Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Big Bellies

The hardest form to put a handle on is a big belly. You have to spring the handle out over the big belly. I don't like handles that stick out too far. I once saw these lovely little English sauce boats with a cap over the front of the gallery. I wasn't sure if it was an aesthetic decision or to keep the lid from falling out.  This gave me an idea to put the cap at the back of my gallery which would give me some purchase to spring the handle.  I made 5 Texan size teapots and gave it a try.
Thinking ahead to wood firing I thought the cap would be a nice feature to face towards the flame. The cap would protect the lid from getting stuck in the gallery with ash. Even when I have wadded the lid the wads can get coated with ash and leave nasty plucks in the clay. It feels good to be back in my comfort zone. I can't wait for the wood kiln.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Not everyone's cuppa T.

I have always thought it a privledge to be invited into the AKAR Gallery's Yunomi Show. It is awesome to be in the company of so many fine makers. I thought I was going to let them down this year as I had lost my rough edge with this e-ware. A friend has offered the use of the gas kiln for a firing so I made a few this afternoon. I collected the "ART" from the trimmings to make some lugs for the cups. What would a cup by me be without some kind of a handle? In previous years some people complained that I had handles on yunomi's. They are not handles! They are my signature.
Each year that I have been invited I try to make something different. I hope they are recognizable Clennell but different from last years.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hands on Workshop

We offered this workshop on March 23/24 and it filled up in two days. We are limiting the number of participants to 10 for a great teaching/learning opportunity. The course is intended for people with intermediate to advanced throwing skills.
April 6 th and April 7th

This hands on weekend workshop with Tony Clennell will focus on larger than life utilitarian pottery for occasional use. We will pay attention to the details on large casseroles, pitchers, bowls and plates so they may be used for celebration and presentation.
My specialty over the years has been sectional or composite throwing where I add many pieces together to make one vessel. Participants that normally cannot throw more than a few pounds of clay often throw with ease 3- 5 times as much after the session.
Recent work has been an exploration of textures using roulettes, stamps and many found objects. The maker’s marks and details of process are what I am interested in leaving in the finished work.
This workshop will be limited to 10 people.  I suggest each person bring 3 boxes of their clay.  We can supply Cone 10 stoneware if needed.
Price $150 plus tax
·         *Lunch Package available at Green Frog Tearoom, Pinecroft

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Georgia on my mind

I loaded up my bike with clay to ride down to Atlanta for my workshop there. I have already made a date with friends to go out for southern BBQ, bourbon and blues the Saturday night of the workshop. Anyone at the workshop is welcome to join us. Last time I was in Atlanta Ronnie the Rat dropped in for a cameo appearance and did some throwing along side of me. Made me feel like a real tight ass potter. It was a lot of fun!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Wonderful Two Holer

I have my own version of the two holer. I trim the lid for my teapots like a foot ring on a cup. I then put a hole through the foot ring so that a true lover of tea that uses loose tea can hang their tea ball from the lid. The other hole of course is so that the tea pours properly.  God, is in the details.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In your own backyard

I went glaze material shopping yesterday in my own back yard so to speak. I live on the Niagara escarpment that is a limestone outcropping that reaches some 400 kilometers from Queenston, New York to Tobermory, Ontario on the Bruce Peninsula. There is also a vein of red clay that runs over a 100 miles from Queenston, NY to a wee village north of Toronto called Terra Cotta.  I use the red clay under and over shino glazes for a  lusterous persimmon colour. Also a 50/50 mixture of the two materials give a nice shiny glaze that looks like an ash glaze. Doing a gas firing next week so should have something to show y'all.
I get the dolomithic limestone from the gravel company for free and ditches are another good source of the free red clay. The simpler the glaze formula the more complex the materials.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wedgies and a Butt Crack

Since I'm back with my stoneware I revisited my old style cup. Once during a workshop in Lansing, Michigan a friend Kelly Savino dubbed these cups-  a wedgie with a butt crack. It took me all afternoon and a couple of hours after dinner to trim and handle these cups. I've taken to filling in the crotch of the handle which is yet another step. I put the handles on, went in for supper and then came out and filled in the crotch. The little wedgie helps me to get atmosphere under the foot ring but I tell customers it is so the water drains out of the foot in the dishwasher. They like that!
Last year for Christmas I gave my second year throwing class at Sheridan College a button.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bloody Pity

A friend and reader of this blog sent me pictures of the current state of Issac Button's former kiln. It is heart breaking really! If this were a famous artist's studio would it be left to rack and ruin? I wasn't going to post the pictures as they just make me sad. I sometimes believe I was born a couple of decades or maybe even centuries too late. Thankfully the film Issac Button A Country Potter was made and will be a reminder of the man and his work. He made enough pots to go up and down the banks of the Thames River.

