Kim Medeiros and I took to the highway yesterday, driving six hours of the Massachusetts Turnpike from the ocean to the Berkshires to bring back a half-ton of clay from Sheffield Pottery in the extreme southwestern part of the state.
Nice folks there at Sheffield, with big warehouses for mixing clay bodies and good, helpful people in the retail end. We also took Kim's recently collapsed kiln furniture for a diagnosis of the problem. The verdict - everyone was surprised they lasted 15 years of reduction firing. Kim found herself a whole new set of much beefier posts for her kiln.
On the way back, we stopped in Great Barrington for a sushi lunch at Bizen, a wonderful Japanese restaurant decorated with genuine anagama-fired pots. And then we stopped at Asia Barong, a stunning retail shop with a warehouse and grounds filled with Asian work, new and antique - Buddhas of all sorts and sizes, old Japanese doors, entire Indonesian stilt houses, kimonos, pots, tools, paintings, prints, carvings, jewelry - there appeared to be no end to what they bring back from Asia to the hills of western Massachusetts. Go to asiabarong.com for a tiny sampling. We were enthralled.
Now we're back in our studios, both anticipating a fun Saturday evening when "Facets of the Harbor" opens formally at Gallery 65 on William in New Bedford. Come see the show, please, finger food and wine June 8 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Here's an image from Asia Barong yesterday.
It will be interesting to see if two Cape Cod potters - Kimberly Sheerin Medeiros and myself - can draw fellow Cape Codders across the canal and down the highway to New Bedford this Saturday. Personally, I'm doubtful; it's difficult to draw Cape people off-Cape in the spring and summer. But there's always a chance.
Kim and I have been working together on pots for "Facets of the Harbor" at Gallery 65 on William for the past month - throwing, stamping, slip-trailing, trimming, glazing, firing ... and we think it will be a good show at this lovely cooperative gallery in downtown New Bedford. Our pots and John Robson's photographs should work well together in the old whaling city.
I have longtime links to New Bedford. My grandmother, Edna Jackson, was born there on January 1, 1900. My mother went to nursing school there. For much of my childhood on Martha's Vineyard, New Bedford was served by a ferry from the island and was the "big city" Islanders went to for department stores, dentists, doctors.
But the city has had some hard economic times in the past few decades, as the fishing industry suffered, and the downtown is not the magnet that it once was for shoppers. Still, it's rallied with the conversion of a big department store into the arts department of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. And the New Bedford Whaling Museum is a first-class attraction just a block or so from Gallery 65. New restaurants and galleries have been opening. The Zeiterion, an old theater downtown, books tours of national and international performers. It's become an interesting place, particularly as artists trained at the downtown school have decided to stay and work in New Bedford. And Kim and I are delighted to be asked to be part of it.
If you're on the Cape or in Southeastern Massachusetts, please come to the show and see what the artists are creating on the cobblestone streets of the old fishing port. The opening is this Saturday, June 8, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Here are two pots from the show: At top, a platter thrown by me and decorated by Kim; bottom, a vase from my wheel, altered, stamped and glazed by Kim.
My friend Kim Medeiros and I are stumped as to what caused the splintering of three of the posts in her kiln yesterday. So I thought I'd try some blogger crowd-sourcing.
Here are the facts: Kim has been firing to cone 10 with these posts in her Olympic updraft kiln for 15 years. Never a problem. (They were bought from Sheffield Pottery in western Mass. I've emailed Sheffield, but have had no response yet.) When she opened her kiln Thursday, one side of the stack was tilted ominously. Reaching the bottom layer, she found all three support posts tilted and splintered at the bottom, as you see in the photos.
It seems to us that if a prop was going to give way after 15 years it would happen one at a time. Or, perhaps, one in one part of the kiln and one in another. But all three on the same shelf strikes us both as a clue ... but a clue to what? We have no idea. Stacking was the same as usual, with heavier pots in the center of the stack, lighter ones to the outside.
It seemed an ordinary firing other than the collapsing posts. Any ideas? Let me know.
