Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Foot in China

I’ve had a few a neat encounters over the past month via e-mail, (the web is notorious for that), but I’ve was pushed by the curiosity of one in particular. I received a note out of the blue from someone in China that wanted to purchase a few yunomi, but could only pay in large denominations of cash. The circumstances raised question marks and even if this was on the up’n’up I just didn’t feel comfortable telling someone to stick cash in an envelope hoping that it’ll make it to my mailbox. Likewise, I had no idea whether any package I sent would make it to its destination. No clue.

But, at the same time, the writer seemed sincere and I could think of a few reasons to try and send something to him, least of which is to simply have a piece I made actually in China. The solution was a gift… he picked a piece and I boxed it up and sent it out. If it didn’t make it, I’d just be out a piece and the cost of shipping, no sweat… if it got there, I potentially have a new friend!

It made it! My new friends name is Shangguan. He’s a scholar and artist and has sent back some old Chinese characters for FetishGhost.

The word "Fetish" is made up from 3 characters and Ghost is one. But there are many characters that can be used for ghost. My favorite for ghost is the character he uses on his personal seal to sign his art work. It's the red character at the top of the page. It’s a rare character unknown to but a few scholars. Beautiful!

Checkout his Tea Website at lots of info...

Thank You Shangguan!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekend Bisque

It's finally the weekend and the last load of greenware thrown earlier in the week is dry enough to throw into the bisque kiln. It's a sprint the the finish. It's a spot less than 2 weeks till Witchapalooza and I'm looking at running 3 glaze loads through the kiln. I really hope Old Bessy doesn't decide to kick out on me now...
Here's a look at some of the ware waiting to get cook'n

A few small 2 pound, carved and stenciled canisters.I'm hoping that they come out of the kiln looking similar to their big brother that went through last month.

Another load of paper stenciled Bone Orchard yumoni and chawans just in time for fall. Unfortunately, this will probably be the be the last load of spooky ware for the year... Bumm'n.

A pleasant surprise... I found a few of the "Time Flies" stencils left over from last year. They were well hidden in a pile of paper that was headed twords the recycle bin. I guess cleaning the studio has it's rewards after all.

Now the fun of mixing and sifting glazes! Yea!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blah, blah, blah...

Alright, it’s time to play devil’s advocate and then bury this post as fast as I can…

I’ve been watching the Arts here in Stockton, CA. go through a very big change. Admittedly… a good amount of changes have been way overdue, but almost all of these changes are unthought-out knee jerk solutions to our local and state budget crises. Without elaborating on the full scope of the dilemmas that I've been watching, I want to wade in on just one negative topic that I see that can really change the dynamics of our arts community in a positive direction.

Our local community college has decided to restrict the amount of time that non-continuation students (i.e. seniors) can spend taking up seats in common studio classes. This seems innocent enough, but a whole lot of seats are taken up with a few handfuls of adults “students” that have been taking classes for 10 years or more. In our local community college system, adult students can make their way to the front of the line for class registration and (get this) they pay $0 to use the facility. This pushes out the next generation of students that need the studio resources’ to begin learning.

Ok… before this turns into a long monolog, I want to go on record to suggest that everyone that has the energy to bitch about this change funnels their energy into creating a new extended learning class format or work to develop a new community arts center. Either of these proposals can start small and grow as needed, but as I see it… If you feel free enough to bitch about change, you can help steer change in a positive direction… There are many community arts models that work very, very well. But first, many of our local arts elders need to stop whining and dodging their responsibilities and become the leaders that the community needs. Unfortunately… I’m fearing that everyone that chooses to complain is merely hoping that someone else will sacrifice their time and effort to serve their interests. Well…


You need to help create opportunities for yourselves outside of the system to appreciate the opportunities that are at your fingertips. If you don’t think it’s worth your time or treasure… You have no class… I hope the next generation can rise to the challenge.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Been kick'n the studio into a higher gear, and trying to stick to a production plan for a few weeks. This of course is dare near impossible but I'm trying to make a go of it. The studio is making a family outing out of attending a new themed event at Cal Expo in Sacramento, California October 10th - 11th.

It's a "come as your favorite spook" event so even without dressing up I'm sure the family will fit right in. The studio is a great fit for this event so we'll be setting up a booth to haunt, Now I just need to make sure I have enough ware to make to best of the opportunity. Win or lose, this is promises to be a fun event for our whole family.


Equinox... I look forward to this day like most kids wait for Christmas. I enjoy living in a giddy haze of delicious anticipation of the beauty of the next month and a half, it seems to be some sort of Pavlovian reward for sweating out the summer heat.

