Well, it’s been a long time coming, and it’s time to face facts…I haven’t got the time or energy to make this blog a productive enterprise. Here’s the way it usually goes around here…up at a decent hour, a bit of coffee, conversation, maybe a chapter of a book, and then into the studio, where I dwell, for better or worse, til 6, maybe 7 pm. I’ve no computer there, as it is located away from the house, has no internet access, and would do in electronic equipment with the dust in the air. So, by the time I get home, my priorities are: get dinner together…a decent dinner, meaning mostly fruits and veggies, as little processed food as possible, mostly locally raised, which means it takes some time; then after cleanup, some aerobic exercise on the bike, and some stretching for my back and other needy body parts, and then, after a shower, maybe as it’s pushing 10 pm, time to think about the computer and email, and clayart, and facebook, and maybe the blog. Mostly you don’t want to read what’s going through my mind at that time of night. Trust me, you don’t. And I don’t have it in me to be perky, and creative, and prolific. So, what happens is that I don’t blog. And, until I figure out a way to make either more time, energy, or money so that I don’t have to work so many hours, I won’t blog. So, there you have it.
I figure that if any of you out there are interested enough in my doings, you can check up on me by friending me on facebook, or else you can see some of the updates I will be putting on the website under the “technical/aesthetics” section, where there will for time to time be information for the potters and articles and writings that I find particularly insightful or thought provoking.
So, that’s about it from here, for now. Time to go stretch and get those kinks out of my lower back. Thanks for hanging in there!
Up here in Rochester, where we’re being forced to endure an early spring (50 degrees today!!!), the building where my studio is located is having it’s first open house tonight. This is in conjunction with the city-wide First Friday gallery night, and we’re hoping to get some traffic in. There are at least 30 of the building’s artists who will open their studios and provide the public with face time and refreshments. The kilns have been firing in my studio and there are lots of nice pots in the showroom. I’ll take some pictures today and post them up here. Thanks to Sabra, Jennifer and Marie for taking the time to get all this organized.
It’s been nice to get out of the grieve groove for a while. Having to concentrate on glazing, and then getting the kiln loaded and fired has been good for me. I have at least four other kilnloads worth of pots sitting on shelves, so I hope the kiln is a good one, which will give me the incentive to get them glazed and fired too.
OK, off to crack the kiln!
Well, this has been a lot longer time away than I had planned. First was all of the various illnesses, and then my partner’s father fell and went into that long downward spiral. The memorial service is tomorrow, and then hopefully the focus will be there to glaze and fire the five kiln loads of pots sitting around the studio, service my etsy site, and become a regular blogger again. I’m a lot more knowledgeable about the world of hospitals, rehab units, long term nursing care and hospice than I was a few months ago. Note to self: Make sure to get your affairs in order so as to spare those around me the hassle when I go.
Well, going to be heading away for a week, not that anyone would notice from the activity here. Did a nice little show in Ithaca, NY last weekend, artist generated and run, and stayed with the lovely Julie Crosby and her family, then promptly came home and got sick. Seems to happen a lot after the last activity of the season. Anyway, I’m medicated and ready to drive back to Ohio to visit family and friends. See you in a week!
OK now! Just home after firing the last of three kilnloads of pots for the studio sale this weekend. Kinda sweaty, kinda stinky, so tired I feel like I might just get sick on the spot. Anyone else out there feel that way after a long kiln grind? With no more pots to glaze, while the kiln was firing I spent time cleaning the studio and organizing it so that people can come and go and perhaps actually believe that it’s a clean and organized place most of the time. It’s interesting how much dust and dirt can get into the unlikeliest places. Carolyn mopped yesterday, and we generally mop a couple of times per week, but after shifting things around and moving stuff to the loading dock overnight, there was so much dust and debris around that I’ll have to mop again after I unload the kiln tomorrow. But, the place is starting to look good. We did a group clean and set up of the showroom, which will survive past the show. Now each of us has a dedicated section, so that the public won’t have to ask whose work is whose anymore (great idea Shelly), plus we have an integrated section where everyone’s work is put together to create a wondrous whole.
