Friday, December 31, 2010

Other Potter's Pots - More Pots from Utah

I can't find my notes on this mug. I think it was either made by Hannah Wilde
or by Laura Patterson. Can anyone shed some light?

So why am I posting more pictures of pots? Well, this will be the first new year I have welcomed in with no intention of making pots in over twenty years. I am definitely feeling done. Breaks my heart more than I can convey.

Looking at other potter's pots this week while Renata was visiting made me realize how much time and energy I had put into collecting pots for my "teaching" collection. Sometimes the pots weren't the best from that potter, but they always offered something remarkable and teachable.

I feel terrible. I can't find any information in my notes about which student made this. Damn. Anyone remember?

I miss the sharing/teaching aspect of clay far more than the making aspect. Strangely enough, it feels like photography is allowing me to share more of my clay/art knowledge than making pots ever did. Go figure.

I wouldn't go so far as to say we have a huge collection of pots, especially not after having lived with Malcom Mobutu Smith (damn, the guy had 100x more pots than he had socks! and from every major big-to-do potter imagineable!)... but we have a fair number. I guess some of them have so many stories I am always unsure where to begin (or where to end for that matter).

This crunchy teabowl was courtesy of Joe Chesla. I used to have nightmares about this slip. It creates such a wicked surface!

Here is a link to Joe's current work as
Associate Professor, St Louis Community College Meramec, St Louis MO

This handsome little vase was made by Dotie(sp?) Layton.
I love the crystal growth in the Oribe glaze!
Fun, exciting reactions!

As I am sure is true of so many folks who've moved due to school, family, or work, I have lost touch with so many of these potters. I miss seeing what new work they're making!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More Pots From The Collection - Jason Hess

During my first year at Utah State University, Jason Hess was in his final year as a grad student. His studio was adjacent to mine, so I could count on catching him making work pretty much any time he wasn't firing, teaching or fishing. Here are a few of the pots of Jason's in my collection.

To this day, I have never seen woodfired surfaces quite like this anywhere else.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Images from Renata Wadsworth's Holiday Sale 2010

Today as I was unloading the dishwasher, I got to handle two small bowls of Renata's that Nancy and I purchased about two weeks ago at her holiday sale. It was so cool to be holding someone else's bowls! These bowls are smaller than my old bowls. Downright cute really.

One of the larger serving bowls that we purchased is just begging for us to host a dinner party. I almost want to have something quick to eat so we can gaze on the amazing decoration as we slowly work our way through the rest of the meal. Her shino surface on this wide low bowl is almost iridescent and metallic.

I originally planned to show up early to her sale on Wed (the 15th of Dec), but as life would have it, we got bogged down here at home. Luckily, Renata had planned a second day for her opening... so we arrived late in the morning on Saturday. As we pulled up to her house, there were just tons of cars parked all along the road. My original intention was to have time to set up strobes and such... no luck. So I set up as quick as I could, grabbed my second favorite lens and started shooting. My favorite lens, of course, was in my larger camera bag back at home. Duh.

I have always marveled at the copious amount of light that floods Renata's studio. After twenty years of making pots, I can safely say, I have NEVER had a view. Most of my studios had simple concrete walls for a view. Renata gets to look out on the most wonderful view! Here are a few shots from her holiday show.

Monday, December 27, 2010

More Christmas Photos

Gordon, Candace, and Aurora around the tree.

What on earth was she doing?

Sandy and Aunt Mary

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to all

Christmas is a fun time for our family. We drive an hour south to spend the day with Nancy's parents in Corning. There's a gorgeous tree, decorations everywhere, swags and holly,... and the smells of a glorious meal awaiting us. After a quick brunch we are pulled to the tree to begin the shredding of holiday wrapping paper! Opening presents is such a blast when everyone has such wildly different interests! This year we added two new guests to our family holiday: my mom came up from Florida and our friend Sabra came down from Rochester. Together we filled the Van Wormer house with mayhem for Christmas day!

There is nothing as much fun as being in the same room with Sabra and Aurora. Add to that, the holiday fun of gift giving, great food and the whole family experience... and it just makes Christmas ROCK!

Nancy's dad, Gordon

My mom and Aurora sitting behind the Christmas tree.

Sandy and Aunt Mary reveling in Christmas morning.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fellow Potter from Utah State - Mark Lambert

Mark Lambert was a fellow student while I was at Utah State. One of my earliest experiences upon arriving at USU, was preparing wood for the woodkiln. Mark and I fired the catenary arched kiln a few times together, each taking shifts through the firing. Later we would toss pots into eachother's firings...whether they be salt kilns, wood kilns or just reduction firings.

