Monday, December 31, 2012

On the eve of a brand-spankin' new year...

LtoR: the Professor, Burrell, Kelly, Rus, Ray and that's me in the back, there.
This picture was taken by our good friend and photographer, Billy Rude.

Our band, Sock Monkey, is playing a New Year's Eve party at the Double Tree Hotel this evening.  We are all set up and ready to ring in the new year.  It should be fun... it's for Doug Pitt's charity (and yes, that is Brad's brother) called Care To Learn.  No word on whether Brad and Angelina will be there.  Hmmmm   
It has been way too long since I've posted on this blog, so tomorrow I plan on sitting down for a long session of reflection on the year that has gone by.  Peace to you and yours.  Please check back on the first day of 2013... late, and hopefully I will have something new here to read.  :)  Heck, I may even bring up pottery.  Which might be a good idea, considering that this is supposed to be a pottery blog.  We'll see...  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

a good day...

Well... I can officially put my first craft fair on the books.  It went well, and it was good to be able to spend that time with my daughter, Patricia.  We arrived at Belton High School at a little before 7:30, and after some initial confusion as to where, exactly, we were supposed to be, we parked our cars and got started with the load-in.  My wife Pam was a great help carrying things in, running out to buy me a large table cloth, and getting a supply of ones and fives for change (even though she didn't have to).  What would I do without her...  The event was well organized, and seemed to run very smoothly (a testament to the people in charge).  We were surprised to find that we each got our own 8 ft table.  Because we were sharing a booth, we just assumed that we would also be sharing a single table.  So we got to spread out a bit, which was a good thing... it would have been pretty cramped, otherwise.  Festival hours were from 9:00am to 4:00pm.  Traffic was pretty slow most of the day, with only two periods of about an hour each where I would describe it as busy.  Out of what you see on the table above, I ended up selling 12 pieces, which I was thrilled about.  I went with the hope that I might sell one piece, just so I could say that I had sold something, but the final talley, though not a barn-burner (ha), was nice.  I got up Saturday morning feeling a little under the weather, and unfortunately it went down-hill from there.  By the time we were packing our stuff up to leave, I was in the mean grip of a bad cough and head cold... Yuck.  And we still had to drive back to Springfield.  But all-in-all it was a good day.  Next time, I'll be an old hand at it (HA!)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting ready...

Ready or not, this Saturday (the 20th) I will be sharing a booth with my daughter Patricia at the Belton High School PTSA Fall Craft Festival.  For all those seasoned potters out there, that probably sounds kind of quaint, but this will be my first showing of pottery for sale.  We all have to start somewhere, and it is time.  I really have no idea what to expect from it, but that's OK... just the fact that I am finally taking that leap is enough at this point, even if I don't sell a thing.   Several months ago, Patricia started a small business making single serving cake mixes (most of them are gluten free), called Just One Bite.  Her business is starting to grow, mainly because she's good at it, and the mixes are easy to make, and very tasty!  So I am fortunate to have her there, helping her ol' dad get going. I will be bringing a variety of pottery with me, including some blue ware flower vases and jugs, platters and serving dishes with sgraffito designs on them, plus some fun, Halloween themed stuff that just came out of the glaze firing a few days ago.  Also I will bring a few of these earthenware effigy pieces that I have been working on.  I really like these, but I don't know how well they will go over with the Craft Fair crowd.  I guess we will see about that.  At any rate, I will be packing it all up tonight, and head for Kansas City Friday evening after work!  Ready or not... here we come.   


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The birds...

As I have noted a few times on these pages in the past, on my lunch break I often go walking along the Finley River, on the trails south of the Ozark Community Center.  They have a paved trail and a loop trail through a wooded area along the river.  More often than not I will walk the wooded trail.  Today I went for my lunchtime walk in the woods, and noticed something that seemed downright peculiar to me.  It began when I startled a large flock of grackles resting on the forest floor, just off the trail head.  Once they took off, the woods sprang to life.  Every 30 to 40 feet down the trail, I would disturb another group of grackles roosting in the leaf litter.  It just seemed odd to me that there would be that many grackles taking refuge in the woods, on the ground.  This went on for a good 100 yards down the main trail.  As the last of the grackles dispersed into the canopy, I began to see flocks of robins (half a dozen to a dozen or more in a bunch) on the trail ahead of me. Some of them were even reluctant to take flight, waiting until I was nearly 10 feet from them before they scattered into the nearby trees.  At every bend in the trail, without fail, I would come upon another large group of robins.  As I said, the whole thing just struck me as odd.  I'm no ornithologist, but it sure didn't seem like typical bird behavior in my experience.  Normally there is also a small band of crows that routinely scold me from the tree tops as I make my way along the trail; they were nowhere to be found. Temperatures are in the upper 80s to low 90s, and it is muggy, with a pretty good breeze in the tree tops.  And that may be the key, right there.  The remnants of hurricane Isaac are headed our way, with the first bands of showers predicted to arrive tonight.  That's really the only thing that I can think of that's different from any other summer day around here.  The wind blowing in ahead of the storm may have them spooked, or maybe the change in barometric pressure is messing with them.  It has been very dry these past few months, so it also may have something to do with the promise of heavy rain coming our way.  A nature mystery.  I asked several of the birds what was going on, and not one of them would tell me.  Hmmm, bird brains.                    

