Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Its the End of the Year As We Know It...Music 2011

Yeah, its that time of year again...the end...and time for everybody's "best of" lists.

If your like me and never really fought the "War on Christmas" and just tried to keep the "mas" in Christmas, chances are your pretty tuckered out. You know what I mas y mas, c'mon my Spanish language speakers...more and more food, more decorations, more lights, more presents, and just one more beer. So while I am recovering from Christmas's war on my wallet lets get down to it...

First let me say, "man can not live on clay alone". So, what is the next best thing you ask? That's easy kids...MUSIC. Now, a countdown of the year's best in order... its just not possible... ranking my picks in a certain order would drive me crazy so Im going to toss these out there and let them fall where they may. These are full records or songs that I went back to again and again this year...they found themselves in heavy rotation on my Ipod and became my studio companions and later my traveling companions.

Abigail Washburne/City of Refuge....Back in the early(really early) Spring of this year I was listening to this record over and over. She is an acomplshed banjo player with a lovely voice who writes and sings really good songs. I still go back to this record...folky, bluegrass with a hint of India.

Gillian Welch/The Harrow and The Harvest...sticking with the ladies here, this is a fantastic record all the way through. Mostly mellow acoustic folk with dark and gritty undercurrents...shes is a great writer and she and her guitar playing partner make a great twosome.

J.Mascis/Several Shades of Why...Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis finally made a mostly acoustic solo record...Dinosaur Jr was always capable of poping out a really good mellow song in between fat slices of guitar rock but here J. has done it with the whole record. These songs wedged themselves deep into my ears and the disc did not leave my car for months. Its like your really into Neil Young and you love him with Crazy Horse but you really love those brief nuggets of broken down, solo, mellow goodness and wish he would do an album of just that(before he gets too "Adult Contemporary")...well, thats wat I mean here.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks/Mirror Traffic...ex- Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus and his rocking band bust out another winner...produced by Beck no less. Great tunes, odd/funny lyrics sung in his deadpan style and a slightly more necked in approach make this a fun studio record...heck its just a solid record for anytime. Dig the single "No One Is (As I Are Be)", then jump into the rest.

Jeff the Brotherhood/We Are The Champions...speaking of rocking out...this is the record. I was slow to warm to these guys but something kept catching my interest. This is balls out, riffing, stoner rock. If your looking for intellectual and deep song lyrics, look somewhere else. If you want to jump up and down...bang your unwashed curly mane back and ferocious air guitar all over the living room...or need something to keep you going on the we are talking.

Fleet Foxes/ Helplessness Blues...A great record...and I say that beacuse I own the vinyl...but it is great no matter what media you have it on. Sprawling and expansive, varied and bright, good lyrics and great music...I like this one better than the first record, and thats saying something.

Black Keys/ El Camino...yeah sure, jump on the bandwagon... it seems like the Black Keys have made it baby!...these guys are good and this record is a hell of a lot of bluesy, soulful, rockin' fun with a dash of Led Zepplin and a smidge of ZZ Top...these guys made my list last year too!

Real Estate/Days...Beach Fossils/What A Pleasure...I am smashing these two into one grouping because I feel there is such a similar vibe here. Both are young bands and for both these are their second records. Both have a lazy vibe, like laying around the house all day while it snows like the dickens outside. Both have a sort of detached vocal and great guitar sound but Real Estate is a little more pollished and produced...really making their overall sound lush. I have been listening to Beach Fossils for a while now, including some of their earlier songs, and have recently purchased Days by Real Estate but it was quick to sink itself under my skin. Im not sure if its the weather right now, but Days was perfect music to stare out the window with this morning while I watched the snow flurries. Real Estate has somewhat of a lazier Shins feel to me and I am sure I will enjoy it long past it stops snowing.

