Category Archives: Potters and Sculptors

Being to Being: Collective Conversations in Clay

This is a virtual tour of a show that I am currently in: Being to Being: Collective Conversations in Clay at Park West Ceramics Gallery in Chicago. The concept for the show is very unsual (remember, I like unconventional things…).

Here’s the idea: There are 5 artists, all with different styles of making and decorating. Each artist made 5 pieces. One of the pieces is made start to finish by that original artist. The other 4 pieces are handed off in the leather hard stage to the other 4 artists. Each participant decorates the 4 pieces from the other artists. Carving and cutting, slips and glazes, adding clay pre- and post firing, atmospheric firings and decals were some of the techniques used.

The photos in this post were taken on opening night and aren’t actually the best images. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I’ll add better images, but I was too excited about this show to wait for those images. But for now, you can get an idea of what the show is all about…

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Platter by Emily Murphy. Soda fired with a crackle slip and sprayed glazes.

top left: Slipped wood fired with low fire decals by Gina Hutchings.
top right: Cut, carved, slipped, glazed and wood fired by Jay Strommen.
bottom left: Slipped, glazed, punctured, reduction fired, then sewn by Joanna Kramer.
bottom right: Cut, then applied stoneware “staples” and porcelain coil then soda fired by Shane Grimes.

The next series are porcelain hand built slab “landscape” vases by Joanna Kramer.
Below is her solo piece that is actually two porcelain vases that are sewn together (post firing, of course!).

top left:
Glazed and wood fired with low fire decals applied by Gina Hutchings.
top right: Slipped, glazed, cut and carved then wood fired by Jay Strommen.
bottom left: Slipped, glazed and soda fired by Emily Murphy.
bottom right: Slipped and carved with stoneware staples and porcelain coils attached and then soda fired by Shane Grimes.

Jay Strommen‘s pieces are thrown and altered with slips and lightly glazed then wood fired.

top left: Slipped, glazed, wood fired with decals by Gina Hutchings.
top right: Slipped, punctured, glazed and reduction fired then sewn by Joanna Kramer.
bottom left: Lots of stoneware staples and porcelain coils added, then soda fired by Shane Grimes.
bottom right: Slipped, carved, glazed and then soda fired by Emily Murphy.

The next group is from Shane Grimes. Shane’s pieces are thrown and altered. His solo piece has his trademark stoneware staples and incredibly thin porcelain spines/coils attached, then soda fired.
top left: Cut, carved, slipped, glazed and wood fired by Jay Strommen.
top right: Soda fired then a decal applied by Gina Hutchings (it’s a very cool spider).
bottom left: Slipped, cut, punctured, glazed and reduction fired by Joanna Kramer, then sewn.
bottom right: Slipped, glazed and soda fired by Emily Murphy.

The Geisha series is by Gina Hutchings who is also the organizer of the show.
Her piece below is glaze and wood fired with a decal applied.

top left: Stoneware staples and porcelain coils attached then soda fired by Shane Grimes.
top right: Slipped, punctured, glazed, reduction fired then sewn by Joanna Kramer.
bottom left: Slipped, carved, glazed and wood fired by Jay Strommen.
bottom right: Slipped, glazed and soda fired by Emily Murphy.

The next group of photos are some close up detail images. Because of the lighting in the gallery, it was hard to get really good photos on opening night. I hope these detail images help you fill in the gaps. (click on images to make them bigger) 




Why Soda Glaze? – by Maryke Henderson

Although there is more all the time, overall there is still very little written about soda (soda firing, soda glazing, vapor glazing, etc…). When I come across something that’s written specifically about soda, I get really excited and I want to share my find with all of you.


I recently came across this great article on the Australian ceramics website Avicam: Why Soda Glaze? It’s a lengthy excerpt from Maryke Henderson’s Bachelor of Arts research report from Australian National University School of Art in 2005. It covers everything from “What is soda?” and the historical background of soda to technical information on soda introduction and it’s corrosive effects on kilns. There are profiles of contemporary soda artists as well as a statement about Maryke’s own work.
The photos that I have included of Maryke Henderson’s work are from Avicam. They are elegant pieces that both intrigue me and make me very nervous. Enjoy the article and the beautiful images. When you’re done reading Maryke’s article, spend some time wandering around Avicam. It’s filled with interesting things to read and some really great pots to look at.


Ceramic pinhole cameras

Ceramic artist Steve Irvine has done something that many artists struggle with (including myself): bringing together two different passions. He has brought together clay and photography with his fantastic ceramic pinhole cameras

Here is one of his vessels that actually captures an image:
And this is an image from the above camera:He has more ceramic pinhole cameras on his website.

He also makes great pots (that don’t double as a camera).

