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 puckergallery.com 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.