Thursday, June 23, 2011

Potters on the porch ...

... and a photographer, filmmaker, builder, reporter/chicken farmer, a massage therapist. We had a little multi-profession dinner Tuesday evening with visiting North Carolina potter Tracey Broome and her husband Gerry and daughter Wesley. Our friends Mike and Tammy Race joined us, and brought dessert. The Broomes were headed back south after a week or so of seafood consumption on the coast of Maine.
They stopped for an overnight here on Cape Cod and we gathered some local scallops and bluefish for the grill, and an assortment of other stuff and sat for a couple of hours trading stories that ranged from Iraq to Carolina to New Mexico to Cape Cod. We met Tracey at Southern Pines, N.C., last fall when the blogging potters show opened there. But we hadn't met Gerry or Wesley. Both nice folks and talented with a camera and good with conversation. Wesley's headed to film school and should be interesting to watch in the next few years.
Tracey left two of her beautiful barns here with us. They join one she sent last year on the top of our old piano.
They were only here overnight, with Wesley staying in the "Sir Douglas Fitch Suite" and the parents in the "Queen Hannah" accommodations. We all headed early to Daily Brew in Cataumet for breakfast with them, before leading them briefly to Mike and Tammy's and then to the Bourne Bridge rotary and pointing them south. They might be home by now. It's remarkable what wonderful people we've met through this blogging thing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Got burners?

Our good friends Paula and Pret bought a kiln not long ago, so that Paula could build even more experimental bread ovens. Paula is an amazing baker, and gives bread-making classes around New England. The kiln they bought was in Mattapoisett, not far from here on the mainland, and came with two big burners. The burners, as you can see, now reside in my studio, taking up a lot of floor space.
From the number of bricks they ended up with, I suspect the kiln was in the 25-30 cubic foot range, maybe bigger. The burners look real big to me, since I'm used to the six on my Olympic, which are nothing at all like these. They're set up for natural gas, have blowers and mega pilot lights and thermocouples.
I don't know, frankly, if I need two burners for the size soda kiln I'm thinking about (between 5 and 10 c.f.), but it never hurts to have more than you need. Does anyone who knows about these things see anything in the photos that you'd like to tell me about?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Selling pots as Arts Alive opens the summer

This small, local June show is always fun and - mostly - always in fair weather. The weather held again this year, with brilliant sun and blue skies. Lots of shoppers on Saturday and I sold a few pots. Sunday, however, being Father's Day, was slooooooowwww into midafternoon. At least for me. I sold next to nothing ... no, wait ... I sold exactly nothing ... until about 3, then a few things in the next few hours, which made the day worthwhile.
As always, there's no judging what kind of pots people are buying - mugs sold, as did vases, small dishes, bowls, plates. Young people (see the photo) bought pots, as did a few older folks. So at least there's hope that 20somethings aren't just into iPods, manga and video games. At least a few of them like handmade stuff.
For me, the winner of the weekend was the Square connection, for easy acceptance of people's credit cards. First time I've used it. As long as you've got a smart phone and an internet connection, this thing is brilliant. If you're doing the knucklebuster at craft fairs or in your own studio, or writing down credit card numbers and then inputting them later at home, this is the thing to get. It's been well-reviewed all over the place, so I won't give all the details. But if you're at all interested in taking credit cards from folks, this is the way to go. Go to and take a look at it. It costs you money only when you make a sale, you get the smartphone app and the one-inch-square card swiper free. It's pretty cool, a Google spinoff, and better than HDTV. Worth looking into.
OK, enough salesmanship for Square.
You'll see from the photos that my new, industrial strength display was used for the first time this weekend. Great little collapsible ladders from Lowe's, staging planks from Wood Lumber here in town, planing of the planks courtesy of Jim Akens' wonderful woodshop. It makes for a very clean and easy setup, though it might be too industrial for some people. I like it much better than the folding tables, dirty tablecloths and wooden boxes I've used for the past several years. And it's sturdy enough that chimpanzees could swing from the ladders and shelves and not disturb the pots. Well ... maybe ... but it's sturdy as hell. Easy to break down, too.
We're expecting Tracey and Gerry Broome here tomorrow night, with daughter Wesley. The Chapel Hill potter and her family have been touring Maine and New England and are headed back south. We'll see if we can find some fish to give them tomorrow night.
All for now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Arts Alive 2011 all weekend ...

