Wednesday, March 05, 2008

1000 True Fans

Thanks to BoingBoing, I found interesting article that seems applicable to ceramic artists.Kevin Kelly's thesis is that one approach to make an good, steady living is to build up a base of 1000 "True Fans."
from Kevin Kelly's article:
  • A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
Each of these True Fans will spend, on average, $100 per year on your work. You end up with $100,000 gross annual income. After all the expenses (taxes, insurance, materials, show fees, etc...), you end up with a solid living.

1000 fans probably seems like an overwhelming number. But if you look at as 1 person per day for 3 years, that's a little easier. Or maybe you have 500 True Fans that spend $200 per year. And it's possible that you aren't selling directly to that group. You can have super loyal fans that are buying your work through galleries and shops.

So how do you do it? I think the best possible way is to make direct connections with the buyer. It makes a lot of sense for potters. You're making work that is meant to connect the maker with the buyer. Your artist statement, wording on your website, the writing on your Etsy shop can have a more personable tone to help establish that connection. The time that you spend meeting with customers at your studio, art fairs, gallery openings, workshops, classes, wholesale and retail shows are invaluable. And of course, a blog is a great way to connect with people :)
After you connect with people that really love your work, you'll have to figure out ways to maintain and build up those relationships. Special sales and discounts. Early alerts to sales, personal emails, etc...

As a full time potter in the year 2008, I definitely get the questions (often from other artists): how do you do it? how do you make a living as a potter? This is an interesting way to look at it, and is an interesting approach to your business if you're looking to build it up or try to
make it more stable.

I hope you take some time to read the article. Kelly goes into quite some depth and looks at different scenarios and ways to gain True Fans. What are your thoughts?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A potter is a person in your neighborhood.

I have always been a fan of kids books. Having 4 little nephews gives me an excuse to add books to my collection. This one book holds a special place in my heart: ABC and 123: A Sesame Street Treasury of Words and Numbers.
You can see the obvious reason below:

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Holiday Tour of Lillstreet Studios

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










ceramics by Lisa Harris







pottery by Karen Avery

pottery by Gary Jackson







porcelain by Joanna Kramer
porcelain by Karen Patinkin






ceramic and glass beads by Amy Lemaire







porcelain by Deborah Schneider







agricultural art by Cathi Bouzide



Photography by Guy Nicol








pottery by Mike Szostak



jewelry by 2nd floor metals artists





Many of the studios are open daily...
check in with individual artists for their hours

Monday - Friday 12noon - 6pm
Saturdays 10am - 6pm
Sundays 12noon - 5pm

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 14, 2007

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...
_______________________________________

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)


































Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

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.




Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

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).

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ceramics Classes

Soda firing classes with Emily Murphy
at Lillstreet Art Center, Chicago, IL
fall classes begin the week of September 10, 2007
_________________________________________
Soda Firing Fundamentals
This class is for the advanced student of ceramics who is interested in exploring a varied and unpredictable surface for their work. Soda firing is an atmospheric firing that produces flashes of color, a textured orange peel surface, and reacts in a variety of ways with different slips, glazes and clay bodies. We'll delve into forms that work well to accentuate the soda process, play with surface decoration with particular focus on slips and textures, and experiment with glazing for the soda process (including the use of the spray booth). Kiln loading will be taught and all students are required to share loading and unloading of kilns on evenings outside of class.
Tuesdays, 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Starts Sept. 11, 2007

LAC Members $340 / Nonmembers $350
Soda Firing Lab Fee: $60
register here
____________________________________________

Advanced Topics in Soda Firing: Surface Decoration

This class is for advanced students with previous experience in soda and atmospheric firing, who are looking to investigate the process more deeply. This class is going to focus on surface decoration in the soda kiln. We’ll explore texture from stamping to carving and how to enhance the surface in soda. We’ll delve into slips from flashing to porcelain with a variety of application techniques. The ultimate goal is to enhance your forms with surface decoration in the soda atmosphere. Open to students who make both functional and sculptural work. All students are required to share loading and unloading of kilns on evenings outside of class. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
Wednesdays 12-3pm
Wednesdays 7-10pm
Starts Sept. 12, 2007

LAC Members $340 / Nonmembers $350
Soda Firing Lab Fee: $60
register here
____________________________
I thought I'd share a sampling of work from some of my student's (past and present) that have come through the soda firing program at Lillstreet over the past couple of years.
You'll see many have their own websites, or albums with more images. Just click on a linked name to see more!



Greg Schultz

Beth Burkhart

Nancy Pirri


Fred Follansbee

Robert Milanowski

Lalitha Bardalaye

Labels: , , , , , ,

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:
Art and Pottery Blog and Studio Journal
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
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.


Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 10, 2007

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 Blog - Looking 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!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 02, 2007

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

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Tour of Blogs about Pottery & Ceramics

One reason why people blog is to participate in their community. For me, it's a way to have a conversation about clay and related topics with a larger clay community. In the more technical world (programmers, etc.. ) bloggers read, link and comment to one another- creating a larger dialog. In the ceramics world, there is less blogging going on. Most potters that I talk to about my blog respond "what's a blog?". Today's post is answering that question, in part, by showing potteryblog.com readers what else is going on out there in the clay blogging world. I think it's just beginning- hopefully I will be able to update this list in the future with many more clay weblogs.

