January 27, 2012

Coffee Break vol. 31

I really shouldn't be taking a coffee break so early, but it has been a chilly day here in the pottery neighborhood and with my new rapid boil kettle it was a done-deal in a matter of moments. But no sooner did my water boil and I was on the hunt for a clean(ish) cup. I looked far and wide for a suitable mug that wasn't for sale in my Etsy shop or didn't have schmutz in it from a previous beverage.

Then I saw this little pot on my OPP shelf. It's from my clay Cousins over in Seagrove, who I will be visiting very soon. I had always thought of this pot as a small flower vase. But today I was feeling adventurous and decided to hook it up with a hot coffee.

It sports a really beautiful iridescent iron glaze with a diagonal shino(?) pattern that is somewhat like a stem and leaf. Do you see the iridescence?

The shape is very comfortable and warmed my hands up nicely on a chilly morning. Is it a yunomi? Me no know.

While I having this cup I listened to the latest Brian R Jonescast. This weeks interview is with Brian Giniewski. Have a cup of something warm and check it out!

So off to Seagrove I go and hopefully I can see what goodies The Cousins are into this new year. I'll let you know.

January 26, 2012

12 X 12 Revisited/Revised

Monday offers such promise, while Thursday reminds me of my shortcomings with Fridays verdict right around the corner. Not that I have ever operated on a regular 9-5 M-F schedule, but the mainstream routine sits on one of my shoulders, reminding.

Yesterday, as I was working on various projects in the bright sunshine, (read: not pottery), I had a yearning for some kind of routine, a daily goal. I remembered my 12x12. A concept that seems to have been forgotten like a dream. But it's not that hard to imagine that I could get back to a regular studio practice like that soon. It's almost February, after all! So while I was outside doing some long over fall maintenance on my mower, I had the thought that I would set my goals lower. Haha. Yes, a little lower, to avoid the self loathing that a Thursday might bring. So I decided since I had missed my 12x12 deadline(again) that I would try to just make a dozen, (ok, I made 16) and try to finish them today (Thurs).

I thought I would make a short run of cups, a few serving dishes, and some pitchers. It was a very different experience contrasted to making boards and boards of pots that would then take me a day or two to finish.

When making a dozen or more of one shape, each pot gets closer to the ideal and hopefully with the last ball of clay I make the best of the lot. That happens sometime. Sometimes, when revisiting a shape, the first one off the wheel is fresh and has a naïveté that seems more natural, with subsequent forms trying a bit too hard to be perfect. It's hard to explain. That first pot is imperfect by the mind's eye and I try harder with each redo. In the process, with each subsequent pot I become more self-conscious and sometimes squeeze the life out of them.

With these short runs of pots, I didn't get into that self conscious mode (as much). I wasn't thinking that I had 20 more to make and wasn't hoping that I would get a few really good ones. I was there with each one and then they were made. The cycle was shorter.

This is very difficult to explain, but my goal is to try to make 12-16 pots each morning and finish the pots from the day before after lunch. It's a slightly different model and will hopefully be steady and more manageable than table full of plastic.

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January 23, 2012


Just a placeholder until I finish all of these plates and finish the last in my pottery bloggery series. Later today, hopefully! I also have some shipping to do. See you then.

January 18, 2012

The Pottery Bloggery Eyes

The potter blogger has different eyes. That is, the potter who writes, journals, blogs has different eyes. Since blogging offers all kinds of ways to share information about one's thoughts, various tools can be used, besides the written word. I started blogging in 2007(?) with the intention of polishing the words I use to describe this visual language of pottery I speak. At first I was pretty shy. But eventually my thoughts flowed a little easier. Yesterday's post woke me up to the fact that my writing and thinking brain had become pretty mushy from my six month sabbatical. But I will forge onward and try to be at least half as clear as John Bauman can be when he leaves his comments!

