Mongolia…or Bust!

My godson, Hugh (Toff and Georgie’s son), is leaving today on a rally with a few pals for the next 10 weeks or so. They’ve bought a used ambulance, retrofitted it for the journey, raised thousands for charity and now today is the day to make it real. The lads will be writing a blog if you’re curious to follow their adventure. Safe travels!

Catching Up

The summer is flying by and the best I can say about the weather is…it’s not as bad as it could be! I famously despise the heat (what would you expect from a boy from Buffalo, NY?) and I continue to imagine myself picking plums in England. Still, I am getting out to the studio early when I can and the pedestaled bowls here are some of the fruits of that labor. I’d like to make some giant ones, but I may wait until I’ve put these through a firing. I worry about them warping.
You can also see a bird on a pot that hopefully looks like a silo..I’m going to play with a series of birds in/on architectural forms. I’ve been putting feathers on a batch of wee ones while watching the women’s World Cup…fantastic competition!
peaches and blackberries…m-m-m-m-m
The summer bounty of produce is wonderful. I took Jason, Beth and Lucy to visit with Warren Frederick and Catherine White and joined them for the beautiful lunch you see below. A beautiful country home and studio, stimulating conversation and a very warm welcome made for a lovely day. Our pots and aesthetics couldn’t be different, but how great is it that pottery can be so diverse and inclusive at the same time. Lots of food for thought.
lunch at Warren and Catherine’s
I continue to be be amazed at the mentality that is still fighting a war that ended 150 years ago. The losers never let it go!
only in Virginia…

If you are following this here blog in North Carolina you might get a visit from Jason Hartsoe, my assistant, and Lucy Bresson, his friend from France via Ireland. They are both keen young potters and I’m sure that they will find a warm welcome.

A Hatful of Blackberry Goodness

My studio is in the far corner of a 65 acre country property and blackberries might just be the biggest crop that we harvest every year. They have become my favorites of all the berries (including Chuck and Halle).  Bright pink smoothies and blackberry crumble or blackberry jam with bay leaf – m-m-m-! And corn and tomatoes are on the cusp!
After some frantic months I am finding a little time to get back to the studio. Last time I started a making cycle I was overexcited about making birds. They were new and unknown. I still find them interesting and I will continue to make them for a while, but some of the bloom is off the rose. It’s working out the ‘problems’ of a new idea that get me most excited…now it’s time to refine and push some of the things I’ve explored. It is a different energy. 
All that is a long way to say that I haven’t quite wrapped my brain around a master plan for firing #11…I’ve made a list of the usual suspects to make and I know that birds will be in the mix (I’m making a bunch of wee ones at the moment) but I don’t have an overarching plan/theme yet. It leaves me a bit uncertain at the wheel. 
This is not an unusual state for me to be in. I like a good plan. Years ago I used to try and (like the old Communist Party) have a five year plan.  Sometimes it just takes a few days on the wheel for a path to be revealed. Meanwhile, it is a certain act of faith that takes me out to the studio these days. Waiting for illumination…

June Update

I will be putting many of the newest birds on sale this Friday at Libertytown. If any of you readers out there are interested you should let me know…last time I sold them all in 24 hours! Beth designed this new extra large banner for the show…we’ll use it to announce each firings arrival.
My Homage to Myself
I visited Charles and Ellen  this week south of the city by about 20 minutes. They are planning on building a wood burning kiln and I thought that I could be of help. The only book they had to work from was Rhodes’s kiln  book…circa 1950’s! I do think I helped a bit. Charles has been building cool things on his property for a long time…gazebos, gardens, towers, a nymphorium(!?) and this gorgeous dovecote. It’s not something that we Americans get to see very often. I know them from my days in England. This really is a beauty, although I don’t believe that it’s ever seen a dove!
I’ve also been helping a visiting ceramic artist from Cuba who is teaching a course at the University of Mary Washington. They are having trouble firing the old Alpine gas kiln. Another relic of the ’50’s!
This is the entrance to the Arts Department at the University of Mary Washington

Marie’s Pie Plate Choices.

