Friday, February 27, 2015

Give a man enough rope

Give a man enough rope and he'll hang himself. Gee,

I have been told my handles are bordering on the side of EXCESS!. I figure excess is never enough. Reid Flock has me beat by a country mile. Reid is throwing these large bottomless ribbons and folding them up to use as decorative handles. The wheel as an extruder- brilliant!!! Yes, he has my mind working. I think it pretty ingenious to hold them up with rope from the ceiling. The day he wants to load these puppies in the kiln I have a series of appointments. Really important appointments that I can't miss and have I told you my back is hurting all of a sudden.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


I'm at The Art Gallery of Burlington for a couple of days learning to fire a computerized Geil gas kiln. Oh my, computers! I really prefer to fire by sight, sound and smell. I feel like someone else is driving the car and I look out the side window for fear of a crash.
To kill time I making some Canatoni's on an old Williams wheel. I love these kick wheels and in my dream studio I would have one. They take up a lot of room and are heavy but for a soft clay, slow wheel man they are a Cadillac. I get an undulated uneven rim on my cups without even trying. Often people look at my rims and feel sorry for me that I never learned how to throw properly.  I  love the sound of the occasional foot step as you give the fly wheel a nice little love tap with your boot. In my opinion all students should start with a kick wheel as it gives you a better feel for when to speed up and when to slow down. Most beginners use far to fast a wheel speed.
There are some great makers working here this week. Reid Flock is throwing and assembling some giant bowls with his signature ribbon handles. Reid had a studio in Japan for 13 years. There is also Jordie Alfaro a sculpture/potter from Spain that is now living and working here. Lucky us for both these dudes.  Some amazing big scale work and a yellow shino that would have the glaze police torturing themselves. Evelyn Kelch my former student and wood fire mentee is here making pots as well. Nice facility and even better company.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pirates Bounty

Four summers ago I taught a summer throwing class at Ontario College of Art and Design University  in Toronto. OCAD has a very good reputation as an art school. Unfortunately the Ceramics Dept has shrunk to hardly a blip on the radar. One of the students was Anne Marie Rowe. Arrow was one credit away from graduating and she followed me to Sheridan College to major in Ceramics. I felt like a pirate taking home the bounty. What a score for Sheridan and me. She has graduated from Sheridan and is now part of my wood fire mentorship group with the Hamilton Potters Guild.
Her graduate work was pierced with thousands of holes from a Dremel tool. It was instantly a signature of her work. Here is some of her work going into the next wood firing at Pinecroft Centre of the Arts. Boy what comes to mind instantly for me is how did you do that???? This is fine craftsmanship and articulation personified!
I know I said "Craftsmanship" but I just think craftspersonship sounds goofey. You hit the bull's eye- Arrow. Now the big kiln will be your next critic.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Take a flying leap!

Since Dan the man is going to one handle pots I think I am really going to get excessive with mine.
The four handled teapots are just the beginning. For those of you that would like to have an intensive two weeks of making, with gourmet food, views of Tuscan countryside from an idyllic studio and trips to Etruscan museums so see pots like these ones why not join me at la Meridiana Oct 18-31 for my course entitled  "Spinning the wheels!". We also are going to visit Super Mario a guy shorter than me that makes enormous jars. To me Italy is where civilization still exists. Good food, good drink, good almost everything. I can't wait. Join me if ya can.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


A friend of mine was making straight sided cups with extruded handles. Ho- hum boring!!! We talked about articulating the form with some precise angle changes to make the form more interesting and yes of course a pulled handle. The difference in the cup is what you would expect- much more interesting and much more professional. With that in mind I set out to make some articulated teapots were I threw them in two pieces. Sectional throwing has the the advantage of articulation without crazy amounts of trimming. What I like about sectional throwing and hence articulated pots is the precise and distinct change in the direction of the form.  I have made these teapots for the next wood firing and big shoulders are a great umbrella for ash to fall and collect on. I also want to do some resist decoration to leave a lot of clay showing so this big surface gives me a canvas to play with.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Work Therapy


When I am digging down inside myself I go to work. I do work that is easy for me. Sometimes I make some of my best work. The buckets that Vicki Hamilton loves I made on the occasion of my mum’s death.  I didn’t know what else to do but go to the studio. Some people march off to their therapist’s spend a few hundred dollars tell their tale and come home and say things that are verbatim what their therapist said. I believe in work. Writing this blog is also my style of lying on the therapist’s couch except I don’t have to pay anything and I generally come up with my own answer- GO TO WORK, MISTER!
Instead of sitting at the kitchen table wondering what I should make next I just made some noodle bowls. Tonight I will make something more interesting. The wheel is my therapist!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

You can shit the fans!

