Tuesday, March 31, 2009


New pots on etsy! You can see them here.

Monday, March 30, 2009


We're home after a grueling drive. The drive home from shows always seems to be the worst. Houston is about 7 hours away which isn't an awful drive, but after a long day of selling and packing up it is pretty much the last thing you want to do.

I'll preface the following with this: despite the fact that Houston is home to headquarters or big offices to many of the bailed out banks and mortgage lenders(and AIG) Texas has not been as affected by the "economic gloom" as other states. The Bayou City Art Festival is a huge festival, last time I checked it was #7 on Sunshine Artists top shows in the nation. There were artists from all over, florida, michigan, tennessee, etc. They have this show twice a year and this is the first year out of four years of applying that I have gotten in. Crowds were huge and they were buying. We had the best show that we have EVER had(that's not saying much since I make "brown" pots, but you get the idea.) Another potter I know from Austin said that this was the best show he had in five years. Hope has come through, and hopefully shows will continue to do well this year. I hope that's some encouragement to folks who have been stressing like me. That's all I have for now.

New pots on etsy this week!


Friday, March 27, 2009

we're earning this one.

We arrived yesterday to a torrential downpour. The weather forecast looked good so we decided to load up the truck with no tarp but ten minutes out from the show we got dumped on. We had to load-in in the pouring rain because all of my display is wood, so we had to get it in the tent and dried off asap. Aside from stressing about the display the weather was nice and I haven't been out in rain like that since I lived in Minnesota, it actually felt very invigorating. Today was fair for a friday, we had some sporadic showers and humidity that was so thick you could see it. The weather folks promise that the next two days will be sunny and clear, hooray.

We were in a bad spot to leave today so we decided to walk around until most of the other artists had left. As we were walking back to the artist parking I heard Saybra(my wife) scream "Oh my god!" I heard a giant crash and saw a flipped truck and immediately took off and jumped on top to get the door open. Thankfully the guy was ok, I broke his door handle getting him out and I feel a little bad about that but I suppose he's got bigger issues to worry about.

That's me in the green shirt.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bayou City Art Festival

Any of you in the Houston area should come out to the art festival this weekend. It's open 10 am to 6 pm friday - sunday. There's a $10 entry fee, but there are 300 plus artists, so it may be worth your while. Besides, there will be some awesome pots from abilene.
Come on out!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


All in all this was a very good firing. I was right about the ash glaze being pretty bland but I'm going to take the pieces that didn't turn out and fire them up in the gas kiln. Several of them from the middle turned out quite nice.

Here it is with most of the first stack unloaded.

Nice flashing.

I don't understand why blogger flips these sometimes. The flashing turned out nice on this guy.

Large vase with some nice spotting on the bottom half.

Casserole. Some of you long time readers may noticed that I've gone back to knobs. I stopped doing knobs when I was raw glazing because there was weird expansion issues and I always had stress cracks where the knob met the lid, so I started doing strap handles. Now I'm bisquing so it's back to the knobs.

New jar shape, I like it.

Dessert Plates. These came out pretty darn fantastic. There are 8 in all and 8 dinner plates to match that have a little more ash.

Hakeme'd tile 6 slip. I like this a lot but it seems a little too structured to me.

A little ruggles & rankin inspired decoration on the rim.

Ok, so this glaze... I did a bunch of testing for a static ash glaze that could take some iron brushwork and this was it. What I didn't anticipate was how the glaze would react over a white slip in a wood/salt kiln. Whoops. What a happy accident though, I love the way these came out with the iron bleeding everywhere. If you look closely you can see the brushed slip underneath the glaze, mmmmmm. I have about a dozen of these with varying iron patterns.

Here is a "well fired" ash glaze piece. I'm guessing that it's the wood ash that makes it turn that sort of yellowish color. I dunno, I haven't decided if I like this or not. You can see what it's supposed to look like here.

This was glazed with the old batch, it was leftover from the previous work cycle.

This is how everything towards the back turned out. I think refiring it in the gas kiln is the way to go.

Well, that's all for now. I'm off to pack all this stuff up for the Bayou City Art Festival in Houston this weekend. Leaving about 6am tomorrow, so you won't hear from me for awhile. First show of the year, eek!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Here are some photos the wife took before and while I was firing.

Fingers crossed. I had about 20 student pieces in this firing.

I think this was at about 1800 degrees. Notice Willem Gebben in the bottom right corner keeping me company.