Mark's work has always struck me as being made for wood firing. His throwing style lent/lends itself to the atmospheric conditions of the wood kiln. He's always made soft pots with kind shoulders and open spaces to let the flame and ash play across the surfaces. It was always fun to see how different our pots were when coming out of the same firing. Definitely makes me miss firing with wood!

Current work posted on his faculty website.

Another potter from USU - Wil Shynkaruk

Wil Shynkaruk, ca.1997©, woodfired, reduction cooled, cone 10

Wil was the technician during my first two (or three) years at USU. He was actively involved in the wood and salt firing community both locally and nationally. His work was all about how the atmospheric firing conditions could affect the finished surface of his utilitarian forms. Very fun surfaces for sure!

Wil Shynkaruk, ca.1996©, salt-fired, cone 10
From Wil's flickr page:

Wil Shynkaruk

Artist Statement

In today's commercialized, mechanized, specialized, computerized homogenized, society, the act of producing handmade pottery is one of social commentary. Mass produced commercial dinnerware and kitchenware are economical and readily available to fulfill our daily functional needs. In this light, creating individual ceramic vessels by hand is inefficient and even archaic. Indeed, any business person will tell you that there are easier ways to make a living.

The creation of handmade pottery resists the ceaseless homogenization of our society. There are very few objects in contemporary society that are produced by a single person beginning with their own design and taking raw materials through an entire process resulting in a final product. This kind of act of creation resonates powerfully in our collective history and psyche, but is becoming less and less common in today's world.

As such, the creation of unique handmade pottery questions the direction our society is moving. It asks questions about what our society is leaving behind as we hastily press relentlessly towards "progress". What are we losing when we consume industrial goods? What are we losing when fewer and fewer of us have the capacity to create a finished product from raw, materials? What are we losing when regional styles and differences vanish? And are we even aware of such loses?

Issues of individualism, sense of place, the creative spirit, and the role of dishes in social and family rituals are all brought into question. Indeed, the act of producing unique handmade pottery is a far more political act than it initially appears to most.

Professor Shynkaruk Began his artistic journey in his native country of Canada, where he was born and raised. After coming to the United States to pursue graduate degrees at the University of Iowa, he remained in the USA, where he has made his home for the past 20 years. Professor Shynkaruk has shown his work across the USA and internationally in over 80 professional exhibitions. He continues to actively explore the importance of the concept of beauty and the value of handwork to society and the human psyche. Professor Shynkaruk has taught at MSUM since 1998 as a Professor of Ceramics and is currently serving as Department Chair.

Looking for bio info on Wil, here's what I came across in his current position at Minnesota State:
Professor Wil Shynkaruk began his artistic journey in his native country of Canada, where he was born and raised. After coming to the United States to pursue graduate degrees at the University of Iowa, he remained in the USA, where he has made his home for the past 20 years.

Professor Shynkaruk has shown his work across the USA and internationally in over 80 professional exhibitions. He continues to actively explore the importance of the concept of beauty and the value of handwork to society and the human psyche.

He has taught at MSUM since 1998 as a Professor of Ceramics and is currently serving as Department Chair.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Came Early - new Nikon SB-700 Speedlight

Yessir, Santa said I was a good boy this year. Today the UPS man showed up in his sleigh and handed me a cute little box from B&H Photo... filled with my spiffy new Nikon SB-700 speedlight. As fate would have it, I had just finished charging up two sets of rechargeable batteries. This afternoon and evening, between dinner prep, dinner and the evening movie, I have managed to give this little flash a quick once over. Off camera it is 100x easier to work with than any flash from Nikon I have ever used. (Then again, my experience prior to this speedlight is limited to the SB-600 which is downright paleolithic compared to this modern beastie!)

I will save my full review for a few more days till I have had a chance to really put this flash through its paces. For now, I think it is safe to say, I WANT MORE of them! I can see having at least three more of these in my kit bag. If you want one of these flashes, I would plan on ordering them soon because they seem to keep running out of them and backorders take a little while to fill. Ken Rockwell seems to think very little of this flash... all more's the pity. I love it. Then again, I love playing with light, in just about any form! Thankfully, I don't buy stuff based solely on Ken's reviews of stuff. Now we'll have to see how this flash holds up over time. Tomorrow we take it outside to see how it compares against my older flashes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lost and Found (Utah State University pots)

I picked this oval pot up at one of the student sales while I was at Utah State. I think it was made by Todd Burns, but I am not totally sure. It is unsigned and there's no chop mark to be found. Anyone confirm one way other another?

This small bowl was also picked up during one of our guild sales. I am pretty sure it is a Jason Hess bowl... but again, no marks, no signature, but the woodfired surface screams Jason. Anyone confirm or deny? Jason?

So why are these pots on my mind tonight?

