Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Go Bowling!

I am soooooo frustrated with our current government I wanted to do a post on the G-20 summit but thought I'd rather not mix politics and art. So when frustrated and not in the most creative frame of mind - go bowling! Sheila and throwing bowls for a morning can more than fill our studio and our kiln. Today there will be a lot of trimming to do and of course as with most of our pots there will be handles. We put these fan type handles on the bowls that are then hung on the wall. The fan is not really a handle but more of a decorative touch. Something ya do when ya don't have to. The things that make the difference. The bowls are decorated with paper resist and a copper slip, shino glazed, sprinkled with ash and a few finger wipes thru the glaze.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Log rolling

The widest accepted origin of " log rolling" is the old custom of neighbors assisting each other with the moving of logs. If two neighbors had cut a lot of timber which needed to be moved, it made more sense for them to work together to roll the logs. In this way, it is similar to a barn-raising where a neighbor comes and helps build your barn and then you go and help build his.
I'd like to roll a log and have you take a look at the work of Adam Field if you haven't already. Link at the right of my blog is "Dirt". I'm hoping my buddy Robin is reading this post. He is the Director Emeritus at Metchosin International School of the Arts and does have some pull in who occupies the clay pit for the summer school program. Sometimes people do great work but have the personality of a bag of hammers. Adam and I shared a room at Nceca in Phoenix and I became acquainted him and his work. Here is a good guy that is not only competent with a paddle for making perfectly symmetrical pots but check out the exquisite carving. After checking out his teapots I see he is an excellent thrower too! The teapot for me always being the benchmark of a potter.
Adam I'd luv to do a coil and throw duet with you sometime!

How to Attract Men

When we did the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition I'd always make a couple of my "Big Rolls" to place at the front of our booth. The large casseroles would weigh in at between 50 and 65 lbs. I know of no kitchen oven they would fit in or who would want to lift one filled with mac and cheese. Like deer caught in the head lights men would have to walk over and pick up the lid. It's a guy thing!
I bought a kids swimming pool to glaze them in. You can see my finger marks where I held it to dip the top half. I like to leave marks of process. This particular "Big Roll" is in the collection of Aaron Milrad a prominent Toronto lawyer and art collector.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Old Ladies flowers and a friend

June/July is a a nice time of year around the garden here. I do like lilies and the old ladies flowers that as a kid I used to see in the ditches by peoples mailboxes. The hollyhocks and trumpet vine have pretty well hidden the side of our studio. I must admit I never really looked at flowers until last year I rekindled an old friendship with a mentor of mine that dates back some 30 years. I taught at Metchosin International School of the Arts on Vancouver Island and Robin Hopper and I have continued a cyber friendship that has us e-mailing every couple of days. I even dragged him kicking and screaming onto Skype so that we can call one another once in awhile. When I don't hear from him I wonder!!! Maybe after the hectic last few years I've had it's time to stop, look and smell the flowers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Outsourcing my life to India

You know the drill when it comes to being a potter. I'd say 90% of your time is spent doing none creative things. I had to get the car tire fixed, pick up glaze materials, make glazes, fire a bisque, sand and wax, make cone packs, mow the lawn- again! I get up early to walk my 4 kilometers and then the day begins. Before I know it we're on the deck grilling dinner and watching the sun go down. I'm thinking of having someone in India do all the above for me so that I can sit and have a cool beer and a bump, eat some peanuts, listen to the drone of the vuvuzela and watch World Cup Soccer. Definitely going to watch Britain tomorrow. The world smells an upset in the making. Soccer to the Brits is like hockey to a Canuck. I would wager that not a stitch of work will get done in the England tomorrow. Go Union Jack, go!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Unsung Heroes

I guess I hold the banner up for the ones that work in the trenches. The other night at Bruce's retirement party the students that had attended or were attending graduate school were individually recognized and applauded. I want to give a BIG "shout out" for those that make pots and have or are attending The University of Hard Knocks. They are trying to put a pound of butter on the table by making work from their own blood, sweat, tears and mound of clay. Many of them work serving tables, teaching kids classes, being brew masters at Starbucks and a assortment of other jobs to keep their fireboxes glowing. They make super work!
There seems to be an increasing number of Sheridan students attending Graduate schools and a decreasing number wanting to be potters. I picked a few of the attending potters that had websites and I show you their work. Patrick Yeung, Jenny Clark, Eric Wong,Tim Smith,Deborah Freeman.
One year I counted 31 Sheridan students and alumni at the Toronto Outdoor Exhibition which is a prestigious Art Show in Toronto. I think I counted 5 this year. Sheila and I will be visiting them at the show. Walk tall!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bruce Almighty

