Where to find my pots...

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Ah, March Already!!!!

Ah, I have not blogged in a while. Wow, sense my last blog, the biggest and saddest story is the loss of my dear Mother Sally Sue Herr. I was fortunate to spend some quality time with my Mom before she succumbed to cancer on December 9th. What a tragedy to see some one you love die due to cells gone bad in their body. I went back twice to see Mom and was there when she passed. I miss her dearly and think of her every day.

Since my Mom's death I devote all my time to creating pots. I participated in a local holiday faire and was juried in to a local cooperative art gallery. Internet sales are consistent as well. I create and post as I go along. I find inspiration it what I love and I feel blessed every day to be able to create.

Sense my last post,  I was working with porcelain and doing sgraffito with more success in finding a terra sigilatta color and glaze that worked with my clay body. Thanks to John Britt for doing the work on finding glazes that don't craze. John does the hard work and I pay with for the effort. Thanks John.

Now I moved on to working with a red clay body. I bought 500 pounds. In the beginning, I was dubious and wondered what I did. I knew the background would be different for sgraffito work, so I needed light terra sigilatta colors. The first tests revealed that 3-5% mason stains were inadequate to pop thru the glaze I was using. Later, I read a few articles about 1:1 lithium carbonate and gersley borate wash. Here are my results.

I am super happy with these results. I was looking for a worn or distressed look and a more atmospheric affect, that you would get in a salt or soda firing. This led me to play around with abstract forms. Here is a set of vases that I layered dark terra sigillata under lighter terra sigs, sanding and scratching in between applications.

At this point in time, I have about 50 pounds left of this cone 6 Oregon Red clay. I really enjoyed working with it. I will get more in the future. But for now, back to porcelain and experimenting with lightly colored chuns, oribes, and celadons.

I hope all is well in my readers world. Cheers, Jeff

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Preparing for First Friday and Thinking Big

I am taking an online course called Think Big! Think Big is an online branding series course for potters and is taught over six-weeks with interviews with successful clay artists and marketing agents. The course is taught by Ben Carter of Tales of a Red Clay Rambler Podcast and artist-designer Molly Hatch. I highly recommend taking this course for any beginning or established potters. I am learning a lot and I think it helps me fine tune some of my approaches to getting the story about my pottery to the people who like my work.

Lately, I opened the kiln to see some nice results of my sgraffito work on stoneware. Below are some cups of local wildlife that are found in our scenic state. Oyster catchers, a bird I see usually in May along rocky beaches on islands across the bay. To me they are harbingers of spring. This year I took a couple of trips to Prince William Sound and saw a lot more of these birds. I love their call and the way they walk on the rocks. They earned a place my cups and platters.

I also put some arctic grayling my cups. Grayling are a beautiful fish that I enjoy fishing for in Alaska. They have great blue/grey/green and some red combinations. They readily go for a fly, so I added few on the cups, mayflies to be exact. Grayling is fish that I have been using in pottery for several months and it is progressing nicely on these cups. 

Because I travel and explore Alaska I am always captured by the people's adventurous life style and seasonal rhythms.  In this next tow pictures I carved in the quintessential Alaskan bush plane and a commercial fishing drift boat, that is often seen in Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound, or Cook Inlet.

Because I can not keep up with carving items as they dry I still enjoy my ash glazes and the LaLune turquoise glaze. I like how ash glazes create repetition and appear active.


Finally, while I was cleaning the garage this fall I found some old Douglas fur from an old barge that I recycled years ago fro rustic furniture. I used what was left and made re-purposed boxes for sets of tumbers, with my old stand by brittle star slip theme. The wood has a nice earthy look that goes well with the glaze combination on the tumblers.

