July 31, 2010

Damn that Blogger

photo: Lillian Kline

I know this is kind of trivial but I just wanted to let you know, if you haven't noticed already, that I've futzed around with the blog's appearance and functionality. I have been working on a new look over at Wordpress but Blogger always ups the ante and I'll hang on a little bit longer.

Blogger let's me add "static" pages to the blog that provide more who, what, where information and I'll try to add a gallery or portfolio of my work at some point.

So, unless there is an uprising of negative reader comments about the change, I guess we'll keep it!
photo: Lillian Kline

Now back to our regularly scheduled painting and glazing of sinks!!

July 30, 2010


I have been commissioned to make sinks for the new guest house at Penland and I will be painting and glazing them on Saturday. I've promised to give y'all a sink how-to, but unfortunately didn't do so well in technical writing as a young engineering student back in the day. But here goes...

First off, if you can make a teapot you can make a sink. But to make a big sink you'll need a few more chops to get'er done. First off, to make a finished sink that is 14.5" in diameter, I used 25 lbs. of clay! I threw the sinks between 15 and 16 inches. Also, I wanted to make them rather heavy to possibly avoid warping. (we'll see) This required a bunch of clay.

[sorry no pictures from the throwing stages. oh wait, here is a picture of some that were later destroyed and redone]

Then I let them dry really slow, and trimmed the foot as I usually do, but made the foot a little narrower as it related to the rim than I usually do for a bowl.

Then I cut a hole to accommodate the plumbing. (with the shrinkage of my clay, I made the hole about 1 3/4".

Then I added a coil that threw to make an overflow "chamber". After that was sufficiently dry I added a slab. [Well I guess, according top these picture, I added the short spouts that would serve as my overflow first. ;-) ]
Here are an assortment of little spouts that will carry overflow to the overflow chamber and down the pipe.
Doesn't this look like a strange kind of teapot? The two spouts will have a rubber tube between them! This is Kent McLaughlin's design that he freely shared with me and I hope he doesn't mind that I'm sharing with you?!?!

The overflow openings.
You leave a comment if you have a question. The overflow part is the critical design part.

  1. painting designs on the sinks and glazing them.
  2. moving them carefully over to Penland
  3. Load into their new soda/salt/wood/gas kiln!
  4. try to stay out the way of Sam Chung's class!
  5. Unload the kiln and deliver sinks to a waiting crew to install in the guest house.
Sorry I wasn't more thorough. I could have taken more pics. Until next time...remember questions comment if you would be so kind. I love hearing from you.

Breaking Ground for Mufflat in Somerville, MA!

the interior of the old theater
where rebuilding is already underway!

I was happy to hear that the Mudflat Studios, in Somerville, MA, officially broke ground for their new facilities yesterday. I taught many a workshop in Mudflat's old department store studios back in the nineties (yea, last century!) Congratulations Lynn Gervens and everyone at Mudflat and I wish them well in this MAJOR undertaking!

the crowd of well wishers and Mudflat supporters

And to all the folks that have supported Mudflat, a big THANK YOU, too.
(oops, that's big!)

the mayor of Somerville, MA, Joseph A. Curtatone,
and Mudflat director Lynn Gervens

the Mudflat staff, Tracy, Moriah, Arthur, and Jen!!!!

Here is a blog about Mudflat's new project and here is their official web site where you can learn about their programming!

Rock on Mudflat!

July 29, 2010

Guest Blogger: Don Pilcher

don pilcher (l), george ohr (r)*

So I’ve concluded this: nice clay, a well-made form, a sensuous glaze treatment and a toasty firing. What have I got? A ceramic fashion show; not much more. It’s what Ralph Bacerra described as “just a pot with a glaze on it.”

After twenty-five years of making those pots, with some success, I quit ceramics to attend to a slew of life’s other demands. In the process I got a new job, new car, new house, new dog, new wife; same kids, same town. The new wife was eager that I make some pots for her. I held her off for about ten years and then relented. What should I make? I can make anything. Same old things? Those classic, bold, precise, graceful, androgynous forms? They lived at the intersection of Danish Modern and the Sung Dynasty; not a bad address, but really not my address. I was just renting – take my word for it.

