Saturday, February 26, 2011

Show and Tell...

Winter is still kicking around up my way. It gets really interesting this time of year...a lot of ups and downs in the weather. Last week all of our snow melted and we could see the grass for the first time in a real long time...the temps climbed up to the 50's and one might have thought Spring was in sight. Then a few days later we got a wild and windy snowstorm that dumped just about 10 inches of wet snow on us again. Now we are back to temps above freezing and just crappy rain. Here Winter dies like a really bad actor...coughing and sputtering and just when you think its done...he's back...and then gone again...and then back...urgh.

In better news, I have finished off a handful of pieces and have come to the realization that this is and has been a great learning experience. I fully plan to continue this mid-range line of work through the Spring and Summer. I have been diligent about working out my ideas with these pieces and pushing myself to try new things. Continued research into surface techniques has become a real interest and will be the basis for my course that I am teaching here at IUP...10 weeks of beginning ceramics. I have had successes and disappointments with this batch of work and I will show you both here today.(not so thrilled about my red decal spots, age issue with the gold) I am very happy with the glazes and understand that I need an additional color to break up the surface. I have been mostly disappointed with the Hazelnut brown clay body that I bought from Standard here in Pittsburgh. Although I love working with does not reach a darker brown color until it really hits cone 6. I am firing very close to that but the temperature difference for the clay body needs to be higher. This being said, Standard happily swapped me out a 100 pounds for one of their darker brown bodies...even at cone 4 its darker than the hazelnut body. Julie, their tech was helpful, cool and highly informative. So all in all, I'm treating the 50 mugs and cups and various other forms as experiments. That took me a while to get through my thick skull but now I accept it and feel good about the growth I am seeing while exploring this range of firing. I have a lot more pieces that will be fired in the next few days. I spent 5 and half hours doing the decal dance yesterday and will be adding extra glazes for this 04 firing. That was the "tell" part and below is the "show" can be clicked on to enlarge. Feel free to comment on these is always appreciated and often needed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sweet Eats and Sneak Peeks...

So I thought I would combine two of my favorite things together in one post...pots and food...and also give you a sneaky little peek at some of the work I just fired. Now, the work is not finished and right now I don't want to show the pieces completely. I intended for them to all have decals and 04 glaze accents too, but they do look kinda purty right now. These are the cone 5 electric fired pieces that I have been working on this winter. The clay body didn't get as brown as I would have liked at cone 5 but the glazes sure look good. So check them out below and above...

Now while your looking at these few pieces(especially the mugs) start thinking red accents here and there...maybe a purple-ish/maroon...and even a semi transparent brown. While your visualizing those colors appearing on a mug or two...think very ornate vintage wall paper. There you go. Now we are talkin'! Come tomorrow morning, I will be sitting in the studio at Stoke Hole Pottery snipping away and applying my 20 new sheets of images and patterns to the work...and keepin' an eye out for that bear. He's still there, hunkered down under some old hay bails about 50 yards from the studio.
Here's the other part of my post tonight. Good grub. This winter I have been very diligent and disciplined not only with getting work made while dealing with other demands on my time but for once, eating better. Right now I'm emerging from this winter 5-6 pounds lighter and feeling a good deal healthier. Here in the Houser household we committed to simply eating healthier foods, cutting out bad stuff and adding mucho more leafy greens and veggies. I have discovered so many really good recipes. I'm the primary grocery shopper and cook so it was up to me to keep the "diet" interesting. I am very fond of curry and Asian cuisine so there has been a lot of variations on those for sure, but I would love to share a couple faves of late. The first one is a take on a hearty winter chicken soup.
Curried Chicken and Rice Soup with's the link, I found it on the food network site. I also used fat free/low sodium chicken broth...margarine instead of butter...and I added the edamame near the end when I add the herbs. I pre-cooked the edamame so that they just needed a bit of a simmer. This was damn good too. Thick and rich with a nice hint of curry...and packed with protein. Here it is in one of my own wood fired bowls.
My other treat came about because of a gift we received at Christmas. We were given a very attractive grouping of stacked boxes...inside were an assortment of English muffins. These were some serious English muffins...big, thick, soft...and an assortment of flavors. They can be ordered from a site called Wolferman's. I saw this egg and muffin creation on the main page and instantly fell in love...or lust more honestly. I made mine with a sweet harvest wheat muffin. You spoon out a pocket in the center...not all the way through...cook the bacon so that its not crisp...wrap it around the divet and crack an egg in the middle. Then cook the sexy beast in the oven at 400 for 15-17 minutes. I couldn't help but sprinkle a little bit of cheese over it as it was coming out of the oven. Bacon can be substituted with Canadian bacon...either way its absolutely delicious and really nice looking too. I suggest the Wolferman's English muffins because they were the thickest, softest and tastiest English muffins I ever saw...and you need the thickness to nest the egg in. Here it is below with a hot cup of Sumatra in a good looking wood fired mug by my friend Dan Kuhn. Someday soon I will have to tell you about my Fiesta ware collection...but thats another story.
The next thing I'm cooking up is a kiln full of finished pots...stay tuned and bon appetite!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pretty pictures...

