Friday, September 30, 2011

Untitled Post for a Friday

From the looks of the blog, it's been a little quiet on my end lately. But from this side of things I've mostly been super busy! Lunch hours that could normally go to updates here have been devoted to the pots themselves - trimming, decorating, firing, waxing, glazing. I've also been committing to squeezing in half an hour or so of throwing/trimming into my morning routine, in addition to my runs. As great as all this productivity has got me feeling, I'm looking forward to getting past Marathon/Show week so I can take some time and just be. "Cut back" my studio hours to "just" ten hours or so a week. Spend less than a third of my waking hours on the weekend running. That sort of thing. But overall it's been nice to go to bed at the end of the night knowing that I spent my day doing. And not just going, going going, but doing things that are valuable and important to my being. But like I said, I'm looking forward cutting back on a bit of the doing so that I have more time for other all important being activities such as abiding with family and friends, something that Krystal would confirm has been not so much happening as greatly as preferred this last fortnight. Or so.

All that to say, I don't have a whole lot of photos to show for my work, but I do have a few things to share.

I ran a glaze firing last weekend to mixed results. Actually, disappointment was the word of the day when I cracked the lid. My beautiful running blue combo did not so much beautiful this time around. I'll get to that later. But to start with the good things.
A few things glazed in the Retro Blue Green. The plate was supposed to have carvings in it, but the RBG seems to have had different feelings on the matter. Still, at least a pretty color.

Rusty Red did the same bang-up job it always does. A couple spots it got a little thick in the middle of the bowls and looks like iron ore deposits. Not my standard preference on functional ware, but beautiful colors and unique textures.
Ah, disappointment.
What I didn't take into account was that the two places I tested the combo were relatively flat surfaces - a platter and a shallow bowl - and the base glaze involved is a floating blue, which is to say that the desired result is for the surface colorants to bleed and create a streaking effect. Which, I'm thinking, is what happened here: it did exactly what it was supposed to do. And on the taller bowls, it bled the Dark Cobalt top coat with it. So, the centers of the bowls are beautiful, with deep blues and streaking effects. The further up the walls you go, not so much. These may still constitute "seconds" but unless my stock runs quite low will probably not appear at the show in October. The outsides are still gorgeous, but the insides are not what I would consider prime results at all. Yikes.

So that's about it. Lots of throwing last minute bowls and cups, lots of trimming said bowls and cups, trying to get all set on the business side of things - bags, boxes, business cards, display - lots of stuff that needs updating/restocking/first-time-decision-making. I'll get there.

In the meantime, a couple "businessy" things regarding my site.
  1. I'm proud to announce that you can now reach my site via - no Blogspot required! I'm still hosted by Blogger, so there's no need to update your blogroll or feed - it will automatically redirect. But this is very exciting for me!
  2. You may have noticed (as they've been up for a while) but there are now additional "pages" here to supplement the blog. You can find them at the top of the screen. "About the Artist" is what it is - currently you can read my personal artist statement and I will be updating a bit of bio as well. "Links" is a listing of sites I consider to be of importance in my artistic journey, including teachers, supporters, and fellow artists. Please check that out, as if you like my stuff you will most likely find "else" of interest somewhere in there.
  3. Finally, if this blog is not nearly enough Luke for you, I can now be found on Twitter (if you're into that sort of thing) where I have been a little bit more regular in posting quick pics and thoughts from the studio, as well as complaining about the weather and blathering about music. You can find me under the moniker @EarthAndClay.
That's all I've got time for folks. Lots of glazing, and thus lots of new pots, in the near future. 21 days, 3 hours, 42 minutes to show time. Yikes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cups and Videos

Some busy nights in the studio this week(& end). What have I been up to?
A couple vases, and some cups.
Still trimming away at that great big vase, and more cups.
And just a whole lot more cups!
And a great big vase. Maybe 24 inches tall? Will be several days of process before this guy is finished up and ready to dry. I hope it will fit into my firing schedule (drying-wise) before I'm done for the show.
So that's what it's been. I did lose a handful of cups while trimming - I had an incident where I tried to pick up the plank full of cups seen in the 3rd picture. It's a remnant of (I believe) some cementboard siding from our house. I tried picking it up apparently too far to one end and the board snapped, springboarding the cups on the other end into the air. Three cups made the unlucky journey all the way to the floor. Five more just tipped on their sides, but they were soft enough that they did still flatten a bit. I think those five have been salvaged - reshape, rub out the flattened side of the rim, and set upright to keep drying. Hopefully they will dry back to their circular state in a healthy manner.
So that's about all I've got right now. I received word that my copy of Switchfoot's upcoming album has been shipped, so that's exciting. They've also debuted the video for their first single, "Dark Horses." It's pretty standard fare, as performance based videos go, but a nice preview for the album. I've embedded it below for your viewing pleasure. "Dark Horses" is a hard hitting rocker, but the rest of the album sort of runs in the whole range of Switchfoot's sonic palette. On my first listen through (the online streaming version) it reminded me a whole lot of the sounds heard in their first three records as a three-piece coupled with the musical growth they've demonstrated as a maturing five-piece band. It's really good stuff, and I'm looking forward to having the real thing in hand.

