Monday, August 31, 2015

comin' around

This week is proof positive that my little house has become a home. You have to be a friend to have friends.  I've had some really encouraging comments these past few days. Birds of a feather flock together and I am in with  a pretty great flock.  Friday I had Steve the Potter fly in for lunch. Steve has his pilots license and a little Cessna he is leavin' the farm in. Steve joined me for lunch with my old dancing partner/potter Shirley Clifford. I think I have been friends with Shirley for over 3 decades. Then my student Major Jane Thelwell ( four tours of Bosnia) joined me for supper and stayed over. We solved all the problems of the world and everything there is to know about the life of a potter..
Four of my students rolled in today to fire the wood kiln. We had a pot luck at The Cactus Lounge. 
Today Teresa and Chris both independently said your blog has been on a roll of late. You are on! You have landed on your feet.Your thoughts are reflective, funny and food for thought.
 I know I am in good company. I truly love my life and my friends.
Also got a bit of good news this morning . My student Joon Hee Kim has been accepted into the Chelsea College of Art(England) for an MA in Sculpture. Jooh Hee applied for a BA but her work was so strong they gave her a generous scholarship and have accepted her into the Masters program. So this year I have 3 in Britain- Joon Hee, Amber Zuber MA at Royal College of Art and Jordan Scott working at the Leach Pottery in St. Ives.

My motto " If you want praise go show your work to your mother or partner.  If you want the truth come and talk to me and my students. They have all learned soooooo well. I think I'm comin' around!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tony's Pizza, Tony's Clip Joint and Tony's Club Mud

There are some spaces in my Spinning your Wheels at La Meridiana in Tuscany. I thought I'd post the itinerary for any of you that might be tempted to spend two weeks making some pots in one of the most inspirational settings I can imagine. Every hour has something planned with some great side trips to Volterra which has the most fantastic collection of Etruscan pots you will ever lay eyes on. The visit to "Super Mario" the big pot man is worth the price of admission. This guy puts on a performance. I do also the idea of a spaghetti night watching  a spaghetti western. Bring your chaps and lassos.  As for the firing we have the option of either a soda or carbon trap shino firing. Both excite me.
We will make and talk about our work each day. I have been thinking about Italy this week.  It's such a civilized place with awesome food, wine and in a incredible facility. It's sneaking up on me.
Here are some crazy ewers I made after visiting the museum in Volterra. I need another fix.

 Spinning the Wheels – Programme Schedule Day
Studio work
Around the studio works ( this is a flexible proposal and will be adjusted according to the ceramic needs)
Arrival between 3 and 7 pm., with pick up at Certaldo train station at 6 pm.
8pm Opening dinner hosted by La Meridiana
Introduction to the studio and studio rules
Start studio work
8:30 Welcome breakfast
12:30 lunch
2 pm shuttle to Certaldo alto for inspiration and to the supermarket for groceries for your daily needs
Dinner on own.
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
5:30 pm Wine tasting and light dinner in Barberino. This is a pleasant introduction to many aspects of Tuscan live style!
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
Studio open late ( 10:00 pm) with pizza delivery at 7.30 pm
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
4:30 pm Coffea break with local Honey tasting
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
5:00 pm Introduction to Boccaccio, the medieval novelist, then trip to Certaldo alto, Boccaccio’s birthplace. Dinner in Certaldo
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
Spaghetti cooking demo and dinner and Movie night with Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti western.
Studio closed
Day trip to Volterra and the “handle museum”. Lunch and dinner on-own
Finish Work
12:30 lunch
2 pm shuttle to Certaldo for groceries
Day trip to Siena Lunch and dinner on-own
Decorating and Glazing
12:30 lunch
Firing/ cooling
Day trip through the Chianti area and to visit Mario Mariani, a traditional potter who makes the big, traditional terracotta containers. On to Greve and marvelous Chianti hills.
Open kiln, clean workspace,
12:30 lunch
2 pm Visit to San Gimignano. See studio of Franco Balducci
8 pm Closing dinner
Shuttle to Certaldo train station

Friday, August 28, 2015

Showing my ash!

