September 30, 2008

Handling Mugs

Here are some 'new' mugs that I'm working now.

Get Out the Brushes

quick cooling the kiln last night

Today will be slightly abbreviated in the studio. I'm planning some play time with girls this afternoon and I'm cooking dinner! WooHoooo. Maybe Paella!

Painting begins today with a little pottery shuffling to and fro as well. I've made a nice path between the house and the studio, two in fact. One goes to the porch kiln, and the other a beeline to the kitchen and 'fridge. So as I go up to the studio I grab a few pots from the bisque and on the way down i bring a few pots to the porch kiln. I make a lot of trips back and forth checking my non computerized electric kiln. [Update: the kiln fires quite well on high. The breaker is fine and nothing is heating up except the kiln. That's good. On high the temp increases about 4 degrees/minute which was the same as I had at the Mushroom Factory. This all seems fairly trivial, I know. ]

My plans include painting lots of bird imagery as well vines on the pots. Last firing cycle I failed to paint enough of our feathered friends. So I want to make up for that. The majority of the pots will be for salt glaze, but I have a few that I want to glaze with my alkaline ash glaze. Also on the slate is my "Obama-ware". Ayumi Horie is hosting an online sale. See the list of participating potters here. A percentage of the proceeds of the online sale will go to the campaign to elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden!

End of a Session

I wish. There's painting and glazing, stoking and burning, unloading and packing. Sometimes I wonder how it all gets done. One pot at a time. Here's a couple of pics for those of you keeping score at home.

A few jars waiting to get scratched and painted.

The studio is insulated! Just in time as it's
starting to get nippy.

September 29, 2008

Coffee Break vol. #12

You know you're in trouble when you're brewing coffee at 9 p.m. And you know you're in trouble when you're taking a picture of it. But it all sort of comes together here on the ole blog, it all makes sense here. Ahhh. I got this fine cup from Marty Fielding back in the day. [Charlotte ACC?] Tis being used for its fine lid that keeps the coffee warm on these chilly evenings when one is potting in the great out of doors.


Sometimes in a blue moon I will unknowingly slap a ball of clay on the wheel head and start centering. Before I know it the clay feels like its growing with a will of it's own. And before I know it the pot is made. Leach would say "born, not made." It happened last night in the wee hours after midnight at the end of a long pottery day. I had just been thinking that I would rather be sleeping, as my family was, down in our cozy little house. And then, whammo, here was this pot! I cut it off the wheel, washed my hands and hung up my soggy apron.

[sorry no pictures, could it have been a dream?]

Jack Troy

This morning, after the family-getting-ready-for-school-whirlwind, I sat down with my coffee and visited with Jack Troy's thoughts. Thanks to Helen Bates, who directed me to Jack's new web site, I was enjoying Jack's essays, some that I've read and some new ones. Here is an excerpt, [used without permission], from an essay titled, "Dear Henry Glazier."

A couple of things that probably haven't changed a bit are the feelings of satisfaction when you enter the shop in the morning and see the previous day's work that you almost forgot overnight. No matter how many years you've been at it, they always take you by surprise — the damp pots imparting that rich cavesmell; that fragrance of freshly-turned gardens. If dreams have aromas it is that of pots drying just after they've been formed.
There are several essays that Jack has written over the years and also a few poems. Oh ,lest I forget, there are lots of pictures of pots, too!

From the home page,

I am thankful no one ever
led me to the pit I'd help to make in Earth,
or showed me all the clay at once.
I'm grateful no one ever said, There.
That heap's about a hundred fifty tons.
Go make yourself a life.

September 28, 2008

21st Century Crockery

As I looked for a spare horizontal surface that was out in the sun I found this gem of modern furniture. Doesn't this sum it all up? I took this picture with my handy dandy cell-phone-camera to exploit the rich colors of the table and the flat rather dull reddish brown of the drying clay pots.

Short Wish List

It's Sunday morning and I'm aligning my hopes with my reality. With the firing a week from today that means the last wet day should be yesterday, but I will push it a little, as usual, and anticipate some wet green ware to go into the kiln on Saturday. As far as a wish list goes, I'd like to get a couple more big ones made for the top of the kiln. Since those take a while to dry they will definitely be green. I've yet to make pitchers and jugs, so put that on the list for today. I could always make more plates, seems like I always need good plates. There'll be room for whatever I can make in the next day (or two) so I better get crackin'. Have a great Sunday, looks sunny and breezy here on the mountain, yay for drying! Here's a picture through the front door of our house with the encroaching pottery on the porch.

