Monday, December 29, 2008

The Life of a Rock Star



So you want to be a rock star? This rock star is on the road for the next four months away from loved ones and creature comforts. Tonight I sit in a Motel 6 in Rock Island, Illinois with only you and my computer. Oh yeah, I have a book I'm reading on how to choose a place to live- "Who's Your City" by Richard Florida- how the creative community is making where you live the most important decision of your life.
It was a loooooong haul today but for a change I had a really nice Border Patrol guy. Maybe attitudes are really changing. It felt good to be greeted by a friendly and interested neighbour.
I am showing a pic of my aunt and uncles grave stone not to be morbid but to let y'all know I like to drop in to see them before I go on this trek. It was they that set me on this life's path and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for clearing the path for Sheila and I.
Tomorrow I set out for a long day and hope to reach Cheyenne, Wyoming. It is a place to catch your breath before you climb the Rockies.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Loading the rig



Well I'm getting ready to hit the Mormon Trail for Utah. It's a long trip of over 2000 miles and the weather needs to be on my side. I have Terry the Toyota packed with some of my sculptural vessels that I have been working on this fall. I have seven of them packed in the back of the truck leaving little room for all my stuff. I made them so that the handles and feet can be put on with refractory cement and fired in the kiln. With handles and feet they don't fit into the cab of Terry. I have stuffed pieces of Styrofoam between them and tied them in with a truckers hitch so I hope they get there in one piece.
I have packed a survival kit of candles, blankets, chocolate bars, and whiskey. I hope that the survival kit is used only for comfort in my motel room at night.
I won't sleep tonight. Terry and I hit the road before daylight tomorrow

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Geezus for President




On my loooooooooooooong hot trip home when NPR wasn't on, I had the choice between soft or hard rock, Top 40 radio, country or Geezus. Just as I was entering Detroit I thought I'd have my last taste of America and listened to a program where people were phoning in suggesting that JC should be the President of the US of A. I thought where in the world would you hear this on the radio and where in the world would they think that JC would accept the demotion???
It was a sense of relief to cross over the Ambassador bridge and be on home turf. There really is nothing like home. Sheila had our home looking great as always. We have had a historic rain fall this summer so the gardens look great. Sheila's cast iron bra and bullet proof panties where hanging on the garden fence so I don't how she managed to get out of them.
Thanx for a great summer. The blog officially closes today until maybe the Cache Valley Battle of 2009. My China blog averaged between 7 and 8 hundred hits a day and the Back to School one would reach a high of 180 in a day. I think it was really a newsletter for USU students, alumni, wannabe students, friends and family.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Declaration of War



I'm declaring war on the students of USU. If you think ya got time to hike, bike, paddle, and do more play than clay then this Canuck plans to take Utah by surprise and make it another province of Canada. My plan is to cross over Elk Pass in Wyoming packing some never seen before art work.
Heidi is punching above her weight, Denny is building some sort of nuclear bomb, Freedom is experimenting with a toxic soda mustard gas, word is Crumpet is bangin on home with some heavy artillery, CJ is spying on the Aussies, Alix learned to shot to kill this summer, Trev is at the woodlot working on fuel cells. I will soon be home plotting to take Logan then I'll take Manhattan.
Beware!!! Robin Dupont is my very capable 007 secret agent.
You better learn the words to the next two songs.
God save the Queen and
Oh C eh n eh d eh!.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Wood lot slum





For the past two weeks I have spent my morning at the wood lot sawing and splitting wood. Every pile you have in your sight has been touched by my hands. My new motto" Pain is weakness leaving your body". I ache where I used to play. Many former grads have left wood for the taking. Wood is usually from the dump and is wood like cottonwood, elder or elm that no one wants to try to chainsaw or split. It is really hot there by noon but that beats trying to shovel 3 feet of snow off it come Jan to work with it. The wood will be ready but what about me?????
Here is a piece of mine we just retrieved from the back of the kiln. This is the kinda colour I will be striving for. I am not too much concerned with ash build up but want those reds and greens. To me this is high iron clay reduction cooled at it's best.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Catchin' some zzzzz's




Well the two of us fired the train on the weekend. It was brutally hot and we both passed each other like two ships in the night. Arrive 15 minutes early for your 6 hour shift to be given stoking pattern, any shared thoughts and then you're solo. The firing went well and as often happens with a train you scratch your head as to how to hold it back. We held the kiln at cone 9 for 10 hours and then the cooling - 11 long painfully slow hours to 1488F. We just couldn't stay awake to get to the desired 1450. Near the end we both needed sleep. Heidi took her nap on a couple of chairs. The couch is the usual napping spot but it is close to the kiln and hotter than hell. I crashed in the grad kitchen on the couch. We emptied and filled this 5 gallon cooler of ice, water and lemonaide twice during the firing. We open the kiln tomorrow.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mud n guts!






We're loaded and good to go. It is hotter here than a southern girl on prom night. Thought you might like to see Bobby Free's potatoes growing on the grad fridge. He'll eat them when his oatmeal runs out. We pulled the grates from the firebox- thankfully!!! Here are a couple of Heidi's teapots that she made from my wadding. She liked the colour of the wadding better than the clay so she has made some solid sketches of teapots that I think are quite successful. Here is our table of ware ready to load. I got everything in except 2 pots that I didn't really care for anyways. Going to be a tuff next 50 hours. 6 hour shifts between the 2 of us for the duration. Lots of water, lots of sweat, lots of mud, lots of guts. Wish us well!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Green light





I told young Peter he would not enjoy throwing porcelain for big forms. See how well they listen! He has no idea how he will get this beast home to NY state. Heidi and I are getting ready for another train ride. The weather here is really hot and we're watching like hawks for a green light. Yellow and red may stop the train. Put in a good word for me. Trev, Heidi and I have been trying to beat the heat by getting to the woodlot early for chainsawing, and splitting. We all graduate this spring and we want the wood ready for the final push. Our firing this weekend has 3 plus truck loads of wood. Wish us well. I need to be sent home on a good note.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Go big or go home!





