October 31, 2010


Still, I ponder the question of being green! The comments to my previous post have been very insightful and my roving/surfing eye has been led to this post by Laura Zindel from 2007 on Diana Fayt's blog!! There is very little that I can really add to this very thorough post except to share some of my own personal thoughts, so here goes.

A comment by David Carter on the Eco-Salon blog post summed it up for me,
"The most persuasive argument for pottery being green is its longevity."
Yes, once fired, a pot is pretty much here to stay, much like other synthetics, you know, the kind with numbers on their bottoms. Yes, ceramics was the very first synthetic material! Twink twice before firing that second! A fired ceramic mug may take a lot of natural resources to become what it is, but once made and kept out of harm's way can last for centuries! My friend Beth Schaible carries one wherever she goes to use over and over.

A while back I blogged about reclaiming clay. I guess it doesn't make sense when looking strictly at the bottom line, and yes, I guess if I were to just dump it it would just go back into some geological mix, but there are hidden costs. I'm not an economist, but it seems to me that most people buy clay that has been transported over many miles from the point of extraction, the point of manufacturer, and then to our shops to be formed. That's a lot of moving around! Much of this clay is highly processed. These processes all involve oil, gasoline, etc. I guess one of my motivations to reclaim clay is that it doesn't use any additional energy except my own and then maybe the small amount of electricity to run my pug mill for a half hour.

As I review my own practice a couple of things really flare up.

  • bisque firing my work
  • small-one person studio model
  • use of extracted materials and metals for glazes/slips
  • use of water when processing local clay
All of these points can be improved on, of course.
There really isn't any reason to bisque fire my work, except that my wax resist just doesn't work on bone dry or leather hard clay. I've tried. Should I pursue another resist technique? Or another decorative approach?

The small one person studio is such a poor model for efficiency. When people share the resources of space, materials, kilns, it is more eco-nomical, and eco-friendly. Maybe a community kiln is a good start?

The materials I choose to use are mostly local, but I do use a small amount of manganese, copper and cobalt in my wax and glazes. Manganese come from South Africa, China, and Gabon. Although a mine in Salida Colorado also extracts the ore. Chile is the world's largest miner of copper, followed by the U.S., China, and Peru. Congo is the world's leader in cobalt extraction, followed by Zambia, and Canada. I happen to live a county that produces the most feldspar in the country, yet I buy it from the supplier in Asheville, an hour away. This should be easier, but the distribution chain doesn't necessarily include my Ford pickup. Maybe this could be an easy fix with the right contact. I'll get back to you on this one.

When I process my clay I use a fair amount of water to hydrate and blunge. I do tap off the excess from my barrels after the clay has settled to use on subsequent batches, but still we're talking about 40 gallons of water for every 200 lbs of clay, by my best estimate. I do have rain catching barrels(buckets) to catch water for my day to day uses since I have no plumbing in the shop. This is fine for most of the year, but in the coldest months I have to carry water from the house.

I guess I have some work to do to improve my own sustainability. The economics are tricky, especially in these times. But maybe folks truly want to support a local, green, sustainable practice. Whether these issues trump the artistry of my pottery remains to be seen. I think artistry and sustainability coexist quite nicely now, and can be improved upon with improved awareness and desire to be a better potter and a better person living on this earth.

That's all I have for today. There are pots awaiting my attention up the hill. Maybe this post could continue as a series? I may not be the best person qualified and it feels like there is a lot to discuss and figure out. But if you lend us your thoughts, we can move this ball down the field.

October 29, 2010


As I handle my mugs from yesterday and think about the next step for these pots I pause to share a little something that has struck me about this cup...

I was given this cup at the coffee house over at Penland and immediately noticed the pattern printed on it. It is a nice pattern of leaves that "flow" around 3/4 of the circumference of the cup and it shares the real estate with the following text,


The pattern is made up of leaves falling or flying, not ears of corn. So i had to think, was the pattern intended to enforce our perception of a green, sustainable, product and am I to start a compost pile made out of the leftovers my daily visits to the coffee house? Do handmade cups present overwhelming complications to the quick cup of coffee with their need to be washed, the burden of their bulky transport, their lack of spill control(i.e.plastic lid)? Makes we reflect on the question 'Why Craft now" which began last weekend's ACC Convenings.

