I’m so excited to share with you a new clay blogger (and old friend): Amy Higgason of Pigeon Road Pottery. Amy was a long time studio member at Lillstreet until several years ago where she left her job as a graphic designer and her home in Chicago for the woods of Wisconsin to become a full time potter. Amy has written many email updates over the years to friends and family about her endeavors in clay and life. They are always beautifully written and full of wonderful photos. It’s only natural that she’s now blogging. Head on over to her blog and have a read.
The end has finally come to the long, dark and cold winter here in Chicago and summer is emerging. In celebration of the warm weather (and in between making pots), I’ve been spending a lot of time outside, soaking up the sunshine.
A couple of weeks ago, Ian and I took a road trip to Minnesota to visit his family and to do the Saint Croix Pottery Tour. It was a great weekend, and we came home with quite a few pieces to add to our pottery collection.
One of the high points of the trip was to meet blogger Ron Philbeck. (Live and in person!) Ron was up from North Carolina to volunteer at Bob Briscoe’s studio for the weekend. I have gotten to know Ron through his blog over the past two years, but it was just wonderful to meet him in person. It was super busy so we didn’t have a lot of time to talk, but I hope that some day in the not too distant future we can meet again, perhaps in Chicago or North Carolina. Here’s a picture of Ron and me at Bob Briscoe’s (borrowed from Ron’s site):
Ron gave me one of his wonderful tea bowls as a gift. Since our return, the bird cup has been spending lots of time outside on our porch. Our porch is a happy space that is filled with flowers, herbs and veggies; a colorful rug; lots of places to lounge, strings of bright white lights; and a swing for our nephews to hang out on. It’s our happy little urban oasis. Here is our 6 month old nephew, Shiya, enjoying Ron’s cup last weekend while hanging out in the swing:Next up on the porch tour is a great big tumbler that we picked up from Matt Metz. It’s hanging out in front of this fantastic VW bus planter. My friend Dave Trost made an incredible series of car sculptures a couple of years back. The roof of this bus cracked off during the bisque firing. He gave me the remains, and Ian painted it, polished it with wax and now it lives on our porch filled with flowers and moss.
Shiya’s big brother, 2 year old Ayrie, enjoyed Cherrios and raisins out of a Jordan Taylor cereal bowl. Drinking the milk from the bottom of the bowl is an important part of the cereal eating experience for Jordan, so he makes them with a “drinking lip” that Ayrie is happily taking advantage of.
Last week was the final week of classes for the spring session at Lillstreet. A Lillstreet tradition is that each class has a potluck and critique on the last class of the session. My soda class decided to go all out this time around and have a bbq. The day was glorious and a great time was had by all. Below is a photo of Gary, me and Mike during the festivities out front of Lillstreet (taken by Greg).
We grilled out on this little patio that’s outside of Lill’s front door. There are gorgeous greens and flowers, a big mosaic bench and a brick patio that is made up of firebricks from the old soda kiln. Seemed like an appropriate place for the soda class to hang out!
Last week was my last week of teaching until fall. I’m taking a short hiatus from teaching for the summer so I can focus on making pots and spend time traveling with my sweetie. We have several family trips planned in June and July, and then we’re heading to Europe in August. I still need to work on the concrete plans over the next couple of weeks, but our basic plan is to visit Germany, Denmark, Norway and Holland. If you have any suggestions for places to visit, please pass them on to me (especially clay focused things to do and see).
I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine in our corner of the world!
One of my favorite moments when I’m making pots is that moment in time when the clay has firmed up enough to handle without distortion. The moment when you can take a trimming tool to the bottom of the pot and you get nice long ribbons of trimmings that don’t gum up your tool.
Normally, the moment in time when the pots are perfect for stamping, carving, slipping and trimming is a moment that I experience in solitude with my pots. But I thought that I would try to share a bit of this moment with you. Below are some images of cups that I made today. They are freshly stamped and awaiting a second trip to the wheel for trimming.
I know that I am not alone in my love of leather hard clay. I see lots of freshly made pots in the posts of my fellow clay bloggers! I have put together some pictures (and links) from their sites to share with you.
Eleanor Hendricks of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, shared some great pictures on her blog last week illustrating her love of the process of making. She ended her post with this question:
Does anyone else sometimes treasure the process more than the finished products?
I find that there is little more satisfying in a day’s work that a table covered in finished pots.
John Zhender (from my home state of New Hampshire) posted this satisfying image of finished banks and lidded cups on his blog:
Look at these gorgeous plates that Ron Philbeck made at his studio in Shelby, North Carolina! I think I have to throw some plates tomorrow…
One of my favorite clay books is A Potter’s Workbook by Clary Illian. The images in the book are almost all photos of leather hard pots. The focus is on the forms without any distraction of decoration or firing technique. If you make functional pots, I highly recommend adding this book to your collection.