Here is an overview of some clay related blogs- in no particular order. I left out some blogs that haven't been updated in a while, or didn't have much content about pottery. Otherwise, this is a pretty good sampling of what's out there. Please let me know if I'm missing something or if something new comes along. Enjoy the tour!


John Norris: Containers of information: Art, Ceramics, Information, and You.
John has an extensive website that covers lots of topics including clay and conceptual art. He has t-shirts that he has designed for sale...handouts for teaching purposes, and perhaps most exciting: he has a pottery podcast called: Cone 11 Forced Air (a podcast is a regularly produced MP3 in a radio format). Take a listen and enjoy. I'm looking forward to more!


Nathan Pearlman: Political Mammal
Nathan's blog is not actually a blog that is specifically about pottery, but includes a couple of nice articles directly related to clay- the one that is linked above, and a previous one that I linked to in the Soda Fired Mug post.


Mashiko Potter: Things Related to Making Functional Pottery
Beautiful photos of Lee's work- finished and in progress, in Mashiko, Tochigi, Japan.


kasumipottery.com weblog: An authorized weblog of Kasumi Pottery Studio by Rolando
This is an interesting site. It's not written and maintained by the artist, but is about the artist. A different format- kept up to date well.


Paper Clay
This is a blog about paper clay (to state the obvious). Not what I'm really interested in at this moment, but the direction of this blog is interesting- a focus on a very specific subject matter.


PBA Pottery Blog - Muddlings
A nice name, and the accompanying site is nice too, but this blog doesn't have too much content related to clay & pottery- despite the name. I'm hoping that there is more to come- check back for more.
___________________________________________________


As I am writing this, I'm listening to NPR. A story on Warren Mackenzie just came on during All Things Considered. You can read the text and view the photos on the linked site, but you should also click on the "listen" button and listen to him in his own words.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Soda Fired" Mug

This is the sort of mug that I think of when I think about what a soda fired mug is. Warm, rich coloration from the flashing. Orange peel texture built up on the high points.



This is also a soda fired mug:

John Norris has come up with this hilarious idea. It's a standard, industrial produced mug with the IMAGE of soda firing wrapped around it. It's the "perfect" soda mug.

I enjoy the cleverness of this, but it also helps remind me what I'm doing making handmade pots in a world of industrial pots. Making something that is beautiful in surface and form; designing a form that is not only visually pleasing, but ergonomic. And perhaps most importantly, making a human connection between the maker and the user.

I came upon this essay, "Potters, the Values of Craftsman, and Living True to Self" by Nathaniel Pearlman on his blog: Political Mammal, and I encourage you to read it. It puts into words another reason why potters make.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, March 28, 2005

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).

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Correct or intended usage.

A couple of years ago I was at the Cambridge Pottery Festival in Cambridge, Wisconsin (outside of Madison) visiting my potter friend, Jordan Taylor, who was, at the time, apprenticing with Mark Skudlarek. The festival is an all clay art fair as well as the Pottery Olympics. I was in a bit of heaven for the weekend. I bought a couple of pots from different potters selling their wares. One of the pieces was a simple little temoku bowl with a triangulated rim and rutile brushstrokes on the interior. When I brought it up to the checkout area of the booth, the wife of the maker was tending the sales. Even though I had already decided on my purchase, she began to inform me of the bowl's many uses. "It's perfect for ice cream...just the right size for a snack of yogurt...measure out and set aside ingredients while cooking..." I didn't really say anything at the time - like "I think I can figure it out," but the whole idea of being told what a bowl was for seemed a little ridiculous. It's a moment that often comes back to me. I have probably used it for all it's suggested uses - but I could have figured them out all on my own. I don't blame her for offering up the list of suggestions, I often get the question "what's this for" when I sell my pots at a fair or out of my studio. To me, as a potter, it always seems obvious to me. When I think it maybe not as obvious, I try to use a prop of some sort. Probably the most common pot that has it's function questioned are my wall vases.

I try to display at least one of them with dried flowers in them, but I guess some people just have a hard time imagining it. Sometimes they want more of an answer of dried or fresh flowers, so I go into stories of people using them to hold real live plants, toothbrushes, or kitchen utensils (depending on the size) or how they're great for your deck (Chicagoans treasure their decks). But as a rule I don't offer up this information unless it's asked. I do understand that the more unusual objects might be a little bit hard to figure out - like the wall vases, oil lamps, butter dishes - but I often get asked the "what's it for" question for the most mundane pots like little sauce bowls, an oversized mug, or even a teapot. I happily answer the customer's questions, but I just wonder where people's imagination and logic have gone. I might think about a really specific use when I'm making things - like a shallow bowl-plate that is just perfect for a fresh salad - but I don't want to corner my pots into one specific use. I want people to take them home and discover new functions and incorporate them even further into their lives. It wouldn't have really occured to me to put kitchen utensils in a wall vase, but why not? I think it's a great idea.

We live in a cluttered world of things that all have a single purpose (and usually aren't that nice to look at). Think about all the small kitchen appliances that clutter our countertops: rice cookers, bread makers, vegetable steamers, waffle irons, pitzzelle makers. People seem to want to be told what to do. Along with the above mentioned appliances, hair dryers and other electric items all come with very important instruction manuals that tell us things like: "do not operate while in the bathtub or while asleep." I suppose it's a combination of our litigious society and, again, the lack of imagination and logic. I came upon this legal notice for the usage of mugs. I think it's pretty hillarious, but I hope that it never actually comes to this.

Labels: , ,