Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays, dear friends

Detail from Kenny's Christmas painting 2005.
Click on picture to see full painting. In real life it measures 96" X 54".

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

my country

I just have to tell you how proud I am of my country today!
I have great hopes for US again.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Randy's workshop was so inspiring. And probably being away from the studio this past month has also stirred up some fire. So with great enthusiasm I got into the studio on Tuesday to get my hands back into clay. The night before, Jim had commented that we need a/some platter/s for serving as we don't have any to use with the plates I've made and that we enjoy using. So that was my mission--make some platters to see if I could get one that I would be pleased with. Well, too bad. I had much trouble trying to get a plate big enough to be a platter! And of course it will shrink lots before it gets to the table--if it makes it through the rest of the process. I threw three pieces. One I tried altering into an elipse shape by cutting out a section in the middle and pushing the sides in. It does not look promising but is still on its way...
Well, the end of the story is how discouraging the whole process was/is. I've trimmed them and they are drying, slowly, under wraps but I have very low expectations--but high demands! Such is the life of this potter. I should have started my venture back into the studio by throwing 500 rice bowls--that might have warmed me up enough to tackle platters with more success.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kenny is coming home Saturday

He has such great spirit! He has remained so positive through all of this.

Randy Johnston workshop

I’ve been trying to find a way to describe the Randy Johnston workshop this past weekend in Houston. I enjoyed it so much and was so impressed with Randy himself that I’d really like to share some of it with others.
Randy started both sessions with a slide show: Saturday morning he gave a broad overview of the history of ceramics in Japan and the pottery lineage from Leach/Hamada/Yanagi to current potters in the US by way of England. Randy studied under Warren MacKenzie in the 1960s and worked in the Japanese pottery of Tatsuzo Shimaoka in the 1970s. He had interesting stories to share of his work there and his acquaintance with Hamada whose pottery was next door to Shimaoka’s. Sunday morning he showed of some of his work and some of his wife’s work (Jan McKeachie Johnston) with references to the inspiration for his work and what he learned from it. Randy gives great attention to detail and keeps detailed notes that serve as reference for development of new work. He wood fires his pieces and is very attentive to variations he gets based on placement of the pieces in the kiln.
Following the slide shows Randy demonstrated techniques for making several of his best known works. These sessions were 5 and 4 hours long—which amazes me, now that I calculate the time, as we never became tired, lost attention or wished for a break. Perhaps because he was so relaxed and comfortable with what he was doing. He stressed the importance to him of drawing in preparation for new works. He demonstrated how he transformed his 2D drawing into a 3D piece, quite literally, by constructing patters, from the drawing, for a handbuilt coffee pot using geometric principles!
Here are the pieces cut from the patterns. (Sorry about the dark picture.)

And here is the coffeepot, without lid, made from the pattern pieces.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Kenny's surgery went well. He was pleased--and surprised--to come out of it alive! He really expected that he would not 'wake up' after the surgery. He has asked several times if I have told 'so-and-so' that he came out OK. But he has experienced a serious set-back--from the anesthetic, I understand. On the thrid day he could not take even one step forward even with assistance. He could not feed himself. But he is at a rehabilitation hospital and receiving 4 sessions of therapy each day. On Thursday--8 days after surgery--he walked about 150 feet with his walker taking only one rest stop in the middle. That is a huge improvement. He is feeding himself now. I think he will be in the rehabilation hospital for another week. I am optimistic that he will be back to 'normal' by then. He looks forward to being 'normal' so he can help me when I need it!

This weekend I am in the lap of luxury. I am in Houston attending Randy Johnston's workshop here and staying in the lovely home of my friend Toni. I was planning to stay at a hotel--had made my reservations--when Toni learned of my trip and invited me to stay with her instead. Her home is so lovely and I am so fond of her and we so seldom have a chance to visit face-to-face that I could not resist the temptation to accept her hospitality. What a treat it is!

And I am really enjoying the workshop with Randy. Today he took us through a pictorial tour of the lineage of his and Warren MacKenzie's work. Randy was a student of Warren's in the 1960's. They live near one another and maintain a close relationship. I really enjoyed hearing the history of the Mengei movement and how it has come down to us. Tomorrow, before returning home, I plan to sneak in one more visit to the exhibit of Warren MacKenzie's work (and Randy Johnston's along with other of Warren's students) before driving back to San Antonio.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I'm hanging up the "closed" sign on the pottery door--and on this blog--for a while. Kenny is expecting to have surgery next Wednesday. And I am expecting to be very occupied with him and his care for the next month or so. I will put up the "open" sign when we are both back in the studio doing what we love to do! Thanks for your friendship and support!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

out to lunch...

