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Pottery Blog

August 1, 2018

I am back from almost three weeks in France visiting my wife's relatives. We (my wife, three kids, and myself) stayed in Meudon with her cousins just outside of Paris (near Rodin's studio and museum). I started each day with fresh baguettes and lattes, as you can see below I also travel with a handmade mug---gives a new definition to a travel mug. Our days were spent visiting the museums of Paris (D'Orsay, Picasso, and Louvre) as well as both above (Notre Dame) and below (Catacombs) ground attractions. At the Louvre I found myself facinated by the statues' belly buttons. As many of you know, in recent years, my tumblers and various beer vessels have sported a "belly button." I think it fits the thumbe well and I also like the way it looks. Below I share some of my Louvre pictures (the belly button on the left is Venus') as well as two tumblers that will be at the Brew Vessels Invitational at the Lorton Workhouse Art Center. The Invitational is a pottery exhibit with 16 artists from across the country that coincides with the Brewfest at Lorton. This year the Brewfest will have over 30 different craft breweries and distilleries. The event is from 1-8 pm on Sunday, August 4th, and there will be live music and art; and your ticket gives you a chance to sample all of the different breweries' creations (for details see http://workhousebrewfest.org) The Invitational exhibit is in the Ceramics building (W-8) and it is up through August 1st through the 31st.

One of the highlights of the trip, was when I borrowed my cousin's car and drove 2 1/2 hours south of Paris to the village of La Borne. Since the late 1200s potters have lived and worked in the village producing crocks and jugs and firing them with wood for distribution throughout France. The old kilns were funnel shaped without a chimney, very inefficient with temperatures varying almost a 1,000 degrees across the kiln. There is still one traditional kiln in the village (see below, along with an example of the traditional crocks--these were fired without shelves stacked on top of each other with only wadding between the pots). The original production pottery with the traditional kilns has long ceased, but as it died out during the middle of last century, new artists/craftmen potters moved to the community. It is now the center of wood-fired pottery in France, and arguably Europe. There are 24 potters in the village with another 34 in the immediate area. Almost all of them fire with wood. I had a great day visiting the different potters, seeing their studios and kilns, as well as visiting the pottery museum in the town (it is in a converted church) and the ceramic center (which has a bookstore, gallery, and an exhibition space). Behind the cermaic center is a community anagama kiln that is available for rental. When I was there, a group of potters were just finishing off the last day of a week-long firing. In the pictures below you can see the 'firing crew' enjoying cheese and wine--very nice tradition.

I am now back in the states, preparing for upcoming shows. In addition to the Brew Vessel Invitational, I will again be at the Arlington County Fair August 17th through 19th. This will be my third year at the venue. Outside are are the rides and food that one associates with a county fair, inside (where there is air conditioning) are a variety of artists and different vendors. I will also be at Washington Grove at the end of September and Art on the Avenue the first Saturday in October (you can always find my schedule of shows and exhibits on the home page of this website). However, the event that is, and has been for the last couple of months, been taking most of my attention is the September show at Del Ray Artisans, "Eat Drink and Be Merry." I am curating the show, and like the "Fire and Earth" show I curated two years ago, it combines a national ceramic show with a regional art exhibit. The title is from Ecclesiastes where it is written that “there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry.” This exhibit celebrates the way that food and drink brings people together and joy to our lives.  Lisa York, potter who taught at Hood College and recently moved to Galena, IL (see www.lisayorkarts.com), is the juror. The opening reception is Friday, September 7th from 7-9 pm; and on September 8th, Lisa will be conducting a workshop at The Clay Queen on Mt. Vernon Avenue ("Bowls and Plates with Nice Curves"; 10am-4pm; see delrayartisans.org for registration). Entries are still coming in, but already potters from seven states have applied. Four local Del Ray business (Junction Bakery and Bistro, Let's Meat on the Avenue, Artifacts, Inc., and St. Elmo's Coffee Pub) sponsored cash prizes for the show. It should be an exciting show and if you cannot make the opening, I hope you will be able to see it while it is up for the month of September. Below is the postcard for the show. A little parental bragging, my son Sam took the photograph (ceck out his instamgram page at Offaperry). The pots in the photograph are mine, and they will be at the show.

April 4, 2018

Last week I was in Vermont surrounded by a foot and a half of snow, now I'm in Alexandria with cherry blossoms and daffadils. Both locations represent exciting new changes for me. In Vermont I was staying at the house that has been in my wife's family since the 1940s. The place is called Touchwood, referring to both how wood from the land was used to fix up the old farmhouse as well as a reference to the the term for future good luck. My wife's grandparents bought the farm so their daughters would have a place away from the city during the summers. Later my wife, her sibs, and cousins spent their summers there enjoying the meadow and the surrounding woods. The original house burned down, but like the phoenix a modern duplicate (one with insulation and modern heating) was built on the original site. My children have spent portions of their summers at the house enjoying the Vermont landscape. And now it looks likely my wife and I will be buying the house and some of the surrounding land. I am excited about the opportunity to build a second studio (I'll still have my original studio in Alexandria) in the old garage (the only building surviving from the original farm) and to build a kiln next door. I've included a picture of what I anticipate will be the future home of Touchwood Pottery. I think the original name fits for pots that are both touched by wood and a firing process that can sometimes need a bit of luck. I'll provide updates on this blog about the progress of the studio and kiln.