Meanwhile... Here's one of the 6 large Halloween Harvest Canisters that have been working their way through the studio this weekend. I'm hoping that they'll be dry enough to bisque next week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tool Porno

Just a quick spot of tool porno from Adam Field’s demos at UOP on Tuesday. I just can’t pass-up posting a few of these tools that he shared with us. A few of these tools I had never seen before.

The kick wheel is a traditional Korean wheel he brought back. The set-up is a workshop mock-up of a studio throwing pit. Normallt the wheel head is at floor level and the pit walls are close enough to rest your feet on. The wooden wheelhead/drum was inset with bearings that simply slid over the steel shaft shown above. Just a single kick makes it fly...


Adam’s paddles and anvils have been carved from green wood and faced with leather. Adam said that these tools were kept perpetually wet and it showed… they looked like driftwood.

This is the handle of the anvil he uses for paddling the walls. Cool huh?
If you want to see Adam in action, Click here to check out his videos on U-Tube.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Adam Field WorkShop

Yesterday was one of those rare and wonderful afternoons spent simply watching a talented potter demonstrate rare and esoteric techniques that he brought back from travels far far away.

Earth shaking personal growth just doesn’t seem to happen as often as I would like any more, (it’d be a distraction in any case). It’s through the kindness of the local University of the Pacific ceramics professor, Trent Burkett that I got to enjoy this wonderful treat.
Thanks Trent!

I’m a huge fan of “Going Really Big”. It’s really a whole different world that the macho potters and large scale ceramic artists live in… Adam Field is one of these potters. He’s a ceramic artist from Durango Colorado making a month long workshop tour. This leg of the tour has brought him through Northern California in conjunction with his exhibition running September 12th through October 9th at TRAX Gallery in Berkley with established ceramic artists Sandy Simon and Robert Brady. You can get a peek at his line-up of works by clicking here. It’s a selection of beautiful high fired canisters. They are flowing, confident forms… and his surface designs… I can only guess at how he creates these, (I love it when I can’t figure out the details…)

What really got me going was that he apprenticed with the 6th generation master Onggi potter Kim Il-Mahn in Yeojoo, South Korea for ten months in 2008, learning the techniques of making huge traditional fermentation jars. Working in this scale, things get very interesting, and any opportunity to gain insight into any not so obvious common problems are golden moments. Carrying just a single piece through the entire process is a huge expenditure of time, materials, and attention. Adam was very open about sharing the details of the tradition he was exposed to and he expertly demonstrated the processes used to create these large coil built containers. It’s a process that, once mastered, allows a potter to create a 30+ inch tall jar relatively quickly, in about 2 hours. The downside is it takes intensive study and a whole lot of focused work to get a good grip on the processes involved. Of course, this is massive understatement…

I highly recommend checking out his website at while you are there, check out more of his videos. We’ve all seen pictures showing us the step by steps of this process, but it really doesn’t compare to actually watching the artist feed a coil into a new wall.
I’ve really have to share a few pictures from workshop…

Thanks Adam!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In a Pinch

We are 3 weeks into our new lives as a home schooling family and I think we are all coming to terms with the new routine. The kids have adapted very well so far and seem to be flourishing already with the extra attention.

The big plus is that having the kids around so much more means that they are quickly becoming more and more involved in the operations of the studio. This week we spent some time learning how to go about making pinch pots.

I have to fess up… I never really got around to trying my hand at these so it was a lot of fun to give it a go with the kids. The best part was doing the surface designs. The walls were thick enough that we could safely carve into the surfaces with tools and then fill up the troughs with a cobalt slip. After they dried up a bit we scraped the surfaces down and added a coil foot. As always, I enjoyed watching their approach to design. Their designs were so free and fun, it never fails to kick up an internal dialog reevaluating how I structure my work.

I can see now that keeping these two around are going to really shake things up for me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Another Moo Moment

Another batch of MooCards arrived few days ago. This batch is for promoting my FetishGhost and BoneOrchard collections at Bay Area events this fall. They have all already passed my coffee shop test with flying colors and are ready for special service.

(For a quick flashback, the coffee shop test is throwing whatever visual aid I’m currently working on onto the floor of the neighborhood coffee shop and see if people will stop and pick it up. If they pick it up and throw it away, it’s not a winner. If they pick it up and put it in their pocket, it’s a winner.)

I don’t usually promote things like this but, MAN, I really love these things! They feel really neat and look as cool as you make them. The first batch of moo cards has been moooooving really well and are doing precisely the job that I needed them to do. These little buggers are proving to be a perfect support media for sparking curiosity in my local markets this fall… and that’s great because my local market is one tough nut.