Wilco/The Whole Wilco album since "Sky Blue Sky"...maybe better.
Tom Waits/ As Bad As Tom Waits album since "Real Gone"...maybe better.
Beastie Boys/Hot Sauce Committee B-Boys album since "Ill Communication"...don't be a hater.
Scott H. Biram/Bad Ingredients...Poor Boy's Soul/Burn Down... I am lumpin' these two guitar slingin' blues men together. Both are a one man band of damn fine, ferocious, stompin' blues. I even put Biram's video up on the "Whatcha' watchin'"...I needed an excuse to sex up my blog...mmm,hmmm.

And although Im kind of an album guy, I have decided to toss in some noteworthy songs. I admit to downloading just songs sometimes and also wishing I had downloaded just songs after purchasing entire discs....sometimes. So here are songs that were on my hitlist this year.

Low/Especially the band...liked the newest record but LOVED this song...maybe my favorite song of the year...I don't know...maybe.

Yuck/Get instant classic...familiar but new at the same time...great hooks, great riffage...whole album is pretty good too.

Ty Segall/ My Sunshine...ass kicking, grungy but catchy, garage rock from the west coast...from an album called Melted...ahh hell, just buy the whole record.

Boston Spaceships/ Freedom Rings...This is Robert Pollard from GBV with yet another one of his side project bands. Good record but this song is superb with a really cool video to go with it. Brand new Guided By Voices comes out in mid January!

The Head and the Heart/ Lost In My Mind...good record too...great sung harmonies and super uplifting folky vibe...can listen to this song again and again...ahh hell again, buy the record.

Well there you have musical faves and raves from 2011. Feel free to chime in on the comment space and tell me some of yours...always love to find new music. Now go find these them or better yet walk away from your computer and go find a record store and spend your Christmas money.

Thanks for tuning in to my rantings and shameless self promotions throughout the year...I hope you continue to stop by and read...I hope you even tell a few friends to do the same...hell, the more the merrier. Speaking of making merry, I hope you will be doing just that over the weekend.

homefry wishes you all a productive and prosperous New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wishing you and yours a happy ho-ho...

Narrator: Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling:
Grinch: How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!
Narrator: And he puzzled and puzzed, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more."

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays...whatever you do, I hope you enjoy doing it with family and friends...cheers!

Much more to come!!!

hugs and kisses...

homefry sketchbook.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saving your soul...

"We're kicking off our fun old fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols."
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

...That's right, I went to Home Depot to get my tree this year...elves with orange aprons...tightly bound trees...I'm trying to reconcile this.

You can to.

There is redemption for your hungry, consumer soul if you shop independents as much(or more) as you shop the big boys...instead try: etsy, local artists/craftsmen, friends' studios, pottery tours, holiday craft sales, locally owned record shops...My goodness man, there is still time!

Flying Cat Mug by Nancy Smeltzer and GIMMIE mug by yours truly...just sayin'.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Lowdown, Beyond Black Friday...

Temperatures are in the 70's and the sunshine is warm on my skin. Nope, I'm not in western PA but spending Thanksgiving with my family down here in the lovely Florida panhandle. I have successfully escaped a week off from work in the dreary gray of Pittsburgh at this time of year to be eating and drinking my way up and down the sugary white beaches on 30A. Its great to get away and after a few days of being "out of the fray" of my life I'm able to gain a little clarity and reflect objectively on things ... so here I am pecking away at 7:00 am.

Yesterday I spent the madness of Black Friday free from pepper spraying freaks who were dying to get a highly discounted electronic device. Instead of braving the wall to wall crowds at the big box stores we quickly breezed through a couple of outlets, just buying some Christmas presents and a few winter items for my daughter that we had scouted out a couple days before. I started my day with Black Friday Record Store Day...8 am at my favorite locally owned and operated independent record store in all of the panhandle...maybe all of Florida, Central Square Records in Seaside(click for a previous post about this place). No pushing and shoving, no pepper spray. I had a free cup of coffee and browsed until I settled on the new Black Keys single...on vinyl, with a reverse groove so that it plays from the inside stuff. Then I had to fuel up for the day with some very fine Crab Cake Eggs Benedict and way more coffee...afterward, I was sufficiently ready to meet what the day had in store. The livin' is much easier down here...a bit more expensive, but definitely easier.