Thanks for dropping by. I'm OK but I have not been in the studio since I unloaded the kiln a couple weeks ago. Just got too many 'homemaking' things to do. And I'm getting pretty grouchy these days--probably because there is no time for studio work. Once or twice I have (unintentionally) upset Kenny when he thought he was responsible for my grumpyness. That is not a good thing as he is the sweetest guy who would never do anything wrong or anything to hurt or upset anyone. Hope to get back on track soon--but it may take a while!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

carrying on

I have been working in the studio--although not producing much. I don't know why the out-put is so low, but that is the way it is.
I finally completed a glaze firing over the weekend. There is not much from that firing that I am too excited about.
Since the firing took place during the visit of IKE to Texas coast, I have named this bowl "Eye of the storm".

We are only 200 miles west of Houston but we did not get a drop of rain or a whiff of wind! David Hendley, about 300 miles north of Houston, is still without power and had huge oak trees up-rooted and tossed about in his yard! We have a friend in Syracuse New York who told of the terrible rain and wind storm they had when Ike arrived there as a tropical storm.

I am very happy with the house numbers and plaque that came out of that group.

This is not a good shot--bad angle and it does not show the texture on the plaque and mottled effect of the glaze on the numerals. You see that a bit better if you click on the photo to enlarge the view.

And I am fond of these 'serving' sushi plates (about 9" aquare) though I am having trouble being happy with the glaze. It is a combination I have layered many times in the past but this time I reversed the order of the layering and it made a BIG difference.

Below is "Kenny's bowl" that used the same glazes but in reverse order of layering--here light on top of dark glaze. On the shushi plates if is dark on top of light. The colors are true in both photos!

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Patricia Griffin taggedf me last week--along with some of my favorite potters/bloggers. I'm honored--but not too pleased! I am not a great game player and I worry that I may tag others who either have been tagged already OR do not want to be tagged! I do think the 'tagging' should come with a 'tag sticker' to put on your blog to protect against multiple taggings. None-the-less, here I go.

Here are the rules of the dreaded "tagging" thing:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog. (this is what you're now reading.)
3. Write 6 random things about yourself (see below).
4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them. (This is only a game.)
5. Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six Random Things About Me:

1. My sisters are both great game players and get very grumpy when I beg out of a game...
2. I made (stitched-up) my first bra because my mother said I did not need one yet.
3. I have an insatsiable sweet-tooth.
4. I studied Spanish for 4 or 5 years and still can't speak it!
5. In my pre-teen years, my favorite place was the Carnagie Library in a small east Texas town.
6. I am thinking about moving to Mexico if we loose this election.

Six People I Tag (with apologies if they've already been tagged)

1. Joy Tanner @ joytannerpottery.blogspot.com
2. Anne Webb @ annewebb.wordpress.com
3. Deborah Woods @ themudpot.blogspot.com
4. Amy Higgason @ pigeonroadpottery.blogspot.com
5. TS Broome @ tsbroome.blogspot.com
6. Michele D @ wildmagnolia-nolapotter.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 31, 2008

and then the weekend...

The trip to Houston Friday to see Warren MacKenzie's exhibition (traveling to 6 cities) and then to hear him speak on Saturday was a real treat! Jim had been a bit cool on the proposal originally but agreed because he knew how much I wanted to go. However, he was as enthralled as I was by the experience. The pots were beautifully displayed in an ample space but we were not allowed to pick up the pieces--which I was itching to do--nor to take pictures. But Jim cheated and took a snapshot of my brief visit with Warren.

The reception Friday was from 5:30 to 8:00 and we arrived a little after 6:30. There were a good number of people there but it was not crowded--which surprised me. There was no problem seeing everything, as close as I wanted, and for as long as I wanted to look!

The talk Saturday was very informal--planned to be more of a conversation than a talk or lecture. Again there were a surprisingly small number of people in the audience so it felt very personal and intimate. He talked, as he has written, of how important he thinks group criticism is to the development of the potter. He spoke of long conversations on form and design with Bernard Leach and Alix while they were living with Leach. And he said that was the part of teaching that he most enjoyed. He had weekly group criticism of the student's work and at the end of the semester there was a pot luck supper to which students and teacher brought a food contribution in a pot that had been made that semester--though there was not much talk of pots then, rather the focus was on the food! And he told of getting together from time to time with former students who live in the area around Warren (many do) to have those same sessions of group criticism. It made me wish that our Cone 6 Group might want to undertake group criticisms occasionally--but then I get nervous just thinking about it!

Saturday morning, before the afternoon talk, Jim and I visited the Menil Collection (art museum). That was the whipped cream topping on our perfect weekend!

