Saturday, December 18, 2010

Warm Wishes...

T'was a week before Christmas and all through the house
Im buzzing around like a scurrying mouse.
Packing pots into boxes along with toys and such,
while wondering if we have shopped for too little or too much.

When what to my wondering eyes did appear
but a frosty cold pint glass full of dark beer.
I was a little tired, not so lively or quick,
all I wanted to do was drink 'till I'm sick.

More rapid than eagles this Christmas did come,
we've been buying and selling, immersed in the scrum.
Ive fired a few kilns and set up some shows
now I wanna stay in my PJs while outside it snows.

Down in my basement I taped up the very last box,
the final orders from my etsy, which I think really rocks.
And I thank all of you for reading and buying,
its folks like you that keep my homefry sleigh flying.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Warmest wishes from me to much more to come in the new year!

Monday, December 13, 2010


The "Self Serve Pottery Kiosk" is now installed within its very first Pennsylvania location...The Philly Street Cafe in Indiana, PA. YAAA-HOOOOO!
Adam Paulek drove up from Virginia at the end of last week and we spent a couple days hanging out and getting the ol' Self Serve Pottery Kiosk ready for business. He showed me the ins and outs of running the kiosks and we also got another ready to head out into the Steel City. Pictured above is Adam "the brains behind the kiosk" Paulek inside the Cafe after we finished with the install. Below are a few images of the lovely proprietors of the Cafe...Leslie Swentosky and her husband and daughter...quite the family affair! Also, here's a real glamour shot of the outside of this wonderful Cafe. Our downtown has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance and The Philly Street Cafe is one of several locally owned and operated businesses to open recently.

So come on over and warm up in this spacious but cozy cafe...enjoy their delicious coffee, bagels and lunch sandwiches...I know I have already, and I'm planning to continue!

....and if your there, check out that darn cool Self Serve Pottery Kiosk!
Stay warm folks and buy hand made for the holidays!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Self Serving" Just In Time for Christmas...

Have I ever told you guys about a buddy of mine down in Virginia...I feel almost certain I have. His name is Adam Paulek he and I had a two person show together there in Virginia this past spring, and when he is not making pots, he is making other cool things. Adam is the creator of a little something called "The Self Serve Pottery Kiosk" which is pictured above. He has 4 of these babies in operation in the Richmond Virgina area and guess what kids...he wants to expand into the greater Pittsburgh area! And yes, you guessed it again, that means I'm involved now! Click here to read more about the Kiosks down in VA. You can also go to Adam's blog here to check out other adventures, namely his very cool...shipping container studio. Below is some of Adam's work that can be purchased either through the kiosks or from his etsy shop.
So, let me get back to the Kiosk...the idea is that we place these things filled with mugs, cups, small bowls, etc. in coffee shops and cafes and people simply purchase work from the kiosk... sort of like a vending machine. They all operate on the honor system and 20% of all the money from the kiosk goes to a local art based charity. Adam has a charity down in Virginia called Art180 and the kiosk we are opening tomorrow at The Philly Street Cafe here in Indiana PA, will give back to the Indiana Arts Council's special project RUMPUS. RUMPUS helps to provide donated items and materials to art students, art teachers,and other needy creative folk for a real bargain!

I am thrilled to be the Pittsburgh connection for Adam's Kiosk project and also happy that he would ask me to be involved. I still want to open up 2 more in the burgh so if you are reading this and know of a coffee generally cool place that this might work, please let me know. Below I have added a few images of some of my new mugs and cups that can be purchased from the Self Serve Pottery Kiosk. Click to enlarge and if you are in the Indiana, PA area stop over at The Philly Street Cafe...have some hot coffee, a yummy bagel and maybe a new mug!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I trust you all had a great Thanksgiving. I'm fresh back from a vacation down in Florida...seeing the family and seeing the Mouse and I'm ready to start breaking out some new stuff. Nancy and I fired the bourry box kiln the week before Thanksgiving and I have yet to see all my goodies. I was gone the day she unbricked and have yet to make it up to the studio due to some fresh snow and work at the university.
We fired the kiln in about 17 - 18 hours once again. She just kept on rising and rising and at the end we put a little more soda in the firebox than we did previously...about 4 pounds or so this time. The picture above is from the beginning of the firing...the kiln was cold and a little damp from all rain we had been having and she steamed and smoked like a bus load of old ladies sitting in front of the slot machines over at the casino. In the end I think it all turned out pretty darn nice...well, from what I have seen at least. Here's a few pics of pieces that will not be getting decals...a really sweet fat belly mug and a nice tall tankard. The tankard is just over 5 inches tall and has a generous 4 finger handle...but also nice and light weight too.

