Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year! And firing today ...

Happy 2012, everyone. I decided to do a New Year's Eve firing, which gives me time between gas turn-ups to prepare food for the party tonight at the home of friends. There's a shelf of teabowls and mugs in the kiln, but mostly it's small and medium-size serving bowls. Some with iron slip spattered over Shino, some with the slip under the glaze, some with wood ash. Building inventory, mostly, though there's a statewide competition with a Jan. 6 deadline that I'm hoping some of these pots will work for.
Tonight is a tapas party, so I'm preparing oyster mushrooms fried with tiny Chinese fish and hot red pepper; pimentones padrones, a fried green pepper with sea salt; and spicy shrimp with red chile, garlic and scallions.
Happy what's-left-of-the-holidays, everyone.
Photos: Top, the load before closing the door this morning; the studio, back to its pre-Open Studio mess.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays to All

The last of the holiday shoppers are coming to the gallery this morning in a very light flurry of snow. Just sent a guy off with five mugs for himself and his wife. Things are now busier for us than they've been before. I guess that's good.
We'll have Christmas Eve dinner tonight with friends in Monument Beach, carols at Church of the Messiah this afternoon, Christmas dinner with Dee's folks at their retirement village and then her sisters come in next week for a visit. Oh, and the Patriots play Miami this afternoon.
Happy Christmas, every one, from Dee and me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Onward ...

Planning and staging the annual holiday open studio can wear me out, so I often spend the next few days before Christmas relaxing and finishing up Christmas shopping. This year, with entries due in early January for the State of Clay show in Lexington, Mass., I wanted to fire one more time. So Tuesday I started throwing. Low pasta bowls, big serving bowls, teabowls ... I've got enough as of today to fill the kiln next week some time. Maybe just before New Year's Eve.
The teabowls can go pretty much anywhere in the kiln, and people always buy them. Funny thing, people now rummage through cups in the gallery or on the Coffee Obsession shelf, looking for "that thumb hole thing you do." Years ago, when I was a year or two into making pots, I pulled a temmoku teabowl from the kitchen cabinet at the home of Dennis Davis, my first clay teacher. (We did lots of raku workshops at Dennis's place.) It turned out to be a Warren McKenzie bowl, with a dimple pushed into the side. From then on, any time I needed a coffee or wine cup at Dennis's, I'd search out Warren's cup. And I stole the dimple idea from him, using it occasionally, always giving him credit when someone commented on it. Now, people think it's my own trademark. Funny how those things happen.
Tomorrow I need to finish Christmas shopping ...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And an even colder second day

We had very light snow flurries last night, then occasional flakes falling most of the day. And by the time we closed down Sunday at 4 p.m., the temperature outside was about 26 F. and in the studio about 40. And, of course, I was the one in the studio by the open door, greeting everyone who arrived.
It was a very good weekend. Sunday was, as usual, less frenetic than Saturday, but this was perhaps the busiest Sunday I can remember for this show. Lots more work went out the door, much more food was consumed and I think by the time we closed the doors everyone was happy with the weekend. And today we got to see three of the other local potters who also had one-day shows yesterday. Anne Halpin, Kim Medeiros and Sarah Caruso showed up this afternoon to have a chile dog and talk about their own shows.
Maybe we'll do it again next year.
Photos: Kim Medeiros braves the heavy winter snows to check out new pots; part of the in-studio display; Jeweler Kim Collins and friends Bob Skilton (center) and Jordan Race spent time in the kitchen, where there was heat and food.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A great (though very cold) open studio day

