Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Inspiration of a Kid

The reticulated glazes have me playing with form like a kid again. I am using my plates to cut up and reassemble with my thick gnar gnar slip. The slip forms a barrier for the pouring of some rather bright lichen glazes I have in mind. The bright yellow worked well as did the vivid blue. I bought some granular rutile that is almost like course 35 mesh kyanite to nail that Gap Kaki pants colour that we like so much.
Ava the Queen of England was with us for the weekend and while Sheila had her painting her bisque mud pies with room temperature glaze Tony was cutting and playing too. Nothing like a kid to bring the kid out in you.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm going nuts!

Well, we sold 5 plates with the reticulated glaze surface this weekend so I'm on a non-functional kick. I'm making some stands for a series of lichen bowls (well not really bowls) that will be mounted on some stands of clay that I make by wedging walnut shells into the clay. The walnut shells are used as a course product for cleaning as in sand blasting. Walnuts are known as the vegetable arsenic so I think anyone that wants to try this should have a well ventilated kiln. Ours is outside so the burning off of the shells will blow off in the wind. I think I can hear my neighbour coughing. When the organic matter burns out of the clay and they are glazed with the lichen glaze they could be interesting.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Grass is Always Browner

If you Google Reticulated Glazes a small explanation of Lichens, Lizards and Leopards Oh My! Reticulated Glaze Recipes for Wild Ceramic Surfaces by Robin " Grass" Hopper will be first on the list in the Ceramic Arts Daily blog. There is only one colour worse than brown and that is shiny brown. Although my favourite time to look at pots is when they are wet I sure don't want to see shiny brown. There is a mistake in the Ceramic Arts Daily article. Just as I have done here they suggest a black slip under the reticulated glaze so that when it peels back you see black and not the boring colour of my clay body.
The slip they give is from Grass's book The Ceramic Spectrum from Page 210. They have forgotten to list the oxide colourants to turn this muddy slip into a black one.
Here is the slip from the book.
Black Slip
35 Ball Clay
45 Barnard Clay
10 Feldspar
10 Silica
Add: 2% each of cobalt, copper, iron and manganese.
The article in Ceramic Arts Daily is meant to be a teaser and it is! If you want the full monty buy the book.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lichens, Lizards and Leopards

I can't lay claim to the catchy title. It came directly from my buddy Grass Hoppers invaluable book "{The Ceramic Spectrum". We have been playing around with a reticulated glaze by eyeballing colourants to throw in it and glaze some wall plates. We had some nice black and a sexy yellow. We hung them on the wall and I thought I'd take a pic tomorrow. They sold the same day we took them out of the kiln. So, I'm busy as a beaver throwing more plates so that we can be Capital A artists and make something that is absolutely not functional. Well, they will have a visual function but no serving the Thanksgiving mash potatoes on them.
Summer is ending and the fall shopping season seems to be under way. Sold some Christmas presents today!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Thank God It's Not Friday! Most wage slaves have TGIF Thank God It's Friday celebrations so they can stop doing what they don't particularly like doing and have a weekend. Not me, I dread Friday's. Friday mornings we do housework. We clean the house. This past Friday I had to take all the pots and wash them in soap and water. The pots in the kitchen took me 2 1/2 hours and the pots in the living room another hour. One of the advantages was that I got to re-examine some of the pots and explore what I like about them. I found these three little cups pushed to the back of the shelf and I can't for the life of me figure why???? Every pot in our home has a story and these three are a memory of my time at USU. A sweet little cup by Danny Crump- the little bugger makes a damn sweet handle, an off the hump bourbon bowl by Dan Murphy that I quite like for a short nip and a nasty little tumbler by my land lady Heidi Kreitchet. I think these three pots give an insight into the aesthetic that I particularly enjoyed at USU.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Where the real money is!

We've discovered after a couple of decades in pottery that the real money is in pumpkins. Sheila planted pumpkins in our back yard for our Grand kid Ava the Queen of England to enter into the fall fair. We started the season by feeding them fish meal to get them bigger. We may have to go for the Martha Stewart perfect pair award since our neighbour Dr. Pumpkin has a regular field pumpkin weighing in at over 60 lbs now. If they grow too fast they could burst so maybe, just maybe Ava will sneak in under the wire.
Five years ago we generously let Dr. Pumpkin sell his pumpkins on the front porch of our pottery. We thought it would be an interesting experience for our customers. It started out on the porch went to a small wagon and grew to a stand and a large farm tractor wagon covered in squash, pumpkins and firewood. We would we waiting on pumpkin customers during lunch, supper, after supper, during pottery hours and our pottery showroom disappeared. We were the pumpkin location. Last year when I was away in Utah Sheila told Dr.Pumpkin we needed our pottery back. Oh did I tell ya that 5 years on our property and our free labour netted us a bottle of wine. Sometimes ya just have to look after yourselves.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

