Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Well, it seems it's time to be getting back to pottery.  I've been in the studio for brief periods over the last couple weeks, dabbling in this and that.  Nothing horribly exciting, or interesting, and for my part, nothing too much fun.

I've been putting together a few mugs recently (several, but not many).  I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before, but I don't care much for mugs on account of the handles.  Handles involve making one piece of clay stick to another, and matching disagreeable consistencies of clay, and pulling handles.

Now, there are many ways to make handles for a mug - extruding (think Play-Doh Fun Factory) is quick to do, but involves quite a bit of clean-up on the tail end.  Think again of the Fun Factory: not much fun to clean, and if you don't, the Play-Doh gets stuck in the press and in the molds and dries and is messy and horrible and the Fun Factory is broken.  Except that ceramic studio-quality extruders cost significantly more than the Fun Factory.  So there's one way.  You could also of course roll your own coils, or press out a flat piece of clay and cut your handle to shape.  This is good if you're not interested in a uniform strength and durability.

All this to say that the way I make handles is the way I was taught to make handles, and as such, I consider it to be the best way to make handles - by pulling.  Which has little to do with the pulling involved in throwing.  But it makes sense.  You begin with a stalactite shaped bit of clay (stalactites hang from the ceiling of a cave, because they must be fixed tight to said ceiling.  Stalagmites are mighty because they're on the floor, and regularly are bigger.  I think.  That's the way I was taught to remember).

So you take this stalactite and with wetted hands pull downward on the clay, tightening and pulling and lengthening the clay.  It's like milking a cow, supposedly, except the clay rarely knocks you down and spills its handles all over the floor.  But sometimes it feels that way.  After a number of pulls you get an ever-lengthening tail which you may pinch off and set aside to firm up for later use as a bonafide handle.


Sounds easy, right?  So why to I detest handles so much?  Well, it never really goes that easily for me.  See, sometimes, if you squeeze too tightly at the beginning of a pull you end up with a weak spot in your handle.  You can either continue, with the aim of (willfully) installing a weak/flawed handle on your mug, or pinch off what was almost a perfect handle and start over again.  Assuming you find yourself with functional handles, you must then attach them to your mug.  Which won't work if the mug is too dry, but if it is too soft you will most certainly warp it in manhandling and installing said handle.  Which of course can't be too dry or it won't stick and will also crack/brack before you can bend it to shape, nor can it be too wet or it won't hold said shape, all the while leaving your fingers covered in sticky wet clay which you may transfer to your otherwise beautifully thrown mugs.  Angst. 

In short, I find that pulling handles is a chore with rewards not worth the costs and an effective means of wasting time and defacing otherwise beautifully thrown pottery.  I myself don't care much for handles.  If a beverage is too hot to hold, it is too hot to drink.  I am more than happy to throw oriental-style teacups (I have several available for sale, if you're interested), tumblers, and other handle-less vessels suitable for enjoying liquid merriment.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

That said, I generally only do handles when somebody is paying me, specifically, for handled mugs.  So I've been doing that these couple weeks, as I'm having difficulty finding cause to create anything that isn't commissioned.  So here are some mugs:
Two mugs with handles.

On left, see a lovely cup without a handle.  Wouldn't you like one for yourself?  E-mail me for purchase information.  Here ends the commercial.

I have found time for other things, such as glazing a slough of vases that needed glazing, if you can believe that.  In fact, in the time since I've posted I glazed these vases and got them out of the kiln, finished.  They're all for sale, too, if you're interested.
Glazing - after handles, my favorite thing to do in the studio.

These little vases stand 5-7" tall, and run $15-24, for the record.
This one will cost you a little more.  Contact me for pricing.

So, there you have it.  Glazing.  Buckets of fun.  Some other throwing has also been happening, so here are some pictures. 
Some commissioned pots.
"For Fun" throwing - this clay was lumpy and not cooperative.  I'm not sure if I want to decorate this one, glaze it in pretty colors, or just throw it across the room.
Another attempt at a commission for someone.  The first one wasn't big enough, and this one probably won't be either.  But I like this shape, so I'll keep it for myself if I have to.
And, of course, there are always more things to be glazed.

So that's been the studio as of late.  Krystal and I have been enjoying a more "relaxed" season of life this midwinter, with lots of reading, Scrabble, snowshoeing.  We started a big puzzle on Monday night, but I'm not sure how relaxing that is going to be for us.  We also somehow managed to kill an entire season of Angel (are we dorks, yes?) in less than a week, and are steadily plugging away at our Neflix queue.  On second thought, it's possible that we may need to shift into a less relaxed season of life shortly.

