Saturday, May 30, 2009

Work Ethic Reveals New Trees

Above and below are a grouping of pots that I recently finished decorating. I drew a large tree on a pot brushed with white slip and looked at the rest of the pots, thinking "That's a lot of work." So, I thought, "How about a branch instead of a whole tree." These five pots could be "snapshots" of a large tree, but you've got to turn the pot to see the whole "snapshot."

By wrapping the branch around the pot, it caused me to think in three dimensions, in a way. When you turn the pot around the view the other side, you eventually come back to the beginning of the branch that you viewed earlier. I crafted the three pots on the left with my local clay.

After doing the first few, I recalled that my daughter, Chelsea Rose Mahan, had done a set of plates (at right) in much the same fashion while at UNC-Asheville this semester. You never know where inspiration comes from. In this case, it came from wanting to work less and a recent visit to my daughter.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trimming a Tree Bowl

Here's a quick little video I did of me trimming one of my tree bowls. I use a Dolan trim tool, and I find the best results are with clay that has dried substantially beyond leather-hard, a term potters use to describe clay that has dried to a point where the sheen on the clay begins to lessen and the piece can be carefully handled without distorting.

I've got six of these bowls made, six pounds each. I will bisque fire them, glaze the inside and give the outside a wash of red iron before firing to a final temperature of around 2,200 degrees F.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cayo Tabamos Pelican Pot

My last firing yielded some nice pots, and this one I'm not sure of. I lost some of the detail of the sgraffito to the cloudy glaze. After glazing the piece, I almost brushed some of the glaze away from the pelican, but decided not to. It was one of those moments when I didn't know whether or not to listen to the voice in the back of my head.

This particular glaze (containing 50 percent gerstley borate) will cloud up when thick. While I lost some of the detail of the design, I think the piece as a whole has a surreal quality that supports the state of my mind when I drew the scene, a portrayal of childhood summers on Cayo Tabamos, an island off the coast of the Florida Keys where my father ran Fish Camp.

Click here to read my other blog about that experience.

The mangrove trees and the pelican are enveloped in a cloud of misty aqua, their roots terminating into an earthy green. The piece is 9 1/2 inches tall and wide. It was fired to cone 6 in my electric kiln. The glaze is simply 50% gerstley/50%plastic vitrox clay and Black Copper Oxide. $250

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Customer Request Leads to New Shapes

A customer requested one of my tree vases in a more of a narrow shape. I've had a tendency to make these and swell them out after impressing the design in them with stamps that I make. In swelling them out, one of my intentions is to bring their shape back into a more uniform appearance. The stamp tends to distort the clay a lot.
These tree forms are thrown and stamped on the wheel. The stamping is done on wet clay. I threw these trying to keep the forms tall and narrow, but I had to leave enough room for me to get my hand inside with a tool that I use to press outward while I press inward with the stamp from outside the pot.
I like the look of the last bottle on the right, about 14" high. I think the designs, and the concave impressions, somehow make the piece look pliable and soft, unclaylike, if that makes sense.
I stiffened each bottle with a heat gun before forming the neck and spout.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Goblets and Rhododendron

Which four of these match? I finished these yesterday and I have an order for four. Hmmmm.
The soul pot in the foreground contains a piece of rhododendron from a creek in Robbins, NC, just up the road. My daughter, Chelsea, inspired me to take a little canoe trip yesterday afternoon with her and her brother, Wil. The Rhododendron was blooming like crazy, images bouncing off the mirror-smooth water. It was a wonderful trip. We spotted four tiny ducks skimming across the creek ahead of us, their little feet splashing as they literally ran across the water.
Thanks, Chelsea.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Just to Let You Know that I'm Working....

Part of a special order place setting

Bits and Pieces of My Day

It's hard to be me. I procrastinate, worry and create. My motto is why do today what you can put off until tomorrow. I'm moody.

So, when my wife asked me what's this on the checkout counter, I was stumped until I remembered that I was multi-tasking earlier in the day - watching customers while decorating a plate. I also multi-tasked while talking-while-decorating-a-plate to a young lady who was working on her Creative Writing thesis about Seagrove.
That's another story.
I left behind a little scattering of curly clay pieces on the checkout counter, an old Navigational charting table my father thought was used in the U.S. Navy. The little pieces went unnoticed by me, but my wife has better focus than I.
So, I scooped up the debris and tossed it out the door, but now I've left another behind.

...She beat me to it.

