With the price of inflation going up and the cost of gas sky rocketing I was forced to make a few changes and try new things to save money rather then raise prices at the pottery. One of those ways was to try something I have always wanted to try but put off, was firing the pots only once in the kiln.

This would mean I would need to practice glazing green-ware for at least the smaller items. The cost savings would cut my fuel bill almost in half. Other potters do use the single fire or once fired method but I never have. I was prepping for a show in Lake Carey PA in the Old Carter barn. It’s a real nice old barn that was refurbished to hold weddings and small local concerts. I had a load of bowls to fire out so I decided to try a single fire.

Raw Fired Pots:

 

I first took the bowls that were bone dry and glazed the insides of them all. I waited until they were dry then carefully dunked the outsides. The process was quite delicate and I did end up breaking three but it was not to bad for a first try.

Once all the bowls were glazed inside and out I then made sure the bottoms were clean by cleaning off any drips with a damp sponge. I let the pots dry some once more and went and had a coffee. Next I put large square plates down and loaded the bowls onto them in case anything blew up it would onto stick to the shelves. Being this was my first single fire, I had to be extra careful.

I started the kiln off with a two hour warm up on low with just the burners and kept it under 200F. My next time turning up the kiln I did so just until the burner barely lit. I let the kiln fire this way and slowly warm for another hour. When the alarm went off on my timer I did another turn up, this time until I could just hear a light flow of air being sucked into the burner vents. At this stage the kiln is temperature is at about 800F and it smokes some burning off the organic material. I set my timer for another hour then go trim pots or watch Bridezillas.

On the next turn up I open the valve until I can hear air being sucked in at a study flow and the flame is blue. At this point the flames should reach about half way up the kiln. After another hour I turn up the kiln until the flame in just over the top shelf and just under the lid. By this stage the kiln is normally near red heat and there is no longer any black smoke and all the carbon, if there was any, is burned off the pots and out of the kiln.

For the last turn up I like the flames to be licking about 8 inches out of the top of the lid. I let the kiln fire checking every thirty minutes,, then every fifteen minuets towards the end until the cone bends in the center peephole then I shut everything down and cover the top hole in the lid.

The process I just mentioned above worked out great as the slow manual trun ups were slow enough to allow the pots to both bisque and later become glazed all in one firing. If the single firing is done to fast issues can develop between the wall of the pot and the glaze as gases from organic matter did not have time to escape. This can cause a bit of blistering. I was very relived when I lifted the lid to see all the pots looking back at me in one piece.

I was so happy and let everyone I know all about it. I also had some ash glaze tests in there that turned out great and I was able to take all those pots and sell them at the sale at the The Carter Barn at Lake Carey PA. I also was real happy to know I could now do the single firings and maybe save a few dollars without raising prices.

However, I was not the only one making transitions to new things. Down at the Wright Choice Diner some were not all that use to change and were feeling a bit uncomfortable about it, that is, until things were worked out.

 


Transitions:

 

 

It was 6:00 A.M at the Wright Choice Diner and Milk Man Dan was there early like he was every other morning when he did the milk run. Dan would sip coffee and eat eggs over easy with toast while he waited for the boys up at the Clemmer Farm to get done with milking at 7:00 so he could make his first stop. Milk Man Dan was always a bit late everywhere he went, because in that type of profession showing up early meant waiting for some farmer to finish up so you could pump out his bulk tank. So Milk Man Dan always made it a habit in life to show up fashionably late everywhere he went just to give folks time to ready themselves for his arrival.

It all worked out in the wash as Milk Man Dan applied the same timing methods on Sundays. Showing up late meant you got to sit in the back row at church during the baptist sermon. And if you were the last one to the sermon it was far to late to have the preacher change things up and make the preaching all about you. So even if the good minister came down hard on folks for being late for church Dan was sure to miss half of it while his wife nugged him to stay awake. But this morning Milk Man Dan was not eating his eggs like normal for some reason.

The eggs and toast were getting cold on Milk Man Dan’s plate as he sat with his elbows on the counter and chin in his hands looking at them. We all were not to sure what the issue was as we glanced over.

“Hey Bob..your eggs taste alright?” I ask, leaning in to whisper.

” Taste fine to me.” Says old Bob picking up a piece of bacon and putting it in his mouth.

“ Yeah mine are fine. Not sure what’s going on with Dan down there.”

Just then Big Jimmy the cook and owner came out for a chat and noticed Milk Man Dan not being hungry. He went over to find out what the issue was. Big Jimmy knew the eggs were fried to specification. You fry them until they turn solid white then flip them and count to four. That’s how Milk Man Dan told big Jimmy how he liked them way back and Big Jimmy knew today he counted to four, he seen the kid helping do it.

“Hey Dan, you not hungry today? Did we all mess up your eggs?”

“Nawww it’s not that.” Said Milk Man Dan mumbling.

“I don’t eat eggs made and served by those kinds of people.”

At that big Jimmy went over for a closer chat.

“What do you mean “those” kinds of people Dan?”

“Well, on Monday when I was here that kid you have working came out and gave me my eggs and his name was Ricky ..but just now today that same kid comes out with a name tag called Emma. And you can’t tell me the guy got it mixed up. Just saying.”

Big Jimmy’s neck was turning red and we all at the bar went back to eating like normal as we knew something big was about to go down. Whenever Big Jimmy’s neck turned red you knew someone might be on their way to getting tossed from the Wright Choice Diner, or if not that , walked out to the back steps where all types of things were worked out the hard way.

Big Jimmy was now standing directly in front of Milk Man Dan at the counter. His large body casting a looming shadow over Dan and his plate of cold eggs.

‘”So what’s it to you Dan? Who cares what the name tag says.”

“Are you telling me your eggs are different from the ones you had here on Monday Dan?”

“Like do you think that because a person has a name change or transition that they would mess up frying eggs?”

“The kid counted to four Dan, just like you wanted. I was there to be sure. And yeah the name is Emma. Now you gonna eat those damn eggs or not?”

Big Jimmy looked down the counter at the rest of us with his red face.

“Hey Guys! Those eggs Emma brought out they were fine and all, correct?”

“Because maybe..just maybe..I could be loosing my mind and messed up the eggs today for some strange reason. So you all are telling me they were good?”

Now when big Jimmy asks you a question like that it’s important to answer quick and not keep him waiting or cause trouble.

“Sure were Jimmy!” I say.

“Tasted just like the ones we had here yesterday I would say. Easy over is how I like them and all and the kitchen nailed it for sure? Right Bob?”

“Umm Hummm!” said old Bob with his mouth full.