The summer I worked at Mick and Sheila Casson's in Herefordshire Mick told of Issac Button. Mr. Button was an employee of a company and not a self employed potter. In the UK compulsory retirement at age 65 so Issac was let go. He went around to all the renowned workshops David Leach, Winchcombe,  etc, etc asking for a job but no one knew what to do with a man that could fill there entire studio with a few hours work. He died not long after. May he rest in peace.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dear Mrs. Button and Mrs. Diddely

Dear Ladies: I was wondering if it was hard to live with such hard working and dedicated men? I remember some time ago going to see your husband Bo Diddely and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones play at a club in Toronto. Ron was drinking bourbon and looking rather rough while your Bo looked well rested and very much a picture of health. I remember thinking that Mrs. Diddely must be back at the hotel making sure her man eats well and gets proper sleep.
We that have committed ourselves to this craft and worked the required 9 days a week to make a living must be hard to live with.  I think I know the answer ladies but I figured I’d ask you since you lived through the good and the bad much longer than I have.
Arleen took me by my hand, she said Ooo-ee Bo you know I understand
I got a tombstone hand and a graveyard mind,
I lived long enough and I ain't scared of dying.
So from the words to Bo’s song “Who do you love” I know Mrs. Diddely your name is Arleen but if I may be so bold Mrs. Button what is your first name?
Here is an old English milk pan that we own. I don’t think it is from Soil Hill Pottery but it is a fine pot. I love the white slip finger marks left on the side of the pot.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Confessions of a Modernist

Dear Mr. Button: I only told you half the story yesterday. I also made some vase/bottle forms. I'm normally a very practical man and have chosen over the past 30 odd years to turn all my vases into jugs that can be used for juice, milk, sangria, flowers or just to be looked at. Most are of a size that makes them not very functional at all.  The beauty of the jug is that is a wonderful flower vase. I don't recall your jugs Mr. Button. I'm sure the rural community around you had a need for them.
Then if it weren't a big enough sin to make flower vases I made them in two pieces. Making these small 15" vases in two pieces surely must bring tears of laughter to your eyes. Now here is the real knee slapper. I only made 7 of them! This would probably be no more than 15 minutes work for you Mr. Button.

Here is a pic of a jug I fired in our wood fired kiln. I haven't shown any finished work for sometime as I am making in anticipation of our new wood kiln in the spring.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Sincere Apologies

Mr. Button I have been thinking of you all day. I started out to make these dinner plates and I looked them and started adding all these handles. I’m sorry, I truly am sorry for adding all this additional unnecessary truck and silly nonsense. The truth is Mr. Button there is no need for anything I make. No, my neighbours don’t need chicken feeders, milk pans or porridge bowls. They don’t need  my dinner plates either.  They can buy a dinner plate for less than I can buy the clay to make one. So forgive me but I have to make them extra special. Not that yours weren’t special! I would love to own one of your 28 lb lead glazed cider jars expertly thrown in 3 minutes.  I would sleep with that jar tonight.  It would bring tears to my eyes.
Sorry if I let you down today, Mr. Button. I was never able to live up to your standards. Once I threw 100 5lb pie plates and another day 247 mugs. This almost crippled me. Your throwing of a ton a clay a day is a bridge too far for me. 
Hell, I even sign them with a chop mark and put an undercut in the foot ring so that they can be hung on a nail in the wall.  I am so sorry for this uncontrollable ego of mine!

Yours respectfully,

Friday, January 11, 2013

Is that a banana

in your pocket or are you really glad to see me?  I like to make this bulge under the rim of dinner plates. As well as a visual point of interest it provides a place to put your forefinger in the well near the foot and your thumb on the rim of the plate for carrying. I learned to make big rimmed plates when working with a chef some years ago. They like the rim to sprinkle all kinds of visual goodies on and they don't like the servers thumb to be near the food. I also like a nice big casual whoopie in the center of the plate made with my rib at slowwwwwwww speed.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Man

You never know who is reading your blog and what can come of it. I was high with delight today to receive an email from John Foley the owner of Imagine Gallery in Suffolk, England asking me to be in a show of potters that have shown a tip of the hat to country potter Issac Button. His long time customer John Anderson produced the film Issac Button - A Country Potter as well as many films on famous potters. Although the film producer is deceased his wife continues to collect pots and her collection of Issac Button pots in museums is being brought together for this show. If I could be present at that opening I think I would have goose bumps. I remember well having pear cider at Mick and Sheila Casson's Wobage Farm from a Issac Button cider jar. It was really Andrew McGarva the Casson's son in law now making pots in France that turned me on to Issac Button. Andrew's book Country Pottery- Traditional Earthenware of Britain is a must for anyone's library that salutes the giants shoulders we stand on.

