Saturday, December 27, 2008

Last few pots before New Year's Eve

Dee was working today, so I thought I would, too. It's a quiet time here at the pottery ... actually, from now until May will be a quiet time if I don't make some noise. But I thought I'd get a start today on the winter's output and the summer's inventory. So I threw a group of bowls just to keep the muscle memory current.
I started making this form a couple of years ago and I do a larger version of it as a serving bowl. It's a simple bowl with the rim turned over flat. I usually cut the rim after the first pull, which ultimately widens out into a slightly wonky rim. Sometimes I rib the outside smooth, sometimes I leave in the throwing rings. I sell a lot of these bowls at $20-$25 apiece. After Christmas Eve service this year, a friend pulled me aside and said his wife always eats her morning cereal out of one of these bowls that she bought from me. "She won't let me touch it," he said. "I think it's her soulmate." That's more than I would usually claim for a bowl, but if it works for her ...
I'll attach a photo of some finished bowls, so you get an idea of what they look like. These are glazed on the outside with an orange Malcolm Davis Shino and inside with a slightly modified Phil Rogers standard ash glaze.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

Still more shopping to do this afternoon, then perhaps a bit of cooking, then off to a Christmas Eve party at the home of some friends, then Dee drags me to Messiah Episcopal Church in Woods Hole for a service of carols and candles. Actually, a lovely service.
Happy Christmas and Hannukah to all. We look forward to January 20 and a new beginning here in the USA.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some pots from the holiday firing

Here are several pots that came out of the kiln Saturday morning. There were a few good ones that more or less left immediately with discerning buyers, but there are always some good ones left. Here are a few of them, including a row of "tiddlers," as Doug Fitch calls them. These are little pots that fill in spaces between the bigger ones and raise the pot total in the kiln considerably.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A snowy but successful open studio weekend

Saturday morning dawned (sort of ... ) white and wet and deep here at the pottery.
I looked out the window at about ten inches of snow on the driveway/parking area and thought ... "No one will be able to park there. On the other hand, no one will leave their house, anyway, so what does it matter?" So I got dressed and headed in to Falmouth at 7 a.m. to get coffee and pick up some things needed for the open studio, just in case some brave souls actually came to our place.
Amazingly, they did. Angela and Jeff showed up with their snowblower and went to work on the driveway and path to the gallery. Jean Swan, Ruth Bleakley and Kim Collins - the other artists doing this show with me - all arrived with their work. By the time of our scheduled kiln-opening at 11, there were several cars in the driveway and about 15 people here to see what had become of the pots fired on Friday. We had, as usual, an enthusiastic line of people helping move new pots from the kiln to the table, with a few being claimed along the way and bought later. You can see some of our fine and brave unloading crew in one of the photos, with my wife Dee standing front and center in the still-falling snow.
It was, as it always is, fun and profitable and people got lots of good pots, jewelry (from Kim), paintings (from Jean) and handmade books (from Ruth).
In the past five years, this weekend has become as much a social event as a selling event. While I sell pots in the summer to visitors - and I love that - I think we get much more of a community feeling from the pre-Christmas open studio. Though a few people come from off Cape Cod, most are from Falmouth or one of the nearby Cape towns. Many people bring food.
Donna Sutherland, usually a participant, is busy with a new grandchild, but still made wonderful breads. Janet Simons showed up with a pie and toffee. Lafe Coppola brought muffins. Dave Masch made excellent chopped liver. We had New Mexico chile and hot dogs. No one left unfed.
And as much as I feared a big snowstorm, there's something gratifying and heart-warming in seeing friends walk carefully through the falling snow, heads down against the weather, headed for the unheated gallery in the back or coming into the studio in front.
I'm not going to make any pots between now and Christmas. I'll leave my part of the in-studio show set up in case anyone comes by at the last minute.
The firing, by the way, was a good one. There were new glazes, untried techniques and a couple of new slips in the firing and things look pretty good. I'll attach a photo of a couple of the shelves. In the next day or so I'll shoot photos of some of the better pots.
Happy holidays to everyone. Now ... Christmas shopping ...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Just what you want the day before a show ...