September 27, 2008

Breakfast Cups?

Made a mess of my old bread and butter pots, "breakfast cups", tumblers, more bowls. Here is a handle point of view from a row of cups. I've made this format for a long time and the term "breakfast cup" was coined by a wholesale account I had years ago with Anthropologie. I got a reorder on my fax machine one day and it had an order for x many breakfast cups??!!?? I wondered what the hell that meant, so I called them to find out. After awhile I was calling 'em breakfast cups. Boy, that seems so long ago. I guess it was! 1992, another election year...

Weather good today, breezy, warm. Still at it. Tomorrow should be my last wet day, well, maybe Monday....Haven't made any jugs. There's always the tonight.

Porch Kiln

Micah and I installed the ol' L & L kiln on the front porch of the house a couple of days ago and I fired it off for the first time without a hitch. It's a long story, but basically I had to fire it on medium high since it's on a 40 Amp breaker and draws 44 A on high. It was a lot of hassle to put the kiln there but better than depending on my potter neighbors to bisque fire again. No problems!


Micah had a few days of sawdust and ended up with this proud stack of mostly poplar.
Here is the 'rick' before it's loaded. This is a fairly new system and is movable. In the end we can cut the same amount as my other more permanent cutting rick's.
Here is the stack after being tied down and cut. We usually cut the shorter ends off first, then make the middle cut, which yields two bundles of 60 inch sticks that will fit snauggly in the fire box. Now if I only had a little tractor....Hmmm.

Just Pictures

Where do I begin? Here a few pictures from the last couple of days.

the long view

some jars

some platters

ready to bisque plates

an interesting [to me] view.

September 25, 2008

Runaway Train

Sorry no pictures from yesterday. The weather drove my pottery making like a runaway train. It was like the scene in Hitchcock's 1951 classic,"Strangers on a Train", at the ending with a carousel spinning out of control and crashing. Oh, here it is,

Well, it wasn't that bad I guess... but I failed to have time to document the pots I made. [sorry, but it's always great to be able to include a clip from Alfred Hitchcock in the blog!]

Yesterday was a fabulous day, when I had a moment to look up from my wheel, but I was reminded of something that I've known all along. Pottery making takes time and attention. The weather was so dry and sunny that a board of cups that I had made in the morning was bone dry by noon, before I even had a chance to 'thumb' the bottoms or even leave my signature! Quite a new situation for someone making pots for seven years in a mushroom factory.

Today, Micah and I will go by the old shop and pick up the old electric kiln and bring it home to temporarily install it on my front porch. Probably not such a strange site here in NC. My friend Buck Pollard, married to a potter Jenny Sherburne, is coming over after supper to do the wiring with me. I will hopefully get back on making pots before the rain comes this weekend. It's a bit cold in the mornings and evenings and I haven't been able to work at those times. But tomorrow the insulators will come and insulate the new shop and we'll move the operation in there where I can have some heat. Phew, this is certainly a challenge. I'm afraid the pots will suffer.

September 24, 2008


Looks like another beautiful, clear day. Hopefully it will be a little breezy too. A great day for a potter in my shoes. My plan today is to make a lot of 4-5 lb. jars/vases and a couple 12lb jars. Thanks to Doug I am encouraged to make some pitchers, and some serving bowls. The morning is cool and I waited till the sun came over the hill and warmed my wheel area outside and swept the new shop and tidied up for the inspector, who should be coming around today to do a electrical inspection. That's the forecast for today. I will try to post some pictures at lunchtime.

