Sunday, June 28, 2015


If you've been following me on Facebook, you know I've been paying a lot of attention to birds. Birds here in Ireland seem to be less frightened of people. Perhaps it's because there aren't as many trees here as in North Carolina, and they are used to being exposed to humans.

I've been working on a line of pots here in Ireland for the wood kiln I constructed, and birds have crept into my trees like never before. They're on branches, diving and fluttering in the air around the trees and branches I've carved.

Here's a few pictures of them. I hope they survive the blast of the wood kiln.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Firing #2 approaches in Ireland

Filling up the shelves with new pots
We're hoping to fire the wood kiln in Ireland July 11. That gives me another two weeks to get some more pots made. My daughter Chelsea is arriving here at the end of June to help me with last minute pots, loading and firing - and then we're taking off for a few days of rest and relaxation.

You can see in the photo above that I've made four large platters. These will be in the back of the kiln flanked on either side by the tall pots you see at the left. I'm using a white clay from Cornwall, England this year, and decorating many of the pots by carving through a light coating of Irish shale I obtained from an old brick facility in Castlecomer, Ireland.

Last year was our first time firing the kiln here, and we learned a lot about clays available here. Some worked well and some did not. While the Cornwall clay is a bit more expensive, I really like the way it throws. It comes in 50-pound bags, unpugged, so I wedge a lot. The shale was a major ingredient in brick making before the plant closed a few years ago. It fires to a chocolate brown and the ash from my wood kiln reacts well with it.

Here's hoping for a successful firing. We will be taking pots to the Galway Potters' Market July 17 and 18, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

W.J.Doble clay with Irish shale, fired here in 2014

Friday, January 9, 2015

Busier than usual in January

You might think a self-employed potter would take it easy in January. Around here it stays busy, this January especially so. In the making:
 - Several hundred awards for this year's Uwharrie Mountain Run
- Twenty bath salt jars for a hotel
- Two samples of a new design for foot-soaking bowls for a hotel
- Nine large mugs for the Randolph Road Runners' 5K race

The shelves in my workshop are getting full. I took my new camera and went around the shop taking pictures of everything in progress.

Bells that I made before the new year

Chelsea made quite a few of her birds while here

Cups by Levi for the Uwharrie Mountain Run

The two foot-soaking bowls and the bath salt jars

Some cups for testing a new stain

Susan did medallions this year for Uwharrie Mountain Run

Chelsea's mugs for 5K

A couple of soul pots that didn't make it into the last firing

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Revisiting Design of Foot-soaking Bowl

New Foot-soaking Bowl

Four years ago, Levi and I spent the summer making 200 foot-soaking bowls for the Andaz Hotel on 5th Avenue in New York. I'm currently working on a new version for the hotel to test that is more user friendly that is not as breakable.

One possibility I'm looking at is spraying the outside of the bowl with several coats of clear rubber using a product called LeakSeal. I bought a can of this stuff, but I am waiting for a warm day to use it, as I'm not going to be spraying this stuff indoors.

The other option is to add a drain and handle. The current design forces one to turn the bowl completely upside down to empty it. The shape of the bowl and the weight of the bowl both make it a bit awkward to do this. So, I'm thinking a drain and handle or maybe just a drain will help. The handle would come in handy when moving the bowl around the shower, making it less likely to slip out of one's grasp and drop on the stone veneer floor.

I'm currently in the process of making three of the foot-soaking bowls, one with a drain, one with a drain and handle and one for the rubber coating. I located the drain where it is only visible by peering into the far corner of the bowl. The handle is simply a cutout, hoping this will maintain the bowl's attractive shape.

I've also increased the amount of clay by a little bit when making these so the wall thickness will increase a bit.

Me at the Andaz with bowl

Sunday, November 16, 2014

New Wood-fired pots for Celebration of Seagrove Potters, Nov. 21,22,23

The Celebration of Seagrove Potters - a premier show of 57 Seagrove Potteries held at the old Luck's cannery in the town of Seagrove - is this weekend. Here's a sample of the latest work we just unloaded from the wood kiln and will be taking to the show.
Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Anybody got any Elmers?

Me and Mary on a much-needed break

It's been a whirlwind of activity here in Ireland the past month and a half. We rebuilt the chimney to the wood-fired kiln that we built last year (chimney was blown over during a storm in February), set up the workshop, purchased clay and glaze material, made pots and fired them, and now we're finishing up preparations for our first ever kiln opening in Ireland.

Sometimes, I ask myself why. Why did I set up a shop in a foreign country where not a lot of people know me, where everything seems to be done in a different manner with different names for things, like kiln batts instead of kiln shelves, 4 x 2s instead of 2 x 4s... like going to the store for messages instead of groceries. And then there's converting metric measurements and centigrade. It was 28 today... that's 82 (dreadfully hot, here).

I think I love a challenge. I love to figure things out. And a challenge it was setting up here. Try walking into an Irish hardware store and asking for a pipe wrench (it's called a strainer here, I think because you strain a lot when you use it). Or how about some Elmer's glue for gluing wads on the bottom of pots when loading a kiln? Nope, they use glue sticks around here (Sure, don't you know everybody calls it Evo-stik?). I had to buy some white wood glue from the hardware store after driving around town and checking every convenience store in the area.

Looking for a vacuum for the shop. Everything's a hoover here, and you won't put a hoover in the trunk of your car. That's a boot - opposite end from the bonnet, you eejit.

So, it took a bit more figuring than usual, but Mary and I managed to get up and running in a few weeks, and tonight Mary's walking down the road she grew up on sliding kiln opening flyers into the mail slots of all her childhood neighbors.

We've set up some old pub tables Aunt Noreen gave us on the former rhubarb garden out back and we'll be covering them with tablecloths we purchased at the Eurostore and setting out the first pots fired in a kiln heated with deal wood (a christmas tree like pine grown here). Mary's driver's ed teacher, Eileen Leonard, is coming for the opening night to play her fiddle. We got a friend in County Clare, David Levine, who may come with his concertina and flute. I've got a bottle of Jameson, a few cans of Harp lager. There will be tea of course, and some coffee and lots of baked goods (God, I've eaten a lot of baked goods lately).

So, wish us luck. I'm still trying to figure out why I'm doing this, but it's been great.

A small vase paddled with a tiny hurley

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Topping the Week Off with a Big Clean

Sitting at PTI airport in Greensboro, NC, eating "cacao dusted dark chocolate goji berries" and waiting for our flight to Philidelphia where we'll hop aboard a plane to Shannon, Ireland.... I'm beginning to settle down. It's been a busy few weeks leading up to our annual trek to Ireland: 27 foot-soaking bowls, an eight-place tablesetting for a wedding, 30 soul pots specially made to commemorate the U.S. Open Golf Championship, two wood-fired vases specially ordered, several custom wood-fired lamp bases, a chocolate pot reproduction, a baptismal font, six southwestern-glazed bowls.... There's probably something else I can't remember. At any rate, it's been busy getting orders out, and then on top of everything, I've been in touch with my friendly ceramic supplier in Cork, Ireland, DBI, sourcing kiln shelves and a slab roller. What do Mary and I do the morning of the day we leave for Ireland? We do the Big Clean in my main workshop. Thanks to my daughter for helping me clean the other workshop. When you hear from me next, I should be in Ireland.
The Big Clean at From the Ground Up, Seagrove, NC