After a lot of thought, shaped by a provocative, existential question from Tony Hepburn – ‘If you knew that nobody, anywhere, would EVER see your work, would it change what you make?”(A question which requires you to birth your own pleasure) - I decided to employ the formerly silent characters of my personality; some of the dozen or so members of the committee meeting that is my mind. I won’t list them all but I’m sure other people have similar voices within them – curious, funny, skeptical, greedy, smart, impatient, hopeful, scared, wicked, ambitious, dirty, generous, resigned…add your own. It’s been almost ten years now with this crew. Our product is called Rascal Ware.

Rascal Ware is equal parts literature and pottery. I/we write stories about life in the pottery and then make pots to illustrate the stories. Each chapter has its own body of work. The people who work there, in addition to me (the retired professor and “ceramic know-it-all” who can turn any remark into a seminar and who has all the answers to questions nobody asks any more), are Junior Bucks, Georgette Ore, Hairy Potter, Mosley Bunkham and Shakespeare, the studio dog. You can read all about them on my web site.

At present we are living Chapter 10, More to Pour. Georgette is the author and the subject is pouring vessels which, because of age, no longer pour so much as drip or just seep. These are more than just pots and glazes. These are allegorical tales and cautionary icons, or, if you don’t think in such terms, they are just jokes. But they have the singular privilege of being unique and the artistic leverage of being true. We call them sperm bank coin banks. The coin bank idea is from George Ohr, his bare issue is seen in the first image. The seminal sperm bank part is from Rascal Ware. George is first in time; Rascal Ware is first in audacity.

(You can submit jokes, or gags, about first and second comings to my web site.)

*(Original George Ohr pottery courtesy of Richard Mohr)

Don Pilcher lives in Champaign Illinois where he taught for many years at the university there. As a gifted potter, thinker, and provocateur, we hope Don will return often with more rascal stories. In the meantime you are encouraged to leave Don a comment below or at don@sawdustanddirt.com
Visit Don's web site
Other reading: Dave Toan's essay "Why I Think Don Pilcher is Important".
It wasn't exactly a 12 x 12 kind of day, but in the end I handled a bunch of pottery! I loaded a couple of sinks into the biscuit box and two others into the dryer/de-humid-if-I box! I went really slow and found myself hanging with the "three o'clock club" waiting for my computer-free kiln to finish. Like most of the equipment I use to make my pots, the e-kiln is pretty old and decrepit. The kiln sitter can't be trusted!

So I made a bunch of square edge platters in the wee hours.

I've been using, not one, but two throwing buckets! I can't say enough about the two bucket reach as I dip for water as I center! I understand that most people don't throw standing up (you should) and that most people have little room for throwing tools, much less a second bucket. Just sayin'. Set up your stage!

OK, then!

I promise the following very soon:

  • a new blog post by guest potter/blogger Don Pilcher
  • sink tutorial
  • report from Penland
  • report from Somerville
Keep on folks. I'll be back soon!

Follow on Twitter if you need more info while I'm away from the desk!

Need bonus features? Gettim!

Later yall!

July 28, 2010

Hannah Mc Andrew: Big Fan


Hannah McAndrew! That's who!

Congratulations and shout outs go to Hannah McAndrew of Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway for being the 300th follower/fan of the blog! I know Hannah has been reading the blog for quite a while, now, for she has left numerous comments. Maybe the only explanation can be that Hannah has holding out for the big prize money.

Hannah joins the illustrious company of fan #200 Martina Lantin (January 6th, 2010) and fan #100 Amber Hosford (May 4th, 2009)!!

If you haven't seen Hannah's fine slipware, please check out her web site and her blog!

Thanks for reading Hannah!

A Week In Review (incomplete)

Where does one start to remember all the crazy stuff that's happened in the last week? I've looked over the pictures that serve my memory and they just don't seem sufficient, but that's what I have for now. It's been HOT, of course, and the hay was cut and some of it baled by my neighbors, Larry and Robert. It was a dusty mess, for the grass was already pretty dry before it was cut. But it was nice to see the landscape minus the forage.