Stacey went out yesterday and in her "just do it" mode bought a new digital camera. Maybe she'll let me use it. I stole it briefly this morning to get this shot of the golden rod. Just in time for the Fall colors! Have a great day. Thanks for being there.

pot-ter-eee & poe-et-treee

Micah cut and stacked wood, while I churned out feet on about 40 plates and cut the edges. Some of the plates will become Obama-ware soon (more on that to come, stay tuned) and others will get incised. I thought that the pile of cut edges looked like a small hill of green beans, which we are now getting piles of from our garden. I just have to get out there and pick'em. I cooked some last week for Lillian and I with lots's of butter, salt and pepper. Mmmmm, I'd forgotten how good a green bean can be and I remembered what Bob Dylan sang,"Give me a string bean. I'm a hungry man!"
Oh, what the hell, here's a little Po-et-tree for ya,

Some time ago a crazy dream came to me,
I dreamt I was walkin' into World War Three.
I went to the doctor the very next day
To see what kinda words he could say.
He said it was a bad dream.
I wouldn't worry 'bout it none, though,
At the moment dreams are only in your head

I said, 'Hold it, Doc, a World War passed through my brain.'
He said, 'Nurse, get your pad, the boy's insane.'
He grabbed my arm, I said, 'Ouch!'
As we landed on the psychiatric couch,
He said, 'Tell me about it.'

Well the whole thing started at three o'clock fast,
It was all over by quarter past.
I was down in the sewer with some little lover
When I peeked out from a manhole cover
Wonderin' who turned the lights on.

Well, I got up and I walked around
Up and down the lonesome town.
I stood a-wondering which way to go,
I lit a cigarette on a parking meter
And walked on down the road.
It was a normal day.

Well, I rung the fallout shelter bell
And I leaned my head and I gave a yell,
'Give me a string bean, I'm a hungry man.'
A shotgun fired and away I ran.
I don't blame him too much though,
He didn't know me.

Down at the corner by a hot-dog stand
I seen a man. I said, 'Howdy friend,
I guess there's just us two.'
He screamed a bit and away he flew.
Thought I was a Communist.

Well, I spied me a girl and before she could leave,
I said, 'Let's go and play Adam and Eve.'
I took her by the hand and my heart was thumpin'
When she said, 'Hey man, you crazy or sumpin',
You see what happened last time they started.'

Well, I seen me a Cadillac window uptown
There was nobody aroun'.
I got into the driver's seat
And I drove down 42nd Street
In my Cadillac.
Good car to drive after a war.

Well, I remember seein' some ad,
So I turned on my Conelrad.
But I didn't pay the Con Ed bill,
So the radio didn't work so well.
Turned on my record player -
It was Rock-A-Day Johnny singin',
'Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa,
Our Loves Are Gonna Grow Ooh-wah, Ooh-wah.'

I was feelin' kinda lonesome and blue,
I needed somebody to talk to.
So I called up the operator of time
Just to hear a voice of some kind.
'When you hear the beep
It will be three o'clock.'
She said that for over an hour
And I hung up.

Well, the doctor interrupted me just about then,
Sayin', 'Hey, I've been havin' the same old dreams,
But mine was a little different you see.
I dreamt the only person left after the war was me.
I didn't see you around.'

Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody's having them dreams.
Everybody sees their self walkin' around with no one else.
Half of the people can be part right all of the time,
And some of the people can be all right part of the time,
But all of the people can't be all right all of the time.
I think Abraham Lincoln said that.
'I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.'
I said that.

Bob Dylan - Talkin' World War III Blues
Anway, here are a couple more shots from "the tables"...

September 23, 2008


I wanted to thank John Hartom, Lori Theriault, and the folks at Odyssey Workshop for having me over to show what I do yesterday. It was a brief workshop but I managed to show a few techniques, especially some brushwork strategies. The class at Odyssey is specifically aimed at making pots for an Empty Bowls event in support of the Manna Food Bank in Asheville, NC. Here are some video links I mentioned at the workshop for those who are following up.

September 21, 2008


So I've decided that it was possible to fire again before the next show[October 11&12]! I hope I'm not wrong on this one. Micah Cain is on board again to help and he gives me the confidence that we'll get it done. After dinner I took my stroll to the studio, which I can't tell you how excited I am not to have to turn the key and crank up the old Ford to get there, not to mention looking up at the stars on the way back. As you can see I had some really soft clay and made a few 4 lb. plates. It's a good start. Tomorrow I have a demo scheduled at the Odyssey Clay Center in Asheville, but will get some more pots made in the morning. This is shaping up to be a real doozy with barely a week to make pots and just a few days to paint and glaze. Throw in some wood cutting and travel day and it's going to be interesting. I hope you'll be along for the ride.

