Monday, March 30, 2009

The Young Bulls

The young bulls pulled a big last shift for us. Perry Haas, Johnnie Larson, Danny Crump and the southern gentleman Ernie Gentry stepped up BIG time for this last stoking shift. We put 5 carts of split wood thru the side stokes in a 12 hour shift. Nothing would do but they insisted on the biggest stoke ever. There had been a hardwood Kon-tiki sculpture hanging around the wood lot several years and the young bulls put it in the fire box. It took about 2 hours for it to burn which gave us extra time to side stoke the rest of the kiln. This is the biggest kiln god I have ever seen.
John Neely watched the process and said to me - Too soon olde and too late smart!
I will treat them all to beer and a bump and once again tell them the story of the old bull and the young bull. It seems to take getting older to understand the story.

What a difference a day makes!

Early morning shift started with snow storm. The snow was wet like rain and made the first 6 hours really uncomfortable. Trevor, Crista and I were soaked to the bone. I had my oil cloth dry as a bone on so at least my torso was dry and warm. My feet however were a different story. In Utah if you don't like the weather just wait. By noon the snow stopped and the sun shone. Time for the young bulls to come on for the final shift.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Southern Gentleman

Here is a pic of my Saturday stoking partner Mississippi Ernie
Gentry stoking the kiln. Ernie has no investment in the kiln and yet he has signed up for a 6 hour shift of hard labour. The double wide is more than a two person kiln and my fellow students have signed up to help Denny,Heidi and me fire off a kiln of our work. Last night I drove Ernie home and thanked him for his help. He said I am invested in my fellow class mates. Enuff said, Ernie and thanx to all that are helping. I am indebted!!!
Here is some cottonwood that was split for the sidestokes. We also have 2 x6"s to sidestoke. I like putting thru the wood with bark on it in lieu of the nude wood.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Motherlode

It's 11:30 pm and a long day and I'm at the studio until 2am with a hobo campfire going outside the firebox to preheat some work that went in green.
We started this morning by unloading Denny's sculpture from the bisque kiln.
This is 600 lbs of clay plus a Koeler kiln shelf from the toilet factory. Three pieces like this are now loaded with the aid of rollers into the double wide. With them pushed to the side wall it left enuff room for a skinny Crista to weasel down beside and place my pieces. Denny and Christa spent probably 4 hours in the firebox feeding and places pieces. I got some prime real estate right near the firebox so I'm a happy camper. On six pieces there is not an inch of space between the top of the vessel and the arch. We have several tons of clay in the kiln and tons, and tons, and tons of wood to put thru this kiln this weekend. Wish us luck!!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch

Every morning before I leave the house I check the following just like a Catholic crossing himself. These are the things I just might need today-spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch. I forgot my spectacles on this clay making day. I have decided against my better judgement to go for the cheap clay- 13 Cents a pound versus 69 cents.
The clay I have chosen is a local high iron clay but it is full of roots, coal, rocks, twigs and other nasties so I blunged it and put it thru a window screen. I put the slip in the dough mixer and without my glasses on pushed the down button instead of the up. I had a hellava job cleaning the floor afterwards. Tomorrow I get to make with this clay. I'm very excited!!!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Spiral Jetty

When Robert Smithson created the Spiral Jetty back in the 70's he chose the location on Great Salt Lake because the water was red from the iron in the rocks. In fact the rocks had about the best reduction cool surface I've ever seen. The 14 mile road to the jetty is muddy and is recommended for 4 wheel vehicles. This is one reason it is the most famous piece of art that few have ever seen. Very tuff on your Gucci loafers and your Mercedes Benz.
The water has receded since then and if you think I'm walking on water covered ice you're wrong. It's water covered salt.
We were the only ones there in this very unworldly location. Looking at the pics to pick for the post to the blog gave me the chills. It is like I visited this magic place that cast a spell on me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pressure makes diamonds

I watched by buddy Trevor Dunn under a lot of pressure this past month getting ready for his Mfa exhibition. I wouldn't have shown this picture a couple of weeks ago but here is the gear piece blown to smithereens in the bisque kiln. It had to be reDunn by Mr. Never Dunn himself. Most would have had a nervous breakdown but this seemed to settle Trevor down into a steady groove which is not normal for him. He is a fits and starts kinda maker. The singular theme of the show 'Dialogs Distilled" was a celebration of Mexican Mezcal Cantaros and Reliquaries. It was a very successful show with a great turnout and the sales were brisk. I bought the piece on the left of the picture with the title and two pieces. I am glad to have this piece for my collection as over the past 3 years we have experienced a lot together including me putting up with his snoring in China for 4 months. Maybe it was me that was the snorer- hmmmmmm!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Puttin' the wood to er'

