February 26, 2013

Mad Dash

I'm heading out of town and getting ready for my gig in Bowling Green Ohio with Gerit Grimm at BGSU. But first some slip combing and a pottery bloggery summit with Cooper, Phillips, Philbeck, and Carpenter.

Now, where did I put that trimming tool?

February 25, 2013

DIY Shoji Wheel

It's purely coincidental that I discover this video completely randomly today. It has nothing to do with my visit to Bandana Pottery last week or does it? Is Google or the NSA monitoring the blog?

My recommendations :

  • Raise your axle so your not so bent over like Mr. Bergman.
  • Use a safer turning stick like maybe wood! The tire iron is ironic, but a little hazardous (if you accidentally lose your grip on it and it's coming at you or any onlookers!)

Enjoy! (but don't hurt yourself)

Oh, and here's a nice video of the one and only, Shoji Hamada throwing on a similar wheel.

Today's Sawdust

Milan and his "new" truck brought 3 huge bundles of poplar from his sawmill in Buladean. It was great to hear him trucking up the steep hill to the kiln. Let the sawdust fly.

February 24, 2013

What's Comes Around Goes Round

Time for those six 5 gallon buckets of red dirt reclaim to be brought back to a working consistency. I'll also reclaim that space in my studio where the buckets have been stacked. Turning mud into pots. It's good to have a stack of new plaster bats!
Now back to making more plates. People need to eat off of something nice!

February 23, 2013


I'm sure there will be the usual scatological comments (oh, come on, don't be shy on my account), but I see a really nice line in this pugged clay.


My dearest Evvy,
Thanks for showing me Wordle. I used the text from my recent article in the journal, The Logbook, and this is what it came up with! Pretty cool!

Here's my artist statement in Wordle.

OK,  got to get back to work!

 For all you pottery bloggery readers who want to see these Wordles full size, click here.

February 22, 2013

Plaster, Videos, and Ireland

This week has flown by, as it does. Wednesday Kenny Sedberry and I went out with the video cam and filmed four of our  POTR guild. We started out at Bandana Pottery, where Naomi Dalglish made a cake plate, and Michael Hunt deco'd some plates and threw cups off the hump.

Kenny and I tried our hands on Michael's stick propelled wheel.

Next we headed over Stan Andersen's studio on Water Street. Stan had many great stories which we captured on video, but we had to scramble to charge the batteries during our lunch break! One of the videos is Stan outlining the fascinating history of majolica-ware! I may post that one here next week. 

After lunch we went to David Ross's place over on Snow Creek Rd. where David made a huge slab platter. We're making the videos to document our guild and will begin releasing them in April on our Facebook page.

I made new reclaim bats this week. They are 22" x 22" x 2". Of the 4 I made in 1998, 2 are left and are chipping and flaking. Besides I need 4 to reclaim my barrel. I am well aware of the economics debate that I've had before about whether or not to reclaim. But its not always about economics for me, although my bank account would beg to differ.

One more thing: Don't miss my buddy, Shawn Ireland's show at AKAR that went live this morning!
He's got some beautiful pots there! Get them while they are still available!

Shawn Ireland, carousel candlestick, courtesy:AKAR design

February 21, 2013

In Praise of Liking Mistakes

Chris Staley and Cody Goddard have made some incredibly compelling videos.  This is one of my favorites. Thanks to Laura and  Lori for posting this video in the last couple of days on their blogs.

I am posting it here today in hopes that tomorrow another potter blogger will post it on their blog. Keep it going!

February 20, 2013


Dear loyal reader,

Here is a cup and a plate glazed with my alkaline ash glaze. They are pretty straightforward in design with minimal decoration. The sine wave on the border of the plate is simply made by wiggling a wooden comb on the pot just before I take the wire to cut it off of the wheel. The glaze is reportedly a descendent of a recipe from the late Burlon Craig. John Simmons renamed this glaze, the “alka-kline”. [John is very good with words. He also called my red dirt clay body, “the home clay”]

Anyway, there was a time when I would have been happy to dip all my pots in this glaze because it was so juicy and it made me feel a connection to the traditional glazed pots of the Catawba Valley, just an hour or so from here. In 2007, when this plate was made, about half of my kiln was glazed with the “alka-kline”. I was even doing a lot of slip trailing, too. [another post with some slip trailing]

Just when I think my work hasn’t changed enough, or I fear that my work is in a rut, I trip over pots like these and I am a little surprised. A good reason to keep this online journal, aka b-l-o-g! It’s a good archive, a testiment to what I have done over the past few years.

Well, the other surprising thing about this work was that, at the time, I was convinced that it would be the next “big thing” for me. I was sure that the buying public would love it as much as I did. But the reality was that most folks who would buy pots from me want “signature” pots, aka, pots that were painted with some sort of brushwork. These alkaline glazed pots sat on the shelf as if they were invisible. With that kind of reaction I steadily made less and less of them.

But commerce is a poor critic and an unqualified muse!

