Archive for November, 2010

The Potter’s Holiday

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I like people. I think they are beautiful as individuals and as family groups. That is one side benefit of making a living the way I do. As the nation sat down together in homes all over America and beyond I thought of how many of my pots were being employed in the holiday meal. It is probably more than at any other time. I’m sure every other potter who makes his or her trade in utilitarian wares has the same thoughts. I love the interaction I have with people who visit my shop. I have spent many an hour…or afternoon talking on and on with folks as I throw and they watch. It is pleasant. They seem to like it and it doesn’t slow me down any.
I have always had my Holiday/Christmas sale start the day after Thanksgiving Day. I wasn’t thinking about the day being a potter’s holiday it just seemed good. I see that many of my peers do the same. I hold the sale over two weekends because with the fall weather being what it is in the mountain west it is wise to build in a bad weather day. It is a great time. I get to visit a lot and get feed back on the work. I love watching people make up their minds.
This year Zina was gone to Austin for the holiday so her friends Laura Prenot volunteered to help me with the shop on the sale days. She was invaluable. She kept the pots flowing while I paid attention to people. Here are Caleb, Alison and Laura, all friends of Zina’s.
Ray Oman and his very fine mate Annie getting away with a pie dish.
Bugdog, part of the Eskelsen entourage.
A musical people. The Shultz family.
the Ericson sisters Bella and Kadee. Bella is learning cosmetics.

Turkey Day pots.

Friday, November 26th, 2010

As usual I spent Thanksgiving Day working. I unloaded the kiln in the morning and got the pots all carried into the shop. After eating the bird with friends I returned to the scene of the crime and spent the rest of that day pricing pots and preparing the showroom for the sale Friday and Saturday. Here are few examples of what I got.
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Three pairs of round boxes.
Footed dishes with Avery slip.
Small coffee mugs
Two sides of the same pitcher.
Two 12 inch plates.
Graduated canister sets
Bread Pans
Tea bowls with Avery slip.
Two jugs

Blazing away while the Big One rolls in.

Friday, November 26th, 2010

I spent Saturday last week glazing pots , grinding shelves and preparing wood for the firing. The National Weather Service said that a storm was to begin Saturday evening and last mostly through the following Tuesday. I thought “Great, I’ll be loading and firing the kiln in the storm.” Well, the storm didn’t really get busy until about an hour before I was through firing on Tuesday. I didn’t change my plans based on the report because I couldn’t. I was pretty much tied into the schedule and had no wiggle room. Luck was with me.
Lee offered to help glue wads on the pots Monday as I finished glazing a few things. We got all the wadding done by noon.
All the pots wadded and staged for loading.
For a short time on Monday it looked like it would develop into a full on blizzard. I ran home and got my outfitter wing. It is a tarp I use on the river to shelter our kitchen.
It took all afternoon but I finally got the kiln loaded and bricked up by about 8 pm. I was beat and went straight to bed in preparation for firing at 6 am Tuesday.
THe firing was uneventful. Lee came down at 12:30 to take over for a little time so I could grab lunch and a power nap. That was enough to wear her out. She went home and slept the rest of the afternoon.img_2968.JPG img_2969.JPG img_2973.JPG
Rick Gate came by as he usually does and “helped” me finish off the firing. Dale Peel wandered in for a spell as well. The cones were good at about 9 pm.

More mud; the last of my 2010 production.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

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I got the bisque loaded this afternoon. The last of the pots were trimmed late yesterday. I just unloaded another truck load of wood from the saw mill. Butchering the wood will take a couple of days yet. Whew. It has been a bit pressed since Lee’s injury three weeks ago. Here are some of the last week’s production.
Little footed dishes for the hot face under the bottom shelf.

12 inch versions of my large platters.



8 lb salad bowls.
Assorted tea bowls.
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Graduated canister sets.

Making a round box.

