Monday, February 28, 2011

Missoula Unloaded

Here's some pics of the unloading that happened yesterday.

Lots of browns, as were expected.. but there's a type of firing that Danny really likes, which I saw started while we were back in Utah. At the end of the firing, after holding our top temp for about 3 or 4 days..there's a big final stoke. I wasn't there for it, so this is what I heard what happened. The final stoke was a continuous stoking of wood for close to a half an hour, to completely stuff up the fire box and side stokes.

Then from that, after the kiln is billowing smoke, it cools naturally until 2000. From 2000 it was a cooling period until dull reddish heat by stoking small pieces of wood into the fire box along with the addition of water. The "reduction" cooling is interesting, and I quote it because a lot of people have different definitions.

This rope impressed pot of mine is possibly my favorite so far. This bowl is the bowl. I might have to send it off to the permanent collection.

Here's a soldier that took the brunt of the firebox most of the firing..yet he was far enough away to easily come out of the kiln.

And here's good one too, which was towards the middle of the kiln half way into the side stoke. See my plaster pop-out? Silly right? I'm super satisfied with how this work came out... Now I just need to work on my forms.

I think that the result Danny is looking for is a unique surface, matted ash and deeper colors of reds and a type of surface that is reminiscent of the moon. Some people call it a sugary surface, especially if a shino is used. All in all it was a total success and I came out with some gems for sure. Once the pots are cleaned I'm going to photograph them..and finally update my portfolio.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

the Wilson Train and Crew

Welcome to another part of Montana wood firing. I have the pleasure of working along side one of the best wood fire gals in the business today, Tara Wilson. she's pretty cool.. enjoys a shot of whiskey at 2 pm, a strong cup of coffee any time, a love for delicious food, better company and some serious skills when it comes to pottery.

We're here, in Montana City, which is just south of Helena. Tara built her studio a few years back and the kiln a couple of summers ago. At some point, I helped..and have been involved in several firings since then. It's a great studio with enough room for 3 people to work comfortably. There's a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom to boot. You can see it here, which is looking south. Tara's made her home and studio available for any friend..and she never seems to have a lack of new people to meet and learn from. Here are the people involved for this firing:

This is Morgan. He's super funny and makes some killer birds. During most of the year he's involved with a company called Winding Waters, based out of Joseph, Oregon. During the summer months he guides river trips and during the winter he guides back country skiing. He's sort of new to the wood firing game, but he's learning quickly. There's a quality that I love about Morgan's's honest and it makes me smile. A river trip with this guy would be super fun.

Here's a shot of us during the loading. It was pretty damn cold most of the day.... but it could have been a lot worse. See the guy with a huge beard? That's Caleb. Caleb works as a potter during the winter months and for the summer months he works for the Forest Service. All around good guy, I'd say. I've fired with him before and look forward to another one.

The big guy in the red flannel is from Missoula, one of the current residents at the Clay Studio of Missoula, Larry Phan. I've never fired with him before but definitely appreciate his hard work collecting more side-stoke while the rest of us took care of the loading. Many hands make light work. Also something that I just realized..we both used the same program to build our websites and the same setting within that program. Check his then check mine, it's sort of funny.... His girlfriend is here with him and was a huge help during the loading, even though she didn't have any work in it.

The last guy, Ryan Mitchel, is from Bozeman. I've met him before..but never fired with him. The beard is much shorter this time... He's involved in the community over in Bozeman working at the Emerson Center for Arts and Culture. I'm looking forward to picking his brain a little bit more about what his life is like over there.

Another gal, Lindsey is here helping and is sharing Tara's studio. I'm sorry to say I don't have a photo or very much information on her. She had to leave early tonight because she's a waitress at the local tap, Millers. She's from the Chicago area and as far as I can see is pretty dedicated to ceramics.

Nice crew, huh?

Tomorrow I'm headed back to Missoula to unload the Anagama!!!

Cold start

Headed up to Tara Wilson's kiln this morning to load. Getting into the car to warm it up... I noticed that I left a couple of un-opened Pepsi's in there last night.. I guess they can't handle sub-zero weather for very long... Woops. I'll have a post later tonight with some pics of the place and the people.. until then, wish me warm, huh? I feel you, Tc, I don't ski either...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Working the Porcelain Surface (Workshop)

Emily and I are heading back to the Art Association of Jackson Hole this summer to teach a three day workshop.

It should be pretty sweet. We'll go over everything we absolutely know about working with porcelain and how/what can be done to the surface, and basically..just have a good ole time. We'll also have a throwing/handbuilding demo..and probably a slide talk. Hopefully we can find a venue there and have a mini-show or something. Interested? Come on over!