A tour of blogs about pottery and ceramics (Part 3)

Here is the next installment of my tour of clay blogs. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to see the community of blogging ceramic artists expanding. There are bloggers from all over the world, at different stages of the profession. They’re making high-fire and low-fire pottery and sculpture in every type of firing process imaginable. A little something for everyone. I just did a quick count of the total number of clay blogs that I have visited collectively on the 3 tours- and it’s 44!
Enjoy! 


Ceramic Focus: Ceramic Arts and technique blog
This is a site to get lost in and end up following link after link and ending up in an exciting place. Lots of images (and links) of work that is on exhibition around the world


Webb Pottery:
 Anne Webb
You have to check out Anne’s clay mixer! Beautiful work and a thoroughly interesting blog.

 


Ambrosia Porcelain
“We believe in creating beautiful, functional objects that bring happiness to your daily life.”
What perfectly named work. These pieces make me happy.

 

 

Sandwich Mountain: The Adventures of the Little People
More work that makes me really happy. This blog by Mel Robson and Kenji Uranishi is fantastic. They each have their own personal blogs with really interesting work (click on their names to get to them). There are some exciting things happening with clay in Australia! 



Smokieclennell
: Tony Clennell
A brand new blog, but already with regular postings. I’m looking forward to reading more!
 

 

 

The Pondering Potter: Renee Margocee
“exploring the life of a clay artisan in the 21st century”
This is another fairly new blog, but I anxiously await Renee’s honest and thoughtful posts. I first came upon her as a guest blogger on One Black Bird and I’m happy to see that there is more where that came from!

 


Strange Fragments: Shannon Garson
Another Australian potter! I’m still digging through the archives finding one great post after another. Right now the line that’s hanging in my head is: “Make your work for yourself.”
We all need to be reminded of this! (read that post!) 

 



musing about mud:
Carole Epp
Anyone who is making work out of clay needs to read this blog! Carole is keeping us all informed about what’s going on in the ceramics world from calls for entries to spot lighting new and exciting work from different artists. And her pots are gorgeous too! 

 


Little Flower Designs
:Linda Johnson
Linda calls this her “inspiration blog” and I love that idea. It’s a great way to share that part of the process.

 

 

Peppa Studio: Where Beautiful Things are Made by Hand
More happy porcelain pots! There are some stories of the challenges of working in a community studio. I think there are a lot of people that can relate. I can’t wait to see more of the little plump blackbirds.





Colorado Art Studio
: Cynthia Guajardo
Cynthia is a super blogger. She has everything here from studio updates, to tutorials, to suggestions of books to read and music to listen to. Thanks Cynthia!


I love the photos of inspiration and the pieces they inspired. (Like this.) The imagery is stunning throughout this blog. And I’m intrigued by the little snippets of life, like the shot of the Boggle board.

 

 

I think this blog wins an award for the best name of a clay blog. Another blog with stunning imagery! It’s no wonder that Josie is making the pots that she is making when I see the environment she lives in. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m endlessly fascinated by how our surroundings effect our work. I think people are effected by it in different ways, but in general potters (and 3-D makers) are more effected then others. Perhaps because we’re thinking not just about the forms – but how they function and interact with the user and live in their new environment.

 

Christa Assad
A fairly new blog by Christa, currently documenting her latest adventures: starting a new job, moving to a new city, and setting up a new studio. I’m looking forward to what’s coming up next. 


Clean Mud: Jeffrey Guin
Most potters have at least a touch of pyromaniac in them, and I think that Jeffery has a little more than most! He’s self described as “unfocused,” but for readers it just means that there’s a little bit for everyone. If you wanted to learn about raku, this is the blog to read! He also has an offer to trade a pot for $20 that’s go towards food in the local food pantry. Take a look and maybe take him up on it.

 



Anne Murray:
“Currently studying design and ceramics at Glasgow School of Art”
Another new blog with an interesting and different perspective – that of a design and ceramics student. Anne is already posting regularly and I hope it continues.

 

 


Firing Log: Ancient Kiln / 21st Century Logbook
Yet another great ceramics blog that I cannot believe that I didn’t know about! I’m diving into the archives and loving it. The title of the blog is fantastic, and I can’t wait to listen to the podcasts. Again, something that I can’t believe I didn’t know about. I spend much of my day in the studio listening to podcast after podcast – but they aren’t usually clay-centric because there aren’t too many of them out there.

 

 

That’s enough for today!
I hope you enjoyed this tour, and don’t forget to check out the previous tours:
Tour of blogs about ceramics and pottery (Part 1)
Tour of blogs about ceramics and pottery (Part 2)
And as always, let me know what else is out there if I’ve missed something. 

