Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, all!

It appears 2010 is determined to come in tonight under cover of snow. Though we've got the second full moon of the month rising tonight, it will be tough to see through the snow clouds.
I've loaded up the electric kiln for a bisque firing tomorrow. I'm planning on the first firing of the year late next week.
For once, my plan is to make pots steadily through the winter and have lots of inventory for the spring and summer shows. We'll see how that works out. I've got to get a bit more heat into the studio to make it at all inviting to work there when it's 10 degrees and heavy wind blowing outside. The studio was built as a garage, hence relatively little insulation and at least two very cheesy windows.
On to some friends' house in Monument Beach (not far from us) for tonight's New Year's Eve party. Good food and wine, good friends, and we stay long enough to celebrate the coming of 2010 to Labrador. Which means we get home before midnight Eastern time.
Safe and happy New Year's Eve, everyone. See you on the other side.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A memorial ...

I've hesitated writing about this, but I think if I can keep the people involved anonymous, this story might help other potters.
A few months ago, a friend of mine who runs a nearby cafe asked if I could incorporate human ashes into a pot. I'd heard the question before, but usually it was joking speculation by someone who knows I use a wood ash glaze, someone who recently lost a parent and perhaps had ashes on their mind. Or in their closet. What to do with Dad? Or Mom? Or Uncle Bill?
But this was a more serious question. The first anniversary of the motorcycle death of a young man was coming up and my friend wanted to give the dead boy's mother - her close friend - a gift that would mean something to her. Could I use his ashes, she asked.
Sure, I said. Of course ... as if I got this question every day. How many times have I seen that question on the Clayart listserv? How do you do it? What's a good glaze recipe? Can you wedge the ashes into clay?
I told my friend to bring me the ashes and that I would think of something to do that would be appropriate. Soon, I had a small green notecard-size envelope pinned to the wall above my glaze table, a plastic sandwich bag inside containing perhaps four tablespoons of black and gray ash, on the outside written in the mother's hand "My beautiful ...... " (The dots replace the boy's first name in this blog post.) And there it hung for a couple of weeks, while I made other pots and my mind worked quietly in the background, trying to come up with something appropriate.
A big bowl, my friend had suggested, something the mother can keep candles in, or cards, or pictures of her son.
Finally, I made a couple of wide, plate-like bowls and a small candleholder, with the boy's three initials stamped into them. But I didn't feel the bowls were big enough, so I made one more, roughly dinner plate size, and fired it just before Thanksgiving. I glazed all of them with the ash celadon that I use as a liner glaze and sometimes as an overall glaze.
But this time I sifted some of the boy's remains into the ash glaze. Hard, black and coarse bits of burned bone were left behind in the sieve and went back into the envelope. I blended the new ash with the mixed glaze, then sieved it wet. This time, more coarse ash was left behind in the sieve, the same thing that happens with wood ash.
I couldn't just toss the remains of the sieving out into the driveway, which is where much of it normally goes. So this gritty mud was scraped off into one of Dee's flower gardens outside the studio door. And that's where all the waste glaze went, contributing to next summer's day lilies.
The pots were fired, as I said, just before Thanksgiving and I brought them to my friend at the cafe. The next day, it turned out, was the first anniversary of the boy's death. My friend loved the big, wide bowl, which was white stoneware, glazed with the boy's ashes and Phil Rogers' Standard Ash glaze to produce a pale green celadon. On the back I stamped the same loving phrase of identification that his mother had written on the paper envelope.
The mother, my friend told me, also loved the bowl.
As it turns out, she told me herself on the Saturday of our kiln-opening and open house. A slender, attractive woman stood in front of me at a quiet point in the day and said hello. Then she told me her name and started to say "Thank you." When I realized who it was, I hugged her and she held on tight.
All I had done was make a small, shallow bowl and glazed it. And then I was paid cash for it. It was a job, but it was more than a job. It's difficult to explain without making it sound like I'm blowing my own horn. I'm not. Any other competent potter could have made that bowl and figured out how to use the ashes in a glaze. It happened that I was the one asked.
But the things that grieving mother said made me glad that I had said "yes" to the job.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas to all ...

