New England Bound!

This is one of those gratuitous photos we all love to share. It’s a shot of a bookcase at home.
Lots of brown pots!
I’m leaving the blog-o-sphere for awhile to escape the summer heat of Virginia and visit a bunch of friends from Cape Cod to Boston to Portland to Deere Isle and back again. I haven’t been to Maine since camping with my family when I was 8 or 9 years old. I remember incredible stars at night, digging for mussels in tidal pools and barnacles! If anybody’s out there reading this, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

More About Influences

German salt glaze is another of my sources and I was pretty excited about the bottle in the middle of this first photo when I unloaded my last firing. I got back to that idea this week and I’m now trying to see where I can take it. I’ve been carving all these little stamps and now I’ve got to figure out how to use them. I can’t imagine I’d do a lot of these, but for now it’s a lot of fun. The photos that follow are the obvious inspiration.



Influence and Tradition

Michael Cardew attributed his influences to medieval pottery and 17th century slipware. These photos and drawings are classic examples of the curves and transitions of medieval pots. Michael brought those ideas to Winchcombe…Ray Finch once told me that he felt that his life’s work was about refining those ideas. I like to flatter myself by believing that my own work is part of the evolution of that tradition.




Things That Are Green


Tom O’Hara inspired my mug holder. I made the chipped mug. Few handmade mugs fit the conventional car cup holder, and as Tom insists on taking my mugs to work, he made his own. Over the years I’ve given him many of my seconds and no one is better at breaking my pots than he is. A mug that can’t survive falling from a two-story roof just won’t do! To his credit, he has been keeping all the shards together for years and has one of the more famous ‘morgues’ of my pots in town.
Just as I was packing up to go home tonight I saw this big moth just outside the studio door. I think it’s a Luna. Just a few inches off the ground….a beauty.

Ancient History


Michael Cardew – Sid Tustin – Ray Finch

Shortly before Sid retired, Michael visited Winchcombe, and this photo, which represents more than 150 years of pottery making, is a rare one. Michael sold the pottery to Ray in 1946. Sid retired in 1978 after 51 years. He made a million pots in his lifetime!

Below is Eddie Hopkins, who died last year quite tragically in the terrible floods that hit the Cotswolds. Eddie first made pots at the nearby Prinknash Abbey, where he had been sent as a result of a wee bit of trouble. Ray later offered him a job and he was the most productive member of the team for many years. He was an extraordinary fellow who could make pots, talk non-stop and listen to the cricket match at the same time. His throwing was beautiful. He’s making mugs here and would throw and handle 500 of them in a week…with time to spare! Of all the great potters at WP, he took the biggest interest in showing me how to make good pots…and handles. I’ll have to write about him again. The stories are endless.

Historic Wood

Carole Garman teaches art at the U. of Mary Washington here in the ‘Burg and she joined close to 400 other visitors to LibertyTown last night for our August ‘First Friday’ reception. This month’s show includes some of the finest woodworkers in our community. Carole is sitting in Larry Hinkel’s ‘Chaise Lounge’, made from old crib dam wood. We blew up the big dam on the Rappahanock River a few years ago, and the old wooden dam was discovered submerged behind it. The wood is a beautiful silvery gray color and is much coveted by local furniture makers.


Frank Stepanski’s wood turnings, Bill Jewell’s furniture and an incredible rocking chair by Hal Taylor are also featured this month. Hal’s chair is also made from historical wood…walnut from a tree that grew next to the whiskey still at Mt. Vernon.
12 times a year the arts community invites the the town out for a celebration that has become an important social event for many of us. After a four hour reception, we still have to get out the cattle prods to make our visitors go home. They’d probably stay all night if we were willing!

First Fridays’ always bring my pottery making to a screeching halt so today I’ll try to get some momentum back.

Money and Power

I spent some time today refining my new workspace in the new studio. I learned to throw on a Randall wheel and I’m pleased to be getting back to one. Most of my pots have been made on an old Brent CXC. I don’t have electric power out here so I run the wheel off a generator. Now I can use leg power at least some of the time.

