Friday, January 31, 2014

10 lessons from a maker

Be narrow!. It's much better to mean a great deal to a few people than to be nothing to a huge amount of people
.  10 lessons from  a maker. This article is fantastic! He says so much better than what I have been trying to say about making cups for a small audience. If you need denim jeans there are plenty to be had. If you need  a hand made cup there are plenty to be had. I now want a pair of those jeans although they have a ticket price of $140 pounds UK. I love the idea of not washing them for 6 months and then recording what you do in them. A high tech approach to wearing in a pair of jeans.

My friend Vicki Hamilton sent this on to me as food for thought. It is a wonderful read of how a guy has turned around a jean company by providing the best quality denim jeans in the world. I am now on my 3rd time re-reading this article. Thanx Vicki!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The naked ladies downstairs.


Here is the wall of shame I walk by going to my bedroom above Ronnie’s studio.

 There will be U of G students firing the Ratagama at night. I hope I can get some sleep with all the naked women and creatures partying below me in the studio.  Last time I was there Ronnie had some figures of naked women with bottles of bourbon littering their feet and their arms wrapped around the devil.  Maybe if I play Charlie Daniels Band “The Devil went down to Georgia” they’ll think that he is I and venture upstairs. I'll be sleeping in my new white lab jacket that my health professional Doc Agel precribed as a fashion statement that women can't resist.  Naw, I’m no  angel. Ronnie told me on the phone tonight he is waiting for his guardian angel.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Peonies, Whoopies and New Age Sensitive Guys

I just did this foot ring which I call a peony foot. I have no idea what a peony even looks like. All flowers to me are tulips. Even roses and carnations that I know are tulips. It just makes it easier for me. Von Allen showed a beautiful big red flower painting the other day on FB that I liked very much  and I was going to comment " Nice tulip!" but I thought she might be insulted. I later found out it was a poppy.
I like to put a whoppie in the inside of a bowl and then do the same when I trim a foot.  I slow the wheel down to the speed of Atlanta traffic with 2 inches of snow to get a nice slow gesture in the clay.
All potters are supposed to be gardeners and great cooks. Not me!  I don't wear Birkenstocks either. They don't work so well with motorcycles or chainsaws. I do know the names of bikes and saws though. Loud bikes and saws may be the reason for my selective hard hearing. I should have learned to love peonies.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Peebaskets, Bacon holders and mousetraps

Dennis Allen

Note fromRobin "Grass" Hopper
Hi Dr T.,

When you first showed the image of the thrown and pinched bowls I thought they looked like the rare object made for ladies of the French Court in the late 18th Century called a BORDELOU. ( There is a nice little Sevres made one at the Gardiner) It seems that the religious meetings of the Catholic faith went on for hours at the time. The ladies, who didn't wear underwear at that time, commissioned small, gravyboat sized urine containers in the shape of those bowls of yours. They were slipped under the dress as needed during the sermon. They had a handle at one end.  You have wrecked them for this use since the large handle you used crosses the vagina instead of being in line with it.
The word Bordelou is often shortened to an English colloquial word "the LOO". I thought you might like to know another use for your PEEBASKETS.

Best, Grass

Dennis Allen gets the Bronze Medal for his post about my baskets being bacon holders.  He knows the way to a real mans heart.  He went directly to the arteries of my heart. Check out his blog on uses of a bowl. The bowl as a mouse catcher had me just about spit my morning Jo all over the keyboard. This was the Silver Medal winner and just about knocked Grass off the Gold podium.
My horoscope told me today that I will meet in the next few months people that will love me for who I am. Any woman out there not wearing underwear willing to try one of my peebaskets? Try it!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Anticipating the Inevitable Stupid Question

I made these baskets and while putting the handles on I thought about the inevitable stupid question I am going to be asked - “ These are nice dear but what can I use them for?” It is at this point that my lip begins to quiver and I am unable to respond without sarcasm or being rude. I am usually dumb founded and am unable to speak. I just stand there speechless looking stupid with a quivering lip. I know why I am not good at retail sales. I once was a part owner in an art co-op. There was some very nice work and some not so nice work. I could sell the work I liked very well but try as I might I could not find a word to say about the work I didn’t like.  I wear my disapproval like a neon sign on my forehead.
Ok, Dennis I know you have the killer answer! No pressure but I’m sitting here waiting in the cold for your comment.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

C eh N eh D eh!

Love it or leave so they say, eh. I'm going to leave it next week to spend some time with my Georgia buddies. Ronnie told me to bring my long johns. He said  the long range forecast for the firing is rain. Well at least with rain you don't have to shovel it. Although Ronnie tells me he had to use a sump pump in the back of the kiln to bail it out. I always thought H20 aided reduction so maybe it'll be a killer firing as long as it doesn't kill us trying to get temperature.

I was a basket case yesterday being trapped in the house. On my way to the studio to make baskets I  kicked the snow banks since I don't have a dog. I was in a bad mood with this winter nonsense. For those that strap on skis and snow shoes, go tobogganing, and frolic in the winter wonderland I salute you. Take up a collection and send me any where but a snow laden land.

