Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Post-Colombian Pots

Evangelina is originally from El Salvador which means that usually once a year we get to travel down there and enjoy the beaches and the hospitality of her extended family...and just about the entire nation as well.  It's definitely a place I probably never would have visited if it wasn't for meeting....and marrying Evangelina.  

On one of our trips, about 5 years ago, we took a trip over to the Mayan ruins at Copan in Honduras.  It was a great trip of which a good deal of it was on the back of my father-in-law's motorcycle.  It was actually on that trip on some switchback somewhere in Guatemala that I decided it was time to take a MSF course and get my motorcycle license.  When I took the course and mentioned the trip on a motorcycle throughout Central America the teacher looked at me and said, "Aren't you a little big to be riding on the back of the bike?"  Needless to time down to El Salvador I had my license and we did most of the traveling was on own motorcyle, borrowed from Evangelina's Tio Benjamin.  It felt a little more natural...and slightly less humiliating than holding onto my father-in-law during the ascent up mountains in Guatemala.

Wow...lots of tangental thinking going on tonight...I guess I'm tired.

On that trip to Copan in the little museum shop at the ruins they had a collection of pottery from a variety of villages.  Some were replicas of Mayan pottery but this one caught the eye of both Evangelina and myself.  We brought this and one other pot home with us.  I'm not sure where in Honduras it was made.  If anyone has any clues do let me know.  I love the mix of traditional methods and the sort of contemporary yet incredibly ageless designs on it.  

I have never actually mimicked the design of one of my pieces.  I've definitely referenced it in my ranks right up there with Mimbres pots as far as geometric design motifs that stick in my head.  I finally decided to try it out on one of my wobbly vases using the wax/slip/sponge technique that I used with my earthenware.  It will probably find it's way onto one of my large platters once they're trimmed.

Alright...have a look below.  I'm off to cover some pots and then to bed so I'll stop rambling.  

more pots in progress

I got some good work done today even though it reached 85º inside my studio without any sort of breeze.  Maybe I'll figure some sort of A/C thing out next year.  It's almost August now so too late to think of any solution.  I'll just try to get more work done in the morning and not bake in the studio in the afternoon.  I did sneak a nap inside the house with the A/C around 3pm and that was perfect.  

Here are a few pitchers that I just finished up.  I made them with a technique that I haven't used in a while.  It came to my studio via Michael McCarthy...I'm not sure if he still makes his pitchers this way...maybe just his larger ones.  Regardless, I like the control you get with it.  It works especially well for larger forms.  These are a decent sized pitchers.  It's been so long since I made these pitcher forms that I found myself humming the Wilco song, "Someone Else's Song" during most of the day.  But...I made they're mine.  As a side note, Wilco was I think the last true and great show that I have gone to see.  It's so long ago that it's embarassing.  It's time to see a good show again...I guess that will happen when we move to Austin.  If it doesn't there then it's time to shrivel up and accept the fact that I'm getting old.

Back to pottery....I made them in two sections.  In the heat of mid-day I made the bases, which were about 3 pounds of clay.  They stiffened up until about an hour ago at which point I threw the top section and made the spout.  I'll tweak the spouts in the morning and perhaps they'll get their handles tomorrow as well.  It's more than likely that the pitchers will enjoy some time under the plastic while I avoid the handles and make more pots and run out of shelving space and table space.  That's when I'll realize that it's time to get some handles on and get them out to the kiln shed.  Bad habits are hard to break.

I have a couple of larger pitcher bases under plastic now.  I'll take some pics tomorrow a clearer how to post if anyone is don't have a choice.  I'll post a how-to tomorrow.

Here are 3 of the urns that I made that I talked about earlier.  I trimmed through the bottom of one of's been a long time since I've trimmed vertical forms.  I did want these pots to have a more refined foot and a more classical feel.  I think they worked out well. 