Check out the dangerous nails sticking out of that guy!
I tallied up my total involvement for this firing including: shelf/post cleaning. wood gathering/sorting/chopping, loading, firing and the grand total was 25 hours. Not too bad for a wood firing I think. One of my students asked how it's possible to have the drive and energy to put that much work into something. I was running on empty and said something along the lines of being excited about what you do. The truth is it is a labor of love but it is also a job, there are times when I grumble-usually when chopping wood or loading at 3am. Seeing the finished work feeds me, right now I'm going crazy because I have to wait until morning to get into the kiln. I can't imagine not being excited about firing, I suppose if I ever get that way I need to start looking for something else. I can put 25 hours into a firing and if I get one good pot that brings me to my knees I'm happy with it, it's worth it to me. I have discovered that this is the way my pots have to be finished, nothing else is as satisfying, maybe later in life my direction will change but for now this is it.
That's all I have for now.

Beauracratic rant.

I apologize for going off on a tangent here but I'm a little frustrated. This weekend the 3 Abilene universities are hosting the Tasa(Texas Association of Schools of Art) conference. The university I teach at has been giving the art bldg a bit of a makeover the last few weeks. The ceramics room has never looked so clean-they even washed the 12' windows floor to ceiling. They cleaned my office which has stuff piled up everywhere dating back to the eighties. Fair chance that it's never actually been "cleaned." This is all good and fine and makes sense to me. They repainted all the walls in the building for a pretty penny(thankfully it didn't come out of the dept. budget) though I'm sure we could've had it done just as good or better for much cheaper, but I'll even let that go. What I won't let go is what's in the photo below. I asked for a dozen new kiln shelves last semester that we really needed and was told it wasn't in the budget but maybe next year we could get them. Today I walk into the bathroom and notice a plumber replacing all the faucets(worked perfectly fine) and drain assemblies to these fancy(=expensive) faucets and chrome drains. This is where I draw the line. I understand that this comes out of the univ. budget and not the art dept but how can they possibly justify dropping $2000+(my estimation for the bathroom work) on something as unnecessary as fancy faucets but I can't get a few hundred dollars for something that my students actually NEED.
Rant over, my apologies.


I fired off the wood kiln yesterday, it seemed to go well. I try to fire to cone 9 with ten just bending, I was able to achieve that throughout except for ten flat on the bottom back side. I tried to extend this firing a bit and ended up right at 9 hours, it amazes me how fast this kiln wants to go. We had some major wind gusts the last few days averaging around 30mph. I had my concerns but figured that I'd be ok since the kiln was for the most part sheltered. The wind blowing across the top of the chimney can affect the draft of the kiln making it pull stronger. We had one gust around noon that lasted for a good 5 minutes. I had 03 falling throughout and freaked out when I saw 01 and 1 fall and 3 start bending on the bottom in a matter of minutes. I was able to even it out but it was a little stressful for a minute.

I had a class from one of the other universities out visiting the firing in the morning and my advanced class out in the afternoon. This is the first time I've ever had visitors and I must say that I prefer to be alone while firing. It is very easy to get distracted and lose focus when there are a lot of people around. I had a guy come out in the afternoon to do a little filming. I have to have this short little video produced for the gallery that I'll be showing at in may. He tried to do some interviewing but it didn't go too well considering the constant attention the kiln demands. He has some other things to film so maybe we can redo some of the talking stuff.

The night after I finished loading I laid awake in bed for a long time stressing about what was in the kiln(this is typical of the type of thing that stresses me out.) My slipped work looks best at cone 9 while my ash glaze likes a strong cone 10. The middle of the kiln always fires a little hotter so that is where I stack the glazed work. This load was about half slippped/half glazed so after loading I was having a bunch of "what were you thinking?" moments. Why would you put those together in the kiln? Should I fire to cone 10 and let the slip look muddy but have good glaze melt? Or should I fire to cone 9 and have underfired glazes? I opted for the latter knowing that I can always refire the glazed work if need be. I'm sure there are some that will turn out nice but I'm 99% certain there are many pieces that are going to be that bland, matte, underfired surface. My decision is from now on to alternate firings. I will fire slipped work in its own firing and I will fire glazed work in its own firing so that I can give both the proper atmosphere and temp that they require. In this firing I soaked at cone 9 for almost an hour in hopes that it would assist in the glaze melt, so I guess we'll see.

