Friday, July 22, 2016

Pimpin' My Ride

I don't know when I met Tom Wirt and Betsy Price. I think it had to be twenty odd years ago on The Clayart Discussion Group. That was long before Facebook and social media. It was a daily visit to the water cooler with potters from around the world. Friendships were made that have been long lasting. That friendship has brought me almost 1000 miles to participate in a Potter's Festival they started  5 years ago.
It's been over 10 years since I have done one of these shows. It was usually around this time of year at The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and it was dangerously hot, and I would be soaked to the bone carrying boxes of pots and setting up my booth. I'd have a great time with fellow potters and come home and swear I'd never do another.
Since they have walked the walk they know how to treat the royalty of the festival- the potters. We can back up our cars to unload at our tents, there is coffee and cake, Clay Olympics with a Shimpo wheel as a prize, a potter's supper, and FREE beer for the potters( this is going to cost them dearly). Donovan and Colleen are rolling in with their Airstream and serving Negroni's after dinner. This will be the perfect forum for me to tell all my lies and irreverent tales.
Thanks for the invite to the festival. Drop by and see me. I'm the good looking guy, eh!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Results from the Minnesota Fireball

Here are some pots from the wood firing here in Minnesota. This

is a small sampling of the work from the kiln. Some vases by Colleen Riley, some bottles from Doc Agel, a collaborative basket by Donovan Palmquist, Colleen and I.  This was my first flirtation with porcelain teapots so I am pretty pleased with the results. I have two others glazed in salt yellow. The blob of white stuff that looks like a seagull flew over is a drip from the silicon carbide shelves. These are often referred to as potter’s tears. They don’t make me cry. They are marks of process and as a student of pots I look at these marks as blessings. The alkaline vapour from the wood firing makes the shelves cry like rain.

Come see us at The Minnesota Potter’s Festival in Hutchinson, MN this coming weekend. It’s been a long time since I did something like this so come and talk pots with me. I’ve got plenty of lies to tell you haven’t heard on my blog.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Still Kickin' at 92

What would a trip to Minnesota be without a pilgrimage to the studio of Warren MacKenzie? Warren at age 92 is literally still kicking his Leach treadle wheel. Warren was more than gracious and enthusiastic about his stories of his early years with Bernard Leach. He is still putting in 6 hours a day 7 days a week in the studio.
If I might be bold to say the pots are not what they once were but there is still an honesty and an integrity in the work that is admirable. He is a legend in America and rightfully so. He has kept making pots for people to use in daily life.

Warren took us to his house to show us some of the pots in use in the kitchen- Hamada, Shimoaka, Hagi ware and a couple of killer pieces by Ken Matsaki. The hike up the hill from the studio to the house is pretty steep and he climbed it like a mountain goat. His enthusiasm for pots and life are so evident. I felt like I was in the presence of greatness today. I hope I am as enthusiastic about pots ten years from now never mind 27 years from now. I wonder what changes in this field I would witness if I reach the age of 92?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Reinventing Yourself

Doc and I went to visit the old Red Wing Pottery Factory in Red Wing, Minnesota. It was interesting for  me to see the evolution of the pottery which seemed to follow the same down ward spiral of my beloved Medalta Pottery in my hometown of Medicine Hat, Alberta. The beginning shows the big crocks needed for storage. Pots for needs not for wants.  Once there was refrigeration and glass ware the potteries tried their hand at decorative ware and then dinnerware. Many people overlook the old dinnerware as a source of inspiration. Sometimes if you look past the surface decoration and look at the forms there are seeds of great reference for your own work. I was inspired by these handles and the knob cut on an angle.  Sometimes it is just an idea that you can take home to your own work.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


One of the nice things about firing a bourry box kiln( also known as a boring box) is there is time to read or in Colleen's case sculpt some birds and her first figurative piece a bust of Donny Goldilocks Trump. We were going to fire him in effigy but figured he might blow up and ruin the firing for the rest of us.  Hmmm there might be a slight bit of wisdom in that line. Speaking of Goldilocks I lent Goldilocks Doc Agel a bandana to keep his rug from getting singed from the flame.
There are a whole lot of advantages to the bourry box but for me is to be able to get up in the morning and not ache were you used to play. The stoke door is up where it belongs and you ain't staring into a firing inferno for a couple of days.
Kiln went off nicely with a long hold between Cone 9 and 11 so there should be a nice ash glaze melt. As always the kiln has the last say and the proof will be in the pudding. Usually though it nice work goes in nice work comes out. I have never seen a wood kiln make a bad pot good but I have seen a wood kiln make a good pot beyond gorgeous. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

You can dress him up

Colleen, Donovan me andDoc Agel went  to a Japanese Sushi restaurant for his birthday. When we announced that it was Doc's birthday they brought him out a mask and beat the tom tom's. The best part was there was a recording came over the restaurant speakers that sounded like dogs singing Happy Birthday.  We all laughed till we were in tears.

 To be truthful I have never seen Doc look as happy and as handsome for that matter.
We now have the kiln firing and all is going well. Doc bought some big fat stoogies for us to celebrate the firing after shut down. It's looking like it could be off after the witching hour of midnight.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Minnesota Fireball

This is a big wood kiln and it has taken some time to get it loaded. The kiln is loaded and we sent it on it's way with a wee nip of bourbon. In Japan we toasted the kiln with saki. In Italy we toasted the kiln with a Barolo and in Korea it was soju. Here in Minnesota we used some American bourbon. There is a day lily on the fire box and we fed it a wee bit of salt and sprinkled some bourbon on a stick. The weather here is a pleasant 68degrees with a cool wind and hard rain. Donovan has sparked up the wood fired sauna to relax everyone for the hard work ahead in the coming 40 hours of the firing. There is work in there by Donovan and Colleen, Rick Agel, Liz ? and Kevin Caulfield. We are hoping to finish up early on Saturday morning. Bon feu!