... and that includes everyone who is a regular visitor to this blog, those who are not but might be, and those who stumble upon us by hitting the "next blog" link up at the top of the screen. We've been at least stumbled upon by people all over the world and that's one of the best things about this blogging thing. You don't know who will see you or who will become your friend. And we've become friends with potters and lovers of pottery from North Carolina to Scotland, Taiwan to Texas, Virginia to Devon, Somerset to Brewster to Barcelona to Utah to Seattle. We love that.
Happy Christmas, all, from Hollis and Dee at Hatchville Pottery on Cape Cod.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A happy kiln-opening crowd and day of sales ...

... followed by a night of heavy snow, the same storm that hit our North Carolina and Virginia friends. So we've cancelled the second day of the holiday open studio sale. We have at least 18 inches of snow on the ground here, with a thoroughly clogged driveway and treacherous roads, and the snow just letting up about 11 a.m. So we've called Bryan, Kim, Tamara and Ruth and told them not to try to come here and sell today. If some rugged Cape Cod four-wheeler outdoors type shows up to buy art, we'll guide them through it and take their money. But I think that's unlikely.
We've already poured mimosas (got the OJ from the cooler on the porch by sweeping aside a couple of feet of snow drift) and are hoping to get the truck out of the drive to get our friend Patricia to the Boston bus some time after noon.
We opened the kiln yesterday at 11, with a bigger crowd than we've ever had. People jammed themselves around the slab roller and the wheel and the mess around the sink and the glaze table. Lots of laughter and talk, fueled by coffee and mimosas and the baked goods that were brought by practically everyone. Brenda brought bourbon for the eggnog, Janet brought toffee, Tiffany brought home-made baklava (BAKLAVA!!!), Jess (who comes with Bryan) brought some delicious sweet thing, Donna brought a plate of more delicious sweet things, Kim brought stuff, Ed brought good hot dogs and buns to go with the chile ... I'm sure I'm missing someone here. There is always lots to eat on these events.
Our neighbor Howard and Donna helped empty the kiln and people were seen grabbing pots off the table and clutching them to their chests while we finished emptying. I love that. Good pots always go out of here before I've seen much of them.
Upstairs, Kim and Bryan and Tamara and Ruth were apparently doing well. That room seemed to be crowded all day with buyers. Good thing, since today will be a zero.
Our friend Patricia Jones, visiting from Boston, decorated with greens and spent a couple of long, cold hours up at the road at the end of the driveway, getting people to park off the street, shuffling cars about and dealing with the ever-friendly Falmouth Police officer who visited us three times to make sure we were keeping the streets accessible and passable. (I'm not being sarcastic about this; Officer McGuire was as kind and reasonable as he could be in making sure we did what we needed to do to keep the streets passable and not discourage people from coming to the event.)
In the end, lots of pots went out the door with apparently happy buyers. This event is always gratifying because it's all about local folks coming to the studio, hanging around the kitchen, eating Ed's chile dogs, drinking coffee and other things, buying pots and other art, and seeing friends.
In the photos above: Dee this morning, with the candles she lit in the fireplace; Patricia with some of the greens she splashed all over the studio and house; the view to the gallery this morning, after the storm; new pots in the kiln; Bryan's witch balls hanging in the snow-dimmed window.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Come to our annual holiday kiln-opening!