I was telling Sue and Fred Rose today that when we did our first kiln-opening and sale eight years ago, maybe five or six people were there to see the new, warm pots come out of the kiln. Sue and Fred were two of those people, because at the time I was firing with their daughter Angela. So they were there to support her, and my wife Dee was there to support me, and two or three people might have wandered in out of the cold.
For the past two years, so many people have come for the kiln-opening part of our Open Studio weekend that we have had to hire a police officer to keep the on-street parking from disturbing the neighbors. It was like that today, with a studio crowd of maybe 30 people, jammed in by the slabroller, around the kiln door, alongside the sinks and tables and looking on from the door into the house. No shortage of willing hands to pass the new pots on to the nearby table. My pot-loving friend Janet handled the kiln-shelf-and-loose-wads detail and took the pots from me as I worked my way down through the stack. It was a very good firing, I think. It's a bit difficult to hand pots out and have them claimed immediately, be wrapped and bagged and out the door. On the other hand, the money's a good thing, too.
Lots of pots left the property today, as did quite a bit of Mike Race's locally-roasted coffee beans, earrings and necklaces and notebooks and handblown and handworked glass. This open studio weekend has become a lot more to handle than it was in the beginning, but it's also become a community event. Most of the people who come here on this weekend are from Falmouth or one of the nearby towns, though our longtime friend Ethel came over from Martha's Vineyard and new friends Linda and Peter came down from Plymouth. It's not a Cape Cod summer event, but mostly friends and neighbors and other local folk eating and drinking and buying around the holidays. Once I get over the organizational jitters (not a pleasant problem to have, actually), this gets to be fun.
Tammy Race made kale soup, Lois Hirshberg made vegetarian chili, Ed Sholkovitz made extremely good scalloped potatoes, Donna Sutherland Steele brought frosted fruit cake, Bill McCarthy and Jim Sharpe brought pizzelles, Janet brought ... what was that, Janet? Some wonderful kind of chocolate ... thing. And I made red chile for the customary chile dogs.
And we'll do it all over again - though without the crowded kiln-opening - Sunday. And snow is expected tonight. Of course.
My thanks in particular to Barry and Terri Good, our neighbors from a few houses down Boxberry Hill Road, who came with an entourage and went away with pots, but particularly helped out by photographing the kiln-opening and putting pictures on their Facebook pages. I never took a shot and am grateful to them for supplying the illustration for this post.
Come tomorrow, everyone.
And a PS: The man who gave me this idea, Washington D.C. potter and Shino master Malcolm Davis, died last week. I didn't know Malcolm well, but when we lived in northern Virginia we used to go to his D.C. townhouse for his holiday open studio. He sold his pots there, but also opened his place to other local craftspeople and artists. That was the plan we followed years ago when we decided to do exactly the same thing. Thank you for the idea, Malcolm.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yet another reminder ...

I'm about three-quarters through the glazing of the 100 or thereabouts pots that will go into the kiln for Friday's firing and Saturday's opening. This post is for you folks who have forgotten in the past couple of days that Hatchville Pottery's annual holiday kiln-opening, craft show and chile dog fest is this weekend. I know, you read the last post and you already know about it. Well ... I thought I'd post this ad, anyway. It will go into Friday's Falmouth Enterprise and will be seen by literally dozens of people. Many of whom will come.
Plus, here are a few pots yet unglazed, soon to be dipped.
There will be oysters, by the way, as well as chile dogs. And kale soup. And cookies. And bagels and salmon cream cheese ...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Last pots thrown before firing

Greenware is scattered all over the studio right now, the last pots made for next weekend's kiln-opening and open studio. One more bisqueload to go, a couple of glazes to mix, a ridiculous amount of neatening to be done in the studio. I'll glaze Wednesday and Thursday, then fire Friday while I finish the cleaning-up of the studio and its conversion into a selling space. It happens every year, though I have no real idea how.
Postcards for the show arrived a few days ago, designed by our paper expert Ruth Bleakley. I'll attach the information side of the card to this post.
I threw a dozen faceted and stretched teabowls yesterday, the first pots I've made this week that felt like I made them only for myself. Everything else felt like an obligation for the weekend show. This weekend and next are filled with open studio shows around Falmouth and Bourne. Potter Denny Howard has one this weekend over in Sagamore; sculptor Sue Beardsley gathered a group of artists at her house this weekend; Tessa Morgan had a reception today at Flying Pig Pottery in Woods Hole; potter Anne Newbury has an open studio in Woods Hole tomorrow; potter Anne Halpin is open next weekend on the Woods Hole Road; Kim Medeiros is receiving guests and buyers at her place next weekend. It's a busy time. We hope everyone spreads their art dollars around.
The photos: Greenware and drying ware around and in the sun outside the studio.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New pots for holiday inventory

