Monday, September 29, 2008

Gone to the woods

This blue floatplane took off and landed every half hour, ALL day Saturday. Talk about LOUD. Our motel was right in the flightpath/waterpath.

Motel Long Lake, in the early morning pre-dawn light

The motel's beachfront at 6am in the fog, with the glow from the neon sign

We spent last weekend in the Adirondacks. Having spent precious little time in the Great North Woods, I figured it was closed enough to get-away to, but far enough away to constitute a vacation. Here are a few pictures from the trip.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Frank Ozereko

Face Bowls, Frank Ozereko, 2008

Face Bowl detail, Frank Ozereko, 2008

Last Spring, Nancy and I were preparing for the Craft Boston show. Rather than show up and feel our way around blind, we figured we could call a few of the potters who regularly do the show. First on our list was Francine Ozereko. Mind you, I hadn't talked to Francine in well over 10 years. It was as though it were yesterday. We talked for nearly an hour. When I finally hung up, I felt like the show would be cake, everything would work out just fine.

On the final day of Craft Boston we had a visit from Frank who was there to help Fran tear down her booth. In our all too brief chat, the subject of teaching was brought up again. It was like being back in the studio with him for Independent Study again. His tone changed. He started thinking about how to toss that bone out there so I would look at all the different paths before me. Nancy calls this flexible intelligence. Thinking around anything. I pride myself on being a flexible thinker... Frank is outta this world.

Trying to talk about Frank Ozereko has always been somewhat difficult for me.

He isn't a flash-in-the-pan, potter-of-the-month coverboy, nor is his work dull or obscure. He actively shows his work and consistently makes interesting clay work.

So why is it difficult for me to discuss Frank's impact?

Probably because of Frank's raw intelligence. That would be my first guess. He has a phenominal scope of interest and the depth of his reading, research and study is just amazing. Having Frank as my undergrad prof in clay really changed how I looked at the field of art.

Everytime we would meet for our Independent Study class at UMASS, I would have some pot I would want to show off or some new glaze. He would say just the right thing to let me know I was on the right track, then he would toss a bone my way... something to lead me down a slightly different path. Always opening up my options. I dont think I realized until probably 15 years after leaving UMASS how instrumental this time was for me. I am STILL going back and revisiting some of those crits.

When he asked if we could trade pots I was more than surprised. Honored, but something more. He chose a beautiful oval vase. One of these forms that I love making. I would like to think it shows. About a week later, these two awesome face bowls showed up in the afternoon mail delivery. They spoke volumes. In someways they embody everything I love about clay and yet never make in my own work. They have gesture, humor, seriousness, color, texture. Everyone I know who has seen these in our collection, IMMEDIATELY wants to hold them and turn them around. Potters and non-potters alike are curious about who made them, what other work do they make...

I guess the best thing I can say is Thank You Frank. You're awesome. These bowls are the coolest ! Congrats on getting into Akar Gallery!! Now if only we could get a website together for a nice retrospective. That would be fun.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Teabowl by Tom White, ca 1993, Northfield, MA

When I met Tom White, I was finishing up my last year at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. I had been apprenticing to Michael Cohen, when it was suggested that I spend some time with Tom as his production work at that time revolved around copper reds. My undergraduate thesis was on the chemistry and physics behind copper reds.

About two weeks before Tom's big holiday sale he fell out of a deer stand and suffered some pretty major shoulder and rib injuries. As compensation for me lending a hand getting the studio cleaned up and prepared for the sale, he sent me home with two of the nicest teabowls I have ever held!

Every potter seems to have some "side" life and Tom's is hunting. Some folks have freezers full of Hungry Man Dinners, others have ice cream. Tom's freezer was FILLED with deer, elk, moose and all sorts of other wild game. My holiday bonus was a bag full of venison that made my last Christmas in Amherst a very merry one indeed. To this day I have yet to have a better venison steak!

This post was really supposed to be about feet. I hate getting side tracked but I think it is nigh on impossible to talk about a pot without gleaning something about the potter... so this preface is really more about the insight into the pot... not the potter. Really. Just wait.

Feet. Pots without feet look awkward. Not necessarily wrong, but it's noticeable. Tom's teabowls had the tallest feet I had ever seen at the time. I love how these feet feel in the hand. They BEG to be held. Tom's ongoing study of Asian pottery has informed his style, rather than overwhelming it. I don't think anyone would mistake his teabowl for one from Mashiko, and yet the considerations are similar, albeit different due to distinctions in different cultures. By and large, most Americans wont be whisking green tea in one of Tom White's teabowls. Whiskey, coffee, herbal tea, chai and god knows what else is fair game!

