June 29, 2012

A Very Short Video About a Very Little Dish

Catherine White Demo @Penland from Michael KLine on Vimeo.

Here's the exciting conclusion to the little molded dish Catherine White demo'd for me the other day. I shot this with an iPad in portrait mode, so apologies for the funny view. All praises to Vimeo for handling the formatting issue without a hiccup. Enjoy.

Hopefully more Catherine to come next week!

NOTE: Catherine writes so beautifully and thoughtfully on her Penland Experience, here.

postscript: for everyone who like numbers, this happens to be the 1450th post here at Sawdust and Dirt! Thanks for reading!

A Penland Afternoon

VA potter Catherine White's hands on some clay

One of the great hopes and dreams I have as a member of the Penland community is to take a class at the school every summer. A summer break kind of thing. This dream doesn't lean in particular to any medium,  it's just to be there, to see how people make stuff and to get jazzed up about my own work. But that dream is being deferred for now.

But another one of the great things about being in the neighborhood of the Penland School is dropping in the clay studio to see what's going on, even if it's just for a peek or a glimpse. Of course, nothing much gets done in my studio when I visit Penland, so I try to stay clear when I have approaching deadlines, etc.  But since I am just now getting back into the clay this week,  I rationalized that it was a perfect day to nose around the studio and see what they were "building in there."

Sitting at the picnic tables out by the Coffee House, that is adjacent to the Pines Dining Hall, you can see the whole world go by. It may take a few sessions, maybe a couple of summers, but eventually everyone I know walks by. It's the center of the universe. The other day I ran into Warren Frederick and his wife, Catherine White. Catherine is leading the workshop in the upstairs clay studio. Her workshop would have been the class I would have taken this summer, no doubt.  So I was more than willing and very happy to let myself get swept away for that beautiful clear afternoon (and was glad I had flipped over and covered all the plates I threw the day before).

Walking in that studio that I have been walking into for over twenty years is always familiar and always new. The room is the same. The doorway, the floor, the windows, the view, are the same , but what is happening in the room is always unique. I was excited to get a look at everyone working, but the electricity in there was the real elixir!

Catherine showed me what she was making and with a little drool forming at the corner of my mouth I scanned the tables to see the clay and the slip on the forms that were already everywhere on that second day of class. It really is the reason I live here, so close to that school. The chance, even though it is rare given my obligations with family and work, to step in there and nose around.

I was completely excited by what I saw and then was lucky enough that Catherine took the time to show me how she makes her beautiful bisque molded dishes. I could go on about the luxury of such a situation, maybe I will tomorrow, but for now I will end this post with some pictures I snapped.  Here is Catherine cutting out a little round dish that she has previously coated in white slip and wiped through a pattern with her fingers.  Tomorrow I will post a short video of her very clever way of attaching a little foot ring to this little dish. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

June 26, 2012

Monday Plate Day

Today was a fine day, not exactly normal, but a good day. Not normal because intern Adam MacKay was here working which meant we were actually going to do some pottery work!

The day began with the unfortunate and untimely demise of our Holly Walker bowl which we have used for many years to hold all sorts of things. It was a favorite salad bowl and held many a Monday night's Broccoli Pasta. It's last passengers seem to be a stale bag of oatmeal bread, a family of smarties, and a lone pixie stix. All the occupants  survived the six foot fall from the top of the fridge, but the vessel was totalled. We will miss you Holly Walker bowl, but now you will suffer random and disparate foods no more.

The showroom remodel was put off for a day and Adam and I cleared away the debris that had occupied my shop to make room for some freshly thrown pots. We ridded the sub level of the work table that had a couple of years worth of random clay bodies never used and dried up.  It's time to break the monopoly of floor space this table takes by splitting this table in two and adding some casters, which will lend some flexibility to the work space.

As I do so often, I threw plates to start the session off. Adam and I discussed spiral wedging and after a few balls he was settling in to some unselfconscious wedging. It's nice to have someone weigh and wedge.

Suppertime brought some confidence back to handling some nice pots from our cupboard. Here is a corner of our domestic real estate, a very nice neighborhood, you could say, with a few Sam Taylor pots with an adjacent Rick Hensley. Pesto with locally produced goat cheese, carrots, and of course fresh seltzer from my SodaStream. The girls like it very much and we have some flavor testing to look forward to in the morning. Evelyn made a simple syrup with fresh mint that sits cooling on the stove.

Life is good.

June 25, 2012


I painted a few paper plates that went out to some of my star customers from last week's Etsy Sale.

It's a great way to keep the brushes limber while there aren't any pots to paint. I hope to take this technique on the road to my upcoming workshops in NYC and CT. More on those soon.

Want a plate? Buy a pot!

Today I start making pots. Film at 11.

Guess who?

June 23, 2012

Working From Home

I love working from home!
I have really enjoyed the summer so far. I especially liked Catherine White's biannual solstice blogging. If you haven't read the posts from this past month you really must. They are brief and really thought provoking! Begin here.

I'm back to work in the clay and look forward to sharing some of the studio fun with you. It's been too long, and now I'm hungry!!

BTW, I just posted a bunch of pots in my Etsy store. There are still some nice one's there, even after a busy rollout! Check them out.

June 2, 2012

Crap Ton of Rant

left at another blog earlier today.