Marie N. has been a steady supporter of this here blog for some time….all the way from Texas! It being pie season, I’ve ben promising to show her a selection. here are my 3 favorites from the last firing, my dear. The first is a little warmer of a color than appears in the photo. Next will be some teapots for Sara L. in Michigan!
kaolin slip/combed w/black dots

Kaolin slip/black glaze brushed

Crackle slip/amber glaze

The McAndrew Influence

Clear glaze over black slip over white slip. Cone 6 firing.
Dee Dee joined us for the big workshop this spring and, using the leftover slips, she is finding her own way with the slip trailer, inspired by the magic that Hannah showed us with hers. Very exciting!  
Racoon Family out for a stroll in the middle of town in the middle of the day.

What Frank Did!

Faithful readers will recall that the pots that these birds sat on had ‘issues’ so I had one of my better ideas and asked Frank to put his considerable wood turning skills to work. He did a superb job and we are both excited to see if we can push this collaboration further. He used cedar and walnut and myrtle and curly maple. They are fantastic!
Frank has a beautiful eye for from and I knew that he wouldn’t try to do too much. Most of his work has very classic, understated lines.
I’ve noticed that the summer is always slower for the blogging community, but I hope that all these folks taking the summer off do come back. Perhaps it’s an overdose of social media? I have my email account, a website and a blog, but I’ve drawn the line there. I can see how one could be fed up keeping track of twitter and facebook ad nauseum. I’m going to miss those Kline girls!

Bird Barrage…the Second Coming

3 Lonely Lids
I had a slip problem on the bases of these three lids but I plan to ask a wood turner friend to make new ones….might be even cooler than clay? They only stand about 4 ” high.
This firing was the ‘cleanest’ to date…fewest seconds ever and the fewest needing refiring. If it will help I stick them in the electric kiln at LibertyTown and give them a bit more heat. 
“PETE”  Tea Jar  8.5″x4″x4″  
My last posting was mostly small tea jar sized pots. The rest of these get bigger and more elaborate. 
“EDGAR”  Lidded Jar  11″x7″x5″
“OMAR”  Tea Jar  15″x4.5″x4.5″  
Most of the birds get the crackle slip/ ash glaze treatment but these nutty rich brown ones are all kaolin and cobalt slips. They are a pain to photograph.
“GRAHAM”  Tea Jar  11″x5″x4.5″
These next two are so fat and I know that I’ll be making more. They completely crack me up! I have to play the Russian stacking dolls trick (matryoshka)…a bird inside of a bird inside of a bird…having done a bird on top of a bird on top of a bird, why wouldn’t I?
“IVAN”  Lidded Jar  8.5″x5.5″x5.5″
“HORTON/HILLARY”  Lidded Jar  12″x8″x5.5″

I made “GILBERT”at the same time as “IVAN”, thinking of Laurel and Hardy. 

“GILBERT”  Lidded Jar  15″x6″x4.5″
This bowl and the double headed vase I think of as ‘trophy’ pots. They’re pretty outrageous for a boy who has spent his days making mugs and jugs. I’ll figure out a lid for these bowls next time.
“BORIS”  Pedestal Bowl  9″x16″x10″
I made one of these double headed pots for my last firing and expanded on that idea this time. I made 6 of different sizes and and shapes and surfaces. When I made these two I was afraid that they might not be big enough. Now that they’re fired I like them a lot. The others are bigger and quite grand. I sent one off to a show in Texas already. Houston, that is. 18 Hands Gallery. More on that another day.
“YUL/YVETTE”  Vase  10″x17″x8″
“ZAZU/ZORA”  Vase  8.5″x17″x9″

These two candlesticks are the only ones I made…another avenue to explore!
“FOSTER”  Candlestick  10″x7″x7″
“ELOISE”  Candlestick  13″x7″x7″
I’m not sure what to say about this ‘bowling ball’ except that it is probably my favorite piece from the firing…I think that the form is just right and the glazes are all softened by the salt. Plus he’s got a great expression. I’m getting better at that. The early ones were a little static.
“UMBERTO”  Sculpture  24″x10″x9″

This last piece will never make it into my humble photo studio. It’s just too big. 4 different slips, all attempts at a blue green, turned out to be shades of blue. Tallest thing I ever made!

