March 31, 2008

A Penland Ramble

I thought I would go over to the Penland School for a few minutes (ha)
today and check out the pots coming out of the wood kiln.

They had already unloaded the kiln but there was still
signs of the charcoal and very large wads the size of cookies(yummy)
in the first chamber.

Here is studio assistant and Windgate Fellow Josh Copus holding a piece
of special kiln furniture. It is wadded to the pot to enhance the flashing around the pot.

Here are a couple of pots with flashing marks from
the stacking with these large cookie sized wads. The one on the
left is by studio assistant extraordinaire, Maya Machin.
The bottle on the right is by Josh.

Here is a flask with a similar mark and flashing from a super
d duper cookie wad, made by Vermont potter, Rob Cartelli. See some more of Rob's pots here.

Rob also had a customized throttle built for his Brent wheel
which he is standing up to throw. Instead of tapping the foot pedal
with his hand, he changes wheel speed by
grabbin holt of the skull
with the glowing eyes!

Here is a really nice curvaceous bottle by North Carolina
potter James Ward. This pot had quite a bit of flashing
and salt and was fired on its side.

Here is a nice 3 gallon blondie from instructor David Stuempfle.

The m-u-g on the left is by itinerate stoker Gloria Kosco, and the big
drippy ash glazed jar by Maya Machin, both students in
my Fall 2007 concentration at Penland.

By some crazy luck I ran into an old classmate
from my university days in Knoxville, Robin Surber
who is here doing a special one week class in the
metals studio with Bobby Hanson.

The brooch Robin is wearing incorporates a childhood
photograph that her mother gave to her shortly before coming
to Penland yesterday and some metallic garland (bird)
and some old game pieces.

Well after catching up with Robin for a while I strolled over
to the Coffee House and saw a couple of friends sitting
in the sunshine enjoying some tea.

Here are artists John Snyder (l) and Tom Spleth (r) looking over a catalog of Tom's recent retrospective show at the Gregg Museum in Raleigh, NC. It's a beautiful catalog of Tom's vast artwork in sculpture, ceramics, painting and printmaking.

It looks like Tom is telling a story about the one that got away.

It was, I guess, a typical visit to Penland. The school is a nexus for all of the wonderful artists who live in the area and others who are here to teach. I often avoid stopping by the school for fear that I will get stuck like iron filings to a magnet and be perfectly content passing the day going from friend to friend, studio to studio, and consequently get nothing done. Today was a great day to get nothing done. Thanks for letting me ramble.

Jar Head

Playing the Fool (again). This picture sent in by my good friend Gloria, taken at the show last week during a slow part of the afternoon, proving that I do have the smallest head around. Maybe I should do something like this for Halloween. As you potter/farmers know, you have to plant in the Spring to harvest in the Fall.

March 30, 2008

The Avant-Garde of the Cabinet

In lieu of showing work that would be happening in the atelier, since there isn't any, here is another in the ongoing documentary of the domestic scene here at the "Biltless" estate. I just emptied the dishwasher and took notice of the lineup of dishes and it was a particularly pleasing sight with that certain "je ne sais quoi". For those of you who may be stumbling upon this blog by some sort of random google search, this is actually some very serious business for a potter. Think of it as the Nielson ratings for dishes. I won't mention any names but there is a pecking order. If you've ever been on the bottom of a human pyramid you know what those sad bowls and plates at the bottom of the stack are feeling now.

March 29, 2008

Product Placement

My daughter Lillian and I just got back from Ron Philbeck's Home Pottery Sale in Shelby, NC. We needed something to put our boiled peanuts in and found a nice bowl that we had just bought at Ron's sale. Then I needed another bowl to put my shells into and found this other bowl we had just bought there, too. All I needed was a cold beer, which I happened to have purchased in a non-dry county on the way home. What a great way to settle in after a great visit to potter Ron's. If you didn't make it to the sale today, Ron and Sarah will be open for business, Sunday, the 30th, noon to 4. There are some really nice pots there. Check'em out if you can. Thanks to Ron and Sarah. (and Karma, too.)

March 28, 2008

Phil Wingard & Red Clay Gallery

I had a nice time chatting with Phil Wingard at the Catawba Valley Show last Saturday. Phil knows a lot about the history of South Carolina stoneware. He is mentioned in the wonderful book about the SC pottery tradition, Great and Noble Jar, by Cinda K. Baldwin . I wanted to introduce Phil and his fantastic web site Red Clay Gallery to you. 'Take Five' and check out the videos and the pots, you'll be glad you did.

