Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Here I am, in Redlodge, Montana. Population: hardly any. What a tiny town! This is ranching country. Lots of cattle, horses and bars. I feel like I fit right in…. except I can ride a horse like a cowboy walks through San Francsisco- awkwardly if at all. The more time I spend in Montana, the more I feel at home and really fortunate to be here. It is by far the prettiest state I’ve been in. The people are good too. I appreciate the working mentality in a place like Redlodge. Hard work, honest work.

On to the other stuff. I’m here because of the “Redlodge Clay Center”. Please click the link and find out more. I get to live and work here for two months. I have basically no responsibilities beyond cleaning up after myself. It seems like a dream come true to just make make make. The entire studio is supremely well equipped with just about anything I could ever need.

Here’s a shot of my studio. Big enough? Yah I’d say so. Tomorrow my friend, Courtney Murphy will be showing up and we’ll be wrestling for tables and some of those rolling carts…and not to mention the parking spot in the garage.

My second day started off by humping some wood around for my upcoming firing and a good amount of pots. The weather was warm enough for a tshirt as long as I kept moving. I even got a bit of a sunburn. Is it winter or what? The weather will probably change for the worse when I’m loading up this nice little kiln. I hope I can fire soon. We’ll see how it progresses. I have some new ideas kicking around my head.. so there should be lots of new work.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Play time

A very important part of working is the regular time of play that should follow. If you can't play, and only work.. you go crazy. Isn't that from the Shining? Anyhoo..happy to say that this morning I got to play.

I went out along the great Missouri River to Matt's "Two-Rainbow" spot. Two Rainbow is the name he gave it, because each time he seems to pull out two, but today it was more like 3, or 6. Well, we kept 3. Gorgeous day with light winds..and just mesmerizing to be out in the open air and natural world. I haven't seen so many ducks and geese and eagles in a long time. We're heading back tomorrow morning!

Here's Matt brandishing the big catch of the day...which was about 19.5 inches. It will definitely make a good dent in the space of the smoker we use for most of these trout. We were fishing off a few tiny beds the trout had been keeping clean... and this guy was the biggest. Quite fun to watch Matt pull in because it had a good amount of tricks trying to keep itself in the water.

And look at how orange the flesh is! It's hard to find so called, "salmon" at the grocery store that have color like this. The flesh is firm and tasty...we'll be enjoying a fillet tonight for sure.

(please notice the Free Ceramics mug at the right!)

My time is winding down here in Helena, at least for a few months, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what Redlodge is like. Tomorrow night we're having a small dinner and Gin and Tonic party to really send me off..and by Sunday I should be packed up and setting up a new studio.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's all done

Last night was the night to shoot some slides, label and pack the pots away to be delivered (in about half an hour). I'm happy to get these pots out of here and move on with my life. Sometimes these things can really become all consuming and it's important to not let it take total control of you. When I finally got to lay down last night I was still a little wound up so I had some time to think. There's no way I could have done any of this without a hugely supportive group of people very close to me. If anything from a well needed break in the middle of the day, processing the wood at the kiln, an over-night shift at the kiln, or cooking dinner to truly understanding how much stupid effort this can take. I'm really lucky to have people like my friends and family on my side. Thanks.

Today begins the next thing. After the delivery I'm training my replacement at Free Ceramics and getting my life together for a big change that's happening at the end of this month.. I'm moving to Redlodge, Montana to be an artist in residence at the Red Lodge Clay Center from February through March!

Monday, January 16, 2012

the Unloading

It was last Saturday that I went up to the kiln and unloaded the pots. It was a nice day.. pretty blue and not that cold. I arrived just around 1:30 pm. The snow melted enough that I could get my car up the hill... that was nice. My digital reader for the pyrometers told me the top of the kiln was just under 300 degrees. Perfect. I started to take the bricks down one by one from the top.. and as I went further and further down something struck me as unusual- where the f**k were my tall vases? Oh dear god... no!

Yes. The vases toppled. I guess as the kiln fired and things began to shrink around the wads.. the vase near the door couldn't keep it's balance and knocked the others over like dominos. If you look closely at the middle post it's obvious that it all nearly came tumbling down. I lost the three vases, a chalice, and a couple of cups... not as bad as it could have been!