Top Dog  Bird
4 Bird Totem  40″high

Bird Barrage…Small Stuff

With the first day of 95 degree temperatures upon us I am hiding in the A/C and numbing my brain with too much photography/computer time. Here are some of the smaller pieces from the firing. There are still mediums and larges to come!
Of course, you should click on the images to enlarge them. It’s one of the few things I can make Blogger do.
 Xena (detail)
Zelda & Yvonne (8″h)
Francis (10.5″h)
Carafes (7″h)
Dirk ((9.5″h) he gets a feather in his hat when I find the right one
Kirby, Francis & Celia (8″-10.5″h)
Xena (11″h)
Celia (detail) that’s supposed to be Milway’s fish!
Roger ((9.5″h)
Max (9.5″h)
Francis (detail)

The Best Fundraiser!

 Last evening was the lottery drawing for our annual “Patron Show”fundraiser at Libertytown. 53 pieces were donated and 53 tickets were sold at the start of the month. With the help of all our staff and a couple of very young assistants we drew ticket stubs from a pot. That ticket holder then chose any piece in the show that was still available. So beth runs around marking the works that have been chosen and Aline is writing down the list and the proxies are ready, willing and able toIt makes for an exciting evening and with a room full of wonderful work everyone went home a winner! We serve homemade sangria to help folks keep their strength up and I do my best imitation of an emcee. It’s always surprising and fascinating to see how different our tastes can be. 
Ellie in her finery (this photo is specially included for Hannah!)
Bea in the great print dress and Emily with Paul…Ellie’s mom and dad
Where’s Bill T? making a ” V”
Leigh (in the center ) was last name picked…and she ended up with her  first choice! A perfect ending!

An Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Caroline County – part 1

I’m moving on to my photo studio now to record these babies but I always hope that a camera could catch the richness of glazes out in the sunlight. I have close to 40 bird pieces altogether so stay tuned.
Ivan – 


Firing Rapture

First Chamber…10 lbs. salt
So many things could have been taken as omens these past few days…the license plate I showed you last or the Chinese fortune cookie that lacked a fortune of any kind. It might have been the huge turkey vultures that roosted atop the chimney while I mowed the grass below. It could even been the giant Christian revival that drew more than 500 cars to a farm that I pass to get to my studio (Bob Jones was there…run away…..). 
If I actually believed in omens, then I would have had to pick a positive one because the firing turned out very well indeed. Of course perfection isn’t the issue, but each of the different areas that I hoped to improve…did! Good heat in the bottom of both chambers and a lot more color (i.e. better reduction) in both and that was achieved by using the active damper rather than the passive. I’m sure that they will both ultimately have a part to play, but I quite deliberately ignored the passive entirely during the first chamber’s 20 hours and used it only some during the 2nd.
Saturday night I drove out to take out a couple layer of bricks in the arch…dark as could be in the middle of the woods with all the pots tinkling and pinging a sweet song. I sat listening for a while and my thoughts jumped from my own excitement/anticipation to thinking of Ray Finch, and of Michael Cardew, all my friends, and all of the potters in history who have also stood by their too hot kilns, hoping for the best, prepared for the worst and getting it right more often than we rightfully should. Opening up a kiln can mean some questions are answered and new ones raised. Pots can sometimes exceed expectation and others disappoint. 
 I may have written this down before, but it’s one of my favorite stories about my days at Winchcombe. After a particularly successful firing I got bold enough to ask Ray what he thought of the firing and after a customary tug on his meager beard he replied that ‘every firing was a disappointment’! I’ve thought of that for more than 30 years now, knowing just he meant. Unless every pot is beyond improvement (which can never be) there is an almost instant recognition of the pots that fall short no matter the reason. Even during that first peek which gave me a good idea that it was a success I was registering the good and bad. And after a little post firing let down I’ll be hard at work to solve another of the puzzle pieces.
 I’m still sorting and rubbing pots down. It takes a while to really see individual pieces and decipher each story. The birds are also amazing but I didn’t get good photos . I’ll be in my photo studio soon.
I love this candlestick. The salt really softens the amber ash nicely.
Second Chamber . Cone 10 tipping at bottom and some color!  Totem still standing. Photo is washed out. 

10…or 200?

Firing # 10 is complete, but who will be my 200th follower? 
The firing was as smooth as it could be and all we can hope for is that the time will pass quickly ’til Sundays’ unloading.
I was following this car on the way to the firing. Always looking for favorable signs of good luck.
Jason claims that he enjoyed the night time shift!
Hoping for less reduction this time.
A little window into the kiln made from mica.