Big Jimmy looked back at Dan.

“Well Dan, I’m kind of hurt that you don’t like the eggs Emma fried today. And because of that I think your payment for that money I loaned you for those new tires out on the milk truck just might be due right now.”

When we all glanced over and we could see Milk Man Dan’s face go a bit white. We all knew Dan did not have the rest of the truck tire money as eight-teen wheels cost quite a bit and Dan just had them put on two weeks ago. They were nice tires. Michelins, all of them, over seven-hundred dollars a pop. We also knew never to ask Big Jimmy where he got the money that he was always kind enough to lend out if you had hard times. Big Jimmy had a big heart as long as you did.

“So this is what I’m going to do Dan. I’m going to go back into that kitchen and finish up helping out cooking, and when I come back in twenty minutes I want an answer on what you plan to do because I only need to make one phone call to a guy to have that whole milk truck out there up on blocks, because I know you don’t have the money. And also let me know if I can get you a to go container for your eggs if you decide not to eat them here but while walking home.”

With that big Jimmy turned and angrily walked past us all back into the kitchen, to let Milk Man Dan come up with some kind of action plan. It didn’t take long before Dan started eating his eggs cold and in no time flat had cleared his plate. When Emma came out for a small break and a coffee like nothing happened, we all thought we heard Milk Man Dan say the eggs were good when she asked. We though big Jimmy might have set it up that way and had a good chuckle. He was like that. Always one step ahead when he could be. Unless it was the IRS.

Now there may not be a Emma or a Milk Man Dan, but somewhere, someplace, someone was transitioning though something as the only thing constant is change.  We can face change the hard way or the easy way. We get to decide almost every time. Some changes take a bit more effort then others, but it all goes down much eaiser with a large glass of empathy.

 

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

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Find my post on cost and a free cost analysis download spreadsheet by viewing the post “Pottery Cost Analysis Spread Sheet”

You can do it! You are ready now! It might take some time and loads of practice and hard work, but in this post I will go over a few things that you can do to make your art cohesive. Making art cohesive is not as necessary as it used to be. Like with the old music industry that went bankrupt, the internet has made it possible for you to show and reach others with your work in very cost-effective ways, eliminating many of the gatekeepers that used to have a grip where and how work was shown. So here is a no bull sh*t approch to creating art in a cohesive way.  There might be grammer and spelling errors but I am an artist and not a teacher so give me a pass maybe for all the free information packed in here for you.  If you do not get anything out of this I’ll be sure to send you a refund at the end.

This article will cover the topic of creating art that is cohesive for those looking to submit work to galleries, shows, venues, platforms, or collectors that require a cohesive body of art work to gain access to their buying community. However, know that if you can buy cars and 52 inch flat screens online and have them delivered to your home, you can also market your art in very much the same way. There is no such thing as talent. Just practice and hard work to build skill.


Build Skills In The Basics

Just like riding a bike, there is no way that you would simply hop on and Lance Armstong it out and get big wins on day one. Creating art that is cohesive takes time to build and to learn skills, techniques, and processes. I have no idea what bad art might be, and only a little about what it is not. But I do know that poorly done work with lack of attention to construction, detail, composition, shape, color, size, materials, texture, line, research, and others can give you a real bad time. I would suggest making a lot of what you make, and then make a lot more of what you make better. Repeat all of that a bunch of times.

It may take fifty, one-hundred, or maybe a thousand or two to get the basics ironed out, but it is very important on your way to creating a cohesive body of art work if you wish. The start to making art cohesive is simply making a lot of bad work as practice, finding and pushing boundaries, finding what might work best, taking chances, putting yourself on the hook, being brave, and working to eliminate any resistance that always crops up. But you can do it! You are ready now! Start by making your first pieces right now! Give yourself permission to mess it up bad and go to it. Just do something! And do it a lot! Once you simply start things will begain to work out and you will feel great creating the work. Even the terrible stuff. It’s all practice.


What To Say To Whom

The next step I would say in making your art cohesive, is after creating a bunch of work, and building the skills in the basics, is to find out who you would like your art to be for and why. Take some of your the strongest work and have a look at it all from way back. Also think about what you wish to say and why. Answering all these whys is very important as it will assist you in whom to show the work to and create work that matters for the folks who care.

No need to make work for everyone but for the minimum viable audience. You only need maybe ten people who care to start. If you are successful in communicating and what you create speaks to that community and they enjoy what you did they might tell another ten folks and before long you have a few raging fans or collectors. It sure makes it easier to sell work or submit pieces to art shows, galleries, art shops, and online platforms if you have some idea what your work might say or how it is read and knowing your “why”. A great book on the topic is “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” by Simon Sinek listed below.

.All of this might take a while to work out and you may ask other how it is read. I would suggest not asking friends and family, as they will lie to you to just make you feel better and not enjoy being honest if they believe what they truly think might cause you to have a bad time. So I would have some folks you might not know, who might be the ideal person the work is for, to give you feedback. Social media groups are real helpful in this area at times. Then, take what those folks say and go back and rework things and show them again. At this point it might be fine to start submitting work to a few shows and galleries as their feedback can be helpful in knowing what they belive you need to improve on, and how well your work is communicating.

After looking at some of your strongest work from way back you might now be able to see some type of themes throughout them all. A cohesive body of art will start to filter out and you will be able to start to see similarities between pieces in a few different ways. At this time it might be good idea to now emphasize those similarities a bit more while at the same time keeping what you wish to say to who in view. Now go make a bunch more work with your discovery of the themes in mind and repeat the process, and then show that finished work that matters to those people who care. You may not get it correct every time, and you may need you to rework things and not feel good about it, but do not stop! Creating work and finishing things no matter how poorly they turn out is far better than all those who simply thought about making work but never did! You’re doing great!!!

 

Layer Up Like An Onion

After practicing your techniques and skills and messing up a lot real bad and taking the least bad that are now good and finding the commonalities it is time to build creating art and a cohesive body of work that is created for a specific reason , with a specific goal, that might say a specific thing to a specific group, to the least viable audience. Since there are a million ways and combinations this may feel overwhelming at first but after you work it out a few times you will become much better at it. For me personally I enjoy layering the work up with technique and meaning so that I am able to communicate with my audience I am trying to reach.

Others may simply have one of two layers to enjoy communicating simplicity. I find it easier to make a list with columns on a paper with those things that you found common in your work. Then list out the thing you might like to say to who using the many techniques, subject manner, lighting, line, sound, symbols, texture, patterns, planes, shape, depth, height, weight, size, history, research, and many other ways to communicate. To me personally good art is simply a form that communicates clearly and/or in some interesting way. Next layer things up in a way that communicates best based on the goals you are trying to achieve.

