Friday, July 28, 2017

Kiss my ash good bye




The Emerald Ash Borer is a pest native to Asia that is now reeping havoc on the ash stands of south western Ontario and the Great Lakes regions. It has killed millions of ash trees and it is threatening to kill them all.
When I was a kid the majestic elm was a wonderful huge tree with a large unique canopy that could be spotted from a distance. I had a red neck swing in the backyard that was a rope attached to a Goodyear tire hanging from the limb of a big ole elm. After a workout on the swing my pals and I would take a long cool drink from the hose. These are two things that would not be allowed today- too dangerous. Look what it did to me! The majestic elms were all be wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease.
Many of the farmers in this region are having their ash trees lumbered while it is worth something. I figure I will have a HUGE supply of ash for the kiln over the next half decade.
I talked to a friend who will remain anonymous that said she has people in the Guild that don’t want to learn how to mix glazes or fire kilns. They want to make their pots dip them in glaze, have someone else fire them, go to a craft sale to sell them and call themselves potters. I have no time or patience to explain to them why they should read, study, mentor, etc, etc.
I preach to the converted. If you want to be on top of your game as a wood fire potter you should learn your woods. Know how to identify them. Know their heat values. Know their splitability, how much they smoke, do they send off sparks and do they coal up in the firebox.

I rank ash wood up there as one of my favourites. It’s going to be tough to kiss my ash good bye.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Going out on a limb



Creative people make art every day. When they are not in their studios making art, they are looking at art, reading about art, thinking about art and dreaming about art. Except me when I have a couple of weeks of wood prep grunt work to do.
I bought this pile of wood from the Amish. I didn’t realize there was as much as there is so in this heat it has been exhausting to pick it up, put it down in the pick up, pick it up, put it down, in the rick, saw it in half and pick it up and put it down again in a pile. This is far from creative work but I actually like doing it. I’m on my 9th P/U truck load and I don’t think I’m half way there yet. Yikes!
This is limb wood that the Amish women don’t like burning in their cook stoves. It burns too fast. I have never in almost 40 years of wood firing ever fired entirely with limb wood. I have pretty well always had slab wood.
This limb wood doesn’t stack neatly in a pile like slab wood does. So with that in mind it won’t stack as evenly on the grates of the firebox either. There will be more space around the wood for air to travel down through the wood into the firebox. I’m thinking ahead that perhaps I will have to fire the kiln with the brakes on. The brakes with this kiln are the passive dampers. Pull out a passive and the temp stalls, put it back in and the temp moves ahead. I’m thinking we may have to slow this baby down.
There is also a mixture of woods I have never fired with- ironwood, yellow birch, poplar but mostly wood I am familiar with like maple, ash, beech, elm, oak and wild cherry.
Here is a little FB post written by a friend and collector of mine Wendy Gacparski that died  recently unexpectedly. I won’t say rest in peace as that would not suit her. She had opinions that she expressed. I think the world needs more of those people. So sorry one has left us. Give us hell, Wendy.


  I like creative people. Individuals who think outside the box. Those that take creative chances...and that think for themselves. Creative people that follow their passion and want to share it with others - because it brings them joy to do so. You can always tell who they are because they love to laugh, and they have zero hesitation at laughing at themselves. They take life in stride because they believe that a little bit of inspiration, creativity, laughter, elbow grease and trust can get us through just about anything. But most of all they shine in their own unique way...and their light makes our world a better place.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Work as Balance





I don’t know how many times I have been told I work too hard and that my life needs balance. I should play golf, tennis, or go ballroom dancing.
 One definition of the noun “balance” is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Sometimes I need to correct my posture because of a life stooped over the potter’s wheel but other than that I stand tall and steady.
In my defense I will suggest that my work gives me balance. At times when everything in my life is tipsy turvey I find sanctuary in my work. When I feel great I crank up the tunes as I work. I am blessed that my passion has become my career. I don’t need to escape it and do something else. I love my work, my home, my friends and it all seems to evolve around my passion for clay.
My young friend potter Emma Smith came for lunch yesterday and my long time friend Dawn Ellis came today. Do you think they are just checking in on me to see if I lost my  balance? Oh contrare!
 I just signed up for a fall course in Fundamentals of Perspective in Drawing at a good art college in London. This will help my work. So why didn’t I sign up for the “Fly fishing” course. I’d like to fly fish but I spend enough time solo I don’t need a hobby that gets me out alone some more.
I made these bud vases/candlestick holders today. I wondered about balance. Should I leave them alone to be adorned by a perching song bird? Should I put one handle on and have the bird perch at the front. Andrew and I stayed up talking last night and put a dent into a bottle of Woodford Reserve. I was slow off the mark today and had a wee nooner on the couch after Dawn left. I stared at my Jeff Payne outsider art painting which I love for it’s ultimate excess. What would J. Payne think about balance I thought? He wouldn’t give a fiddler’s fart was my answer. So thanks Jeff for the mentorship.  I went to the workshop and put two ribbon handles on each and perched the song birds all over Gawd’s creation.

“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.” Oliver Wendel Holmes Harvard Professor.