Sunday, September 27, 2009

teach to learn...

I really love teaching, and I think it's because I love being around people who are excited about learning new things. And I think it's because I love learning new things, and when I teach a beginner or beginning potter or curious clay enthusiast, I inevitably end up learning right along with my student.

Fall has always been my favorite season of the year, and since I've been in Asheville, another reason to look forward to fall is the "Senior Project". Asheville schools require seniors to spend a minimum of 10 hours doing something they've never done - pairing themselves with an expert and/or mentor in a field they've never explored. I've been fortunate to work with seniors on this project every year I've been here, and this year I'm happy that I'll be working with not one but two seniors, giving them each a little taste of my world.

My first student started working at the studio last week. Alex came in with ideas and questions, and I was thrilled that she wanted to do something I hadn't even done yet!

Sr. Project & studio member Alex

Our ultimate project goal is to make one larger and several smaller pieces using various hand-building techniques and a small range of colored porcelain. That's the new and exciting part for me - I've looked into but never played with coloring clays. So by teaching, I get to be a student again!

test tile & porcelain being prepped for coloring

In our prep stage, and to give Alex a good intro into working with clay before we get to the technical aspects of coloring the porcelain, she made several pinch and coil pots that will be used as glaze tests. Today, she also made a couple of larger bowls using drape molds, giving her the chance to explore creating texture with stamping and sprigging on a larger scale. I cut up the porcelain that we'll dry out and color with mason stains later. Happily, Alex seems to be having as much fun with this as I am! And even better, she may be doing her community service portion of the Senior Project by helping out at the Empty Bowls event.

Alex's notebook, nicely organized for her test tiles

rolling slabs for today's experiments

George putting in duty as a drying station,
prepping the porcelain for the pounding stage

My other Senior hasn't started working in the studio yet, but you'll meet her soon!

And I had to include this photo - I posted earlier about my glazing weekend, and how one of the highlights was the break I took to attend the Soda Chicks event. I forgot my camera, but Suze Lindsay graciously took a picture for me, and it just arrived in the email today! But more than just a gratuitous 'look who I'm hangin' with' blog shot, it really does tie into my little theme today. Stay with me, it's not exactly 'seven degrees of separation', but it works!

Suze Lindsay, Robert Briscoe, me (w/new Briscoe bowl!) & Kent McLaughlin

When I started taking pottery classes in DC, it was very much about my own creative and emotional 'therapy' in a way, as I had been away from actual hands-on creativity for a while. Learning from, working with and watching Jill Hinckley and the other teaching potters as well as students made me want to always have a teaching element in my pottery career. The way I've set up my teaching studio is sort of a hybrid of my experiences at Hinckley Pottery, and of my visiting MudFire Studios in Decatur, GA. Mine is much smaller, but I truly believe this is the best way for beginner and beginning potters to get to know clay: at their own pace and in a relaxed environment. I'm happy to consult anyone who'd like set up a similar system and am available to be flown to say Italy, Spain, Western Canada ... basically Lori needs a vacation.

But I digress ... One of the first workshops I attended as a new student at Hinckley was a demo workshop by Minnesota potter Robert Briscoe, and even though I had barely begun to be comfortable with clay, I still remember his demo, how relaxed he was in his throwing and the sense of possibilities that it gave me. And I love his work and use the bowl I bought at that demo several times a week. Flash ahead to my relocation to Asheville, setting up studio at Odyssey and taking the first of many workshops by amazing teaching potters - this first one just happens to have been taught by Suze Lindsay (who got me thinking about details even on the bottoms of pots!) ... and to make sure every last person in the picture is tied up in my little pottery 'seven degrees', I still long to take a workshop led by Kent McLaughlin, having attempted Limoncello bribery to be his assistant on at least one occasion.

Time to check the drying porcelain, throw the rest of my Empty Bowls and get back to THE LIST.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Echo Gallery is open!

it was too wet to go outside to take the picture...

It was a wet night, but in spite of the pounding rains, we had a great crowd of friends, family and some new neighbors and visitors come celebrate the opening of Echo Gallery at Biltmore Park. The grand opening is still a month away, and there's lots of gallery organizing and tweaking to do between now and then, but we have work in, and now we have regular hours, and that feels goooood!

some of the early crowd, doin' the mix & mingle

delish eats from Roots Cafe and the French Broad Chocolate Lounge

beautiful opening flowers from Blossoms at Biltmore Park,
our neighbors down the street and fab florists

after snapping the first shots and the food, my cameral slipped into
an alternate setting, and this was the only image of work in the gallery
I could salvage - more pictures from other members to come I'm sure!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

firing fun and some results

Fred Jr., my reduction kiln god

The week has been something of a blur, but I finally found the camera again and got a few shots from the firing. Hopefully I'll get more tomorrow when I take pieces to the gallery, and with any luck by the next firing cycle I'll be able to take work to a much more qualified photographer!

