OK, so I've probably posted enough oyster-related items this year. Here's the last of 2010, because the oyster season in the town where we fish ends this week. As I write this, the snow is starting to come down lightly here in Falmouth, the beginning of what is predicted to be a fairly heavy 48-hour storm. So Mike, Tammy, Josh and I - the usual four early-morning oyster fishermen - gathered at 6:45 and traveled to the flats early to avoid the impending snow.
Tide was low enough to make the oystering comfortable and there were still plenty of oysters in shallow water, in spite of a couple of months of heavy harvesting.
There were only a few of us out there; early morning the day after Christmas is not a time most people want to be wading in winter water, bending down and scrabbling in the cold for their food. It was barely dawn and nearly freezing when we arrived, as you can see from the top photo, still in an almost pre-dawn state of blueness, one car's headlights twinkling across the harbor. The water is in the low 40s or high 30s and gives prolonged discomfort it it seeps into a glove or a boot.
Once we fill one half-peck basket, Mike takes it ashore and sorts the catch, positioning shellfish in such a way that as many are packed into a basket as is possible. The other three laborers gather and bring ashore enough oysters to densely pack the two baskets (one allowed for each town fishing license), Josh helps out with packing and then two people run rake handles through the basket handles and portage the catch to the car. This morning, the porters are Mike and Tammy, walking across the grassy sand with the catch.
Much of what we picked up this morning will be shared on New Year's Eve. The rest will not be wasted.
The snow's coming down more heavily now. Must be winter.
I've been in the studio this morning, joining slabs of clay into vases and making slab plates. But I now have to go and finish helping Santa for a little while. The shop is still open and I sold a few pots yesterday, including a couple of nice teabowls to a new friend, the potter John Dorsey, who's read the blog and dropped by on the way to see his father. But mostly it's quiet around here, after an eggnog party at potter Anne Halpin's place last evening. The sun is out, the snow's still on the ground and we'll go out to a Christmas Eve party tonight and then to Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole at midnight.
Merry Christmas, friends. Bring on 2011!
Photos: The gallery last year, decorated by us and by nature. And a lovely little rocky stream in North Creek, NY, in the Adirondacks. No particular reason to use the stream photo, except that it's right near Dee's sister Ellen's family ski camp and it says "winter" to me.
I ran out of Miller 750 red clay a couple of weeks ago and wasn't able to get any from my supplier in time for this past firing. Instead, I picked up 150 pounds of 950, which turns out to be a heavily-grogged sculpture clay. (I know, I should have realized that ... ) Miserable to throw, like throwing sandpaper. I threw a few things, but gave up on that and decided to use the slab roller to make some vases, after seeing some Randy Johnston slab pots in his show at the Pucker Gallery last winter.
The slabs were rolled out, cut into squarish shapes, then folded onto themselves and pinched closed. Then slab bases were added and folded up onto the rough cylinder. I added dustcatcher "ears" to a couple of them, stamped shell stamps across the rims and here and there on the pinched joint, and that was that. The stoneware took well to the Shino glazes and to an Oribe I poured over Shino on the bigger one. Sold one just after it came out of the kiln. I would be eager to see them fired in a wood kiln, though I like them pretty well as they came from my gas kiln.
A couple of hours after we'd closed the doors on the annual Holiday Open Studio, I looked outside and saw snow beginning to pile up on the deck. Just in time.
Our power disappeared for a couple of hours in the night and we overslept a bit, but that just delayed an easy Monday morning sitdown at the local coffee shop. Our friend Bruce was sitting by himself there, and we joined him, then Janet showed up and we spent some time over coffee with them. This is one of the good things about living in this small town, we generally know where we can find friends.
The snow continues into the afternoon, though predictions were for two inches in the morning. I think we're up to four or five inches by this time, with snow still coming down. I'm doing computer chores like printing address labels and putting together music mixes for Dee's brother Jim in Maine to play on his new CD-player. Jim's undergoing medical treatment for the next month or so and loves music, but lives a bit off the grid, so these portable music-players are kind of new to him.
