Thursday, December 31, 2009

Coming Home

My son and wife Laura, and the granddaughter, Shelby are going to be home on the fifth or sixth of January and I will be very happy to see them, it has been three years since I have seen them. The baby was just a few weeks old, then and now she is a wonderful little three year old. I understand from Chase that she has a large vocabulary of dribbles, oozs and auhs (is there such words?). So, I have delayed Christmas till they get here. It is said that Christmas is for children, it will be for me too.
Chase has been to China, Australia, Guam, Midway, Manila,cursed up the China Sea and the Philippines. For a boy from Mitchell County, this is not a bad deal. His grandfather was in China when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He had served with the Asiatic Fleet on the USS Parrot and was one of the few ships that made it to Perth, Australia. Most of the Fleet was of WW1 vintage.
Anyway, I wish you a very good new year and I hope this year will bring you wonderful things.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas and the New Year

To everyone I wish that you will have a very Marry Christmas and the best for the New Year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Spruce Pine Potters Market

The Market has just finished with some very good traffic and quite a few folks carrying bags of pots. As a general statement, no surveys or market analysis taken, I think most of the sells were in the moderate to mid level price range, but the best is that people were buying. Saturday was a strong selling day for everyone that I had spoken.
The show keeps growing and the quality of the work is high. A note for show organizers, when you bring in junk to a show, your educated buyers will not show up, they don't want to go to a flea market. I've seen lots of shows bite the dirt because organizers were just making extra spaces to jam in as many booths as possible. I feel that these shows will usually self destruct, but with most of the expense, usually thrown on the backs of artist doing the show.
I had gone to south Florida to do a show, several years back. The promotions had declared the shows virtues and its visitors/ sell numbers were very high. Well, there was no mention that a lot of the booth were low and in a flood plane. If it had rained, I would have been fishing from my pedestals. An "artist", used very loosely, sat in his booth and cried most of the show, this raised the water level up an inch or two. Then, there was the young couple who bought a double booth on another side of me and they brought most of their living room suit, to make the customers comfortable, while they, the customers, looked on to black velvet paintings, that kept me nauseated most of the show. Actually, I was waiting for the belly dancing to start. So, to make my point, If I had not won best of show in clay, I would have had to max out my credit cards to get home.
I have a point to this story. I believe that craftsmen are going to have to ban together and create their own specialized shows, potters markets, glass shows, and/ or sculpture shows, etc.. Inflation, gas prices have made a demand for centralized markets. We are fortunate here, in that there are enough studios to make a fairly large show, with an above average quality of work.
In this economy, artisan works are usually the first thing that will slow in sells, and it is usually the last thing that buyers will start buying after money has loosened up. So, creative thinking will be the way we can survive in a tight economy. Let me know your ideals, I'd love to pass them along and give me a better insight to selling in better ways.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mint Museum Potters Invitational

It occurred this weekend, and I was able to go around a little bit and say hi. Folks were buying and a lot of the potters were busy up till closing. That was very refreshing to see, most shows have been very slow with a lot of potters going home not even paying for their booth. Charlotte was very comfortable for me this year, we got lost going in to Charlotte the first year and then Maria and I got a bit sick from the stress I had self imposed. But, this time we had a couple of decent meals and just rested. Maria had a sinus and ear infection and was not up to par, but she hung in there for the show and enjoyed herself.
Can anyone guess the mystery potter in the first photo? My flash did not go off. It looked like a good contest.

This is Shawn Irland talking with a buyer.

This is a shot of Ken Sedberry and his guardian series.

Jane Pieser is with some buyers and Terry Gess is in the back ground.