As I was cruising around yesterday, I visited shops and galleries in between stops at the bars and restaurants. I made note of what I saw of interest as far as art went and what I was amazed at that passed for Art. I do believe they could use a whole lot more ceramics down this way. Now, wood fired ceramics...I do not think so but low/mid fired ceramics with brighter colors, decals, and bling...oh yes, it would fly. I guess that's what we do as artists a lot of times...imagine how and where our work can fit into the scheme of things...I certainly do this quite a bit, I just figured others must too. When thinking about this, it brought me back to my show I opened a couple weeks back in Kipp Gallery...The Lowdown:Tales from the Margin.

Like I said, as artists we often imagine our work in new spaces and admittedly I'm pretty selfish in my reasons for visiting spaces or new places as I am often thinking about how I can get my work into them. Not only am I thinking about getting my work out there, but simultaneously thinking about making new work or in the case of being a gallery director...putting together a show that I love or one that I know will look great in the gallery both cases, "The Lowdown" fits this bill. Working with Jill Foote Hutton to put "The Lowdown" together was a very pleasurable collaboration and seeing the actual work in my gallery space is very exciting. Also knowing that this exhibition will have another showing at Red Lodge Clay Center in February is really cool too. All the pieces surpassed the build up of their images and when they all came together in the space, they created a more harmonious visual than I had expected. I did hear that comment from several colleagues...remarking on the overall look of the show. The show has been well attended since the opening and we even hosted a nice size group of 36 on a Saturday. We have reached more of the community outside the university with this show than with previous exhibitions...I think this is due to it being "ceramics". Clay seems to have a broader appeal and we see a bit of a different crowd. What has been consistent from both the community viewers as well as the university viewers is their surprise in the works. Its a little different from expectations...vivid color, complex surfaces and comic-book coolness. Another colleague of mine marveled at the pieces and quipped, "its like painting"...and to myself I thought, "yeah, but better".

That's what the gallery is about This show in particular is about teaching... teaching what can be done at lower temps...with just an electric kiln. Its about communicating personal narratives in such ways that the viewer responds and make their own associations creating bridges for their own experiences within the works. These pieces do just that and its a great opportunity for teachers/professors to use the show as a research topic. I mean...even from the title..."Tales from the Margin"...what do we mean by "margin" in this context? The works can be viewed both as technically masterful and also as objects that are about far more than just their formal qualities. As somebody who is keenly aware of the number of visitors and perhaps where they are being directed from, I wonder if this opportunity is actually being taken advantage of by my colleagues. I also wonder if it is enough to simply have a student turn in a sheet of paper signed by the gallery monitor saying they were there...after having breezed through the exhibition while texting friends and without even picking up as much as a postcard. The shows ARE a little more thought provoking than glancing at seashell inspired artworks intended for second and third vacation homes, but I guess you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him think...without the correct app. I have very limited direct contact with the students so from my position I question, wonder and often worry if there has been much of a dialogue going on about the title, or the fact that all the work was electric kiln fired, or about who these seven exemplary clay artists are. People love the show...what's there not to love...but I'm interested in this exhibition sparking further discussion. This is an ongoing fight and its not specific to this exhibition, I would imagine its an ongoing issue for many gallery directors...but for me, I'm just more attached to this show than I have been to most others. Like any teacher, the exhibitions in the galleries are my assignments...they are meant to provoke, excite, stimulate and challenge...but in my position, I'm only the middleman.