If you’re new to reading blogs, or if your regular sites to visit have expanded out of control, I suggest some sort of reader like Google Reader, which is what I use.

Tour of blogs about pottery and ceramics (Part 2)

This is an update (a long overdue update) to a previous post about clay blogs. When I first wrote about blogs that focused on ceramics, there weren’t too many out there. I am so happy to find this time around that there are a lot more now! I didn’t include ones that I listed before. And these are in no particular order. Enjoy- and please let me know if there are more out there for the next time around!

one black bird by Diana Fayt
A wonderful blog that I just discovered. (I don’t know how I’ve missed it all this time!) Great posts by Diana and guest bloggers. It’s been a lot of fun reading through the archives.

 

A Potter’s Journal by Ron Philbeck.
Great photos of Ron’s work in progress. I love the how-to posts as well as the studio updates.

 


The Pottery Blog by Jennifer Mecca
Jennifer writes about her day to day life in her studio, balancing her family life with her clay life. This is why blogs are great- you can share your personal experience in a way that you can’t through a book or a more formal publication.



Davistudio: Modern Table Art by Mary Anne Davis
Seeking to stretch ideas about peace, art, design, function, value, culture and making.” And lots of happy pots!

 

Lurearts Ceramics by Pam McFadyen
A fairly new blog- but I think there will be some interesting things on the horizon, like her new Tool Talk series. Keep ’em coming!

This Week @ St. Earth
A weekly update for what’s going on at St. Earth Pottery in Fillmore, IN. I love reading about other potter’s work cycles. And I think one of my favorite parts is listing the music and podcasts of the week.


Douglas Fitch Blog
Maker of “country pots.” When you see the beautiful photographs on his Douglas’ blog, you can see how the landscape effects his pots. Something that I think about a lot as an urban potter.

Bluegill Pottery by Vicki Liles Gill
A nice (and fairly new) blog that has a lot about the business side of pots, and some how-to’s and other studio updates.  


Sister Creek Pottery by Gay Judson
“The occasional musings of an overly-enthusiastic-senior potter who recently found her way to the potters wheel.”
One thing that I really like this blog is
that Gay writes abouts the ups and the downs of making pots!  

 

Design Realized by Julie Rozman
A new blog by a Lillstreeter (def: someone who works at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago) which documents her thought process and her new ventures into selling her work. Keep it up Julie! 

  

Jeanette Harris: A Clay Engineer’s Blog
Jeanette’s blog is hilarious! In addition to the humor she has some great info including documentation on her glaze testing, and reviews of books and videos.

Wirerabbit Pots by Taylor H
Taylor has great tutorials – directions on how to make things like plaster bats and terra sigillata. Great information illustrated with helpful photos.  

Soderstrom Pottery Blog
“A Minnesota potter, trained in Japan”
Check out his wind powered kiln :)

this artist’s life – day to day in the clay studio
by Whitney Smith
Most recent posts have been about Whitney’s residency in Japan. An unusual perspective and thoughtful posts.  

Karin’s Style BlogLooking at the world with a designer’s eye
I love this blog! Karin’s work is beautiful and she has endless links to other makers and designers from around the world.

 

Whip-up: handcraft in a hectic world
This is a group submission site that is about all things handmade. A must visit often site!
See this page to learn more.  

 




Tara Robertson Pottery
A great photo tutorial on pit firing. I’m also enjoying reading about Tara’s venture into Etsy.  

Well, I think that’s enough for now… I hope you have enjoyed this tour. I have thoroughly enjoyed researching this. I have discovered some really exciting new blogs to subscribe to!

Guest Blogger: Jordan Taylor

This is the first post written by a “guest blogger.” Thanks to my friend, Jordan Taylor for sharing his words. I took these photos in June when I visited Jordan at his studio.

 

 

 

 

 

When I’ve been firing for a long time the boundary between nighttime wakeful stoking and feverish fitful sleeping is thin.

Several firings ago I had a dream and I can’t be sure now whether I was awake and stoking or asleep and dreaming I was stoking. I dreamt that I had put up all my wood for two years and decided to burn it all in one firing. The wood ran out but somehow the work needed a little something more: the ember bed wasn’t lined up on the belly of a jar just so or the like. So I began dumping wheelbarrow loads of brick into the kiln. Several palettes of brick later (all that I had, again) I looked in and the kiln still seemed empty. I couldn’t see the work. So, left with nothing else in the kiln yard I opened an incision and, one by one, began stoking my internal organs. (As is often the case with this sort of dream, there was no hint as to what the work looked like after such efforts.)

