Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Last chance!

I'm taking my etsy shop offline Thursday morning as I'll be headed out of town for a week.  If you'd like something before Christmas now is the time to get after it!  The sales on etsy have been really good this year and I'm appreciative of those of you who have supported me. 

In other news, I still have one last wood firing slated, I was supposed to fire it off in early November but we've had some crazy weather patterns here so I've been holding off.  Hopefully I'll get if fired off soon!  I've been thinking about rebuilding my kiln as a downdraft and switching to waste oil fired salt glaze.  I've spent a plethora of time the last few weeks learning everything I can about oil burners and waste oil firing.  I've come up with a design for a burner that should be relatively efficient and high in BTU's.  I won't get a chance to fire it up until after the holidays but I plan on doing a little video to show how it works.  It seemed overwhelmingly complicated at first but when you break it down it is really straightforward.  

This is the burner without the fan attached.  It is a siphon and/or gravity feed model mixed with compressed air. 

Cheers and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

More pots on etsy

I've uploaded some more pots to my etsy page.  A few mugs, pitchers, serving dishes, and a really nice platter.  Head on over and check them out!  $5 shipping on everything.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Holiday Sale

I've posted a bunch of pots on etsy for the annual online portion of the holiday sale.  We had a crazy arctic blast with lots of ice and impassible roads this last weekend, so it turns out this is the only portion of the holiday sale!  Check them out here.  I offer a flat $5 shipping on all pots.  Happy holidays!


Monday, November 18, 2013

The beginning of the end.

I am an adjunct instructor that teaches a full time load but unfortunately I have no say in matters of curriculum outside of my own classroom.  I am not permitted to attend general faculty meetings and as such I am usually out of the loop with regards to changes.  But every once in awhile I get an email or notice that keeps me updated, and today this is one that caught my eye:

Dear SOM(school of music) and COFA(college of fine arts),
Tomorrow we will be meeting with Dr. ***** for further discussion regarding the revision to the General Education Curriculum.
Last time the SOM met, there were some questions about terminology between Core vs. Distribution. In order to best prepare for the discussion tomorrow, here are some descriptions of the words:
1)      A “CORE” Course:  this option would be a  single class that all students would have to take to satisfy the degree requirement for fine arts, like “Fine Arts 101”.  There would not be any variation to this course.
2)      A “DISTRIBUTION” course: this option would allow for students to satisfy their fine arts degree requirement through many varied choices among the arts such as band, choir, orchestra, private instruction, photography, sculpture, painting,  intro to theatre, costume design, etc.
One idea that the committee is considering is combining the fine arts with some other disciplines into one HSU distinctive class. Dr. ***** can describe this more to you tomorrow.
I hope this email helps you to come to the conversation with a better idea of what is to be discussed AND I hope that you will come to the meeting tomorrow with good ideas to be discussed in pleasant manner.

Of course the faculty who spend their days working with students and understand them as uniquely individual beings with varied interests are heavily in favor of the "distribution" option.   While the administration who views students as numbers and dollar signs is heavily in favor of the "core" option.

80% of the students who take my course do so for general art credit.  A change like this would effectively end the already fledgling ceramics program.  For the art dept in general that is a small hit, less than 30 students a year.  We would also lose our "Introduction to the fine arts" aka: art history for dummies,a lecture course that brings in over 400 students per year, that is a very big hit.  Photography would take a hit with 50-60% of it's students, the remaining mediums wouldn't take much loss as they require prerequisites which discourages students from taking them for gen. ed. credits.  We would probably lose all of our students who come to art after taking an art course as a gen. ed. requirement, I don't know what percentage that is.

I understand the administrations argument, the school could potentially save tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars by implementing this change.  They would be able to drop a number of courses taught by adjuncts and combine the students in to one big lecture hall, or heck, it could even be an online course.  It makes sense on paper for about 2 seconds.

