December 24, 2007

Christmas or Halloween?

Well, it's hard to tell yet, I'm pretty pleased. The pots for the Louisville "Dinnerworks" show look good and I will be shipping out in a few days after some much needed time with my family. I'm thrilled with my new clay body and some of the new incised pots. Here are a few pictures I snapped this morning as I munched down an apple fritter and some coffee with Tom Turner.(Thanks for the fritters Tom. I did share the rest with the girls.)

December 22, 2007


The creative process is complete, the kiln is cooling. There is a quiet scene around the kiln as I wait to see how it all ended up. There is only so much a potter can do. I always have a sort of helpless feeling at this point, and no matter how the pots come out I will have what Shawn Ireland calls "the kiln blues". I think it is due to the fact that there is nothing i can do aside from grinding the bottoms that will improve or change the pots. The other reaction I have(always) is to look at what went wrong before I give the good pots a chance. It's my way of picking up where I left off in the creative cycle. With the disappointing pots, I can reenter the scene and interpret what may have happened and try to prevent it from happening again. In the case of an exceptional pot it's my way of saying to the pot, "What happened?" or "How can I make that happen again?". The potter's challenge is to repeat good results and resolve bad ones.

Tatsuzo Shimaoka 1919-2007

Here is a link to an obituary in the Times Online

and a follow up comment as well

December 21, 2007

A Visit with Tom Turner

I had a great visit with Tom Turner today. He showed me some of his favorite pots in his collection. Here are a few detail pictures of a large Cizhou (Tzu'chou) jar we photographed.

You can see Tom's beautiful porcelain work at his website. Click here.

December 18, 2007

The Axes

Here are the brushes I have been using. Some are handmade, some made in China(probably by hand). I generally use 2-3 brushes for all the work. Some folks may think that good painting is all in the brush, and there is truth to that. I obviously have my favorite brushes but once I get real, real going, say, day two of my decorating week, I can usually get a lot of different shapes and line quality out of the same brush. For me, it's a combination of knowing where the brush lands on the pot, the wrist motion of a certain brush mark, and the speed at which the mark is delivered. The material being painted also makes a big difference. Since my kiln is a 15 minute drive from the shop, I bisque fire everything to cone 08. Leather hard clay is great to paint on, but I paint everything on bisque. I also "partition" my tasks. I will make pots for 3 weeks, then spend a week decorating and glazing. I like the momentum I get from focusing in on throwing form and then exploiting surface with pattern. I try really hard to see the form and line of a pot and I think the patterns I use are even more successful on a good form. I tend to paint patterns on most pots, but sometimes a pot has such a nice line that I leave it alone. I once heard the phrase, "decorate the dogs", and if that were the case for me I guess I make a lot of dogs. My intent is for the pattern to enhance the pot and give it an added layer of complexity or subtlety.

December 15, 2007

Pouring slip over wax resist pattern

Details with brushwork

This week I have been decorating my pots with three techniques. The first format is painting black and white slips on the bisque ware. Another is painting my special wax resist on the pots and pouring or dipping into a white slip. The third is slip trailing with colored slips. Here are some closeups of slip brushwork on a large jar.The first shows some an incised flower on the pot's shoulder with vine painted in black slip. This, hopefully will create a subtle depth to the surface of the jar. A clear glaze with a little bit of iron is then poured over the pot. This glaze has a nice honey-amber color when fired in the wood kiln. The second is an example of really tiny painting of a mosquito with my special brush, courtesy of Jenny Mendes. Now that summer is long gone, I guess I was feeling a little nostalgic.

December 11, 2007

The circus has come to town

Today, I finished the first pachyderm teapots that I have made in over two years. In stark contrast to the traditional forms that i have been making, working on these teapots required a different bag of pottery tricks. They're very clever pots, but I seemed to remember most of the moves. It was fun.

73 degrees in December

It was a beautiful and warm day today. A good day to set the pots out to dry. It was also one of those days when I look for work to do outside. But with a firing scheduled for Sunday, I was busy finishing up the last pots before the glazing begins.