Well....more pots later.  Off to cool down and give the pitchers a little time to set up before they get their plastic.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I haven't made decent sized platters in quite some time.  The biggest of these is about 18 inches in diameter.  But, I just made them and I know I'll be disappointed when they come out of the kiln and look like dinner plates in comparison to their size now.  

I am excited about these though.  I finally tried the "quarter trick" and I definitely liked how it worked.  It's very similar to how I used to make my 25# platters but visualizing the foot beforehand played a role in how I threw the piece.

I had to take the torch to them during throwing to make sure that they didn't collapse.  I am not too proud to do what needs to be done to get a piece made.  I'm well past the desire to impress people with how much I can throw at one time.  Even my largest pieces now are made slowly with however many sections or thrown coils it's going to take.  I'm not that old...yet....but my body is showing the signs of age.  One semi-bummed shoulder that still bothers me from the separated a/c joint and one hernia surgery is enough to let me know to work slowly on the big pieces.  

I'm finding that it's really difficult to get a rhythm to studio time in the summer.  Between all of the distractions and running the gallery the days just don't seem to be lining up correctly to get a good flow of work going.  Today has been good.  I've gotten a couple other wobbly vases made along with those platters.  But, tomorrow is family day with the store closed so if I get in the studio at all it won't be until late to do a little trimming.  I'll probably catch up a little bit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but it won't be steady between the gallery and other duties.  

I have a fairly good schedule for the fall with CraftBoston Holiday in November and a "Home" show in NY during Thanksgiving weekend so at this point I'm looking at getting some pots ready for those now.  I also may apply to a couple of other shows for early winter so I probably have to work on that tomorrow because deadlines are approaching.

The platters I made today are with the B-Mix but I think the next round might be a little bigger made out of my stoneware body.  We'll see how my body reacts to the larger platter.  I think I have one box left of the B-Mix so I'll probably finish throwing some pots with that shortly and then Wednesday move on to the larger platters.  

There could be a reduction firing within a couple of weeks depending on how quickly I can get some work made and a few more glazes mixed up.  I found an old glaze recipe book of mine from college and my time at the Clay Art Center so I may mix up the light-blue celadon to try on a few of the pieces.  I think the line work I did on the earthenware could look nice below a nice celadon glaze.  We'll see.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Semi-Productive Day

It was pouring this morning but it's beautiful outside right now.  I had planned on playing a little tennis this morning....yet another studio delay tactic of mine.  However, with the rain I really had no excuse.  Brian didn't ask to shoot more images and I had broken down the photo equipment yesterday.  So, as soon as Evangelina got the kids out the door and off to camp I went right into the studio and started work.  Well, I started cleaning and scraping off my bats that were still caked in earthenware.  Then I started working.

A couple of weeks ago a woman came into the shop asking if I would make her an urn for her mother's ashes.  It is not something that I have done very often but it is always humbling when someone asks.  I'm not sure that humbling is the right word.  I think every functional potter wants their pots to be admired and used when they leave our studios.  Knowing that my "jar" is going to be doing more than sitting on a kitchen counter holding flour or sugar is an honor.  I guess it is too easy to sound trite when writing about this but it is nice that someone thinks of your work for something this important.  So, that's what I started working on this morning.  We had discussed a general idea of shape and glaze so I made a few so we have some options after the firing.  

I also made a few of the wobbly vases in white stoneware that I had done in my last earthenware firing.  It will be nice to see if the -cliche warning- "freshness" that these forms had in the earthenware will work in high-fire.

I also made one good sized bowl.  It's probably about 12-14 pounds of clay.  I've never been good at utilizing the clay well when making this forms.  I always feel like I waste a ton of clay.  I may try Emily's "quarter trick" next time and see how that works.  
I'll work with the white stoneware again tomorrow but then I'll probably switch to some of my regular stoneware.  The regular stuff was a little stiff last throwing session so yesterday I poked a ton of broomstick holes in the clay, poured some water down and closed each bag up.  I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll be able to wedge some of that up into some softer, more workable clay.  I'd like to make some big platters with the stoneware if I can get it soft enough.  Even throwing mugs and small bowls with the clay last time was a chore it was so stiff.   