I'm thinking about the next pots and the next firing, though I probably won't make any for a week or so. I've got some rough sculptural stoneware that made nice slab vases in the weekend firing, so I may make more of that kind of thing. There are always new ideas ...
Thanks to all who made the weekend a success socially and financially. A lot of planning goes into it, some of which I don't do all that well, but it's always worth it in the end. And I don't mean just income. Mostly, what's good about it is the friends and the community.
Happy holidays, all.
Photos: The backyard gallery shed at noon today; the front door of the studio.
Lots of pots went out the doors today, the first day of our weekend Holiday Open Studio. And lots of glass, paper, jewelry and other work by the guest artists in the upstairs gallery.
We've been doing this group kiln-opening/craft show here at our place for the past six or seven years and it's slowly grown to the point that we hired a policeman to direct traffic this year. Lots of folks crowded into the studio at 11 o'clock for the kiln-opening, helping to move the still-warm new pots from the kiln to the table. It seems to have become a bit of a tradition to come out that Saturday for bagels and coffee and eggnog (some with Brenda's bourbon addition), hang with friends for a while, make some new friends, buy work from the makers and eat chile dogs at noon. This is a very Falmouth-oriented event, since it's so close to Christmas there tend not to be a lot of out-of-towners. Everyone knows somebody connected with the show.
Our friend Ed Sholkovitz has become the chile dog king, taking my New Mexican red and his steamed dogs and combining them into a fine non-vegetarian mid-day repast. Then Mike and Tammy Race showed up with shrimp 'n' grits and oysters on the half shell, Janet produced chile-spiced chocolate cookies and ... some kind of chocolate toffee candy ... and there were muffins and other baked goods on the dining room table. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
And a good firing, in spite of the fact that I realized about an hour in that I'd forgotten to put cones behind the peeps. Yikes. Opened the damper and let it cool for an hour or so, then carefully installed the cones, all of which seemed to work as they should.
Oh, and did I mention we sent a lot of pots off to new homes? I love that.
More tomorrow. Lots of stuff left. Come on down.
Photos: Top, the crowded studio at kiln-opening time, with glassblower Bryan Randa shamelessly mugging for the camera. Center, part of the studio pot display. Bottom, the upstairs gallery.
The hands above belong to Laura Burns, a friend of this blog and a teacher in Queens, New York. Laura came over this past summer from Martha's Vineyard to pick up some pots after reading the blog for some months. I photographed her with one of the teabowls she bought and then used it on the postcard made for this weekend's Holiday Open Studio.
I just finished loading the kiln with glazed pots and have started cleaning up the studio for the opening. A dirty job. And it will be interesting if anyone at the kiln-opening Saturday morning notices that the place is a lot cleaner than it was earlier in the week. Well, at least I will know.
We open for business Saturday morning at 10, then open the newly-fired kiln at 11. That usually brings what passes for a crowd in Hatchville in December. And lots of cars parked on the side of the road, which annoys one particular neighbor. So this year I've hired a police officer to tend to the proper parking of cars during that one- or two-hour period. The neighbor would have called a cop anyway, so this way she can walk out of her house and just talk to him.
This year, five other craftspeople and artists will join us, setting up their tables in the new upstairs gallery space. Bookmaker and paper artist Ruth Bleakley, glassblower Bryan Randa, painter Jean Swann, potter Lois Hirshberg and jeweler Kim Collins will share space upstairs and laugh the weekend away. And sell stuff, too.
You can join us, too. Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 11 to 4. Chile dogs will be served to anyone interested around 1, after the kiln's been emptied.
I should be mixing glazes for the upcoming firing, which will be opened Saturday, Dec. 18, at our holiday open studio event. But, naaaaahhhh ... I was sorting through pots from the last firing yesterday, getting things out to the gallery and out of my way in the studio. And I found these two small bowls on which the Bright Shino poured over the carbon-trap Shino had crawled into a white web. How do I miss these things when I'm unloading?
