Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two Videos

Here's a couple of videos of me working on awards for the 2009 Uwharrie Mountain Run. I spent the last week trying to figure out why my video software wasn't working. It seems that I had a "buggy" component: AviImporter-r7 (Intel).component. I removed it, and everything's working again - so far.

I decided to upload the video to Youtube this time and see how that works (imbedding the Youtube video in my blog post).

I was reading a BBC story the other day and it had a couple of video clips with the story, very small in size, but enough to give you a better idea of what the story was talking about. (It was the current state of affairs in the Gaza strip.)

Here's one more video of me scratching through some porcelain slip to create trees and runners:


Cheers,

Michael

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Time for a Break; Santa's coming



It's time for a break. I managed to make 103 cups for the Uwharrie Run. Can you spot Santa in the picture above? If not, see below picture.

My three children are coming over this evening and Mary's bought several grocery items from an Asian market in Raleigh for dinner tonight - lots of greens of different sorts, a big papaya, some long purple eggplant, a squash, bok choy.... We've got a new wok I seasoned last night, and some bamboo steamers. Mary's cooked a cranberry upside down cake and she's also "cooking" some kind of fruit pie I believe. I spent the morning finishing up the last row of cups I threw the day-before-yesterday. I lit a fire in our chiminea (apple wood) and I'll be helping out with preparations for the meal tonight. I didn't get a tree this year, and I'm thinking of decking out a large branch of mistletoe that my son, Levi, knocked off our chestnut tree over Thanksgiving.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Michael



Friday, December 19, 2008

Slipping Cups


So, I threw 60-some cups and slipped them with some porcelain slip while they were still on the wheel yesterday.
Today, I decided I needed to brush on another layer of slip. I think I added too much water when I thought the slip was a little thick. I remember doing some
baby plates at Wild Rose Pottery years ago with my ex-wife and being
disappointed when the slip was too thin. I like seeing a little of the clay through
the slip, so it's a fine line between getting not enough slip and getting too much
slip on the pieces.

Just enough slip, I think....


By the end of the day, I had one board (about 15 cups) finished.
Two hundred and ninety to go. And then there's the 195 medallions and
the 18 plates for 1st, 2nd, 3rd place for each race. I'm kind of excited about the plates, and kind of unsettled by the number of pieces I've got to make.

But this order has led me into new techniques and ideas, so I enjoy it.



Potter Joe Foster in Hospital




Seagrove Potter Joe Foster was in intensive care in a hospital earlier this week. I learned via an email earlier this week, and thought I'd share a movie clip I made of him at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters Nov. 22. The clip is of him explaining about Skillet, a character he created and brought to life in the form of a face jug. He explained to me the day before the Celebration that he has several characters that he creates, and that he makes just one at a time until it sells.

The piece he sold at the auction has a black eye and a blue glaze dripping over a portion of it. Joe told me that he accidently used the blue glaze somehow, and decided this rendering of the character Skillet would need a story to incorporate the blue glaze.

So, this particular "Skillet" not only got a frying pan slammed across his head for complaining to his wife about the pancakes one morning, but got blueberry syrup poured on him as well.

I'm sorry to say that I don't have a picture of Skillet. If anyone out there reading this has a picture, how about sharing it.

And if you know how Joe is doing, I'd really like to know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Working Up Some Clay







I got the go ahead for the Uwharrie Mountain Run awards, so I cut up some clay into 3/4-pound "balls" of clay this afternoon. I cut a bag of clay into three equal portions, wedge each portion a bit and then slam it down on the wedging table forming a long round loaf. I cut the loaf into portions and stack them before I take each one and mash it a bit on the table, rolling it around near the edges to give the bottoms a convex shape so they don't trap air when placed on the wheel head. I then fill up an old canning pot that I used to have a lid for. Lost the lid years ago.

It feels good to be in production mode.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clear Glaze Mishap Cheezes me off

I was a little bummed (cheesed off, as my wife says sometimes) at my clear glaze not being a clear glaze. Since I moved to my new location 10 years ago, I have had my glaze table with all my ingredients outdoors under a shed roof and not very well protected from the elements. Some heavy rain blew into the area a while back (five or six years ago) and soaked a couple of bags of what I currently remember was gerstley borate. The bags fell apart and I transferred the ingredients into a several buckets.

Why didn't I write on the buckets what the material was?

A simple cone 6 clear glaze I've used for years is 50/50 gerstley/plastic vitrox clay. Well, I recently mixed 50 percent pv clay with what I thought was 50 percent gerstley from the buckets.

