Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A few bricks

short of a load. This has been said about me in my obsession with bricks, brick yards and old pottery stuff. I live near the Welland Canal. The canal was built to take ships around Niagara Falls from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, so they could go on up the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes is one the most majestic systems of water in the world. Well if you're going to dig a canal chances are there will be an abundance of clay and in that day and age that meant lots of brick yards. I befriended an old brick yard owner that after a few drinks would spin yarns about crawling into the chimney of the big bee hive and firing a shot gun up the stack to get the draft going. He also recalled throwing tin cans in the fire box to get black bricks. Here are a couple of the bird houses he had the men make at the sewer tile yard at a time when plastic was entering the scene and he didn't want to lay the men off. I also use an old banding wheel from the old Foster Potteries in Milton for spraying my pots outside. Don't laugh at my attempt at a prairie garden in an old sagger. It is all weeds now and Sheila has given up on me as a gardener. I'd really rather have a motorcycle.
I bought this pile of bout 300 bricks from a refractory company in receivership. I had plans of building a small salt kiln or pizza oven. It ain't about to happen. If anyone out there wants them I'll sell them for a buck a piece. Hard bricks that I figured could be filled with ash or vermiculite for insulation. They interlock and are high duty.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do shoes make the man?

It's been a few years since I made some of my big rolls for the showroom. These two 30 lb casseroles were made with exactly the same sectional process except I changed the foot. The one with the pedestal foot takes the vessel from a kitchen pot to a show piece. Not that anyone would ever use one of these or be able to lift them full of chili but they think functional and that means less money. At least that has been my experience.
If I leave them outside I have to watch out for men customers trying to pick up the lid. It's a man thing! They just have to do it!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Time Machine

I've been inspired by the medieval jug for a few decades now. Even the cup form is something I've done for years. When I came upon this site I got the cold sweats and goose pimples. I swear this work was made by me or my ancestors in another life.
The yellow ribbed jug makes my heart stop. I love the thumbed foot and the beer barrel aesthetic. I think a Viking entered my being and I'm just here on earth to make some pots while I wait for Valhalla. Hopefully it's a while away. Have a beer and a bump ready for me will ya Eric the Red.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Those bloody boring conifers!

It's fall here in Ontario and all of my favourite glaze colours are at their peak. The skies are gloomy today but the foliage is pretty spectacular. Robin Hopper is reading this and saying why did I move to the land of those bloody boring conifers? Ok, they're big and awesome but show me the colour! That's my new motto!
A cyber friend Bill Merrill of Washington state sent me this poster of a teapot of David Shaner's. I pinned it on the wall of the studio by my wheel. I used to stare at his teapots for hours on end hoping they would enter my body by osmosis. My pottery teacher Roger Kerslake maintained you could judge a potter by their teapot. He made a good one so of course he would say that. Here is a pic of one from my latest wood firing. Shaners is simple and strong, mine is perhaps more fused over. Nice foot though!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We were here, where were you?

The trouble with owning a mum and pop retail pottery business is ya can just never tell when the best day is to close. Invariably we stay open all day long and since nobody has come we decide to take off early and do something for ourselves. We arrive home to a note on the door "We were here, where were you!" Ouch!!! Well this past Sunday Sheila had to go see her dad in the hospital and I had a birthday lunch daughter Robin. We closed and took off for the day. I went to Toronto and rode the Red Rocket to a part of town called Leslieville which is in the heart of the film district in Toronto and very cool. You wouldn't know there is a recession on in TO as there were line ups for brunch in all the good spots. Next door to where Robin lives in The Beaches is a doggie business that sends out a streeeeeeeeeeeetch to pick up your Fifi to have it's nails clipped back at the Dog Spa. Of course just down the street is a Doggie Bakery. I might just return to this world as a dog. With my luck I'd arrive on the streets of Bejing.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ladies day out!

and that means shopping!!! Judy, Linda and Michelle are 3 successful interior decorators that have been customers of ours for a long time. There once was a time when Linda McKinnon would contemplate her purchase over a smoke on the deck chairs under our porch. Now the ladies drop in to view what we have available, go to a fine winery/restaurant and come back for some serious shopping. We filled the trunk and half the back seat.
These 3 ladies have shrines of our work. I can't think of 3 people that would present it better.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Fleet is Ready

