Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Off to Seattle and NCECA

We're hoping we'll find Seattle in the grip of spring when we get there late Thursday. Doubt it, though. It's been in the 70s here on Cape Cod the past couple of days, but Seattle hangs in with 40s and cold. We'll survive.
Visiting our son Marcus and his wife Anastasia there in that great city on the coast. And I'll head to NCECA for three days of looking at and talking about clay. Looking forward to it.
Any bloggers or blog-readers who are going to be there, look me up.
Meantime, Alex will be equipping her dragon with its last two feet and then hoping it will dry slowly and evenly over the next couple of weeks.
Photos: A previous spring in Seattle's arboretum; our two young folks who have now been married ... ummm ... almost seven years?; and intern Alex's growing dragon, now sporting front legs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Round Three: Kline and Philbeck on Cape Cod

Back by popular demand ... well, two of you asked to see more photos ... I'm going to post another five photos of Ron Philbeck and Michael Kline at work at Barnstable High School this weekend, in their two-day workshop for the Cape Cod Potters. Not much narration is necessary, so here we go ...
Photos: Top, Ron is about to finish off a "knobenall" jar, with potter Frances Johnson, department head in this high school studio, watching; Michael taking the torch to a jug, hastening the drying process; Ron pulling a mug handle; Michael talking about his pots with a workshop participant; an aerial view of Ron demonstrating his sgraffito technique.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Genuine handcraft ... Kline and Philbeck

I have always been one to notice hands. I have no idea why. But I could pick out my son, my grandmother, my friend Jim Beckman from elementary school, my friend and pottery teacher Dan Finnegan ... hundreds of people, I think, just by seeing their hands. So when I shoot photos of people at work, somewhere in amongst all the images you will find hands. More so with potters or woodworkers or musicians, all of whom do their work with their hands.
Because Ron Philbeck and Michael Kline transmit the work of their brain to the clay through their hands, they made great subjects for photographs. Michael with big, strong hands and one missing forefinger digit on his right hand. Ron with more slender but no less strong hands from his years of throwing pots. Centering, throwing, pulling up, pulling out, picking off the wheelhead, trimming feet, adding handles, brushing on slip or cutting through it. It all requires hands.
So, here are four images of the two men at work on Sunday at the workshop they presented at Barnstable High School on Cape Cod. Extremely talented and well-spoken men, quick with stories about their lives and jibes at each other, well worth scheduling if you're looking for a traveling roadshow of two very different but equally talented potters. And there is one image here of the hands of Falmouth potter Sarah Caruso, trying her own hand at Ron's sgraffito style.
If you want more photos of them throwing or trimming, let me know and I'll post them.
Photos: Michael Kline showing newly attached handles; Ron Philbeck rabbiting up a yunomi; Michael demonstrating slip-dipping style; Ron knobbing a lid (note the turtle on the splash pan); Sarah Caruso working on a spider tile.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Big pots, small pots, medium pots ...

Two of North Carolina's finest and most congenial potters came to Cape Cod this weekend, throwing pots and trading stories at the big pottery studio at Barnstable High School in Hyannis. Ron Philbeck and Michael Kline came this way from a gig a few days ago at LibertyTown Arts Worshop, Dan Finnegan's art empire headquarters in Fredericksburg, Va. They did a few hours in F-burg, but we get them for the whole weekend.
It's after midnight here. We had a bit of a potluck party at Gail Turner's after the workshop and I staggered in here just a short while ago. I don't have a great deal of energy right now for writing, so this will be short. Many pots thrown today. They'll get their slipping and decorating Sunday. Also, a lot of people went home with Kline and Philbeck pots. Pretty cool.
Photos: Top, ribbing on a big one, by Michael Kline; Ron Philbeck's concentration on a small jug; both potters at work in front of the workshop folks; potters Kim Medeiros of Pocasset and Peg Andre of Wellfleet, checking out Philbeck's work; a fine selection by Kline.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

There's hand-crafted and then "hand crafted" ...

We expect to see hand-crafting of the genuine kind this weekend at Barnstable High School in Hyannis, when Michael Kline and Ron Philbeck bring their traveling pot-making road show to Cape Cod.
Michael and Ron, both of North Carolina, were in Fredericksburg, Va., last weekend for a workshop and will show up here Saturday to team up on pots and decorating. Word is that people are still calling to get into the workshop. For information and details, go to
The workshop is sponsored by the Cape Cod Potters, the same group that helped bring Hannah McAndrew and Doug Fitch here from the UK last spring. We're expecting the same high quality of work, though that means the two North Carolinians will have to meet some high standards.
Photos: Top, a wonderful Michael Kline jug from the Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield, Ma.; one of Ron Philbeck's great sgraffitoed platters; and at bottom, something I saw the other day at WalMart which just pissed me off. Apparently the marketing people at WalMart think calling factory-made work "hand made" adds value to a $3.58 mug. "Special glazing technique makes every piece unique." Right ...
Anyway, nothing like that this weekend with Kline and Philbeck.

Lotsa bowls in this one ...

