Monday, December 30, 2013

Anywhere but here!

Hey for Jan and Feb I'm a mudslinger for hire. If your guild, potter's group, college or university wants a great workshop, I'm your man. Workshops are like performance art ya have to entertain and work some magic. I do both! I have hired workshop presenters that make great work only to find watching them for the weekend was like watching a car rust. I am not one of those! I'd love to leave the frigid streets of Hamilton and travel to your town. If you are interested let me know
Mudslinger for Hire-

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another reason to hate ceramic squirrels

I've always thought squirrels were just rats with a good public relations agent. Now you have to watch out when your woman doesn't get her beer for Xmas. Hide all ceramic animals when you think she may be pissed with you is the moral of the story.

An item from the Seattle Times:

South Carolina authorities say Helen Williams, 44, angry at a man for not returning home with beer on Christmas, beat and stabbed him with a ceramic squirrel.  The Charleston County Sheriff's office says officers found a man covered with blood when they arrived at Williams' North Charleston home early Wednesday.  Officers say the man told them Williams, angry that he didn't return with beer because stores were closed on Christmas Eve, grabbed a ceramic squirrel, beat him on the head and stabbed him in the shoulder and chest wit the object.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Aye make it a Broon!

Christmas morning I always make bacon and eggs and have a Newcastle Brown Ale. It is my way of honouring my Dad who was a Geordie from Northeastern England.  If you have ever heard a Geordie they have a thicker accent than any Scot. When I was a wee bairn my dad would make us all a shandy on Christmas morning. It was a wee dram

of Newcastle Brown Ale and a generous glass of Vernor's Ginger Ale. My brothers and I all felt like grown ups on Christmas Day. As a teenager my friends and I would go fishing with my Dad. He would get up before the fish were jumping and start the wood stove and cook our breakfast bacon, eggs, pancakes, boston baked beans and yes a Newcastle Brown Ale. His nickname was Smokie. He got the name from the Scouts that he was so involved with. He was always the one cooking around the campfire.
Here is a picture my daughter Robin took when she visited the village of Clennell in Northumberland. It is the screen saver on my computer and it is called Clennell Road. If life is a highway this looks like a great road to travel.
Aye tomorrow I'll be having a Broon Ale!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Doctor's Orders

My Georgia buddy Rick "Doc" Agel gave up chopping people's chests apart
as a vascular surgeon to now sticking needles into people as a acupuncturist.  Doc is a smart dude and will always be at the top of his game. Since he has this pension for inflicting pain he has dragged me kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Doc bought one of the nicest jugs I have ever made. I told him to send me a cheque. He said if I was going to teach students how to be potter's in the 21st century I had better learn to be one.  Since I always listen to my medical professionals except when it comes to flu shots I spent yesterday signing up for Paypal and getting finally hooked up to The Square for my IPhone. I can now swipe credit cards on my phone and the money is in my account before you can say Zirconium  Encapsulated Cadmium. I have already sent out 6 invoices and it is easy peasy. Now my customers don't have to buy an envelope, a stamp, write a cheque and drop it off at the Post Office. Then when I receive the cheque I don't have to drive a couple of miles to our nearest bank. So the moral of this post is never trust a medical professional with a needle in their hand when they say this is going to hurt me as much as it's going to hurt you.  It was a painful day of dealing with the computer. I think  I am feeling much better now.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Navel gazing

Well it is really crappy out there. 1/4 million homes without power in Toronto. Boy, will that ever be a hit on the retailers of the city. Our streets are ice covered but we have power. I haven't got much to show you today but my recovering toe. So I thought I'd let ya do some navel or toe gazing today. Andrew had a couple of good ideas for Stoner's mentorship. Andrew will an excellent teacher one day!
Name 5 of your favourite painters or fine craftsmen other than potters. What other craft objects do you like to look at? What are your favourite surfaces- metal, wood, stone, basketry, fabric? What is your favourite object to stare at?
What is your favourite colour and why?
I have a David Fleming Windsor chair in the living room that I prefer to stare at than sit in. I love the form of this chair and often catch myself staring at it's profile. How this chair translates into my work is something I need some time to navel gaze. It is much more tidy than my work but it is well crafted by hand and made with attention to detail and  process. On the plus side of today it is $5 beer and wing day at Beasley's Bar just down the street from here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Straight shooter

I've been accused of being a straight shooter. Say what I mean and mean what I say. My wee cups are not for those that want straight. We unloaded 50-60 of them and the students kept saying " and they are all different. Andrew fired the kiln and I was once known to say he is the best guy I know with a stick when it comes to wood firing. Well, he fires a damn mean gas kiln. This may be some of the nicest shino I have fired. There is lots of bi-refringement that you can't see in the photos. These are beautiful lusterous pots for whiskey, wine, tequilla, gin,  Bailey's and sigh Perrier and lime. Go ahead and break my heart and drink a diet Pepsi from one.
I missed the chance to get one in your stocking for Christmas but if ya get something interesting to drink from Santa I can get one in the mail to you. They are $20 plus shipping. Trust me to pick out a sweetie or more for you. I often spend more time trying to pick one for a potter than it takes to make, glaze and fire one. Hey I have some nice coffee/tea cups too for $30.