Sheila's fleet of boats has been sprayed with our dry ash glaze and they are ready to set sail in tomorrows glaze firing. If anyone ever accused me of BIG handles take a look at these sails. The hull of the boat is made of a slab draped over a hump mold, the side walls and foot are thrown and the handles are slabs thrown down on the wedging table.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

giving thanks

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and Sheila and I have lots to be thankful for. During the week our potter friends Jim and Pat Reno from Upper New York State dropped in for a visit. Friday night our long time friends and customers Hector and Ola Lazzarotto took us out for a gourmet meal. I'd show Hector but his hair was a mess. Hec was the President of Bic and introduced the 19 cent pen to Canada. The rest is dollar store history.
Our daughter Eileen showed up to take over the kitchen and let Sheila chill. Eileen folded the napkins Martha Stewart style, made dough leaves for her pumpkin pie and presented us with a absolute harvest feast.
I'm relaxing with a nice two fingers of Woodford Reserve bourbon and thinking life is good. Life is very very good!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Toronto Dream

Yesterday Bruce and I went with the Sheridan students to the downtown warehouse studio of ceramist Susan Collett. The studio is in a very active arts area of Toronto off Queen Str West. She has a studio probably 20 times the size of my studio here at home with two large rooms that allow her teaching opportunities, permanent photography set-up, large work has room to sit and dry for long periods of time, a small kitchen, lots of tables, 12 foot ceilings and some nice natural light from the windows.
Susan was the perfect host and a consummate professional. She had the coffee brewing and had prepared a power point presentation of her work as it has been influenced by time in China and Israel.
In the one shot you can see her adding a paper clay addition to an already bisque fired piece. She was the extolling the virtues of paper clay.
Susan's work can be found in some very prominent collections including the Eaton family, Donald Trump, and the Branfman's.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

PG Rating

In our little movie theatre of a pottery Saturdays are PG Rated. We serve a small tasting of Pinot Grigio to our customers on Saturdays. Hey, we have to work weekends so we might as well enjoy them. A small sampling of wine is a good ice breaker and gives the customer some time to consider their purchases. We had one of our best Saturdays today since before 911. Yep, you bet 911 impacted our pottery situated half an hour from our US friends. It helped that we sold 14 dinner place servings of a dinner, luncheon, soup, cups and extras like trays and large bowls. People are out shopping and as Sheila said we just never seem to be able to make enough of our domestic ware line. Oh, and wood fired is selling too.
You know we have found that Reggae music gets people tapping their toes and feeling alright. Try this great version of Bob Marley's "One Love"

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hob knobbing with the mucky-mucks

Tom: I thought I needed to dedicate a post on my blog to respond to your comment about hob knobbing with the mucky-mucks in case those that follow my blog don't go back to read the comments. I looked up mucky-mucks to get this definition-Mucky-muck
Your boss. Over paid, under worked. All perks, no work. The guy who wears flip-flops to work when you wear steel-toed boots.
Robin Hopper and I have been acquaintances for 3 decades and more recently since MISA I would say friends since we correspond almost daily.
Robin 30 years ago had a college professors job with tenure and all the perks which he traded in all to wear the steel toed boots. He is a fabulous teacher but decided he wanted to make pots for the rest of his life. Now at age 70 he still makes pots and lots of them- both domestic ware and one offs. As you well know everyone in the arts works hard to make a living. I have found that the mucky-mucks that I know in this business have worked even harder.
Robin has some 19 instructional videos, 5 or 6 books, awarded Branfman Award here in Canada( our highest honour for craft) RCA designation(another Canuck biggie) done countless workshops all over the world, and last year at Nceca was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award. His contribution to teaching outside the structure of a full time teaching job is very notable. All I can say from my acquaintance with Robin and my other long distance mucky-muck friend Ronnie the Rat Meyers age 75(Life Time Achievement Award the year before Robin) is that these guys are as ordinary and approachable as a drugged church mouse. The moniker Mucky-muck comes with lots of work and lots of sacrifice. I know how much Sheila and I have given to this life in craft and knowing these guys make me work harder.
P.S Our last wood firing was OK not great!!! Here is a jar from the firing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sing for your supper

We had Robin Hopper visiting us for the day to check my homework and to talk about the colour path he has encouraged me to embark upon. Before we would feed him he was required to be the Wal-Mart greeter with a group of our customers that arrived in a streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch limo. They were doing some wine tastings and very wisely rented the limo to take them from winery to winery and then out for a lovely dinner.
How do I begin to tell y'all how much I learned from Robin today???? This man has seen several million glaze tests and as any good teacher does makes it all understandable. The 9 hour talk ranged from geology, to surface/colour development, to philosophy, to academia, to stayin' alive and then always back to glaze. My head is swimming right now but I can see the shore so the swim is methodical. Thanx Robin!!!