September 30, 2010

Thursday Meow

Getting back to work isn't so easy. Ron's having a good discussion over at his blog about "warming up". Pottery 4play, if you will. Go on over and enter the fray. In the meantime I was reminded of this quote by Chuck Close (thanks go to adjunct potter John Simmons):

CC: Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work and the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will, through work, bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never dream up if you were just sitting around looking for a great art idea. And that a belief in that the process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel everyday. Today you know what you will do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday and tomorrow you are going to do what you did today and at least for a certain period of time if you can just work to hang in there, you will get somewhere.

'nuff said. Thanks Chuck.

Now it's on to the next one.
Speaking of next one's, Courtney Martin and I are joining forces for the next wood firing on Snow Creek Rd. It'll be at her place on the 15th. Time to get busy decorating and glazing all of the pots that didn't make it into 36 and make a few more to fill out the showroom.

My show officially opens in Asheville tomorrow night and it's also online. Looks like there are still a few pieces left. ;-) Hope to see you there!

Also I sent out my latest Mail Chimp e-newsletter. If you didn't get it you're not signed up for my list. Click here to receive your copy!

September 29, 2010

American Folk Art Housecall

American Folk Art owner Betsey-Rose Weiss (l) and her friend Patty came by this morning to pick up the work for the show. How's that for service? It was a beautiful crisp morning and we had a great time looking over the work that will be in my show opening Friday night in Asheville.

I know a lot of you will be in Southern Pines for the Clay 'n' Blogs Show, and I'm so sorry that I won't be there. And to everyone in the Asheville area, I hope to see you there. I can't wait to unveil some of my ink drawings that I made for the show. More later. Thanks!

September 28, 2010

Step Up To The Soapbox

Thank you to my loyal readers! Here's a little factoid about those who speak! Step up and let us know what you think.

September 27, 2010


Don Pilcher lives in Champaign Illinois where he taught for many years at the University of Illinois. A gifted potter, thinker,and provocateur, Don shares his unique views on the field of contemporary ceramics. Visit Don's web site where you can read more of Don's stories. He can be also reached at

Earlier this week the Arts section of the New York Times had a headline which read, Still a Little Sloppy, but That’s the Point. I was moved by this line, so apt and so fully conscious of what can happen when somebody actually makes some art. That headline is the kind of description and summation which signals a host of skills we hope for in our critics; observation, context, understanding, synthesis, evaluation, conclusion and, at last, pithy expression.

Then my mind jumped to several messages I’ve been receiving almost daily now from NCECA about a new basis for criticism in ceramics and a conference out west to launch the effort. Lots of prominent people in attendance, many of whom have done good work in our field. It may be a seminal event, not unlike that confab on big ideas in Aspen every summer. But I think the odds are against it.

First, as I read history, no one since Wittgenstein has come forward with a unique context and language for common human experiences like squeezing and firing clay. And while our production is ongoing and belongs to a case that could change, it’s not very likely. The primary reason for that is found in the old saying, “God creates, man arranges.” Too much of the time, we, makers and critics, forget what a truly modest thing it is we do. We arrange and we re-arrange. But to hear some potters tell it, lighting and firing a kiln is like proving the Second Law of Classical Thermodynamics…and it is, for the umpteenth millionth time. And according to one critic, some potter’s huge jars are nearly unprecedented in size, technique and vigorous decoration. Maybe, if you ignore a couple million Greek and Minoan leftovers.

Secondly, we have presently in place an almost unlimited number of reasonable critical perspectives – reasonable, meaning they employ some measure of knowledge about ceramics. Such knowledge includes its history, broad applications in the arts and sciences, potential for function and expression, subtlety, and finally, the nearly magical capacity of the material to emerge from a kiln and simultaneously recall its ephemeral, plastic state and yet insist on its igneous permanence. In fact, these perspectives, taken together, are how criticism works in most of the humanities. And, to me, it all works well enough. Our shortage is in better ceramic artists, not better critics.

And finally, I’m a little bothered by the argument that ceramics is a special case and requires a unique context. I suppose this is not exactly parallel, but beware of the prospective mate who claims to be a special person and that practically no one understands the very special considerations due them. If you go along with that, you’ll eventually find yourself at the bottom of a human shard pile with folks who breathe in empathy and expel self-pity. I’d hate to see ceramics go there. We’re in enough hell as it is, having accepted the idea that everyday decorative objects are a legitimate form of ceramic art. That’s a very low bar, even for arranging, and makes me crave something that’s more…well, just a little sloppy.

