Thursday, January 28, 2010

I've gone and soiled my sacred space ...

I make a mess when I make pots. Throwing, trimming, glazing ... whatever. Today I trimmed eight big plates/platters that I threw yesterday and got brown trimmings all over the place. This shot above was made just as I trimmed the foot of the last of yesterday's mugs. That's an old Steve Lally tankard holding lemonade on the mug wareboard. Steve is an old friend from Torpedo Factory days in Alexandria, Va., when I was just learning to make pots.
I've put handles on the mugs and the plates are drying. I fired a bisque load today and will fire another tomorrow and another the day after that. Gotta mix a bunch of glazes in the meantime, hoping to fire the big kiln late next week. But I've got jury duty Monday, which may throw a spanner into the whole thing.
Light snow flurries falling all day today here on Cape Cod.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Soup Bowls for Hunger here in April

Most of you are familiar with the Empty Bowls project, a North Carolina-based national movement to bring potters and cooks together to help feed the hungry. Empty Bowls helps folks organize fundraisers that usually bring in cash for local feeding programs. Early on in my potmaking life I donated bowls to a big Empty Bowls project in Northern Virginia.
Here on Cape Cod, our version of this movement is called Soup Bowls for Hunger. Every year about this time, the Cape Cod Potters (CCP) group begins to ratchet up the call for bowls from professional and amateur clay people, this year calling for 700 bowls for the April 14 dinner at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich. (The stash of bowls has been primed by a couple of pots donated by Virginia's Dan Finnegan from his workshop in Chatham last year.)
So, that's part of what's been going on early this week in the studio. I usually give about 20 bowls to the dinner. The photo above shows many of them, some with swipes of white slip. Gail Turner, a fine potter in Brewster and co-president of the CCP, is an occasional reader of this blog and will be happy to see evidence of someone working for the Soup Bowls project. (Hi, Gail.)
Onward ...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter in a summer resort

There's no doubt that the summer is fun here on Cape Cod. Lots of our friends sail, we swim in the evenings after work and we spend a fair amount of time paddling our kayaks on the shallow bays here and you can drink a beer outside under an umbrella. And I sell way more pots in the summer than I sell now.
But between May and October we do share our peninsula with a lot of visiting folks from around the country, and they take up space on the beaches and in the coffee shops and grocery stores and restaurants. Not so in January, when we have this lovely place more or less to ourselves.
That was the situation yesterday morning, when I parked at the end of a short street in the next-door town of Bourne and walked out on a sandy trail that winds around Squeteague Harbor and to the beach on Buzzards Bay. Squeteague is a tiny inlet off the bay, reached by water through a brief and winding channel. It's a sheltered body, a good place to moor the boat when heavy winds blow. We often paddle down the channel on still summer evenings and drift among the catboats at their moorings. At the right time of the summer, phosphorescent jellyfish light up after dark when disturbed by a kayak paddle.
Yesterday, though, the little harbor was frozen and a single old wooden two-master sat frozen in the ice. I parked my truck (the only vehicle at the head of the trail) and walked along the harbor to the west, past golden and beaten-down beach grass, crossing a slim plank bridge that crosses the daily flow of water out of a tiny tidal pond. (The pictures above were taken last winter, before the ice came in.) I turned right toward Scraggy Neck, a private enclave of expensive houses connected by a sandy spit and a road to the mainland.
I walked along the beach for maybe a mile, clambering up over the high boulders of small breakwaters that define private beaches, kicking through drifts of slipper shells and clam and scallop shells. It was low tide and the sandy beach was packed down and good for walking. It was a coold day, but not bitingly cold, and the sun was bright. No clouds in the sky. I never saw another person on this stretch of sand that in summer is discouragingly private. This time of year, this beach is good for contemplative solitary walking, dog exercise or as a place to talk about serious and not-so-serious things with a friend or mate.
About a quarter of the way around the almost-island of Scraggy Neck, I turned right and trespassed across the grounds of a shuttered summer house, caught the road at the end of the driveway and walked back through the upscale neighborhood, across the spit of road to the mainland and back to my truck.
I headed home from there to the studio, to make large serving bowls, which are drying as I write this.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An autumn exhibit of keyboarding potters

