Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two Bowls and a Band

I had a brief evening in the studio last night during which time I threw these two bowls, and slipped them. I also glazed one piece, and cleaned up my mess. Like I said, a brief evening, but useful nonetheless.

I'm excited (hopeful) to get a solid 3-4 hour block of studio time in sometime this weekend, as I feel like it's been a while since I had a good weekend day. More, I'm excited to not have any planned travel in the foreseeable future. Like, any time in the next 4 months. Which is great, given that we've spent almost every weekend in the last two months in the car. Which is generally fine, but it gets old real fast. Which is one of the many reasons I'm not sure I can ever go full-time at this pottery gig, but that's another story. The story I wanted to tell today is what we did last weekend, which was this:

The real reason why we drove across 4 states was to attend our little nephew's first birthday party. And he is a cutie. But, we also had the chance to see Switchfoot headlining a club show between tour dates supporting Blue October. And it was, in a word, amazing.

I've been following Switchfoot now for ten years. And they have got to be one of the best bands out there working their butts off day in and day out to produce solid, meaningful music and put on a good show night after night. They're one of those bands that I tend to forget just how much I like them, until I listen again. Or I see them in concert. And then they rock my face off. And I'm falling in love all over again.

It's been a few years since I've seen them (five. five years.) and they put on a wonderful show at People's Court in downtown Des Moines. It was crowded, hot, sweaty, and absolutely amazing. In addition to playing a healthy number of old favorites (although nothing from their first two albums), we got to hear a few new cuts from their upcoming album, Hello, Hurricane. For which I am waiting with bated breath.

So, I recommend giving Switchfoot a listen, as well as checking out (frontman) Jon Foreman's solo projects and sideband, Fiction Family. I'm pretty sure between those three options there's something for everyone. For those interested, here's a performance of one of the new songs at their own charity surf contest, the Switchfoot Bro-Am. This is "Mess of Me," from Hello, Hurricane.

The only problem, of course, with going to a show like this, and then watching a video like this, is that it makes me want to move to San Diego, join a band, and spend my days on the beach, and my nights rocking out.

Oh well. You can't win 'em all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sgraffito & Skynyrd

No throwing last night, just more decorating. Finished trimming my cups, and decorated a slough of pots. That was about it - no throwing, no serious trimming. I suppose I got a couple smaller pieces out of the glaze fire, but nothing too exciting. Rocked some Lynyrd Skynyrd in the studio last night, and that was enjoyable. Once you get passed some of the tired, overplayed southern rock, there's a real serious musicality in their blues, roots music. At least from my perspective. "Mr. Banker" and "Simple Man" are new favorites.

Cups. Clearly could all belong to a set, but one-of-a-kind. Never get your drink mixed up with somebody else's again.

The rest of the cups.

It's a pot.

Vase. Upside-down growing vine?

Glazed pots.

Well, then, of course, you can't ever go wrong with "Free Bird" either. Especially if your collection of Skynyrd contains not one but TWO recordings of it. So there. Until later, I'm out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Start to Finish (and Finished Work)

Something I have wanted to do since I started this blog was follow a piece of work from start through to completion, with photographs along the way. And I'm pleased to say that I have accomplished that below.

Well, almost. I suppose I could have made an effort to include a shot of the ball of clay on the wheel, or the partially throw cylinder, or perhaps even the bucket of slop, if it were made from recycled clay. But that would have been a little too abstract, I think, even for me. So here's a little covered jar captured at every step along the way (click here for a larger view).

L-to-R: Thrown form; Trimmed & Slipped; Carved (w/lid); Bisqued; Raw Glaze; Finished Piece

I think it's fun to reflect on the piece as it progresses, and hopefully it's an interesting look at a piece of pottery in all its stages.

Finally got "official" photos of new vases taken care of. So, here they are. Should be in the studio tonight, so check back for another update tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sgraffito and Studio Music Choices

Some pictures from last night in the studio - mostly trimming and carving of pots. It takes a while. Otherwise, wonderful couple hours working with clay, getting my hands dirty. Dragged some CD's up to the studio and had a great time rocking out to U2's The Unforgettable Fire and The Wallflowers' Bringing Down the Horse. I found both to be wonderful soundtracks for clay time. Some music works in the studio, some doesn't. Both of these worked quite well for me. So, here are the pictures:

Trying something new here - scaled/feathering motif

Bowl is a little different. I'm not done with the little vase yet. I don't think. Although, it loooks like it may not need any more work. I'll have to cogitate on that for a bit.

Nice little plate (9 inches) the top of a vase/jar, yet to be carved.

This one's upside down.

And my decently sized "arizona." I'm excited about the shape this piece takes as it bows out from the lip and then sweeps back in to a narrow foot.

In other news, I've been enjoying blueberries a lot lately. They're delicious. And that's all for today. Happy Thursday to you all!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Double-Mug and Throwing

First off, some unfinished business regarding yesterday's double-mug. This piece of pottery was on display at the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum at Mesa Verde National Park. Very few of these mugs have been found (according to the little plaque in the picture), but we do know that the bottom connector is open, meaning the level of liquid in the cup(s) remains equal.

I was questioned as to its value, or role, or functionality. More precisely, my mother asked if that wouldn't be hard to drink from. I'm assuming yes, but I haven't tried it myself. I know of at least two archaeologists who read this blog, and several anthropologists* of varying specializations, so I ask: why do you think this double-mug was made? (You may post your opinions in the comments section even if you're not an archae/anthrop-ologist.)


