Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dammit Mother Nature

Here are some surfaces I would like to create on my work. Look at the picture of the owl that Steve Irvine of Wiarton took and shared with the Clayart Discussion Group. Do you think the mouse or the rabbit can see the old owl against the back drop of that tree? If I could only reproduce that lichen on the rocks for my wall tiles I'd be a very happy camper. Try as we will old Mother Nature beats us hands down every time. Work that blends with Nature and doesn't swear at it is my goal.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cardinal Sin

One of the worst days of my teaching assignment at Sheridan is the day we end up in the glaze lab with hundreds of bisque fired pots wanting to be glazed. I tell them before they start making that they should know what glaze is going to be used before they make the pot. They can build in ridges for a glaze to pool or high points for a glaze to break, a smooth area for some brush work etc, etc. Well, it doesn't happen. They're still trying to center and pull up and bow out. They ain't there yet! So glazing day has them double dipping, splattering, putting shino over temmoku( shino first is the golden rule) and all kinds of horrid scenarios. The first kiln loads are wasters and lots of valuable learning takes place. Heck, I've learned more from my mistakes than my successes.
So Teach made some big tiles with no idea how he was going to glaze them- Cardinal sin according to Clennell. I scratched my butt, walked in circles for 2 hours and decided to spray them with laterite and then I applied a dry white crackle glaze. My thinking was landscape, snow and ice. We got the kiln loaded by 2pm and I'm firing it throughout the night. You'd think I was 27 again.
P.S Those sure are bad hats. You'd think being in Italy they'd wear Borsalino's.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

Just thought I'd post the e-invite to "The Northerners" show at AKAR Gallery in Iowa City, Iowa. AKAR happens to be one of the best galleries for pots in North America and they know how to do it up right. I really like the invitation they prepared for the show we are in August to September. It is nice to deal with a class act. I wonder if painting Canada red meant we're commies or bible thumpers,eh?

Random Acts of Kindness

In my post to this blog yesterday I mentioned how my computer has extended my clay community. I picked up a cyber friend while doing my blog from China and then had a chance to meet with her at MISSA last summer. Patsi Minnes sent me a note a week or so ago to say she had bought one of Robin (Grass) Hopper's trimming tools in a fund raising event at the school and that she was sending it to me. I e-mailed Grass to tell him of this random act of kindness and that I hoped it was a Dolan. Dolan being my favourite trimming tool. Well thanks to Patsi my Dolan arrived today. I should have known that Grass would use the very best. Thank you very much Patsi for being so thoughtful. I ain't going to hang it up though. I'm putting it to work and I will treasure it every time I use it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Single Rose

It is remarkable to be part of the clay community. I have been all over this country and many parts of the globe where an introduction of " I am a potter from Beamsville, Ontario, Canada" has opened so many doors. It has been the ticket to dinner, coffee, drinks, a place to stay,etc, etc. Try saying 'Hi, I'm a high school math teacher or Hi, I'm a college administrator and see how many doors open. Since we bought our first Mac computer almost 2 decades ago I have been a contributor to the Clayart Discussion Group. I have met people from all over the world and they have become a further extension of my clay community. One such long time cyber friend is Lori Leary. News this week of her husbands death in an industrial accident has saddened many of us that know Lori. I took a picture of a single rose on our kitchen table in front of a few of the pots in our collection. Circle the wagons folks one of us needs some shelter. I am a big believer in collective energy and I send out what I can to Lori at this time.


Monday, July 26, 2010

An arm pit hair

For those of you that have fired or do fire a solid fuel kiln in reduction you will know that the width of a hair can make the difference between reduction and oxidation. Our kiln has fired at the same damper setting and fuel pressure tickedy boo for close to 300 glaze firings. The last few have started to not be killer. Sheila and I vacuumed the burners for spiders and earwigs, reset the air, inspected then with the door open etc, etc and still not the racer firings we had expected. We checked the damper and could see erosion of almost a half inch and just plain old wear and tear. We just replaced the damper so we hope to be back in the zone again.
Here is a pic of some of my tiles leaning against the rolls in the kiln. We find firing the flat ware including plates and platters on edge in the bisque firing has a much greater success rate. These tiles are two inches thick and heavy as sin.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

All hat, no cowboy!