Kim Medeiros and I have been busy in our studios for the past month making work for our "Facets of the Harbor" show at Gallery 65 on William in New Bedford. The "Moby Dick"-era whaling port - and still vital deepsea fishing port - is climbing out of decades of a depressed local economy. But the old downtown is in good physical shape and shops and restaurants have been slowly returning, spurred in part by the conversion of a local department store into the art department of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. That's brought more art and artists to the downtown. It's exciting for both of us to be part of that.
Our pots for this show will reflect the long-ago whales and sailing ships, and the motorized ships of today and the fish they hunt. We should have more pictures tomorrow, since most of the pots are in my kiln and Kim's kiln as I write.
I'll post pots for the show tomorrow or Friday, after all of them are out of the kilns. Meanwhile, I'm still making my own pots, as Kim is making her own pots, and I've been happy with the work lately, particularly the Shinos and some of the overlapping glazes. Here are a few from the past couple of firings.
Photos: Serving bowl, Malcolm's Orange Trap Shino, with ash celadon pours; small vase with Trap Shino and ash celadon; bowl with Nuka over Temmoku; bowl with crawled Trap Shino; another bowl with crawled Trap Shino; small lobed vase with Trap Shino under an overcoat of ash celadon.
My friend Tracey Broome's most recent blog post (go to "A Potter's Life for Me" on the right side of this page) made me smile. Tracey's talented musician/filmmaker/artist daughter Wesley had one of my cups with her at school this year, a cup I sent her after one she acquired here on Cape Cod unexpectedly leaked. (I never expect them to leak ... ) Wes told her mother, "This cup was an important companion to me this past year."
That's the kind of sentiment that keeps a lot of us making pots. We're about to enter the craft fair season here on Cape Cod, a crazy and often maddeningly unrewarding way of marketing these pots that I love to make. I sell pots not because I love selling, but so that I can keep buying clay and making pots.
But I always hope to find a buyer like Wesley, who spends time finding the cup (or mug or pitcher or vase ... ) that speaks to her and then has a relationship with that pot in her life. They're out there, but they're a minority.
As I sit here, I've got a Michael Kline teabowl, just emptied of morning coffee, next to my keyboard. And I have many more by friends and acquaintances, pots that get me into the morning, through the day and sometimes through the evening. English potter Paul Jessop's big tankard, for example, often holds the water with lime that I drink in the evening. I have relationships with all those pots.
Wes's teabowl (behind the rabbit in the second photo) was made a few years ago and might be one of the stack of three shown in Linda Bloomfield's 2011 book "Colour in Glazes." In any case, it clearly was made about the same time as those three crawled Shino cups. I'm glad Wes and the cup know each other so well.
The top two of these photos were pirated from Tracey's blog. That's Wes in the first photo. The bottom photo is the one that appears in "Colour in Glazes."
About two weeks ago, Kim Medeiros (The Barn Pottery in Pocasset) and I were offered a show in nearby New Bedford at Gallery 65 on William. It's a lovely and big cooperative gallery in a former hardware store right in the old fishing city's downtown. And it's only two blocks from the wonderful New Bedford Whaling Museum.
The show of pots was to be paired with photographs of the old port by John Robson. Could we show perhaps 20 with a "port" theme, asked the gallery's Nicole St. Pierre? Of course, we said. We've been making pots together for the past six months. I can throw big pots, Kim is a great thrower and decorator. Of course we can do that.
The problem - the show opens June 8, pots are due June 3. I got right on the big shallow bowls, smaller dinner plate-size bowls and tall jars. Let them dry a bit, then got them in my truck over to Kim's studio in Pocasset. There, the painstaking detail work happened. Stamps were conceived. What do we need? Ospreys? Flounder? Cod? Haddock? Horseshoe crabs? Swordfish? What the hell does a haddock look like, anyway? Find pictures of fishing trawlers, sailing schooners from a century ago, the old city skyline, sperm whales, bowhead whales, right whales, whaling ships, old copies of Moby Dick with those stunning woodcuts by Rockwell Kent. Googled photos zipped between Hatchville and Pocasset.