I've started another blog called Fish Camp Stories about my experience at my father's fishing, diving, training camp for boys aged 9 to 16. Two blogs at once? Well, I'm hoping for help from my fellow fish campers as far as posting on the blog.
So far, I've got two posts by other campers, one from Chad Roberts, and one from Al Cook. I've been sorting through hundreds, perhaps, thousands of slides. The year before it closed, I ran the camp with Chad. He was 19. I was 18.
Chad wrote "One night, the guy drilled a hole right through my finger," about Andy Massimino, a co-director of the camp who "doubled as Camp's outboard mechanic in residence."
Al wrote "tropical fish and hammerheads," a piece about catching fish on the reef for the Camp aquarium.
"'It's When you Stop Worrying about the Ocean that it'll Get you,'" is a story about running out of gas right "while on a collision course with a steaming freighter," written by Ben Katzenstein, another Fish Camper.
Here's a picture of Chad I found. The image is a slide of Chad inside a neat little slide converter I have hooked up to my digital camera.

Looking back at Chad

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shaking out the Elements

Large Jug Blasted with Wood Ash

I've been busy changing elements, drawing trees and trying to figure out using a new gizmo for converting slides into digital images, so I haven't taken many pictures of the pots from David Stuempfle's wood-firing recently.

I did say I would post some, so here's one of my favorites. It's 16 inches high and about 11 inches wide. David or Tim Ayers, who helped a lot with loading and firing, laid it on its side near the front of the kiln where it got blasted. Clay is STAR White 10/ NC clay blend, from STARworks Ceramics.

That's a bit of seashell that I left imbedded into the clay.
The pot was laid on wads topped with seashells.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Another Fish Camp Pot

I've been having fun catching up with some old friends on another blog of mine called Fish Camp Stories. It's about my time spent as a child and young adult fishing, diving, skiing, sailing and growing up in the Florida Keys at my father's boys camp. It's hard to describe the experience of growing up at Fish Camp.

My friend Chad Roberts from Jacksonville, Florida put it nicely in a comment to the first post:
"...Sometimes I want to think about it, and sometimes touch it once in a while, without thinking that I'm wallowing in yesteryear. It conjurs up the memory of a healthy feeling; of being totally centered, in touch with the wonders of nature and the sea and your own life, of being the most alive you have ever been, of a time when the barometer for your daily activities was . . . a barometer."

Decoration on this pot
reflects a bit of my
Fish Camp experience

Unloading David Stuempfle's Kiln

Mary and I spent Sunday helping unload David Stuempfle's wood-fired kiln, stopping every now and then to pose for a photograph for the photographer for Martha Stewart's magazine. There were some real beauties in there, "show-stoppers" as Jeff Dean says. I'll post some pictures of some of the pieces I made at a later date.

After unloading, we had a wonderful meal of fresh NC shrimp, spuds, greens and freshly cut bamboo shoots from somewhere in Robbins. Nancy Gottovi was a great host in her and David's home as we all sat and peeled the shrimp. The bamboo shoots were lovely, Nancy.

Andreas Jarvis shucks bamboo

Martha Stewart photographer
gets a shot of a large pot being unloaded

Removing shelves and posts
...check out the stuck pot, lower left

Nancy and Jeff check out some pots

David uses a sheet to pull this one out
with Chad Brown helping

Photographer and editor of magazine
discuss the process of unloading

Takuro and Jeff look at two vases

Some show stoppers?

It was a beautiful afternoon

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dancing Red Hot Divas

Did anyone else spot these ladies in Seagrove last weekend?

They came to my studio while I was wandering aimlessly around my workshop after staying up until the wee hours stoking David Stuempfle's kiln. Mary took the photos.

Apparently, they dance together in the Charlotte area.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wood-firing Continues

Chad Brown looks into the kiln from a safe distance,
eyeing pyrometric cones set inside the kiln
to monitor the temperature.
I took over stoking after Chad's shift.

There's a very quick moment, when closing the stoke hole door on David Stuempfle's kiln, when you both hear and feel a big swoosh. It's easy to miss. It's as if the someone sucker punched a giant in the stomach and knocked the wind out of him. A faint but powerful humph... and then it's quiet except for the crackle/sizzle of hardwood slabs igniting inside the kiln.

I spent my six-hour shift last night stoking, waiting for a rise in temperature, a fall in temperature, and then stoking again, maintaining the temperature, "soaking the kiln" until someone else took over and did the same. The kiln was started at midnight Monday.

My shift was over at midnight. James Ward, a bonsai-artist-turned-potter, from Orange County NC, took over the next shift, while David slept.

Flames lick one of my pots. Pot at the left
is on one of two narrow shelves on
either side of the firebox. You don't want to
knock pots off when stoking.

The kiln goddess

The kiln god.