Thursday, July 30, 2009

Call this the "The Daylily Kiln-Opening"

We'll keep up our every other week firing and kiln-opening schedule Saturday, Aug. 1, with more new pots, which I am currently glazing and loading into the kiln. I'll fire tomorrow, Friday, starting at about 8:30 a.m., and hope for an uncomplicated temperature rise to cone 10.
This firing has mugs, teabowls, plates, flower vases and bowls. Many of the teabowls will be side-fired, perched on wadding-filled scallop shells. (See last post.)
This is a good opportunity to see not only new pots but also the stunning array of daylilies and other flowers that are blooming in Dee's gardens. In spite of a relatively cool and certainly rainy summer, so far, the flowers are at their height and very lovely. They put my simple pots to shame, in fact.
We'll be open for business at 10 a.m., with coffee and something to eat, then we'll open the kiln at 11 and remain open until 3 p.m. Come on down.
Driving Directions: From Route 151, enter Boxberry Hill Road at the blinking traffic light at the intersection of 151, Boxberry Hill and Sam Turner, we're on the right, at the corner of Brady Drive, with a "Pottery" sign out front. Park in the driveway on Brady Drive. Coming from Falmouth via Sandwich Road, take a left on Hatchville Road at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation, pass Coonamessett Farm and bear right at the next fork. Hatchville Road dead ends at Boxberry Hill Road. Turn left at the stop sign and we're the second house on the left.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Playing the shell game in the kiln

Tourists on a beach holiday might have wondered who that bearded guy was walking head-down across the seaweed-and-stone-covered strand near the Shining Sea Bike Path yesterday afternoon. Plastic bag in hand, bending down only occasionally and dropping something into the bag ... it was just a Falmouth potter collecting shells for propping a batch of side-fired teabowls in Friday's firing.
After dry-stacking most of the kiln, I gave myself a little beach time, wandering up the shore of Vineyard Sound, where I can usually find bay scallop shells washed up on the sand. I sometimes prop pots on their sides on the kiln shelf, supported by shells filled with refractory wadding. It's an old technique and if done properly leaves behind the nearly parallel lines of the scallop shell in the glaze. I'm going to shell a group of teabowls in the kiln I'm loading today. We'll see what happens.
And Paul Jessop reminds me that I haven't said anything about the demo I did this past Saturday at the Woods Hole Historical Museum. It was a lovely day, starting sunny, but with a bit of fog rising from Vineyard Sound toward the end of the hour of throwing. We had a small but interested group of people, with plenty of good questions and maybe 14 pots thrown. That's about five more pots than we had spectators. But they were pleasant and inquisitive and appreciative. And it wasn't a bad way to spend a couple of summer hours.
Coming up: Another kiln-opening this Saturday, at the height of day lily season here in Dee's gardens. Worth coming out to, even if you don't want to see pots. More on that tomorrow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Saturday's throwing demo (by me, not Finnegan)

I'll be doing a throwing demonstration tomorrow morning, Saturday July 25, at 11. I don't do many of those, mostly because I like to throw alone in my studio and because I'm not asked all that much. I think my throwing skills are average. On the other hand, most of the people who want to see this kind of thing have never touched clay, so even decent throwing is pretty amazing. I remember watching the late Dennis Davis, my first clay teacher, when he first demonstrated throwing for our beginner class. It was like magic.
And you'll notice that the magician in the photo on this page is not me, but Dan Finnegan of Fredericksburg, Va. This was taken last year in Chatham at Dan's workshop at the Creative Arts Center for the Cape Cod Potters. Note the elegance, the grace, the delicacy, the precision, the finger placement. Note how damn good he is.
Well ... my demo will be perhaps less graceful, but it should be fun. If you're in the area, please come by the Woods Hole Historical Museum in Woods Hole and watch for a while.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A little pot talk with Anne Halpin and me