It is possible to become cluttered and have to much going on in the work to where it is a distraction. But if you chart out the project first you can begin to add or subtract even before you begin taking the time in constructing the actual body of work. At this point it might be good to make up a few small samples, test pieces , or studies to work out a cost analysis and to decide how many to make in the collection on the particular topic and also to begin to help visualize what it might look like.

Can you see the collection in your mind? Visualize how it might be if you walked though a room at a gallery or shop that was filled with your work. How would you want it to feel to the viewer? What can be done to make an impact or to communicate what you might like to say? Once you are able to visualize it in your mind then you might be able to have a better feel for how to set up the collection and the way it communicates. Also think how it can communicate on other platforms, like when on a website for example. How will you shoot photos? What feeling do you want the online viewer to have as they click though the gallery?


Do The Work

With all the planning and testing completed it is now time to do the hard work of doing the work. Actually doing the work can be the most challenging part as many things will start to crop up on why we should not do the work. A lot of resistance and issues will arise that will give us excuses not to complete the project. Self-doubt, imposter syndrome, material issues, issues with technique, and other set backs will stop by every day for coffee but keep going!

After some time when you reached the amount of work that you planned for make a few extra pieces so you have the option to choose what to use to fill out a showing. It is also at this point of doing the work you might want to show others who care about what you are doing what you are working on to build interest and excitement about the project. It might even benefit you to post updates to your email list or do social media posts and live streams of the process to get those who care invested in what you are created and trying to communicate. It is my belief that the total work is the planning, the construction, the showing, and the buyer enjoying it .

Doing the work might take days months or years but be sure at this stage to have good project management as no collection is complete if it is only partially done. And remember at times done is better then perfect. While it is very important to pay attention to details, fine craftsmanship , and technique do not let waiting to release the work until it is perfect become an excuse. Keep working though the dips, both the good times and bad, and wrangle it out.

Doing the work is the most intense part and can be a struggle but keep climbing the mountain. While doing the work take small breaks at certain planned stages along the way to review what you are doing and that you are staying on message and reaching your goals. Reward yourself at certain stages and be kind to yourself. Creating a cohesive body of work is no easy task and sharing work that matters with people who care can feel like your are exposing yourself some to the world but push on you almost are ready to put on the finishing touches and show your work as a collection!


Show The Work

Great job! You did it! Now you have a bunch of work sitting around your studio, basement , or in storage. Now it is time to show your work to people who care if you have not started the process already. Take all that work someplace and set it up and look at the collection all together if you can and start to decide which work should be shown together, separate, or not at all. Some pieces will be stronger then others so take note on those things and why to remember for next time. It might be beneficial at this point to create an artist statement about the work for promoting the work and explaining the project, technique, and ideas and also some background about yourself.

Depending on the platform you might be able to get help with these types of statements based on what the gallery or selling platform requires. It might be beneficial to see how other artists have gone about this process. Planning this all out now will help later and make things run more smoothly if you work should be accepted into a gallery or on a platform for a show. There are a verity of ways to show a collection of work to people who care and one way would be to find a gallery or selling platform that might be a good fit for you and can help you show your collection to people who care. Like writers you should ready yourself for rejections, these rejections can be beneficial as they can provide feedback on what you might need to think about when creating. On the other hand the work and message you are tying to tell may not simply be for them or a good fit so keep going and try not to feel down about things. You have created a cohesive body of work and that is far better then all those who simply just sat and thought about it but did nothing.

Some may disagree, but you may need to separate yourself from your work in your mind so that you are able to sell it better. Your work is not you but simply an extension. Just because others might misunderstand, misinterpret, or simply dislike the body of work that does not mean they dislike you personally. I try not to take anything personally and if others reject the work it simply was into for them. However, if your goal was to agitate or upset and you caused a ruckus then congratulations your cohesive body of art work is working!


Ways Around Gatekeepers

Think of different ways around gatekeepers. Many might say they enjoy the work you do but have no room or you may not get into shows due to other reasons due to a jury rejection. I have heard some artists being rejected for the way their booth looked or how their set up or display was done. If needed work on what they suggest if you need to but also work to break though the gatekeepers. One way to work around gatekeepers is to build your own community of people who care and collect your work.

If a ten year old girl in Tennessee can gain one million subscribers on social media doing a milkcrate challenge then you as an artist should be able to muster up a few hundred or thousand people who care. Like the old music industry that refused to change and went bankrupt, or the book industry, you can also like the song writers, producers, singers, and writers; have opportunities to put your work into the world in many different ways on different platforms to reach those people who care.

There are some challenges you will need to work though but once overcome can give you leverage in promoting your work and speaking what you wish to say. While they are helpful, you no longer absolutely need galleries, art shows, shops, or the old ways to show your work to the world. You can do all of that with your own website or online shop. Size does not matter. A person can buy a car and have it brought to their house and a 52 inch tv shipped to their doorstep. So times have changed and your thinking as an artist may need to also to take advantage of these great opportunities that you now have available to show your work.


What Are You Waiting For?

Time is short and the only thing we never get back and you are the only one who can best tell your message and story to the world though your work!  At the time of writing this if I live to be 86 I only have 14,104 days left. If you do not tell your story someone else will and it might not be the story you want told in the way they tell it. I hope you found some of this helpful and can better  plan in creating your art in a more cohesive way that you can feel great about and also work your buyers enjoy! Below is a reading list of books that I found helpful. I recive no payments or kickbacks from posting this material. I write these articals because I enjoy helping folks just like you at no cost. If you enjoyed this post and got somthing out of it feel free to check out my gallery and shop or just say hello at creekroadpottery@gmail.com.

 

Here are some great books I have read!

Seth Godin:

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. 
This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.
Purple Cow.

Stephen Pressfield:

The War of Art
Do The Work

Simon Sinek:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Steve Blank:

The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win

Free Class:

How to Build a Startup

Donald Miller:

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
Hero on a Mission: A Path to a Meaningful Life
Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More

Joseph Campbell:

The Power of Myth

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Victor Frankl:

Man’s Search for Meaning.

 

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

Hebrew Jars

 

I had the idea and process for creating the “Line Upon Line” collection of Hebrew jar type Dead Sea Scroll replicas for quite some time but needed to nail it down in some way. I also needed a good time to put the collection together. When I was invited by Gallery41 in Owego, New York to be a guest artist for July 2022 I took the opportunity.

