Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chatham review, and a blog-reader shows up

Sunny weather keeps people on the beaches. That's a natural law here on Cape Cod this time of year.
The first two days of the Chatham Festival of Arts last weekend were gorgeously sunny and warm, which mean smallish crowds (is that an oxymoron?) at the craft fair. There was much standing around among vendors, visiting from booth to booth, complaining, complaining, complaining ...
Which led Mac, my neighbor in the booth to the left, to ask, "What's the difference between a puppy and a craft fair vendor? ... The puppy will eventually grow up and stop whining." Well ... it was funny at the time ...
In the end - which means Sunday - the threatening clouds came and drove the sun-worshippers off the sand and to the craft fair. Crowds were better, sales were better, the whine quotient was down considerably as money changed hands at a higher rate than the previous two days. It turned out to be - for me, anyway - a worthwhile show, if not a bonanza. As always, many good conversations with buyers and browsers and a few good sales.
Over the past couple of weeks, I've e-mailed back and forth with Laura Burns, a schoolteacher and amateur potter in New York City who has discovered various pottery blogs, including this one. She also read the Studio Potter blogging piece that I wrote with the help of North Carolina potter Meredith Heywood. Laura spends some summer vacation time on nearby Martha's Vineyard and wanted to come over here to the Cape to see pots.
Yesterday, she showed up. I knew she was coming, but nearly missed her because I had to be out digging clams with a friend and, as we know, time and tide wait for no clamdigger. But she was still in the gallery when I pulled into the driveway and we spent some time together talking about potting and blogging. She works in a community studio in Long Island City, Queens, firing cone 6 electric. But she's a Shino fan and left here with four nice Shino cups and a small ash-glazed bowl. And she agreed to be photographed with one of her new cups. So here she is.
And a photo of her hands and the cup, and a photo of the hands of Portland, Me., painter Oana Lauric ( ... check it out), with a small vase fired in Dan Finnegan's Virginia kiln.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day 1, Chatham Festival of the Arts

Chase Park in Chatham was a busy place today. Lots of walkers and strollers and lookers and conversations ... and a few buyers. Not a complaint, that. Just observation. Some good pots went off the shelves and home with nice people willing to part with real American dollars for mugs, bowls, teabowls, vases and plates. Not a bad day, financewise.
And I have weaver Carol Clay (Greensboro, N.C.) on my left with her partner Mac and painter Oana Lauric (Portland, ME) on my right. Two high-quality makers and very nice people. Helps make the mid-day lull more tolerable.
Oana took the photo of me under my tent. Who would buy a pot from a guy who looks that excited about life??? Another photo looking down the row of tents in the park, then one of my pots backed by Oana's much more exciting paintings.
Still two days left. Come on down.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Off to three days (and no nights) in Chatham

I drove the west-to-east length of Cape Cod today to take my pots and tent to Chase Park in Chatham for an early set-up for the weekend's Creative Arts Center's Festival of the Arts. Last summer was my first show in Chatham. It's a three-day event, with a couple of hundred vendors, many of whom come from around the eastern U.S. It's a big show with, in theory, lots of money spent. We'll see how that works out. Last year's was a disappointment to many people, though the North Carolina weaver on my left and the Maine painter on my right both did well. And I was reasonably happy with my results.
These shows are not my favorite thing. Lots of lugging pots from truck to tent, lots of lugging tent and tables. It's a lot of physical work, followed by many hours of smiling and greeting and explaining ("What would I do with this pot?") hoping people connect with what they see. Basically, I'd rather people to come to my studio and gallery, love my pots and walk away with a few. Of course ... we know how that goes. You gotta go to where the people are. Cranky? Yep. It was a long day.
The weather's predicted to be sunny and in the 80s. My tent (#77 in your program) is in the shade of a big maple, so I should be OK. I'll leave Friday morning at 6, get coffee and head down-Cape, unzip the tent and arrange the pots. At the end of the day, I'll make the hour-long drive west back to Falmouth for the night.
As I read this post, it's a bit of a snoozer. Nothing new to report. Even the pots in the photo are greenware cups that were fired last week and make their debut tomorrow in Chatham.
I know! I'll include a photo from last weekend's wedding of Mark Wirtanen and Terrie Reilly, two good friends from West Barnstable. I think I wrote that our softball team was to give the bride away. (Mark is a retired Radish power-hitter; Terrie was for many years the only fan who showed up at the games.)
They were married on a lovely Saturday evening, on an open piece of meadow that looks out onto Barnstable Harbor and Sandy Neck. The Radish players (that's the name of our team, The Radish) escorted Ms. Reilly down the dirt road to the tree where Mark waited. The repartee between the bride and her escorts is not to be repeated here. The simple ceremony was followed by raucous dancing, drinking, fine eating (clams, oysters, pizza, lamb ... ) and much laughter.
OK, enough for this post. Come visit me in Chatham, y'all.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New pots, no tomatoes

