April 28, 2011


Thanks to Jim, I know what uroboros means!

As long as the snake is preoccupied with itself the rabbit lives.

But they both burn into immortality tomorrow!

The day of painting continues

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Here is a piece thrown by the Chinese potters during their carnival stop at the Penland school that I just did a Kline vine treatment on.

And here is a little jar that I threw with a similar treatment,

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The Least I Can Do

I can at least spin out pictures like this that I can take with my phone and toot to your screen.

Haven't seen any eggs this color, but maybe it'll show up on some pots in tomorrow's firing. ;)

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Kicking Ass

I talked with a friend the other day and we agreed that when the going gets tough the blogging stops. Ironically this is when things get interesting, but no time to clean one's hands and write about it. That's where I am now, under some serious deadlines.

I might have mentioned it before and will probably again at some critical crunch time in the future, but the truth is that Google ads and sponsorships don't pay the bills, but they help. The pots have to get made and fired. Breakthroughs and innovations, problem solving and intense focus don't allow time to blog. (maybe a tweet or two are all you get)

All this got me to thinking about all the potters who don't write about their adventures. They're the same potters who continue to kick ass and innovate. It's not that they don't know how to upload pictures they might stop to take as they document their process, or that they can't articulate their motivations and thoughts and record them in an online journal. It's that they're too busy kicking ass.

Don't get me wrong, I hope you know what I mean by "kicking ass". I can't think of a more "subtle" way of putting it. I don't mean to implicate that potter/bloggers aren't kicking ass. They certainly do, but it's not easy to do both, to live in balance. It takes an exceptional effort, even with today's easy tools to spread the word through the web.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm in the shed cranking it up and kicking ass but just don't have the time (or the interns) to report on all of the exciting stuff that's happening. It's always ironic, but also regretful. In my opinion, that's what this blog is all about, sharing the excitement.


maybe after the dust is settled...but, until then, get out there and kick some ass!

April 25, 2011

Where Y'at

Here's where I am. Behind schedule, as per usual. but I took a much needed break from the pot shop and spent the day with the family!

Today I'm finishing up the trimming of my plates that will be my part of the POTR donation to the Penland School Auction. All of the POTR's are making dinnerware for a big group table setting! It should be pretty awesome.

I will begin a couple of big pots for my upcoming wood kiln firing sometime today, but the real excitement will be my visitors today. Can you guess who might visiting here shortly?

Film at eleven.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

April 23, 2011

What I'm Doing

This handle is actually handmade, as is the M-U-G.

Upcoming Publication

In the upcoming summer issue of CM you will find an article about me. It is in the working potter series and here is a brief excerpt.

On deciding to be a potter:
Making pots always came first and I had many part time jobs to pay for my obsession until I finally made the decision to jump into the profession full time in 1992. I was very naive at the beginning as far as knowing how much I needed to make, but always felt that I could make some kind of living selling pots. My idea of making a living as a potter wasn’t focused on finances as much as making good work and living the life. I always felt that if I made work that was good and that I liked, it would sell itself.
Earlier, in 1989 I took a workshop with Michael Simon at Penland. Michael was the mentor, the model for me and I decided that his pursuit would be mine as well. No matter the cost. It was a “build and they will come attitude” and I reveled in making the pots I wanted to make.
The 1990’s were great times for starting a pottery. The shows were popular and there was an excitement among my peers who were starting out. The field was growing and the older and more established potters who had been doing the big juried shows held on tightly to their place. But we were ambitious and wanted in.
The magazine will be available in mid-May. Look for it in your mailbox or news stand!

What I'm Doing Now

I should be sleeping.

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April 22, 2011

What I'm Doing Now

Just thought I'd share this view from my work table. I have a lot of porcelain pots in varying stages of completion. They need to be finished yesterday and i'm hoping to make it over to Shelby tomorrow for Doug and Hannah's workshop.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

April 21, 2011

Today: Seeing Different

As I am getting ready to do some painting on some porcelain pots (for my upcoming show with Stacey at Crimson Laurel Gallery) I was out looking around at all of the beautiful-ness of Spring. Somehow saw this and snapped it on my dusty 5 year old cell phone. Infinite possibilities.

April 19, 2011

Evening Patterns

Appreciating patterns as I prepare for some painting.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Room With a View

Come on in, this is where you'll find me for the next 3 weeks. I might take some breaks to watch the girls while they ride their bikes up and down Snow Creek Rd, but it's pedal-to-the-metal time for this potter. Sorry, not much time to explain. But I'll try to keep in touch.

chuck looking like Sunsphere

old typewriter keys "mk" stamp, thanks Bruce

April 18, 2011

April 17, 2011

Blue Skies

This is what you would see if you were flying overhead this afternoon. The wind and rain are over and it's a gorgeous day and safe for flying. Still working on the porcelain, just taking a late lunch break. Check out that straight and narrow path from our house (l) and the shop (A)!

