Saturday, February 25, 2012

I need a rest ...

My shoulders hurt. I've been wedging and throwing big and small pots the past few days, trying to leave a kiln-load of wet pots drying while we're away next week. I think it's more or less done, with trimming remaining on about 45 small teabowls for a tea ceremony show at the Cotuit Arts Center in May.
I wanted to show Alex how 15-pound pots are thrown pretty much the same way her one-pound cylinders are thrown. So I ended up with a half-dozen good-size jars, which ought to fill the top of the kiln. And Alex, after one big demonstration pot, said, "You don't want me to throw one that big now ... do you?"
So I'll cut some feet on the small teabowls later tonight, set things aside so that they're out of Alex's way when she comes in to work next week, and Monday morning we'll be off to the island of Vieques, off the main island of Puerto Rico. Sun and sand and palm trees and mangoes and rum. Or some combination of all that.
Have a good week, all.
Photos: Big jars, small teabowls and cups, shallow bowls of rough clay.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A new glaze in the past two firings

A month ago, I was taken with Randy Johnston's use of a Nuka glaze in his wood-fired pots at the Pucker Gallery in Boston. Most potters probably know that Nuka is a glaze of Japanese origin, usually made with the ash of burned rice husks. A true Nuka, at least from what I have seen and read, is a milky blue-white, which will break on high points, much like a Temmoku.
I found a recipe using mixed hardwood ash on the website of D. Michael Coffee (∆10-reduction/) and I give him full credit for what I think is a lovely glaze.
I tested it on a few small pots last week and liked what I saw, though it seemed like the glaze was applied a bit thinly. This week, I took a few cups of water off the top and fired again yesterday. I like what I see this time, also, though I think I might have gone a bit too far with the water removal. I'll add more to the bucket for the next firing, trying to find the happy medium.
I want the glaze to show the clay beneath - the facets and cuts and anything applied after throwing. But I also want it to cover the pot with that white, patchy blanket. Next time it should do that just fine.
Yesterday's firing was very, very thinly packed. I think there were perhaps 50 pots in there. I had to fire anything available in order to get one pot in that HAD to be fired this week.
Photos, from top: Small vase with the thicker version of the new Nuka; teabowl from last week's thinner mix of the glaze; two Shino teabowls on rough clay; a Shino platter with copper red pour.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Alex makes her space in the studio

Anyone who has been here - or seen the photos in the blog - knows that this is a one-man studio. There's too much junk haphazardly placed around this former two-car garage to accommodate another human and his or her work. Nevertheless ...
Two weeks ago, Alex Urbina started her spring internship with me here in the studio. She's a junior at Falmouth High School (Hannah McAndrew and Doug Fitch worked in her school studio last spring) and enjoys sculpture and other handwork. But she wants to learn to throw. So for the past couple of weeks, she's alternated between work on the wheel and building a dragon. In the photo above, she's at work on a prototype dragon (you can see the teeth in its head) which she hopes will help her design a big one by the end of her time here.
The internship, one of many at potters' studios around Cape Cod, is coordinated and funded through the Cape Cod Museum of Art. It's a program that the museum takes very seriously and both the student and the potter have paperwork to fill out at the end of the student's time in the studio. Also at the end of the internship, the museum hosts an exhibit in one of its galleries of work by the students and by the mentors. That's why Alex wants to make the big dragon, which is destined for the spring museum show.
Alex is a serious and occasionally sardonic student, she learns well and has produced two bowls and a cup on the wheel and the beginnings of the small dragon. Last Thursday she also was the main siever of mixed glazes and cleaner of buckets and sieve as I finished up glazing for the most recent firing. She's also begun prodding me about the high school's version of the Empty Bowls project, which is coming up. And she's hoping to sell us tickets to the spring production of "Footloose," where she is, I think, the props manager. Smart kid.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Just out of the kiln, more questions ...

Saturday's firing went along just fine until, getting up near body reduction at around cone 012, I peeked into the upper peep and could only see the low-temp cone pack. The 9,10,11 cones behind that pack had all (not so) mysteriously disappeared. Shit. And, of course, that no doubt exploded pack was right next to a large platter, the only piece in the load that was already spoken for.
Otherwise, the firing went as it should, climbing steadily to somewhere around cone 10. I say "somewhere" because I only had the bottom shelf high-temp cones to go by. The lower part of the kiln generally runs about a cone cooler than the upper part, so I shut down the whole firing when cone 9 was flat at the bottom. Didn't want to have ash glazes running off the pots.
In the end, of course, that's what happened anyway. The Leach Kaki, usually dependable at cone 10, ran like water off the few pots I'd used it on. Same with my my newly mixed regular ash glaze. Hmmmmm ...
This is what happens. Just as things seem to be going predictably, something in the operation takes an unexpected left turn. This firing thing sometimes leaves me with as many questions as answers. Or more.
But, explosions and rivers of ash glaze aside, it was a good firing. I think the pictures show that. And the nuka glaze that I tested in the last firing works well on my brown clay pots, particularly on the rough pots with crushed granite wedged in. Lots of places for it to run into and settle.
Because I was to deliver that big platter later this week, I'll have to fire the backup platters and whatever I have left over in the studio in a light firing at the middle of the week.
Back to glazing today.
Nothing like doing this post one bit at a time ... Photo descriptions: Top, Shino on brown clay body made rough by inclusion of crushed granite; small brush holders/vases with overlapped Shino; larger brush holders/vases with overlapped Shinos and (on the right) running Nuka; three more small brush holders; bottom, three rough clay teabowls, Nuka on the left and right, Shino in the middle.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Loading the kiln, then a beach walk ...

