Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh Nuts!

I've been making plaster molds for Laura this week. Just as I had finished pouring the plaster into the last mold of the week and leave work before the snow storm got too crazy, the mold let loose and sent a wall of mixed plaster slurry. It was quite the mess. I guess 15 lbs of water + 22.5 lbs of plaster is too much for one pour into my gerry-rigged mold form. Crud. Oh well, let it harden then clean up is the only thing to do.
Once the plaster was all spilled out in a big puddle it reminded me of watching Tom Spleth working with plaster to create vase forms, if you've never seen that check it out here.
On a good note: Happy Holidays! Quinn and I went to Sears earlier this week and got our ugly holiday-sweater-portrait taken.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

good morning

I woke up this morning and for some reason the light through the bathroom window was really striking so I had to take a picture. This window is also one of the reasons we first signed our lease for this place. Quinn and I are both really big fans of hot dog plants; they have such beautiful flowers. Some times we talk about farming hot dogs as a business venture.
In all honesty, we don't know who made this window, but it's always a pleasure to live with.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Islamic Platters

I've been looking at these platters recently. I saw a picture of a similar platter a year or two ago and was just floored by it. I can't remember which book it was in but the other day that platter came to mind and I just had to find some images to look at. There's something so alluring about them. The Arabic sayings that are painted around the circumference are so stark and intentional. There is a beautiful simplicity to the stylized script. The one above is from the 10th century and is a serious 18 inches wide! These are all Central Asian from Nishapur or Samarqand.

This one (below) says, "Whoever talks a lot, slips a lot." This one (again below) says, "Frugality is a symptom of poverty." At first that seems pretty obvious. But what's the deeper meaning? It comes off as if frugality is a negative, perhaps poverty is a positive state of being. hmm...

Friday, November 14, 2008

fizzy cider

I'm enjoying a cup of one of my favorite late fall treats: fizzy cider. Here's how you make it:
Buy a gallon of cider sometime in October and drink about a quarter or third of it. Then put it in the back of your fridge and kinda forget about it. Then in mid to late November when the plastic jug looks inflated and about to blow the cap pour yourself a glass and notice the way it fizzes. It's that easy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The new kiln, a slideshow

It went a little something like......

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Photos from the unbuilding

The Brattleboro Clayworks kiln served a hearty 25 years with only one partial rebuild until now. In one day we removed and sorted the whole thing into about five piles of work weary brick. Clayworks members came out of the woodwork and pitched in to create the best damn brick brigade I've ever been a part of. Not even walls could stop us, nope we just go right through those.

Here's the very bottom of the chimney complete with cracked lintel which crumbled in my hands as it came out.

Here's the main reason for the rebuild. As you can see the wall was feeling a little tired.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A new beginning

The Brattleboro Clayworks kiln was duly deconstructed Sunday with lots of help from members Billie, Annie, Lucinda, Jen, Maria, and Sue. The kiln was built in 1983 and although I suspect parts were rebuilt every now and again this will be the first total overhaul. Pictures are forthcoming. Tonight I took apart the very bottom two courses of brick and cleaned off the cinder blocks exposing the clean slate for the new oven. I'll be there after work each night for probably the next two weeks putting it back together, luckily we've got a big crew coming on Saturday to pitch in. Woohoo!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Orv Wright burns number 138

Last week was a busy one with prepping for the Clayworks' kiln rebuild (photos and more coming on that) and recovering from a cold while working. It was made even busier with a couple of night-time stoking shifts thrown in the mix as well. But busying oneself with the stoking of a friend's kiln is the best kind of busy I know. Orv Wright is a generous mentor and a bad-ass potter. I've been lucky enough to be a part of his firing crew for a couple years and it's always a pleasure. As an added bonus my pots from the previous post were in the kiln and ready for the heat.
On Thursday I started the wood stoking around eight pm and listened to the BBC for five or so hours while a distinct nip developed in the air. I had to shut the radio off around 11 when I realized I was grinding my teeth to McCain soundbytes.
Here's Orv taking over the stoking at 1am or around 1200 degrees for the night haul.
Here's Sorry about the poor quality of the photos, but their from my celli; although I kinda like the pink and purple in this snap looking into the main firebox. It looks a little ghostly, no?

There's the whole of the beast from the front. This was Orv's one hundred and thirty-eighth firing. Damn, that's a lotta mud.
Pictures of the unloaded pots will be forthcoming.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some newish work

Way back in January, I made some pots up at Malcom Wright's during a house-sitting gig. I had almost totally forgotten about them until this summer when Orv mentioned that he had bisqued them. So here are the more interesting pre-firing ones. I've been playing around with stencils and the lightbulb and giraffe are some new ones.

