Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Get out of jail free

A couple of years ago when Sheila and I tore down our wood fired train kiln we said "Never again!!!" Well, never say never. Here is the new woodie firing. Pretty as a picture, isn't it?  I think I'll do this until I can't physically move. Then I hope some of the young students I have nurtured will come help the ole boy out. I love my pots wood fired and I can visualize them. Usually even in my wildest dreams the kiln adds something I hadn't dreamed of. If you ask yourself the question "Can you see your work fired any other way and the answer is NO then there is no get out of jail free card. You are a lifer!
thanks to Chad Whaley for the killer picture.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Kellner

In another life I wrote a regular column for Clay Times magazine. I wrote an article entitled "Let Your Freak Flag Fly" which was a tribute to this young man- Andrew Kellner . At the time I was teaching him at Sheridan College he sported a lime green Mohawk, fluorescent orange mutton chops, piercings, body art, camouflage pants, Doc Martins, stretched ear lobs and all the paraphernalia. In that article I compared him to my Uncle Jimmie who was a 84 year old character of another kind. The world needs more people of character.
Here is Andrew a decade later with his new bride Victoria. What else would you think a born wood fire potter would do for a honeymoon? Go help fire a wood kiln of course. Andrew has married well as Victoria works as tirelessly as he does. I wish them many many wood firings together. Hope they will be around to stoke me into old age. Congrats Andrew and Victoria. Keep your fires going!
Here is the night crew Chad Smith, Andrew and Victoria. A more awesome crew you couldn't ask for. Here is Andrew off shift at 7am  having his well earned morning coffee.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


It is good to see Sheila throwing and altering her boxes again. It has probably been over 3 years since she made one. It was almost 3 years ago we started planning our move and packing boxes instead of her making them. To be honest it has been exhausting and getting life back into our work harder than I thought possible. If you pick something up, you have to put something down. We have picked up so many things in the past 3 years. Seeing pots from the wood kiln again has lit a bit of a fire under both of us.
The key hole is new for her boxes. People will think they are bird houses. Why not? We had a customer ask if she could cook a Cornish hen in one. Sheila has 11 green ware boxes ready for bisque and then wood fire. Please let there be a God! These are a labour of love.

The Smoker

We got whacked by a horrendous storm. It wasn't a hurricane or a tornado but it was a dooser. We have lots of big trees in the hood and they are laying all over the roads. A big limb went down 3 doors from us that blocked the road. Before I could think of getting my extension cord and my De Walt sawzall out The Smoker and 2 other old ladies were cleaning up the tree with a hand saw. The Smoker is an old lady that always has a ciggie hanging out her mouth and she sweeps the sidewalks clean around our hood. She patrols the sidewalks to scowl at people that litter or just don't belong in her hood. If we put copper pipe, metal, bottles or cans at the end of the driveway The Smoker as if hiding in a tree top swoops down and it is all gone.
So while most of the city sits and waits for the city workers to arrive with chain saws, chippers and trucks the old ladies in my hood look after their own.  Three cheers for the ladies lead by

The Smoker- hip, hip hoorah, hip, hip, hoorah, hip,hip hoorah. Long may she puff.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


There isn't a tale worth telling that is can't be embellished. Here is a pic of me reading the article I wrote for the Ron Meyers Retrospective cataloque. The title of the article "Ronnie the Rat! What else?  I wrote it and  Ronnie has read it and yet we both are still laughing. I really like this picture. It really shows friendship and man love. We don't see each other near enough but when we do we pick up like we saw each other yesterday. I was loading his pots into the wood kiln yesterday and got all nervous about how the kiln would treat my friend. I think there will be a party going on inside that kiln as we have Ronnie and friends in the chamber.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I wish

I could tell you that the real money is in my large signature jugs. When we operated our showroom I told everyone that the best deals in the room were the big pots. Hard to make, hard to glaze, take up a lot of room in the kiln, success rate is low, and because there are so few of them the percentage of racers is small. I figure 5% is a good rate for racers and most especially in a wood fired kiln. So if you get 10 large jugs in that means you have a chance of getting half a racer. The real money is in the littles. I am making some bourbon cups to fill all the empty spaces in the chamber. They fire for free, and because there is so many the percentage of racers(killers) is higher. The wood kiln could eat up 100 of them and spit out the change. At $20 each they will more than give a higher pay cheque per cubic inch of space. We have had some that have been sooooooooo damn nice we sold them for $150. Hey if you like your whiskey then I can think of no better vessel to enjoy it from.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pink Porcelain

