Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stoke Hole Pottery...

March was a pretty good month...I was in Florida for a week, had a great time at NCECA, and at its end here, I think I'm waving good bye to winter finally. So, I thought I would end this month by slamming out another big posting. This one is about my friends at Stoke Hole Pottery. I have been working out of their place since late January. I helped keep the studio warm during the weekdays and made some new sculptural pieces that I'm pretty pleased with right now. This has been a very enjoyable work place and I am stoked to feature this great working /teaching studio and gallery as well as the people who call it their home studio.

Stoke Hole Pottery was started by Birch Frew in 2002. Currently the picturesque property has a large studio space, an equally large gallery, salt/soda kiln and a Phoenix Fast Fire wood kiln...The studio gets great light due to the fact that one whole side is mostly all large windows. As you sit throwing you can look up across the field in front of the studio and at the hills in the distance. In February I watched a group of about 5-6 dear cross through the golden brown switch grass. That was a nice peaceful studio moment...ahhhhhh.
Let me introduce the crew...
Resident potter Cathy Bizousky has been with Birch from the beginning. They were then joined by the other resident potter Mr. Gary Stam. The three of them, along with the bunches of clay students that have come through in the many years, have been wood firing and soda firing their functional wares in one of several kiln incarnations since the pottery's inception. A recent addition was Debra English who became Debra Frew. Who, believe it or not gentle reader, was my first ceramic professor when I came to Pa. to attend graduate school. But the most very recent addition was Deb and Birch's sweet baby girl, Rayna.

The gallery sits just above the studio. The interior of the gallery is spacious, clean, and earthy. The back of the gallery has a handy-dandy pizza oven for those gallery events and the front sports a great deck to hang out on.

These three images are wood fired and soda fired pieces by Birch and Cathy...Cathy's pieces are the ones with flowers.

Also featured here are a set of Debra's cups with work from Gary Stam and vases and mug by Birch. You can also find Birch's work at Planet Art Gallery in the Mt. Lebanon area near Pittsburgh and the Commonplace Coffeehouse in my current hometown of Indiana, Pa. They can be found on the web at and look for them to soon open an online store with Etsy.

I have enjoyed the warm studio and good company from all at Stoke Hole in the past couple months. I highly recommend this place to any and all in the area who are looking for a nice studio space, clay lessons...from throwing to hand building...all ages and abilities welcomed, or a nice gallery spot to buy beautiful local art. I leave you now with a serene view, or as John Stewart says ...your moment of zen...go ahead, sit cross-legged on the floor in front of the screen...feel the end of the winter...oooommmm.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

NCECA 08 Blitzburgh!

NCECA...Pittsburgh, Pa....2008

Like the confluence of the three rivers that meet near by the sweeping tent like architecture of the convention center, thousands of people came together in similar fashion for this year's NCECA. For those of you who do not know, National Council for the Education of Ceramic Arts...AKA, NCECA.

I spent two days soaking in as much ceramic work and clay stuff that I could possibly hold in my little head. In brief here, I would like to highlight shows that I thought were very notable and also feature some of my favorite work. Speaking of favorites, my first stop was to one of my favorite spots, The Society for Contemporary Craft. This was mostly contemporary figurative clay sculpture. Great space, great shop area, and really interesting work. Below I put a few personal by Adelaid Paul, Sergi Isupov, and Jason Walker.

Next on my gallery hopping trip was Three Rivers Gallery...two separate floors of conceptual ceramic objects and small installations. I wanted to pull up a bean bag chair in the middle of all those ice cream cones, have a big mug full of hot coffee and watch the city go by under me!

Another really cool show that was recommended to me was 'Black Clay' at the August Wilson Center. I was so happy that I listened and went...great show...I was especially blown away by the large organic forms with the gorgeous surfaces in the back gallery space. I had recently seen an article on this person's work in a magazine, and I was thrilled to see the work in person. Another great piece in this show was the heavily decal-ed, commercially produced cups all arranged in architectural stacks and covered in images of pop icons and decal very Warhol...I'm a huge fan of the decal if you have not already figured that out.

Then it was a quick trip into one of the coolest ideas I have ever seen. The Art airstream trailer that has been outfitted inside as a mobile gallery space. It usually sets up shop immediately outside the conference and people flock to see whats going on inside. Inside you will find all functional ceramic works by a lot of young potters, including that of Elizabeth Robinson, whose work I love.

Afterwards I walked over to the I.U.P. show, 'Stuck In The Mud'. I had two small sculptures and one larger table piece that consists of 40 smaller works displayed in an orgy of form and pattern in this show. My buddy JR Sherburne had several of his beautiful and wild lidded vessels in the exhibit as did other past graduates and alum professors like Don Hedman. Current ceramic professor Kevin Turner's work was also featured, as were several of his students.

The next day I spent most of my time in the convention center itself...I spent a great deal of time in the vendor/exhibitor section...every imaginable clay tool, book, glaze and clay related item all under one roof! Here I also met and spoke with one of my very favorite ceramist/clay sculptor, Virginia Scotchie and purchased a great big glaze recipe book that she put together.

Late Friday afternoon, me, Nancy and JR headed over to the multiple shows and after party at Standard Ceramics. Standard is our local ceramic supply. Also on the same property as Standard is Pittsburgh's oldest and coolest clay gallery, The Clay Place, owned and operated for 27 years by Elvira Peake .

We saw some nice installation work and alot of great pots and sculptural objects here. The Clay Place featured the work of Kirk Mangus, Eva Kwang, and Micheal Simon, along with Elvira's own work. The shows in Standard were set up everywhere! All through the warehouse and clay production areas, boxes had been stacked into pedestals and the artwork mingled with the heavy equipment...notable pieces for me were the Arthur Gonzales piece that I am posting below, and this amazing cup piece as well as most all the work from the Nordic Wood Fire mini-show.

