Saturday, October 31, 2015

How the other half live

We bid farewell to all our friends at La Meridiana and headed off by train to Florence where Rick and I were lucky enough to have a private tour of the city by one of the students- Jenny Kim. She is a Korean, from New York City that is now living the life  as an artist in Florence. Jenny treated us to a wonderful meal in a Trattoria that we would have never discovered. We were able to dodge most of the thousands of tourists in the city with her knowledge of the back streets and alleys. The riches and decadence of the wealthy are on display everywhere. A visit to the porcelain gallery of Richard Ginori established in 1735 and now owned by Gucci is unbelievable. I wouldn't dare ask how much a place setting of 12 might set you back. Some wonderful pinks and yellow glazes. Oops can't have that! There were dozens of different handles and spouts on display. Inspiration is everywhere if you just open your eyes.
I'm sitting here at the airport and there is not one single soul here. They close the airport at night. I'm just hoping security lets me sleep in this uncomfortable chair. Departures opens at 4:30am. Good thing I have good memories as this is going to be a looooooong night.

Friday, October 30, 2015

More red dirt

We visited another pottery yesterday that had it's start in the 1880's. A couple of whooping big bottle kilns no longer in use. One 120 cubic meters and the other 80 cubic meters. They were still making flower pots coil and scrape. No wheel and yet perfectly symmetrical pots. I like how they treated the rims. For the most part the pots are over decorated but I think this rim treatment is something I want to go home and digest. Speaking of digestion here is Rick beside the Italian version of a Coke machine except it dispenses vino. I truly believe that Canada's liquor laws are antiquated.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tony and Mario

I was high today to meet my brother/soul mate Mario Mariani the big pot guy. He fires a big bottle kiln with a firebox the size of my house. He pushes the wood back into the firebox with a large hoe attached to his fork lift. He said he has been married to clay and never divorced. He makes pots without a wheel but they are absolutely symmetrical. He digs the clay from the back yard and processes mountains of clay in his hammer mill and mixer. Hey Dan check out these handles he makes in these press moulds.  I wish I were 27 again so I could work with this dude for a year or so. The pottery and the facility harkens back to medieval times. The technical safety standards crew would shut him down in a heart beat but he is an Italian living treasure. I would love to see Mr. Jin from China and Mario on stage together. They would be speaking the same language -the language of clay. There would be a respect for each other that most us would recognize as a brotherhood of hard work, heart ache and love of process.  Today was my best day in Italy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Italian Stallion

We had a long day in Siena today touring the city and basically shopping, eating and drinking. It is a very classy city with no chains like we are accustomed to in North America. I did see a Foot Locker but that was it! No Golden Arches, no KFC, no Dunkin' Donuts and all the junk food stores we see in Anytown, North America. I wanted something to take home and I have been in search of a yellow leather belt for some time. I got one in a beautiful shoe store that made hand made shoes. Man, oh man were they beautiful shoes. I saw this pair that were totally me- green, yellow, and orange crocodile skin. They had beautiful leather soles and nice little metal cleats on the toe and heel to let people know you are coming and wearing a killer pair of shoes. We had a great chat as this craftsman made shoes in England and spoke very good English. The shoes were $980 Euros and made to order. That would only be about $1500 Cdn dollars for me. I opted for the yellow belt cut to measure. Sure wish I had a job that would give me the coin and the occasion to wear such beautifully crafted dawgs.
I had my picture taken with this voluptuous chick

in the courtyard of the Domo.

Monday, October 26, 2015


When we talk about kiln building we refer to catenary arches, sprung arches and Roman arches. Apparently the Romans took credit for what had already been done by the Etruscans. Here is an arch in the old city of Volterra

that I believe was built 200 years before Christ. So how on earth did they lift those massive stones so many years ago without cranes and forklifts?  How on God's green earth did they cut those arch stones so perfectly without the use of rotary blades on a massive saw?Why in creation did they build this wall so thick? How did they lift those stones up there? What kind of arch form did they use to support all this mass?  How did they build the ancient pyramids is once again brought into question. A medieval parade came thru the narrow streets with men sporting the most deadly looking cross bows I've laid eyes on. As luck would have it there was a farmer's market  on that day so we tasted beer, raw cheese, truffles, chocolate, meat, wine and was delighted to get a big chunk of lard. I had to turn my head  so as to not watch him eat that.  We went to a fine wine store and I bought a Nebbiolo and Rick bought a Barolo. I do prefer the big serious wines of the north to the lighter wines of the Chianti region.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

I've been usurped!

We went on a day trip to Volterra today and visited the Etruscan Museum I call the handle museum. There is a room full of cups that make me want to run to the studio make some cups and then run back to look at some other sources of inspiration. There are upside down handles, roundie handles, handles with bridges and every handle I think I invented was done over 500 years ago. If you thought I made wide handles these dudes have me beat by a country mile. We had a great day with truffles, cheese, wine and good company. Volterra is not yet been all that discovered by foreigners so it was predominantly Italians. What a great motorcycle ride on the winding roading leading to this walled town.

You are what you eat!