I also have a bunch of these slick little trays...relish tray...butter tray...cheese...whatever...they sure are cool... rectangles and squares all with fancy handles. Here are a few pics of those...I hope to make it up to the studio on Friday to start putting on some new decal images for all the cups, mugs, and trays. By Monday most of these will be hitting the virtual shelves of my online shop. The rest will be rolling into a new project with a friend of mine down in Virginia...Adam Paulek. I will post more about that later but I will give you a little preview to check here. In the mean time, enjoy the pics, do some Christmas shopping (online and with my shop preferably),and walk off those extra pounds from Thanksgiving so you can make room for all the holiday cheer still to come.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chicken Chow Mein...

I told Nancy I would stop being such a crank and post some pictures....

Brand spankin' new work...wood fired and fired again in an electric kiln to integrate the graphics...nothin' but Chinese menu baby!

New forms, old forms, really good take - out.

By the way, I have more new work in my Etsy shop...just click and shop.

Loading the wood kiln today and firing tomorrow morning...Ive got about 60-70 mugs, cups, and trays and more just waiting to be fired! I love the late Fall firings...the weather is cool and crisp, overcast with a chance of drizzle...the usual western PA weather. But I don't worry about that while I chuck wood into the firebox as it reaches flat cone 11 temperatures.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Constipation and the Reflective Nostalgic...

I am finally putting my two cents in to an interesting discussion that has been happening on a number of blogs out there recently; mainly, two blogs that I read on a regular basis, Sawdust and Dirt and Mudstuffing. Sawdust and Dirt is Michael Kline's blog and and he has stirred up a bit of controversy in the last month or so regarding his guest blogger, Don Pilcher who banged out several posts including this post as well as this one titled "Criticism". I want to also refer to a post on Keith Phillips's blog, titled,"Gluten Free Pottery"(sorry Keith, can not link directly to the post) that also responds to all the hoop-la that has been floating around out there in the blog-o-sphere for the last few months.

Why you ask?...Why not I say.

I am a terminally degreed guy who has spent the majority of his adult life in education, either receiving one or giving one. I have worked adjunct in art history and art ed. for the last four years at a small state university as well as serving as gallery director/curator for the same university for what is now going on 3 years. For the past 3 summers, I ran a fast paced, community based ceramics program within Chautauqua Institution's Art School and worked with a bunch of super folks. And, since the early 90's I have devoted my spare, and not so spare, time to making and showing art. AND, I have been tapping away at this keyboard filling these blank templates with text and images related to my ceramic life since the tail end of 2007. So, in our digital world where everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, is getting their 15 minutes, I just may be over qualified to state an opinion.
so yeah, why not.

But first an announcement!...I almost quit on you. That's right, I fell under a great grey cloud of self doubt and blog loath. It wasn't really from the articles I have mentioned above, it was from the weight of the outside world bearing down on my noggin. The articles mentioned above sparked more interest in me to write...but every time I did I felt hugely disingenuous on espousing my ceramic manifesto as it were. Who am I to tell you the need and importance for: continuous critical analysis, self reflection and the understanding of why you employ a certain method of finishing to your own ceramic wares?! Disregard my rattling off of the resume above, I just don't feel right about it. What I do know is, why I make certain objects, why I finish a piece the way I do...that everything is considered almost to the point of creative constipation. That's right kids, constipation. And personally, I have been backed up for a while now.

So between my creative grunts and pushes, I read blogs, look at magazines, and generally spend too much time online. And it has been recently that I have felt the need for change in my own personal work. Do I want to continue making predominately atmospheric fired utilitarian ware? I posted a brief musing concerning this back in early October, "Reacquainted"...this was a couple quotes that supported my writing on the necessity of a hybrid form. This also brought me back to the idea of "reflective nostalgia". All my sculptural work is based in this concept and I can talk about the utilitarian wares that I am making with the fired on decals through this same filter. But lets revisit the idea of a my mind, objects can be a hybrid even though they do not appear to have another function other than what is initially apparent. Let's take a mug for instance...coupled with the technique of firing images on the surface, creating a composition of sorts that allows the viewer/user a bridge to a separate association. This is a hybrid...a multi-contextual hybrid.

"This type of hybrid object aims to create a new and previously unintended use of a familiar object. By relegating a new chore and a new responsibility to the ordinary object, multi- contextual things embellish its functional resume and broaden the context of its use. … a thing that performs a particular function in a way that enlarges its context (Akhtar, 122).”