In the past I used the iron oxide wash technique in small ways on the shave brush handles. Some time back I created a whole series of brushes, a collection on the topic of Ancient warriors found in the biblical literature. I enjoyed how the red iron oxide when fired brought out the texture patterns of the clay and sent the color to an ancient looking toasty brown. I thought that if this process and technique worked for small pieces, it may turn on great on somewhat larger.

For the project, I made up 20 pieces with about 5 ponds of clay each. I trimmed and dried them out and inscribed Hebrew out of the biblical texts of Isaiah. I always thought the verse of Isaiah 28:10 sounded beautiful when read in the Hebrew. I decided the body of work should be called “Line Upon Line.” I also wanted an inscribed text in Hebrew connecting all the pieces, and so used small quotes out of the texts of Isaiah on the topic of Justice to combine them all. Inscribing the Hebrew was a bit of a challenge as I have not practiced writing the letters for quite some time.

I was relived when all but one pot survived the firings and process, as I cut everything a bit close with the deadlines and getting the show set up by going for the idea and collection. I have always enjoyed the study of Ancient Near Eastern texts and Biblical literature, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls and their discovery. The ancient pottery jars the scrolls were found in are amazing to me, and I found the idea of pottery preserving literature and writings with the use of clay interesting. You may view an up close container of a dead sea scroll vessel here. Also, have a look for yourself at “The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa) by clicking here.

My next project I am thinking about will be to learn a bit of ancient Cuneiform and write in texts. I love both texture on pots, and texture that can be read would be even better. I would love to create a whole series with texts from the Baal Epic or that of Gilgamesh. Thanks to my good friend Richard I have all the material to start to learn the process, including the material on the epics.

You may view the “Line upon Line” collection of jars and vases if you wish by clicking here. The name of the piece is the name of the reference and both the Hebrew and English translation was provided along with the dimensions. This special collection of Isaiah “Line Upon Line” of jars and vases were made by my own hand on the pottery wheel and fired and refined in the gas kilns at Creek Road Pottery in Laceyville, PA along the cold Tuscarora creek. Special thanks to Rabbi John Herbert Ludemann for his guidance and advice with this project.


Hobo Smoky

 

It was about 2 am that the long train hauling loaded sand cars and 25 boxers came to a screeching halt just out back the Right Choice Diner. Hobo Smoky fell into the small town of Laceyville with the force of the stop and landed in a heap at the front of the empty car. His violent stop was padded in a small way by the pile of packing cardboard he had laid out to sleep on. The door of the Union Pacific boxer slid full open, then came crashing back closed against the rail spike Smoky had wedged into the door track to hold it open. At least he wasn’t locked in. Smoky groaned some from the pain of being thrown across the floor and into the wall of car when the air brakes kicked on. This had to be bad.

Smoky crawled sore to the door and took a look out into the dark night. He saw the soft glow of streetlights about a half mile up the tracks, and the sound of the fire whistle started its lonely cry to wake the sleepy town to the tragedy. “Awww shit.. I better get off here.” Smoky rolled up his sleep pad and found his pail of gear scattered about in the car in the dim glow of his flashlight, its batteries running low. Once everything was collected, he tossed the sleep pack and pail to the ground outside the train into the dark night and climbed down out of the car. As Smoky made his way up the tracks, he could make out the flashing lights of emergency vehicles arriving on the scene and could hear the sound of sirens. It was the length of about 35 cars to town, he guessed. 35 cars to walk off the pain. In all his days hopping trains, he could only remember one other time when an 90 car CSX train locked up on its way to Indiana when a dump truck ran the crossing. But that was only a near miss. Whatever happened up ahead had to be much worse. It seemed the whole town was waking up for a meeting at the tracks.

The track was just taken over by R.J. Corman which combined the Lehigh Railway, Owego & Harford Railway, and Luzerne & Susquehanna Railway. Smoky found an open boxer at the Reading & Northern interchange at Mehoopany while they hooked on to fifty sander cars. He was on the Lehigh Railway that heads through Laceyville and hoped for an easy trip on his way to see his new grand baby in Athens. Other than a heavy rainstorm pounding on the box car, things seemed to be quite peaceful until the violent stop after he just fell asleep. Smoky hid his gear and bedroll in some brush. As he neared the front of the train, he saw the crew standing together by the big engines. A sheet covered a body while emergency crews worked the scene and everyone waited on the county corner to arrive. A middle age woman sat on a large rock back some from train sobbing with her head in her hands and beside her sat a teenage boy staring blankly into the night and a big man was on the phone next to them making a call.

Hey Missy. This is Jimmy. I know it’s real late, but I was wondering if you could come down and open the Wright Choice. I would never ask, but we are having a real bad time here in town tonight and folks may need someplace to hold up.”

” Hey big Jimmy, what happened down there? I heard the train lock up clear here where I’m at! Everyone ok?”

“I’m afraid not. Terence Mott was hit on the tracks. Looks like the poor guy fell sleep there drinking, and the train didn’t see him until it was too late. Could you come down and open up and make up some coffee for the emergency crew and folks. I got Brenda Mott and Billy here. They are real shaken.”

”Okay Jimmy, I’m on my way down. Just let me get dressed and I’ll open up.”

” Thanks Miss, I owe you big time.”

Big Jimmy then put his phone in his back pocket and as he turned, saw the outline of Hobo Smoky.

“Smoky. How are things?”

”Hey Big Jimmy, sorry to see all of this. The brakes woke me up and it looks I’ll be in town for the night. You need help washing dishes up at the diner for a day or two?”

”You could not have asked at a better time. You can start right now. I got one of the girls stopping down to open and serve coffee and let everyone calm down some.”

Big Jimmy sat on the rock next to Mrs. Mott who was still sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. He put one big arm around her to try and comfort her some.

”Okay, I’ll head on up and get to work.” said Smoky

Smoky walked up the small hill, though the laundry on the line, to the rickety back steps of the Wright Choice and waited outside the screen door to be let in. He pulled a smoke from behind his ear and took off his cap and dirty red bandanna. There was something terribly beautiful about the scene from the back steps of the Wright Choice in the fog with the flashing lights. A fair and foul day for sure.

