Monday, May 22, 2017

The Potter’s Porsche

Which one of these Porsche’s belongs to the potter?  The Porsche Club came for lunch at Pinecroft Pottery today. Next week the Mustang Club is coming and the week after the Mazda Miata Club. These are all the folks we keep the prices of our pottery low for so that they can have a day off to go out for lunch in their sexy little cars. Looked like some older dudes with some pretty sexy younger women. I wonder if the golden labs Roxy and Maggie could work the same magic at a lot less cost.
Here are some trays out of the gas kiln today.  There was a day in another life when I would make a slab of clay lay it in a commercially made mold, cut off the excess clay, glaze it, fire it  and sell it.  I made them by the hundreds. Boy, wasn’t I an amazing artist? That is workshop material.

 Today the molds lay dormant and I make these trays. I throw clay on the wheel and throw it on the table to stretch it into these sculptural vessels providing a visual function as well as providing a sanctuary for a banana and some oranges. I’ll have a couple of these vessels at the Guelph Potter’s Market this weekend. If you aren’t interested in my pottery at least come and see my cute little grand daughter Julia. She is coming to support Grandpa. My bet her eyes will work the magic a Porsche couldn’t.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Beautiful Scars

Yesterday I got this note from Beth Pitcher of the US. I love that name. How lucky is she? If she were a Canuck she would be Beth Jug and she could name her son Clay and her daughter Ima.
Beth's note: I want to buy a pitcher that ought represent you- so gnarly is preferred over pristine. A pitcher for a stokers heart. Process and not processed. If you have one with a story or a bad joke or an extraordinary Clennell handle so much the better. 
Beth Pitcher

Dear Beth: I like the idea of process and not processed. Throw away your sponges, your scrubbier and hide the 3 different grades of sandpaper.
During our crit yesterday Emma Smith commented that what she admired about my work was that it is casual without being messy with bits and pieces showing. Thanks Emma I l'll take that! They are there you just never noticed them and here's why.
If you wear a suit and tie to work a mustard stain looks pretty obviously out of place. When you wear ripped jeans and a tee shirt people think oh well that mustard stain has probably been there for days and if he isn't worried about it I ain't going to say a word. How do you make a mustard stain look intentional?
Now, Emma wears ripped jeans, so what's the problem? Early in your career you gotta show up in a suit before they will accept you in ripped jeans, a tee shirt and a mustard stain. I'm of course talking of your pottery not your attire. You gotta show us you can be formal before you show up for Casual Fridays and then stretch Casual Fridays to an entire career. 
Bricks were yesterdays shout out and today's is CLAY. Yesterday I phoned Jen Drysdale to ask what she thought of her pots from the firing. I know Jen well enough to know she was somewhat disappointed. Jen used a porcelain clay! If you like to throw soft clay, on a slow wheel, trim at cheese hard to almost soft butter, then porcelain is not the clay to use. If Jen uses my Helmer stoneware clay she rocks the kiln. 
Life leaves us with these beautiful scars that some of us learn are part of who we are and we show them in our work. When we are young we try to hide the scars. Most of my friends have an equal number of beautiful scars. 
A few years ago a woman friend of mine from another time ran into my daughter Robin and said " I guess I should ask the standard questions like are your married and do you have any children?" Robin answered "No, I am divorced and have no children!". My friend answered " So,you have lived!" The perfect answer. 
What is a life without scars? "Life ain't worth living if you don't get hurt". - The Strombellas
Here are a couple of pics from the firing. I went squirrel with an old press mold my aunt made in Art school at MacDonald College in Quebec in 1946.
This is a pic of The Cactus Lounge Flame Throwers firing team from this firing

minus " Energizer Wabbit Row"

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Magna Carter

I Sir Anthony of Aylmer Castle do hereby declare to make peace with Carter Gillies and his band of wood firing and solid fuel rebels. The Magna Carter document dated 1216 in the year of our Lord and otherwise known as the Magna Carta (The Great Charter) will lay to rest our dispute of the royalty of firing. The hierarchy at least in my castle from this day forward will declare wood firing to be the royalty of all firing methods.
Carter being true to my word I fired the same glazes and applications in our latest wood firing as I did previously in gas. I was thrilled with the gas fired results but well hmmm, shuckins’, jeepers, oh my gosh the wood rules the kingdom. There is a depth of surface unparalled in other firing methods.
I think there is another contributing factor other than wood. HARD BRICK! Glaze surfaces were better before the advent of soft brick and now ceramic fibre. Many potters have now taken to down firing which to my mind cancels the money saved by using the advanced technology of ceramic materials( softies and fiber)  Although softies are better insulators it is my believe the hards reflect more heat back on the pots. Our door is mostly soft brick and the pots at the door are rarely as well fired as the the ones one stack back and back into to the depths of the kiln.
Here is a sampling of the work I will be taking to The Potter’s Market in Guelph a week tomorrow. It really came down to this last firing after about 4 months working on this surface. It came with it’s share of heartbreak.  Pressure makes diamonds.

 Many hanks to my amazing crew( The Cactus Lounge Flame Throwers)  for all their dedication and hard work. You rock!!! Consider yourselves for Knighthood. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken
I walked into town today to get some groceries past the elementary and high schools and wondered how my life would be different if I had stayed the 30 years as a high school teacher to get my pension.  There were some pretty nice cars in the school parking lots and I thought of how I could have salted some big bucks away for retirement. I too could be sitting at McDonald’s each morning with the rest of the seniors shooting the shit. Instead I’m in the studio making work, talking to myself and whining to you about my lack of pension.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost
What is the difference that makes a difference????- Don Pilcher
Ask that of your pots.
Ask that of your friendships.
Ask that of your love.
Ask that of your dinner.
So I ask if I had taught high school would I  be making the pots I’m making today?  The answer is most certainly not! Most days I think that has been worth this less travelled road.
Truth is I’m comfortable and as long as my hands move and mind is working at more than 10% of it’s potential I will be just fine.
Here are some plates I fired in my cousin Brenda’s kiln. She crash cools so I don’t get the nice rutile crystals but other than that they look pretty sexy. I prefer to clam cool for the development of crystals. Same glaze, same firing, different cool and voila a whole different look.
Everyone in those days used stoney white. A matt white glaze with black heads like a teenager’s nose.  Fire the stoney and clam you got matte with pimples. Fire it and crash and you got white shiny.  I’m in my third childhood so I like the crystals, zits, and blackheads.
Crash: At the end of the firing leave the burner ports, damper and peeps open and let the kiln drop to at least 1900F before clamming up.

Clam: At the end of the firing close the damper, the peeps and the burner ports and let cool slowly.