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'm still here...

This morning, a couple of minutes before running out the door for work, I was down in the basement checking on a bowl I made last night, and I noticed these pots sitting on the drying rack together, just hangin' out.  I figured it was about time I documented a small bit of what I have been doing these past few weeks, so I pulled out my phone and snapped a couple of quick pictures.  The form of these pots is based on a style of prehistoric pottery made by Native Americans who lived within the central Mississippi River catchment, during a period of cultural florescence which began several hundred years prior to European contact.  This is the same culture that built huge ceremonial mounds such as Monks Mounds at Cahokia, in east St. Louis.  There is some Mesoamerican influence in the designs, as well.  This is my humble attempt at recreating some of those pottery forms.  Over the past 20 years or so, I think I have made maybe half a dozen of these "effigy" style pots, mostly out of local clays, fired in charcoal. Very few of them have survived (as with so many of my early attempts) although we do have one pot similar to the guy on the far left, who has sat in our TV room for many years, partially hidden amid the foliage of a heart-leafed philodendron.  I also made a stoneware version of that same pot form early last year, and had it kiln fired (a couple of pictures of that one can be seen in a post from April 11th).  That pot now resides about 3 feet underground, in my front yard... spreading good karma over a repaired section of our water main (ha!). Hopefully it will be there for hundreds of years, and some archaeologist can dig it up and ponder its purpose.  It's always good to leave little notes to the future. 
Anyway,  all of these new pots were made of red earthenware, and were hand built using slabs and sculpting. They will be fired in our kiln to cone 04, glazed on the inside, and fired one more time.  The guy holding the fish is a rattle head water bottle (not to be mistaken for the deadly water mouth cotton rattler).  No, this poor fisherman has rocks in his head.  I put a small bundle of clay balls in his head before I attached it, and when it is fired, they will add a rattle effect to the bottle.  There are examples of this being done in prehistoric times, so it's certainly not a new idea.  Not sure why they added the rattles to some of their pots back then; it may have had some spiritual significance, but I can't help but believe that maybe it was just for fun. When I set my mind to make one of these pots, I can normally finish it in a single evening... four hours or so from start to finish; to the point where it can be set aside to dry.  After that, I normally will go over it with a piece of fine sandpaper, or one of those green ScotchBrite pads, to smooth out any rough areas before bisque firing.  I have a few more to make, along with some other things, before the next bisque firing.  I'm shooting for the first week of September.               

Monday, June 25, 2012


I thought it was about time I posted a few pictures of some of the pieces that came out of the June 20th glaze firing.  Overall, I think it turned out pretty good.  I am pleased with the results.  As I was unloading the kiln Thursday afternoon, I was all smiles.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The beautiful glow...

It's a few minutes after 10:00 and the kiln sitter just dropped.  A little while ago I heard a disheartening pop come from the inside of the kiln, but I'm hoping it was just the soft brick or steel encasement expanding, or something.  I doubt it, but I guess we will see tomorrow afternoon... what survived and what didn't.  I normally don't have much trouble with that sort of thing, but I guess it's bound to happen sooner or later. 

bisque day!

Loading the kiln for a bisque firing this afternoon.  Yahoo!  Had to kick the dogs out of the garage this morning, and they were not very happy about that (ha).  But they have since been distracted by a neighborhood cat that decided to taunt them by walking past our house several times.  The nerve!  Now they are asleep in the back yard.  Tough life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Out in the middle of nowhere...