The process of glazing and loading the kiln - even a relatively small one like mine - always wears me out. Something to do with the glaze decisions, probably. Mental rather than physical, though throwing around the 5-gal. buckets and lifting the relatively light kiln shelves may have something to do with it.
But I finished up loading this afternoon about 2, and went out for an hourlong walk around Lawrence Island, a peninsula near here that partially encloses little Squeteague Harbor. The rising tide covered the single board footbridge, forcing me to detour along a swampy path that goes around a tiny pond, thence to the beach bordering Buzzards Bay.
There was no one else on the beach, or up in the woods at the center of the island, where kids go to drink in the summer and adults go for quiet contemplation. As I've written before, that's one of the things that keep us living in this beautiful place. We have it to ourselves this time of year. Not even any boats on the horizon.
I only had my iPhone with me, but used the High Dynamic Range camera application for several spooky 3D-ish photos.
I light the kiln tomorrow morning after coffee. Lots of Shino and Nuka in there, on rough clay pots. We'll see.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A moment in the coffee shop

I looked around the table this morning at Coffee Obsession and realized that everyone there was drinking from a pot that came from my wheel. I almost always bring one of my pots for coffee (what the hell, if I won't drink out of my own mug, how do I expect other people to do it?), but the others who come to the table in the morning just get their coffee in paper cups, or use one of the cheap mugs from behind the counter, or, sometimes, bring in their own mug. This morning Bruce, Betsy, Mary and Diane all had cups they'd acquired from my place over the past couple of years. Dee came in a while later with her own mug. Janet was absent, but always comes in with some teabowl or other that she's gotten from me. (Though she does have a Dan Finnegan cup that she risks using now and then ... )
I'm not bragging about this. I just think it's cool to see a table full of handmade cups and good coffee.
OK, back to glazing ...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A (non-pottery) digression to Ethiopia

Those of you who know Dee and me better than most might realize that the Pantengliopolis blog linked to the right (with the Finnegan, Whynot, Tracey, Karatsu, Fitch, McAndrew and all the rest) belongs to our son Marcus and his wife Anastasia. Both are hard-working, hard-playing young people in Seattle. But for the past week, Anastasia's job in global health and her thousands of resulting air miles have taken them both to Ethiopia.
"Ethiopia?!?" you say? Well ... maybe you don't say that. But we certainly did. Not at the top of the list of vacation spots for us. But these two people are deeply into backcountry skiing and various kinds of elevating themselves onto high rocks. No skiing in Ethiopia, apparently, but lots of high-altitude rocks.
So, if you're interested in our family (and I understand that's kind of a limited audience in here), or if you're interested in very good descriptive travel writing about a part of the world we usually associate with poverty, guerrillas and car bombs, take a look at the past few entries and photos on Worth looking at. And not just because we're proud of our two kids.
The name, by the way, comes from a merger of Marcus's last name, Engley, and Anastasia's family name, Pantelias.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Brush-making workshop in Truro

The Cape Cod Potters' annual meeting yesterday at Castle Hill Center for the Arts in Truro was preceded by four hours of heavy concentration on bamboo, animal hair, fine trimming and epoxy. Paul Wisotzky, a Truro potter ( with a gallery in Provincetown (Blue is its name), demonstrated his simple brush-making technique, then turned the afternoon over to about 20 of us who attacked deer, coyote and racoon tails for tufts that would become brush heads.
Maddeningly delicate work, at least at first, but after the first mangled brush, things came together. Most people walked out with eight to a dozen brushes, probably even now being tried out in studios around the Cape. I'll give mine a shot this afternoon, before beginning to dry-stack the kiln for a firing later this week.
The photos: Top, several of Kim Medeiros's brushes; Wisotzky demonstrating deer tail technique, with Castle Hill studio manager Brian Taylor looking on; Kim, Barn Pottery in Pocasset, in deep concentration as she cleans a bamboo handle; and Matt Kemp of Kemp Pottery in Orleans.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Teabowls (aka coffee bowls) to Seattle

It's been a pretty good week for show entries. This evening, I got word that two of my cups were selected for the show "Cups and Coffee" at Fuel Coffee in Seattle, a show sponsored by Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Maine (, taking place during NCECA.
Seattle is one of my favorite cities, not just because of the seemingly endless supply of very, very good coffee shops, but also because our son Marcus and his wife Anastasia live there. Fuel Coffee, in fact, has a branch in Marcus's Wallingford neighborhood. This show will be at the downtown Fuel Coffee, at 610 19th St., March 1-31.
I'll be at NCECA this year, the first time I've gone, and we'll spend some time visiting the kids before all the clay stuff begins at the convention center. Now we'll have a new favorite coffee shop to go to.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Two entries juried into "State of Clay"

A letter came yesterday from the Lexington (MA) Arts and Crafts Society that two of my three submissions to the 7th biennial "State of Clay" show will be included in the show opening April 22 at the LACS gallery. Doug Casebeer, director of the ceramics program at Anderson Ranch in Colorado, was the juror.
I've had work in the past two "State of Clay" shows, but this is the first time two pieces were selected. It's always a good show, with work from around the state and also from potters and other clay artists who once lived in the state. Total entries were 394 pieces from 139 applicants, with 81 pieces selected for the show from 72 makers.
The show will run from April 22 through Sunday, May 20. The opening reception will be May 6, at 2 p.m. Doug Casebeer will also do a one-day demo workshop the day before.
For more information and a look at pots from the past few shows, go to
I'll post photos of the two entries that were juried into the show.