WHEEE-HOOO! That was a big posting! But to share this experience with you gentle reader, its so worth it! NCECA is jam packed with things to see and do. My brain is on ceramic overload and I am juiced to get in the studio and finish up my new sculptural pieces as well as start working on a new batch of wood fired ware. If you have never been, put it on your list of things to do. I spent a very happy two days with friends, meeting new people, and seeing some great, great clay. Goin' dawhn-tawhn to see yinz guys in the burgh was well worth the trip.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Signs of Spring and NCECA...

As I wandered around outside with my daughter today I could not help but move around the mulch in a couple of my flower beds just to see if anything was happening. It seems like it has been a long winter and it is so good to take note of the smallest hints of the coming spring. The crocus are almost all up making way for all the daffodils hot on their heels.

Looking around the yard I also spotted groups of these early spring volunteers...dewdrops...snowdrops...something like that...who knows, but they sure are cute little things. They come up in clusters in odd places around my yard every spring.
As I headed back into the house a bright green color caught my eye and I wondered what was growing in my hanging beds on the deck. Knowing it is too early for the Easter Bunny to have deposited a hidden jewel and puzzled by any sort of living plant life on my tundra of a deck, I crept closer to investigate. I screamed for my wife when I saw it. Look what the winter has done! Is it a sign of things to come!? Dear Lord, its alive, I cried!...The dawn of Frankenflower is upon us! So much color! What kind of creature is it?! Can I stand it?! Can you stand it gentle reader?!...We shall soon see...more to come on this strange sighting.

PS. NCECA is in Pittsburgh this week...I will be there Thursday and Friday...I have work at Boxheart Gallery which is on the bus tour for them and I am participating in the I.U.P. group show on Penn Ave. right by the convention center. I also have two more pieces down at Zenclay that is running their show concurrent with NCECA. I posted the post cards for the shows on the side. You can also see my functional work which is being shown at Boxheart on the myspace is on the sidebar too. And I have new pieces in my etsy shop too...yeah!

sorry for the disjointed post...but I had to plug NCECA...GO CLAY!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Florida Blues...a musical note

This past Friday night I traded in my usual snowy weather for a good ol' Florida thunder storm. Believe it or not, that's a pretty good trade. That night we trekked out into the rain about 20 minutes from Ocala and into the middle of nowhere, better known as Cross Creek. If this name rings a bell with you, it should, because it is the place where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived and wrote the book The Yearling. But we did not go out on that stormy night to sight see, we went for a much more important reason...fresh seafood. Nestled in the palmettos and blanketed by spanish moss is a restaurant that you might just sail past thinking its an old fishing camp. The restaurant is also named The Yearling.
The real bonus came when I saw who was playing there. This man's name is Willie Green and he is the real deal. I have known Willie for many years. He and a few of my friends would play together at numerous parties that I attended, and a couple times at my own place. He would also play around at a few bars in the area. Willie was sort of a well known character around the down town area. Recently, however he has a full time engagement at The Yearling. He is now living out there and playing on the weekends. Willie is an amazing blues musician who has lived a long tough life but he told me when I saw him that he has stopped drinking and is doing so much better out there. The weekends bring a steady crowd and he has even cut a CD with a regional production company.

True blues fact: Willie Green learned how to mimic a harmonica by making sounds with his mouth and throat. He said he never could afford a decent harmonica so he just learned to sound like one. He still uses this trick, as I witnessed on that rainy night, even though he has his own these days. It was good to see and hear Willie and if you are ever near Cross Creek, search him out.

PS. I had a heaping plate of fried grouper, shrimp, oysters, and scallops with a side of collard greens and a baked sweet potato...that was some good eatin'

PSS. My 5 year old daughter shot these images...I think she was channeling her inner Diane Arbus.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dark Corners in the spotlight...

Hey, long time no write...don't take it the wrong way, its not you...its me...I think we can still be friends. I have been on hiatus in Florida for a little while seeing my folks and visiting some friends and soaking up some much needed change of weather. Speaking of friends, I want to feature an old friend of mine in today's post...drum roll please...ta-daaa!...Gene Hotaling of Dark Corners Studio in Ocala, Florida. That's him on the far left.

I have known Gene for a good many years now. He is a wildly talented artist, high school teacher and past recipient of a Fulbright Award that sent him to Japan for 3 weeks. When I was living in Fla. I kept my large raku kiln at his place and he and I fired mucho raku pots. I apologize right now for not including any shots of the outside of the studio. I was over at night, it was raining, I was too lazy to go back during the day...blah, blah, blah. So, think palmettos, live oaks, and large magnolias then throw in a healthy covering of spanish moss and your getting there. Gene has a large studio on his property that also houses a nice little gallery to showcase his work.

Gene fires most all of his work in the large brick gas kiln he built there on his property. And no, I did not shoot a picture of it...I know I have failed you gentle reader, but hang in there with me. His work is high fire stoneware with lots of gorgeous shinos and a myriad of other glazes. Check these out!

While I was there I picked up a couple mugs for myself and Nancy. There was certainly no shortage of mugs to choose from. I picked up a couple with the tree images on them. Not only are they great looking, but they are well-handled and easy drinking mugs to boot. Gene is all about the importance of the function of a piece.
Gene is a immensely creative person and his work is beautiful and well crafted. I had a great visit with him and his lovely wife, Helen. I should get back down to Fla. a little more often...maybe at least before Christmas so I can peruse his legendary holiday sale! Finally, I am including a few more images of his work and his studio for your viewing pleasure...enjoy.

Thanks for checking back with my blog, sorry for the extra long pause. C'mon back y'all for another down home Fla. posting this week!