Saturday, August 25, 2007

happy as kings

I love books--especially pottery books. This week I got 2 fabulous books--both from far away. Several months ago I read a review in "Ceramics Art & Perception" (the Australian magazine) of a new book, "The Zen Master, the Potter, and the Poet" by Milton Moon. Since all three subjects in the title are near to my heart I was eager to get a copy. I searched for it on Amazon and then did a Google search but neither of them turned up any thing about the book. Frustrated, but not deterred, I sent an email request to the publisher in Australia, negotiated for them to send me the book and received it last week. What a treasure! Milton Moon is a highly respected potter in Australia who made several trips to Japan studying pottery and Zen. This book is a lovely description of his experiences visiting potters in Japan and of the time he spent studying Zen under his master at Daitokuji in Kyoto. It has some photos of his pottery--but the focus is on his experiences, not on his pottery. A wonderful book which I am reading slowly to savor each step along his journey!

The second is a book of photos of Phil Rogers' pottery published by the Pucker Gallery in Boston who features his work. I know of Phil through his book on throwing--which is a wonderful guide to this craft/art. Recently I was visiting his web site and saw a note that a book about his work was about to be published. Off I went to Amazon and found that they did have it listed but it had not yet been published--it was expected to be published in July. So I placed my order and began my wait. A few weeks ago I got a notice that the publication date had been changed and I might not get my copy until sometime in October. OK, I can wait. It arrived yesterday. If I had known what a treat it would be I would have had a hard time being patient. It is filled with beautiful color photos of his work which bears a strong similarity to Japanese pottery. A really beautiful book!

What an incredible blessing--being part of the pottery community. I love all of it: the presence of pottery going back into the prerecorded history of man; the incredible literature that has accompanied pottery through the ages; and the wonderful people that make up that community--all of these riches freely available to each of us. I cannot believe my good fortune to have found my way into this world of pottery and to have been so graciously welcomed into it.

"The world is so full of a number of things, I ’m sure we should all be as happy as kings." Robert Lewis Stevenson

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

oh, oh, I lost my focus*

I'm still not back in the studio--and I am planning to show/sell at the guild's annual show in October. Originally I had decided not to commit to the show because of the expected move sometime in the fall. Then, when it looked like we would not be moving before Christmas, I changed my mind and signed up to participate with my own booth. Now, SUDDENLY, it looks like we will be moving late October or early November. We will certainly be packing and overseeing the needed changes at the new house by then. And here am I not yet busy at work in the studio. Tomorrow Jim leaves for Austin for a couple of days--should be my chance to focus on my pottery. But he is busy leaving me with long lists of estimates to get from various companies for the work that will be needed on the new house. It is not a new house, it is 42 years old. So it is in need of some up-dating and repairing though it is in good shape for its years. As I write this I am reminded of Ron Philbeck's home that is in the 100's of years old if I remember correctly.There is such a lot to do and suddenly there is so little time to do it in.

I am torn between being excited about the new possibilities--especially planning a 'real' studio in the garage--and dealing with a deep sense of loss. We love our home and it has our whole life-together history in it. The move was not our own initiation--extenuating circumstances forced it--so there is a lot of regret entailed. However, I am trying to focus on what we gain in making this move and convert the regret to happy memories. Not easy!

No single picture does credit to our wonderful home--but you get the idea! We will be leaving the deer wandering through our yard, eating the shrubs, gardening attempts and flowers, and the raccoons dancing on the roof over our bed at night. We've complained about that--but we will miss it all! We built our home in 1979--we moved in 10 days before our son Ben was born. I thought I would be buried in the back yard...

One of the great pluses will be that my son, Kenny, will live with us and work with me in the studio. The studio will house a potter and a painter! Kenny is 46 and has been painting for maybe 15 or 20 years. He is cerebral palsied and it is incredible what he has accomplished in spite of his handicaps. He has been living independently for many years but his physical condition is deteriorating and I believe that he needs closer supervision than he has at this time. It will be great getting to share the enthusiasms of our art with each other. I am so happy that we can make this change now and so grateful to Jim for being as enthusiastic about the project as I am. Lots to look forward to--but in the meantime I am having trouble focusing on my pottery!

*This sparked by Robert Genn's newsletter this week.

Friday, August 17, 2007

and now the rains have gone (I hope)

The sun is out but it does not seem to have cured the pottery block. I did a little trimming on a piece I started yesterday and seem to have made some headway. Of course, it has a long way to go yet--drying and firing twice and glazing! No assurances yet!

