Jan 8 2009

English Country Potter

A few kind people from the UK posted this excerpt from the 1965 film ‘Isaac Button: Country Potter‘, directed by John Anderson and Robert Fournier .

The last time I saw this film (and it had no soundtrack at the time) was at that wonderful Fusion clay conference in Ottawa I had mentioned a few posts ago.  We were very fortunate that conference to have John Leach not only as our presenter, but for his  wonderful narration of this silent film, talking about Mr Buttons and his pottery, as well as fielding questions.

Isaac Buttons was one of the last in a long tradition of country potters.  It is said that he could throw a ton of clay in a day, and gauging from his systematic and efficient way of throwing (a pot in 22 seconds), and the scale of some of his pots, that is certainly not inconcievable.

I would love to have a copy of this film in its entirety to add to my collection, but I have yet to find it for sale.  I’m forever hopeful that it will come up one of these days!

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.


Dec 25 2008

Happy Holidays!

peaceoneartha


Dec 5 2008

Just a reminder.. Hope we see you tomorrow!

Coastal Artisans Show Dec 6 postcards Can you believe that it will already be December 6th tomorrow?

Don’t forget to join us at the  Mobile Botanical Gardens between 9 am and 4 pm for the Coastal Artisans’ 3rd Annual Christmas Art Show and Sale.

For more info about the artists and directions to the Gardens, please visit: http://thecoastalartisans.blogspot.com


Dec 5 2008

Bending cones and The Frozen Tank

Webb decorated bisque ware I love the look of pots all laid out whether they be green ware or pots  waiting to be loaded in the gas kiln, as these are.   The mugs almost remind me of a regiment of soldiers, or a tightly packed school of fish all swimming in the same direction.

I’ve been finishing up a gas firing this morning, busily trying to keep the gas tank from freezing up until the propane truck finally makes it here this afternoon.  We’re cutting it pretty close though.. down to less than 5% in the tank and I have the garden hose dribbling some water on it so I don’t lose gas pressure completely.   Thankfully though,  cone 9 is bending evenly top and bottom so we’re in the home stretch.

I made a little adjustment to the way my target bricks were positioned this time (an experiment) in hopes of making the firing more efficient.  Evidently it has had some effect because the last time the kiln was stacked similarly, I had a good cone or 2 difference from top to bottom .   I guess I’ll only know for sure once the kiln is opened.

Looking forward to this kiln opening. I have several pots in there with clay from our new clay deposit I mentioned in my last post.


Nov 24 2008

In Pursuit of Perfect Clay.. part deux

A couple of weeks ago we had a dumptruck load of clay delivered from the new clay deposit.  I guestimated the pile was around 5 tons or so, but as it turns out, our neighbor, who drives for the same kind of truck, told me one of those trucks heaped up with clay like it was, holds something closer to 27 tons (or more?)!!  All 27 tons, just for the cost of trucking it to our studio not 15 – 20 miles away.  (If you have bought commercially prepared clay, you can probably do the math for what the equivalent would be).

We’ve left the dumped clay uncovered and open to the elements now for two weeks or so, in order for the rain to wash away a little of the residual sand off that was picked up in the dump truck onto the clay’s surface. The mound is already starting to turn from a reddy orange to more of a amethyst-y pink clay color.  Yesterday I broke apart a clump  to reveal a piece of nice, clean, sandless solid clay.   Since the time the of the delivery, three or four batches of clay have been mixed.  I have thrown some of it,  and the rest I have left to age a little more.  ..well, until tomorrow, at least, when I start my throwing cycle again.

best digging toolBefore it was time to mix the second batch, though, Lowell took me out to the new deposit site for the first time to help gather some dryer clay for the mix, since the clay we already had at the studio was still a little too damp to crush to a powder.  So off we went..

We drove for about 20 minutes down familiar roads and around familiar turns, when all of the sudden Lowell turned into a little dirt driveway entrance.  It was a lot closer than I thought it would be.

clay mountainWell!  I thought the truck load that was delivered was a lot, but I saw where it was excavated from and it took barely a dent out of the mountain that lay before me.  Here is a picture of what I first saw.  It stands about 20 feet high and is at least 60 feet long .   Its mostly pink clay, though there are layers of white, and red, and a layer further in the middle of some dark shale-like material which I assume is the remnants of decomposed vegetation .

I was chipping away dry surface clay and filling up my bucket, as  the fog gradually cleared.  It was almost like a dream.  Off to my right, was another clay mountain .. and yet another further on.

excavated hillside revealing striationHere is a photo of a hillside that had been excavated with a backhoe.  Sorry,  I couldn’t get the entire hill in the shot but you can get an idea of the various strata.   This layer starts down about 6 feet from the surface and, in this spot, is about 4-6 feet thick.

I’ll try and post more pictures as I can.


Nov 17 2008

Even the big boys have disappointments

Ontario Clay and Glass AssociationSeveral years ago, when I was *very* new to clay, I attended my very first clay conference.    It was really my first introduction to the clay community.  I remember it being a wonderful and unforgettable experience.  I got to try rakuing for the very first time at the preliminary workshop hosted by Ottawa Valley artist Leta Cormier in her, as I remember, extremely immaculate studio.  I also got to take part in my first mug exchange in which I remember receiving a lovely salt-glazed mug by potter Jackie Seaton.  My name was even drawn and I won some nice oriental brushes. But that was not all (and this was the pinnacle for me), John Leach, of  Muchelney Pottery, was the main presenter.  His pots were like nothing I had seen before (I told you I was new to clay) and I was impressed by what a real person he was … very gracious, generous, and down to earth. He left a lasting impression on me.

