Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pick of the litter.

I fired off the gas kiln today...it was raining most of the day so it went pretty smooth. I can't remember the physics behind it but reduction kilns always seem to fire better in the rain(no, really...it's been proven.)

Glazing pots for that kiln is so much different, I usually leave a little bare clay to flash, but in this case I glazed most of them right down to the base. Even with that I was concerned about the look of the bare clay so I stacked with the shelves from my wood kiln and sprinkled salt on the shelves and wadded the pots, just to get a little bit of color/flash on the bottom. The kiln is scheduled to come down in a few months so I figured this wouldn't hurt it too bad.

Even though I had legitimate reasons for not firing my wood kiln I sort of feel like I'm half-assing it by firing in the gas kiln. I know the glazes will all melt and I'll have a whole bunch of well-fired pots...but none of them will be as spectacular as the guy pictured below...to me. Others may prefer the gas fired to the wood fired which is okay.

Gosh...I think about this stuff way too much. I should go make more pots and stop whining. Unload on thursday.


Monday, June 29, 2009

taking bets.

Think I can fit all these pots....

Into this kiln???

Me neither.


There is a fantastically awful video of me firing my kiln and going on and on about god knows what. It can be seen here. The visuals are nice but it's probably better with the volume down. Enjoy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

useful tip.

If you're driving with buckets of glaze in the back of your truck, do make sure the lids are on securely.

I unfortunately am not going to be able to fire the wood kiln this coming week. I have too much on my plate this week to adequately prep for it. I also was having a rough time finding wood. I had a couple sources suggested to me that didn't pan out. I have a couple builders that keep me in lumber but they're not building right now. I did find a couple of sites that would give me wood but not for a couple weeks yet. So I will fire a batch of pots in the gas kiln, not my favorite but it has to be done. I have plenty of pots for my show in Rockport but there are a few specific items that I need that will be going in the kiln. Gotta get back to my glazing.

Last call...Deep Roots...Brandon Phillips...Kent Harris...Elmer Taylor...Megan Easley...Willem Gebben...Jeff Oestreich...Scott Roberts...Jan McKeachie-Johnston...Randy Johnston...Linda Chrsitianson

Pots will ship out the week after July 4th.


Thursday, June 25, 2009


There is a discussion rolling around on the blog-o-sphere prompted by Ron Philbeck's recent post. There are many great viewpoints there that are worth reading in the comment section of that post. I am going to ramble a little bit here about how I feel about the value of handcrafts.

I first started making pots in my sophomore year of high school in Minnesota, 1997. I was brought up in a relatively conservative religious home that valued community and service. Though my views on faith and religion have changed, my core values remain the same. So it's no surprise that Warren Mackenzie's philosophy had an instant grasp on me, it finally put a purpose behind an activity that was up to that point ambiguous as to it's social relevance(I understood the "high arts" but the purpose of craft had eluded me.) Objects that are beautiful, that communicate and provide daily service...there was something that I could get on board with. This is still the foundation of why I make pots today.

There have been comments that art and craft are for the elites in society, art is for the privileged that can afford it. While this unfortunately seems to be the case for art, I strongly disagree that it is(or has to be) the case for hand crafts. Many of my customers (I despise the word patron) are middle-class folk who don't make much more than I do. Does the fact that upper-class people have the ability to regularly purchase such objects somehow elevate their importance? I don't think so. I'm not intending to class-bash, my pots are priced to be accessible to all people, but I'm not going to treat people any differently based upon how much they are going to spend with me. Often times for the middle-class a nice mid-priced pot is as much a serious financial splurge just as a $5000 painting is for an upper-class person, so clearly they demand the same level of respect.

In Warren's more productive years he was making about 7000 pots per year and he was able to sell every last one of them. This enabled him to sell his pots very inexpensively and still be able to make a decent income. There are not many potters aside from serious production potters that work at this volume. So WM's pricing scheme is unrealistic for the modern potter. I could easily make 5000+ pots per year but I can't sell that many, there is no demand for it right now. I currently produce 1200-1500 pieces per year because that is the volume I am able to sell. If I were able to sell 5000+ pots per year would I price my mugs and yunomi for much less than I do now? You bet I would, and I wouldn't think twice about it. Clearly price does not equal value, they are 2 separate entities. Price is a means for making a livable income, value is what it is worth to the user, not to the maker. For me the most important thing is getting my pots into as many hands as possible for the lowest possible price. Ego has no place in the handcrafts, if your ego drives the price of your work it will eventually show and you will ultimately fail. I used to sell my basic mugs for $15(I've recently gone up to $18) and I receive some serious criticism from other potters at shows for selling my pots too cheap. I always just shrug my shoulders and say that's what they're worth to me. My expenses to run my studio are dirt cheap, I live a very simple lifestyle and don't need a large income. Should I have to conform to your pricing structure because it costs you 5 times as much to produce your work? No way, that's not fair to me or my customers. If your expenses are so high or you have a much more expensive lifestyle then that is your choice. I make a decent amount of pots that I sell for a decent price and I make a decent income from it.