Now there may not be a hobo Smoky or a Wright Choice Diner, but somewhere, someplace, someone dropped by to help at the right times. This is my story about my town, so I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

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I was supposed to get up at 6 am to get the kilns going but hit my snooze button twice and got up at 6:30 instead. I made a coffee and looked out the window at the second heavy frost of the year. Mrs. Smith’s black and white tomcat was sitting on the pottery porch watching a rabbit hop across the frozen grass and into the brush at the edge of the lawn. By 7:30 am, I had the glaze clean-up done on about sixty pot bottoms and started to load them out in the cold, stopping every once and a while to take sips of my steaming coffee. The candle cups with the blue glaze would need to go on the bottom shelves while the farmhouse green cups went on the middle and top shelves as this kiln runs hotter up top. I have one kiln that runs hot on the top and another gas kiln that runs hot on the bottom. Correct placement is important as each shelf puts out a different effect and color due to the temperature difference. My phone buzzed at 7:30 am. It was a message from Sandy. 

R u up yet?” 

I took off my glove and typed out, “Yes. Loading kilns what’s going on?”  

On my way. b there 8:30” 

K,” I type back. 

Sandy is a middle-aged lady with red hair who goes all in on almost everything she does and works sales for her day job. At 8:53 she pulls in as I am lowering the updraft kiln lid. “Sorry I’m 23 minutes late,” she says. “My horse got out, and I had to put him back in. When he gets out all the goats follow but thank goodness they all follow back also. 4H and goat shows have me running around like crazy. I did get your soaps made up for you.” 

Well, that’s good they follow like that. Now if that were a pig, they would never go back in the same hole,” I say. 

Yeah, the old guy got cut some on his leg from the fence, but I was able to fix him up by spraying blue coat on it. He should be fine,” Sandy says, brushing her hair out of her eyes. “He’s a real good boy but getting old.” 

I wonder if her horse is anything like Magic, I think to myself.

 

Photo by Zosia Korcz on Unsplash

It was the start of “The Best Summer Ever” when I was a kid. That was the summer when the stray dog showed up that could do tricks, where us kids swam in the cool Starrucca Creek, and Uncle Will brought home a pony we named Magic. Aunt Barb suggested the name because he had blue eyes. She thought it made the pony look magical. As we stroked the pony’s mane, we all had to agree. We took turns riding Magic all summer over at Aunt Barb and Uncle Will’s. When we stopped for lunch, Aunt Barb would make us all peanut butter sandwiches and give us each one hot bean made by Uncle Will himself. Along with the bean was a small cup of milk to tame the burn. We would all sit on the porch steps and eat before taking turns riding Magic. The pony worked hard that summer. We knew better not to fight too loud while taking turns. If there was any trouble, Aunt Barb would make both offending parties stand and hug each other in the middle of the yard to think about things while the other kids went your turn on the horse for you. 

Sandy handed me a box. “Here are ten shave soap pucks, we can do a trade. I also have this old kiln you can have if you help me get on Square. I have a sale at a farmer’s market next week” 

Well, that sure is a lot. I’ll pay you for the kiln. Getting on Square is no real trouble,” I say. 

I had the buddy gas heater going in the pottery shed. Sandy took a seat in a yard folding chair and I in another beside her, and we both got out our phones to go through it all. It didn’t take too long, and we got it all done before the next kiln check. The cones in both kilns dropped just in time to give me an hour of sleep before a 12-hour night shift at the paper factory. When I returned, snow clouds were in the sky. The wind was cold, and the air was crisp. I added four pieces of wood to the stove while the candle cups started to cool. To stay warm, I thought warm thoughts. Like thoughts on that Best Summer Ever and that pony named Magic.

Sandy made out ok at the sale. It’s ok to take time out to help others. Some names and events were changed, but there truly was a Best Summer Ever and a pony named Magic. This is my story about my town, and childhood, so I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

No ship is coming in, so stop waiting to be rescued off the island.
Put in the work to build and dig out your own canoe to paddle.
No one will make the art for you.  Things may not work out. But just start anyway.
With art, you are not simply a replaceable cog in a guaranteed process.
There is no one like you.
It’s your story, so start telling it how you like.
Who cares what others think.
No one else can tell your story for you.
Do one thing towards your goal each day, no matter how big or small.
You will fail, as failure is part of the process.
Art and creating is what moves us forward outside the systems.
Be different, Be bold, See non-conformity as a strength.

Photo by bill wegener on Unsplash

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

“I plied the fire with fresh fuel round the outside and upon the top, till I saw the pots in the inside red-hot quite through and observed that they did not crack at all. When I saw them clear red, I let them stand in that heat about five or six hours, till I found one of them, though it did not crack, did melt or run; for the sand which was mixed with the clay melted by the violence of the heat, and would have run into glass if I had gone on; so I slacked my fire gradually till the pots began to abate of the red colour; and watching them all night, that I might not let the fire abate too fast, in the morning I had three very good (I will not say handsome) pipkins, and two other earthen pots, as hard burnt as could be desired, and one of them perfectly glazed with the running of the sand.”   –  The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. By Daniel Defoe.


You can do it! Many who wish to make pottery might be deterred by thinking they need a pottery wheel, kiln, or other equipment to start making pots. But the truth is all you need is a lump of clay and your imagination, and you can make your very first pottery projects. If Robinson Crusoe, who was stranded on an island made pots, so can you!  It is so easy a caveman can do it! Wait…they did!  In this post, I will give you a few tips on how all of that can be done and in no time flat, you will be spending your Saturday afternoon creating clay projects you never thought possible. You already took the first step by thinking about it and now the next step would be getting a ball of clay to start with. You will not be able to use these low fire pots for food items, but we can make little planters and other projects.  So first, let’s find a little ball of clay.




The Beginning: Find Some Clay.

“Help! But what type of clay should I use?” I am glad you asked! Since we will be going caveman style, we will use types of clay that you can “bake” at low temperatures. And like Robinson Crusoe, we will start with earthenware. Earthenware is a bit more delicate than stoneware, but it is good enough to start with and practice with. A person starting out can also use raku clay. Raku clay is clay that is intentionally mixed so it can handle “thermal shock” or extreme changes in temperatures of hot and cold without cracking or blowing up. Raku clay also “bakes” at low temperatures. You might also find clay near riverbanks or in the ground. Wild clay needs a bit of testing first and for this project, we will only be using clay that we know will work out. Earthenware clay can be bought at local craft stores or your local pottery supply store. Raku clay also can be bought online or at clay supply stores but is a bit harder to find. So, once you have your box of clay, you now are ready to do the next step. Open the box or bag and scoop out a 1-pound ball of clay.



Step Two: Make a Little Ball.