I had to resort to using the red phone to try and find out an answer to my green flames. My friend and Prof John Neely is who I turn to when I have a head scratcher concerning a wood kiln. I fondly refer to John as the man with the ceramic brain.
Here is John's answer:
"Wish I had a good answer for you. About all I can offer is kind of a round about take on the subject. You’ll remember from salt kilns that sodium burns yellow - well, calcium is more orange, potassium burns purple and boron blue or green. I don’t really know much about other colors (except magnesium, which is white) but that is how miners used to analyze the rocks they were dealing with. A “flame test" was the first thing they tried. You also know that carbon burns yellow, orange or red, depending on temperature. Pine usually is dirtier - meaning more carbon which would look red or orange. My guess is these minerals are what influence the flame color."
So to add to the mystery here is a picture of the ash from the firebox. I thought I was hallucinating but the ash was green. I asked Duncan and Cassara to confirm and it is indeed green. So this must back up the theory that it is the mineral content of the wood that is giving us green flamers. It seems that certain woods contain a significant amount of boron. Apple orchard farmers can have their soil tested for boron. There is more to know about this wood firing than I can fit into this life time. I think I'll come back smarter in the next life.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

You're OUT!

You’re OUT  and don’t you come back until you have learned the rules. I have decided to appoint myself the Standards Committee Chairman of my own collection. 

First candidate- Ronnie the Rat Meyers,  Professor Emeritus, U of G, Athens, Georgia
Oh my Ronnie these plates have yellow, red and pink stains. You know they are disallowed. What if someone took one of these plates and served coq au vin, or stuffed whitefish with lemon sauce or southern BBQ on one of these rough edged plates. Could you not have sponged down the sharp lines? I’m sorry you shipped your work all this way but you are OUT!

Second candidate- Bruce Dehnert Head of Ceramics at Peter’s Valley Crafts Center, NJ. Oh Bruce your edges are sooooooo sharp! Have you never heard of a green scrubby? What if a customer decided to put their lips to the edge of your vessels?  Your pots are kinda wonky too! Why didn't ya clean all that clay shit off the sides? They don’t look like you have mastered the craft. We here at The Cactus Lounge don't like marks of process.  Sorry man but you are OUT. I still like you as a person though, OK?

Candidate #3 John Chalke The Canadian Cowboy and Conscience of The West- Holy shit, Batman these glazes are beyond acceptable. What if someone took this pan off the wall and decided to serve a Cornish hen in it? The glazes are all bubbled up, sharp and goodness me they just might kill someone. Johnnie my old friend wherever you are please don’t scorch me for this. I’m just doing my job. You’re Out!

Candidate #4 Dan Murphy- my prof at Utah State University. Oh Dan, this dang moon jar is all lop-sided. It ain’t even symmetrical for heaven sakes. It has these scars on the side of it like it fell on something during the firing. The rim is kinda sharp and it is leaning over all wonky like. You call yourself a Professor- ha! As much as I hate to say this- You’re  BIG TIME OUT!!!!!!

Oh man this has been stressful.  I fear my whole house may well be a danger zone. I have so many pots with all these imperfections.  How could I have chosen so unwisely. Where do I begin?  I'm having friends over tomorrow so I had better trash my entire collection for fear of a law suit. Soooooooo much stress!  I had better go for a run. It helps me get away from all this responsibility. Have a safe day everyone and by all means stay clear of nasty pots.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ban Ceramics Education