This past weekend, on our way to Colorado and back, we spent a lot of time out in the middle of nowhere.  Kansas to be exact.  And while we were there, the wind was blasting across the state with a steely eyed focus on Canada.  That was where it wanted to be apparently, and nothing was going to get in its way except a few cars and trucks, some cows... and these giant windmills.  In truth, I suppose we weren't actually out in the middle of nowhere, because we were west of Salina when we took these pictures, and according to all the maps I've seen, that is  somewhere.  The windmills (or wind turbines) are part of an enormous complex known as the Smoky Hills Wind Farm.  There were hundreds and hundreds of these huge wind turbines scattered in loose clusters along I70.  We saw one of the blades for these things sitting on a large flatbed trailer, at a truck stop, and it extended out past the end of the trailer.  It's encouraging to see so many of these being built.  Anywhere the wind blows consistently, there should be wind farms.  But from what I understand, all of the windmills in this complex are owned by an Italian company.  Seems we can't even get our own country to seriously invest in this kind of technology.  That is truly unfortunate.  But over the years I am sure that the coal and oil industries have applied a great deal of pressure on the politicians (always for sale to the highest bidder) to find subtle ways to underfund clean and renewable energy R&D.  Washington pays lip service to it, but when it comes down to making it a priority, and really  getting behind it, the money and initiative always seems to be lacking.  So much of what we do, how we get from one place to another, how we power our lives, is fossil fuel based.  It is ubiquitous; and because alternatives are not being given serious attention here in the U.S., the deck is stacked against the average consumer.  Going green is expensive.  So the car we drove across Kansas (at 75 miles per hour) runs on gasoline, and we used quite a bit on this trip.  That's just the way it is for now, I guess.  Don't get me wrong, this petroleum based system of ours has served us well over the past 150 years or so, but it is clear that the extraction and use of those products is harming our world, and it will eventually become too costly, in a number of ways, to obtain and use.  It is not going to last forever, despite what some would like you to believe.  "Drill, baby, drill!"... the rallying cry of the slack-jawed masses.  The people who embrace that philosophy are inclined to look no further than the tip of their nose, apparently... or they are in deep denial.  There is no such thing as generational thinking for them, it's just what serves them best right now. The future will take care of itself, I guess.  Ugh.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A few pieces headed for the kiln

I am slowly getting enough pots made to have a kiln load here in the next week or so.  I am looking forward to it.  It all just takes time.  In this next firing there will be more skyblue terra sig ware... bottles & jugs, footed bowls, small platters, flower vases, and so forth.  I really like the look of the blue terra sig pots... to me, they have a very light, peaceful quality about them.
This time around, in addition to the blueware, (and a few pots with underglaze deco) I am making some pieces specifically to be glazed. The jug I'm holding (which still needs some finishing) will get a nice burnt orange glaze in the second firing.  I'm hoping that the star figure will catch the glaze nicely and add some dimension to it.  The plan is to have enough pieces ready by next weekend (the 16th) for a bisque-firing.  So far everything seems to be on track.  Keep your fingers crossed.      

Dave Farabee

I lost a friend yesterday.   Dave was diagnosed with leukemia in mid May.  They started his chemo right away, and he was finished with his first round of treatments by the end of the month.  He celebrated his 60th birthday in the hospital; and despite the weight of his situation, and the drain on his body from the treatments, he was upbeat and ready to get on with his life.  Always positive.  On Sunday he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage, and passed away the next day at 4:50pm, June 4, 2012.  Another light has left this world.  Dang it.  It just seems unreal to write those words.

I first met Dave Farabee in June of 2008... not so long ago, I suppose, but it seems like Dave and I have been friends all our lives.  He was that kind of a guy.  I was playing in a band called Electra 225 at the time, and our lead guitarist, Steve Thomas, asked if I would be interested in playing a couple of sub gigs for his other band, Cahoots.  I was more than happy to jump at the challenge.  A few week before, I had gone out to hear them play at a local bar, and even sat in with the band, so I knew their set list, and knew that they were a solid band, with good players... and easy to get along with.  Dave played bass in that band, as well as local favorites, the M-Dock band.  So for two nights on the weekend of June 20th, I played with Cahoots, and started getting to know Dave Farabee on and off stage.  My first and lasting impression of him is that he is a friendly guy, with an intelligent, easy-going manner about him... always ready with a smile and a corny joke, or when the occasion called for it, sincere words of encouragement.  I don't think I have ever met anyone who didn't like him.  In the past four years I have had the privilege of playing music with Dave on many occasions.  Among the most memorable have been the annual Mardi Gras and Halloween gigs at his church, Saint James Episcopal, here in Springfield.  The band included Dwight Gann on guitar, Dave on bass, Greg Hale on keys, me on drums, and Clay Stuckey on guitar.  Those gigs, with that group of guys, were always very enjoyable.  Those are times that will never come around again.  David Farabee was one of the good guys, and I will miss him.   So long Dave.  Rest in peace, brother.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A beautiful day...

for sitting under the oak tree and doing some sgraffito.  Gabriel kept me company this morning while I did some deco work on a couple of pieces of pottery I made this weekend.  I'm about half way through another 50 pounds of clay... leading to my next firing.  I'm anxious to get another load in the kiln...  it's addictive.  It's been a very nice weekend... the weather has felt like mid-July.  I've got today off, too, so.... yahoo!  Peace. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A quick look at a few pieces from the May 4th glaze firing...

