometimes profitable. More about that as we get closer.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Making pots, making food

I've just taken a break from making food for tomorrow night's (Nov. 7) big art/food event at Donna Sutherland's house in Pocasset. Good thing I like to cook. Several pounds of pork shoulder cooked all day in the so-called "cheater's barbecue" fashion in a slow-cooker. I just finished pulling it apart for little pulled-pork sandwiches. Now I have to make the sauce.
Meanwhile, I've made little salmon and salt cod cakes, Greek olive tapenade (gotta be Greek ... is there another kind of olive?), New Mexico red chile with roasted corn, roasted pasilla chile salsa, salmon cream cheese and scallion dip ... and a couple of other things. Donna's cooking, so is Bryan. I think. Things get started at about 5.
Yesterday's firing came out pretty well. Cone 10 went over about 9:30 a.m. and by the time I caught it and shut down the kiln, cone 11 was mostly over at the top and bending at the bottom. When this kiln gets moving, it goes fast. I shut down at about 10:30 a.m., after starting to candle overnight about 12 hours before.
The ash glaze was a bit over-melted, but that happens sometimes. You never know from batch to batch of ash, and I usually add kaolin to the mix if the current batch isn't stiff enough. The result is that I have maybe a dozen pot bottoms to grind tonight after I make barbecue sauce. Good reds and good shinos in this batch. I'll put a few photos on the page so you can see what it looked like.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The burners are on after a great evening

I looked at my watch at 7:20 this morning, standing in the voting booth, so that I would know at what moment I actually voted for Barack Obama for president. I'm 61 years old and have seen a fair amount of conflict in this country and many days of anger and despair at the things that are done in our name here and abroad. But tonight gives me hope for the United States. What a great night.
And now, onward with pot-making. I finished loading the kiln tonight at about 5. Just before 11, I lighted the burners. They'll stay on low until 5 Wednesday morning, when I'll get out of bed to turn them up. I took this photo just after I turned them on and before I latched the kiln door. I love the light in there when the burners are on.
Now, off to bed.

VOTE! Hamada stolen from Ron Philbeck's blog

A line of about 50 people were waiting at 7 a.m. at The Navigator, a Portuguese social club near us, which is where our precinct votes. It was a 20-minute wait, which is a long one for that particular precinct, but this is an important election. Get out and vote, folks.
And now I return to my glazing, already in progress.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

John Hull's beautiful pots

I met John Hull this weekend for the first time since we went to the same college in Pennsylvania 40 years ago. John has spent much of the past four decades making pots in Connecticut. Beautiful porcelain/terra sigillata pots fired in saggars, as you can see here and also on his website. You'll find a link to in my list of blogs to the right. Take a look. Lovely stuff.