Thursday, July 31, 2008


i've been trying to spend some decent time in the studio the last few days. i usually work about 20 hours a week in a restaurant and i got hosed with a bunch of double shifts ( 11-2 & 5-10) and extra hours because the owners wife is giving birth this week. i'm happy to help them out but the couple hours off in the morning and 3-4 hours off in the afternoon make it hard to get anything done, it kills any potential work rhythm.

i made a bunch of plates with new pattern ideas, i'll fire them and see what happens. the four without a pattern are going to be fired upside down, wadded to the rim of a bowl or something. might be interesting, the best flashing always seems to happen on the bottoms of pots.

i made this big guy the other day, its about 24" tall. this is the tallest piece i've made in about 5 years. one semester when i was in college my professor was getting tired of all the small domestic pots and made me do a long series of large(24"+) pots. i made a bunch of these tall 36"-45" faceted lidded jars that were pretty sweet, i've always wanted to make more but i can never spare that much kiln space. i might see if i can muster up some pictures of those old pots. anyways, here's this big guy, i'm still wondering how i'm gonna slip it. some of you might recognize that mug, it's my must have in the studio.

here are some large bowls/platters. that guy on the left is a whopping 24". i think i'm going to take it up to the university and bisque it to see if i can get it to shrink a little so i can get it in my kiln(24" shelves minus 3-4" for posts). the reason they look so sloppy is due to my unique slipping method. the platters always seem to warp and sag after being slipped when they're trimmed. so i slip them before i trim them. i don't cut them off the bats and let them stiffen up a bit and then slosh the slip around and let them get leatherhard. all that mess gets trimmed away and the ingredients to the slip are found in my clay body so i just toss them in the slip bucket. i trim on top of a piece of foam so as not to damage the slip on the rim. i only do this with these large guys.

there are a bunch of other pots, cereal bowls, mugs, vases, etc. as well, but i didn't feel like editing anymore photos, my apologies.
i'm free monday and tuesday and its only supposed to be in the mid-nineties, we hit 106 a couple days ago and 103 today, so i think i'll get that firing knocked out.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

no work.

so...i didn't fire yesterday. we had some friends come in from out of town so i felt it'd be rude to not be around. its ok though because it was 101 degrees yesterday, probably wouldn't have had a good time anyways. i did however manage to clean the shop a bit so that i can get rollin on some new pots. i sympathize with you keith, there's always something.

i went to check on my clay in the drying racks this morning and discovered that the edges were rock hard and the middle was still slop, i'm assuming from the wind and 101 temp yesterday? anyone else ever had a problem like this before? when its ready its usually a little stiffer on the edges, but i've never experienced such a drastic moisture difference. perhaps in the summer i should leave the drying racks inside? any suggestions?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

mac and me.

our last pottery destination while in minnesota was to go see warren mackenzie. when we were deciding what we wanted for dinnerware we thought we would like to have a mixture of dishes by the various potters that we know and like. above all for me i wanted some plates by warren mackenzie, since he has been easily the most influential person in my life and work. we have a few of his pots, mostly bowls, that we use all the time. the problem is that he absolutely hates making dinner plates for various reasons. i've known him for quite some time so i new what buttons to push to get him to do it. this makes me sound manipulative, but really i just asked him and pleaded my case, he thought about it for a bit and then said ok. he asked what i wanted and i told about some designs i'd seen on dessert plates but that i'd be fine with whatever. we told him we wanted 4 but when we showed up he had made two different sets of 6 and told us we could mix and match however we wanted. we ended up getting 3 of one and 3 of another. its really awesome to have dishes made my someone that you respect and admire that were made specifically for you.
we were at warren's about noonish and in his workshop he had made 16 or 18 large(20-25#) bowls/platters, and several other large deep bowls that morning. what is he now 85 or 86? it was pretty neat to see him still working at that level. he had just rebuilt his kiln in january, he tore down the second chamber and rebuilt the first exactly as it had been. it still fires with a cone 7-12 variation. he said he'd been firing with that variation for thirty years and he was finally used to it so there was no sense in trying to get used to a new kiln at his age. i was happy to see that he still keeps a few pots in his showroom for out of towners and people who don't know he "closed" his showroom. it was sad to see it though with only about 15 pots in it he used to have several other potters that sold out of his showroom so it was always packed even when there weren't any of his. we decided not to take any pictures because it made me quite sad, i would prefer to remember it the way it was. when i still lived in minnesota it was my absolute favorite place, i could spend hours it seemed looking at all the pots, warren might drop in and i'd attempt to chat with him for a minute(he had god status to me as an 18 year old.) so i'll always try to keep that memory of a place of such importance to me and not dwell on what the internet hawkers(sp?) have made it.
well, thats enough for now i suppose.

saw it coming.