I fired about 100 pots yesterday, turning on the gas at about 9 a.m. and cone 10 falling at the top around 2:30. I know, it was a fast firing. And pretty tightly packed, too, but since I bought new lighter-weight shelves the firings have often been about 6 hours. Even when I try to hold it back a little. But if pots and glazes work, so ...
Anyway, here's a look at some of the new pots, with apologies to those of you who are not in love with copper reds. This glaze works well in this kiln and my friend Kathy Hickey, owner of the Daily Brew coffee shop in nearby Cataumet, likes red. And because she pays me cash every time I deliver mugs to her, I fire a certain number of red pots. All of the mugs in the photo above will go to the Daily Brew tomorrow.
The photos: Three fairly rought vases, two of them squared; a selection of Daily Brew mugs; two roughly squared bottle vases; shallow bowls glazed in Harvard Studio carbon-trap and spattered with iron slip.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Save the dates: Dec. 17-18 holiday open house

There's no guarantee that you'll be welcomed by the two volunteer studio helpers (top photo) when we open the kiln Saturday, Dec. 17. (Basically, I just like this picture of my two good friends Donna Sutherland and Janet Simons from a couple of years ago.) Still, there should be lots of smiling friends in the pottery studio and upstairs with the other makers and their crafts on the weekend of the 17th and 18th for our eighth annual holiday kiln-opening and open house.
This year, Mike Race of Monument Beach joins the crew, selling his fine home-roasted coffee beans. With us again: Ruth Bleakley and her handmade books and paper goods; Kim Collins with stunningly beautiful beaded jewelry; glassblower (and newlywed) Bryan Randa; and fellow potter Lois Hirshberg.
Dec. 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with kiln-opening at 11 a.m. Dec. 18, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Lots of good food, too. Details to follow as we get closer to the weekend.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday afternoon, low tide on the oyster flats

We are in the middle of oyster season here on Cape Cod. I take time off from pot-making to fish with my friends Mike and Tammy Race and a few others on Sundays when the tide is low. It was midafternoon yesterday, with a particularly low tide and lots of sand and oysters exposed, and a fair number of people out oystering. I won't say where the oyster beds are, to keep you people in North Carolina, Scotland and southern England from coming over here and poaching on our territory. Suffice to say they are within a day's drive of my house in Falmouth.
We shared three different preparations of oysters on Thanksgiving Day at the Races' - raw, broiled with spinach, and in a French marinade of white wine, olive oil and herbs. This group loves its oysters.
And a warm November day in rubber boots, wandering around the tidal flats harvesting them is not a bad way to spend an hour. It is, as I've said before, one of the reasons we live where we live.
Photos: Top, low sun and bent-over oyster hunters; Mike and Tammy sorting through the catch; Mike and his son Jordan carrying the baskets back to the car; full limits for three shellfish permits.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Randy Johnston, Pucker Gallery