Enough blither for now. I'll be unlaoding wednesday am. (I sealed the kiln up super tight and am letting it cool for 48 hours, remember the slip cracking thing?)


Friday, March 20, 2009


I fired off the gas kiln the other day and had quite a few pots in it. I needed to fire a dinnerware set and I had a student that needed to fire some work for a show but between us we still didn't have enough so I glazed some demo pieces from last semester, some more plates, and brought some pieces from the last woodfiring that had some pinholing issues. The firing was successful though I lost some pieces to runny glazes.

Here is an interesting enigma: both of these teapots have the same glaze from the same bucket. The one on the right was slightly underfired from the wood kiln and had some pinholing so I thought I'd pop it in the gas kiln and see what would happen. The extra pooling I credit to being fired twice but I don't understand why the glaze comes out so much darker in the wood kiln. They're both nice though I wish they could all look like the one on the right. The plates in the background are part of the dinnerware set.

These sideways plates are with the new batch of ash glaze. Same formula as the previous photo but with 1% less red iron ox. This batch of glaze is much runnier than the previous. Half these plates are going to need some grinding and will probably end up on the seconds table, that's ok-it's looking pretty empty right now.

That's all I have for now, everything else in the firing was pretty bleh to me, some of it will end up on the seconds table as well. Oh well. I guess I'm proving yet again that the gas kiln is not my calling. Woodfiring on monday so you may not hear from me for a few days, cross your fingers.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sweet Ash.

Hello all, here is the post I promised yesterday. I've been busy getting pots ready for a wood firing taking place monday. I'm also firing the gas kiln at the univ. this week with a dinnerware set and a couple of platters, the rest of the kiln will be rounded out with student work. I've found myself making more pots for glaze as opposed to slip lately. I think I'm needing some variety. My last couple of semesters in college I exhausted myself with ash glazes, both pots and testing-I must've tested in the hundreds of glazes. I picked two that I liked and have used only those since college, funny enough one of the best glazes then and still now is one of the simplest and oldest, the old 442. You can see it a couple posts ago. So anyways, about half of the wood kiln load will be glazed. I'm a little worried, actually a lotta worried about how they'll turn out. I thought maybe I would just fire them in the gas kiln but to me that feels as if I'm doing the work an injustice by taking the easy/reliable way out. Sure I may lose more pieces but the surface on the pots out of the wood kiln just puts the gas kiln to shame. So why, you may ask, am I firing a dinnerware set in the gas kiln? I don't have enough kiln shelves to stack all those plates individually. Way it goes.

It's been a looooong time since I've glazed a platter. Actually that's not true-I did a shino platter last fall, anyways... I have had trouble finding large containers to be able to dip large platters/shallow bowls into. They either require too much volume of glaze(rubbermaid storage) or are cost prohibitive(restaurant suppliers). I saw a photo of Guillermo Cuellar somewhere glazing a platter in the lid of a trash can and I thought to myself: Brilliant!

Here are a couple slipped platters I decorated a few days ago. They are both tile6 slip-the one on the left has a contrasting slip brushed on one side and a brushwork pattern that is supposed to resemble birds, I don't know how successful that is but I like it all the same. I hakeme'd(can that be a verb?) the guy on the right after I poured on the slip. The hakeme pattern is korean via hamada via shimaoka via phil rogers, though maybe I'm the first to use a flashing slip, eh?

This bowl is about 12" across, I'm particularly fond of how well the jigsaw blade pattern came out.
Today has been one of those days that makes you want to pull your hair out, nothing really going wrong, just frustration after frustration. I was feeling a bit pissy and made a post unfairly critiquing someone who as far as I know is not here in the blog-o-sphere. I enjoy a healthy critique as much as the next fella but it's not fair when the person being critiqued can't defend themselves. So for those of you who read that before I deleted it- I apologize for my doucheness.
I was thinking this afternoon about potters who have reached a certain sort of tenure in the pottery world. It reminds me a bit of The Emperor's New Clothes, draw your own conclusions.
That's enough blither for today. So long.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Someone posted this on clayart yesterday. I thought it was interesting. I have another post on the tip of my mouse for later that is clay related. I'm off to teach some glaze chemistry to my advanced students and I'm hoping that it all comes back to me...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cold potting.