Rascal Ware, Georgette Ore 2005

In Today's Mail Bag

This just found in my mailbox!

I'd better get these pots ready to show! I hope to see you this coming Friday night, Oct. 1st, in Asheville.

September 26, 2010

Before /After 36

As I try to reconstruct the happenings a week ago and make more notes as to what may have happened in the fiery box, I'm putting the finishing touches on the images to be used in the online portion of my show at the American Folk Art Gallery in Asheville. Over the last few years and thousands of peeks into the view of my camera lens, I have noticed that I am perceiving the pots in a new way, through the lens. Or better yet, seeing images of the pots give me another way of seeing the pots, a viewing I almost depend on, now, to complete my impression of the pot. There's nothing like seeing the pot and holding it, turning it again and again, but the jpeg has become another way that I can step back from the pot and get another point of view, just like stepping back from the wheel and squinting, while I am throwing.

front/door tier

back tier

Anyway, here are the obligatory before and after pictures of the stacks. Not only is this blog a way for me to share with all of you the goings on around here, but it is also a searchable database. I will try to compile links to previous B/A posts, maybe I'll learn something, too. This blog is a good way of jarring the memory!

Sorry the images are kind of quirky. Hopefully you can get an idea what's what.

September 25, 2010

Thoughts on the 36th Firing

I apologize that I haven't got any pictures for you, sooner. I've been busy sanding and grading the work that came out on Thursday! I took two days to unload (and "digest") the pots. Mostly because of my busy schedule with family matters, meetings, etc. and not that I wasn't excited to see the results. Seems like I avoided the usual kiln blues by slowing down the unloading. I felt much more sympathetic to my expectations this way.

I wanted to jot down a few thoughts and issue a general warning to potters here before I sign off, before I forget. First off, there was a fair amount of kiln magic which I am always grateful! As I've never depended on the wood kiln as the sole decider on the surfaces on my pots, it's always a gift that a few pots come from the kiln much greater than the sum of it's parts, in no small part due to its firing "experience"!

The soda/whiting turds (as Keith Phillips calls them! ;-) ) had a minimal effect on the pots, but left a mess on the shelves. I won't try this again! The shelves will clean up OK, but it actually glazed the bottoms of the several pots that sat nearby. More on this later. I will try to sift through this later this week after the pots are off to the shows and I have time to sit down and look at the "the data" ( stare at pots and shelves and pictures).

One of my fatal flaws as a potter is go headlong in trying something like the soda ash/whiting "bombs" with testing it in a much smaller scale, in hopes for an expanded effort in a future firing. As Tom would say, test, test, test!

I will save some of my other notes for a later post and share with you a few pictures of the pots.

This series of bottles was one of the most satisfying ventures in this cycle. It's funny how the energy of a potting experience can endure throughout the process, and an especially successful one that continues to give pleasure when the pots come out of the kiln. It is the essence of making good pots I think, enjoying and reveling in one's work!

This bottle may be my pick of the litter! Maybe because it is wearing a new color. (lol) CLEAR!
John brought a bucket of Don Davis' clear glaze over and after painting some quick brush strokes in black underglaze I dipped this bottle in it. If I had only used this kind of approach/restraint with the soda ash/whiting! ;-)

I have lots of pictures to take for the online edition of my show at American Folk Art in Asheville that opens this coming week!! So I'd better get to it!

Here's a sneak peek of of a piece that will be in that that show. The show opens this coming weekend but the online version goes live tomorrow afternoon. More later..

Coming Up: guest blogger Don Pilcher
on Critics, stay tuned!

September 22, 2010

Sneak Peek 36

We just received the first images from my high temperature camera drone that just returned from the firebox of the kiln.

Big unload tomorrow.

Mere Mortals

"The fire is a transformative force of nature. The kiln is a tool to cajole, contain, and direct the fire, more than a precise instrument of control. We do what we can to create what is in our understanding the best opportunities for the ware: auspicious circumstances in the choice of clay, turning of forms, and in glazing, stacking, and firing. Ultimately, though, the kiln has the final say, which is as it should be. After all, the conditions inside the kiln are meant for the pots and not ones we humans could survive. We cannot go inside, but stand outside moving things along. The pots take on the kiln's fire for better or for worse. Those do so for the better go on to bring that glow to their user's hands and homes."