I had expected to be back in the studio today working full steam ahead inspired by our 6^ glaze group get-together last night. It was the first attempt at getting a group started since the group I initiated a year or so ago fell flat on its face! I had imagined a sort of research group studying glazes and glaze materials. That was not what the others had in mind. Lives are so busy these days, few are looking for more to do! This time Herb suggested that we just get together to talk about glazes and our experiences. No high tech, no assignments, no work--just good fellowship! And it was very pleasant getting to visit with people who are as enthusiastic as I about their pottery experiences. Unfortunately, several perspective members were unable to attend because of the rain and flooding. Nonetheless, we were a group of 7--a nice size group for conversation. And it was stimulating to see and hear about the work others are doing and the different ways that they approach their work.

I might have gotten into some potting if Jim had not come out to the studio as I was finishing my trimming project to suggest we go over to the 'new' house and check on leaks after the heavy rains yesterday and last night. So, I cleaned up and we took off--stopping for lunch on the way home an hour or so later. Now it is nap time!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

it's raining, it's pouring

torrents! Raining torrents. And everything outside was already soaked from all the rain we've had this summer! Of course, the studio leaks like a sieve! The first few times it rained like this it caught me off guard and there was water standing across the whole 7 foot width of the studio. The pedal of the wheel was sitting in all that water and afterward did not function. After a couple of days of being dry it repaired itself to my great relief. So I have learned to put the pedal up on the wheel off the floor. I also have put towels and thick pads of newspaper in strategic points to absorb the water and keep most of the studio floor dry.

Even before the rain began this morning I was unable to pot--just could not get anything to come out right. After several attempts at different vessels of different sizes I just gave up. I don't think it helps to push the river. For the last week we have been negotiating to buy a house. I think that preoccupation--or occupation--has had me so distracted and somewhat anxious that I am suffering a potting block! Those negotiations are complete and now we just wait to see if the sale on our property is going to be realized. We will probably spend the Christmas holidays moving!

UPDATE: In the last 3 hours we have had about 7 inches of rain! That is a torrent of rain, right?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

the community of blogging potters

I mentioned sometime back how much I enjoy and find support in reading the blogs of potters. Suddenly lots has been developing on the blogging front. I got a note from Emily Murphy that she had expanded her list of pottery blogs--and put my blog on her list! Wow, that was really exciting. Then I've received notes from some of my favorite potters that let me know they were checking in on my blog from time to time. Then I learned that one of my great far-away potter friends, Tony Clennell in Canada, has started a blog! I look forward to keeping up with his upcoming semester in China. (Notice that I have now added a list of my favorite pottery blog sites to the side bar on this blog.) I love being part of this network of blogging potters!

Today Abbie Cotrell came by to pick up a few more pieces to display in her gallery, Guadalupe Crossing Market in Waring. She is always so complimentary and enthusiastic about my work that it is very inspiring! Back to the wheel! I've been a bit of a slacker the last week or so.

I am still a bit perplexed by the last firing--the one in which I was testing all my red glazes. I have to do that again. I can't understand why I would get such great red's one week and none the next! The only difference that I can identify is the rain we were having--giving very high humidity. Last week was dryer--more typical of our summers. I read a quote from Abe Lincoln that I have now added to the layout of the blog as I think it especially appropriate for all us pottery addicts: "Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." So I shall enthusiastically get going on another 'red' firing!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

faux pas

I spent the weekend glazing a batch of pots. It took all weekend because I was trying to be very deliberate and mindful of the glazing process. I completed the glazing on Monday morning and started the firing before noon--as always VERY eager to see the results. But before the kiln could be opened I left for a short trip to Houston to visit a friend there--spending the night and returning late Wednesday afternoon.

I was especially eager to see the pots because I was testing all my 'red' glazes to see which responded to the new firing schedule. I had made 8 small 'vases' to put the various 'reds' on to compare the results on similar pieces. And I had glazed several larger pieces with the glaze that had produced the glorious red in the last firing. I called home Tuesday evening to have Jim open the kiln and describe the contents.

The results: disappointing.

1) Only one part of one of the vases produced the desired red. It was just right where it had been dipped twice--thus was thick--the lower portion is gritty, unevenly colored and not very red.
2) The greatest disappointment--and embarrassment--was the large pieces that should be gloriously 'red' were not. I apparently mis-labeled a new batch of glaze. What I thought was "Touchstone Red" was "Cream Breaking Rust"! It is cream and it does break rust--but that was not what I was wanting!
Expectations kill me every time!I did not get ANY of the glorious red of the last firing. Back to the drawing board....