OK, so I know many of the readers of this blog are in the UK, Australia or the U.S. Far West. So ... come anyway. Alli and I finished loading the glazed pots in the kiln this afternoon. I'm apparently teaching her my procrastinating ways; her pots were the last ones to go in, on the top front shelf. I'll put in the cone packs tonight and turn on the gas in the morning.
Kim Collins, my ever cheerful good friend, was here this morning to set up her jewelry display in the big open room upstairs. Bryan Randa will be in tomorrow morning with his blown glass and Tamara Clark and Ruth Bleakley (I love her name; so Dickensian ... ) will come some time tomorrow to set up their stuff. Tamara makes cards and Ruth does amazing handmade paper books and other art.
We open the doors at 10 Saturday morning, then open the kiln at 11. From what people have been telling me, there should be lots of good baked goods here to share with whoever turns out. Donna, Janet, Brenda and others have promised good stuff. About 1 p.m. Saturday we'll have chile dogs for whoever wants them. Ed Sholkovitz, our friend and hot dog chemist, is supplying the dogs and I'm making the chile.
Come on and share. Directions are to the right on this page.
Oh, the photo above was on the front of the show card that we've spread around Falmouth and nearby towns. The past few years I've done cards with small photos of everyone's art on the front, but this year I decided to change. Got a bit more editorial with the art. The photo is not my hand, but that of a potter in Vermont during a big-pot workshop at Bob Compton's pottery a few years ago. The swelling mass on the other side of the hand is not a pregnant woman's belly (which is what many people thought ... go figure ... ) but that particular potters very big and swelling vase.
Happy holidays, everyone. Come to the show.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A taste of Barrington Court while I glaze

Several of us raised glasses and mugs Saturday night to Paul Jessop, slipware potter from Barrington, in Somerset, England. We toasted the man because I was drinking Mexican beer from his fine English tankard, big enough to hold two full bottles of beer. That's the elegant, honey amber-glazed pot at top, with its depiction of Barrow Hill, a Somerset high point. (I think I have that right; Paul will correct me if not.)
Paul's pot came to us via Denise Marcoux, a Falmouth friend who was in Somerset two weeks ago with her husband, Chris Bromfield. Chris grew up in the area and worked there as a thatcher. They were there to celebrate his 40th birthday. They dropped in on Paul and passed on a mug from Cape Cod, so Paul offered them tea and sent them off with a couple of his own pots. Very generous, these potters. So, thank you, Paul. It's my new favorite beer and limewater mug.
Right now, the mug is sitting on a disused electric kiln while I glaze in preparation of Friday's glaze firing and Saturday's kiln-opening. Big doings here this week.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Momentary oystering break from the studio

I've got plenty to do in the studio, including firing the last load of bisque before this week's glaze firing and weekend kiln-opening and open studio. But I can't stay inside all the time, so this morning I headed to Monument Beach to meet up with Mike and Tammy Race on the oyster flats at low tide.
It's oyster season here on the Cape, one of the pleasures of sharing the cold weather with no one but locals. I live in Falmouth, so I can't harvest the Monument Beach version of Crassotreia Virginica. That village is in the town of Bourne, so we depend on Mike and Tammy's eagerness to share. That's Mike holding the basket of today's harvest. We eat a lot of their oysters this time of year. They're small and firm and taste like the salt water they come from. Kumamotos, Olympias, Apalachicolas, Wellfleets, Cotuits, Belons, Bluepoints ... they're all good. But these from Monument Beach, eaten with only a grinding of black pepper and perhaps a bit of lemon, are pretty hard to beat.
This beach is on the narrow dike between the harbor at Monument Bay and the Cape Cod Canal, with the railroad bridge over the canal in the background. At dead low tide this year, there are so many oysters on the surface that it's difficult to spend more than a half-hour gathering your limit. It's a good year for oysters.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The race to Christmas ...