I’ve come up with a brand new plan. We need to scrap Ceramic Education in the schools. I can’t tell you how many students in the course of my 15 years of teaching at Sheridan College told me they sold more pots at the Guild Sale before they came to Sheridan than they do now as better potters. Don’t go pointing the finger at me! I was only a part time faculty and had them for a total of 7 weeks during their 3 year program.
I have 4 of my former students coming this weekend for a wood firing. Last long firing we discussed “how to keep love alive? This time the firebox conversation will be what the hell happened to my work? Why is it
not selling at the entry level like it used to?????
So if our plan as educators is to have our students gainfully employed in clay upon graduation then we need a brand new plan. We do need to make money. There is no way I want to eat Ramon noodles each day and I like my little Cactus Lounge and my old car.  I also like good pots! My definition of a good pot is copied from Hamada- A good pot is one that I like.
There are some great pots being made today. The best I have ever seen in my 64 year history. I feel a change coming. It is a small ground swell but it is enough to give me hope.
From my vantage point I have seen potters that made their best work while in college and the prospects of making a living has kept their work on hold for decades.
Same ole, same ole.
Making a living is important and they should stand proud.  I am most interested in those that have made a living and continually made outstanding work. Kayo Young is having a show at the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas, Ontario in Sept. Kayo is one of Canada’s best kept secrets. His work in porcelain is ever changing, beautifully executed and he has made a good living. That deserves a standing O.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Your Voice

First let me start by sending my condolences to my friend Carter for the loss of his Dad. Carter I hear your voice. I hear the sadness and I understand all about feeling a lack of motivation to make-work at certain times in our careers. Mend yourself man and we await your comeback.
I’m feeling somewhat reflective tonight.  Fools think that financial success and artistic success are synonymous. They are NOT!  One of the members of my mentor ship group belongs to a co-op that accepted a financially successful potter. Now the financially successful potter has all but killed my mentee’s presence in the gallery. To my mentee all I can say is keep your voice. You didn’t join a wood fire mentor ship group to follow the market place. Your choice has been to march to a different drummer.  Your work is growing! All in the group are urging you on. The people that read my ramblings each day are not your average everyday potters.  Your work is not destined for the home of everyman but is destined for someone’s home.
Then on the same day I heard from a friend that has been fired after over 25 years of teaching at a local art school for having a voice. A teacher without a yearly contract must keep their mouth zipped when it comes to what they see as injustice. Question the powers at be and you are toast. The world needs more voices. Good on you. Take a bow!
I once had a professor Jim Miller that said _ Say something stupid and all will say “Oh that’s Tony Clennell the guy that said something stupid. Say something intelligent and they will say “ Oh that is Tony Clennell that said something intelligent.” Say nothing at all and they will say Tony Who? So much of the work I see in the market place today says nothing at all. It is a sea of sameness.  The big voices whether I like the sound or not speak above the crowds. Your voice and your work it is one. Sometimes I wish mine were softer, more refined and more polished. As my boy hood hero Popeye the Sailor Man said “ I yam what I yam and I ain’t what I ain’t- toot, toot!
Be authentic!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Blue flamers

If you know what a blue flamer is then your youth was as misspent as mine. For the last couple of days we have been firing the big bourry box at Pinecroft. What we have been noticing on the last two firings is a turquoise/green flame from the stack. When we had some coaling issues with the wood yesterday we switched from the green flame producing ash to pine and voila a red yellow flame appeared. Laughingly last firing we blamed Teresa for her copper red pots in the firing. And yes copper can produce a green flame but for that long and that high- unlikely. I crashed early last night and now find myself up early in the morning wondering what the hell that green is. I read an article by the University of Wisconsin and I still don't really "git it". It  ain't the chemistry. It ain't the physics! It's the Swan Bands or reflected light.  Hey can someone there explain this to me at a Grade 8 level. I'm rather daft when it comes to understanding science.
Here are some of my mini moon jars fired a couple of weeks ago in The Amish Rocket up in Chautauqua, NY. You can look at some of the work fired in that kiln on FB Chautauqua Area Potters. Some nice fish by Marv Bjurlin, a nice Ronnie the Rat jar and some other goodies. Thanx Marv for posting the wee jars. Now to find a way to git em home to papa.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Finnegan's Wake

If Finnegan's Wake is one of the most difficult works of fiction then the the pulling of good handles has to be one of the most difficult of tasks for a potter. My cousin is in Ireland right now and sent me a pic of this cup from a museum in Galloway. She claims I must have some Irish in me because she knew I would love this cup with the crazy handle addition on the side. As I read her email I looked down at my morning high test that was in a Oh Danny Boy Finnegan cup. Gee, do you see any reference to his ancestry? I wonder if way back in our DNA influences lay waiting to get

let loose in our creative acts. We can't help who we are and what we make and who we love. It is programmed into our very souls. Hey Danny Boy I thought you'd love this cup too. Looking forward to seeing your face in Rochester. Well I'll only see part of your face. The rest of it is covered with your signature handle- the beard!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What's your cup size?


