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.