On the other side of the "performance based music videos" spectrum, MuteMath has debuted the video for the second single ("Blood Pressure") from their October 4th release (Odd Soul). It's a bit trippier of an affair, and worth checking out (also embedded below). For a band that values video as a creative medium entirely, not just a promotional object, they're going to have to up the ante soon and film in outer space or in a shark cage or full motion capture and turn each band member into an awesome CGI ape or something because they're getting close to repeating themselves. But it's still an interesting video. As someone who has worked in 2D and now lives in 3D, trying to work in a 4D art form (motion picture adds the dimension of time, right?) I have no clue where one would even start in making a video like this. But they do! Fun note: drummer Darren King was one of the directors of the video. Should be a great album. Looking forward to it.

That said, check out the videos if you need some groovy tuneage, and have a great weekend!

Pictures sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, September 19, 2011

The (Last) Week's Work

In addition to the glaze firing, I also did get to do some throwing/trimming/studio work in last week. All sorts of trimming and decorating. I'm reaching my self-imposed deadline for production of new work for my October show, so gotta really crank out a few more things this week before It's fire-fire-fire mode!
And lots of pots waiting to be glazed. Gotta get on that sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, Switchfoot's new album is streaming on right now (why ESPN? Because they have good taste, obviously). And it's pretty grand. So that's what I'll be doing from here until the record releases. And then I'll just be listening to my copy. Because it is really that good.

Back to the studio. Not a lot of time yet to do quite a bit of work still. In addition to work, household stuffs, and running for hours at a time every weekend. It's been a full fall here. Not sure why I thought that was a good idea.

But yes: back to the studio.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Firing results.

Finally finding a moment to catch up on sharing what's been up in the studio this (last?) week. But first, have some better pictures from the glaze firing unloaded last Monday night. Some nice results, positive experiments. Nothing disappointing inside. That's always a plus.
Excited about this blue - combo of glazes to get this result. Been waiting for a while to discover this one.
The new-blue again. Lighting not so good, though. This is also thrown on the "wrong" clay I picked up in August. Clay turned out beautiful. It's a really nice buff-toned clay when fired, and it throws a lot smoother than what I've been using, so this may become my standard.
New glaze - Retro Blue-Green. Tested on a couple pieces in the last firing but didn't put it on thick enough to get a real sense of the color. Pretty excited about this one when applied properly. It's a bit different from the rest of my palette, so that's kind of exciting.
Detail of the Retro Blue-Green. It has sort of a robin's egg blue thing going, with a little more lichen and a metallic sense as it streaks in the center. Different, but I'm excited about it.
So that's the firing. Which piece is your favorite? I'd love to know which glazes appeal to all y'all!

Monday, September 12, 2011


The kiln is unloaded. It seems like every time I unload a glaze firing the "goods" just look so meager compared to how much work went into getting them into the kiln. Mostly, it's the fact that glazed pots take up significantly more room in the kiln than a bisque fire because they can't be nested in the same way. Sadly. But some of these are stacked in the photo, too. Anyhow, better photos with a real camera later, but here's a preview.
The finished product.
Quite pleased with the blues I've got here. This will be a fun combo to use in future glazing.

While I'm at it, I mentioned previously that I've been enjoying Burlap to Cashmere's latest record a lot, different from what I normally listen to, very engaging. The band recently posted these videos and I wanted to share them here. They really have a nice thing going.

Alright, that's it. Krystal made it home safely and I'm taking tonight off from potting. Have a great evening.

Weekend Work: A Quick Update

A quick update on a full weekend of work. Saturday was throwing, throwing, throwing, and then some cleaning. I have to get better at regularly mopping/sponging down my work area to minimize the dust, etc. Not good for the health, you know. Maybe invest in an air purifier for the basement. 

