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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wood Pots, Part Deux ...

I'm posting a few more good pots from the weekend's Truro woodfiring. And I urge any of you Facebook users to keep an eye on Kimberly Sheerin Medeiros's "The Barn Pottery" Facebook page over the next few days. She was here today and I photographed about 20 of her pots for her. Kim does a lot of sliptrailing and decoration on her pots and they took very well to the Castle Hill kiln. They're worth taking a look at.
Now, on to my pots. At top: Brian Taylor, ceramics director at Truro Center for the Arts and the guy who guides the firing, unloading; a fully-blasted vase, fired right in the firebox; a transparent celadon/Shino vase; very small faceted cup; a lovely little cup, traded away to Kim Medeiros for one of her tumblers. An even trade, I think.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gotta fire with wood more often ...

Cleaning up a few ash-encrusted pots this morning. Those pots closest to the fire got pretty hammered, which is what you expect. The top photo in this batch is a small cup you can see sitting serenely on the firebox floor an hour or two into the firing of the train kiln at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. In the end, it was overwhelmed by the growing bed of coals that built under the hobs. A very rough and blasted pot, but one of my favorites from this firing.
I fired this kiln with Brian Taylor, the Castle Hill ceramics guru, and friends Kim Medeiros, Gail Turner, Matt Kemp and a few other folks. Eight of us in all.
It was a good firing, though I've got about 15 pots that I will put into my own kiln for refiring. There were cool parts - the upper left rear had only cone 2 flat - and glazes did not mature back there. But I have no doubt that can be taken care of by firing in my gas kiln.
As it is, I've to a dozen or so pots that I'm in love with. Always dangerous, because that means I put ridiculously high prices on them so that I can live with them for a while. I'd like to get to the point that wood pots were not as precious to me as they are now. And I think that can only be done by firing regularly in my own wood kiln. I'm talking with a friend about that now. We'll see what happens.
Meanwhile, here are some pots from the firing. At the top is the firebox cup (the Japanese call those pots "yohen," I think.) And below that is the same pot in the firebox. Then a few more of the successful pots.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Unnamed no'theaster blowing through

Winds are blowing into hurricane force territory today, up close to 75 mph at times around Cape Cod. I've got work to do, but thought I'd photograph the wet front of the studio with my iPhone as I emerged from a windy morning trip for coffee at Coffee Obsession in Falmouth.
Onward into the day.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A stoking moment from last weeked

Kim Medeiros set fire to the first kindling this past weekend at the Castle Hill kiln at the Highlands Center in Truro. Pretty early, maybe about 7 that morning, I was coherent enough to turn on my video camera and use it a bit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Weekend in Zombieland ... firing the kiln

When the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill built its train kiln a few years ago, it sought out a place with open land and few neighbors. It found the old U.S. Air Force radar installation on the ocean side of Cape Cod, several miles from the main "campus" of Castle Hill. Once home to several hundred Air Force personnel charged with spotting incoming nuclear bombers, this is now a strange amalgam of slowly deteriorating, asbestos-ridden military buildings, a summer theater, a working radar installation (yes, still), a weather observation station, a parking lot for transit buses, scientific ventures, a train kiln ... and zombies.
Well, not the zombies, as far as we know, but the first thought of my visiting niece during this week's firing was, "Wow, this place looks like 'The Walking Dead.' "
It sits on what would otherwise be prime waterfront real estate. But it's owned by the U.S. Park Service and strictly regulated. The building of the train kiln by visiting potter Donovan Palmquist was very closely inspected. 
So, arriving is a little strange, but the kiln is beautifully crafted and kept clean, as is the kiln shed. Brian Taylor, a Westerner by birth, oversees the clay program at Castle Hill and he runs the loading and firing. Brian is even-tempered, does not panic at the slightest dip of the pyrometer, and works well with a crew of potter/stokers whose experience runs from a few months to more than 30 years.
It took several hours to finish glazing pots, wadding, loading and closing up the door on Saturday. Sunday morning at about 5:45, Kim Medeiros and I unlocked the gate (letting the zombies out to ravage Truro) and then Kim put the first match to paper and kindling.
We worked a six-hour shift, got the pyro to about 350F and then retired to naps and later dinner in Provincetown. (And a thank-you to Castle Hill, which let us share the school's apartment they keep for visiting faculty.) The rest of the crew took over for the next 24 hours and when we got back for our second shift at noon Monday, cone 12 was bending near the front and we were just a few hours from shutdown. Brian tried his fine-tuning of the front- and side-stoking routine to even out the kiln temperatures. It looked pretty good, so we'll find out how it went Saturday afternoon. The last wood went in about 4:15 Monday, after 34 hours of firing. We open Saturday morning at 9.

The photos: The spooky view from the kiln shed; Brian Taylor, left, and potter Matt Kemp load; Kim Medeiros puts her Bic lighter to good use, getting the firing going at dawn; camera in the firebox after a couple of hours of burning, my teabowl on the left, Kim's big bowl in the middle; cone 12 nearly over at the front, next to the neck of a Kim vase; Traci Noone side-stokes.