This is something that I had to share with all of you….
A couple of days ago I got an email newsletter from my friend, Jordan Taylor. He shared news of a new show of sculptural work which I am excited about. He also announced of a local Empty Bowls project that is being held in Scranton, PA on May 4. This particular Empty Bowls fundraiser is one that Jordan is donating 1000 bowls to. I’m blown away yet not surprised by his incredible generosity.
If you happen to live in north east Pennsylvania, here is a bit of information about the event (from Jordan’s newsletter):
Meals on Wheels will host an “Empty Bowls” dinner May 4, 2008 1-3pm at Marywood University, Nazareth Hall, Multi Purpose Room (formerly known as the Crystal Room).
A $10 donation will purchase a bowl of soup, and you get to keep the bowl. The bowls, consistent with Taylor’s work to date, are wood fired, made largely from materials gathered and processed locally, and are microwave-dishwasher-oven safe, lead free, and non toxic. Each bowl is individually decorated by a different Scranton area art student.
Contact MOW Scranton director Linda Steir 570-346-2421 firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries.
Empty Bowls is an international movement that began in the early 1990’s and has since raised millions of dollars in donations to help hungry people. It was founded by several school teachers in Michigan whose students asked for help in raising money to help the local hungry. As a group they decided on a fundraiser dinner of simple soup and bread, served on dishes made by the students in their art class. www.emptybowls.net
Taylor had participated in several “Empty Bowls” events by donating and by dining before becoming interested in staging an event in Scranton. In 2006 Taylor was a visiting artist at a “Craft and Social Conscience” session, run by one of the founders of the Empty Bowls Movement, at the Penland School of Crafts, NC. Taylor’s experience at that session inspired him to reach out to the MOW chapter in Scranton.
I’m truly inspired. But I have to remind myself that it’s important to act on the inspiration and put it into action. This week I plan on calling my friend, Joanna Kramer, who organizes Chicago’s Empty Bowl project to see how I can be more involved this year. Our event isn’t until December, but it seems like the perfect time to start making bowls!
I’m curious to hear about other Empty Bowls fundraisers out there. Have you organized or participated in one? What was your experience? I love that Jordan made the bowls but students decorated the pieces. Have you done an interesting twist on Empty Bowls? Are you in Chicago and interested in joining us?
Just leave me a comment below!
In the taxi on the way to the Pittsburgh airport on Saturday morning our driver asked if we were in town with all the ceramics people. We said yes and he asked “what do you make: pottery or knick-knacks?” Isn’t that a great question?
I made a promise to myself many years ago that I would make a commitment to continually further my ceramic education. This is done in a couple of ways: attending workshops, reading all clay focused books, magazine (& blogs!) I can get my hands on, and go to NCECA every year. I do pretty well with this commitment and have managed to get to all but one conference in recent memory.
NCECA is usually held in a smaller city: Pittsburgh, Louisville, Portland, Baltimore, Indianapolis, etc… I often wonder what the host cities think about “us.” I don’t know how many people attended this year, but I know that in the past attendance has hit about 6000. In the immediate area of the conference it can feel like every square foot of space is filled with potters and sculptors (and knick-knack makers!). I wanted to share a couple more images from my trip (again, this is just a tiny snippet of the week!).
Most of the images that I am sharing with you were from the La Mesa tableware show from Santa Fe Clay. It’s always one of my favorite shows, and one that I usually go to see 3 or 4 times. There were 150 place settings from different ceramic artists this year. Amazing!
This group of images is more black and white (the last NCECA post was more colorful). It was a different day and I was drawn to different pieces.
Julie Johnson. The gestures of the lines are irresistible.
Molly Hatch I’ve been eying Molly’s work for a while. I love how she outline the shapes with a sketchy line.
Michael Kline I’m a big fan: I eat my steel cut oats out of one of Michael’s bowls every morning and I’m a faithful reader of his blog. I love these pieces with the white slip and wax resist lines.
In a few hours (March 28, 2008. 10am ct) the Yunomi Invitational 2008 exhibition at Akar is opening online. You’ll find several of my tea bowls in their online exhibition(!). My artist statement & resume are up on Akar’s site now. I can’t wait to see the show tomorrow. My tea bowls are in very good company! More to come on the show…
My friend, Gary Jackson, put together this wonderful super sized postcard for me to take to NCECA last week. If you’ve come upon my blog via this postcard, welcome! If you’d like to sign up for the potteryblog.com mailing list, just go here. If you sign up, you’ll automatically get an email whenever there is a new post. Or of course you can always sign up for the RSS or Atom feeds. I’m looking forward to hearing from the new readers out there. I’ve got a lot of interesting things in the works, many of which are responses to suggestions from potteryblog.com readers. Thanks for all of the emails and comments!