Kim has sgraffitoed herself right to the limit. She's just about done now. I have three of the big bowls here in my studio for putting in the bisque kiln tomorrow. I brought them very carefully back here in my truck today.
All of this, and we still have to glaze and fire the big pots, along with smaller cups and bowls that will be in the show. Oh, and we have two big pots due in July for a show on estuaries at the Falmouth Center for the Arts and the Waquoit Bay National Estuarial Reserve.
Here are some photos of the work in progress, the top two with Kim at work.
Some months ago, a group of potters on the western end of Cape Cod decided that we ought to have our own brochure and map to guide those thousands of clay-lovers on this part of the Cape to our studios. After several meetings, planning, discussion, no arguments, brainstorming, etc., the brochure it out. And it's just what we were all hoping for.
A photo of each potter's work accompanies his or her listing, there's a good and usable map, as well as the QR code for the free arts app of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. (Go ahead and download it for your next trip to Cape Cod.) And it looks pretty cool, too. Many thanks to everyone involved, particularly Tessa Morgan of Flying Pig Pottery in Woods Hole, who hooked us up with graphic artist Mary Sellner Orr of Orr Studio, who designed the brochure.
I love seeing new pots come from a warm kiln. Pretty much any kiln, actually. But I really love seeing something like 2,000 pots come from Chris Gustin's three-chamber kiln in South Dartmouth, not far from here on the mainland.
Chris's large front anagama chamber and the two noborigama chambers behind it take about six days to fire to temperature. So it's a big crew that fires it just a few times a year. I've fired it, but not for some years. It's work, but there are great rewards.
And there is usually a crowd at the opening, given how many potters participate and given the chance for lovers of woodfired pottery to see new pots coming out. Kim Medeiros and I drove down this morning for a couple of hours to see the first pots.
Here are some photos: After the firebox door and grate are disassembled and the area swept, Chris gets in to inspect the pots in the front of the anagama chamber; the front stack, on the edge of the firebox; Steve Murphy, handing out pots; Arnie Zimmerman emerges with one of his sculptures; Chris's large jar from the front stack, in the adjacent field; Zimmerman with two of his sculptures; one of the back chambers before unloading; Chris's teabowls in his gallery.
For the past eight months or so I've been making these faceted bowls, cutting the coned clay and then opening up the cone into a bowl. The facets are torqued as I my hand pushes open the clay cone from the inside, the rims go wonky sometimes because of the uneven facets, sometimes the rims break and have to be patched. Ordinarily I wouldn't patch a standard bowl, but these faceted pieces are so misshapen that a patch just looks like one more accidental deformation.
And the bowls take the Shino glazes - and some others - very well. I often overlap two or three of my Shinos on them. And lately I've been adding pours of rutile, copper red, Temmoku, Nuka, even (gasp!) cobalt blue. Makes for lively bowls.
I've sold some of these over the past year, but the test will come in the next few months, as the customer base expands with the arrival of summer visitors to Cape Cod. We'll see.
Here are a few of the bowls from last week's firing. Top to bottom: Malcolm's orange trap Shino with ash celadon overlap; Kim's Genuine Rutile; rutile with Erin's Red; Orange Shino with cobalt, copper red and rutile pours; Orange Shino with cobalt, copper red and ash pours; crackled Orange Shino with rutile pour.
I drove home from the coffee shop this sunny morning past my favorite farm stand. It's a little wooden cart that shows up this time of year at the end of a driveway near Falmouth High School. A Chinese family lives in the house and the mother - raised in southern China - grows vegetables there throughout the spring and summer. I use her beautiful fresh parsley all summer long. This time of year, with snow only a few weeks in the past, she's picking parsley, lovely small leeks, rhubarb and garlic chives. Most of what she grows is priced to sell - $1 a bunch for most of it, $2 for a half-dozen leeks.
Two nights ago we had stir-fried cod with garlic, ginger and her chopped garlic chives. Tonight it's frittata with her leeks and Trader Joe's artichokes. I love this time of year.
In the studio, it's mugs and vases today. My friend Anne Halpin was here to watch me pull handles. Made a few faceted vases and some shallow teabowls after getting all the mugs handled. More tomorrow.