~~Mark Shapiro, 1990, from an essay describing the early days at his Stonepool Pottery

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Still Waiting

I sort of took a day off on Tuesday.

There's much to do to prepare for the solo show in Asheville, attend to all the business stuff that I dropped to focus on the final push, etc. There's still a mess of slip and glaze to be mopped up in the shop. But I put a few things away and made room for the pots!!

All in all, though, it was a restful day. It felt odd not to be pushing so hard every minute and felt good that the work had been done. As it always does. There's so much satisfaction and relief that comes when that last brick goes into the door of the kiln and the fire is lit. As if the hard part was done and that the firing would be the frosting on the cake. But I can only say that because I always have a great crew that helps out tending to the fire. John Simmons brought all of his wood firing experience to bear and allowed me to take a nap while he single handedly made the transition from the lower firebox to the grates. A job that usually take two!

Alan Gratz made his first appearance since his teaching trip to Japan last Spring. He was focused and steady with his stokes and claimed at one point that he was "born to burn"!! (T-shirt idea!)

Micah Cain stopped by and helped us develop the new salting technique. While John cut the 1/2 inch thick boards to length, Micah loaded the boards up with salt. We then inserted the boards between the opposing stoke doors and rested them there so that the salt vaporized almost completely before the board was consumed. All the while Alan kept the firebox full of wood. [I have pictures on my phone to put here later, sorry]

Last night I took a peek into the kiln which was still about 450°F. Without melting my lense, I got this shot of a big jug with some pinkish blushes from the back of the kiln! I will get it unloaded on Thursday. With 3 inches of fiber insulation, it takes a while to really cool down, and I'm still a little gun-shy from my dunting in the past.

September 21, 2010

Best Foot Forward Auction

Here is the piece I donated to the Benefit Auction for Drew Johnson.

The auction includes an amazing collection of work by an impressive group of generous artists,

Heather Alexander, Dan Anderson, Linda Arbuckle, Posey Bacopoulos, Tiffany Bailey, Marian Baker, John Balistreri, Tom Bartel, Deborah Bedwell, Curt Benzle, Sandy Blain, Catherine Boswell, Joe Bova, George Bowes, Bob Brady, Lucy Breslin, John Britt, Sally Brogden, Bill Buckner, Richard Burkett, Jon Burns, Larry Bush, Doug Casebeer, Donna Causland, Ceramics Monthly, Eva Champagne, Andrew Cho, Linda Christianson, Autumn Cipala, Naomi Cleary, Meridith Coen, Nan Coffin, Elaine Coleman, Tom Coleman, Jim Connell, Pat Coughlin, Charlie Cummings, Malcolm Davis, Chandra DeBuse, Josh DeWeese, Eddie Dominguez, Lynn Duryea, Thaddeus Erdahl, Mark Errol, Jana Evans, Lauren Faust, Kathryn Finnerty, Yoshi Fuji, Erin Furimsky, John Glick, Raymond Gonzalez, Heidi Grew, Chris Gustin, Holly Hanessian, Molly Hatch, James Herring, Pam Herring, Jennifer Hill, Anna Calluori Holcombe, Niel Hora, Ayumi Horie, Steve Howell, Matt Hyleck, Sarah Jaeger, Jeremy Jernigan, Drew Johnson, Mark Johnson, Garth Johnson, Brian Jones, Kristen Kieffer, yours truly, Phyllis Kloda, Alix Knipe, Lebeth Lammers, Sandy Lance, Martina Lantin, Fritz Lauenstein & June Raymond, Mary Law, Jim Lawton, Simon Levin, Jenny Lind, Suze Lindsay, Matt Long, Jiri Lonsky, Tyler Lotz, Scott Lykens, Andrew Martin, Missy McCormick, Nancy McCroskey, Kent McLaughlin, Joe Molinaro, Mudtools, Kate Murray, Richard Nickel, Kevin Nierman, Richard Notkin, Kelly O'Briant, Mary Obodzinski, Dandee Pattee, Anne Perrigo, Chris Pickett, Don Pilcher, Elise Pincu, Pete Pinnell, Pottery Making Illustrated, Rainbow Gate Pottery, Jeremy Randall, Beau Raymond, Scott Rench, Lee Rexrode, Lindsay Rogers, Chloe Rothwell, Nigel Rudolph, Cheyenne Chapman Rudolph , Cassie Ryalls, Shoji Satake, Kristin Schimik, Mike Schmidt, JoAnn Schnabel, Bonnie Seeman, Nancy Selvin, Leland Shaw, Jane Shellenbarger, Marge Shore, Sandy Simon, Gay Smith, Nan Smith, Collette Smith, Keith Smith, Kevin Snipes, Jane Spangler, Chris Staley, Studio Potter, Stephanie Stuefer, Sarah Tancred, Shoko Teruyama, Julie Tesser, Diana Thomas, John Tilton, Sara Truman & Naomi Mostkoff, Tom Turner, Rimas Visgirda, Mikey Walsh, Wynne Wilbur, Lana Wilson, Varian Wolf, Stephen Wolochowicz, Jenchi Wu, Rosie Wynkoop, Gwendolyn Yoppolo

