Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I've been looking back over the past year ... just a little, anyway. A lot happened over the past 12 months, professionally and personally, but since this is a pottery blog, I thought I would stick mostly to making pottery on Cape Cod.
I've made teabowls from about the time I first learned to center clay on the wheel. I always make teabowls, even when shoppers at craft fairs say, "What would I use this one for?" As if they've never used a cup before.
Anyway, I love making - and using - teabowls ... though I do get a little tired of explaining what they are at the diminishing number of craft fairs I'm doing.
This year, the shapes of my teabowls changed. I began wedging crushed granite into the clay, coning it on the wheel, faceting with a twisted wire, pushing out the walls from the cone. The result was sometimes an off-center bowl, wobbly and sometimes torn rims, protruding stone after firing, occasional cracks extending through the clay. Some of those pots went to a show in Durango, Colorado, many more stayed here with me and went to craft fairs. They are not wildly popular, but some sold. And I'm making more.
In addition, copper red and Oribe pours or splashes started appearing over the Shino glazes.
Color, wow.
And I suspect more is to come. Kim Medeiros and I are planning to build a wood kiln, after we both loved firing the Castle Hill train kiln a couple of months ago. It appears I'm going back to wood, this time with a collaborator. I love growing.
So, here's a pot that represents the past year for me. It came out of the Truro wood kiln. And here are pictures from the off-season Cape, the land that the summer people never see.
Happy New Year, everyone.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Working with the virtual Zen Brush

I bought an iPad Mini about two months ago and am, of course, addicted to reading on the internet, looking at photos of pots from around the world, checking weather, tides and the night sky, and drawing pots.
I know many potters keep journals of pottery ideas, possible new mug shapes, vases, decorations, all of that. I envy them that ability. Some of the journals I've seen are wonderful collections of art all by themselves. I don't have the kind of talent or persistence that results in notebooks full of imaginary or future pots. But I have now found Zen Brush, a 99-cent app available for iPhone or iPad and a wonderful tool for speculating about pot designs and, I'm sure, any other thing you might want to draw.
Its line is infinitely variable, from a sharp pencil line to a wide brush, and can work in a variety of tones and on a wide range of (virtual) paper surfaces.
This thing is really cool.
When we're watching a British murder mystery on Netflix (we've seen more Brits killed than anyone who witnessed the London Blitz), I'm working at the iPad, trying fat pots and teabowls, tall necks and wide ones. The next step is to take the idea to the studio. Once there, the drawing is a starting point.
That's what the jar in the photo below is about. As is the drawing from my iPad.
These pots were thrown yesterday from T3 clay, a new body for me, borrowed from my friend Kim Medeiros when my supplier was temporarily out of B-Mix.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pottery friends in 2012

Studio pottery can be a lonely job. Or, at least, a solitary job.
Most of us work in our own spaces, removed from the rest of the community unless a buyer comes by or another potter needs a break from her work or we choose to go into town to the coffee shop or the grocery store. That's certainly the case with me. And I mostly like it that way.
But we can't get along without friends - for conversation, bitching about craft shows, problem-solving, borrowing of essential glaze ingredients (I still owe Denny Howard a few pounds of OM4), planning of regional clay shows, any number of things. We support each other, whether we realize it or not.
So here are some images of a few of my potter friends here on Cape Cod. These are not all of them, just some that I have photos of. I'm leaving out Ron Geering, Ron Dean, Diane Heart, Anne Halpin, Ann Newbury, Lois Hirshberg, Jim Irvine, Sue Wadoski, Sarah Caruso and others.
The photos: Denny Howard of Howard Pottery in Sagamore, demonstrating for a friend; Tessa Morgan of Flying Pig Pottery in Woods Hole, glazing; Kim Medeiros, my woodfiring partner, decorating (please note the Frida Kahlo earrings); Gail Turner of Millstone Pottery in Brewster, stoking in Truro; Shelley Fenily of Falmouth, left, with her partner Natalie Mariano; Brian Taylor of Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, loading the art center's train kiln this past fall.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Part Deux