The Art Association there has an awesome set up/co-op thing of a multi-medium facility (painting, drawing, print, name it).... Sam Dowd and his lovely wife, Jenny are running the Ceramic Department. From what I could see last year, they're doin an awesome job.

You know Jackson has a lot of money and they've put a decent chunk in to have a great community based art program. I'm really looking forward to this.

Click here to find out more and to even sign up! (spaces are limited and will most likely sell out!!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Clay Club. Day 1

My first students:

Clay Club rules.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Studio update

Tomorrow our first kids class starts. We got a few actually, so it's all coming together.. this last week, since I've been back from Missoula has been a non-stop, 12 hour days getting this place ready to go. We've finished the half-walls, tomorrow morning will, hopefully, see the trim and crown molding .. i added a few stripes of paint to give some color to the room. Look at these! What a great bunch of really awesome stools that our good buddy, Scott got together for us. He showed up a few mornings back with all the wood ready to assemble. What a great guy and some super awesome stools! From the people floating around the building we keep getting a lot of compliments on them.

Emily and I sat down and brainstormed some ideas and a kind of lesson plan for the next month..and it's going to be so cool- I'm going to sit down and make bugs and castles and horses, yes horses, and pinch pots and coil pots with a bunch of kids... sounds more like fun then a job to me.

Stay tuned for the unloading of the Missoula kiln, probably a post around next Tuesday. But before that I'll introduce you to the new wood-fire resident at the Bray, Kenyon Hansen and the Train kiln he's loading this weekend. Also, I'll show you the loading from Tara Wilson's kiln. I'm glad I held back a group of pots so I can get involved.. Both of these two are loading and firing this weekend.

Wish us luck tomorrow for our first kid's class!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Missoula, Montana.

For the last 6 days I've been in Missoula, Montana, loading and firing an Anagama with my good friend from school, Danny Crump. Danny has been at the Clay Studio of Missoula for the last two years as the wood-fire resident..and this is his last firing before he takes off for the next part of his never-ending adventure in clay- which is actually taking him back to China. Since Danny has been at the Clay Studio, he's helped rebuild this Anagama and get it firing like a dream, built another kiln that's tied to the same chimney that he calls the "hatchback", a type of Train/Cat/Anagama hybrid..which actually fires pretty nicely. Not to mention he's had a big impact on the local community by teaching classes and getting involved in other areas.

The loading took two days, mostly due to the short amount of light..and also to give our backs a break and wet our whistles at a local bar.

It was a good load and we had more work then we thought.. most of it got in..which left the firebox a little cramped. But as of this morning only a few things had been knocked or cracked..and it mostly seemed to be rolling along nicely as cones dropped and side-stoking commenced. I would have stayed..but I have so much work to get done around here in preparation for the kids classes starting, Feb 22nd- next week!!!

I made mostly smaller sized pots for this firing. But check this thing out.. This is Danny's "door". It's roughly 7 feet long, 4 inches thick and weighs something like 350 pounds. It was a ball buster to load (bone dry) into the kiln without it cracking.

The thing I love about Danny, when it comes to his clay, is that he's willing to take big risks to push himself. He thinks big, goes big and just goes for it like a true cowboy. Lucky for him though he's got fellas like me and the rest of his super awesome crew out there with strong backs to get this into the kiln. I hope this piece turns out..and hopefully, by the 28th I'll have a post of the unloading and finished pots.

Breakfast anyone? Nothing like a hot meal when you have to start that 6 am shift in 20 degree weather.

Before I left early this morning, I snapped a shot of the sunrise beyond the kiln. What a gorgeous morning..and what great weather for the load and 2 day pre-heat.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Here's Matt. Look at Matt go. It's so helpful to have a guy on your team who's a big hitter. If Free Ceramics were a baseball team I'd put Matt at numero 4 in the lineup. There's no way we could afford to hire somebody to do this, or to afford the materials- which Matt has been squirreling away for years of doing construction jobs. Not to mention he's an alright guy to hang with, even though he is my brother-in-law. Oh and by the way, he's going to take the slip cast world by storm soon. All you slip people better be ready.

The new space is coming along nicely..and we've already booked some soon to be students. It's going to be a fun time..and I have no doubt that after the word spreads a bit more..we'll have a crazy big crew of kids running around. I was thinking of putting together some sort of kids "ceramics camp" during the summer. Maybe maybe... although that's hard to say because the summer is pretty much booked up.

I spent a good chunk of the day mixing some glazes. Tried and true guys, for the most part. I have four that I'm bringing wth me to glaze my pots with before we load. Lets see.. I have..