I fired yesterday, with 50 small teabowls for Lois Hirshberg's tea ceremony show at the Cotuit Arts Center, and another 25 or so soup bowls for the Cape Cod Potters' Soup Bowls for Hunger event next month. Plus a few tests of glazes on intern Alex Urbina's stuff and some other things.
There were a lot of pots in there, but the firing went off as it usually does, steady climbs and reduction at the right time.
The result was a group of pretty good pots, most made with the rough clay I use that combines Miller 750 with crushed granite and iron sand. We're off to Seattle later this month to see our son and daughter-in-law and for me to go to NCECA. So I wanted to clear out these obligations before going back on the road.
Still building inventory for the summer, also.
This weekend is the Michael Kline/Ron Philbeck workshop at Barnstable High School in Hyannis. I'll be joining a lot of my friends there, including the two visiting North Carolina potters, who have been blogging friends for some time. But I've never met either of them, though I've admired their pots. I'm looking forward to the weekend.
Photos: Cups for the tea ceremony show; a lovely little cup of poured Shinos; Nuka jar and Shino jar; cracked shallow Shino bowl; another shallow Shino bowl with a bit of poured Nuka.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Here be dragons ...

Glazing for the next firing was postponed Sunday morning when intern Alex Urbina arrived to continue work on her dragon. This complex and mythical animal is patterned roughly on Chinese ceremonial dragons. Right down to the scales, teeth and whiskers. Assuming it survives the drying, bisque firing and glaze firing, it should be one of the coolest things in the intern/mentor show at the Cape Museum of Art in May. Alex intends to glaze it in Shino of one type or another. We're looking at a carbon-trap dragon here, I think.
Alex is a hard worker and arrives at the studio when she says she will. She's had to learn to center clay on the wheel, throw decent cylinders and use the slab roller (scales for the dragon) to complete this project. Right now, the dragon is being built on a full Skutt kiln shelf, so that once it's dry it can be lowered into the bisque kiln. Both of us are keeping fingers crossed on the whole project.
I'll go back to glazing later this afternoon.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Loading again, firing soon ...

I've tried not to waste the winter this year, firing the kiln I think three times since Christmas. Maybe four ... I'll have to look at the journal. My shed gallery is a mess, filled with more pots than can possibly be displayed well. Pots all over the place. And some of the pots from the last firing are still in the studio, getting in my way and in Alex's way. They'll have to go in the next day or so.
I'm giving the wheel a rest for a short time, now that I have more than enough bisqued pots for a kiln load. This will be a cup- and bowl-heavy firing. There will be 50 small teacups in there for Lois Hirshberg's tea ceremony show this spring at the Cotuit Arts Center, not far from here. And some more conventional (for me) teabowls, some of which might also be for that show. Also, there should be 20 or 30 regulation soup bowls for the Soup Bowls for Hunger event in April, sponsored by Cape Cod Potters. When I fire every couple of weeks, each firing is a little heavy on one form or another. Mugs one time, teabowls the next, brush jars another time. Most of the pots in this firing will be brown clay with iron sand and crushed granite wedged in. Rough pots, but they work well with the Shino glazes I use. We'll see. This has been a "rough" winter in terms of the clay I'm using.
Alex, by the way, is finished throwing for a week or so. She spent the time we were away throwing cylinders that she's joined up as the body of a dragon. The head should be coming in today to be attached to the body. She's been carefully keeping the body damp and flexible, to better attach the head and legs and to form the scales. For those of you who don't know, Alex is an 11th grade art student at Falmouth High School and a very hard worker. She hasn't needed help centering her clay and throwing her cylinders for a couple of weeks, which is pretty good, considering she had virtually no wheel experience. I wish I had learned the basics that quickly.
All for now. Gotta get the dry-stacking done, so I know what I've got out there.
Photos: Top, wheel cleaned up ... sort of; teabowls and small jars on the bottom shelf; small cups, thrown off the hump; Soup Bowls for Hunger soup bowls.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

OK, I got a rest ...

Nothing like four or five hours in a beach chair, peering out between the leaves of an unnamed and shady piece of tropical undergrowth, beer, book and lapping waves nearby, to give you a rest. I should say, a week or so of those days. It certainly did that to me.
You people sick of winter, get up now and book a ticket to Vieques, a small island portion of Puerto Rico. Find a house to rent, go down the rugged roads to any of what appear to be a dozen or more wonderful and lightly-used beaches, and leave the winter to your neighbors back home.
I spent a fair amount of time under that foliage, thinking of making pots, glazing pots, firing pots. As I explained to Mike and Tammy, our traveling companions, thinking intently about something you love to do is not the same as being plagued by work left behind. It's time to contemplate that most of us never get.
We shared a house that our friends have rented for five winters, Mike was admirably dependable in his morning preparation of the coffee he roasted and brought with us, we spent the first hour or so every day waking with a cup in one hand to a view over a local valley apparently populated by roosters, dogs and people, in that order. And the occasional iguana. The ocean and the island of Culebra were there in the distance.
I won't do the whole travelogue. This is a pottery blog, after all.
I'll post some photos. If you want details about the drinks and fried fish at Al's Mar Azul Bar, just let me know. Or the conch arepas at the open-air bar down the hill from our house.
The photos: A chameleon-like lizard, peering out of an old cannon at the Vieques museum; the perfect island moment, Tammy with fresh mango and blue water; Dee and me at Al's; Tammy, Dee and Mike with two pot-destined langouste (spiny lobster) bought from a fisherman in Esperanza; sunset from the deck of Al's Mar Azul in Isabela Segunda.