You can shit the fans but not the players! It seems like ages ago that I did my first workshop at Mohawk College. I had made the move to the Niagara Peninsula and a pottery angel named Darlene Benner asked me to do a workshop and she gave me all the money. This was a step up bigger than I could have ever imagined. There were full time potters in the group!!!  It is easy to pontificate to the ones that love you but to be taken seriously and listened to by your cotemporaries is quite another thing.  Darlene your contribution to clay has gone way further than Hamilton and region. The boost you gave me has taken the gospel according to Clennell to many parts of the world-USA, Italy, China, Japan . In the next year I am a presenter at the Icheon Festival in Korea, The International Ceramics Festival in Aberystwyth, Wales and then in 2016 the North Carolina Potters Conference. Should I be scared?  Ya, I should be! Is it all talk and not walk? Will I stubble? Will I be the weakest link? These are all the self doubts of February in Ontario where the snow is piled high, the temperature is -29 and no cash is forthcoming. I need a good firing! A good firing always chases the blues away.
That photo is a probably 15 years old and was taken by my buddy Franssie Rood. Gee I must be tuff on blue jeans.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Man Cave Art

When I was at Ronnie the Rats house in January I was admiring all of his old Marilyn Munroe calendars. Knowing I was going home to the company of my yellow leather chair Ronnie gave me a 1987 Stihl calendar. The beauty part of this is the dates are exact for 2015. Dang, I wouldn't have bought a Husquavarna if I knew Stihl gave out cave man art!.
When I bought this house the upstairs had all kinds of God stuff around but downstairs were the girly calendars and the signs like "Beer drinkers make better lovers". I wish they had have left the downstairs in tack but the nephews saw the calendars and off they went.
 I love my little house and the space is starting to really feel like home. It is becoming a home and not a house. There is a HUGE difference in the two. All potters are welcome here!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Compromise is a speed bump

If you know what you want, don't let anyone tell ya you don't. I went to visit my potter friend Steve the Potter aka Stoner and his awesome squeeze Lis. I was treated to lunch at Haisai Restaurant in Singhampton the brain child of world famous chef Micheal Statlander. This place is a cornucopia of visual extravaganza. It is what I imagine I would come up with if I took psychedelic drugs. What is so amazing is this family dream in technocolour and charge handsomely for it. They have a hundred acres of sculpture where he holds eating events at $300 a plate and the road is lined with cars. It is a EXPERIENCE! Nothing is mediocre!!!!! You get nothing but the best. Each event is documented by film and in hard copy book. It is a cooking performance art production.
All the food is local and most raised on his farm. The people that come to apprentice at the restaurant do everything from making sculpture, to shoveling shit, to feeding the animals.
I came away thinking dream crazy big dreams and then get up in the morning and do it. Talk is cheap. Action takes courage! I'm thinking I'm going to start putting money in a jar to take part in one of these dinner experiences. I'll call it Research and Development. I have said it before "The businesses that offer an experience will be successful. He does it in spades.
Here is their snow laden wine bottle Christmas tree made of thousands of wine bottles. At night it looks like a spacecraft landed by aliens.
Take a look of this awesome view from Steve and Lis home studio. -29 outside and snow over your head.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lost in translation

While on the beach in Cuba I did some sketches of some jars with pulled handles coming from the big loop handles I had started doing a day or two before I left. I couldn't wait to put this sketch together hence my getting up in the middle of the night to get to the pieces. Well sometimes a sketch on paper doesn't translate all that well in reality. I have often used the wheel as a sketch pad instead of a piece of paper. In this case my idea was about the handles and not the form. Perhaps a lesson here is that first attempts don't always produce what is in your mind's eye. There may also be another lesson here for me. Don't give up! I need to keep revisiting this idea. When a simple component such as the handle can hold your

attention for so many years I guess it's worth giving a bit more time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Florida- On the road, again!

I got home to a snow packed driveway and minus 20 degrees outside. I couldn't sleep so I got up and made some pots. Not a bad start at some pots between 3am and 5:30. Having your studio in the basement is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing you don't have to shovel snow to get to it and it is a curse to hear the relay from the controller on your kiln. I am firing at night to save on electric bills.
So my mind was on the next workshop that is at friends studio in Naples, Florida. I met Annabelle at Pinecroft and we connected. I call her The Queen of the Tuckers. She makes wonderful little objects that fit around everything. I need to take lessons. I made 28 little whiskey cups last night thinking of Annabelle.

 So for those of you that have taken my weekend workshops this is a chance to work together for 5 days. We will accomplish a lot and make some great pots.