A pottery show called "Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story" will open at the Campbell House in Moore County, N.C., on October 1. The opening will be from 6 to 8 p.m.
Though the exhibition is in the state that is one of the taproots of U.S. pottery, this show includes potters from around the country and across more than one ocean. I'm lucky to be one of the nearly 50 blogging potters invited to be part of the show, which is being put together by incredibly hardworking volunteer organizer (and blogging potter) Meredith Heywood of North Carolina's Whynot Pottery.
I started blogging a bit more than a year ago, encouraged by Fredericksburg, Va., potter and friend Dan Finnegan. I made my living as a newspaper photographer, writer and editor for many years, but writing about my own work and the fits and starts of pot-making on Cape Cod is an entirely different endeavor.
But other potters linked to my blog through Dan's, and to Dan's through mine, and through Tracey Broome's and the marvelous U.K colloquialisms of Doug Fitch's blog and Paul Jessop's and Hannah McAndrew's and Ang's in Australia and Maria Bosch's in Barcelona (in Catalan, no less) and before I knew it, I had a circle of friends I'd never met. I explain this blogging thing to my coffee table friends in the morning at Coffee Obsession and ... they ... don't ... get it. "Read a blog? I don't have time to read a blog!"
But I couldn't start the day without a perusal of who has said what overnight. Have the grit lorries cleared snow from the road to Doug's place? Is Dan back in his country studio after recuperating from surgery? Has Tracey worked out her kiln problems? How's the thatching going on that cottage near Paul Jessop's Barrington Court studio?
This is the kind of thing we'd talk about at the bar or the pub or the coffee shop if we were a group of potters working in the same town. But we're a group of potters working on the same planet, and we get to share these things through this marvelous blogosphere. A sort of virtual pub, actually, though we can't buy each other a pint.
So about 50 blogging potters will send pots from all over the world this fall to the Campbell House in Moore County, N.C. I'm hoping to be able to drive down for the opening on October 1. It should be a great show.
The photos from a few of the potters, from the top: Hannah McAndrews's wonderful photo of her hands throwing a wide bowl; Doug Fitch's beautiful jug, recently acquired by a prestigious U.K. museum; the Shino bowls of Australia's Angela Walford; Brandon Phillips's Texas teapot; a fine woodfired Dan Finnegan gift mug; and Tracey Broome's freshly-made ... ummm ... what? ... goat? Tracey works in Chapel Hill.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What's that on my wheelhead???

Why, it's a fine slipware mug by Doug Fitch, also known in Trans-Atlantic circles as Santa Doug. I had the good fortune of being matched up in the Blogger Secret Santa Project with Mr. Fitch, of Hollyford in Devon, UK.
The mug arrived Saturday, via Royal Mail, and has since been shown off at the Sunday morning services of the Church of Coffee Obsession in Woods Hole and is now holding my morning coffee in the studio. Thank you, Doug. A fine addition to our kitchen mug cabinet.
By the way, there is out there at least one potter who is thinking that Santa forgot him. Never fear. Santa was waylaid by the holidays ... but he will keep all of his appointed rounds.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Moving right along ...