I also bought a slick new generator today…a very quiet Honda. I run the studio lights from a small solar panel system and one day I hope to run the whole studio from solar power. I wish I could eliminate my electric wheel, but I find treadle wheels maddening and my legs aren’t up to kicking full time. Having the generator makes me mindful of being productive with the energy it produces, so I guess it is more efficient than being ‘on the grid’.

I got my application ready for the Virginia Commission for the Arts individual artist grant…at the last minute, of course. Virginia is one of the worst states in the country for arts’ support and it is very discouraging to know that even in states that do a great job, like North Carolina, money for the arts is disappearing…once again.

Planters and Platters

A busy weekend kept me from the studio and when I returned today I’d lost interest in this coil-built planter. I was going to give it a big beefy rim, but this arched rim is just as satisfying to me and a lot quicker. It’ll be cool with the right plants. I know lots of great gardeners and I like making pots for them. For a time I made quite a few handbuilt bonsai pots.

I finished trimming all the flatware I made last week and started slipping and glazing. These are all meant for the salt chamber. This is where I’m going back to Winchcombe ideas for decoration and it’s a lot of fun. I’m making some for the wood chamber next.

A Little History

No new photos today, so here’s a little piece of my formative years…..

I arrived in England and ‘The Guildhouse’ (above) in January, 1978, to teach pottery to ‘seniors’, local villagers and handicapped children. This amazing building was built by the sheer willpower of one woman named Mary Osbourne. To conform with local building codes, it was built from the stone of seven old local barns.
Just 7 miles away was The Winchcombe Pottery, and I soon became a regular visitor until Ray Finch gave me a job. Winchcombe has been the site of a pottery for at least 200 years. Michael Cardew revived it after he left Bernard Leach’s pottery in St. Ives in the 1920’s. Ray became an early student and eventually bought the pottery. He has led a team of potters making wood-fired domestic ware for more than 60 years! No surprise that this was the experience that really set me on my way as a potter. I learned a life time of lessons…about pottery…and life.

Poker

Making pots has been an obsession for me for more than 30 years and I have been pretty single-minded in that endeavor. But, now I have a proper hobby, playing poker! Every two weeks on a Thursday night we play a ‘cash’ game for about 4 hours. Funny and quick-witted, irreverent and loud with some serious card playing in makes for a great time. Last night was a rare tournament and I once again I proved that I need more science in my game and less gut reaction.
Notice my green visor…it didn’t bring the luck I’d hoped for.

Today’s Quiz

Here are some bowls from my kitchen…4 from England and one from my own hands.

Today is bound to be a good one…pottery all day, poker tournament tonight!

Platters


After ferocious thunderstorms last night we woke to a glorious, humidity-free day. I couldn’t resist sitting at the wheel outside. But I also wasn’t ready to give up my big coil pots, so I did a bit of both. The platters will be fun to slip and comb. I’ve been revisiting a lot of old Winchcombe ideas for decorating.

I finally remembered to get some thistle feed for my goldfinch feeder and in less than 10 minutes they were back. I’m going to try and take some photos tomorrow. This is the first time I’ve ever had a studio without cats and I’m really enjoying the birdlife.

Tornado Warning Tonight

I finished the second of my handbuilt pots today. This one is about 20″ wide. I’ll slip and glaze them later this week. I’ve been promising myself that I’d start throwing this week, but now I’m not sure. This has been fun. I might not decide until I get out to the studio tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Albert Einstein


I finished listening to a fantastic book on tape today (Einstein by Walter Isaacson) while finishing up this giant coil-built teapot. He was an extraordinary fellow. And very quotable. Here’s a few…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”
“Foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth”
“I can’t tell you what will happen in the 3rd World War, but I can tell you what weapon we’ll use in the 4th……rocks!” (after the U.S dropped the bomb on Japan)

I had second thoughts about making this sweet fat form into a novelty item, but sometimes I need to follow an idea right through to the end. Other times a little spontaneity is called for.This time I planned on making a teapot…and I did.

Blackberries!

Few people enjoy picking blackberries as much as dear, sweet Ellie Bird!
I helped Emily and Ellie do some picking today in the blazing sun and scored 2 quarts!! One is being turned into ice cream as we speak!

Phil English

There is a nice article in the Free Lance Star today about my friend Phil. He is a brilliant artist and does things on his lathe that are hard to believe. I admire folks like him who set such high standards for themselves and their work. Plus he is a fine human being!