This week has seen the last of the holiday show throwing in our studio. I finished up Wednesday afternoon with some small orders of white clay pots. Alli came in after I finished and got a few more pots done, which with luck will end up in the firing next Friday.
All of this is in preparation for our holiday kiln-opening and multi-artist show, which we've done for about six years now. It's an idea I happily stole from Malcolm Davis, the Washington D.C. potter, whose home we used to visit at holiday time every year when we lived in that part of the world. Malcolm sold pots downstairs and friends of his sold jewelry and other creative things upstairs. That's more or less what we do here. I'll open the kiln in my studio Saturday morning at 11 and upstairs will be jeweler Kim Collins, glassblower Bryan Randa and paper artist Ruth Bleakley.
People bring food for the weekend crowd, I make New Mexico red chile for chile dogs, and lots of local folks show up to share the food and conversation and maybe buy a few things for their last-minute gifts.
We also stole an idea from Harry Holl's Scargo Pottery by giving away eggnog cups to the first 20 people who come to the opening. I make it as complicated for myself as possible and actually fire the eggnog cups in the kiln the day before. So as people show up, they're given a numbered piece of paper and after the kiln is empty they come up as their number is called and choose a cup. I spent an hour or so one day earlier this week throwing the quarter-pound faceted eggnog cups from brown stoneware. There's a photo here of some of them.
A fair number of three-pound vases were thrown this week for the top and bottom shelves of the kiln. I thought I had that part covered last week, but an unexpected miscalculation in the bisque kiln resulted in many, many, many vase shards Tuesday ... many shards. So I threw another batch and it's drying now. Good thing I was ahead of myself for once. Also, a good thing I didn't write this blog entry right after I cleaned the shards out of the kiln ...
More to come. Stay tuned ...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hangin' at Hatch St. Studios

The Hatch St. Studios in New Bedford are in an old brick mill building, two floors of which are occupied by artists and craftspeople. Every year they do their holiday show just after Thanksgiving and I've been lucky enough to be invited the past five years. I share space in the big, airy and bright studio of furniture maker Mike Pietragalla. Mike makes beautiful Craftsman-inspired furniture and listens to a lot of Beatles music.
The three-day show this year was not as lucrative as past years, which is worrisome. It's always hard to tell whether the economy is bad (which it is), whether the weather is keeping people inside or outside (hard to say on that one), or whether I'm just not making pots that those folks want to buy (another question impossible to answer). You can make yourself crazy trying to figure out why things are not selling. I should add that another potter on the floor below us seemed to do well, so this may just not be my crowd.
Income aside, the two floors are filled with good people, most of whom I see only once or twice a year, at this show and perhaps one other. Potter and painter Kim Barry and I always trade work when we do shows together. She has a growing collection of my bowls (that's Kim with a very nice Shino/ash glazed bowl, which is now in her kitchen) and Dee and I have a number of her beautiful tiles of fish and vegetables. (Look for Kim's earthenware flowerpots in the new Sherlock Holmes film that opens this month; she'll be looking, too. She supplied them, but doesn't know for sure if they were used.)
Sheilagh Flynn makes very nice functional ware in her studio on the floor below. Sarah Peters does stunning bronze work. Huguette May is across the hall, doing massive black-and-white drawings of old rope. And painters Pat Kellogg and Michael Hecht always have good artichoke dip and wonderful paintings next door to Mike. This year, muralist M-C Lamarre shared Mike's studio, too, dancing, laughing and selling her photographs of Boston's Fenway Park. M-C cooked barbecued pulled pork for our Sunday lunch and I made fairly fiery barbecue sauce.
It's a great place, full of good people and good art and worth visiting.
Here's a list of websites for some of the artists at Hatch St.:
- Huguette May, at
- M-C Lamarre, at
- Mike Pietragalla, at
- Kim Barry, at
- Pat Kellogg, at
- Sheilagh Flynn, at
- Nicole St. Pierre (textiles) at,
- Marc St. Pierre (paintings, prints and photography), at

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This one was a "quiet firing"

