Wednesday, June 30, 2010


OK how about something the didn't occur in the last century.

As some know I am a proud MFA graduate from Ohio University Athens, Home of the Bobcats. It was an interesting three years to say the least. Got a call from Schwieger in early May that they were having a wood fire symposium in July with some of these up-and-comers and how about sending a piece for the accompanying show and some bisque ware to fire, and then drive up for a few days to help with the firings. Guess they need an antique to stand around and talk about the good old days. seriously, looking forward to returning to dear old OU, have not been there since 1998 and the NCECA preconference they had (ask me about firing a cantenary with power plant coal sometime). Here is a image of some stamped plates I am sending.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

So to sum this story up, the rest of the class came over, we mixed up a clay/mortar second coat and laid it on. We fired it a couple of time, with mixed results, before Steve and David moved on. Kenny Shipley came back for his MFA the next fall ,and he and I were the ones who really got it going. before we were through we were getting some nice pots out of it. It sat and was revived a couple of times, a lot of people got there first taste of firing with it, and I guess Mark Peters and Shane Mickey were among the last to give it a go. UT decided to shut it all down, pushed it all down, house and all, and made a green space out of it.

I do not intend to publish a running history of every breakfast or cold beer I have had for the past thirty years, but I do get two things out of the experience.

First, it was a gutsy move at the time to jump on a project like it was. There wasn't no internet, no blogs, no advice, few books even if we had them, and outside of the Arrowmont kiln I do not know where the next wood kiln would have been. Wood firing wasn't "the thing" like it is now, but we were young and full of piss and wanted one, so we built it.

Secondly, isn't it funny how little simple decisions shape your life. Taking some art classes, meeting Paul, meeting Ted, failing in with a good group of clay people, the right place, the materials at hand, and boom I have spent twenty-eight years dropping cones with wooden sticks. As with any person's journey, what a long, strange trip it has been.

Next Time: "Yeah, Well, Now What?"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chapter IV: Brick? What Brick?

In response from a question from Mike Kline, best reasonable guess is winter quarter 1982. That seems to fit everything. I started art seriously in summer '80, and by the time I got through basics and some intros, that would be about right.

We used the trench we had dug as the flue, marked down to where the firebox arch would be and just cut the side wall shape with shovels. Leveled back from box, leaving steps as we went. We had all kinds of old fire brick, so used them for wall base, laying them radially to catch inner brick and topcoat. I used pairs of bats for arch forms, and I remember the firebox arch had a 24" span because that was as big a bat we had.

Now, when we moved to A&A, Dr. Darrow had done a real good job getting materials. I mean we had pallets and pallets, hard, soft, shapes, mortar, just a mountain of stuff. At this point, Steve Frazier (grad) had gotten involved, and we would drive over and just pack a truck full of brick boxes. The good stuff, the old two part APGreen boxes of softbrick you don't see anymore. And we just laid to it, no forms just eyeballing, shaping, mudding and laying, and propping them up with sticks. Two pair of side stoke holes, arches both ends, good flue with chimney, we did a good job, it looked good and it was built right. Ready for the clay topcoat.

If you remember from the start, Dr. Darrow thought it was a trench kiln, and we had not told him any different. He finally got curious about what we were up to and paid us a visit. When he walked out the back door he got an amazing look on his face, all seven emotions in order, shock, disbelief, anger, wonder, and acceptance, all in about ten seconds. But at the end of it all, he told us we had done a good job, and we had.

Next: "Fire In The Hole"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chapter III: Anagama

At the time the art department at UT was scattered everywhere while the A&A Building was being built. Ceramics was in a fifties style flat roof contemporary style house. handbuilding in the front room, wheels in the back, glazing in the kitchen, mixing on the patio, and a couple grads in the bedrooms. But it did have a nice sloping back yard with huge, mature pines over top of the kilns. All in all a very compact but busy place.

Finally A&A was ready and the whole undergrad operation moved two blocks away. Melrose became Ted and the grads studios with the salt kiln in the back. Now just before I got involved in the program Shiro Otani had been a visiting artist at school before he built the Big Valley anagama at Arrowmont during the summer, so when it came time to take a kilnbuilding class, David Kaufman and I wanted to build something wood fueled. Dr. Darrow had been to Europe for a symposium that summer, and suggested a trench kiln, dirt channel with kiln shelve top.

Well OK, so we strung it out and started digging, which did not take long, and we shaped it up nice and clean. We stood back took a good look, looked at each other, decided it was way too cheesy, now what? Next thing we know, ran the string farther down the slope and started outlining a baby anagama with old brick on the grass.

Next: "Back Up The Truck!"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers Day, and History Chapter II

Happy Fathers Day to everyone, and if your father is still with you today, call him, call him NOW! My Dad died from pulmonary fibrosis and was suffering greatly at the end and I am glad he is past that, but I think of him everyday.

In that spirit, Cale and I went to Maggie Valley yesterday to visit the "Wheels Thru Time" museum. Very nice collection of vintage motorcycles with some nice old cars. If you are a gearhead like me, well worth the visit and Cale enjoyed it as well.
To return to the History part, Paul Sasso recommended Ted Saupe for intro ceramics. UT at that time had a faculty of three, Ted was the new boy from Wisconsin and a Reitz student, Dr. James Darrow was department head and an Illinois State grad, and Sandy Blain, another Wisconsin product. Ted was a good teacher for the being the young guy and was responsible for the UGA connection we developed. Sandy was Director at Arrowmont and in Gatlinburg half the year, did not have a lot to do with her then, but later she was big for me. Jim was one of those people you do not see much any more, someone who is completely qualified to run a ceramics department. He ran a good program, had technical knowledge, had aesthetic sense, and was there every day doing his job. There have been a lot of good folks come out of the Tennessee program and these three people are the reason.
Next time:"Do I Smell Smoke?"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Slow Start and A Brief History, Chapter One

Trying to get this thing figured out without asking one of my resident tech specialists (the girls) to help. Alison says we can link to Facebook and all kind of wonderful things, so hope to have that done over the wekend. Also want to post some pictures of work I am doing for a symposium at Ohio U.

Some reading this know me well (maybe too well), but most obviously don't, so here is a little of my background.

Grew up small town west Tennessee, lots of farmers around the court square on Saturday mornings. No art classes at school, took the math and science route. Enrolled at the University of Tennessee in engineering, doing OK but a little lost, decided to work a bit, returned for summer art classes. Much better. Drifted to
3D /sculpture work. Had class with Paul Sasso, who was a grad sculture student, and I think was at Murray State for a long time (still could be). Did well and he suggested trying ceramics with Ted Saupe. And then....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Welcome to My World (and Good Luck)

Hard to know how to start, so I will just start writing.

Been following some fellow potter's blogs for the past few months and enjoy seeing what they are up to, so I figure I will start my own. Being a studio potter is somewhat of a hermit's life for me, so I am looking forward to the socializing, even if it is by electricity.

We get a lot of customers in the shop asking about a Blog and Facebook, so since Alison has Facebook up and running, I will manage the Blog. Lot to learn since I am a semi-Luddite, but I hope to have some images up in the next few days, also links and all that other mess. As time goes by, let me know how I am doing and again Welcome to My World.