Last night I attended the retirement of Bruce Cochrane after 31 years as the Ceramics teacher and Head of Ceramics at Sheridan College.
The party was at Dale Pareira's factory/home studio in Toronto.
Almost 10 years ago Sheila and I walked into a bar. Not like us at all!!! There sat Bruce with some of the legends of American clay- Soldner, Gustin etc, etc. He came over to our table and said can I sit with you? This is very much Bruce. He doesn't seek to rub shoulders with the famous. Last night there were some legends, Ron Meyers, Walter Ostrom, Steve Heinneman (Bruce's first student), Harlan House etc but 95% of the group of 75+ were his former students. The students have always been Bruce's preferred company.
We are all on pins and needles to see who is his successor. Really BIG shoes to fill. I'll miss the occasional lunch. I'll miss him coming up to me after a day when he knew I taught a long day and pass me a cup of tea at 6:30 pm. The tea had this peculiar smell of single malt whiskey.
Bruce is an exceptional guy! He is also one of the best potters in North America. I can't wait to see his work now that it is his primary focus.
Well done Bruce and Bon Feu!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

One Fine Day

Yesterday in the words of Jim Cuddy was one fine day. We had lunch and pot talk with Ronnie the Rat and Hester Meyers of Georgia. They have a cottage on Lake Erie so summer visits are something we look forward to.
Then after dinner we went just down the road to Tawes Winery for a concert with Toronto musicians Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame, Kathleen Edwards(Asking for flowers) and a divine new voice from Edmonchuk - Colleen Brown. This is my idea of the civilized life. We bought a bottle of Tawes Gold Medal winning Chardonnay, sat in our lawn chairs, listened to great music while looking over the vineyards to a view of Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline. We live south of the Great Lakes. One thinks of all of Canada being north of the Great Lakes. Our little Niagara peninsula faces north to Toronto. When I first moved here I thought I was seeing Rochester. Life is good for those that know that life is good!!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Elvis Lives

Well, I continue to take the heat from Sheila's class on my statement last year that raku is the black velvet painting of ceramics. So, I figured if I can't beat them, I'll join them. I took a couple of vases in crusty copper to fire. Audrey and her team of Hellions had a shrine set up for me. A raku vase, some tea light candles all presented on a black velvet table cloth with a little tribute.
We had great fun and I brought home my two vases. Ron and Hester Meyers from Georgia came to our place today for lunch and had a domestic over which of the two vases to buy. I told them not to fight that they could have both of them for $5000 for the pair.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All killer, no filler!

It's strawberry season here on the Niagara Peninsula and we eat our fair share of them. I was interested in how the local farmer puts all the big killer berries on the top and then the little harder ones are on the bottom.
This is a little like what is presented when you open your kiln. A few killers and a fair number of fillers. It's not that you didn't try to make them all killers but somehow between your hands, your head, your heart and the kiln devil something happened. One is full, round and ripe and one is hard and without much taste. Not tasteless let's hope but without the flavour of the killer. One day I'm going to fire a kiln that's all killer and no filler. Maybe the next one!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


This post is for my buddy Bobby Freedom Fighter. Bobby a train kiln can easily fire in under 18 hours. Fact is our kiln stalled when we switched to some nasty red oak that turned to charcoal and didn't want to seem to burn. You are accustomed to that "free" wood in Logan that is such species as cottonwood, soft maple or poplar. Cottonwood is something like 70% water and I would guess the BTU value rather low on the scale. Here in The Promised Land we have access to good quality hardwoods. Woods like hickory, ash, maple and beech will fire a train so fast you really have to work at slowing it down. I remember on my inaugural firing I sent John Neely an email- How Do You Stop a Train???" I have resorted to throwing in green wood, filling the firebox, fiddling with pushing in the dampers, pulling the passive dampers all in an effort to slow the train down. This all depends on the wood. If I have good quality hardwood the firebox doesn't clog with coals and it fires like a runaway train. Get some crappy wood that coals up on ya and ya have to work at it.
Bobby for years I filled the firebox every three hours for a day and night got up at 6am to go on the hobs and finished the kiln by noon or 2 which was effectively a 6 or 8 hour firing. With this method I got toooooooo much ash and had to do a lot of grinding so we switched to slam bam thank you Mame straight up and go 18 hour firings. Still better than many anagama firings of 3 or 4 days. Bon feu my friend.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ok, so I lied!

