Thursday, March 24, 2016

Two of my favs

I have been collecting Bruce Cochrane pots since 1982. Bruce is an amazing maker and my most favourite vessel maker in Canada. Once while introducing Cathi Jefferson Bruce said " I am pleased to introduce my favourite vessel maker Cathi Jefferson. Three members of the mutual admiration society. 
I am super pleased to be having Bruce and Cathi at Pinecroft this May for a week long hands on workshop. There are still spots open in their classes so join me in working with these amazing makers.
If you read the brochure and think Cathi's course is specific to teapots think again. She has an amazing portfolio of forms including some lovely hand building. Slips and floral imagery are a signature of Cathi's work.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Just what the Doctor ordered!

I had Shane Norrie and Elizabeth Davidson from the soon to be opened Shane Norrie Contemporary Gallery in Stratford, Ontario drop by today to select some work. I wanted to put on the dog so I got the best that Aylmer can offer- bacon covered donuts and good freshly brewed coffee.  I spared the haute couture of Aylmer that is camoflauge pants and matching ball cap. When you’re really in the moment you have a camoflauge hoodie. The women wear the camoflauge ball cap with a pom pom on top which I’m beginning to find very sexy.
I like to deal with galleries that are run by people that have walked the walk. They know that money needs to be paid to the artist and done so on a regular basis. Asking for your money each month is belittling and makes you feel like you are asking for spare change. It is money owed to you and you are not asking for a handout.
There is a soft opening on Saturday, April 2, 2016. All the very best of luck Shane and Elizabeth. This will be a very classy venue. That is a given.

I love Stratford. A town of theatre, fine books, fine dining and now an amazing gallery.

The Way of the Do-do

Here are some tea bowls made by Chris Gustin that were on exhibit at the Archie Bray Show in Kansas City. I was blown away when I first encountered them. I wondered how the heck did he get texture both inside and out.  I was then to learn this is the work of a 3D printer.
When I was the presenter this past summer at the Potters Festival in Wales they had me on stage with a guy using a 3D printer to make a vase. This thing was going crazy putting thousands of little coils down to make a vase. I just wanted to go over and give the pot a poke. It was so perfect.
I love what Chris has done here. I feel like a do-do bird in terms of the process. I assume he scanned the  image of a couple of his tea bowls and the rest is the rest is geek wizardry.
There once was a time at NCECA when this dude from Minnesota would show his beautiful handmade treadle wheels with a copper splash pan and made from some beautiful wood like cherry or yellow oak. I used to salavate over these wheels.  I remember them being pricey like $2800. I'd have bought one for my living room they were that beautiful.
If this flu I brought home from NCECA doesn't kill me I may be able to hang on just long enough to escape learning to be a technoweenie potter. Steve Godfrey from Alaska will be sculpting me as a knob on one of his porcelain jars.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Next Stop- Eastern Ontario

My next workshop will be a hands on workshop in Eastern Ontario with the Clarington Potters.
Here is the contact.

Liven It UP!

I just received this note from friend Dick Aerni. Dick is a master of glazing and most especially the treatment of ash glazes. Word has it he can do the same for you with Cone 6. If you want to step up your game I can't think of a better glaze man that has walked the walk for 4 decades.
Note from Dick
First up is a five day hands-on with firing at Tony Clennell’s wonderful facility Pinecroft, in Aylmer, Ontario, May 23-27.  This one should be good, if you want to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and walk away with some new ideas and finished work.  We’ll be working on many of the sectional techniques I use to produce work which can be large in scale, or smaller but with dramatic form.  This involves the use of centered plaster forms, or in it’s most recent iteration, bisqueware forms that I (and you, too) make that are centered on the wheel and used to throw into, and onto.  Whereas plaster technology has a steep learning curve, working with the bisque is relatively easy to master, with very little investment of time or tools.  Throughout the week we’ll be discussing what makes for a great surface on a pot, and implementing these discussions with sessions glazing up the bisqueware you’ve brought, culminating in a glaze firing in the cone 10 gas reduction kiln.   The setting is pristine and beautiful, the studio wonderfully accommodating, and you will get the irrepressible Tony along with yours truly.  It should be a special week.  Check out details at or follow the link on the front page of my website,