Dee and I and our friend Donna Sutherland openend and emptied the kiln this morning. Someone described this as "a quiet firing." It was that, actually, with a fair amount of white Shino on white stoneware. Not a lot of golden brown Shino fireworks, though there was some, and there were the inevitable few copper reds to liven up things.
I remain excited about these faceted and pushed-out bowls, both the teabowls and larger serving bowls. The process of cutting the thick clay walls after a couple of pulls creates an uneven thickness in the walls and results in a randomness in the rim that I like. These bowls can be taken right to the edge of collapse and produce a lively and seemingly precarious pot. I've been doing this for a few months now ... maybe I should only make teabowls and smallish serving bowls and forget the teapots and big jugs and plates. Though I guess it would be helpful to know there's a market for such things.
This weekend, after Thanksgiving Day, I'll be headed to New Bedford for the three-day Hatch St. Open Studios sale. Two floors in an old factory of artists of all kinds. I occupy a space in Mike Pietragalla's furniture studio. This will be, I think, the fourth year I've done the show.
Also in the photographs here: Three small bowls made and glazed by Alli Connolly, the intern who works with me; two handbuilt vases by Marstons Mills potter Lois Hirshberg and a nice little Shino bowl by Shelley Fenily. Both are friends and fellow members of the Cape Cod Potters.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inertia defeated yet again ...

I have been slow about getting pots together for this next firing. (Which makes no sense, given that I have several shows over the next two months.) It takes about 100 pots to fill the kiln and I can throw that in a couple of days, if I'm working steadily. A week if I'm otherwise engaged part-time. But there are periods of time when I'll do anything but throw pots.
Fortunately, once I made the first few teabowls, I catch on again pretty quickly. And it's been good the past few weeks to have Alli Connolly in here, eager to make her own pots.
So ... here's a bit of a look at the dry-stacked kiln. Did this yesterday and talked with Alli about why I do it, wadding pots, arranging shelves, making sure I can see the cone pack, that sort of thing. Sometimes it helps to explain the process so that I understand it better myself.
The last bisque firing happened yesterday, with very necessary mugs and more faceted teabowls coming out of the electric kiln today (pictured at bottom). Will have to find a place for them in the glaze firing.
I'll start glazing tomorrow, with Alli coming over to glaze her teabowls and a couple of vases that will be in the kiln this time. Onward ...

Monday, November 16, 2009

New potter, old potter ...

I had a good talk today with Dan Finnegan, who is back in his own home in Fredericksburg now, still recovering from surgery, but able to manage by himself. He's been well taken care of by his friends in Fredericksburg and is grateful. He's doing well and happy with the clean bill of health he's gotten after his cancer surgery. Good for Dan. And good for all of his friends. He'll be back making pots within the month, I'd say.
The "new potter" part of this is Alli Connolly, shown here mating two thrown pieces to make one good-size vase. Alli works with me a couple of days a week and even comes in for free studio time when she can get away. She's working on some larger pieces for next year's student/mentor show at the Cape Cod Museum of Art and this is the first one that's been put together.
I'm working toward a glaze firing in the next week, possibly by the end of this week but more likely Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Lots of faceted serving bowls and teabowls, mugs and vases. This firing will have four of us in it - pots from me, Lois Hirshberg, Donna Sutherland and Alli.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finnegan is enjoying baked goods ...

I received this tonight from Jerry Brent, Dan's good friend and, with his wife Lou, our faithful reporter in Dan's condition since his surgery a week ago. It appears Dan is out of the hospital and being watched over by friends. The coveted Fredericksburg baked goods and other heartier meals are apparently flowing Finnegan's way. I'll just post the note I got tonight:

Hollis, this from Eric Olsen.
Also, the delicious pies, cakes, casseroles and soups have started to arrive. I'm extremely envious.

On Thu, 11/12/09, Eric L. Olsen wrote:
From: Eric L. Olsen
Subject: An Update from the Friends of Dan Finnegan
After 2 days of his release from the hospital, nothing but good news on the Dan Finnegan progress report!
Without going into too much detail, Dan had surgery to remove the cancerous tumor and the fixing, patching and sewing that followed the procedure went exceedingly well. Dan is progressing as the doctors had hoped and is up and around as much as he should be.
He is in pain, but not too much, and all parts that should be working are working.
He is being closely watched and someone is with him around the clock.
We (collectively, all of his friends, neighbors, well-wishers and loved ones) have been successful in allowing him to focus on his recovery and that is thanks to everyone who is sending all that good Kharma his way. It continues to have a profound impact on his health, so keep bombarding him with your thoughts and prayers.