There was a memorial service for Ben Larson held last Friday at Luther College.  We weren't able to make the drive for it, but the service was broadcast online (video and radio) and so it was a very healing experience to celebrate his life with that community, if only by proxy.  It was a very moving service full of word and song and sharing stories of Ben's vibrant person and passions.  My brief thoughts on Ben and the disaster in Haiti were the topic of my last post, here.  More can be read about Ben at the links below.

Friday, January 15, 2010

About a friend.

Krystal reminded me to take my camera along when I headed out to the studio Wednesday night, noting that it seemed like there wasn't a whole lot of pottery occurring on this blog lately.  So I took it along with me in hopes of taking an absurd amount of studio pictures - dirty bats, dirty tools, clay-stained floors, our sink, our lights, wheels, stools, stereo - facetious to the Nth degree.

But it seems kinda silly to be talking up my pottery at this point in time.  I think it's kind of sickening how easily we accept bad news, global trajedies, and natural catastrophes - when they don't affect us directly.  As if it some how matters less just because you can't claim any personal effect.  Because it's not about you, it doesn't matter.  And I'm not any more innocent than the next.  For that reason I don't usually try to do much preaching here, regardless the issue.  I try to keep it to pottery.  I try to talk about me.

But I found out yesterday that an old college friend of mine was killed in the earthquake in Haiti this week.  Ben Larson was a year ahead of me at Luther, and he was an unstoppable force of joie de vivre if ever there was one.  I had the joy and priviledge of serving and playing with Ben for three years for our campus student-led worship.  He had a vibrant personality, a perpetual smile; he was quick to laugh or lend a hand.  He was light and salt, and lived with a passion for sharing the love of God with any and all. 

He had a knack for the musical absurd.  If I forget all else, I will never forget that Ben's favorite instrument (after guitar, mandolin, piano, djembe...) was the lid of a Weber grill that had made its way into our music closet, and he would beat that Weber with an unbridled passion, and it was a beautiful complement to our band's sound.  I wouldn't say that Ben and I were particularly close, but we shared common activities, and spent innumerable hours making music and praising God together - and that's a very different, very special sort of closeness. 

It's strange and surreal.  I happened upon Ben at a friend's wedding last fall, but otherwise have not seen him since his graduation, and I couldn't tell you when or if ever I would be seeing him in the future, but I know that a great light has been taken away from this world, and knowing that he is gone forever is a horrible thing.

I am thankful, this week, for the promise of resurrection, for the gift of grace that Ben of all people held so dear.
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39
And so it's like that, when it hits home.  When it becomes real.  I don't know that I have much more to say about it than that.  Please read more about Ben here.

Breathe with me for a moment.

In talking with Krystal yesterday, it seems like their is an overwhelming outpouring of support from America, for the first time in a long time.  It seems that we're starting to become aware of our place as part of a global community, on all levels.  I don't remember such a rallying of support when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans - our own country.  And I don't think it really has anything to do with politics, or leadership, but perhaps a change in current to the realization that we are incredibly blessed in this country, where even our poor are so rich by any other standard.  Celebrities are no longer talking about helping, but pledging their help.  Brad and Angelina have pledged $1,000,000 to Haiti relief (an equal sum as pledged by multibillion-profit-earning Chase Bank).  Madonna is prepped to donate $250K.  Rock band Third Day has donated $20,000 to World Vision's relief efforts from their own aid fund.  From Chris Martin to Wyclef Jean to Ben Stiller, everyone is championing donations for the charity of choice.

I'm not a wealthy man, and I don't think any of you (my readers) are either.  But wealth has very little to do with the ability to make whatever small difference you can.  We gave what we could to World Vision.  I have friends on Facebook advocating the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Lutheran World Relief, and OxFam.  For an extensive (by no means exhaustive) list of creditable aid organizations, click here.

That's heavy enough for today, I suppose.  Thank God for the health and safety that you do have.  Pray for all families affected and for the people of Haiti.  Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Up to 11

Just in case you missed the reference in my last post to enjoying my Switchfoot cranked to 11.  Best.  Rock'n'Roll.  Movie.  Ever.

Weekend pots, new music

As promised, an update of my weekend studio ventures.  Just a few hours of work, and thoroughly enjoyable.  I spent most of my time working on some trimming/decorating, but I did make time to do some throwing (finished up the ^5 B-mix) and recycle about 30 pounds of clay.  Here's the basic recap:

The last of the Red B-Mix.  They need to be glazed soon.

More mountains.  This one's quite decently sized.

Some cups/mugs.  Commissioned.  Have you ordered yours?

I had the studio all to myself, and enjoyed having the opportunity to crank up some tunes.  I've found myself at the start of this year extremely satisfied with David Crowder*Band's latest, Church Music.  I don't know that I'm inclined to say this is their best release yet, but I think it might be my favorite.  They've taken the lyrical/theological growth exhibited over their career and showcased it in a flawless, uninterrupted hurricane of dance-rock the likes of which I've never heard before.  It's solid, it's cohesive, it moves and it grooves.  And you don't often get to say that about worship bands.  I was going to give you a list of key tracks, but it got too long.  So listen to it.  And I dare you not to dance.