I know from my own experience a few years ago, how important an event like this auction can help in so many ways to cover the numerous bills to be paid after an accident. We all benefit to be part of a community of brilliant and talented ceramic artists that are so generous with their gift.

A big shout out to Linda Arbuckle and Charlie Cummings for putting this all together.

Bid high and bid often !

September 20, 2010


While adjunct potter, John Simmons is stoking up the kiln, I'm taking some downtime and downloaded a bunch of pictures from the last couple of days deco-rotation highlights. But I wanted to quickly share with you new strategy I'm employing in this firing, soda ash rocks!

I'm not sure what to call these things, but Emily Murphy uses them to salt (soda) her kiln. But basically they're a mixture of soda ash, baking soda, and whiting (calcium carb) which is mixed with lots of sawdust (but no dirt). Here's a link that explains the whole deal. Check it out.

Ironically I've been having trouble getting good sodium penetration in the upper part of the kiln. Hopefully these will take the place of salt cups that I've used in the past.
Here is a contextural shot showing the balls in place.

I'll try to get around to posting more deco highlights on the cooling days as well as some before and after! Follow the firing on my twitter feed, where I will make updates throughout the day.


Snow Creek Controlled Burn

After a long day of loading the kiln and frequent trips back to the shop to glaze pots to fill in those gaps Firing 36 is on! Miracles do happen!

I just had a nice visit from Stacey and the girls and probably the best fried egg sandwich this side of Johnny's Diner. My hot coffee was brought in my rockin' Tom White mug. It's appropriate since it's been a rocking session in the studio and this dirt farmer is hopeful for a bountiful harvest come Thursday.

My neighbor Courtney is doing some burning today, too. So if you come down Snow Creek Rd today don't be surprised to see a lot of smoke! There will be a whole lot of new pots coming your way from our Snow Creek pottery mile!

September 19, 2010

Loading Day

By now the kiln should be loaded and I should be resting for tomorrow's firing. But instead I'm just now beginning to load. It usually takes 8 hours, sometimes 10. As things are going it will take 10. Stacey has promised to bring my peanut M & M's this afternoon. A tradition started by Cynthia Bringle in the early days if this kiln. CB would also bring salt for the kiln and salt for the potters along with her pots which I happily loaded among mine.

Not all the pots got glazed but time waits for no one, especially potters who have no respect for its determination and vigilance.

A few weeks ago I confidently stated that I would not rely on kiln "magic", but instead would inject a certain intentional quality into my work. After a week or so of 18 hour days I'm hoping for not only a little wood firing magic, but a minor miracle to boot!

it's on to the next one, firing XXXVI !

September 18, 2010

Saturday Highlights

I picked up a chisel ended paint brush last night and have been playing around with it's qualities. Here are a couple of examples of a new pattern that is emerging.

September 17, 2010

Uh Oh : Rabbit Time

Simon: Stacey made me do it!


Here are a few pictures of some painting I did last night and this morning. There are a couple of "states" each of three pots.

Coffee Break vol. 28

It's an unlikely time in the very early morning to be having a cup of coffee but such are the circumstances of this potter with the luxury of the electric light to show the way to after hours pottery work.

This is one of our (Stacey and I's) fave-o-rite mugs that has somehow made it's way up to the shop tonight. I think I might have gotten this mug from Ron Meyers on a long ago visit to Athens, GA.

