Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A busy and wet weekend in Falmouth

It's near midnight Tuesday and I'm more or less recovered from a long weekend of pottery events and a wet and windy northeaster. The gallery is back together again and pots are cooling in the bisque kiln.
First, Friday evening the Woods Hole Historical Museum 0pened its "The Art & Nature of Workmanship: Six Woods Hole Potters, " with a lovely and well-attended reception. Potters Anne Halpin, Ron Geering, Joan Lederman, Ann Newbury, Tessa Morgan and myself are showing together through the summer in a room in the museum. The show was organized and mounted very nicely by Anne Halpin. It looks great and drew a big (for Woods Hole) crowd on what turned out to be a lovely Friday evening.
What makes me a "Woods Hole potter"? Even though Hatchville Pottery is nearly a half-hour from Woods Hole, I'm told that because I drink coffee at the Woods Hole Coffee Obsession on a weekly basis, and because I hold a Woods Hole Library card, I qualify. Works for me ... though the others all have better geographic claim on the title.
Then about dawn Saturday morning I drove with a loaded truck to downtown Falmouth to set up for the two-day Arts Alive event, now in (I think) it's fourth year of showing off local artistic talent of all kinds. This year the selling craftspeople were set up off the library lawn on a closed public street, the better to facilitate selling our wares. It turned out to be a good decision, with performing arts happening on the lawn behind us and selling happening on the street. People were buying pots Saturday, a good sign for the coming summer, in spite of the recession. Sunday was another matter, as the three-day northeaster began blowing and spitting and we all worried a bit about flying tents and rain. I didn't sell a pot until about 3 p.m. It was sloooowwww ... and cold.
I put the gallery back into shape this morning and afternoon, sweeping up and re-arranging pots on shelves as they emerged from their wet paper wrappers after sitting in the back of my pickup more or less in the rain for 36 hours.
The tomato plants in the garden have been blown around and now are staked to keep them from total destruction. Winds have died down as the storm backed out to sea. Tomorrow I have to put handles on some large pitchers that have been barely drying over the past week.
Back to work. Next show is here, with a kiln-opening on July 11.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Work by true "Unknown Craftsmen"

Many of us who make pots know "The Unknown Craftsman" by Yanagi Soetsu. It's long been a sort of handbook for Mingei folkcraft philosophy. But, in fact, though we revere the concept, most of us sign our pots with our names or initials, the better for buyers to find us the next time they want a mug just like the one that holds their morning coffee. True "unknown craftsmen" are hard to find these days, at least in the Western world.
But I found the beautiful work of some anonymous Vietnamese potters last week at the Swanson garden center in Seattle. Wonderful wood-fired garden pots, some of them big enough to hold small trees in hotel or office lobbies, were on sale at Swanson's. The bulging round pot in the top photo was perhaps three feet tall and might hold 50 gallons of soil. It had a monumental and pleasing presence and was on sale for just over $200. It much reminded me of the work of UK potter Svend Bayer and I can guarantee that Bayer gets considerably more than $200 for similar pots.
The remarkable thing about these pots is that they are apparently turned out by the hundreds and thousands at potteries in Vietnam.
I've only done a bit of research and haven't found much written about them, but at http://www.tinhkhoi.com/factory-showroom/factory-showroom.html you can get a look inside the factory and see the vast numbers of pots and the wood kilns used to fire them. Check them out. The quality is excellent. I'd be more than proud to be able to turn out a single pot the size of that one big planter, let alone do it day after day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Island Gallery: Wonderful wood-fired pots

Last week Dee and I took the ferry from Seattle to nearby Bainbridge Island, in part to eat breakfast at the Big Star Diner (if you're ever on Bainbridge, you should go ... ) but also to drop in on the people at The Island Gallery there (theislandgallery.net). These people make a living selling fine crafts to Bainbridge islanders and visitors, but I go mostly to see good wood-fired pots.
It always seems to me an odd place to find crusty, ash-dripping anagama pots so prominently displayed. (Any place, I suppose, would seem odd that way; anagama pots are not easy to sell to Americans ... ) But there they are. And they are quite wonderful.
Talking with the people there, it's clear that they are suffering like the rest of us in this strangling economy. The gallery recently gave up an adjacent room and now is in a somewhat smaller space. But the smaller space concentrates the work - jewelry, furniture and clothing as well as pots - and the gallery remains a pleasant place to find excellent work. My only complaint might be that they ought to have more pottery by Eastern and Midwestern wood-firers. There are plenty of them. But that might change as the gallery's reputation spreads. They always seem open to hearing about other potters. Chris Gustin, Dan Finnegan, Willi Singleton, Steve Murphy ... there are a bunch of wood potters who would fit perfectly into their collection, and even add a new dimension in style.
I will attach a few photos I made at the gallery, including a stunning pot made by Japanese potter Nobuyuki Kusai, the round jar that appears at the top of this post. I'm told he delivered the Shigaraki clay-coated pot personally to the gallery.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Back to Cape and blogging after the Northwest

This will be brief. We returned on a redeye flight this morning to Boston from Seattle after nine days away. Visited our son Marcus, daughter-in-law Anastasia and their little family of two birds and the new and adorable puppy Hopi. Saturday, we snowshoed at over 5,000 feet at Chinook Pass on Mt. Rainier, while the younger athletes and their friends skied up and down a bit of the mountain. Still lots of mushy snow left on Rainier, and a good deal of fog. Lovely up there.
More tomorrow, including some beautiful wood-fired pots at Bainbridge Island.