Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New pots in the kitchen ...

I'm making pots again in the studio, after a couple of weeks away from the wheel. More on that later on. But I'm still thinking of our time in Virginia and North Carolina and my few days up in Vermont with Bob and Chris Compton.
Like potters everywhere, our kitchen cabinets and shelves are filled with pots by other people, as well as some of my own. But I think we got a late start on some of our potter friends and will never catch up to the size of their collections. Dan Finnegan's small house in Fredericksburg, Va., is practically a museum of pots from both sides of the Atlantic. Hard to believe he finds room for himself and his cat to move around in there, for all the pots on tables, shelves and in cabinets. Lovely pots, too. The same is true of Meredith and Mark Heywood, whose collection of other folks' pots is everywhere. (And is used, as all good pottery collections should be.)
In their Bristol, Vt., home, Chris and Bob Compton have hundreds of pots on display and in cabinets. Open a door to find a cereal bowl and you have no idea what cool thing you'll find. I ate a hasty breakfast one morning of granola, banana and yogurt out of a lovely celadon bowl by Yasuko Dower. The bowl was as nourishing as the food. It could take 20 minutes to choose the right plate from the rack in the kitchen.
I should have photographed all those collections, but I didn't. Instead, I thought I'd post a couple of photos of pots we acquired from the Comptons and the Heywoods, which now go into the cabinets and on the table. Beautiful and functional pieces we'll use for a long time.
Top: Tumblers and wine cups by Meredith and Mark Heywood, Whynot Pottery, Seagrove, NC. Next: Wood-fired plate with rolled rope central decoration, Robert Compton, Bristol, VT.
Bottom: The bottom of the same plate, showing the wad marks and the flame-flow during the firing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Some video for you clam fans ...

I've posted enough clam-related photos here, but I thought I'd show you a bit of what it's like to go out in the fall to the shallow waters around Bourne and dig clams. It was windy and I was up to my waist in cold salt water, so things are a bit noisy and shaky in this first video. And I'm new at it; it will get better. But this will give you a taste.
Stars of the video are Mike and Tammy Race, our friends from Monument Beach who love harvesting clams ... and then eating them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A brief look at Finnegan's Liberty Town

We passed through Fredericksburg, Va., a couple of weeks ago, on the way to North Carolina's rains and potteries. Stopped in to have breakfast and coffee with Dan Finnegan, our fine potter friend, fellow blogger and art entrepreneur, whose LibertyTown Arts Workshop is the art center of the Fredericksburg community.
The workshop is in an old plumbing warehouse, now renovated and sectioned off into galleries and individual studios and workshops, housing somewhere over 50 artists working in all media. Printmakers, potter, fiber artists, painters, sculptors, jewelers ... it's a long list. There is also a pottery school in the building, which only adds to the number of creative people working there.
I should know when this whole thing started ... but I can't remember. It must have been 10 years ago that Dan first had the idea of creating a community arts center. Maybe it was longer than that. In any case, the place is a success. It's lively at all hours of the day and the once-a-month First Friday events are crowded and noisy with Fredericksburgers (Fredericksburgites? Fredericksburgians? ... lots of people from the town, anyway) eating and drinking and catching up with friends after the workweek.
These photos are just a look at the lobby gallery. There are many, many studios lining the winding corridors on two floors. Worth a stop if you find yourself in or passing through the town about an hour south of Washington, D.C.
Top photo: Dee and Dan at Hyperion, the nation's second-greatest community coffee shop; next, the lobby gallery with the pottery classroom in the background; then, some of Finnegan's pots, with Anne Timpano's print, "Venus as Cover Girl" above; then, more Finnegan pots and more wall art.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Autumn firing in a Vermont valley

