Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Skill of Letting Go

I put off unloading, because Friday & Saturday were so bitterly cold, and because no one is waiting for these pots. Today warmed up to a near-balmy 23°, sunny and perfect for unloading. Right off the bat, I suffered the traditional unloading nick, which bled like a mad bastard until I finally gave in, went inside & got a bandaid. 

As inevitable as the nick is the loss of a few pieces. Some firing processes demand more sacrifices to the kiln gods than others; these pots got some bits of wadding crumbled into them from between the bricks of the door. (Not sure why there was more crumbling than usual. I'll have to think about that.)

In the past I might have argued with myself that I could dremel out the bits, apply more glaze, and refire; or that I should save them for a magical someday when I will have time to make a mosaic with my broken pieces; or that I should place them between plants in the perennial garden. Now I'm just like, Nah, toss 'em. The sooner they are out of my sight the sooner they don't matter. If I saved all the pots that didn't work out I'd be surrounded by now, obstructed in every direction by buckets & boxes of unusable pots. Letting go is a valuable skill, for a potter. It's one I teach my students, when their handle separate or their rims crack: let it go. Take the lesson & let the piece go. Make another one. I try to live my own advice. 

Otherwise the firing was pretty good. The very bottom layer was a little pale - I stacked differently, and it affected the way the soda vapor moved around the kiln. (I don't have to let go of those, because they don't require any additional work from me - just load em in the next kiln as if it were the first time.) Mostly mugs & pasta bowls, a few dip dishes & berry colanders. Bread & butter ware, so to speak, although no actual butter dishes. 

Speaking of actual butter dishes, I have some in progress that need assembling, so that's where I'm headed now. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Let's Try This Again: Maine Pottery Tour 2021


It always seems too early to think about it, until suddenly it's way late. In two days it will be February, and I have started putting together the Maine Pottery Tour. I am well aware - well aware, thank you very much! - that like last year the pandemic may cause its cancellation, but I am cautiously optimistic for May 1 & 2. 

I started putting out feelers last week, and got a good response! Not everyone has replied, but so far only two "no" responses. It looks like the tour will have about 40 stops this year. I'm encouraging studios to hold their events outside as much as possible this year, because pandemic. Mine is always outside anyway. 

If you are a potter in Maine & you'd like more information about the pottery tour, give me a shout at info[at]

Looking forward to a great year. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Cone 6 Falling


I restarted the firing that I had to give up on  due to wind last Sunday. It's been one damn thing after another with this load! But it's chugging along now, cones falling inside the kiln while snow falls outside.  My 6 cone is falling, but this time I am firing to ^10 - those are the 8, 9, 10, & 11 cones you see still standing. 

In a conventional stoneware firing, the 6 is just a watch cone - it's there to judge how evenly the kiln is firing (answer, always, with my kiln: not very) For the soda firing, the six falling is my signal to mix up the soda salad. Some firings I start adding the soda right after 6 falls; other times I wait until the 8 is falling. I kid myself that I can see a difference: that I get more even application if I wait, more directional if I start early. 

This time I think I'll wait. I'll do up the soda mix now, but apply it when 8 falls. We can judge the results together on Saturday!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Stupid WInd

 I candled the glaze firing overnight Sat/Sun, but when I got up in the morning it was pretty windy! Because I am 1 part stupid + 2 parts stubborn, I decided to try to fire anyway. Bad plan! Not disastrous, but, you know, annoying & expensive. The wind was supposed to be only around 17 mph - quite breezy, but not crazy - but every time there was a powerful gust it blew out one of my burners. 

This isn't a safety problem - that's what baso valves are for, to turn themselves off if the flame goes out - but it was hella annoying. The 10th time it happened - after ^012 had already fallen, unfornately (see above, stupid + stubborn) and after I had already burned a boatload of propane - I called it off. I'll fire Wednesday instead.

Silver lining? I basically have today off. I'm catching up on some cleaning & reading a book, and fiddling around with my new (used! but still) iPhone. 

One of these days I'll have some new pottery to show ya, I promise! 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Yeah so... bubble of energy last week? Got abruptly popped when a rightwing mob invaded the US capitol, intent on killing the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. I thought I was back, but no. My productivity is the least of the problems with this, of course, but THANKS ALOT, RIGHTWING MOB. I saw a post on social media asking something like, "Am I the only one having trouble focusing on anything other than the deadly pandemic and the imminent threat to democracy?" No, anonymous poster; no you are not. It's wreaking holy ol' havoc with my professional life. 

If everything really does have an equal and opposite reaction I am about to have my most amazing year yet - as is America. 


I finally got the kiln loaded - a little loose, but I often get better pots that way. I went to candle the load but discovered that I need new thermocouples (well - I knew that. I kept putting it off, & now one of them doesn't work at all) and the burners are loud & flame more orange than blue - the burners need a good scrub with a wire brush. Thermocouples are easy to replace, and burners are easy to scrub, but it does mean the kiln is still not firing! Luckily nobody is waiting for these pots...yet. 

My list today:

  • Order three 36" thermocouples
  • Take burners apart & clean them
  • Pray for America

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Loading Tuesday & Wednesday

 Firing Friday. All of a sudden I desperately want to make pots. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Cornbread on New Year's Day

...oh & also a soda-fired plate!

Tradition says that eating cornbread on New Year's Day brings prosperity in the new year. Same goes for sauerkraut, and spinach. There's a little bit of sympathetic magical thinking here: cornbread is gold, spinach and cabbage are green leaves like money. I'm not superstitious but it can't hurt! Anyway I love cornbread. I mean who doesn't love cornbread? I'll probably also steam some spinach for lunch later, to make up for having what is practically a dessert for breakfast. 

Wishing you gold, green cash, and all good fortune in 2021. 

Welcome, 2021!

Glad I could make it. Glad we all could. 

Except, we all couldn't. We didn't all. I want to go forward, with joy and hope - and I will - but I haven't forgotten the many we lost last year. To honor their memories, let us pledge to do all that we can to stop the spread of this virus, and do so glad for the opportunity to help. 

Let us go forward with love, and embrace opportunities for kindness. Let us leave in the past the idea that caring is weakness, or that we can only care about people who are flawless. The common greeting in yoga classes, "Namaste" is sometimes said to mean "the divine in me recognizes the divine in you." What I want to say instead is, the human in me recognizes the human in you. We are all flawed, we are all struggling, we are all swimming upstream and doing our best. Let us learn to fight to protect the more vulnerable among us without anger and without hatred. 

I hope in 2021 I can extend my circle of empathy. We need a year - at least a year! - of healing. Let 2021 be that year, and let it start with me. 

Happy New Year, friends. Better days ahead.