I recently discovered John’s brother Simon Leach has posted a series of videos on YouTube over the last year or so, showing demos, kilns, visits back to England and to friends’ studios, his philosophies, etc etc.  What I like is he presents things face on and shares his victories and disappointments, the good and the bad,  taking it all in stride.  I don’t think a lot of people are aware how hard it can be to be a potter and that things, quite beyond your control, can go extremely wrong after many, many hours of hard work, and all for naught.  Here is the 2nd of 2 of Simon’s videos taken while unloading Seth Cardew‘s kiln:

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.


Oct 27 2008

In Pursuit of perfect clay

As you may know, the majority of the clay we use for our functional ware is native clay which we dig locally and process right here at our studio. (I posted previously about our clay mixer)

A few weeks ago we got a lead on a new clay deposit, again, here in Baldwin County.  We are quite lucky here in this part of the country because you don’t have to dig very far from the surface to find clay.  Typically it can be found along road sides, waterways, and construction sites.  The clay we use is not of any use to anyone but potters, it seems. In construction, it is just cast off or covered over and is sometimes referred to it as “chalk”.  Of course its not chalk, but its not the kind of clay that’s good for road base, like that bright orange clay one typically sees everywhere down here and what Alabama is known for.

The clay we look for is typically bubble gum pink to white in color.  We fire it to cone 10 (approx 2400 degrees Fahrenheit), but I know through experience that it can go higher.  It makes for a nice durable stoneware body, that usually fires to an offwhite to toasty light brown in reduction.  Clay that is more yellow or orangey red (more iron) seems to have a lot more imperfections causing problems in firing such as popouts, bloating, pinholing etc.

Unprocessed native clayAnyways, I wanted to share a photo of what the clay looks like right out of the ground. Its very pretty and is almost amethyst in color. In fact, its probably about the pinkest clay I’ve seen since coming here.  It is remarkably clean and relatively free of debris, and it crumbles so nicely.

Over the weekend, the first batch of it was slaked down and mixed. This batch has about 85% of this ‘new’ clay and the rest is reclaim.  Unfortunately its still a little wet to try to throw so I’ve got some drying out on the wedging table.  Its very strange to see it next to our usual clay which I always thought had a bit of a pinkish tinge, but this new stuff is positively rose colored.


Oct 7 2008

Throwing a simple bowl

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.


Sep 30 2008

Candling with No Wind

stoneware bisque waxed and ready
This photo was from last night before I started glazing.  Oh yeah, there’s a ware rack outside the shot besides this lot as well.  I am glad to say its now all glazed and in a lit kiln, finally.  I’m relieved.  In the morning I’ll load another bisque load, now that things are finally dry, and probably fire the gas kiln again Wednesday night.

The weather is fantastic tonight.  Clear skies, 73 F, and (a rare occurance) no wind blowing across the clearing toward the kiln (and burners).  How nice for being out by the kiln and firing!  This is a relief after a summer of incessant rain. I was getting so tired of having to wear my muck boots seemingly everywhere to trudge through orange mud and puddles, not to mention having to deal with the headaches of trying to navigate my car strategically up our driveway without getting sucked down into a pot hole and stuck!  Anyways, everything is drying up nicely and I am back to wearing flips and birks.

Recycling tradeI’ve mentioned before that we’ve been working on expanding the studio for a while now.  Its actually been an ongoing project for a long time.. scrape together a few dollars, buy a few more boards and nails. I would just love to be able to have all the materials on hand and get it done in one fell swoop so I could get back to some sense of order and normalcy, and maybe take on some students again, but for now, this is the way it is.   This afternoon Lowell headed off to the recycling place in town to trade in some cans and metal stuff that was lying around, to clear up around and get a little pin money, I suppose. Well evidently he ended up having more than I thought because he came back with these.  “These will look great in the studio upstairs!”, he said, with a big silly grin across his face.


Sep 28 2008

Sept 28 – Slow Sunday: Bake local, Think Global

Bake your own bread today – A simple, symbolic act for big change.

In today’s society, and actually since the beginning of the industrial age, we have been inundated (and programmed) from all sides as to what we must have, what we must buy, and how we must live.   “Don’t think, just get it bigger, faster, and more of it… NOW!  Get more and more stuff.  Keep up with the Joneses!”    ..but In the grander scheme of things.. why?

Fast food, convenience food, and processed food, not only take a toll on our health and pocket book, but our taste buds too.  Here in Alabama, the price of a so called “better” loaf of bread from the grocery store is over $3-$4 now.  You’re certainly not paying extra for flavor (of which there is little) or quality, but for the manufacturing, transport, packaging, preservatives, and convenience.   (it cannot possibly rival taste, texture, and nutrition value of homemade)

Slow Sunday, a day designated by Britain’s ecology magazine, Resurgence,  to encourage people to slow down.  Small actions done collectively, can speak loudly.  Baking bread today is a small act to defy consumerism and help the environment.