In two weeks, I will selling my pots at a First Friday Show at Alice's Champagne Palace.  I am looking forward to this event, as it is my first First Friday. After that, it is the Nutcracker Arts and Craft Fair the first weekend in December at Homer High School Gymnasium. With all that I am busy in the studio making pots. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Practicing Pottery

Making pots over the past month I came to realize that it is truly a practice. This is the second season in my own studio creating; developing my forms, surface decorations, and glazes. There are a lot ideas out there tin the world, and I mean a lot. I am constantly inspired, but to get what I want to achieve is another matter. As I work on these ideas I think about my teachers, specifically Cynthia Bringle. I can not count the number of times I hear her words and ideas as I work through my process of creating pots. Practice, practice, practice, and edit. "If you don't like it now, you won't like it later," CB's words ring in my ears.

Speaking of practice, I have been exploring sgraffito, scratching or carving through slips or terra sigillata with stains. In the beginning, I was using slips only to find my liner glaze washed out the slip color, and if it was applied too thick, then it crazed. Argh! So, then I went through the process of finding a glaze that did not wash the color of the slip and not craze. After trying a couple of Val Cushing's glazes, I realized I needed to figure out the application method. Do I dip, brush, or spray? Best method is spraying, a light application is all it takes. I chalked that one up to success. However, I still was not happy with the clay burrs from carving in the slip when it was leather hard, even after brushing with a soft brush when it dried. Back to the Internet and books for more information. Finally, I found that several potters use terra sigallata, a finer clay slip, and carved when the clay was bone dry, after applying the terra sigillata.  Back to the drawing board and more practice. and more experimenting. Next I started thinking about how I am looking at my subject matter and how I carve my lines. This was noticeable when I looked at my Instagram feeds. Looking at the picture allowed me to notice aspects I missed in the studio. I am asking myself questions like: Do I leave some black in the negative space that is carved white? Or do I leave it all white? How do I highlight the main feature? Accented line or small line? Then there is the aspect of combining colors or even considering glaze colors on the interior of horizontal forms that best compliments the outside surface decoration. Practice, practice, practice.


Finally, practice pays off.  In some of my later firings I had some great results with combing wood glazes. I will be sticking to these combinations when I am not decorating surfaces. I am looking forward to what happens in the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Markets and Making Pots

In August, I was able to get my wares out to the local Homer Farmer's Market. It was a beautiful Saturday for selling pots. I met a lot of great people and got a lot of support and encouragement about my pottery. At the end of the month, I was accepted to show my work at Homeric Traders. This business is giving me the opportunity to rent space and sell my work at a low commission. I hope that this will get some folks interested in my work. Living 15 miles out of town I don't see a lot of tourist or town traffic, I am looking forward to having my pots in the heart of Homer. I made these break down shelves over a couple of days. They will be used for fairs and festivals in the future. The uprights are hinged and shelves are secured by dowels coming up through the cross braces. Just push the shelves down and they are secure.

 In the studio, I have been making bottles and coffee pour overs. There has been a lot of demands for my oil and vinegar bottles.

I am also making large containers and tumblers for Homeric Traders and the holidays. In the picture above right, I have a large crock that our local mushroom grower wants for brewing kombucha.

Finally, I was able to focus the later part of August firing some pots. I was really happy with the results. I put new elements, in the kiln and with the controller I was able to run a solid E1firing.
Small serving plate with brittle star slip with Tripplett Chameleon glaze.
Coffee pour over.

Serving boat Kim's orange glaze with LaLune's ash glaze sprayed over.

Nicky's cup LaLune's turquoise and ah glaze.

Oil and vineger bottles, LaLune's ash glaze over blue denim and variegated blue.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer Time (spent wisely in the studio and on adventures)

This summer has been a flurry of activity, both in the studio and outside. From Prince William Sound to the Kuskokwim Bay I have done a lot of great fishing and traveling Alaska offers up many options with much daylight and great opportunities for adventure.  In the few short months of summer we plant, harvest, catch, and play in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Here is a brief summary of what I have been doing in the studio over the past three months.

The main stay for the pottery is making Homer Brewery Company steins. This allows me to play with a lot of different ideas as I have a regular kiln firing schedule to meet the demand. Mugs are found on Etsy and I have more color options and will update soon.

Since my Penland experience, I am enjoying working on the bottle form. My sights are set on making growlers for the local brewery, especially personalized growlers.

