Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bringing New Pots to the Roland Street Fair

Hello.  Come by if you like. It's a cheerful neighborhood event. I'll be at the Rolando Street Fair on, where else? Rolando Blvd. in San Diego, on March 29, 10 to 6.

 This is the most fabulous glaze. The more I think of to add to its runniness, the better it gets.

That's a shape to repeat.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


The beginning of a breakthrough at least. I've been focused on that narrow base, with no separate foot, for the smooth curve up and out. Now I've tried working with the top of the bowl.

Thursday I flopped around a pottery class, not knowing what to do with myself. Friday I found this:

YES! This is where I want to go. There's development yet to do, but I'm in a new place. So far I have learned
  --  Fewer, bigger moves/changes/gestures are better than more and smaller ones.

That's boring.

That's interesting. 2 views I think of the same bowl, but it's clear that it becomes better with more depth in the cut.

  --  The line should keep flowing. The one above does, not so sure about the next picture.

  --  The heights and shapes should vary. The relatively flat part above doesn't work so well.

Several years ago, I made a bowl to remember a trip in Arizona. Now I see what its weak points are.

I was thinking of cliff tops, where streams fall over the edge, and carve the beginnings of canyons. I like that part, but not so much the wide bowl base and the rest of the top.

It all repeats the same heights, not good.

Is this new? To me, sure, and it feels like an invention. I  have, though, stopped to look at every pot with an irregular rim for years. In Craft in America, I noticed a Richard DeVore pot that does it wonderfully, looked up more of his work, and bow and step back. Not my invention; he made whole galleries full of marvelous pots with these qualities. He was after something else though, finishes like skin, pots like bodies. Interesting.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Where's That Good Bowl Shape?

 New bowls! I've been trying to get into my hands a form I see occasionally in others' work and have in my mind's eye: bowls that lift and flare from a narrow base, up and out. It's a gesture, like flinging out your arms to the sky. I see I wrote about this in October; what a long time til I have concrete, well, ceramic, results. And these are an intermediate effort, not a consistent success.

Is this it? It's got some of the quality, but I think loses the energy of the flare because the top turns inward.

This one? Yes, more lift.

Maybe even better with the top edge turned outward. This adds open hands to that arm gesture.

Here's a rounder bowl, with the narrow base and not much flare. I like it but it's not the same shape at all.

A little more of the flare. Better, definitely. Very small differences make a significant difference in quality. And I am only looking for one quality here. The rounder bowls have other kinds of quality  (I am exploring adding slip for texture and I like it in these 2 bowls.) Very complicated.

What about functional quality? Yes, the bowls seem well balanced with such a narrow base, though I've made wider ones that tip. There is a limit to the width that works.

The top edge seems to look equally appropriate, whether it is level, wavy or cut. So this is not a difference that makes a difference. 

And the glazes? These bowls are  also an exploration of cone 10 glazes I have available.

How about that wild combination? The bowl is a bit tippy, but I like the colors.

Oh yes, though not news. I really like this rutile glaze on porcelain, even better with some texture to enhance the runny effects.

Conclusions? Just keep at it. There is an endless amount of subtle variety in this field, and an endless amount to learn.  Fun. Perhaps every subject is open like this, and so full of possibility that you never come to its end. The world is BIG!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Making Pottery in Old Age

What does it take to keep making pottery into old age?

 I do know people who have had enough and stopped potting, when conditions in their lives suggested a change. Most of us seem to love it, though, and want to keep going indefinitely. Bodies don't keep going indefinitely. Besides all the rest of life and health, there are health problems that come with making pottery: carpal tunnel problems from repetitive motion of hands and wrists, elbow troubles, tendinitis. We all know we should not breathe clay dust for years, but how scrupulously careful are you? Glaze chemicals are sometimes dangerous, too. If you would like to be scared/warned, check out Beth Peterson, Is Pottery Dangerous.

The inspiration for thinking about this is an article in last Sunday's LA Times on Dora De Larios. She is a major potter and sculptor now in her 80's and working busily. Perhaps it's more design than hand work at this point, but she seems still to be carving her pieces herself.

And I think of Eva Zeisel, my hero these days. She died almost exactly 3 years ago at age 105. A few months earlier she was still designing, though I think she shifted away from hand work in the 2000's sometime. Early in her long career she started designing ceramics for commercial production, and at the end of her life, began designing pieces in other materials. Never stopping, always creative.

Locally, and more accessibly, there's Jeri Unitt, who continued to take classes at Clay Associates into  her 80's. Over the years, she has not only made lovely indoor pieces, but has created her whole garden, the tiles for the back porch, the edging for planting areas, and table tops and flower pots.