March 27, 2008

This Weeks Theme-Heat

On this weeks Theme Time Radio Hour-Heat.
Some of the hot tunes this week on Mr. Dylan's show are:

(There'll Be) A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight-Bessie Smith
Jump Into The Fire-Harry Nilsson
Go Ahead And Burn-Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces
There's A Fire-The Gaylads
Play With Fire-Rolling Stones
Soul On Fire-Laverne Baker
Hot And Cold-Marvin Rainwater
Let's Have Some Heat-Pigmeat Markham
Red Hot-Billy Lee Riley
Baby It's Hot-The Olympics
Burn The Honky Tonk Down-George Jones
Hot Pants-James Brown
Great Balls Of Fire-Jerry Lee Lewis
Hot Little Mama-Johnny "Guitar" Watson
Fuego Del Amor-Johnny Cash
Check it out.

Dogbar Pottery Slideshow

Sam Taylor and I met at Penland in 1989 as budding potters at a Michael Simon workshop. We have been the best of friends ever since. I could write a book about Sam but since I need to put another coat of paint on the new shop floor before dark I better not. Maybe later. Anyway Sam's old classmate from Beloit College, 'Charm City' photographer , Howard Korn, has put together a fantastic slide show documenting Sam's firings and the community that convene by the kiln. The firings are like a great big huddle of friends, potters, kids, all coming together to be close to the kiln and to the pots that Sam has made. I hope you get a chance to check it out, it's very good.

March 26, 2008

Buyer Beware

Tom Turner and I got together and solved the worlds problems over lunch, yesterday. Tom mentioned this pot on ebay that he was sure was from China, but the seller is claiming it was Catawba Valley: alkaline glaze, from the 1800's. Hmmm. See for yourself, here [link no longer available]. (Let us know what you think about this pot.) I had a similar feeling for some of the work I saw at the Hickory show last weekend. Were the pots being sold by the vendors old, authentic, or any good. Were the pots being sold by the potters any good? Since the vendors hadn't made the pots they were selling, I looked at their collection for a clue into their aesthetics. I had never sold my pottery among potters and antique dealers, and I found it to be very refreshing. This market mix of potters and vendors pushed my eyes to look a little harder, challenging my perceptions about the pots I held up as ideal. I was surprised to pick up a beautiful one gallon jar with a beautiful glaze and nice "loose" throwing style, to find it to be really heavy. It's survival through these years due, no doubt, to it solidity. I tend to idealize the old pots and the old ways. There is something to be said of appropriate weight, but this one was a door stop, or to put it another way it seemed to be already filled with something. It is basically a question that I ask as a potter looking at a pot, trying not to get too involved with the back story or history, but looking at the pot for what it is, form, color, etc. Then you have eBay...I thought it was hard to assess a pot in a museum case. Looking at pots on the computer is another way of seeing, but certainly not ideal So, buyer, ware?

Remember These Plates?

Here are the plates that I had posted a while back. This time with glaze! The same glaze! The bottom one had a lot more ash from the front of the kiln deposited. Maybe a bit more reduction too.

Moustache Pt. 2

Yesterday I posted the card with moustache by Geci. It reminded me of a real moustache, that of folklorist, Dr. Henry Glassie. Dr. Glassie spoke so eloquently at the Pottery Festival in Hickory last Saturday. It is the third time I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak. The first was at the Utilitarian Clay Conference at Arrowmont in '95(?), then at the NC Pottery Center in '01(?) when he came with Mehmet Gursoy and other Turkish masters.

His talk was titled, " Use and Beauty: The Art of the Southern Pot" and he drew the listeners attention to the potters work, the quest for beauty in their finished pots, with wonderful images of runny fluid ash glazes and emphasized the utility that these pots provide. Dr. Glassie 'preached' the gospel of the southern pot and spoke often of the spiritual nature of the potter's work and his quest "to please God"and to make something of utilitarian value and visual beauty.

I tried to record Dr. Glassie's lecture, but had microphone issues and didn't get it. But I have found this conversation Dr. Glassie had with with Eric Sandweiss, associate professor of history at IUB and the editor of the Indiana Magazine of History. It will give you a sense of the intellect and the poetry of Henry Glassie.

More Pots From xxvi

A nice group of cups that remind me of my love of the small pot. There is an intimacy we have with cups of this scale that we can't have with larger pots that are more athletic in their purpose. These small cups are made to hold gently but firmly like a bird in the hand. The cup on the left took a bad hit to the lip and I secretly grinned, knowing to myself that I could selfishly sneak this one into our cabinet. The cup in the middle has a remnant of a Edgefield slip trail motif. The bird on the right has Little Orphan Annie eyes and was snatched up by potter Hewitt at the show last weekend. I thought it looked like a sea gull, Mark thought it looked like a seagle! Ha.

One of my painting warm-up cups.
This bird is particularly curious about the number 8.
Perhaps it thinks it's a juicy black worm of the wax resist variety.
I hope Julie Sims is enjoying this cup. After all the hard work
she contributed to "xxvi" this is the pot she wanted.
It is a sweet cup and it is a testimony to small is beautiful.