... seven to 12 inches of snow.
Or so the various weather prognosticators are saying will fall on this part of southeastern Massachusetts through tonight and early tomorrow.
I was hoping we'd get the first storm of the season on the first day of our holiday open studio. I wonder who will eat all this food ...
Well, we'll see what the morning brings. The firing went smoothly, reaching Cone 10+ by about 10:30 this morning. I was able to go in to Coffee Obsession in Falmouth and have my ritual cup of post-firing coffee well before noon. Then to the grocery for various comestibles to feed the throngs of buyers Saturday morning ... or however many show up ... do two buyers constitute a throng???? Three????
The studio's cleaned up and vacuumed. Pots from the gallery have been brought up through the snowy backyard and are on display. Jean Swan and Dave Masch brought Jean's wonderful and colorful paintings and they've been hung all over the walls of the upstairs "gallery." Kim Collins's jewelry is there, too, covered to keep our two cats from making off with expensive earrings. Ruth Bleakley (isn't that a great surname?) will be here at some point and set up her lovely handmade books.
The only questions remain - how much snow? And how many will come out?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cleaning up after making a mess

Damn, glazing is messy. Or maybe it's just me ...
So I finished glazing this kiln-load of pots this afternoon about 4. This will be an interesting firing. I've got a couple of new glazes that I'm testing and some glaze combinations I haven't used. Could be great. Could be a disaster. We'll find out Saturday morning.
I've fired this kiln for about six years now, learning all along the way. When I came here to Cape Cod from Virginia, I had had a hand in firing several wood-fueled kilns, but had never once fired a gas kiln by myself. Which is more or less the reverse of most potters' experience. So my first few firings were fairly miserable - over-reduced, crud all over the kiln shelves, glazes running everywhere. Really bad.
But with advice from friends like local Falmouth potter Angela Rose, I dialed back the natural gas, settled on a couple of clay bodies, figured out workable glazes and settled down a bit. For the past few years, the Olympic has turned out some pretty good pots. Or as good as the kiln could make them, given the deficiencies of the potter. I'm pretty happy now with many of the pots that come out of each firing. And the work is getting better. Which is the point.
I'll attach a shot of the loaded kiln and I'll dig up a couple of pots from the past few years' firings to give you an idea of what I like to see when we open the door on kiln-opening morning. The three small vases and the faceted vase are all made from clay dug by my friend Trina Kingsbury on her property on Martha's Vineyard. It's rough stuff, but fires just fine to cone 10 and takes well to some of my Shino glazes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A'glazin' we will go ...

I thought I would document the way unglazed pots on shelves dominate my studio just before I start glazing. Which is now. I thought this just as I was about to start glazing, so anyone who knows me will tell you that this blog post is just an avoidance tactic. Well ... it is. So sue me.
I prefer to glaze a load of pots over at least two days, to give myself time to think about what I'm doing. So I'll start today and finish tomorrow, then candle Thursday-Friday overnight and turn the burners up early Friday morning. We open at 11 a.m. Saturday, the first of two days of our holiday open studio.
I dry-stack my kiln, which I think I've mentioned before. I picked it up from Toff Milway at Conderton Pottery in the Cotswolds. Loading the kiln before glazing helps me understand how many pots I have, how they fit in the kiln, what can go on the bottom, what on the top and what in the middle. And I get to make decisions about what needs to be in a particular firing and consider what can stay out until another day.
Once it's stacked, I take the shelves out one by one - usually still loaded with pots and props - and set them in various places around the studio not already occupied by glaze buckets. I usually label the back shelves so that things go back in order. And then I'm off.
Which is the point I'm at now. So I'd better get to it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Making pots in the holiday damp

It's a damp, dark day here on Cape Cod. The cold rain spits across the windowscreen to my right. I can see the dead vines of last summer's tomatoes, peppers and beans beaten down onto the bare, brown garden earth. This feels like February.
But it's December, the holiday season, and I'm making pots for the firing next week. This afternoon I threw about 20 little vases, about a quarter-pound each. These small things can fit between taller and wider pieces and nearly double the number of pots in each firing. Plus, it gives someone with only $10 or $15 to spend a nice little pot to take home.
I've got one more bisque-firing to do, and then I will glaze early next week and fire Friday. I'll open Saturday morning at 11 with an audience of folks who come out every year to our holiday open house. It's always scary to open a new kiln with people watching.
I'll post a couple of photos with this. One is a group of like-minded pots that I threw last week and just bisqued. One finished pot much like these is a couple of posts down in the blog and that inspired me to just make a bunch of them. I do that a lot. There's a Dan Finnegan influence in these pots. That business of taking a sharp-edged piece of wood and pushing it into the soft side of a pot is something I learned a long time ago in one of Dan's classes. That technique creates a dynamism in a pot with bulging sides. Done right, they almost look like they're being expanded by compressed air from the inside.
The other image came to me via e-mail a few days ago from Huguette May, a fine New Bedford artist who is currently spending her time portraying frayed and discarded rope in big prints and drawings. Huguette has a studio in the Hatch St. Studios, opposite Mike Pietragalla's space on that old mill's fourth floor. She took it on herself to photograph some of the artists at the holiday open studios event two weeks ago. This is what she was able to do with me.
Now ... back to the studio.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winter comes early to Cape Cod