December 1, 2007

Toe River Studio Tour

This weekend over 140 studios and galleries will open their doors for the annual Fall studio tour of Mitchell and Yancey Counties. I have lots of envelope vases, 1/2, 1, 2, 3 gal jars with botanical brushwork, some nice gifts. Help yourself to hot cider, tangerines, and all sorts of snacks. Come on by, we hope to see you in Micaville.
Click here for more Tour info.
Click here for a map to my studio.

It should be a lot of fun and the weather is going to be good.

November 29, 2007

In The Studio Today

Hand cutting the edges of dinner plates with
my very special pimped out cheese cutter. (or
as we old timers used to say hot rodded cheese cutter.)

November 28, 2007

Pot #59

In the Research & Development Dept. we have this quietly fantastic piece of pottery made by Daniel Seagle, a 19th century pottery from Lincoln County, NC. I first saw this fine and subtle pot at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh 2 years ago. It's also in the companion catalog of the show, "The Potter's Eye" by Mark Hewitt & Nancy Sweezy. That's where I have been looking at it lately: in the corner of my studio where I gradually stack up books during the course of my cycle of work. This pot slays me. No doubt this shape/format was repeated by Seagle and many other potters for storage of food, serving of food, etc. This pot has survived the countless times it was used, as evidenced by the many little chips along its rim. From my experience this type of edge on a pot is vulnerable to chipping, yet this pot had enough clay to spare and has nicely "rounded off" over the years. Yet the squareness of the rim is intact and leads the eye to the overall shape that at first glance (and second, and third glance) looks square. But the measurement shows that it is 9" tall by about 8" at its widest. Not quite square, but by banding just below the rim Seagle has tweaked the proportions a bit. The handles or "ears", placed just below the ridges around the rim give this pot its sublimely anthropomorphic look. It may be without literal mouth, nose, or eyes, but this "head" listens, standing stoic, waiting. This stroke of brilliance happened not by the use of calipers, or labored thought, templates, etc. but probably exist here as a result of all the jars that Seagle made up until this pot. I don't mean to say that this pot was a fluke, but it was made with many others like it. It was made in the course of a day's work. In our information age we can share with the world great things like this jar, I am influenced by these great pots. I'd love to hold this pot and "look it over". I'll add it to my list of pots to "look over".

November 26, 2007

Message in a bottle

I promised Chris Luther that I'd upload this as evidence that we in fact made pots in Norfolk and tossed'em in the harbor. This jug lasted about a half an hour. As we observed, the jug was plugged at the mouth, but the bottom gave way first. It opened up and took on a little water. Then to our surprise it righted itself and floated for a little while longer. I've heard of salt glaze, but salt slake? Enjoy.

In the studio today

November 25, 2007

Visiting an Old Friend

A view of the stack in the Barns kiln. Nov. 17, 2007. Matt Kelleher's pots are at the left.

November 24, 2007

Visiting An Old Friend

It's been a while since I've had time to write. Recently, I teamed up with Matt Kelleher and fired the salt/soda kiln at the Penland School of Crafts. This kiln was built at the Barns by Tracy Dotson and Suze Lindsay in 1993(?). During my residency(1998-2001) I repaired the kiln every other firing. Something was either melting, sagging, or cracking, but the kiln produced some nice pots. This kiln is a true survivor. At 14+ years old it's had quite a history. Suze fired the kiln during her residency, then Terry Gess fired the kiln until 1998, and I came along and fired it until 2001. The kiln somehow escaped demolition and in 2005 Matt and his wife Shoko Teruyama became residents and Matt revived the kiln. I must say it is firing very nicely (thanks to Matt's kiln compassion!). Old salt kilns never die, they just slowly melt away. Here are some of the pots we got out the kiln last week.

October 4, 2007

Finally some thoughts...

A bit dated but...from the 2006 solo show, "Seeking Beauty in Rythym" at Ferrin Gallery, Lenox, MA
“When I begin a session in my studio, the process of remembering and dreaming begins. My pots are formed with a steady approach to the ideal and the unexpected—they are part memory, part hope. My good ideas and clever intentions are no match for the exceptional pot that just seems to happen. Each pot emerges from a combination of intense focus, forgetting, letting go, and just doing.