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And thanks for your good words on Dee's brother's death.
Life goes on. The kiln in the studio is dry-stacked with pots for a firing next week. Then I'll start making the last few pots for the holiday kiln-opening here Dec. 17. More about that show in a day or two, but it's the last gasp of the year for me before settling into winter and beginning to fill out applications for next summer's shows.
The pottery event I'm most looking forward to right now is the Randy Johnston show at the Pucker Gallery in Boston. I got the catalog a couple of weeks ago and it looks like a terrific show. I do love Randy's pots. For those few who don't know his work - or the work of his wife Jan McKeachie Johnston - the couple lives in the American Midwest, in Wisconsin, and fire with wood. Randy studied with Warren McKenzie in Minnesota and he now makes mature, rugged and beautiful pots.
He joined the Pucker group of potters a couple of years ago. For me, the best part about the shows at the Pucker is that anyone can come in and pick up these beautiful things to get the full experience. Can't afford a few hundred dollars for a teabowl? No problem. Come look and touch and enjoy them, anyway. And the catalog, with excellent photography, is worthy of keeping on a bookshelf.
The show opens Dec. 3 with a reception and closes Jan. 30. Call the Pucker Gallery at 617-267-9473 for a copy of the catalog, or go online to for a pdf version. The photos here are from the Pucker website.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jim Dorchester

Dee's brother Jim Dorchester, 62, died this morning in Lubec, Maine. His girlfriend Marilyn was with him when he died. Thirty-eight years ago, Jim, a carpenter, moved from Martha's Vineyard to an old house in Maine - in a clearing in the woods next to a dirt road and near the clam flats. In many ways, he lived a 19th century life through the end of the 20th century and into the 21st. He drew water by hand from his own well that whole time. He believed in peace and in saving wild land, in music and in raising his own food. He loved the Maine coast and walked miles of it near his home Down East, usually returning from the beach with a backpack full of other people's trash. He was a man of convictions who lived the kind of life he wanted to live.
We didn't see him often, but we will miss him.
Photos: Walking past his garden in Maine, a month ago; Jim and Marilyn that same weekend, inside their home.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A few more Maine images

Something about the town of Lubec, the Maine landscape, the weather, the family situation called for black-and-white images last weekend. I started in newspapers years ago as a photographer, shooting Tri-X and HP5 film and trying to get a range of tones in my prints and then in the paper. Digital photogaphy allows that, also. And you don't get your hands wet in developer.
Dennis commented on yesterday's blog post, saying he liked the colors, "both of them." I know what he meant, but the challenge is to tell the story in an image with a range of greys between full black and high white. Pottery has similar challenges.
In any case, here are a few images that didn't make it into yesterday's post.
Photos: Lubec fishing boats at their moorings in a north wind, Campobello Island in the background; the Disciples of Christ church in Lubec; Roman Catholic church in Lubec; upstairs at Bayviews bed-and-breakfast inn; the sea at Quoddy Head.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A weekend Down East

Dee's brother Jim is quite sick these days, and last weekend we went to Lubec, Maine, to visit him and Marilyn and check up on their new place. They've moved into a bed-and-breakfast inn there, and out of their more primitive place in the woods outside of town. It's much more comfortable at the inn, with running water, indoor plumbing, electricity and cable television - everything Jim has (happily) lived without for almost 40 years. But he's sick and needs the comforts of the 20th century.
I wrote about Lubec a month ago, after we returned from our last visit. End-of-the-road town, one bar, one grocery, several struggling churches, a fishing fleet of perhaps 20 boats, a small summer holiday boom, a bridge across the channel to the Canadian island of Campobello. And wind and cold that starts right about now.
There is a cold, hard beauty to the town, where old houses spill down the hillsides of the peninsula almost to the water. The canneries that supported the town are long gone, though the docks and some of the warehouses are still there, rotting quietly as the tide comes and goes.
It was comforting to us that so many people know Jim, or know of him. One woman at the Congregational church Christmas fair (corn chowder, cream cheese and olive sandwich, brownie and coffee for $4.50) said, "Well, we take care of our own in this town." And that appears to be true.
Nearby Lubec is West Quoddy Head State Park, with its red-and-white-striped brick lighthouse, and its long wooded paths along the shore cliffs. Quoddy Head is the easternmost point of land in the United States. One of Jim's great regrets as he has been so weakened is that he can no longer walk the trails there that he walked for decades. We spent part of one sunny afternoon doing just that, so that we could tell him about it when we returned to the inn. It's a beautiful place.
Photos: West Quoddy Head Light, the pews at Lubec Congregational Christian Church, the ocean at Quoddy Head, looking toward Grand Manan island, the forest above the cliffs.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rough bottles and Hiroshima Kazuo

