Aug 4 2009

APTV Alabama Craft & their Online Art Auction

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.

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!


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


Nov 7 2007

"Oh what a lovely hobby!"

My pottery teacher of years ago once told me (warned me, actually, when I expressed interest years ago in potting full time) “Pottery is a hard way to make a living”. It is very true. A potter needs to be a skilled artist, technician, manufacturer, marketer, administrator, and sales person, among other things, as well as being physically able and have a thick skin.

Throwing pots on the wheel, in reality, only represents a small portion of what goes into producing a finished pot. For every two three days of throwing, there are four or 5 days of doing other tasks. Pots still need to be trimmed, have handles attached and decoration applied, and patiently monitored as they dry slowly before they are loaded into the bisque kiln. If they survive the bisque firing , they are then glazed and loaded into the gas kiln. Because our shelves are so badly warped we also “wad” the bottoms of our pots before the final firing (wadding: dry china clay and alumina hydrate mixed and formed into balls which are strategically stuck to the bottom of the pots to evenly support the base of the pot on the kiln shelf).

A few examples of other tasks we do involve: clay preparation (digging clay, pounding/sifting/”slaking” it down, mixing it, moving it back to the drying area, pugging it (if you have a pugmill, we dont) wedging/kneading it for right consistency); Glaze preparation (measuring out raw materials and mixing glazes in 5 gallon batches; testing of new recipes or color variations also done in smaller batches; doing glaze chemistry); Kiln building/maintenance; Lifting/Carting bags of raw materials & clay; Loading/unloading the kiln; Shipping; Setting up web site / online sales; assembling and maintaining a sales display to take to shows, for example; preparing for and traveling to shows; Find ways to market work (new shows, online marketing, wholesale & consignment opportunities, etc.); etc

When things go wrong with pottery, they tend to go really wrong. Its very disheartening & demoralizing when you have lost half or more of a kiln load of pots that you have worked weeks to produce, due to some glaze, clay, or firing problem. Its even more disheartening when equipment is inevitably going to conk out when you most need it (usually in the last stretch toward a show). Things can go wrong even when you do things right.

We just had a string of bad firings where some of our usually most reliable glazes, thanks to an ingredient problem, not only came out unrecognizable, but fluxed out and ran all over and destroyed shelves. (Raw materials used in pottery are different clays and minerals all mined from the earth, are only as pure as the mine, and can change over time and according to the mine.) The problems are still not quite resolved. I lost I would say at least 1/3 if not more of the work I’ve made this fall due to one thing or another, but mostly due to these glaze problems. Its not just the financial loss, but the emotional strain that hits hard, and doubly so when you have to cancel that show that you were counting on the income from. When you make pots you’re not just manufacturing; you are so connected to your product in every aspect of production, its a lot more, well, personal. For a while there I didn’t want to see clay.

A friend of mine similarly had some very bad luck with some commercial clay (for which, incidentally, the shipping cost more than the clay) she made all of her pots out of for her fall show season. A week after her big fall sale, a customer brought back $300 worth of pots, then another customer did the same. All or most of the pots had quarter-cent sized hunks of the side of the pot popping off. Lime pop-outs apparently, which can take up to 3 months after the firing to appear. Months of work, large financial commitments (show fee, natural gas, clay, etc), and possibly her reputation tarnished, all because of a faulty raw material or the clay not being mixed properly by the supplier. The supplier was very gracious to replace the clay, but the propane has been burned, the pots have been sold, the money has already been spent, and the remainder of her inventory is questionable… and her pride bruised.

We keep making pots because there is always something that pulls us back. Art for arts sake? Bull. Working artists still have to eat and still have expenses like everyone else. Its not impossible to survive off of one’s work but making pots for a living (or any art full time) takes commitment, perseverance, and drive, it is not for the faint hearted.


May 24 2007

Michael Cardew pottery clip from the archives


The other day, after a chat with my friend in Manitoba, I went to searching the CBC broadcast archives and this one on Michael Cardew came up. Michael Cardew, in case the name doesn’t ring a bell, is an internationally well-known and well-respected British potter who, as I discovered after watching this clip, was actually the first student of Bernard Leach. Nicely presented on this video.

The description from the CBC site about this video:

“After a lifetime at the potter’s wheel, making a bowl is second nature for Michael Cardew. He starts by kneading a hunk of brown clay to remove air bubbles, then positions it on the spinning wheel. He drives his thumbs into the clay, creating a depression in the centre. With intense concentration, Cardew pulls the sides up and out to create a bowl shape. The process, known as throwing, is the focus of this clip from the CBC series Hand and Eye.”

Video link: “How to throw a pot” with Michael Cardew