Friday, January 29, 2010

The Times They Are A Changin'

This week I treated myself to some of Matt and Dave's Porcelain for the People. Yep, it's filter pressed and it is expensive. At $1.27 a pound it damn well better be good. Well it threw and trimmed like a dream. Usually if I can throw porcelain I hate trimming it. This seems to have a coarse particle size that makes for trimming with some expression to it. So I figure $38 for 30 pounds will make me 6 teapots. Usually my stoneware teapots are $125. These ones outta porcelain are going to be $160 so that the first one pays for the clay. Don't tell the clay suppliers this or they will stop looking guilty when they charge ya that much for clay.
I tortured this clay. I dipped it in my local slip clay, slaked down the trimmings and mixed in some sand with the casting slip and laid it on thick. It took the punishment.
Well here's how the times are a changin'. Potter's are making more precious pots. People buy one of your gorgeous cups and not for a family of 5. They want precious, they want individual and they are downsizing. The cost of the materials just get passed on to them. So the clay in a cup costs $1.50 and you charge $35 for it! That's not even 5% of the cost.
When ya buy something precious you treat it like it's precious. I even saved my trimmings for the first time in eons.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Big Dipper

Here is some of the current work of Sheridan student Mary McKenzie. Mary is creating these winter snow scenes by dipping found objects in a white slip and creating a maze of tangles, prickles and underbrush. She has also been experimenting with dipping chicken wire and expanded metal in the slip to create larger pieces. Future direction is to possibly create sconces outta slip dipped expanded metal. In this way she also creates a piece of art as the pedestal for the piece of art. I look forward to her progress as her enthusiasm for the process is contagious.

99 bottles of beer on the wall

I told our friend and fellow potter Beryl Budnark and her husband Les to stay away from the water in China. They took great lengths to have a couple of bing pee-jio (cold beers) up on the Great Wall. Nice that she thought to include a couple of my Yunomi's in the picture. Rave reviews from Beryl on the food and the hospitality of the Chinese people. They say you can't draw water from an empty well and travel is one sure way to fill the well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Unlikely Places

I'm posting a picture of Paul Soldner sneaking a wee nip of grape from one of my shino cups at a workshop. Here is another one of our friend and fellow potter Judy Donaldson. She is having a wee dram of Drambuie outta one of Sheila's cups after placing 2nd in the women's downhill ski race. Most of us at middle age are asleep in our favourite chairs with a half finished book and a fridge full of food just around the corner in the kitchen. Congrats, Judy! Long May You Run!
If any of you out there have any pictures of yourselves with one of our cups send it to me so I can post it on my blog. Pictures of my women friends in the tub are especially welcome- har, har!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dining on Crow

It's January in Canada for heavens sake and it's 8 degrees C, gray and pissing rain. Nobody is out on the roads and our showroom has been a ghost town. Really hasn't been much traffic since Christmas. People's credit cards are still smokin' and this weather is just down right depressing.
We'd be dining on crow if it weren't for my teaching at Sheridan and guinea pigs. Yes, guinea pigs have saved the month. Last year when I was away at USU Sheila took a good sized order to make presents for the Guinea Pig Convention held near here. Well she did such a good job we got it again so we've stopped the play and are making creams and sugars, little jugs and wine cups, small bowls and plates and stuff we don't usually make. It's a nice order and easy work for the two of us. I prefer pig to crow!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pitter Platter

A couple things about plates and platters. We always throw our plates on plaster bats. Especially with large platters it is impossible to pull the cutting wire straight across the bat without it arching in the middle so that when you go to trim you have a thinner middle to contend with. With the plaster the clay is just right for trimming and it is flat as a pancake. With large platters I have these thin bats with a hole in the middle that I plop on the platter as soon as it will hold it. This helps the middle dry out and keeps the rim from not only drying out and lifting up. I think in a pinch you could make these rings from the top of a pizza box for smaller plates.
Here is a pic of Sheila cutting the sides off the thrown plates to make them square. She gives a Surfoam to the top and bottom edge so that it has a nice profile. This is where a Peter Pugger would come in handy for all the leather hard cut offs.
It's Saturday and we serve Pino Grigio in the showroom. It's been awfully quiet around here which means we may drink all the wine. Well pitter, platter off to work I go!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

$7.50 a hole

We run a small tourist pottery studio and we can't make a living making jars that sell in the hundreds of dollars. I have to pay to play so today I threw some plates. The smaller square plates I used to make as a side plate for dinnerware that sold for $30 and then I got smart and poked two holes in the foot ring and hung them on the wall and charged $45 for them. A wee piece of art that ya don't need to take to the framing shop and spend $150 on a frame. I did the same with my dinner plates that sold for $50. With two holes in the foot ring they are $65. The round plates that I threw will be cut square and the decoration is paper resist with the local red clay called Queenston shale poured over top. It melts thru the shino to give the most beautiful persimmon/kaki type glaze.
I forgot to show ya that I use Saran Wrap between the lid and the gallery so I can push the lid into shape to dry in the vessel.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Door's a Jar

Finally after a week of making the jars are finished and the door has opened so that I can move on to something else. As you in the clay world well know clay needs to be handled when it is ready to be handled not when you are ready to handle it. My one day at Sheridan left the jars under plastic and the bottoms set up more than I would have liked. I wanted to add a European foot but the clay was almost bone dry. I didn't have a chuck big enuff in the studio so necessity being the mother of invention I put a coil around a 5 gallon plastic bucket and trimmed the jars in that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

