Oct 16 2009

Blog, Facebook, and the Grand Festival

I have a confession to make. I think I was being fairly conscientious about keeping up with my blog up until the past few months, when I got sucked into  Twitter and Facebook.   Its all good though.  We have a new Webb Pottery Facebook Page there at http://www.facebook.com/WebbPottery/ . If you’re on Facebook, check it out. 

28th Grand Festival of Art, Fairhope ALThis weekend we’ll be at the 28th Annual Grand Festival of Art in Fairhope AL, from 10 am – 5pm both days. 

 The Eastern Shore Arts Center hosts 2 shows a year, one in the Spring, and this one, in the fall.  A few years ago the fall festival was moved from The Grand Hotel grounds in Point Clear, to the park by the Fairhope Pier. 

This year, however,  it will take place right in downtown Fairhope which will be a lot more convenient for both exhibitors and patrons.  For more info regarding the show, please contact the Eastern Shore Art Center at (251) 928-2228 or by email at esac@esartcenter.com.

Please look for us.  You can find us in Booth #50 located on Fairhope Ave., toward Church St. . 

The weather should be great (sunny both days with temps in the mid 60s), so be sure to drop by our booth and check out some of our pottery.   Look forward to seeing you there!

 

(Also while you’re in Fairhope, be sure to check out  the Alabama Coastal Birdfest  at Faulkner College across from the Fairhope Library)


Oct 16 2009

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate change

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance.

I remember as a child going to Man and His World (the site for Expo ’67, the 1967 International and Universal Exposition) in Montreal, and visiting all the international pavillions. I remember in particular the American Pavillion and always seemed to gravitate to it whenever we visited.  It was a huge, clear panelled geodesic dome structure that really stood out among the rest of the buildings.  It being so long ago,   I admit, memories are a little vague, but I have fleeting images of the experience such as the sun blaring through the glass.. vegetation lining paths on the ground level.. futuristic bits of art and culture.. stairs going up to a different level where screening rooms with films about acid rain, air & water pollution, the depletion of the ozone layer, etc. , etc, were shown.

Biosphere Montreal Expo 67I know I was young, but it obviously left an impression on me, because I still remember it.  The warning was clear that we should be very conscientious of how we live, how we treat the environment, and take care of the world around us, or the fragile natural world as we know it will be lost for future generations.

Despite what certain special interest groups tell us and want us what to believe, I think its naive to think that the climate change is not real and that we can keep on the way we have been.   Human activities might not be the only reason why global warming is occurring, but it is occurring nonetheless. The exponential growth of human populations and industrialization has had a huge impact on the ecosystem and has undoubtedly helped to expedite climate change.  We’ve known about it for a long time but denying a problem does not make it go away.   On that note…

Over the last few days, I’ve tried to think of how life at our studio might relate to the global warming. Thinking back, most of the changes we have implemented in the past few years were for economic reasons, but they have spinoff benefits that are releva for the  environment as well.  In the past 9 or so years, the cost of propane (we glaze fire in a gas kiln) has more than doubled and the cost of raw materials and shipping has gone up by at least 1/3.  Working smarter and more efficiently , obviously, has become all that more of a priority.

THE KILN

Nitride Bonded ShelvesWhen I think of climate change and how it relates to pottery, what first comes to mind is my kiln which uses propane.  A fuel burning anything is a potential area of concern when you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint.  One thing working in our favor is that  our studio and kiln are located on a treed 5 acre plot of land.  A friend yesterday reminded me as well that propane does burn more efficiently and releases less particulates and pollutants into the air than, say, a wood kiln or even a salt kiln.

So working with what we have, we have tried to make some changes to help it fire more efficiently and use less fuel.  A big change we made about a year ago was getting some of those new nitride bonded silicon carbide shelves which are much thinner (and lighter) than regular kiln shelves and take require less energy to heat up. (When you fire a kiln, you heat everything in the kiln.. the pots, the shelves, the posts… everything. Anything extra you have means that much more energy consumed.)  So anyways, we did that and replaced the flat top with an arch and I was delighted to discover that the firing took a fraction of the propane it did previously.  Something else that we just did this last firing is reduce the pressure at the regulator on the propane tank. Again, much less propane was used. Brilliant. More firings for less and what fuel we did use what burned that much more efficiently.