Denny Gerwin is a USU grad student that makes large scale architectonic sculpture from extruded, cast, throw, coiled, hand built and manipulated clay. When Denny has a piece ready everyone in sight runs for the hills or fakes a bad back. All Denny wants for Christmas is a fork lift truck.
These pieces are generally fired in the large double wide train kiln since it is the only kiln on the property that can handle the scale he is working at. In fact I think he would work larger if there were a bigger kiln and of course that beloved fork lift.
Denny's motto- go big or go home!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cat Man Do!




This is the work of undergraduate Perry Haas. Perry usually fires the cat kiln and has become the resident firing specialist of that kiln. It's a good idea to pick a kiln that no one else wants to fire since there is never a line up. Perry has decided to cross over to the other side and is loading and firing the train starting tomorrow. I go in after him and Heidi follows me so you can see the train is on every bodies dance card at USU. Perry is making some very fine domestic ware. He makes small thoughtful changes to his work and hasn't rushed off to become an artist before learning to become a fine craftsman. It has been a pleasure to see the development of his signature work.
I've signed up for a shift or two of his firing. Good guys never have problems finding people to fire with!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Birds





Yesterday morning I was off to the kiln room, coffee in hand past the Bfa space where Perry was busy making pots and listening to the original version of "Cocaine" by J.J Cale. As I peered out the window past the art waiting to be fired I saw what I thought were several flocks of magpies all decked out in black and white. There were many groups of these odd birds sitting on the lawn just outside the Art Dept. After closer inspection I saw that these were bible study classes. This looked like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". It was 8:30 and I was barely caffeinated and there they were in white shirts and ties reading the Book of Mormon. I thought back to what I would have been doing during adolescence on a hot July morning. If awake at all I might have been reading John Steinbeck, Jack London or thumbing thru my dad's collection of National Geographic looking for nude women from other lands. I admit to a misspent youth!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why do they always doubt me?




I keep telling them here that there is more money on the wall than the kitchen table. Bobby Free went down to help Trevor fire his anagama in New Mexico. Bobby took down some of his dinner plates(yuck, yuck). I keep telling him to put a hole in the foot ring so they can hang on the wall. No, no, no what would a potter of over 2 decades of making a living know about marketing??????
Bobby has a nice hand with a brush and I keep encouraging him to do more of it. One of Joe's students bought the floral and fauna brushwork plate from Bobby and proudly announced it looked great on her living room wall. Hell, what would Tony know?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Reduction Coooooooooooool!






Here are a few pics of the unload of the train after our reduction cool firing. Reduction cool is about 3 x more time consuming than just regular wood firing. Not only do you fire the kiln up to temperature, then you fire the kiln down to 1450f and then when you open the kiln up you have days of clean of the pots ahead of you. Because you have stoked the kiln with wood below melting temperature of the ash the pots are covered in a crusty surface that you have to wash and scrub with a steel wire brush, dremel tools, flapper wheel, sandpaper etc. Hey it takes a lot of work to make a diamond.
Here are a couple of pics of Heidi and I staring into the kiln. Peter slept in so we couldn't wait any longer. Snooze ya loose.
One of my vases fell over in the side stoking chamber but luckily landed on a pile of coals and we stoked over top of it for about 20 more hours. It will clean up really nice. I'm pretty happy with the firing of the piece I'm holding.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Crit





Not everything is learned at school. Sheila is a master at making a silk purse out of a
sows ear. I asked myself what would she do????? Today my committee (John Neely, Dan Murphy and Joe Davis) were to critique the work from the last train firing. You could ask them to come look at the work in your space, line it up on a dirty studio table, or you could book the conference room that is air conditioned, has a nice table and then you could go home to the garden (thanx Trevor and Donna) and pick some flowers to go in the vases. The reduction cool surface is perfect for displaying flowers. It is like a sculpted rock with a flower growing out of it. I won't tell ya what all was said as I am still digesting it. I can tell you it was really worthwhile and I was given lots to think about. I'm excited about where this is going.
One thing I can tell ya is Dan asked me if I could see this work fired any other way???
I answered "Actually, I can't!" He replied " Good, that's the right answer!"
I have told students time and time again you should know what glaze you're going to use before you make the pot. Dan was testing me on knowing what firing technique you're going to use before you make the pot.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Future





I told ya I was going to send ya some pics of young18 year old Peter and his work. I'm pretty proud of this kid and the progress that he is making. Here is Peter making his first 40 lb jar and a table full of his bowls that he had 2 days to complete. I think the trimming is very respectable on this ware. One of the assignments was 5 jugs. Peter was lucky enuff to get his first jugs in a wood fired reduction cool firing. How nice are these jugs??? Here is our other firing partner Heidi and her main squeeze Brent Reitz ( son of guess who?) They are both very happy with the load of pots we have just unloaded. I'm now off to Heidi's to meet up with young Peter and Brent for a celebratory spaghetti dinner and a few glasses of grape. Damn, I feel good!