Thursday, July 30, 2015

Whodda ya luv?

Whodda ya luv?

I walk 47 miles of barbed wire,
I use a cobra-snake for a necktie,
I got a brand new house on the roadside,
Made from rattlesnake hide,
I got a brand new chimney made on top,
Made out of a human skull,
Now come on take a walk with me, Arlene,
And tell me, who do you love?

I don’t know whether to call her Rose or Sharon. I was afraid with all my travelling she was going to bloom without me. After all absence makes the heart wander. All the neighbours Rose of Sharon trees are in full bloom but my Rose or maybe Sharon is a late bloomer.  She has lots of buds so she is going to be a beauty. 
My new love is to have a beautiful garden. I may have the smallest house on the street but it will be the sexist.
One of the mentees in my wood fire group brought me a bag of Black eyed Susan’s to plant and another neighbor who has a backyard that ought to be in Better Homes and Gardens dropped by and told me I kept the house looking so nice and she would like to come over and help me further landscape. She talked about design and related it to art and pot making. The whole thing started to make sense. You don’t run around and put one here and one there. You do clusters; coordinate colour and all kinds of things I am interested in now that she put in the language of design.  Please Lord don’t let me get inflicted with the bug as badly as my buddy Robin “Grass” Hopper.  Clay has been such a selfish mistress!  I sure hope Rose or Sharon aren’t as demanding.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My house is bug infested!

Here are three of the pillow cases that Andrew gave me. He made them when he was the textile program at Ontario College of Art and Design University while he was awaiting acceptance into a MFA program in Ceramics. It was in part to get to get his GPA up and to stay creative. What I love about these pillows is that they are referencing Japanese "Oribe ware" with a young persons twist on it. If there are two periods of Asian ceramics that I love it is the Tang Dynasty san cai (3 colours) earthenware and the white shino type glaze with iron decoration and the bright green runny glaze as an accent. I often get some so so pots from the wood kiln and have thought of redipping portions of  them in a low temp glaze and refiring in oxidation in my electric kiln. I have tried the "Oribe" type high temperature glazes in both gas and wood and because of reduction I get liver red. Nasty red!!!
I love the wood fired pots that Ken Matsuzaki does with the oribe influenced green and iron brush work. I saw a show of his in Mashiko when I was there and the pots blew my mind. Pots can reference textiles and textiles can reference pots. Look everywhere for your next influence.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Best Wood Kiln in the World

The very best wood kiln in the world is somebody else’s. Before you arrive with all your precious treasures someone has cleaned the firebox, chipped bricks, dipped kiln posts and most importantly moved tons of wood around from place to place, split it, stacked it, covered it, and got everything ready so that you can rock and roll. Hey take my picture stoking the kiln so I can put it up as my Facebook profile! Wish I could have taken a picture of Andrew soaked to the bone with sweat in very bad need of a shower. Some of the wood he split is what I call ball busters. Too nasty for me!

This is the start of the wood for the next firing. Andrew and I bucked the wood into 3 foot lengths, loaded it on the tractor, moved it to the wood kiln and then I threw it at him while he wielded the axe. We then gathered it and then stacked it in what I call log cabin style so that it gets lots of air movement through it.
So thanks Andrew. I am now doing a half a stack early in the morning just to keep ahead of the game.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Kid!

Well a week today the kid (Andrew Kellner)  heads back to Morgantown, WV to complete the second year of 3 years of his MFA at WVU. The summer has whizzed by and he is due back to start preparing for his classes. It's been awesome having him here for the pot talk, the company, and the sarcasm. It is going to feel lonely without him around.  He has added a couple of welcome additions to my collection. I am very particular about the pots in my house and I welcome these pots with open arms.  The large jar is a sweetie and I have yet to decide it's place of honour in The Cactus Lounge. I hope the next couple of years at WVU will add a few little tweaks to his solid body of work. The work is confident, strong and without pretense.  Yep the work is a lot like the man himself.  Go git em' kiddo! I'm counting on ya to stoke the dang kiln when I'm too old. Memory should never offer more than hope. My hope is to keep making and firing!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Getting your bell ringed!