A ten gallon jar inspired by a DS
from the Potter's Eye exhibit

I liked this murky alkaline ash glazed
jar that sports the flat bottomed lid, i learned from Kim Ellington.
The pattern in underglaze brushwork comes and goes
as the eye surveys around the pot.

A one gallon jar with wax resist brushwork.
The subtle color doesn't come through in this
picture, but it has some nice subtle pink
and yellow spots, typical of the middle back bottom
of the kiln, near the exit flues of the chimney.

March 25, 2008


Moustache???A show prank, of the highest order or lowest...John Geci, while awol from his partner Courtney Martin's booth did this to countless numbers of my postcards at the show last Saturday. It was such a elaborate scheme that I didn't see it coming or going(all the cards that i dashed into customers bags).

March 24, 2008

While We Are Talking Birds...

I listen to a lot of music in the shop, either through the ipod, podcasts, or CD's and I have been listening to Bob Dylan's "Theme Time Radio Hour" religiously since it went on air and Dan Finnegan gave me a CD of the first 6 shows. It airs on XM satellite radio with a new 'theme' each week. During the recent session in the studio were two episodes on the subject of "Birds". Hmm. Maybe that's why I have been painting these critters? If Bob dedicates two shows to a theme there must be a lot of great material that he has to share from his record stash and there was.

Well, I don't have XM satellite, but am able to download the shows at Patrick Crosley's blog, 'Nightime in the Big City' here and here. If you like a 'soup to nuts' mix of country, old timey, jump blues, pop, etc. you will like these shows. Along with the music, Bob's research team supply all the esoteric tidbits related to the theme that you could ever want, and Bob's sharp wit and humor never fail to bust a gut. Check it out if you haven't already. Cheers.

Recent Bird Watching

Birds Pot 1
side a

Birds Pot 1
side b

Birds Pot 2
side "a"

Birds Pot 2
side "b"

Here are a couple of pots from the firing xxvi. The figurative motif has always been intimidating, but I have felt for a long time that my floral landscapes on my pots needed some fauna. I have cartooned little bugs and such but all of a sudden I am getting the guts to put some birds on these pots. It's really not as scary as I thought. It's actually a lot of fun. Do you hav a favorite bird?

March 23, 2008

The Show

We had a great time at the Catawba Valley Pottery Festival Saturday. Here is a picture of Michael Hunt and Ellen Denker looking at some of my pottery. I think I have never seen so many face jugs under one roof, maybe there were more face jugs than faces on Saturday. After all, it was a fabulous day outside the Hickory Convention Center. I met some great potters, pottery dealers, and saw some nice old pots.

March 19, 2008

Wait and See

As the phrase goes, Waiting to see, but I sent my camera into the abyss Cousteau-style teathered to send images up to the mothership. According to the Nikon manual says that the camera is rated for no more than 120*F we thought it would be worth it to get the images you and I yearn for. The pyrometer says 201*F but sometimes they can be off. Anyway we figured that one last go of this 4 mega pixel dinosaur would give it hero status among the 30 mega pixel crowd and we may have to replace it since it's 5 years old and probably should be "put down" anyway.

Enough about our hero, let's get on with the images it dredged from the heat, shall we?

Our first picture is from the top front of the kiln showing how cone 10(erect middle cone) was reluctant to perform for us there in the end. No matter the glazes are all fine and salt is fine on the big jar. The even more erect cone is 11, cone 10's evil cousin here at the pottery. They sometimes travel together in this kiln and can make things messy, but oh so juicy. There will be plenty to grind from the abyss near the firebox. More about that tomorrow, when we unload in earnest. All right, now let's go to some peep holes,Here we see the top back of the kiln where , no surprise, we have almost identical temperature. In the foggy distance is a big jar with a slip trailed 'Edgefield' flower.
Slightly below the top of the back of the kiln is this fine view. With some success with the flash, our hero the Nikon 4300 came through for us and gave me just enough information that will give me the hope I need to go on. I will take more bricks off the kiln later tonight although the forecast is calling for high winds. I will "wait and see".

March 18, 2008

Alex Matisse & His Potter's Apprentice Blog

My friend and fellow potter Alex Matisse has taken the blogger's plunge with his "Notes From An Apprenticeship". Alex works for NC potter Matt Jones now and is making some fine pots of his own as well. I hope you will join me in reading his posts about his apprenticeship with Matt at the Jones Pottery. Here is a picture of Alex tending to my kiln last weekend, waiting to stoke as I check the cones.