There are several dangers here, while losing my job is not something to disregard it is the least of my concerns.  What concerns me is the schools complete disregard to the value of the arts.  The thought that someone considered creating one mandatory fine arts course at the expense of distribution courses leads me to believe that they keep art around only for the sake of appearing to support educational diversity. They simply want to meet the basic requirements for accreditation, which requires a course in the fine arts.

We are already taking hits, I'm losing one of my ceramics sections starting next fall.  While the class is not bringing in the big bucks, I fail to see the math of how my class has ever lost the university money.  This is my sixth year of teaching and I've been exposed to just enough administrators and university politics to start becoming jaded.

I've been of the belief for some time that the modern university model is no longer the right place for the arts, and certainly not for the crafts.  That said, I have no answer to that problem, or this one.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Farewell old friend...

Five months?!!  Must be a record.  I prefer to view the lapse in posting as the ever increasing time that passes between getting together with old friends, instead of...ya know, neglect.  

I've never really looked at my pots as precious, and while I hold back a few pieces here and there I've never had the desire to hang on to my own pots.  Make em, fire em, sell em.  Repeat.  In fact I have very little to show for the last ten years.  I spent today sorting and packing pots for the last shows and orders of the year and I had a really difficult time letting some of the work go.  I know why, my relationship with woodfiring will be coming to an end this month.  I want to hold on to them because there might not be anymore, maybe just for a year or two, or maybe forever.

As potters sometimes our identities can become wrapped up in the way we work.  I'm not just Brandon the potter, I'm Brandon the woodfire potter.  I think it's fairly safe to say that people identify me with a specific type of work.  We could argue ad nauseum whether or not it's healthy to be synonymous with your job, but regardless, it's the way it is.  I think most potters might understand where I'm coming from.  I've spent a third of my life so far completely immersed, in love, first thought in the morning, last thought at night kind of obsessed with this process and it's hard to wake up one day and not feel that passion anymore.  I may sound a little melodramatic but as a craftsman there's a bit of my soul tied up in that kiln and it's hard to let it go even when you know it's the right thing to do.  I'm trying not to make this sound too analogous to a relationship but really, that's what it is.  We're not happy together anymore and it's time for us to go our separate ways, maybe a short break is all that's needed, or maybe it's farewell for good, time will tell.  But it sure is fucking sad.

Time for a change.

Friday, May 31, 2013

New pots at Schaller

I have a bunch of new work over at Schaller Gallery.  I feel really good about these pots.  I feel like I'm finally getting somewhere with them.  Here are a couple pots that I'm particularly happy with.  Check them out!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Firing Schedule

I posted on facebook awhile back and referenced a new firing schedule and some folks have asked about it.  Given that I am sick and have nothing to do I thought I'd go ahead and write about that.

This last firing was a very good one.  I've been tweaking my firing schedule to find a way to fire quickly but also keep my glazes from blistering.  Blistering has been the bane of my existence for the last couple years but I finally have it worked out.  I'm a believer in fast firing, for economic reasons.  Save fuel, save time, save money, make more pots. 

I learned to fire gas kilns in professor would start the kiln in the morning when he arrived and be finished by the time he went home at 5.  8 hour firings were the norm and I just always took for granted that everyone fired that way.   I was baffled(and still am) when I hear that people fire gas kilns for 20+ hours.  My thought is that you're either wasting gas or you kiln isn't set up right(or you have a hardbrick beast).  Of course there would be exceptions to this, some glazes need different schedules.  My ash glazes need a soak or slow climb at the end.  I fire our reduction kiln at the school in a similar fashion, I hit cone 012 in about 3.5 hours, cone 10 in about 9 hours altogether. 

Many people think that the pots will crack when fired so "quickly".  Industry fires bathroom tiles in as little as 45 minutes from raw.  Raku.  Need I say more?  At this point hopefully we all know that color comes in the cooling so all you need to do is hit your atmosphere and let your glazes melt, the cooling will do the rest. 