A friend of mine asked me to make her four small espresso cups like one she bought a while back. I said where did ya get that??? I could never sell them. People want BIG!
It takes just as much time to make small cups as big ones. It takes just as much time to make a small teapot as a big one. So why is the price differential so wide? I’ve noticed that if I line up ten of my cups made at the same sitting the ones that are the tallest are the ones that sells first. They are getting more for their money- right!
I also don’t get a significant increase in price for my wood fired work versus my gas-fired work. In fact if I consider the entire kiln load the payload on the gas kiln is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar greater. So why do I make some small cups for a friend? Why do I bother to spend a week or more preparing for a wood firing when I could load up a gas kiln and go watch the ball game. Ooops, on second thought I don’t own a TV. I’d probably bore y’all with another blog posting or fall asleep in the arms of the yellow chair.
I guess my answer at least for today is that I make what I like to look at and what I would like to use. Fact is I don’t like to use big cups and I’m still crazy after all these years for the drab colour pallet of high fire wood. 
Here are 4 little cups I use for espresso - A lovely ornate English teacup that I use with my baby finger perched up high, Iris Dorton, Emma Smith and Linda Christianson. Oh, by the way I never use my own pots. I believe it was Warren MacKenzie that said " Using your own work is like talking to yourself."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Being Mortal

While in Newcastle on Tyne, Robin and I went to one of our favourite places- a great book store. For some reason I bought"Being Mortal" by Dr. Atul Gawande. It is a book about how we can live better with age related frailty, serious illness and approaching death. Not exactly a light read and one that was a tad depressing but worth while.
Last night it was brought home to me when I received a call from a dear friend of some not so cheerful health news.
I have had a week where my hands hurt and I find I'm moving a little slower than normal. It could be the scorching hot, humid weather or it could just be a sign that I can't do what I used to. I've got about 10 bundles of wood processed for the next two wood firings that are happening in the next two weeks. Please pray for rain and to give me the strength. In my youth I would have fired the kiln solo for up to 38 hours. Now I am lucky to have 3  friends on the team. Thanks Jen Drysdale, Duncan Aird and Norm Wheeler. Welcome to Tony's Fat Camp. It will be a scorcher!
Wood firing has been a big part of my life over my career as a potter. Now maybe I need to consider a good gas kiln and sail once a year on a wood boat with an experienced team at the helm. Mortality gives us good reason to look at our life's work and what we can do to keep the rock rollin' until the last stoke.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I hear banjos! Paddle faster!

Well, I threw a couple of wobbly pops in my back pack and headed out to see Fred Eaglesmith’s Travellin’ Steam Ship Show. There is a mixed bag of folk turn out to see Fred from Harley Dudes, to farmers, to truck drivers, potters, musicians to well let me see workin’ folks mostly. He plays tribute in his songs to people that work, migrant workers, truck drivers, train engineers etc, etc. I think that is why he so well loved by working people. He grew up poor on a farm here in Southern Ontario and has never forgotten those roots. Good on you, Fred!
 Except for the guy on the electric guitar (who is awesome)his band is an all girl band complete with the 50’s poofey dresses and the beehive hair doo. It is performance art! Yes those that put on a good show know that it is a performance. People are not there to see a car rust. I learned this lesson when for a short term I was Acting Head at Sheridan College. I had some presenters whose work I loved come to do workshops. It was a snooze fest! People were falling asleep and leaving in droves. Remember folks it is performance art!
 My next workshop I want some backup singers with big hair, short skirts, high heels and big red lipstick.  When I make my final pot I would like a standing O and I will come back on to make a handle. Get out of the arms of the yellow chair Tony and go to bed. It was a dream and tomorrow you have work to do. I had a great night meeting some Fred Heads and enjoying a beautiful southern Ontario night. Life is good!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

An hour with a beautiful woman!

