Friday, August 31, 2012

Invited to a teabowl show

I got a call this week from Scott Roberts in the Animas Valley of Colorado, inviting me to be part of the "Three Cups" show in October. It's a show of teabowls (chawan and yunomi) and related Japanese teaware, at the Durango Arts Center in Durango.
The list of contributing potters is impressive, including Doug Casebeer, Alleghany Meadows, Sandy Simon, Robert Brady, Doug Fitch, Hannah McAndrew, John Neely, Brandon Phillips, Blair Meerfeld and more. Also, work by the late Japanese potter Tatsuzo Shimaoka. There will be close to 200 pots in all. I'm happy and grateful to have four of my pots included among the work of those terrific makers.
The show will be curated by Michael Thunder of the White Dragon Tearoom and Gallery. It runs October 8-28. Sounds like a great event there in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado. Wish we could be there, but it's great that the pots can be.
I'll attach photos of a few recent bowls of the type that will be sent to the show. Haven't made any final decisions yet on what will go to Colorado.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer dinner ... clams, tomatoes, grits

This post is to make up for the last one, a cranky reflection on the things browsers say and do at craft shows. Next up on the show circuit is Art in the Park on Sept. 8, a nice little show in City Square Park, in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. I'll be in a better mood then.
But while the big slab platters are drying and the bisque kiln is cooling, I wanted to post something about the summer local food bounty. My tomato plants have been producing well, in spite of the kind of neglect that results in a tomato plant jungle in the garden outside my window here. Hard to tell the difference between the tomatoes, the tomatillos, the cucumbers and the peppers. Still, rummaging in the greenery produces a daily supply of stunningly sweet Sungold cherry tomatoes and a number of other, larger varieties. We're not overflowing with tomatoes, but we've got plenty right now.
So many, in fact, that I roasted a panful of tomatoes yesterday. Tomatoes, olive oil, a little garlic, salt and pepper, then set the oven at 425 and give it about 30 minutes to do its work. Lovely stuff. Hard to believe the Sungolds could be better cooked than just off the plant, but it seems to be true. I combined them last night with garlic, fresh chopped jalapenos, local steamed corn cut off the ear and the olive oil from the roasting to make a very good salsa to serve with corn chips.
That was the appetizer last night when friends Mike and Tammy came over for dinner before seeing "Beasts of the Southern Wild." (Go see it, by the way. Great film.) We had all been clamming Sunday, so Tammy made a fresh tomato/clam sauce and brought it over. I cooked up a pot full of North Carolina grits and we had a nice clam 'n' grits meal, with her green beans added to the mix.
Warm summer night, good food and friends, good movie afterward. Not bad.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Reflections on a craft show

One week ago today, I was sitting in my booth at Chase Park in Chatham, sheltered in the corner of the tent from the bit of drizzle that came and went over the course of the second of three days of the Festival of the Arts there. This is a big show for Cape Cod, more than 100 people creating (and trying to sell) everything from copper garden fountains to first-rate watercolors and weavings to third-rate color photos of lighthouses.
The rain and clouds were a good thing. The day before had been hot and sunny and the weather drove people away from craft to the nearby beaches. Saturday was perfect - not a soaking downpour, simply an occasional passing shower from the clouds that never abandoned the elbow of Cape Cod. We craft show vendors love this kind of weather. It puts faces in front of the work, increasing the chance that there will be buyers among the hundreds of umbrellaed strollers and browsers.
And there were, indeed, buyers. Saturday was a good day, far better than the depression-inducing sunny Friday that preceded it. Pots didn't exactly fly off the shelves, but I sold several. Sales are good for the mood of this particular seller. I'm very cynical about these shows, lugging boxes of pots, tables, tent, tablecloths, chair, shelves, etc. early in the morning to the other end of the Cape. Dragging it from my truck to the designated spot in the park, doing all the necessary things to set up the tent, arrange the tables, unwrap a couple of hundred pots, arrange them on the tables and shelves, and so on. Not my favorite thing. All the time smiling and saying "Good morning" to people who sometimes seem not to notice that there's a human standing behind the table, ready to help them.
Still, I sold some pots. One woman who has bought from me in Chatham for three or four years came by and bought more pots, as did the friend who came with her. I love people like that. They know what they like and they carefully choose what they're going to take home with them. And if they don't buy, it's fine. I honestly don't mind if someone looks carefully at the work on offer and decides nothing there quite speaks to them. I want people to connect with my pots, and that's not always an easy thing to do. Susan, the woman who has bought from me before, is now doing mosaics from broken pots and the next day I brought her a box of (deservedly) destroyed pottery for her work next winter.
And then there was the woman, a pottery student in a local program, who came into the booth, looked a long time at the newly fired big Shino teabowls and said, looking thoughtful, "Are you a fan of Ken Matsuzaki?"
It took me a moment to understand what she meant. Then I got it. "Ummm ... I know his work. He's a terrific potter. I don't try to make his pots, though." (Why should I have to respond rationally and pleasantly to this kind of comment?)
She looked at my work, which apparently had something she remembered seeing in Matsuzaki's, and she figured that this guy must be trying to imitate the Japanese master. With that little bit of information, she'd decided she was going to share an "Aha!" moment with me and let me know she was in on our little secret. 
I hate that. Really. Things like that piss me off for days.
At what point in a pot-making career (or a watercolor career, or woodworking or printmaking or photography or short story writing or anything creative ... ) have you synthesized all your teachers and your other influences and are simply making your own work? Take a look at the bio on the blog. I acknowledge some of my influences there - Kanzaki, Rogers, Nakazato, Finnegan, Hamada. We all take from the people who came before us and, if we are thinking and creative makers, our own work grows from what we've learned.
That was part of what generated my reaction to the commenting woman. The Shino teabowls - big, heavy, rough and deep with layered glazes, largely unlikely to be used for tea - that had just come out of the kiln a few days before were some of the best pots I've made. I know that, but there's no reason for anyone else to know. Or care.