NATIVE CLAY

Like propane and natural gas, the cost of raw materials has shot up.  Thankfully we dig most of the clay we use locally. We do this for a number of reasons. Besides the fact that it is very responsive and throws beautifully, it being so readily available and so close to the studio definitely works in our favor. Since we process it ourselves, it is a little cheaper plus we don’t have the additional expense of shipping it down from places like Ohio, Atlanta, California, and some other such places where clay is commercially processed and distributed from.  The environmental impact?  Well, one benefit is there is one less truck on the road and therefore less emissions released into the atmosphere.

OTHER THINGS

We usually have to travel away to do art shows and fairs, so for a number of reasons, we’ve lightened up the weight of our show display so when we do have to travel, its a lighter load and hopefully less wear on the vehicle, less gas, and less emissions.

Shows, Quality not Quantity –  What with the economy, rising show fees and travel expenses,  and the uncertainty of shows, like  many craftspeople,  we have been forced to be a lot more selective about where we go and what shows we do. Consequently that often means travelling less and sticking closer to home.  The internet has also made promotion to a broader audience without travel possible.

At home, I am trying to make changes as well. I switched (mostly out of necessity) from a large SUV to a Toyota Corolla which helps consumption, and switched out all my light bulbs for flourescents or compact florescents bulbs. My gasoline and electric bills have both gone down considerably as a result.  There’s always room for improvement though. I started the summer with plans for a big vegetable garden, but this year with things that come up, as they seem to do, the more invasive weeds just took over. But there is always next year, when I hope to have better luck with planting in raised beds.

So no matter what your lifestyle or how small your operation is, changes to our lifestyle and how we work are possible. Even small changes can have a positive effect on the environment.


Aug 4 2009

APTV Alabama Craft & their Online Art Auction

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Alabama Public Television, a few months ago, had aired their wonderful two-part documentary Alabama Craft: Tradition and Innovation, which featured seven notable and talented craftspeople  from across the state, and their work.

Peacock Feather Lidded Raku VesselFrom July 16th through August, APTV is hosting an Online Art Auction via eBay, featuring work by the artists in the film as well other contributing Alabama artists (including yours truly. My piece, pictured here, will come up for auction Aug 6th).  “All of the funds raised will go to support the education mission of Alabama Public Television, and help us continue to make films like Alabama Craft.”

The list of artists include: Mozell Benson (Folk Quilts), Cal Breed (Glasswork), Jerry Brown (Folk Pottery), Steve Dark (Folk Pottery), Frank Fleming (Porcelain Sculpture), Ham Allen (Folk Pottery), William Gene Ivey (Instrument Maker/Fiddles), Bettye Kimbrell (Heritage Quilts), Cam Langley (Glasswork), Bruce Larsen (Mixed Media Sculpture), Charlie Lucas (Folk/Mixed Media), Bertice McPherson (Ceramic Sculpture), Eric Miller (Folk Pottery), Steve Miller (Folk Pottery), John Phillips (Metalworks), Tut Riddick (Paint), Charles Smith (Pottery), Anne Webb (Pottery), and Yvonne Wells (Quilts).

To learn more about the auction, the artists, and the art, please visit the   APTV Online Art Auction Home page.

Make your bid today to support a great cause!


Jun 9 2009

‘Shared Expressions’ Exhibit at the MMA

Looking for something around town to do?  Lowell and I, along with 2 other fellow members of the Coastal Artisans, Charles Smith and Maria Spies, are pleased to be taking part in the Shared Expressions  exhibit on now through to Sept 13th at the Mobile Museum of Art.  The exhibit is a compilation of work by regional artists working in a variety of mediums, from painting to fibre to lapidary, to clay.  For more info, please contact:  http://www.mobilemuseumofart.com

sharedweb


Jun 8 2009

Welcome Back, Tried & True: Bisque Tile Bats

dragonfly landingI’m afraid its been another long while since I’ve been able to post here.  The end of school year means a whole lot more demands at home and an adjustment period for everyone until we all settle into the new summer routine.  That compounded by a week of being laid up with an intestinal bug (moms are the last to get these things it seems), I am more than ready to get back to the clay.   Well!  Where shall I start?

When I first learned to pot, I learned to throw right on the wheelhead. I remember struggling after running the cutting wire under freshly thrown pots and trying to slide the pot off the wheelhead without distorting it. I wasn’t always successful, I believe partially because I didn’t seem to have the coordination at the time,  I didn’t know the material (clay) that well,  and my newbie pots were usually full to saturation with throwing water, making them particularly easy to smoosh.

