Wednesday, June 30, 2010


After a morning spent in the gardens, it was back to throwing lids, trimming the second half of yesterday's batch, and relaxing into the late afternoon with a stiff drink while I blocked in another go at a new "glowBugs" motif; (small g, big B, because they're cool like that... it's their backside that counts.)

This has been a fun tangent brought on by the work of an artist 3000 miles away, Dan Finnegan. Out of the blue he handed me this mug this spring and I've played with it like a kid with a strange cool bug. Amazed fascination.

I'm drawn to the notion that we can use carved and bisque stamps to create sprigs that can be used to build a surface rhythm on a form. This is a subtle visual feature that really adds to the form, but it's really something for the hands to enjoy.
I made a bunch of carved sprigg stamps this spring and now they are making good use as glowbugs...


Yesterdays lot is now up-sidedown and drying... not a skull or bone in the lot and I'm starting to find that a bit disturbing.

Oh well, we'll take care of that tomorrow.

What Do You Do With 4lbs?

Like most of us, I work in series. I wedge'em up and line'em up and throw as many as I can effectively shepherd through the process while managing the drying. Lots of fun in a 104 degree studio.
While it's this hot, lots of small work simply dries too fast even with a wet box to slow the drying down and the studio has gotten a bit full of biggins over the past 2 weeks.
So it's time to think in 4 pound lumps...
What do you do with 4 pounds?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seasonal Recycling

Every year, just before the beginning of summer, I spend a few weeks recycling a few 100 pounds of studio slop into clay for a spot of R&D.

Now while this process of recycling takes 5 or 6 weeks just to turn all of the buckets of slop into usable clay... clay that's a bit too touchy for small delicate work but weird and wonderful enough to use learning to play "big".
(Take special notice of the small "b". The studio kiln's new "Half Pint" status limits in-house fired wares to 18"... soooooo, 18 inches is this summers limit.) Luckily... when I dream, this is the size perfect for Crown Pots!

Ahhhh! A Glorious mess!

This time I needed to see how a few small ideas would scale-up while. I thought this might be a good time to get a handle on how long it takes to push a small series of (8) ten pound canisters through the studio. This included wedging everything, cutting a fresh new library of stencils, throwing, trimming, blocking in, and finishing the greenware.

Even with a plan and practice, it took a fair amount of time to shepherd the batch of greenware through to bone dry. This ended up averaging about 4 hours spent working on each piece.

It's not exactly a walk to Egypt...
but I can live with that... it is an investment of time.
And I like what I see...

Cone 10 Helmer Flashing Wash

30% Soda Ash
70% Helmers Kaolin (it's suggested to try substituting different earthenware clays, ball clays, or kaolin clays into the recipe.
try: Cedar Heights Redart, EPK, Newman Red, and Ravenscrag Slip

Apply very thinly by spraying, dipping, or brushing onto bomedry ware or onto bisque. Over application of this glaze will chalk-up the surface.

The shot above shows the effects of the flashing wash being hit directly by flame and soda...
The shot below is on a canister in a cooler section of the soda kiln. A nice varied and toasty matte surface.

This recipe is from page 58 of 2005's June/July/August Ceramics Monthly.

The Helmer flashing wash on a small canister that was sitting in a sweet spot in the 2009 kiln.

Cone 10 Iron MicroDot

This is a special note: A few customers have asked about the small dark markings found on the center of the bases of some of the work coming out of the studio over the past year.
That would be my filing system to keep my cone 6 clay out of cone 10 kilns.
I've been developing strategies that allow me play in both worlds of cone 6 electric and cone 10 atmospheric firings. To pull this off, I absolutely must keep the two bisque clay collections separated...


To keep from creating ceramic puddles in cone 10 kilns, something which is defiantly not an "Oops... sorry" any kiln owner ever wants to hear, all cone 10 work gets a iron micro dot on the base as it's made... no dot... no go. Work simply can't get into a cone 10 kiln without the dot.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Form and Surface

I was curious to hear what people would write and say regarding Form vs. Surface. This is has been an long ongoing internal discussion for me. I did notice that a good amount of people that suggested Form would probably take prominence were notably, not only potters, but potters that had a good headlock on their surfaces already. They had a pallet of exciting surfaces and visions to test against and grace any forms that they work to develop.

But the coffeehaus community that I polled seemed much more fixated on the surfaces... I have to say that I'm partial to taking into consideration this view that may, in the end, help keep me from having to find the space to store an abundance of unsold work.

I'm still up in the air on this, but think it's safe to say that it's a balance...
"Sure and deliberate forms are the best sign of a competent potter... but a well handled surface can make a good form look great, and a great form dance!"

I'm a sucker for both...
A fun week of doing a run of 10 pounders.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Eldia Barbee Playing Cripple Creek

Sorry, I just can't help myself.

What’s more important…

What's more important... surface or form?

Yesterday's Valuble Lesson

Don't throw shirtless if the videotape is rolling... really.

I won't share that video lesson, but here's the second take (with a shirt on this time). It's a silent 60 second stop motion this time.

The kids and I where collecting stills for a Blurb Book that I can set out at local openings. I'm finding that I have to cobble together a way to effectively communicate how I create my surfaces to gallery patrons, well at least if I want to sell more where I live.

Well.... Happy Father's Day everyone!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thanks to the Fantastic Mr. Young

Mug Shot...