Bad Reputation

I've worked long and hard at this bad reputation. Today at Burlington Arts Centre I got a couple of sweet thoughtful gifts from a couple of my gooduns. Andrew Kellner 2003 (From one knob to another). Hell not only does he know I like Knob Creek  he has picked up my sense of humour.  Emma Smith 2013 made me a sweet little wood fired soda fired shooter to drink my wee dram of the liquid of the Gods. Tara Lynne came in as well and we all had a good laugh while we unloaded my bourbon shooters now called Bailey's cups. I figure the hard liquour connotation might be scaring people off me and the cups. 

To the parents of these kids now adults a big shout! You have raised your kids to display class and respect. I like being in their fine company.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oh Gawd!

I was kinda happy about the mounting of the press molded Staffordshire style handle on the back of my pulled handle until I saw this cartoon. I'm wondering how my handle is feeling this morning?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One of life's pleasures

Today I got to make pots with a couple of my former Sheridan students at the Burlington Arts Centre. Andrew Kellner 2003 is the tech at BAC and has applied for grad school. A lucky school that gets him. Tara Lynne Franco 2006 is the tech at Red Deer College, Alberta and is home for the holidays. Once again Alberta is dang lucky to have her.
I made some pots on Andrew's Leach treadle wheel. A treadle wheel is not a continuous motion wheel like a kick wheel. When you stop kicking the treadle the wheel comes virtually to a stop. I love the click clack sound and the very slow wheel speed. The rims of pots are often undulated without being contrived.
Andrew had a handle mold for a cuppa tea Wedgewood style. I mounted it on the back of one of mine. Eat your heart out Dan Finnigan.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The World's Best Critique

The world's best critique is usually at the front of your kitchen cupboard. That is generally where you will find the cups you like to use the most. When the favs end up in the studio, by your computer, in the living room where you last read a favourite book or by the TV when you last watched the Maple Leafs fall then you start to use the other cups.
From right to left: An old Mark Pharis cup that I have used for over 30 years. It is my all time fav. The handle is too close to the body so I have learned how to hold it. The interior glaze is a poop brown but I don't care cause I take cream in my coffee. The bottom foot is jagged so I run my finger over it and it awakens me.  There is a thumb print where he held the cup to dip in a thin wash. Like people it ain't perfect but it is the imperfections that I have learned to love.
Beside Mark is a tall Micheal Simon tumbler. Not used all that much since I don't drink ice tea or something I can think to put in there. I love the shape and the simple dot for decoration so it is more cupboard eye candy than anything.
An old Ruggles and Rankin cup that I like for tea not coffee. I don't drink a lot of tea so this is the right size for me. Next to them is a lovely little cup given to me by a customer from McKenzie Smith. Beauty little roundie handle. I like cold white wine from it.
On the very left is a jiggered cup made by Basil the Jiggerman at Medalta Potteries in my home town of Medicine Hat, Alberta. It has a nice round slip cast one finger handle. It is probably my second favourite coffee
cup to use.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hell on earth

Some call a day like today a beautiful winter wonderland. I call a dumping of snow like we just got "Hell on Earth". If this is a wonderland, hell why not move to the North Pole?  Get a job working
for Santa Claus. No wonder he heads south at Christmas. He hates the stuff as much as I do. Bah, humbug!
Me, I'm going to hole up and do some reading and writing. Nope, no skiing, no skating, no snow shoeing. I am passing along this very interesting read that my cyber buddy Dan Finnigan put up on Facebook. Because I am on this panel at NCECA with Mark Hewitt of NC and Lisa Hammond of the UK entitled "Where have all the potter's gone-last gasp or rebirth" I have been giving why make pots in the 21st century a lot of thought. I think old Harry Davis addressed this same topic many decades ago.
Here is the article Dan posted- pour yourself a drink( your choice) and enjoy the winter wonderland beside the heat of your wood stove.