Our trip coincided with concern for New Orleans under threat from Gustav. Driving over Friday afternoon on IH 10 we saw SO MANY huge, empty buses gong toward Houston--seemed very strange. While in Houston we saw many flashing highway signs announcing, "Hurricane season, keep your gas tank filled". On the return trip again so many empty huge buses going toward Houston--I think we saw more than a hundred of those buses. Finally it occurred to us that the buses were on their way to Louisiana--not Houston--to participate in the possibility of evacuation. At home last night we saw that New Orleans was ordered to evacuate by this morning. So those huge empty buses will be filled with people coming to Houston and San Antonio for safe haven. In spite of all that, we did not experience much traffic except as we were approaching Houston Friday evening--just as we always experience driving into Houston anytime, any day!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

a great week

I've enjoyed my mornings in the studio. Not producing rows of pots--like some of my favorite bloggers can do. My production is very modest--but now I have a kiln load ready to bisque--and that feels great! I am looking forward to doing some glaze experiments. That is new--historically I dread glazing--I hope the good feelings survive the experience.

We've spent our evenings glued to the TV watching the convention. A shameful amount of time spent in front of the TV. But I am one of the women for Obama! And don't want to miss a single moment of the excitement.

Tomorrow Jim and I will drive to Houston to attend a reception for Warren Mackenzie who is having a exhibition of his work there. On Saturday he will give a talk which I look forward to hearing. I am very fond of his work and really look forward to seeing some of it in person. It will also be a first outing for Jim and me since our move here in January.

It seems like life is settling into a nice pattern, finally!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

just a recommendation

The motivation for this brief post is to share a new blog with you. Russel Fouts is an American potter living in Brussels whom I had the pleasure of meeting at NCECA in Louisville, 2007. His work is great, very inspiring, but his blog is about looking at other people's pots, lovely pots. I am adding it to my morning stroll through the pottery blogs and thought you might like to look at it also.

We have had the pleasure of a visit from my brother-in-law, Wayne Adams. A rare treat, he is seldom willing to subject himself to the tortures of Texas heat but made this trip at the height of summer temperatures to celebrate my son's 49th birthday. Chris spent his 12th year living in Brussels with Wayne and my sister Catherine before they had their own children. So of course they have a close bond to this day. Wayne's visit was short so it turned into a marathon of family gatherings to make sure everyone of our Texas family got to spend time with Wayne from Maine. Not one minute in the studio over the last 4 days--but tomorrow...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hello everybody, somebody?

Can't imagine that there will be many readers of this blog after such a long absence. I have been busy, busy, busy!
Tying up loose ends: I completed the Majolica class and did get one satisfactory piece--Jim calls it my $300 batter bowl!

But it is on the home front that I have been so busy, busy, busy.
A week ago last Monday we had the new window installed in the library.

When we were shown this house last fall the realtor called this room the 'living room' and the adjoining room was called the 'family room'. We immediately recognized the 'living room' as our future 'library'.
On Wednesday of last week, Jim picked up the last of the bookcases we had made in Austin. Ben had already brought part of the bookcase order here along with the metal base we had made there for the library table--we have a SMALL truck so it took 2 trips. And then anchored the bookcases so there would be no threat of their falling over.

On Sunday Jim and Ben assembled the library table. The table top is a door that was on my grandfather's house in East Texas--it is over a hundred years old--I remember the awe I felt toward the door as a child. When we built our home in 1979 Jim and I drove to East Texas to pick up the door--no longer in use--and had it installed in our new home. Because the door would not fit this house we decided to make it into the library table with a metal base and a glass top.

The base weighs over 300 pounds and the door about that also--it measures 42" X 91" X 2.74." Don't know what the glass will add in weight!

Finally this Monday I could empty those boxes stacked in the library these last 8 months--at least 2 dozen boxes! Sorting the books in categories and alphabetizing them was a huge chore--taking 2 days. These are the new bookcases:

These are the old bookcases which were in our former home and we are reusing:

Jim wishes to have all the bookcases match--but I'm happy with what we finally have! Besides they are on different wall constructions so I think they look 'just right'!

Busy couple of weeks. Now I hope to get back into the studio for some real work....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

a bit of brush work

These are my little 'sushi' plates made in the Majolica class. Not what I had in mind--is it ever? But I am happy that I got a good coat of glaze--no crawling. I should give up trying to paint pictures!

I am feeling a bit frustrated at not getting much time in the studio. I am going to try to get out to the studio first thing in the morning--before tea and blog readings--while Kenny is showering and dressing. I've been pacing myself wait to have breakfast with him and then go with him to the studio. But lately that has been getting later and later--10:00 or 10:30. I could probably get 2 hours work done before he is ready for breakfast and then another couple hours with him after breakfast. I probably will not be too happy to break for breakfast mid-way through my work session--but I bet I can adjust to that! Jim will be out of town for the next 2 weeks so this should be a good time to try to create a new schedule for myself.

Monday, July 21, 2008

on footrings and hanging platters

We have 2 lovely platters made by Daphne Hatcher, a potter in East Texas. They are each about 18" across and look great on the wall.

But we also enjoy using them on the table when entertaining.