Congratulations! I am super proud of you! You just went from thinking about making something in clay to doing it! Amazing! Now you need to decide what to make. There are millions of things you can make, but no need to worry about them all and get distracted and overwhelmed. I think for your first project you should make a little pinch pot planter for your aunt Joan. You could put a succulent in it and give it as a gift. She will love it! Now compress the clay into a tight ball. If the clay cracks or is a bit dry, you can put a tiny amount of water on it and knead it in until it is soft and workable. In my opinion, it should be just a bit stiffer than bread dough. Compress and slap the clay to get all the air pockets out and form the little lump of clay into a ball. Now give yourself a thumbs up! You did it!

 



Step Three: Make a Pinch Pot.

Take your thumb that you gave thumbs up with and push it into the center of the clay ball. You only want to push your thumb about ¾ of the way in and not all the way though. The idea is to scoop out the clay gently while rotating the ball. Work the lump of clay by using your thumb to even out the sides. Be sure you get the bottom even also; if there are thick parts, it may take a longer time to dry. It also might not dry evenly. In my opinion, you should take care not to get the top too wide but just wide enough to put in a cute little plant. Now once both the sides and bottom are even, set the pot aside and have a look! You did great! If the pot has cracks, you can take a tiny bit of water and smooth out the rim and edges. Below is a nice video on how to make up your pinch pot.

 




Step Four: Make Three More.

Make three more little cute pots because pottery is about learning through messing up. One of your pinch pots might crack drying, another might crack when you accidentally drop it or when it is fired. But no worries! Making more pots means that you get practice at making pinch pots and by the time you form ten pots, you will be far better at it than what you made at pot one! Now line all the little pots up and have a look at them. They are the very first pots you have made, and you should be proud of them as no matter how good or terrible you think they look, you have met the goal of simply making a pot and you are much further ahead of folks who simply thought about making a clay pot and never did! I’m so proud of you! But these pots are a real snooze fest and in-order to keep awake for the rest of the project and to make the pots look a bit more interesting, we need to do a bit of decorating.

 

 

Step Five: Decorate Your Pots.

Now just like there are a million ways to make a pot, there are a million ways to decorate one. So, for this project, we will simply make impressions in the little clay pots. You can use plants, stones, tree bark, and many other found objects to make texture patterns and impressions. When making impressions, be sure to hold the pot on the inside and not press too hard as you do not want to deform the pot. Press in things as much or as little as you like and when you are all done, line them up and look at the cute little designs you have made on them. Your Aunt Joan will love them! Now we move on to the next step as we need to let them dry.

 




Step Six: Dry Your Pots.


Drying pots is easy because it does not require you to do much of anything. If the walls and base of the pots are even, things should dry out in a few days. As they dry, they will get more delicate, so handle them like eggs. The stages of drying are what pottery folks call leather hard and bone dry.  “Leather hard” is when the clay is not fully dry but is quite hard. At this point, folks trim pots and also carve. At the “bone dry” stage, there is very little moisture left in the clay and the pot is completely dry. In most clays you will notice a color change. Dry the little pots in an area that has good circulation. You could put them in the sun, but for this beginner project, we want them to dry a bit slower so they do not dry too fast and crack. If possible, you could carefully turn the little pots upside down and let them fully dry. If the edges are delicate, leave them right side up, but rotate them a bit every few hours. If you forget, it’s fine, but be sure your pot is not stuck to anything as it shrinks when it dries, and you do not want cracks. Your pots will be dry when they are bone dry. An easy way to tell if your pot is dry is to carefully pick them up and touch them on your cheek. If they still feel cold, they may need to dry a bit more. Rotate them around and expose them to air. When your pots are completely dry, they are now ready to fire!




Step Seven: Get Ready to fire!

Now this takes a bit of research, but don’t be scared! Just like there are a million ways to make and decorate a pot, there are a million ways to fire a pot. If you are just a kid getting into art, you will need an adult to help you with this part as fire is very dangerous and can cause a lot of damage. So, for the love of all that is holy, check with your local authorities about what you are permitted to do and not do. Be sure to follow all laws and safety standards around fire safety. Be sure to fire in a safe place where it is not windy. Plan a way to put out the fire if things go bad. I do not want to see anyone in the news. So, after learning about fire safety and the laws and regulations, we can get ready to fire. For this example, we are going to pit fire. Get a shovel and meet me back here so we can get to it.



Step Eight: Dig a Hole.


Scrape the area 3-foot around your pit so small leaves and sticks do not catch fire from your pit. Use the shovel or some tool to dig a hole. You want the hole to be as deep as your elbow and wide enough on the edges to place all your pots in with a bit of space around each one. The idea is to have a dry hole, dry burnables, dry wood, and dry pots. Place some burnables in the hole and do some burning to dry the hole out some. You can use sawdust. You can get bags of sawdust at the hardware store or at pet supply shops. One bag should be good enough. Place the pots on the edge of your little hole and rotate them to start to slowly heat them up. Use gloves to place in your pots. Place larger pieces of wood on top like you are going to have a campfire. In the video below, this lady fires pots like Robinson Crusoe did. At 19:30 in the video below, she warms them up and places the pots in the fire!

 


Can I Make Pottery in my fire pit?  You Bet!

 



Step Nine: Light the Fire.

Carefully move all burnables like left over saw dust, leaves, and dry wood from the area and place them where they will not catch fire. Carefully light the fire like you are at camp. Add on more wood slowly and let the fire burn all the way down into the pots and in the hole. Never leave a fire unattended! Let the fire burn out. When the pots are cool enough, pull them out with a pair of gloves. When you tap the pot carefully, you should hear a ring that will tell you if your pot at least has reached a temperature to harden it enough.



 

Step Ten: Clean the Pot.

When the pots are cool enough to hold with your hand, clean the pots up with water and a Brillo pad, wiping off all the ash and dirt that might be on it. Congratulations! You just made your first pots without a kiln. Now go buy some succulents and put them in your pots and give them to your aunt Joan as a gift! She will love them! I recive no payments or kickbacks from posting this material. I write these articals because I enjoy helping folks just like you at no cost. If you enjoyed this post and got somthing out of it feel free to check out my gallery and shop or just say hello at creekroadpottery@gmail.com.



 

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.




 

 

“And one day they taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helicon, and this word first the goddesses said to me – the Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus who holds the aegis: “Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things.”      – Theogony by Hesiod, English translation by Evelyn White

 

Many people may ask me where I get my inspiration. Artist or not, we all get inspired to do something, something that drives us into action. Many say, “Follow your passion!” In my observation, passions can change after you have pursued them for a while. “Follow your passion!” also assumes it is something of good. If your passion was stealing cars it could cause you a bad time. Something more than passion needs to drive a person as at times I do not feel all that passionate about clay when pots crack.  A video I thought was helpful on the topic of following your passion can be found here. You may realize, after all the effort, you don’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would when you first started. But to start, folks believe they might need to be inspired or moved to action by some “trigger”. Here are a few things that “trigger” me. 