 "I heard that phrase a lot in TX. Maybe that's a cattle reference? I prefer grass fed beef.

On transparency and honesty in reporting, I agree with Adriana, but tend to just 'grin through my teeth'. I've had my share of crap shows, for sure. I just don't do that many shows anymore because I don't do well in general when I'm in a booth of some kind. I tend to do better when I can show folks my kiln, my clay pit,  and flesh out the narrative in that way versus a brag book of pictures or a series of charade like gestures. I guess the blog and facebook can do that. The market is a fickle place and it seems more often that promoters walk away with the real money. There is a crap ton of shows out there and the craft show paradigm is crap. With that said, I think of these opportunities as a savings account. Or better yet a life insurance policy, maybe. (i know its a stretch, since I don't fully understand either) But all of these shows may be seen as a form of proselytizing. It the shaking hands, politicking part of the craft career. Our presence at a craft show keeps us out there among the people. We're clearly seen by many as entertainment. Thankfully some of these folks also buy our work to take home and relive that entertainment on their tables and in their cupboards.

 (i've obviously had way too much coffee, but i will try to continue to make a point)

Back to the deep hole that we throw our money. (the gamble of the craft show) I guess what I'm thinking here is that we don't really know who we'll meet at these events. Whether it is another artist who can become an inspiration, or a reporter, or writer, etc. We may get invited to do a workshop. But if we look at these attempts as half full it might ease the disappointment of having to pack all of those pots up to take to the next show. It is a circus of sorts, take down the tent to put up in another town. Part of this strategy for me has been to stay close to home and/or be very selective of my craft show participation. We all have these stories of dashed success, I guess I'm still trying to figure things out and move on the good ideas. These good ideas are implicitly informed by the un-successes of the past, but not necessarily dwelled  upon (grinning through teeth, wink, wink) (ok, i'd better leave it there, I'm starting to get dizzy)

Carter could you pick up this convoluted ball of tangled extension cords and unravel it?"

June 1, 2012

Hay you!

I just downloaded over a 1000 pictures off of the Nikon. If only I could download all of the stories that those pictures would tell. If there is inflation of the economic variety in story telling  then those pictures are worth a gazillion words. Don't they call that hype? Whatever, it's way more than I have time to recount here.

Summary: The roadtrip to and from Austin with Gwendolyn, pictures from Austin's Art of the Pot,  a visit with an old friend, his family, and his Texas mob, the beginnings of summer vacation with the gals, visits with pottery donors for the NCPC Annual Auction, garden pictures, pictures from Evelyn's play, not to mention Evelyn and Lillian's dance performance, a broken down car, a new van, Cousins in Clay with Ron and Judith, Bruce and Samantha, and our visit to Starworks Ceramics in Seagrove and Star, NC, more pictures of the kids and their friends over for a campout. Oh, and the pictures I promised from the last firing.

In a nutshell, that's what was on that 16 GB "roll of film".

When I sat down to click clack this post out on ye olde keyboard I was a little struck down by the weight of wanting to share all of those stories and feeling slightly lame for not being a better blogger/reporter this past month. But now I feel a little better with the summary. I never want to promise that I will write about all that someday and never do it, that's really lame.

Finally to what I wanted to write about in the first place, before the preamble ramble.  What I will share with you now is a bit of mower's pride.

It's what I call the "table" shot. You know the pic. The one of a potter's studio full of freshly made pots, (aka the 12 x 12 shot). But instead of rows of pots, I have windrows! I took these pictures immediately after finishing the the mowing spiral. The sun had just broken through dusky clouds. I couldn't quite capture the pride I had at the moment, but it's the kind of pride one has for overcoming technical, tactical, or physical shortcoming. Pride associated with taking something to the next level or sometimes just getting something/anything made or done! We all have our challenges, right?

So with the pride of a potter with a table of freshly turned potteries, here are a few pictures of last evenings mowings.

Like many a weekend warrior with a lawn, I enjoy getting out there and going 'round with the mower. AND I've been blessed with several acres of open meadow that surround the studio and the house. But only a very small portion around the house and the studio got mowed by moi. The rest was cut and hayed by neighbors. Actually, that weekend warrior part is a little inaccurate. I mow when I can and when I am busy with a firing, the grass can get pretty tall. Tall grass is hard to push a 3.5 hp Briggs and Stratton through, so last summer I taught myself to use a scythe. For those who follow me on Facebook, Instagram, etc. you no doubt, have seen me posing with my scythe or showing a newly mowed row of the field. Well, after many hours of online videos of people all around the world using scythes, I managed to learn how to use the one bequeathed to me by my scything patron, Kent McLaughlin. I had confessed my fascination for the scythe with him at a POTR meeting, and shortly after that he produced a fine Austrian-made "Amercian" (er, American, that is) scythe that I used all of last summer. It was pretty used up, but I managed to figure out how to use it and more importantly how to sharpen it!

It's probably too late to make a long story short, but that's the gist of it.
For this evening,  I have a few pots to decorate and glaze for Kyle's kiln.
Tomorrow, it's time to rake some hay. That is if the sun shines.

Spoiler: more scythe-talk may show up here on ye olde blogge! There's a lot of tall grass outside the studio! Consider yourself warned.