Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Deep Roots.

This was sent out in a press release today. I finished writing this at about 2am last night while waiting for a kiln to fire off. I think it'll give you a good idea about what my upcoming show is about.

Exhibit Statement:

“To be part of a tradition is to belong to a place, to have deep roots. “ -Mark Hewitt

The idea for this show came about in my hesitance to have a solo show. I make domestic ware that is relatively modest in size and I estimated that it would take some 300 pots to fill the gallery space. The volume of work required did not worry me but as a potter who makes a very limited range of work I was mortified at the redundancy of work that I would be forcing people to look at, how boring! Who besides another potter would really care to look at 300 pieces from one potter? My initial idea was to ask my friend Kent Harris to have a dual show with me but that still seemed like a lot of work for 2 people. I asked Kent if there was anyone he would like to invite that worked within the same tradition as we did. We tossed some names around and decided to go for broke and invite the potters that have had the strongest influence in our lives and work. Kent had come up with the title Deep Roots long ago in hopes of having the opportunity to have a show that presented the pottery lineage that he took part in; this seemed to be that perfect opportunity.

The tradition that all of these potters take part in is loosely known as the Leach/Hamada tradition with many taking influence from the Japanese Folk Craft movement known as Mingei which is roughly translated as arts and crafts made for and by the people. The days of the local village potter and the anonymous craftsman have long since past but the essence of the folk craft movement, beautiful objects for everyday use, is an ideal to which all of these potters have committed themselves.

"The challenge is to do the thing you have to do because you're in love with it and can't do anything else. Not because you want to become famous or rich, but because you will be unhappy if you can't do it.”-Warren Mackenzie

The public rarely gets a glimpse of what the life of a potter is like. With all this talk of tradition and ideals it is easy to become swept away in the romanticism of it all, but the life of the potter is not one of glamour. It is a life of hard work. We each individually produce thousands of pots every year. It is a life of long days and back breaking labor, missed suppers and kiln stoking at 3am, shard piles and second guessing. But this is the path that we have chosen, a choice of necessity. It is a life of hard work but it is also a life of unparalleled beauty and satisfaction.

"To me the greatest thing is to live beauty in our daily life and to crowd every moment with things of beauty. It is then, and then only, that the art of the people as a whole is endowed with its richest significance. For its products are those made by a great many craftsmen for the mass of the people, and the moment this art declines the life of the nation is removed far away from beauty."-Soetsu Yanagi

This short statement only scratches the surface of the significance of tradition in pottery and the intertwinement of life and work. I am still very young and very idealistic but if the oldest potter in this group, aged 85, can maintain this tradition and these ideals for 60 years and still running strong I think that perhaps I am in the right place. The potters that we have invited are in my opinion (and the opinions of many) some of the best living potters in the world. It is no doubt the privilege and the honor of a lifetime to show with them and to be a continuation of this tradition.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Caption needed.

This photo is hanging in my classroom watching over the students and myself. My wife took this photo a couple years ago at a Warren Mackenzie workshop in Red Lodge, Montana. I'm thinking that with such an animated gesture this really needs a caption posted below it. I like to think that I'm a witty guy but I'm probably not so I need your help. Leave your potential captions in the comments section, as many as you like. I'll pick my favorite and post it beneath the photo in my classroom.

Warren says: ???

Thursday, April 23, 2009


We're getting ready to send out postcards for our show opening May 8th. If anyone would like to get a card in the mail send me your address and I'll add you to the list.

the blues.

I've finally found my blue! Some other vapor firing potters out there may be thinking I speak heresy but at least it's an ash glaze, right? I've been trying to find a soft blue for some time now. I've tried several ways to get it without using cobalt but between the iron in the ash and in the clay that clearly wasn't going to work(though it does hold some promise on porcelain.) The other problem I encountered was that I only needed fractions of a percent when using cobalt and when you're mixing 100gram test batches that is not so easy or accurate. My solution was to mix up a 10000 gram batch(5gal bucket) and start with 1/10%(10g) cobalt and that was spot on the first time. The only drawback is that cobalt is so powerful it eliminates many of those little variations you get in an ash glaze. It usually likes to break brown on a sharp edge and I'm not seeing that happen, perhaps they're just not any edges sharp enough on this piece. Who knows what this will do in the wood kiln.