After the firing, the dry white surface of my cups rather dissappointed me. Maybe what I th0ught was gerstley was actually pv clay, and I mixed 50 percent pv clay with 50 percent pv clay. Not much of a glaze.

I did however glaze one cup with a glaze made from gerstley and local clay, I think it was 50/50, or perhaps 60/40. At any rate, the finished product looked nice, and I'm thinking of doing the Uwharrie Mountain Run awards this year with this glaze - if the organizers of the race approve it.

I've sent a picture of the cup to them and I'm waiting to hear back from them. Mary and I are planning to go to Ireland at the end of January, so I've got to get busy on this order. I've got to make 195 medallions, 195 cups, 110 preserve jars and 18 1st, 2nd and 3rd-place finisher pieces.


I hope to make these for the 2009 Uwharrie Mountain Run.




Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cranberry Upside-down Cake



There was an pineapple upside-down cake floating around a few blogs recently, and I've got a cranberry upside-down cake I want to share. My wife made it Saturday night. Jeffrey and Stephanie of Dean & Martin Pottery came over as well as Edward Alvarez, super potter and super masseur.

Stephanie said the chocolate chestnut mousse Mary and I made last year was the best - until she ate a slice of the cranberry upside down cake. Mary found the recipe while surfing the website for The Irish Independent. She used whole spelt flour, rice milk instead of buttermilk and coconut oil instead of butter. She also used fresh cranberries, cooking them for a bit for continuing with the recipe. She used agave instead of sugar and added half the liquid called for. So, it was vegan.

I thought the cake was delicious as well.





Saturday, December 13, 2008

The celebration after the Celebration

Ben Owen III invited participants of the Celebration of Seagrove Potters (Nov. 21-23) to a party at he and his wife's house Friday night. We all tapped into the momentum that still exists from working together for the past six months to put on our own show at the Luck's Cannery in Seagrove, and the night was a happy evening of dance, cigar smoking, conversation, eating, drinking and other forms of merriment.




Fred Johnston with his stogie and Chad Brown without a stogie


Will McCanless recieves a smack from Lisa Luther


The smoking area


Ben on the blue guitar


LoriAnn Owen steppin' it out with Benjamin Burns


Even Jeffrey Dean and wife Stephanie Martin (middle) got on the dance floor


That's my wife, Mary, on the left with her hands raised

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Showroom pictures


I've taken a few pictures of my showroom to show some of my current inventory. I left a couple of the pictures big so you can click on them and view the pots up close.

I'll be firing a couple more kilns before Christmas and then I'll be swamped with getting a special order for the Uwharrie Mountain Run done.

I still haven't gotten my new mixer/pugger up and running. I've got to make space for it, but I've also got to keep making pots. Mary and I spent the afternoon yesterday sorting and loading months worth of recyclables into my truck. That freed up some space to work with.





This pitcher gets overlooked as it's floor level. I like the rough texture of the "glaze," which is actually some clay from Ohio that a customer brought me. It melted at cone 6, so I tried spraying this pot with it. An ash glaze is on the inside and top portion.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament: Peace Growing


Wooden peace sign outside my workshop

I have an affinity for this peace symbol. I was born in 1958, the year the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament adopted it as its logo. CND's logo was everywhere I looked during my childhood, but to me it meant peace. I remember drawing peace signs as a kid, making a "sand candle" in the shape of a peace sign. I never thought about how or why it was created. I grew up rather dysfunctionally, and the peace signs I made were personal symbols of love and kindness.

Today, this symbol has come to mean so much more than an anti-war symbol or a nuclear disarmament logo. For me, it represents a state of mind that I embrace, and when I embrace this state of mind, there's no place for war. To me, it's not anti-anything. It's peace. Simply peace.

The peace symbol arose from a campaign to stop nuclear armament in the late 1950s, grew to represent the anti-war movement of the 1960s and eventually was embraced by the counterculture hippies of the 60s. I've seen a resurgence of its popularity recently, and I believe it represents a shift toward a more pure expression of peace than before. We're not fighting against what we don't believe in, we are embracing what we do believe in. To fight against something gives that something power. Turn your back on it, and focus on what you believe in, and "something" loses its power.

I believe my children and their generation are experiencing a shift in our belief system, what some might call a paradigm shift - away from the negative and into the positive. 

It has to do with how the universe operates. The universe - this world we live in - supports us in everything we do, everything we think, everything we say. If you're always against something, that something is always going to be there for you to be against. If you are always for something (even if you don't currently experience it) it's going to be there for you to experience it in some form or another.