Daphne has made wonderful footrings that sit well on the table and hang easily on the wall--in any direction.

The bold footring is undercut generously to hang on a hook in any direction.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

being at home

That is how it feels now in my (our) studio. All set up, comfy and all systems working. So now it is up to me to get working! I may have mentioned that I am taking a class at the Southwest School of Art and Craft--a night class working on Majolica. It is funny that I am in that class--I don't like night classes and I took a Majolica class some time back and was not inclined to follow up on it. But here I am again and I am enjoying the challenges. Night is an easier time for me to be away from home, but harder to have the energy and enthusiasm to get up and out after a long day. So far I have not produced much to be excited about.

I have several pieces waiting to be fired and several here waiting to be painted. I keep intending to do simple designs but in the ones now waiting to be fired I got carried away painting more detailed designs--flowers especially. I am still trying to find what works for me. Not sure how thick the paints should be, or the wash, or the glaze for that matter. As you see I have trouble with glaze coverage--too thick? or too thin? Don't know why/how I get the leaded-glass effect.

I am doing most of my work here which is much easier for me than packing up my gear and taking it downtown then having to pack up to bring it all back home. So I go for the lessons and to see what everyone is doing. I chat some to learn what I can from my classmates. Then work it out here at my own pace. A great luxury to be able to do that! I prefer working alone though I miss a lot by not being more involved with the class.

We are still in the process of settling in here in the house. We get one space nicely ordered, just right. Then in the process of setting up the next space we clutter up the just-before-settled space! Frustrating! There is progress--but I long for the day we feel that we are really 'at home'.

Monday, June 30, 2008

good newses

Ron had a great sale last weekend. Doug had a great sale last weekend. Wow. So much for the bad economy. Isn't is great that good work is recognized, appreciated and supported in good times and bad.
On the home front there is good news here too. Jim got my glaze booth installed this week. I can't wait to use it. It is in a small room (closet really) with an exhaust fan to the outside. Now if I can get my air compressor to work I'll be in great shape!
And, equally important, Jim has the small air conditioner for the studio in his car to carry to the repair shop tomorrow. It was in my studio before we moved. In the move, a coil was broken and all the coolant leaked out. It has been intolerably hot in the studio the past couple weeks--in the 100s--so that even in the mornings it is too hot to work out there. I had a repairman come to fix the A/C a few weeks back but the way our contractor installed the A/C it could not be removed by the repairman. Today the contractor came over and took it out so that Jim could take it in to be repaired.
I am taking a class at the Southwest School of Art and Craft this summer. It is a Majolica class. I am a bit ambivalent about this style of ceramics. We have dishes from Mexico in this style that we have collected over the last 28 years and greatly enjoy using. So maybe it is something I will enjoy making. We'll see!
Truth to tell, I've had some big adjustments to make this year. I have a whole new schedule which is not mine to dictate. I don't like talking about it since is sounds like complaining when what I am feeling is incredible gratitude that I am in a position to make these changes that I believe make such a huge difference in Kenny's life. At earlier times in my life I could not have done this without sacrificing other parts of my life that would have been hard to do. Now it is a joy to be available to him for this time. At earlier times, Kenny was experiencing such incredible independence that had I taken on 'caring' for him it would have inhibited what he was able to do for himself. He was doing things that no one could imagine he could do. He has lived a very full life in spite of his limitations. I should start a blog just about Kenny--more appropriate that inserting it here. But then, we are sharing the studio--he is very much apart of my ceramic adventures!

Friday, June 27, 2008

slow reporting in

As of Wednesday I've known that the kiln did fire successfully after Tony changed the breaker. However, I feel only partly secure that the failures are behind me. The test fire I ran after Tony worked on the kiln the first time was successful but the subsequent firings were not. So until I fire the kiln another time or two I won't be totally certain that all is well.

As to the pots that were in the successful firing...they were an awful mess! They had been in 3 or 4 unsuccessful firings. So that may have played a part in their destruction. But there may have been another more significant factor. I was so tired of loading and unloading the kiln that I decided to 'test' fire with all the pots loaded AND I decided not to program the firing as I ALWAYS do. Instead, i set it to automatically fire to cone 6 at a medium rate. In my book, it overfired. However, cone 6 is set to fire to 2236 F in this mode. I never fire higher than 2190 F--usually to 2185 F. I had 3 cone packs containing cones 5-6-7. All of the cones were down. Cone 7 was down touching cone 6--it still had a slight arch but it was riding on the back of cone 6.

So what was the effect? I had several shallow bowls in the firing. The glaze popped off the upper area of the outside and fell in pools on the (new) shelves. The glaze did not run down the side of the pots--it blew off the pot and landed a few inches away from the foot of the bowls. On the inside of the bowls it did look like it flowed down the inside of the bowls. There were probably 8 or 10 pieces that were thus affected.