Here we go Whats the ol' blog without pictures?! Wordy word words...

So, I finally finished glazing and loaded the kiln today. Its now firing to cone 5 with a hold programed at the end. I am very eager to see the results but I also know that they will need at least one more firing to cone 04 once they are out. So bring it on...I'm ready baby...that image at the beginning of the last post was a sample of some of my new pattern decals. Here is a couple shots of my glaze scheme before I popped them in today...dig the scalloped edge over the belly...I highlighted that as well as the waxed lines with a black overglaze. Click to enlarge.

Also, while I was busy filling the electric kiln today, Birch Frew was busy firing the wood kiln. The studio at Stoke Hole Pottery has been buzzing all week with all the preparations for firing: glazing, grinding, wadding, loading, and minor adjustments to the kiln itself. But the big news at the studio today was that there was a large black bear hanging out in the meadow in front of the pottery compound last night. Guess what... he never left. Birch said it looks as though he burrowed in under some old hay bails about 50 yards or less from the kiln shed. We are all hoping that he went back to a very deep hibernating sleep for the duration of the winter. I hope Lucy, Birch's great dane, will be hanging out with them while they fire the kiln through the night. Below are images of Birch and Cathy Bizousky from this morning's snowy start.

Speaking of Stoke Hole Pottery, you can now find them on etsy as well as their own page on everybody's favorite social media those links!!! LIKE, LIKE! Hopefully I will have some more pretty pictures for you all next week...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trepidation, Frustration and the J-O-B.

Like I said in my previous post, I'm making a bunch of new work. The problem is I have yet to fire any of it out. Not even a decent glaze test, thanks to a lame test kiln over at the university's ceramic studio. The cone setter dropped too early, barely bending any of the cone 6 at all. My clay body didn't get as brown as it was supposed to get and the glazes are not quite what they should be either. It is the clay body that freaks me out the most. I even went and double checked my boxes to make sure I got what I ordered. I bought a nice hazelnut brown clay from Standard Ceramic Supply here in Pittsburgh. It is really nice to throw and visually looks like a close 2nd or so to the deep brown clay I was making in the Bluebird mixer this summer...or so I thought. Now I'm nervous about its color and unwilling to throw any more until I fire my first load... and to add insult to injury my Pittsburgh Steelers failed to climb the stairway to seven.

Currently I have 50 mugs, cups, and tumblers, a few vases, a handful of batter bowls, and a couple pitchers waiting in the wings and I am desperate to fire them. BUT, I have been hit hard recently with other demands on my time. You see gentle reader, I also lead a second life...not really a secret life, but definitely a second. I have made comment about it in the past and even posted about some cool stuff regarding my J-O-B. Now don't get me wrong, I have it pretty good as the gallery director for a small state university's art department. I direct almost all aspects of both of our galleries as well as get to curate exhibitions and work with really interesting artists. I teach 101 courses here and there and also work in art ed. when they are in right now. Hey, Im even teaching beginning ceramics this summer here. Sounds great is to an extant. Some might say Im stuck in adjunct hell and I might agree...depending on the day.

Admittedly I'm a crack monkey for my higher ed. life. It provides pretty good money(although that can fluctuate)and offers a very stimulating, often challenging, creative environment...but the best part about it is the schedule. I can work part time for the university and have time(usually) to get into the studio and make work. Unfortunately, I am a little overrun with university work at the moment and frustrated about not getting in to the studio to get my pieces glaze fired.

But these are the choices that I made for myself. Having a J-O-B allowed me to pursue a more active studio life. Although it made me become very measured with my time and forces me to work double time mostly but the steady paychecks come in and allow me to buy the materials and tools I need to make what I want. On the other hand, sales of my work are very helpful too and are a great supplement to my income. And at this point in my life I do understand that if I could make more work I could certainly sell more work. So there's the crux. Will I be forever working to transition from one thing to another...I dunno...and do I want to? I have never committed to the life of a full time artist and I admire those that have and understand the dedication and sacrifice that goes along with that life, but there is a certain duality to my path that challenges me and makes me keep pushing.

Mentally though I am always in the studio, and even when Im home after work at the university Im tapping away on the keys of my laptop...keeping my head in the game...posting on my blog...working on images for new decals...and checking out other folk's work(lets call it research). So in the mean time while Im struggling to eek out some time to finish glazing and loading a kiln, let me paint you a typed out picture of what Im thinking:: Abstraction over image... Lines...from wax resist showing the (hopefully) brown body, layered with black over glaze lines mimicking those, a new orange speckled glaze(that also didn't fire out right in the test kiln) for accent color here and there. The second firing will be for 04 decals and a rich 04 red accent. These pieces are strictly about fragmented pattern, decoration, utility and a tweaked out sophistication.

I'm not sure if you, my peeps, are in similar four jobs?...or maybe just feels like it...pump out the work non-stop?...or are you lucky to get something done in a month's time? I know I'm a freakish extrovert that enjoys this blog broadcast, but feel free to chime in here and let folks know how you get you squeeze out the work from your brains and studio spaces where ever they may be.

Thanks for listening and I promise pictures soon!