Looking at this teabowl after having used it for the past decade and a half (which admittedly saw this beautiful teabowl boxed up for the past 6 years), I am still taken in by many of the same things that first grabbed me. I love the swirling of the clay. I enjoy the splashing of the multiple glazes Tom used to use. Seeing the small stamping of his chop and other stamps really speaks volumes of how I came to begin my decorating on our current body of work. It all comes 'round I guess.

Details: When I first looked at this teabowl critically (during grad school in Utah) I couldn't believe that someone with Tom's experience would still be dealing with "plucking" on the footring. Plucking is where chunks of your foot bond with the kiln shelf. Kiln wash helps, when the wash is still fresh, but after 10-15 firings, with volatiles like gerstley borate and wood ash, that refractory kiln wash becomes more like a glaze. Then porcelain feet tend to fuse to it. Little did I know then that eventually we ALL deal with plucking and it is a bugger! Fast forward 15 years and we went through a spate of plucking that nearly drove Nancy and I to insanity. Now we add powdered alumina hydrate to our wax. So far, this has solved the problem.

I'd like to address other "foot" issues, but I'll save it for another post. I would love to hear from other potters about their inspirations and how they've lived with those pots, and how they've influenced their work.


Oval Pitcher in Forest Green, made September 2008

I love pitchers.

Not just making them.

But pitchers. I LOVE everything about them.

Some potters go nutty over teapots, teabowls or whatever.

I love pitchers.

I love the way handles are so crucial to the balance of the form as well as its function.

I adore seeing spouts offering up the contents of the interior.

Pitchers can be so many things, but I think most (if not all) articulate in some manner,
the human-ness of pottery. The lips of the spout, the belly of the jug, the foot, the broad shoulders supporting the sprouting handle. It's all there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


We are firing almost non-stop this week. I spent the weekend glazing. I would guess that there are probably still 2 more kiln loads to fire, and that is having fired off 2 this week already. LOTS of pots. I am hoping to get together with Mary Ellen Salmon to take pictures of pots sometime next week. My greatest frustration yesterday, while unloading an awesome kiln, was that most of the pots weren't for us. They were orders from galleries, from patrons, and orders from our website.
Tomorrow I will be unloading a blue and tangerine firing.... LOTS of footed mugs and most of them spoken for! Wow!

Monday, September 15, 2008

More pics from last week

Aurora got hurt pretty bad last week. Took a spill on the playground and left a chunk of her shin behind. 14 stitches later she's feeling a little better. She's still recovering and has a few more days of being on crutches. As a result, we spent Thur and Fri home recuperating, and watching way too many movies! Not nearly enough studio time for sure.


Ferro panting from the heat

Ferro sleeping in the heat

Saturday and Sunday were too hot. We have had such a nice early fall that when the humidity started ramping up again on Friday, none of us thought it would be nasty through the weekend. It was yucky. The cats spent the day looking for places where they could get a breeze on their bellies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Inspiration.... where does it come from and where does it go?

When I first started grad school at Utah State back in 1995, I was trying to learn how to throw more loosely. After the first semester it was suggested that simply throwing faster would loosen up my style. So the challenge was to make 1 minute mugs. We're talking centering, pulling, throwing, and cutting the mug off and tossing it onto a board in a minute. Well... after an hour I had about 50. Another hour I maxed out at just over 100 total. Here's an example of one.

The thing I liked about these mugs is how wonky they are. I made NONE of my usual efforts to make a nice clean lip, or to smooth out the foot. Just throw it, toss it aside and go back 3 hours later and jam a handle on it. This is NOT the way I was taught to make pots. But it freed up my eye to be able to see more of the wonkiness in all of my pots. Nancy and Aurora call it woobie (wooby?) Sort of a bastardized version of wabi-sabi. Try explaining wabi-sabi to a classroom full of first graders. Say woobie instead and they all get it. Somedays that makes more sense to me too!

So, looking back more than a decade, this mug was sort of the forerunner of our current line of mugs. It has the loseness, the flowing lines, the casualness... but it also is more raw than most of what we make now. Sure is fun going back and seeing how that circle of making just keeps on coming back around!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gun for Hire

Marc Freedman 2008©

Marc Freedman 2008©

Marc Freedman 2008©

Yep. I shoot stuff for other folks.

Sort of makes me a mercenary. A gun for hire.

(no more watching westerns late at night!)