12 Step Program to Quit Ya Babe!

For a few years now I know we have been working too hard. I need a 12 step program to stop working all the time. No vacations to speak of unless of course you consider a bus man's working holiday a real holiday. I've been wondering what weekends are? What are statutory holidays? What is a paid vacation? Step #1 Three years ago I decided I would get a fly fishing rod and reel and take off on Sundays or Mondays and go fly fishing. Three years passed and the rod and reel sat in the corner staring at me while I sat at my desk.
Step #2 Then this spring I sprung and took a casting lesson for $125 clams. The rod and reel are still staring at me. Step #3 Now I go on line and look at vintage Airstream trailers so that I might hook up and set a hook somewhere.
All these years I've spent the weekends making pots, I wonder how many fish I could have caught?

Quote of the Day

Things do not change; we change.
Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More of me

The summer has flown by. Thankfully for me as I am not a fan of 40 C and 98% humidity. Fall here on the Niagara Peninsula with it's harvest is my favourite season. I just got word there are a couple of openings at the Mississauga Potter's Guild Workshop I am doing in Sept. This is a hands on monkey see monkey do workshop. I make the large base of a casserole, you make a large base of a casserole, I make the sides, you make the sides, I make the lid, you make the lid. This is about learning the technique of composite throwing according to Clennell. There will be a room full of pots that look like mine but after you have technique you can start adding your own refinements and finishing touches.
I don't do many weekend hands on workshops. Weekends are usually a dog and Tony show where I show and you pant. Because you'll have a wheel and clay you won't be able to doze off on me.
Michelle Knight's email is at the side of my blog. Remember SIZE MATTERS!

Shameless Self Promotion

Tomorrow "The Northerners" opens at AKAR Gallery in Iowa City, Iowa. One would not picture a mid west city in the middle of the corn belt as one of the most important ceramic galleries in the country. Once at a wood fire conference in Iowa City I went to my friend Ron Meyers opening. It was to open at 6 pm so I got there around 6:20 to make sure I had some good choices. There was Ron, me and two other guys and 90% of the work was sold. How could this have happened I proclaimed???? The dang computer is how! I hesitate to speculate but they probably do 90% of their business via the Internet. They do an amazing job of photography (usually 3 shots per piece) and that includes pots that sell for $30. You may be able to view the pots later today but they will not sell until opening tomorrow at 10. Then the computer takes over. I have to put a plug in for my partner here. Sheila fired 8 boxes in the wood kiln and had 6 that she sent to AKAR. That is a record for her. Hope y'all will go take a look.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Black Hawk Down

It is with deepest sympathies I inform you that our friend and fellow potter Pat Swartzenburg at a youthful age 69 has lost her long battle with cancer. Here are a couple of pics of Pat with her friend Robbie at their small salt kiln that they used to teach a class each summer. Pat was a worker bee. She was the one to make sure the coffee was on, the chairs put up and put away. She was the one that made things work at guild meetings, workshops, conferences and of course was always there to host a guest. Robbie is having a form of Irish wake in honour of Pat's life next week. She will missed by the pottery community.
I have found in my travelling one man rock and roll band to guilds across the country there are always those special people like Pat that so unselfishly give more to life than they take. They are the glue that hold the whole puzzle together. We should never forget that for every Queen Bee there are the tireless worker bees that do all the work to make the honey. We'll miss ya honey.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Sign of the Times

A few years ago we thought we would be Ceramic Artists and not potters. We thought we'd have this tasteful understated sign that didn't stress the word "POTTERY". After all I was pursuing an MFA and had been knighted with a RCA so therefore I should no longer be a mudslinger. I would be a studio potter slash Capital A artist. Well we looked at the sign this morning and it looked rather faded and we had a number of customers that said by the time they spotted our sign they were past our studio so they decided they would catch us another time. Well the glamour of the initials has worn off and we want to sell more pots. So we resurrected our first sign that was resting in the basement. It's bright and cheerful and screams POTTERY!!! Why did you name your pottery Sour Cherry they often ask. I reply it was either that or "Sour Grapes!"
In this economy you do whatever you have to do. If the new sign doesn't work I'm going to lay naked on the highway. Whadda ya think?