Wednesday, July 22, Anne Halpin and I will be at the Woods Hole Museum at 1 p.m. to talk about pots, pot-making, how we got where we are and where we might be going. Anne and I are two of the six potters in the current show at the museum. The show runs through the summer. This gallery talk is free of charge and will probably be more exciting than sitting on the beach in the rain, so it might be worth attending. (The weather predictions for tomorrow are not good.)
Anne is a fine maker of functional pottery and owns Quissett Pottery, a couple of miles up the Woods Hole Road in the direction of Falmouth. She trained at St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, in Indiana, and has been making pots in Falmouth for many years.
I began making pots about 20 years ago at the Art League School in Alexandria, Va., when I needed something to distract me from the meetings and interpersonal conflicts of a national newswire service. I've been making pots here in Falmouth for about 10 years.
Anne and I are good friends. We should have some fun talking about our pots. You should have some fun listening to us, or exchanging your own ideas about pot-making.
Saturday morning at 11, I'll also do a throwing demonstration at the museum for anyone inclined to watch.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Coffee and cups and place

Coffee always is better in a handmade cup. I know that, and I know that many of the people who read this blog know it, too. In fact, for many of us, our livelihood depends on other people enjoying their coffee or tea best when it's sipped from a handmade mug or teabowl. And especially when they know the potter.
Still, there are times when the coffee is the thing. Or, rather, the time spent with the coffee and a newspaper, a book, a friend, a mate. In that case, if there is no handmade cup available, something else will do.
I've been drinking coffee quietly, often alone, in many parts of the U.S. and the world for many years. I worked for more than 10 years for a news wire service in Washington, D.C., and I occasionally got out of town to do some reporting, almost always alone. The best part of those trips was sometimes the quiet hour when I sat down in a cafe with my notebook and a cup of coffee and filled pages with my impressions of the place, or of the people I had interviewed. Those notes would fuel the stories I wrote once I got back to my keyboard.
I remember sitting at the Uptown espresso bar in Seattle, near the office of a friend, and filling the notebook with words about a program run by passionate people who wanted to give Hispanic-American youth a chance at a better life. I sat at the far counter of a coffee-and-donut trailer early one morning at the West Virginia State Fair, cup of weak coffee at hand, and wrote about the passion of pie contest participants. And most mornings during the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, I woke myself with an espresso (called in Spanish "cafe solo") at a dark wood espresso bar near the main press center, served by a beautiful and entirely uncommunicative waitress named Meles. (Why do I remember her name?)
So the coffee has always been a part of travel for me, especially so in countries or cities where there is enough European influence to instill a cultural respect for good espresso. Seattle, where our son and daughter-in-law live, is the U.S. capital of coffee culture, so it should surprise no one that we've tracked down our favorite places to sit with good coffee and watch the city go by. Vivace, Uptown, Diva, Caffe Ladro are all good, and there are hundreds of others. Our "local" is Cloud City, a very funky cafe in north Seattle that was once a gas station. Friendly bleached, pierced and tattooed baristas, a variety of people from retirees to young parents with brand-new babies, everything in between. Laptops and newspapers and books. Cloud City reminds us of our favorite Falmouth coffee shop, Coffee Obsession. That is high praise. Coffee Obsession is the center of the community for a certain kind of Falmouth or Woods Hole resident.
So, all of this was an excuse to run a few coffee-related photos here on the blog. The top is an exquisitely artful caffe latte from Seattle's Vivace, across the street from REI's main store. Second is part of breakfast at Sunshine Baking Company and Cafe in Seattle. And at bottom, what's left of a cafe au lait at Top Pearl guesthouse in Charlotteville, Tobago.
Back to pottery news tomorrow.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A bit of a family party ...