Today I woke up to cold rainy weather and had to fight the urge to stay in bed a couple more hours. I made it up to the studio where it was also quite chilly. Today will be filled with mostly trimming and slipping so I think I can handle it.

The last couple weeks we have had unusually warm weather, 70's & 80's even hit 90 a couple days. Texas is generally warmer than everywhere else but we still should be in 50-low60's. Yesterday it dropped from 83 down to 41 in a matter of hours and started raining. Some of you may be thinking "40's aren't so bad, it's not even below freezing, what are you complaining about?" It's not the actual temp that bothers me so much as the drastic change which is commonplace here. It's fairly normal to shift 30-40 degrees in a day in the spring and fall, annoying. Anyways, moving on.

I've been steadily potting the last few...well yesterday actually. It's nice to get back into the clay. I was hoping to get a firing out before my show in Houston on Mar.27 but that is going to be a bit of a longshot. It takes about 200 pieces to fill the kiln and I have about half that ready to go(stacks of bisqueware in background). So I have to produce another 100 pieces give or take which can be done over the next couple days but getting them dried and bisqued in time is what makes it a longshot. I have enough pots to show with but it would be nice to draw from a larger pool of work, so I'm ok either way.

I fired a little test kiln yesterday with some ash glaze tests. I've used the same formula for my basic 442 green ash for a few years but the color is far different than what it used to be. I don't know if it's the ash changing or the other raw materials. So the first row here is the base with no colorants and then starting with .5% up to 2% RIO, the last tile is 3% red clay which strangely enough is lighter than the base with no iron. I've been toying with the idea of an ash glaze that ran and pooled but had the color of a celadon blue. The first idea was to simply try adding small increments of cobalt to my base glaze, I was fairly certain this wasn't going to work but I had to try. These are .1%-.5% though I'm fairly certain that those measurements are not entirely accurate. I mixed 100g test batches which means I was trying to weigh 1/10 of a percent for the cobalt. Eh, what can you do. I have a few different ideas but I'm really trying to keep the number of materials in the formula down to 4 or 5 ingredients. I like things simple, I hate it when a glaze formula has 17 ingredients in it. Just a personal choice.

That formula for anyone interested is:
4 Wood Ash
4 Potash Feldspar
2 Ball Clay

Back to work.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I just finished reading Scott Cooper's most recent post and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you don't follow his blog you should head on over there and give it a read. I find his posts to be much more thought out than most blogs and at times philosophical. I try to stay away from that stuff here-not that it doesn't interest me, it really does, but because philosophy tends to spark debate and I don't know that this blog is the best forum for that. I like to think of my blog as a neutral environment, though I'm not always successful with that.

Here is something Scott wrote in response to a book that he has just read: "It showed that the elite students at the school were always among the group who had logged the most hours of practice, and that the quality of the students went down in direct correlation to their total lifetime hours of practice with their instrument. That part makes intuitive sense, and lays the groundwork for the argument that doing the hard work of practice and repetition is a pre-requisite for success, and that this is vastly more significant than "innate talent."

I thought this was brilliant and perfectly timed for me to read. I recently had a discussion with a group of students in the art dept. who were complaining about having to come in outside of class to finish some assignments. I was a bit shocked at this attitude to say the least. I once told a student that I was sorry his education was getting in the way of his social life(sarcasm), haha. When I pull out my soapbox I tend to get harsh but there are times it's appropriate: When you are a student, particularly an art student, you have to use every moment you have to hone your skills, after all that is what you are here for. If you're not spending 3-4 times the amount of time you spend in class on your work you are wasting your time and the departments. Students who do just enough will never make it as artists, period. If you get to the point where you say "eh, it's good enough" then you need to pack up your stuff and go find your passion somewhere else, you don't need to waste everyones time with mediocrity and indifference.

A bit harsh? Perhaps, but it gets the point across. The only reason I am where I am and can do what I do is because I spent more time as a student in the art studios than I did at home. I spent every available moment working on pots. When I was in my other classes I was sketching pots in my notebooks. I believe that if that drive isn't there from early on then chances are that it won't ever be there. If you don't have it you'll never be able to go it on your own. It takes a HUGE amount of drive and self-discipline to work as an artist on your own. Even with the drive it is rare to make a living as an artist. I have several friends who spent as much time in the art studio as I did, they have the ability to do it on their own as well but sometimes the need to have a stable income and support your family has to come first. Hopefully they'll get back into making soon.