Seeing this happen never makes me feel good..and the loss made me feel as if most of the kiln wasn't as good. But since Sunday morning I've been looking over the pots that did make it and I'm happy to say that the kiln load was still, mostly a success. Lots of nice pots that came out super sweet..and a few tests that will keep me interested in pushing these new ideas and refining this style. Tonight or tomorrow morning I'll take the "portfolio" style slides and then deliver the work to the Holter. I still have a few wad marks to grind down and sand.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Loaded and Fired

Last Wednesday was my loading day. It all started early...9:30 am at the kiln. Too much snow to get my little honda up the hill so it took some time walking all the boxes of pots up to the kiln...which was ok, because the activity kept me warm in the cold air. I think it had to be in the high teens as far as the temperature. One of the highlights of the processes was the realization that everything was freezing.. from the glue, to the wadding and even my beer. I had a nice fire goin next to the kiln and Crista was there to help me as much as she could. It took a long time to finish up but we had the kiln burning wood by 7pm. Matt volunteered to take the over night shift, which I happily agreed to. I asked if he'd wake me up at 3 am which I felt would give me enough sleep to complete the rest of the 22 hour firing. Matt let me sleep until 8:30... so I was fresh as a daisy with a whole day of firing ahead of me. Scott came and went a few times, mostly the two of us yacking away between stokes. The pine I was firing with was nice and dry. It was, again, a pleasure to fire this little kiln. I think I've got it dialed pretty well. So it was a 22 hour firing and two pounds of salt when cone 9 was bending. I held it for a bit longer and when I saw 11 going down on the top I said that's enough. Unloading probably this Saturday- I hope.. or maybe Sunday.

Monday, January 9, 2012

so many steps

the last few weeks has been a total roller coaster ride.. for starters this is the first time I've had to make so many pots, in this particular style, with what seems to not be enough time to finish. i'm positive i'll be later then the 13th. my original plan was to fire the cat yesterday, and only today did I load my bisque. I wont be firing until wednesday evening...i think. it's been an interesting experience though and i've learned so much about how i truly want to work. i hate being slammed with pots to finish. when it's like that..it feels more like work then play. and i really hate going to work. i fell in love with clay because it wasn't work. and when i say work, i mean.. a feeling of resentment towards something you're being forced to do. it's not healthy to work a 14 hour day. so now that the bisque is loaded and firing, i have some time to chill.. put on my sweat pants, listen to some kimbrough and write up this step.. in the long line of steps it takes to get myself a finished pot.

my plan was to apply these decals to all the pots, but realized... i couldn't. (i have over 100 pots to fire.) i had to stop and say some of them will be good enough without them. and that's another thing that's hard for me to deal with.. saying, "well, it's good enough." that pisses me off too. but with new situations i'm sure i'll get something good out of it..and maybe the variety will make the finished group of pots more visually appealing. could be a lesson in acceptance. like.. well, i can't control it all and i can't do it all. i've reached my limit.

now on the to technical stuff.. first i have to wax off the black areas so i don't get the decals over lapping.. or i'll wax out a shape that the decals will fill. the wax layer also protects the black from getting smudged..which allows me to handle the pots more aggressively. once the pot is waxed and has time to dry a little, then i'll take a bit of decal and float it face down in water. this gets it super wet and ready to stick. it's so much faster then taking a wet brush or sponge to each decal...

i purchased the decals a long long time ago, 2007, when i did a three month stay in Jingdezhen, China, while I was getting my bachelor's degree..and now, 5 years later, i'm putting them to use. i believe there's a booth at the annual NCECA that sells them.

I never knew how to use them in the past 5 years..because I thought they looked sort of retarded.. without any kind of character. so a few months back when i was making pots for the holter's christmas show I had the idea to rip up a sheet into bits and add it that way..and the decals took on a whole new look. it gave my pots a new layer... it's a decal collage.. so that's it. after the bisque i'll wax resist more areas then apply a white slip (tony's crack) for another layer.... which will happen very soon, like tomorrow. ha!

Friday, January 6, 2012

firing soon

i've got a hallway gig at the Holter due on the 13th and I'm, of course, pushing the deadline to the very edge. Here's some of the new sgraffito pots coming along. How this works.. I block out the pattern first with all black, then carve away a design. My carving tools are pretty simple. I have three different widths so there is line and mark variation.. double sided steel thing..one end wide, the other end smaller..and the most thin line is a needle stuck into the end of a pencil. I'm planning to load and fire this coming Monday. keep your fingers crossed for good weather!