Of course, I also took that time to rock the new Switchfoot, cranked to 11.  I'm still trying to decide whether or not to call it the best album of 2009.  Because, by my tastes, it's up right up there, and I still can't stop listening to it.  But then, The Elms' The Great American Midrange sure puts up a good fight in that category, too.  But as soon as I have that sorted out, I anticipate a top 10 list to appear soon.

Church MusicHello Hurricane
Click on the images to sample at Amazon 

That's it for now - I'll be back in the studio before the week is over, and my shelf is overfilling with bisque so glazing is in order, which means new pots eventually.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy Birthday!

I've been at it for one year - this blog, that is.  The first post came on Monday, January 12th, 2009 as a mission statement of sorts:
My aim in this is to offer a glimpse into the studio process, providing regular updates on life in the studio. Hopefully there will be plenty of photos along the way...

I'd like this space to be a forum for sharing that process - life in the studio. Success, failure, and everything in between.  (Complete intro here)
I don't suppose I have anything profound to say about this anniversary, but to say that I think I succeeded in my stated goals.  I'm not free from tangents (for every post that I talked about "not pottery," click here), the most common diversion being music, and then, I think, followed closely by hiking, Krystal, blueberries, and seals.

I'd be interested in knowing, do you have a favorite post?  Maybe it was just a picture of a favorite pot, or a cleverly related anecdote, or maybe it was just short and easy to read?  Let me know in the comments section, and have a very happy Tuesday!

(pictures and update from this weekend will come at some point...)

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Year in Pictures

An epicly non-ceramic photoblog of 2009 in its entirety, as it pertained to Luke & Krystal.  I'll be back in the studio this weekend, so we'll be back to pottery-related posts next week.  In the meantime, I give bonus points* to anyone who spots my pottery in these pictures and leaves a comment. 

We began our year with a snowshoeing weekend in the Rocky Mountains.

We might have lost the trail.  More than once.

It was beautiful.  In the mountains.  In the snow.

It was also cold.

We began the concert season early: The Killers in January.  It was a party.

Later that weekend we visited the Celestial Seasonings factory, and they gave us these fashionable hairnets.

Springtime got busy for us, but we found time to plant a small garden...

  ...and it gave us some vegetables!

Meanwhile, Krystal graduated with her Master's Degree.  Yay, Krystal!!!  Her parents were kind enough to bring my mom along for the celebration.

Then we started doing summery things, like hiking...

...and climbing...

...and outdoor concerts, like No Doubt.

We went rafting.  I spent some time in the river.  Other folks on our raft decided to become more acquainted with boulders.  I thought the boulders not so friendly, and avoided them successfully.

My brother Noah visited us for a week.  We went hiking again...

...and did other brotherly things.

We took him back to Iowa by way of a Coldplay show.

That weekend we also got to hang out with our awesome nephew, Andrew.

I think we drove back to Iowa the next weekend so Krystal could be in a wedding.  She got to wear these awesome shoes:

She was thrilled about those heels.

After that, we'd had enough of driving east, and so we decided we'd drive west for a while.  We spent some time at Mesa Verde.

Fourth of July + Grand Canyon + Hot Dogs + Hostess apple pies = Patriotic American.

A week was spent in San Diego (more vacation pictures can be seen here).

We drove by Arches National Park on our way home, so we stopped out and saw the sights.

By the time we made it home, we were ready to make another trip to Iowa.  We caught a quick Switchfoot concert.  They rocked.

We took Noah along because I'm a good big brother.

My family spent a weekend with us in August.  We enjoyed a Rockies game...

...and more hiking...

...and more being a good brother.

Our garden got bigger...

...and gave us more vegetables!

We spent several weekends in the early fall doing even more hiking.

We enjoyed some beautiful fall football games...

...and less than beautiful football games.

We took our friend Zane hiking with us...

...and we climbed a mountain.

Relient K rocked our faces off in Denver.  Cake rocked them off again two days later.

Krystal ran a Half Marathon.  I was sick in bed for a week, so I didn't run.

We did more "hiking" at the Garden of the Gods.

Krystal's folks and our friend Katie joined us for Thanksgiving dinner.

We drove back to Iowa for a Langholz Christmas.

We got snowed in.  Suffered from cabin fever.

We got tired of the cold, so we visited Krystal's folks.  They live in the desert.

I met some cacti...

...and we spent New Year's Day playing cards in the sun.


*Points have absolutely no value whatsoever, but I'll be greatly appreciative if you leave me a comment.