 

 

Reading & Research

 

When I was younger, I loved to read and had a small library of books that I enjoyed. I read many of The Hardy Boys books and Little House on the Prairie. I was terrible at reading and spelling until the 5th grade, when I had to do a book report. The experience was so moving that I still remember which book it was. The Hardy Boys: The Secret of Pirate’s Hill. I earned an A. I realized learning could be fun and took off reading like there was no tomorrow. While reading in my free time, I learned English grammar and spelling. My grades improved the more I read, and by high school, I was doing much better.

When I attended Keystone College in my home state of Pennsylvania for art, I met a guy who had piles of books all around him in the snack bar. His name was Richard. He was surrounded by books as he was studying ancient near eastern literature. Loving literature myself, we connected immediately. When we became friends, I went to Office Max with him to photocopy parts of books (as this was before the internet and the texts he was using would cost hundreds to own). It was at this point also that I was introduced to world religion by the librarian named Dr. Elliott. Dr. Elliot taught a world religion class and gave students permission to sit in and listen. She went over the ideas of Joseph Campbell and a bit of the psychologist Carl Jung. This led me to read the book The Power of the Myth by Joseph Campbell.  Between my buddy Richard and Dr. Elliot, I learned how important reading and research was to learning and applying it to my work.

 

 

Nature

 

I also get prompted to action by nature and love color and natural texture patterns. Before I made pots, I loved to go winter camping and hiking. I used to do all of this with my buddy Stephen. I even had a fun channel about my adventures outside. You may view those terrible old-time videos here. Taking the long hikes, up to 3 days or more, gave one plenty of time to spend with oneself and work things out surrounded by color and texture. Sitting in a field of grass with a good friend, making meals on a small cook burner as the sun set made an impression on my mind. The community of camping with friends made its mark as well. In times past, each Memorial Day and Labor Day we would camp with our college friends and loved ones and have grill fests. We would all bring our favorite dishes to show off and share. At night, sitting up late around the fire chatting and joking impressed upon me the community feeling that all was right in the world at that moment where we were. 

Nature shows up in my work in the texture patterns. I often use natural patterns in my pots, mostly the texture patterns of tree bark and things pressed into the clay like stones, plants, and other natural found objects. In the past, I use to layer these patterns, creating line and shape contrasted with color and glaze. I enjoyed using and feeling the raw, unglazed sections of the pots, and tried to leave parts unglazed to show off the clay’s natural beauty. Firing reduction in gas changes the glaze colors to the earth tones that I grew to love and enjoy.

 

 

 

Themes of Color

 

I am inspired by themes of color. I am not sure how it all works. Maybe I get it from my mom who always needed a matching outfit for every occasion. I always told her if she were to live a second time, she should be a fashion critic. Even at 86 years young, she still calls and asks what glaze colors I am running for the shows so she can dress accordingly when she helps as a greeter. Last year for the fall show, I ran all the colors from a single pail of glaze.

Depending on the shelf it was fired on, how hot the pots got, and what the atmosphere was like in the kiln, I was able to produce a wide range of work all from the same glaze that matched the color of the October seasonal fall look. Another show I was inspired by was the 2020 Christmas show called Blue Christmas. All the pots for this also were done from one pail of glaze. I was relieved when the blues came out beautifully to meet the expectations of those who stopped by to see.

The set-up for that show matched somewhat how I imagined it. I also think about these when working out collections for the shows. I try to get customer feedback and pair that with some ideas of work that can match in color or theme. I very much enjoyed the rolled rim mixing bowls and flattened rimmed handles on the batter bowls and bakers.

 



 

 

 

Be Like a Sponge

 

Inspiration can come in many forms, and many times we may not know from where. The ancients tell us about the muses, gods, or God. I try to expose myself to many things, absorb as much as I can and let it come out of my hands and into my creations. Not all of it ends up being well received, and I may spend far too much time working hard on the wrong things. But those times when inspiration hits your total concentration can be a fair and foul thing when you are driven to create, do the work, and get it to the right people as a gift. What I do know is I would make the pots even if no one else cared or bought them. I would still pile my ideas high to see where it would go or where it might end up. Mug one is far different to mug 120! So, what inspires you? What drives you to action? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Written By,
Alford Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

“Thereafter beginning from the left he poured drinks for the other
gods, dipping up from the mixing bowl the sweet nectar.
But among the blessed immortals uncontrollable laughter
went up as they saw Hephaistos bustling about the palace.
Thus thereafter the whole day long until the sun went under
they feasted, nor was anyone’s hunger denied a fair portion,
nor denied the beautifully wrought lyre in the hands of Apollo,
nor the antiphonal sweet sound of the Muses singing. ”

– The Iliad, By Homer, Book 1 

 

 

The Mixing Bowl

 

One of the most useful pottery forms (besides common mugs or soup bowls) are mixing bowls. Mixing bowls are diverse and can be used in many ways. A large bowl makes a great centerpiece, like on a kitchen counter or dining table with fruit inside. Large mixing bowls are also useful for baking and mixing recipes, raising bread dough, or soaking beans.

 

 

To make a mixing bowl, I start with 8 to 10 lbs. of clay. I knead the clay to get the air pockets out and mold into a cone shape. This makes it easier to center on the wheel. In the past, I have also added smaller lumps of kneaded clay on top of each other to make the cone while it’s on the wheel head.

I then place the large cone on the wheel head and turn the wheel by hand, slapping the cone while rotating the wheel to center it. I stand to throw and have my wheel up on blocks. This helps me prevent back injuries from being hunched over. 

 

Throwing the Bowl

 

When the lump of clay is centered on the wheel, I cone it up and down a few times to center the clay throughout the whole lump. I then flatten the cone on the top, pushing down to compress the clay. Now it is time to open the clay.

I roll my thumbs in and push down until I have about a 1/2-inch base. I pull the clay out, creating the floor. I still leave the clay narrow (like making a vase) and pull up for height before pulling out. At this point, it is important to compress the sides and rim after each pull up. 

 

 

Once the height is achieved, I pull out the sides and create the bowl shape the way I like. Sometimes I use a small mirror on the other side to see the shape from the back. Once the shape is how I want it, I then compress the sides and top some. I take a rib and compress and shape the inside, removing any ridges or grooves that could catch a spoon. For this, I use a large throwing rib or a plastic pizza cutter.