Haynes Bayless is also doing a hand building workshop so we will all get hand building and throwing demos. I am sure Haynes and I will schedule demos so that you all win.
April 6th to 10th. Hey that's my birthday so we'll have to have a party or maybe two. Going to be great to hang out with this group in the Double Whammy Workshop.
Tony Clennell- Our work is our gift!
Studio is Annabelle Johnson Pottery
5850 Shirley St. 102
Naples, Florida 34109
Workshop hours 9-4. People are welcome to work late

Haynes workshop
Clay More Ceramics
1750 Jand C Blvd Unit 9
Naples, Florida

All registrations are through

Cost of the workshop is $495 for the 5 days.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My favourite Cuban vegetable

I have to say that my favourite time of the day in Cuba was my morning double espresso. Coffee is a bean and so therefore it must be a vegetable.  I was getting what I figure must be double dose of vegetables each morning. Being on a bit of a health kick these days I also hung out at the salad bar. I was told that to meet women you should hang out in a bar so a salad bar must be the place they were referring to. The vegetables in Cuba taste like well let me see- rubber hoses. Actually everything in Cuba tastes like a rubber hose. Calamari is deep fried rubber hose, lobster is boiled rubber hose, bacon is fried rubber hose cut Julienne style, and the fish is a flat tire cut in filets. A woman asked me if I wanted to buy a book on Cuban Cuisine and I said I think I could get the exact same book back in Canada in the automotive section at Canadian Tire. There will be a chapter on how to heat a rubber hose.
I haven't had a smoke for a few decades so I thought while in Rome do as the Romans do. I bought a cheap cigar that may well have been a rolled up banana leaf. I should have bought a Romeo and Juliet, Monte Christo or some other big smoke. Well I enjoyed it and I am cured for another couple of decades.  For those of you going to Cuba pack your own hot sauce, some pepper to grind and anything that will give some flavour. The people are wonderful, the climate divine and I filled a few pages of a sketch book so it was time well spent.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

3 Guesses

The first 2 don’t count. Where am I?  It’s been almost 40 years since I went on a vacation that didn’t include pottery. I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.  So this is what millions of people do with their lives. They actually don’t do anything but eat, drink, sleep and have fun. Day one I had a nice long swim in the ocean, took out a kayak for a paddle and started reading a new book-  Food- A Love Story. Today I was supposed to go on a catamaran out to an island, swim with the dolphins, have a lobster feast on the beach and do some snorkeling. Wind and rain came up so I cancelled and will take a double decker bus into town to car and people watch.  I brought a sketch book and I already have a new plan for surface decoration for the next wood firing. It’s been a long time since I stepped away and took the time to examine my work and my life. My work hasn’t left me but there is nothing I can do about it here so that is a blessing.  Wifi is slow and expensive so I am cut off from you too. Life is good!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Narratives, form and surface

We unloaded the Hamilton Potters Manibigama yesterday and then went to the local coffee shop for an informal critique of the work. Everyone was very pleased with the firing. Well I had some of the ugliest pots I've ever made which I see as a good thing. Pressure makes diamonds and the pressure is on for me and others to make a commitment to the pots of the next few months as we have a big firing of the bourry box and then an anagama.  Emma Smith really scored with this firing. The nudge to really express what's on her mind must have agreed with the kiln as it blessed the porcelain with kisses and hugs.
We talked about telling your story with your work, and that most of all it is form that carries the day. Also it was great to see some surface treatment that didn't only depend on the blessings of the wood firing. I have found that adding serendipity is always a wise move.  I went home and put together some gallon sized teapots. I have been trying to do more brushwork and so I went for some roundies with more emphasis on handles. 5 handle teapots- take that Dan the man.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Who do you want to be?

At our firing this weekend at a nice dinner at Dr. Yi's there were two pottery items that were discussed. A very nice wine ewer by long time friend Jim Etzkorn. of Medicine Hat, Alberta.  I knew it was Jim's by the spout and the knob that looks like a finial on a lamp shade. A very nice pot, indee

d! The other was a generic cup with an extruded handle. Guess whose pot the potters loved and guess who is the money maker? Yes, sadly your answer is the right one. The wrong one actually but the right one in the market place.
I wanted to come home and make Jim's ewer but make it mine. I have always taught imitate and then innovate. Mine would have to have a handle. Mine would have to have less fuss since putting things together accurately is not in my DNA.
 I am the chair of a mentor ship group. I want this group to pay their bills. I want them to be able to afford good food. I want them be able to afford a holiday and to stay in love with the process of making pots. I want them to love their lives.  God, I think they chose the wrong mentor. I wouldn't even put that generic cup to my lips.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Be careful!

Be careful of what you wish for because it can come true. I romanticized a life on the road as a traveling mud slinger. That is the life I now have and 2015 is going to have me living out of a suit case much of the time. Don't get me wrong it is wonderful to see so many places, meet so many great people, share so much conversation, food and drink. Buuuuuuuuuuut it sure plays havoc with your routines. I've been home in my own bed probably 3 nights in January. I got home yesterday and even my yellow chair wasn't talking to me. The chair never even asked how I was or if I had missed it. I was sure to fall asleep in it's arms that evening only to find it was dark in the house and I really couldn't remember where I was or which direction it was to my own bed. Life on the road has you not eating properly and missing your morning run many times. A few years ago I couldn't have imagined even being close to my recommended BMI ( Body Mass Index). In December I was just a few pounds away from it but a month on the road has me back at the battle. Went for my morning run in

a light snow and the fresh air of my little town of Aylmer. Some bills are paid, the fridge has food in it and I'm back in the studio. I  think the yellow chair winked at me this morning. Life is back to normal.