On the other hand, I had about 18 test tiles in this firing. Only one or two looked like they were overfired--like they had been burned. The others look good--exciting in fact. I just hope it does not mean that these glazes have to be fired this high to be successful. This was the high point of the firing. I had mixed up 5 different base glazes and had made 3 or 4 variations of each. It is the first time I have done this and it was very interesting to see the similarities and the differences in the variations. I have not made photos of the glaze tests. I am discouraged by how hard it is to get good color reproduction from my photos.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

not so fast

I was excited that the problem had been discovered, repaired and I was back in business. But again my kiln cut off mid-way through the firing again last night. The test fire, empty kiln, ran through the complete cycle. But the following re-fire, loaded again, shut off before any movement of the cones. How terribly discouraging. My service man suggests that the fault is the breaker and that I should replace the one I have. I think I should also get a higher amperage breaker--if that is possible. As one of my favorite literature characters would say, "Oh, what a bother."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

kiln update

Tony, our most knowledgeable kiln repairman, came to our house today to check out my kiln (bless him!) He checked the kiln from tip to toe. It is a relatively new kiln and it checked out very well. The only 'possible' trouble maker that Tony could find seems to fall into my lap--you remember that I bragged a bit about changing out the elements on the kiln. Well, Tony thought that perhaps we had not crimped the connectors tight enough thereby creating resistance that caused the tripping of the breaker. Since I really don't understand electricity, electric current and such I may be misrepresenting what Tony said! Right now I am running a test firing--empty kiln. If it completes the cycle, tomorrow I will reload the pieces that did not get fired earlier. I will report back in later. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Later update: The kiln just completed a test firing successfully! Yeah, tomorrow I will re-load the kiln with the un-fired ware and hope it gets fired this time!

so discouraging

I mentioned that the last firing was terminated before it completed the cycle. I thought perhaps running the dryer tripped the breaker (even though they are not on the same circuit). So, I loaded the kiln for another glaze firing on Tuesday--determined to have some samples for our 'Cone 6 Club' meeting Wednesday evening. I fired overnight to insure there was no competition for the current supply. But when I check the kiln Wednesday morning, it had been terminated again and this time none of the cones had moved at all. So now it has caught my attention and I spent a good deal of time talk in the manufacturer trying to determine the source of the trouble. They recommended a local kiln serviceman--who I am waiting for now. I know NOTHING about this kiln except how to turn it on and program the firing schedule. And I am learning that that is a mistake! Margaret Brampton wrote today about all the non-clay jobs a potter must perform--and I am poorly prepared for most of them!

We moved here in January and I've been gradually getting the studio set up--for me and for my son to share. It has been a funny process. I have all this 'stuff' to organize in the space--equipment, tools, books, etc--and that was not too hard to do. But then as I began to work I discovered that I needed to have arranged for 'processes' too. So at each stage of production I have to stop and figure out where that process will take place and what I need to have at hand. I think I have worked through most of that now (still waiting for someone to put in a counter and install the small spray booth). But I have now realized that in all my planning I have no place for finished work! I have a rolling cart for greenware and one for bisque ware--but nothing for finished ware! Back to the drawing board!

A small group has been meeting to discuss our experiences with cone 6 glazes for almost a year now. We fluctuate in size from 3 participants to 8 at one time. We have not accomplished a lot but we have enjoyed the society of the evenings. Originally there was some resistance to having any goal or structure but gradually there have been frustrations expressed regarding too much chit-chat. So we are trying to move toward a bit of focus. Currently we select a color to focus on and each member brings samples of their work in that color. We share recipes where requested and discuss problems and solutions. Last night we focused on 'blue'. There was a small turnout (only 4 of us) and we wondered if that was caused by the price of cobalt these days! I am interested in trying to find a way for us to focus on the materials. Comparing similar glazes with one significantly different material. Haven't figured that out yet. We have not had luck making assignments. Everyone is so busy with the rest of their lives that being required to make up a defined test has not worked. It seems we can't dictate where there will be a bit of extra time to meet outside demands. So we stay pretty loose and enjoy the time to talk about glazes, pots and ceramic experiences.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

long time, no posts

It seems that each step takes so much longer than before--even the r&r takes more time! I am amazed to see that it has been 10 days since my last post.

The last firing had some hitches. I had planned to make this a 'red' firing--everything would have my 'red' glaze because that glaze requires a special firing schedule that other glazes don't profit from. However, we had the children's hand-print plaques that had to be fired right away so the firing was not exclusively 'red' and I had a set of test tiles to fire that do like that kind of schedule. Otherwise it was all 'red'. I get excited about my red glaze--but it is frequently pointed out to me that I don't really have a red glaze--I have a brown glaze! I know what my critics are talking about--but to me it is a gorgeous red--OK brick-red if you insist. At some point during the firing cycle the circuit breaker was tripped turning the kiln off early. I don't know how early. I know that the kiln did reach the top temperature and start back down. The schedule calls for a soak at 1880 F for 30 minutes. I checked the kiln as it was about to reach the 1880 F point. When I next checked--a couple hours later--the kiln had been shut off. So I don't know how much of the soak it got, if any. It seemed to me that I did not get as good a 'red' as I have in the past.