Back to the visual thing. Seeing is believing. Seeing depends on one's perceptions. How do you see the world, half full or half empty? Do you dream in black and white or in color? One of the first things I do when I walk through the door of my shop is to make sure I have the camera ready to go. Batteries charged, available memory in the card, tripod ready. The camera and the pictures I take have become an important way, or maybe another way, to "see" the pots, the studio, the things that I walk past in the field. I guess we all have blind spots. We choose what to see after years of practice of putting blinders on. The camera helps me overcome my blind spots. It also sees without prejudice. With its macro focus it helps me see things I can't really see with my naked eye.

As I began to keep this online journal to sharpen my writing skills, photography became an equally important way of expressing what I was seeing and thinking in the shop. So much so, that it was only after I had looked at the pictures of the day did a narrative for the blog emerge.
The photography fed the narrative of my studio life. For a while, you wouldn't see me without my camera. I was a pesky shutter bug wherever I went. Seeing through the lens of the camera became very important in how I saw everything around me. It gave a second opinion, like squinting does for most of us. The camera gave me a second perspective as standing back from one's work does after working with your head down.

During a firing, I keep a log. I usually record temperature, cones, damper settings, etc. but I'm not writing it down to remember later. I'm writing it'd own to remember it now! (I stole that line) I do refer back to the logs of past firings, but really what I'm doing is writing things down to map a course, to make changes, to affect the right changes in the firing. The blog and the pictures help me to affect a similar change in the work I make, or at least they have become such an influence by the vigilant writing of the blog. These effects of blogging weren't expected at the onset, but they have found their way into the work flow, just as the results of a firing enter into to my subconcious. Scott wrote eloquently about this phenomenon recently, here.

This is the critical role of my blog. It is a tool to pry open our eyes and our perceptions.

Next: Clay on your Hands

January 17, 2012

The Clayer

Bay area potter, Diana Fayt is offering a cool online way to learn her techniques. Click here to visit The Clayer.

January 16, 2012

Pottery Bloggery Pt 1

Recently a friend told me that she had just gotten back from a conference where everybody was telling her that she needed a blog! So she came to me asking whether she really needed a blog.

My answer in short was no.

I imagine that probably surprises a lot of you. (Maybe not, since I just enjoyed a 6 month sabbatical from blogging.) But here are some thoughts on being an artist and writing about it. (in no particular order)

Why blog?

There are several motivations for writing (and keeping) a blog. Self promotion seems to be a big one. Keeping a record or log of your thoughts/your work is a good one. Polishing writing skills was my motivation.

Self Promotion

I may be way off in saying this, but I don't think many of my customers/collectors/patrons read this blog. I'm certain that some do as they tell me at shows that they do. But I think it's a very small number. The community around any blog is the group of people who have something in common with the content of the blog.

For example, "Mom" blogs are very appealing to mothers who can share and commiserate with the blog author about being a Mom. There are so many Mom blogs that they even have subcategories, like "Craft Mom"! Now I'm sure some Dads follow Mom blogs, some may even have their own blogs about fathering. But based on the huge number of women who leave comments on the Mom blogs versus the number of men, I would guess that the readership is mostly women.

So it doesn't surprise me that most of the followers of this blog are makers, themselves, since most of my content is about making pots and most of the folks I hear from in the comments and through emails seem to be potters! I write about techniques, about firing the kiln, about the joys and tribulations of making pottery, not so much about buying or collecting pots and how great I am. After all self-promotion is really about laying on the hype, something I'm not so comfortable with. I guess I'd rather write about techniques and share my thoughts with other potters as I go about the studio.

I'm sure there is plenty of interesting "backstory" for any collector of my pottery, but I haven't heard from many of them here. Maybe it's all too esoteric. Maybe too boring. If you're out there, dear lover of Kline Pottery, please chime in with your experience! Let your loving voices be heard.

Meanwhile, I must get to the muddy work of pottery. Muddy hands and keyboards just don't mix. So until the next time I can squirrel away a few minutes to continue this thread of pottery-bloggery thought, I bid you a bright and productive winter's day!

Next: The Potter-Blogger's Eye


Here are a couple of other potter's posts worth reading.

Ron has announced our very exciting Cape Cod workshop at the Cape Cod Potters!