This weekend I had a chance to visit with one of the best potters in the area: Renata Wadsworth. She was having her holiday open studio sale. I figured it would be a perfect opportunity to capture the images we always fail to have: People shopping and picking up pots. I figured I would get there a little early, set up a light or two and stay for the first handful of folks that came through the door. As luck would have it, we didn't make it out the door early. By the time we arrived the roadside was doubling as the parking lot and Renata's studio was packed. With Nancy's help, I got set up pretty quick and shot for a very short while. Captured some really nice images, and then put the camera down.

Why? Because it was time to go shopping!

As much as I always enjoyed making pots, it tended to leave me too broke to BUY pots. I love picking out potter's best works and then either making them part of my family or passing them on as gifts to friends. Pottery is just the perfect gift.

Fifteen years ago, while I was first starting out at Utah State, the holiday ceramic guild show was a HUGE deal. We would cover at least a dozen tables with pots stacked pell mell. Pricing stickers were often masking tape and pencil. And through all that disorganization and melee, we managed to rake in tons of cash for the guild and more than a fair amount for all of us students.

My first time at the guild show, I wasn't convinced anything I had made would sell. I just couldn't imagine folks showing up to the student center building and buying pots. Staff and faculty knew better. The ones in the know were there bright and early as we set up and picked out the best of the best. After that first sale, I started doing much the same. If I had seen pots someone was making that caught my eye, I would do my best to pick them up at the beginning of the sale since I knew they'd be gone by the close of the sale.

In that way, I came to build a rather healthy collection of pots from so many of the students I knew at Utah State. I wish I had been better about keeping track of who made what. In some cases, it is completely obvious... either stylistically or because it is signed/marked with a chop. In other instances, the pots might have been more experimental... one of a kind... and those are the real gems.

As I get a chance to shoot more of my collection, I will try to post more of the images here. If anyone knows who made these two (for certain)... please let me know so I can attribute them appropriately.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holy Cow

Back in 2000 and 2001, I had two laminectomies. Both of my surgeries involved removing bits of offending disk material and bone from around the irritated nerve root. Sounds terrible, right? Well, after the first disk blew, I was out of work for almost 4 months (before and after surgery). The second surgery had a slightly shorter stay at home. Oddly enough, both surgeries occurred within a year of each other.

During the time that I was homebound, I did everything I could to not go out of my mind. Stir-craziness seemed to be always lingering around the doorway. At this point I could probably blame it all on the narcotics they had me dosed with. At the time, I figured if I wasn't sitting at my desk at work, the least I could be doing was learning something while I was at home.

To that end, I began teaching myself Photoshop. There have always been things I have wanted to be able to do in Photoshop... things like layers, masking, transparency, fun stuff with text... the list goes on and on. So I began reading every book I could find, then following along with online tutorials every chance I could get. From then until now, that learning experience hasn't slowed one iota. Each day I read about some aspect of this software I had never explored.

At some point, about five years ago, I stopped playing and experimenting in Photoshop. I had more "photography" related things to worry about. Plateaued, you might say. I knew enough to be able to do what needed doing... but time in the studio was too precious to waste sitting in front of the computer playing with ideas that might not produce an immediate monetary reward.

So I closed my books and turned off my tutorials, assuming that I would get back to them within a few weeks... months... and now it has been years.

Fast forward to this past week.
My diet has changed pretty radically over the past seven days. My goal is to smack my pancreas into doing what it is supposed to be doing [We'll dig into this idea later]. As my consumption of food has taken a new path, my thoughts have gone down a different route too. The past year has seen me lethargic in ways I have never experienced... but in the past week that has been replaced by an intense level of energy. In addition, my sleep has been filled with imagery from years past.

This evening I closed my eyes momentarily, and my brain flashed back to a book I was reading about five years ago. In the book of tutorials was a section on using layer masks to create text with texture. I never got around to finishing the tutorial. I am not even sure I ever finished reading the how-to portion. Somehow tonight, it all made sense. Just completely fell into place and worked. Makes me excited to see what else has been locked up in this stagnant noggin of mine!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Julie Crosby's Amazing Wood Fired Pots

Two mugs by Julie Crosby, ©2009

When I picked these two mugs up at the Trumansburg Mother's Day Sale back in 2009, I couldn't put them down. Like any potter, I immediately felt the mugs for heft, for how the handles felt in my hand, for how the lip fit against my own.... and damned if I didn't have to take them home.

I have wanted a chance to capture the two mugs side by side in an image but other priorities have pushed that back over and over. This week I finally managed to pull together these two images. I love the subtleness of the white glaze against the warm clay showing beneath at the foot. Just enough reaction to the flame to melt the glaze more in some areas, less in others. I think this is a classic example where the best possible glaze for these mugs was the one they were given. Sweet, subtle and sublime. Thank you Julie! These mugs make my day, every day.