Today was mixed, throwing, trimming, decorating, glazing. Got a full load of glazing in. Such a mixed bag of work. Plates, vases, wide bowls. Hard to get them all to fit nicely. Could I already be outgrowing my kiln? As I look forward to my October show, I may have to set up a glazing station in the garage. Dry pots out there, load them right into the kiln, unload, and glaze them all at once. Glaze them all in one weekend and then leave them sitting to load the kiln as best as possible. By the time I was done, all I could think was that my dad would probably be pretty good at kiln loading, seeing as how he once upon a time was very good at Tetris. Obsessive personalities will do that to you. I'm just obsessive in a crazy sense. Loading two tiers of kiln before realizing it was hopeless, unloading, and reloading again from scratch. Eventually I fit *almost* every pot in that I wanted, and ended up with some staggered shelves in the kiln. Seriously, like Tetris in there. Only a shame I didn't have any mugs/cups/bud vases to fill in the tiny little gaps. Hate to waste that hot air when you take the time to fire it up.

So, for the quick update some lame-o photos off my phone, but they offer a nice recap:
Started the firing around 7. Hoping to get it done in the middle part of the night so it can start cooling before the day warms up. Should finish up around 3 or 4 and I'll be up by 6 to check on it and make sure the kiln hasn't melted down. So far, so good, but there's a strong odor from the burn-off of the wax. More wax in this firing then normal, but not a pleasant smell!
Staggered shelves. Wishing I had two (maybe three) perfectly sized vases/cups to go in that shelf there.
This is actually maybe the crispest picture I've ever gotten off my phone. This is what I worked with this afternoon. 18 pounds. The pot I ended up with is sorely smaller than what I'd like to be getting from eighteen pounds, but a) I think my perspective has become skewed, and b) though there is some weight to be trimmed out of the base, there's really not THAT much, and I'm really pushing for dynamic forms that require more base support pre-trimming, especially thrown this wet.
And this is sadly not the worst picture I've ever gotten on my phone. It looked better in the thumbnail when I attached it. Anyhow, there are a dozen or so bowls that I trimmed/decorated Friday night.
Some bowls, a mountain vase. No big deal.
So there's the story. Never thought I'd say it, but I'm ready for Monday, to finally get a break from so much hard work. You know, so I can go back to work.  Also, Krystal comes home, so that's always a good thing.

(PS - we are 16 days from the release of Switchfoot's new album. I'm stoked, and trying to play it cool. Counting down? Nah, I'm patient, look at me all nonchalant.)

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I've been hard at work in the studio this weekend, honest. Today will be the long haul, with no delays on the horizon. No groceries, no football (editor's note: I thought I was joining a friend for lunch at the Pub to cheer for Iowa State until such a point as the score at halftime would tell me the inevitable truth. But that didn't happen. Tied at the half, taken to triple overtime. Big win for the Cyclone. Sour loss for the Hawkeyes. And my Rams won it too. Good day for the land-grant universities. Except the Jackrabbits. Sorry about that one, guys. 56-3. Yikes.). I anticipate more throwing this afternoon, with maybe a glazing break. I still haven't decided. Pictures will come, but I have other words and thoughts and nothing deep and nothing profound, I don't think.

Just one more voice in the innumerable stories and testaments to a 10th anniversary that we'd rather not be marking.

Ten years ago I was a junior in high school. In retrospect, I mark that year as one of my favorites - socially, academically, lifewise. Not yet burdened with the responsibilities of impending graduation, no longer an underclassman. I had a pretty good courseload set up for myself, with engaging classes that never hurt too much. Other than a 1st period Algebra II class, that is. Math at 8:15 in the morning is a bad deal for anyone, I think.

First period let out at 8:57. First bell was at 8:15, 42 minute class periods, 4 minute passing periods, 2nd period began at 9:01, our school aired 15 minute news broadcasts from Channel One every morning, class would begin at 9:16, second period would get out at 9:58, four minute passing period... Schedule sticks with you.

First period got out and I was on my way down the main hall from one end of the building to the other when a friend hollered at me in passing, "Hey, didja hear someone attacked the Twin Towers and the Pentagon?" I don't remember who it was. Maybe Curtis, maybe Khan. But I remember that that's where I heard it first.

And I was cavalier.

"Oh great," I responded over my shoulder, "Lauters should have a good time with that one!"

Mr. Lauters was my 2nd Period American Heritage English teacher - one of the best educators I've encountered, though challenging and difficult to work with. He was passionate about what he did, and I now know that he was every bit good enough to be teaching college English, but he loved what he did here and with us. He was known for his excitability - notably, for crazed reenactments of Hamlet's more gruesome moments. Also, for being slightly unhinged. But that's probably just an English teacher thing. He was also a veteran, having served active duty in Vietnam. He rarely spoke about it, and there were moments in his class where his silence told you all the stories you needed to know.