Monday, November 15th, 2010

I started making these little thrown round boxes a few years ago. They are made to be fired in a specific place in the kiln. Place them against the back of the arch on the top shelf. There they catch a lot of ash that falls on them as the flame dumps it as it curves downward. A lot of them go into the kiln with out any glaze on them. This one has my Thistle slip glaze on it.
A make the pot with 1.5 lbs of clay. After pulling up the walls I indent the top 1/2 inch using a wooden tool and carefully measure the out side of that indented part.
The lid is thrown from 1 lb of clay. I throw the inside to the same dimension as the outside of the indentation on the pot.
When the lid and pot are a firm leather hard and of equal moisture content I make a pad of clay I can use to press the pieces against as I trim them.


Pressing the lid firmly against the trimming pad I trim the top of it until it is smooth and rounded.

Next I trim the bottom of the pot in the same way.
Now I center the pot on the trimming pad and anchor it in place with four wads of moist clay.
The lid is usually a little small. THat is better that loose. With the moisture content equal I can carefully trim to fit. I get the moisture content more or less equal by covering the pots for at least 24 hours after the initial drying to the leather hard state to allow the moisture content to equalize.

Using the square edge of a rib I carefully trim away the clay a little at a time, checking often to find the right fit, until it is just right to accept the lid.
With gentle pressure on the top I then trim the lid to make the profile of the two parts continuous.


Next, with the lid still in place on the pot I dampen the top of the lid and use a bread knife to texture the top of the lid.

I repeat the same for the sides of the lid.




The pot sides are textured in the same manner as the lid and the two parts are fitted together. There are often small adjustments to make the fit just right.

Here is a tool I use to make a variation on the texturing. It is simply a textured roulette that I turn on a piece of heavy gauge wire as the finished pot turns on the wheel.
Good Luck and Happy Potting.

Spring City Arts Holiday Open House Days

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Mark your calendars! November 26-27 and December 4 from 10 am until 4 pm each day the Spring City Arts Gallery and other main street galleries in Spring City. In the SCA Gallery you will find the work of a variety of local artists and craftsmen. Sophie’s Back Sheep Gallery will also be open featuring Lynne Farrar and Sophie Soprano’s paintings. Horseshoe Mountain Pottery will have traditional wood fired stoneware. Jock Jones will also be in his shop where he makes traditional Windsor chairs.
Come early and spend the day on Spring City’s Historic Main Street.





Back in the mud

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

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Between the September/October Grand Canyon river trip,
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Lee’s recent injury (fractured pelvis, fractured sacrum and concussion attendant to falling off a horse)
and the usual fall chores like getting wood in for the kiln….
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it has taken me a while to get the wheel rolling again.
Here are some stills from the blur that the past week has been.
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If I am ever in doubt about where to start I warm up with various sized mugs.
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Bread bakers.
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Jugs. I always stack the top of my bag wall with jugs or some other tall items.

I’ll be throwing for the next few days and then turning my attention to glazing and firing.

The Dream Trip: Camp 19, March 25…end of the trip.

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

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I awoke at about 4:30 and lay awake for another hour before untying the boat so we could drift down stream as we watched the stars twirl over head. In and out of sleep we drank in the beginning of our last day on the river or what was left of it now that we were well below the last of anything resembling a river bed not mired in silt. The light that had been gathering on the eastern horizon started to form shapes and shadows on the upper layers of rock. I thought about how long it had been since we first slipped below those cliffs of sandstone, limestone and shale almost a month ago. I fired up the little stove we use on the boat and made cocoa which we had with biscotti and grapefruit.