Today's kiln-opening was a chattering time of pots, family and friends. Donna and I unloaded the kiln, with Dee's visiting siblings and their children and partners weaving in and out of the studio, down the gravel walkway to the gallery, stopping on the lawn to talk with friends ... finding pots they wanted to take home. A very nice morning. And a good firing, with lots of the new squared bowls, plus plates and vases and mugs.
The family is here from Maine, New Mexico, Vermont and New York for the combined 85th birthdays of Doug and Jan Dorchester, Dee's parents. It was good to have all of them wandering the property, asking about the pots, picking up things they liked. And friends Donna, Brenda Horrigan and her son Cullen, Mike and Tammy Race and Fiona Manse and her friend Delia all contributed to the conversational mix. And a few pots were sold and a couple given away.
We had good coffee, muffin tops from Beach Plum Bakery in Cataumet, and mimosas provided by Ms. Horrigan. It was very quiet when everyone left, until the arrival of kayakers Paul Lefebvre and his wife Milene Chioatto ... who also found pots they liked and took away two bicycles to use next week when Milene's Brazilian family comes to visit. In the midst of a summer season filled with people from all parts of the globe, this was a day of family and friends.
Oh, and a word of thanks to our plumber and friend Gabriel, who responded ridiculously quickly to a call for help early Friday when the Baso valve on my kiln kept shutting down. The man's a genius, and got us back up and firing by noon, so that there would be new pots today.
Here are a few photos of those pots.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Second Kiln-opening of the summer Saturday

I've just finished glazing and packing the kiln for a Friday firing. We'll be opening the door about 11 a.m. Saturday morning, when the new pots cool down a bit. We'll see if we can lure a few more people out here on July 18 than we got on July 4.
We'll be serving good coffee and something delectable from the Pocasset kitchen of the multi-talented artist (that's her garden sculpture in the upper left corner of the top back shelf of the kiln) and chef Donna Sutherland. Donna is part of the regular unloading crew here in Hatchville and a fine cook.
This firing has a lot of bowls in it. Squared bowls, like the ones pictured, which are from the firing two weeks ago. I started making these squared things, cutting the rims and leaving the throwing rings intact, and I made a bunch of them. That's what happens when I get into an idea. The throwing rings work well with the ash glazes I use, the glaze pooling on the upper part of each ring. And the temmoku and copper red break on the rings and on the edges of the crackle slip.
If you're in or near Falmouth, stop by on your way to the beach.
Driving Directions: From Route 151, enter Boxberry Hill Road at the blinking traffic light at the intersection of 151, Boxberry Hill and Sam Turner, we're on the right, at the corner of Brady Drive, with a "Pottery" sign out front. Park in the driveway on Brady Drive. Coming from Falmouth via Sandwich Road, take a left on Hatchville Road at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation, pass Coonamessett Farm and bear right at the next fork. Hatchville Road dead ends at Boxberry Hill Road. Turn left at the stop sign and we're the second house on the left.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Battling the high seas ...

It was a lovely, sunny day today on Cape Cod, so we decided to take the kayaks out at about 5 p.m. for a bit of an evening paddle/nosh/tipple. This is something we've done several times over the past few years, often with our friend Julie in her little paddleboat.
We put in at West Falmouth Harbor, just a few miles from the pottery, and immediately discovered that the breeze that appeared to be blowing about 20 mph (whitecaps on the upwind end of the harbor, pennants straight out on the sailboats at their moorings) was indeed doing just that. So we got out of the launch area, turned our backs to the wind and fairly flew down-harbor, under a roadway bridge and into the marsh north of the bridge. It made for a pleasant little paddle, chatting with the mallards and Canada geese, but turning back into the wind to get back to the launch ramp was a chore. It was a slog back into the teeth of the wind, through oncoming and splashing waves, but we made it with little damage to the salad, cheese and salami in my boat, or the two beers, or Julie's white wine. All of which we consumed after hauling out the boats and finding a friendly rock near the ramp. Followed shortly after by ice cream at Whistlestop. A lovely, if strenuous, evening.
I'll attach a few photos from the full moon paddle a week ago in less breezy conditions. This one started off the beach at Chapaquoit and went south down the Buzzards Bay shore to a tidal creek flooding into Great Sipewissett Marsh. Nine boats and ten paddlers ... or eight boats and nine paddlers ... I can't remember. But a still, beautiful night, cloudless and a nearly-full moon rising in the southeast while we traded bug spray, white wine, Spanish Cava and single-malt Scotch boat to boat. And then paddled out on the falling tide and home beneath the Big Dipper.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Late week report on last weekend ...