Today I reversed the ribbon and put it at the bottom of the cup to rest the handle on to. I'm not sure yet how comfy this arrangement is going to be. I am sketching! I am sketching with clay. As I finish this set of cups I'm thinking of glazing for an upcoming wood firing. I have two glazes - a shino and another shino! How brilliant is this????? If I were a smart man I would pick one of those maverick glazes that does all the colours of the rainbow and people would oooooooh and ahhhhhh at how clever I am. If not multi coloured then at least I should glaze it blue.  I don't make any pots that I wouldn't want in my own home.  I like pots with a looooooong shelf life not ones I would easily tire of. I remember once as a young man deliberating over a bright red or a green down ski jacket. I loved the red one  because it was show offy and since I was paying a lot of money for the coat

I wanted people to  notice me. I bought the green one because I knew I would like it for longer. There are many days for me that are not red days. These are the days that I prefer more somber colours. As I look around The Cactus Lounge here in my man cave I see pots and art that don't scream- LOOK AT ME! The loudest one in the room is usually the weakest one in the room.  My dad used to warn me " watch out for the quiet ones because they are the ones most likely to ring your bell.  I feel that same way about pots.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Taking handles to Rochester

I know it sounds crazy but I am currently making pots for the show in Rochester in October. The shit hits the fan in my schedule for September so I need to get them made now. I've decided I'm going to make a bunch of handles and attach some pots to them.  Each additional step a potter adds to the process takes time. I seem to keep adding more steps which isn't brilliant from a money perspective unless of course the cups cost more. There seem to be a gazillion potters making cheap cups out there. I hope in Rochester mine will be amongst the cheapest and I will sell out. I know my buddy Danny Finnegan is a good cup maker and I am pretty sure they are a main stay of his business. I love making cups and it excites me to make cups that are unique to me.  If they put your cup in a police line up would anyone be able to identify as you! Stand Out! Be Different! Making creative work is a life sentence.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Shagadelic baby, yeah!

Had a great day today trimming and putting handles on. Here are some of the bowls I turned into baskets. I also did some awesome mini moon jars. I'm actually pooped from doing handles. Some of these pots have 6 handles on each. Each one I did I changed the position and kept referencing Austin Powers( Canada's own Mike Meyers) with "Shagadelic baby, yeah!" Andrew thought I had lost my mind but I actually felt like I had found it and was on a handle roll. There was probably more weight in handles than there was in the weight of the bowl. Making one off pots takes longer than making repeats. I had a great day!
The workshop I'm doing at La Meridiana, Italy in October is really about developing a signature in your work. I wondered for a split second today whether I am the right man for this. In the past few months I have done vinyl resist, puncheong and thick slip. The one common denominator is the handle. It is amazing to me that one single element can become one's signature. The slogan of my favourite denim company Hiut Denim of Wales- "Do one thing well!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I'm a basket case!

No time for jet lag. I got pots to make. The next 3 months are nutzzzzzzzz for me. I have a couple of shows in Sept, a wood firing with my wood fire mentorship group,  a work shop at the Shadboldt Center in Burnaby, BC- home for a few days and then off to the Rochester Show with all the hot shots- home for a few days and then off to do a two week intensive workshop at La Meridiana in Italy. So I need to get some pots made and pronto!!!! I thought I needed some "you know me's" so I sat down and made 40 of them. When it came to trimming them I thought gee they would make nice baskets. I think this may very well be a dumb idea as a lot of people don't seem to be creative enough to figure out what to do with them. I've taken to gardening these days and I really enjoy the flowers arranged in the basket forms. The way I figure it an imaginative soul isn't predictable. Well I was playing Andrew threw 24 mini moon jars for me. He is a hellava good thrower that I call a wink and a nod. Tell him what to do and voila it is done. I'm as happy as a clam cause I get to trim them and handle them which is my favourite part of the process. I also made 8 two piece bowls that I get to trim and handle tomorrow- yep they are going to be baskets. I'm a total basket case!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Farting in the bath tub

These two forms best describe the form I love which was once described by my prof John Neely as "imagine what the form of a bubble would look like if you were to fart in the bath tub?" I love these narrow bases that demonstrate so much volume that it looks like air is pushing out from the inside.
I forgot to make notes but I believe these pots were Spanish 15 century. Hey, check out the handles and the great use of the pie crust around the neck.
These two bowls stopped Robin and I in our tracks. She said "Dad these look like bowls you made. Check out the handles!" I love these bowls but would never have thought to put a big pouring spout on them that is until today!!!
Pots from the V and A that blow my mind.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Curtain Call!