Normally I'd be headed to English for 2nd period, but on this day I remember that we were scheduled to flip-flop the team-taught Heritage English/History periods to give the longer period to History. I think we were scheduled to complete our viewing of 1776. So rather than the left at the end of the hall, I swung right for Mrs. Schumacher's classroom at the end of the hall. The TV was turned to CNN and the room was near silent, despite the 20-odd students still shuffling into their seats.

Mrs. Schumacher was another of our school's gem teachers. Passionate about education and students, she was probably overextended in her commitments. In addition to teaching several sections of history and government, she also led, passionately, the Mock Trial and Model UN student groups. She was the faculty leader of the annual junior trip to Washington, DC, and led many trips each year for Model UN student delegate conferences to places like Chicago and New York City.

The towers were smoking when we got into the classroom and Schumacher was at the front of the class, doing what she always did best: teaching.

"Unbelievable," she uttered - not just an observation, but a dictation, a proclamation. "I was there this spring, it's just so unbelievable."

We watched as the smoke billowed and rolled, dark over the city. Shocked to discover we were watching hundreds of people throw themselves from the 103rd, 104th, 105th floor of the tower, watching the little specks fall and fly on network news. Unbelievable.

Though it seems like we sat and watched the towers smoke for an hour, a recent fact-check tells me that I couldn't have been in the room for more than a couple of minutes before the first tower collapsed. So bizarre. An odd puff of smoke at the point of collision and the top of the tower started to lean, crooked like an arthritic finger. And the tower collapsed on top of itself.

"Oh. My. God." Schumacher's hand went to her mouth.

This was unexpected, and I remember feeling sick to my stomach at the, yes, cavalier response I had had only moments before. As a privileged midwestern American I had no frame of reference for what this meant, would mean. As a 16 year old kid, I had no frame of reference. No perspective. I had never witnessed national disaster, national catastrophe. It wouldn't be long before we would start referring to this day as "Our Generation's Pearl Harbor." I remember the pundits would tell us that even that isn't an appropriate historical comparison. That you have to go back to the War of 1812 before you get to a foreign attack on ratified, stateside land, that Hawaii was still just a territory, as if they needed to give a little more gravity to the day.

Surreal, I think. That's where it was after the first tower went down. This can't be real, can it?

And then the second tower collapsed, swallowing itself up.

I'm not sure if we tried to engage in a discussion about the impact of these events.

Class was dismissed and we headed, collectively, to Lauters for English. He was sitting in the dark, alone, perched on of a desk in the front of the class, eyes glassy and intent on the news coverage on TV. Hands over his mouth, praying? Holding in the words he didn't know to say? Did he acknowledge us? Did he greet us?

Now that it was over, the newsreel could replay. The footage of the 2nd plane coming in. The collapse of the towers. The smoking Pentagon. Emergency crews on the ground in Pennsylvania.

By fourth period we had to get back to work. Did we have a choice? We began to identify and define that American response: to pick ourselves up and go back to work, go back to normal.

At the end of the day I headed to the house where I watched a family friend after school several days a week and turned the news on in their living room. Was it there or later that night that the third WTC building to collapse would go down? I still had the news on when Justin made it home - 10 years old, a fourth grader. I turned it off, but not to shelter him. I asked if his teachers had told them what happened, and he said they had. Did I have to reassure him that we weren't at war, that we'd be ok, or am I overdramatizing my memories? These are conversations a boy should have with his parents. I made him practice piano, and then we played Madden and he kicked my butt. Mashing your fingers on the buttons does not make strategy.

Mom was scared that night. Is this the end of things? Will we retaliate? What will that look like? My brother was living outside of DC at the time, and by outside of DC, I mean I think he had an internship on the Hill, or maybe had just finished one. He was recently engaged and a senior, ready to graduate and head into politics. I don't know what her question had been, but she shared his response, that he'd said he still planned on pursuing a position on the Hill after graduation, that he was still going to marry and someday would bring children into this crazy world and that we have to keep looking forward, we have to get back to normal, we have to be stronger than that because if we're not, then they win. Maybe that's more dramatic in my memory than it was at the time, but the message is still there.

And ten years later we've made a new normal. "United We Stand" has given way to an insanely partisan political climate where House Speakers deny Presidents their requests, and Vice Presidents call (or don't?) opposing parties "terrorists." Where political parties mark incumbent opponents with rifle-sights. Where each election cycle begins before the last has ended, where any twit with a Twitter fancies themself a pundit. I'm no longer awed by the sight of M-16s and SWAT-geared enforcement in public places. The scrolling news ticker is on every channel.