Friends of Dan Finnegan

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Online auction to benefit Dan Finnegan

The Cape Cod Potters would like everyone to know that we are holding an on-line auction to benefit Dan Finnegan.
Most of you know that Dan has medical problems and no medical insurance. Earlier this year, Dan donated demonstration pots he made at a Cape Cod workshop to raise money for the Potters' scholarships and support projects. The executive board of the Potters, taking notice of Dan's situation, decided to redirect the funds from the on-line auction to help with Dan's medical bills. The auction also includes the multiple-level vase - pictured above - that represented Dan when he juried last year's show of Cape Cod Potters' work at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.
You can visit the auction by going to this link:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the pottery ...

We've been occupied with Dan Finnegan's surgical recovery the past few days, but thought tonight we'd get in a bit of pottery-related news. (Since Dan is rebounding so well from his surgery.)
First, Alli Connolly has been working hard here the past couple of days, coming up with the beginnings of some two-piece pots that will eventually be her entry into the student part of the student/mentor program's show at the Cape Cod Museum of Art early next year. Alli's pots show what can happen if you just stand at the wheel and work on the clay. She's doing well.
Secondly, Marstons Mills potter Lois Hirshberg came by today to drop off a couple of pots for next week's firing, pots that didn't make it into the recent wood-firing at the Castle Hill kiln in Truro. It's always good to see Lois stray from Marstons Mills to the big city of Falmouth. The two of us did a gallery talk last year at the Cape museum in which she spontaneously became a turning pottery wheel so that I could show the uninitiated how we throw pots.
Third, the Cahoon Museum's "25 at 25" show opens Friday evening, 5 to 7 p.m., celebrating the charming little Cotuit museum's 25 years of existence. Former director Bob Gambone asked me last year to be a part of this show, and it's a privilege to be there with friend and fine slipware potter Ron Geering. Most of the work in the show will be by painters and other flat art people. It should be a good show. The two photos here are my two contributions to the show. The tall jug and the squatter vase were both fired in Chris Gustin's anagama in South Dartmouth. The vase has been contributed to the museum's permanent collection. Please come to the opening Friday if you're free, or drop by the museum to see the show before it closes at the end of the year.

Monday, November 9, 2009

More grits, more ice cream, the man's doing OK

These updates are singing the same tune every day. Finnegan keeps getting better. Here's the latest tonight from Jerry Brent, correspondent at Mary Washington Hospital:

"Dan continues to do well. They want him up as much as possible and he did 15 laps around the floor! Still eating cream soup and grits. The doc says he's progressing nicely. Still no official word on when he may get out."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Waiting on the Finne-Gas

Sorry, that headline is a play on Toff Milway's description of the Finne-Girth. But it's apparently relevant and we can be lighthearted as our friend Dan continues his recovery at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg. The following is this afternoon's dispatch from Jerry and Lou Brent:

"We checked on Dan this afternoon. Doing fine. He's now able to eat cream soups, hot cereal, ice cream, pudding, etc. Imagine my surprise when he ordered grits! That and the fact that he makes face jugs is very encouraging! We'll make a Southern boy out of him yet. They want him up and walking around as much as he can take. He's also supposed to use some breathing apparatus we call "the bong". He hasn't been as diligent as he should with that. I told him he should use it every time the Falcons score against the Skins. He wasn't thrilled with that proposition! The catheter comes out tomorrow. Seems like the whole world is hanging on his ability to pass gas! That's when you know the plumbing is working properly. He's in good spirits and the Doc said he was a little ahead of the normal recovery process."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Finnegan spotted walking hospital corridors

Good news continues from Fredericksburg's Mary Washington Hospital.
Dan is up and about, gingerly, according to intrepid friend and reporter Lou Brent, who visited the post-surgical potter today with her husband Jerry. "When we went in today he was in his chair, having vegetable broth. And they've had him up and walking a bit," Lou said this afternoon.
Friends are taking turns staying with Dan through the night, she said. But he's showing steady improvement from the surgery and, she said, "He's looking pretty good."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dan's surgery went "very well"