A must read sent to FB by Dan Finnigan.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Teach to learn

Yesterday at crits I walked by a display case of pots made at our "Mug and Bowl" where faculty,alumni and students get together to  make pots to sell for the Clay Club. This money is then used to bring in guest artists and fund our trip to NCECA. Sheridan is sending a whole bus load of students to Milwaukee this spring.  There were some mugs with really good handles. I recognized a couple of the cups/handles as mine and a couple by a young 2nd year student Jordan Scott.  I could see my influence but his had a new interesting twist. He put a lozenge down and then pulled the handle from the lozenge. Well, I thought this clever but I wanted to take it a step further. I used the cap from my Tom's Natural Deodorant as a mold to make the lozenge and then pull the handle off of it. The first cups were double handled cups and then they moved to an upside down, double handle with a zig zag. The impression in the foot is something i learned from Bruce Dehnert. He carves the shape of the kiln the pot is to be fired in on the foot. I used a wooden stamp and impressed a kiln/chimney shape.
Hey thanks Jordan, I owe ya a nice cup!!!

Moments of brillance!

Our guest artist in residence Phd candidate Drew Ippoliti gave the second years some interesting assignments this semester. One was to design a container to contain 12 eggs, the other was to combine ceramics with a found object or something off E-bay and the other was a ceramic food object to celebrate a ritual. There were some clever solutions that I forgot to photograph.When I a  engaged in teaching I am never very good at documenting the moment.
Joonie had a nice range of items involving the egg. I was attracted to her slip cast and thrown Canada Dry Ginger Ale cups with a slip cast ginger root as another drinking solution. Trevor won my heart with a slaughtered pig with bacon spewing out of it's stomach. It of course repulsed the vegetarian on faculty which allowed me to have an extra piece of bacon.
What I liked so much about the crits this year is that some of the students are learning to present their work in new ways. The old table cloth on a table screams craft sale and it is slowly sinking in to them that it is perception of the value of the work that can make all the difference.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Why would ya ever

want to go back to school to study pottery? I'm at Sheridan for the next days doing "crits" critiques of the first, second and year students work. What that really amounts to is 7 faculty focusing in on one students work for a grueling half hour.  Most of the students that have worked hard and have a good solid body of work walk away with a lot of information for improvement.  I is one thing to know the music but the critique helps them learn the words to the song.  "Because I like it like that" are not the words to a song we teach at Sheridan.
Here are the works of a few of the first year students. How would you like your very first coil pot to be as symmetrical as this one. Hey those slip cast rocks are cool but do they really suit the pots placed on them? Another student is a chef so her work was shown with food.  One of the projects was to design containers to hold a dozen eggs. These little egg cups entitled "When an egg meets a rock" were really quite delightful. I always come away from the crits having learned so much from my fellow faculty and from the students. To think I get paid for this is really a forehead slap. This is all first year work.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Big Boys

Here are a couple of my pots that escaped becoming jugs.  These are both nice examples of composite/sectional throwing.
Large ash glazed wood fired vase with hack saw decoration
This Korean celedon ash glaze is at it's best when it fired in a cool part of the wood kiln. The glaze is a beautiful mint green with a nice to the touch buttery surface. My former student and now friend Zed told me she could see the reference to my all time favourite potter- Richard Batterham of the UK. Boy, like the idea of being in his fine company.

High iron clay, thick white slip, shino glazed, wood fired in the throat arch. Beautiful blasting of wood ash that has formed crystals in the glaze.
This big boy was in the Surfaces Invitational Show this summer at Harbourfront in Toronto.
The size of this piece makes it quite a commanding statement. It has so many elements showing process of making, decorating and firing. Marks of process are what interests me in good ceramic pieces.
Price $350

Sunday, December 8, 2013


In October we had Annabelle from Naples, Florida come to the Double Whammy course at Pinecroft. I called her "Queen of the Tuckers". She had more tucker ideas than there are birth control pills in Toronto. Tuckers are those little items that fit everywhere in a kiln. If you were to make tuckers for our wood kiln the firing would be worth a small fortune. Tuckers usually are those items that sell from $6- $20. They fit around bowls and plates and fill all the spaces that would otherwise be empty and making you no money.  I'm an elitist pottery snob so I make my tuckers kinda interesting little bourbon cups. Actually I call them that but they are nice for bourbon, wine, gin, scotch, tequila, port, and oh yeah Perrier and lime. Not so good for Root Beer and hot chocolate.