What I am proposing is that an object can have function other than its implied or intended use. This has been my interest in utilitarian ceramics and my need for the images within the surface decoration. It has been only in the last 6 years or so that I have been making work that has actually been intended for utilitarian use and not simply using pottery as a point of reference. This practice is based within a theory called reflective nostalgia...
“Reflective nostalgia can be ironic and humorous. It reveals that longing and critical thinking are not opposed to one another (Boym, 49).” Consider this too from Boym. “Reflective nostalgia does not pretend to rebuild the mythical place called home; ‘it is enamored with distance, not of the referent itself.’ This type of nostalgic narrative is ironic, inconclusive, and fragmentary. Nostalgics of this kind are aware of the gap between identity and resemblance; the home is in ruins or, the contrary, has been just renovated and gentrified beyond recognition. This defamiliarization and sense of distance drives them to tell their story, to narrate the relationship between past, present, and future. Through such longing these nostalgics discover that the past is not merely that which doesn’t exist anymore, but, to quote Henri Bergson, the past ‘might act and will act by inserting itself into a present sensation from which it borrows the vitality.’ The past is not made in the image of the present or seen as foreboding of some present disaster; rather, the past opens up a multitude of potentialities, nontelelogical possibilities of historic development. We don’t need a computer to get access to the virtualities of our imagination: reflective nostalgia has a capacity to awaken multiple-planes of consciousness (50).”

Which leads me back to the earlier mentioned blog posts that got me fired up about writing this post as well as adding to my cheese packed constipation. I enjoy reading other blogs. I also will admit that I enjoy just "looking" at blogs mostly however. My blog time is usually a brief experience while I drink coffee in the mornings or when I relax in the evenings. I often just peruse the pics and do not dwell long on the text. (By the way, this is the most text heavy post I have ever written) In one of Pilcher's posts on Sawdust and Dirt he rails against the blog crowd and the plethora of seemingly mundane chit-chat...the lack of a critical dialog. OK sure, I get it. Others might agree with Mr. Pilcher or surely disagree and continue to communicate nothing except what new mug they posted to their Etsy shop. I am guilty of this at times,(thats my next post!) but I also believe the blog format is still interesting and like a hybrid object can be multi-contextual. I can revisit it at different times and it meets my varied needs, technical talk, conceptual wrestling, and wanting to see your new puppy in a Halloween costume. That's "theory" to me.

People have been throwing around this term "theory", as in "ceramic theory" or a need to develop more "craft based theory". Whatever. Does ceramics have to have its own private "clay talk"? After a while(and I believe that "a while" has been up for some time now)don't you think we will be talking to the same people over and over and a lot of that talk might be based, and also end, mired in the technical or stuck forever in limbo watching demonstrations by folks "making a better pot" on Youtube. With such a rich and ancient history, ceramics can be viewed and referenced from a myriad of points, why get stuck in one or two ruts? Ceramics as a medium, has often, and in the most conventional sense, been thought of and understood as pottery. This label functions as an accepted period to the end of many ceramists’ sentences. And consider this statement from Garth Clark,
“What began life as a movement to return pottery to its classical roots soon became an overbearing, regressive force that today retains just enough power in the schools and journals to defeat a more contemporary vision of functional pottery (Pagliaro, 390).”
So if if the hairs on the back of your neck began to raise and tingle after reading some of the before mentioned posts, then good...keep thinking.

My own research led me to ideas and issues that were below the surface when my main concern was finishing the surfaces of my own work, and I have rarely looked back. By "back", I mean strictly to "craft" or "ceramics" to help define what it is that I do. In fact it has mainly been theories of "collective memory" or "shared memory" that has fueled my work...whether the work is a sculpture/object or simply a cup. It is this understanding of shared experiences that propels me to believe that when certain images and forms are viewed, what comes to the viewer’s mind are recollections based on human experience that is derived from interactions with people and things from a domestic or intimate setting. These recalled experiences have many similarities even among the great diversity of the people who are actively involved with this nostalgic phenomenon. The images or objects that trigger the concept of cultural myth or collective memory are the only tangible artifacts of a recollected past.

I could certainly go on about these ideas and how these theories led me to re-examine all the objects that populate my immediate and intimate domestic landscape, how people determine or place value on objects regardless of their inherent worth or how the medium of ceramics could be the very hip great granddaddy of the art world, but I think this beast has roared long enough. I'm relieved...but not cured. It was time to shit or get off the pot.

Works Cited:

Akhtar, Salman. Objects of Our Desires. New York: Harmony Books. 2005

Boym, Svetlana. The Future Of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books. 2001

Pagliaro, John. Ed. Shards: Garth Clark on Ceramic Art. New York: Distributed Art Publications. 2003

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Potters Tour Weekend

...another satisfied customer...she's no fool!

If you have never come out for the Indiana County Regional Potters Tour...this is the weekend to do it...and there is still one more day left in the what are you waiting for!