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Before long we were coming up on Quartermaster Canyon where the Hualapai have allowed concessionaires to set up helicopter landing pads, picnic areas and boat docks. They fly their people in from the Vegas strip and give them an hour long “Grand Canyon River Experience”. It was nonstop chopper action. We were still in bed and not looking quite like the Colorado River Runners they were expecting, just two old people in a sleeping bag. Once again we were the object of touristas attention. For as long as it took us to pass through this zone we were gawked at and asked all manner of questions. They would get off the choppers, walk down to the “river” and board a pontoon raft for a 20 minute ride on the river and then back to the choppers and off to the casinos.
“You guys have been on the river how long?”
The Skywalk, another Hualapai amenity.
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I wish I could say that I looked as good as she did after 27 days on the river.
After the whole air show thing we pushed hard through the day watching the silt banks grow on either side. Often the banks would calve away and there would be a big crash as the clay splashed into the river. There were almost no places to camp due to the silt banks.
Looking west from the Grand Wash Cliffs the Nevada desert opens up. It is the most amazing thing after 277 miles of canyon wall to have them just drop away like that. Looking bak the Grand Canyon looks like a mountain range with a canyon carved into it. Our river journey was fast ending. It seemed tobe falling away like the banks around us.
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A few miles beyond the Grand Wash Cliffs we came upon the new Pearce Ferry boat ramp. It had only been opened a few days and we were very glad to have access to it as the rapids right below the ramp were quick becoming un-runnable. When we got to the ramp it was open so we got right after derigging. With in a few minutes the first Hualapai boats began showing up. I was glad for our little piece of ramp. It is an under sized ramp for a amount of traffic it will see now that the new rapid is so bad. It took us about two hours to tear the boat apart and get it loaded. Some of the Hualapai guys helped me load the rubber into the truck. The rest I was able to manage while Lee rested.
We drove carefully to Meadview not wanting to blow out a tire on the rocky road. At Meadview we used the “scat machine” to send all our crap from the month packing. It is always such a ceremony at the end of a trip.
Our last camp, number 19 was at the Hacienda Hotel and Casino in Boulder, Nevada. We got dinner of prime rib and settled into our two Queen bedroom and listened as the wind howled in the desert outside. We had gotten off the river just ahead of a bad storm that whacked the river runners behind us. Though we missed the star canopy we were glad for the shelter and hot showers….did I mention hot showers.
In the morning we ate a big breakfast and drove through Las Vegas and out toward Utah stopping in Mesquite for gas. At the gas station in Mesquite the gas pump refused our credit card. I went in and was told by the service station attendant that it was not being accepted. Lee called visa customer service and they told us that the account had been frozen due to unusual activity. We explained that we had been on the river for a month and that was why there had been no activity until the night before. I had paid for our meals at the Hacienda Hotel with cash but had used the visa card to pay for the room. The customer service person said that the concern was not the long break and then one purchase far from where we live but a $7.00 purchase made in Ohio the night before. Strange. I remembered that when I handed the card to the hotel clerk he had spent an unusually long time examining the card before hand ing it back to me.
When we got home I tried to contact the hotel management. My phone calls and emails have never been returned. I explained in both the problem. FYI, not only can this happen at the Hacienda Hotel and Casino in Boulder, NV, the management doesn’t care to stop it. A rather bummer ending to an otherwise sweet trip.
At the take out we had met two boatmen from Canyoneers. They were there to scope out the new ramp. Their comment was that with a 39 foot raft no matter how you do it your butt end will be way out in the current. There is not a nice eddy there to pull into as you take out. You are just in the current.
When we explained the nature of our trip to the fellows from Canyoneers they said “That is a dream trip”. From then on we have talked about it as the Dream Trip.
I don’t know if we will do it just like that again, just the two of us. We are getting older and have physical limits. Lee broke her pelvis a few days ago.(October 27) I have bad knees and other complaints. We are rather spoiled for running with large groups on a private trip., THree boats and maybe six people seems like a reasonable limit right now. We will continue to charter commercial trips through my employer, Tour West for larger groups. That is work and it has to be that way but for private trips it will ever more be very small.