Sunday, March 20, 2016

20 hours back to heaven

I went on the bus with 22 other Sheridan students and faculty to NCECA Kansas City. It was a looooooong trip back here to The Promised Land. 18 hours on the bus and then 2 hour car ride home.
What would be going to Kansas City the home of blues and BBQ without taking in a peep show? This was the peep show at the Skutt booth. For me the USU and the Bray Shows were the highlights. They actually had to close the Bray Show because of the numbers of people. Chris Gustin seemed to own KC as his pots were everywhere. It is a marvel that he can produce so many beautiful pots. My camera died when I wanted to take a pic of his tea bowls from a 3D printer wood fired. They were awesome!
I had wanted to go to the Nelson Atkins Museum to see their slipware collection  and Asian collection for decades. It was like they didn't realize 6000 potters were in town as many of their display cases were empty. A very poor showing by this museum.
Pete Pinnell's talk on how pottery and people interact was great as to be expected. He is the consummate professional and showed his respect for his profession by wearing a suit and tie.Nicely done, Pete!
It felt good to cross the border home. The bar room talk seemed to be focused on the divided nation and how Canada may be a destination for a lot of potters. If it weren't politics it was medicare. I zoned out on this stuff.
My best bar room talks were in the form of Agelism's. That is the stuff my buddy Doc Agel comes up with.
There was a presentation on how to change. Doc said "But, I don't want to change!" I of course, love that one.
Here are a couple others:
When the lying stops so does the drama!
You can't change your shoes to change your path.

Friday, March 18, 2016

For meat ya can't beat!

In the little town I used to teach there was butcher shop had a slogan "For meat ya can't beat!" All the high school students got a real laugh out of that. I came down on the bus with 23 Sheridan students to NCECA and after one day I have no voice left. It happens every time come. I have actually had people pulling over in their cars telling me they love me and my blog. I wish they'd just throw money.  That signature hat of mine I think is the key. I'm rooming with Atlanta buddy Doc Agel and we are out all day looking and talking pots. I went to the  Orton Cone Box Show to see some of my favourite people who were award winners in the show. Congrats Teresa Dunlop, Annemarie Row and Cathi Jefferson. Well done!
We went to Arthur Bryants BBQ joint and ate a couple of pigs. It was really good but I still think Jeff Brown's vinegar based NC smoked meat is the best. Hey Jeff Happy B-Day. I've seen some amazing pots. It always leaves me thinking why do I bother. These pots are so amazing! I said many times in my book "If it were easy everyone would be doing it!. Off for more eye candy.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Outsider Art

My current obsession as if I need another one is "Outsider Art". It was fuelled by a visit to Crystal King Pottery in Seagrove where Crystal has some awesome ugly jugs and paintings of fringe artists. Crystal knows her stuff and got me all excited by this work. Today I rented a pickup to go to Tee-ohh to pick up an old blue cupboard of my daughter Robin's that doesn't fit in her half million dollar Toronto little semi detached. I will keep it in safe keeping until she gets bigger digs or I croak and she moves into The Cactus Lounge.
We went out for brunch and parked on a side street in front of this "Outsider Art" house. This is really art that is outside and I'm sure the neighbours are beside themselves. The value of the house next door would be next to nothing. I see the star spangled banners so I'm sure it is one of the loonies that climbed over our new wall to keep Merikans out of The Promised Land. I had a good laugh but I am sure glad it ain't my neighbour.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Kansas City here I come!

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas. It may be appropriate that we take the stool bus to Kansas City after the shit storm of politics that is going on there.  I  love America and many of my very best friends live below 49. The thing I stay clear of is the politics. The country seems so divided at this point they don't need the opinion of a foreigner that happens to believe he lives in The Promised Land.
On Tuesday I load on the bus with the Sheridan students for a long trip to The Heartland of America- NCECA Kansas City, Missourah. I was going to drive but it is 1000 miles and although I trust my old 2001 Honda CRV I think I'll give the two of us a rest. I've been busting it out pretty hard lately and I think reading a book and catching some zzzzzzz's  while someone else drives is in order. Funny how catching some zees's sounds right but the proper zed's just doesn't work in this case. Sometimes America gets it right.
I usually come home with no voice, the flu and a bunch of tools I don't really need. I am going to feast on some BBQ which I believe will be beef and not pork. It's going to be hard to top Jeff Brown's vinegar pulled pork.
USU is having a show on Thursday night at The Boulevard Tavern. Such an appropriate venue for the ones that were at USU when I was there. I think they could very well had been that bad influence on the rest of my life. I can't wait to be with them as we clink our glasses with a "beer and a bump".

Friday, March 11, 2016

Putting your head in the mouth of a crocodile.

Making pots for a living is a bit like putting your head in the mouth of crocodile. You gotta be stupid enough to do it and trust it will all work out just fine. All the potters I know don’t have any inclination that it won’t work out. That is what I call entrepreneurship. True entrepreneurs don’t believe in failure. Many fail, then fail again and keep their heads in the mouth and pull it out once in awhile to smile. I spent a couple of days with Jeff Brown and Michele Hastings in Seagrove. They are trying to get a foot hold in Seagrove and working really hard. Many lesser mortals would give up but they have a dream and they are living it. They were so good to me and I call this living your life generously as all potters should do. Thanks Jeff and Michele there is always room here in The Cactus Lounge. Jeff does then best BBQ I’ve ever had. I make the best chicken wings.
I also visited a factory that used to produce Fruit of the Loom tshirts and underwear. All the hundreds of jobs were lost to Mexico and a big empty factory was left behind. I apologize for not taking notes but  it is now inhabited by a young Japanese clay chef with a dream of making Wild Clays from North Carolina.  He is even fliter pressing the clay which makes for the best clay imaginable. In the works is a clay called “Chatham” which will fire cherry red. I can’t wait to try that clay with a shino glaze. Holy shit batman, would that not be purdy?