White Salt.
This is exactly like the classic, Yellow Salt, but without the iron oxide. My variation uses pure rock salt from a specific area of salt flats in Nevada. (totally necesarry) The glaze gives a nice buttery white when used over porcelain. I think it's pretty luscious..although I've never tired it in a wood kiln. I'm going to give it a go. Due to the heavy sodium content of this white salt glaze, extreme caution should be used if using as an ice melt. eye protection is advised.

Karl's Pork Shino.
Another classic, and old-school styley glaze. It's a standard American Shino..with lots of Soda Ash. The one exception, when compared to the rest of the American Shinos... is that this glaze has to have, for every 10,000 grams, two standard cups of bacon grease. It's best if you can use a hickory smoked bacon, but any bacon grease will do. Different types of wood used to smoke the bacon will have different results.

Black Evil.
This is a high silica glaze with a butt load of black copper oxide. In a gas reduction kiln, at cone 10, this glaze is a gun metal black but not shiny. In a salt kiln it will go from black to yellow. In certain cooling situations, a large amount of crystals can grow. It's very reactive to the soluble oxides blowing through a wood kiln. Since copper oxide is one of the coolest oxides out there.. it's possible to get the entire spectrum of colors with this guy..and even more so when you're dealing with fly ash and solubles. It's also evil as hell, too (mostly due to the fact that it isn't food safe). It's so dangerous and so seductive.. once you get a tiny taste, it will totally consume you.

This is a pretty classic Japanese glaze. It's the one used at Utah State in Logan, Utah. My buddy, Perry, told me that it looks pretty sweet in the train kiln..and can have some nice variation in the glaze. I'm taking his word and goin for it. I'm going to keep the glaze line a little higher on the pots with this glaze though..because Perry, said buddy, also mentioned that the glaze runs quite a bit.

Tomorrow I'm off to Missoula to load a kiln for two days. Stay tuned for the best woodfiring adventure in History.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

the last Four days

what could i possibly say about the last four days i've had... it feels like i jumped onto a horse and took off. although i seem to be making pots all the's been quite a spell since having the luxury of a 4 day, personal art making... binge. Since last Saturday I've been practically living in this space..only coming home to eat dinner or sleep. it's as if i were back in school.. so today i'd love to share with you..the incredible thing that is so precious: studio time. i think a lot of people out there take studio time for granted. at least I have in the past. what an amazing thing to have an area, that's all yours to do whatever it is you want? i felt like a freakin kid.. to see a pile of clay, two tables, two wheels, a big ole rolling rack and all the tools I could need. maybe this is what lots of people go through when the "you finally started working in that insanely better studio then the one you had before" phase. is this normal?

i'd also like to share a fun experience i had late last night...

this story is about how that cylinder came to be. i prepped some clay for a board of pitchers late last night..the clay was awesome... some was a little too stiff, but for the most part, i dried that clay out pretty close... on the last cone of clay, for the last pitcher, i finished my pulls and just said to pitcher.. how bout a vase type cylinder. i decided to pull it once more..get it really thin.. it was a tall, maybe 14", with a wide mouth, small shoulder and the neck sprung straight off the shoulder at a 90 degree to finish straight up with a thinish lip. Once it was cut, i picked it up and gave it a little shimmy shake/flip-i-di do-da to get a little extra movement in the clay..and to my surprise floppy clay totally..collapsed on me. i tried in vain to pull the rim back up and out..but couldn't do in a flash of desperation i grabbed the form at it's base and flipped it upside down. the cylinder extended back out, looking really awesome....but it was so soft (and upside down) i couldn't do anything but..stand there. if i tried to flip it right side would just flop again. so i'm holding this freshly thrown cylinder, upside down..looking for the answer to fix this problem..because i was not going to let this thing go, dammit!.. and at the same time i think of Takeshi Yasuda( that's his website..and this is a youtube video of him) and some work he did..which was basically, the same thing i was going through... thin porcelain ..that's collapsed and upside down. What I ended up doing was shoving it between my two tables, still i could get a torch on it. It worked.. hah... and here is the piece earlier today.. getting ready for it's bisque firing on thursday. i really pushed this clay around. what gets me about this.. is that there's no other way that this thing could be. i couldn't make this pot again if i tried for years... it really just..happened. one happening after another. this is the first time in a long time..when i've really felt.. a deep down connection with something i had just made. i could say that i was yearning for this cylinder to succeed and to be something.

a board of pitchers, one with some rope impressed design. i love pitchers. these and teapots i make the least of.. but i just know if i spent some time making many more..they could get soooo good.

Here's some Clennell inspired handles- bobby style. they feel really nice to hold.