It was a decent firing yesterday, with a couple of new glazes. Dan Finnegan will recognize the blue ash glaze here on the faceted bowl. It's his Runny Blue (or maybe Blue-Green) Ash, with about .5 percent cobalt carbonate and sifted hardwood ash from my sister-in-law Ellen's New York farmhouse woodstove.
I've been trying to come up with a blue glaze that I like, but which isn't that sorta scary cobalt blue that can be so popular. I like this one, which has just enough runniness at cone 10 that it threatens to leave the pot for the kiln shelf and just enough blue that it's ... well ... blue. I'm afraid it remains a potter's glaze rather than a buyer's glaze, but what the hell.
Lots of cups and mugs in this firing. About 40 cups and 20 or so bigger mugs. I've got a show in Chatham in a couple of weeks and I hate not to have drinking vessels. Also got two nice wedding gift mugs (the temmoku ones with copper red tops) out of the load, for our friends Mark and Terrie, who are being married Saturday evening down-Cape in West Barnstable. Our softball team is giving the bride away. Should be ... interesting.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Splitting time between glaze and tomatoes

So that no one thinks I've given up pottery for the summer, the top photo on this post is the bottom shelf of the next firing. All glazed and wadded and ready to go. After this, I'll go back to the studio to work on getting the upper shelves glazed. For some reason, that lower two-shelf floor always takes forever. I plan on firing Thursday.
But in the meantime, the gardens' production keeps demanding attention. Tammy is cleaning out her produce for the next few days, as she and Mike take a bit of time off. So she sent me home today with two bags of greens - chard and mustard - and a gallon of lovely little San Marzano tomatoes. I put the tomatoes in the oven at 425, splashed with a bit of olive oil and salt. They roasted for about 45 minutes and are wonderful. (A before-and-after pair of photos is above.) I'm having a hard time not taking one each time I walk past the roasting pan. Soon enough, our own tomatoes will ripen in great quantities. Right now, the garden is a jungle of green tomatoes.
OK, back to glazing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A few frying moments with Morone Saxatilis

There are still a few glazes waiting to be mixed out in the studio for next week's firing. But ...
My friend Brenda Horrigan (an occasional commenter on this blog) traded me a couple of big fillets of striped bass this morning for some freshly dug hardshell clams, so I had to make something from the fish. I decided to steam one big fillet in white wine and garlic, then break it up and combine it with mashed potato, egg, celery, red pepper, powdered green chile and chopped scallions into bite-size fish cakes. Then I spent about an hour frying the little things in hot olive oil.
A couple of minutes on one side, then a couple on the other and you're done. They'll be consumed at a party this weekend at the home of some friends. With wine and some kind of hot sauce.
This time of year on Cape Cod, there is no excuse for not eating locally. Fish and shellfish from the waters around the Cape; corn, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce, greens of all kinds, sometimes lamb, all from the gardens and farms around the area.
We are blessed particularly by the striped bass (Morone Saxatilis) and the bluefish, both of whom migrate to these waters in the spring from down the coast off the Carolinas. The striper, which can grow to more than 70 pounds, was in serious trouble a few years ago. Its spawning grounds in the waters of the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay were polluted. Also, fishermen were taking small stripers before they could grow up and perpetuate the species. Today, with cleaner waters and a strict minimum size limit, stripers are abundant. The fillet I cooked this morning, from a fish caught by Brenda's father, probably came from a 35-pounder.
There is a great book called "Striper" about the striped bass and the bass fishery, by the late and wonderful writer John T. Cole. John fished for stripers when he was a young man with a commercial crew from Long Island, NY. He went on to edit Maine Times and write more books. A great writer, writing about a great fish.
Now, back to mixing glaze.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another plug for Studio Potter

Those of you who follow this blog and several others from various continents probably know about the "Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story" show that opens in Southern Pines, NC, on Oct. 1. For those of you who don't, it's worth looking at the current Studio Potter magazine for "Virtual Community," the piece I wrote with Meredith Heywood's help about the clay-blogging phenomenon. (A version of the story is posted down the page on this blog; the journal website is The whole issue is a good one, in fact, with a particularly personal piece by Yolande Clarke, a New Brunswick, Canada, woman who fires a backwoods anagama with her husband Lee and young son Horus. (They just finished one of their twice-a-year firings, in fact. Check out their blog,, on the right.)
Ever since I found their blog, I've particularly admired the roughly-shaped Buddhas and other figures fired in their kilns, often glazed in Shino. Above are a few photos borrowed from their blog. The current firing is populated by a vast number of these figures and it will be worth checking their blog to see what the kiln looks like with the fired work in it. Meanwhile, a glimpse ...