So maybe the clarity and objective reflection brought on by the warm Gulf breezes is good... in short bursts. Its also helped me think about making new work in the new space of my soon to be basement studio now in Beaver Falls. My wheel has moved from Little Mahoning Creek Pottery for the first time in 5 years and I will be purchasing a new electric kiln. Like my temporary weather switch up, I will be switching up flipping back to some more sculptural pieces and also new mid range functional ware...more to come on this idea later. Its time to shower, toss on shorts, t-shirt and sandals and bar hop to a couple good places to watch a little football, listen to local music and consume a few beers. I will soon be returning to the winter but with sand in my shoes, feeling a little refreshed and full of fresh seafood... see ya back in the blah.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Lowdown:Tales from the Margin...

"The Lowdown: Tales from the Margin"...that's the title of the new exhibition that I am opening in Kipp Gallery here at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I am really excited about this particular exhibition because I curated it with the Gallery Coordinator from Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana. My collaborator's name is Jill Foote-Hutton and she and I have been working on this show since the early Spring...the link on her name will take you to her blog where she writes about various ceramic art related issues and also the going-ons out there in Red Lodge. The show will open next week and Jill is flying in from Montana to give a little talk prior to our public reception on Thursday November 5:00 pm...just in case your in the area and want to stop by!

Jill(who was a pleasure to work with) and I tossed names back and forth for a while until we settled on the current group. We felt that these seven artists best represented our concept for the exhibition. All seven work with the idea of a narrative, however loose or abstract, and these seven also consistently generate objects that toy with definitions and tease visual, historical and/or technical boundaries. Our other parameter for the exhibition was that all involved had to produce work in a mid-to low temperature range as well. I specifically wanted this aspect to be in the forefront to act as a symbol of individual studio sustainability..."have electric kiln, can make work".

Visually the works are vibrant and highly varied...from Melissa Mytty's delicate pinched porcelain cup and saucer explorations all the way to Max Lehman's two and and a half foot high grinning skeletons. Like I said, the exhibition is varied yes, but it is also an interesting and connected grouping. I believe its the hyper-attention to detail of the surfaces that unite this group... all belonging in the "fetish finish" category. The highly patterned and brightly glazed exteriors of Alex Kraft's abstract forms seem to fit right in with Jason Bige Burnett's graphic design inspired bowls and platters. This exhibition is at once rich, decadent and a little dark but remains open and accessible to a wide range of viewer. The Low Down: Tales from the Margin is a celebration of the creative exploitation possible with electric coils and eutectic compositions.
So dear homefry friends, enjoy a sneak peek at some of the work in the exhibition right here on the ol' blog... and if you are anywhere near the IUP campus, please stop by and check out the show. The exhibition runs from 11/8 - hours are noon to 4pm Tuesday through Friday. Jill Foote Hutton will give a short talk prior to the public reception on Thursday, November 10 and Max Lehman will be in from New Mexico to speak to our ceramic and sculpture classes. The exhibition will then be packed and shipped up to the Red Lodge Clay Center to be shown from February 3 - 24. You can search out Kipp Gallery on facebook to see images from the opening and more pics of the work... also, the link at the very top will take you to my calendar of exhibitions for Fall and Spring and there are links to each of the exhibiting clay artists' websites...Jason Bige Burnett, Carole Epp, Julie Guyot, Alex Kraft, Max Lehman, Melissa Mytty, and Nick Ramey.

Details of work by Max Lehman, Nick Ramey, Jason Bige Burnett, Julie Guyot and Carole Epp...

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Double Shamless Plug...

I just want to use and abuse the ol' blog today for a wonderful but shameless double plug for my own goings-on. So, let me start by saying thank you if your one of those people who have already been visiting my online shop...homefry:eclectic ceramic ...and if your not one of those people, let me just gently ask, what the hell are you waiting for? I have been stocking the shelves and selling a number of pieces in the past week...c'mon, there is still plenty of good stuff.

As for my second toot of the horn today, let me give you the lowdown...

