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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wonderful Pots

It's good to take a step back every so often, and notice, not what I make, but what I love. It gives a very clear sense of a goal, where I want to develop as a potter. I'd like to share with you some of what I find wonderful.

I'm not sure if it is legitimate to show pictures from other people's websites without their permission, so here are just the links. Have a look:

Jennifer McCurdy makes wild, carved, unglazed, porcelain sculptures based on bowl shapes. My first thought, at first sight, was "this is what patience looks like". Far more than patience:

Jennifer Lee also works from patience, slow, lovely, thoughtful, calm bowls as sculpture:

Linda Bloomfield's pots are more commercial, functional dishes sold personally and through large companies.  I love the simpler forms and cool color:

Sotis Filippides starts with bowls too, though he specializes in rough clay surfaces:

What's with all the Brits? Just that I have the frequent opportunity, though my husband's annual British workshops, to go to England, and I visit potters.

How about a wonderful local potter?  Check out the work of Roberta Klein for elegant form and fabulous glazes/glazing: Look in the members list.

So what are the goals for me? To make elegant light smooth form, with glaze as a supporting element. An aesthetic goal; whether the pot has other functions is not the point  --  surprise.

Specifically, there's something heart lifting for me about bowls that start from a narrow base and flare upward lightly. Time to practice that.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Del Mar Taste and Art Stroll

Sound yummy? I expect to be there, with pots. It's in the middle of the street, the 101 in Del Mar south of 15th Street. Sunday October 5, 10-5.

 Come by, I'll bring an extra chair.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How about Salt Dishes?

Do we need salt dishes? I've always used salt shakers. But there are all sorts of wild salts available now, and half the fun of them is how unusual they look. Get them out of the shaker to see them.

 I got the idea of making salt dishes from a spice seller at a farmers' market; she uses them to offer samples of her spice mixes. Of course, not just for salt.

From the idea to a form that works takes awhile. I've found only some knob shapes work well with slippery gloss glazes on this small scale.

This one is too wide at the base; fingers slide off.

 I've found the spoons slide down out of reach in empty dishes; that may not matter for use, but it does for displaying the dishes for sale.

This one is long enough, and why not a twist?

And there's definitely a better aesthetic quality in 2 loosely fitting bowls (one for bottom, one for top), like the picture above, over a bottom and top with fitted  edges, like a jar.

That maybe an effect of the scale; too much edge , not enough pot.

The scale is fascinating. These are the first miniatures I've made since a class assignment. It sure feels odd to make them, like sewing doll clothes perhaps. The object is tiny, but the fingers are the usual size. It takes a very different touch.

Salt dishes also attract people who like miniatures, something I've not been very aware of. People buy them for salt and spices, and the bigger bowls for dipping sauces.  I started with these, more than 2 inches across, without spoons.

 But some people choose them because they simply love tiny containers, and little girls are enchanted. Salt dishes seem to be "adorable".

On the other hand, I had a dream last night in which someone was using my salt dishes to murder people, and the police came by to check on my materials. (In waking life, no I do not use poisonous glazes.) Doesn't this make you want one?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who Cares for Handcraft?

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend with extreme contrasts in interest in craft work. On Sunday I took my pots to the Chula Vista Lemon Festival. It is a lively, friendly street fair, plenty of people (and dogs) of all ages, very few handmade objects offered for sale and very little interest in my pots. I just thought clearly I don't belong here, at least to sell pottery.

The day before, I went on a bus trip to LA with CASD, Clay Artists of San Diego. We stopped at Aardvark, which sells a great variety of tempting ceramic supplies; the LA County Art Museum (LACMA); the Craft and Art Museum; and the Freehand Gallery. All these places are wonderfully devoted to the individual products of individual craftpeople and artists. The art museum was busy with people full of interest and opinions, kids, students, old people, an ethnic mix as wide as the Chula Vista Festival, everyone. The Craft and Folk Art Museum focuses on exhibits of a few artists, a wideranging gift shop and events encouraging local people to make it themselves, with their hands. And the Freehand Gallery is plain inspiring. Gorgeous handmade "functional craft", as they describe their choice. And Carol Sauvion, the founder and owner, also produced Craft in America, an ongoing marvelous TV series, traveling exhibit, book, and more coming. I'm a fan. Have a look:, and

What a contrast. I'm still thinking about it. At least, there is a substantial subset of people who love the process and products of hand work, who want to make and to see and use them. Some of them go into art museums. Others (defined by the medium evidently) are folk art, craft, do-it-yourself. What about Stoney Lamar's fascinating wood sculptures at the Craft and Folk Art Museum?

He describes himself as a wood turner, using machine tools, but clearly making art, not just beautiful bowls and the like.

 So, it doesn't have to be hand-without-machine work. Perhaps I really mean self-and-body work in the making of things, so that the results are individual and personal. That's art I suppose, even if the products also have some other function.

I've been struggling with the meanings of art and craft and the purpose of making pottery by hand in  the industrialized world. Except in a few barely industrialized places, nobody needs handmade pots for practical reasons. I seem to need to make them, to live in my hands. And people who like and choose handmade things maybe share this.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Around San Diego in August

Really around. I'll be spending Sundays at art sales. Please come by if you like.

Sunday August 3
Chula Vista Lemon Festival on 3rd Ave, 10-5

Sunday August 10
Art in the Village, Carlsbad, 9-5. I'll be at the south end of the show area.

Sunday August 24
LeucadiArt Walk on the 101 in Leucadia

With new pots of course.