When I turned 55 I promised I'd never take another commission and that I'd never do another dinnerware set. Well, I lied! Our neighbour just graduated with her Masters of Science in Nursing and she is treating herself to a set of our dishes. It is nice to know that people still want handmade. I made some samples using our local red clay(Qeenston Shale) under the shino it turns a beautiful persimmon kaki colour and some with a copper/cobalt slip that a lustre metallic under shino.
I thought I invented the wedgie in the foot ring to allow the water to drip out in the dishwasher. Sheila bought me a cup from Ikea with the same cut in the foot ring. She left the price on it- $.50cents. I just sold 6 of my cups to a customer on the weekend at $35 each the bill was $210 without taxes in. So by my figuring she could have bought 420 cups at Ikea for the same amount of money. It does make one stop and think. We as potters don't make anything that people need so we damn well better make them nice enuff that people want them.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

U know me

I spent the day making yunomi's today. Here is the process. I throw the cups, add a decal from China ( Deck al in Canada and Dee cal in the US). I then cut the window out of the cup and apply my gnar gnar and reinsert it. The gnar gnar is my throwing clay with some Darvan 7 and silica sand added. I add some gobs of gnar gnar around the base of the foot and a wee lug for comfort of handling. These t-bowls are not for sissies. They demand that you look at them when drinking or else you'll cut your lip. Pots like this are the reason I'm not a rich man. It's an aesthetic I wish I was born without.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Clever Marketing!

One of our most successful galleries is the Burlington Arts Center. For the last two days the manager's brought the volunteers that sell our work to visit our studio and go out for a nice lunch here in Wine Country. This is clever marketing. The people that talk about your work have met you, had a tour of the studio and an explanation of the process. They can talk with familiarity of you and why your work is a good choice. How many tourist information booths have people working in them that have actually been to the place they are recommending. I demoed the making of a cup.
Over in the other corner is Sheila's wheel. Can you see why I like my new Thomas Stuart? The splash pan on those other wheels are made for amateurs. We're working potters and we need horses that work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not for Sissies

We just unloaded the train with pots for the show we're in at AKAR Gallery in Iowa. We fired the train in a fast 18 hours since we weren't looking for a lot of ash on Sheila's boxes. My pots on the other hand are shoved right up into the throat arch where they live under a pile of burning embers for the duration of the firing and cooling. I'm diggin' the bear rug surface! My little "Not for Sissies" bourbon cups were on the floor right next to the side stoking port. We're pleased with the pots and will be busy packing and shipping these next few days. I think Sheila has some of her best boxes to date.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Love Affair Continues

I'm still luvin' my new Thomas Stuart wheel. I bought the Randall style bucket for dropping batts into. It's so nice to just pop off the wheel head and drop on the bucket. I also bought the plastic mold for making my own plaster bats for platters. Making plates and platters on a plaster batt is the only sensible way to make them. When you trim you start with a perfectly flat base that is of the same consistency of the rim. I'll give you my calculations for the amount of plaster to water for one large batt.
I used a formula of 725 grams of plaster to 16 oz of water or l lb 7 oz of plaster to 16 oz of water.
To make one platter batt this translated into:
2175 grams of plaster to 48 ounces of water
4 lbs 5 oz of plaster to 3 pints(48 ounces) of water.

If you're wondering why the cross over from metric to ounces it's because here in Canada we don't really know if we are metric or not. We buy our pants, shirts and bananas by the inch or pound. We buy our gasoline by the litre. This was just a sneaky conspiracy to have us think that gas at 94.5 cents a litre is cheap. There are 3.8 litres in a US gallon so it is $3.59 a gallon. Now see how we got taken to the cleaners!!!