I am not a believer in the $30 mug, I would never pay that much for a mug, they're not worth that to me, even from my favorite potters. I would however pay that much for a yunomi, in fact I've paid a lot more than that for some. That particular form has a lot more value to me, but mine will always be priced the same as my mugs because I do believe it is silly to charge more for something that is the same size and can be made faster than a mug, though there is a much higher level of skill involved, perhaps the reason for me placing a higher value on that item.

There are also those people who think that if you're work is inexpensive then you must not value it too much. I don't know what I can do to change their minds but this is clearly not true. I value the opportunity for my pots to enhance or possibly even change someones life(hey, pots changed mine.) This is what it is important for me, not how someone perceives my pricing. If you value my work for more than what it is priced at then that is fantastic, that is what I hope for. Every pot that we own and that we use is worth much more to us than what we paid for them, this is the whole point, isn't it? If you are looking for investment value art...well, you best keep looking.

My ideal has always been to make the pots that are in my heart and if they sell...great, if not then I'll do what I need to to get by. You can easily tell the difference between potters who crank out the pots to make money and those who make honest pots that are of value to them. I'm not in this business to get rich, I made much more as a carpenter than I do making pots and teaching combined. But truthfully my life is much fuller, richer and holds a lot more value as a potter. Pottery has the chance to impact lives, not in a blatant "art saves lives" sort of way, but rather in a way that opens up your perception to the beauty that surrounds you in your everyday life.

I hope that I haven't offended anyone. The beauty of humanity is that we all have a different take on life, we all value different things. You are more than welcome to further this discussion by leaving a comment.

Speaking of value....The Deep Roots exhibition comes down in a few days. Last chance to get some sweeeet pots.


Monday, June 22, 2009

more pots.

Here are the last pots for this making cycle. I made enough pots to fill the kiln in about 2.5 weeks, with no late nights or hectic days. It must be because I'm only teaching one class early in the morning, makes for a more productive day. I designed my new wood kiln so that I could fire every 2 months(2.5 times bigger than the old one, which I fired monthly) but I've come to discover that demand for my "product" has doubled since last year. This next firing will be my 4th in the new kiln since February, hardly once every other month. Geez...guess I need a bigger kiln...again. Though don't look for that any time soon, we plan on staying where we are for the next 3-4 years and hopefully this kiln will last me until we move.

Baking dishes weighted down so they don't curl up.

Stupid blogger. That big guy is a 20# jar.

These are all coated in a white slip that is actually the same color as the clay body when wet...which makes ensuring total coverage a little tricky. It's also the same color as the tile6 slip after bisque...hope I don't screw something up there. I am hoping that the high silica content(25%) in the slip will give the glaze a bit of gloss, it completely mattes out in my kiln right now. My clay body is low in silica but I've had problems with clays that are high in free silica in my kiln, so I'll take a little more work in the surface preparation as opposed to cracked pots. For examples sake here are two pots with the same glaze, same kiln, same temp: lots of free silica, low silica, I like it somewhere in between.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

same old, same old.

I can finally post pictures again! I don't have too much to say...but here are the pots I have been working on the past week.

This is todays production...or more accurately, this evenings 3 hours of production. Most of the day was spent trimming, assembling and slipping other pieces. I've estimated that on average the time spent on the wheel for making new pots is about 15-20% of the actual hands-on time before it goes in the bisque kiln. Clearly things like trimming(aka-"turning" or "cutting feet" depending on your locale)handling(aka-"pulling handles"), assembling, and slipping take up the majority of the time.

Large shallow bowls, some new ideas mixed in with the old.

New casserole shape...I prefer the right and left shape over the one in the middle. I was trying to make a shape that could be lifted out of the oven without needing lugs(aka-"handles") on the side. It isn't clearly visible but the rim of the base sticks out nearly as far as the lid, further aiding the ease of lifting out of the oven...in my mind I saw this as a solution to keep hands from sliding up and pushing off the lid while carrying it...if that makes any sense whatsoever.


Treadle wheel. The woodworking part is completely finished(minus the seat and treadle arm), I now have to tackle the metalworking which I should easily be able to do in an afternoon. Though that afternoon may not come until after the fourth of July weekend. I'm ready to have this guy finished so I can go back to working in my studio instead of out in the classroom. The wheel I am currently using is one of the student wheels(though in true college fashion I lay claim to the wheel by leaving my mess on it) and though I really like using it, it wouldn't be fair to move it to my studio. Currently my studio is storing my clay racks and other misc. stuff that should really be elsewhere. Hence my work pouring out all over the classroom...thank goodness it's summer and I only have 8 students that have to put up with that! Hopefully I'll be re-situated before the fall semester begins.

