Monday, May 28, 2012

Back to the pots and the blog

We were off in Maryland last week for the wedding of the younger daughter of my college roommate. The little town where the wedding took place, Havre de Grace, sits on the Upper Chesapeake Bay, a very short distance from the point where the Susquehanna River enters the bay. A pretty little town. Lots of water and boats and Swan Harbor Farm, the spectacular bay-side site of the wedding.
We had dinner with old friends and I had the biggest crabcake I've ever eaten. A highlight of the trip. As was the Nathan's chile dog with chopped onions that I had at a rest stop on the northbound Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. And I'm not kidding about that. A great hot dog.
We also spent time in Mystic and Groton Long Point, Connecticut, where Dee used to visit her grandparents in the summer many years ago. We even found their old house, looking well kept-up and little changed from 1955. And we stopped in Rhode Island and visited old friend Flossy Madison, who is 93 years old and thinks and moves like a 65-year-old.

Back home now, making pots for a firing that will probably happen next week. More inventory for the summer. We sold a few pots over Memorial Day weekend. A few, but it's a sign that the summer's coming. As are the clams we dug in Monument Beach this past weekend. And the flowers blooming in Dee's gardens around the property.
Gotta get the hammock up ...

Monday, May 14, 2012

One more thing on this last firing

A couple of weeks ago I saw a small hanging vase on a Japanese blog. Just a little thing, good for one or two blossoms, placed in a quiet out-of-the-way place, a small and sweet visual surprise. I had a little ball of clay left from a throwing session, so I coned up the ball, cut the facets, opened the pot and gave it a bit of a rim above the facets. Once it dried a bit, I cut a pair of holes for the hanging wire. I glazed it, like almost everything else, in Nuka and fired it.
This morning I found a piece of copper wire and three of Dee's spring flowers and hung it next to my studio door. Now, I have to remember to keep replacing the flowers ...
This afternoon, I had literally a pound of clay left in the studio (I'm picking up more tomorrow), so I threw a couple more of the little hanging vases.
Center, the top cone pack, with cone 11 just about where it ought to be.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

All Nuka, all the time

I did something Friday that I’d never done before. I fired a kilnload of about 100 pots which were about 95 percent glazed in a single glaze. In this case, the Nuka recipe that I’ve used in the past few firings. 
Those who have looked at this blog off and on over the past few years know that I usually use at least a couple of Shino glazes, a bit of copper red, a temmoku, a basic ash celadon, one or two more. 
My best pots over the past couple of years have been fairly rich in glaze detail, but also pretty dark. And I wondered, in fact, whether my preference for darker pots were beginning to reflect some kind of personal darkness. Or maybe it was just that those glazes were working. 
In any case, my first experience late last winter with a new Nuka ash glaze recipe (wood ash, though, not the traditional rice hull ash) changed my outlook a bit. At least for a time. I loved the milky blue-white pooling of the thin glaze and the translucency when it’s thicker. This particular recipe came from D. Michael Coffee of Pagosa Springs, Colo., in a post online, and it worked equally well - though with slight differences - on my brown Miller 750 stoneware and my white B-Mix. 
So, with nothing left in the studio but about five pounds of brown clay and 100 pounds of white, I thought I’d use it up and glaze virtually everything in Nuka. Which I more or less did. The glaze is dependable, doesn’t run at high temps like some ash glazes, dries quickly after dipping, breaks over stamping and cutting, and - I discovered - is great over black slip brushwork. 
There’s no doubt more to discover about it. But I need to get more clay ...

I should say that I had unloading help Saturday morning from my friends Brenda Horrigan and Jin Ji. Brenda is an old hand at this thing. Jin was new at it and very excited. She may, though, think that this particular potter never fires anything but white pots.

Here are some photos for you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dragon's debut

The dragon that grew in my studio and lived there for several weeks is now on display at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, along with the work of other students and their mentors in the program run through the museum by Linda Kemp. Linda matches up professional artists with high school students for eight weeks of work together. The show that formally opened last night (to a huge crowd of admiring friends and relatives, as always) is the culmination of those months of work together. Alex Urbina, my intern the dragon-maker, was there with her mom.
It's good to have the responsibility for the mythical sculpture out of my hands. It survived bisque- and glaze-firing more or less intact, only to fracture once it was delivered to the museum. (Not the museum's fault, by the way.) Careful gluing by yours truly restored the animal enough that most people last night had no idea that it wasn't perfect. Intact or not, it was a great effort by Alex, who worked tirelessly to complete the dragon, beginning to end.
She is going on to an All-State art program, recognized as a talented Massachusetts kid, and she will work soon with others at the Worcester Center for the Arts. Alex wore her prom outfit to the opening, which was pretty cool. For those of you who want to see it, sorry. I didn't photograph her, only the dragon. My bad.
I'm firing this morning. This load of pots is almost entirely glazed in Nuka or some combination of Nuka and a couple of other glazes. It's an experiment. As always ... we'll see.
The photos: Top, the dragon, guarding Alex's copper red vase of flowers; two visitors contemplating Alex's work; mentor Steve Kemp's magnificent wood-fired covered jar, my somewhat overshadowed Shino jar, the work of one of Steve's students.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A busy weekend of pots

This was as packed a weekend as I hope to have.
Saturday morning I drove to the Lexington Arts and Crafts Society, beyond Boston, for a day-long throwing workshop with Doug Casebeer, director of the clay program at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, Colo. I was in a workshop at the Ranch about 15 years ago with Doug and Takashi Nakazato, two weeks that helped push me toward full-time potmaking. (Doug was the juror for this year's State of Clay statewide show at the LACS gallery, organized by Joan Carcia and Alice Abrams.)
Doug is comfortable talking in front of a crowd about the way he works and his philosophy. And he makes wonderful, relaxed pots. Both his pots and his sculpture make reference to his upbringing in the agricultural and more or less flat American Midwest.
That was Saturday during the day. I left the workshop a bit early to get back to the Cape in time for us to go to the opening of "Harmony and Balance: The Art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony" at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. The show, a mix of pots, metalwork, prints and paintings, was organized by our friend Lois Hirshberg, a raku potter who lives near here. I have several pots in that show and it looks great. Sunday, there were two sessions of the tea ceremony, which I missed because ...
That day we went back up north, Dee to a massage meeting in Newton and me back to the official opening of State of Clay. I walked into the opening and show organizer (and fine potter) Joan Carcia grabbed me and steered me to my four shallow pasta bowls, which now had a Juror's Award notice posted on them. It's enough to have a couple of pots juried into the show, but a special award (and a check) is pretty cool. Doug had good things to say about the bowls and about all the other winning pieces during his gallery talk.
This morning, I packed my truck with lights and tripods and graduated background and went off to our monthly Clay Club meeting to show people how I photograph my pots. We have a show coming up in the fall, with the jurying deadline in about a week, and some people barely knew which end of the camera to hold. So a few of the regulars got to shoot their pots on the spot and the others took lots of notes.
Now I have to mow the lawn. Then, tomorrow, I start glazing for firing later in the week.

Photos: Top, Doug at the wheel; the bowls that won the Juror's Prize; contemplating Ben Ryterband's "La Tendre Difference du Monde"; Susan Varga's magnificent "From Venice to Istanbul"; and my small, quiet squared bottle with poured Shinos amid some colorful work including, at right below, Frances Johnson's woodfired vessel, at far left Sarah Caruso's "Red Octopus Charger" and, above and to the right of my bottle, Alice Abrams' "Club Sandwich."