Monday, September 28, 2009


Well, the shelves are full of bisqueware and I have more than enough to fire. I need to get these pots out of here so I can keep making. I have about 1000#s of clay waiting to become pots and another 1200# in the drying racks. As soon as that's out I'll mix another 1200#. I'm trying to get enough clay mixed to get me through the winter. I'm going to keep making and do back to back firings later on. We have our homesale coming up the first weekend in December and I'd like to fire at least twice before then, though three firings would be nice. I don't need that many pots but I don't want to fire in the nasty winter months of dec-feb. Shows start back up in late March so it would be nice to have a shows worth of good pots ready to go.

I did a little workshop at McMurry University last week, it was a lot of fun. We started at 8am which is a little early to throw and talk but after about an hour the juices were flowing and we had a good time. Want to book a workshop? Send me an email. I'm cheap and only require lodging and good food, good beer is always a plus too.

Back to potting.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This is serious.

I think we should all get together and demand that Scott Cooper (This Week @ St. Earth)blog more than once a week. Who's with me? We should start a facebook group or something.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I found 2300 degree IFB for $2.11 at Harbson-Walker(AP Green) in Dallas. That's a pretty good price nowadays...even better than Larkin Furnace. So, I'm a deal shopper, anyone know of a place that can beat it?

cup from the east coast.

I recently spotted this cup on Hollis Engleys blog and tried to purchase it, he insisted we trade and a few days ago it arrived. The cup is at home and my camera is at school so this photo is off his blog. When it comes to teabowls/yunomi(whatever you want to call them,) Hollis gets it...I think thats all that needs to be said. This has gone into rotation and has quickly become one of my favorites.

Thanks Hollis!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

grunt work.

Today I mixed up about a dozen test slips for the next firing and made enough cone packs and trays for 3 firings. I use 11 cones, 08,05,03,01,1,3,5,7,8,9,10, per spyhole(x4 spyholes) per firing...thats a lot, but it's the only way to make sure the old gal fires evenly. The little trays keep the melted cones from dripping on and ruining things. I still have to make some test rings and then I'll bisque it all, the cones to 012 or lower so they don't start to melt. I bisque them so I don't have to worry about them blowing up if I fire too fast.

I nerded out a little today and wore one of my favorite t-shirts to the studio. Ok, I wore it yesterday too...I was feeling nostalgic.

Thanks for the comments on the previous post...I enjoyed what everyone had to say. I like those sorts of interactions so we may have to do some more of that. If anyone wants to throw their 2 cents in, feel free.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Tomorrow is a bit of a lecture day in my ceramics class. We'll watch a video and I'll give my little talk about the importance of ceramics, craft and art in past culture and in ours. My talk is a little stale...I'm not so good at verbalizing these sorts of things, I know it in my head but putting it into words can be difficult(thank god I don't have to teach lecture classes!) As Joe Bennion said(and I paraphrase...can't remember the exact quote) "If you could put it into words there would be no need to make pots."

So I need some help...Why are/is pots, ceramics, craft, art important in our culture or to you personally?(or why isn't it?) Why, when you can get pots that are cheaper and work better, do we continue to buy and support the handcrafts(or why should we?)
So if you feel inclined...leave a comment and let me know what you think. Feel free to say as little or as much as you like. I may plagiarize your thoughts and use them in my lecture tomorrow ;)

I found this on PostSecret several years ago and I saved it because it made me sad and laugh all at the same time...look no further if you are offended by curse words. Is that a woodfired pot in that grouping?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

lots o' lids.

I've made the last of the pots for this cycle. I decided to spend some time with lidded pieces, I don't do lots of those and I was able to try some new things.

Sugar jars. I normally don't make pots like this all the same but I made these as a demo for my ceramics 2 students, their next project is repeating a form so I showed them my methods and some tricks.

Trimmed and knobbed.

Square-ish jars. I was really concerned with these while working on them but I think they turned out ok, not fantastic, but ok.

Lidded dishes.

6# jars...with lids.

No more clay, bummer. I have 1200#s in the drying racks but it's been raining non-stop here so I imagine it'll be a few weeks before it's ready. Time to start chopping wood.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

the days work.

Here are a bunch of pots that I trimmed/assembled/handled today. I've made about 180 pieces in the last 2 weeks, not too shabby. I have about 30 pieces left from the last cycle and together that gives me more than enough for a firing. I am lacking some tall pieces for the top shelves in the kiln so I'll do a few of those and then start getting the kiln ready. It's amazing to me how I always seem to be ahead of schedule when there are no looming deadlines. Out of the 180ish pieces there are 61 with pulled handles...that seems like a lot, it felt like I was doing handles every day. As I ponder though...I think 50-60 is about normal for a cycle, so nevermind.

5# pitchers and 4# square vases.


Friday, September 11, 2009


"Very few people know how to work. Inspiration, everybody has
inspiration, that's just hot air."
-Beatrice Wood

I saw this quote on clayart and it reminded me of something I tell my students on the first day:

"In this class all the work you produce will be of a utilitarian nature, we don't do any ceramic sculpture in here. We work every day...If you want to sit around and think, the sculpture class is down the hall."



Thursday, September 10, 2009

these things happen.

I forgot to add this photo to the previous post....

Make sure there are no holes in the sheet!

Well that is just uncalled for....I haven't had a crack like that in years(mixer clay, by the way...just sayin.)

I have my 2 beginning ceramics classes on Tue/Thur so I don't get too much work done on those days. I did get these mugs made. I have about 60 of those 8" plastibats and I usually throw mugs on those and leave them until they stiffen up a bit so I don't ruin any gesture lines while lifting them off. I decided to slum it today and it turns out I've just been wasting ware board space with those bats all these years.