Now, when it comes to woodfiring I have a theory/personal belief.  Fire short or fire long.  I fire for flame, not ash, time is not required.  There is nothing nice about 2 day firings.  Long enough to get enough ash to cover the flame work, not enough time to let the ash do its thing.  So less than 18 or more than 48.  Just my theory.  (example: bandana pottery, 300 cu ft kiln, pots raw glazed and single fired in 16 hours). 

The best firing I've ever had was done in 6 hours.  The ash glazes I use nowadays can't handle that, they do need a longer firing to settle out otherwise I'll have a sea of blisters.  When I was firing slips I could go faster, after all...the slips don't need to melt, I just needed temp for vitrification and atmosphere for color. My kiln is approximately 75 cu ft, holds around 200 pots.  I currently fire in about 8 hours.  I fire to cone 9.5.  Which means I have close to 11 at the fire box and 9 at the flu.  I let the kiln cool for about 36 hours. 

I bisque all my work, it knocks several hours off the firing and also time spent gathering and prepping extra firewood.  I used to be an advocate for raw glazing (well, I still am but...) if you have access to an electric kiln it just makes sense for wood firing to bisque and save the time.  I've done 24 wood firings without having to worry about single firing, knocking off 5 hours per firing that's 120 hours.  I certainly didn't spend 120 hours loading and firing bisque kilns, definitely a more efficient use of my time.  This is what works for ME and my kiln. 

I don't track the temp per hour but here is the basic idea:
I have cones in 4 spots, top and bottom on both sides(cones 07,05,03,01  1,3,5  7,8,9,10):
Hit cone 07 at 3:45-4 hours.
Cone 3 at 5-5:15 hours- at this point I make adjustments to even out the kiln if necessary.  I want all cone 5's to fall together. 
Once cone 7 begins to fall I pull the passive dampers to slow the draft of the kiln, I want about 2 hours from cone 7-9.5. 
I salt once all 7's are down, about 1# per salting, every other stoke, total 7-8#'s.  I want to be done salting before 9 is flat.
I shut it down when the tip of 10 is horizontal, I call this "cone 9.5". 

One of the most critical aspects of this schedule is the beginning because in a wood kiln it is very easy to over stoke and put it into reduction.  I fire with the dampers wide open and the passive dampers shut, this ensures maximum airflow through the firebox.  I also have plenty of holes for air at the firebox.  I've seen a number of kilns similar to mine that don't have near enough ports for air in the firebox, this equates to longer firings and/or too much reduction.

Here are a couple pots from the last fring.

Questions?  Comments?  Slander?  Let me know!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I made it home from Minnesota last Tuesday.  It was a harrowing journey through snow and rain until I hit Oklahoma.  I'm sad to say that the show was a bust.  I talked to a number of other potters at the show and I did much better than most, a rarity for me!  But still not even close to what I needed.  I'm in the hole quite a bit for the year, it's a difficult thing to talk about but that's the reality of the situation.  I'd like my blog to represent the ups and downs of the lifestyle.  I've never had a year like this, I've wracked my brain constantly trying to find a solution but I got nothin.  We just have to hope that this is the low end of the slump and we'll start working our way out. 

I was hell bent on getting out of town ASAP after the show but when I woke up Monday morning I knew that I'd kick myself if I didn't drop in on a couple people.  I headed out to Guillermo Cuellar's on Monday morning(no photos).  We had a good long talk and they invited me to stay for lunch, it was a good visit.  From there I headed to Linda Christianson's place.  Linda was in the midst of getting her kiln loaded in upper 20's weather.  That gal is as tough as they come.  There is also not a nicer person in existence.  We spent far too much time talking about kilns and such, I left with a few pots and a nice big jar of homemade maple syrup.  Needless to say stopping in to see them raised my spirits and helped me get my focus back. 

Me and the LC.

