Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kiln-opening in Putney, Vermont

Dee and I are headed off-Cape (aka "Over the Bridge" in local parlance) to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston tomorrow and then to Putney, Vermont, for a kiln-opening.
My college classmate John Hull, a fine potter in Connecticut, has been helping out in the firing of Josh Gold's wood kiln in Putney over the past few days. They open Tuesday morning and we thought it would be a good time to get away, celebrate Dee's birthday (Oct. 2) and see some brand new pots.
We'll stop in the fine little Vermont city of Brattleboro, visit Dee's cousin Susan, maybe browse a good used bookstore, then come home.
Meanwhile, I'll attach a couple of photos of pots by John Hull and Josh Gold. John's is the top photo, Josh's the bottom one. Both fired in the Putney kiln.

Friday, September 28, 2012

New pots from Thursday's firing

It's always startling for me to see Kim Medeiros's pots in my kiln, next to the rough, cut teabowls I've been making the past several months. Kim, who owns The Barn Pottery in Pocasset, spends a lot of time on slip-trailing, sgraffito and very particular glazing of her pots. It shows in her work's color and precision, whereas I dip and pour and spatter on my pots. And she loves those jewel colors, which are so not carbon-trap Shino and ash. So when I open the kiln after firing, as I did this morning, there's always a contrast between her work and mine, as you can see in the top photos. I love that.
She was happy with her pots this morning, and I was happy with most of mine. I've still got problems to work out. More about that in another post, I guess.
Meanwhile, another dozen or so big teabowls came out of this firing, layered in Shinos, ash celadon, copper red and Oribe. The faceting of the pots early in the throwing process, then the pushing out of the bowl shape torques the walls, thins them, sometimes breaks them mid-wall or at the rim. I patch these pots and get on with it. They're going to remain rough and imprecise right through the glaze firing, so I'm not concerned with symmetry or exactitude. Good thing.
There were also, as you can see, some simple squared vases with added lugs, glazed more or less as I glaze the teabowls.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Glaze over glaze over glaze ...

For the past year or so, I've been doing more layering of glazes, particularly on teabowls and vases, mostly over a base glaze of Shino. Sometimes it's another Shino or two, sometimes Oribe or copper red or ash celadon. When they work, they give a surface that is made up of several surfaces. And faceting the clay on the wheel, most often using a twisted wire, shows a base reality that's sometimes there and sometimes not. If any of that makes sense ...
The resulting pots do not exactly fly off the shelves, but I've sold enough to think that there's a market for these pots. Somewhere ...
All of which is to say I finished loading the kiln this afternoon, loading the last two shelves in front. The top cone shelf has a half-dozen very rough and large teabowls, most in a base Shino with multiple layers. We'll see how it goes.
I shot a few photos of a couple of the pots as bisqueware and then with dipped and poured glazes. The lumpy bowls have granite inclusions. I fire tomorrow. I'll get some finished pots on the blog perhaps Friday, after the kiln is opened. At the bottom, a teabowl glazed this way from a few firings ago.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Moving into autumn

Just a short post today, while I take a break from cleaning up the studio and getting ready to mix glazes for next week's firing.
We're going to have a couple of cedars taken down next to the house, but when they come down they'll fall onto the vegetable garden. Or what's left of it. So I picked the last of the peppers this afternoon. Jalapenos, Anchos and a lifetime supply of Habaneros. (A "lifetime supply" of Habaneros is roughly 10 peppers.)
The garden is a tangle of dead tomato, cucumber, pepper and tomatillo vines. The last tomatoes came in a few days ago; there haven't been cucumbers for weeks and the tomatillos would fully ripen some time around Thanksgiving, if I let them. Today's skies have been gray and threatening and the wind is cool. It's wool shirt or fleece weather here now. I mowed the yard yesterday, after letting the broken lawn mower influence my yard maintenance. We should have brought in a herd of goats.
I whined in my last post about the craft show circuit, and I think rightly so. However, I got back from Harwich last week to find a handful of dry trimmings on the wheelhead, holding down a nice little pile of U.S. currency. Sometimes I just love the people who buy my pots.

Later ...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Killing time ... waiting for buyers

The Cranberry Festival arts fair in Harwich last weekend was full of strollers and lookers ... tons of them. Very few buyers of pottery, though. Or, I should say, of my pottery. Enough about that, except that this craft fair business is wearing on me ... there's gotta be a better way to sell a pot.
So while the crowds flowed by in the early Sunday morning sunshine, I took a look at my pots and decided to photograph the brilliantly lighted glaze patterns.