I've also made some headway on an ash based tenmoku, I think I just have a few more tests to get it where I want it.
So long for now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Hello all. I'm seriously lacking for content so you'll have to bear with me. I've been making a few pots here and there lately but it seems I never have time to make more than a couple. I usually like to do a whole run of a certain shape but lately when something pops into my head, I'll only have enough time to make one or two.

Fluted bottle/vase. I really enjoy making these and I think I'd like to make some more.

12# Fluted bowl, about 12-13" wide.

Slab dish with slip deco. I'm really excited about this one. That is tile6 slip and bare clay so the contrast after firing won't be too great but it was a spur of the moment idea and I'm glad I went with it.

12# & 6# jugs. I think I've finally started to find "my" jug/pitcher shape. I've struggled with pitchers the last couple years to try and find a shape that works with my glazing/slipping/deco. and is still mine. I have a nice round shape already but I've been playing with this adaptation of the medieval jug shape.

I've also been making fat handles on everything. Every cycle they seem to get a little fatter. I think I've taken it to the point where I need to bring it back down a little.

This is the sawdust tray under the table saw in the univ. wood shop. This is all from me and I've already emptied it once. Wish they had a dust collection system but no budget for that yet. Speaking of budgets though I had a budget approved to build a new gas kiln next year with all new materials(I'll finally be getting those kiln shelves I need.) I'll be teaching a semester long kiln building class(which means I'll be getting paid to build it, woo!) We'll be building a gas kiln, a salt kiln from the leftovers and brick lying around and a new raku kiln. I've built nine kilns to date so I'm not nervous about it, it'll be fun.

We decided to go with the floating shelves afterall. I've made 38 of them which was all we thought we needed but I think we're going to need a few more. These pieces of MDF are the top and bottom of the shelf and wrap around a 2x2 frame. They have mitered edges so there are no joints showing(5 pieces for each shelf), it's actually a lot easier than you might think but still a fair amount of work. I enjoy time in the woodshop but I'd hardly call MDF woodworking. The tally is 23 pedestals, 38 shelves all out of 20 sheets of MDF. I think I've had enough! I'm ready to have some free time to work in the garden and be out in the sun.
So long for now!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Today was a teapot day. I assembled a few that I threw yesterday and shot a little video of assembling one. I also broke 2 teapots today while cleaning them for bisquing. I was scraping out excess slip and whacked the spout on one and dropped the lid on another. What a day.

Here are a couple videos of teapot stuff. The first is making the lid and spout and the second is assembling the piece. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

stayin alive.

I've just been awarded the Kreativ Blogger award...twice! Thank you Potterchik(?) and Joy. It's nice to know people out there enjoy my blither...let alone read it. I really wish I had a broader blog-reading interest than just pottery but I'm kind of lame like that.

My five choices:
Ron Philbeck-Ron's blog was the first that I ever came across, back when he posted it on his website, pre-blogger. My inspiration to become a blogger.
Joe Bennion-My second inspiration to be a blogger. Joe makes wonderful pots and I love how his work intertwines with his home and family.
Scott Cooper-Scott strikes me as a thoughtfully meticulous person and his blog portrays that. His posts are clearly thought out(perhaps even drafted?), often times border on being philosophical and are always enjoyable to read.
Joy Tanner-Joy strikes me as a very down to earth person and always has striking images in her posts. Clearly a joyful(haha) person and always a pleasant read.
Joe & Christy Cole-I must say I'm not terribly familiar with Joe and Christy but I do feel a certain kinship. Maybe because we're both struggling, roughing-it woodfirers.

I finished building pedestals today, woo hoo! Now it's on to shelving...
I have a firing scheduled for May 1st and I don't have near enough pots. There are going to be several long nights these next couple weeks. I've been spending way more time in the woodshop than the studio lately but I think if I can split it evenly I can get the pots done. This is the first time in my life that I've had a large surplus of pots. I don't necessarily have to fire but I really want to have the best pots and the most options for my show in may. My current struggle is with what to make. I keep a making list but it's more than filled so now I sort of have potter's block. I want to try some new things but the creative juices just aren't flowing. Eh. It'll all work itself out.

So long for now.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

look, i have been doing stuff.

I finally got around to making some pots today! I'm sloooooowly plugging away towards the next firing on May 1st. After these pots in the photo are finished I'll be about 1/4 of the way there. I"ll have quite a few student pieces in that firing so I won't have to fill the whole thing up myself.