Terry Gess was the mystery photo.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A return to functional work

Just unloaded the kiln on sunday, to a very nice firing with temperatures no more than 10-15 degrees top to bottom, with consistant moderate reduction all the way through. Some of my bad clay (too much silica on board) snuck through, so a couple of pieces bit the pit. Maria and I clean up the rest of them and packed them up for the show this coming weekend in Charlotte at the Mint Museum. If your in the area stop by, there will be some very good work to select.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Potoviewr Photo Gallery

I found this today and thought I would pass it along. It adds alot to the blog, excuse the repeat of photos, but they were the only ones I had on Flicker. I had to do this in two post, sorry. I haven't tried it yet, but you might be able to click on the upper left corner ID and it should take you to the site.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Paul's Photos

Wanted to pass along some shots my son Paul took the other day on top of the "Roan".

Monday, June 8, 2009

good stuff

Just wanted to pass along a search engine that I just spotted. . I was wanting to look at images of wood fired anagama kilns. I clicked on the images menu (left side of page) and then entered "anagama kilns" in the search bar. It literally loaded thousands of photos of pots, kilns, and people associated with my search. Then, if you find something that interest you, just click on picture and it will yield lots of info about the photo. This is good stuff.

I have been focusing on the garden and getting work done for the Studio Tour this coming weekend. I'm trying to stay positive about traffic to the gallery and I think that we will be seeing more folks coming from regional areas close to Mitchell and Yancey counties. Gas pricing going up and the general condition of the economy I'm sure will affect us. Good Luck to all this weekend and may crowds be in your studio.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

azaleas, rhododendrons and locus blooms

I felt it would be nice to send everyone a selection of blooms from around the house. Enjoy with your morning coffee or tea. The blooms are begonia, azaleas, rhododendrons, and the white grape like clusters are locust blooms (this makes a very good honey).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finally, a good loaf

After many years of trying to develop a sourdough, I think the June Perry info and directions have given me that wonderful crust and flavor I have been looking. You will notice that a little mouse has nibbled on one of the loaves, she is such a bad girl.

Friday, May 8, 2009

kilns, bread, and blogging

The last month has been busy with alot of different items and I have let the blog fall back a bit. I haven't participated very much and have had to spend most the day catching up with the blogs.

I have been able to do some digging on the footers of the kiln. During the fall and winter, the ground is so hard I'd have to blast to dig in the dirt and rock. I started this project over a year ago and I guess it will take another year or so before I even finish the footer. Maria has been pushing me to get us a wood kiln back in the family, but a deminished capacity, my reality of the amount of work helps fuel my reason not to get it done.

Maria is a pyro and loves to fire the kiln, even with all the work involved. She actually has a forty hour work week, a real job, she always says that "I married her for the insurance." But since it is about mothers day, I told her that "I married for love." That and a Halmark card and she is as happy as peaches in cream. Am I not the luckest dude?

June Perry and I have been exchanging ideals and info to find us a good soardough bread to bake. I lived in San Francisco for a while and going to the corner store and getting a loaf of the Boudin Bakery soardough was a pleasure that for me has never been duplicated. June has found a source for the lactobacillius San Francisco bateria and we both have been working with it to see if we can come up with a good substitute, and my first attempt has had some success with the sour qualities present, but weak. More to come with this for ya. Oh yes, the city bakery in Asheville has a decent sourdough available, if you can get there early enough. Follow June's blog for the things that she is doing to get a good sourdough.

Catching up on all the blogging that is going on, I have seen some really good work being shown on these pages, I have gotten more info and up to date imagery and goings on online, than just about anywhere. Thanks to all that share, it lets everyone know that they are not alone making pots out there.
So, make those good pots.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Our daily bread or dough