My suggestion is that it had some ritualistic function, most likely tied to marriage ceremonies, based on its similarity to "traditional" wedding vases (see below). Again, I ask for help from the anthropologists, as I couldn't find any reliable information on the actual "tradition" associated with these vases. But in general (across cultures), vessels such as the wedding vase with two distinct chambers/spouts/cups that are joined together are symbolic of marriage relationships and often serve ritual functions.

It makes sense to me that a vessel such as the double-mug could be intended for sharing between a bride and groom, perhaps as a means of finalizing their marriage. If you imagine for a moment that they were intended to drink from the cup together, in unison, they would have to drink cheek-to-cheek. Sounds romantic.

Oh, and it's okay to use your imagination when you're thinking archaeologically. I know because Eli, our Interpretive Ranger who took us on a tour of Balcony House at MV, told us so. He said it's important to use our imaginations to put together the whole picture from the pieces that are left behind. He also told us that you can't generally get water out of cactuses, but you can get water from the little furry critters you bop over the head and eat, and hydration is key, and you really shouldn't touch the ruins in the cliff dwellings, and stay away from that ledge, and HEY-YOU! QUIT CLIMBING ON THAT PUEBLO!!!

That's enough of that though. Please share your thoughts on double-mug in the comments section.

Spent a couple hours in the studio last night. Mostly throwing cups. A baker's dozen. I'm thinking that most of them will work out for me, once they are trimmed/dried. If not, I'm not afraid to toss them in the slop bucket. Yup, I'm that intense. I also remembered to take some pictures of Sunday throws. So, here's the pictures and I'm done for the day. Have a great one!

Pots, various.

Bowls, slipped. Small (bottom) and smaller (top).

Jar, slipped.

Cups. 13. Some variation, but predominately uniform. Especially factoring trimming, etc.

*For those not aware, archaeology is actually a subdiscipline in the field of anthropology. The other subdisciplines include: linguistic anthropology, physical (or biological) anthropology, and cultural anthropology. And, contrary to popular belief, none of these fields have anything whatsoever to do with dinosaurs. That would be paleontology. Obviously.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On the Road and In the Studio

Well, I’m back. For the time being. No foreseeable absences of significance in the future.

It’s been almost three weeks since the last update, and I’ve covered a lot of ground since then. After posting on July 2, Krystal and I hit the road for our first real vacation ever. It was grand, and a grand adventure. The west coast was our final destination, with camping and exploration along the way at Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon National Parks. In addition to breathtaking views, inspirational scenery, and hours of desert driving, both parks also had significant collections of Native American pottery from the Hopi, Pueblo, and other traditions.

While I’ve always considered the southwestern native pottery an inspiration in my forms, sometimes I forget just how beautiful those shapes are. Here’s a few of the pots that were exhibited in the museums at Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon.

The bottom connection in the double-mug is open, so the liquid level in both mugs remains equal. Apparently it's a pretty rarely found form. Pretty nifty.

I really like the big jar in the middle on the bottom shelf.

This one is a 20th century piece included in a case explaining the social importance of pottery.

The decorative motif on the inside of that little red bowl reminds me of one of my own.

After a couple days camping in the deserts of Colorado and Arizona, we continued to San Diego where there was much laying on the beach and zooing (real word?). We made it home safely by way of Las Vegas (no need to go back… ever) and a stop at Arches National Park (more beautiful scenery, no pots). However, if you are interested in seeing more traditional Native American pottery, the Denver Art Museum has a superb collection of American Indian art, including an absolutely breathtaking collection of work by Maria Martinez.

So, back in town for just over a week now, I’ve been in the studio twice. Last week I put in a very solid evening of glazing, and I put in several hours of throwing on Sunday afternoon. I was a little rusty, losing the first couple pieces I threw, but it’s been a month since I tried to do any real throwing, so I’m not too surprised. After those few catastrophes, I hit my stride and produced a good eight pieces (at least). A plate, a couple small bowls, some moderately sized jars/pots, and whopper of an “arizona.” Unfortunately, I forgot to bust out the camera until most of these had been packed up, so here’s what I do have pictures of:

Sgraffito on this vase - pretty sure I threw it a month ago, slipped it three weeks ago, and covered it really well. It was just soft enough to carve. And by soft, I mean it was pretty hard and it hurt my fingers to carve into it.

Trying out a new green slip. On a little pot, first. Definitely more on the lime-green side of things right now. I'm anxious to see how it will fire. I may have to add some more blue to the slip, or it may be a perfect shade of green. Or maybe I should just plan on making some funky lime-colored pottery?

My big "arizona" - I'm estimating it's 13" at its widest.

That’s it for now – I’ll be back in the studio tonight, so hopefully an update will come tomorrow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Sorry for the neglect – it’s not over yet. Someday I’ll get back to a more regular studio schedule. In penance, here are some photos:

Cat dish – Christmas present for family. Cute, huh?

Never get between a bobcat and his dinner…

New vases (+ covered jar) out of kiln. ¾ are for sale…

New vase outside – experimenting with glaze. Thoughts?

And trimmed another one of these in the studio last night.
That was about it for productivity, though.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!!!