When I get to Austin I'm going to dedicate some studio space and outdoor space to clay prep so that I can start mixing my own clay again.  I haven't since college and I've always missed the ability to control that aspect of the process.  I may use the blunger and drying racks method down there.  We'll see what kind of space I end up with.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Music Night

I did something!!! 

Sort of.

I hosted music night at the shop. Paul Nossiter and his Original Dissonance Jazz Band played out front. And...I took some pics. I guess I did two things. 

Maybe tomorrow will be a productive day.

Why even make a schedule at this point....

I thought today was going to be the day.  

Actually, I had planned to get some work done on Sunday.  Our out-of-town guests were still here but Evangelina had planned a kid-friendly adventure out to Fort Hill so I figured that I would get a little organizing and clay prep done in the studio so that I could work on Monday.  

Instead, my stomach and the rest of my body kept me in bed on Sunday....all of Sunday.  I think I got out of bed for about an hour around 7pm.  Then right back to bed.  Monday turned out to be better but still a very slow recovery day.  I'm not sure if it was food-poisoning or a stomach bug.  I'm going to go with a stomach bug since I had done the cooking during the weekend.  

Tuesday is the one day a week that the shop is closed and the kids are home from camp.  Since we're usually too busy to have a true weekend with them this is the one chance we have to have a family day.  We did and it was good....basically spent shuffling everyone around to tennis clinics and hanging out for a mellow day around the house.  

And now it's Wednesday.  Today was going to be my day in the studio.  But, my friend Brian called last night asking if he could photograph a scarf that Randy made that they needed for the Evanston show and since I still had the lights setup we shot some pictures this morning.  I was able to get the wheels cleaned up and made some space around the throwing areas so that I could get some work done this week.  Tonight I am really, truly, definitely, probably going to finally take down the photo setup so that I can make some pots tomorrow.  

I'll blame Brian for not being able to get anything done today.  I don't think he knows how to leave a comment so he can't let anyone know that he was only here for 45 minutes and we finished up photographing around 10:30.  And, if he does leave a comment....I can almost guarantee that it is not language typically used on this blog so I'll have to edit it out anyways. So, I guess I really don't have an excuse.  

I know it's been a while since I have written anything here.  It's been longer since I've been in the studio.  I'm eager to get back in there.  I think I'm going to start with some stoneware.....I think I said that about a week and a half ago.  I want to make some good size platters for the reduction kiln.  I've got a little more work to cycle through so I guess if I write it here it will happen, right?  I think I have had about 3 posts saying that I'll make some pots tomorrow. Maybe my theory isn't working.....

It's Music Night tonight again....if the weather holds.  If I think of it I'll take some pictures of the flurry of activity in town at night.  It's a long day but worth it to see everyone enjoying all of the music and strolling through a town that typically shuts down by 7pm.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Way Behind Schedule

I still haven't photographed the bags.  They got here yesterday but the shop was closed and the kids were home from camp so I spent the day taking them to tennis class, lunch and swimming....then back for some more tennis...then finally some thai food takeout and off to bed.  

Today I'm going to shoot the images of the bags and with Evangelina's help it will hopefully go pretty quickly.  Then maybe I'll be able to break down the setup and get my studio back.  

We have some friends from Houston coming in today through Monday so I'm not sure how much work I'll get done while everyone is here.  If I do finally make anything I'll get something posted.  Until then, it will probably be slow posting.  Maybe, I'll do a little "influences" post later today like Kristen has been doing.

I'll update this post once I get the Recycled Sailbags up on the website.  It's a nice batch this time.  Some nice color and some cool designs on a few...including another "pirate" bag.  We just sold out of our last bag over the weekend so it's good timing to get this delivery.

Sail Bags are in the gallery and online at our Website.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Time to start blogging...and making pots again.