Only four more craft shows before Christmas.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two very different styles of pottery ...

I wanted to fire this week to get more inventory for the three-day Chatham Creative Arts Center show down at the elbow of the Cape. And Kim Medeiros of The Barn Pottery in Pocasset had some pots she wanted to get in, so we shared space in the gas kiln yesterday.
Two more different styles of pot would be hard to find in one firing.
I often kid Kim that she makes "girly pots" - non-Shino non-Temmoku colors (Wow! Color!) and slips and drawings of women. She takes it well. But she does in fact make lovely pots that work very well with what for me would be scary reds and blues. It taxes my color-avoidance attitude to sneak in a splash of copper red or Oribe onto a layered Shino. I do it, but it's frightening.
So, while my Shinos and ash glazes were layered randomly on top of each other - occasional glaze spitting out onto the shelf, ash glaze running off the pot, darkness vying with darkness on extremely rough faceted teabowls - Kim's blues and reds were starting to sparkle on the back shelf. The glazes may say something about my occasionally dark disposition and her own indomitable sunny nature.
In any case, I think we're both happy with the firing. Amazing that pots so different from each other can work well together at Cone 10.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer goes on ... and on ... and ...

I'm in the midst of a steady progression of art and craft shows. Two last week - somnolent Eastham and friendly local Cataumet - then next week I'll be at the Creative Arts Center's big three-day show in Chatham. The craftspeople who have been doing this sort of thing for more than 20 years will tell you, "Yeah, Chatham used to be reeeaalllll good." Money made hand over fist, apparently.
 Not so much any more, though it's still a good show. It's three days (plus one, if I set up Thursday) of driving an hour or more down-Cape and back every day, and with luck coming home with many fewer pots than I take with me. 
I love making and firing pots. I hate retailing them. I am not a naturally sunny-dispositioned kind of guy. So three days of smiling and saying "Good morning" to people who walk into my tent out of aimless curiosity wears me out. And that's just in the morning. Saying "Good afternoon" always sounds to me like too many syllables. So after noon I go with "Hello," which seems inoffensive, attention-getting and - if I smile - relatively friendly. About a third of the time, people react as if I haven't spoken at all. Which is to say they don't react at all. I sometimes have to check my volume level and turn it up to 11.
Can you tell that I get cranky as I get closer to a show? Guilty. I do indeed. And before you ask, I do the shows in spite of my antipathy toward them because it gets the pots out there in front of people and brings in more money than if I waited here in the Falmouth countryside for visitors to show up. They usually don't.
All of this is to set up the photos of the glazing that's going on now in the studio. I'm trying to squeeze in one more firing next week so that I can have new pots for Chatham. Also, a lovely big teabowl came out of the last firing - layered in Shino and ash glazes - and I wanted to make a few more of those. And some brushworked Nuka cups. See, I love making these things. 
Here are some photos, including the top one, a detail of a fired big jar with overlapped Shinos and ash glazes. The middle two pots have just been glazed. The fish at the bottom was a dry run before attacking pots.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Second show this weekend, in Cataumet

It's been a busy week. Wednesday, set up the tent at Windmill Green in Eastham (on the Outer Cape, about an hour east of here), then leave the pots in boxes and come back early Thursday to set up the display, stay all day Thursday in a very hot sun and few buyers, then drive home and come back Friday to hotter sun and the same situation. Then pack the whole thing up in the truck and drive home.
I'm still tired from that one. And there's another show tomorrow, this time in nearby Cataumet at the art center there. It's always a nice little local show and usually a moneymaker, too. And I like the people who run it. My potter friend Kim Medeiros will be there, as I think my glassblower friend Bryan Randa will, also. And the weather is supposed to be good. Last year we were up to our ankles in water on a very rainy Sunday. Should be better this time.
I thought I'd show you what a more or less empty craft fair looks like on a sunny beach day on Cape Cod. Hence the photos. Windmill Green is a lovely little spot, with a great old windmill. Very few people this past week, though.
My favorite photo is at the bottom, a nice glimpse of the colors of summer on Cape Cod. She was waiting for her family, which came in the car behind her, with four kayaks.