They say that it is what's inside that counts. I plan to be outside more! I'm the lucky owner of two Borsalino hats. One I got in Nashville, TN at a place called The House of 50,000 Hats. There was only one hat in there that would fit me and it was a Borsalino. I don't look good in a ball cap and in fact I think it lowered my already low IQ to below average. I think you have to grow into a hat. It takes a certain swagger to don a classy hat. Every man wore a hat in early days. I read that JFK killed the hat because he was so dog gone handsome.
Sheila and I are in a show The Northerners with some of Canada's heavy weights at AKAR Design in Iowa City, Iowa in August AKAR is the best gallery I know of for real pots. Yep, they sell great pots. I hope you will put the show on your calendar and let me know if it's all hat and no cowboy!

Holy wine!

Holy wine Batman this guy is having way toooooooooooo much fun to be totally straight. Did I tell ya that next to BC Bud another popular export from Vancouver Island are the mushrooms. I'd say my friend Grass- Hopper must have had a side of mushrooms with his steak and alter wine. It has to be alter wine as he has an altered view of good fashion.
I get a bi weekly letter from Robert Genn The Painters Post and this weeks letter was appropriate to Robin. It was about finding one's voice. He mentioned that a person should go to an island, put in long hours, fall in love with the process and voila a voice will come from ones work.
Life is good for those that know that life is good!!! A toast back atcha my friend. As for fashion tips I'm not really your guy. I might however recommend a Borsalino instead of the Elton John Glitter Top Hat.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wood I?

There has been much talk and enthusiasm on the Clayart Discussion group of the firing of The Energy X Change pallet kiln that used 120 pallets for it's maiden voyage. Free and available recycled wood! Remember this is a experimental recycling program. Reminds me of the city gentleman turned farmer that had a 25 acre bush lot and thought I can heat for free. So he went out and bought a new Toyota Tundra 4 x 4, a Kubota tractor with front end loader, a Honda wood splitter, a Stihl chainsaw, etc,etc. Including the land his heating bill started off at over a 1/4 million $$$$. My neighbour heats his house with pallets. Here is a scene of what 120 pallets looks like. Now you ain't gonna get many pallets in your new Tundra so you might have to buy a 20 foot trailer and a Bobcat might be handy to unload them. I love the look of a nicely piled cord of wood. The pallet fence of my neighbours is yet another story. And sometimes you have to take what is offered and it ain't all that pretty a sight. But hey, it's free! Kinda! Sorta! Hmmm sounds like a lot of work! Check out Junes pots.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Clay Pits

We're raising a generation of potters that think you just peel back the sod and there is a perfectly plastic wrapped 25 lbs of de-aired clay ready to throw. I just spent the morning with some local clay that needed to be slaked for a lovely iron rich slip and I'm drying some out in a plaster mold to use for throwing. My aunt and uncle used this clay for their throwing body. We would slake it down, pump it thru a screen to take the rocks out and fill these large row boats with slip. The ice would come to the surface of the boat over the winter and my uncle would take the sheets of ice off in spring to have a pretty nice throwing body. If I was overly rambunctious he would have me foot wedge the clay in the boat. This would tire me out and I'd sleep like a dog that evening.

Whack Jobs!

I wasn't at MISA (Metchosin International School of the Arts) this year but I have my moles that keep me posted as to the carrying on of all my creative and whack job friends. You can run but you cannot hide!!! Thanx Jenny Bullen for the pics.
I cannot give higher praise to this magical place set in paradise. The setting is in a old growth forest, on the ocean with deer, bears (did I say that?), eagles, seals, otters and a couple of hundred of the strangest artistic creatures you are ever lucky enough to meet. I think this costume night had to have been the initial brain child of Robin Hopper who has a background in theatre. Always a man for the stage. If you are setting away a few clams for a professional workshop I give MISA a ***** rating.
Birds of a feather flock together!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

BC bud

Apparently BC's biggest agricultural export is BC bud. Another form of grass that is a BIG BC export is my BC bud Grass Hopper. Grass has inhaled and exhaled his mojo internationally in the form of books, DVD's, workshops, conferences etc, etc. He is without a doubt Canada's biggest pottery export. Here is a picture of Robin at the MISA party dressed as I can only guess- a bag of weed. Robin is mentoring another good bud John Britt to take over his glaze course at Metchosin International School of the Arts. I don't know what they call bud down in John's North Carolina but I bet they have a pig pickin' and a couple of swallows of moon shine to wash it all down. Anyone that makes a living in the arts works their arses off. That is a given! You also have to have a good sense of humour. Doesn't look like Robin and John lack a sense of humour. Could it be the bud??????
Robin is with his wife and partner Judi Dyelle- someone has to keep him in grounded!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This past weekend we had an assortment of odd requests in the showroom. It’s cherry season here and since our name is Sour Cherry Pottery we get our fair share of new Canadians that don’t read or speak English so well. Do you have sour cherries for sale? No! Can we pick our own sour cherries? No! Where are the cheekans? What chickens I answer????? Poultry, Sour Cherry Poultry!!!!
If we buy a tray set without the bowls will it be cheaper? No! If I order a casserole without a lid will it be cheaper? No! Will you teach my grand daughter how to make pottery today? No! Can I use the toilet in your house? No! It is no wonder I like a stiff bourbon at the end of the day!!! Retail has driven many greater men than me to drink.