Lou Brent reported this afternoon that Dan's surgery went "very well" and that the surgeon was pleased. Lou's husband Jerry was at the hospital throughout the procedure and talked to the surgeon after the operation. At that point, Dan was still out, but by this time - 3:47 p.m. - he should be awake and in his room. All good news.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Updating the fundraising for Dan Finnegan

Dan Finnegan goes into surgery early tomorrow (Friday) morning, so we should get word on how things went some time in the afternoon. Jerry and Lou Brent, terrific people and Dan's great friends and neighbors, will be making the calls after the surgery. I'll post anything I hear here on the blog.
In the meantime, Lou sent this e-mail tonight, with information on how to contribute to Dan's medical costs.

Checks can be mailed or delivered to any of the following addresses or locations:
c/o Tina and Eric Olsen
914 Monument Ave.
Fredericksburg, Va. 22401

916 Liberty St
Fredericksburg, Va. 22401

Union Bank and Trust
c/o Friends of Dan Finnegan
620 Cambridge St
Fredericksburg, Va. 22405

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thinking good thoughts for Dan Finnegan

Most of the readers who see my blog also see Dan Finnegan's ( So most of you probably already know that the Fredericksburg, Va., potter and our great friend is having cancer surgery Friday. Dan has been diagnosed at age 54 with what is perhaps the best form of colon cancer that anyone can have, assuming there's a "best form" of any cancer.
It appears this disease was caught early (through a colonoscopy) and is eminently operable and curable. Dan is confident in his medical people in Fredericksburg and he has a community of loving friends in that town who will care for him while he recovers.
But Dan, like many extemely creative artists, has no health insurance. So he is discovering how the hospitals and doctors will negotiate the costs of expensive surgeries and other related health care downward. Still, there are already funds being raised to help him in his recovery. I'll be in touch with the Fredericksburg people in the next day or so and get further information.
Meanwhile, we at the Cape Cod Potters organization, where Dan has given a number of workshops, will auction several pots that he made at his last workshop and the proceeds will go to help Dan after surgery. I'll attach a photo of Dan in his most recent workshop and some of the pots that I glazed and fired here at Hatchville. Dan would no doubt hasten to add that he would never, ever, use copper red on his pots.
More word here when I get more information on how you can help.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two new hands at the pottery

I was joined in the studio this afternoon by Alli Connolly, a senior at Falmouth High School and an enthusiastic clay person. Alli is part of a high school art student mentoring program run by the Cape Cod Museum of Art. The program puts students into studios several hours each week to learn the things that happen there. Not just throwing pots, but everything from pricing work to mixing glaze to planning for shows.
Linda Kemp runs the program and members of the Cape Cod Potters have been participating for years. This is Alli's second internship; her first was with sgraffito potter Tessa Morgan in Woods Hole last year.
I've been making a lot of faceted and torqued pots lately, and was doing that when she came in. So I threw a couple to demonstrate and then turned the wheel over to her. She's made a good start, especially considering that she hadn't thrown on the wheel for several months. Now she has to come up with a project to work on over the next couple of months. Her work and mine will be in a show at the museum in May, along with the other students and mentors.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wet and wild Wellfleet