And me? I started potting far too late in life to expect to give it up.  And I love the example of these people, carrying on long in delight and commitment and ability.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pots to Listen to

I've been interested in the sounds pottery can make, in the possibility that ceramics is auditory art/craft, not just a visual one. Of course it isn't just visual, it's very tactile. But most of us look carefully at pots and train our eyes for visual art. How about listening. All fired pots ring nicely when tapped.  There are ceramic drums, flutes, whistles, bells. Barry Hall wrote an intriguing book about this, called "From Mud to Music". So I have an exploration to come, of ceramic musical instruments.

I thought bells would be an easy place to start. Trying to follow instructions, I think by Barbara Dunstreet, on one of those how to websites, I've started with the bells in these pictures. It's not easy by the way, lots of little parts to fit together so that the sound is good.

I've tried stoneware and porcelain for cone 6 firing temperatures. They make a wide variety of sound, in tone quality and in pitch. Why? It it the material? The one above seems best, made of stoneware with a pocelain clapper. But does the shape of the bell matter? I've tried two bell shapes


The second shape sounds worst, but I'm not sure the shape is the reason. How about the place the clapper hits?

This is supposed to be best, the clapper touching the bell's rim. I'm finding that right.

So here's a new area opening up, to explore and learn, before I come up with reliably good bells.

And yes, they should look good,

and these are for decorated for Christmas. Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Craft Sales are for Listening

Last Saturday I was at a local craft sale with my pots, at the Lindbergh-Schweitzer Elementary School.This is one of several low-key, small sales before Christmas, a fundraiser by the school's PTA. One woman passing by checked out a small box I've made, this one.

She stopped to tell me about her box. After her husband died, she glued a picture of him to a box, and put in it small pieces of paper on which she wrote about her feelings of anger, I suppose at his dying. She said when she was "done with my anger", she transformed it into a gratitude box. Each evening, she writes something she is grateful for that day, and puts it in the box. At the end of each year, she empties the box and cuts papers for the next year's notes.What a lovely reminder to notice occasions for gratitude. What a new year's celebration. What a transformation from anger to gratitude, when she was ready. Altogether marvelous.

Standing on the street or the schoolyard behind my pots, I am available more than usual, just there to respond to whoever stops, and to whatever they want.  I think I go to sell pots and see how people respond to what I make. Not necessarily.  Other things can happen too, in this open situation. People often share bits of their personal lives; this story might be the most wonderful offering anyone's made. And my intention certainly need not be the only relevant reason to participate in craft sales. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lots of New Pots! Any Good?

It's great just to see new and finished pots, a process come to its end and an object from my hand, eyes, mind.  The latest batch has a few I find really good, some flops and several acceptable and not exciting ones. Done is not at all the same as good.


This I like. It's cute, friendly and works. It sold the day after it came out of the kiln.

This one? Not so sure. It's the same idea, a bit too heavy and chunky, wide in the base, maybe off in the handle. I like the somewhat wild glaze combination, but I've still got the pot; maybe other people don't. Aesthetic success is a matter of slight differences from aesthetic blah or failure  --  the right differences.

A set of bowls, not bad, better actually in person.  They've got some of the quality of grace and looseness I'm after.

This little stem and seed head really has it! If I could make pots that float like this, I'd be making what I can see.

Then there's technical success and failure. The figure on the pot above is a picture of one of those ancient British chalk horses,carved into a hillside, maybe in the Iron Age? This is one of the chancier pieces I've made. The slip that paints the figure did not stick completely; is that a problem, or does it just look more ancient? The orange circle is a mystery, some effect from the glazing and firing, not my doing; but it adds quality. But, oops, the plate really warped:

Here's another, also a slip transfer, from Ellen Fager's class. This a a paleolithic era horse in a cave painting. Nice, but...

The plate cracked all the way through. My fault, some strain on the pot from the way I attached the footring to the back.

I like this glaze and the way flowers stand out against it.

 But not this one, with glaze much too thin. It's probably salvageable. Actually the picture looks better than the pot.

I've been learning about adding slip to the surface of pots. That's a way to add color, drawing  and texture.


Ah, better. I lifted the idea of smearing slip across the pot from Stephen Hill, a wonderful potter.

It makes a loose, random texture that enhances the variability of glazes that look different when they are thin or thick and that run interestingly. I'm surprised to like this so much; I thought I prefer smooth surfaces and elegant shapes.

Now here is an ugly shape much improved by the glaze. Why?

And I like this one, an exploratory form, and an interesting glaze combination. Sometimes they work!

 It's all a bit confounding. So much to understand.