My pots will be at the Scope Gallery, at the Torpedo Factory, in April; and I will also be at the Carlyle House's annual Herb and Craft show (on April 21st). But the big event for the spring is the first Spring Studio Show and Sale on Sunday, May 6th. For the last four years, I've cleared out the ground floor of my house in Del Ray and hosted a holiday show and sale with other artists. This year, I will be hosting a spring show and sale with seven other artists. It will be from 12-6 pm. Frug's Room will also return, a place where you can find both seconds and 'last year's models.' Of course there will be refreshments and good conversation. In addition to the artists listed on the postcard, Michelle Donahue of Bootleg Biscuits returns from December's sale. She will have healthy canine treats upcycled from the spent grain of breweries (see http://bootlegbiscuits.com).  I hope you all are able to attend (see the postcard below). As a special treat, the mug on the bagwall below will be given away at the sale (a lottery ticket with every purchase from any of the exhibiting artists), with the cup, I'll include a picture of it surrounded by the flames.

January 30, 2018

This Friday (February 2nd), at 7 p.m., is the opening of ART Squared at Del Ray Artisans Gallery (2704 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA 22301). I have no pots in the show, but my son, Sam, has two pictures. It is his first juried show. The show explores the synergy of art and the STEM sciences. It is a perfect fit for Sam who is studying engineering at Virginia Tech, but recently was also accepted in the school of art at the university. For the past year, he has maintained an instagram account (offaperry) where he posted every day a new graphic design creation or photograph. Two of his creations are in the show (see Fractured Fox below as well as the show's postcard). Needless to say I'm a proud dad.

 

Also, in a little over two weeks is the 24th Annual SOUPer Saturday (February 17, 2018; 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.).  This event is held at the Torpedo Factory to benefit United Community Ministries (UCM). This event is a collaboration of ceramic artists at the Torpedo Factory, and members of both the Kiln Club and the Ceramic Guild. UCM is a community-based, non-profit organization that offers comprehensive programs and services to the most vulnerable children, youth, and families in Alexandria, Virginia (see ucmagency.org for details of their programs). Hundreds of individuals attended last year’s event, and the event raised over $3,500. I am co-chairing the event with Susan Greenleaf. It is a fun event where you can pick up a great ceramic piece and you get a coupon for some of Chart House's famous clam chowder. I hope you will be able to attend.

Finally, I'll have a variety of wood fired pots at the Scope Gallery in February. I'll be in the gallery on the 21st and 23rd. If you buy a pot at the gallery during the first 2 weeks of February (either mine or any of the other artists) you will receive a raffle ticket. On February 18th (the Art League's Patron Show), there will be a drawing for one of my tea sets (teapot and 2 teacups). 

November 17, 2017

Just unloaded the kiln at Chester Springs, PA, yesterday. Even though the firng was on Saturday and Sunday, the kiln was still warm on Thursday. It was very cold on the weekend (or at least outside the kiln it was cold), but the firing went well. See the pictures of the kiln and inside the kiln (you can see a couple of teapots, and if you look closely you will see the cones with which the temperature is measured--cone 5 is still up in the picture so the temperature is around 2,167 F). It was like an early Christmas present during the unloading. I had a number of the large pots from the summer workshop (see the picture below of the pitchers from inside the kiln), and the overall firing was stellar. As I noted in my last post, I also was experimenting with a number of Starworks clays from North Carolina. I used four of their bodies, including one of their "wild" clays that are sourced from local clay deposits. The "wild" clay was East Fork Red, the clay turned a dark purple in the wood kiln with subtle variations in color depending on the flame and ash.

 

I'll have some of these 'wild' pots at my December events. Specifically, I'll be at the James Renwick Day show in Maryland on the 2nd and Del Ray Artisans Holiday Market on the second weekend (Dec 8-10). Of course the big event is my home/studio sale. This year I have 7 artists at my house displaying their work. It is from 12-6 pm on Sunday. Frug's Room will also return, a place where you can find both seconds and 'last year's models.' Of course there will be refreshments and good conversation. A special guest this year is Michelle Donahue of Bootleg Biscuits. She will have healthy canine treats upcycled from the spent grain of breweries (see http://bootlegbiscuits.com).  I hope you all can make it.  