Anyway, one more instance of overlapping Shino acting unpredictably.
The way these Shinos fire often reminds me of landscapes from above, and often of the distant landforms of planets other than our own. I spend a fair amount of time looking at astronomical images on the RefDesk.com website, possibly because so much of the extraterrestrial world looks like tight close-ups of Shino pots. Or maybe not ... I don't know.
So, the top two images are of these new small bowls. Next one down is the side of a vase from the last firing and the bottom is a crackle-slipped and fat vase from two firings ago.
Most of the cordierite shelves that I'm using in my 17 c.f. Olympic downdraft kiln are about 10 years old now, and many are showing their age. Some are cracked and need props in stacking and sooner or later will collapse. None, as far as I can tell, are level. The leveling problem is not a big deal, since I fire on wads, but the cracking is worrisome.
Anyway, I'm facing buying maybe 10 new shelves for the kiln, and I'm not sure what to get. I could replace with cordierite, which is the cheapest alternative but heavy as hell and I'd love to not have to put in those heavy shelves in the back. I could go with Advancers and spend about $2,000 and then hope to God I never got them wet and face an explosion. Or I could go with the nitride-bonded silicon carbide, which is a bit more expensive but much lighter than the cordierite. Bailey warns about going from ambient temperature to 100F too quickly, which I guess I could prevent by just burning my igniter bars slowly up past 100, then turning on the burners.
Basically, I'd love to go with lighter shelves and save my back a bit.
Anyone out there have any advice on the matter?
Photos: The current shelves in much cleaner and flatter years. And a temmoku pot fired on those very shelves. Oops. Not a temmoku pot at all. That's glazed in an amber ash glaze. Sorry about that.
Ever since we removed all the carpet from the room over my studio, putting down flooring and converting the space to a gallery, we and the occasional customer have tramped up the mis-matched and oddly-built plywood stairs that came with the house when we bought it. Most of the treads were a standard height above each other, but many were canted at slightly odd angles and the bottom step was only about four inches high. Weird.
Mike Race, carpenter and friend, thought we couldn't invite the public to risk their life and limb by walking up one flight, so last week he spent parts of three days completely rebuilding the stairs. Which are now level and evenly spaced and quite lovely. All they need is a coat of paint.
And just in time, with our holiday open studio Dec. 18-19. That room upstairs is where the other artists display their work.
A small package was sitting on our front steps last evening when I went out to the mail box. It had Chapel Hill, NC, potter Tracey Broome's name on the return address. And it had a certain gravitas to it, a certain weight. Turned out to be a two-pound bag of Old Mill Of Guilford stone ground, unbleached white corn grits. Mmmmmm ... grits.
We were in North Carolina back in early October for the opening of the "Clay and Blogs" show in Southern Pines, and the week or so we spent in that state allowed me to indulge myself with grits at every opportunity. (And the occasional biscuits 'n' gravy.) I was born and raised in New England, which generally abhors grits - in fact, doesn't even understand what they are - but living in Virginia for 11 years gave me an appreciation for the decidedly Southern staple and for the Waffle House chain, where you can get cheese grits and all the waitresses call you "Honey." I love grits and once actually was a card-carrying member of the International Grits Appreciation Society. Sadly, I lost the membership card and the group has gone deep underground. A shame.
But Tracey heard my pleas for good grits when I saw her in Southern Pines and she tracked down the Guilford product. "We used to live near this mill and would get their grits and cornmeal all the time," she wrote in a card with the grits.
Thank you, Tracey.
In the photos: The precious bag of Guilford grits; shrimp 'n' cheese grits at the Causeway Cafe in Wrightsville Beach (the biggest bowl of this particular dish that I've ever seen); country ham, grits and eggs at the fish pier cafe in Kure Beach; biscuits 'n' sausage gravy at the Dixie Grill in Wilmington.
I fired yesterday, packing the kiln with leftover pots from previous firings and a few new ones that became available when I bisqued in time to get a full shelf of small vases in at the top. This gives me room to make more stuff for the firing that we'll open the first day of our open house, Dec. 18.