An hour with a beautiful woman passes much quicker than an hour with the dentist. How long do you think 6 hours feels with a beginner's pottery class? Sometimes if I can just make it through the morning the afternoon seems to slip away quickly. It's that initial learning to center that can be so grueling. Then sometimes there is a student that starts off struggling and by afternoon things are starting to click. Once they get over the fear of the wheel the creativity starts to show. She took the end of the spoon and made this fish scale cup. I think that is an awesome first cup!  Talk about fear of the wheel. Because I had a full class and all wheels were spoken for I had to use my Uncle Jimmie's home made wheel to do the demos. It has two speeds- on and off. It is powered by a washing machine motor and goes pretty damn fast. I learned on this wheel so it was like a trip back in time. Because I use soft clay and a slow wheel this was like Toronto road rage for me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Man's Prayer

A Man’s Prayer
Here is the man’s prayer by Red Green another one of Canada’s icons.
Ok, men raise your right hand and repeat after me
I SUPPOSE. (with a sign)

I took the liberty of  starting to write The Woman’s Prayer
I AM A WOMAN (said forcefully)
More of Red Green’s wisdom includes “if ya can’t find em’ handsome then find em’ handy.
This baking dish of Linda Christianson’s is probably 30 years old and remains the most used ceramic cooking dish I have. I don’t find it particularly handsome but it sure is handy.  I use it to make shepard’s pie, lasagna, cannelloni or to take to a pot luck filled with my world famous burnt chicken wings. Sometimes I just pile it up with fruit.
A thrown bottomless pot is made oval and a bottom put in or you can completely screw up the whole idea and make a box like I did back at USU in 2006. I actually use it as a flower box.I think Eric Botbyl is making some really nice boxes these days. He posted one on FB the other day that was a collaborative piece

with poppies on it that was really wicked. I can't get that one out of my wee brain.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


When you have a successful brand you don't need all the glitze and glamour. The hand painted word "FRED" means Fred J. Eaglesmith and The Travellin' Steam Show are in town. There are plenty of you scratching your heads and thinking who the hell is he??? Well, that just means you ain't a Fred Head. Fred is a Canadian singer songwriter with a huge following. I happen to be one. He is just down the road this weekend for his annual charity picnic and weekend of music, workshops, friendship and fun. I will put a couple of pops in my back pack and head on over.
Establishing a brand and a following is lots of work. I have heard some musicians that don't like him because of his promotional skills. I'd say eat crow. He delivers musically and has established a market. It's not the big stage, jet planes and limos but it is a living. He most likely jumps in a van or motor home and visits small towns all across the country singing songs about losing the farm, buying a gun and stuff people around here identify with.
Those in Ceramics that have established a brand can probably list only their first names and you can fill in the rest: Robin, Pete, Tom, Dan, Ron,  Paul, Rudy, Malcolm, Mick, David. Now their are new names popping up in wood firing- Perry, Mathew, Simon, Justin, Lindsay, David. How did ya do at the name game? There are no prizes for being able to read my mind.

Monday, August 10, 2015

12 Step Program

Last summer I offered a one day introductory course at Pinecroft. I had one student that was hooked and wanted more. I tried to get rid of her and told her to take some courses at the local guild. She phoned me last month and said she had taken 3 courses and wanted more of me. Well, I had to give more thought. I emailed her and said only if it was 3 hours on Monday morning and the 3 hours the next day on Tuesday so she could finish what she started.  To my surprise she said “Yes”.
Bring your work for me to see and get ready to do repetition work was my answer. Well as suspected the work was at a beginner level. So often I have had to deal with people that say that they have been in clay for 15 years. Really????????????? How come your work is at such a  beginner level? 15 years of golf, tennis, a career, a family  and pottery as a side line does not count as 15 years. Sorry, but 15 years means 15 years of blood , sweat and tears.
So I set out my 12 step program that started with flat bottom mugs. I showed her some from my cupboard- Dan Finnegan, Ed Drahancuk,, Andrew Kellner, John Glick, MacKenzie Smith, Mark Pharis, my uncle, Ruggles and Rankin,  Linda Christianson, Allison Coles Severance and others. I wanted 15 cups this morning and ended up with 10. She claimed she made 13 pieces in 8 weeks at the Guild so we are off to a good start.  Homework for tonight was U-tube Pete Pinnell – Thoughts on cups and read the first two chapters of Clary Illian’s- A Potter’s Worksbook. I realized a while ago nobody wants to be me. They say they want to be a potter and wake up on Monday morning with all the creature comforts of another life. I’m giving her 6 weeks of 2 days a week- 12 step program. . Golf, tennis, cards at lunch take your pick. You wanna make pots- welcome to Hell. The Devil awaits you.