Monday, August 16, 2010

In Search of the Black Box

When a plane goes down they always search for the black box. We had a firing on the weekend and the first thing we went searching for was a couple of Sheila's boxes that she had glazed in a black crackle glaze. These boxes are about form and there is no need for a maverick glaze. A simple black glaze seems to show off the form.
I have been teasing myself over another kind of box. We have been working too long and too hard in the studio. I had a dream that we needed a little tin box to get away in. Maybe do some fly fishing! Maybe have a campfire! Maybe drink a good bottle of wine! Maybe do all of it! Isn't this 1948 Airstream one of the sweetest little tin boxes you ever laid eyes on?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Filthy Liar

OK, it is not only women that put the nix on a sale. Just the day I write that we have 3 different sets of customers where the guy wants to buy the sake/ice wine set and the woman puts the thumbs down on the sale. In fact one guy admitted to me that he wanted the set but his wife said she didn't want him to get drunk. Here is when you wonder if being rude just might be the way to handle this situation. How about "If I were married to her, I'd want to get drunk!'. How about when the guy says " I'll be back" you look him in the eye and say " Filthy Liar!!!!!". How about when she says I have to go home and talk to my husband ya say" I can see who wears the pants in your family!" or how about "Can you dress yourself in the morning?" I heard on the radio about people's love affair with rude restaurants and rude chefs. Hey, I'm only inches away on any given day into tossing out an insult.
Check out these radishes. Aren't they rude? My new inspiration from Mother Nature.

Quote of the Day
“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.”
Albert Einstein

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'll be back!

This was the famous line of Arnold Governor of California in the movie The Terminator except in the movies at least he came back. When that line is used here in our showroom they almost never come back. You have to set the hook and reel them in or they are gone forever. We can count on one hand the number of people that have uttered those words and actually came back. A woman yesterday actually looked tortured with her decision but claimed she needed time to think about it. We knew once out the door she was gone for good. Another good line which is also the kiss of death for a sale is " I have to check with my husband!". Tell me what lucky husband gets to decide whether their partner buys a piece of pottery or not? No one I know or would want to know. Sounds like serious control issues to me.

Quote of the Day
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”
Dr. Seuss

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Evolution of a Drinkin' Man

Dan commented that he thought that bourbon was a young person's drink. That may be so with Jack and the Beam but the real gooduns' are savoured by us bourbon connoisseurs. May I suggest in order of my personal preference Corner Creek, Woodford Reserve, Eagle Rare, Knob Creek, Maker's Mark with ice as a refreshment, Bulleit and Old Grandad. There are lots I haven't tried but these ones deserve to be drank- neat! Neat- no ice!
Dan here is the evolution of a drinkin' man according to me- baby bottle, juice boxes, soda, your first beer, wine on your first big date at a fancy eatin' place, and then one moves along with age to the spirits and ends life with an IV bottle. The IV bottle isn't my particular fancy on how to ingest my poison of choice but they tell me they throw some pretty potent stuff in there. I like a double so I guess that means both arms.

American Beauty

If you can get past the personalities of the US Border Patrol you will discover American Beauty. My 3 years of going to Utah State University not only had me in luv with the people and scenery but I also acquired a taste for American Whiskey- bourbon from Kentucky to be exact. It is a bourbon wasteland up here north of 49 so I was excited when one of my former students Christine Duncan who works for the Liquor Store emailed me to tell me about Corner Creek in Ontario. A bourbon rated as a premium with tastes of get this smoke,clay, limestone, vanilla and caramel. It is packaged in a wine bottle with a cork which is strange for a bourbon. I'm a working potter so I have to wait till after work to give ya my review. Today I'll be whistling while I work. Maybe tonight we should have southern BBQ.
Don't those single flowers look beauty in Sheila's bud vases. When she puts flowers in them they sell. Whodda thunk it???