I guess, like in life, there's no conclusion here. These are my memories, and ten years in we are still dealing with it. It still hurts. I watched a video on of their coverage from the day this weekend. I haven't seen it since then. I haven't watched any of the 9/11 movies, and most networks are more reasonable than to replay it for no reason. It was surprising how painful it was. How chilling. How it took me back there, but now knowing what it meant, what it would mean for 10 years. For how much longer?

As I was throwing yesterday, music is what brought the memories back. Creed's Weathered released in November 2001. I know in the years since (and even at the time) they've become a punching bag and a mockery in the wider music community. At the time, the worst anybody had to say was that they were Pearl Jam knock-offs. The wheels fell off their train not long after, but at the time they were the top. And they're still my greatest guilty pleasure. By September, the lead single was already out, already a number one, the video on MTV every 20 minutes (back when MTV was still Music TV, not just Moron TV) and they'd wrapped up the recording sometime in the summer, and I'm not even so sure that this song meant so much to me then, but it carries such an honest yearning to it. So I guess these will be my closing thoughts on this day of remembrance.

Don't Stop Dancing
At times life is wicked and I just can't see the light
A silver lining sometimes isn't enough
To make some wrongs seem right
Whatever life brings
I've been through everything
And now I'm on my knees again

But I know I must go on
Although I hurt I must be strong
Because inside I know that many feel this way

Children don't stop dancing
Believe you can fly

Am I hiding in the shadows?
Forget the pain and forget the sorrows

Am I hiding in the shadows?
Are we hiding in the shadows?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Busy Bee

No bees here, just pots. For bees you'll have to go see my father. Or, alternately, skip the bees and raid the honey larder. Just don't tell him I sent you. That's sweet gold, honey is.

All that to say, if this blog were to be trusted, all I've done in the last two weeks is drop one pot on the floor and load a kiln for firing. Well! Be not fooled! I've been quite hard at work, and found the time not only to load that kiln, but also to turn it on and unload it 12 hours later! Amazing!

Here's a glimpse at what else has been going on in the studio:
Redemption: dropped pot on Saturday, threw this one on Sunday.
Big bowl. Going for more minimalist design. Broad blue spaces.
Still waiting for some design work.
I think this is the same bowl seen above, just earlier in the process. They sure are pretty right off the wheel. Love the look of the wet clay pot. Nothing better.
Pots drying.
Detail of the tall vase above. This one was fun. Came out looking like birds (I think). Marching penguins and all that. Krystal says they look like fish. Maybe narwhals. So, abstract representation of pseudo-quasi-semi-mammal-ichthy-ornithological critters.
Biggish plate.
These are actually from the July firing but haven't been seen here. These are the three that DIDN'T crack.
Practicing for my upcoming show. This shelf folds down to be nice and flat and portable. Also, gets the pots off the floor. Very useful.
So that's about it. Firing went off without a hitch; no exploding pots, no collapsing shelves. Ran a normal 12 hour firing cycle.

Other occurrences include an 18 mile run (8/28) and a 20 mile run (9/4), both of which were followed by lots of food and hobbling around. We're going to have to start drawing straws to determine who should be responsible for bringing food and water to the couch. Also, if we keep it up, we might not any long be able to resist stopping in for a pick-me-up as our route takes us by Pizza Ranch right around mile 17. It's getting mighty hard to resist the call of Cactus Bread after running for 3+ hours. Mighty hard.

In music news, I've been digging the debut EP from The Hawk in Paris - synth-heavy pop drawing comparisons to M83 or Depeche Mode. I like to think of it more in a U2 meets Postal Service vein. Which may be the same thing. Very good stuff and worth checking out. I was able to snag a preview version during a limited window last weekend, but a FREE 3-song sampler is currently available over at Noisetrade and the EP releases on iTunes (and elsewhere?) on Tuesday 9/13.

Also in heavy rotation lately is Burlap to Cashmere's sophomore release, hot on the heels of their 1998 debut. I was fortunate enough to win a copy of the CD through an online drawing I'd forgotten I'd entered. I never win anything, so this was very exciting. Also exciting? The music. Greek inspired acoustic folk rock stuff. Very well done, musically engaging, lyrical storytelling.

I highly recommend both of these collections of songs, and they've been pretty good studio music for me. What have you been listening to lately?
Well, I think that's all she wrote. Or, at the very least, all I've got time for on my lunch break. More pots in my future, and hopefully that means more pots in your future.

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Labor Day Labor

Loading up and firing a bisque. Making room for more pots!
Nesting pots all nested.
These big guys will have to wait for the next firing.

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