so...i didn't fire today, who's surprised? not me. the kiln required some routine maintenance so i spent most of yesterday doing that. i'm not so good at cleaning shelves every firing, i scrape them so that they're just good enough, kiln wash them and load. i paid for it yesterday spending about 4 hours grinding 1/8" of salt and ash mixture off my shelves. i think i'll practice preventative maintenance from now on. i also had to tap some walking bricks back into place, mostly in the stack. my welder died while building the kiln so the only thing with a frame is the swinging door. this means every couple of firings i have to nudge some bricks back to their homes, no big deal.

here's the loaded kiln. i did a lot of rim to rim stacking in this one, so the stack is a little weird but i got more pots in than usual without packing it too tight.

i'm firing saturday, unload monday night, lets hope not too many end up in this pile.

now i'm going to pick up a load of firewood, so long for now.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

guillermo, linda, and jeff.

the next place we visited was guillermo cuellar's. he and his wife built this place in shafer, mn. the first time i ever saw his work was many years ago in warren mackenzie's showroom. i thought his pots were good then, but they looked too much like warren's. he's come quite a ways since then. i really like his pots a lot now, we had a hard time restraining ourselves here.

this was my favorite vase.

after guillermo's we went to see linda christianson. she was the first potter we went to see that was actually home! i suppose i should mention real quick that all of these potters had self-service showrooms so you could still get pots when they weren't home. linda was digging out a foundation for a wood shed next to her kiln and came over to greet us. i'll tell ya, ron's said it before and i'll confirm, linda is pretty much the sweetest person ever. she was soooo nice, and we stood around talking with her for well over 2 hours. my wife and linda really hit it off and we left with linda saying that she wished we were her neighbors, that might be one of the nicest compliments i've ever received. we didn't take many pictures here because we were chatting for so long, but if you ever go to minnesota go see her, she's awesome. ron, linda says hello.

this is linda's new studio in progress. her and her husband have done all the work, pretty amazing.

jeff oestreich lives about 5 minutes from lindas so we went there last. his showroom was pretty empty because he got wiped out during the studio tour. he admitted to us that he really hadn't done any work since then. he gave us a tour of his pottery and then invited us in for coffee and cake. i had never met jeff before but he brought us in and treated us like old friends that stopped by for a visit. he has a beautiful house and an amzing pottery collection, i kept getting distracted by all the old pots. we chatted with him for a couple hours and then were on our way to duluth.

i have a couple more stories to share but i'll have to get to it later. there is lots of kiln stuff to tend to.

randy and willem

we only had a day to visit potteries and such, so i crammed as much in as i could. the first two places we visited were randy johnston's and willem gebben's. they both live in wisconsin, randy is right on the border and willem is about an hour from the mn/wis border. i've sized all these photos a little larger than normal so you could see some of the pots better.

this is randy's place, there was a whole bunch of pots there, more than i've ever seen there before. i've always loved randy and his wife jan's work. about 80% of the domestic ware(plates, bowls, mugs, etc.) you see here are jan's and are very reasonably priced. randy's work on the other hand is quite expensive. its a bit of an irony i suppose that the people who might appreciate his work the most(potters) are the ones who probably can't afford it! to give you an idea his smallest platters(15-16") were $700 and that large orange one in the photo below was about 22" and was $1600. the most inexpensive slab pieces were about $400 ranging up to $1200. i'm not trying to knock on randy, not at all. its just a surprise knowing that he's a student of warren's and all that his work is so expensive. anyways, here are photos of his showroom and a couple of platters that made me drool.

this is willem gebben's place in colfax, wisconsin. he wasn't home when we were there but we found out through the grapevine that he had just had a huge show the weekend before so he was sort of picked over. about 1/3 of the pots here were seconds but there were still some pretty sweet pots.

this was my favorite piece, i wish we'd have come home with it.

this is willem's studio, notice the clay drying racks.

his kiln is deceptively large. it steps down inside and must be 6 1/2 to 7 feet tall chamber height.

this was kind of funny, apperently my buddy kent was the last one to sign the guestbook before us.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


sorry i haven't been posting much, my wife has all the pitures from minnesota/wisconsin and in true photographer form won't let me post them until she goes through them. i just mixed up about 600#s of clay here and i have about 400#s at the university. i have two big shows in september and october and very few pots so i need to get to it. the clay i mixed up at the school is different than my woodfire body, its better suited to reduction firing. i have some ideas for dinnerware and such things from that kiln so i'll be splitting my studio time between both places. sounds a little hectic, but i know lots of people have done it. i've had enough pots for a firing sitting around here for a month so i'm shooting for a firing on thursday. i figure there's a 50/50 chance of that happening, but i need to clear out the space for more work. so i apologize if you don't hear much from me until this weekend.


