Thursday, December 31, 2009

the year in review.

2009 was a good year. In all I made 1200 finished pots with another 100 that are ready to be fired. Not too bad for part-timeish. So here is a quick recap of some of my favorite events.

I built a new kiln, 2.5 times bigger than my previous. It's a hoss, holds about 200 pots and fires like a dream. I fired it 5 times this year.

I built myself a treadle wheel, I've wanted one for years and now I have one, I rule.

I made a lot of pots.

I had a show with some of my favorite potters and sold a boatload of pots(not just mine) to our community. It was a ton of work and I had a 2 month period of burnout afterwards, but it was worth it.

We welcomed 2 new members to our clan and they made themselves right at home.

Here are 3 of my favorite pots from 2009.

We added a few pots to our cupboard this year from bloggers Hollis Engley, Ron Philbeck, Michael Kline, Sequoia Miller, Scott Cooper, and former blogger Kent Harris. We also snagged a few from non-bloggers, we're addicts.
Hoping for an even better 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I'm going to be mixing up a lot of porcelain this next week, about 1200#. It's about time for my fix I suppose. I'm really excited about this departure and I am excited to be able to spend a decent amount of time exploring it. I really enjoy working with porcelain and would probably do more with it but it doesn't do anything that interests me in the wood the moment anyways. I'll be firing most of it in the gas kiln, I really enjoy a gestural surface with a clear glaze. I have done some work with a bold green and wax resist that was well received.

Here are a few pots from last year, not the best pieces but the only ones I could find photos of.

I have a few hundred pounds of stoneware to work through while the porcelain dries in the racks. I'm ready to get back to the wheel and back to work! I've had three out of six rejections so far for spring shows, my worst stats ever! Oh well...I hate art festivals anyways. I have less need to make pots now, though that doesn' mean I'll be making any less. Less deadlines means more exploration and better pots.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

pots from firing V

Here are some pots from the firing. Overall I'm very pleased. Some of my glazes didn't behave as I had expected but they're still nice. Out of 229 pots I had 2 crack and 2 that need grinding...that's pretty darn good. I was hoping that the residual salt in the kiln would flash the bare areas a little but that didn't happen so some of the pots looked like they came straight out of a gas kiln.

I meant to take photos as I unloaded but once I got in the kiln it was the furthest thing from my mind. So here are a few of my favorites.

Shino teapot. I don't do much with shino, I love it like most potters do but it's a difficult glaze to master(and sell) so I only do a few pieces from time to time. There are tons of potters out there using shino but in my opinion there are less than 10 potters who have really mastered it. Shino is not just a glaze, it's a combination of glaze, clay, firing, phase of the moon, etc. It's easy to get a shino to get some nice color but to get real depth you have to pay attention to every detail of the materials and process. I'm really pleased with the glaze on this guy, I guess I got lucky.

Pitcher, Ame glaze.

Lidded jar with crackle slip.

Ash glazed teapot.

Butter Dish, Ame glaze.


Small bowls. For those of you who don't know Abilene is the true windy city(windier than Chicago!) The guy on the left is a weed from out back yard blowing in the wind.



Monday, December 21, 2009

firing V photos.

I finished firing #5 today at about 5pm. It's been loaded for sometime now but has been dutifully waiting for it's turn to be fired. I had originally intended to fire it before our holiday sale but upon organizing the showroom I discovered that I didn't need those extra pots nor did I have room for them. I did however have an order that needed to come out so I went ahead and fired it off today.

The firing was a little more erratic than most. It fired unevenly most of the way and ended up with cone 10 down evenly on the bottom, 9 3/4 top-back, and 11 top-front. Since this firing wasn't meant to be salted I packed it tighter which I'm sure was the cause for the erratic behavior. It also used more wood, again I think because of the tighter packing, more pots=more thermal mass.

Firewood. The small stuff in front is for below the grates, up to about 14-1500 and then I begin stoking above the grates in conjunction with below until cone 08 falls and then it's just above the grates until the end.