The downside is that they are pretty darn expensive though… these work out to be around $.25 each. So, I’m not running around pressing these into everyone’s hands indiscriminately… these cards are generally held in reserve for interested potential clients that I get to meet and talk with directly.

A really cool side note is that I’ve been hearing back from people that I’ve handed cards out to mentioning what great bookmarks they are making! Any support media that doesn’t instantly find the trashcan is a Score!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wowee Zowee!

I was just getting a post ready a few minutes ago when I realized that I nearly passed by a big milestone this morning without even noticing.

I've been poking at these keys for a year as of today!

Wowee Zowee!
Looking back, it's hard for me to believe that this just started on a whim. It was one more toy on the playground and I didn't "get it", I couldn't see why people would write diaries for everyone to rummage through. Part of this viewpoint stems from my lack of words, (or at least the words worth writing)... But I could definitely see the possibilities of using this media to share what's going on in the studio. After I got going, it turned out to be easy enough...somethings always going on in the studio. Hell, it even turns out that this is fun! It gives me something constructive to do at 3 am (it's only called insomnia if you don't have anything to do).
The really cool part was when I found out a few dozen ceramic artists were doing the same! Now it seems like there are well over a hundred mud monkeys pounding the keyboards! I love grabbing my morning coffee and pouring through everyone's sites,
I feel part of a much, much larger clay community and it feels GREAT!

So.... thank you everyone for popping by and humoring me this year. I'm looking forward to seeing what another year will bring,

Licks, Love, & Luck...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Clay Ruler

I have no idea where this idea came from… I’m assuming it was from an old copy of Ceramics Monthly, but I’ve been hard pressed to find it in my stack of old well thumbed copies.
It’s a very simple solution to a problem that pops up just often enough to be annoying.

This is the problem of the broken or misfit lid.

Like I said… annoying.
I generally limit my lids to just a few sizes to minimize the confusion but, for whatever reason, sometimes things don’t work out as planned.

A quick note for non-mudheads… Clay shrinks as it dries. With some types of clay it shrinks just a bit, (it’s still a fairly noticeable bit though), sometimes it’s quite a bit… and when work is fired in the kiln, it shrinks a lot! So pulling a measurement straight off a dried or fired piece of work can be problematic.

My fall back plan is the “Clay Ruler”.

This is a clay slab impressed with a ruler with its measurement markings raised. As the slab dries to bone-dry, it shrinks.

Now when I take a measurement with my calipers on the opening of a bone-dry green ware canister, I can get the measurement directly from my clay ruler.
Both are already shrunk so there is no guesswork math, I just note the measurement on my shrunken ruler and readjust my calipers using a regular ruler...
and throw a new lid.
(If you want to see my lid throwing process, click here...)

No problem… I throw a set of 3, bracketing a hair up and a hair down just to hedge my bets. Usually one of the three works out to be a perfect fit.
Now like I said, each type of clay body shrinks different amounts, so I’ve got different clay rulers for each clay body I use. I also have clay rulers that have been fired as well. A set of bisque fired rulers, and a set of rulers fired to cone 6 and cone 10.
As the old saying goes… He who dies with the most tools wins.

One Modem, Lightly Toasted

Well, I’m finally getting back to posting…

A modem burnout 2 weeks ago really threw us for a stumble. It was easy enough to simply get a new one, but for some reason, the new one made for lots of new problems that took a huge amount of time and effort for our resident IT tech to sort through.

(Thank You Honey!!!!)

Tech dependant incomes have their lurking dark sides too!

The other big change for the house was a switch to homeschooling for our kids. I said it was a big change, but really it is a huge change! It but it’s proving to be a lot more fun than I thought it would be and the kids are making the adjustment amazingly well.

Here’s a few short recapping the past 2 weeks…

Attended the Art Auction opening for KVIE with Bruce Cadman. Great food and fun and by the end of the weekend my piece sold!

Had the lovely occasion to participate in a full kiln load of miscasts. This one is called a "cold shot". It's where the metal chills before filling the mould. The the others where "blowouts". This is where a crack in the mould opens up and the molten silver vents from the mold. This is also known as "God Dammit! I've just melted my vacuum hose lines!"

Cutting lots of stencils for this months ceramics run.

Trying something new.... enamels and lusters... oh my!

Started wadeing into getting the 120 bowls needed for the annual TideWater Art Gallery's Supper in Febuary.
65 down, 55 to go...

Working in collaboration with Bruce Cadman on a project heading back up to Sacramento... when is this due?