The next firing is probably a week away, with a bunch of mugs (and other pots) yet to be thrown in the next few days. Should have a group of the collaborative pots Kim Medeiros and I have been working on, as well as some tall jars from my own wheel.
Kim and I have worked in the past couple of weeks on estuary-related pots for a summer 2013 show at the Falmouth Art Center. We were invited to participate together by Suzy Bergmann, the center director. These pots - a wide, shallow platter and a tall jar - will reflect the flow of the water in our Cape estuaries and the life that lives in that flow. We're both pretty excited about both the work and the invitation.
The top photo is of the drying jars in my own studio; next one down is Kim with the estuary platter this morning, after she's finished the decoration. More detailed photos to follow, once these pieces are fired.
Not long ago, I visited a small one-man sawmill on the mainland, about 45 minutes from this part of Cape Cod. These small mills are scattered across the country in rural and semi-rural areas, usually a part-time job for someone whose father or grandfather once milled logs for a living. Old country professions can hang on that way for a long time, as long as descendants want to honor the tradition, enjoy the work and can make a dollar from it. This one is clearly that way.
I was there with a friend to pick up some dimensional lumber for lining a raised-bed garden, milled, I think, from old telephone poles. Good wood, perfect for the job, not too much money.
What I loved about the mill was the light that flooded in onto the machinery from the open bay where the logs sat before cutting. Open sky light, not direct sunlight. It turned the worn wood and saw blades silvery. Here are the photos I made there.
We'll get back to pottery in the next post.
This business of making pots can kick you in the ass sometimes. That happened to me this morning, when I realized that something blew up some time during yesterday's glaze firing. I knew it as soon as I opened the kiln door and began to look closely at the pots on the upper shelves. Teeny tiny shards of clay shrapnel embedded in the glaze at the bottom of small cups were the giveaway. Shit.
Looking around the burner ports on the bottom, I could see larger shards of Temmoku-glazed clay that didn't belong there. As firing partner Kim Medeiros and I worked our way down through the stack, I knew something bad was waiting at the bottom. There were ten mugs down there, among other pots, mugs in a color combination that two weeks ago became very popular due to a random Facebook photo I posted. I had several people from the UK to Maryland waiting for one or more of those mugs. They'll have to wait longer. When we got to the bottom shelf, it was clear that every last mug had been hit by a shower of small bits of clay when a small vase blew up. These things happen, though rarely in the glaze firing. Shit ... again.
OK, enough about that. There were good pots in the kiln, in addition to the shrapneled mugs. (Did you know the word "shrapnel" came from the British General Henry Shrapnel, who invented a kind of fragmenting artillery shell in the early 19th century? I didn't ... ) I've been making cut-sided pinched cups lately and there were many of them that survived the clay artillery. And there were many good bowls and pitchers and vases and a couple of terrific pots from the ongoing collaboration between Kim and me. I'll attach a few photos for you, though none will be of the ill-fated mugs.
Here you go. Top: One of our collaborative pots, thrown by me at Kim's studio and then altered and decorated by Kim; a mug, pither and cut-sided cup glazed in Temmoku and then dipped in Michael Coffee's Nuka glaze; a group of small vases; a dozen of the 30 small pinched cups that were in this firing.
It's been a bit more than a month since my last blog post. My friend Kim reminded me of that the other day. So ... for those of you who pay attention the hatchvillepottery.blogspot.com, I apologize for my absence. What has happened - and I know this infuriates some of my readers, some of my favorite reader friends - is Facebook.
Tessa Morgan, a potter in nearby Woods Hole, urged me several months ago to get Hatchville Pottery on Facebook. She had discovered that increasing numbers of visitors - virtual and bodily - were finding her on Facebook. The point, she said, if you expect to sell what you make, is to get the eyes to see the pots. Which, of course, makes perfect sense.