Photo through the stokehole at about 600 degrees.

The pyrometer...a tool I've become way too dependent on, but certainly nice to have.

The passive damper is a feature on this kiln that I rarely use, usually only when the kiln is uneven. It's purpose it to reduce the drawing power of the chimney, the result is that it slows down the kiln and can make evening it out a bit easier. It has seven bricks in total but I've never pulled all 7. Since this firing was all glazed work I wanted to have at least 2 hours from cone 7 to cone 10, it usually flies through in about 50-60 minutes. So I pulled all 7 bricks and it slowed it to my desired rate. I've tried a number of different methods in the past to slow it down/soak it but nothing else works as effectively.

Cone 10 down. So hot you can barely see it.

Unloading on wednesday morning. This was something new and a big gamble, so I'm not keeping my hopes up too high. Hopefully there will be a few gems though.


Sunday, December 20, 2009


I just went and picked up a loaf of bread so I could have some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and iced tea for breakfast. Isn't that weird? Who does that? Maybe I'll tell you why tomorrow evening.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

where yer osh-kosh's at?

Real potters wear overalls. I knew I've been missing something.

That took far too long for the small amount of humor involved. Back to the firewood.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

wet clay in december?!

I'm up at the university firing the gas kiln. I had several students who waited until the last week to finish glazing their work so here I am firing them(the work, not the students.)

Here is an idea I've had in my head for awhile. Finally the other day I had a free half-hour and threw these and then today I altered the rims and cut the feet. I kinda like them, but you must be careful because altering can be a slippery slope and before you know it you're a vessel maker instead of a potter.


20 mugs...and I need to make more. I only have a dozen or so left!

I usually make pots in multiples but I decided to make the wet chuck for the bowls above into a pot. Crank the heat and you can handle it in two hours.

Well, that's all for now. Check out my etsy shop if you need some sweet woodfired pottery, there are still plenty of nice pieces there. Mugs have been popular so I may put a few more up later in the week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

online sale!

The online sale is up! Order by 12/17 in the US and it should be there by Xmas. Enjoy!


Monday, December 14, 2009

holiday sale teaser...

It's that time of the year. What time, you may ask? Time for the online holiday sale. It goes up tomorrow at 10am CST. It will be on my etsy shop.

Until then, here are 4 out of the 28 pieces that will be available.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

last chance...sort of.

Today is the last day of the holiday sale...not the last day we'll be open but the last day for free cider and cookies. As per usual the second weekend is much slower than the first so I'll be spending a little time on the couch with miss Kaylee waiting for customers.

What a grouch.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Our holiday sale was good, slightly better than last year so we're pleased. Lots of new faces this year, that's always a treat. Plenty of pots left though! We'll be doing it again next weekend and we'll be doing our first ever public kiln opening. I'm a bit nervous about that since it will be my glaze firing which has the potential to be pure disaster. It's sure to be exciting all the same. I'm still a little under the weather and exhausted so I'm off to bed. We'll be doing the online portion of our holiday sale the middle of this week so stay tuned!


Friday, December 4, 2009


My apologies for the blurry's 26 degrees outside and for whatever reason my camera won't take a clear picture when it's real cold.

I spent a little time this week building tables and shelves for the showroom. I used to use my booth setup but I really dislike tearing it down every time I have a show and it didn't utilize this space effectively at all. The tables are built from framing lumber, 2x6's and 2x10's, cheaper than 1x stock of the same grade, go figure.

These shorter shelves are 2x10's as well.

When you're on a budget pallet stock can make nice shelves, and it's free!

A dedicated wrapping area, that's new.

I have a couple platters to hang and some last minute cleaning but otherwise we're ready to go!

I'll also be having an online sale for all my non-local customers on etsy next wednesday or thursday. And don't worry, you won't be getting the leftovers, I've saved some stellar pieces for you guys.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

oh blither.

