Sunday, August 31, 2008


A post on Becky's blog referencing Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into The Fire" got me to thinking about our relationship with fire in pottery.

We have an extraordinary link with fire. Every time we make something we put a little bit of ourselves into the fire and wait to see how it comes through it. It's almost like the kiln should have two doors --an in and an out since firing our pieces really is a passage.

There's also the analogy of each pot being like your child. You put everything you know into forming them, finishing them, trying to be sure they can stand on their own. When you put them in the kiln it's like sending them out in the world to do what they will. You just hope you had the necessary skills to make them complete.


We are working with all the elements in pottery. We start out with that most basic --earth. We add water to help form it and decorate it, then wait for the air to dry it. But it's the fire that really makes or breaks the piece. It can wrap it in drama with the most amazing colors, contrasts and hues or it can break it into pieces. The worst it can do is nothing when a pot comes through it's trial and is completely nondescript.

Too much thinking and not enough throwing...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Late Summer Cleaning

I got ambitious today and decided to clean out my "work room" which had become my "storage room". I spent most of the afternoon at the task, but it's getting there.

My kiln at one end.

My wheel at the other.
(It's right there behind the table saw and the bikes.)

Closer view of the wheel.
(One of the coiled pots I made with Dave
is in the bottom of the frame.)

Closeup of the coiled pot.

Stephanie caught checking up on dad.

In the next couple of weekends I hope to get the bikes out of there and hung up in the main part of the garage. Maybe someday I can actually work on some pots out there. I am thinking about mounting some wheels on the frame for the pottery wheel so I can move it out in the driveway on nice days. We'll see...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stamp act

A while back I made some stamps. Ok, a LOT of stamps. The point is that I finally got around to bisquing them and they completely filled the bottom of my kiln. I don't know how many of these I'll actually use as I'm sure I'll develop a few favorites, but it was sure fun making all of them.

September 10th may never get here.

If it does, it'll still seem like forever.

My Clayworks class starts on September 10th and I can't wait --can you tell? It has been a long, hot, dry summer with no throwing. The barrel firings have been great fun and helping out with the Tuesday night class and Muddy Fun has been a blast, but I really need to get back to throwing a whole mess 'o pots.

I want to get better, much better and the only way to do that is to throw pots. After all this time I'm starting to get more of a feel for the forms, the clay, and the decoration and it feels great. I desperately want to close the gap that Ira Glass was talking about and feel like I'm making something worthwhile. I get a lot of enjoyment from the pots I throw, but they don't stand up well to scrutiny. They're not graceful enough or artistic enough or deliberate enough to suit me.

I'll be glad to work on it. A lot. I mean it, people will be sick of seeing me at the studio. But I want to break through a few levels or "shells". It's time to molt and grow. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Barrel Firing # 3

Barrel Firing # 3 roared (literally) through on Sunday.

Most of the "regulars" were there and they came to burn stuff. Elaine, Becky, Minke, Cindy, and I got to play with dirt in the fire once again.

First, the preparations.

Copper sulfate, carbonate,
and iron --oh my.

Loading and laughing.

Work, work, work.

The pots piled in.

Elaine strikes the match.

It's catching.

Too hot to be next to it.

A conflagration.

Now we stoke, watch, and wait.

While we let the magic happen inside the barrel, we worked on other projects. Elaine pinched some pots, Minke worked on a sculpture, Becky and Cindy threw parts for animals, and I worked on our light box for taking photos of our pots. After several hours, it's time to check our firing progress.

Becky and Elaine check to see if
everything is finished burning.

Looks pretty good.
There's a lot of nice color on
the visible pots.

Elaine says it's still too hot to unload.

Becky the blogger hard at work.

Treasures cooling on the concrete.

More wonderful pieces made with fire.

Minke's ladies got some great color.

Elaine had the largest piece in
the firing and it came out great.

Cindy's cat liked the heat.

Elaine showing one of her
beautiful pots.

The pot I decorated with my
"parking lot sigillata".

One of Becky's wonderful birds.

Elaine gets great results with her
Chore Boys.

"Look right here.."
Yes, it's beautiful.

It was another great firing with a lot of creativity, fellowship, and fun. I'm already looking forward to BF#4!

Thanks everyone!