There's still time to leave a comment and qualify for today's drawing! Let me know how things are on your end. Evelyn and I will do the drawing this evening.
Check back!



[UPDATE: We had such a beautiful evening that we ended up doing more bike riding after supper and failed to do the drawing. So we will do the drawing Monday afternoon when the school bus comes 'round. If you haven't entered by leaving a comment, we'll extend the contest until tomorrow afternoon.
So comment away! Thanks]

April 15, 2011

Time for a Chuck, Time for a Giveaway

I made this chuck,

to trim these bottles,

and thought to myself,

let's have a giveaway,

give away another twenty bucks work of pottery!

The giveaway has nothing to do with "Chuck", whoever that is. Let me explain.
Every once in a while I like to give back to my readers and decided that a giveaway would be a fun way to say thank you! To make sure I reward those of you current, ever faithful readers, I came up with the "leave a comment" contest.

Just leave a comment and you will qualify to win a $20 gift certificate that can be redeemed at my Etsy shop or here at the pottery if you happen to be visiting. (Full details will be divulged if you are a winner.) Then we'll get Evelyn to do the honors of a random drawing over the weekend.

So, just say "Hi", or "Who's Chuck?", or whatever, and you may join our pottery winners circle! Let me know if you are having trouble logging into the Disqus commenting system by emailing me here.

Stay tuned and good luck!

April 14, 2011

TweetL Dee Struction

Earlier today I released this announcement (on Twitter) with the attendant promise of "film".

It's not exactly 11, unless you're in Decorah Iowa, but here is the "film" from the scene. This tweet seems pretty funny now, but at time i was pissed! The other pots in the rampage survived with just some minor curious scritch scratching, that, hopefully, will only enhance the surfaces.


April 12, 2011

Fool Rushes In

Leave it to me to try something completely new with a material that doesn't suffer fools gladly. Here is a bottle that is first made by throwing a roundish body. Then after a little drying, a donut was added and thrown for the neck. I just saw this technique in the new book by Nic Collins, "Throwing Large". I've never tried it. The neck has a little twist in it and has some variation in thickness. Hopefully there won't be any cracking or weirdness from the unevenness.

Wishful thinking, fool.

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Cerf-ing USA

I'm proud to say thank you to our new sponsor, CERF+, a wonderful organization that not only helps craft artists who find themselves in dire straits after a disaster, but also promotes readiness before the unexpected happens.

I have been supporting CERF+ for many years, beginning in the '90's when I did crafts fairs all over New England. Usually I would donate a piece at the fair that would be auctioned off and the money would go straight to their programs. In 2005, when I had my unfortunate table saw accident, CERF+ was a "first responder"" with some much needed cash to help support me and my family as we coped with my unforeseen interruption in my pottery shop! All those years of donating came full circle and we will always be grateful!

Please visit the CERF+ website and find out more by clicking their info in the upper right column!

Also: I have one of these in my shop and you should, too. It's pretty cool and I'll tell you more about it soon. Thanks.

April 11, 2011


Had a great visit with Ron today! Ron was bringing new pots to Crimson Laurel Gallery and I brought the first batch of pots for my upcoming show with Stacey, there, opening on the 7th of May. Ron turned me on to Eckardt Tolle and I shared the 5by5 programs. There aren't very many people that I can talk pottery blog to and Ron is my "ichiban" go-to potter blogger, for sure. We talked about the evolution of our blogs and the current state of pottery blogs in general. There are so many more pottery blogs out there than when we began and we both lamented about our inability to keep up with all of them! I guess that's a good thing, (so many out there), but also an unfortunate reality (no time to read them all). Ron's blog began as Potter's Journal. The title bar said that the blog was "A record of what's happening at the Pottery along with thoughts, ideas, rants, ramblings, and other fun stuff". Now is simply called Ron Philbeck Pottery, but remains a quintessential online journal of what's happening down at the center of the pottery universe in Shelby, NC. His, as well as my fellow POTR buddy, Shane Mickey, was the inspiration for me to start blogging in the first place. If I continue to follow Ron's lead, I'll be doing more vlogging (also known as vidding, or vid-blogging) in the future! Here is a vintage vlog from Ron done when he was still too shy to talk!

I'll be heading down to Shelby in a couple of weeks for the visiting Brit-potters to pick up some slipware techniques! ;-) Here's more info on that exciting event! Maybe I'll see you there?

Well, so much for not having enough time for blogging, but seeing as the girls have just now gone to bed and my hands are not covered in clay (yet) I'd thought I'd stick my head into your computers and say hi, before I head up the hill to finish some porcelain platters for the big show next month in Bakersville. I'll have some actual pottery pictures soon, but in the meantime here's one from a few years ago of Ron and Alex and I.

matisse, kline, philbeck, 2009

Not Really a Post

Just an FYI. Here is the audio version of the Michael Simon and Classmates talk that I linked to last week. You can download it to your ipod! OK, Back to work.