I'm sitting here in my office waiting for class to start and for the gas kiln to finish. We had a good thanksgiving, got to spend some quality time with the family-that's always nice. Unfortunately I've fallen ill and am still in a somewhat miserable state. What does that mean? Well, it means that I haven't gotten to do any prep for the home sale this weekend(sat. 10-6, sun, 12-6, book it) nor have I been able to fire the kiln...and I won't get to before the sale. That is fine though, we're having some heavy rains so it's probably for the best. My wife says that I work too much and that whenever we take a vacation by body finally catches up and gets sick. It's true, every time we take a vacation I get sick. I do get my 7-8 hours of sleep most nights, I have bouts of insomnia from time to time though. Aside from that I work from the time I get up to the time I go to bed, occasionally I'll take a sunday off but usually it's 7 days a week. Let this be a bit of a reality check for those of you wanting to make a living with art/craft. I've been hesitant to share this on the blog but after reading Michael Kline's the last few weeks I know that I'm not alone. I do have to say that it is a choice most times. Sometimes we put things off to the last minute or schedule or time unrealistically knowing full well we'll be pulling all-nighters. I currently have way more pots than I "need" at the moment, so I can take a little time to do other things in December. I also have no children to take care of, though I do have neglected wife and neglected property. Very little of that time is spent making pots, about 25+/- hours a week are devoted to teaching and related duties, with potting coming second to that. So what's the point of all this? I don't know. Even though I've been sick it has been nice to sit around with my wife and watch a little television and play with the dogs, I don't relax near enough. So perhaps I should pencil that in for the future, we'll see how that goes. I've always said that I'll rest when I'm dead but that may come sooner than I like if I don't rest now.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

delays, delays, delays.

Well...the kilns 3/4 loaded. We're heading off to the Dallas area in the morning and we'll be back on Saturday so I'll have to finish loading then. The firing is set for next Wednesday...hopefully(it was supposed to be today!) I'm not sure why but I haven't been able to fire on the scheduled dates with this kiln, there's always been a delay. Oh well, unloading the day before the home sale is no big deal, right? I have more than enough pots without it, in fact most of these will just go into storage. I'm trying to get ahead with my inventory, I'd like to not have to pack up my showroom every time I head off to a show.

This firing is a bit of a gamble, I'm not getting my hopes too high and I'm expecting some losses. I'm sure it will fire out just fine but I've never fired with all glazed work so I'm not sure how the flame/ash is going to interact with the work. That can be both good and bad. Keeping my fingers crossed.

I have a ceramics 1 students who has been complaining for awhile about his tools that went missing. Turns out he put them inside one of his slab pots(why???) and I bisque fired them. Ha!

Happy thanksgiving to all my American friends and happy Nov. 26th to everyone else.


holiday sale!

Annual holiday sale Dec. 5th 10am-5pm & Dec. 6th 12pm-5pm. Coffee, cider, cookies and all that good stuff. Lots and lots of pots!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

fixin' kilns...texas style.

As I mentioned in a previous post my kiln has been doing a little walking...about an inch. This is my own fault, I was supposed to install some bracing but my welder is kaput and I don't know anyone with a generator-run welder that I can borrow. I also have never put the "stucco" coat over the arch and walls. The kiln was done enough and I needed to fire so those things fell to the wayside. Now I have to deal with it...perhaps I have the makings of a to-do list for the xmas break.

A 3000# winch strap and a board can move a kiln, pretty cool. I'm surprised this actually worked.

After the 2 minutes required to fix the kiln I went to grinding kiln shelves. Not one of my favorite tasks but it has to be done. I'm a "bare minimum" shelf grinder, if it ain't bubbling up I'm not grinding it.

The goats have taken a liking to the dogs and like to stand right outside the fence while Kaylee barks incessantly at them. We don't have any adorable babies around but we are pretty excited about our little goats so there will probably be a few picture of them popping up now and again.