When I take photos of the pieces in the studio they look VERY red. But that is the camera/lights/settings/computer? And I don't know how to adjust it.

Here are some of the pieces--but remember they don't really look this red:

This vase (remember the punch'ong design from long ago?) is more the color of the baking dish--not so red as in this photo.

Monday, June 02, 2008

shaping up

Things are beginning to shape-up here. I made a small square baking dish following Ron's instructions--looks good to me.

But most things look good while still green!

I am about to make up a bunch of glazes in test batches so I've made up about 3 dozen test tiles--so irritating not to have test tiles ready when you need them! I rolled out some slabs to cut out numerals for our house numbers--they are still green, too.

But the most fun was making "Father's Day" gifts with 2 of my youngest grandchildren. It was their mom's idea--make plaques with the little ones hand prints stamped in the wet clay. Reed is about 3 and a half and baby Jack (the leap-year-day baby) is 3 months old. We had lots of fun. But it was surprising that no matter how are we pressed the little hands into the clay we could not get a good heel-of-the-hand print--the fingers came out great but you can barely see the end of the palm.

Of course, Reed loved the whole adventure--Jack was patient at first, but quickly lost enthusiasm!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Robert Genn, a Canadian painter, emails out a newsletter twice a week on subjects related to art. I especially enjoyed the one I received today so I am posting it here in its entirety.

"Shibui is a broad term that can mean irregularity of form, openness to nature, roughness of texture, and the naturalness of daily life. Also known as Shibusa, it refers as well to the Japanese "Seven aspects of being," which are simplicity, implicitness, modesty, silence, naturalness, roughness and normalcy. It's seen in raku pottery, architecture, folk crafts, haiku, gardens and painting. Shibui is worth thinking about no matter where you are or what your art.

Fact is, perfection is boring. Shibui allows viewer participation in the artist's art. It's particularly valuable in an age of highly finished and sophisticated machine-manufactured products. Shibui comes naturally, shows the hand of the maker, and triumphs gesture and the vagaries of process. While there are hundreds of ways to bring shibui into your life, if you think you might include the idea in your painting, here are seven:

Use the whole brush--right down to the ferrule.
Have more than one colour on the brush at one time.
Hold the brush well up on the handle.
Work freshly and let intuition be your guide.
Feel the energy and direction of your subject.
Be not uptight, but relaxed.
Quit when you've connected and while the going is good.

In a way, the making of raku pottery is a good metaphor. In the fiery arms of the kiln god, work takes on a form of its own. Think of yourself as a kiln rather than a labouring artisan. Under the smoking straw of passion, work shapes itself and becomes its own statement. Shibui is all about trust--trust in your materials, trust in your instincts, trust in yourself, trust in the kiln. Shibui transforms frantic work into calm joy and subdues the creator with relative contentment. As well, viewers get a strong feeling they are looking at art.

In shibui, sheer ease is a virtue. Hours fly by as the creator becomes lost in process and the gentle curiosity of outcome. You never know what you're going to pull out of that kiln.

Best regards,


PS: "Austere, subdued and restrained are some of the English words that come closest. Etymologically, shibui means 'astringent,' and is used to describe a profound, unassuming and quiet feeling." (Bernard Leach, "A Potter's Book" 1940)"

You can subscribe to Robert's newsletters by visiting his web site:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

oh, my gosh

I am having a blast. Last night Ben, my youngest son, mentioned a library cataloguing program for the Apple computer: Delicious Library. Jim and I have said we would like to catalog our books so today I looked for the program on line, found it, and downloaded it. It is 'delicious'! So fancy--and so easy! You can scan in the ISBN number or type in the name and the program goes on line to download all the information about the book--all the technical data--and book reviews. It creates a record of the book with a image of the book cover on the book's icon! It lets you make a record of books you loan out--with the borrower's name from your address book and marks the book's icon with a tab, "OUT", stretched across the upper right had corner . I've spent a couple hours scanning in my pottery book collection! Maybe I am just a frustrated, wanna-be librarian, but this is too much fun!