  On the sixth day, God turned to Archangel Gabriel and
  said, "Today I am going to create a land called Canada. It will be a land
  of outstanding natural beauty. It shall have tall majestic mountains full
  of mountain goats and eagles, beautiful sparkling lakes bountiful with bass
  and trout, forests full of elk and moose, high cliffs over-looking sandy
  beaches with an abundance of sea life, and rivers stocked with salmon."

  God continued, "I shall make the land rich in resources so
  as to make the inhabitants prosper, I shall call these inhabitants
  Canadians, and they shall be known as the most friendly people on the
"But Lord," asked Gabriel, "don't you think you are being
  too generous to these Canadians??"
  "Not really," replied God.. "Just wait and see the
   to winters I am going to give them!"

Saturday, January 25, 2014

High Test

It's Saturday morning and it is cold blowing snow today. Usually I like my greasy spoon breaky on the weekend but I'm off bacon. Dang! So I made myself a good cup of high test in my little coffee machine I bought in Italy. Yep, fresh ground beans are a must for a good cuppa brew. I choose the little Oaxaca lead glazed cup I picked up in an antique store while doing a workshop in Texas. Gee it even has spashes of copper lead glaze. Oh god, I'm about to die!
Now what was the potter thinking when they put this teenie weenie handle on? Ya have to grip it tight between the thumb and forefinger and hang on tight. I am more than willing to do this. What was I attracted to when I bought this cup? The shape, the ladled green glaze or was it the weenie handle? It also has a nicely trimmed foot ring that is almost Oriental. I guess it was all of these things. I have enjoyed that coffee so much I think I'll brew another.

FYI My aunt and uncle made lead glazed earthenware for 47 years and never killed themselves or anyone else. Our local clay supplier is now making a silica free clay so that the school boards will keep their clay programs. Stay away from the sand box kids. There is silica in that sand!!!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Devil Went Down To Georgia

It's a free two day workshop presented by the University of Georgia Clay Club.
Hope to see some of my favourite potters there. I'm going down to help Ronnie the Rat fire his Ratagama along with Steve Driver, Judith Duff, some U of G students and other potters from the hood.  Hey Carter lets get together for a coffee and some pot talk. I can't get enough pot philosophy. Speaking of pot philosophy Robin "Grass" Hopper just sent me a CD entitled "Glorious Mud" with some great footage of Micheal Cardew pontificating pottery philosophy. It's wonderful!  I'll bring it! Spread the word to the gang.  I've heard from Jeff, Wade and Doc who I hope to see. I love Athens, Georgia. I'd move there if they'd have me.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Talking to myself

I knew there was a dichotomy between my cup and Basil the Jiggerman’s. Maureen your comment was the perfect segue into this post and thank you for it. In over 7 years of writing this blog I have never had 7 comments on a post.  That shows the differing opinions. Many days I feel like I am talking to myself.
 People that make solely for the marketplace think that the market they have created in their own minds is the only one that exists. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Look at the cups on my kitchen shelf. This is a small selection of probably 100 cups of “other” potters. There is e-ware, wood fire, salt, reduction, oxidation. smooth, rough, small, big, the entire gammit.  I think there is a market out there for all kinds of potters and lots of different aesthetics.  I was taught to look longest at what you don’t like because it is from this work you will learn the most.
FYI Basil’s cup is my favourite travelling cup. You’re right I don’t have to look at it.
Here is my favourite cup by Mark Pharis that I have used every morning for 35 years. It has a rough lip and foot, the handle is too close to the body and the colour is just about as much colour as I can handle in the morning. I love this cup and have learned how to hold it.  I look at it every morning! The yellow one he made recently - perfect rim and lovely one finger handle. I have never used it- not once!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


One of my favourite mugs was made by Basil the Jiggerman at Medalta in my home town of Medicine Hat, Alberta.  I love the thickness of the cup, it's thick rim and most especially it's one finger handle.
My dear friend Maureen Ross commented on yesterdays blog post "We always felt you should be able to hold a mug with your eyes shut." Maureen and her fine husband Don made pots for the mass market. I don't! If you write a lullaby and people remember the words then it wasn't a very successful lullaby was it? You didn't put them to sleep! If you make cups that people hold with their eyes shut then what kind of cup have you made?  I like to make cups that demand that you look at them. It is often why I undulate the rim. Pick the wrong spot and you are going to pour hot tea on yourself.
I started out today to make Basil's cup and try to please all and then I read Carter Gillies Blog and then I rewatched Pete Pinnells U-tube Thoughts On Cups and I just couldn't help adding an

element to the cup that would demand attention. A roughness on the handle that yes even an unsighted person could appreciate by it's tactility. A sighted person wouldn't close their eyes but they might scratch their head and say "What the hell was he thinking? Gotcha!!! That's all I was trying to do was to make you look and think.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Man's a Chick Magnet

In another life I was a high school teacher in a small town on the Bruce Peninsula. One of my former students Heidi Zach tracked me down further south at my then studio on the Niagara Peninsula and asked me to make a dinnerware set of 12 of everything. The beauty of the commission was to make them however I wanted- all different. God, I taught some clever people. Heidi's dinnerware set was coloured slips under a carbon trap shino glaze. For a tip I got a kiss from a great looking woman.
I would take my class to visit Heidi's grandpa's house/castle on the shores of Colpoy's Bay. Almost every square inch of his house was hand carved with old medieval scenes. He was an amazingly talented

man. The apple did not fall from the tree. Heidi is going to do the photography of my racers  from here on in. It's amazing almost 30 years later to have a adult woman call you Mr. Clennell.