It's Christmas morning, and a wet and dark one here on Cape Cod. But the lights are on in the house, the stockings have been emptied (cooked chestnuts, Santa???) and we're about to head out to join family for Christmas dinner.
But I thought I'd post this small village here in Hatchville, a sort of sub-village of the already very small village. These houses are by our good friend and fine artist Tracey Broome of Chapel Hill, N.C. I think Tracey has her small family together today and she and Gerry are no doubt enjoying daughter Wesley being home from school. So this gathering of Tracey's lovely little houses is a tribute to her and to families together everywhere today.
Merry Christmas, all.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Dee and I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and happy holidays of all kinds. Through this blog and through the Hatchville Pottery Facebook page, we have friends on almost every continent. (Any potters active in Antarctica?) That kind of connection is a real blessing. We know the joy and pain of many of those friends, and we know the great pots many of them are producing. I love that.
Many people around me and friends my age are retired or thinking about retirement, and I am often asked, "So, is this pottery a retirement thing that you do?" To which I do not usually have a civil answer.
For the past decade or more, pottery has been the next thing I do, not the retirement thing I do.
I think I keep getting better, making better pots, more interesting pots, more complex pots. Why would I not want to keep doing that? And replace it with what?
This year, I started serving on the board of directors of The Studio Potter, a good and serious-minded hard-copy pottery magazine struggling to find subscribers in a digital world. I'm very new and at times very much trying to catch up with the others on the board. But I've made new friends and connections I'd never have made without the magazine. And maybe I can help.
And this year I talked my a-little-bit-reluctant friend Kim Medeiros of The Barn Pottery in Pocasset into a weekend woodfiring at the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. She got great pots from the train kiln there by the ocean, pots that I personally thought were the best that came from that firing. And she fell in love with wood. Friend Dan Finnegan of Fredericksburg, Va., is coming here in a couple of weeks to talk about guiding the two of us through the building of our own wood kiln in the spring.
Our holiday kiln-opening and open studio was busier than ever; Kim, Lois Hirshberg and I sold more pots than ever before. Kim and I sold many pots right out of the warm kiln. Much jewelry, blown glass, coffee and paper goods went out the door, as well.
With luck, this winter we'll add studio and gallery space to the front of my current studio here in Hatchville. Our friend Mike Race, known by some of you, will do the building. More room for good pots.
Things keep changing and growing around here. Hoping it stays that way for many years.
Happy Holidays, everyone.

The photos: Our gallery, in a snowstorm a year or two ago, the photo used in a recent e-mail greeting from The Studio Potter magazine; one of my bowls from the Truro wood kiln; and one of Kim's pots from the Truro kiln, a pot that now lives comfortably here on a kitchen shelf with Ray Finch, Dan Finnegan, Doug Fitch and Hannah McAndrew.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Deep breath after the weekend open studio

We've done this holiday kiln-opening and open studio for the past nine years and I'm always anxiety-ridden in the week leading up to it and always happy when Saturday arrives and everything works and the new pots are good, the cop handles the traffic, we don't get two feet of snow and people buy pots. And that held true this past weekend.
The raucous laughter coming from the room over my studio was reassuring early Saturday morning, when Kim Collins, Bryan Randa and Ruth Bleakley were back together again, organizing their wares and catching up with each other. I went upstairs to tell them it was like having the kids come home for the holidays and livening up the house again. Then Lois Hirshberg arrived and Kim Medeiros and then Mike Race with his coffee and pretty soon everything was as it should be. And then the people came and we opened the kiln and my pots and Kim's were good and people bought them and bought from everyone and food came from seemingly everywhere and I was cold in the studio selling pots while everyone else was in the house selling and eating and drinking. But what the hell.
For about an hour after we emptied the kiln there was a line of people waiting to buy my pots and I ran out of my pile of wrapping paper and bags. I don't think those things have ever happened before.
Once again, our neighbors Jim and Bill were close to the new pots coming warm from the kiln and once again they walked off with one of the best. They always do that.
This weekend has become much more than a sale, though. In the week before the firing, more people ask me about what they should bring to eat than asked about how my glazing was going. There was chowder, green chile meatballs, empanadas, thousands of cookies, chocolate truffles (still some in hiding in the kitchen, actually), small and delicious mince meat tarts that somehow never made it onto the communal food table, salmon, chile dogs, vegetarian chili, coffee, vodka, a tomato tart, bacon and mushroom quiche ... much more. And much that I didn't get to eat. There were kids, dogs, old folks with canes, couples, families, relatives ...
Now that it's over, I can say it's a pretty cool thing that happens here every year. Even Angela Rose, a local potter who started this with me, showed up and talked promisingly of making more pots and getting involved again.
Now, some photos, with pots that just came out Saturday: Top, all the craftspeople, except coffee roaster Mike Race, who must have been in the kitchen brewing; left to right above the bearded guy are Bryan Randa, Lois Hirshberg, Ruth Bleakley, Kim Collins and my firing partner Kim Medeiros; white Shino broken-rimmed teabowl; one side of an eight-pound jar with overlapped Shino and Temmoku glazes; another side of the same jar; two small wide teabowls whose upper walls are added slabs.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kiln-opening and open studio this weekend

The kiln is loaded and the burners are firing. It's around 700 degrees in there right now and it will fire until later this afternoon. Then we'll open at 11 Saturday morning, with what is likely to be a studio full of visitors eager to see the pots that Kim Medeiros and I have inside.
When Falmouth potter Angela Rose and I started this holiday kiln-opening/open studio weekend about nine years ago, I think we had three or four people around us when we opened the kiln door. And I think all of them were relatives. Times have changed. This will be the third year that we have had to hire a Falmouth policeman to manage the kiln-opening traffic. That uniform carries more car-parking authority than the fleece vest or denim jacket worn by whatever unfortunate friend volunteered to help park cars. There will be a lot of people here.
This idea sprang from the holiday home pottery show of the late Shino master Malcolm Davis. When we lived in the Washington, D.C., area, and I was a beginning potter, we would go over to the Adams-Morgan neighborhood townhome of Davis and marvel at his Shino pots. We even bought some once in a while. But what struck us as a good idea was the fact that he always had four or five other craftspeople in other media also selling in his home.