So I created a Facebook business page for Hatchville Pottery. And people began to see the pots. That doesn't mean they were buying, necessarily, but it does mean that many more people seemed to see the work that was coming off my wheel and out of my kiln. Those people are here on Cape Cod, they're in California, North Carolina, England, Spain, Scotland, France, Japan, Australia ... all over. I used to love that about the blog, but (and this may be partly my fault for less frequent posting or perhaps less interesting posts) fewer and fewer people have been commenting. And, except for a not-very-specific visit-counter, the comments are the only way I know people are seeing the blog.
Some months ago I posted a couple of photos and a bit of a story about the collaborative work Kim and I have been doing. It got a single comment, and even that was unrelated to the post.
On the other hand, I get Facebook "likes" sometimes before I'm even finished fully posting an entry. And I get regular comments from acquaintances, friends, potters far away, collectors, buyers. It is a wide community of makers and enthusiastic consumers. In some ways, it is what I liked about the blogging community three or four years ago, when Meredith Heywood (Whynot Pottery, NC) and I wrote about it for Studio Potter.
Yes, Facebook has privacy problems and other complications. I choose to ignore most of that for the benefit of the exposure, the access to other potters and buyers around the world, the ease of posting. I put up at least one photo each day, usually a recent pot, and I often link it to other potters whose work is also on Facebook. People see my pots, and it doesn't take a lot of my time. With the summer season about to begin, we may find out how many summer visitors have seen Hatchville Pottery on Facebook.
I miss the camraderie we had a few years ago. Some of my old blogging friends I see now on Facebook. Many, of course, I don't. And I miss that connection. I haven't decided to abandon the blog, but Facebook seems to give me more exposure and, I hope, will result in selling more pots.
I'll continue to post to the blog. More often, I hope. I made a commitment to it when I added the address to a new brochure that our group of Upper Cape Cod potters are producing this spring. Please comment when you see something you like, or have something to say. And if you don't have a visceral hatred of Facebook, take a look at the Hatchville Pottery page. I fired today and will have photos of some of the pots on Facebook tomorrow, and also in here.
Below, the gallery in the back yard, after it was rearranged a couple of weeks ago. New pots coming tomorrow.
I fired yesterday, the first firing since returning a week ago from the island Vieques, off Puerto Rico's main island. Cold and a bit snowy yesterday, a big difference from the sun, palms, warm water and 85 degrees F of Vieques.
Tonight the Yarmouth Spring Pottery Market opens at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth. There will be 13 of us there with the pots we've been making over the winter. Come on down. The opening starts tonight at 5 and the show runs through the weekend. The Center is the wonderful conversion of an old bank building into an active place of multiple art disciplines. And an addition under way now will house the new clay program. We're all happy about that and some of tonight's proceeds will help that program.
The photos: Small jars thrown by Hollis, carved by Kim, glazed by both; Kim's cups, my glazing; a slab platter, decorated by rolling with one of my large jars that was carved by Kim; the next three are faceted and Shino-glazed teabowls made and glazed by me.
This will also be the first display of the pots Kim Medeiros (The Barn Pottery in Pocasset) and I have been collaborating on for the past few months. Several of the pots in yesterday's firing came from that partnership. We're both enjoying seeing our work taken in unexpected directions by the other potter.
I make and sell functional pottery at Hatchville Pottery in Hatchville, a neighborhood of the town of Falmouth, at the west end of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I'm a former journalist - 20 years as a photographer, writer and editor - who began to make pottery about 20 years ago in Alexandria, VA. My training is in pots for eating, drinking and displaying flowers, often with an Asian or late British influence. Hamada Shoji, Phil Rogers, Dan Finnegan, Nakazato Takashi, Kanzaki Shiho are all influences.
Married 40 years to Dee, a massage therapist in Falmouth, with one child, Marcus.
To see more of my pots, go to my website at http://web.me.com/hatchvillepottery/Site/Home.html
DIRECTIONS TO THE POTTERY: We are at 494 Boxberry Hill Rd. in East Falmouth. Take the Route 151/Mashpee exit off Route 28 in North Falmouth, go east on 151 to the first flashing light, take a right onto Boxberry Hill. We're about a quarter mile down on the right, at the corner of Brady Drive. Call 508-563-1948 for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org