Friday, May 22, 2020

Big changes

Well, big changes. I have moved back to Vancouver, Canada. Many reasons, including the change in US/Canada exchange rate, the cost of health care in the US, and the current political climate there. Canada seems like a bastion of sanity.
Much as I like being back, being in the city is difficult for potters. No more gas kiln, no more studio 100’ from my house. After much searching I found a studio, 50 sq ft in a large space near Chinatown in Vancouver, with access to kiln, (cone 6 electric), slab roller, extruder, etc- an amazing setup. However, it means I have to learn all new glazes, etc, so my productivity has been limited. Since I have no idea how long this arrangement will last, I have decided to change my style, and plan to use porcelain/white clay, and decorate using only slips and a clear glaze. That way, if I have to relocate again, the change won’t be quite as drastic. But- using colored slips, or using colors at all, takes a while to learn. How much red? How much yellow? Where do I add a green accent? So the next few months will be interesting!
Here is my “studio”, and a picture of some of the larger space.

And here are my first attempts at using colored slip

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Spent the last two days loading the gas kiln at the Hui No'Eau, the community studio. The kiln is a 24 cu ft updraft kiln, built about 15 years ago, with lots of use, and it shows. Luckily there is another one just like it, as well as a 30 cu ft downdraft that has not yet been fired. The facilities at this studio are amazing, and it's nice to hang out with other potters after spending time in my home studio. I usually have one or two people helping load, which makes it a lot easier. Much of the ware is made by students in one of the courses that run year around, so checking bottoms and galleries for glaze drips is necessary. The studio still uses mullite kiln shelves, weighing 20+ lbs for a 12"x24" shelf- and getting the last few top layers stacked is quite something! I figure as long as I keep doing yoga twice a week I can do it- when I can't do the yoga it may be time for someone younger....
Firing tomorrow, Monday, and unload Thursday morning. A prayer to the kiln gods would be appreciated :-)

Sunday, July 3, 2016


Well, it's been a while- almost a whole year since I last wrote. Not sure what happened- after two weeks in Vancouver last summer I just stopped writing.
Since then, many changes: I am now the official- i.e. paid- tech guy at the local community studio. I get to fire the kilns, mix glazes, etc. Since I was doing all that anyway, it's just nice to get paid for it. I'm also teaching at the studio- first a hand building course, and now a more advanced throwing course. And unlike teaching physics 40 years ago, I'm enjoying this. Probably more in the fall- another attempt to get enough students for a teapot class. Doing all this, and making some of my own stuff, plus keeping 3 acres under control (although Sal does most of that), maintaining an off the grid house, etc, makes for a busy life- not at all what I expected when we moved here.
I started making sushi platters out of slabs of clay I rolled out with a two inch dowel. Hard work, and really slow. I was whining about that, when Bob Flint, another instructor at the studio, gave me an old slab roller he didn't want anymore. Needed a bit of work, but I just got it together. Now I can make bigger things!
Here is a photo of the monster- it's 40" across- more than I will ever need.

Monday, August 31, 2015


Well, we're off to the mainland tomorrow, and just as well- it's been really hot and humid here- over 30 deg C with 90+% humidity every day for the last month. Hope that's not the new normal due to global warming.
The latest things I've been making are large fermentation jars; people here are making their own sauerkraut, and pickling jars are hard to find, or expensive to ship. So I'm starting to throw big things (for me) again, so far 10 lbs of clay has been my limit. Also some new teapots, trying some different handles. I'm not too happy with commercial bamboo handles, and came across an image of a pot that had these interesting lugs to hold onto bent wood handles. So I tried to bend some wood in our steam oven- and it worked. Can't wait to see what the finished product looks like!
Jars- 15" and 12" high, app 8" dia

Teapots, 7" high

Friday, August 21, 2015


I was cleaning up my studio (140 sq ft gets messy very quickly) two days ago, and realized how much scrounged stuff I have. So the title of this blog came to mind- and then I thought of how much work we do, for how little money/hour. I guess we must love doing it...
And the stuff I noticed- I use tiles from the local Habitat for Humanity Restore (a dime a piece) for small bats; for big bats I bought bigger tiles there, and cut the corners with a $10 tile saw, also bought there. I usually don't use calipers; instead I made gauges for inside and outside measurements out of cheap linoleum tiles. I cut the 12"x12" lino tiles into four pieces to use as bats for my faceted mugs, and even use the whole tile, with holes drilled in the right places, to throw bigger bigger pots (I layer two on top of each other so I don't hit the bat pins when throwing). And yes, the pot distorts when I lift it off, but comes back into shape when placed on a flat board.
Of course, part of the incentive to make do with stuff like that is due to geography- When I need something quickly, most of the time I can't just go and buy it- that's the price I pay for living on Maui.

Tile bats

Large lino bat

Throwing gauges for lids

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Well, the last few days have been "mug days". And I've been thinking again about how hard it is for me to make good mugs, and how I seem to approach the "ultimate mug" in a really slow fashion. In the image below the first on the left was made years ago, and I liked the fluidity of the lines, but it was too small for today's caffeine generation, and not that easy to drink from. Then came the next one- better capacity, and better lip, but I didn't like the way the handle stuck out. The next two were sort of standard for a while; I'd throw the round mug, let it get leather hard, cut three facets with a wire, put the handle on where the facets were cut, and then facet the rest. OK, but they look sort of stiff, the facets were too small, and there was none of the fluidity of the first one- and I always lost a few by cutting through the wall with the cutting wire. After all that work! So now I'm on the latest iteration- I facet it while still wet on the wheel, then expand the body from the inside with a rib to give it a nice full shape. And because the clay is still soft, and the rib drags a bit, the facets have a slight twist, which makes the mug visually much more interesting- to me, at least. Let me know what you think!

Mugs, from 3.25" to 5"

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Well, more vases. I seem to get started on some shape, and then others come. It usually takes a few iterations to work out what works and what doesn't. Too bad I can't really immediately get the right form in my head, and just make that. And then there are the subtle differences in proportion that are even harder to work out. So I'm still spanking round forms to make them less boring; this time the base of the vase is more shapely (I think); I still like the twisty neck. It's fun extruding the different shapes of neck and twisting them as they come out. Of course, now I have to decide on the glaze....
Thankfully hurricane/tropical storm Guillermo was a non event, like most other major weather events so far. I'm not complaining- the one tropical storm that got us a few years ago drenched all the furniture on the lanai because we didn't realize the wind direction would change as the center passed us. Now we know!

Two sided paddled vase, ~14"

Three sided, ~14"

Four sided, ~14"
11" to ~14"