So when Angela and I decided to do a December show, we wanted to include other craftspeople. Since that first show, we've had jewelers, potters, painters, one glassblower, a paper artist, a coffee roaster, a photographer ... maybe some I can't remember. Jeweler Kim Collins has, I think, been with us from the beginning. Glassblower Bryan Randa has been with us for several years, as has paper magician Ruth Bleakley. This will be raku potter Lois Hirshberg's third year and functional potter Kim Medeiros's first. Mike Race will sell his freshly-roasted coffee beans for the second year. 
And everyone will bring food. This is a good place to have lunch on Saturday, even if you don't feel like buying pots. (Though that's encouraged.) For the past five years we've served chile dogs made with genuine New Mexico red chile. That started when a friend arrived with five hot dogs (five????) and five buns. I happened to have made chile that morning, so we combined the two and Ed's strange potluck contribution was consumed almost immediately (well ... there were only five) and started a tradition. Now, chile dogs have to be on the menu. And there will be much, much more ...
Come on down if you're on the Cape. We open at 10 Saturday morning and open the kiln at 11. Sunday we open at 11. Both days we close the doors at 4.
Happy holidays, all.
The photographs of a few of my pots available this weekend: Top, two side-handle teapots, appropriately decorated; small lobed vase fired in the Truro wood kiln; mugs from the Truro wood kiln;  fat vase, from the same kiln.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Your formal invitation

Sometimes people around Cape Cod ask me what they have to do to get an invitation to our annual open studio/kiln-opening. What, you've been staying away for the past eight years because I didn't call you?
OK, for those of you who read the blog, here it is. For the rest of you who read the local Falmouth Enterprise, it will be in the paper. For those of you on Facebook, it's there, too. No one is excluded. Come one, come all ... a free handmade eggnog cup to the first 25 people who show up Saturday morning (and half of them this year were made by Kim Medeiros, so you'll be getting a bargain). Kiln-opening at 11 Saturday morning, chile dogs for as long as they last at 1.
And we'll all be here Sunday from 11 to 4 for those who can't make it Saturday. Pots by Hollis, Kim, Lois Hirshberg; glass by Bryan Randa; cards and notebooks and other stuff by Ruth Bleakley (who also did our poster); fresh-roasted coffee by Mike Race; jewelry by Kim Collins.
Photos: Our Ruth Bleakley-designed email card and poster; potter Kim Medeiros of The Barn Pottery and her daughter (and a pretty good thrower already) Phoebe after unloading this week's firing here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Opened the kiln today

We're preparing here for our annual holiday open house/open studio/kiln-opening creative extravaganza. It happens Saturday, Dec. 15 and Sunday, Dec. 16. I'll fire another load of pots Friday and open it Saturday morning at 11 to what has become quite a crowd of spectators.
Kimberly Sheerin Medeiros (of The Barn Pottery in Pocasset) and I shared the kiln I fired yesterday and we'll do the same next Friday. She's appearing here for the first time with the regular group of exhibiting makers. Kim was also responsible for connecting us to Cape Cod View magazine a few months ago, resulting in a lead story about our holiday show, in the current issue. We certainly owe her thanks for that, and it will be great to have her pots here with the other clay, glass, beads, paper and coffee on sale.
Yesterday's firing had all the giveaway eggnog cups in it. I like to have them on hand here for the first 25 people to choose when they arrive before the kiln-opening. Kim offered to do half the cups and I happily agreed. True to her style, she's made lovely, colorful and highly-decorated work and I suspect people will fall all over each other trying to get to her cups.
I'll attach a few photos of the pots that came out of the kiln today. Lots of overlapped Shinos and ash glazes, fat round jars with stone wedged into the clay, many nog cups. And there should be some good things in Friday's firing. Please join us if you can get to Cape Cod, or if you're already on Cape Cod.
The photos: Top, the eggnog cups for the first 25 visitors this weekend, Kim Medeiros's work in the foreground; three fat little Shino and ash vases; two Shino mugs, two amber ash over crackle slip; big Shino jar.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Big pots at Chris Gustin's anagama