Chef Boy-r-de in a box got me going. Shakey's Pizza then kicked it up a notch, (before Emeril), then the Pizzerias of Chicago, New York and San Francisco became a measuring stick for good pies. How was I to get one here in Bakersville, NC? My kitchen and yours is all the tool's you will need. Plus there is a renaissance in cooking at home and the information access online didn't hurt.
For me the basis for making good pies rested in the dough and its ingredients. Bread flour or high gluten flours (semolina) works the best for what I want in a dough. I'm looking for a finished crust that is light, chewy, Swiss cheese textured, with a slight crispness to the surface. Most of the pies I make at home are with Pillsbury bread flour, because of access, I can buy it in town. One other flour that is very helpful is to have on hand is rye flour. It adds strength and flavor to the crust, plus it is the basis for sourdough if you want to go further with doughs.
Intermission: Books you need to have access to:
The Tassajara Bread Book (my copy is from 1970), by Edward Brown. Julia Child's The Way to Cook, Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer, FlatBreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid and the Culinary Institutes of America's Baking at Home and Baking & Pastry cookbooks are excellent reference tools and will just plain make you hungry to read any of them.
Some highlights that I use to consistently get the crust I want, (if you don't eat the outside crust, go buy yourself a red baron pizza and turn on a TV somewhere). Julia Child says that to get that chewy crisp crust you will need to increase the amount of moisture in the dough, it should be sticky when it is mixed, (most recipes say form a ball with the dough hook, letting it pull away from the sides). From this ideal I use this method to create my dough:
2 cups of warm water
1/2 Cup of Rye Flour (level )
3 1/2 cups of bread flour (level )
1 Tlbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 pack of yeast
Attach the dough hook to mixer, add the water to the bowl, add the rye flour (start mixer), add 1/2 cup of bread flour, add the yeast and salt, ( I let it mix for a minutes to let the yeast dissolve), add the 3Cups of flour and lastly add the olive oil. Let mix for 20-30 minutes, It should be smooth and have a bit of shine to the doughs surface and just a slight amount of a ball of dough should be on the hook, but the dough will be almost like a batter. After mixing, I take and pour extra olive oil around the inside of the bowl wall with the dough in the bowl, and using a plastic spatula, I turn the dough over and over to coat it and the bowl. I cover and let rise till doubled, punch it down with the spatula and clean the sides into the middle of the dough and let it rise again, I don't worry about it again till time to eat, This dough will make about three 10-12 inch pies so I take about a third of the dough and drop onto a well floured board and round it up and onto itself, forming a ball. Picking it up I quickly by pushing dough into the center from the bottom as you are holding the dough, producing a smooth top surface. Then I put it down on the board, then using my finger tips I take the area just inside that outer part(rim) and flattening it, you will have a little hump in the middle, which I punch down with fingers. I flour the dough and turn it over, flattening it with my palms and fingers till it is about 10-12 inch wide. I leave a bit of untouched dough on that outside part to hold in the sauce and ingredients and so I can chew on and admire it. I dust a peel with cornmeal, lay the dough over onto it , add the sauce, cheese then ingredients, The meats and such will not get done if they are under the cheese. A little carmalization on top is needed.
For baking: Use a silicon carbide shelf rather than a cordite shelf, Heat the oven to 500-550F for about a half hour before you start the pies. This crust will get big bubbles, so look at the pie early and watch for big bubbles to start, I use a metal spatula's edge to bust the bubbles, the bubble pushes the ingredients to one side or the other leaving just a little sauce.
My sauce:
Tomato Puree 1-10.75 ounce can put in a food processor (put the can in the trash, not the processor)
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2 of a large onion diced
6-8 leaves of Basil chopped
1 tsp of salt
Process till all is pureed. Let set for a little while before use. I put my sauce on with a pastry brush. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

This I make when its a special thing:
Crushed roma tomatoes with salt to season
tear the basil over the crushed tomatoes on a pie
Take buffalo mozzarella and cut thin slices and place them sparingly on the sauce. Bake in a hot oven for about 5-8minutes. And sorry, I enjoy a local microbrew, those boys are good at it.
Well, I hope you will try this and get out there and make them good pots and pies.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sleeping Heads