Working Smarter

We finished bricking up the doors about 6pm this evening. I have been promising myself that I would not begin this firing already worn out and by moving everything back a day I think I’ve done it! I will light the fire 24 hours from now and I hope to be at my best.  Jason has the great privilege of doing the overnight shift as he is the newest member of the team. Beth and Michael and Bill, veterans all, will also be on hand. With such good help I can just sit and enjoy the champagne and strawberries and chocolate!
This is the 10th firing and I’m still not finished figuring it out. I still need more heat in the bottom of both chambers, it is always hotter in the back than the front and I need to create a lighter reduction than previously. I’m sorry to use the ‘fine tuning’ cliche but it is appropriate.
A funny interior. The first one looks like a frightened cow!
There is also a little film going on that I won’t mention much until we see how it goes. I’m hoping for more than ‘ just another naval gazing wood firing potter’ story. We’ll see. I’ll be back in a couple of days.

Pizza ‘Fitching’

Jason here is demonstrating the newest food fad around these parts…tired of cold, day old pizza? Suffer no more, just break out the weed burner and let ‘er rip! Another handy lesson learned from the Slipware Kids…

Safety Tip: tuck in those trouser legs!

Getting Loaded

First Chamber
I normally enjoy the 3 dimensional puzzle that loading a kiln presents, but ol’ # 10 is wearing me out. I have close to 50 birds of various sizes and shapes and they fit together a lot differently than my functional work. They are also a lot bigger so I’m ignoring some of my standard kiln packing strategies.
 It will also change how the kiln fires and I’m optimistic that it will be improved by being more open. There’s a lot more ‘airspace’ around everything. These photos are from yesterday showing the two 12″x24″shelves in the back of each chamber.  I left Jason in town today and came close to finishing the front layer in both. Tomorrow we will put up the doors, do a little preheat and then gather our forces to set a fire alight on Wednesday night. I started making these pots in January…it’s been a long road! 
Second Chamber
 The drive into the property has plenty of birds and wildlife to welcome me each day. 

It’s a Green World

Our beautiful springtime weather continues, a perfect time to be turning one’s mind to packing a kiln and the river of fire that is soon to come.  I added a few extra days to my loading schedule to account for bird decorating/glazing…just not nearly enough. I’ve been waxing, slipping, waxing, glazing and often waxing and glazing again! (What monster have I created?!) So I’m already planning on pushing everything back a day. I don’t enjoy the pressure of frantic pottery making anymore. I take my time, getting everything just so, and try to savor the moments. It’s made even better by setting up shop under my new shed roof, enjoying the breeze.
It’s always hard to stop making pots…years ago it was true when I had a 4 week making cycle and it remains true today when I can take 3-4 months to fill the kiln. 
These were the last pots I was able to finish. I wish I could have made lots more of them.
A cup that you have to drain before putting it down?!…

I’ve been threatening to build a smaller gas-fired salt kiln for some time and Jason has been digging the footer before the ground turns to concrete as summer approaches.

     The bees are flourishing!

Some of the pots that are waiting to learn their fate. 
“Which chamber will he put me in” they ask. 
“Do you think he’ll over reduce the top again?” 
“Am I to be sacrificed at the bagwall?”
All will be revealed in a little more than a week. 

Meanwhile, Back at the Studio…

I’m still struggling to find my focus since the wave of visitors and events that have filled the last month. It finally caught up to me yesterday and I didn’t quite make it through to the end of our reception in the gallery last night. I then went home and slept for 11 hours! None of this is convenient since I’m going to fire in about a week and a half. One more event this afternoon and I can then aim ALL my energies on this ‘endgame’. I did bring out the big torch, inspired by Doug, and made a couple of bigger pots. Having focused on birds this time around, I’m not certain that I have enough pots to fill it. I always need something to worry about!
This reads ‘FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA, 2011 using my new letter stamps .
Candlesticks in progress…playing with stacking forms. I want to make these 6 feet high one day. Well, maybe 5 feet.
We fired some of Hannah and Doug’s pots, using a clear glaze (thanks, Ron) . I didn’t want to try and replicate their warm rich amber glaze and these are rather stark and handsome in all their glorious whiteness.