My English Teachers

When I look back on my Ceramic Education it is smattered with English teachers. In the 70’s there wasn’t only a English music invasion in Canada. The Brits came in full force to teach ceramics in Canada. This wave may have well been lead by my friend and mentor Grass Hopper. It was on Grass’s advice that I go to Georgian College and study with Roger Kerslake. I went there as a special student for one year since I had background with my uncle originally from Northumberland, England. Roger had recently immigrated to Canada to take Grass’s job at Central Tech in Toronto and then to head the program Grass started at Georgian. Grass quit Crappademia to be a potter.  During this time the Brits invaded and I was privileged to have workshops/lectures with Micheal Cardew, Harry Davis, Garth Clark, David Leach, Mick Casson, Wally Keeler, Jane Hamlin, Johnny Leach, John Chalke,  and John Reeve.
There is a common understanding that English education by the old masters was disciplined. Yes, they were tough task masters but what was great for a bull headed student like me was that it was education by example. I always wanted to at least keep pace with them.  That would be impossible if you wanted to emulate the likes of Harry Davis. The fastest hands I ever witnessed. No fuss, no muss!
So Roger I am thrilled to be in your show. The picture of your understated beautifully crafted teapot makes me wonder what kind of crazy nonsense I am up to with all these handles. You shouldn’t have told me – you’re in my show because I like your handles.  I have always admired your work. The best advice I ever got was to spend the time with Rog.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Wetting yourself in Italy- Depends!

I’m starting to think about my course in Italy at the end of October. I want people to leave the course making better work. I don’t want it to be a greed fest where people do what they do at home to fill the kiln. I want to be able to walk into the room and see a signature in each person’s work. My philosophy for my workshops is imitate, improvise and innovate.
I emailed Claudia to see what kind of kiln we can fire the work that we classify as racers. I have the option of a big soda kiln or doing a carbon trap shino gas firing. I made my living in another life doing wood fired salt and then a decade doing carbon trap shino. What I like about both these atmospheric firings is that the pots look wet. The carbon trap shino was very hard to photograph because it was so shiny and wet looking.  Here is a pic of a jug that I made probably 5 years ago when I was in search of soot. I used to correspond with the Queen of Shino Malcolm Davis about the illusiveness of this maverick glaze. I was nailing it! We will do a firing in his honour.
So it all DEPENDS on the size of the group and the quality of the making which kiln we will choose. Hell, I am excited about both possibilities. A double soda option!  Depends!

Friday, August 7, 2015

I'm on Meds!!!

During the drive home from NY State after firing the Amish Rocket with friends I felt a bit down in the dumps. Don’t know whether it had to do with the welcome I would receive from the yellow chair, or whether it was missing Andrew's hairy mugg, the thought of not going back to Sheridan College this Sept or that I felt my well was dry of things to make and deadlines are closing in.
Today I spent the day shopping at my local Amish veggie stand, putzing around cleaning the house and attending to the bills that never go away. I went over to Pinecroft to tidy up the studio for my Saturday class and then I sparked up the tractor to fetch some wood to be split and stacked. Split and stacked until a deer fly took a hunk out of me and I retreated home.
When I got home I thought gee I might as well prepare supper.  Then I cut the grass and I still hadn’t made anything in the workshop.
I liked the jugs I made last week so I set out to make some smaller shapey roundie jugs. Well after 6 o’clock I ain’t much of a thrower. After a few shapies collapsed the meds kicked in. Meds are a form Mick Casson made with great success. His jugs referenced the wonderful lead glazed Medieval jugs. Mine are a derivative of the Med with the curves on the saucer foot.  Tomorrow night after class I get my favourite night of music on CBC so I won’t need the meds to chase away the Blues. The Blues will chase away the meds.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My New Train