The studio sale is the culmination of my year, and has been since about 1978. Mike Frasca started the tradition and I got invited in when I went to work in the space on Spring Street. We always thought of it as more than a selling opportunity. It was a time to mix with our customers/friends, and let them know how much we appreciated their support. When you think about it, each of us has dangerously few customers who support our efforts, and I’ve tried never to forget that fact and to make them understand the debt of gratitude I owe them for allowing me to pursue my dream job. So, we always used to cook and bake for them, and tended to make our prices just a little bit lower so as to give a sense of giving back.
We’ve been laying in a stock of food and drink for the party over the past week. I have a sense that in these tough economic times, it’s more important than ever to, well, party, and give a good spread for those who care enough to show up and buy. So this one is going to be a good one! I moved the extra fridge up from the storage room in the basement last night, and now both are packed with good things. Tomorrow I’ll be making the big batch of cauliflower soup, and getting all the last of the provisions. I hope folks show up to help us get rid of it all.
I received a message on my cell yesterday from a woman who works at the Art Museum in Rochester. She wants me to come in and give a lecture in February with another artist with whom I had a gallery show this past year. My initial reaction was one of fear and trepidation, but then I began to compose imaginary “lectures” in my head throughout the night, and actually began to get excited about what I might have to offer. Of course, this would not be a lecture that any art critic or high-minded patron would look at in a favorable light, but rather one which placed what I do, functional pottery, in the context of living a humane life. I began to think about what all of the choices I have made in my career have meant in terms of a human existance, instead of in terms of color theory or negative space. How making small, intimate things instead of large, grandiose statements on the human condition could in fact be as valid a path to take as any other. And on and on and on… see what happens when one is short on sleep?
Anyway, we’ll see where it all goes. When all is said and done, my real work happens in the studio, and not at the podium.
It’ll be a few days before the next posting, as I’ll be doing more cooking.
I’ve been firing a kiln off every second or third day, and getting other things ready for the studio sale. Just crazy, as that means I get almost no home time, which means no computer time. So, there are pictures of pots, of tools, of stuff, but it will have to wait until after next weekend, when I get some time.
Hope you are all doing well out there. Potters, may your kilns be full and the sales plentiful. Everyone else, I hope that your holidays went well.
No, not a previously undiscovered Gilbert and Sullivan opera! Rather, an approach to making pots.
I was thinking, as I was working in the studio today, of how many tools some of the potters I know possess. Sixteen different kinds of ribs, all purchased from the latest hot tool vendor at NCECA, all kinds of fancy trimming tools from the cryogenically frozen metals to the hand-forged, geegews that center for trimming, that center for throwing, trimming chucks, whisks of all sizes and shapes, and on and on and on…you get the idea.
I probably have less pottery tools than just about anyone I know. Some of my favorites are a barely sharpened wooden pencil, the non-business end of a bic pen, various bits and pieces of plastic lighting screens from flourescent lights I’ve known, broken bits of soft-brick, pieces of old construction lumber where the grain has become pronounced as the soft wood recedes, you get the idea. I use what is at hand, and when what I need is not at hand, I figure out a way to proceed from there. Generally it’s not too hard to figure out how to make do, and sometimes it even leads one in a direction that improves your work.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a good tool, and sometimes a good tool can make all the difference in doing a good job, but generally, in the pottery field, I have not found this to be the case. I’ll take some photos tomorrow of the kind of things I’m talking about, and post them on the blog. I guess what I’m getting at here is that it’s not the newest tool on the block that makes one’s work good, or your own. It’s honing the basic skills, acquiring the subtlety about your materials and processes to know what you need to get the results you want, versus just working with tools for the thrill of working with tools.
