Friday, May 31, 2013

Collapsing kiln posts: Ideas?

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.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lots of pots in the past few weeks

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.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

One young woman, one cup, one year at school

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."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Deadlines coming up for our "Facets of the Harbor" show in New Bedford

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.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Upper Cape Cod Pottery Trail brochures just in!

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.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chris Gustin kiln-opening today

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.

Friday, May 3, 2013

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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spring must be here ...

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.