The way I've been potting and firing so far this year some folks might get the impression that my pots are flying off the shelves. The truth is they're just stacking up in the showroom, that's probably part of the reason I haven't had much motivation to get in the studio these last 2 weeks. I'm pretty much taking the month of May off for some much needed vacation. Vacation for me will consist of gardening, landscaping, house repairs and a week in Kansas helping my older brother do some work on his house. Then in June I'll be teaching a summer course(how do you cram a semester's worth of ceramics into 4 weeks?!!) and get back to the potting. My current stock after the may firing should carry me through the summer so I probably won't fire again until late July-unless of course sales take off!

Todays work. Not much, but it's a start.

20# vase. This is a bad photo to judge scale but if I were to stick my arm inside the spot where the shoulder meets the neck is at my elbow. It's the largest one-piece pot I've thrown in a long time.

This is where a chuck of my free time has been going. I am having to build about 30 pedestals for my show in may. The gallery we're showing at has never had an all 3-d work show so they only have a handful of pedestals. There was an issue for awhile about the pedestals because I felt that I shouldn't have to pay for them, painters don't have to purchase and build the walls, right? Luckily the gallery was able to secure funding so I didn't have to pay for them but I do have to build them which isn't so bad. As soon as these are out of here I have to fabricate a fair amount of wall shelving that I will have to pay for, but that is totally reasonable because it's custom for the show. I really wanted to do floating shelves like these(watch the slideshow), but the expense and amount of labor was too much.

Anyways, no classes tomorrow so I'm looking forward to getting some work done.


Friday, April 3, 2009


I woke up this morning all gung-ho to get potting. That momentum was very short lived but I did manage to get a few pieces made.

This is the bigger jar from my previous post that wasn't finished. It's under plastic because I haven't decided on slip or glaze. The unevenly spaced ridges(self-criticism) would suggest a glaze but this piece would have to go in the top of the kiln which we all learned last time doesn't fire off my ash glaze so well. Conundrum.

This is my production for the day.

I liked this guy.

This is the piece I chose for my show poster. It's one of my favorites from recent firings.

And the other side.


(insert girly shriek of joy here)

Dolan tools are back! Woo hoo! In case you couldn't tell, I'm a huge fan of Dolan tools. Bailey has them and so does Continental Clay, I haven't checked anywhere else. Time to hit the trash can kemper.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

big pots

I made a few big pots as demos for my students today. I've been meaning to make some bigger pieces for awhile now so this was a good excuse. These aren't big in a Mark Hewitt sort of way but as a functional potter these are stretching the boundaries of what can actually be used.

The guy on the far rightwas made in two sections and is just over 18" with lid. 2nd from right was made with a modified coil and throw method and has a lid to be trimmed tomorrow and the far left has one more coil & throw section to go-it will be lidded as well. I love big lidded jars, I just think they are so cool.

This is a poster that will be circulating at NCECA. EEEK! I'll write some more about this show later.
So long for now.

what am i doing to myself?

I'm sitting here in my office at the school enjoying a couple of burritos for brekafast. The advantage to living in Texas is that there is a mom&pop mexican or bbq place just around every corner. La Popular is a personal favorite, cheap and tasty!

I've been in a bit of a funk since we came back from Houston. Normally after a good show I'm pretty pumped up to get into the studio and get making for the next firing. This time I can't muster the energy to do anything. My wife pointed out to me a couple weeks ago that I haven't taken a day off since I had oral sugery back in january. So I suppose I could be a little burned out. I tend to over-committ myself and push myself a little too hard-which isn't always a bad thing but I suppose it is when it's non-stop. I've lessened the show schedule for this spring, we've dropped both the Denton Art & Jazz Festival and the Lubbock Arts Festival, but I still seem to be working overtime all the time. I have a gallery show that opens the first week in May that will require about a 100 pieces, which normally wouldn't be a problem. The show is a dual show with my friend Kent and we've invited several potters who have influenced our work to show with us. So now I'm stressing because of course I never feel that the work is good enough to show with some of these other folks and I've committed myself to another firing at the end of the month in hopes of getting some better work. Am I being sillly? Of course I am. I need to make myself vacate from the potting from time to time and the chill the heck out.
Sorry you had to listen to all that.

Today we're starting big(20"+) pots in my advanced class. Nothing but dainty girls in that class so it should prove to be interesting.