These are headed to the Center for Maine Craft, for a show in conjunction with Mug Season, a fundraiser for local arts programs put on by the Central Maine Clay Artists. The show will be up for the month of April; the opening is Saturday April 9th.
I've been working non-stop all day and I still haven't gotten into the studio. I had hoped to get more done on the Maine Pottery Tour website but the truth is that project would eat all my time if I let it. It's only 3:30, so I can squeeze in an hour of throwing before I need to get ready for another fundraiser, this one for the Community Spay Neuter Clinic, hosted by Red Barn. Red Barn is a fried-food extravaganza, and I am supposed to be eating healthier following my post-KC weight gain (seriously, how does a person put on seven pounds in four days?? That's a lotta barbeque) but given how dear the cause is to my heart I'll just have to take one for the team. (Yeah, LOL. It's no hardship to eat Red Barn!)
Anyway! Let's see how many mugs I can pull in an hour.
I made at least a dozen butterdishes in preparation for my Process Room demo at NCECA; now I get all the fun of decorating them! This batch I have been asymmetrically quartering, alternating slip decoration with smooth surface. It's always difficult for me to stop decorating at leather hard, to leave something for the glaze to do, but I am stepping away now. Most likely, the slip-trailed areas will be glazed over, the smooth reas will be flashing slip & soda vapor, with a pattern of glaze dots. Probably white. Or some other color.
The upcoming firing will be The Mugs & Butterdishes firing, as I have a number of large (for me!) orders for mugs due in the next month or so. I am also in the process of organizing the Maine Pottery Tour, always a stress-fest for me. (Q: Why do I do things I know will stress me out? A: Good question.)
Still have lots of NCECA photos to share, but I left my nonDroid at my sister's house, so.
I had hardly deplaned before it was time to head off to a meeting of the Central Maine Clay Artists to plan Mug Season, a fundraising event we do in conjunction with local coffee shops every spring (known as Mud Season, in Maine; get it?) to benefit local arts programs.
It's kind of a three-way fundraiser: the coffee shops supply free coffee with mug purchase, the customer buys an $18 mug where maybe they had only planned to spend $2 for a cup of coffee, and we, the artists, provide mugs, at a bargain cost. It works for us, as these are typically mugs that we've had kicking around the studio for awhile - you know, the ones that just won't sell for some reason.
This year I approached it a little differently, as I didn't have any mugs that wouldn't sell - I've even sold almost all my demos. So I made some mugs specifically for Mug Season.
These have simpler decoration than most of what I make. I sometimes have a hankering to do that anyway. I do love me some highly decorated ware, but once in a while I like to let the flame do more of the work. Some of these have only flashing slip, others have a bit of slip-trailed floral design, and all of them have a lot of directional patterns from the soda ash.
Here's a list of coffee shop in Kennebec County offering Mug Season mugs:
Downtown Diner, Augusta, Maine Slates Bakery, Hallowell Bagel Mainea
Gardiner Food Co-op, Gardiner
Green Bean Cafe
Olde Post Office
I'm pretty sure I am missing one - I think there were eight - so will update this list when I figure out what it is.
In other news, it was announced that NCECA will be in Pittsburgh in 2018. Yay! Portland, OR is right out, for me, barring a lottery win or similar, but Pittsburgh? that's doable.
I kind of think every other year might be better anyway, from both a financial and experiential point of view.
I'm happy to report that my trip went without a hitch. At least, the important part did: my Process Room demo was fine.
I got in to KC later than expected on Wednesday, due to some little issue with the plane losing an engine and having to make an emergency landing in St. Louis. Super fun. I am not a white-knuckle flyer usually but I made an exception during that landing. Anyway I got to KC too late to do much more than find some friends and drink. Oh, and sing karaoke. And take this photo with my NCECA-wife, Soozie:
I was so nervous on Thursday that I couldn't enjoy the conference. I couldn't concentrate on anything, and eventually just gave up around 2 pm and went back the the hotel room, read a book (A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms), made myself breathe slowly, and snoozed a little bit. Then I got up, found some lunch, and made my way to the Process Room to await my execution. I mean, demo. But at the time it felt more like the former.
And then a funny thing happened: we set up the wheel and tables, I arranged my tools, Paul Dresang made my introduction, I started talking...and all my nerves fell away. I was completely comfortable, just did and said my thing as rehearsed, answered questions, and it all went perfectly. Just another class, like I do several times a week.
In a way, it was like karaoke. You can't enjoy karaoke until you lose your fear of looking foolish. And once you do, karaoke becomes a no-consequence proposition: do well, or do poorly, it doesn't matter. I highly recommend it, actually. Once you understand that you don't die of looking silly, the world opens up.
I don't have a video of the demo yet.That will, eventually, be on NCECA's website. I did however, take about thirty-squirty million photos of work I saw in the various shows around town, bought some new tools, and a Victoria Christian mug; all of which I will share with you soon, maybe even later today. However, having been away for four days, I have 43 emails which need replies, pottery tour work to catch up on, and a kiln to unload; so it may take a bit of time.