I like putting some lines in them and then when I push in they distort and form a much more interesting landscape that matches the undulated rim. The wavy undulated rim makes you look at the cup before drinking from it or you are going to wear that beverage. I can hear the majority moaning and complaining out there. I guess these cups are not for them, then.
Because I trim soft I have a nice selection of wee bits to use for lugs. I can't make them as interesting as the ones I find in my splash pan. Some just delight me with how great they look.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I hope you can take a bit of time to look at this U-tube video of Takeshi Yasuda Made in China
Takeshi is one of my favourite potters and our friend Bruce Dehnert is writing a biography of the man and his work.
Takeshi has turned 70 in 2013 and he says he is so lucky to be making pots. This statement although so simply stated meant so much to me. Lucky to be making pots! He looks like the picture of good health in the video and his pots are commanding very high prices indeed. I want to wake up each morning and feel lucky to be making pots not that I have to make pots. Lucky enough to want to make pots.
Some years ago Takeshi was doing San cai ( three colours) inspired by the Chinese Tang dynasty red earthenware vessels. He used high temperature stoneware and a beautiful white slip to capture the depth of surface. I still love that time period of his work.
He now lives in Jingdezhen, China and is making beautiful porcelain with torn edges. 
Warren MacKenzie once said " Go ahead and quit making pots if you can!" For some of us we need to make pots. We are grumpy if we don't. I guess a cocktail on a long sandy beach isn't in my future. Well, maybe one! I like odd numbers.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pigeon Holed

Sometimes studio potters, artists and  musicians get pigeon holed into making what their particular audience expects from them.
I always took pride in making rather dramatic changes in my work. This is no easy task. Usually the change had to do with colours or surface. The jug, the teapot, and the big casseroles have always been the old stand byes that my small audience of 13 munchkins and a wino shouts out for.
Sometimes like when Dylan went electric the audience is in shock.  These little bud vases (yes they have a hole or two in them for the stem of a flower) are small maquettes of what I am thinking of making on a larger scale.  This is a small seed of inspiration by my late mentor Uncle Jimmie who continues to steer me.
When Uncle Jimmie died I was asked what I would like from the house as a memory. I asked for his hat. A pink and purple mohair woman’s hat. He was a character and it has rubbed off on his nephew.

High Iron Stoneware- shino glazed, wood fired, gnar-gnar on shoulder and fired directly in the line of fire on the bagwall.
 Title: She Knows Her Fruit
This fruit shaped bud vase is glazed in “She knows” . Ya, I poured two different shinos on this piece. It is a really dark iron clay body that shinos seem to love. The ash has formed beautiful little crystals on the surface.  It’s got two holes so ya have to be a big spender and buy two flowers instead of one.
Price $100

 Helmer Kaolin Stoneware- soft shino, wood fired with a nice green camel sneeze of ash on the one side that once again was in the direct line of fire of the bag wall. Camel sneeze- how's that for clever marketing? Wondering if Dennis has read this far. He will have a clever come back to be sure.
The pots I really love seem to get that prime real estate in the wood kiln. This piece also has some large feldspar chunks in the foot. The feldspar was collected in a rattlesnake infested cave on the Assinaboine River in Alberta by a friend. See what lengths we potters go to for the sake of a good pot!
Price $100

Thursday, December 5, 2013

For the kitchen

I've always maintained there is more money to be made in the living room than the kitchen. That said I love to make pots to be used even if that only be occasionally.
Lobster asked if I made plates. I do!  I don't make matching sets. In fact I encourage people to buy plates from other potters rather than large sets of mine. Much more interesting but yeah I know poor marketing.  A couple of mine and then go shopping for someone else's work you love.
Jug- Devon Jug
Sweet quart sized jug, shino glazed, nice peppering of hickory ash, finger wipe decoration, split rim and my new signature double handle.
Shino glaze shows off ash like no other glaze. This is a beautiful tin shino which is brought to life by my high iron clay and the paint brush of the wood fired kiln.
Price $60 SOLD

Ya I know that even my plates have handles. Lugs actually! They just don't seem to be mine without handles. These are generous plates with and undulated rim, shino glaze, circle of life "whoopie" in the middle, finger wipe decoration and four lugs. The foot ring has an undercut so they can be hung on the wall. Yes, I like a foot ring and a glazed underneath. God is in the details.
Nice lusterous tin shino glaze.
Price $75 each. ( I have 4) One Sold

Beaker Set
High iron clay, shino glazed and wood fired.
The high iron clay has turned almost purple and given the shino glaze a deep lustre. There are some nicle little copper red dots on the saucer.
Wood firing is about clay and this set speaks of the process.
Price $85 for the set. SOLD