In other news I had a little mishap last week at school.  I tilted back a barrel of dry mix and popped my head in to see how much was left and it all shifted and poofed up in my face, I guess this was just a freak thing.  I didn't think much about it, it's happened before, no big deal.  Friday I felt really ill, kinda fluish.  Saturday and Sunday I was bed ridden with a cough, nasty fever, and crazy muscle aches.  A trip to the doc on Monday and she confirmed that I got myself a case of pneumonia from dust exposure, commonly called chemical pneumonia, the good part is that there is nothing contagious about it.  Seeing an x-ray with all that crap in your, shit gets real.  I always wear a respirator when I mix clay or glazes but there are times that I'm a bit cavalier like I'm sure most of us are.  I had no idea that pneumonia was a potential threat, and now that I've had it once I'm more likely to contract it again.  So I'm just going to have to be more safety conscious than I already am.  So this is lesson to me, and hopefully a heads up for you! 

Well, back to rest!


Friday, April 19, 2013

St. Paul

Today was the first day of the ACC show in St. Paul, the weather was pretty bad but we still had some decent crowds.  Here is my booth...I prefer the 15' wide vs 10'.  It costs more but I feel it shows better...go big or go home. 

Some folks had some nice things to say about me on the facebook.

The weather reminds me of why I don't live here.  For those that may not know, I was born and raised in Hopkins, Minnesota...I have deep Minnesota roots.  I've been in Texas for nearly 14 years but MN will always feel like home to me.

If you're in the area come on out and say hello, Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 11-5.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Firing XXI

Firing XXI before & after.  It was a good one!  I tried a new firing schedule that is an adaptation of my quick firing schedule with the need to soak my ash glazes.  Firing time: 7.5 hours.  When I get a chance maybe I'll share a bit about my firing theories. 

Well, it appears the #1's have it.  I will write a post about The Yunomi Standard: the retarded economics of pricing handmade pottery.  This is not necessarily a post on how one should price pots(high/low) but rather a look at how one might arrive at a given price but also a look at why some feel that certain pots should command higher prices than other pots given the same amount of work involved.  It will be a fun post riddled with humor, frustration, back stabbing, shit talking, and a whole lot of truth. 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nerd memes.

This is how I felt at the end of firing XXI.
I'm getting too old to fire alone.  Pictures to come.

Still time to vote for the previous post...154 followers and 8 votes?!  Let your voices be heard.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Vote now!

I'm just taking a break from loading firing XXI to let you know that I will be in St.Paul, MN this next week for the American Craft Council show, April 19-21.  If you're in the area stop by and say hello.

I am attempting to revive the blog.  Maybe not posting as often as I did years ago but maybe once a week...or every couple weeks?  We shall see.  I'm sure I will have a number of photos to post from MN when I get back.  I also have a humor oriented cup giveaway in the works.  But in the meantime...I have a few posts in the works that are a little more content oriented.  The problem I have is a) too many thoughts rolling around in my head and b) not enough time to work those out into a meaningful post.  So here is where you come in:  VOTE!  I have listed 3 options for posts that I have outlined but need to be fleshed out.  Left to my own devices these would sit as ideas for eternity.  So I leave the choice in your hands.  The nominees are:

1. The Yunomi Standard: The retarded economics of pricing handmade pottery.

2. Bringing back the guilds: The relevance of our current educational model with regards to traditional craft and why we should abandon it for a modern adaptation of the traditional apprenticeship.

3. Hoesaling:  Working harder to produce more repetitive work with shorter deadlines for less money.  And why, aside from ulcers, it can be a good least for the short term.

Much like our own democratic system you hold the illusion of power!  Use it wisely.  Leave me a comment with your choice and I will knock out a post in the next 2-4 weeks.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Go big or go home

These are a few big pots that I'm excited about.  The middle one is about 24" tall.  I have a few more in the works.  It will take awhile to get them all fired but when you're excited about what's happening it's best to indulge in it, right? 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I'm back from another year at the ACC show in Baltimore, I wish I had better news to report but it was mediocre at best.  I picked up a few new wholesale accounts which is great so that will give me plenty to do through the summer.  Here is a shot of my booth during wholesale:

