Friday, May 30, 2014

An Acorn

The City of Hamilton Arts Awards Gala Event was last night with food, drink, entertainment and all the hoorah of the Grammies. Artists and patrons dressed in their finest.
Sometimes even a deaf, dumb and blind warthog can find an acorn in the barnyard. The Awards are called the Acorn Awards and I am very proud to say that I was awarded the Fine Crafts Award for 2014. It came with a fantastic medal that would pull my pants down if I converted it to a belt buckle. The city also generously attached a cheque for $2500.00. I'll pay a few bills and the rest can wait. I was most proud of my arm piece emerging artist former student Chris de Takesy who took home the prize along with me. Chris was awarded a certificate to hang in her new James Street North Gallery and $1000 to buy new underwear. I'll send pictures if she sends me any. Don't count on it!!!!
If anyone is thinking of locating in a city The Hammer is the place to be as an artist. The cities slogan is "Art is the New Steel". They are doing an amazing job of replacing the steel mills with art and culture. A tip of the fedora to the City of Hamilton. You are an amazing city!!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Call 911

If I don’t post on Friday I have died.  Tonight I ate the food that food eats. I’m having a hard time keeping up with this dang asparagus. I had a big spinach salad with mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts, some shredded cheese and a honey Dijon dressing, and main course was some wild rice and those green spears that I’ll catch a whiff of later tonight.  I am wondering if it is possible for me to live without meat. To compensate I ate my dinner on my Ronnie the Rat Porky Pig Plate.  I swear there was a hint of bacon in my salad yum, yum. I am anxious about bed time. Will I toss and turn and go slowly or will I die quickly of a meat attack?
This is what Finnegan has done to me. He turned me into a rabbit.  He promised me crab cakes in Virginia. Surely they are not meat!

Before she was a big dog!

I bet you can't guess who made this great wood fired bowl? Sometimes we get pigeon holed into the type of work we make. My friend and fellow USU grad Sunshine Cobb is more than a one trick pony. This is one of Sunshine's bowls that I bought from her before she became a BIG DOG in the earthenware world.  Three of my Sheridan students will be spending a week with Sunshine at Peter's Valley. I think she has shares in Mud Tools as she asked them to bring a selection of those coloured ribs. Sunshine is one of my favourite potters- the pots and the person.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


I think it may have been Thomas Toft that first started branding with his most beautiful slip trailed chargers. I bit the bullet on Saturday and bought a Hudson’s Bay Blanket for my bed. I have always wanted one and the urge was too large to fight off.  I was relieved to see it was made in England and not China. The red, green, yellow and black stripe are a brand so strong it is known the world over.  I have a David Fleming treadle lathe Windsor chair and with my new blankey they are really a testament to my love of good quality.  When I get old and my kids put me in a the potter’s retirement home “The Falling Arches Home for the Demented” I hope they set me in my chair, wrap me in my blankey and plunk my Art Fawcett handmade beaver felt fedora on my noggin. I might even take up smoking again if I hit the magic age of 100.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Lunch with Dan

A cappuccino and some fruit for lunch with Dan. I'm going to use the plate as a dinner plate. I think most would see the addition of the handles as a serving plate but I'd rather use it daily for my grub. Every pot in my house has a story to it. There are hundreds of pots and hence hundreds of stories. I was pleased to see our assistant Cassara buy one of Dan's birds. It says something about the person and the beginning of their collection. I have said often that a potter should surround themselves with pots from potters whose work they enjoy. Using your own pots is like talking to yourself. I got a piece of cherry rubarb pie made in a wood stove by the Amish lady down the road waiting for me. I'm going to pile it up with fake yogurt ice cream and think of the week with Dan.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Finnegan's Wake

Well, Dan’s Animated Functional Pots Workshop has come and gone at Pinecroft Centre for the  Arts. I’m going to miss Dan and hope we can work together sometime soon.  It was like meeting an ole friend that I had known all my life. Our pottery interests and life’s path are so similar.
Dan did an amazing workshop full of solid information on how to make good pots and make a good living. A good living is subjective and probably not what most people would want to buy into for a life. Maybe for a day or two, a week , a month but not for a life time.  I felt in good company.
I was down stairs making a few pots inspired by Dan. It is wonderful for a teacher that has given for so long to be taught by a contemporary that you love and respect. Thanks Dan, let’s do it again!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Loosey Goosey

A Canada goose poops every 3 minutes. There is several gaggle of geese on the pond where Dan walks across to get from his cabin to the studio. His cups are becoming as loose as a goose. We'll be sending you home a different man. A good man to be sure but a changed man. I feel an urge to get tight all of a sudden.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Damn Fine!