I became fascinated with an old form of mine, a bulbous-bodied vase with a tallish neck. These are small, each about 1.5 pounds of clay, some smaller. But I like the way they work together, and it gives me some new work at a reasonable price for buyers.
This firing got away from me toward the end. I'm never sure how that happens. One minute you see cone 10 starting to fall, then 20 minutes later cone 11 is over. It seems to happen that quickly sometimes. That was what happened this time, so the glazes are a bit meltier and shinier than they might otherwise be. It also means I have some grinding to do now.
So, here are some new vases and one new plate.
Many thanks today to my friends Donna and Laura, who came over to help unload. And brought lunch!
A happy day with family and friends and good food to everyone. Even those of you among the non-USA readers. You should all have love and friends and food, too. We'll be going to Mike and Tammy Race's home, with about 20 others, and start with oysters and work our way through the menu. Then back to work tomorrow.
I thought I'd post a couple of photos of what Cape Cod can look like on a very, very cold winter day. These were taken five or six years ago, after a couple of weeks of temperatures near zero F.
Dee on the ice of Buzzards Bay in one, rocks in Vineyard Sound near Nobska on the other.
I thought I'd post a couple of pots from last week's firing that didn't make it into the Friday post. One is a layered Shino plate which I think worked really well. Plus, a couple of little Shino cups.
Also, in the "oops" department, I speculated last week that the Shaner Oribe recipe that I tested in this firing might need more copper carb to exhibit the green one expects of an Oribe glaze. Well ... yeah. In fact, in checking my notes from mixing up the glaze, I find that I put the smallest possible amount of copper carb into the mix. As in, none at all. But what it produced was a lovely snowy and fat white glaze that I think will work nicely on some pots. And I'll remember to add the copper carb the next time I fire.
I opened the kiln all by myself this morning, missing the friends that are often part of the unloading. Sometimes it's good to have the hundred or so pots all to myself when they're still warm.
This was a pretty good firing. One of my unloading friends, who grew up in Minnesota, says that "pretty good" is Minnesotan for "f---ing wonderful." Dan Finnegan sometimes uses the word "tasty." Well ... there were a lot of nice pots in this firing - mugs bound for the Daily Brew in Cataumet, tumblers for the gallery here, Shino vases that might look good to the folks who come for the holiday sale (Dec. 18-19, in case you're coming). The Shinos did what they're supposed to do, with the carbon-trap version carbon-trapping and the new batch of Davis Red Shino behaving nicely. The crackle slip worked well, particularly under the trapping shino. The celadon ash glaze that I use as a liner was a bit underfired, but not much. I tried to keep the temperature right at cone 10, since the occasional cone 10.5 sometimes makes the ash glaze run off onto the shelf. It's a game of inches, this firing business.
I tested a Leach Kaki and a Shaner Oribe, both of which are lovely, though the Oribe looks more like a celadon. More copper carb, perhaps.
Anyway, I wanted to post pictures quickly. So here they are.
My studio is always a mess. But never more so than when I'm glazing. Which I did over the past few days, finished loading the gas kiln Wednesday afternoon, then fired it off today. During the glazing, I made a few photos of the mess, thought some might enjoy it. Or get encouragement from it, as in, "Good lord, I'm nowhere NEAR as messy as that guy."
I'll shoot the new pots tomorrow and post again. Near as I can tell from the firing schedule today, everything went off as it should have. Turned on the gas about 9:15, cone 10 went down about 3:30. The few pots I can see through the peeps look OK.
Last year I heard protests from my oystering companions that merely mentioning the location of our favorite oyster flats would attract ravenous oyster-nappers from up and down the East Coast. OK, so since I fish at their pleasure (I don't live in their town; they have the appropriate license and I benefit from the short time it takes to get a limit), I won't say where this marvelous beach is. Suffice to say that it's within a day's drive of my house in Falmouth. Well within a day's drive. And it's on the water. In the water, in fact. (Well ... it's a beach. What did you expect?)