It is hard to have studied at USU and not fall under the influence of John Neely. I think a USU grad took John's plans and decided there was no money in pottery so he would make train

fired BB-Q.
We had some great wood fired ribs at a rib joint down the road from the firing. I've had some trouble with my forehead because of past foolishness as a teen staying out in the sun. An Englishman wanting to be a sun worshipper is not a good idea. I had forgot my hat and sun screen so Ron gave me a hat that I might be embarassed to wear back in Aylmer. Ron is wearing the Stoke Naked t-shirt. Looking around the kiln at our collective team this would not be a pretty sight.  I think if I wore the t-shirt and hat and went down town I might get arrested.
Firing is going well. The kiln was at Cone 10 in 15 hours and is being held for the next 33. As we say in the Universal Semen Sales Company the pots will be as smooth as the snot on a cow's lip. Now how's that for marketing?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Old Hwy #5

As I drove down old Hwy #5 thru Lackawana I thought of Dan and the working class roots of Bufflalo that he is so proud of. I passed the Rust Belt Bar and Grill, the Ford plant, the grain silos, the oil refineries, the steam boats, cargo ships and the working class of America. I arrived at my buddies only to find him working on pots that celebrate the grain silos, the tug boats, the bars, and the roads of his beloved working class roots. There are none of the usual suspect creatures in this work. The large forms will be painted with roads, ships, bars, and imagery of a city that was once America's 7th largest city. This work shows the unbelievable imagination and talent of the maker. In his 80th year his work blows me away and remains my favourite work on the planet. If you can't guess who this work is made by you are living under a rock. One of America's best!
We loaded an anagama today and will fire for the next couple of days. Once again i feel so blessed to be part of an amazing group of makers. Here's to makers past, present and future!

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Right now I’m in a groove. I really mean I’m focusing on grooves in the rim, foot and the handles. I’m more focused on the top and bottom than I am the middle.  I’ve always thought that the top should relate to the bottom. So if you are going to make an undulated rim then you make an undulated bottom. If you are going to have grooves in the rim then why not the foot?
I had always told my students that you should know what glaze you are going to use before you even start making the pot. This usually flies waaaaaaaaaaaaay over their heads. Now on these grooves a runny pooling ash glaze much like Danny Finnegan uses would look rather sexy. Me, I’m a one trick pony so I will glaze in my trusty “She Knows” and then wipe away the high points on the rim and foot.
A gallery I deal with “The General” put a call out for butter dishes so I thought what the hell. I haven’t made them in eons. The dang handle crept in again.  I then resisted turning these bowls into baskets so I wouldn’t get the question “What can you use it for?”. I also made some jugs that are nice and shapey then got carried away with handles again. I wonder with all this handle madness whether one day I’ll just make minimalist pots with no adornment? Next life,maybe! For the time being, I’m groovin’.   My work always changes and goes thru different ideas. Some hopefully get revisited. 

PS: I think you can see why I like a Thomas Stuart splashpan. I'm a workin' man!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

I love trains!

For those of you that can't join me in Tuscany there is another option on the Wet Coast. It has been almost 5 years since I last fired my train and made the huge mistake of moving to the city. Me without a wood kiln is like a duck without water. I am excited to be going to the Shadboldt Center in Burnaby, BC to fire a train kiln built by train master Ted Neal. This kiln is no doubt a thing of beauty. There will be a firing, a throwing workshop, critique
and a lecture.  The bourry box is a fantastic kiln but the train gave me some pots from the throat arch that looked like they had been fired for a week. The surfaces were exceptional!!!
We will have two days rest while the kiln is cooling so I hope I can go visit Grass on the Island.