As usual, you can see more pictures of BF#3 over at Becky's blog.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Peter Rose workshop

I joined several people from Clayworks for the Peter Rose workshop at the Rock Hill Pottery Center, in Rock Hill, SC. It was a magical time. Peter is a wonderful teacher with a great sense of humor. He taught us useful throwing techniques, how to make plaster molds, and how he creates his animals from thrown and press-molded pieces. He also gave us a rich background in ceramic history, both worldwide and in our own back yard. I highly recommend his workshop to anyone doing anything in clay.

The Bob Hasselle and the folks at the Rock Hill Pottery Center were great hosts. They made us feel right at home throughout our visit and fed us a fine lunch. Bob has some phenomenal pieces on display for sale there. You can read more about Bob's impressive background and see some of his work here, here, here, and here.

Becky, just glad to make it to Rock Hill
in one piece after my driving.

The Tom S. Gettys building.
Check out the feet on that lamp post.

Side doors. Cool doors.

This must be the place.

Peter making bottles to warm up.

Throwing lids off the hump.

Pressing clay into the dog's head mold.

Some of the pieces that will become a dog.

The body and legs are assembled.

The neck is added.

The head is next.

Peter really enjoys his work.

What a proud tail.

The whole picture.

Now Peter will let it rest under plastic for about a week and start decorating it. It was amazing to watch and I wish Knoxville wasn't so far away.

I'll be heading back to the Rock Hill Pottery Center soon.


Here's more pictures courtesy of Becky. Thanks Becky!

Surprise sigillata

My green parking lot sigillata now just looks like a satiny clear coat. I think it was Dave that half-kiddingly suggested that the green color could be algae. We laughed about it, but he might be right since it appears to have all burned out at cone 010. It's usually exciting to open a kiln, sometimes even a bisque kiln.

Well, off to bed. Early morning for the Peter Rose workshop.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Besides the excitement that Michael Phelps generates, the U.S. men's gymnastic team took the bronze the other night after nobody thought they had a chance at a medal due to teammates being out with injuries. This morning, the overall women's gymnastics were fun to watch since Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson won gold and silver respectively. All this contributes to me staying up way too late to watch all this stuff live. (Happens every two years --the winter games are really my favorite.) I get more sleep when the games are in this hemisphere. Go USA! *yawn*


I am psyched about a lot of things right now.

I have signed up for the Fall session at Clayworks.

I am going to a Peter Rose workshop on Saturday at the Arts Council of York County with a bunch of my friends from Clayworks.

I am looking forward to Barrel Firing #3 (BF#3) on Sunday.

I have more work right now than I can handle (but I'll find a way).

In preparation for Barrel Firing #3 (or Son of Son of Barrel Firing) I made two pinched pots. The one on the left is decorated with my parking lot sigillata. Yep, that's the GREEN stuff on the pot. I have no idea how it's going to turn out, but that's what makes it exciting. The pot on the right is just burnished with the back of a plastic spoon.

I bisqued them to cone 010 last night and am waiting until tomorrow to open the kiln. I am anxious to see how the terra sig came out in the bisque. These are going to be fun in the barrel.

I also threw in the <insert large number here> stamps I made a few weeks ago. I was worried about firing the stamps to 010, but my friend Dave Timm (who has way more experience) assured me it would be fine. Thanks Dave! Those stamps will be fun to experiment with in the Fall in my class at Clayworks. Did I mention I signed up for class at Clayworks?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Good Taste

I found this clip on Emily Murphy's blog and just had to share it. If you're not familiar with Ira Glass or This American Life, it's a radio show Ira hosts from Chicago Public Radio. Check it out. This clip really spoke to me and Ira can communicate the point better than I ever could. Thanks Emily.

After all the years I've been making pots, I am only to the point where I can see the other side of the gap. Now I have to try harder than ever to get there.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Our fuzzy son

I thought I would post an updated picture of Binkley. He turned seven in June and he's becoming our old man.

Actually, he may look old and respectable but he's a seventy pound puppy ready to bounce off the walls whenever you clap your hands.

He is so much a part of our family that he really is like another child.

He just sheds more.

First barrel result

I am finally getting around to posting a picture of my pot from my first barrel firing. It's still kind of 'raw' at this stage. I will post another picture after I wax it.

I affectionately call this my barnacle pot since that's what the shape brings to mind.

Thanks again to Elaine and Becky for letting me play in their fire. I'm looking forward to the next one.