I took Will, an old student of mine, with me this year.  He's in graduate school right now and is interested in what it takes to make a living selling pots.  While I don't necessarily have that figured out I needed the help and he wanted the experience.  Since I wasn't paying him with money I did my best to teach him what I know, pay him with experience.  I am definitely not a great salesman but I have learned a number of things over the years.  There were a number of retail buyers (and one wholesale account) who came into the booth obviously attracted to something, but perhaps not sure what that was, and instead of letting them wander out I engaged them and ended up selling them work.  I would engage them before they had a chance to leave and just start talking to them about pots.  I have a number of questions I ask and when I finally hit on one that they know nothing about I go into my spiel.  I explain the process, my local materials, influences, etc.  Then I ask about them, why are they at the craft show, what are they interested in seeing, what have they already bought, etc.  Engage.  I am a bit of an introvert so that was a hard journey for me but it's second nature now.  Will was amazed at the number of sales we made just by simply striking up conversation.  It goes back to the theory that people don't just want your pots, they want a story and an experience. So hopefully he learned that we just don't make pots, we have to sell them too.

I met Bill Van Gilder a couple years ago and we've stayed in touch through email and facebook.  A few months ago I was lamenting my lack of a pugmill and he told me about one he had that he would let me have for a steal.  Convenient that he lives an hour from Baltimore.  So here is the old gal, she's a beast.  It needs to be cleaned out and a couple minor parts replaced and it will be good to go.  I'm excited to save some strain on my arms and wrists.

This is me, my assistant Will and Bill Van Gilder at his pottery in Gapland, MD.

On the way back from MD we stopped in NC to visit the guys.  We had a nice one day pottery summit, talking shop, drinking beer, shooting the shit and gettin rowdy.  I got to meet up with Kyle Carpenter and Scott Cooper-who had recently finished his stint at Penland, along with Ron Philbeck and Michael Kline.  Here we all are at MK's pottery.  We had a good old time.  This is the first time I'd actually met Kyle and Scott even though we've been corresponding through blogs/email/facebook for years.  It's funny how we just fell into conversation like old friends.  I wish I lived closer to these guys but that's life, ain't it?

Here is a poster some student made for my MFA show (it's nice to have student workers.)

The week before I left for Baltimore I had to install my MFA show.  It's been a strange journey the last 2.5 years.  I can't believe it's already over, I feel like I just started.  While I didn't see a huge shift in my work I do see a lot of things that changed because of that experience.  I did have the great fortune of already having a cohesive style and clear direction for my pots, so rather than fretting over finding a style I was able to focus on subtleties and details.  I did have a new body of work emerge but that strangely enough didn't happen because of graduate school, but purely through experimentation, but the crits helped me refine that work.  I was also grateful that they didn't try to change me, I see so many programs where students go in as potters and leave as sculptors, or worse yet vessel makers.  I jest of course, but they did take me where I was and help me refine the work and attempt to make me understand more about why I make the work I do.  In Joe Bennion's film "a potters meal" he says something to the effect of: if I could put it into words then I wouldn't have to make pots.  In one respect this is completely another it's a cop-out.  One does of course need to have the ability to speak about their work.  I remember having to write a paper: 10 pages on what it means to be a Leach potter.  On the surface it seems so simple, but think about it.  What does it mean?  I recall spending far too much time staring at a blank screen being frustrated and screaming to myself "what the F**K does it mean?!!" Well, I struggled through that one, I prefer to make pots rather than to intellectualize them.  I'll save that for those to whom it is better suited. 

Here are a few shots of the show.  I feel pretty good about these pots.  The show was about 2/3 the new slipwork/ash glaze combo and the rest of it the usual brushwork fare. 

This bottle...I wish you could get up close and see all the crazy stuff that is happening on the surface.  One of my favorites.

Big ole' fat jug.

Dessert plates hung on the wall to mimic art.

Brick clay.  Yum.

That bowl right there...I like to keep my ego in check but yeah, that bowl is the shit.


Well, that's enough blither for now.  It's nice to have time to sit and write a post.  I have some free time over the next few weeks, free time-what the hell is that?!!  In April I'm going up to Minnesota for the ACC show in St. Paul, so that and filling a few orders are the only thing on my plate for the next 8 weeks.  Pretty nice. 