My goal with these bowls is for them to stack in sets of four. We'll see how they turn out.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Favorite Pot

This is my favorite pot. It's a two gallon salt-glazed jar made in Hartford, CT. I've liked salt-glazed wares for some time. As far as ceramic history goes, it wasn't that long ago (circa 1400 CE) that an unknown German potter from the Rhineland introduced salt into kiln probably on accident and low and behold it makes glaze on the pots in the kiln. This technique became hugely popular in production pottery since it eliminated the step of glazes the pots before loading and firing. It showed up in the American colonies in the early 1700s and became the dominant utilitarian houseware.
This pot came out of a house in North Chester, MA that was in my grandmother's family since it was built around 1805. It was among several jars and jugs in the house, but just stood out with it's tall stature and high belly.
The mark on the front says, "G. Benton & L. Stewart, Hartford." The other week during open studio tour I stopped by Mark Shapiro's spot with this pot in tow. Knowing Mark as a potter with a serious interest in New England historical pots I thought he might help me find a little bit about it. He consulted Lura Woodkins Watkins book and discovered that Benton and Stewart were retired sea captains who bought a pottery in Hartford and ran it for couple of years, around 1815 or so, and then sold it to the potter who was actually making the pots.
I love the rich brown color to it, so many early American salt-glazed pots are grey but perhaps the clay had more iron to it or perhaps it was in a reducing pocket of the kiln. There are a couple subtle flashing marks where it stood next pots in the fire. The handles are round and laid flat against the shoulder and neck with some cobalt and the attachment.
I've tried in the past to make pots like it, but haven't yet nailed the form. So far it remains as a challenge to shoot for, but for now I'm happy just to look at it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don Meno

Sometimes just when you think you know all the potters who live around you one sneaks under your radar. This summer I met a potter whose been 'round these parts for a whole mess of years and somehow our circles didn't converge until just now. He's built a sweet little Olsen fast fire wood kiln near his studio in Brattleboro. This past weekend he invited me to take part in the loading and firing of it and here's some pictures of it.

These two pieces came out of the kiln a couple days ago. The vase on the left was a refired pot from Penland, it's got that Mitchfield clay which really did a lot with the modest two pounds of salt. The bottle on the right is a bit of some stencil work I've been playing around with of late.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I O Way

Our trip to Iowa this past weekend for my cousin's wedding was pretty fantastic. It being my first time to that part of the Midwest I was charmed by the beautiful rolling cornfields, impressed by the humongous wind farms, scared to tears by the Jolly Green Giant. He's at least eighty feet tall and no joke. He could also use a couple more inches to his toga; there's not much for the imagination.
I took a short video of our epic ten hour drive from Chicago to Lake Okoboji, Iowa.

Monday, July 14, 2008

the ball mill

I've decided to build a ball mill. It's gonna be great. It's just a jar full of porcelain balls that rolls on it's side and takes a geologic process of erosion and speeds it way up. Potter's use them to grind up glaze components or homogenize raw glaze or clay or just make some loud noises for hours and hours. Simple. No problem. There are many designs, but I've taken it upon myself to try and make one that will accommodate different sized jars and thus need a variable speed adjuster of sorts. Here are some plans courtesy of an Onis Cogburn article out of an old Ceramics Monthly. I like the compact nature of this design since space in my studio is somewhat lacking.I've begun collecting parts and had meny conversations with people who know way more about electricity (the magical energy that makes lights work and my toast crispy) than I do. I even was given an old motor to use. Makes a nice grinding wheel motor but originally came from an old GE washing machine circa the 1940's. Hell yeah:
At the moment I'm trying to figure out if I can put a variable speed control switch on this motor. Cross your fingers y'all.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Woah, these look important

Well, here they are the fruits of my labors whilst I was away at Penland this past Spring. I'm pretty proud of the way these pots came out. Some went through a rigorous amount of cleaning, i.e. angle grinding with a wire brush, dremel tool grinding, then sanding, then mineral oils applied, some even got a healthy dose of tile and grout sealer to keep them from sweating (or straight up leaking water).
I took these pieces down to John Polak, a photographer in Easthampton, MA for him to work his magic on them. For me it's always a little strange knowing the pieces so well to then see them in the "professional slide format." I'm grateful for John's expertise in committing them to digital record, he really knows his stuff. It's always a pleasure to see a true craftsmen in his element. But, they almost look a bit foreign to me. Maybe it's like listening to a recording of yourself talking where you think, "Do I really sound like this?" Perhaps it's the way my perception of my own pottery is almost exclusively tangible. Their tactile details are indistinguishable from their visual details.
It is also a lot of fun for me to look at these images with that professional air about them. It really makes the pot stand up on it's own feet and command my attention.

These faceted cups make a nice pair. They helped me restrain the urge to trim round feet underneath. I learned sometimes just cutting an angle with a big kitchen knife is the way to go.

This bottle is probably my favorite for the time being. These are just two side of a piece that has a whole lot of great details 360 degrees in every direction.

This bottle was in a raging kiln for three days, but became buried under coals that insulated the piece from temperatures past pit firing temps. It laid on it's side and developed the bright orange nebulas where it sat. It's really pourous; I rinsed it out with water and it started soaking that water right up.

In the left corner we have a nuka-glazed pitcher inspired by medieval English jugs. Sort of a East meets West fusion of Japanese glaze on an Anglo form.

And in the right corner, we see a ovoid jug that took some serious ash hits to the membrane.

This guy was fired on his side resting on a cookie of iron-bearing clay that resisted the flame and left it's own mark.

Two faces to this vase; that red and blue markings to the left leave me speachless.

I find myself really missing the clay that was used to make this bottle. We dug it from the bottom of the hill in the llama pasture across from the studio. It felt great to throw and really opened up when cut or trimmed. And the brick red color leaves me nostalgic for shoveling it out of a ditch and into a pickup.

Ok, so this pot is the "better one" from the previous post all cleaned up and presentable. Despite a crack on the inside I totally love it. As my first success at making a large coiled pot I couldn't be happier. Not even to mention the amazing surface that developed in the kiln.