I've been making plates, squared bowls, vases and a bunch of other things for next week's firing, so have not reported on the July 4 kiln-opening. It was, to paraphrase a couple of my friends, not a great day to schedule an event out here in the country. July 4 is, as you probably know, the big national holiday that is the kickoff for the American summer. This year it fell on a Saturday and it also fell on a gorgeous blue-sky Cape Cod Saturday, of which there have been very few this spring and early summer. And not many blue-sky Monday, Tuesdays etc.
Hence, a sparse turnout. We had neighbors and a couple of good friends show up to drink coffee and pass pots out of the kiln. And for that we're grateful. The rest of the day was spent sorting through pots. The firing was a good one. This combination of glazes and kiln is doing good things. I'll attach a couple of photos.
I've just loaded the truck with pots and tables and such for an off-Cape Cod trip to nearby Marion for Art in the Park. It's a small craft show run by nice people and frequented by equally nice folks from the South Coast. If you're in the neighborhood, drop by. It runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. next to Marion's small but lively art center, just up the street from the harbor.
And next weekend, July 18, will be our next kiln-opening. I'm still making pots for that one. We hope to have a local jeweler to share the bounteous number of visitors who will have gotten all that Independence Day silliness out of their systems and are now prepared to buy handmade stuff. More on that in a couple of days.
On the photos: A brilliant copper red mug with crackle slip beneath; a selection of jugs, a simple vase and three squared teabowls; and just-cooled larger squared bowls, with a small bowl in the background glazed in Antarctic/Ash glaze, with Solway Firth mud (hello, Hannah) spattered on it. More work to be done on that combination. Also in that photo is evidence of the disappearing high cones at the top peep. Apparently, my drying of the conepack was incomplete and hidden water blew up the high-fire pack but left the lower cones intact. First time that's happened to me. Remarkably, the resulting explosion damaged only one pot, a plate.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kiln-Opening Saturday, July 4th, 11 a.m.

We will have our first summer kiln-opening this Saturday, starting a series of small Saturday events here at the pottery. I will fire the kiln Friday and it should be cool enough to open by 11 a.m. These kiln-openings are always chancy affairs, not knowing until the door is open what kind of glaze results we've got. But people seem to like to see and handle the newly fired, still-warm pots.
And we've found here that the best way to get our pots into the hands of buyers is to invite them here to the pottery. Craft shows and galleries are fine, but inviting people into your home and studio seems to be a good way of making new friends and customers.
It will be only me this weekend, but in the coming openings - most of them two weeks apart - we will have a single guest artist showing work in a tent on the lawn. Donna Sutherland's paintings and prints, Donna Andrews-Maness's jewelry, Kim Collins's jewelry and a couple of other Cape artists and their work will be part of shows through the summer.
We will open the kiln at 11 a.m. and unload pots, then our gallery will be open until 4 p.m.
The bisque-fired pitchers seen above are now in the kiln and will come out glazed Saturday morning. The finished pots on the kiln shelf, also above, are from our last firing, about a month ago. And the pitcher with flowers from Dee's garden here is to illustrate that even if you don't use a pitcher on your table for water or milk or sangria (but, of course, you should ... ), you can still use a pitcher as a vase. My friend Maria Blackburn of Maryland said something like that when she looked at her new pitcher a couple of days ago. "I can put flowers in this," she said, showing that she thinks right about her pots.
We'll be open Saturday at 10 a.m., with the kiln opened an hour later.
Driving Directions: From Route 151, enter Boxberry Hill Road at the blinking traffic light at the intersection of 151, Boxberry Hill and Sam Turner, we're on the right, at the corner of Brady Drive, with a "Pottery" sign out front. Park in the driveway on Brady Drive. Coming from Falmouth via Sandwich Road, take a left on Hatchville Road at the Falmouth Jewish Congregation, pass Coonamessett Farm and bear right at the next fork. Hatchville Road dead ends at Boxberry Hill Road. Turn left at the stop sign and we're the second house on the left.