The weather is perfect all weekend...low 60's with abundant sunshine and the leaves are at their peak. There were bunches of folks out and about today...I hope to see even more on Sunday!Here are some pics from inside and around the studio today. Click to enlarge.

And here is an example of some of the traffic you may encounter on your trip out to Little Mahoning Creek pottery...I think you can handle it.

New post coming up this week...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Leaf Peepin' and Pot Shoppin'

I left the studio yesterday around 5:15 for my twenty five minute drive back to my house. The light was golden across the rolling hills of the Amish farmlands and the corn fields were weathered and spent but fitting for this time of year. Storm clouds filtered in between the bright afternoon light and added a blue grey drama to the scene. I could have stopped my car a dozen times and shot a dozen perfect images. Autumn is really on top of us now.

Nancy and I have been busy getting ready to see you, and you, and you.

The Potters Studio Tour takes place October 16 & 17 and is always a big event for us out here in the foothills. We will be showing a whole bunch of new work...mugs, cups, bowls, teapots, platters, pots, and plenty more. All either fired in the salt kiln here or in one of the two wood kilns at the studio. As I said above, the setting is picturesque too...all this together makes for a great weekend to go leaf peepin' and pot shoppin'!

Here is a little taste of what we are cooking up in the small army of relish trays and batter/beater bowls...below are large platters with shore birds and Ibises by Nancy, and the studio in the golden Autumn sunshine ...enjoy the images and I hope to see your bright smilin' face soon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

That's Ceramics...

"That's ceramics"...loosely translated means...shit happens. This is a phrase I have said to umpteen dozen people throughout the years. "It sure ain't painting"...a whitewash of fresh gesso clearing the mistakes and preparing for another go, it is not. Once things are fired they are pretty much that way...I will refire and refire if needed but somethings just can't be fixed with another firing. And that's how our last salt firing one word...awry. The image above is not the floor of the kiln you are looking at but the mug stuck firmly, defying gravity. Oh well...let me repeat my mantra..."that's ceramics, that's ceramics, that's ceramics".

BUT, I am back at it, bakers dozen of tankards made yesterday with larger pieces drying. After the Steeler game I will be out there again making more for the trimming on Monday. I am working hard for our upcoming wood fire in the bourry box kiln. The Potters Studio Tour will take place October 16, for the link to the website...I am featured as "guest potter" with Nancy...Little Mahoning Creek Pottery...but disregard much of my info on the site as it is over two years old...whatever. I did not send any new info when they needed it this summer. I was sort of out of the loop up there in Chautauqua...besides, that old crank who runs the site failed to update me last year when I did send new info. I will be posting a map here soon...its a really great tour and the work is wonderful. Featured on the tour besides Nancy and I ...Don Hedman, Betty Hedman, Josh Floyd, Birch Frew, and a host of other "guest potters". I have been doing the tour for the last 3 years and it always brings the folks many people from the Burgh coming out to the foothills to enjoy the beautiful Fall colors and slightly rustic studios tucked away on the backroards. I have always felt fortunate to be a part of such a clay rich community...well, its back to work...stretch my back for a while and get cranking. Above are a few images of some new pieces pre-decals...there will be plenty of new images along with plenty of farting do-dos...did you know do-do birds fart florals?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I am currently re-evaluating and re-visiting writings from a few years back...with the thoughts of possibly re-investing more time in to these ideas. Although, I am very involved in the utilitarian side of ceramics right now...I am wondering if I have let my other clay dreams wander too long in the corners of my dusty brain. I am feeling a need for something a little different right now...just not sure what it is...ever get like this a little pre-mid-life crisis?

The above image is a piece I finished this summer...I thought I had finished it before, in fact you can see it in my blog archives back in March ...but now, I am sure it is finished. Below is a paragraph that I wrote several years seems to fit this piece "utt(dd)erly" well. The quotes are from my exploration into the possibility of new sculptural work. Above are a few details to enlarge.

The Necessity of a hybrid object that spans the gap between reality and concept as well as between pottery and sculpture becomes clear. Because it is from this "in between" space that mends the existing disparity within the medium of ceramics and eliminates any hierarchy. It is also important to understand that the term "function" means more than just an object's utilitarian aspects and that there is value in more than just an object's "usefulness". I believe this understanding of ceramics is not one that shirks its traditions and histories in favor of trends, but rather, re-imagines the past much like we as humans do, fragmentary and incomplete, leaving room for new interpretations that expand the medium.

" is obvious that our dependence upon things has something more than their utilitarian value at its base. From birth to death, we draw all sorts of emotional sustenance from them ."

- Salman Akhtar, "Objects of Our Desires"

"Even to begin to represent the past, we must recreate a collage of recollections, which overlap and collide with each other."

- Janelle Wilson, "Nostalgia: Sanctuary of Meaning"

...more to come?