Sunday, July 20, 2008


after a gruesome long drive, we are home. we stopped at akar in iowa city on the way and i had this small moment with michael kline.

sorry for the cell phone picture, it was a spur of the moment thing.
gotta go mix some clay, i'll have more later.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


we are in minnesota right now and it is interesting because i have not been here since 2001. for those who don't know i was born and raised just outside minneapolis, i left in 1999 for college and my folks moved a year later. i am feeling really homesick, not for texas but because i don't want to leave what i still consider to be my home. my wife loves it here and has decided that this might be a place where she could end up, i think i've known i wanted to be here since i left(though i may have to get her up here for a minnesota winter and see if she changes her mind.) the pottery community is so wonderful here and i miss it so much. i really like the rhythm of life here much better, its a completely different world from the south. i really could go on and on, my mind is churning. so the question is, should one go to a region where their work is better understood and there is a stronger sense of community or stay where they are and continue to fight the steeper uphill battle and continue to try to get people to understand this crazy thing that we all love.

this sounds a bit depressing, eh? its not, this has been the most wonderful trip i've had since maybe, ever. i think its good to ask these questions and feel these things. i have lots to share when we get back so stay tuned. if you fancy a trip and want to see some good old pots, jeff oestreich has possibly the greatest old pottery(japanese, korean, thai, 14-19 century, etc)collection that i have ever seen, and more bill marshall pots than one might ever hope to see.

well, i'm off.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

so long.

we are off this morning on our delayed honeymoon. we'll be gone through next sunday so you probably won't be hearing from me until then. we are going to minnesota and wisconsin so i'll probably have some pottery realted treats for you when we get back.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

wash your ash

i went and picked up about 80#'s of wood ash today. i get mine from a local barbecue joint, they're one of the only ones that uses only mesquite(as opposed to mixed hardwoods, hurts consistency) and they have a crossdraft style smoker which keeps fat and drippings out of the ash. do i sound picky? we have about 15+ bbq joints here in town so why not make my job a little easier?

there is much debate with ash glazing potters of to wash or not to wash. i am an ash washer. you can get away with not washing some softwoods, but hardwoods tend to go bad(changes the glaze, usually not for the better) in as little as a week which means you can only mix up what you need at a given time. washing also adds a bit more consistency to the end product because who knows what contaminents are in a batch of ash and those are certainly not going to be consistent.

here's a bit of a tutorial for anyone interested:

i pre-screen with a large mesh. don't forget your respirator! ash is definitely an irritant.

the culprits: most of this would float to the top anyways but its easier to get it out now. at least they're wearing gloves to handle the meat!

fill bucket with about 1/3 ash and top off with water.

mix and let settle, screen off all the floating chunks and crud. once its settled you'll be left with a nasty smelling liquid that looks like pee.

once settled pour off the old water, top off with fresh water and mix. wash, rinse, repeat until the water is clear and less foul smelling(hardwoods can be 4-5 times). i pour the ash into my clay drying racks to dry.
well, i'm off to a headstone carver to see if i can score some granite dust.
local materials rule!

Monday, July 7, 2008

dinner with ron

i got a box from ron today. sweet pots. the plate is rons, the curry is mine.
thanks ron.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

so long sweetheart.

i'm sorry i haven't been posting much but there really hasn't been anything going on here pottery related. i've been out of clay for a couple weeks now and i am heading to austin tomorrow to pick some more up. we are heading out for our honeymoon on july 13th so that clay won't get mixed until i come back. so there probably won't be much going on until the end of july. it sucks to be out of the studio so long, i've kept busy with other things that have needed to be done, like writing my syllabi for my classes in the fall. i have also been sucked into playing the legend of zelda on the original nes. i'm a little ashamed to say it but this has consumed a chunk of my time this last week. we have had 100+ degree weather or rain almost everyday so i have done nothing to my studio.

in some sad news we are looking for a new home for my long time friend lucy. lucy is a german shepard/pit/heeler mix that i've had since 2004. she has been a good dog for these last four years but she is very territorial in regards to other dogs. its not really fair to my wife to ask her to get rid of her basset hound when my dog is the problem. she has viciously attacked both kaylee and niles(bassett hound) on more than one occasion. she pounced on kaylee yesterday unprovoked right in front of me and i had to pry lucy's jaw off of kaylees throat with my hands, getting bit three times. i'm giving her the benefit of the doubt on biting me because come on, its never smart to stick your hands in a dogs mouth in the middle of a dogfight, but it was either my hands or kaylee. so this was the final straw for saybra and i am begrudgingly coming to terms with the fact that she needs to go. i refuse to have her put down because i know that i will never forgive myself, i'll take her to a no-kill shelter as a last resort. its hard because she has always been with me, in my old studio she would always lay next to my wheel while i worked, she would sit with me while i tended the kiln, she would sit on the couch and watch television with me and she always slept at the end of my bed. this boy is going to miss his dog greatly.
me, lucy, and some drywall dust, 2006.