Dee, Kim Medeiros and I drove down to South Dartmouth, near New Bedford, Sunday to see the results of Chris Gustin's latest firing. His anagama (plus two smaller attached noborigama chambers) holds about 1,000 pots and is fired to completion over six to seven days. It's a lot of work and takes a lot of stokers over that period of time.
But this kiln, which was rebuilt several years ago, turns out gorgeous pots. Since rebuilding, it has fired evenly front to back in the anagama chamber, something that was a bit of a problem in its earlier incarnation. For this firing, it appeared there were somewhere around 15 potters involved, besides Chris. The kiln cools for two weeks, and always draws a crowd for the opening. This cold November Sunday was no exception. But people were treated to many great pots.
It's always a privilege to see the work of a great clay artist as it emerges from the kiln, seeing it as he or she sees it for the first time. I know it always takes me a few days to get acquainted with my own new pots, so Chris must be still walking around the two big ones shown here on this page, looking at the way the glaze flowed, the way the ash combined with the glaze, the places where the flames took hold.
Anyway, to the photos. Some pretty wonderful pots here.
Top, giant pot out of the kiln, one of the two fired about a shelf back from the firebox; next, the two big ones, as they were exposed in the unloading; note the glaze welding the pot to its shelf; potter Steve Murphy uses a diamond Dremel tool to break the bond between pot and shelf; then Steve and others bring out the first pot; and then the second; Chris, at left, seems pretty happy with the results; a look at one of the noborigama chambers after unbricking the door.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Dee and I send our best wishes to everyone who sees this blog - no matter where you live - for a good day and for remembering those people you're thankful for and thankful to. We all have lots of those. We will go to the home of our friends Mike and Tammy Race in Monument Beach for a long and tasty meal this afternoon with their family and many, many friends. Two turkeys, I believe. And lots of oysters.
Dee started the day today with the We Gather Together 5K road race in Sandwich, Mass., about a half hour from here. The race raises money and groceries for people in need here on Cape Cod. Dee ran with our friend Betsy Gladfelter, a marathoner and inveterate road racer, who slowed her pace just a bit to accomodate a sore muscle or two and a slightly slower running partner.
That's all for now. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
The photos: No one we know, but it was hard to ignore Captain America and Wonder Woman; Dee and Betsy, planning race strategy; and at the finish line.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Into the Castle Hill salt kiln

Kim Medeiros and I drove down to Truro again today, this time to deliver a few pots to Brian Taylor for the next firing of the salt kiln at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. I fired in the kiln a couple of years ago, with mediocre results, but Brian has been working with the kiln since then and has gotten very good orange peel effects in the past several firings. Kim and I each took a half-dozen or so pots down, just enough to fill the last couple of shelves before Brian bricked them up. He'll fire the kiln right after Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Oysters and tsubos ...

I'm taking a break from making fat jars in the studio. Back to throwing again and getting good pots from it. Gnarly, gravel-laden teabowls trimmed yesterday, then several round fat jars thrown then and finished today. Now on to throwing some 10-15 pound jars. I've been taken with this very fat form of vase lately. My own pot from the wood kiln kicked me down that road, then I've been looking at Lisa Hammond's wonderful "tsubo" forms on the Goldmark website. So there's no doubt what will be on the top rear shelf of my kiln in the next firing.
The other photos were taken Sunday afternoon, as the sun was going down quickly and the tide going down slowly. We slogged out into the cold water to find three limits of oysters for the three permit-holders among us. Good success, though the oyster grounds are less plentiful than they have been in the past. Still, Thanksgiving will have a variety of oysters on the table ... briefly ... before they're consumed.
Fished again with Mike and Tammy Race, their son Jordan and his girlfriend Jamie Wynn. All brave (and cold) fishermen.
Photos, from top: The oystering grounds at low tide; Jamie Wynn sorting and packing; Jordan Race trimming and sorting; Mike Race doing the same; fat pots in the studio.

Friday, November 16, 2012

And just a few more wood pots, refired ...

I refired about 15 of the underfired pots from the Truro wood kiln, opening my own kiln yesterday. It was a pretty good firing. Most of the wood pots, whose glazes looked reeeeaaalllly bad at cone 2, matured nicely, particularly with the amber ash going lovely and transparent over crackle slip (a technique adapted from Virginia potter Dan Finnegan).
And Kim Medeiros, my stoking partner in Truro, got several pots into this firing, too, coming out with very nice work, both refired and first-fired. Her glazes do well in my kiln.
I'll just post a few pictures of the pots for you. I'm throwing again for the next firing here, but I haven't thrown in a few weeks and it feels like I never knew how. Jeez ...
So, to the pots: Top, a lovely fat jar, crackle slip under a gray Shino; squared jar, crackle slip under amber ash, ash celadon on the bottom; trailed crackle slip under amber ash on a small cup; larger teabowl faceted with twisted wire, with amber ash; my prize from the woodfiring, one of Kim's tumblers, traded for one of my small cups.