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I was born

in a little log cabin I helped my father build. Actually here is a picture of the log cabin that my parents and the 3 boys lived in when my father moved to Ontario to work in partnership at my aunt and uncle's pottery. My father was the mold maker. We all know how hard it is for a pottery to support one family never mind a young growing family. The log house didn't have the addition on it when we lived there. There was an icebox and a fireplace. The confines of the space and the little money they earned sure must have taxed my parents marriage. Dad moved on to a job he would hate for the rest of his life. Sometimes family can be a cruel task master.
The large log building was the original showroom and workshop which has since become a showroom and very busy restaurant/tea room. Here is a view of the pond from the tearoom. People wander across to visit the pottery workshop on the other side. This is where Brenda now works and was the refuge of my aunt and uncle when the tearoom took over their creative space.
What Pinecroft (http://www.pinecroft.ca/) has offered since 1947 is an experience. A place for a period of time when you are shut away from the rest of the world. When I was a kid it was a place to sleep on the pine needles of the roof, feed the geese from a barrel of corn by the pond and to (don't tell anyone) throw big pine cones at frogs and turtles. It was also where I learned to work!!! It was and is a potter's dream.

Whoeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee baby

I declare you sure look fine. Yesterday I went to Pinecroft(the site of my aunt and uncle's pottery) now beautifully run by my cousin Brenda, husband Paul and family. I'll show pics tomorrow. Here is a picture of a rose between two thorns. Sarah was wed on the pottery grounds. This is Brenda, Sarah and me. Between Brenda and I we have probably pushed a mountain or two of clay in the past 30 years. Here is Brenda's mum Tress who at 95 years young still works in the showroom. There is something to this idea of getting up for work each morning and that feeling that you still have a job to do. Tress's sister was also walking solo at 100 years old. Good genes I'd say. Paul (Dad) walks Sarah to the alter. In the words of Mickey Rooney- Always plan your wedding for the morning. That way if it doesn't work out you haven't completely ruined the day.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dinnerware almost free!

In answer to the question of how much is our dinnerware the answer is almost free! The dinnerware place setting consists of a dinner plate (12"inches square) which means 6 lbs of clay thrown over 15 inches wide to then be cut. Some people consider 15 inches a platter. I throw 3 lbs for a luncheon plate and Sheila makes the soup/salad bowl from 2 1/4 pounds of clay. We trim a foot on our work so that eats up clay and takes more time. So dinner plate, luncheon plate and sizable soup/salad bowl all for $100. Imagine if you wholesaled this place setting for $50- you just lost money. I also find I have to make 20% more to cover myself for Murphy's law. So to get 26 place settings we will make 35 of each. At $100 we don't make any money really. We make the money on the accessories. It's just like buying a base priced car then you start adding on the options. So a smart potter will present the dinnerware on the table with cups, platters, trays, deep bowls, teapot, casserole etc, etc. along with a nice bouquet of flowers in a handsome vase. The idea is to have the customer add to the base price. This may not be done when they pick up the order but it gives a reason for Christmas, birthday, anniversary presents from Sour Cherry Pottery.
You will notice our dinnerware is more bowl shaped than flat plate style. This is in response to changing diets. More people are eating Asian or Mediterranean style foods than the meat and mashed potatoes of my father's diet. The shallow bowl shape allows the sauces to flow to the middle of the plate.

Great Idea!

I had a young woman in the showroom the other day that said it would be a great idea if I started making Christmas decorations and lights and to start displaying them now. I said “ That is a really, really great idea but I don’t want to do it!” She persisted and told me I could even individualize them with people’s names. I then said I would consider making Amish Christmas lights. She didn’t get it! Here a picture of the Amish Christmas lights I will be working on. Aren't they amazing?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Smokie One

My dad’s nick name was Smokie. He was my cub, scout and rover leader as a kid and he was dubbed Smokie for his amazing breakfasts by the campfire. He was first to rise to get the fire going and to have everything ready when he blew his bull’s horn to rally the troops. Being a Geordie from north eastern England he had all these crazy concoctions that he liked to make just to get us all to pull faces and dare us to eat. Spotted Dick, Toad in the Hole, Bangers and Mash, Blood Pudding and fried Kippers. He would often dawn a fish or chicken’s head from a leather thong necklace and put feathers in his hair to make himself appear as a witch doctor or shaman making up his devil’s breakfast. He started his life as a theatre man.
Later on in my early twenties it meant fishing trips with my buddies and Dad up at the crack in front of the wood cook stove making eggs, bacon, pancakes, beans and all to be washed down with a Newcastle Brown Ale. He never forgot his ancestry and neither do I.
August makes me think of him some 30 years later.
I got the name Smokie because when I make dinner everyone knows it's ready when the smoke detector goes off.
We’re off to our pub tonight for the pub fare. It ain’t British but is just about as greasy and bad for you as my dad’s culinary delights. We’re celebrating getting orders for 26 dinner services this weekend. This economy is weak but when you’re in this game for the long haul you take what work ya can get. Hey Smokie, what’s for breaky?