I forgot how hard it is to get into the studio in the summer.  There are two rules to Kreeger Pottery in the summer.  First, whatever time I make lunch is when the gallery is busiest.  If I make lunch at 11am the door buzzer goes off at 11:02 and then it stays busy for about an hour.  If I have a late lunch around 2 I'm busy in the shop from 2:03 until 3 or so.  

Rule number 2 is, as soon as the 2nd or 3rd piece in a series is on the wheel...usually around the middle of my second pull, someone comes in.  It's been a slow morning here in the shop but I've been running around doing errands and dropping kids off at camp.  I'm going to try to get into the studio shortly and get some stuff made.   

I still have the photo setup on the table from last week.  We're waiting for our order of Recycled Sail Bags to get here and I was going to try to wait and photograph them before breaking it down.  But, I think I need my table back so I can fill it with pots.  Which means, following the Kreeger Pottery rules, that as soon as I break it down and make my second pot the package will arrive.  I think it's time to find somewhere for a permanent photo setup somewhere.  I seem to be constantly shooting work to get it up on the webstore.  

Well, I think today is back to high-fire for a week or so once I clean up in there.  I want to see if some of the slipwork I did with the earthenware will translate to the reduction kiln.  Maybe one day soon I'll be a fully integrated operation here between salt/wood/soda/gas-reduction/electric-fired earthenware/gas-fired earthenware/etc...  

Doesn't sound likely.  I am the type of potter who continuously makes things harder for myself.  As soon as I figure out the solution to my latest problem I seem to create another step in the process.  

If I get some pots made today I'll update the blog....if not....hopefully something starts happening in the studio soon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Educational Blog Post. Must Read!

I feel like I haven't done enough educational or "how to" blogging on the site yet.  

Here's a start:
5 Gallon Buckets of slip should never...let me repeat, never be used as a step stool.  Just please, take that extra second and locate your actual step stool.

Here is the result if you do not heed my advice:  

The crocs should be fine with a run through the dishwasher.  And, I think I have finally proven that not everything looks it's finest having been freshly slipped.  

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Blogging leads to Earthenware?

I first used a potter's wheel in high-school.  I never took the class too seriously, but I enjoyed it. The summer after my sophomore year at Skidmore College I took a ceramics class.  That summer I got the bug that any professional and many aspiring potters get when they touch clay. I spent about 12 hours a day in the studio.  I even dropped the anthropology class that I was going to take over the summer so that I could use those 3 hours a day for clay instead.  

Since that summer in college I have worked in high-fire stoneware and porcelain clays.  In college it was strictly reduction firings.  Once I opened my own studio I began with a reduction kiln. During the first couple of years here I used any opportunity I could find to get my work in wood-fired kilns.  I would drive just about anywhere that had space in the kiln and wood for me to help throw inside of it.  

I drove to Chris Gustin's brand new, at the time, Anagama kiln....about an 1 hour away.  I drove to Dan Anderson's kiln more often....about 17 hours away in Edwardsville, IL.  I sometimes ended up out there a couple of times a year.  Once my friend Michael McCarthy became Mark Shapiro's apprentice I would travel out to Stonepool often to fire with them in Mark's large 2 chambered wood-kiln.  As I have said earlier on this blog, Mark has been a great help to me both with encouragement, friendship, and the use of his kilns.  

All of this traveling for pots was centered around one thing...high-fired pots.  This past winter I was out in Western Massachusetts firing yet another kiln at Stonepool.  Michael McCarthy mentioned to me that Michael Kline had a blog about pots and that I should take a look at it.  I have long been a reader of blogs.  Until that time it had strictly been following politics....well, I may check out perez hilton every once in a while....guilty pleasure.  More on that another time. 

Anyways, reading Michael's blog opened my eyes to this great resource out on the internets.  I ended up adding a blog to my website update.  Which has all led to this....earthenware.  Yeah, I'm not quite sure either.