And loaded with oysters this year. It took four of us about a half hour to get two half-peck baskets of carefully chosen oysters. (We had two licensed town residents with us, hence we were entitled to two half-peck limits.)
The day was glorious with the newly-risen sun, a cloudless sky, not a breath of wind and a surfeit of shellfish. And shellfisherpeople. (I'd prefer "shellfishermen," which I think used to cover every gender taking shellfish from the ocean, but it's 2010 so what are you going to do?)
It was a lovely morning and we were off the beach in about 45 minutes, which included Mike kneeling on the sand packing the baskets with as many legal-size oysters as possible.
Now, what to do with them?'
Photos: Top, Josh Albright and myself, on a photo break from the hard labor of oyster-harvesting. Bottom, Mike Race at work picking the best oysters to be layered carefully into the half-peck baskets.
I have been back in the studio for the past several days, finally making pots again for the upcoming holiday season, and after a four-day visit with our son Marcus, visiting from Seattle.
Our holiday kiln-opening and open house is Dec. 18-19, with my work and work by painter Jean Swann, jeweler Kim Collins, bookmaker Ruth Bleakley and glassblower Bryan Randa. And for the first time in a few years, pots by another potter. Lois Hershberg, of nearby Marstons Mills, will bring her handbuilt and raku-fired work.
So I need more pots, especially more mugs. I threw mugs today to add to the simple tumblers that I threw over the past few days. One result of our visit to North Carolina last month was acquiring a couple of fine little tumblers from Mark and Meredith at Whynot Pottery. (See previous post.) They seem to make them by the hundreds, along with many more complex pots. I often neglect things like that, forgetting that people actually do buy simple, usable, relatively low-priced work ... if given the opportunity. So above you see some of the freshly-thrown tumblers. And a pile of stuff that came out of the bisque kiln that same day. I'm running out of room in the studio.
At the top of the photos on this post are two teabowls, thrown thickly, faceted and then pushed out on the wheel to form a bowl shape. Both are glazed in a white Shino with some carbon-trapping. I put them up here because they come from a batch of bowls made a few months ago, two of which went out the door last week with a tea ceremony practitioner from Thailand. John Toomey is an American, but teaches tea ceremony there. He was visiting a friend in Falmouth and spotted my pots on a shelf at Coffee Obsession. The two of them came to the studio, spent quite a bit of time talking and John left with two faceted Shino bowls to take back to Asia with him.
It's gratifying to have my pots go to that kind of use. I don't intentionally make tea ceremony ware, but my influences nearly from the beginning have been Asian work, especially Korean and Japanese. I don't imitate the work - and I'm not a tea ceremony expert - but I think at least a part of what I make shows that kind of feeling. Here on Cape Cod, it's rare that anyone knows anything about tea ceremony or about Asian pots. And I was delighted that John found a couple of bowls he liked. One, he said, will be called Octopus Skin and the other White Rabbit. Which makes them, I think, my first named pots.
I make and sell functional pottery at Hatchville Pottery in Hatchville, a neighborhood of the town of Falmouth, at the west end of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I'm a former journalist - 20 years as a photographer, writer and editor - who began to make pottery about 20 years ago in Alexandria, VA. My training is in pots for eating, drinking and displaying flowers, often with an Asian or late British influence. Hamada Shoji, Phil Rogers, Dan Finnegan, Nakazato Takashi, Kanzaki Shiho are all influences.
Married 40 years to Dee, a massage therapist in Falmouth, with one child, Marcus.
To see more of my pots, go to my website at http://web.me.com/hatchvillepottery/Site/Home.html
DIRECTIONS TO THE POTTERY: We are at 494 Boxberry Hill Rd. in East Falmouth. Take the Route 151/Mashpee exit off Route 28 in North Falmouth, go east on 151 to the first flashing light, take a right onto Boxberry Hill. We're about a quarter mile down on the right, at the corner of Brady Drive. Call 508-563-1948 for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org