Today was all about trying to finish up “the list” of things to make for the studio sale, before breaking off to glaze and fire. I’ve got a couple of items yet to make, but strangely (or not so) the mugs are not going to get made. I may make a few to try out a new shape I’m noodling around in my head, but they are this year’s item that just never gets it’s number called…instead I focused on covered jars, which will be made with sculptural handles put together by studio mate Carolyn.
…guess folks will just have to make-do this year without my mugs.
…I do believe he’d have felt right at home at my studio today!
It must have been a hoot watching me trying to figure out how to program the new electric kiln today. One of my studio mates was wanting to fire some largish sculpture up to cone 6, which meant a very slow heating ramp, and then needed a slow cool due to some pots in the very bottom of the kiln. So, what’s the problem, 99 3/4% of you out there are saying…and it’s not really a problem if you’ve done it before, and if you’ve a mind that follows instructions and works one tiny step at a time. But, from the time of my first programming class at Penn in 1972, I knew computers and I were not really compatible. My mind works in leaps, and computers take little tiny baby steps, one right after the other, never missing a beat. So, it took a good hour, but at least now I know how to do it.
And I probably shouldn’t mention my dinnerware project…I’m making square, rectangular dinnerware that needs to look a whole lot like something you’d find at Pottery Barn, but with my glazes. (I also need a refresher course in how to say no!) So, after the longest time, I’ve got the production molds made, but to make PB pottery, you really need a ram press. I think the results are OK, but not what the customer wants, I’m afraid. So, every other day, there I am at the slab roller, 8-11 am, rolling and then draping and the pounding and then niggling clay into the forms. The things we do to get by…
So, Homer, if you’re in the neighborhood, I’ve got a project or two for you!
Meanwhile, I toil away trying to get things together for the studio show. Making lots of small things, which I’m reminded every night, really take a toll on your back and other body parts. Give me a 25 pound planter or bowl any day! Oh, and getting the kilnloads glazed promises to be really tedious as well, me with my spraying three and four layers of glaze on each piece. Homer, are you there???
Oh, and did I mention I’ve got jury duty next week?
Off to stretch, ride and cook…
It’s getting to be that time of year again! Here is what this year’s sale postcard looks like. Elizabeth Robinson, potter out in Colorado, and proprietor of www.postcardsforartists.com since the birth of her child, put this together for us. She does excellent work, is reasonable in terms of cost, and is a joy to work with. I recommend her highly.
Guests this year are jeweler Dee Topham, who lives and works above our studio, and potter Julie Crosby from Trumansburg, NY. Julie wood fires her functional/sculptural pots, which have a spare yet strong aesthetic, and is one of those intrepid female woodkiln potters who just inspire all kinds of admiration in us. Plus, she’s a lovely woman to boot! This is the way to get to see your friends…invite them to be a part of your sale! No seriously, she makes great pots and it is an honor to have her with us this year.
I’ve been taking the past little while to make some different pots than I normally make. Little things that have been bumping around my mind but which seem unable to come out with the pressure of shows and orders. Whether any of them will turn out after being processed in the kiln remains to be seen, but it has been fun to make them, even as the little businessguy potter perched on my shoulder has been yelling “make more pots, make more pots, make things you can crash out that you know will sell” in my ear all day long. I have a history of hanging with the tried and true that I am trying to break. We’ll talk about that later…
Question: How do you know the economy is in a tailspin?
Answer: If you’re working in my studio, where the south-facing windows open onto the CSX freightyards, and which overlook two of the main rail lines in and out of Rochester, the answer lies in counting the number of trains that go by. And the number of workers’ cars in the parking lot. Freight volume, and traffic, is just a small fraction of what it used to be, based upon our anecdotal visual analysis of what passes in front of our eyes, and shakes our building. The parking lot has been almost totally empty most of the past week or two, which is really unusual. Most of the time the yard is going 24 hours a day, and the trains come night and day (trust me, as I sleep on the sofa overnight when firing the kiln, I know!), but now it’s just quiet.
OK, time to email out show announcements.