Speaking of cutting, my summer helper, Antonia Campenella, came by Wednesday to get the wood cut for XXXVI and learned more than she probably wanted to know about my wood cutting and stacking technique! We don't quite have enough for the firing, so I guess I'll have to send her over to Courtney's to steal some wood, while Courtney and John are in Japan! [heh,heh, heh...] Dohh! I forgot that Courtney might be reading this...just kidding CM ;-)
After a day of hot sweaty wood cutting, I got together with Buck and John for some demolition and reconstruction of this-here fine shed! You might remember John and Buck from their heroic and sneaky efforts in finally getting siding on the shop back in June. Well, the tres sneequi amigos were back at it! This time we stole Nick Joerling's old shed while he was teaching a workshop at the Bascom! We rebuilt it that afternoon in the field just below the shop in the blazing heat and dust of the hay baler! Don't worry, Nick has visitation rights and is even welcome to camp out in it for old time's sake. Rumour has it that this was actually Nick's first home when he moved to Penland in 1986!

Here's a non sequitur.

How fast did it take for the term "pots in action" to become a cliché household word in these pottery blogs? Here are a couple that I captured in the "act" of being pots. The above shows two "cousins of clay" performing their all-important duty of laying down the sour of the orange juice just to enhance the bitter roastiness of the fresh brewed coffee. One of my favorite combinations, cousins, citrus, and coffee!

Here's another clever product placement, er, I mean, pot in action. This time the actors are cousins of another kind. A glass pitcher by my friend, Kenny Pieper, and one of my ceramic yunomi, sweating it out during supper at the picnic table. Although similar processes there is one material difference between glass and clay. Clay is obviously more mysterious and infinitely more subtle, whereas glass is immediately recognized in its transparency and glare. [ed. huh? it must be late]

Meanwhile back at the pot shop...I thought the slip poured on this pot left a nice negative space! So, what does a potter blogger feel compelled to do? Snap a dozen pictures just to capture the mood and sensation of the moment!
Here are a few more moments, captured and condensed into two pictures showing a process of pouring slip onto these vases. It was fun.

I really like these vases/bottles. You can't tell from the pictures, but they're kinda clunky [read:heavy] and the variety and evolution of the forms as I made them was a little bitty thrill for me. Some of them got the Hack-at-me treatment with a big honkin' wisk broom through the Tile 6 slip.
And last but not least, I needed a jar to put money in for the self service showroom and found this derelict jar that had a big crack in it's bottom and side from a freeze this past winter. Just before I taped a note to it I thought it might be nicer just to paint these nice icons of denomination on the jar with my sumi-e ink!

[Look out for some of these motifs ($ and ¢, perhaps others) to show up on some pots in the next firing...]

Well, like I said, many more thoughts went through my mind this past week but very few can I remember at this moment. You'll just have to take my word for it. I've got to get back to a regular schedule of blogging, while those salient thoughts are fresh in my head.

Coming up:
  • a new blog post by Don Pilcher!
  • a post about the sinks
  • 300th follower! Will it be you?
  • more pots in action, of course!
  • salty thoughts
Thanks for reading.

July 21, 2010

"It's All Good", or aka "What's Not To Like"

It's hard to know where to start with such a day. Throw in that it's late and I'm really tired, and things get pretty abstract.

Just trust me when I say that there really were many salient thoughts that went through my head

during three boards of painted paper plates,

and after a series of quirky bowl shapes ,and a strange evolution of bottle forms.

There were no pictures taken during our trip to the dump where the girls took turns aiming tossed milk jugs into the recycling trailer, the tetherball smack-down between Stacey and I, the discovery of the the new potato plants peeking out over the rows in the garden, our neighbor Robert cutting the field in his old and well repaired Ford 3000 tractor. No jpegs of Lillian's skinned knees after taking a spill during her bike riding lesson or the poor frogs that got a little too warm in the deflated pool. There isn't a record of the hazy dim outline of the tree line behind the shop as I walked down in the obscured by fog moonlight to the house after working tonight, or the smell of wet cut hay (or the smell of a stinky Jack snoring in his crate after heroically pulling the inner tube of giggling girls in the river right before the rain came).

But such is a day in our lives that is drifting into memories and dreamland just as fast as it started with that morning cup of coffee in this bleary eyed potter's favorite cup so many hours ago.

July 19, 2010

Blog Guilt

Well, I feel so guilty, here's a little quicky of one of the more exciting things happening in the neighborhood, lately. Mark Peter's Pallet Eater at the Energy Xchange! More to follow, when I have time to edit all of the footage I shot yesterday!