Sunday Morning Joe

The eye opener today is in this beautiful Bulldog Pottery mug I got from Bruce and Samantha at the Mint Show a couple of weeks ago. This is the mug that we fight over [not literally] in the morning. It's first come first served in this fine dotted mug.I also wanted to show the coffee ceremony set. The jar is one made by Douglas Rankin and Will Ruggles, which I acquired in 1989 while I was a student at Penland. It has served me well and has housed uncountable bags of French Roast over the past twenty years. This is truly a pot of daily use, a phrase that has unfortunately become such a cliche in potter's statements and magazine articles about pots. There must be another way to describe a cherished implement of sustenance, oh, that seems a little bit much...well you know what I mean, an object of domestic pleasure, no, maybe this, ...a pot. But that seems to simplistic...A spade is a spade, and a shovel, well, don't believe the hype. I've made pots that I never use and called them pots for daily use, but are they really?
I better go, I need to find more moonshiners for my jugs.

P.S. does anyone know who made the yellow pitcher in the background?

September 19, 2008

Daniel Johnston at The Crimson Laurel Gallery, Pt II

Went to cousin Daniel's [not my real cousin] show today and there is no substitute for seeing them live! But if you can't go to Bakersville, NC you can see them via the gallery's web page here. I attempted to photograph some of the groups at the gallery, but with apologies to the bad quality. [I am shopping for a new camera] The pots are very light and the surfaces are very juicy and glassy. How much salt does he use, anyway? So here are some more pots from the show.

I also saw some nice pots by Josh Copus, David Eichelberger, and David Stuempfle. The owners of the Crimson Laurel Gallery, David and John have done a really nice job gathering some of the areas best pottery under one roof.

UC V Report, Part III

At the closing of the symposium all of the presenters gathered on stage to each say a few words about our favorite pots. I brought a big pitcher made by Mark Hewitt that I actually bought from Mark at a previous Utilitarian Clay symposium in 1996. At that particular gathering I was invited by Mary Barringer to be an invited artist for the exhibition. I figured I would go and check it out. It was the first time I had met Mark Hewitt and was before I moved to North Carolina.
I spoke briefly of my love of this pot and about the fact that I couldn't commit to just one favorite pot, but this pot represented all of the qualities of the pots I am trying to make. I spoke about its function and its weight, its "feel". I told about the night I stopped making the pitcher that I had become associated with and my lack of enthusiasm to make any more of "them". I looked around that night and saw Mark's pitcher sitting on my study shelf with other great pots. I decided I would give that "easy" shape a go and see how it felt. By the end of the evening, after midnight as I recall, I had filled up my table with about 10-15 poor attempts that later got smashed. The Devon style "jug" had me in its grip. To this day I struggle with a really good form of this pot.

Back to the potter's faves. My bud, Mark Shapiro ended the discussion with a little salt glazed 19c flask, that had a curious 21c wine cork in its neck. He talked about its attributes and how he had acquired it and then looked over at me to offer everybody a snort. What a surprise! I could have used one before I stepped up to the microphone to start the discussion. I gladly tipped up the flask with the faith/hope that there would be some whiskey in it. Sure enough, aghhh. We passed it around.
Here's Ron Meyers taking a sip. When it got to Linda Christianson, she tipped it into her giant mug by John Reeve and emptied what was left and handed Mark the mug. It was a great way to end the symposium.

2 Gallon Jug

I just had a few pots shot by a pro, Tom Mills. Here is one I like a lot and was sold to a friend in nearby Burnsville, NC. I made arrangements for visitation, especially when there's something to sip. [hiccup]

September 18, 2008

Daniel Johnston at The Crimson Laurel Gallery

Our Seagrove area potter cousin Daniel Johnston has a show in our neighborhood at the Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville. I haven't been to see it yet, but I'm heading that way today. The show is online here.

UC V Report, Part II

When my hands weren't full of slurry I wandered around and visited other demos happening in other parts of the main building and the clay studio. Here are some more pictures from my pitiful cell phone lens taken at the symposium last week. Everyone had a camera! Some had camcorders and some had tripods. (look out youtube!)

