Saturday, August 29, 2009

A blank tile

Gay - This post is as blank as your test tile. To describe the program that Robin has outlined for me in my blog would take hours. In England there were many that had the good fortune of the tutoring of Bernard Leach. Robin was sent on a mission from England to Canada to influence my life and I guess he figures cause helped get me into this dirty mess he better keep me in it. There is comfort in numbers. He is doing this mentoring as an act of friendship and has noooooo interest in private tutoring. He does make a living at this mud slinging after all. My serious suggestion would be that you take the Masters Glaze Class at Metchosin next summer. Robin is not teaching it but you can bet your Nelly that he will have hand picked someone very capable to carry the flag. Always having my ear to the ground I heard names like John Britt and Pete Pinnell. I'll make it public that my vote is for John. I love Pete but he has a full time gig. John lives by the sword and the money always comes in handy for those working stiffs in the trenches of the clay pit.
Buy The Ceramic Spectrum for some serious reading/study and get ready to spend two weeks next summer in a glaze lab.
Long live the Alamo. Fond memories of San Antone!

The High Life

Life is good for those that know that life is good. Wayne Cardinalli and his wife Jeannie arranged a BB-Q of some old friends. Here is a pic of Jack and Lorraine Herman who in their mid eighties are still making pots and doing very well indeed. When I was first starting in clay Jack was known as Mr. Casserole. The best double handles I've ever seen. Backs to you are Wayne, Bruce Cochrane and Jeannie along with Jack and Lorraine. Here is Sheila, Judith Graham and Patti and Bruce Cochrane. We dined on steak and salmon grilled on cedar slabs in a kitchen full of Wayne's dinnerware. It's amazing how you just pick up like we did this last week. It has been too looooooooong ago, really.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A little help from my friends

This summer when I was at Metchosin I kept moonlighting in the glaze studio class run by Mr. Kodachrome Robin Hopper. Robin puts on one hellava show and had each student bring 6-800 test tiles. Do the math!!!! If you have 10 students you have 8000 glaze tests. The information was over the top incredible.
I happened to mention to Robin that I would like to develop some dry contrasting colourful glazes for Sheila. Well be careful what you ask for. I've been given homework. Robin is having me do 400 test tiles this month in a quest for colour. It's exciting and I feel like I'm doing something for Sheila to repay her for keeping the candle burning while I went off on a educational journey. The journey continues thanx to Robin. I have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of giants in this life of clay.
Here are some pics of thrown rings for test tiles. Each tile was dipped in Robin's general purpose white slip from The Ceramic Spectrum book/bible.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

thinking inside the box

Iris McDermett was here on behalf of the Hamilton Potters Permanent Collection Committee today to purchase one of Sheila's boxes for the collection.
Sheila's boxes seem to be getting some good attention starting with her being Bruce Cochrane's choice of compatriots for the Utilitarian Clay Conference at Arrowmount in Tennessee. She has more orders for boxes than she can make right now. I'm e-mailing back and forth with Mr. Kodachrome Himself- Sir Robin Hopper on how I can develop some killer dry ash surfaces in lavenders, yellows, blues and chili pepper red. Robin has me doing my homework.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Darting, Altering and Cleverness

It seems that everyone is darting, altering and being clever with clay. When I get into a funk of what to make I look at old Chinese work. A couple of British potters that do great work referenced by Oriental ceramics is my all time fav- Richard Batterham, followed closely by Jim Malone and then running neck in neck are Mike Dodd and Phil Rogers. I love this temmoku vase on an old copy of Oriental Glazes by Nigel Wood. I throw to thinly to do some aggressive fluting so I made some vases today with some paddling and a bit of surface fluting with a serrated tool.
I mostly make jugs which as soon as I pull a lip cuts the value of the piece by a third. It is now a kitchen pot and not a living room pot and therefore it is worth less. So today I made vases/bottles destined for the living room or at least the kitchen table with some flowers in them. They are not huge in scale at about 16"- a functional scale.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Almost caught in another woman's arms

For 8 years now Robbie Schmidt and Pat Swartzenberg have run a week long summer pottery school at Robbie and Larry's lovely home. It costs $140 for the week and Pat and Robbie serve up probably well over $600 worth of food and drink per person. Sheila and I try to always show up at the BB-Q.
This is a week of fun, laughter, raku and salt firings and no portfolio needed for admission. It is about two women that give back to the grass roots and have never forgotten the thrill of teaching the beginning pottery students.
For every potter that makes it to the big stage there are thousands of volunteers, teachers and folks that are the salt of the earth keeping this craft alive and well.
I happened to rub my hand on the chiminea and then wiped my mouth. Hell, I'd grow a moustache if Robbie would latch on to me like that again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Everythings coming up tulips

While teaching at Metchosin I had a tour of Robin Hopper and Judi Dyelle's pot collection, studio/showroom and quaint littttttttttle garden. I happened to mention that I loved one of Robin's parabolic bottles in the showroom. Well, voila it ended up coming home with me. Sheila buys all kind of plants and flowers for our garden and I can't remember their names so they are all tulips to me. This tulip brushwork of Robin's reminds me of my amateur gardener father's pride and joy clematis but in order not to embarrass myself it is a tulip vase- plain and simple!!!!
I placed Robin on the hearth above our wood stove with other friends. Our house is a collection of pots of people that I love and admire. When I sit down to read a book or drink a glass of wine I am in the company of friends from all over the world that share this love of clay with me. From right to left we have Bruce Cochrane's t-pot that has never held a cup of tea, John Chalke's Red Bridge, Ronnie the Rat Meyers Satantic Rabbit jar, Robin's tulip vase, Dan Murphy's asymmetrical jar and Ryogi Matsumiya'wood fired jar. Good company to sit in!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Outta Whack!