So this cycle I was able to dedicate three whole days to glazing, closing the studio for Labor Day (a more aptly named 'holiday' there never was!). This was a very good thing, as it allowed me time to take breaks but still not rush through the process. Most of this load involved the 'tree' pattern that I've been working on for multiple commission clients and now for the gallery, so not only time for the brush work, but since it's wax resist, time to let the wax dry.

waxed & glazed

My friend Eric called as I was getting ready to move work over to the glaze studio and asked if he could sneak in a firing, so that gave me another excuse to take some breaks, while he was loading and then unloading. It also meant I could hop up to Fork Mountain Pottery to see the Soda Chicks show. One of their visiting artists, Robert Briscoe, gave a demonstration workshop at Hinckley Pottery in DC back when I just started my pottery classes, and it was an impression that still holds today. I use one of his bowls I purchased at that workshop almost daily, and it was a great pleasure to be able to chat with him, share 'weirdo' reminiscences and pick up another couple of pieces that will certainly have daily use (the coffee mug is already in regular service). As well, he and Suze Lindsay very generously and graciously offered up bowls for the Empty Bowls collector's corner (event on October 16, get there early if you want a shot at either of these beauties!). It was the perfect break on the last day of glazing and before the load, and made me feel like I had an itty bitty weekend of sorts for myself.

bowl by Suze Lindsay

bowl by Robert Briscoe

Back at the studio, the final glazing leg went smoothly, and in spite of borrowed plate setters and using several smaller shelves and pieces as make-shift plate setters, I still could've used more shelves. But the load was going so well, I gave myself time to breeze through the Lexington Ave Fest, quickly visiting exhibiting friends and running through the ChoLo to get a piece of awesome chocolate cake that I would save as a reward once the kiln was candled.

Got almost everything in the load, but it was a much tighter load than I prefer, and once again there were several orphaned pieces that had to get gently wrapped and stowed for the next firing.

finally loaded

Ah - finished loading and it's only midnight! The three previous nights had gone till almost 2am in glazing, so it was a real treat to finish early and it made the prospect of starting the fire at 7am seem easy as pie. But wait...just when you think it's time to break open the chocolate cake reward, one of the pilots won't stay lit without holding the button in. The button, that seems to be boring a hole into the base of my palm while I hold it for 1 minute, then 5, then 10 ... then again, and again, and again...and then suddenly, it's 2am and both hands are numb and the pilot still has no action. Fine. Out comes the handy c-clamp, because 2am after three days of 2am is no time to make a rational decision on how to get the kiln lit. At least it can candle for a few hours while I grab some rest.

c-clamp is my best friend

Which, in hindsight, brings to mind that perhaps eating a large slice of oh-so-good chocolate cake while highly agitated at 2am is not the best decision for sound sleep. I did manage to nod off and had some very odd dreams before hopping up again at 6:30.

4 hours of forced warming was not enough to lull the thermocouple into working, so now it had to be dealt with. Phone calls, internet searches for avialable vendors (remember dear readers, it's Labor Day!), attempts by resourceful neighbors to trick the thermocouple back to work, more phone calls, a visit to Roots where my theory that the universe was in turmoil was confirmed with the news of a break-in, finally over to Clingman for coffee just in time for the first crash, and by early afternoon fabulous kiln-owner Laura had scored a replacement thermocouple from Gary, who built the kiln. So 6 or 7 hours later than intended, we got the burner lit!

fire is goooooood!

Such a happy sight, and nothing left to do but clean the studio, do the turn ups, get into reduction and not fall asleep beyond regular kiln checks.

and check out the newly rebuilt kiln door,
very sporty with purple supports!

Since the kiln started and thus ended much later than the normal schedule, it was a good thing that I had a gallery meeting in the morning and then the Empty Bowls class in the early afternoon on the day of the unload. Even by 5:30pm, it was still pretty hot when we cracked it, so I took the pup for a walk and let it cool off a bit.

A few images from the load - I delivered much of the commission work before the camera was found, and much of what's left is headed to the gallery. More pictures soon of work in place, and stay tuned for more news on the gallery in a separate post (or follow the link to the right!). Now sorting for the 2nd Saturday Market and OrganicFest this weekend, and starting the next throwing cycle tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

in EWA this weekend...

The kiln is cooling, and I'll have all the exciting details of the weekend of glazing, loading and candling and candling and candling and thermocoupling and firing, but while I move the glaze supplies back into my studio and shake off the last four (five, fifty?) days of fun, here's a little plug for some most excellent fun to be had in East West Asheville this weekend:

A bit about the Market and the Garden Stroll: CLICK HERE
Find out about some of the 2nd Saturday Artist Market vendors: CLICK HERE