Needless to say, I was very excited when my teacher finally let me try throwing using a bat.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a bat is simply a rigid piece of wood, plastic, plaster, tile, etc., that becomes a throwing surface placed over top of the wheel head.  Once a pot is completed, the bat and pot are removed together and the pot can remain undisturbed on the bat until its leatherhard and ready to trim.

Yes, I know, bats aren’t absolutely necessary.  I find it useful to  throw some things off the hump  and other times, I just pick pots directly off the wheel and put them onto a ware board.  No biggie.  I do still like to use bats for some things.  It just works for me.

For the last 9 or so years, I’ve been using, for the most part, plastic bats made by Creative Industries, as well as some amazingly rigid Plasti-bats from Amaco.  Don’t get me wrong, both are great, but if you look at any of the pricelists out there, you’ll notice they are not cheap  ..nor is any commercially manufactured bat it seems, for that matter.  I was noticing just today that the price of some bats out there on the market were more expensive than a kiln shelf!  Hello.   Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture?  ..regardless

Tile-Batt pottery throwing bat systemIn my last studio,  however, I used less expensive pressed-wood/MDF bats from my local supplier,  as well as a bat system (which I made out of marine plywood and masonite, modelled after one my teacher had ) , with a recessed area cut out in the center to accomodate a bisque 6×6 commercial tile.  I remember being pleased with both at the time.

Last spring, in an online discussion about pottery bat systems, someone had mentioned they had seen one using bisque tiles.  I was curious, so I followed the link.  Sure enough, there was the one I used years ago, only the price was less than if I were to try to make one myself.

Tile-Batt with 6 inch Dal-tile bisque tile insertI went ahead and called Pottery Supply House and ordered one (they have it listed as a “Tile-Batt“) and am so pleased I did.

It only came with one tile, but I decided I would forego the shipping from Canada, and try and get more tiles locally.  I went online and found a Dal-tile distributor right in Foley, not 10 miles away.  Since the bisque tiles aren’t a stock item, they had to be special ordered and it took about a week to come in, but that was okay.

There are lots of reasons why I like this particular bat system. I think the chuck cost me all of $11 USD plus shipping, and a box of 25 Dal-tile bisque tiles worked out to be around $0.75 a tile or so from my local flooring distributor (vs $1.10 a tile from the ceramics supplier over in Gulfport, which is actually an hour and a half away from here).  I really didn’t think that was such a bad deal, especially considering the CI plastic bats around the same size were about $7+ a piece.

I also like using the bisque tiles because they stay rigid and are porous (whereas the plastic bats can bend and it takes considerably longer for the clay to come away from them).  Using these tiles, I can throw mugs in the afternoon and by evening they detach nicely from the tile and are ready to flip over. The mug is a nice even consistency from top to bottom and ready to trim and handle a lot sooner, which translates in less chance of joins cracking and faster production.  The tiles also take less room on my ware boards, and if they break, they are easy and inexpensive to replace.

Modified PSH Tile-Batt with additional pin holesYou may notice here in this photo  that I made a couple of changes to the chuck when it arrived. I had to drill an additional set holes  to accomodate the bat pins for all our wheels in addition to the Soldner (Bat pins on a Soldner wheel are set a bit wider than on other wheels), plus I added a little additional notch to help remove the tiles a little easier, but that’s about it.

Even Lowell seemed impressed,  so  I just ordered a second Tile Batt, only this time for him, and picked up 2 more boxes of bisque tiles.


Apr 18 2009

Coming up for Spring Air

Red Geranium FlowerpotDo you ever feel like time folds?  I was reminded again yesterday that it was spring when I drove past the usual fields on my way to Fairhope,  and I noticed all the pecan branches finally leafing out (a sure sign here in the South that cold temperatures are past).

May is just around the corner and this winter/spring, I’ve revamped our web site, had 2 shows, had 3 waves of illness blow through here (and been knocked on my ear 2 of those times), finished the taxes, did a major studio clean out and reorg, survived spring break,  and had my wheel die.  I can’t believe its been a month since I’ve posted anything here.

Lowell's test kilnHere’s a picture of a little gas test kiln Lowell is building out of spare bits we had laying about, including some homemade burners.  It will be used mostly to test glazes, but if all goes well, it will be a good size to fire a last small batch for an order or before a show when we don’t have quite enough to fill the other kiln.