Back in September, two people in Harwich bought a pair of rough, Shino-glazed squared bottles from me at the Cranberry Festival craft show. That's all it takes, apparently, to set me off to making more of the same form ... two people spending $50 each for pots that had sat in my gallery for about two years. Where's the sense in that?
Never mind, though. I make a lot of pots and there are some forms that I particularly like and the tall bottle - squared or round - is one of them. There are several in the studio drying now - four- and seven-pound bottles. They're uniformly thrown, but the walls are fairly thick. That's partly because I throw that way and partly because when I run the rib up the sides I want enough clay to take the deforming without collapsing. The bottles are intended to be used as vases, but who knows how people might use them. They'll all be glazed in one Shino or another.
The other news is today's arrival of a gift from an anonymous (sort of) blog reader. Maybe 15 years ago when I wrote for a living in Washington, I covered the a show at the Sackler Museum called "A Basketmaker in Rural Japan." It was an astonishing show of bamboo baskets, fish traps and household implements by traditional basketmaker Hiroshima Kazuo. (The most recent reference I can find for him online shows him at 94 in 2009, sitting happily with guests at his home in Hinokage.) These were pieces of fully functional art made by a man who had been doing it all his adult life. Louise Allison Cort curated the exhibition for the Sackler. A fine film of the basketmaker at work accompanied the show.
The book is remarkable and I recommend it to anyone who loves seeing the products of a functional artist working at the very top of his game. We owned a copy of the book for years, but it got very wet at one point, deteriorated and then was lost. Now, I have a brand new copy and I'm grateful to whoever sent it. It came with a lovely inscription, but was not signed. It did, however, include a printout of a Kamaka Pottery blog post, with two of my comments on it. So I suspect New Zealander Bruce Martin, though how he arranged the whole thing I have no idea. Thank you, Bruce, or whoever sent it. I'm taking it with me to Maine tomorrow to read while we're in Lubec with Dee's brother Jim and his wife Marilyn.
The photos: 13-inch tall bottle, a group of smaller bottles, and a creel by Hiroshima Kazuo.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Loving teabowls ...

I began making teabowls years ago, only a short time after I first got my hands on clay at the Art League studio in Alexandria, Va. It must have been a book of Japanese work, or a Hamada book, or some such thing. Maybe it was Steve Lally, making them next to me in Saturday morning's open studio. But early on I loved making and drinking from teabowls, and buying other people's teabowls.
I spent perhaps an hour one Saturday morning in about 1992 in Mark Shapiro's booth at the Baltimore ACC show, picking up and putting down faceted orange cups before finally buying one. We still have that pot in our cabinet here on Cape Cod. (And I have a better understanding of those few people at craft shows who come in silently and have to touch everything before buying.)
Dan Finnegan, then my teacher, paid me a great compliment one day in the Alexandria classroom when he offered to trade me one of his cups for one of mine. I felt like I'd made some progress that day.
A couple of years later, by this time teaching beginning pottery in an Alexandria city program, I asked a student who was headed to London to go to the Craftsman Potter's shop there and buy me a Phil Rogers teabowl. I loved Phil's teabowls ... still do, in fact. I'd bought one for $25 at a workshop, but had cracked it. She came back with a lovely ash-glazed cup which cost the equivalent of $75.
"Don't tell my wife," I said, as I cleaned out my wallet. Today Phil's teabowls cost considerably more than that up at the Pucker Gallery in Boston. This one, in the top photo, has survived uncracked.
I continue to make teabowls, lately faceting and torquing them to within an inch of their structural lives. I spend a fair amount of time explaining to browsing buyers what those drinking things without handles are. I should just say "cup" and forget "teabowl." But it's an old habit.
Other photos here: one-pound balls of B-Mix clay soon to be the shallow teabowls and simple mugs you see drying in the bottom two images.