Tomato Sandwiches

I stopped at Emmett Snead’s farm on my way to the studio and loaded up on tomatoes, cantaloupes and peaches. Then I spent the rest of the day coiling a couple of pots.

I’ve begun the last few making cycles by handbuilding a good sized pot. A new ritual.
This one is going to be a teapot. A big one!

Plein air

Like my friend, Michael Kline, I plan to start throwing outdoors for the rest of the summer.

There are some sharp-eyed potters out there. My little quiz from yesterday might become an ‘irregular feature’.

Frejus, France

It’s not unusual that LibertyTown disrupts my plans for making pots. Today was just another example. The A/C in the gallery was spewing water and had to be dealt with. A few other chores and it was time for the Sister City reception.
Each summer a group of 20 or so students and adults cross the sea to stay with local families. This year, Frejus has come to the U.S and we hosted a lovely gathering tonight that featured an exhibition of photos of home taken by the french kids. No ‘freedom fries’ here!
Our handbuilding table is often transformed for various occasions. I believe these are all french prints…and some nice treats.

Ever hopeful, I plan to make a pot tomorrow.

Breakfast

Ever since I first visited England in 1978, I have enjoyed toast with jam and hot black tea (with milk, please) for breakfast every morning that I am able. (30 years x 365 days is a lot of toast and tea) The pots below have been my everyday companions for some time. 1 German made, 3 English and 2 from the U.S. of A.
Any guesses?

Richmond

I spent the day on the road driving to our state capitol for a meeting with staff members of the Virginia Commission for the Arts. I’m exploring the possibility of creating a non-profit to support LibertyTown and I’ve been talking to anyone who will listen at this point. I met Peggy Baggett and Cathy Wellborn a couple of years ago when we hosted one of the commission’s two yearly meetings. They are wise and straight talking ladies.
I stopped in for a visit at the Richmond Museum, checking out the Faberge Egg collection, mostly. It’s all so over the top! I was reminded that most (all) of their collection came from the Pratt family of Fredericksburg.
I didn’t take my camera today, so here’s another shot from the beach of my little sculptures. I’m still hoping to open a bag of clay tomorrow and begin the next cycle of potmaking.

Termites!

On my way out to my studio today, I stopped by Riverby Books to see how the demolition/reconstruction was going. Riverby sells previously owned books and is run by my dear friends Emily and Paul. They had a shower of termites come down the front of the store and now Jason and his stellar crew are putting it back together. Actually, they’ve kept a lot of Fredericksburg together…and I don’t just mean the buildings! Among many other things that make life here in the ‘burg so sweet is the fortnightly poker game that Jason and his friends kindly let me join.

If you look closely at the first photo you will see Eric standing to attention in the missing window. He really wanted to make an appearance in my blog. Congratulations, Eric!

Across the street from the bookstore is one of the best names for a tattoo shop I know.
That’s Jim at the computer inside Riverby. He tells me that he is the strongest man in the universe. Just ask him!
I’ll write about Riverby another time. Baseball All-Star game about to begin…..

Epic Pots

I’ve had three loose ends to wrap up on my new studio before I start making pots for firing #5 this fall. Today, on another miserably steamy hot day, I crossed one off of my list. I’m hoping to get my hands on some clay Thursday…the first time since April!
In spite of making most of my work on the wheel, I’ve always enjoyed handbuilding and last year I decided that I’d start each making cycle with a big coil built pot. I even gave them the rather pretentious title of “Epic Pots”. Here are some photos of the first two and if my Thursday plan comes to pass, I’m planning on starting a giant teapot.


oops

I’m not quite sure why the close-up photo is sideways!?

Hot n’ Humid Sunday


I spent the afternoon running the desk at LibertyTown. In spite or because of the terribly hot/humid day we sold pots all day! The Daniel’s family came by and bought the yellow/4 lobed platter that I just recently posted. They’ve been buying interesting pots from me for years. I also recently sold the pot whose detail should appear above these words. It is not unusual that my favorite pots are the ones that sell first. Certain pots just speak to us all.

The rest of the pots are the last from my latest firing photo session.