I have found that there is redemption in repetition. The first pot in a series can sometimes be the best. Other times it may be the last one. Sometimes it is only after the firing that a pot’s subtle qualities emerge. The kiln leads the way to the next generation of pots to be made. It is there at the kiln that my search begins again. “

...and even farther back... from the 2004 solo show ”A Natural Response” at Ferrin Gallery, Lenox, MA
“Despite the many tangents that lead me this way and that in the course of making pottery, the ideas, desires and excitement of clay remain very close to those at the very beginning of my career. To be sure, the outcome of experience and effort, trial and error has evolved through the years. But the process still begins with the simple, ecstatic response to a ball of soft clay. The successful pot elicits a similar response in the context of the home. The mountains of North Carolina provide plenty of inspiration with their wildly exuberant flora, geological variety and the pottery history that sprang from these geological circumstances. Strong pottery form and patterns that evoke the complexity of this natural environment continue to guide my interests in this current body of work. By some combination of optimism and risk, my collaboration with the natural properties of clay and wood fire continues to lead me through this potter’s life, at times exasperated and at others, exhilarated.”

Locally Thrown: Studio Pottery Invitational at Ferrin Gallery

These pots are from the most recent firings, nos. XXIII & XXIV. They will be featured in the upcoming show "Locally Thrown: Studio Pottery Invitational" at the Ferrin Gallery at their new location in Pittsfield, Massachussetts. I will post a link to the online show when it goes live.

2 handled jar with slip trailed swag, alkaline ash glaze, woodfired with glass placed on handles,15" x 11"

4 handled jar with underglaze pattern, alkaline ash glaze, woodfired with glass placed on handles,12.75" x 11.25"

2 handled jar with slip trailed flowers, alkaline ash glaze, woodfired, 13" x 10.5"

2 gallon jug, slip trailed sine waves, alkaline ash glaze, woodfired with glass placed on handle, 12.5" x 9.5"

2 handled jar, slip trailed loop d loops, swags, alkaline ash glaze, woodfired, 13.25" x 11"

2 handled jar, underglaze vine pattern, iron glaze, woodfired with glass on handles, 16" x 11.5"

October 1, 2007

Before After:firing XXIV

Here are the pots that have been decorated, glazed, but not yet fired. Some of you may be scratching your head about the pot in the very back that looks likes it's already been fired. It has, but it is being refired. Hope springs eternal.
The gray glaze in the lower photo is a "clear" glaze that shows underglazed brushwork. It was a little underfired, but showed promise in other areas of the kiln.

Good Helpers

Here are Lillian (age 3.5) and Evelyn (age 5.5) helping out during the loading of XXIV.

September 30, 2007


Svend Bayer pitcher - 13" (330mm) high. 2002

• Brill/Boarstall ware, Buckinghamshire
• Rounded jug
• 250mm
• west Buckinghamshire
• Distribution: local
• Use storage of liquids
• early 13th century AD

February 21, 2007

In Progress

Here are a few of the forms I've been working on this past week. There's not a lot of room to move with all these pots around. It must be time to light up the kiln. Look for smoke on March 3rd.

February 6, 2007

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

After watching the HBO/BBC series "Rome" the other night and spotting a few pots here and there I commenced to think about what I could recall of "roman" pottery. Of course Etruscan pottery came immediately to mind, but what about 52 B.C. and Gaul? So I dug around in my stacks of pottery books and found this from Emmanuel Cooper's 10,000 Years of Pottery from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Not exactly the time frame, but close. And I've always like these pots, so...

Three roman vessels, all w/ vitreous glaze. Double handled cup w/ applied scales, AD 20-70, said to be from Arles, Southern France; double handled vase, c. AD 70-100, said to be from Tharros; single handled decorated w/imbricated leaves, Asia Minor, 1st c. AD.height tallest 17.5cm (7in).

Sometimes archeologists really don't know how this stuff is really made. check this story out.