I returned Wednesday from Bristol, Vermont, up near Lake Champlain and not far from the Canadian border, after two days of heavy stoking on Robert Compton's two-chamber noborigama kiln. My arms are still tired.
Bob and his wife Chris run a very attractive pottery studio in the valley about five miles from downtown Bristol. Kilns are scattered here and there on the property, a hillside next to a busy road and across from an open pasture. Bob makes pots and Christine is a fiber artist. Their elderly golden retriever Shino supervises the place and two sheep provide sound effects and country atmosphere in the sloping field just below the main kiln shed.
Bob's wood-fired noborigama is usually fired only once a year. It takes the better part of three days to reach cone 11 in both chambers, which together hold somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 pots, depending on the size of the work. Other - and much smaller - gas-fired kilns are fired at other times of the year, but the big drama is in the firing of the noborigama.
Lots of people came to see the firing and to visit the shop, awed at the flame coming from the main firebox and then wandering into the shop to buy pots. There's nothing like billowing flame, high heat and people throwing large pieces of wood into the firebox to get a buyer in the mood for wood-fired pots. I should try that sometime.
Bob is working on a stoking schedule that allows the workers to get several hours of sleep each night, banking the firebox late in the evening and starting up again about 7 a.m. It's still in the tweaking stage, but we slept well Monday night after we'd taken the front chamber to cone 11 and gotten the back chamber up to a respectable heat. Letting a wood kiln sleep through the night is a new idea for me, but it seems to work, and it allows for fewer people in the crew. Way more civilized than the midnight-7 a.m. shift.
Tuesday morning at about dawn Bob was there stoking when I got out of bed and wandered to the kiln. Fellow stoker Brad Ponack, a Keene Valley, NY, potter, came down from his night's sleep not long after that. A long day and many more visitors brought the back chamber up to cone 11 more or less everywhere. Then we retired with a variety of visitors for a potluck dinner and a few beers.
One of the great pleasures of this event was the chance to meet and talk to Bruce Martin of Kamaka Pottery in New Zealand. Bob and Chris met Bruce and his late wife Estelle many years ago on a visit to the Pacific nation. Bruce is a retired anagama-firer from the North Island, much influenced by the work of Japanese teaware potters. He and Estelle both made beautiful work and you can see some of it on his website at or go to his blog, which is linked to mine on this page.
At 84, Bruce dropped into Bristol part way through a round-the-world tour with stops visiting potter friends in Alberta, Vermont, the UK and Japan. Bruce is my new role model for how to live a full life as long as you can. I'd commented a few times on the pots and New Zealand seasonal photos he posts on his blog, never dreaming that he would show up a few hours away from me. One more pottery blog connection.
That's all for now. I'll post a few images from the firing, starting with the lovely fall colors across the valley from the Comptons' home and studio. Then: Brad Ponack stoking the front firebox, with Alan Frost handling the door; Bob Compton working out the temporarily heavy reduction in the front chamber before shutting down for the night Monday; Bob stoking and Brad at the door; all three men apparently contemplating something important while the kiln burns on behind them.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Canadian potter Tony Clennell workshop is on Cape Cod Oct. 22-24

Tony Clennell, who makes pots in Beamsville, Ont., with his wife Sheila, will be in Chatham and Hyannis Oct. 22-24 for a workshop sponsored by the Cape Cod Potters. Anyone who has read Tony's blog - - has a sense of the fine craft, humor and occasional outrageousness of the man. The workshop is likely to be great fun as well as extremely useful for potters who want to think outside their own particular box.
Tony's work includes two videos - "How to Make Handmade Cane Handles" and "Taking the Macho Out of Bigware." He's traveled across Canada and the U.S., to Japan, China and Italy to give workshops, to teach and the learn. His work is in collections in Europe, Asia and North America. I'm sorry I have to miss this one (our son is visiting from Seattle that weekend), because it sounds like a lot of fun.
Tony opens Friday evening, Oct. 22, with a PowerPoint presentation at Chatham's Creative Arts Center, then follows the next two days with the main workshop in the big clay studios of Barnstable High School in Hyannis. The Friday presentation is open to the public.
Saturday's workshop focuses on "larger-than-life" utilitarian pottery. "We will pay attention to the details on ... casseroles, pitchers, bowls and plates so that they may be used for celebration and presentation," he writes in the workshop promotional material. "Students that normally cannot throw more than a few pounds of clay often throw with ease three to five times as much after the session."
Gail Turner of Brewster, co-President of the Cape Cod Potters, tells me there's plenty of room for late additions to the workshop, because there is so much space available in the Barnstable High School studio. Go to for details and directions.
I'll post a few of Tony's pots, stolen from the Sour Cherry website and blog.
Come on down to the Cape.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Seagrove pots and kilns, Part Trois

OK, a few more shots from the Seagrove/"Clay and Blogs" adventure last week in North Carolina. I'm trying to get as many different places in here as I can, but as you can see from the photo of Hitomi Shibata, cute babies often take priority over pots.
And ... drum roll ... the photo captions are: At top, Hitomi tends the fire and the boy.
Below that, Paul Jessop's salt pig got a good going-over by guests at the opening of "Clay and Blogs." These two spent a good deal of time picking it up, turning it over and trying to figure out how it works. Pru Morrison of Brisbane sent the six figures of her piece called "The Tea Lady." Very interesting stuff. The bottom two images are from Mark and Meredith Heywood's Whynot Pottery - wonderful vases and then Dee standing in the Heywoods' well-stocked and friendly gallery.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More Seagrove potters and kilns