September 3, 2017 (with September 23rd addendum)

This summer I went back to school. I took a week-long workshop at Hood College with Kevin Crowe on Throwing Large Forms. Kevin's pottery (Tye River pottery; kevincrowepottery.com) is south of Charlottesville and he fires his 450 square foot anagama kiln twice a year. His pots vary from teabowls to 4 foot high jars. I encourage you to check out his website and blog (as well as his wife's, Linda's, blog--lindalcrowe.wordpress.com). The workshop was a great mixture of clay, poetry, tea, and good folks; until I broke my foot halfway through the workshop. I was able to finish the workshop and made a number of large pots (I'll have some at upcoming shows), but didn't get a chance to make my own 4 foot pot due to an afternoon at the orthopedic doc. However, see some of my bisque pots below, and Cory Shultz's 4-foot jar. Cory lives in Kentucky, but was taking the class as part of his MFA study. Check out Corey's instagram (@coreyshultzartworks), my guess is that you will be seeing a lot of his pots in the future.

I'm out of my boot, and throwing several different claybodies from Starworks in North Carolina which are mined in small batches. I'll be at the Washington Grove Fall Festival on September 30th and the following Saturday is Art on the Avenue. My pots were juried into a few national shows both in and out of the area this and next month. The Conductivity show is at the Companion Gallery in Humboldt, TN, and the Battle of the Bowls is in Amherst, VA. The Conductivity show opened on September 1st and all the pots were available online starting the 2nd. My teabowl in the show found a home this weekend (see below). The local show is the National Beer Drinking Vessel Exhibition at District Clay in Washington, DC. There are over 150 beer drinking vessels from artists around the country. The show opens Friday, September 30th, with online sales starting the next day (districtclaygallery.com; one of my pots in the show is below on the right). Lastly, mark your calendar for Sunday December 3rd for the 4th Annual Holiday Home Show and Sale. This is the one day event where I clear the ground floor of my house and invite different artists to display their work.

June 6, 2017

There are two great exhibits at the Renwick Gallery that will be here in DC through late August. The first is Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years which has 31 of Peter Voulkas pots from the 1950s through the 1960s. This was the period when he evolved from making traditional vessels with a strong Scandinavian influence to the abstract assemblages for which he is known. The show includes a number of his black pots from the mid- to late 1960s as well as some of his oil painting. Below I've pasted photos of his early work and one of the black pots. The show is up through August 20th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second exhibit was an unexpected surprise to me. It is the enamel work of June Schwarcz. She was a contemporary of Voulkos and pushed the boundaries of enameling in the same fashion that he did with clay. The show, June Schwarcz: Invention and Variation, is up through August 27th and includes a large number of vessels and wall-mounted work that are influenced by textile design. I've pasted a picture of one of some of her pieces. I love the way she cuts into the surface and the way she handles the seams of her vessels.

May 2, 2017

Last Saturday, on the hotest day of the year (92 degrees), I was firing with an old friend, Mizue Cromwell, at her wood kiln. Her kiln and studio is located in Berryville, VA (Fortune Island Pottery). Although I'd have prefered some cooler weather, the firing went well and by evening we had reached temperature (see pictures below of her kiln and the firing). It was good to renew connections and meet new friends. One of the unique aspects of wood firing is that it takes a community (unlike turning on the switches of an electric kiln or the gas in a reduction kiln). I have been firing for over 25 years with some of my clay buddies. As I write this blog the kiln is still cooling. I'll be unloading it on Saturday, May 6th, and be taking my "fresh, hot" pots to the Del Ray Artisans Spring Art Market.

April 13, 2017

I am spending this week in Vermont. The plan was to be spending the week skiing with the kids, but 80 degree temperatures and rain, created the need for an alternative plan. We went to the Bennington Museum and found two exhibits that were ceramic treasures. The first was an exhibition of Stanley Rosen's ceramic sculpture ("Holding the Line"). The abstract, largely unglazed pieces are handbuilt from small rolls of clay. The work references architecture and geology. They are quiet pieces, that feel almost as though they were unearthed from some lost civilization (see the image below). It is on display through May 21st, and well worth seeing. Rosen began his work in the 1950s and was a contemporary of other potters turned abstract sculptors such as Voulkos. Rosen taught for more than 30 years at Bennington College.

 

The second exhibit was a display of the work from two of Bennington's historic potteries, Norton Pottery and U.S. Pottery Company. They operated from the mid- to late 19th Century. The salt glazed jugs and crocks of the Norton Pottery are particularly impressive. Interestingly, the strongest shapes were the wheel thrown jugs from 1830s and 1840s, but when the pottery started using jigs (think of something like a drill press that opens up the clay on the wheel), the forms lost much of their energy. The curator of the exhibit argued that the move to jiggering pots allowed the potters to spend more time on the decoration (the cobalt blue animals and landscapes on the sides of the pots). I like the idea that as the creative energy was drained from the forms it emerged in the drawings.

 

I came home to find that three cups were accepted in a juried show in Duluth, GA (one of the three is pictured below). No downhill skiing, but a very nice alternative day.