To hell with it!

It's been really hot and sticky here and I haven't had a good nights sleep in weeks. This morning was one of those to hell with it mornings when I threw on my dirty clay jeans and a 10 year old t-shirt that ought to get used for washing the car. I decided not to shower and shave after my morning walk and just got out to the studio to finish my work. Of course, this is the very day that some lovely women from France decide to visit the studio and have a personal chat about what I am making. I've always maintained you should dress for the job you want and not the one you have. This is my job and sometimes it ain't all that pretty.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Slow dancing

Dancing for me is like standing still only faster. One of the problems with our small studio is that it is certainly limiting on the scale of my work. We will have to do a dance around these two rolls for the couple of weeks while we wait for them to dry. By that time I will hate these two pots and will have moved them 100 or more times. We'll be anxious to get them out of the studio and outta sight. I really should be making a few more this week to improve on them and get it just right. Can't no room in the building- dammit!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mud and Water Man

I got tired of reclaiming my trimmings and hand building scraps so I made a plaster mold to throw them in to build some nice big wall tiles. I hollow out the back of the tile to make it lighter and I put the scrapings back into the mold for another tile. I have been using a serrated scoop so hence the texture. Since Sheila and I both like to trim at soft cheese this works really well. I put some little piles of crushed walnut shells in the mold so that there will be some pockets of information in the tile. I have always had a fascination for geology and geography so these tiles are like landscapes I have seen from flying on high with a bad meal in front of me and a glass of wine in my hand.
Here is a little video of another mud and water man. Gee a guy that calls himself a potter. What a concept in this world of ceramic artists.

Big feet, small???

Although the feet on these rolls look generous they are quite small in relationship to the girth of the casserole. This element elevates the roll as if it is on a pedestal. It also makes it not as functional so that some hair brain doesn't decide to fill it with Texan Road Gang Chili and have a cook off. He better be wearing a Home Depot back brace if he decides to. I have a small kids swimming pool that I use to glaze them in.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cuff in the lug

A good Scottish expression meaning a smack in the ear. I have always put ears on my Big Rolls. They are not functional but decorative. A pot without a handle or lug is not a pot of mine. I have two rolls on the go that I'll show you when I get all the pieces together. First I throw the base, then add the walls, then the rim, then the handles, then make a lid, then flip it over to trim and add a foot. When the lid sets up I add a big knob. Voila a casserole that no one can use!
Hey for those of you that thought I'd carry a multi coloured Kershaw blade- please! Here is the black on black Ken Onion Chive I'll be sporting. A man's gotta have taste!!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Good taste!

I'm a man of filet mignon taste and a hamburger budget. I like a few fine things in my other wise basic life. I like a good pocket knife. Gotta carry one or else I feel something is missing. It's amazing how many uses I find for a knife in a given day. I just ordered a Ken Onion Chive black on black which was voted the knife of the year. I like a good hat and the one I'm sporting is a Borsalino. I have two actually! One I bought many years ago in a store of 50,000 hats in Nashville, TN. It was the only hat in the store that would fit my big head and of course it was the most expensive in the store. It is being cleaned and blocked. Gotta love that hat that has kept my nogin protected and dry thru wood firings and snow storms. My latest I purchased in Sienna, Italy and it is rather a mafia don kinda hat.
I like real Kentucky bourbon and Woodford- Reserve is what I treat myself to when I'm feeling flush. I have a whiskey bottle in the Brown Foreman Collection down there in Louisville pronounced Low a ville or some such thing.
Here is a shout out to Shane Norrie for being on the winners podium at the Toronto Outdoor Exhibition. A hard show to get into and even harder to end up with the brass ring. Congrats, Shane! Fight big fighter, fight!!!