After unloading a firing that looked nothing like I’d hoped a friend reminded me that “Clay will break your heart every time.” Her’s was one of a litany of such thoughts that creep in on me during my week of “unloading funk”. Most of the thoughts begin with “Why…?” and many get no further. One of my favorite comic lines from the glitzy mega-cinema of my adolescence is, after hearing of a particularly foxy heist by Costner as Robin Hood, the prince declares to his cousin the Sheriff of Nottingham: “I’m going to cut his heart out with a spoon”. Sheriff: “Why a spoon cousin?” Prince: “Because it’s dull you twit, it’ll hurt more.”

As far as I understand neuroscience, we are not wired to remember pain. I have memories that I felt pain but I have difficulty recreating the sensation simply by recalling the painful incident (the exception for me is the pain of embarrassment, which I will torture myself with for any minor faux pas at a party). Alternately I can remember moments of pleasure, culinary or otherwise, quite well, and will replay such moments with even more enthusiasm than when I torture myself with my own embarrassment. Pain, similarly, is present only as an abstract concept, if even that, in my dreams. The evisceration stoking was pain free without anesthesia. In dreams, as in memory, we are blessed with the ability to remember what causes us pain, but not the pain itself.

Not only did my evisceration not cause me pain, it felt liberating. Risking “new ageism”, I would go so far as to say that my placing my liver in the firebox was an experience of feeling nurtured by the kiln. “Why…?”

Both of my last two firing have happened since my daughter Greta was born (our first, at the time of this writing she is nine weeks old). The feeling I get when my wife is on shift and I bring Greta out to her to nurse by the kiln is echoed by watching a field mouse scamper up to a stone ledge in my kiln buttress to eat from a bowl of raw honey I’ve placed there as an offering. The combination of a being so small and vulnerable in such unknowing proximity to temperatures catastrophic to their state of being, going about the daily ritual of sustenance, moves me in a way that I would prefer not to try and put words to.

Psychologists (armchair and otherwise) reading this may already see where I am going with this: that I repeatedly return to the source of my grief and pain hoping it will heal and nurture me anew. Like an infant, I can’t say why I need what I do, just that I need it. Unlike an infant I can say a word or two about what risk in my studio life does for me: it sets me free. It sets me free from simply executing expectations, each risk allowing for, requiring, another layer of developmental growth.

The author trained as a traditional potter, serving a three year apprenticeship, before establishing his own studio in 2002. He has, despite his own best efforts to the contrary, begun making forms that are purely sculptural. Each paragraph of this piece was written in between stokes of his third multi day kiln firing in the month of April, one in which the kiln reached temperatures three cones hotter for a full day longer than it had in any previous firing … and during which he hosted twenty-five of his most important collectors for a fundraiser dinner. www.jordantaylor.us

Soda, Clay and Fire: a new book on soda firing

It is finally here, Gail Nichols’ new book on soda glazing: Soda, Clay and Fire. This book is based on her research from her PhD in Material Science on Soda Firing at Monash University (Australia). I just got my copy from Amazon (click on link to order)- so I don’t feel like I can actually review it yet. But I wanted to share with you that it is finally out in print. There is still so little information published on soda firing/ glazing- this literally doubles the number of books published exclusively on the topic.

Also, in my neglect of my blog recently, I have not mentioned on here that 500 Pitchers came out in the spring. I was lucky enough to get another 2 images published in the latest publication from Lark Book’s 500 series.

Workshop with Jordan Taylor


My good friend and fellow Earlham alum Jordan Taylor, is going to be coming to Lillstreet Art Center this April to do a 2 day workshop.

Jordan and I worked side by side on our senior projects at Earlham, making pots, loading and firing kilns. After we graduated, Jordan and I have both gone on to make pots full time- but we have arrived there by very different paths. Jordan went the route of many the clay graduate of EC, and did a long apprenticeship. He worked with Mark Skudlarek in Cambridge, Wisconsin for 3 1/2 years. After his apprenticeship was completed, he moved to north eastern Pennsylvania to set up his shop. He wrote an article for Ceramics Monthly about his journey of making pots.

In Union Dale, Pennsylvania Jordan built his wood kiln…

where he fires his pots…

If you are interested in registering for this workshop, it’s on April 16th and 17th — contact Lillstreet Gallery for more information (773.769.4226).

500 Cups, Lark Books


500 Cups, cover, Lark Books

This February, Lark Books has released it’s newest book is the “500” series. I am lucky enough to have two images in it.

page 110


page 351

My Lillstreet soda firing partner in crime, Gary Jackson,
also has an image in the book.

page 265

This series of books from Lark is beautifully done.
Inspirational for the potter and visually gratifying for the collector.
I also enjoy (and own) other book’s from this series:

If you’d like to purchase the book
directly through Amazon…