I love surprizes, and I got a box of'em in the post just the other day. Works sent all the way from tropical Guam by the Fantastic Mr Robert Young! The kids immediately yoinked 2 of the three pieces and are thoroughly digging the box filler, a bunch of tourism info and brochures. Now Nico is bugging me as to why our studio isn't on a tropical island. (It's the raised eyebrows that really get me.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Obnoxious Habit

I've got to be a bit upfront here... this started last summer when I began taking the Suzuki program so I could help my daughter learn the violin. Well it turned out that this is the habit that I've I've been looking for to replace my old smoking habit... and it works great! I've replace one nervous habit with another. When I need a brake from a project, now I can stop and let my brain move sideways for a while.
So bare with me when I post these... anyone with kids taking violin, just grab what they've got, join in and fiddle around with me!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Feet...Dirty Feet

Happy feet are dirty feet... at least mine are after a long 5 days of ups and downs and make'n things move.... Woof!

Finally back in the studio throwing, although as of this weekend, my ol' electric kiln, (now know as "Half Pint"), officially "sucks".
That's a pretty drastic summation, but none the less accurate. I simply couldn't even drop cone 4 over this weekends firing.

And to celebrate needing to find a new firing alternitive, I threw a few large canisters!

L'homme n'est rien... l'oeuvie tout!

Worth Contemplating

This was sent to us by one of my wife's girlfriends last year... it seems more than a bit appropriate at the moment...

For a full article click here.

A man sat at a Metro station in Washington, D.C. and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried on to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the Metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.
The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour.
Do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it?
Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Needed This...

Hold your breath and dream big.


It kind of sucks when a perfectly good brainstorm doesn't pan out... kind of makes you feel like Wile E. Coyote. At least life is dramatic when you're over the cliffs edge.
The large canisters didn't work out as planned. Sintering to 016 didn't work out well, and the base glaze didn't "grab" the clay body well and I think that switching out the zarcopax with tin oxide changed the refractory properties of my whiteliner, (I've been suspecting this for a while, but now I'm gonna do a real test). Whatever.... If the glazes didn't crawl on the lids as bad as they did, I could learn to live with the results. Despite all that I learned this time through, this experiment is chalked up as a thumbs down.

On a side note... this summers hallmark sprigg is really starting to grow on me. It's helping me mark this summer's work where I'm trying to learn to play it "safe" with at least a 3/4ths of what's going into the kiln. I'm still realizing that my grasp on what's actually "safe" may not be what I'm actually hoping for... or more importantly what I need, but hey, I'm still falling forward.

Licks, Love, & Luck...
Wile E. Coyote

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tea Time

2 of the teapots that I was working on this winter finally made it through the glaze kiln... finally!

These are small one person pots, (5"h by 7"w from the bottom of the foot to the top of the knob and from the tip of the handle to the opposite belly) holding just over 22 fl oz.

These are rather traditional, although I place the handle quite a bit closer to the spout than normal. These are meant to be poured towards you and the design change has long proven it self to be much easier on my wrists.

The best part is that They Don't Drip! Yes!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Dipping the large canisters and yunomi in a base glaze (a thin amber glaze) so I can run them through the kiln tonight to sinter the glaze and burn off the wax. Tomorrow, I'll reglaze everything with my white liner glaze and refire to cone (whatever I can get to now I guess... doh!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wax and Bisque

The bit'o'blue over the design is blue food coloring in the wax resist. This lets me know where I've got coverage.

Wax on... This is going to be cool!

While that's drying... it's time for another load of bisque.

I've really got to load "Half Pint" up to keep things moving.

On the Up-Side...

Fired off "Half Pint" again to see if I could get it up to cone 6... Nope... didn't even drop cone 5, but all my glazed matured and look marvelous. The clay I'm using is a Laguna cone 5 clay and has a good ring to it, so I'm think'n it's probably vitrified. 34 pieces in and only 3 have a date with the "Hammer of Judgment".

The new chop for this summer's markets looks o.k. It's still a bit strange to see my work with a strange hallmark on it.

The BoneMarrow glaze combo is proving to be a new trusty favorite. We'll see how long that lasts though. I just mixed up a fresh batch of WhiteLiner glaze but had run out of Zarcopax I've been using to opacify my Clear glaze white. So I switched back to Tin Oxide as my opacifier. Glazes don't always play well together when I nonchalantly go mucking about.

Of Fish and Friends

It's been a long week, a bit bumpy, lots of high points, but sometimes sad enough to make grown men cry, (sometimes it's good to know that the grown men I'm around can still cry). The down point was Tuesday night when two 17 year old boys speared 13 koi out of our Community College's koi pond and brutally beat and hacked them to death. They were caught on video tape and quickly arrested the next day. When asked why... they offered just shrugs.
These were 40 year old fish that we all knew and loved very much. I heard people say that "They were just fish..." but they knew me and my daughter and would come the the ponds edge to meet us and suck on her fingers in greeting. 40 years is a long time to think even if it was just fish thoughts...


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bernard Leach

Sometimes it's nice to listen to our old cantankerous grandfather speak about what he knows all too well and about what we are still learning.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Last Day to Enter for Visions in Clay

Entries will be accepted online until 11:59 pm!

First prize is $1000!
Second is $600
3rd is $350

Lets see what you got!
The prospectus is online at