Test Tiles

I’m still testing a bunch of different slips and glazes and I like to apply them to tiles that can be used later on. These are each about 3″ square and 5/8″ thick, basically sturdy floor tile. LibertyTown has old tests installed all over the place!
I raw glaze most of my work (except for pots with crackle slip) and I had a problem with a lot of the glaze on glaze pouring that I did…the top glaze seems to pull the bottom glaze right off the rim and they both fall off. I’m not sure if it’s a recipe problem or an application problem…or a shino problem, since that’s the two base glazes that are troubling me.

More Bottles

I’ve been getting a few hours each day in the studio and I’m all over the place with these bottles. I’ve spent 30 years making ‘domestic’ ware… a great term for pots that belong on the table and in the kitchen. Now I’m stretching out in scale while at the same time looking for new surfaces and decoration that will work in my wood/salt kiln. A lot of the sprigging is taken from old German salt glaze, but as you’ll see below, I’m trying to add my own new twists to this old idea.

This is a 6 tile slip brushed on the wet pot. Later I pressed little flower-shaped cobalt beads into the surface.

I carved this face with the idea of using it on the neck as is customary. I’m such a bad carver but I really like it’s primitive nature. I was about to add a bunch of leaves to this pot when it struck me that this might be funny/shocking/curious.

I didn’t mean to turn this guy into a devil, but that’s what happened!

Travel Highlights (part 2)

After leaving Cape Cod I drove to Boston for a visit to the Pucker Gallery. I’ve known of the gallery for a long time, first because of Brother Thomas’ association and more lately because of Phil Rogers’ work being represented there. I’ve never seen anything like this place ! Five floors of the bests pots I’ve ever seen and all for sale. The elevator ride is as unusual as advertised (as in intimate!) and it was a bit intimidating to have an escort watching over me as we moved from floor to floor. A real treasure and it’s nice to know that a place such as that exists. Go if you ever get the chance. I particularly liked a Korean potters’ work but a 4″ bud vase was $240.00 and I didn’t ask the price of anything else. I’m always inspired to get back in my studio when I get around good pots.

I had some unplanned time afterwards and found myself drawn to Fenway Stadium, home of the Boston Red Sox. (I’m a bit of a sports nut…). While walking around the stadium I met a scalper and one thing leading to another I ended up with a ‘standing room only’ ticket behind home plate for a game between the Sox and the Texas Rangers. A real treat to experience the passion of the Red Sox Nation.

Mine too!

These guys spent hours picking up stones and big grains of sand off the mound.

Bill Cosby throwing out the first pitch. I once shook his hand. It was huge!

David Ortiz, ‘Big Papi’, in the batter’s box. He later hit a three run home run; his third in two nights!


Yesterday was the first day in a while that I was able to sit at my wheel. I moved all the flatware that I’d finished onto racking and then threw some 8lb. bottles. I plan to decorate them with all of the little sprig molds I’ve been carving and I intend to make a couple of large ones later this week that will include a tap at the bottom. Forms like this always intrigue me…where should the widest point of the belly fall? Long neck or stubby? Wide base or narrow? I like them all, but I also have my favorites…

Travel Highlights (part 1)

I’ve been settling back into life at home after a stimulating trip to Maine and back, with many stops along the way. I first visited Hollis Engley and his wife Dee on Cape Cod. I met them when I was teaching at the Torpedo Factory years ago. Hollis and I spent a lot of time together working on the wood burning kiln we built with Bill Van Gilder. Hollis moved to the Cape about 10 years ago and has run his Hatchville Pottery ever since.
We went kayaking in Buzzards’ Bay and up a beautiful creek past clam diggers and all kinds of boats. I really enjoyed spending time with all these folks whose lives are centered on the water; ferryboat captains, sailors, kayakers and fishermen add a different flavor to life. Some are proud of how long it’s been since they ‘crossed the bridge’ (left the Cape). Thank goodness that regional differences still exist.

I’m getting ready to start some serious throwing with the hope of doing two wood firings before the new year. Autumn is not far away…my favorite time to make pots.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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?