DF is here from Virginia. Dan Finnegan showed up yesterday for the unloading of the wood kiln and a crit of the work. It was great to have him here. It always super to have different voices and perspectives on the work. Critiques are such an important part of growth. At first I think people fear them but as you get more comfortable with listening and learning they grow so much faster. We as potters often work in isolation and the only voice we hear is our own.
My former student and friend Andrew Kellner has been with me for 4 of the 6 wood firings here at Pinecroft. He is headed off to grad school at West Virginia U and to say I will miss him is an understatement. I really don't know how to teach a work ethic such as he has. He is nothing short of amazing. I presented him a Fiskar axe and a Canada, Eh ball cap. A Fiskar is the Cadillac of axes and I am quite certain will serve him well in his long career as a woodie. Cya in 3 years Andrew. I'll be a senior citizen then and I'm really going to need your help. There is always a spot for you around the firebox. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cremating Tony

Ya I've been missing in action. Had 6 potter friends fire the wood kiln over the past week. We had a battle royal with thunder, rain and less than perfect wood. Whenever I have not attended to the wood well in advance it bites me hard and leaves me sore. Lucky the kiln Donovan built us has a large engine that so far has been overcome mother nature and me. We got temperature but it was a battle of the minds while the crew and Andrew and I had to rake out the coals of the firebox several times during the firing. This is a no-no with a bourry box kiln when you have good dry wood.
Maggie supervised the firing while the kiln boss had a nap.
We unload tomorrow and we are hoping that Dan Finnegan gets here in time for a little group critique of the pots. I got some hubba bubba shino in there I am anxious to see. Andrew just had to tag the kiln so he forgot the comma and it reads like he would like to fee the kiln me. I'd actually like that when the day comes.

Friday, May 9, 2014

For the right reasons

Firstly I would like to congratulate Teresa Dunlop on her new residency at Harbourfront in Toronto. Teresa qualifies as an old bull. If you want the story you have to buy my book. Teresa came to Sheridan after 3 decades as a high school teacher. She outworked every student in the building. Upon graduation she applied to the Harbourfront Centre for a residency. I phoned her and talked to her about how ageism is alive and well.   She said she knew that and would like to go for it anyway. She was up against others with graduate degrees  and teaching at prestigious institutions. She wanted this and for the right reasons. She wanted to be an ambassador of clay and continue on her journey. This was not to be a resting place while other applications were sent out and considered. This was to be a commitment to a place and a process. I have applied for jobs for the money, for the prestige and  for the wrong reasons. Gee, I wonder why I never got the jobs????  Teresa's intentions were sincere and that must have been obvious to the selection committee. Sometimes the truth wins.
Teresa is the one with the green glasses. I got another big smile on my face since the one with the big hair Marissa Alexander another 3rd year grad of 2014 got the other position at Harbourfront. She ain't an old bull quite yet but

both of these ladies walk the walk. Nicely done, ladies!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Northern Migration

It's been a late spring but I hear the migration of song birds has started. It is rumoured that Dan Finnegan has his van packed and he has flown over to Minnesota for the prestigious St. Croix River Valley Sale before making his trek north for his workshop here at Pinecroft Centre for the Arts. Collectors from all over the country go to that sale which is an invitational show of some of the countries best. Dan is in fine company.
Dan is a damn fine pot maker and his going to the birds is only a part of the picture of this truly Renaissance man. The more I find out about Dan the more I am humbled. He is a dang bee keeper, too!
We have a couple of spots open in his workshop so if you want a lifetimes worth of pot making in one week Dan is your man.  I for one am highly anticipating this workshop.  We're waiting for you Dan. I'm resting up for your arrival. Oh maybe I'm not. We have a group wood firing next week and Dan should arrive for the upload and perhaps a crit of the work and a dinner together with the woodies and the new arrivals.

