Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Helping hands...

As I am gearing up for the annual Potters' Studio Tour here in Indiana County I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be involved in an active arts community. It may be pretty loose knit with its own little factions but hey, for the most part people are usually willing to lend a hand or get involved. Which leads me to my little Chautauqua reunion I had over the weekend with Dan Kuhn who worked with me all summer as the studio tech and visiting faculty member and face jug maker extraordinaire Jim McDowell. Dan fired the Phoenix Fast Fire Kiln at IUP(Indiana University of Pennsylvania) where I work and where he is finishing up his MFA . He and Jim pretty much filled it full leaving a little room for squatter potters like me and whomever else was standing around to throw a few pieces in too. Well, unfortunately it was a miserable weekend for firing a kiln, especially one that is not under any sort of roof. I stayed around a short while...brought them my old E-Z Up tent to help provide shelter and drank a few beers. The bad new was that getting to temperature was not in the cards due to several factors. Dan and I talked on Monday morning before I left for the studio and decided that while the kiln was still hot, why not just give it another try. The kiln was dry, hot, and loaded still(like me when Im on vacation in Florida!)...it made good sense. I stopped over around 4 and stayed until almost 11:00...cone 9 was soft and I went home. Dan fired it up right... we blocked up the firebox some to restrict the air intake and put the torch to it for periods of time in between heavy stoking and vigorous raking. Dan said they salted and finished off around midnight. I was happy I could put my two cents in and lend a hand...there is nothing more disappointing than spending a whole lot of time working a kiln only for it not to get to temperature. I'm happy for Dan, Jim and all 5 of my little pieces that were in the firing. Results on Thursday!

Oh, and that Potters' Tour I mentioned...October 17&18...it is around this whole area and has 7-8 studios with at least double the amount of clay folk involved. Its a great tour with a lot of great work at peak time around here for autumn color.
I leave you gentle reader with a final gratuitous Autumn image...heading up to the studio.

Friday, September 25, 2009


September 22nd officially ushered in Fall and it certainly is starting to look like it around here. The trees have already started to turn and as Nancy and I get more work ready for our upcoming wood firing, she hired friend, neighbor, potter, and carpenter, John Jacobson to put in the new ceiling in the studio. Man, does it look good!
Fall is my favorite time of the year...I'm an Autumn child. Not only is the 22nd of September the first day of Fall but it is also my birthday. So I would like to wish all the other Virgo/Libras out there a Happy Birthday and a cozy Autumn. Bring on the warm color, pick out your pumpkins, and get the rake ready... Fall is here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bling bling...

All that glitters...is bling. Which reminds me, I thought I would post some images of a small group of work I just finished up. A friend whom I worked with at Chautauqua this summer, Maria Mangano, will be getting married this coming weekend and she had asked me a while back to make mugs or something or other as gifts for her bridal party. I changed our plan a little and came up the idea for these small, sort of dainty but funky sophisticated cups. Well, there is nothing like dragging it out to the last minute...and boy, I'm good at that. But I am pleased with how they all came out...cone 10, reduction fired, celedon with an accent glaze down at the foot. Maria then provided me with the image of the tandem bike, the same image that appears on her invitations. Both she and her soon to be husband are avid cyclists. So, I turned that into a page full of tandem bike decals and fired 8 cups back to 04 with them on one side and finally finishing them off in another firing for the gold luster...BLING. Pretty fancy for a couple fingers of good whiskey, maybe they are better for the vino. Anyways, I wish she and Dave the best in their marriage and hope their brides/grooms peoples enjoy drinking from them.
Here are a couple other pieces I have finished off...the cups are from our recent soda firing and the other piece is from the wood kiln...all are smooth and satin-y. I have re-fired all these pieces to cone 018 in order to integrate the gold luster. Click on them to enlarge the image. I am in the process of making more and off to pick up some Jack Troy Stoneware down in Pittsburgh on Friday. I think we will be doing another big wood firing coming up soon...Studio tour in mid October!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Some cool mugs from some cool people...

This morning I was reminded of a phrase that I have kept in my head for a long time..."its not the places you go, its the people that you meet". This is a phrase that is so true for me. After I have left the place where I was either working, enjoying myself, or through travels, its often the memory of those people whom I have met at those places that brings back the smiles. This is why I am posting today. I am a lucky enough fellow to have met some really cool people in my life time and I would like to share one of my favorite ways of recalling that person and that particular memory...mugs and cups. Now, not all the really cool people I have met make mugs and cups, but at least the most recent people.
Being the kilnmaster and studio manager at Chautauqua does have its perks and meeting lots of good people is one of the biggest. Receiving a mug or cup from one of the many firings I do up there for people is also a close second! I did meet many cool painters and one cool print maker and did receive nice trade items from them too...but that's for another post, clay first baby!
My collection of my mugs and cups has grown...I drink from a different mug each morning and as I savor my favorite El Salvador beans I am reminded of the person that made that mug and where or how I happened to acquire the mug. I love making mugs and cups.I believe they are the most direct way to connect with another person through the work that I do. They are affordable for most all...they make intimate contact through use, and they are for sharing with friends either through gifting, trading, or having some coffee together. They have many of the same traits that bigger more expensive pieces exhibit such as:juicy glazes, great ash runs, fortunate flashes, and expressive imagery or graphics. They are carriers of expression as well as carriers of libations.
So here is the booty that I came away with from my summer and also a pair of beauties that I received when I came home...

The Mug to the far left is by Justin Lambert, fired in our salt kiln at Chautauqua...the tumbler is from Alec Karros...beautiful blue celedon fired in a cone10 reduction in the Blaauw kiln.

Below: Polly Anne Martin, cone 6 tumbler (perfect for a beer!). Bobby Tso, cone 6 with his own decal fired on at cone 04...a talented young student that I hope to see again in the future.
And below those: Dan Kuhn, my super studio tech at Chautauqua
...both mug and cup are porcelain and fired in the salt kiln. Then I got these in (future)trade from Nancy Smeltzer with whom I am the squatter potter firing with her and throwing in the studio. They are a couple of drippy beauties from the train kiln. The blue herons are all but obscured from the ash runs with only their heads peeking out from behind the atmospheric goodness...I love these pieces.

I hope you enjoyed seeing my new treasures and I hope you also enjoy the simple pleasures of the handmade drinking vessel...I will be working in the studio quite a bit in the next few weeks as Nancy and I plan to do 2 more wood firings before the upcoming studio tour in October... until next time gentle reader...cheers.