Ron Meyers

Here is a true master, Ron Meyers, at work painting a plate. The press pool was all around and he took the constant flashing pretty well. A real pro. Ron flowed throw his pots with grace, all the while keeping a steady banter with the crowd. He has done countless workshops/demos/symposia over the years. When I was a student at UT Knoxville, Ron came there for a couple of days with his neighbor Michael Simon. Without a doubt, I was blown away then and I was blown away again at Arrowmont.

Andy Brayman

I got excited about decals and screen printing by Kansas City artist, Andy Brayman. In the above picture, Andy is trimming a huge decal of his own hands that he will fire onto a dinner plate. I hadn't met Andy before the symposium and we had some great conversations. I don't know how decals, etc. will fit into my old timey wood fire genre, but it's going to be very interesting when it does. You can find out more about Andy's work at his web site, here. Andy was part of a panel discussion along with Mark Shapiro and Linda Sikora. He showed some very interesting trends with customization of consumer products that included the mini Cooper and a set of artist/designer dishes that were being bandied about for a mere 10000 £.

One of the favorite events of the quadrenially held symposium is the potter's favorite pots discussion. Here are the pots that all of the presenters brought to show and tell. Can you name some of the potters who made these?

potter's favorites

September 17, 2008

Ken Shipley Jar at Arrowmont

I have wanted to write a little about my experience at the symposium at Arrowmont, but have been spending a lot of time recovering and refocusing. Now that it is Wednesday evening and I had a spare moment from a busy day of catch up, I wanted to start with this piece. It is a wood fired jar by Ken Shipley located in my room at the Staff House. I shared the suite with my old pal Mark Shapiro. When I walked into the room, I spotted it right away. To borrow a phrase from Kim Ellington, I could have spotted it from 55 mph. I knew Ken Shipley at the University of TN Knoxville. Ken was a graduate student and was my very first teacher at UT when I took that fateful night class in 1983 that started it all. Although I seem to remember that Ken had to pass the baton at some point during that summer class, I got to know him after I become a real student in the pot shop. I was pretty new to pot shop and to the salt kiln and the anagama and helped out at a couple of firings along with Ken's firing buddy, Pat Houston. Ken made a lot of these jars, some of them pretty massive. I remember going into his studio and smelling the clay that Ken had stored in big garbage cans. It had a peculiar odor of sour beer and who knows what else. Of course everything about his studio had some sort of intrigue. Ken inspired me to try to make big pots and use the anagama in my later undergrad years.
Enough nostalgia, let's get back to this jar. I took a good look at it and noticed some beautiful subtle colors that are somewhat noticeable from this picture that I took with my cell phone. I'm not sure whether the patterns are solely from the flame. I seem to remember Ken wrapping pots with straw soaked in salt, but it's been a really long time. It's a real beauty. It was the next best thing to seeing Ken who I haven't seen in some years. He now teaches at Austin Peay State University in my hometown of Clarksville, TN. Here is Ken's web site if you want to see what he's been doing lately.

Here are a couple of old pictures I retrieved from the vaults showing the firebox of the former UTK anagama built* in 1981(?) by Shiro Otani at the Melrose Ave studio. On the right is a picture of the kiln and that's Peter Rose chopping wood. (I can't remember if I have already published these pictures in another post.) Peter lives and makes pots in Knoxville to this day but hails from Australia. After Kenny graduated and moved on Peter came around, (thank God!) and helped all of us Art students fire the kiln. We were pretty much clueless. I had helped Kenny fire a couple of his kiln loads, but really hadn't fired by myself. So, I owe a lot to Ken and Peter!

All these memories (and I could go on, but I'll spare ya for now) from a jar.

The kiln was actually built by Ken Shipley, Stephen Frazier, Patrick Houston, and others after the kiln built at Arrowmont built by Otani.

September 16, 2008

Sad News from Scotland

Hannah McAndrew has reported the death of Alan Gaff of Argyll Pottery at her blog. Those of you have read his blog were just getting to know Alan and his pottery through his generous writing and photography. As Hannah has said, none of us want to believe that this tragedy has occurred. I will miss his reporting from one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Here is an excerpt from Alan's web site:
I suppose if you were to criticise my work you could say that most of my pieces are quite stayed and safe but I have always tried to make my work for those three harshest of critics, Alan and Mr and Mrs General Public, they do not suffer fools gladly. As we sell to a very wide range of folk straight off the road, the sign says POTTERY, that is what you expect and you may not always like our colours or style but with us pottery is usually what hopefully you get, well made, robust and functional pottery. (Apart from the ceramic motor bikes, the roe deer and horse sculptures, the skull night lights at Halloween, the wee animals, pottery pipes, kiln dragons, mushrooms, toadstools, wood mice, frogs, cones, tulip vases, lily forms etc). O, K, so if you bother to look you will probably find something different here, all you have to do is come and see.


