Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Craft Revived

Several months ago I went to an exhibit of pottery at the Portland Japanese Garden. These are pots from Mashiko, a traditional Japanese functional-pottery-making town. In the 1920's, their craft was stimulated by Shoji Hamada (Hamada Shoji, I suppose, in Japanese), a great leader in recreating studio pottery. Who needed handmade pots in the 1920's? Only people who chose them. So the traditional manufacture of pots there was shrinking. Under Hamada's influence and teaching, Mashiko became a center of pottery as art to live with. Here are some of the exhibited pots that grabbed me.

And I realize that I have heard this story several times before, from other places.  With Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada recreated British studio pottery, also nearly disappeared for lack of need or desire for handmade ceramics. Sometimes, they are said to have revived all of European studio ceramics. I'm not so sure, after visits to French pottery towns, where the work has gone on since the Neolithic Era. And where Picasso made art on ceramics. Certainly there has been a great flowering of ceramic art in the industrial age, in these industrialized countries.

And Maria Martinez, in San Ildefonso Pueblo, looked at the history of her dying craft and revived motifs and techniques that set off a boom in Pueblo ceramics as much appreciated art.

And Juan Quezada in Mata Ortiz started absolutely from the beginning. He taught himself to make pottery, with careful observation of potsherds at a nearby archeological site, revived the ancient local styles, and gave his whole town its current occupation and a new/old art.

Wow! From Mashiko.

People often say there are no new ideas in ceramics and that we may borrow (steal?) freely from each other. Each of the pieces from this exhibit looks to me, outside the Mashiko tradition, wildly individual and creative. They are, but also there is the whole local history behind them. Both created and revived.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"I'm Go glad I Bought It From the Potter."

I've been enjoying the pleasure of customers who like what they've bought. Recently I've heard comments like this from several. "I'm so glad I wandered into the sale and by your booth."

They make me think about the link between the maker and the user. Perhaps it could be the same in all fields, between the cook and the eater, the performer and the audience, the builder and the resident. I think we are more aware of that link when we are in the same place or when you take the product from my hand into yours. It's a more personal link then. How many of us know the people who built our houses? Perhaps all those links were equally personal in the very old days when we all lived in villages, and all production was craft production.  Now we almost have to hunt for it. And we find it special when we are that close to each other  --  in small venues, where we can see the dancers sweat!

I first learned to like selling pots in a sale of student and teacher work at the UCSD Craft Center; working my "shift" I looked up when someone said in great delight "I'm taking THIS one", and saw the person waving my pitcher. The pot then stands on its own, goes on from my hands into a sort of life of its own, joins your life.  Wonderful!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Art in the Village in Carlsbad

I'll be at Art in the Village:
        Grand Ave. in Carlsbad
        Sunday August 9
Come and call it a workday.

With new pots?  But of course.

How about a white glaze?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pots To Live With

I've started a new shop on Etsy, a monster website for selling handmade everything. My shop,, joins thousands of potters there. Have a look if you like.

And new pots.

I absolutely love this glaze.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July

Not at all about pots or making pots, but too good not to share. Here's a lovely bit of America; in the grocery store yesterday I saw a woman dressed in complete Muslim modesty, buying only tortillas and guacamole. Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Kiln Mystery

 I fired 2 of these mugs with the same glaze  --  T's green  --  in the same firing in the ECC school kiln. Same clay, same glaze, same firing. Should come out the same, right? Ha, why should it? It depends what the glaze is made of; some glazes are very invariant, some change with thickness of application, temperature, amount of reduction in the firing, and certainly over different clays.

In this case the kiln is not under perfect control; it's a fairly large, hard used, gas kiln in a communal studio, loaded by a varying group of people. The temperature of firing varies a fair amount from top to bottom, the reduction is variable and spotty, and I do not know the kiln well enough to predict what will happen to a pot in a particular place in the kiln. I did not load these cups into the kiln. A setup for mysteries.

Here is the second cup. Same...

Obviously they were not loaded together. This is what that glaze does at a slightly higher temperature: a darker color, glossy, translucent, and with those great crystal speckles. 

Is one "right"? I was aiming for the second. I do like both, though not as a set.  And I actually like it that things are somewhat out of control  -- after the initial shock.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Itching to Open the Kiln

The kiln was cooling, overnight and in the morning, with a load of newly glazed and fired pots. Do you know how hard it is to leave it alone, even though it is really too hot to handle?

This is the point where process becomes product, hope is realized or lost, the invisible changes in the firing can be seen. Potters tend to be extravagant, mystical, a bit wild about glaze firing and the marvelous transformations that happen in it. It's the last step in the rather slow affair of making pots, so the time of success or failure.

And so opening the kiln after a glaze firing is a big deal. Some potters make it a party or an event to share with customers. I do it privately, to absorb what has happened with my latest pots before anybody else sees them. By noon the kiln really was cool enough to empty, after several pretenses in that direction. First I propped he lid up for a few hours, checked it too often, then opened the door and waited some more, then just had to look below the visible top shelf.

That's the first view, the top shelf in my rather small kiln. Looks good so far. But what's down under there? It's a treasure hunt, every time.

Whew, that big platter survived. But the people who asked for it want the same colors as this plate:

Not close. I made a guess, that the colored slips used on both would come out the same color in firings at two different temperatures, and one oxidation, one reduction firing. I think the slips (liquid clay) were colored with stains, which tend to be fairly uniform. They do have top temperatures for keeping their color. I've got another platter to fire at a school, the same way the plate was fired, and hope it will work. Never make just one for an order; "things" happen. So why fire the platter at home? It's bigger than the space on a kiln shelf in the school kiln. The other platter is oval and barely fits there.

These came out fine, just enough thinning of the glaze on the top edges to emphasize the shapes a bit. I like it.

This one was refired with some glaze added to cover, I hoped, a couple of raw spots on the bottom. It sort of worked, not great.But the colors!

Hmmm. What an odd color.Think I'll try again.

Ah, yes. A new glaze I've only seen so far on tiny test pieces. I really like it.

Yeah, but thin glaze. Why? Maybe I'll refire with more glaze. I feel fairly free to do that, as my kiln doesn't use much electricity.

That's a lot better than before, a refired piece with more glaze on it.

So, as usual, a mix of more and less successful pieces. I learn this time to pay better attention to glaze thickness.

The treasure hunt went fine. The mystery continues, the surprises kept coming, and there are some usable new pots. Nothing fabulous this time. The red glaze is promising in it's variety of shade. Onward!