I mentioned earlier my wheel died.  Its really frustrating especially considering we replaced the motor and circuit board a little over a year ago. Also frustrating because I finally got my little throwing area just the way I want it.  So now I am flip flopping around the studio, dividing throwing time between an electric kickwheel and that little Shimpo Aspire tabletop wheel I’ve mentioned in other posts.  My friend Marilyn Farrell (from New Brunswick) once said “never get too dependent on one specific tool or piece of equipment”.  Boy those are pretty shrewd words.  I hear her saying them every day lately.  I am having to stand up to throw on the Aspire, then its a different posture altogether working on the kickwheel.  While I appreciate being able to adapt like that, I much prefer a regular electric wheel to work at on regular basis.


Mar 13 2009

A New Workspace!

For the last 2 yrs or so, the studio has been in a state of absolute chaos. It has been part construction zone and part dumping ground for all sorts of non-clay related stuff… well, yes,, there was some clay in there somewhere too.

Eventually I got to the point where I threw up my hands, moved my wheel into the house, and set up a little work area in there. Not the ideal situation either, what with clay dust, etc, not to mention the challenges of proximity and navigation to the kiln with pots (doors, stairs, etc). After a while I would only venture to the studio when it was time to glaze a kiln load.  Each and every time, I had to spend valuable time reorganizing, clearing surfaces, finding tools, etc., which was frustrating, before I could even get started. It kind of takes a toll on you after a while and doesn’t do a thing for your productivity or state of mind.

work spaceWell this week I have finally moved my wheel back into the studio. I now have my own dedicated  section of the studio to throw, where all my tools are within reach and laid out so they’re easy to see and find. The addition of shelving and some pegboard makes it so much easier to keep organized and my work surfaces clear and instantly usable.

Behind my chair I have a bookshelf that holds bats as well as other small tools that I occasionally use.

work table and slab roller

Here in another section of the studio, is a waist high handbuilding station/table, right beside the slab roller.  Again a pegboard mounted above gives a place to hang related tools instead of cluttering up the surface .  (I haven’t tried it yet, but the table is  also the perfect height for throwing on that little tabletop Aspire wheel as well.)  Buckets of glaze sit under the table and out of the way.

I was surprised at how much more productive I have been this week and how much calmer I feel overall.  Its so much nicer to walk in in the morning and cuz I know I can start working right away and I’ll be able to find what I’m looking for.


Feb 10 2009

Looking to Nature

zengarden

This weekend we were out on a forage for interesting and unusual driftwood. One of the nicest spots around here for this, is down at the Gulf, off of Fort Morgan Road (west of Gulf Shores).

I love these little jaunts. The beach is just full of unusual finds, interesting patterns, and unexpected textures.   It is a great place to seek inspiration and come up with some fresh ideas.  Check out the section of  sand in the photo above, formed by the ebbing of the water.  It reminded me of a Japanese Zen Garden.

Here are a few other photos.

branches

Upended Roots
Shoreline off Fort Morgan


Feb 3 2009

AlabamaGoods.com

alabamagoods.com Coffee and Webb Dragonfly MugWe were contacted last fall by the folks at AlabamaGoods.com who wanted to add some of our pottery to their shop online.

Opened in 2007, the  AlabamaGoods.com site is focused on selling items from Alabama, ranging from pickles to pottery to clothing items.

Pictured here, our stoneware pottery mug has been paired up with some O’Henry’s CoffeesSumatra Gold Roast and offered as a corporate gift box set on the AlabamaGoods.com site:  http://alabamagoods.com/clay-mug-coffee.html


Jan 25 2009

Upcycling and A great damp cupboard

Old Refrigerator filled with pugged claySometimes the best tools are right in front of you.

Here’s a picture of an old defunct refrigerator that we use in the studio.  It still had a good seal on the doors, so instead of sending it to the landfill, we upcycled this one to serve as a receptacle for some freshly pugged clay.  Its not pretty, but it works brilliantly.

We also have another old fridge which is used as a “damp cupboard”.  It houses pots that perhaps we can’t get to right away to trim, carve a design into, or add attachments. A little cup with water in it, left in the fridge, does the trick keeping the air inside nice and damp.

You can make the unsightly outside of the fridge zippy painting it as wild as you like, and since its a giant magnet board, its also a handy spot for photos, calendars, etc..