The glazes I use - overlapping Shinos, Kaki, Temmoku, Nuka, ash celadon, copper red, Oribe, a few glass flows - often react with each other like the surface geology of an alien planet or Earth's occasionally rain-soaked desert or a Yellowstone hot spring. But you have to look closely to see that effect. Most people probably won't see it in a stroll past my tent, and even people who like my pots probably won't get close enough to see the glaze landscape.
With my two Nikons, their close-focusing lenses and the straight-on September sunshine, you should be able to see in these photos what I'm talking about.
The photos: Oribe over Shino on a teabowl, ash celadon over Shino on faceted teabowl, copper red and blue ash over Shino on plate, ash celadon on small shallow bowl, finger wipes through Shino on shallow bowl, Nuka overlapping Temmoku on large vase, blue glass run through Temmoku on large vase.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A sweet moment in Harwich

I just finished two looooonnggg days of watching herds of humans walk past my tent at the Harwich Cranberry Festival. More whining about that tomorrow, but I wanted to do one post with just this photo. Mid-day Sunday, the Festival parade went rolling past Brooks Park, with veterans and Scouts and costumes and fire trucks and - I'm pretty sure - a cannon of some sort. Which kept going off.
Afterward, the local Cub Scout wagon parked on the lot behind me and parents and kids took advantage of the hot dog concession there.

I wanted to get a photo of one of the Cubs, since my friend Hannah McAndrew is a dedicated Cub den mother in Scotland and I wanted her to see the US version. So when the heart-covered little girl and the Cub sat together on the fence rail, I shot them from the back. Which was fairly cute. It wasn't until I downloaded the photo last night that I saw the little girl's fingers splayed out gently across the Cub's little hand. Very sweet.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Visiting Kim Medeiros in Pocasset

The Cape Cod Potters have a show coming up next month at the Cape Cod Museum of Art and I got the assignment to shoot some photos of working potters for the walls of the room we'll be in. So today I drove over to Pocasset - about 20 minutes from our place - to shoot photos of my friend Kim Medeiros.
Kim's business is The Barn Pottery. She's just off a "major" intersection in downtown Pocasset. (I put quotes around "major" because in that part of Cape Cod some pretty small business districts qualify for that adjective. Pocasset is one of them.) UK potters Hannah McAndrew and Doug Fitch will remember her place; that's where we went to borrow the torch for Doug's flaming pot-making last year.
Kim put on a good pot-throwing and decorating show for the camera, and served fresh coffee and banana bread in addition. Not a bad way to spend an hour away from the studio.
I thought I'd post a few photos of Kim at work in her highly decorative studio.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mid-morning on the water, raking the bottom

I set two wareboards of big teabowls in the sun this morning to dry. Then I loaded my kayak, paddle and clam rake onto the pickup and headed to Monument Beach. I know I said some months ago that I would post no more clamming pictures. Well ...
Sept. 12 was a brilliant, cool, blue sky kind of day, with temperatures in the high 40s early and in the 60s when Tammy, Mike and I got our boats into the water about 10:30 and began paddling to the other side of the small bay, to the muddy clam flats that adjoin Tobey Island.
I've written before that these days in September and October are some of the best here on this thin arm of land at the edge of the Atlantic. The summer folk have mostly gone home, there are few weekday tourists and the weather continues - barring hurricanes - to be what you see in the photos here. The blessing of being a self-employed potter is that I can ask the boss for a couple of hours off to take the kayak out to the flats on a pretty September morning.

And that's what I did today. 
And the pots did a good job of drying themselves. More coming this afternoon and tomorrow.
Photos: Mike and Tammy at work on the water.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Morning coffee and big, funky teabowls

Some of you readers know I spend most early mornings at one of the local coffee shops in downtown Falmouth. Some of you have even been there with me. Coffee Obsession in Falmouth is a hub of the town, attracting a range of people - those who want a little quiet, uninterrupted coffee-and-newspaper-reading time (that would be me), people who dash in for a cup of coffee to go, people who want to talk international politics at an hour when most people are barely awake, people who have just gotten off the ferry from Martha's Vineyard and need coffee for the ride to Boston, people who have laptops and notebooks and PhD theses to write.
I'm there most mornings about 6:30 and usually get through my Boston Globe sports section (the Patriots have started the NFL season, finally, so some of the bad Red Sox news has been swept from the section) and the Metro section before anyone else sits down to ... ummmm ... talk. Anyway, that's what I do most early mornings. My wife, Dee, usually comes in around 8:15 and more readily engages the other nice folks at the table in conversation.

