salt glaze

Salt Glaze Weekend

The Salt Firing weekend workshop went very well.  Four participants were here to glaze and wad pots on Saturday and then we loaded up the kiln.  It's the first firing in over a year and a half.

I lit the burners late Saturday night and got up a few times through the night to increase the gas.  By 2 pm Sunday we were ready to start salting.

We put in a total of 12 lbs of salt.  The kiln fired off without a hitch, following the same protocol as I did when I fired it on a regular basis.  It's good to know that it's still in good working order and that I haven't totally forgotten what to do. ( I do have over a decade of detailed kiln logs to help if necessary!)

Everyone agreed that they could meet up here on Friday for the unloading.  I can't wait to see what all the different pots look like.  We had stoneware and porcelain in this firing, some slipped pots, some glazed and some bare clay.  I had 20 cups go in, the rest of the load is what the workshop participants made.

It was fun for me to have folks here and to share what I know. I think they all learned a lot and were happy to have this experience.  Hopefully we'll all have some nice pots come out of the kiln later this week.  That will be the icing on the cake.


Coffee with Michael

Michael_simon_mugSunday morning coffee.

This Michael Simon cup is my favorite coffee cup.  Michael isn't making pots anymore due to health problems but in my opinion he's made some of the very best pots in America.

This cup is slighltly ovaled and the handle is terribly thin at the curve.  Michael's pots have great volume, visually and physically.  I love the fragility of the handle.  This cup has become stained on the inside from years of use in our home.  I'll probably never be able to get another cup like this but that isn't keeping me from using it on a regular basis.  I take my time when I use this pot, I feel very connected to it and to the maker.  It's a cup that is quiet, but speaks to me time and time again.

Salt glaze

I've had several people ask me why I'm not making salt glazed pots now or why I made the switch to slipware so I thought I'd talk about that a bit.

I made salt glazed pots beginning in 1994 when I built my kiln here at the pottery. Those sorts of surfaces were my first love and so it was only natural that I pursue that work. Most of my early influences made work of this sort. Those influences being Michael Simon, Ruggles and Rankin, Mary Law, Joe Bennion, Linda Christianson and Linda McFarling. Other potters I liked were, of course, Warren Mackenzie, Clary Illian, and here's the one that plays into this post.....Ron Meyers.

Everyone mentioned above is a stoneware potter except Ron M. He makes earthenware pots that are painted on and glazed or that are salt glazed. I love Ron's work almost more than anyones. He and Michael Simon worked together in Athens, Ga, and we used to go down and buy pots. (A trip to their pottery sale was mine and Sarah's first out of town date, and where we drunkenly declared our love for each other).

Anyhow, for many years I wanted to try to make pots in the spirit that Ron did. His casual style of throwing and moving clay, along with his skilled hand at decoration was certainly something that stuck with me and entered my mind when I made pots. For years I said I was going to take an 'earthenware holiday' and make some pots like that for fun.

If you know my salt glazed work you'll know it was hardly ever decorated. If so, then minimally. I never had much confidence in my brush skills or using color in any way. So thinking about decorating in any way was something that made me break out in a sweat.

Well several things came together at the end of 2007 that led me into earthenware. In no particular order they were: meeting Douglas Fitch online and being influenced by his pots, my friend Amy Sanders taking a class at Penland with Gail Kendall, my salt kiln was not performing very well and I was unhappy with the surfaces of that work, I had begun drawing again a year before and keeping a more visual daily journal, my propane bill in Nov. of 2007 was close to $900.00, it was costing $200 to fire my hard brick kiln and I wasn't happy with the pots. And all along I had this desire to do something different, to make those pots like Ron Meyer's.

So in early 2008, with help from Amy's glaze notes from Penland, I worked up a clay body, slips and glazes that I could use to make earthenware. Kari Radasch's technical page on her website was very informative too.

That's pretty much how it started. I do miss my salt work. I see it in most everyone's home we visit and of course folks ask about it. My slipware has been very well received by most of my long term customers and by new comers. I do have an order for some salt glazed dishes that I need to get fired before Christmas, so I will be getting back into stoneware for a brief time soon.

For now, I am really having fun making my slipware and exploring my drawing. I have struggles with this work, and with the direction it has taken me. In some ways I feel I have diverged from my early belief of simple pots for everyday use. I'm still working that out and so that's for another post.

I hope that answers some questions. I'm really happy making pots right now. I think breaking some of my old habits, rules, and beliefs about certain things have made me a better potter.