April 10, 2011

Getting Into It

I guess the least I can do before I head up the hill on this Sunday morning is to show what go made yesterday between visits from friends passing by, a giant downpour of water from the sky, a great pottery art opening at the CLG, and bedtime.

Late last night, as I made a few more pots I listened to PJ Harvey's Let England Shake, over and over. It's a fascinating mix of sounds and stories. I guess that's an endorsement. Sometimes listening to an "album" over and over puts me in just the right "trance" to get into the work later at night. Tom Spleth once told me that he rarely listened to music while he worked. But occasionally listened to a few songs in repeat mode. Amy Tavern calls this kind of listening a "monster". One of Tom's monsters was Superman's Song, by the Crash Test Dummies, and The Wallflower's One Headlight? (I think) I guess we all have our ways of getting into it.

April 9, 2011


Here's the thing.

It's been non-stop since NCECA.

It's been Karen Karnes week here at Penland and in Asheville.

All very exciting stuff happening, no doubt. If I were some sort of pottery news outlet, I might have a bunch of folks editing and putting together all of the videos from all of this. I'd have a bunch of writers meeting deadlines and getting stuff up on the blog, but unfortunately it's just me, despite my sarcastic mentions of my youTube crew, my staff, etc. Then throw in the emergence of the video of the Michael Simon talk in Minneapolis last month has had me enthralled and my hopes to share it with you. Do you hear the sound of metal crunching and tires screeching yet?

So what about all of the shows I'm getting ready for? Well, the Crimson Laurel Show is coming right up and the stoneware pots are finished and will be delivered on Monday. The porcelain part of the show is in process and I will post some pictures later today or Sunday. The Potters of the Roan show in Raleigh are being delivered in a week or so, the piece I'm donating to the annual Penland School auction and the NC Pottery Center Auction are due May 1, I'm firing my wood kiln again in early May, my kiln opening is happening in mid May, then there is Cousins in Clay in late May!

Holy Toledo!

Well, pots are getting made, not by potter/hacks or hired hands, but by me.

All this just to say that the breaking point of any pottery blog is that place where dirty hands and keyboards collide. It's not a crashing, screeching kind of sound, though. On the internet it's no sound at all. It's just that same post from a couple of days/weeks ago that stares back at you when you come 'round looking for the latest post. But I'm up in the shop clocked in at my other job. The money job, the one that sometimes pays a few bills. The vocation that I feel closest to, the occupation without which this blog wouldn't exist. (oh if only I were more witty, or entertaining, or whatever)

So in the coming weeks, hopes of getting all the NCECA stuff out there, and all the blog stuff in here, and all the pots out there may compete for my time. Until g00gle checks start pouring in or sows fly overhead dropping cash from their ears, this here blog is on scholarship, and the pottery shop is footing the bill!

April 8, 2011

Michael Reads Michael

I've really been inspired by watching the video made available through the University of MN and the Northern Clay Center. But as I was trying to show this video on a friends iPad, I realized that the video format (flash) wasn't viewable on it or probably iPhone or iPod touch.

So I took it upon myself to try to reformat the whole video. Unfortunately, that would be a lot of work and energy that I need to devote to my pots, today. But I decided to share this introduction by Michael Simon. I recorded this from my monitor, the quality isn't be that great. But I hope that you take some inspiration from it.

April 4, 2011

Pure Gold

Thanks go to Northern Clay Center for making this available and Emily Murphy for sending me the link! I'll try to get this embedded, but for now, click to watch the panel discussion in Minneapolis with Michael Simon, Mark Pharis, Sandy Simon, Wayne Branum, and Randy Johnston.

Karen Karnes Events Reminder

Curious Reader
Here is a gentle...

about the Asheville area programming in association with
A Chosen Path: The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes
current exhibition at the Asheville Art Museum
January 28 - June 26
museum entrance fee: adults $8; seniors & students $7

beginning March 22 and currently at Penland Gallery
Many Paths: A Legacy of Karen Karnes
work by Karen Karnes and fourteen artists whose lives and work have been touched by her
free and open to the public
artists include:

Thursday, April 7, 6-9 PM at Asheville Art Museum and Diana Wortham Theatre
discussion, reception and book signing with
Karen Karnes and Mark Shapiro

Friday, April 8, 4:30 PM at Penland School, Ridgeway Hall
Film Screening of the documentary
Don't Know, We'll See: The Work of Karen Karnes
by Lucy Massie Phenix
free and open to public