With all of that said, I have to say that the pattern is seductively pleasant. More questions ( for myself primarily, but please chime in with your thoughts): can I create a similar seduction with my patterns and pots? How are the patterns I choose to decorate my pots helping or hindering this seduction?

In addition, I guess there are many stories in the naked city of sustainablility and the green production of pottery. Can or should potters compete with the paper cup? Is the paper cup better suited to our lifestyle than the handmade( i. e. well crafted) cup? I realize as I pose these questions that time and place play a major role in our choices. Just as the suggestion of composting one's paper cup is dependent on a next action or an inconvenience, depending on the situation one finds themselves in.

Well, I'd better bet back to those mugs. The inconvenient truth is that those cups won't 'handle' themselves. I'll chock it up for my 12x12 if I can.

Please help us sort these questions out. I know its a pandora's box. But, any takers?

Have a great day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

October 28, 2010

12 X 2


Site Update: Linktopia

I've updated the blog site to help folks navigate through the 1200 or so posts here on S/D. If you look to the right of this column you will find some new items.

Now you can get new posts by myself or from my guest bloggers delivered to your email Inbox! The Feedburner widget is at the top of the right hand column. If you want to read the full post, including images just subscribe by entering your email address. Then Feedburner will send you a confirmation email to complete the setup. I read several Wordpress blogs this way and now Blogger has made it possible for this blog.

Wading through the numerous posts here can be daunting if you're a new reader. Now you can get a jump on the content by referring to the "popular posts" section. Click on links that take you to the most frequently read articles in the past month.

Speaking of numbers, you're not alone! Now you can easily see how S/D posts have been read in the past week with the page views widget! It's a running total of times posts are read whether here, in a blog reader such as Google Reader, in a feedburner email, or on networkedblogs on Facebook.

Do you want to get even more out of Sawdust & Dirt? Now you can get the maximum dirt value, by fast-forwarding through the day to day monotony, and whining, by searching this blog with Lijit. Just go to the Lijit widget on the right and type your key words in the search box and voilá!! Out pops your list of S/D blog posts where your topic of choice appears. If that's not enough you can move your search by clicking on the content, network, and web tabs. I've only used the web tab, myself, which searches the web for your topic. Other Lijit search options include my youtube channel, my disqus comment logs, my linked-in profile, my twitter feed, and my twitpic!

I'm also working on indexing all the posts in an organized librarian kind of way. But that may be a while. In the meantime I hope these updates help those who can take advantage for now.

Well that's it for now. I know that's more than you probably really need to know.
I'd better get on to the next one and get my 12x12 done!


October 27, 2010


wall of plates

Today, John and I continued to pack pots that I selected from the showroom and from the last couple of firings. The pots we packed are heading to Greenwich House Pottery for the December show, Form Follows Food! On Monday I shipped pots to the Lux Center for the Arts in Lincoln Nebraska, for their Gifts From The Heart show.

We had fun measuring the capacities of the pitchers I sent to the Main St. Art Gallery in Edwardsville, IL. The show's title is "Liquid Measure" and I sent a "quart" pitcher, a "pint and two gills" pitcher, and another teeny tiny pitcher. On the hang tag's I wrote the price per ounce instead of the dollar value, thinking that it would give the viewer a pause to think what the price is in $$$. I know what your saying...what a wise ass! Well it is a show in an Art gallery!

The showroom is pretty well stocked for a change, so I decided to take a few shots of the display to be used for promotion etc. I'm still mulling over a blog about "why craft now" and some opinions of last week's "think tank" at Penland. Meanwhile, pots have to be made. Firing the CMP kiln in a few weeks!


October 26, 2010


I had a question from my devout reader, "ratfacedmacdougal", about a certain technique that I use for painting. I'm not sure what they meant, so I guess I'll have to review my youTube channel to remember!

But here are a couple videos that seem to be fairly popular. Not exactly the numbers that this video has and to my knowledge there are no "painting with wax resist " remixes, yet!

