Wednesday, January 26, 2011

1 down and 11 more to go...

As January is coming to a close I have to say, I hope the rest of the year goes as well as this month did...minus all the snow. That's what this post is all about kids...its the wrap -up show for month numero uno of 2011. So lets run it down...

Early on in the new year I received an email from some nice folks down under in Australia. This person Esa writes a great blog there called The Ridou Report . He has a wonderful art collection which happens to include a lot of really nice ceramics. At the beginning of the year he posted a pretty cool list of his wood fired pots and it just so happens that I'm included. Not only am I included in this group of wood fire potters but also a couple friends too...Justin Lambert and Josh well as another internet friend(we have never actually met in person, but still...), Keith "Mudstuffing" Phillips and also a blogger potter whom I read regularly, Michael Kline. Justin Lambert is down in Florida and Josh lives about 15 minutes from me here in PA. I am thrilled to be in such good company and love the fact that there might be people on the other side of this little planet admiring my clay work. Speaking of being in good company, I was also invited to be part of a great pre-NCECA exhibition down in Florida. The show is "Atmosphere: A Ceramics Invitational Exhibition" at The Lighthouse Art Center, Museum and Art School located "in a much warmer place than where I live", FLA. The show is curated by my friend Justin Lambert,whom I just mentioned, and includes some stellar names in the world of atmospheric firing. Again, I am so pleased to be included in this roster of names. I plan on sending a few recent pieces down to the sunshine below, you might have seen not too long ago posted back in December.
I also want to update everybody on the Self Serve Pottery Kiosk...the first month went pretty good...not gangbusters mind you but still pretty good for a "small, snow bound, college town over the X-mas break" kind of way. There was also a nice write up in an online thingy called Virginia Living about my buddy Adam Paulek regarding the kiosks. Click and read!

On a much sadder note, the beginning of the year brought about the end for a clay hero of mine... Paul Soldner. I was heavily influenced by Mr. Soldner early in my clay life as I fired sculptural and decorative Raku work solely for years before moving up north. I did have the opportunity to meet him once. I was attending a talk in Pittsburgh by Nancy Selvin and he was there...sarong and all. I introduced myself and told him about his influence on me...he asked if I was a student, and I responded that I was a graduate student at the time. His response was, "my condolences".

True dat my clay lovin' brother.

But, probably the best part of this month was getting to crank out a bunch of new work at my temporary winter home, Stoke Hole Pottery. The first image on this post was shot from the front door of the studio during one of our recent snow storms. Below are images of the work in progress. I plan on firing a glaze kiln in the next couple weeks but in the mean time...check these out, click to enlarge.

Stay warm out there and I hope your having a good beginning too!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What do lonely potters do...

Working alone in a studio can get...well, lonesome sometimes. Or, if you are like me, it can get down right productive and can lead to other things like..."the works going good and I'm all by myself so I think I will dance" happenings. Yes, gentle reader...I admit it, I like to have "in studio private boogie sessions". Now its not like a full on dance party, its just a moment or two of jumping around or a little booty shakin'. This all comes from a good place ...things need to be going well in the studio and or in combination with things happening on the outside too. And what you may be asking yourself right now is..."what is this idiot dancing to"..."the sound of his wheel spinning round ?" That would be a negatory...I am a music junkie. Music is my drug of choice and I search it out all over the place. I work best with some tunes on...I'm not a radio fan and I'm rarely ever plugged in to headphones when I'm in the studio. I love my Ipod Touch and its home on the studio docking station...its 16 gigs are almost all full of music and I am actively looking for more.

The above picture is me just before breaking out into a combination jig/pogo/hustle.

After several emails with a friend about best music from 2010 and also checking out Ben Carter's list on his blog, I thought...I should post my faves from the previous year too! I stumbled upon Ben's list as I was checking out his adventures in China and I'm glad I did because I got turned onto a band called "Have Gun Will Travel"...and I love them...went out and downloaded their last album and have been listening to it for days now. So here no particular order...these were studio faves of mine from 2010, they were my dance partners and friends I listened carefully to while working alone.

The XX...quiet, stripped down slightly retro and kinda sexy...which actually came out late 09 but ehh, whatever.

Trampled by Turtles, Palomino...great new bluegrass/Americana, sometimes played like speed metal. Good songwriting too...for fans of Wilco,Old Crow ...or Have Gun Will Travel!

Black Keys,Brothers...deeply dug this record with its old soul/R&B leanings while not forgetting to rock it out too.

Grinderman,2...gotta love Nick Cave and his howling...this record is a tense and down and dirty trip ...could use a a shower and a shave.

Sleigh Bells, Treats...OK this is when I put on my boogie shoes...shake my know what I mean...its like M.I.A. gets some crunchy ass guitars and gets down.

Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues...that's right, son of Steve Earle. This is a solid record...great listening that I go back to time and again.

The National, High Violet...Love these guys and been a fan since "Alligator"(which you should check out too)...this one took a while to sink into my head but when it did, I couldn't get it out. Great songwriting ..."I was afraid I'd eat your brains","because I'm evilllll"...I mean c'mon, great stuff!...deep voice, good music...sort of like contemporary Leonard Choen...hmm...maybe.

OK, so that's my lucky seven of 2010...I hope you go and check out some of these great records and would love it if you shared your faves of last year with to hear what you listen to! In the mean time, I hope you enjoy a dance or two while your alone in the studio, bedroom or where ever you feel uninhibited and happy. More to come from this Clay Train boogie-ing alone in the quiet winter landscape.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Can You Handle It...