Monday, May 5, 2014

First Prize

My blog has been kinda boring of late. No one is commenting. Time to stir the pot. The good news is the sales at the Hamilton Pottters Spring Sale are up. Ya this could mean a turn around in the economy. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
So does first prize go to the potter that made the most money at the sale? Remember first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second prize is a set of steak knives and third prize is you are fired!!!!!!! So for those of you that took your best work to the sale and came home without much money you're fired. Do you feel like failures? Are you saying to your pet rock "No one understands my work!" Do you believe in the bohemian paradox that if it sells it ain't any good. Hmmm this is indeed a conundrum.
 I don't display at the sale since I know my sales would most likely be in the bottom 10% so I would be too embarassed to cart it all in and then cart it all back out again. I subsidize my pots with teaching. I love teaching so it is a fair trade off.
That said I am the lucky recipient of all the benefits of membership to the guild. These benefits are mostly provided by monies from those that sell well. I get to do a 12 month paid wood fire mentor ship courtesy of the Hamilton Potters Guild.  Thank you to the "Eh" Team!  To those of you that made enough money this past weekend to do it for another day, week or month my hat is off to you. To those of you that barely paid expenses buy my book "Stuck in the Mud". It is full of lessons

on learning through failure. Oh yeah, I forgot you can't afford it and those that made the money don't need it. Dang!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Buck Naked, t shirt, or fully clothed


Our next wood firing is a week away and I’ve been thinking about the chaos of glazing day. I have put out over a dozen glazes and watch with horror at some of the combinations and then find myself somewhat surprised with the awesome results.  I have seen people think that the wood kiln will provide all the serendipity and watched their disappointment at a “so what brown” pot. I have gone the gamut with wood firing. I have left the pot buck naked, I put a t-shirt on and left the bottom to get toasted and I have entirely glazed the pots. Last firing I left my Helmer clay body buck naked and it was beautiful. Sometimes if the kiln decides not to kiss the pots I wish I had glazed them. In my fully clothed period I was reacting to the hundreds and hundreds of brown pots I was seeing representing wood fire.  So many ho hum brownies for a few killer pots. I had the brown blues.  So it is a conundrum – clothes, some clothes or cover up all the parts. 
Here are a couple of Cassara's slip cast porcelain vases from the Sheridan wood kiln.  Here is me from Ronnie the Rat's Ratagama. I think bare bones was a good choice.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Post Modern Peasant

Here are some killer pots from Dr. Steve Harrison in the Land of OZ. He is a real Renaissance man who digs his own clay, mills his materials and lives off the land.   I started correspondence with Steve some 30 years ago when I was having trouble with a large two chambered wood kiln I had built. I heard of this pamplet he wrote called "Laid Back Wood Firing" and I wrote and offered my first born child to have a copy. Six months later I got a copy of the pamplet and a no thank you for my child. Those were the days before the internet and an answer took months and sometimes years. Today I can write Steve in the evening and wake up to an answer. I love his description of himself-

Potter, kiln surgeon, clay doctor, wood butcher and Post Modern Peasant.
Check out his killer pots. Glad to have Dan Finnegan coming to Pinecroft. Dan has no electricity, no water in his studio and fires a wood kiln. The strange part of this puzzle is he built up a phenomenal complex called Liberty Town that looks like the perfect modern day shopping experience. We are going to have some looooooong talks at his workshop.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hit the ground runnin'

We are pleased to announce the addition of Cassara Kennedy as the summer studio technician and thrower at Pinecroft Centre for the Arts. One of the many advantages of being an Adjunct at Sheridan is I can keep my eye peeled for a student with a good work ethic. Cassara started the week learning to throw cups to a stick measurement and thowing "tuckers" off the hump. Tuckers are those little pots that tuck into the nooks and crannies around bowls and other pots. They more than pay for the cost of a firing.  She is learning that firing almost empty kilns is not a good business model to follow. We just loaded the big car kiln today and think she was mind blown at how many pots we squeeze into a load.
Cassara will be my right hand this summer with helping workshop presenters and me to present a fantastic clay experience. Welcome to the mudpits, Cassara! Four egrets landed on the pond today to welcome our new understudy.