The beautiful work above is from Marc Freedman. Watch for Marc at some of the BIG shows coming in the years to come.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pictures from the weekend

Made a LOT of pots this weekend. Everything from ice cream bowls to soup mugs to plates and oval trays. Nancy and I just cranked out as much clay as we could. I spent most of today playing catchup. Trying to get everything trimmed, finished and cleaned up. Here are a few of the pics from our Sunday afternoon photo excursion. We have had virtually no customers here since Labor Day. Everyone around (who lives off tourism) says that this is just the way things go. No one buys anything except school related stuff at the outset of Sept, then things get rolling by the end of the month as the leaf-peepers start to emerge. We shall see!

Tag - I'm it

It would seem that my blog has been "tagged". Joy Tanner has a very cool blog which I poke my head in on a few times a week. Last week she tagged our blog and gave a list of the various things one has to do now that one is "it". So here goes:

Here are the rules of the dreaded "tagging" thing:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog. (this is what you're now reading.)
3. Write 6 random things about yourself (see below).
4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them. (This is only a game.)
5. Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six random things about me:

1. I never intended to be a potter. I originally went to college to study film and photography. Ended up in chemistry and physics. Go figure. Found out that understanding WHY things melt and change color was probably one of the coolest things in the world!

2. As much as I love music, I can't play one lick of anything on any instrument. Hell, I cant even play spoons.

3. I have an enormous music collection. Mostly obscure singer-songwriter, rock-n-roll, blue, folk and tons of celtic stuff. Lately most of our collecting has been punk and celtic punk.

4. I have two cats. You'll hardly ever see more than one on our blog though. The orange-ish tiger shows up in our photographs now and then, but our black cat is a bugger to shoot. I havent had one good photograph of her turn out well from over 100 that I have taken. Black cats are one of the toughest things in the world to photograph.

5. I miss teaching. A lot. For some potters, making pots satisfies the reason d'etre of pottery. I need the students. More than just an audience, I need the collective mind of a focused class to help wind me up and get my motor going. Extroverts need to be around people to recharge their batteries (or so I have been told).... and teaching was the best way I have ever found to do this for me.

6. I would give just about anything to be living out in the pacific northwest again. I miss the weather, the light, the crops (especially the cherries!), and the people. I spent summers in Port Townsend during college. After a hiatus of about 5 years I went back and it was even better than when I had left. Unfortunately, the value of our house in upstate NY wouldn't buy us a rundown singlewide trailer in the Olympic Peninsula. Depressing really.

Tagged bloggers:

Matt Grimmett in the UK
Dan Finnegan in VA
Hollis Engley at Hatchville Pottery in Cape Cod MA
Ron Philbeck in Shelby NC
Alan Argyll from the UK
Hannah McAndrew from Scotland
Paul Jessop from Barrington

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Open all night ?

No, we're not open all night, nor have we added neon to our sign. Just playing around with light painting. I Set the Nikon to BULB and left the lens open via the shutter release cable, then I drew on the sign with an LED flashlight. Exposure was about 1-2min. Not terribly long.

I had a photographer come up to us during our last show... we've met at many of the various Rochester shows over the past 5 or 6 years. We got to talking about the frustration of doing product photography. Everything being shot for shows, galleries, etc, all looks the same. Same backdrop, same shadow, same old.... his suggestion was to consider light painting as a way of getting a seamless backdrop with the additional opportunity to put light EXACTLY where you want it. Seems like a pretty wild idea. I would never have considered shooting pottery in the dead of night, outside,...with a flashlight. But it is certainly worth playing with. Who knows what will come of this? Anyone out there played with this idea already? Your results?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor-ing away on Labor Day Weekend

The studio and gallery were noticeably barren this weekend, so we took full advantage of this and spent quite a bit of time out of doors, playing with our cameras in the bright sunshine. Ironically, some of our best photos happened as that gorgeous sun was almost gone.

Issac Button - WOW

If you haven't seen this footage of Issac Button, all I can say is get a rag ready to wipe away the drool. This man was wicked fast, wicked good and moved more mud in a day than most potters move in months! It actually begs the question: Is there anyone out there NOW, who can throw like this? Who can take 40 or 50# of mud and turn it into jugs, one right after the other, all day long? Do you know of anyone consuming a TON of clay a day???

Such a treat to have this video available on YouTube. I wish we had access to the entire video.
I have to thank Michael Kline and his blog for sending me over to Matt Grimmitt (from the UK) and his blog. From there I found Douglas Fitch's blog and there.... THIS video. I know, that was kind of a round'about way to get there... but Thank you!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Taking Pics Wherever I Can

Today was one of those days where the light was great, weather was perfect, everyone was healthy and we had virtually no customers. Makes it wicked hard to stay in the studio. So we took the evening off and went out and played a little. Aurora has been working on her skating form via her rollerblades. Making great strides !! We also played around a little with some ND filters on the new lens this weekend. Fun stuff.

More pics of pots coming this week (*I hope*)