Saturday, July 9, 2011

Busy as a bee... err... ahh... as a snake??

It's that time of year again where it gets really, really busy! I have been in a couple of small, local art shows. One was the Westcott Art Trail on June 4th and 5th, where there's a few artists at each spot in the Westcott neighborhood, 60+ artists total. I downsized, and took half of my display. I have a symmetrical shelf display that I modify slightly for small shows. I still have a nice assortment and it's easier to set up and take down.

I did have this lady on a bike with those cool, modern bike helmets on, stop by to chat for awhile. I was showing her the different clay bodies I use for different parts of the kiln and was mentioning the Tully mud slide of 1993 that was a disaster for some, but it provided some raw material to experiment with for me. It matures around ^ 1 or so, it is very saline and red earthenware looking. (I posted about it last year.) Then she told me who she is, and I recognized her under her helmet once she mentioned her name, Maureen Green. She was a news reporter for one of the local Syracuse channels for years. Now she writes for and since our first visit, has gotten the okay to do an article on me in the beginning of August, in time for the 31st Annual Pottery Fair in Cazenovia, N.Y.  August 20 & 21 at the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park. It will revolve around a positive twist to the disaster back in '93.
Then the graduation of my youngest, Jayson, from high school, shown here with Mary Ann and me.

Another art show was June 22nd, at the Munson Proctor Museum in Utica, N.Y. Beautiful weather all day.

Then there's wood to split and stack and get ready for the firings coming up. I've got the kiln modified a little and some wood dry and ready... I think I need a roof extention...

I modified the floor with a little step up to hopefully do two things: 1) compress the heat/flame a tiny bit and 2) trip up the air flow a little to heat up the back more. I am getting ^ 12 plus in the front and a solid ^ 10 in the lower back. There is a cool spot, (^ 9) in the upper back that this might turn it into a 9 1/2 pushing 10. I have no trouble getting the air/flame flow I need and I think this might slow the flame down and trip it up a little, giving a little longer soak before it exits the flues with out loosing combustion. I have shelf dampers in the chimney that work great and I can slow the flame down plenty, but it also slows down my combustion a bit too much. I figured this would be a mild tweek and wouldn't hurt to try.
I also have cut some bricks to stagger the height of the shelves back there and impeed the flame just the right amount. I'll have 4 1/2" in front, 9" in the middle and 6 1/2" in front of the flues. I know how that arraingment works and it should do the trick here.

Now, the next part is not for the squeemish... remember all that wood I split and stacked and that nice kiln I built...? Well, I am not the only one liking it. I have visitors...

Do you think they will help with the stoking?  .. at least?

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Quite a while ago, I had a picture of this fawn on my blog, bedded in the thicket next to my house. I have thought of the encounter often. So..."What about it??" you say... well here's my story. Once upon a time, I built a wood-kiln. Not a huge one, but one I could fire by myself.  I have been spending all of my "clay time" making pottery to fill this kiln so I can learn how to fire a wood-kiln. I now have fifteen firings under my belt and I feel pretty confident that I have a good grasp on it. I have to admit that I didn't spend as much time on some of the work as I would have liked to, but I didn't want to waste "clay time" on a poor firing. Understandable. I remember not being able to get past cone nine until after my third firing. I can now get to twelve in no time... I actually hold the kiln back now for the results I want. So, what does this have to do with the fawn!!?? Talk about dragging it on and on ... So, now that I am confident with the kiln, I have been putting more time into the pieces. I was a sculpture minor in college and have missed sculpting and now I have been doing more sculptural pieces for the next firing. I have sculpted objects on top of pottery, sculptures all by themselves and I just finished a serving dish with a fawn bedded inbetween the logs on top of it. I am working with a fettling knife in the first picture, carving details in a log.

I want the end of the log to look old and weathered...

And have the bark peeling away... and a good shape for a handle.

Add a few shale/limestone rocks like there is poking though the forest floor up in my woods...
A bed of leaves to keep dry on... Bambi has returned, just in clay form.

I also made some casseroles with a simpler fawn, this particular one is a mule deer fawn...

So... looks like I'm starting to get my sculpture "fix" now, and it looks like the snow is melting some.  I've had enough winter. There was three feet of snow out there just one week ago! Closed all the schools in the area.

Guess what I was doing? ... besides the driveway...

Looking forward to firing soon. I have enough for a kiln full now, just need to melt some snow.
And, I have some more teapots, couple with the birds I've been seeing at the feeder every day...


Monday, February 21, 2011


I was commisioned by a couple from Melbourne, Australia to create a teapot and pair of his and her cups as a house warming gift to themselves. They are moving into their new home in mid-April. After several conversations about size, shape, color... and a sketch, we had a plan.  I did warn her that the kiln has the final say and I would do all I could to make it work. She understood and off I went.
I started with throwing the body, spout (not shown), lid and a pair of cups... plus an extra. I'll make/pull the handles later. I let these parts stiffen up a bit to what we call leather hard. What follows is a rough tutorial on teapot making, adding a few techniques and tricks I use to create one. I hope you like it.

Now I'm cutting and test fitting the spout to fit the profile/curve of the body. You can see my chamois on the edge of the bucket is attached to a cork so I don't lose it in the water and that's the top of a fish aquarium heater in my water bucket so my water isn't cold during the winter. I also use a mirror to see the profile of what I'm throwing so I don't have to bend to the side all the time. I had a bad auto accident many years ago and my lower back needs a little help.

Once the spout fits well, I traced around the spout so I would know where to put the strainer holes.

I started to drill the holes and I'll smooth and bevel the holes later with this tapered "plug".

Now I'll "score and slip" the two pieces together using a piece of comb and slip/wet clay.