Hefty earthenware moonshine & cider jug.  Hand built using slab and coiling and underglazed with light gray and walnut brown.  This jug was bisque fired to cone 04, then clear glazed inside and out and fired one more time.  Measures 8 inches high, and will hold a generous quart of your favorite beverage!  "I'll hush up my mug, if you'll fill up my jug with that good ol' mountain dew."
White earthenware bowl and bottles.  These were also hand built using slabs and coiling, and finished with several washes of silky smooth, sky blue terra sigillata.  After bisque firing, the bottles were clear glazed on the inside and fired once again, to make them waterproof.  The taller of the two bottles measures about six and a half inches high.  These pieces have really grown on me in the past couple of weeks... the unglazed surfaces have such a wonderful look and feel to them.  They remind me of a lazy summer afternoon.
I'm working on how to describe my pottery, so these might sound a little stiff until I get the hang of it.  Hopefully here in the next few weeks I will have an Etsy site set up and ready to sell my wares!  I've been reading all of their tutorials and seller bios, and there is a lot involved, if you want to do it right, but it doesn't sound too difficult... it just looks like it will take some time.

Spouted decanters.  These unique little teapots, hand built of earthenware, were made without any real direction at first; they just sort of happened. But after they were done, I could see them being used for serving soy sauce, or coffee creamer, olive oil, or even warm maple syrup.  They are clear glazed inside and out and are food safe, microwave safe and dishwasher safe (although it would be best to hand wash these, so they will have a good, long life)

Lidded earthenware jar.  I thought this one turned out pretty good.  It measures about 5" in diameter, and was hand made using clay slabs.  It was finished in a walnut brown underglaze and decorated with trailing vines.  The design was produced by scratching through the underglaze with a pointed tool; a technique known as sgraffito, which exposes the white clay body underneath.  After the initial bisque firing, the exterior was clear glazed, and fired once more.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Finding my way...

ever so slowly.  And that's OK. 
I had a little set-back this evening.  I loaded the kiln for a glaze firing, got it going... and about an hour or so in I decided to take a peek in the bottom peephole, just to see if the coils were warming up properly.  Well... it appeared that they were not.  The top set of elements were glowing a beautiful reddish orange, and there was a nice glow rising in the kiln, but then I realized that the bottom elements were not cranking it out like the top ones.  Bummer.  Both sets of elements were on high  by that time, but they were clearly not performing at the same rate.  After some internal debate, I opted to shut it down for the night, and check it in the morning.  That didn't last long.  I went back out after the elements had darkened, and fired up the bottom pair of elements only, and son-of-a-gun if I didn't see a faint glow building in the kiln, through the peephole.  So I cranked it back up (it was still very hot, so I wasn't too concerned about thermal shock at that point).  We'll see how it goes.  Looks like I will be up for a while longer.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will work, and I'll have some nice, glazed pots by the end of the weekend.  I guess I'll know for sure tomorrow afternoon. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Boy Howdy!

I got home from work today and went straight out to the garage to see if the kiln gods were smiling on me last night.  They were!  I didn't lose a single piece, and they all turned out great.  It felt like Christmas morning ;)  I was surprised that the kiln was still warm enough that I needed gloves to pull out the pots... even after cooling for almost 16 hours. 
As for the pictures I added below?... they are stunning, aren't they.  I especially like how the pasty white flash brings out the rich colors of the fired clay and underglazes. (ha)  I'll try to take some better pictures once everything has gone through the glaze firing.    
At around 11:15 last night I went out to check on the progress of the firing (for about the 20th time) and I noticed that the kiln sitter was edging very close to release, so I stuck around to see if I could watch the trigger fall.  It finally did at 11:28pm.  I turned all the knobs to the off position, flipped off the main power switch on the breaker panel and unplugged it from the wall... and said goodnight. 

The next step (for most of the pieces) will be clear glazing and another firing.   That will be the last hurdle.  Again... I can't wait.  I don't want to jinx it, but I think they are going to look really nice.  Once those are done and I feel like I have something to offer, I will probably look into opening an Etsy site.  But for now... let's just take it one step at a time.