I've set up the bare bones of my tent and display space on the street in Falmouth for Arts Alive this weekend. I'll bring the pots tomorrow morning early and set things up. Rain is expected tonight, though tomorrow and Sunday are (allegedly) supposed to have pleasant June weather. We'll see.
Meanwhile, the firing Wednesday was only so-so. There were some good things in it, but too many ordinary and sub-ordinary things. Way too much crap to go directly to the hammer. Funny how the kiln results usually reflect the attitude of the potter (or at least this particular potter) when he made, glazed and fired the work. After this weekend at the show, I'm going to throw out all of my Shino glazes and a couple of others and start fresh. I've got enough bisque to fire again next week.
A trip yesterday to Boston with Falmouth potter Sue Wadoski helped add a bit of excitement to my pot-making life. Sue and I are taking a soda-firing course at the Harvard U. Ceramics Center with potter Crystal Ribich. Last night we all went over slips and glazes; over the next couple of weeks I'll make and slip pots for the firing and then we'll glaze in Boston and fire the Harvard soda kiln. All of this came as a coincidence with my recent thoughts - spurred in part by a conversation with Dan Finnegan - of building a small soda kiln with the brick I was given last month. So maybe there's light at the end of the tunnel. Or the end of the firebox ...
The photos: Smallish pitchers for this week's show; ash-glazed vase; part of a wedding gift order (I know, Finnegan, it's that copper red that you love ... ); and two very nice women who came to the studio today, left empty-handed and then returned to buy pots an hour later. I do love that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ready ... more or less ... for summer

The sun is shining today, temperatures are in the low 70s. Summer will be here on Cape Cod soon. For this potter, the first sign of summer is the Arts Alive art festival on the library green here in our home town of Falmouth. This year's show is this weekend. Today's weather would be perfect for the weekend. We'll see ...
Right now I'm firing a kiln of pots - about 25 mugs that I need for inventory, some experimental moribana bowls for a local woman who is an ikebana enthusiast, an order of chowder bowls and lunch plates and a serving platter for a wedding gift, and vases and teabowls and on and on and on.
I started the kiln this afternoon about 1:30 and was working in the studio when I heard a distressing POP! in the kiln. Let's see, says I, cone pack? Indeed. The kiln was at about 500 degrees, so I opened the door and saw bits and pieces of the top shelf low-temp conepack scattered everywhere. Shut down the gas, take out the pots and the top shelf, dump shards out of pots on about three shelves, hope for the best elsewhere, make new cone packs, dry them in the stove, place them, get the whole thing going again. It's 6:50 p.m., we're up near 1900 F right now, after re-starting everything at about 3 p.m. Cone 10 should fall some time around the start of the Bruins-Canucks game tonight. I've become a hockey fan. Who would have guessed?
The other photos on this post are from another project for the upcoming summer. I'm changing the way I display my pots in my EZ-up. I'm going away from table cloths and wooden boxes to a slightly more industrial look, with two stepladders on either side of the tent entrance, holding up three eight-foot boards of pots. My friend Jim Akens - potter Annie Halpin's husband - suggested using spruce staging planks to avoid mid-plank bend. (Jim and Annie hosted Angela Walford and Dan Finnegan at this spring's UK Slipware Potters workshop.) So I've spent the past couple of days with Jim in his remarkably equipped wood and metal shop, planing down the big spruce boards. They're heavy, but they should lighten up as they dry. In the meantime, I think they'll look pretty good. And they look much cooler with the planing that Jim and I did with both his dangerous power tools and his lovely English block plane.
I'll post something next week on how the setup looks at Arts Alive.
All for now.
Photos: Top, this kilnload, with the ill-fated cone packs at top; Jim Akens at the joiner; Jim directing his resident gardener.