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!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Carving the Rim -- First Results

Several months ago I started carving the rims of pots and loving the new forms that made. Here are some, finished. Time for critique.

Hmmm. If the glaze is a bit dull (not as intended), the form does stand out. I like it. Perhaps better if the rim is consistently a different color.

Maybe not that much. Too wide a white edge for the proportions of the bowl. Maybe too interesting a glaze for the carving to be conspicuous.

 Not as intended either, but it does work. Does this look require a fairly uniform and unexciting glaze job?

 Now that's a flop. Certainly a very dull glaze. And a thick rim, so the whole thing is heavy and ugly.

This one? Good shape, a glaze that breaks so the rim is emphasized a little, would be better without the horizontal throwing lines.

Same here. It's my favorite rutile blue glaze. Not as effective as it usually is; I think it fights with the carving for attention. And the carving was overdone for so shallow a bowl. The one above is better.

Yes, this works. A quieter glaze combination, and it lifts my eye, at least, to the rim.

This is tricky stuff for me. Perhaps it is part of an art education to know where the eye looks and how the parts of a piece add up to reinforce the desired look. I don't know this yet, at least for this form.
So much to learn and develop! Definitely part of the attraction of making pots for me.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Why Do You Like What You Like?" and Other Interesting Questions

Last Saturday I attended a workshop by Gay Smith. She is a fine potter and teacher. Here's some of her work from her teaching last week.

Her website is

She talks well about the work she does, both technique and ideas. That's not required; making pottery is not a verbal field. But I like it, and understand better when I have words for ideas, choices, feelings, tastes.

Among the best things I've gained from the workshop are two tough questions she asked us. "Where do you want your pots to end up?" "Why do you like what you like?" 

I can answer the first one easily. I want my pots to end up on your table. Also, but not only on my table. I haven't even thought I might want them in a museum. Ah, so that's a direction for future development. I'd like my pots in home stores, not galleries.

Why do I like what I like? I can say what I tend to like, though there are always exceptions and surprises. I like pots that are smooth, graceful, ergonomically good, pleasant to handle, and something I am now calling friendly. How are pots friendly? They don't exactly wag their tails. Here are some of mine I find friendly, and an effort to articulate what makes them so.

I think this is a friendly teapot. The rounded shape and something about the spout. It's not pretentious, like some long and elaborate ones. Maybe it's even a joke. Hmmm.

This bowl feels good in the hands. The shape and size fit hands, and the glaze is smooth over the slight ribbing of the slip underneath.

Another one for the hands. And a mug is an individual, intimate thing always. Between you and me.

I haven't made these silly fish for years. They have that friendly quality though. Perhaps humor is an aspect of friendliness, like it can be in people. And that short teapot spout.

So this is why I choose to be The Village Potter. I knew the name before I could articulate the content of it. I choose to make domestic, functional, friendly pots. They feel right.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

May is for Craft Sales

I'll be at 3. Come and see.

 The Talmadge Art Show, May 3 at the Liberty Station Convention Center. That's a new location for them, if you have the habit of going. It's a new show for me, though I've certainly been there as a customer.

The Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Coop, May 9, 11-4, on Voltaire St just south of Sunset Cliffs Blvd.

The North Park Festival of the Arts, May 16, 11-6, on University Ave and adjacent side streets near 30th St.