It's our last day in the UK and we went to the V and A.  So nice to hang with Robin who loves what I love and our taste in things is so similar. She has been a treat to hang with. We went to the lady at the info booth in the V and A and said we'd like to see Ceramics.  Her answer " Go around the pillar, go up the lift to Floor 6 and it will blow your minds!" Well indeed it did. Geezus I need a week to look at these pots. Some sweet cups that made me think of new handles placements. Hot off the trail from Korea where I was blown away with puncheong and double walled carved porcelain pots.  I came upon this table 15th century Rosewood with bone inlay. Holy shit man this table must have taken years. What incredible craftsmanship!!!!!! Puncheong eat your heart out! Then a chair made in Bombay, India of Blackwood in 1870 that made double wall clay look like easy peasy. This was a time when there was time to make beautiful objects. I wish I had the time!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Potter's Field

A potter's field, paupers' grave or common grave is a term for a place for the burial of unknown or indigent people. My grandfather was a Chaplin for The Church of England in the British Army in World War 1. He and my grandmother were both killed. Although I was not raised in a religious family my father sent money yearly to this St. Micheal's church here in Clennell. I think he wanted the grounds to be kept up so that our ancestors were not forgotten. I would like to ship my Husquavarna lawnmower over here and spend the weekend tending to the grave sites. It is a beautiful old building and it made me feel very grounded and connected to this area. My blog is about pottery and my life in this craft but these past few days have been an indulgence in finding my tap root and how it connects to who I am. I had a couple of pints with a shepherd named Tucker last night and he has invited me back to tour the "heelands" with him and his two dogs. His dogs he calls his left and right hand. Although I could quite get the accent he told me that this side of the border a clan is called a grain or grayne hence the expression going against the grain. The family name is honoured above all else. My father and uncle both carried the name of their mother. Their names were Jon Cowie Clennell and James Cowie Clennell. This seemed to be the way long before the trend towards hyphenated names. 
I feel a calling to return. I feel this sense of place in my bones. It is rather strange to try to explain.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Last night we met Amy Shindo and Thomas  a WVU grad who is doing his Phd. in Ceramics here in the UK. We had dinner and a pint then went to see a movie on Amy Winehouse. Everyone loves to see a train wreck and her life turned out so tragically. I loved her singing and was saddened by her unraveling and death. Such an extreme contrast to our classy Amy.
Robin and I are now in the boonies of the north country.  Such an extreme from the hustle and bustle of the city.

This is home to my ancestors. This is a National Forest and dedicated the largest black sky area in the world. There is no light pollution for 500 square miles. People the world over come here to see the sky.
We are staying at Clennell Hall which is a beautiful old manor with excellent dining and a wonderful fresh smell to the air. Robin is out in the garden reading which she has done with a thirst all her life.
Here is a little dream potter's cottage that just sold- dang! It had The Rose and Thistle just next door done the lane from Clennell Hall. I'm meeting Rocky at the bar tonight as he is the official authority on my family history.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Referencing my ancestors.

Today Robin and I went to hike Hadrian's wall built in 122 AD to protect the northern part of the Roman empire from the Scots. It is such an amazing example of human labour. This is the part of the world my ancestors the border reivers inhabited. Apparently the border reivers were not loyal to England or Scotland but to their family or clan name. We are decedents of the Vikings or Norsemen and hence the blue eyes. It is great to be here where the men are about my height, short, stocky and tuff as nails from hard work. I thought that the Koreans were the most friendly people I have ever met but they are equalled by the Geordie's of Northumberland. These are kind, generous people that take the time of day to talk to you and show you around. The houses are soooooo tasteful in the highlands around the wall. Beautiful stone masonry with no signs of KFC, McD's or other fast food franchises. Robin is 51/2 months pregnant and has handled the travel and hiking like a trooper. A guy named Davy told her to stand up in the heelands (highlands) and take a deep breathe of the beautiful clear air to give to the wee ben. Bairn is a child in Scotland. In Geordie it is a wee ben.
Here is a medieval watering can. Can you see my reference?

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Potter's Church -aye!