Most of the pieces here are going into a Anagama next weekend. It should be totally awesome. And all this month i'll be showing you guys what kind of bad-ass woodfiring is going on in the great state of Montana, USA!

(chanting of "U-S-A" can be heard in the backround)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Do it for the kids! (and a new studio) I'm involved with some serious schemers over here in Helena, Montana. We're all extremely motivated to get this business rolling and are willing to take some risks to get there. So here it is! Our plan.. we've moved into a sweet space on the second floor of where our plaster studio is. How will we pay for it? Why that's easy...Get involved with the community and teach the kids how to play with clay! don't need to be taught how to play with it..but we'll coordinate activities for them. Turns out that a lot of after school art activities in town have stopped and the arts in the schools are getting seriously there seems to be a demand for something like this. Luckily Emily and Matt have been inovled here for so long..and know many parents, otherwise this venture might be more difficult.

This is a shot from the back corner, where my studio will be. We had to move out a lot of stuff like these glass cases.

In exchange for my teaching ability.. I'll be getting a studio space that's 13 feet by 13 feet. I'll be working on the Free Ceramics line here, and my own work. I'll be close to the plaster room so Matt and I can push further into slip casting the line..and also there will be a permanent area..wait, like our own gallery space with finished work for sale.

Look at how that space just swallowed my equipment to make pots.

This is so cool, right??

We're stoked.

There's a lot to get ready for before the classes building some half walls and basic furniture for the kids to use. It's going to be a wild ride too, since this month I've also committed to firing three different wood kilns. We just love to be busy...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Guess who's coming to Dinner?

Ah yes.. Free Ceramics, under the code-name, Emily Free Wilson, will be showing off one of the best plates, the plate above, that we made this last year at this kickass line up of plates and platters, called Guess who's Coming to Dinner. Check out the participating artists.... it's always super cool to show with such a caliber of ceramics people. If you want to find out more about this show (opening on the Feb 5th) this link will take you to the site of the Clay Art Center.

The participating artists range from emerging to established in their careers and include: Tomoko Abe, Jennifer Allen, Wesley Anderegg, Peter Arnow, Keiko Ashida, Lorna Awalt, Posey Bacopolous, Kirsten Bassion, Ingrid Bathe, Parviz Batliwala, Dalia Berman, Mary Kay Botkins, Lynn Smiser Bowers, Douglas Breitbart, Jeanne Carreau, Jennifer Cherpock, Linda Christianson, Sam Chung, Bede Clarke, Andrew Coombs, Bernadette Curran, Charity Davis-Woodard, Bruce Dehnert, Sanam Emami, Marty Fielding, Kathryn Finnerty, Shanna Fliegel, Karen Ford, Julia Galloway, Steven Godfrey, Ryan Greenheck, Martha Grover, Tyler Gulden, Molly Hatch, Gail Heidel, Robin Henschel, Debra Holiber, Bryan Hopkins, Ayumi Horie, Meredith Host, Heather Houston, Matthew Hyleck, Nick Joerling, Natalie Kase, Reena Kashyap, Michael Kline, Maren Kloppmann, Sarah Koster, Eva Kwong, Deborah Lecce, Kazuko Lee, Steve Lee, Denis Licul, Suze Lindsay, Janet Lipow, Matt Long, David MacDonald, Loren Maron, Ginny Marsh, Deborah Mawhinney, Jon McMillan, Jenny Mendes, Matthew Metz, Leigh Taylor Mickelson, Bob Miranti, Rimmie Mosley, Rene Murray, Kiyomi Noda, Jeff Oestreich, Mari Ogihara, Neil Patterson, Aysha Peltz, Sandi Pierantozzi, Ariel Plantz, Brenda Quinn, Kari Radasch, Barbara Rittenberg, Elizabeth Robinson, Stephen Rodriguez, Harriet Ross, Deborah Schwartzkopf, Virginia Scotchie, Ellen Shankin, Mark Shapiro, Roberta Shapiro, Andy Shaw, Linda Sikora, Collette Smith, Gertrude Graham Smith, Kevin Snipes, Chris Staley, Florence Suerig, Hatsumi Suyama, Priya Tambe, Georgia Tenore, Kevin Thomas, Kyla Toomey, Todd Wahlstrom, Jackie Welsh, Emily Free Wilson, Tara Wilson, Gwendolyn Yoppolo and Sheryl Zacharia.

(maybe i'll finish linking all these names to their websites later..half of that took forever)'s almost too many people huh? yes yes..
We're gettin the Free word out there everybody, every show and every little bit helps. And check this out..we've just started.. but there's a great big new studio we're moving into in the next few days. But that whole story deserves it's own post.