Tom has good news about potters that paint and help the NCPC.

Cool stuff being made over at Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway.

I'm also working on a blog post about blogging. It's sort of like pots about pots.

January 15, 2012

March 2012 in Old San Juan

There is no better time to see than when you are traveling. Not only are your eyes wide open but all of your senses are fully present and alive. You are sprung out of your routine and charmed by all that you experience. There's not a better time to be inspired.

That's what make Travel-Arte's workshops seem so intriguing to me. Travel to Old Juan in Puerto Rico and learn and create with some of today's premier ceramic sculptors. What could be better?

Here's what a workshop participant said about their Travel-Arte experience,
"Everything was carefully considered from the resource materials, the organization of the work stations, studio visits, lunches, slide presentations and one on one time (with) each participant. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in Clay figuration. A tremendous amount of technical information was covered, supported with hands on guidance.

…I also think the idea of learning a skill coupled with a new travel experience was fulfilled. It is always inspiring to see how other Artists work and even more so in a culturally vibrant country like PR…it was a successful and enjoyable experience …I am looking forward to the workshops March 2012."

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, Trinidad and Tobago,

Check out the artist's web sites below and Go to Travel-Art's website for more details.

LISA CLAGUE: Beyond Tradition March 8, 9, 10

CRISTINA CÓRDOVA : In Depth Portfolio Review March 11

JERYLIN VIRDEN : Lowfire Glazes March 12, 13, 14

SERGEI ISUPOV: Image and Form March 16, 17 18

January 13, 2012

Snow Day

After some sledding and general hanging out with Evelyn and Lillian, I spent the afternoon working on my new website. Nothing fancy but it's up and running, here.
It doesn't feel like me quite yet. I really shouldn't even share it, but maybe I'll get some feedback on what is there so far. Feel free to comment below.

Although I have a real interest in all things internet, including programming, the benefits of DIY seem very scarce. While the bumper sticker says, I'd rather be "potting" I find myself drawn to endless tweeking of fonts, colors, layouts, widgets, and in the end find that I am better off trying to keep everything really simple. (whatever that means)

So as the sun drops out of the day I find my matches and build a fire in the really cold studio. Checking the pots I made yesterday and make a few more. Consistency is my goal for the coming weeks. Maybe the word would be steadfast. Everyday, build on the previous day's success. Until late February finds me loading the steadfastness into the kiln.

January 12, 2012

Not Exactly a 12 X 12 Day

Not even close! More like 2 x Quizzo. I got more more work done on the soon-2-be Sawdust and Dirt T shirt. (which you will be able to acquire at our VA/MA workshop road trip!

More on that later.

January 11, 2012

Processing the Process

Everywhere I walk today is a now familiar squishing sound. The clay beneath my boots is saturated with the rain. On the hill and in the shallows behind my house, squish. I suppose it could be solidly frozen or covered with snow. That wouldn't be bad.

I've struggled and deleted a couple of drafts to this return to the blog. Soggy brain, I suppose.

As you might have guessed by some of the previous picture only posts, I have been looking at my pots thought the lens of my camera. Seeing the pots through the camera and the subsequent viewing on the desktop photo software give one a very different view of one's work. It takes the same rigor that one develops over the years to imagine the pots after we've treated them with slips, glazes and fire or heat. The ceramic process is somewhat of a dream that is usually idealistic and never incorporates the slightly uneven firing, or the glaze applied too thickly, or the number of things that can happen during a firing. Nor does this dream imagine the wonderful things that are somewhat mysterious and surprising about the process of finishing clay that renders it into a hardened ceramic pot.

But the perspective that the camera and the photo process give, help me to see the details of the pots that in a different way. Similar to the distance that time gives after a firing. The ceramic dream gets revised and the reality of the finished pots sinks in.

So, like Rip van Winkle, I slowly wake up from my long blog sleep and dream about the pots I will make in the coming weeks. The blog helps me to process the process and understand the results of the kiln. I look forward to sharing it all with you here. I hope you will come along with me.

Thanks for reading.

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