The Dream Trip: Camp 18, March 23-24

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Sleeping out was nice. It was warm enough that no tent was needed and the stars put on another amazing show for us. As the stars winked out we watched the light growing in the east. We didn’t get up until 7 am just watching it all begin and knowing that by the next night we would be off of the natural river and somewhere on the silt bed canal of Lake Mead. There is current all the way out to Pearce Ferry and beyond but it is a different river. It moves sluggishly and the sounds are all wrong for a river.
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Morning was lovely. We worked our way through breakfast of Spam with french toast and rigged the boat, getting on the water by 10 am. The rapids at Bridge Canyon and Gneiss Canyon were big and demanded some attention.We got hosed in both of them. 237 mile rapids was little more than a wave but it is coming back as the silt goes out. At Separation and Spencer Canyons the rapids are just starting to reassert themselves. It won’t be long….
It doesn’t look like much but it was just about the meanest rapid on the Colorado at one time.
It was a very pleasant sunny March day and we moved right along, stopping at Spencer canyon to look around at the improvements the Hualapai have made there. While floating we were passed by six boats full of tourists outfitted by the Hualapai. They were doing the daily from Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry. We were the subject of many photographs as they hurried by.Shortly after we left there the wind came up and soon was howling up canyon. We had to really push to make any progress. Lee did her part by keeping a low profile. We took camp at Surprise Canyon on the lower end of a long sand bar. At least the wind coming up the river was not carrying sand as it blasted us. As we were putting up the tent a group of boaters passed us rowing like Trojans into the gale.
Lee really is a great boating companion. She loves it even when it is blowing and cold. I made us a dinner of hot spicy tomato soup with grilled cheese. For dessert we broke out some home canned peaches….yum.
I first rowed past Surprise Canyon in 1994. At that time it was flooded and choked with willows and tamarisk so badly that entering was near impossible. As the water has gone down and the silt has gone out with the increasing current the mouth has reopened and hiking is an option, so on this last full day of our trip we decided to hike as far up Surprise as we could. I made breakfast of Spam,egg and cheese muffin sandwiches. I made extra so we could pack them for lunch.
We had an amazing beautiful day hiking up Surprise. It is a gem. We had been reading about Harvey Butchart’s forays down into Surprise from the top. We really hoped to get up at least to the Redwall narrows. It was not to be. It is long canyon without the kind of gradient we were seeing up around 210 and thereabouts. For the first mile or so we could see the bath tub ring left by Lake Mead with banks of silt still clinging to the stone walls here and there. For the first two hours we were in the granite and schist narrows. The light was dramatic. We stopped for a snack break in some Tapeats ledges by a deep clear pool where the canyon cut through that sandstone formation. From there we hiked another couple of hours through a much wider canyon as it opened up in the Bright Angel. The stream braided and wandered through Fremont Cottonwoods and some sort of ash trees in a wide open valley until it began to close in as we entered the lower limestone layers ahead of the Redwall. As we left the wide open area we came into a slumped area. The geology was all gone to heck, everything upside down and backwards. There were hundreds of huge limestone boulders choking the creek bed and slowing our progress. As we reached our turnaround time we came to some beautiful deep clear pools that begged a dip. We ate our Spam sandwiches and bathed soaplessly in the warm afternoon sun. After we dried off we dressed and headed down. The desert has more blooms here in the lower end especially brittle bush, Whipple’s Yucca and cactus. The walk down took slightly less time that going up, probably because I took less pictures going into the sun.
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We were pretty bushed back at camp. I made tuna sandwiches while Lee lay down in the tent to rest her back. Ten I began packing up and loading the boat so that we could start early in the morning. When she got up we ate the sandwiches with more canned peaches and cottage cheese. MNot bad for a no ice trip on day 27, eh? We finished loading the boat and made up our bed on the deck leaving nothing on shore. Even the groover was on board but close to the top for morning use. I moved the boat to a rock tie up and we settled in for our first night on the boat on this trip. The moon was in the last quarter but would be in our eyes before morning.