Living in Homer is great. The people love local food and gardening. Here is a compost pot ordered by one of our localvores.
 I am also, making plates with Alaska marine and freshwater images. Still trying to get a glaze that reveals the color of the slip, but is not too glossy. I am not happy with Hansen's 5 x 20, so I am tring Val Cushing's transparent and soft matte at cone 6. Suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

Mug production for the local coffee drinkers keeps moving forward. I really like the chameleon glaze from John's Britt's mid range glaze book.

 Finally, I have my first date with the local Homer Farmer's Market this weekend and Homeric Traders has given me space to sell my wares. 

My love for Alaska and the fishing will no doubt be showing up in more of my work as I head into the studio this fall and create more pottery. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Results and Friends the Final Four Weeks

Looking back at the final four weeks of Penland's Spring Concentration, I made some great friends. I realize that working in a craft, in which you spend a large amount of time alone in the studio, this experience is essential for improving your game. At one point during this time Cynthia said to us, "You all know what to look for, ask each other for help." In retrospect, this opened a flood gate for us in regards to form and creative influences. People not only asked for help, but they moved around the studio more freely and commented on pieces people were making and offered advice and encouragement. How often does this happen in your studio at home?
During the fifth week we began throwing lidded forms, bottles, bottles with stoppers, and goblets. Followed by large bowls. Cynthia encouraged us to continue to edit our work, but also pushed us to make pieces in the kilns to get results. Obviously, I took this as a sign to be productive. It is a pattern of mine to get in the zone and work towards results, make many mistakes, and start over and grind through the process. The final three weeks of the concentration Cynthia had us focus on a goal. Mine was the bottle form, something I struggled with at home, having only taken one wheel throwing class last year, I was stuck at a learning plateau. I needed to get past this point. Cynthia encouraged me to throw dry and breath as I was pulling. In a stealthy move she would be next to my wheel while I was pulling a 5 pound clay bottle, and say, "Breathe Jeff." The bottle form improved, and as they dried I started to dabble more in carving.

When I first worked with clay I loved to carve into the leather hard pieces. Though, it was very random and I lacked intent. Interestingly, while doodling in my studio this past winter I came up with a pattern that intrigued me. While throwing some of the bigger bottles, more an exercise to throw taller pieces, I realized that the form reminded me of large bottles used for milk. My Grandfather had a dairy farm and I vaguely remember that period of time when I was child and visited the farm. That time period and the doodles brought to mind art-deco images. I pursued this carving on several items. Experimenting and taking risks to obtain results are what the Penland experience was about.

Finally, I started to play with the fish form. My love for fish and fly-fishing are always near at hand in my art. Here are several pieces which I used for stoppers or carved images on mugs and goblets. Another aspect I toyed with was surface texture using rope and faceting, using wrapped wire. I can only guess at how many of these pieces were recycled before they were finally glazed. If I made 200 items while at Penland, at least 200 were recycled.
The last firing at Penland was done in a kiln named Julia Two. Previously we fired three firings in the final days of Julia One. After 150 firings salt kilns insides become corroded and the arch ceiling tends to collapse and needs replacing. The kiln is named for a former studio assistant who died in a automobile accident. Her husband created a fund to continue Julia's passion for the pottery and love for Penland. Will Baker was hired by Penland to build Julia Two. It was a great experience to watch, and occasionally help Will in this process. I also met Julia's husband, who helped Will during the first few days of construction.
I am curious about what will take place in the studio when I get back home. Presently, Nicky and I are traveling back from North Carolina, visiting family along the way and enjoying time together camping and hiking. I leave for Homer tomorrow. I hope to be back in the studio by the middle of the week. However, as summer approaches I have taken on several jobs and will be teaching ceramics for two weeks as well, so my studio time will be cut short. My short term goals are to continue with art-deco carving and fish motifs.  My long term goal is to build a soda kiln on our property. This means I will, slowly, be constructing a kiln shed with a concrete pad to accommodate the kiln. I am also looking into doing another Kickstarter Campaign next year to purchase the kiln materials.