5 days in

Dear Ghost:
This is my 5th day into these jars. The gallery on the jars is rather easy. Just throw a collar and add it to the jar. Sectional throwing is a easy way of making an articulated vessel with not much effort. I do find making a sketch before hand helps me plan the form. I have done 6 additions plus the lid and handles. They have been slow going but with slow drying and hopefully an easy bisque firing I'll have some jars that ought to fetch somewhere in the $5-600 range.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Play time

We just had our first firing of 2000 and 10 to fluff up our depleted showroom. We had our best December in many years. We must be doing something wrong! We're both back teaching so there is a bit of winter income which allows some play time. You think you have months before the proverbal ca-ca hits the fan but it comes on you rather quickly. We have pots to make for the Hamilton Potters Juried Show and the Northerners Show is already up on the AKAR website. This is a high profile show for us and we need to put some gooduns away. No pressure to be in the company of Harlan House, Bob Archambeau, Bruce Cochrane, Cathi Jefferson and my partner in crime. I also always send pots to workshops to sell. The workshop scene is busy for me this coming spring with Toronto, Italy and Calgary.
I'm showing you jars in progress. I throw a bowl and then add each stamped section when leather hard. I've already got 4 days into these babies and I still need to throw the gallery, lids and add a pedestal foot. Who knows if I'll get my time and wages outta them. Sometimes ya just have to do things cause ya can!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Back to school

It was my first day back at Sheridan on Tuesday. My mission is to help the third years get ready for their swan song solo show at the Gardiner Ceramic Museum in Toronto. Besides glaze, plaster and kiln rooms each of the three years have their own separate spaces. Creativity abounds everywhere you turn. As I walked in there was a room full of 3 or 4 foot tall ceramic figures that the 1st years had just completed as a final project before Xmas. I had to go in an see what my 2ND years of the fall semester had been up to in the throwing class. Here was a giant historical jar made by one of the students using the coil and throw method. Then upstairs where I'll be working with the 3rd years I liked these little cups made from a black clay with porcelain press molded handles. I'll do a feature on each third year in the coming weeks. So I started school on Tuesday and there was a strike vote on the Wednesday with a 57% vote in favour.I'm hoping it is just sabre rattling.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fully blown pottery business

It's Canada and it snows here! I made a decision some years ago that we needed a snow blower to keep our parking lot at the pottery fully blown and accessible. If they can't drive in your driveway they can't buy pots. If they don't buy pots then I can't drink wine, I mean eat!
Here is my little secret weapon my Honda snow blower. This was the first day this year I had to use it and it started like a charm. When I bought it the salesman told me someone would steal it before the day it wouldn't start on one pull. Hopper is probably giggling like a child seeing all this Ontario snow that he moved away from some 30 years ago. Well he'll be eating crow when he sees this pic of my flowers still in bloom. Aren't they lovely?
Talked with my old buddy Frankie Tucker today about my warehouse workshop at his place. He already has 20 signed up and it ain't been advertised yet. Three cheers for the local boy. Frank and I have been friends for over 3 decades. For a great day of pots. lies, lies and more lies click here

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Widow Makers

Today me and the two neighbours dropped 5 more of our HUGE Chinese elms. I was afraid of this task as they are brittle trees and were leaning towards our house and studio. We have more to do but I need to let my nerves settle a bit. This is very dangerous work and not my cuppa tea.
While I was playing Paul Bunyan Her Grace was building boats. I was always accused of making big handles. Hey, Sheila nice boats on those handles.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Selling My Body

When ya got a hot body everybody wants a piece of it. Sheila and I have developed a clay body that we use for high fire shino and in our wood kiln. The clay is a high iron stoneware body coloured with yellow iron so it has a yellow appearance in the green stage. I find yellow iron to be less messy than RI0 with similar results. The beauty of this clay is that it has great green strength and throws well. We can throw it, stick out in the sun, trim it and handle it and back out in the sun it goes. You don't have to cover it in bedsheets, plastic and sit around for 2 days singing Cumbaya while sitting in the Lotus position while it dries. A few of the local potters tried it and wanted the recipe. PSH in Oakville is making it and it is now available as an in house body. Yes, it was named Smokies Hot Bod after yours truly. Photo credit of the bearded me goes to my old buddy potter Eric Lindgren. His hands couldn't stop trembling.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I didn't feel like it!!!!!

It is rare that I am away from clay for over a week. Actually I can't remember a time for the past 20 years. So I thought I should do as most people do and relax by the fire with a good book till Monday and start a fresh week. Well then the CFO of Sour Cherry Pottery presented me with the winter finances and I went to the studio to make yunomi's to ship to AKAR, sell at my workshops in SC and Tucker's just weeks away. I also start with the Sheridan 3rd years on Tuesdays to try and help them get ready for their final show.
Check out my tractor collecting neighbours Christmas tree about 75 feet up in the air on his hoist.
I also cut down another 5 of those big Chinese elms on our yard yesterday. We have been surprised at how well they burn in the wood stove. Sitting by the fire I have been plodding my way thru the Book of Genesis illustrated by "Keep on truckin" R. Crumb. This is a very difficult read but the illustrations are absolutely in the realm of genius.
I sold my little Toyota truck yesterday. I'm kinda sad as he took me over the mountains into Utah the last three years.; The CFO and I have decided this year is a good year to try being a one car family. Last year we gave up good Canadian wine and drank the bar brands and now my truck. Next year we may have to give up the weekly visits to the Spa.