I have left the festival in Wales having said good bye to some new friends from around the world. I am one lucky bugger! We had a long day on the train up to the home of my ancestors in Newcastle on Tyne in Northumberland in north eastern England.  This is certainly a thick accent to understand. It is like a foreign language. I might as well be in Korea.
It is fitting that just down the street from the place we are staying is The Potter's Church- Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” Jerimiah.
I had been thinking of the potter's gospel according to Clennell on the train today. I have three students working here in the UK this year. Jordan Scott is working at the Leach Pottery in St. Ives for a year, Amber Zuber is taking her Masters at the Royal College of Art in London and I had a surprise visit by Amy Shindo who is up here in Northumberland. Amy is going to launch off for residencies in Europe. New to ceramics she has already been a resident at Peter's Valley in NJ and in Holland. We are hoping to share a pint with Amy in the next day. Spot on, aye! That is what a guy answered when Robin asked him how he was today.  Aye, I am delighted with what all my students are up to. One never knows what kind of impact we have on the destinies of the people we teach.  Like my own children t
hey make me so proud of them. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Gee this has been a pyromaniacs dream world. I got more stuff to tell ya than I have time to. Once an experiential learner always a experiential learner. There was a great blues band last night and there is a closing party tonight for presenters and all the volunteers who have done an amazing job.  Every t was crossed and every i had a dot. So many new friends from around the world. Just have to show you the ceremony of Lual a piece of kiln art by Rita Gudino. She was giving birth to raku babies till the wee hours of the night. I would say that is one hellava loooooooong labour for her to endure. It was kinda creepy to think of her assistant the gynaecologist reaching in with those rather aggressive forceps.   How about this shopping cart raku kiln? Just strap a propane tank underneath and off to go shopping while firing. Potter's multi tasking- Brilliant!
The anagama is unloaded, the junk kiln was awesome but with 1000 people crowded around I didn't get a good pic. The Steve Mill's tribute bourry box fired up by Joe Finch and David Frith to Cone 11 flat in 6 hours.
At this festival they have had kilns made of solid ice and phone books. What is next is up to the imagination of the directors. There must be something in the beer cause these bloks seem to come up with some amazing stuff.  Somehow I want to be here again in 2 years time. Best conference I have ever been too- bar none! Experience over delivered!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Heating Up

Here is some more of the going's on here in Aberystwyth. Joe Finch and David Firth built this little bourry box in about 4 hours. It is packed and ready to fire tomorrow. It is a tribute to the late Steve Mills who passed away this year. Steve was a amazing kiln builder who designed this little kiln but never got to fire it. Steve was who recommended me for this festival. Steve- I am sooooooo sorry I didn't get to meet you. This kiln is going to fire off like a rocket in your honour.
Gas Kimishima is firing off the anagama this evening and Sergi Pahissa is firing a sculpture kiln in the morning. Rita is firing the big mama kiln and my daughter Robin has been invited to throw the celebratory stokes into Big Mama.
20 clay artists gave a 5 minute intro into their work tonight of which I was one. Alan Caiger Smith was given the Lifetime Acheivement Award. A man in his late 80's walking with a cane he gave a superb acceptance speech about being on the fringe. I had a tear in my eye. He talked of traveling the world thru clay and how the clay community is so inclusive. Wake up Canada we need to honour our giants!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Big Mama kiln

Here is a pic of the lady wood fired raku kiln built by Rita Gudino from the Philippines.  A fiber kiln was built in order to bisque fire the lady. Gee I hope they candle the flame low enough not blow this woman's breasts off. Luckily there are steam holes in each that will serve as blow holes later. What a great piece of sculpture. I could even get interested in raku with such a kiln.
Rita and her assistant that she calls the gynaecologist are doing an amazing job. They are both full of great energy that I think shows in the humour of the work. The raku babies will be delivered from her this weekend.
Here is a dragon cone pack by Joe Finch the son of Ray. Always a hero for me from Winchombe Pottery. Off to the big stage. Cheers, t

Despise me not

Despise me not because I'm made of clay, but make me welcome when  I come this way, my belly fill with punch or good strong beer, and I will make you merry all the year. Ann Davis Aberystwith 1818.
This jug is for you Emma. What a great narrative and I love the positioning of it on the old jug.
I have said it many times but the events and business's that offer an experience will be successful. I can't begin to tell you all that is happening here at the potter's festival in Aberystwith, Wales. More to follow but let me begin- a anagama was built a week  before the festival, will be fired for 5 during the festival and opened on the final day, two wood fired pizza ovens are being built fired and we eat free pizza during the festival, a small bourry box wood kiln is being built Friday, fired Saturday and opened on Sunday, a large figurative women is being built and fired (this process is unbelievable) in a large fiber constructed tent kiln. She is birthing pots. She will be a rather large wood fired raku kiln. There is a show of the most amazing pots I have seen in ages- medieval slipware- be still my heart I am in love with these pots. Along with these pots is a huge collection of Cardew, Leach, State Murray, Rie, Coper, Kawai, Martin Brothers, Keeler, Casson, Hamada and the list goes on. There is the most amazing photography exhibit, painting show, a ballet going on, there are pubs on site all day long. I have met potters from Thailand, India, Serbia, Greece, France, USA and more yet to come. Registration is down this year. There are only 700 registered with more coming for day passes. I hope you are reading this Chris Snedden up coming Fusion pres. This is an experience where they are over delivering BIG TIME! I am so thrilled to be a presenter. Oh yeah, I am being treated like royalty.