I'm at home using my trusty Thomas Stuart. I haven't thrown at home since early April and it feels rather comfy  like an old sweater.  I'm using Dick Lehman's 12D body that I am calling pink porcelain as it contains Red Art clay. Thank you Dick and Duncan Aird for testing this clay for me.  I rather like iron in a porcelain as you get a celedon from a clear glaze and it flashes rather nicely in the wood kiln. So I started by doing some and some. Some for the market place and some for me. I made those pedestal candy dishes that have been selling rather well and for me I made some jars with drunken knobs, some gashes and marks to add interest with the falling ash.  I can't say I have seen many potters use porcelain in a casual manner. It is usually perfectly thrown and trimmed. One of the earliest favourite pots I saw was a porcelain vase by John Reeve. It was at Ruth McKinley's in her collection. I wondered why she loved this piece that looked so off center in every way compared to the machine perfection of her work. I now get it! John Reeve was an amazing porcelain potter.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Excess is never enough

I think if I had to explain the work of Wayne Cardinalli it would be "excess is never enough". Wayne in  Italian fashion( oops in this PC world can I say that?) loves to decorate. Oh I just did say it. It's my blog so I say it and wear the scars on my chest and not my back. Wayne loves to move clay and leave all kinds of marks. Restraint is not in his DNA. For people exploring clay and looking for their own signature I think Wayne's workshop at Pinecroft is for you. He will introduce a pile of decorative techniques and it is then your job to sort thru them and pick what is you. I like the man and I like his pots. They are one and the same- animated, friendly and sincere.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


With all the rain going on here I gave thought to a little bud vase I bought in Japan. Don't ask me what I paid for it!  It looks absolutely lovely with a small plum blossom in it.

It is a classic example of firing erosion. The clay went into the firing thicker than it came out. The alkaline vapours from the long wood firing eroded the clay to a point on the rim that I could probably shave with this piece. I also love all the grinding that Ryogi Matsumya had to do on the foot of the pot because of the ash build up around the wads. We also have another nice piece of his where a piece of another pot is stuck to the side. Happy accidents, wabi sabi, the art of imperfection whatever you want to call it. I call it surface.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Potter Should Live Their Life Generously

Recently on Facebook I saw a post directed to me from one of my former Sheridan College students that went on to get an MFA from Rhode Island.  Jess said in her little post “ I remember that you said a potter should live their life generously”. Wow, of all the things I have said for this one thing to stick with Jess is really heart felt.
Jess was an amazing student and although you will look at her work and wonder how I could be even a part of it, I overflow with pride that I am part of her Ceramic Education.
I will repeat my advice. My Uncle Jimmie said he loved to give pots away to people he liked. I share his love. I get more pleasure out of giving things away than selling them. I guess that is why I will pass with many friends and little money.
We came home today with a treasure trove of plants from a neighbor at Pinecroft. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of plants for free. Sheila is planning payback. It is not expected but my wife
 likes to give.  Give and get!

Monday, July 8, 2013

40 Years in the Making

Yesterday I went to see an old friends show at the Burlington Arts Centre. 40 years of making a living as a potter is nothing to sneeze at. Donn was an important figure for me as a young potter. His home/studio was a coffee pot for many of us that had ideas of how to stay alive in this game. We stayed over, drank, talked, laughed, learned and planned.   Donn was instrumental in forming The Hamilton Potters Guild now over 300 strong and the Ontario Potters Association(now Fusion ) which has been as strong as 1200 members in its hay day. It was his introduction to this community that has kept me in the clay family. Thank you Donn for your enthusiasm for clay. Here's to the next 40. I wonder how many firings that will be?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A shout out

to my many good friends south of the 49th parallel . I think the world of y'all. Best wishes and here's lookin' at ya. t

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A big salute

 to our friends Don and Maureen Ross who spent the last 4 decades in the clay trenches. Don and Maureen are clay heroes of mine. They did what they had to do to make a living in this very difficult field. In their prime they employed 9 employees and supplied good functional pots to places as far away as Korea. Don was never too busy to drop everything and help me with a stubborn kiln or a project around the pottery that was too big for me. I miss you both! Don't be strangers! I can always find a use for Don's engineers brain. I dubbed Don
Canada's Harry Davis with a pleasant personality.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Canada Day, eh!

It was Canada Day today and we live on Canada Street so we have a block party. Neighbours  grill on the sidewalks, there is karoke, live music, dancing, kids games, a pie eating contest, fireworks, liquid refreshments and bonding of neighbours. There is a sense of community and we all for one night are one. Our neighbor a airplane pilot won the pie eating contest. It is a wonderful mix of all kinds of cultures. It is what I like about living where we do. Happy C eh N eh D eh D eh Y