Blog Tease

My apologies for not being in touch recently. You can just imagine that I've been busy here and there, getting pots made, ferrying the girls through wind and rain to their swimming lessons, as well as giving tours to visitors at the shop. I've also gotten my feet wet teaching a local workshop to women artist/entrepreneurs on the basics of internet marketing, etc! All this means that I haven't been giving my readers their dose of dirt (and sawdust). I'm sure there are some of you who haven't found the time to keep up with the blogs this time of year, as well.

I wish I could say that I was taking a blog-cation! There's so much I need to catch you up up...
  • the pallet kiln at the Energy xChange
  • the progress of the sinks
  • what's happening at Penland
  • drawings and paintings for American Folk Art Show in October
but I'm afraid to say that it will have to wait just a little bit more...

[what a tease!]

till I can collect thoughts, edit jpegs, and find the late night time to sit back down here and type!~

Hey it's Summer! just for a few more weeks till back to school!


July 16, 2010

Scenes From The Afternoon

paper plate with ink

paper plates with ink

sink before its a sink
25lbs or 11.3 kg

Too hot to write or talk much. Back to work to finish up the day before heading over to Crimson Laurel opening this evening.

July 15, 2010

Informal Survey

While throwing these 25 lb sinks I wonder which is worse, my glasses slipping down my nose? Or the mosquito biting my neck?

July 13, 2010

Daily Drawing Book

Here are a few from my daily drawing book I have started for the American Folk Art Show in October. I will update it from time to time with some of my favorite drawings from the day.

Sacrificial Ironweed + Book of Drawings

Just a quicky for now.
Here is a bowl that got the hakame (that's japanese for hack-it-to-me) slip treatment.

I'm making some pots despite a case of the man-flu.
I've also been working on a book of drawings for the show in October. I'll try to post more images soon.

July 10, 2010

Drawings and Layers

a detail of a larger drawing

a slightly different detail
of the same drawing

loop-d-loop fun

loop-d-loop + reeds+ fake writing

Here are a few of the drawings I have been working on. These are all india ink on tracing paper and were photographed through the window of my studio. The above are each either two sheets, or three sheets that were put together in different orders. I'm playing around not only with line and form but with the various compositions and how they look together in varying degrees of transparency. I have bumped up the contrast a little to get an accurate darkness of the top sheet. I have been drawing these very quickly and usually do about twenty sheets over a ten minute flurry. Then I spend a fair amount of time looking at them in various combinations. This is awkward territory for me and I'm hoping to be more confident and less self-conscious. I think the drawings will be better.

Anyway, I hope this is a little window into what I'll be doing in the coming weeks. I will share more thoughts as this process evolves.

July 9, 2010


Thanks Fred!!

The Kilns of Madison County

not a kiln
Yesterday, I visited one of my favorite places in the mountains, Madison County. The landscape is full of beautiful communities and small farms. Although there are a lot of bridges to cross the many creeks that flow through it, this won't be a survey of the many bridges, kilns (or barns) of Madison County.

I was in Madison Co. to help Alex Matisse and some friends lay some brick for a new wood kiln. Alex Matisse is back to blogging and you can catch up with the news at East Fork here! It was a hot day, but under the beautiful post/beam kiln shed, a breeze kept us happy.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed building with brick! Especially the beautiful brick Alex had recently hauled up from Alabama. As I laid the brick I began to think about a new kiln that I hope to build in the coming years. I've been feeling a little cramped in my kiln for a while, especially when I load big pots, but what an investment of time and money! I remember what seemed like an eternity to finish my current kiln and the stress that it was for Stacey and I. But now that the studio is relatively finished, I can think about the future!

It's OK to dream, right?
Well, it's time to get back to drawing and potting!

Here are a couple of shots of the new kiln at East Fork.
keeping it plumb.
from l to r, Alex Matisse, Matt Jones, and James Ward

at the end of the day
quite a few bricks were laid

July 8, 2010

Coffee Break vol.27

At long last I have managed to pry this cup out of Stacey's coffee crazed grip! I got this fine whiskey cup from Kyle (over a week ago!!) and have finally been having my coffee this morning. It accompanied me along the way of all manner of chores!

Maybe I'd better hide it from Stacey and have my whiskey in it tonight!
BTW, Kyle is firing his kiln today. Here's to a good firing Kyle!