We can usually stretch out our autumn until near Christmas and sometimes after that. But not this year. Yesterday was a day of cold, windblown rain along Vineyard Sound and then big heavy snowflakes out here at Hatchville. The cold wind was roaring through the maples last night as we sat in the tub and contemplated Orion. Today dawned cold and sunny.
The pots I took from the gallery were all about 20 degrees F., which made handling them a great deal of fun. But now I have a small display today through Saturday at the Cape Cod 5 Cents Savings Bank, our bank on Falmouth's Main Street. They have a program that encourages their business customers to show their wares in the lobby, a nice way of connecting with their customers. Dee discovered this last week and I signed up. Now there are 30 or so pots in the bank lobby, beckoning people to come to next week's open studio and kiln-opening.
I worked more in the studio yesterday, throwing spouted bowls and a few small creamers. And I went down to Woods Hole for potter Tessa Morgan's open studio event. Lots of good food and lots of Tessa's wonderfully illustrated pots. Tessa's sgraffito work is wonderful. I'll attach a photo here to show you.
Now I go back to my own studio and get back to work. Eggnog cups are up next.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Back to the wheel for Christmas

I came back from New Bedford to several deadlines for show paperwork and photographs. Got images for jurying off to the Lexington Arts Center in Lexington, Mass., for their biennial "State of Clay" show next spring. I had a couple of pots in the last one, which was exciting. Great show.
I also got the last of the paperwork off to the Cape Cod Museum of Art for the February show of work by Cape Cod potters. That should be a lovely show, with a couple of hundred pots in a big, well-lighted gallery there in Dennis. We need something big and well-lighted here in February. Juror Dan Finnegan is, I think, coming up for the opening and to give a gallery talk.
So today I got back to the wheel to make pots for the kiln-opening at our annual holiday show and sale here at the pottery. This year's will be Dec. 20-21, with the kiln-opening at 11 Saturday morning. People love handling the warm pots and hearing the tinkling of cooling glaze.
Joining me for this show will be jeweler Kim Collins, bookmaker Ruth Bleakley (she of the Dickensian name ... ) and painter Jean Swan.
I did 20 or more small Karatsu-style condiment dishes to start the throwing this afternoon. I did a workshop at Anderson Ranch in Colorado many years ago with Nakazato Takashi and this form is very much like his work. These will get a couple of different shinos and perhaps some temmoku.
And I loved this other small vase that came out of last week's firing, so I saved it for a show. Those larger vases above the small dishes will be finished tomorrow in the form of this shino jar with Coleman Black splashed over it.
Trimming and more throwing tomorrow. I'm glad to be back to work in the studio.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A weekend selling pots in New Bedford

I spent the weekend at the Hatch St. Studios in New Bedford, at the furniture studio of my friend Mike Pietragalla, a builder of wonderful Craftsman Style furniture ( Mike is one of a couple of dozen artists and craftspersons working on two floors of an old mill in the North End of New Bedford. Sculptors, fabric-workers, potters, painters, printmakers, photographers, jewelers, knitters ... all surrounded us there. A lively and creative bunch.
I've been invited to do this show for three years now ... or is it four? Anyway, I've made many friends from the New Bedford area, some of whom have made the long haul (a good 35 minutes) to the Cape to see our studio and gallery in warmer weather and during the holiday open house here. I like doing the show, not least because of the artists and the buyers, but also because part of my own family started in the United States in New Bedford. I realized this weekend that my great-great-grandfather came over to the U.S. from the industrial Midlands of Britain to work in the New Bedford mills late in the 19th century. It's unlikely - but possible - that he started his working life in that very same building in the city's mill district.
It was a good show, in any case, though sales were down generally, no doubt because of the current economy. Still, plenty of people came through the studios.
Now, I have more pots to make for our own holiday open house, coming Dec. 20-21 here at the pottery. If you're in the area, come to the kiln-opening at 11 on the morning of Saturday, the 20th. Also with us will be Ruth Bleakly and her handmade books, Kim Collins and her jewelry and Jean Swan and her paintings.