September 15, 2008

Coffee Break vol. #11

Today is a little cooler than normal and it's a bit overcast here, for now, so I've broken with the traditional cup of coffee and reached for this big ole mug made by my good friend Dan Finnegan to make a cup of tea. It's a big cup and the glaze is a beautiful olive green to amber over a crackle slip. This mug is too big for my coffee but makes a great tea mug that keeps the tea warm in these cooler days. Dan originally donated this mug for a "Empty Cups" event we were planning for the New Orleans NCECA that was canceled and moved to Pittsburgh. So he agreed to give it to me in exchange for one of my mugs. But this is a gentle "reminder to self" to send Dan a mug! Guilty as charged. Sorry Dan. I'll make some mugs for next firing and pick the best for you.
It's also appropriate that I make my first tea of the Fall with one of Dan's cups. A few years ago I taught at Penland with Dan and we overlapped a little bit with the same class. Dan had tea every afternoon with the class and it was a very nice time to stop our work and sit down together and have tea and talk about whatever, usually pottery. So I carried on the tea time after Dan left. It was great. Then I taught again a couple of years later and, to my surprise, and glee, one of my students, I believe it was Ron G. presented me with a care package from Dan, full of tea, some sweets and a note wishing me a good workshop. What a mensch![that's Yiddish for mensch] So this mug of Earl Gray goes out to Dan! I'm thinking about you today buddy, as I sip my tea. Read Dan's blog, it's a good one.


The Utilitarian Clay Conference was a very intense and gratifying experience. Being a presenter was like a dream and even on the last day when we all sat on the stage talking about our favorite pots, I was still pinching myself, thinking how lucky I was to be part of this rare and fantastic event. I had great conversations late into the night with my colleagues and heros. There were also great discussions from all of those who came and gathered in the demo rooms. I wanted to thank all those folks who came up and introduced themselves to me (I hope you're reading!) and appreciate their kind words.
Sitting here today, I still can't believe it happened, but seeing the nice pictures that Tracey took is proof that it actually happened and that I was there after all. I was sad that I didn't get to see Daphne Hatcher, Bede Clarke, Linda Sikora, and Ayumi Horie make their work. We all were "working" at the same time in separate rooms. Arrowmont will be releasing podcasts of the symposia , maybe I can catch up then. I'll be sure to post links here when that happens in the near future. Until then I will be collecting my thoughts and sharing the few pictures I had time to take at the symposium this week.
[the picture above has some beauties by my Penland buddy, Jane Shellenbarger who now teaches at Marquette in Michigan]

September 12, 2008


I forgot to post this with the other...


Here is a chance to help yourself to some great pots and help the NC Pottery Center all at the same time. Click on pic for a full size version.

Postcard for Shoko

I saw this this evening as I passed throught the Arrowmont 
Gallery! I'm so happy for my "invitee", colleague and friend, Shoko Teruyama. 
 Wish you were here. Your pots look really beautiful!

September 10, 2008

Where'did It Go??

There will be a show of pots at the conference from the presenter's personal collections. I had already sent in the vitals for this pot. It's a gallon+ pitcher made by my buddy Mark Hewitt. But for most of yesterday I looked in boxes in the new studio, boxes below the new studio, boxes at the kiln shed, you get the picture. It's the old lost wallet scenario. I was paralyzed and could get anything done in this panic. I made three trips to Micaville in pursuit of this pot. Luckily for me, my brilliant wife, Stacey asked, "Don't you have a pile of stuff at that storage unit?" I had literally and conveniently forgotten about all the stuff I had stored in my friend John's 10 x 10 unit. And voila [that's french for "voila"] there it was in it's own box with big sharpie letters alluding to its contents. Anyway, most everything is packed. I am relaxed, finally. Now all I have to do is replace the ceiling fan in the kitchen and ship a package and over the mountain I will go.