I'm not against war so much as I'm for peace, and I'm not just talking about men and women with guns fighting other men and women with guns. I'm talking about everyday living wherever you are at any given moment.

There are plenty of people among us who wage war. But the number of people waging peace is growing.

Peace is growing.

close-up of a soul pot, 5" dia.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Just some simple pictures

...thinking about my clutter, my plans for expansion and my orders to fill during the next couple of months. I took solace in photography, capturing little spaces illuminated by the morning sun. It's a bit chilly outside, and I love the heat that's captured just inside the windows, the shadows that fall and arc over the shapes inside my work spaces. I've got three buildings in which the folks before me raised chickens. I converted two into work spaces. The last one still needs some work before I can set up shop there. 

I took pictures of the things that caught my eye as I traveled from building to building. I hope everyone is doing well.























Friday, December 5, 2008

Uwharrie Mountain Run awards and some birds


This year's award?


I've been thinking about what to make for this year's Uwharrie Mountain Run. I've been making awards for everyone that finishes this race since its creation by Bob Boder in 1991. Last year I used a stamp that I created of the trail to stamp more than 300 cups and small preserve jars. I created another stamp for more than 200 medallions. And then there were 18 plates for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners male and female. It's quite an order. 

You can see some pictures of the awards for 2006 and how I stamped them using an altered paint roller on my website, HERE. After stamping that many pots, the fingers of my left bothered me for weeks afterwards, so this year, I wanted to do something less demanding of those fingers. I decided to slip some cups and try to sgraffito a scene on them, something with trees and large stones, reminiscent of portions of the trail. After a did a few, I decided to add a runner. I hope the organizers like them. My son and daughter will be home for the holidays and have said they will help out with the order.

 The race, which filled within minutes of being posted online this year, is the first weekend in February. The organizers of the race are always looking for volunteers. If you're interested, go the the website above.

On another note, I looked at my recent post of the birds and decided to transfer some of the images onto a few pots, using wax resist. I don't know if I'll continue with any of the designs, but I did like one in particular, the third one below.




Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I don't like chaos


I've been feeling out of the loop lately. A 12-hour drive to Swarthmore, PA, to take my youngest son back to college, and a 10-hour drive back to Seagrove, tends to throw me off-kilter. Driving that distance on Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving is hectic. All those people in their cars and trucks - kids, mothers, fathers, truck drivers, state police, wreckers, college students, in-laws.... Zooming down the highway - south, north, east and west. Some zipping and some zagging. Then everyone stopping and traffic crawling along.

Levi and I called 511 and received a traffic report somewhere in Virginia. "Expect delays because of repaving between exits...." We decided to try an alternate route. We picked up 301 which runs somewhat parallel with 95, around Washington and Baltimore. After a couple of hours on 301, during which we experienced a lot of stoplights, we ate a nice lunch at an old tavern in Port Royal, VA, near the bridge over Rappahannock river. I had crab soup and a crab sandwich. Levi decided he'd have some soup after tasting mine. 

A hour or so later, traffic was backed up for miles because the four lanes of traffic on 301 were squeezed down to two as we crossed the Potomac river. After finally crossing the bridge, we picked up normal speed and were beginning to wonder if we made the wrong decision to travel this route.

We finally made it to Swarthmore, sometime after 8 p.m., and after a quick meal at a burrito restaurant, I dropped Levi off at his dorm, and I headed to the Media Inn for a night of rest before getting up and doing it all again.

Now, it's Wednesday. My pugmill arrived yesterday, and I'm feeling off-kilter for another reason. I don't have a place for the pugmill yet. I spent today loading a kiln and then organizing a tool area in my current workshop for the tools scattered around my future workshop, a building I partially renovated to use as my "throwing room." Oh yeah, before I loaded a kiln, Mary and I drove to Asheboro to check out some utility buildings. The idea is to get one for a photo room and tie it into my future workshop building with a place between the two covered by a roof.

I'm leaning toward hiring someone to build a story-and-a-half roof at the end of my future workshop, and then I can add on building space as I find the time. I'd like some covered outdoor space to work in, with a gravel floor space that sheds water so I can do cleanup outside when it's raining.

I drew a quick sketch of my ideas on a chalkboard in my current workspace. I'd love to do it all myself, but I need to keep my work flowing and don't have the time to shut down for a month.

So, in the midst of my rambling through my day today, I stopped and took a picture of a display in my showroom. The picture is such a contrast to my chaotic mind these days.

 



I'll get through this.