;-) (open invitation)

This video was one of the early ones.
I remember strapping my cell phone to my tripod with stretch wrap!

Back to packing pottery!


October 24, 2010

Back to Earth

What a weekend! I just got back from a couple of days of amazing discussions on Craft hosted by the Penland school and the American Craft Council! About 30 artists, gallerists, curators, writers, museum directors,and bloggers came together (from all over) for some intense talks about craft and its relevance! I felt honored to be part of the fishbowl.

Hopefully, I will have some time this week to crank up the old 'still and bottle some of my thoughts on what was talked about right 'chere on ye olde blogge. *hic

Meanwhile, it's back to earth and some of the pressing concerns in the studio.




October 20, 2010

Results From Courtney Martin Kiln

The following videos were shot the other day by moi and I wanted to edit them together into a super spectacular home movie with nice transitions and insightful comments, maybe even some cool music.

But the week flew by with various projects and I just wanted to share the results of the firing of last week, so I've uploaded several of these so that you could see some of the pots. Please forgive my mumbling comments and raw unsophisticated footage.

There you have it, for what it's worth.

October 15, 2010

A Good Fit

I went over to Courtney Martin's kiln and helped her load the kiln yesterday. It's almost the same size as my kiln, just not as tall and the footprint of the shelves is 48" x 36" whereas my kiln is 48" x 48". And like most kilns it ate a lot of pots! I found it interesting how pots fit together in the kiln and how I am aware of the various shapes that I make. So when Courtney was loading her kiln and trying to find the right pot for the right spot, it took us a while to get a sense of how these pots would fit together. But it didn't take her long to get to stacking. It's a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle!
Today we fire!

(I guess CM is over there stoking already. I'd better get over there and get to work! ;-) Have a good Friday!

October 13, 2010

Shop Cups Contest

I'm wrapping up the deco-rotation, and set to dip the pots in slip and glaze. But first it's time for one more coffee break. Here are my choices tonight. How many can you name?

The first one to name all the cups correctly gets a special prize. When I get the right answers I will announce the winner!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Patterns 'n' Plates

Painting plates as the Chilean miners are being rescued! The orange painted areas in the image above is a wax resist that is tinted with orange ink. Then a thin wash of black slip was brushed over the resist.

We'll load the kiln over at Courtney's on Thursday! Here are some more pictures.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

October 12, 2010

No More Blues, Just Green!

After all of the whining about expectations and such last week I have good news concerning my most recent endeavor, the Spruce Pine Potters Market, or SPPM, pronounced, "sppm". Going in with moderate expectations, taking lots of pots, and putting my best foot forward, it did not disappoint! This years show was probably the best ever.

I finished unwrapping the few pots that were left and jumped right into fixing the e-kiln so that I could fire the pots I made last week. The 150 or so pots will be heading up the road to Courtney's wood kiln for a firing on Friday! So away with the bins of wrapped pots and onward with my brushes and some glazing!

I'm real excited to fire again, for a lot of the ideas that came from the last firing are still freash in my head. It was also nice to look over the pots at the show the other day as John and I set up the booth. The pots continued to reveal themselves and I had some nice convos with some of my fellow potters who always brings different perspectives. I'm looking over some notes and getting pots dec-o-rotated today as I nurse this old bisque kiln through one last firing before I gut it and replace all of the rusted parts and faulty switches, etc.

The old L & L's been under a roof, out of doors for the past 8 years and it shows. After taking the first section apart to replace elements, I realized what I feared to be true. Rust, rust, rust...The terminal covers have to be replaced, but I also realized that the terminals themselves were corroded and need replacing. Maybe it is time to replace this old kiln? Well, replacing it is way more expensive. And besides how out of place would a new kiln look surrounded by all of my other equipment that hales from the late sixties (Paoli mixer) to early seventies (Shimpo Scream™, and original Peter Pugger Classic)

I guess it wouldn't look all that bad!


Back to the brush! Thanks for checking in.


