Friday, February 27, 2009

Hundreds clog museum gallery to look at pots

Isn't that a cool headline? And it's true. At least 600 people came out Friday night to the opening of "Clay: Works by Cape Cod Potters," and not just for the free wine, hummus, chips and grapes. The gallery was crowded from 5:30 to 7:30 with people looking at - or trying to look at - more than 200 pots by potters from all over Cape Cod.
In the second photo down, slipware potter Ron Geering of Falmouth (goatee and black turtleneck) contemplates another potter's work in the midst of the crowd.
Both potters and people connected with the Cape Cod Museum of Art were amazed by the numbers. So, enough amazement. I'll put some photos on this post and then head up to pack bags. We're off on vacation for a week. More when we get back.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pottery show opens Friday at Cape Art Museum

The Cape Cod Potters show at the Cape Cod Museum of Art opens Friday night (Feb. 27) with a wine and hors d'oeuvres reception and a bunch of potters cleaned up for the occasion. (I must have some jeans without glaze stains around here somewhere ... )
I was at the museum today to bring my pots to the museum's shop, which the potters are taking over while the show is up until mid-April. The show itself, with more than 200 pots and sculptures by more than two dozen potters, is a wonder. The event was planned for literally years by potter Gail Turner, juried by Virginia's Dan Finnegan and mounted beautifully in one of the museum's two big galleries by Michael Giaquinto, the museum's exhibitions curator.
Tomorrow night's event should be fun. The show is up from Friday until April 12, with occasional gallery talks by potters and one in mid-March by juror Dan Finnegan.
Go to the museum's website ( for hours and directions. And then come to the show.

Antarctic Mud Results

For those of you waiting with bated breath to find out how miraculous is the behavior of Antarctic mud on my pots ... well ... not exactly miraculous. But useful, I think. I found several things:
- The mud is not a natural stoneware. At cone 10 (and probably below cone 10) it melts into a little iron-colored puddle. Very smooth and even. But still a puddle.
- Used as a glaze on biscuitware, it flakes off some time after drying and before firing. Messy. That which does not flake off crawls upon firing into little vertical puddles of iron-colored glaze. Not all that attractive, if scientifically interesting. You can see it on the square pot next to the small vase.
- Used as an overglaze, it has some promise. I diluted it to the viscosity of my usual iron brushwork slip and it seems to mimic that slip almost exactly, when used over the Shino glaze I use. You can see that in the small vase pictured here.
- And it runs nicely when brushed onto biscuitware and then has my ash glaze applied over it. You can see that on the shallow bowl I'm holding. The two side-by-side glazes are inside another bowl to which the slip was applied when the bowl was wet, just after throwing. The mud adhered well to that bowl, even when bisqued, and then glossed up but didn't run on high-temperature firing.
So ... not exactly miraculous, but still useful. And I'll continue to experiment with it. I've got about ten pounds. That's a lot of brushwork.
And for Tracey Broome, to whom I promised more photos from the firing, I just added the square Shino whiskey cups at the top of the post. Rough and rugged pieces, but I like them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ready to fire

Spent much of the past three days glazing and loading the kiln. Lots of bowls and mugs and a couple of special-order plates, plus various ways of using the Antarctic mud. We'll see with that one. I try to have something new or unusual in each firing. This one was a low-enthusiasm loading. Don't know exactly why.
It's about 11:30 p.m. Eastern time now and I just lighted the burners. They will candle until 5 a.m. and then I'll start turning them up hourly. The schedule's fairly well fixed by this time and (knock wood) has been working pretty well the past several firings.
I've got to clean up things around the studio while the kiln climbs to temperature, and pack up some pots to go to the museum shop to be on sale there while the show is up in the gallery.
Now ... bedtime.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Earth from the bottom of the Earth

The dark gray "cake batter" you see here is in fact mud from 8,000 feet below the surface of the ocean, just off Antarctica. It's freshly sieved - removing a bit of sand from it - in preparation for making a slip or glaze to test in this upcoming firing.
We are blessed here at this end of Cape Cod with scientists who travel the planet and sometimes bring back exotic things from faraway places. In this case, a friend of my scientist friend Betsy Gladfelter gave her about ten pounds of this mud and she passed it on to me. Joan Lederman, a potter in Woods Hole (, has made a career of glazing pots with undersea sediment brought back by scientist friends. Her work is pretty amazing, with the best muds looking very much like dendritic wood ash glazes.
I have no idea at this point what this stuff will do when fired to cone 10 (2350 F). I do know that by drying it to the point of being able to work it, I've been able to make small balls and a couple of crude beads that fire safely to bisque temperatures of cone 07 (almost 1800 F). The black or deep gray mud turns an iron-ish red/tan. The higher glazing temperatures in all likelihood will melt it, but we'll see how that comes out. It could be wonderful, or it could be terrible. We'll see in a few days.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Very good work ... rather messy"

I stumbled across that headline quote yesterday and realized today that it was perfect for today's blog post. The complete quotation is, "Very good work, but book is rather messy." I believe the woman who wrote that was a young teacher I only knew as "Miss Donahue." She was my first grade teacher when I was about six years old. And she was right. And prophetic, as you can see from the display of bisqueware scattered about my studio now, awaiting glazing and firing.
The book is "The New Basic Readers" workbook, full of the little exercises of the "see Spot run" and "which of these four kites is bigger?" variety that primary school kids were given to help us ... what? ... understand the way we would communicate with and comprehend our world in 1953? I guess that must have been it.
Anyway, Miss Donahue would probably now be in her late 70s, if she's still alive. But her judgment about my way of doing things was prescient. I'm a mess.
The studio is loaded with bisque right now, cups piled in bowls, piled in bigger bowls. After I post this, I'll go back out there and begin to dry-stack the kiln and begin to make some order out of everything. I just don't have enough shelves and open spaces to pile a kilnload of biscuitware in preparation for a glaze firing. Or, more to the point, I haven't made myself figure out how to do that.
This firing will include 20-30 bowls for our local Soup Bowls for Hunger project, a lot of mugs, some "tiddler" vases to fill empty spots, some prototype chalices for a Woods Hole church and a number of other odd things. More photos to come, once I've restored order ...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Back to work on Soup Bowls and other pots ...

The studio has warmed up a bit in the past few days, with temps outside getting up into the high 40s today. So I've put down my keyboard and photography work for a few days of actually making pots. I'm a potter, so it sorta makes sense that I should make some pots.
I want one more firing before the big show at the Cape Cod Museum of Art (opening Feb. 27). And then we head off to Tobago for a week of lying about under palm trees. Or avocado trees. Or whatever it is they have down there.
One of the projects I have to get accomplished in this next firing is a batch of 20 or so bowls for Soup Bowls for Hunger. This is the Cape Cod version of what is often known as the Empty Bowls Project in other parts of the U.S. Potters from high school students to aging professionals donate handmade soup bowls and restaurants or school culinary arts students donate several kinds of soup, plus bread, and people from the community buy a bowl and fill it with soup. Our bowls get out into the hands of people who will use them and local hunger projects get actual cash to do their increasingly important work.
We first participated in the Northern Virginia Empty Bowls Project when I was still a student in Alexandria and we've continued with it up here on the Cape. I also had a chance to send a couple of bowls to the Idaho Empty Bowls event last year, run by an old journalism friend.
These bowls in the photograph are my regular run of two-pound cereal/soup bowl, made quickly and simply, throwing rings left on and the cut rim turned over.