I took these shots in the gallery (barn). I love these soft and gentle expressions that I have placed in various locations throughout the farm. They seem to have their own life, and I am always surprised how they sometimes reflect my mood. Even though they are sleeping, I see anger, sadness and peacefulness in the different pieces, and I like the the texture that is created when I put the pieces together. The bottom photo is of one of the largest I have been able to get through the process (firing, mostly been the problem).
I've slowed down the firings and bisque the work. I also put sand or wadding underneath the piece. This resolved the problem. I also had to build a pulley system, to load the big pieces into the top loading electric kiln. It's like burying someone, I lower the piece into the opening, gently placing two or three posts underneath the head so I can pull the strap from around the piece. I see the bisque cycle as the death cycle of pottery, dull and lifeless. The final firing being the renewal of life, full of color and presence. The wet clay as I build or throw so alive and flexible, represents the birth and first life cycle of the clay.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Raised top p.2

When the parts stiffen up enough to handle, you flip the top over (score the top rim and add slip) and place it on the rim just scored (left). I go ahead and trim the excess around the form and clean it up. The lid is taken and concaved to match the shape of the raised top and add the handle (right). I had to do a little bit of cutting away on the lip, so it would set tightly into the opening of the form.
I found this to be as easy as I could make it.
I really enjoy this method for construction. It took me about an hour (not counting drying time) to produce each form (photo to the right). Have fun and make them good pots.

Raised top p.1

I created this form using a paper template, except for the top slab, which is beveled (raised up) to support the lid. I considered a mold of syrofoam, wood, or plaster, but I would only be able use it for the one size and shape and it takes quit a while to make these forms.
Producing another slab of clay I cut a squire slab of clay, which is slightly larger than the vessel rim. While the slab is on a flat surface, cut out the opening for the lid. FYI: I place a piece of plastic on the top of the new slab of clay, then flip it over to cut out the over sized cutout, having the plastic now under the slab, so I can lift it up, after it stiffens a bit (below right).
I remove the center cutout, setting it aside, then lift and lay, using the plastic for support, the slab onto the opening of the vessel, centering the slab and gently pushing down the inside edges, You need to let it stiffen enough( I had let it go all night on a rainy night, uncovered), then I was able to flip this concaved slab over to attach it to the top part of the vessel. (Look in part 2, bottom picture.)

I use the cut out, that I set aside to make the actual lid. I just laid the cut out on another slab of clay, measured out about an inch further on each side and then cut that out. I use the original cut out slab to make the lip on the lid (lower left picture). I make a mark on the cut out about 1/4 to 1/2"in, cutting it out to make a picture frame which I put on the new cutout ( photo below).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Movies and such

The cold today has run me inside and I’ve taken a nap, ate the last of my vegetable soup, feed the dog more than he can eat and have ended up watching the Oscars. TV anchors have stated that Hollywood would subdue its party scene in respect for the economic crisis in the US. Hollywood also reports that ticket sells are up and have always been up during times of downturns on Wall Street. The run for the theatre box office helps me live in this refuge for those moments in a fantasy. It is an escapism that I grab and liken to a hermit cave dwellers; it’s comforting to be in the dark, and live vicariously through my dreams. It’s a moment I can shift into neutral and coast down hill. Viva Bogart reruns, (doesn't quite roll off the tongue very well, does it?)
My uncle once told me that “the only reality in this world is at Disneyland, everything else is pure fiction.” That was under no particular stress and it has stayed with me since I was eighteen. My uncle was also noted for his tales and misadventures in high school. Too many tales to relate at this time, and in fact this is a pottery blog which I seem to be slacking. This seems to be the way my mind works, weaving in and out of imagery and mindless fantasy, and then all in a flash I’ll be back into a bowl. So, keep up them good pots.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Anniversaries and such