The people who plan the popular and tasty Wellfleet OysterFest every October roll the weather dice, wish for luck and live with what the gods give them. The past three years it's been brilliant sun and a bit of cold. This past weekend the dice came up cold and breezy on Saturday and really freaking miserable Sunday. Winds up to 50 miles per hour, leafy trees bending over, and rain, rain, rain.
Late in the day Saturday, craft show organizer Deirdre Oringer was going from booth to booth, saying something like, "If I were you, I'd pack up tonight and relax on Sunday. The weather forecast does not look good." And indeed it did not.
Saturday was not a bad day for selling, with pretty good crowds of bundled visitors, and a number of buyer/friends that I only see at this show. Bowls, plates and teabowls were popular among my buyers. None of the new teapots sold, but these side-handle teapots are strange to most U.S. buyers and I spend a lot of time explaing that "no, it's not a bong." But I made my expenses and bit more. (And friends Milene Chioatto and Paul Lefebvre showed up with a bottle of Aberlour single malt ... which is a nice thing to have toward the end of a cold day.) A good Sunday would have made for a good show, which is usually the case with Wellfleet. Not this year, though.
At the end of the day, I packed all the pots back in their boxes, folded up the tables and took down the tent. Falmouth potter Tessa Morgan, who was two tents up from me, helped me pack the tent in its bag and I helped her pack hers.
I had a free room that night in Wellfleet, so I stayed at the Inn at Duck Creek and had dinner and a few Bloody Marys with Falmouth friends Chris Bromfield and Denise Marcoux. (Note to Paul Jessop: Chris and Denise will be in Somerset next month.) We toddled from the bar back to the inn with no major damage, Denise insisting on me walking on the sidewalk because, she said, "Dee would kill me if you got hit by a car." I didn't.
The next morning all the storm predictions came true, as you can see by the image of the car throwing up torrents of water on Route 6A, somwhere near Dennis on my ride home. What New Englanders call a "nor'easter" blew in in full force. The next thing I will do today is unload from the truck all the soaked wooden boxes and paper-wrapped pots.
Better luck next year.
Photos: Splashing along the soaked road home; teapot and teabowls; the crowd of buyers; one mittened woman handling a bowl in my booth.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some good pots out of yesterday's fire

For some reason, I always want to have new pots for a craft show. It never occurs to me that the pots from the past few firings will be new to anyone who comes to my booth ... but what the hell. So I fired yesterday, a cold, wet day. Which is also the situation today, only more so. And will apparently be the situation in Wellfleet at the OysterFest over the weekend. Things do not sound good, weatherwise. Still, I'll go, set up the tent, drink coffee and hope for buyers.
This was the first firing of a number of the faceted and torqued forms I've been making the past few weeks. I think they generally came out well, though I'm not crazy about the Miller 700 clay from Portland Pottery. I was up at Portland a couple of weeks ago to get clay and they were out of the high-iron stoneware Miller 750, my usual dark body. So I got a box of the lighter 700, which does not react nearly as well in heavy reduction with my glazes. I'm sure it's fine for other firing conditions, but I'll be happy to go back to the 750.
Otherwise, things worked more or less predictably, except for the dipped and poured Shinos, which I never expect to act predictably. But I always expect to like them and that was the case this time.
The pot photos: A couple of rows of teabowls, as always; a carbon-trap Shino vase; several side-handle teapots; tea for two with one of the ash-glazed teapots; and an adaptation of Willi Singleton's maple leaf/slip combination. I'm trying to be subtle with the leaves, leaving a hint of them rather than a full portrait of each leaf. This plate is beginning to get there.
Now, to pack for the weekend show. I hate that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I am a messy, messy potter

I thought I would come out of the closet and show the world what a slob I am when glazing for a firing. And, truthfully, all the rest of the time, too. I spent the past couple of days dipping and brushing and spattering, loading a kiln in preparation for this weekend's OysterFest craft show in Wellfleet, far down the eastern end of Cape Cod. (Now high winds and rain are predicted, so who knows if anyone will show up?)
This kiln is firing now, probably getting up close to Cone 012 and the beginning of hard reduction as I write this. It's full of faceted teabowls, a few faceted side-handle teapots, some of my friend Donna Sutherland's word as she gets back to making pots after years away (her stuff is on the second shelf, front), serving bowls, a bunch of simple ice cream or cereal bowls, and a few vases and plates.
Assuming all goes well (knocking on the wooden desk top), I'll open tomorrow morning and start packing for Wellfleet.
Nice to be back blogging again.
(The photos read from top to bottom, left to right, taken about a quarter of the way through the glazing process.)