Friday, May 27, 2011

Busy in the studio, finally ...

I've got a few weeks yet until my first summer show - the Arts Alive event in downtown Falmouth. It's always a pleasant weekend, if not necessarily a big money-maker. The arts festival started about seven years ago as a way of gathering a variety of artists on the green library lawn off Main St., showing off local creative folk. It's expanded every year, and now marks the beginning of the summer arts season for those of us who are the "local creative folk."
It's been a busy spring for me, mostly because of the workshop here with Doug Fitch and Hannah McAndrew and then my two-week show in Boston with painter Dara Pannebaker. Finally got back into the studio last week, needing to make mugs and big things, and maybe a few medium things to fit on the 9-inch shelf on the bottom of the kiln. Plus, now that spring is genuinely here on Cape Cod, the front door can be open and the sounds and light of the neighborhood can penetrate into the dusty, disorderly studio.
So, here are a few photos of what's been going on here. And one image of a fine little mug by Joy Tanner, brought back from North Carolina by Cape Cod potter Gail Turner. Gail dropped by with Falmouth potter Shelley Fenily to tell the story of her recent tour of North Carolina potteries, and she brought back this lovely soda-glazed mug. Gail loved North Carolina and the pots she saw there. She should have a blog so that she could tell you so herself.
Photos: Top, first attempts at moribana pots, an order from a Falmouth woman who is deeply into ikebana. She's looking for two, about 14 inches in diameter, which means I'll make ... who knows how many, to get two that we both like. The mug in the photo is by Doug Fitch, for scale. Below that, drying mugs, 8-pound hakeme-brushed vases, teabowls and shallow serving bowls, more biggish vases drying, and that nice little Joy Tanner mug. Thanks, Gail.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

900 bricks in search of a kiln

This past weekend I became the owner of about 900 bricks - soft and hard - that were once a kiln. About 20 years ago, a Falmouth potter and her husband bought a kiln from Chris Gustin when he was teaching at the late Swain School of Design in New Bedford. (The Swain School has been gone for a long time, though its alumni - including my sister-in-law Marcy Dorchester, of Albuquerque - are still making art.) In any case, the potter and her husband parted ways some years ago and the kiln, which was broken down for transport, was never re-built.
I got word Friday from local potter Sarah Caruso that a stack of soft brick was being given away, and my offer to take it away was accepted. After stacking most of the soft brick in the back of my truck, I discovered that, as the owner said, "There are some hard bricks under there, too." An understatement. Turns out the hard bricks, at least 400 of them, had been turned into a dry-laid patio at the side of the house. So, much energy was expended over two days bending down, freeing the bricks from the earth and stacking them in the truck. Sarah was a great help with that, I should add. She's traded me her labor for kiln-space once there is actually a kiln.
Now I'm on the hunt for a plan that will allow me to turn the piles of bricks into a modest wood kiln. Or maybe a soda kiln. Or a salt kiln. ... I think I'm thinking wood, though. Or maybe salt/wood. Oh, I'm also hunting for a place to put the kiln, since we don't have the room here in Hatchville.
There are lots of plans around for kilns and I'm starting to look at some of them. I know some of you have had success with wood. Anyone have any good ideas for me?
The photos: My Tacoma, sagging under the load of about 400 of the hard brick; and the soft brick pile and half the hard brick at the side of the gallery; and signs of spring in the yard.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The show comes down