Hostess with the Most-ess

Regular readers here at DFSP know about my week long visit with the British Invaders. Since their departure it seems that some strange sort of levee has burst and visitors are pouring through!
The next future Finnegan potter?

    My great and oldest friend Henry (from high school days) and his daughter Corey came next for a day’s visit and we had an excellent time catching up while touring the ‘Burg. 
    A couple of days later my youngest brother Pat and his wonderful family arrived to spend spring break week touring the area. They did Fredericksburg and Williamsburg and Washington, DC and Baltimore…some days we spent together, others they were on their own. Easy guests to have and we had a great time. 
    In the middle of their visit Andrew Coombs arrived for a brief hello. Andrew was my assistant for several years and he’s doing great things in Port Chester, NY. 
    I think everyone’s gone now and I have just a couple of weeks to get pots made and load and fire. We’re planning on a full moon firing!     
At the Washington Nationals baseball park.
Anything to make the kids crack up…notice Hunter in the background doing his “That Guy” thing
Kiera and I are big friends
Add your own caption for a prize!

Public Notice…Artists’ Yard Sale

Although completely unrelated, you must click on the photo below and read and enjoy!
 Riverby Books is a fantastic used bookstore here in the ‘Burg and Paul Cymrot writes the best things I get to read. His ‘whiteboard’ comments are legendary.  

Tomorrow morning at least a dozen LibertyTown artists will be selling everything from art and art supplies to random household items.
I will have a big bunch of pots for sale covering most if not all of the leftovers from the past 9 firings.

For many years I fired my work in a gas reduction kiln and that kiln produced so few ‘seconds’ that I stopped selling them…I’d either give them away if they weren’t too bad or chuck ’em out. I suppose that it is the snob in me that enjoyed being able to declaim my unwillingness to sell any pot that less than a ‘first’. And it has always bugged me when folks would come to the shop and ask immediately for the ‘seconds’. I know it’s more of my snobbery, but I can’t help myself.
That brings me to tomorrow…the wood kiln often produces pots more beautiful than I imagine, but there are some that just seem to lack that certain je ne sais quoi and others that have various flaws. I’m doing a clear-out just before firing #10 and eating a little crow because, the truth is, I do sell ‘seconds’….once in while…and reluctantly. Maybe I’ll wear sunglasses and go in disguise…

Aline has great plants for sale!

