Tuesday, July 31, 2007

finding support

I start my day with a cup of coffee sitting at my computer. I take a quick look at the news, check my email and spend quite some time reading blogs--mostly by other potters--and finally reading the discussions on Clayart. The blogs are frequently a source of stimulation, encouragement and support for me in my own pottery work.

This morning I was reading the blog of an English slipware potter, Douglas Fitch, that I found very encouraging even though he was describing his frustration on the opening of his last kiln load! I think he has been at his pottery-making for a long time yet today he describes mishaps in his last firing and how discouraging it was to him. Yet, he is charged up to solve the problems and get started on the next round of work! The potter's universal story. I should find it discouraging that such a successful potter is still having these kinds of experiences. Yet, instead, I am encouraged to know that even an experienced potter has these disappointments! How to explain that--even to myself!

I am busy throwing a lot of pieces that I want to use to test out my recent success at getting an iron red glaze. I plan to use several different glazes that have NOT produced the expected red to see if it is true that the most significant factor is the firing schedule--my current theory.

Monday, July 23, 2007

win some, lose some

When we woke Saturday morning we were greeted by a tremendous thunderstorm--an incredible downpour. The predictions were that it would continue until around 10:00 (which it did) and then be lighter but continue to rain on and off all day. I called the organizer of the the show and learned that he was offering to hold the show inside the art center. Still we would be unloading the car in the downpour and how many customers would be out shopping on such a dreary day? And the art center is small, filled with equipment, supplies and work of the center. So Jim and I decided we'd pass on participating. Disappointing, given the push to get work done, and packed for the sale, but not devastating. I was still so excited about getting RED that I could not get very upset!

But, hey, the pots were packed and still in the car maybe this is the time to take them to a little gallery in Waring, Texas that a friend from long ago, Abbie Cotrell, has opened--the Guadalupe Crossing Market. Though Abbie had not seen my work she had invited me to show/sell my work in her gallery. We would take the pots to show her and see her gallery.

We could not go on Saturday because the low-water crossings were flooded but by Sunday the water was down enough to cross--so we went.

Waring is just a bend in a country road in the heart of the Hill Country. There are probably less than a dozen buildings. But some interesting things are happening there and Abbie's little gallery is one of the bright spots. She has 3 buildings that she is slowly restoring and turning into a gallery, a coffee shop and studio space. A cute, country place open only on Wednesdays and the weekends.

She liked my work and selected about 3 dozen pieces to show. After we re-packed the remainders, Jim and I went across the street to the General Store where Abbie said they make the best hamburgers in Texas--and they were great. We were sitting under giant trees enjoying our hamburgers and a gentle breeze. Jim was pointing out that there is not a lot of traffic going through Waring, sales might be pretty slow, don't get too excited yet--when Abbie came over to give me checks for the first pieces already sold!

So I am all fired up to start making pots for Clay Ole--the San Antonio Potters Guild show/sale in October--and for the Guadalupe Crossing Market!

Friday, July 20, 2007

good times

It is good times...even though the car and truck are loaded to the brim with tent, tables and boxes of ware for tomorrow's craft fair and the weather man says we have 70% chance of thunder storms and heavy rain--just like we've had for the last 2 months! Jim and I have about decided we will be unloading the vehicles tomorrow here at home, forsaking the sale! Putting up a tent in the rain is no fun and the rains we've had today and recently are hard, heavy rains--not sprinkles. And even if we got the tent set up before the rain or in between the rains, there will not be crowds of shoppers eager to get out under umbrellas to shop for arts and crafts! So, too bad! But Jim is wonderfully positive--look at all the work I got done which is now ready for the next show (in October!)

And I did get some good work done. Two great happenings over the last week or two. One, I have made a giant step forward in my glazing skills! The last 3 kiln loads had not one disaster! Not even a disappointment! I am hugely happy about that!