Greetings from Pittsburgh! It’s been quite a week. I’ve met a lot of great people, put faces to names that I’ve come to know through this blog, caught up with old friends, bought pots, bought tools, heard great speakers, participated in lively discussions, and looked at and picked up what must be hundreds of pots and the conference is only half over!
I wanted to share a handful of images of pieces that I’ve seen at shows this week. This is just a little itty bitty taste of what I’ve seen. Enjoy! (click on the images to see a bigger image.)
This is a little trick that I picked up from my friend Jordan Taylor for throwing platters. I find it extremely useful so I thought I would pass it on to all of you and maybe you’ll find it useful too.
The quarter trick solves three problems that arise from throwing platters:
- Instead of having to both wedge and center one large mass of clay, you can break it down into two pieces which reduces the strain on your body
- It helps you more easily judge the thickness of the floor of the platter and adds consistency if you’re doing multiples.
- And it allows you to compress the floor of the platter REALLY well so you don’t have to worry about any future problems of cracking.
TAKE OUT THE QUARTER!!!!
And clean it off so it doesn’t become part of your reclaim. (I speak from experience on this one.)
I thought I’d give a little tour of what some of the studios are offering this holiday season at Lillstreet Studios in Chicago. It’s truly a unique shopping experience to be able to shop directly from the artists in their studios. I’m including photos of just a sampling of the studios. There are over 50 artists under one roof – and that’s not including Lillstreet’s Gallery!
ceramics by Emily Murphy
pottery by Karen Avery
Photography by Guy Nicol
pottery by Mike Szostak
check in with individual artists for their hours
Saturdays 10am – 6pm
Sundays 12noon – 5pm
Blog Action Day is a day where blogger from all over the world write about one specific issue: the environment. I am excited to have an extra push to write this post that I have been wanting to write a post for months on what someone can do to be a “greener” ceramic artist. I was inspired by Laura Zindel’s post on one black bird; Mary Anne Davis‘s post on being Carbon Neutral and her list on her work’s environmental impact; and on Soderstrom Pottery Blog. They have started a great discussion that I would like to help continue with within the ceramics community.
I think my aversion to actually writing this post that has been in my head is the same thing that stops many of us from creating greener lives. I wanted this post to be epic, to have all of the answers. It was going to be very complete and very satisfying. But that is truly an impossible task. When I think about all of the environmental changes that I want to make at home or at my studio, the ultimate goal is overwhelming and paralyzing. The only way to get past the paralysis is to stop for a moment, and break it down into steps. The steps will get you closer to your end goal, but they are much easier to conquer than taking a gigantic leap.
Here are some steps that I have taken on my path to being a greener potter…
- I use almost all recycled materials for both shipping and retail customers. I actively collect bags, boxes, packing paper and bubble wrap from friends, family, students and customers.
- I recycle my clay scraps and try to aggressively edit unfired work. I don’t want to turn greenware that is reclaimable into something that is not if I am not truly satisfied with the piece at that stage.
- I try to make my test pieces as functional pieces (like small cups) that might go on to live a life beyond just testing a slip or glaze.
- I live close to my studio so I can either walk or drive a very short distance. I teach in the same building that I have my studio so I don’t have to commute to class too.
- I work in a co-operative type studio that conserves resources in many ways. One specific way is by ordering clay and materials together so there is only 1 delivery truck instead of 20.
- My studio space is small and efficient. Each space has multiple uses. One table can transform from a wedging table to a decorating table to a glaze table to a display table. Much of the furniture in my studio is on wheels so it can be more easily converted.
- My studio display lights are on a timer. My studio is often open to the public even when I am not there, and the timer stops the lights from being on all the time. (Does anyone know of nice track lighting fixtures that are energy efficient?)
- I set up a “free-cycle” area in a common area (hallway) at my studio where the studio artists can pass on unneeded things to the next person.
- I sell my seconds as “flawed yet functional.” They are still totally usable, but I can’t send them off to a gallery. Customers get to go on a treasure hunt, and give life to a piece that might otherwise be doomed as landfill. In response to the “flawed yet functional” sign in my studio, I once had a customer get teary eyed and tell me that that was exactly how they felt… flawed yet functional.
I know there are people reading this that are working under very different conditions from 60 different countries. Some are students working at a high school, university or art center. There are country potters with lots of land, and urban potters, like me, that are working in a smaller studio. The problems and solutions that you face are going to be very different if you’re a tile maker, production potter or a sculptor. I hope that you’ll share the steps you take in your clay world to being a little bit greener with the rest of us.
update- 10/15/07 – another clay blogger, Anne Webb, wrote a Blog Action Day post
update – 10/29/07 – Pam McFayden wrote a great post over at lureart ceramics about studio recycling.