This is another example of sticking your head in the head of an alligator and trusting all will work out just fine. Good things for good people!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Size Matters!

I've spent all of my life somewhat vertically challenged. That's PC for kinda short. I rehearsed all the quick come backs. It's not the size of the gun. It's the gunner! It's not the size of the ship. It's the motion in the ocean.  It's not the weapon. It's the flurry of the attack! You have others.  Here are a couple of kilns in Seagrove that are made for big ware. No sense trying to fire big pots in a small kiln. There is an economy of scale when it comes to firing wood kilns. It often takes as long to fire a small kiln as a big one. Here are a couple of big buggers. David Stuempfle works alone and makes pots the size of garden sheds. I've always said the best deal in the house is the big pot. Hard to make, hard to glaze, even harder to fire and the success rate is not the same as the humble coffee cup. Imagine the number of coffee cups you could load into the space of one of David's big pots.  First David's small kiln and Steve Godfrey standing beside one of David's tiny sugar bowls. Here is a pic of Ben Owen the thirds chamber kiln which is state of the art with doors on tracks. Then out to Daniel Johnson's kiln that is actually a work of art. As for size I did love the studio and house of Bruce Gholson and Samantha Henneke. They have the most beautiful glazes I have ever seen. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Seeing snakes!

I'm taking Clyde home to meet Jack. I'm not really all that fond of snakes and I'm not sure how Jack is going to take to two snakes being in The Cactus Lounge. I don't see snakes in this painting. I see a wonderful story of a man that lives his art. He could care less if you like it and that is certainly not his motivation. He loves the critters of the forest and he sees them in all the colours of the rainbow. I am wondering if in a strange way this is critter abstract impressionism.  As you know my guest room The Rat's Nest has a nice collection of Ronnie the Rats. I think the snakes will be at home with the rats. Ron would like Clyde's work and Clyde would like Ron's work so I think they will get along rather well.
I had a nice visit to Crystal King's Pottery yesterday where she informed me about "Outsider Artists" like Clyde. Many of these artists if they couldn't find a way to live on their own would be committed to an insane asylum. They see art everywhere just like children. I seem to have a love for this work. As a Canadian I remember seeing a film, reading a book and going to an exhibit of the work of Nova Scotia outsider artist Maude Lewis.
I'm at the Greensboro Airport waiting to fly home to Jack and my home. What a wonderful conference here in NC. More on it later when I get home. I'm coming back next year on my way down to Ronnies to help fire the Ratagama. I promised Clyde I'd send him a picture of him and me. I think I'm going to make something
for him and hand deliver it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

King Kong went to Paris

I had my dreams come true yesterday. Some years ago Mark Hewitt sent me to the home of Clyde Jones  "Outsider Critter Artist". Clyde had thousands of critters all over his property. He offered to sell me one for $100. I didn't know if it was worth $5, $100 or $1000. I didn't buy it and have felt regret for over a decade. So I found out the dancer Bresnakov went there with his entourage and wanted to buy something. Clyde said no he was too big a shot. Bresnakov's agent told Clyde he should sell him something because he was famous. Clyde answered " If he is famous and wants to buy something from me I must be more famous!. No sale!! Clyde told Bresnakov if he really wanted to be famous he should work with children.  Clyde is loved by his community and gives his work to charities and the support of children. He has had shows in NY, Paris, China all arranged for him by his adoring fans.  He attended his show in NYC wearing a bad fitting suit and a ball cap that read" I'd rather drive a Chevy."  Seagrove potter Fred Johnson took me there. Here is Fred riding a horse. Fred asked Clyde where the big sculpture of King Kong had gone! King Kong went to Paris answered Clyde.
Clyde asked me if I would take him to the gas station to get some gasoline for his tractor. Of course I would and it was a hoot. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. He kept asking me how much I owed him. Nothing Clyde it is just a pleasure to help a fellow artist. How much do I owe ya! Fred saw an old painting  of two snakes hanging on a nail on the porch. He asked Clyde what he was going to do with it. Clyde said I ain't gonna sell it to nobody but that guy from Canada can have it for driving me to the gas station.  He told me I had to promise to never sell it because it was going to be worth some money one day. It is priceless to me and I will treasure it and the memory. I had won the North Carolina lottery. It is an oil painting on masonite  of two snakes with buckeye nut eyes. I have it under books right now trying to straighten it. Clyde told me if I had been hanging on a nail since 1989 I'd be bent too. I am a damn lucky man!