I had never wanted to try earthenware before.  Well, I had once bought 2 boxes of it and I made some unglazed planters for the house.  Other than that, I was a high-fire snob and could have cared less about the dirty red stuff.  I guess I never even learned to spell it correctly.  But after cruising around pottery blogland I became a little intrigued about the stuff.  Hey, this guy Ron was doing some cool stuff with it and he also fired a salt-kiln.  Wow....look at what this guy Doug does!  If only there was somewhere to get some technical info about it all?  I had piles of recipes of low-fire glazes but I wouldn't know where to start.  Ron, thanks for pointing me to Kari's site.  Kari, thanks for putting all of that info out there.  

So, in the past three weeks I went from not knowing a thing about low-fire glazes to unloading about 50 pots out of my electric kiln that I am really happy with and really excited about trying again.  None of it would have happened if it hadn't been for this community of blogging potters. 

The need for community that potters have was apparent to me the first summer at Skidmore. The pottery studio had a vibe all it's own within the arts building.  It's definitely part of the reason that I head off Cape to go fire at Stonepool.  The idea of community is pretty evident in Michael's latest pictures from Penland.  The ability to stay involved with the lives of potters is what I have enjoyed so much about blogging myself and reading others' blogs.  There is something incredibly satisfying about finding great work online and being able to point your readers in that direction.  So, thanks to all who have been reading my blog.  Thanks to all who post what they're doing, how they're doing it and why.  It's nice to see that we are all continually experimenting adding what we don't know how to do to what we have already figured out.  

And, I think I actually like this dirty red clay stuff.  I have a few ideas for next time.  I feel like the decorative options relate fairly closely to what I had been doing with my salt and wood-fired ware.  I'm excited to track this next cycle of work on the blog and see what I can figure out next.  I got just about all of the new earthenware pots up on my

Thanks again everybody.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Pots

So, here are a few pots from the latest firing. It also happens to be my first ever earthenware firing. 12 years into being a full time professional potter I finally ventured outside of the comfort of high fire glazes. More on that later.  After a late dinner with friends and family I don't have much left in me.  

In the meantime here are a few images. I already have most of my mugs up on the website with multiple images. Check it out here after you scroll down to see the images on the blog.  My apologies Sara, no teapots this firing.  Abigail, look....there's some color if you look closely.

Check out more mugs over at our website.  I'll get the rest of the pots up on the webstore over the weekend.  

Have a good Fourth of July.

Still Hot

I just peeked inside the electric kiln.  I've been having more post-firing anxiety than normal.  I mean, it is my first earthenware firing and all.  The kiln is still at about 600º but I couldn't resist taking a quick look.  I tried just looking through the little spy holes but I couldn't really see and what I could see looked pretty dry.  So, I had to crack the lid for a second.  And I'm relieved....things looked okay. 

I'll probably unload after lunch and get some quick pics up on the blog.

There's a lot of pressure around the blogosphere.  Michael's latest firing had some great pots come out and Emily  had a nice looking soda-firing out in Chicago.  They both have some nice before/after pictures of the kiln.  I keep meaning to take some before/after pics but never seem to get around to it.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tomorrow is Glaze Day

The bisque is cooling and I just mixed up a few low-fire glazes.  Guess what.....?  I forgot to get copper with my last order.  I'm hoping that my friend Dave is around tomorrow so I can go grab some for a green glaze.  Smart....I know.  I should probably just order some copper soon.  I'm going to be ordering some clay in the next week or two...can somebody please remind my to do a little glaze material inventory before I put that order in?

Today was basically a family day.  I got to spend some time on the beach with Javi playing wiffle-ball and frisbee while the girls took a nap.  They came down to the beach later and we all played and swam a little bit.  It was a pizza picnic dinner when we got home.  The last of the pulled pork went to Randy and Brian who missed out on the initial dinner.

Well, tomorrow it will be time to unload the bisque, wax some pots, screen some glazes and hopefully get everything glazed up and right back into the electric kiln for my first ever low-fire glaze load.   

I'll try to get some pictures up as the work progresses tomorrow.  If you haven't already, check out the results from Michael Kline's latest wonderful firing.