And then, two, the final load that I opened this morning was full (not really full, it was a light load) of RED pieces! I've been trying to get RED in a cone 6 glaze for 2 or 3 years without success. Now I've got red! I was not really trying for red--just a nice rich brown but I did use a new red iron oxide and I did use the firing schedule that my friend, Sandy Miller, suggested for getting red--and low and behold I got red. (Can you tell how excited I am about that?) This is another of the pierced bowls that I am enjoying making these days--but this one is RED!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

resulting in better results

I am very happy to report that the last 2 glaze firings were very satisfying. There was not a single unwanted run of the glaze, there were no pinholes or crawling of the glaze! Wow!

Of course, there are folk who would wish for a run or something that would make this piece a bit more interesting! I am sure that will come--but for now I am so happy to not have things I don't want on the pot that I am not too worried about what I might wish it to have

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I have spent the morning outside glazing a batch of pots. I was armed with my notes from the good people on Clayart who responded with suggestions for improving my glazing results. They sent their suggestions in response to my declaration that "I hate glazing" and a plea for help. I should not have said that I hated glazing--the truth is I am frustrated to death over glazing problems. Of course the most frequent advise was to "practice, practice, practice." You would think (or I did) that all the pots I've glazed over the last 3 or 4 years should qualify as a lot of practice. But in fact they don't because I have not paid close enough attention to what I was doing and the results that were produced. So today I had two note pads to record every step of the process. I measured the specific gravity of each glaze I used and recorded that. I identified each piece that I glazed and carefully recorded what I put on each piece, how it went on, any peculiarities of the glazed piece. So I am beat! I am now waiting for the kiln load of bisque ware to cool off enough to handle so I can get full load of glazed ware into the kiln to fire. I am so eager to see if my close attention to the process will result in better results!

I came to the conclusion, while working this morning, that my real problem--besides poor technique--is that I am not an artist. I am a craftsperson. I have no idea about color or design. And glazing is all about the art of ceramics. Throwing and trimming pots is about the craft of it. And since I don't know what to do decoration-wise I just slap something on the pots and pray for a happy surprise! And that is probably why I like the glazes that are so uncontrollable--they offer a chance at a happy surprise--or a huge disaster. I've had both!

I will have to wait till Saturday to see the fruit of my labor. I will be saying a prayer to the kiln gods as I load these pieces into the kiln. They come through for me sometimes! I worked as conscientiously as I know how--now they have to take over.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

some satisfactions

My tulip vase is very pleasing to me--even though it does not hold the flowers very well--it tends to break the stems where they bend over so far.

Lots of ‘family’ activities the last few weeks. Very little ‘production’. But lots of opportunity for reflection on my pottery work—what gives me joy in doing it, how can I stay in touch what has real value for me. One thing I see—which kind friends tried to point out to me earlier—I don’t want to be a ‘production potter’. The question that remains is do I want to sell my pottery at all. My friend, Herb, stays so involved with his pottery work—lots of experimenting and exploring—yet he does NOT sell his work. He gives it a way to any one interested in having some of his work. He contributes to a lot of ‘auctions for good causes'. My great joy is in ‘one off’ pieces where I have let myself explore and experiment. I don’t find much pleasure in producing lots of similar pieces in order to have an inventory for sales! But it is wonderful stumbling into making a piece I really enjoy making and am pleased with even after the firing.

My niece, Margaret, said she thought I was too negative about my work when I write about it in the blog. So here are some of the pieces from the last firing that satisfy me!

This is my second 'incised' piece and I am as happy with it as I was with my first--the one that had tree silhouettes around the rim.

I like this bowl a lot. Even though I have been complaining about the glazes 'curtaining', I really like the way it works in this bowl, it is very subtle.

And I like the foot on the bowl, too. (Same bowl, interesting how the inside glaze is darker than the outside glaze--both same glaze.)

Here is a case where the 'production' of a set of dishes pleases me. The plates can serve salad, sandwiches, or dessert. The small bowls that complement, but do not match, the plates can serve a small salad, soup or ice cream.

And I like this casserole. Even though the inside has a 'flaw'--the green glaze dripped down on top of the white interior glaze. For me it is OK--shows the hand of the potter. We'll see what others think!