A picture in Robert Fournier's Ceramic Dictionary of one days throwing of 2000 lids by Issac Button says it all. It was probably 2000 jars yesterday.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Price Is Right!

Young Bobby Free- see his blog on my sideline emailed to ask what I thought about a recent comment on his blog and his answer?
Here are a couple of Jeff Oestreich cups in my cupboard. The one on the left 25 years old purchase price $20 and the one on the right 5 years old and purchase price $55. l still like the old one best but I bet I can't get $55 for it. It's chipped, it's used, it's not his style no mo'!
Here's my answer to Bobby.
Bobby: When people question my prices I always answer " Do you think my prices are fair?" If they answer "no" we have nothing to talk about. If they answer "yes" then we're on the same page.
Anyone that buys ceramics thinking it is going to appreciate in value is nuts. It will probably sell cheaply one day in a yard sale. You buy it because you like it, want it and that's about it.
A few of the pieces I have bought over the years have appreciated but most I think will be sold one day to an estate auction when my kids don't know what to do with all the shit their old man has collected. In the meantime I just enjoy almost every single thing.
If you're selling Bobby it is priced right. If ya ain't then you got to make a deal with the person that likes your work but not your price.
Be well!
PS Both Sheila and I like what you are doing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness

Today to my surprise there was an unexpected gift in the mail to me. I am doing a workshop at the Spruill Art Centre in Atlanta, Georgia in March and the people there sent me this very nice hand made copper hammered key chain with a note saying they are looking forward to my visit. What a kind and thoughtful thing to do and say! I've always maintained that it is the things you do when you don't have to that make all the difference. I've already made dates with friends in Atlanta for southern BBQ, bourbon and blues. I can't wait and this little gesture made me all the more anxious to spend some time with my southern friends.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Any fool!

Any fool can buy a good bottle of wine, but it takes a smart fool to buy a "cheap" good bottle of wine. I like to doodle pots. It is a kinda warmup for things I want to make. I bought this piece of bamboo and some India ink. If you can see they sharpen the bamboo then drill a wee hole and split the bamboo to the hole. This allows it to hold some ink. Probably one of those roller ball pens would work slick but I like the primitive nature of this drawing stick.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Brigit Bardow

I made some pancakes, textured them, added a coil,  threw the rim then I got a note from Grass about Brigit Bardow and whipping cream. I have this wonderful image in my mind.

With our small studio and the cold walls I actually covered the platters with plastic minutes after throwing them to find the rims had set up next morning. I got worried about putting my signature handles on the dry rim so whipping cream came to mind.  I waxed them to slow down the drying where the handle is attached. I'll keep them covered for days.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Wood I????

Wood I? You bet I would! After 35 years of wood firing if I learned anything at all it is look after your wood supply. I always made a point of having my wood prepared, split and stacked long before I even thought about making pots. Actually wood prep helps you to start thinking about the pots without rushing in. Our plans are to build our woodie this April and so a source of good dry wood was found and waiting for surgery from Mr. Stihl. It's a good mix of dry hard wood so we'll have the  Btu's to paint the pots with some white heat.
My first wood kiln was named Cassius Clay cause he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. The sting usually was the result of Tony not having the wood dry and ready. From that kiln I learned that if I didn't want to wake up in the morning with sore muscles and having drooled on my pillow from shear exhaustion then I better attend to CC's diet.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New License

It's a new year so I can get off to a fresh start at old habits. I worked in the studio today and tried to answer the most annoying question I ever get asked. "What can I use this for?" I've even had to answer that question for the humble coffee mug. Today, I made some baskets and thought I'd add a wee slab pouring spout that really wouldn't work all that well. I have no idea what my intention was.  If I chicken out when I sleep tonight I can always go poke some holes in the handle and call them flower pots.
It is one of the things I like about winter. You dare to make things just because you can.
Happy New Years everyone. All the best of health and happiness. Hope you get some time to make something just because you can.