Alex the secret to our small studio is working in a cycle. When we are throwing it is a throwing studio. When glazing it is all glazing. When packing it becomes a room full of boxes, peanuts and bubble. All seems to work until the cycle gets out of whack. That is we have green ware, stuff that needs handles, glazing to do and an order to pack. It then breaks down and we are in a major funk.
Fortunately for us we never have inventory and can barely keep our own little showroom full to overflowing. If a pot lasts longer than 3 months in our showroom we think there is something wrong with it. I do have additional ware racks out side by the kiln to handle some pots drying and overflow bisque. The space does also limit the scale of my work. Bigger work is always on the floor and by the time it has been moved and mopped around a couple of dozen times I'm pretty well sick of it.
We also have a sauna house that I turned into half glaze materials lab and the other half houses the packing stuff.
I would love a bigger studio but after spending all my excess money over the years on pottery stuff if I have an extra thousand or two I want a hot tub to soak my bones in and share a glass of grape with my bride.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I've got the sickness

One of my first mentors and pottery teachers was Roger Kerslake. Roger is one of Canada's best kept secrets and makes really fine teapots, casseroles, jugs and utilitarian pots. Hey, he is also a fine painter and jazz musician to boot. Roger taught us to make pots with minimal tools- a sponge, a cutting wire, calipers, a rib, a throwing stick, a pin tool, a towel and we were good to go. Travel anywhere, do a workshop all in a carry on. Then I went to USU and was situated across from John Neely's studio which is a warehouse of tools. His motto" The potter that dies with the most tools wins!" My last workshop at Metchosin I took all of these tools none of which I could do without. If there are duplicates it's because I need the tool and can't find it. It's a sickness and I keep adding to it!
For all of you that would love a John Neely teapot his show opens online at AKAR on the 18Th. AKAR is probably the most visited website by potters in North America. It is how we keep track of each others work. I'm betting there will be red dots before I've had my morning coffee.
Can't wait to see your work, John!

We may not be BIG

but we are small. We are in the midst of our spring cleaning in August. This week we are shooting our 4Th ceramic educational DVD and the studio was looking pretty tired. We hauled everything out to hose it down and then painted the floor. It looks like a great little space with out the two potters and all their stuff in there. Because of city bylaws we are allowed only 500 square feet to be considered a "cottage industry". Anything more than that and you are an commercial industry and taxed out of this world. A local potter with 5000 square feet of studio/showroom dropped in to tell me she is paying $3000 a month in taxes. Guess what? Her business is for sale!
Sheila and I share 250 square feet of studio and have a showroom of 250 square feet. It is limiting but it is what we have and it has taught us to use the space efficiently.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where is my condo in the city?????

We have had soooooooooo much downfall of branches and limbs from trees I have cut down on the property that we needed to rent a chipper to get rid of it all. We worked 5 hours without a break chipping branches to clean up the mess around the kiln. We're getting ready for a firing and then have plans for a event in the fall called "Woodstoke" where the Sheridan students will camp out at our place, fire the kiln and we'll have a bonfire and food and drink after. We are also planning this as our fall exhibition so that the students can interact with our customers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Moss doesn't grow on a firing kiln

Over the past 3 years our life has been hectic with me back and forth to USU, Logan, Utah, China, Italy, and teaching all over North America. Our little shop is sadly missing some wood fired work from our train kiln. Here is a pic of the moss on the top of the bourry box. Sheila and I are planning a firing with in the next week or so and always seem to start with cups. Sheila is making some sweet little cups that fit deep into the well of the saucer. I am making some larger cups with stamped sprigs. I needed to put a small cap over the back of the cup since otherwise the handle seemed to crack the rim where it was attached. We are using porcelain and since I'm not a fan of it I wedged 25% of our stoneware body into my clay.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Even the vegetables

The vegetables have figured out there is more $$$$$$ in being conceptual than being functional. My tomatoes have taken to being sex pots instead of just good ole functioning delicious tomatoes. I'm going to severely circumcise this tomato before it goes on my BLT.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A cat with rats breath

Yesterday I went to visit my buddy Ronnie the Rat Meyers and wife Hester at their cottage on Lake Erie. We had a great fish fry of Lake Erie perch in a beer batter and chased with a finger or two of George Dickle bourbon. I told Ron his cats had rats breath as there seems to be an abundance of rats on Ron's pots. I once asked Ron who would buy a pot with a rat on it. He said there are more rats than people in New York City and New Yorkers buy every rat he makes.
Friends that were there besides Ron and Hester where Jacques Israelivitch and his wife Gabrielle ( Jacques was the former Concert Master of the Toronto Symphony and he and Gabrielle are pot lovers extraordinaire. Jacques is now a Prof at York. Also Marv Bjurlin Prof Emeritus from SUNY - Fredonia and his partner Tina. I seem to find myself hanging out with all these profs.