You might know that in my other life, I am a gallery director for a small to medium sized university here in western PA...IUP. At this job, I often get to do really cool things like direct events related to the gallery spaces, bring in visiting artists and shows and once in a while I get to curate really cool exhibitions. That's the toot of the horn I am referring to new exhibition opening on November 8. I collaborated in the curation of this traveling ceramic exhibition with the wonderful Gallery Coordinator from Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge, Montana, Ms. Jill Foote- Hutton. She and I have been working on this exhibition via email and phone since the early Spring. And, its just been this past week that I have been cracking open all the pieces out of their boxes and placing them in my gallery space at IUP. I am very excited about this show and even more thrilled with the work that I have been setting up. Jill and I whittled down a larger group and arrived at these seven contemporary clay artists and asked them if they were interested in creating new work to be exhibited in the show. The exhibition will show with me(Kipp Gallery, IUP) through the middle of December and then I will pack it up and send it all to Montana to show in Red Lodge in February 2013.

Exhibiting artists are: Jason Bige Burnett, Carole Epp, Julie Guyot, Alex Kraft, Max Lehman, Melissa Mytty, and Nick Ramey.

The work is spectacular and I promise to post a little the mean time here is the card below...if you are in the area, stop by...I will post more details about this exhibition soon...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Blow by Blow...

This past weekend the tatters of red and yellow that fluttered in the wind were in glowing contrast to the deep, blue-grey clouds that rolled across the sky. But the blustery weather did not seem to deter the crowds that drove the Indiana County back roads on the Potters Tour. We had a great weekend in the new, 100 year old barn board gallery space at Little Mahoning Creek Pottery. A big thanks to all who stopped by just to say hello or to buy a new piece for the cupboard! Below is another potter friend, Christy Culp with Nancy and I, who stopped and bought new mugs...also an image of a very friendly motorcycle riding Giant Schnauzer who was out enjoying the day.

The morning started a little slow probably due to the lousy weather but this gave Nancy and I a little extra time to unload our still warm kiln. By early Saturday afternoon we had it empty and quickly sold pieces as we got them into the gallery. Amanda Wolf, from Pittsburgh, was with us for the first time and she was a very welcome addition to the tour. Amanda just built a bourry box wood kiln, very similar to Nancy's, and was displaying fresh new work from its inaugural firing along with a lot of nice looking, earthy mid range work. Here's Amanda...hello!..and also my sweet new mug that I chose in our trade! Click on the link and check out more of her work.

Please enjoy the rest of my pictorial posting from the past Potters' Tour of my pots set up in the gallery space...people shopping inside and out...Amanda and Debbie(Nancy's sister who came up from GA to help..Hi Debbie!)...the original stone sidewalk of Smicksburg that Debbie and Nancy uncovered and how it perfectly runs in front of the to enlarge.
P.S. I will be updating my Etsy shop...homefry : eclectic ceramics...I will be adding wood fired and salt fired mugs, berry bowls, serving dishes, and sweet mixing bowls...keep an eye out and help me get my shop back on the radar!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Indiana County Potters' Tour Time

The hillsides have turned to rust and gold and up until recently we have been enjoying a bit of Indian summer here in western PA...must be time for the Potters' Tour! That's right kids, pack your snacks and hop in the car for a tour of this county's beautiful back roads and the warm and rustic ceramic studios that inhabit them! Here's the link for the website complete with maps...just click here.

Nancy Smeltzer and I at Little Mahoning Creek Pottery will be ready and waiting for you with "still warm" pots fresh from the wood kiln. I'm not kidding, we are firing another kiln load on Thursday!

Here's a few samples of some of my brand spankin' new work(and some yet to be fired)above and below...hope to see you this weekend...October 15-16!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Engine Engine Number 9...ehhhh.

Putting your pieces, work that you have spent time making just right, into a very hot kiln for a rather lengthy amount of time and trying to reach a specific temperature is by definition, ceramics. However, opening those kilns can be full of elation and disappointment. I often say that glazing and firing is as much about acceptance as anything. So I am reminding myself of this as I approach writing this post.