"The Potter and the Painter" at the StoveFactory Gallery closed Sunday afternoon at 4 and by the time the yoga students were drifting in for class around 6, all the pots and the shelves were off the walls and packed in the truck. Funny how an exhibition of pots can just disappear in what seems like no time.
I think Dara and I learned a lot in this two weekends of showing our work in the gallery. We had done a ton of publicity for the show, but in the end it was very sparsely attended. I wandered around from shelf to shelf, straightening pots, waaaayyy too much. Still, some people did come to the gallery, and I sold some pots. And Dara sold some paintings. Remarkably, for the relatively low attendance, we both (I think) more than made back our investments in the show, which were considerable. At least the bank account won't have taken a big hit.
My pots were priced higher for this show than they have been for craft fairs. Raising my prices is something people have been telling me to do for a couple of years now. Maybe they're right. The folks who bought some of my best work for $125 to $150 thought carefully about their purchases, but mostly about which pot they wanted. They seemed to have no problem with the price. Teabowls and small vases sold well for $50, slab plates for $75, small side-handle teapots for $125. Reasonable prices, I think, given the quality and the work that goes into them. And well below prices by much more established potters at nearby places like the Pucker and the Lacoste.
The building that houses the StoveFactory Gallery is a late 1800's brick factory building, like many in and around Boston or any similar city. Huge old timbers, industrial elevators and bathrooms, concrete floors, peeling paint. Painters, printmakers, papermakers, furniture craftspeople, design offices are in the building. The kind of people attracted to high ceilings, big windows and low rents. And it is some distance from the business district, hence unlikely to attract casual strollers. A gallery in town would get more drop-in trade. Those who come to the clean, well-lighted StoveFactory Gallery do so intentionally. And that probably explains the fact that with few visitors, we still sold relatively well.
My work has never been seen in a better venue. This is a gallery designed by artists to light the art in the best way possible. The layered Shinos and ash glazes on my pots want light. The buyer needs to be able to look at what's happening there between the carbon-trap Shino and the Bright Shino, to see the channels of the crackled and crawled Shino filled in by the celadon of the ash glaze. When the glazes are working right, there are landscapes created just under the surface that are simply not discernible in low light. What you see may not be to your taste, but with this kind of light you can definitely see it. And I think the same is true of the layered paints in Dara Pannebaker's work.
So I wish more people had seen the show, seen my pots in this lovely, formerly industrial space. But it's enough that we did the show and sold some work and made some connections.
Next time, maybe we'll figure out how to get more people to Charlestown.
The photos: Top, a round vase glazed in layered Shinos, soon headed to Sally Reavis in Seattle; side-handle teapots and landscapes; a wide view of the gallery.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Potter and Painter" opens in Charlestown

Dara Pannebaker and I had a very pleasant evening Friday, meeting friends and Charlestown residents at the opening of our joint show at the StoveFactory Gallery on Medford St. in Charlestown. We even got to connect with my wife Dee, who came up from Falmouth with our friend Brenda Horrigan. Those two arrived after much convoluted driving between Cambridge and Charlestown, trying to find the right roads. Country girls ...
And fellow Falmouth potter Anne Halpin came up for the opening, with her sister, who lives in the area. Otherwise, it was lots of Charlestown folks, friends of Dara and friends of the Artists Group of Charlestown, who were sipping wine and beer and snacking on the food prepared by Dara's sisters Cheryl and Wendy. Lovely evening. Even sold a few pots.
The show looks very good in this open and well-lighted space in the old factory building. (And gallery-goers were greeted at the door by a huge poster featuring ... well ... I'll attach a photo and you'll see.) My pots have never been shown in such an elegant setting. Saturday and Sunday, we opened the gallery at 11 and kept it open until 6. We had a steady - if sparse - flow of people coming in. The gallery is off the beaten Charlestown path, so the people who come to see the pots and paintings are not just dropping by on a whim. They come because they intend to come. In spite of the relatively light turnout on the two weekend days, I sold some pots. And we still have three days - this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday - ahead of us with the gallery open. I'll be back in Charlestown Friday to be there with Dara from 6 to 9, then open at 11 Saturday and Sunday, with a mid-afternoon closing reception Sunday. Please come by if you have the chance.
Photos: From the top down, toward the end of the Friday night reception, the stragglers choosing work to take home; an overall view of the gallery; Shino bowls and Dara's small studies; paintings with vases; the poster (yikes!) at the gallery entrance.
And a PS: I apologize for misspelling Karla Quattrochi's name in the last post. It's Karla with a K, not a C. And now, no doubt, I've misspelled her surname.