Some casserole-ish type lidded things.

I have 45 minutes before my next I can make a few more pots.

kickin it old school.

I mixed up a bunch of clay yesterday. I took a couple photos that were not all that fantastic but I'll share them anyways. Clay mixers and pugmills are very expensive, so this is the way I've mixed my clay since I've left college. I've gone through stints of buying pre-mixed clay but have never been happy with those clay bodies.

Weigh out the materials....(my batch is 220#s dry.)

Mix it all with some water, start with feldspar & silica, then kaolins and ball clays, fireclays and grogs are last. I use a drill with a sheetrock mixer on the end...if you're really broke you can use a hoe or a big stick. It's more efficient to use a larger container(horse trough like windy ridge) and mix more slip at once but my space is constricted so I use a large 35 gallon trash container.

These are a couple of my drying racks, 2x4's with chicken wire attached to one side. I cut some bed sheets in half and pour the slip into those. One batch of clay fills one rack, it's about 300# of usable clay when finished. I use a bucket to transfer the slip from the barrel, but you can get high-tech like Ron Philbeck and use a sump pump to transfer the clay, saves the back! Take note of the respirator on the your lungs too.

Here it takes 1.5-3 weeks for the clay to start to become usable. Mixing one batch took me 27 minutes from weighing out the materials to getting the last bit out of the barrel. One batch of this clay equals 2 batches in the bluebird mixer. Anyone will tell you that clay mixed with this method is infinitely better than mixer-mixed clay. To test this theory I mixed a batch in the Bluebird mixer and let it age for just over three months. From both types of clay I made pots to be altered and squished and pots that needed handles. Clay from the mixer was consistently short and cracked while pushing the walls of pots and pulling handles, the blunged clay did not. Just in case anyone was curious. Enough said.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

out of ware boards!

The racks are slowly filling up. I'm hoping to do a firing late September/early October and then another in mid-November. I've thrown a bunch of ware boards in my wood pile because of some bad warpage. I still have more that need to be tossed but they're currently in use. I plan to make some more out of plywood before too long, but for now I'm out of them, though I may have some in the kiln shed...I'll have to go look. In the meantime I have pots all over tables that I apparently neglected to take a photo of.

Baking dishes and some un-handles mugs. The wheel makes a nice table.

Greenware rack.

I have gotten my hands on a bag of Helmer Kaolin...a material that's hard to come across in Texas. I plan to do a bunch of tests with it but I went ahead and mixed a small batch of 70/30 kaolin/ with 1% redart. I brushed it onto a couple of leatherhard bowls in a state that I didn't think was too thick. The slip is cracking at leatherhard which worries me a bit...clearly some high shrinkage. That's ok, I'll figure it all out.


Thursday, September 3, 2009


My ceramics 2 students have just finished making cylinders for the first week of class. I have them make cylinders just to get back in the groove of things. I also made an interesting discovery a couple semesters ago...instead of just making them do cylinders I had them explore volume, gesture and rim terminations while making the cylinders and I noticed that they were thinking so much about the latter that they didn't think too much about making cylinders and as a byproduct were making the intial cylinders like they'd been doing it for years. I like that.

The project that they are now starting is what I call variations of a form. They get to pick any utilitarian form and it must include either a trimmed foot or a pulled handle(making them learn multiple things at once!) They then have to do 15 variations on that form. The first few they can explore as broadly as they want but the last 10 must be smaller variations on one of the intial pieces. When they are done we will critique and the class will pick the most successful form and the student must repeat it production style at least 12 times(it's only ceramics 2.) After these initial assignments which to them feel like ceramics boot camp(you're in college, get over it) I've found that for the most part they are beginning to have the ability to really make anything that they want.

I only mention this because I've had a couple of emails from students in programs with professors who have no interest in teaching repetition skills and they ask me about developing those skills and I tell them that working in variations and then doing multiples is what worked for me and it's worked for my students. I still do it all the time, I don't do exact repetitions so much anymore because while that is a nice and necessary skill to have, it no longer holds much interest for me and the kind of work I do. When I'm working I generally make no less than 4 of a shape and as many as 24 in a run, each one just a little different. I use a pointer for plates and soup bowls mostly so they'll stack nicely if someone buys a set.

Here are some small 2# pitchers I made this evening. The progression is left to right. I actually made 12, the first 4 were OK, they certainly would've worked but sometimes I wonder if someone will come across it in a few hundred years and put it in a museum...that's enough for me to scrap the mediocre pieces. First photo far right is my favorite.

3# and 4# serving bowls...each a little different.
Well, that certainly was a ramble.

cap jars

I make these in 2 pieces, W. Mackenzie makes some of these in one piece and then cuts them open at an angle for the lid seat, I always thought those were kinda tacky. This is a piece that can show a high level of craftsmanship if you let it.

I create this sort of flange on the bottom piece to hold the lid in place, the lid is pretty much just a bowl. I leave the pieces attached to the bats so I can adjust the fit if need be when they stiffen up. The lid is trimmed in place on the bottom piece.

The feet are trimmed out like a regular bowl. The cuts are made with a cheap cheese cutter with the plastic depth gauge removed. Sometimes I make some of these with a tri-foot which is much trickier, I think it tends to look a little too delicate for stoneware.

This is what it looks like completed. Well, ya know...if blogger could keep the orientation correct.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I've finally gotten around to making some was over 2 months without touching the good.

This is a further variation on a shape I've been exploring.

Dessert plates...I know I promised a trimming video, but I forgot, oops.

Cap jars, one of my favorite things to make.

Tankards, American style.

Them's a working mans pants. No one would ever accuse me of being tidy.

Not much else going on around got off to a good start, I have some good advanced students and finally a dedicated ceramics major. If only he knew what he was in for...