Doug and Hannah Redux

It’s hard to believe that a week has gone by since H & D finished up their workshop at LibertyTown. We packed so much into one week that it’s hard to digest. I’m sure that their heads must be ready to explode!
    I met the gang (Ang included) in Cape Cod as their first workshop was winding down. After good-byes with Hollis and friends at the coffee shop we piled into my Jeep and headed for western Connecticut, a beautiful rural piece of Ol’ New England that I know well from my younger days.
    Our mission was to visit the pottery of Guy Wolffe, a well known maker of traditional earthenware pots and a great enthusiast for old pots…and old music as well. Sadly we only had a couple of hours to visit and poor Guy had so much to share with us that I’m sure he must have been spent by the time we left. This is a man who throws close to 30 tons(!) of clay a year! and plays a mean blues guitar…and banjo as well. He made 25 lb. pots for us, shared his collection of old pots, treated us to cold drinks, dusted off the guitar with a great old bluesy song and generally shared his enthusiasm for clay and his excitement at meeting his British ‘cousins’.
We heard tales of Oprah and Martha and Dustin and Meryl…this is a potter who moves in different circles than many of us. Still it was great to meet him and I look forward to getting back there one day.
Jennifer,Jason, Misha and Beth…4 of my current and former assistants!
From Guy’s place we then did a marathon trip to Virginia…a ten hour drive passed huge chunks of America, but what can you do? This is a big-ass country! I still had to show them my patch of God’s green earth here…an hours drive west to  the Blue Ridge Mountains, an hour east to the Chesapeake Bay and one hour north to Washington, DC (our nation’s capitol). We toured LibertyTown and my studio on the farm (we stayed in the grand old farmhouse there…thanks to Steve and Nicky) and spent a day in Washington, visiting the new native American Museum and The Freer Gallery of Asian Art (my favorite on the Mall). We visited Trista Chapman’s studio back here in Fredericksburg and made burritos with Emily, Paul, Ellie, Jim, Elizabeth and Milo. Plus several visits to Carl’s Ice Cream (the line last night was almost a half hour wait!), Parthenon Pizza and Sammy T’s. And we even managed a cup of tea once in a great while…
Lots of laughing the whole week. Ellie Bird called Doug “naughty”. She’s correct.
We held a reception on Friday night and had a great turnout. A good deal of cash was exchanged for pots and by the end of the weekend there were just a few remaining. I was delighted to see people supporting this newest venture of ours. This is the first time we’ve hosted out of town artists for a workshop and we advertised both regionally and nationally and we are already muttering about next year’s pottery workshop marathon. The response was very gratifying.
Sorry, they’re all sold!
Of course you’ve probably seen lots of blog reports about the workshop itself. It was a fantastic few days and inspiring to many of us. It was really good idea I had. There have been so many good connections made and tales told and future plans hatched.
Lovely pots
trying out the inner tube slip trailer
Slip trailing a large platter
Everyone was able to do a little sgrafitto on one of Doug’s jugs
Within minutes of concluding a sublime workshop I whisked them off to the most ridiculous event I know (and I mean that in the best way possible!)…the 34th annual Virginia State Frisbee Championships. Friends of mine have been hosting this from the very beginning and it attracts some of the best frisbee players in the world. It is a totally zany, counterculture lovefest, held outdoors rain or shine in a local park. Hannah couldn’t ever get her brain around it and as we left suggested that it might all have been a mirage! Of course, the moonshine she drank may have clouded her judgment. Both Hannah and Doug were indoctrinated/inducted into the Laszlo’s Weenie World Family (if you don’t know, don’t ask…it’s complicated…) which involves buying meaningless stock which requires the wearing of the pirate hat and wielding of the mighty sword…and the drinking of the ‘shine…the ‘clear’ or the raspberry! I don’t understand what struck Hannah as being so unusual??!! I hope that she will relate her take on this when she gets home. Don’t pull any punches, Hannah! Tell it like you saw it!
Toasting with a pirate’s brew…(hint… think  moonshine) impromtu bluegrass band in background.
I think I’ve been putting off this recap because I don’t really want to bring this adventure to an end. It was a couple of years ago that we first discussed the idea of the trip under the shade of the Milway’s plum tree orchard in Gloucestershire, England. Now my mind is slowly turning towards my 10th firing coming up on the 17th/18th of May. I still have pots to make and lots of new bird ideas I won’t get to this time. But that’s always the way…

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye!

I just returned from a misty-eyed parting with our dear friends from across the big pond. Kevin Crowe kindly provided a wonderful meeting place and warm hospitality for the hand-off. The ol’ slipware couple and Ang are in the capable hands of Ron Philbeck now, making their way to the heart of North Carolina clay country. I am completely shattered and happy to be back home with Miss Moneypenny and the aftermath! It’ll take me the rest of the week to fill you in on our fantastic week. It should be no surprise that Doug and Hannah completely charmed and inspired all of us who were lucky enough to be with them this week!
Lunch on the porch!
In Kevin’s studio, full to the roof with pots awaiting the fire.
Love those t-shirts!

Alive and Well!

I apologize for the lack of updates , but we’ve been keeping very busy and have often been far from the land of the internet…a poor excuse for four bloggers, but there you are. I’ll do some catching up next week.  The weather has been glorious and the company delightful. Now, on to the workshop!

Surprise Workshop!!!

In case you just crawled out from under a rock you should know that these two charming British potters will be in residence at LibertyTown Arts Workshop in Fredericksburg, Virginia next weekend.
Fredericksburg is just one hour south of washington, DC and we still have space available.
The weekend package cost $150.00 which includes a reception friday evening, demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday and a cookout on Saturday night. As an extra special bonus, the oldest frisbee tournament in America is happening just across the river and we may have to drop in on those old (and young) hippies!
Contact us at 540-371-7255 Don’t delay!!
(I apologize to Doug and Hannah about the photos…I grabbed them off of the web)

Betwixt and Between

Life has been overfull lately, what with gallery openings, beekeeping, and workshop preparations, but I’m still squeezing out a few pots when I can. I’m feeling a little desperate to get enough made for a May firing. I’ve been thinking of candlesticks for a while. Here’s my first try.