Jun 23 2013

Coffee anyone..?

Heading to the Coffee Loft, one of my favourite coffee shops, in Fairhope, AL tomorrow with a new batch of mugs in one of our newer glaze combos.   Here’s one that came out of the kiln this evening. It even fits in a car cup holder.  So ….ready for a cup?
Custom Stoneware mug for the Coffee Loft


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.


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:

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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

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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.


Aug 14 2008

Mugs, Throwing, and the Birdie

This spring I took one of Alyson Stanfield’s latest art marketing workshops based on her recently published book I’d Rather be in the Studio. I’ve been following her blog on and off for a few years now and it is great, but its nothing like having her right in front of you to interact with and ask questions of, not to mention feed off some of her positive energy.

I regret that this summer has been crazy with both kids home and increasingly demanding as they get older. In preparation for the upcoming time with *both* of them in school and a fairly regular daily schedule of uninterrupted time in the studio (its been so long), I’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning, sorting, organizing, and FINALLY going through bits of Alyson’s book, hoping to start this fall show season off some good footing. With several bags of trash and reclaim removed and the wheel moved to a different spot to allow a better work flow, my work area is so much more inviting and I actually really like being there. The girls went back to school this past Monday and its been really good.

Late last week, in my cleaning frenzy, I finally came across my little tabletop camera tripod which I thought would be really helpful in shooting some pottery videos unassisted. I’ve posted a few videos on Youtube in the past 2 yrs, but my intention all along was to post some demos online as well. Youtube is another great free resource available to get our work and names out there! Making a demo tape is a lot harder than it looks and most certainly different throwing for a camera than for someone in front of you.

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Baby Mockingbird

On a sadder note, I haven’t posted much about my little baby mockingbird lately. After his first week of successfully being spoonfed, he/she jumped up one day and bunged up his/her leg. I guess their little legs and bones are pretty fragile because that one never came back. He was lame in the one leg, then a few days later he stopped using his other. Last Saturday morning we found him/her motionless in his little box. I’ll miss the little guy. I was really rooting for him.


Jun 30 2008

In memory of..

Raku Urn with Magnolia Design

Magnolia Raku Pottery Jar by Anne Webb


May 28 2008

Well Who knew?

The Shimpo Aspire Tabletop Pottery Wheel.

This little wheel weighs 25 pounds, goes on a tabletop, and is supposed to center 20 lbs. Yeah right. Looks like a toy doesn’t it?

Shimpo's table top wheel for beginner to advanced throwers

Well I tried it out and here it is. No toy.

The proof is in the pudding.I don’t remember how much clay I used, but the pot stands 13 1/4″ tall. Not bad. Like any Shimpo I’ve used, (and despite the fact that this one is belt driven vs direct drive) it handles clay without breaking a sweat. Very quiet as well. I like the fact that despite all that strength, its very light and I can easily pick it up, stick under my arm, and go. I’ve tried a Soldner tabletop model (made by Bluebird) and it was great.. sturdy and strong, but very heavy.

Anyways, I was impressed not only by its ability, but by its exceedingly reasonable price.


May 21 2008

Bernard Leach

Thanks to my friend Kathy, here is a great quote by Bernard Leach, the father of modern day studio pottery:

Every artist knows that he is engaged in an encounter with infinity, and that work done with heart and hand is ultimately worship of life itself.
Bernard Leach