Anyway, early in the morning, the photo at the top of this post is more or less what my tabletop looks like at the coffee shop - coffee and the sports section. After coffee, I'm off to do errands around downtown, then back to the studio. The second photo is of big, faceted teabowls with crushed granite inclusions, drying on a wareboard. I'll trim them tomorrow morning, before going clamming.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A day away from clay

We went to Sandwich today with some friends to watch David McDermott and our friend Bryan Randa work with glass. Bryan has been part of our holiday show here for a few years now, charming the customers and making money from his beautiful glass. He works at McDermott's studio in Sandwich and today was the studio's September open house.
(Bryan also had the tent next to me at yesterday's Art in the Park in Charlestown. Falmouth potter Sarah Caruso was nearby. It was a windy day of rapidly passing clouds, with lower attendance than years past, but still a good show in a pretty city park.)

I shot a few photos of Bryan at work with my iPhone. While we were there, Bryan was gathering molten glass for David and doing preliminary work for tall and elegant wine glasses.
Below: Bryan Randa at work on the glass, and then two finished vases from David McDermott's gallery.
Links to see more of their work are and

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New pots for Charlestown show Saturday

Every firing is an adventure. At least, every firing in MY kiln is an adventure. It's about the way I fire, the way I glaze pots, the glazes and glaze techniques I use, the kind of pots I sometimes make. I think, in fact, it's basically about my personality, which tends to plunge ahead with things on my own, whether I know exactly what's going to happen or not.
So there are mornings after a firing that feel wonderful, when the pots look more or less as I thought they would and sometimes even better. And there are mornings like today, when the first look inside is a disappointment, when it's clear a glaze combination hasn't worked, when one pot that felt good as it went in looks like a train wreck when it comes out. It's not until later, after ALL the pots are out of the kiln and inspected, that it becomes clear that it was not such a bad firing after all.
Yes, there's junk among the hundred or so pots, but it's a minority of junk. Most are just fine, even pretty good.
I think, and I'm not being falsely modest about this, that I just don't know enough about what I'm doing.
I am apparently still learning. And I'm one of those people who has a hard time asking people for advice; I'd rather stumble forward and hope that the path I'm on brings me to a good place.
Which it has with many of the pots in this firing. I wanted more teabowls for the Durango, Colo., show next month and there were several in this kiln. And several that could be part of the group I send next week. The teabowls I've been making and the way they've been glazed have resulted in some pots that look like they've been hammered carelessly from stone.
Jeff Adelberg and Tess Mattern, two young student potters from Boston, were here earlier in the week to look at pots and asked specifically about a patched and broken looking teabowl that was at the front of the bottom kiln shelf. These faceted teabowls are made in a hazardous manner, faceted and then expanded to within an inch of their lives, and sometimes beyond. One facet in that particular bowl gave way as I opened it and a flap of clay spread out from the side. Rather than cut it off the wheel and re-wedge it, I pushed the flap back onto the pot and patched it inside and out with a few of the flat pieces that came off as the bowl was faceted.
"I don't know," I told Jeff and Tess, speaking of that teabowl. "We'll see what happens in the firing."
Glazed in a couple of Shinos and an Oribe, the pot came out today. And I'm pretty happy with it.

I'll have many of these new pots with me at Art in the Park, in City Square Park in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, on Saturday. Come on by if you're in the area.
The photos: Top, Shino teabowl with Temmoku pour, and the aforementioned patched-together teabowl; second, a group of teabowls; ice cream bowls, with iron slip brushwork under McKenzie Shino.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

There will be new pots in Boston Saturday

Just finished loading the glaze kiln with teabowls, vases, many mugs, a few other odds and ends.
Somehow, I always think I need new pots for a show, in this case Art in the Park by the Artists Group of Charlestown, in Boston. Never mind that there are hundreds in the shed gallery and another hundred or more in the upstairs gallery. And I just packed up about seven clay boxes with "seconds" for the Cape Cod Potters' seconds sale next month ... and the shed hardly looks any different.
And I've been excited about big teabowls the past month or so, so there are several in this firing. Faceted and expanded and torqued, then glazed usually in a base Shino glaze with pours of Shino, ash and other glazes over that. You can see some in the photos. I wanted a wider choice in picking out four chawan or yunomi for the Durango show next month. There might be a good one in there somewhere.
There are also a couple of Kim Medeiros pots in there, as well as a few refires by one of her students. Kim's pots like my kiln for some reason.
Oh, and a woman was in the gallery Sunday and asked, "Are your prices fixed?" I paused, then said, "Well, they're glued to the side of each pot, if that's what you mean."
I hate that question. How do you all handle it?