The discovery of these old dusty pots has got me to thinking that maybe I didn’t go far enough in developing this “frontier-ware”. Maybe it’s time to reopen the investigation of this classic glaze and take it to a more personal place. Just as I have done with the mashup of south asian brushwork and wood fired salt glaze, I should chase this glaze around a little and see what I come up with. And it’s not only the glaze, but the forms of the pots themselves that may need to be developed that extra mile.

A couple of summer's ago, I found this shard in the field when I was hoeing weeds.  It's the only piece of whatever crockery it was once part of. I looked all summer for other pieces, but none could be found. It's probably pretty old. It is glazed with alkaline glaze and was probably preserve jar or small jug made an hour away in Lincoln County, no doubt.

After years of plowing, the missing pieces most likely got scattered. But it is a real treasure to me. Just as I treasure my my home clay and wood ash glaze, I treasure my place in this pottery making continuum.

Never a dull moment in a potter's life!

February 19, 2013


Dear {recipient},
It's a snow day here.

No snow here, but ice earlier this morning in the higher elevations of our county.

That means that nobody goes to school, even if us low lying valley folks have no winter hazards. Snow days wreak havoc on this potter. So Stacey and I have split the kids up and Evelyn will join me in the shop with a stack of books to read while I get to work this afternoon. I was hoping to get on with my 12 x 12, but instead have done chores, including the hunting down of Evelyn's flip video camera. I will be "shooting video" of some of the P's of the R tomorrow. The complete set of videos will be rolled out on the POTR Facebook page this Spring in advance of our exhibit at the Toe River Arts Council Gallery this August.

Today? Well I'll try make my plates before taking Lillian to guitar and hoops practice. (25 x 5?)

Thanks for the surge in readership this past week. I guess it helps to post regularly. I have all but vanished from Instagram, and am limiting my time at FB as well. There's only so much time for social networking.

Here is today's video from Chris Staley. I'm not sure if this video explicitly defined  "beauty" but I did like some of the suggestions (1:40) made by Chris's students.

My apologies for not having the time this morning to consider such meta-physics, but here is a post that isn't afraid to go closer to the metal.

I hope everyone is able to leave comments without any trouble. If you need help just drop me an email.

February 18, 2013

Got Grip?

All hail the few, the proud, the blog reader!

In an effort to keep the world informed of my little victories, here is Monday's edition of the pottery bloggery.

1, 2, 2.5, and 3

There may be a couple of you out there would be happy to know that I managed to complete #3  on Scott's adgenda Friday. It only took me 3 days! [so much for 12 x 12] But in my defense, there was some hearty discussion that is just as valuable to this potter. 

stamped and handled

The shapes became a little better, more refined, but the handles seemed awkward. Making handles is a floppy affair that is somewhat of a riddle. A potter can't just pick up the pot with its freshly drawn handle, the potter has to wait till the handle has firmed up. Waiting. There's a lot of waiting in pottery making. 
 designed for one finger. as much clay in the handle as the cup
Here are some other types of handles. Some are more like latches than handles. But all meant to be controlled by hand, not foot. Maybe claw if that's what you got.

handle that lets me into the chicken zone. sometimes tricky to open with 2 hands full of eggs

a favorite handle. screen door to our house. i use this one a lot. hand made!

smooth lines, nice attachment

two of my fingers fit this model

Until next time, keep a firm grip.

February 17, 2013

Going the Extra Mile

My 4th grade(?) social studies(?) teacher, Mrs Wallace(?) always encouraged us to go "the extra mile".
italian earthenware, 19c(?), courtesy of s.i. pottery
Good advice. Imagine if the potter who made this pot thought to themselves, "I don't have time for all of these imbricates!" It wouldn't be the beautiful pot that it is.

Don't second guess your impulse to go for broke!  Go that extra mile!

February 15, 2013

Future Pottery

Hello King Friday XV,

Uncle B and I had some good times in the past couple of days. I'll miss him today as his "Friday" came yesterday and he's off to the Piedmont today with family. Today, I’ll no doubt finish up my mugs in record time. There isn't likely to be any banter, except that echoing in my head.

One interesting concept that stuck in my brain after yesterday's talking (and yesterday's post) is somehow related to the idea of the ceramic third eye, or maybe better yet, the ceramic mind's eye. I'm not sure how. It's also related to time travel (bear with me, please) and future pottery, good lord willing.

Part of the agenda that Uncle B set in front of me, scribbled on a scrap of paper, was the notion of limits, deadlines, procrastination, and the addiction to urgency. (paraphrased) I had a rush of thoughts. The first being that I wanted to put off that agenda item till later—Pass!


Then I panicked with the thought that I have too little time to be at Penland in the first place, making pots for charity when I should be making pots in MY shop for MY kiln! At the same time, the real silver lining for me is that I AM  building momentum making pots, I AM having a thrilling time in conversation with Scott C(Uncle B) and so what’s the big deal?