I've got a lot of images from our Seagrove tour last weekend. I'm going to post more tomorrow, as well as, perhaps, some shots of Dan Finnegan's Liberty Town art center. Meanwhile, here's what I've posted today:
- One hanging jug at Johnston and Gentithes Art Pottery.
- The Shigaraki-style anagama and noborigama of Takuro and Hitomi Shibata.
- Ken Shibata, long-distance stoking of his parents' kiln.
- A magnificent serving tray by Bruce Gohlson of Bulldog Pottery, hanging in the "Clay and Blogs" show in Southern Pines.
- Big covered jars in the "museum" portion of Ben Owen's pottery shop.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A few of the dozens of Seagrove potteries

The Saturday morning after the opening of the "Clay and Blogs" show in Southern Pines, Meredith Heywood took Dee and me on a day-long pottery-to-pottery tour of the North Carolina pottery community of Seagrove. We saw a lot of kilns and pots and met some very friendly folks, some of whom were in the midst of firing when we arrived. We thank them all for their hospitality.
Most potters who read this blog will know that Seagrove and the area around the town hold what is likely the greatest concentration of potteries in this country. It is, in some ways, the Mashiko of the United States; a place where pottery has been made for centuries, but whose fame has drawn new potters who work outside the Carolina folk tradition but still love the clay community there.
It is almost literally impossible to drive a quarter-mile in Seagrove without seeing a sign advertising a pottery studio. There are dozens. We saw only a fraction of that, stopping at, I think, eight studios. We talked with Tom Gray, Mike Mahan, Samantha Henneke and Bruce Gohlson of Bulldog Pottery, Lisa and Chris Luther, Takuro and Hitomi Shibata and their boys, John Mellage and Beth Gore, Mark and Meredith Heywood (our hosts). We tried to visit Dave Stuemple's kiln, but he was away from his house.
Takuro and Hitomi were doing a bisque firing in the noborigama chamber of their new Shigaraki-style wood kiln, under a beautiful kiln shed. Their young son Ken was stoking from a distance. John Mellage was good-naturedly supervising his brother's stoking; we all commented on the (yes, it's true) sheetrock temporary door to the firebox. Mike Mahan's manabigama wood kiln had been fired a couple of days before and we arrived late in the day while there was still food available at his Saturday kiln-opening. Mike is still working out his new kiln, but is getting nice ash and toasty surfaces on his pots. Chris and Lisa Luther are still finishing off their new studio after a recent fire; they have lots of room in the new building. He's making great pots and the two of them are raising three boys. Samantha and Bruce were generous in showing their studio and kiln, then taking us for a brief tour of their new - and un-country potter-like - studio and home down the hill from their old place. They are turning out truly remarkable crystal-glazed pots. We finished up with a brief look at Ben Owen's gallery and extensive kilnyard.
No doubt I'll put more photos in the next post, but let's see what we can get in this one.
Photos, from top: One of Bulldog Pottery's amazing crystal-glazed pots, John Mellage's kiln (note the sheetrock door), Lisa Luther with some of Chris's pots, Dee with Mike Mahan's productive fig tree, Tom Gray and racks of Tom Gray pots.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting the picture down in Southern Pines

We got back from North Carolina late Monday and I'm still tired. But so many photos of the "Clay and Blogs" show there have already been published in various people's blogs that I wanted to join them tonight, even though it's after midnight. So I'll put up some photos and then will write more in another post on Wednesday.
It's a fine show of wonderful pots. If you're in the neighborhood, you should go see the show. Or plan to go some time before the end of October. Pots from around the world. Go see them.
Meredith Heywood of Whynot Pottery in Seagrove, NC, has been praised endlessly since the show opened for her organization and dedication to making it work. She deserves it, so I'm adding to it here. Way to go, Meredith. And way to go all you potters who participated, including people who spent a good deal of time and occasionally large amounts of money to ship their work to Southern Pines from far away.
More tomorrow.
Oh, and since Tracey Broome led her blog post today with me dumping the peanuts from Doug Fitch's jug, I thought I'd return the favor. Tracey is fast with that Nikon.