Firing in 12 days....I suppose I'd better go find some wood.


Monday, June 15, 2009


I'm back from my weekend at the Llano show. The sales were very good considering how small the show is. We did quite well and the show far exceeded our expectations but strangely enough we sold only larger pieces...usually at these small shows it's nothing but cups and soup bowls...which is mostly what I took with me and then had to turn around and bring home. That's okay though, I'm just about out of large jars and platters now so it's nice to make those knowing that I need them. Speaking of which... I made a bunch of platter/bowls today of varying size.

I'm doing a show in Rockport on the 4th of July weekend. Rockport is down on the coast, near Corpus Christi and Port Aransas. I'm doing a firing right before we head down there that will be full of glazed work. I have nothing but slipped work right now and it doesn't sell too well near the ocean so I'm going to try to have a chunk of the ash glazed work to take with me. Speaking of ash glazes... I have figured out that putting the ash glaze over a white slip that has a good bit of silica in it makes the glaze look better in the wood kiln, that was kind of a "duh" moment for me.

That is all I have for now, I haven't replaced my camera cable yet so no photos...maybe tomorrow.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pots & Wine

I had some photos to share but it seems I have crushed the end of the USB cord for my camera, dang. I have about 100 pots sitting around, 2/3 under plastic waiting to be slipped on Monday. We are leaving tomorrow for the Llano Estacado Wine and Clay Festival in Lubbock, TX. It's located at the Llano Estacado Winery so if you're in the area Saturday or Sunday stop by, 10am-6pm both days.

We had a couple stop in for a visit last night, they're jewelers from New Mexico that we'd met at a show awhile back. We had a good time, it's nice to have that social time with other artists from time to time.

See ya later!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

productive morning.

I've had a fairly productive morning/early afternoon. I made a bunch of dinner plates and some soup bowls. I saw 2 soup bowls left in the showroom so I may need to make some more. There are some mugs back there under plastic waiting for handles(I sound like Keith!)

I'm going to make some lidded jars tonight based on some of these. I really like the guys on the left. They sort of have an early 80's Randy Johnston feel to them.

The painting prof. is in Europe teaching an art dept. study abroad program so I took over some tables in her classroom to stain & finish my treadle wheel parts. The painting class
room has the best ventilation and the least amount of dust. I've finished the majority of the wheel with Formby's Tung Oil Finish which is actually not tung oil but a varnish that attempts to replicate the look of tung oil without all the hassles. It is a long process, it requires several coats to build up a finish but oh baby is it a sweet surface! Beats out polyurethane by a long shot! The exterior of the pan is tung oil and the interior and rim are finished with Epifanes Marine Varnish. Funny enough this last months issue of Fine Woodworking had a review of how well outdoor varishes held up to moisture and weather, Epifianes was the best by a long shot. Fortunate for me as I had no idea what was the best to use. It's fairly expensive but I think will be worth it in the long run. It's certainly far cheaper than a copper or zinc liner.

Tomorrow is my wife and I's 1st wedding anniversary so I don't know if I'll get into the studio or not. We had our celebration last night but I imagine we'll spend some good time together tomorrow as well.

Time for a late lunch, thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

no fly pots.

Argh...my clay is still not ready, it's been really humid lately. I'm thinking about making a batch in the mixer just so I can get some pots made!!! This has given me plenty of time to work on my treadle wheel though. The frame is completely finished and well, finished...with tung oil, or that stuff that Lowes passes off as tung oil. I started working on the flywheel today. I'm not exactly sure what the weight should be, I've heard conflicting answers to that query. Mine will be made from pine, I don't have any nice lumber around nor can I afford to purchase any right now. Summer is the slow season in Texas, very few shows and very little teaching pay.

These are made from 2x10's, southern yellow pine. There are two of them that will be laminated on top of eachother to make a solid 3" thick disc that is 28" wide. I made a circle cutting jig for my router, hopefully that will work. I have no interest in cutting this circle by eye.

In other news my birthday present from my wife arrived today. I've wanted a jointer for a loooong time so that I could surface my own wood and so that I wouldn't be stuck with what's available pre-surfaced(and overpriced) at Lowes or Home Depot. For those of you that don't know woodworking is a passion of mine, second only to pots. I'm not a pro by any means, maybe only a notch or 2 above novice but I enjoy it all the same. I think my wife got me this so that we can finally have some furniture that we need around the house. I'm real big on buying quality and it's rare to be able to afford quality woodworking like end tables, coffee tables, bed frames, etc. Well anyways, it'll be nice to have another tool around that can potentially rip my fingers off.

Hopefully some pots soon?

See ya.