This could turn into a very tangential, stream of consciousness post, so let me try to avoid that train wreck, or some random meteor shower of thoughts, by saying that everything we do in this moment as artists is some kind of investment in our future work.

I ask myself,

  • how will this time I'm spending effect the work I make? 
  • am I spending this time working toward making better work? 
  • is this studio full of crap that is encumbering a good flow of creativity? 

The pots I make for Penland I do ultimately for Penland’s benefit. But it is also helping ME make better pots by allowing me time to work out some form ideas with very few of the usual risks. As Scott said yesterday, something to the effect of, “at least we were keeping our hands muddy” the time spent in conversation and clay are rare and can’t be measured. Progress was somehow being made.

The progress bar is moving along! [or is it?] There’s a lot to be said of the progress bar.

All I really want to say, as I sort these thoughts out on the keyboard, is,

Keep pushing, keep striving! Your future pots deserve it.

Now,  Go on and get outta here!

It’s later than you think.

Have a great weekend.

February 14, 2013

My Brilliant Ideas

I was surprised when I saw the results of the reduction firing of the mugs I made for this summer's Penland Benefit Auction. I guess surprises can be good or bad.

Half of the mugs I glazed with a shino glaze, then painted a floral wax pattern, then dipped them in the shino glaze again. All the while seeing in my ceramic "third eye" a brilliant layering of glazes, fired to perfection, with a gorgeous contrasting pattern of leaves and vines.

All perfect! Brilliant!

[cue the Jaws music, show potters laughing, sharing their pottery jokes, unaware of the hazards that this distracted moment present]

Then, in my distraction,  I went ahead with the remainder of the mugs, forgetting to dip the first layer of shino and blissfully and ignorantly, painted away my wax patterns, dipped them in the glaze, only to realize that I had forgotten a crucial step!

Oh well, there was no reset button with that wax resist, and nothing to do but submit the pots to the kiln with my sheepish grin and fingers crossed that the bare clay would look ok and the mugs salvageable!

When I saw the mugs I realized that my ideas are never as brilliant as they exist in my ceramic mind's eye. BUT, my mistakes are sometimes golden!


Not all mistakes are golden, but they are always worth scrutinizing. The mug pictured was one of the dozen or so mugs that weren't glazed like I had planned. The glaze was much redder than I imagined. I was thinking of a more tame bland shino. To my surprise the rich red/orange was a nice contrast to the bare stoneware.

The mugs glazed right, were awful, IMHO. Shiny, pattern barely recognizable, blah! I mean, they're OK, maybe I need to look at them again, after sleeping on it. But my impressions were NOT good. I didn't even want to photograph them.

Anyway, enough about that. I'll save it for my next magazine article for Pottery Psychology Today.

What a tangent!

The real highlight of the day was definitely throwing pots and talking shop with my blogging buddy, Scott Cooper. Here's Scott clip cloppin' the treadle wheel at Penland.

Scott wrote brilliantly (as he does) You can read about our little Penland symposium here.

I'm heading back up to put some handles on the mugs I threw yesterday, so I must be going for now.
It's Scott's last wet day and he's chasing plastic. Time for me get to the real work. The clock is tickin'

Chiow wow wow and Happy Valentine's Day y'all!

February 13, 2013


Sorry to butt in on your day behind the keyboard,  and this is Not a real post, just an acknowledgement


Hello folks, I'm currently juggling slide presentations, video editing of some upcoming POTR videos,

February 12, 2013

Opportunity Knocking

Gentle readers, I just talked with my good friends over at Barking Spider Pottery and they asked me if I could help them find someone who could be trusted to watch over their pottery empire for a month.

In a nutshell,  the BSP has the most amazing studio in the county, probably the whole state of Carolina! and when you look up from the wheel after making a board of beautiful pots, the view of the mountains might take your breath away.

Here's the skinny from the BSP:

Barking Spider Pottery is looking for a house-and-studio sitter for one month starting around March 10, 2013. We are located one mile from Penland School of Crafts and offer the opportunity to do your own work in clay or other media in our studio while you enjoy the companionship of our dog and our cat and interact with the Penland community.

Please contact Jon or Becky at 828.765.2670 or email to jon28765@gmail.com for more details.

Pottery Bloggery Meetup

Hi everyone.

Yesterday I had a nice time visiting with Ron and Scott up at Penland.

about this high
Scott is on "sabbatical" here, making pots in the Penland Clay studio, Ron was up for the day to visit. Penland is that kind of place, a crossroads. Sometimes I am lucky to find myself there making friends, visiting friends, or peeking in to see what's going on in the studios.

scott's NC pots, from the small salt kiln at Penland

We talked about pottery, blogging, kilns,  and making a living.

What else is there?

Oh, glad you asked.
Well,  God and Art, of course!

Here's another potter on sabbatical, Chris Staley with his latest video.

ALSO: After talking with the blogger boys yesterday, I have decided to reinstate the comments on this here blog. If you have anything to say, let us have it! Don't be shy, just say Hi!

have a great Mardi!