That's a great idea!

More thoughts from your local Marketing genius. I like smaller cups. It takes just as long to make a small cup as a big one. People always seem to opt for the biggest one in the pack. They think they are getting more for their money. I thought well if I'm going to be so stupid as to make small cups I will try to lure them in with different handles. Mostly they hate my handles cause I make cup handles for one finger and at best two. I often hear they want to put their entire fist in the handle. I tell them that is a great idea but I ain't going to do it!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting more from your deordorant!

Well I took the top off my new stick of Tom's Natural deodorant and used it as a press mold to put little do dads on my teapot handles. I coated the plastic mold with coconut oil so the clay would release.   I use coconut oil  for damn near everything including my unruly hair. No jokes please!

Doc would approve of it's use for cooking. I loved the comment Dennis made on the previous post " You may not live longer but you will feel like you have!" I laughed out loud and then thought I wonder what he meant? I will live to the same age only it will feel longer because I am so bloody miserable or I will i feel like it  was longer because I am the picture of health.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Old habits die hard!

It's Sunday morning and I like to treat myself to bacon,eggs and pancakes liberally sprinkled with my real salt from a mine in Utah. See all those little iron specks. It's gotta be good for me! Went for my physical this week and Doc violated me. I told him we need to be going steady for him to do that to me. He gave me a Gold Star since my weight is down but blood pressure is high. Cut down on salt even the great Utah stuff were his orders. So this morning I got out my Ronnie the Rat pig plate and ate my rabbit food. Damn Sunday is $5 wings and pints at Beasley's Pub down the road from me. Damn, I gotta pass on that too! Is this being healthy all it's cracked up to be?

Live longer in misery!

Saturday, January 18, 2014


You can't tell shit from Shinola. Well here is my version of Shinola. I used coloured slips under a carbon trap shino glaze. I made a living from this glaze for 3 or 4 years. Everyone told me you can't sell shino. Usually that's all I need to hear. My mum told me not to play in the mud or with matches so I turned it into a life.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Squatters and hoarders

I walked past this Smart car today and couldn't believe my eyes. The crap and corruption packed into this car was unbelievable. Why would a person buy a dumb car like this to fill with crap. Hell buy a square box Volvo wagon that can actually carry something. If a car is any indication of a persons home I don't want to go there. I walked home and made some squatty lidded pots to make into one person teapots. I have no idea why seeing this tiny car full of crap prompted me to make these little teapots. They say the mind works in mysterious ways. My mind is probably the inside of that car all full of useless crap. I can remember old pizza joints phone #'s but I can't remember my social insurance # that I have had all my working life. If I am told I am to remember something- I just can't!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Vase or Vazzzze

You have all heard the one what is the difference between a vase and a vazzze? Oh about a hundred bucks!
 What's the difference between a vazzzze and a basket? Subtract that 100 bucks and take away some more. Would anyone out there guess that I have an undergraduate degree in Business Administration with a major in Marketing? Try as I will I just can't to seem to make a vazzze. I don't know what it is with them. If I get a nice looking vase form I turn it into a jug.
These pots I set out to make into oval envelope vases. Using the old critique trick of turning a students pot upside down to look at it which often is a BIG improvement I threw the pots upside down. In other words the top handled rim was actually the bottom on the batt. I then added a slab bottom on the top and turned the pot upside down and then it screamed at me " I am a basket! Give me a handle and make that a double!!!. I prefer a Screaming Eagle Harley to a screaming basket! Perhaps they know I prefer bikes to flowers.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chinese Whiskers

I'm not sure today in this PC world whether or not I can actually call the quick thumb nail marks I put under a handle "Chinese whiskers".  It was an expression I picked up from Mick Casson in Wales. Simple expression and I think ya get the picture.  I said it didn't I?
I must be a cheapskate romantic because whenever I set out to make a vase it  becomes a bottle for a plum blossom or a single flower. There is talk on the Clayart Discussion Group now that it is irresponsible to make pots with small openings that can not be cleaned out. What is a dinosaur like me to do? I'll have to get with contemporary artistic dialogue and then stop making pots. I'm going to follow the trend and  stop being a potter and start being a ceramic designer.  I'll

have all my designs perfectly crafted by some poorly paid master craftsperson in China. Then if there is a mistake in language or function I'll just blame it on them. There I feel much lighter in the shoulders now.