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.

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.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Teapots Again, and They're Fun to Make

I haven't made teapots in several years. Starting from a class assignment, in a handbuilding class I took this spring, I've rediscovered the fun of these shapes.

They're not so hard to make anymore. Teapots are a standard challenge for beginning potters, lots of parts to make and relate; I'm past that stage. Here's what the latest ones look like.

That one's just a picture; I put runny glaze on the top (that brown plus white combination) and sealed the top to the pot above the spout. Maybe I'm not past the stage of having difficulty with teapots.

I'm liking their friendly roundness, with a bit of cute.

Want to see some inspiring teapots, not my doing?

 If you want cuteness, these two have it. And the ones in the next picture are definitely art, in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

So much to try!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In the Coronado Art Association

I've been enjoying finding wonderful potters as we traveled in France, in places I was told to look, and in others we happened upon. Potters everywhere. Locally, too there are skilled and inspired potters everywhere. And other artists. The Coronado Art Association is one of many such organizations of local artists. It's centered in Coronado, open to any one in the San Diego area who passes their jury's scrutiny. It's largely composed of painters, also a few potters, photographers, jewelers, wood carvers... They  -- we --  show and sell our work in Spreckel's Park in Coronado, on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month, 9-4. What a pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday. I'll be there most of these Sundays for the summer.

Come by and I'll share a chair. Have a look at what the others are showing. The quality is generally very high; you'll see what's to your taste.

Influenced by the beach as well as the park, maybe, I've been making magnets, like these.

And tried out these little shell shapes as cabinet pulls. It works. Want custom cabinet handles?

There seems no end to the possibilities, in ideas and applications. And so many people making it ourselves, or playing it or performing it ourselves. Who fits this image we hear about so much, of Americans as dull couch potatoes and spectators?

Monday, May 26, 2014

France is Full of Fabulous Potters

Of course, but I haven't known of any of them. We've been on a trip to southern France. I like to visit potters while traveling but had no luck actually finding potters there on the internet until Pierre Bounaud stepped in with leads. He's French and American and a fine potter. Thanks, Pierre!

We went to 2 pottery villages,  Moustiers Ste.-Marie, and St. Quentin la Poterie. Both are places with a long tradition of pottery making, in St. Quentin, since Neolithic times. There must be good local clay, though the people I heard from and about were not using that. There are other pottery villages, most famous in the area is Vallauris, which we avoided to avoid the Cannes film festival. Imagine them; a whole small town full of potters, studios, galleries, shops.  San Diego has many, I think an astonishing number of good potters, who know each other, but disappear into the rest of the city and population. In these villages, you walk down the street from one to the next. For potters, it's home!

Here's a map of Moustiers. The blue dots are all potters!

Moustiers is next to the spectacular gorge of the Verdon River, perhaps because of that very touristy. Decent pots for sale in the souvenier shops, and crowds wandering among them and restaurants. It's also in a dramatic site, on a cliffside, with a small river falling though it, staircase streets and houses built over each other.  There's an official category, "the most beautiful villages in France"; this is one.

St Quentin was much quieter, though I hope they have crowds in major tourist season. It seems just a beautiful small town of potters, working away privately.

 In each village we found one wonderful gallery, showing the very most marvelous  regional art work. Check them out:
La Mostra in Moustiers (

Terra Viva in St. Quentin (

And so I've found potters to rave about. I recommend you

Xavier Duroselle (
Brigitte Marionneau (
Isabelle LeClerc(
Yves Lambeau (

Oh, and Stephanie Gaillard, who I did not find on the web, but she made the wonderfully layered bowls at La Mostra. And so forth.

And then we stumbled over more. In the Pyrenees, we stopped in Villefranche de Conflent, a tiny village known for  its great walls and castle. It seems to live on tourist products in good taste, and in the 2 streets, we found the shops of 3 potters. The work is good, the prices shockingly low. Here's a cup by Phil Monroig.

And Le Panier, in the old part of Marseille (that goes back to the ancient Greeks), has become an art zone. Just walking we went by 4 potters' shops. Look at this beautiful stuff:
And I'd love to link you to Serge Moutarlier but don't find a website.

And then there is  national organization of potters, the Collectif  National des Ceramists:, listing potters and shows all over the country.

Wow. I hope you enjoy theses websites as a sit-down tour of our marvelous colleagues there.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Empty Bowls 2014

This year's Empty Bowls fundraising for TACO is May 10, 11-1, at United Methodist Church, 6063 La Jolla Blvd. in La Jolla.

This is a world-wide, annual lovely fundraiser for organizations serving homeless people. Potters make bowls to donate, restaurants provide soup and bread, sometimes performers donate their shows. You can come, choose a bowl, fill it for lunch, make a donation, keep your bowl. I hear it started with a high school ceramics program in Michigan somewhere.

For more details, check

So far my bowls look like this

Work to do!

Friday, April 4, 2014

I'm Waiting for It to Move

Who could know? The best fun I had at the Rolando Street Fair on Sunday was hearing reactions to the "fish" in my garden bowls--bird baths--patio ponds. I had one bowl on the street in front of my table of pots, with water in it. I've been making these for awhile.

Here's an early one, with a few ripples on the bottom.

Then I started adding a fish; why not have one in your bird bath?

Then I find that wonderful things happen when other people see them. On Sunday, both a mature woman and a little boy informed me with confidence that the one in the next bowl is an alligator. Several other children knew it is an eel. And a serious teenager squatted next to the bowl on the street, watched a considerable while, and told me he was waiting for it to move.

I like making pots. But I think I like touching imagination even more.