If it is true that you are what you eat then I am either a nut or a fruit.  Ok, I am both. There is fruit growing all around us here at La Meridiana. The pomegranate tree is laden with fruit and there are some nice potted lemon trees around the property. Someone made the mistake of placing a bowl of pistachios beside me last night. They are highly addictive. We have had 6 full days of making in the studio so today being the sabbath we are taking a day trip to a place I call the handle museum. It is a wonderful old medieval town with a fabulous Etruscan museum full to the brim with great cups. I think the gang needs a day off from the mud pile. We'll drop Rick off at church since I think he needs some help. He was singing and playing air guitar in the studio yesterday. He's a

 Bruce Springsteen wannabe!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Studying Italian

We were off on a homework assignment last night in the old medieval city of Certaldo. We walked the narrow cobblestone streets and and a glass or two of a lovely Chianti in an outdoor alley way. Rick introduced me to a tasty cocktail - Negroni. We went into a nice little museum that had some really killer handles. It was just like I had planned this evening of homework. Then to discuss our homework we headed to a very nice restaurant were supper started with meat, cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and bread. This of course was complimented with some lovely Chianti.  Just when you thought you had already eaten dinner the mushroom pasta arrived. Then just about at the point your eyes were starting to cross came the chocolate tarte and the expresso. Not sure if it was the wine talking or not but the group is talking about a reunion. It is a really good group and the morning critiques have been really awesome. Everyone is feeling very comfortable in their own skin. The pots are really moving along nicely.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bon Jorno from Chiantishire

I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth but I have been super busy with some long days and nights.   We have a mixed combination of students from intermediate to having never touched clay before.  There a great melting pot of cultures in the room that add to the flavour of the Tuscan stew.
There are some great ingredients from these parts of the world- America, Canada, Israel, Korea, Spain and Slovenia.  We have moved a lot of clay in the past 4 days. Even our newbie from Israel who had never touched clay before threw 12 bowls yesterday. She said she is sleeping like never before because she is so excited and emotionally centered on the projects of the day.

Of course the meals have been out of this world. I must say the Mediterranean diet is my all time favourite.  We have gone out for a couple of dinners together and a wonderful wine tasting that included beautiful olive olls, breads and salads. We had a late night last night with pizza delivered and work continuing in the mud pits. A group of painters dropped by from Helena, Montana and we had a lovely time with wine and beautifully prepared finger food. Rick and I have been the last ones in the studio at night. Have I ever told ya the story of the young bull and the old bull?

Friday, October 16, 2015


That's about as much as I know about golf. Tried it a couple of times but the goofy pants and shoes didn't cut for me. Besides it interfered with my time in the studio.  Do one thing well! I got boat number four made and it's a funny thing about how old memories can sneak up ya when you are making something new. Of course this is not a literal reference but I made these tiny windshields and I thought of the old wooden inboards I used to love up in Muskoka. They had these tiny windshields, rumbled thru their dual exhausts the sound of a flat head 8 cylinder or sometimes they were blessed with a V-8. The wood was varnished and polished to perfection and usually the bottom was painted red. Often there was a flag waving on the back. I started adding fins like the old 57's. God only knows what I'll be up to on my return from Tuscany. Gondola's maybe although I will have travel further north to see them. Maybe I'll give up clay all together and take up golf. Four!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

No change in me!

I am hoping to have four ships in the fleet before the silver wings take me away across the puddle to Tuscany. I shurformed this one to make it a bit lighter. I just couldn’t reclaim all those interesting bits so they became the worm eaten wood of the ship. I tried making some cups and some thrown work but with only a couple of days in between gigs I just can’t muster up the energy. When you get back from a gig there is so much to catch up on and when you are leaving for a gig there is so much you need to do in preparation for leaving. I’ve already started filling in a 2016 calendar so I really must be careful to give myself some down time next year. I am sure many of you think all this travel and the pot parties are the best of two worlds. I wouldn’t mind a nice looooong courtship with my mistress the clay. She has had to play second fiddle this year with me leaving her for extended times. I look at my work and there has been so much change in it. Little wonder- changes in me, changes in the work. I guess that’s better than change in the weather, no change in me.

Today bike ride,  travel insurance, Euros, banking, post office cancellation of mail, Park n Fly coupon, laundry, vacuuming, pick up of oil furnace (sold on Kijiji), pull the Calla lily bulbs, mow lawn, finish and start a ship, and then off for an opening of a friends new store in Port Stanley. I plan to have a nice time with my buddy Doc in Italy. I think a shared bottle of Barolo on the patio with Doc overlooking the olive orchards of Tuscany will settle this scrambled brain.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Look longest at the things you don’t think you like for it is from them that you will learn the most. If you only look at things you like you will be looking at yourself and your tastes will never develop. There was a time when I screwed up my face at the sight and taste of a Brussel sprout, a stem of broccoli and yes even a damn fine dram of Single Malt Scotch. What happened? Well it must be that I ventured out of my comfort zone and gave them one more try. As I told you in my previous post I was in a computer funk and took no pictures of the Flower City Potter’s Invitational. On the first night I walked by the pots of John Gill. I thought “Holy shit Batman what is this all about? By Sunday I was picking them up, smiling and investigating some very complex forms and glaze treatments. I laughing asked him to make a cup exchange. My $40 cup for his $400 dollar idea for a cup. He didn’t go for it! Each of his cups offer so much information on form that scaled down would make such interesting domestic ware. Each cup contained an idea or several ideas that would make great cups.! If I had struck gold I would have bought one for my collection. Next year!