I have a vague memory of fleeing Penland after a little spat that Stacey and I had back during our courtship days. Ron just sat there sympathetically painting away on a pile of pots as I cried on his shoulder about Stacey not wanting to see me again, or something like that. Oh, dating...

Stacey had taken a class with Ron in Cortona Italy way back when, so Ron knew Stacey and must have given me the good advice to get back and plead my case with her 'cause that's what I did, with this cup as my peace offering.

I guess I owe a lot more to this cup (and Ron) than merely the late night messenger of coffee!

Oh, the power of pottery!

Besides having this beautiful painting of this bird (goldfinch?) the handle is one of the finest "trigger/one finger" handles I've ever used. It also has some of the softest lines on any cup that we have. It's a great inspiration at this time of painting. Maybe it's time to paint a few birds?!

Well, enough ruminating and blogging. If I don't get back to work on this pottery and get home before the cows, I might be making another trip to Athens for more advice from Ron!


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September 16, 2010

Keeping My Head Above Water

sunset on Conley Ridge Road

In my sea of pots that await the brush and the glaze, I'm hanging in there. Whenever I step outside I'm amazed at how wonderful the air feels on my face. After looking at pots and painting at close range, the great outdoors seems like such vastness.


It is! (a vastness)

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Just Pictures from Wednesday

here are a few pictures of last night's painting highlights.

motif source: queen ann's lace
i wonder how i can get a blue glaze like this?


September 15, 2010

Can We Hit It and Quit?

John wedging the wadding

Just getting around to blogging about the busy day working with John Simmons, adjunct potter! While I painted pots, John prepped the kiln and paved the way to loading and firing. He also topped off all of the slips and glazes we'll need in the coming days of glazing. Awesome! John kicked a$$!

There is bisque ware piled up everywhere and probably more than the wood kiln can hold for this go round and two more bisque loads wait outside! That's good, considering the follow up firing with Kyle in October just around the corner!

More painting into the night and morning for me and more images and a maybe a video of the painting in the coming days.

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September 14, 2010

Painting Memo

I'm well into some painting and have been exploring inside/outside pattern. It is something I began last spring with a sawed off brush for the inside and a regular brush on the outside. I begin on the inside and follow the lines over the lip of the cup or bowl. In the case of my flat-bottomed tumblers and breakfast cups, I even continue the pattern on the bottom. Having fun and wanted to share the thoughts. But there is a lot of pottery to paint, so I'm off to my station! Hope you are well!

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Mail Bag

Just got my copy of Sung Jae Choi's catalog of new work at the Pucker Gallery in my (real)mailbox. I love this work!! Get your copy of the catalog in PDF here(<---click). Just in time for some inspiring deco-rotation! Back to the brush and the bisque!

Not Like the Other

By now my neighbors must be convinced that I'm a vampire (which proves Stacey's suspicions as well!)

No, it's just hell week, here. Another firing is just around the corner. Everything takes longer, a LOT longer. Especially if you haven't made a teapot in ??? year(s).

I'd better check the record (read: search the blog) to see when the last teapot was made. I don't think I've made any in this new studio and this "new" studio is now two years old! I remember my first pots were "Obamaware" pots, which seems like lifetime, ago. Or at least another last election cycle ago...I guess some things never change. Time marches on.

I know what some of you are thinking, and the answer is, no. I'm not going Republican, just got bored with making birds!


Now it's on to the next one. The one being many , many pieces of bisqueware to paint and glaze, and a couple more bisque firings...

Have a wonderful day.

Bone Yard

Im not so sure where the term bone yard came from, but this is what's left at the end of the making: surplus spouts and cracked pots! They'll be back to mud by tomorrow and back on the wheel after the firing.

Better luck next time!

Teapot View

Just before the spout is joined, a pause to appreciate a utilitarian pattern that won't be seen again until this pot's Waterloo.

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September 13, 2010


I needed a little more height out of the ole L&L so I cut some soft brick to make this blank ring (of sorts).

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Big Blue

Drying the last of the big jars out on the picnic table under super blue skies. Whether I'll have room or time to bisque these is the question. I can always glaze these bone dry if i don't get them in the bisque. Loading bisque load number 8 today so I'm on track with my minimum 10 bisque per wood kiln! Probably will be 12 altogether. I also have about 60 pots that were left out of the last firing. Having a surplus is always good especially since I'll be firing again with Kyle in October!

The day has already been productive and it will be non-stop all week. Have a great Monday! Are you GTD?

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