Anyway, glad to be home, and excited and energized to start working again.
Some of you may know that my brother and sister-in-law are musicians, specializing in Irish music. As a result, St. Patrick's is my favorite holiday! I am not much of a drinker but I do imbibe a bit at their shows, just enough to not feel self-conscious pretending I know how to step-dance. This year they will be at RiRa, one of Portland's best Irish pubs, from 10-5.( I will have to miss, it, of course, as I'll be at NCECA, but that doesn't mean you have to.)
It's not the same hearing me own flesh & blood, o' course, but there are - surprise!* - Irish bars in Kansas City. Here are a few:
The Dubliner - 170 East 14th Street at Power & Light O'Dowd's Little Dublin - 4742 Pennsylvania Ave Kelly's Westport Inn - 500 Westport Rd
I do have an invite to the Skutt party, repping for Portland Pottery, so I'll stop in there first. It'll be right after my demo (whichisat4pmintheprocessroomincaseyouforgot!!) so I'll be either giddy with relief or drowning my shame (let's hope for Option A.) After that, I'll be looking for Celtic revelry!
Having anxiety means I tend to over-prepare...that's when I don't freeze up and fail to prepare at all. This would be one of the former instances: I've been making stretched oval butter dishes all day, so that I'll be able to make them in my sleep come Thursday, when I will be demonstrating this form in the Process Room at NCECA. I even talked as I worked, describing what I was doing as though I had an audience, so I won't have to think of all the words while the eyes are on me.
In some ways this is silly: it's a half hour demo, of a piece that I have made about eight hundred thousand times before. I do demos, with people watching, all the time; it's part of my job. I just really want this to go well.
And, you know, I'm feeling pretty good that it will. I will finish these up tomorrow, and throw a few more, and then pack my bags.
Not leaving until Wednesday, but, you know. I want to be prepared.
When I find something that works, I tend to stick with it, particularly when it comes to firing. Failure is just too expensive! I have been wanting for a while now to try a new method of soda application, but it has taken me years to buy the one, very readily available piece of equipment that I need:
Yup, that's it: just a weed sprayer. Many, maybe most, people who fire with soda use the spray application method. I use the Gail Nichols method of mixing my soda ash & baking soda with wood curls and water, and dumping it into the kiln on a length of angle iron. I like that method for the direction effect it creates, and the additional carbon in the kiln for the soda vapor to trap. I've done the weed-sprayer method before, in Watershed's soda kiln, and it resulted in a very even coating of soda glass, almost like an applied glaze. Like having more than one rib or trimming tool, however, I think it would be good to have a vocabulary of soda-application methods: different means for different effects.
I have a couple of points of hesitation about using the spray method, one being that there are some Advancers in the kiln, and they do not react well to the sudden and uneven cooling that being sprayed with water during the firing might create! It's a risk, but because my soda ports are so low, I don't think the Advancers will take direct spray. And, about those ports: they were really constructed for the angle-iron method: low, so the wood chips get dumped directly into the flame. I am not entirely sure the spray method will work as well to get the soda up onto the ware. A dry firing would be a major (and spendy!) bummer.
So I'm going to hedge my bets, and apply the soda both ways for this firing. I'll weigh out a little bit extra - further hedging - and apply half via spray nozzle, half via angle iron.
Though it is only Friday, it will likely be more than a week before I see the results of this experiment, because I am in Portland Monday & Tuesday to teach my classes, and early Wednesday morning I am leaving for NCECA. Very nervous about my turn on the Process Room stage, but also very excited!
Hope to see you there. When I get back I will post the hopefully-fabulous-but-who-knows photos from this firing!
ETA: ARRRGH! The weed sprayer that I bought has a brass nozzle - fine - but the hardware that attaches it, and the tube it is attached to, are plastic. So, obviously, not going to work! I am applying the soda in my usual way, but keenly disappointed not to get to try this out. I didn't even ask what the bits were made of because every other one I have ever seen has been metal. Probably because the only place I've ever used one is at Watershed, or at another potter's studio. Damn it damn it damn it.
Lori Keenan Watts (aka me) is a potter, gardener, and avid reader from Augusta, Maine. Though I started my university education in surface design for fabric, clay quickly grabbed me by the heart and redirected my creative impulses. I have been a potter for over 25 years -- hard to believe. The most valuable years of my ceramic education were spent in graduate study at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, under the tutalage of Dan Anderson and Paul Dresang.
My aesthetic is guided by my love of the material itself. What fascinates me and makes a pot compelling for me is the clay-ness of clay: the squooshiness that becomes the adamantine solidity. I also like patterns, unexpected proportions, and when the flame comes along and dissolves part of my careful decorating efforts! I am obstinate about this aesthetic, to a point which might be called pig-headed, but hey, if you don't like what you make, why bother?
My happy little family also includes my husband, musician and photographer (and author of the book Alewife) Doug Watts; five cats; and a turtle, all foundlings and rescues of one stripe or another.