 

Now the inside is compressed and shaped, I cut the top rim with the pin tool to even it out. I then compress the rim and thin it to prepare it to be rolled. I carefully roll the rim over and compress the underside. A rolled rim seems to strengthen the bowl, which helps it keep shape during drying and kiln firings. I cut the bowl off the throwing bat with the wire tool and let it stiffen up.

 

Drying and Trimming

 

Once the bowl is stiff enough to handle being flipped, I turn it upside down and expose the bottom to air. It is important to let the bottoms dry first. Once it’s leather hard, I trim the bowl and make sure it has even thickness in both the sides and bottom. Even thickness prevents cracking from uneven drying. 

 

It is possible to speed dry if bottoms are put to heat to dry first. Some set their large bowls upside down in the sun, upright on a kiln lid, or set on metal shelving over a wood stove to heat the bottoms and dry all the way through.

 

When the bowls are bone dry, they can be loaded into the bisque kiln. Center and top shelves are good for bowls, as they need more even heating. If using a gas kiln, they need to be protected from the direct flame and the kiln needs to be heated slowly until just after red heat. Once the kiln reaches bisque temperature, the bowls should cool slowly to prevent cracking from thermal shock. Now the large bowl is ready to glaze.

 

Glazing the Bowl

 

I blow into the large bowl to remove any dust, then fill the bowl to the rim with glaze from a 5-gallon pail after stirring it well with a paint mixer attachment on a drill. Then I dump it out. Depending on the glaze’s gravity, it may need to be done twice if thin. I let the bowl dry completely.

 

To glaze the outside of the bowl, I dump glaze into a large tub, then hold the bowl upside down and at a slight angle. I dunk the bowl and then turn it straight to create an even glaze line about a 3/4 inch up from the bottom. I pull the bowl out and let it dry. Wait for the drips to stop before carefully turning it upright. 

 


 


Firing The Bowls

Once dry, the bowl is ready to fire. I make sure no glaze is on the bottom and even up the lines if I need to. I load the bowls in the kiln. For my kiln, a gas firing takes about 6 hours to reach cone 6 or 2223F. The kiln then cools for 24 hours before it is opened and unloaded.


After being unloaded, I check the bowls for cracks. I then wash them out and send them off to their new homes, post them online, or take them to area shops for sale.

 

I do hope you enjoyed this little post on how bowls are made!   Have you tried to make large bowls?  How would you use a large mixing bowl?  Let us know in the comments!

Written By,
Alford Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

The Struggle

I always have a real bad time knowing when to do what and many times I feel as if I specialize in procrastination rather than doing what I do best. But what can be seen by others or ourselves as procrastination or being lazy might simply be due to a poor work-life balance. I remember last year in 2020 during the pandemic, I shut the pottery down for a week to read the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. I loved the book and what he stated still has stuck with me. Frankl in his book said:

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” -Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Take Time For Yourself

Taking time off to do nothing or to be with family is just as important to creating as creating its self. Even though I had a lot of orders to complete and kiln loads to fire I still took time to go to the family reunion and visit with all the family I have not seen for years. I sat and ate potato salad with Uncle Wayne and Aunt Ruth and chatted with cousin Sean at the grill. Gave hugs to Aunt Gladys bent with age but still smiling and got to meet all the children of those who were children themselves last time I have seen them. You have no idea how fast time passes until you attend a reunion and see loved ones you have not seen in years. Then my friend Richard stopped by.

It was Richard’s birthday. I had planned to make pots all day, but Richard was on his way to Texas to take a class. My friend is huge into all types of research and I always enjoy spending time. So we took the day having lunch at the Diner and watching interesting films he has been collecting for his newest project. Richard is the one who got me into many topics of study and in his home shelves line all the walls but the kitchen three books deep. Over the last 25 years he has loaned me book and even helped me with clay projects. All of this was a nice break to have. But I need to get back to work as customers are looking for work. So I need to do the work and I need to learn to enjoy the hard parts and learning how to suffer the right way.

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Having a good “why” is helpful to stay on track and having patience to persevere over the long run can make the work more about the journey rather than the destination. If you have a mission after resting, the hard work still needs to be done. I always work to get back into the mud, sometimes kicking and screaming. If do not participate in telling my story to the world, others will write it for me, or I will end up following or living the story of someone else.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” – Hillel the Elder, Mishnah Avot 1:14

Work-life balance helps us focus on what is truly meaningful and it then comes out our hands as we make the work and do the tasks that becomes a product that others enjoy. So I might take a long time getting custom orders out, or maybe a bit slow at finishing a few projects, but over all I try and ask like Frankl asked “If I was living today a second time what would I do”

 

Using stains to enhance your work and define texture.

For the last few years I have been working with oxide stains and have enjoyed the results.  I mostly use red iron oxide and back wipe it once applied to bring out the highlights in texture patterns I press into the clay on the work.  When fired in reduction the oxide goes to a leather looking color that I find appealing. I choose functional forms that can be used with no glaze and simply just stain. Things like  shave brush handles, the outside of mugs , bowls, and handles I leave raw at times to stain.

I found early on a problem traditional wet shavers had been that glazed shave bowls were slippery and users would drop them in the sink.  This allowed me to work up a design with texture patterns on the outside of the bowls to help with grip and I decided to leave the outside raw to give it a rustic look.  I then used red iron oxide to bring out the texture patterns in a more pronounced way. I was able to experiment with many patterns and styles over the years and also save money as I was only glazing half the pot. Red Iron Oxide was far cheaper than any glaze recipe but just took a bit longer to apply.

I also enjoyed seeing the raw clay next to glazed areas and patterned areas in contrast to smooth. I found that lettering looked quite nice when red iron oxide is applied and wiped back leaving the valleys dark and peaks a lighter color.

Applying Stain to the pots.

I put some red iron oxide powder in a dish and add water. The more iron the darker. So at times I may add less or more water depending on the look I might be going for. I then apply the red iron oxide wash with a brush on the bisque ware then back wipe with a sponge. After I am done applying the wash I let the pots dry some and then glaze the other areas last if I decide to glaze at all.

The end result can be quite amazing. I do enjoy seeing the toasty brown color of the clay after opening the gas kiln after the glaze firing. For classes, I give it is possible to have the students make pinch pot planters and have them impress texture patterns in them and later bisque fire and stain them. This can be done for those who wish to only take one class and only return for pickup. In the video here I am loading the kiln full of stained pinch pots done by students. The outcome was quite nice! Below is an example of student work from my last class. The possibilities are endless on how to use stains to make work look interesting and communicate without using glaze. Have you ever used stains? Let me know in the comments!