Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Employee of the month

I haven't been making a lot of pots this year, I did my last wood firing in October of 2013.  I did make quite a large number of pots this summer but 3 firings worth went straight to the landfill.  I took a part time job at Home Depot in February to help make up the difference for not making and selling pots.  I've been teaching for six and a half years and a carpenter before that, and while I've taken the occasional side job this is the first time I've worked in a structured work environment since 2006.  I think artists tend to be self starters, we're creative thinkers and problem solvers, as well as go-getters.  We (or at least I) work best independently.  I've worked in retail, food service, and construction and I've quickly advanced to some type of leadership/management position in all those jobs.  My motivation has never been just financial, I'm a stubborn, independent problem solver, and being in a position of leadership gives me the opportunity to do things the way I want to do them.  Since starting at the Home Depot I've been named employee of the month twice and have been offered the opportunity for advancement and a new career path, this I politely declined.  It's easy to be enticed by steady income and benefits, I've been down this path before but I know better.  No matter how far you advance and how much freedom you're given the independent spirit will always be stifled and possibly broken.  This is okay for some, but not for me.  I want something that's mine, I control it, it lives and dies with my decisions. 

It's strange to find a meaningful quote in such a strange place as the Gilmore Girls, but nonetheless I think Luke, the grumpy diner owner, said it best when his nephew dropped out of school to work at walmart and then criticized him for working in a diner:

“I own this business, kid! I built it, this is mine! I’m not at the mercy of some boss waiting and hoping to be chosen employee of the month for a couple extra hundred bucks and a plaque. I’m always employee of the month. I’m employee of the year, of the century, of the universe. You should be so lucky to have a job like mine.”

I like that it's not about the money, it's about the freedom and the pride of building something.  "I built it, this is mine!"  Indeed.  I look forward to hitting it hard in 2015.

Cheers!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I think I've made a huge mistake...

I've been blessed with good kiln karma, I've built 14 kilns and they've all worked properly right from the start.  But this kiln...this kiln is a fickle bitch. I've had one semi-successful firing, which I understand now was clearly a taunt from the kiln gods, and many false starts.  I tore down the stack and enlarged it, I'm currently getting the top portion rebuilt.  More air?  That must be what it needs.  That's the only thing left to tweak.  All of karma's unrequited bad kiln fortune is playing it's course and SURELY we must be done with all that by now. 

It's easy to read too much into situations, is the universe telling me I made the wrong choice?  Nah, that's silly talk.  Or is it?  Hmmm. 

6 weeks to my next show and not a single pot made for it, not to mention the more pressing task of fulfilling rewards of all my kickstarter backers who have shown much patience with my kiln fumbles.  Sometimes this job sucks too.  But...the dude abides.  Onward to the studio.

Cheers.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Making

I'm back at it in the studio, making pots and getting ready to fire the new kiln.  My first firing is tentatively scheduled for next Sunday, the 22nd.  I have my electric kiln hooked up, I haven't fired any pots in it yet but I did fire my cast burner ports and it performed admirably.


I mixed up my usual four batches of clay which is about 1300 pounds.  That used to be two firings worth, not sure what it is now.

I'm slowly getting pots made but I'm having trouble getting a rhythm going.  I'm used to making large runs of pots for two wood firings.  30 soup bowls, 20 serving bowls, 60 cups, a dozen teapots, etc. With a smaller kiln it seems ludicrous to make enough to do 3 or 4 back to back firings.  So the cycle will change, 8 cups here, 4 serving bowls there.  That's going to be tough for a workaholic type potter like me.  For me working on pots is an addiction, at the end of the day I need to see boards full of pots, and of course it's never enough.  It's hard to stop at 4 or 6 or 8.  My studio was setup to hold enough pots for two firings with the idea that I would eventually be building a two chamber wood kiln.  For a variety of reasons I decided last year that a larger kiln wasn't in the cards for me.  So, I dunno.  I'll figure it out though.

Cheers!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nearly there!

I got right back to work on the kiln as soon as I arrived home from Minnesota.  I'm just about finished but I have a small punch list to knock out.  I still need to cast salt troughs for the firebox and set the bagwalls, set up the burners, and build some storage for the kiln shelves and posts.  

I put up a metal roof for the shed and flashed around the chimney.

This is the door frame and the I-beam trolley system.  The beam is about 12' long and extends out the side of the shed.



The oil burners require a much smaller and tapered port.  I found these plastic funnels that were just the right size.  I built a little frame and cast them using Mizzou castable.  They should work just fine.

Here is the 99% finished kiln.  The door is constructed of high alumina soft brick, this is the same brick I used on both of my previous wood kilns and it held up pretty well.  I coated the kiln side of the brick with a thinned down mix of AP Green #36 high alumina cement.  I wanted to use greenpatch 421, which is fairly common amongst potters.  My supplier was out of that and recommended the #36 as it has a higher amount of alumina, about 70%.  I did discover that it will not bond if there is any dust on the brick, which is a tall order for soft brick, but I think I made it work.  Time will tell if that coating makes a difference.  The door track works great, I can move the 700# door with one hand quite easily.  I'm excited about it!

I mixed clay several days ago and it should come out of the racks in a week or so and then it's on to making pots!

Cheers!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Minnesotah!

We had a great time in Minnesota this last week.  We spent some time up at the north shore doing some hiking and sightseeing the nature.  In Texas we lack the kind of nature that I love, tall trees, rocky hills, rivers, waterfalls, etc.  This is a photo of Sadie and me at Gooseberry Falls, north of Duluth.

 

The St. Croix pottery tour was insane.  I've never seen so many pots and so many people buying pots.  I was able to meet a few people in real life, plus briefly catch up with some other folks like Dan Finnegan, Michael Hunt/Naomi Dalglish, and Linda Christianson.  There were a few potters whose work I was excited to see in person, and knowing that I would be heading up there I saved a few bucks for some pots.  Since we flew up and I had a tiny budget I was limited to small pots like cups and bowls.

I picked up some cups by Sam Taylor, Mark Shapiro, and Dan Finnegan.  Sadie picked up a Randy Johnston and a Linda Christianson.

I also got these nice pasta bowls from Kent Mclaughlin and Bob Briscoe, and a dinner plate by Sarah Jaeger.  I'm not usually one for bright colors but I've always loved these blue pots she does.

These cups are by Michael Hunt from Bandana Pottery, the one on the left is mine, the other two I picked up for some other folks.

I saw this large slab dish (about 15") in the middle of the Bandana pottery display and I loved it and couldn't stop talking about it, but it was too expensive and a little too large to carry home.  Sadie decided to buy it for me as an early birthday present, that was really nice of her.  I picked a winner.


Tomorrow it's back to the kiln build.

Cheers y'all!!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Golden arch.

The arch is up and the steel work is mostly complete.  It's been a long few months, I'm going on vacation.


Cheers y'all!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Build

Here is an update about the kiln build, I'm making some good progress, I'm starting the steel work this weekend and would like to get the arch up as well.  Next Tuesday the lady and I are heading to Minnesota on vacation for a week.  I'm going to hit up the St. Croix Pottery Tour for a day, I'm really excited about that.  So I'm trying to cram as much building in as I can before we go.  









I like arches with a steep slope, not quite a barrel arch but pretty close.
Back to the grind.

Cheers!