I'm working on pots for the next firing (and next year's warm-weather shows) this week. With luck, I'll fire again within two weeks.
The gallery gets virtually no visitors over the cold months, so it will get pretty crowded out there until the summer visitors come back. Over the past couple of days, I've thrown and finished a couple of big two-part jars, fairly roughly. Basically, each is made of an 11-inch-rim bowl, joined rim-to-rim and finished with a short neck, vestigial handles and a footring. There will be more of those, but I wanted to start with just two; it's been a while since I did that kind of thing.
Today I spent time throwing 11 13-inch-tall six-pound cylindrical bottle vases, which I'll square up with some gentle pounding and ribbing once they're leather hard. I'll attach a photo of those tall ones and maybe one of a similar finished one in brown stoneware.
All for now. Still cold out here on Cape Cod, with morning temperatures today around 15 F. Warmer weather coming later this week.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First new pots of 2010, out this morning

I think I may have enough small Shino bowls on hand now, after another 30 or so came out of the kiln this morning. I fired yesterday, lighting up at 8:30 a.m. and shutting down six hours later. Lots of brown stoneware bowls, summer teabowl size, mostly in multi-layer Shinos and ash glazes. There's a photo of some of them at the top.
I've been doing a lot of these bowls in the past few months. They take to the glazing so well and I make them quickly, plus people seem to buy them, which is a little extra bonus. It's always good to sell pots.
Dee and I unloaded the kiln, and later our friends Jo Ann Muramoto and Lafe Coppola showed up to see the new pots. And each found a couple to take home. Jo Ann was looking for mugs, and found two. Lafe is always looking for pots of one kind or another for his new house in W. Falmouth, and he took home a small Shino cereal bowl and a teabowl. Other good things came out of the kiln, too, including a nice Shino/ash jar, seen here with Dee peering over it. And Alli Connolly, my student intern, got a very nice tall two-piece vase, which will probably be exhibited in the student show this spring at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.
A good firing. Now, on to make more pots.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Extending the season ...

I was walking out to the mail box this evening, just as the sun had gone down and the sky was darkening. Had to walk past the lighted sign on Boxberry Hill Road and I loved the way the Christmas lights were brightening the dusk. So I got the mail and went back in and got my camera to post one last shot at the 2009 holiday season.
Technically, I don't think the Magi have made it to Bethlehem yet ...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Warren McKenzie show extended at the Fuller

Apparently, I should have looked elsewhere on the Fuller craft museum website ( Turns out the Warren McKenzie show has been extended to January 31 at the Brockton, Mass., museum. Good news for anyone who's missed it up to now.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Warren McKenzie and Randy Johnston

I took too long getting to this post. Today, Jan. 3, Warren McKenzie's restrospective show at the Fuller Craft Museum closes.
The Fuller is a wonderful small museum in Brockton, Mass., about 45 minutes from us in Falmouth and a half-hour from Boston. Well worth visiting. Brockton is a down-at-the-heels small city known for its long-gone shoe industry and also as the birthplace of undefeated (and also long-gone) American heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano. You approach the museum from the highway, driving past the usual fast-food restaurants and gas stations. But the museum itself sits isolated and quiet on a pond surrounded by woods. It is known for adventurous and quality exhibitions of craft. McKenzie's show was vast, more than 200 works that traced his long career. A beautiful show, spoiled just a bit because no one could touch the work. I hate that. But it's a museum, after all. Guards kept a sharp lookout for touchers flouting the rules.
Randy Johnston's show, on the other hand, is at the Pucker Gallery on Newbury St. in Boston, where touching is allowed, even encouraged. Johnston's show is up through the Jan. 18. Johnston was one of McKenzie's students at the University of Minnesota and long ago established himself as a fine potter, as is his wife and studio partner Jan McKeachie Johnston. This show at the Pucker is smaller and is not a retrospective, but a snapshot look of a potter in mid-career. All of the pots are wood-fired in an anagama kiln, all are ... I want to say they're roughly made, but that's not right ... they're carefully made but they are the kind of loose, imperfect pots that are best served by firing in an anagama, where the flame and ash batter the clay walls and leave no question of how they were fired. The Pucker's fine catalog is available as a download from the gallery website, at Do it. It's worth seeing.
Or, better, visit the gallery. You can touch the pots.
Above, Randy Johnston jar at top and Warren McKenzie serving dish below.