Next week I AM going to do a bisque firing. Then I am going to get serious about glazing! I have really been out of it lately. But I AM, I AM going to get focused on my pottery work. I AM.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


And he said, "I know you'll treasure it a long time."
Kenneth Zachry Karcher

Thursday, May 08, 2008

time flies

I don't know where, exactly, but I look up and it has been quite a while since I have posted.
I guess I've been distracted. Jim is fine and the car should be ready this weekend. The insurance is paying for the repair (~8,000).
Kenny has had several falls, nothing serious--but, since it is such a challenge for 'us' to get him back up on his feet, he and I both stay anxious over the next fall. The last was at 1:30 am night before last. 'We' (the we is Kenny and me since Jim is out of town) tried our best to get him up off the floor onto the bed but could not do it. So I called EMS. The firemen were here in minutes--and always so gracious--but I hate calling for their help. This morning Kenny called from the shower where he was desperately hanging onto the grab bar trying not to slip down to the floor before I got there to grab onto him. We made it! When 'we' make it sucessfully, he usually ends up laughing (out of relief, I'm sure) and then tells me how much he loves me!
Each morning, after breakfast, we go out to the studio. That might be 9:30 or 10:00 before we get there. Then Kenny is through for the day at noon and ready for lunch. I intend to return after lunch to do some more concentrated work--but frequently don't get out there again that day. Good thing I'm not trying to make a living out of my clay work!!
This house had extensive plantings when we moved in. And, fortunately, it had a water system. Unfortunately, it is not working properly. I called for repair work but it seems it may be cheaper--and better--to put in a new system instead of trying to repair this very old system. I have been waiting for an ‘estimator’ to come see what I need and what it will cost—but he has been unavailable. In the meantime, I am spending a good deal of time watering by hand as I don't want to loose the plants that are dependent on the system. To make things worse, because of the installed sprinkler system, there are NO hose outlets anywhere near all these lush plants.

The terrace plants seen from the studio door.

The terrace plants seen from inside the living room (see my computer on the table in front of the window--no wonder I spend so much time browsing the web.)

I am NOT whinning or complaining--I am just reporting in!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

an interesting week

Monday I did a glaze firing. Nothing very exciting in it--mostly bowls for Empty Bowls--but the 'plate/bowl' that I made for Kenny turned out well. It is hard to tell that it is not a pie plate! But he used it last night and gave it a thumbs-up! So that was good.

Wednesday night our little Cone 6 group met here for the first time. It is such a nice group of people and I really enjoy getting to spend a whole evening talking about pots and glazes with fellow potters. The evening seemed much too short. I wished for more time with the group. We meet once a month and alternate meeting in the home or studio of one of the group.

Thursday Ben and I had a date to visit the ceramic collection of a friend of mine. Ben is my youngest son and the one with the most interest in ceramics--mine and the greater ceramic world at large. I had heard about my friend's wonderful collection of ceramics and had asked if Ben and I could view his collection sometime. What a collection! I think he has pieces (not just one) of every well-known potter I know anything about--and many I was not yet acquainted with. He really is serious collector and has wonderful taste in his selections. That was a real treat to see 'up close' those wonderful pots but even more special to get to pick them up and feel the weight and balance of each piece! We also got a tour of his own studio. Both Ben and I came home with beautiful pots made by our host! Wow, what a great experience.

Friday Jim was driving home from his week in Santa Fe. We knew he would be getting in late, expected to arrive around 9:30 pm, so we did not wait dinner for him but did have dinner waiting for him. At about 8:30 I got a call from Jim which began, "First, I'm OK." Well, I knew that was not the opening to a good news message! He then described the accident he had when a deer landed on the windshield of his new car while he was driving about 70 miles and hour! He was just west of Junction, about 110 miles from home, and needed a ride! I drove to Junction to pick up Jim and his paraphernalia from the trip. We got home about 1:30. He had not eaten since breakfast so a light dinner was in order before we turned in for the night a little after 2 am.

What a week!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

studio work

as opposed to clay work.

My style of settling in here has been to set up one room at a time by moving all the boxes and furniture that do not belong there into the next vacant space. Well, I did that big time in the studio--pushing buckets, boxes of fired ware, and boxes and packing materials into the room next to the studio--Jim's workroom. So I got the studio set-up to the extent that we could move around and work in there. This weekend Jim began to tackle that space and pushed all the pottery overflow back into the studio! So much so that Kenny could not walk through HIS space with his walker! So yesterday Kenny stayed in his room setting up an area to draw in while I worked at getting the studio ordered again.