Tomorrow is the 16Th anniversary of Maria and I. For both of us it is the longest period we have been with the same person. It has to be one of the most difficult task to adjust or reach that balance where one is happy and comfortable with each other for those 20, 25, 30 and more years. Hooray for all of those folks who are still in love and making that life work. May you always be friends and supportive of each other. Good for you.
The American Heritage dictionary defines love as An intense affectionate concern for another person. It's a shame that more folks haven't read this and committed it to memory. Don't get me wrong, my memory has slipped and I have forgotten this definition, but I feel that I'm always trying to remember and act on that definition.
I've also been known as the Reverend, the Reverend Sugardaddy, and the writer John Ehle once said of me, "I think you would be a great bear", he was referencing the movie "Winter People". What can I say to that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Assembly of paper template forms, p.3

Note: The inside corners have to be enforced with coils to give joints the extra strength. When I attach the first edge slab, I can go in with my hand and place the coil by hand, then I go ahead and add coils all the way, as pictured in bottom photo. I then add the coils to the standing slabs other edge. I can then take a long stick and go in from the top after I attach the second edge slab to the form and push the clay coil firmly against the edges slab.
The middle photo shows a simple finish with the slabs to the piece. In the top photo you can see the addition of small arms or wings to the form. And since I will fire these in a wood kiln, I like to add a flashing slip to the surface. I let it dry for a couple of hours, then apply the slip.
I find this method very well suited for me, it allows me to make larger forms and repeat them without really making the same piece over and over. Have fun, make them good pots.

Assembly of paper template forms, p.2

In the top photo I have put thick slip to the base and to the form and assembled the two slabs. The jug supporting the standing slab is supported with a container of liquid, so it will not turn over easily. This will allow you to prepare the second slab and put it in place, as shown in the middle photo.
Note: For the large slabs I use my slab roller, but for the edge side and the base, I extrude a large coil (about 5") out of the pug mill and then cut it with a wire tool, producing 5-6" slabs.
The bottom photo shows my assembly of the edge of the form in place. You will note the clay is not all the way up the height of the form. By leaving it this way I can add whatever kind of top to the form that I find interesting, letting the same form actually become different images.
Continued in p.3.

Assembly of paper template forms, p. 1

I use a heavy weight paper with a center line drawn down the middle. I free hand draw on one side of the line on the paper of the form. I have drawn horizonal lines about every two inches up the length of the paper, so I then can take a measure on each horizonal line and mirror the image on the other side, then free hand the rest of the image. I use scissors to cut it out at that point and lay it on the slab of clay. The number of cutouts depends on the form image you want, for this I want two of the cutout slabs and I will use just made slabs of clay to tie the edges of the form.
Sorry, the photos are in reverse sequence. the bottom photo is #1. The middle photo is #2 and it shows the textured surface of the clay before I assemble, then I let the slabs then stiffen overnight. I like them to be able to stand on their edge and not collapse, usually leather hard.
The top photo (#3) shows a slab of clay. It can be any length or width. The slab I have made is about 5-6" wide and about3/4 of the height of the form. I score all the edges of the form and the area of the second slab (the base) where the form will attach.

I am having to publish this in parts, so that I want have too many photos up at one time, so this is continued in p. 2.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Paper templates

I had used paper templates many years back to build forms in sculpture, so I thought I would bring it back to produce functional forms. The top two I will have to remake, they froze in the freeze the other night. I've tried several things to see if I can salvage them, but I don't see any future for these two. Anyway, I've got the templates. I have put together several of the forms and I was able to document the process I have used. I hope to have it up tomorrow. Stay warm and don't let them pots freeze.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back to work

I haven't written in three weeks or so. The holidays always slow me down and the grey matter becomes a bit darker. Actually, I feel like a bear that wants to find a cave and hibernate when the cold air comes out of Canada.
I've been back in the studio for about a week, with several projects on the workbench. I have been cutting out templates with a stiff paper and placing the paper on a slab of clay to cut out forms that I can put together the next day. I hope to have a shot of the pieces as a before and after firing shot, if I can find my camera. Anyway, get to work and make them beautiful pots.