Why am I writing this here? Well, I have several students that read this blog and I know there are many from other institutions who do as well and I feel it is the best advice I can give someone who is still in school. This is a very simplistic overview of my beliefs about art education but feel free to agree or disagree with me if you like.

In other news I've gone as far as I can with the treadle wheel right now. It turns out that the lumber that was sold to me was still a little green in the middle. I let it sit inside for a few days to acclimate and noticed a couple pieces were a little moist when I was drilling out the mortises. I was short a couple pieces because they sold me one piece of lumber that was the wrong species last time(not their fault, it was stacked in with the right stuff and looked the same rough) so I went to pick up another piece this morning and commented on the wetness and the guy says: "oh yeah, this stuff is still a little green, it still needs a couple months of air drying." You think they could've informed me of that last time? What lumberyard stacks the wet wood in with the dry stuff and doesn't tell you? Oh well, hopefully I didn't just make a pretty pile of firewood. I bought a bunch extra this time in case I have to remake any of the parts. I stacked the new stuff and weighted it down in the kiln room as it seems to get about 100-110 degrees in there when firing, but I imagine it will still be awhile before it's ready to work with. I have all the pieces I already made stacked and hopefully they'll remain in good shape.

Don't worry, that kiln directly next to it doesn't work!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mortise and tenon.

I spent about 8 hours in the woodshop today. Lots of sanding and then cutting some joinery. I finished cutting the straight joints and tomorrow I'll cut the angled ones. I was going to try them tonight but I decided that I should do it tomorrow when I'm refreshed and can wrap my head around the weird angled cuts.


and tenon.

Doesn't look like it should've taken 8 hours, does it? Wood work is so much sloooooower than clay work The mortises are made by drilling out the majority of wood and the rest is done with a chisel. The tenons are cut on the table saw. I bought a cool tenoning jig for a steal that saved me a lot of time, I'll write more about that next time.

The joints need some finishing touches but I'm really pleased with how well this is coming.

I'm fairly certain that the thick stock is white oak, not red. I think it'll be a nice contrast...when it's-you know-not covered in clay.

Gotta go, it's way past my dinner time.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Yesterday, after an 8 month uphill battle, I made it through the last slip barrel and processed it into usable clay. When I came in to the university there were a ridiculous amount of slip barrels and between that and the slop produced in class it took me quite awhile to get through it. Woo hoo!

I purchased my thick wood stock for my wheel from a local supplier on thursday and took it to a millwork shop to have it flattened and squared. I found a great deal on 12/4 red oak for $1.20 per board foot. 12/4 refers to the thickness (12 quarters=3") and board foot is sort of a measurement of volume( 3" thick x 12" wide x 72" long =18 bd. ft.) Most of what I could find was anywhere from $8-14 per bd.ft. and would have been shipped to me for about $50+ more. This oak was in pretty nasty shape(hence the price) so I had to buy more than I actually needed to get good pieces out of it but I still came out far ahead. It's not the prettiest wood but it has a lot of character which I prefer.

Here are 2 pieces that were milled for me.

Here you can see the thickness and the rough edge. The other edge is cleaned up and squared so this edge will be waste. After planing the thickness came out to be 2 3/8".

Here is all the stock cut up. The plans call for 3x3" legs but to end up with 3" you have to start with 4" rough lumber which is quite pricy and unavailable locally. So my legs will end up being 2 3/8 x 3", eh what can you do? One of the pieces I got wasn't actually oak, it's sweetgum so I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, I know I'll use it for the treadle bar at least.

Here are a few pots I made on Wed. during my advanced class. We were exploring ways of embellishing the surface but still being able to finish right off the wheel. The piece on the far right has a white slip between the ridges.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

footing yunomi

sorry the radio was too loud!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I'm pretty slow making these, maybe because I was talking too much!

answers to the dishwasher name game.

Here are the potters that were represented in our dishwasher:
Margaret Brampton (UK)
Ron Philbeck (NC)
Brandon Phillips (TX)
Scott Roberts (CO)
Guillermo Cuellar (MN)
Linda Christianson (MN)
Kent Harris (TX)
Jan McKeachie-Johnston (WI)
Warren Mackenzie (MN)
Bonus: Glass (TARGET)

Thanks for playing, I think I'll have another one soon, I really wanted someone to win!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

no pots.

I'm having some fun with this video thing. This one is really just to make my buddy Kent a little jealous. Enjoy.