Friday, April 8, 7-8:30 PM at Penland Gallery
Gallery Reception for Many Paths
with Karen Karnes & Mark Shapiro
free and open to public

Saturday & Sunday, June 4 & 5, 2 PM each day at Asheville Art Museum
Film Screening of the documentary
Don't Know, We'll See: The Work of Karen Karnes
by Lucy Massie Phenix
museum entrance fee: adults $8; seniors & students $7

On Wednesday, April 6, 7 PM at the Black Mountain College Museum Art Center
Film Screening of the documentary
Don't Know, We'll See: The Work of Karen Karnes
by Lucy Massie Phenix
$7.00 / $5.00 for BMCM+AC members + students w/ID

photos from Kathryn at Penland Gallery of ceramic work included in the exhibit Many Paths:
Maren Kloppmann, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Rob Sieminski, Phillips, Maine

Ellen Denker is a consulting curator and independent scholar of material culture, specializing in American ceramic history. She has many publications, some of which have won awards from obscure organizations. For “Sawdust & Dirt,” Ellen contributes historical insights into contemporary issues in studio ceramics and review books and exhibitions that feature ceramics. Ellen can also be reached at ellen@sawdustanddirt.com

More La Mesa

Here is Part 3 of the La Mesa Show. Again I apologize for the choppiness and hope it's worth bobbing along to. There are some nice pots in this segment.

La Mesa @ NCECA pt 2

Here is the second in this video series. I was interrupted quite often during the video, so I'm sorry if I skipped over any of the pots! The conference was one of those endless conversations!

April 3, 2011

La Mesa @ NCECA pt 1

Here is the first in a series of videos I shot of Santa Fe Clay's wonderful La Mesa exhibit. It is short. For those of you who haven't seen this show before with your own eyes, it's about a 50 foot long table (maybe longer)full of tableware! This video is a little choppy from where I sit, maybe it will flow better on your computer.

I filmed the whole table as I walked around. There are more videos to come. With my time limited I have chosen to just upload the videos one at a time. They are available in HD and take a while for me to upload. You can watch in HD by clicking the video and going to youTube.

More to follow!

NCECA Placeholder

detail of a ted saupe teapot with sunkoo yuh graffiti

After traveling all day yesterday through various airports and cities, I'm safely home and was greeted by my wonderful daughters this morning a with banana bread, OJ, and hot coffee. What I liked most, though, were their welcoming hugs and their sweet sweet smiles. It wasn't as easy as I thought to leave home for those days of ceramics intensity in a stormy tropical city! Although I did see many old friends and I was completely overwhelmed with all that I saw there.

Which is why I'm writing this here post. It's actually just a teaser post in the strictest sense. I have a gazillion pictures to edit and a lot of video [including Robin Hopper leading his sing along/whistle along] to sort out edit, upload, etc. Not to mention that I'm buttoning up an interview for the Ceramic Monthly summer issue, [due tomorrow], and celebrating Evelyn's birthday today!

At the risk of losing some already disgruntled NCECA readers, we'll have to wait until I can get to it on Monday. As I learned during the conference, it's very hard to blog when there is so much to do! Hang in there!!


April 2, 2011

Simon: From the Floor

Simon here reporting from the floor of the National Clay conference, and I have to say I am disappointed.

First of all I have searched everywhere for that damn press room, looking for the free donuts, weak coffee and large sweaty men hunched over typewriters banging out fervent opinions. You would think there would be some perks to having this pass.

Second, I went to some K-12 exhibition and I have to say the work was pretty juvenile. I mean sculptures of dragons, c'mon, are you in high-school or something? I did find it interesting that the curators of the show assessed the quality of the work; although I can’t say I agree with their aesthetic. Some of the work ranked as Grade 1 seemed as though the artists were still struggling with their fine motor control. At this national level, I expect more.

And third I was really excited to go to a talk this morning. I really enjoy talking. And though they called it a talk it was no such thing. These two guys went on and on for almost an hour. The whole experience was like when your parents want to "talk” and it’s not really a talk, they don't want to hear what you have to say. It was almost like being lectured. I had the hardest time shutting out the constant yammering, thank goodness for my smart-phone or I would have never survived all the words these guys were throwing at me. The hour wasn't a total loss though; I got past level 3-5 in Angry Birds. It does appear that jumping up and cheering my own fowl-flinging prowess is frowned upon during these "talks".

The conference isn't that bad, though, nothing a few dozen free donuts won't fix.

-Simon Says.

Simon Levin is a regular contributor to Sawdust and Dirt. He lives and makes pots in Gresham, WI. When Simon is not making or firing pots, fighting fires, or caring for his lovely family, he is creating such wonders as WikiClay! To find out more about Simon Levin and his pottery go to woodfire.com. If you have questions for Simon he can be reached at simon@sawdustanddirt.com otherwise please leave comments for Simon here!