Well...back to glazing. I have all these glazes and now I have too many choices so I'm spending way too much time trying to decide what glaze to use. Deciding how to load these is gonna be a task for sure!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


It's been a few years since I've had more than 2 glazes. Now I have 6. I've been doing some exhaustive glaze testing for the past few months and have some promising glazes to work with. My next firing is going to be all glazed work, no slips, no salt(well, some residual salt.) If I can keep the top shelf from blistering I'll be good to go. The next firing is coming up real fast...better get some wood chopped.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

walk the walk.

I brought a couple of yunomi up to school for visual aids the other day, one by my friend Kent Harris which I use all the time and one by Randy Johnston which I've owned for 7 years but have never used. We have high on a kitchen shelf about 15 or so yunomi that I've collected over the years and have been there for the last 3 years and sat on another shelf for the 3 years before that. We have many more, some that we use all the time, but these shelved yunomi are where they are either because of their financial "value" or sentimental value. This RJ cup is up there because of the price I paid for it. It seemed very expensive at the time(2002) but today it would be on the pricier side though not unreasonable(his actual current prices border on unreasonable.)

The point is that I've never really taken the time to understand this cup, I've never used it...or any of the cups up there. Since I've had it in my studio I've been picking it up and handling it multiple times a day...tomorrow I may even rinse the dust out of it and use it. I've discovered a lot just by encountering it on a table's like owning a brand new cup. I heard an interview with Davie Renaeu...can't remember where...but she was talking about dropping a Clary Illian cup and how it was heartbreaking but at least she had gotten to use that cup every day. If it had sat up on a shelf it may have never broken but she would have never gotten the pleasure of being able to use it and handle it everyday. Sort of a "better to have loved and lost..." mentality. So what's the point of all this blither? I'm going to get all those cups down, wash them and put them in the cupboard and then use them. There are a few that are particularly "valuable" to us so they may only see occasional use...but use nonetheless.

The RJ cup.

By the way...RJ can trim a foot like no ones business. I've got some dessert plates that he made that have such nice feet they should be used upside down.

I took some photos of new pots but wouldn't you know it they're all blurry. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Firing IV.

The firing was ok, not good or great but ok. I reduced the kiln too much and ended up with a lot of brown pots which are perfectly salable but not at all what I wanted. That being said there were a few pots that were exceptionally nice. I went into this firing with a bit of apprehension because the last firing I had was pretty much a perfect firing...I had discovered magic and didn't know if I could do it again. I like to think I know a lot but really I'm still a newbie to this whole wood firing thing and probably it is a set of skills that can never be truly mastered(that's probably why I like it so much.) I often times set expectations far too high for myself and then get angry when I can't reach them. I'm bummed about the color on the pots but I'm certainly happy and excited to have what I consider to be another successful firing under my belt.

When I get bummed about firing results I like to think about firing #3 in my first wood kiln...I opened the door to what looked like a good firing and discovered I'd made an error too foolish to mention and had about a 75% failure rate. This firing had less than a 5% failure rate which is pretty darn good. The pots are ok and will eventually sell and I'll go on and make more and there will be good firings and bad ones and the cycle will repeat ad nauseam until I die. I'd better get used to it.

The top of the front stack...this area and the flu stack were the nicest.

Bleh...brown pots.

I had a shelf come off one of the props and I have no idea how that happened. The only thing holding this up was that it was stuck to the other two props...must've happened late in the firing. I only lost the two yunomi and the lidded jar...a bit of a serendipitous disaster.

The student and the master...sometimes it's good to be reminded which one I am.

Here are 2 pieces of advice; 1: Keep a clear firing log. 2: If you haven't fired your kiln is six months think logically about your poorly written observations. "2/3" under the damper column is not very informative, though it may seem logical at the time. Anyone who has fired any type of fuel kiln can tell you that firing with the damper 2/3 in is going to give you a strong reduction. Why did I not consider this? I was probably too busy thinking about how I've got this wood firing thing down. Duh- 2/3 out or 1/3 in, you friggin dingleberry.

I'll post more photos when I get a chance.