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October 8, 2010

MUDFIRE: Asheville in Atlanta, 2010 Edition

If you're in the Atlanta area, check out the Mudfire show Kyle has curated for this year's edition of "Asheville in Atlanta". It's an especially good one. This year's potters are:

  • Cynthia Bringle
  • Becky and Steve Lloyd
  • Courtney Martin
  • Keith Phillips
  • and, of course, Kyle Carpenter!

October 7, 2010

Spruce Pine Bound

stoke on trent, 1952

Thanks to everyone who chimed in on the previous post. It's always good to hear what you have to say! The show in Asheville is actually doing pretty well despite my whining and gnashing of teeth. Pots are selling! See some of the work that's been listed on-line, here.

And now it's the barge I load as I will be hauling my ballast to the Spruce Pine Potters Market for this weekend's annual star studded pottery show. Actually Spruce Pine is just 15 minutes away, and the "barge" is actually my old Ford truck. But aren't barge and ballast better images for my crockery? I've saved some good one's for this show. I'll post a preview tomorrow after John and I get them all set up pretty. There are plenty of jugs, jars, mugs, and plates, for you to come and haul way in your own sport utility pottery barge!

I am going make a special offer to my email subscriber's, so if you haven't signed up yet, whatcha waiting for?!?!? Click the join link to the right of this post.

More later.

October 5, 2010

Reconsidering Expectation

From a conversation with old friends the other day, the topic of expectations came up as I described the opening in Asheville last weekend. What is it about this mental construct of expectation? As I work toward a goal such as a firing, or a gallery opening, I use my imagination to build a mental picture of the glazes, the finished pots, the gallery setting, and in this case the show! I've gotten used to the kiln blues and worked my way around them. Gallery shows are less frequent and still require a fair amount of work to over the obstacle of expectations.

My expectations for the opening at American Folk Art weren't exactly met but maybe that's more about my own megalomania than the economy! ;-) Hey, I had a good time talking with folks about "the work" and certainly enjoyed going out to dinner with Kyle's family and ours. But why wasn't I elbowing my way through a sea of pottery fanatics? Haa Ha...But wait! It was a beautiful evening and the smiles on the faces of the folks who came to the reception were warming and we had a great time. We laughed, we cried.....I'd love to hear how you deal with your own expectations. [I love your comments!]

Betsey-Rose did a fabulous job arranging the work and it was pretty exciting to see the drawings framed and on the wall! I brought my daily drawing book and was excited to show that off, too. I sort of wished I had taken some of the better drawings out of it to frame. But it is a treasure to me and I thought it best to keep it intact. I'll definitely do more books! The paper plates were the most fun and I gave them to folks who bought pots as a little gratuity for their patronage.

So I'm on to the next one, which is actually more than just one. I am back in the shop making a few pots for a wood firing with Courtney Martin next week. Just a few more to make before I start decorating and glazing the pots that didn't get treatment during the last firing cycle. But first it's the Spruce Pine Potters Market this coming weekend and I'll dust off my booth and set it up with John on Friday for the big weekend.

I'll just have to avoid the disappointment of high expectations!!

Hint: I'm working on a special offer to the subscribers to my email newsletter. So if you aren't signed up, click the Join link on the right side of the blog. Thanks.

October 1, 2010


My friend Richard Kennedy sent this to me and I thought you might be interested in the series over at the NYT.

Drawings and Layers vol. 2

Sometimes the sketch is better than the finished piece. I thought so after I painted these last night! But maybe I'm measuring success with a different ruler than other possible beholders. These were fun and I'm excited about the possibilities of this new design. I'm mostly excited to follow the brush and the ink and where it goes, where it takes me. Just as the kiln is the teacher, or the clay is the teacher, I follow the ink coming off the brush and react to it's nature. Of course there are patterns that I'm comfortable with and there's always the confidence or lack of to limit the outcome. But during the painting of these paper plates, I waived the concerns of the objects I was painting for a bit and it was so refreshing!
Should these be framed? Should they go on a pedestal in the gallery?

Maybe I should keep some of the best ones? Most probably I will give them to folks at the opening tonight as a gesture of gratitude for supporting me and what I do.
That seems more appropriate. But maybe we'll frame one, too?!

Hope to see you tonight in Asheville.