I add this tapered coil of clay under the lip of the spout and smoothed it in place. This creates a lip that will stops drips from ... well... dripping. The drips won't go "uphill".

I put a vent hole in the lid and added a pulled handle, adding a coil to each side as a decorative feature. It also gives the handle the needed thickness to look balanced visually.  I have bent the handle to compliment the swirl I added to the body of the teapot. I also filled in the juncture of the handle and and spout so there would be a nice "flow" from one into the other. I like how the undulated foot compliments the swirl and handle angle. I could have made the opening of the spout a bit higher, adding a couple of ounces of capacity to the teapot, but I like the looks of it where it is. Also the angle of the spout opening compliments the angle of the back of the handle on the right side. These are some of the considerations I think of when designing the piece. It's like a sculpture to me.

I'll keep you posted on the progress of this teapot in future posts as I go through the glazing, firing and finishing of it.  Cheers...

Saturday, February 12, 2011


We had the Syracuse Ceramic Guild's Winterfest-ivities today. Folks from all over Central New York came to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia, N.Y. for a day of snow filled activities. There was lots of sledding down the big hill that the Art Park sits on. Inside the barn was hot chocolate, coffee, snacks, etc. and Denise and Sheila helping visitors with the un-frozen raku glazes.
There was a core crew of four of us, braving the blustery cold winds to fire our almost new, wood-fired raku kiln. "Double D" Dave, Dave "L" and me on the right, are prepping for the start while Sabrina took a minute to help prepare things inside. Wood splitting, unthawing and pre-heating the bricks took a bit of time to do.

Here's "Double D" Dave ('cause his last name starts with D and the other Dave's last name starts with L) splitting some wood in anticipation of the high temps we needed later. We fired to approximately 1850* F

Here's two of the kids glazing, I think the lens fogged up coming in out of the cold, as a few more rest in the background, and when the pots come out, we preheat them a couple of minutes to finish drying them, as they're freshly glazed pots.

Now the firing takes about fifteen minutes to get to temp, then I remove the door, we take the still glowing, orange - hot pots out with long tongs and place them in a trash can that has a few inches wood shavings in it, throw a big hand full of shavings on top of the pots and then Sabrina quickly pops the lid on while the shavings are still burning to create a smoke filled can. The glazes are molten at this time and will be affected by the changes in the atmosphere. We are reducing the amount of oxygen (why we call it "reduction") and increasing the amount of carbon particles, which in turn affects the looks of the clay and glazes (creating surface lusters, crystals and keeping copper and iron from returning to it's oxidized state which would change the color dramatically).

Maybe I should have titled this post " A Raku Tutorial - Winterfest Edition "

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This is for the birds...

It really IS for them.  I  like birds and almost all animals for that matter.  I enjoy it when we get cardinals at the feeder, along with the blue jays and other assorted birds of the winter.

Then there are the eagles, no... not at the feeder, but on the shelf drying in the studio. Last post, I talked about experimenting with a slipped version of my clay body. I had this cool eagle mold that looks like an antique, and I like antiques, that I have always wanted  do someting with. So I cast a couple of them and slab built a base for one with some patriotic American Pride, emphasising the American " I can " attitude.

Then there's some more birds again!  A woodpecker/duck character with a big mouth and a duck that thinks he's an elk, or reindeer or something. That reindeer costume he put on isn't fooling anyone. He will be pulling a dog sled with the woodpecker/duck in it for that one.

 I realized I needed to get serious again so I made a modified batch of "Tully clay" and made some things with that to try in my next firing. I added a little more stoneware and fireclay to hopefully relieve some of the small bloating and sagging issues I am still having in some zones of the kiln.  I have a good cone 9 body but I want a "Tully clay" mix for cone 10 too. I have marked these pieces with a "T".

 I get throwing a few mugs and find myself wanting to try a new combination of castings again.

A turtle with a mohawk (I have a couple of students with mohawks lately- one student, Dimitri, with orange-red hair, jelled straight like the turtle has), a masked mice hobo, another confused identity, reindeer/duck for another wheeled something... but no birds. Not for the moment, anyway... I have two more bird characters under construction... This IS for the birds. I have pottery orders to fill.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I SLIPPED.......

 I slipped .... in more ways than one. I slipped into overdrive over the holiday season. Glad that's past. Busy with shows, the usual - set 'em up, work some hours, take 'em down, put away. I slipped some wood into a now empty bedroom and "arrainged them" into a studio for Mary Ann's growing bead and jewelry business. Here are the results before she started and after two hours of breaking it in. Glad she likes it.

 I slipped back into some throwing again, made a few boards of teaware, mugs and tumblers (my boards are 18" x 24"... worth mentioning as I know a lot of potters think of a board as 6" wide by 24" or more long.) 

I slipped a peek out the studio window at my kiln, as it patiently waits for me to fill it. Looks nice, even in the winter.

And I slipped some molds I picked up at an estate sale and I have been experimenting with some small molds of animals. I slab built the cart to go with them (whatever they are now) and temporarily secured the pieces with some bead wires from my wife's new shop. I did some research about making a slip from your own clay body and after a bit of a learning curve, I got it straight. Get the specific gravity right, then add sodium silicate/Darvan to make it pour well. I've always wanted to try adding some slip cast elements to my thrown and altered work.  I have wanted to do some sculptural work for a long time (my minor in college) and have some ideas that I am going to put in motion.

Now I won't mention anything about going down to the studio and putting on Jimmy Buffett's song "Slip Sliding Away..." but I will mention the winter roads get really slippery when it hits -14* like it did on Monday and I was slipping and sliding on my 40 minute commute to work ... 

LMAO!!!    I slipped again!!  Did I say Jimmy Buffett's song??? I meant Paul Simon!! I think my oldies recollection skills need sharpening! Hope I don't slip and cut myself while sharpening...