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Moving forward

I just fired off the wood kiln this last weekend.  It was a very good firing, I'm still digesting but so far I'm very pleased with it.  I've been working with this new slipware kinda thing with an ash glaze and it's been a struggle, but I think I've finally gotten the glaze just right.  I only had a couple of wasters in this kiln which is very good, considering that I've lost about 100+ pieces out of the last 2 firings.  I've been having a problem with my ash glazes blistering but this time around I slowed it way down from the time cone 7 was down.  With slips there is nothing to mature so there isn't really a need to slow it down or soak it.  Different story with the glazes.  I had a handful of pieces blister and I'm going to attempt to refire them, usually a waste with ash glazes but they're platters/bowls so I think it will be okay.  It was localized in the part of the kiln that got the hottest the fastest(the bottom backside) so I'll just have to watch that next time.

Here is the back stack:


The front stack.


The front wall of my kiln has been doing a lot of moving and needs a rebuild.  I'm seriously contemplating building a new kiln this next year if it's financially viable and if I can do that I'm not going to waste time and materials rebuilding part of my kiln.  I bought a couple sheets of cement board and clamped them tight to the front of the kiln, it seemed to do the trick.  I usually have so many gaps it makes the temperature and atmosphere erratic, smooth and steady this time.  Not very pretty though.  I'm a believe that kilns should be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.  They shouldn't look like crack whores.


Here is the stack post-firing.  Not a great photo but you can see some good color in there. Yee-haw!

Here are a few pieces from this firing.  I'm super excited about these. 

This is a piece from a previous firing, this will be at a show during NCECA called "Stoked in Texas".  A group show of Texan woodfiring potters curated by Gary Hatcher.  This is the piece they photographed for the catalog.

That's all I have for now...back to work!  Firing again next week.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pribilof Stare

It's about midnight here and I'm waiting a bit so I can turn up the electric kiln and go to bed.  The end to yet another 15 hour day. If you are a Deadliest Catch fan you might catch the title reference.  I was spoiled up at the school with the computer controlled kiln.  The studio is mostly finished and I've been working steady in there.  I've been pulling a lot of long days since Thanksgiving. My two biggest events of the year are coming up in about 5 weeks.  My MFA show goes up mid-February(can you believe that is already coming to an end?!!!) and the week after that I'm heading off to Baltimore for the ACC show.  After those I'm going to NCECA in March and then up to the ACC show in St. Paul in April.  This MAY be my last year for the Baltimore show, I've given this wholesale thing a shot but I've not been that happy with it.  The money has been good but I don't like the compromise.  I've burned a couple bridges this year with my biggest accounts so it may not be as profitable to me as it has been, but we will see.  I like to think that I'm sacrificing to hold up the flag for artistic integrity, or I could just be an uncompromising bastard.  I have to say though, it's easy to stand behind the flag of artistic integrity when you're pulling a teaching salary, I'll admit it.  If there is one thing that Elmer Taylor has impressed upon me (ad nauseum) it's that the University is a patron that affords me the opportunity to work as I please.  Well, anyways. Here's a few photos from the last couple weeks. 

Some leatherhard teapots.

Large vase, I liked the texture on the ridges.

 Slab dishes, lots of slip work!

Bad construction practices keep my kiln going. 

Large bowls, more slip work.  These are made with my batch of Ocmulgee brick clay.  Gnarly stuff. 

The pots are stacking up.

My goal was around 500 pots for the Dec-Feb cycle, I'm sitting somewhere around 300 at the moment.  The problem for me is working that far ahead.  Once I've produced enough work for a firing it's hard to keep working because the question for me is what do I make?  I'm not immediately firing and getting that feedback that I can take into the next cycle.  So instead of working non-stop and then firing back to back I'll try and get a firing out next in about a week and a half and that will give me 3 weeks to get a some last minute work done for the second firing.

Well, time to turn up the kiln and head to bed.