The snow is falling and I'm drinking coffee in my bathrobe still and its going on 11:30 in the lovely winter swept AM. Its a snow day up here in the greater metropolitan area of Indiana, PA., 27 degrees for the high and windy...yikes. My daughter has the day off from school and the chaotic sounds of SpongeBob Squarepants are blaring from the living room. Ive got a big pork roast with taters, carrots and onions in the slow cooker filling the house with a great aroma while it cooks for dinner tonight. And it is a perfect time to knock out this new post...

Last post, I told you about my big and work. Today I want to update you on my path to change. I ran into a little bit of a snag...I felt like these pieces were looking a lot like my pieces that were intended for the wood kiln. So what would be the big change other than the type of firing and color of the clay? Maybe that would be enough, but I felt like I needed to change more than that.

Handles can tell you a lot about a mug and the original intention of the maker. So this is where I thought I would start. I am sort of fanatical about handles and choose mugs based on how they feel when I hold them. I have often poo-pooed the occasional wild handle and thought that it might be way too difficult to drink my coffee from...but I have been so wrong. Before Christmas I bought myself a present from Mr. Jim Gottusso who writes a blog I read on a regular basis...Sofia's Dad's Pots. Here it is below:

I was drawn to this wild handle and how much extra time it must have taken to put together. I knew his other work and how nice it was so I took a shot...and I love it. It fits my hand really well and I can hold it like a regular handle... PLUS its just so damn cool. Here are a couple other really cool handles that I like from my collection...The white one is Ayumi Hori and the green one is an older cup I got from Ashley Lynn Dodge back in the summer of 2008 when she was the tech in the land of Chautauqua. All three of these mugs have been an inspiration to me as I have been looking for ways to give my work a new shot in the arm.

It also took some slowing down. Now if you know me, you know that I work slow and my output of functional pottery is not by the boatload. But I have even slowed it down some more...I'm not a production potter and I have very little interest in that sort of thing. But when I was wood firing work I would try and bang out a bunch of pieces and all would have very similar handles and rarely a trimmed foot. Those pieces are nice and don't get me wrong, I love the look of those pieces, but as I said to a friend in the studio the other day..."I'm trying to up the ante". So check out my shots below of the new, brown clay, cone 5, electric fired, footed, and fancy handled mugs that are getting ready for the bisque kiln. Click to enlarge:

Granted, they are not what I would call "wild" but they are a departure from the same for me...I'm sure there will be more changes down the line. I am getting ready for a kiln load of glazed pieces in the next couple weeks and I can't wait. Well, its back to lounging in my jammies and maybe a Wii game or two with my daughter...stay warm folks!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The New Year

Happy New Year to you all...

The beginning of 2011 is already shaping up to bring about some new changes for this here ol' homefry guy. Change is something that I have become very accustomed to and these days I feel like its part of what I do and who I am. I'm talking about change because I have made a shift for the frigid winter months. My shift is two fold, a shift in studio spaces and a shift in the work itself.

Let me just tell you, its been pretty darn cold up here in PA since the beginning of December and it doesn't look like its going to be changing anytime soon. That means that the studio with Nancy at Little Mahoning Creek Pottery will be in a deep freeze until the spring. Its awfully hard to keep the studio warm there with both of us working part time in other places. The wood kilns will hibernate until the thaw comes. So in the mean time, I will be working from another studio in my that I have worked at before, and if you have been reading me for several years, you might remember...Stoke Hole Pottery. Deb English Frew and husband Birch Frew have a great place and they are generously allowing me work space this winter. Please click the link and revisit their studio, gallery, and general potter compound. I actually got started today...throwing tumblers and tankards with my new hazelnut brown stoneware. That's the other part of my shift...I will be firing nothing but cone 5/6 in the electric kiln for my time at Stoke Hole. I am hoping to make a large body of mid fire work with this chocolaty brown clay. This summer I felt like I had really hit on something with this combination of clay, glazes, and is an image of a bunch of pieces I made at Chautauqua below...pre-decals.
The clay body I have now is very similar and I will be using these same two glazes to finish the work. I got the Haystack glaze(exterior) from my buddy Dan Kuhn. He has modified it somewhat from its original recipe and its just what the doctor ordered...mostly opaque and warm and buttery in color. The interior glaze was a Chautauqua clay studio staple...Cream...not very exciting by itself but as you can see from the image, when it has some overlapping, it does some nice things. Best of all, both glazes stay pretty glossy when fired back to 04 and any change is for the positive. All this and cool decals AND some serious wax resist line work to boot!

As I focus on this new body of work, I am sure that in the back corner of my brain I will be thinking about returning to Little Mahoning Creek Pottery to chuck some wood into a firebox. More wood fired work to come, but not until its warmer. Speaking of Nancy...take a look at what she sprouted. This is the new gallery building! Its pretty awesome and bigger than either of us thought it might be. Nancy reclaimed all the old barn board that covers the place from an old shed/barn that was torn down there in the greater metropolitan area of Smicksburg. She hauled all the wood up and stacked it neatly in the yard this past Fall. Then she hired a three man team of Amish workers and they have done a real bang up job! They are almost done...just gotta put the jacuzzi tub in and...OK, not really, no jacuzzi...but they are almost done. Click to enlarge.

So thanks for tuning back into homefry sketchbook in 2011. I will keep you posted on the new work and updates regarding the Self Serve Pottery Kiosk's world domination plan and a myriad of other clay things.

Wishing you a prosperous and successful new year!