Now that I have the kiln wired and working--one bisque firing under my belt--it is time to glaze. But the glaze room is a jumble of glaze chemicals and tools. The glaze room is really just a closet with 2 doors--it is also the hallway between Jim's workroom and our studio. I am going to have a small--table-top--spray booth with strong vent and a little counter space for mixing up my glazes. Most of my glaze chemicals are stored in plastic shoe boxes and fill a tall shelf. I have a few large containers (pet food)under the counter for the chemicals I buy in bulk . It is really tight but I think it is going to work well. As I am looking for "my style" in my pottery work, I am also searching for 'my palette of glazes'. The result of those searches is that I am drawn to every style of pottery making and every kind and color of glaze--and have at hand everything I need for that search. I imagine that when I finally get there I can eliminate all the excess and focus on just what I love to do. But the truth of the matter is probably that I will always be searching and experimenting--and stuffing more stuff into our little studio--because that is what I love to do!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

for Andrew

When I was in Japan I met someone who had worked with Shimaoka. My acquaintance had acquired some shards from Shimaoka's BIG pots that Shimaoka thought not of the quality he wanted and so had destroyed. My acquaintance gave me one of the shards which has the classic rope inlay design. I've tried to make photos of the work to show you--but the quality is not great (my camera or my skills with the camera?) The shard measures 3" X 2".

I turned off the flash in the following because of the reflection, but it did not help much.

The shard is very thick--it measures a full 3/8 inch. But then he was making BIG pots!

There is no texture from the rope inlay--there is a lot of texture to the piece but it is from the clay not the design.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I have these lovely orange lilies in the living room that lift my spirits each time I walk through the room. The pleasure these flowers give me stimulated me to make a tall, heavy bottom vase to hold an arrangement of tall flowers without toppling over. After the vase was thrown, I decided I would try using the punch'ong stamps I bought at NCECA last year. I love the work made with these stamps but so far I have not mastered the use of these stamps. The stamps are of small flowers--like little daises. Slip is applied over the stamped area and after the slip has firmed up a bit it is scraped off the high areas leaving the slip only in the recessed area formed by the stamp. My clay fires to a very light grey so I used a red oxide slip. After I had painted the slip over the stamped area I thought I might use leave it that way--the trouble I've had using the stamps int he past is in trying to remove the slip from around the stamps.

Then I realized that I was treating this project as "too precious" for not wanting to follow through on the process. So I have gone back scraped away slip between the flowers. So we'll see how this works after it is bisqued and glaze fired.

With the help of a friend, I did get new elements into my kiln so it is ready to fire and I have a batch of dried pieces ready to be fired. Feels good to be back in the swing of the studio.

Monday, March 24, 2008

no more boxes

in my living room! Yeah! It has taken 2 months and lots of intermediate steps but we finally got the last of the boxes out of the living room. Not that we don't still have boxes (mostly books now) but they are not piled up in the living room. I can see now how depressing that was for me. I feel like shouting every time I walk through the living room--it is so wonderful!

I was planning to spend the morning replacing the elements in my kiln today with the help of a friend--but at the last minute she had to change our get-together to next Thursday. I have an accumulation of bowls to fire--but really no rush to do so. Some of them are for the Empty Bowls project of the guild which will be held in May. Others are just for playing around with glazes. The studio is working very well for us. It is a pleasant place to be in. Kenny functions very independently there--we are still working on improving his easel set-up but he manages with it as it is. I am beginning to remember where I put things in the studio--takes a while and sometimes lots of searching.

This move has been so arduous that I have a HUGE repulsion against saving anything that I don't have an immediate use for--which is very much against this family's standard-operating-procedure. I got an email from Sarah Susanka's "The Not So Big Life" that really fits the situation:
"The questions we need to ask ourselves today are: 'When do we know we have enough?' and 'What could we do with our lives if we weren't so focused on acquiring more?' Or in my case, 'What could I do with my life if I weren't spending so much time searching for where I put it?'

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

in the studio

with Kenny. We had a little set-back last week which kept us out of the studio till today. Our time in the studio today was pretty brief but at least we got out there and got some work done. Kenny is working on a painting of cars from the movie, "Cars". His first show was a series of cars from his childhood--which I thought were terrific. He has always had an unrequited love affair with cars!

In the photo you see Kenny in his corner of the studio. His easel is not working well for him--it was made for someone to stand at but he has to sit--there is no room for his feet under the easel so he is back too far from the canvas. Back to the drawing board for that one!

Other views of the studio:

This is my little nest (my wheel surrounded by tools) looking out onto the terrace.

This is a wonderful worktable that the contractor made for us out of a cabinet that we had removed from one of the bedrooms. One side (this) is low for Kenny to sit and draw--or for me to sit and draw!

The other side is high for me to work at standing. I can wedge clay at one end and have lots of handbuilding tools and paraphernalia at hand. In the cabinets below, just behind my chair at the wheel, are my bats, trimming equipment and wareboards. I am loving this work space!

Watching Kenny struggle to get his food on his fork or spoon I imagined making a plate with a 'pusher' side. But when I tried to make something like that I ended up with a plate with a standing rim that makes a nice pasta bowl! It might be a bit small for him--or for a real pasta bowl but it is a beginning point. I've made good notes on the amount of clay used and size of the plate/bowl wet so I will know where to start from when I decide how I need to adjust it. The bowl here is ~9 inches wide and 1 1/4 inches high at rim. The picture does not show the depth of the plate/bowl.