We fired the train kiln last week and opened it on Saturday to a little of both, elation and disappointment. After a short but brutal 19 and a half hour firing the work is a real mixed bag. The front of the kiln reached temperature pretty early on and the work in that part of the kiln looks good...plenty of ash and the shino's were juicy due to the sustained high heat. The middle was hit and miss...some good, some not so good...and the back...well, eeehhh. The back of the kiln is still failing to reach temperature and the work back there will have to be re-fired. My vote is to just fire pieces in the front of the kiln, taper off work towards the middle and use the back as a pizza oven. We could get some really good pizzas out of the back...pots, I don't think so...but pizzas, there's an idea!

Here are a few images from the firing above and below: I did get a nice large oval serving dish and a small pumpkin shaped jar... the other lidded jar pictured ended up with a big green jewel on the bottom from the ash running down the side. Also, here are a few pieces from Nancy that came out pretty good.

In another week we will be firing either the bourry box kiln or the salt kiln or maybe both before the upcoming studio tour...more work, less pizza.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I hear my train a comin'

I have been wood firing in the western PA region since 2004 and every time I have fired, it has always been an event...sort of a cross between a community art happening and a potluck. This past firing of the train kiln was no different.

We loaded the kiln on Tuesday evening with the help of travelling raku artist Andy Wender and another local ceramist Janet Runyan, who is also on the upcoming studio her name to see more about her. Here is an image of me inside the coffin shaped ware chamber loading some of Nancy's mugs...Im looking a little buzzed here but I swear I only had one beer...maybe two.

Nancy started the kiln at 7am on Wednesday...I got there about 4:30...Janet came around 8:00 and Andy helped out most of the day before he had to get ready to head back down south for another festival in Louisville, KY. and then back home to FLA. As usual everybody brought food and Nancy had the beer chilling in the fridge. I hit the wall around midnight and Nancy got back up to finish the firing with Janet until about 2:30am. Nineteen and a half hours was the shortest amount of time that train kiln has ever been fired. Its a hard kiln to fire, there is no sit down time and its sensitive to any move of a brick, passive damper or the chimney damper. It still may have issues as the front was super heated and we worked, and I mean worked, to get the temperature up in the back. Regardless, I am excited to see the results. I know there will be some pieces that will be in need of a re-fire but in the past, even when it did not fire as well, we have had some real gems from the kiln. Because of the extreme "one way" direction the flame takes the pieces always have two distinct sides and usually a great deal of ash...runny, gooey, and sometimes crusty. I had a handful or so of bigger pieces(lidded jars, serving dish, platter) in there and Janet had a small herd of hand built sheep along with a couple of her bigger sculptural pieces. Check out the image below as we all had a hand in the final bits of loading.

It often does take a small village to fire a wood kiln or at least it takes a small village to stop by and have a beer and a bite to eat while firing the kiln. Opening on Saturday night...stay tuned, will post results next week!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New season, new surroundings...

Happy Autumn everybody...another season and another year older for me. My birthday was the 22nd and it always marks the beginning of the Fall season, but this year it feels like a much bigger placeholder. My B-Day this year ushers me and my family into the first Fall in our new old house.

As I prepare for the upcoming Indiana County Potters Tour on the weekend of October 15-16, I am also busy renovating our new home. The tough part about this is that Little Mahoning Creek Pottery, where I share a studio with my friend Nancy Smeltzer, is about two long hours away from me now. Where in the past I could cut out of the house and head up to the studio for the day, now I can only make and fire on the days I also commute to work...bummer. Today is one of those days where I sure feel like throwing and the time for wet work to end is growing very near. Oh well, this Tuesday Nancy and I will be firing the Train Kiln with whatever work I have ready... remember the Train?...its been a long time since we fired it because the results were always quite varied. Nancy has done some modifications on the interior and we changed the configuration of the chimney as well as its height. Keep your fingers crossed for us...and speaking of wood...have a gander at my recently re-finished wood floors! These are original to the house which was built in the 20's...2 inch oak planks. Just imagine if I had some furniture in here...its
coming soon just like some freshly fired pots!

Little by little...