Well today we fired off the double wide. We put a lot of wood thru her. We get these bundles of hardwood strapping and for the side stoking we just feed thru the 12 foot lengths so we don't have to chainsaw them. This is a big kiln and it eats wood like no tomorrow.
It's been t-shirt weather the past few days so I have been unable to make my frozen sawdust logs for cooling so we set up a tank of water and I went to the wood lot and ripped the bark off a bunch of cottonwood logs to soak. I'm off shift and Murf is using the bark so we'll see how it goes.
The younger bucks pulled the grate bars from the fire box to try and straighten them for the next firing. If you leave them in the firebox and cram the box full of wood for the reduction cool the grates bend like the McDonald's arches and then you're lucky if you can even get them out. This is a hot and dangerous job and not for the weak at heart. They cooled the grates after straightening in a snow bank.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The USU of Old

Three years ago when I started here it was not uncommon for 3 wood kilns to be firing during the week. Since then there has been complaints of smoke by various surrounding office buildings and there has been smog alerts that have kept the kilns from firing any ole day of the week. We are advised to start Friday nights when the administration is off skiing, having champagne parties or whatever administrators do.
Because of budget cuts the faculty have been told that March break is a furlough which means they don't get paid and are not to report to work. Grad students doing research are allowed on campus and yahoo we have the USU of old. Both trains are firing simultaneously. We have hauled about 10 cords of wood for the double wide and here is a pic of the inside of the kiln with rollers for transporting ware into the kiln, Murf coming out the stoke hole since he loaded the front of the chamber with some of Heidi's pots she wanted blasted,and some bundles of side stoking wood that need some chainsawing.

Hoo- doo ya luv?

The following pictures of Hoo-doo's were sent to me from my wood firing student John Boyd that is currently taking his Masters in Theology at the University of Saskatchewan. I keep hoping he says a few words for me from time to time.
thanks John the pics are awesome and truly inspiring.
The early Europeans thought the Indian hoo-doo's were voo-doo and they were frightened by them. The native people thought of them as stone giants that protected their land from trespassers by throwing rocks at the trespassers during the night.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Going topless

People have always questioned why I spend time on the Clayart Discussion group and have done since our first computer probably 15 years ago. I get help, information, friendship when I'm home and away with all kinds of benefits I won't bore you with. Today a Clayart lurker Liisa Reid sent me these incredible pictures of the Hoodoos in southern Arizona. You bet they inspire me and yep I'm going to print these pictures out and hang them in my messy studio as objects to reference. I think since I have found a reference for the work I am doing it is getting stronger. The Hoodoo framed between the tree limbs is exactly a form I am making. That picture has inspired me to make my next vessels with enclosed tops. They don't need to have vase openings for tops. I need to complete the vessels with a rock like structure on top. I am no longer making kitchen pots.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Dark Side

Well one of the beauties of digital cameras is ya can come home and look at your work from a distance and better yet ya can have long distance friends looking at your work and give ya great ideas. The seams had been bothering me and a friend sent a photo shop picture of ledges to make the seams look like ledges and not seams. So I hurried up to the studio and spent the day making ledges.
Here are some rocks in Logan Canyon just outside the University. Also this is a pic taken of me by one of my Introductory Ceramic students of 2 years ago that went to the the dark side- photography! Cody Bell took this pic with his 4 x 5 camera. Yes, they still make film. Cody enlarged the picture to 30 x 40 for his Bfa grad show. I could see the nose and ear hair- scary it was. Sheila said I looked grumpy. Joe Davis said that is how a grad student is supposed to look 6 weeks before his show.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Half full, half empty

After a couple of decades in studio pottery I came to USU with the idea that my cup was only half full. I have found the crits with my fellow grad students to be really great. Sometimes it knocks you for a loop but if you go home and lay awake for a few hours and think of their advice it all makes for better work.
Joe Davis told me the foot on one of my 4' pieces was too wimpy. It didn't look wimpy when it was 18" high! In fact, it looked HUGE. So I made a pedestal type foot for it after the crit. I traced the foot on tar paper and tacked it into a thick slab of clay and then took it outside and power washed around the tar paper. The piece will then sit on it's new foot that has had water erosion.
I was also advised to make solid sections so I did. I made the middle section solid and carved out the insides. Trev says it looks very Voulkoess. Here are the two I just completed today and a line up pieces that go in the double wide kiln this weekend. Each piece seems to interest me more which I guess is the way it ought to be.
P.S Notice I am building the pieces right on the kiln shelves to make it easier for Superman and company to lift them into the kiln without breaking off pieces of the surface.