Catawba Valley Pottery and Antiques Festival

I hope if you are within a couple hours drive you will come to the festival this Saturday, March 22nd. There will be many of the region's best pottery there to see and purchase. Not only can you see contemporary pottery, but also several of the best dealers of the old pots as well. This will be my first time doing the show, so I'm looking forward to meeting some new folks and introducing them to my work.
At 11a.m. Saturday Dr. Henry Glassie will lecture on “Use and Beauty: The Art of Southern Folk Pottery.” Dr. Glassie is a folklore expert and professor at Indiana University and has written numerous books, including “Patterns in the Material Culture of the Eastern United States” and “Folk Housing in Middle Virginia.”

Here is a link to the show ad.

Kim Ellington will be there, too. Here is a nice piece from his web site.

Vase, 12" Kim Ellington

2 Handle face jug, Burlon Craig, from The Mint Museum Collection

March 17, 2008

As with every firing I spend a couple of days waiting and thinking this...

There is a pyschological component to the firing of a kiln. One of the unique
factors of ceramics is the necessity of the potter to speculate in
the mind's eye of the possible outcomes of certain clays, glazes, and their
resulting firing as he or she are working. The hope that one has while
decorating, glazing, and firing the kiln has to outshine any dark or
paranoid thoughts of any missteps that can be taken anywhere along this
process. The kiln blues, that I have mentioned in a previous posting, is that paranoid chicken, coming home to roost. Beautiful results are quickly passed over to that pot that was so full of hope that has dunted, or just isn't that great, maybe underfired, not enough salt glaze, dull. But there lies the clue. Creativity may seem to end with the firing of the pots in the kiln. There may be some sanding or grinding in some cases, but for the most part the pot is finished. But the potter isn't! Looking for that pot that didn't work out is my way of reentering the creative process in the face of what may be the end of line. As they say, "It's back to the drawing board." I apologize if I repeat myself, but it's what's going on in my head while I
sit and wait to peek into the kiln.(tonight I hope) I cooled the kiln quickly and it was at 400*F this morning. Maybe I can figure out a way to get a picture while peeking throught the spy hole. We'll see.

March 16, 2008


Here we (NY potter Julie Simms and I) are stoking wood and putting salt into the kiln earlier today. We finished right in time and enjoyed Gloria's most delicious Spaghetti and Meatballs and some cold brews. I'm humbled by everyone's hard work today and hope I can someday return the favor. Now the waiting begins and in a day or so I'll get the flashlight out for a peek or two. We'll unload the kiln on Thursday. So now I can relax and take a couple of days off to rejoin my patient family who are getting used to my potters life.

Next weekend I go to the Catawba Valley Pottery Show with what awaits in the kiln. More on Thursday. Thanks for checking in.

Moving Wood

David Stuempfle and his class from the Penland School just came by with marshmallows and many hands. They pitched in to move a big pile of wood closer to the kiln. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! The kiln is at 2000 degrees and seems to want to take off. Alex Matisse is here from Matt Jones Pottery to help stoke.

XXVI Well On Its Way

I've been relieved by Alan White, Gloria, and Julie. I've been firing overnight, and have reached 1475*F and we are holding it there for about an hour. The kiln tends to race at this point so we slow things down for a bit and let the heat soak in. We're hoping to finish at 6pm. That's it for now.

March 15, 2008

The Kiln Is Loaded

FIRING no. XXVI is loaded. Thanks to the loading team of Julie Sims & Gloria Kosco. We'll light it at midnight.

Happy Times

Thanks to Gloria Kosco for the happy balloon! I use a balloon to keep slip from going inside the jar when I pour it over the wax resist pattern. I wax the bottom of the jar before I pour to keep the cleanup to a minimum.

March 14, 2008

It Was A Beautiful Bisque Firing

Here is a link to an archived post from December on the brushes, affectionately known as the "axes". And more bisque, of course!

Brush Work/Play

One thing came to mind when I was painting tonight, that the brushes I use are important but not that special. What I mean is that for the most part they are inexpensive Chinese bristle and for the price of a tank a gas these days I could get enough brushes to last me a couple of years. Here are some brushes I used today. The second and fourth from the left I made myself. Liz Sparks showed me how to make brushes. Another point is that what I do with the brush is more important. It's the wrist action, the angle of the pot to the hand/brush, the point where the brush touches down, and the direction that the brush is pushed or pulled that gives brushwork its vitality or lack of. With the brush stroke, as in the repetition of throwing on the wheel, there is always the hope that the next one will be better than the previous. Skill is very important to me. Someone commented how easy the painting looked to do in the video. If you do anything for 20 years you will get either bored or better. When one is engaged and enthralled with learning he/she becomes skillful. When one is bored its time to move in the direction of interest whatever that may be. "Follow your joy" is what I advise a student when I am asked what they should do next.

Anyway, here are some pictures from today's work/play. The first is what I would call a good riff. The second is a group of jars that are ready to glaze.

March 13, 2008

It Shouldn't Be A Surprise

With all the birds flying around this blog, it's no surprise that they would appear on these pots. Birds of a feather flock together...