Monday, March 22, 2010


I grab the wooden handled wire tool, wrapping the thin wire twice around my fingers, and feel it press into my skin as I cut my wet pot from the wheel. I have dried clay cracking around my wrists and wet clay between my fingers. As I slap a new mound of clay on my wheel I can feel it give way and change shape. I throw the walls of my next bowl and my outside fingers mimic the opening motion they can feel of my inside fingers.

The sense of touch is a huge part of a potter's life. While everyone "feels" everyday, a potter's livelihood rests in a heightened sense of touch. A sensitive yet firm grasp of what is happening with your hands is essential.

This appreciation of touch was brought home to me when my sister, my niece and I sat together watching a documentary the other day. At one point in the film, a woman walked through a beautiful stone arched veranda in Paris. The camera panned over an immaculate garden full of trimmed hedges, brightly colored flowers, and rich green grass. The woman's hair, frizzy and red, made the colors of the flowers pop and both contrasted beautifully with the stone arches and gray, rainy sky. My 3 year old niece's immediate reaction to this gorgeous scene was, "Mom, can we go there for I can touch it?" And then added, "I want to touch it so I can feel it."

So human and so real! She wasn't just content to sit on the couch and see the scene before her, she wanted to envelope her senses in it, to truly experience it by touching the stone or wet grass or frizzy red hair. This desire is one that so many of us don't realize we are missing in our world of life on screen. TV and computers have made it possible to experience a vast amount of the world previously privy to the rich or well traveled. But this innocent sentiment of a 3 year old made me think. We should not be content with duo-sensory (did I just make up that term?!) experiences on screen, overdeveloping our hearing and seeing senses. We should seek out true full experiences for ourselves as well! We should be conscious of how each sense absorbs particular circumstances during the day. I believe that in developing and titillating all five, life will take on an extraordinarily satisfied feeling of fullness.

How have you fed all five of your senses today?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Are you free tonight?! The Kiln Club of Washington D.C. invited me to come speak! I will be presenting on Spain, Seth Cardew, and my experience during my three month stay. I am so thrilled to present and share some of the pottery wisdom I gleaned and some of the wonderful cultural experiences.

Lee Arts Center
5722 Lee Highway Arlington, VA 22207
March 17th, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

International pottery

A friend of mine is in the Peace Corps, living in Burkina Faso. A little bit ago she got the chance to go make pottery with a local potter there. The process is beautiful! Take a look: adventures à go-go

Love it, Carolyn!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Potter's Plights?

There are plights with every job. Some are obvious: construction workers' backs, a waitress' irritating customers who send everything back or their feet, a computer programmer's wrists, or a plein-air painter's eyes (cataracts!). And some are not so obvious. I find it fascinating to understand those aspects of other people's jobs, the things that we wouldn't think to empathize with.

A potter, other than the usual "I'm an artist" plights, have some odd afflictions.

1. My middle finger, ring finger, and pinkie on my right hand are constantly scraping the wheel head. Because of that, my finger nails on those fingers are worn down on the right hand corners making for an odd feeling, odd looking set of nails. No fussing about broken nails here!

2. The muscle between my thumb and forefinger is awesome. Ok, really its just that I can flex it and its hard. Yes, rather like what I wish my biceps were, my thumb muscle IS. What IS that muscle called?!

3. Many older potters suffer from Silicosis, a disease from the silica in clay and glazes. They did not realize the dangers (or have OSHA regulations!) back in the day, and breathed in things that we mask well now (or should). Basically you suffocate slowly from the silica partials that attach to your lung walls. A famous potter, Warren Mackenzie, is suffering from this now.

4. Potters often have arthritis in their hands, wrists, or elbows.

5. I often have hands and nails stained from the materials with which I work and have to struggle to clean them or some how cover them for my serving job which does NOT allow for hands like that!

What are some of the interesting plights in YOUR job?!

[Lucie Rie's hands shown in picture above]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Extra, Extra!! Plates hot off the press...

Here they are, as promised! Recent lunch/side plates, fresh from the kiln. Black clay, black glaze, carved with my own interpretation of Norwegian designs, and done in wax resist to let the raw clay show through.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I have also been throwing plates. Of all forms, plates present the easiest looking shape with the hardest actual construction. Plates are difficult to get flat enough without a collapse, are difficult to dry, take up a lot of space, and cannot be stacked in the glaze firing. A graceful, well made plate, I think, is the sure sign of a seasoned, confident potter. It is a form that exhibits elegance only with practice. There is a crucial moment in a plate's creation that only an innate sense of the clay and the form can attain the subtle yet confident changes of direction.I made a number of small side plates and included carving around the band. That way, the food can sit in the middle with a beautiful hemming in of the contents. I've glazed these and we just opened the kiln last night so completed pictures are on their way!

New shapes

I am throwing with my black clay these days. It is always a challenge because of the mess. Normally I could throw, wash my hands, and be ready to walk out the door. But with my black clay, my hands are stained and it looks as though I forgot to wash my hands after applying self tanner with the edges of my palms (where my hands rub on the wheel head)! Aside from that, I love the black clay. It is a fine particled clay and runs smoothly between my hands. The rich chocolate color of the wet clay encourages my creativity and the deep black color showing through on the finished product is my reward.

Lately I have been trying to make shapes that will allow the user to see my carving or wax resist patterns. I don't do either of those decorating techniques on the insides of my pots because cleaning rough clay or tiny carved portions where food sits would be a pain. Functional pots with straight sides to show off the decorations are easy to come by in a pitcher, a vase, or a cup. But to make a bowl with straight sides that is simultaneously open and inviting to use has been a challenge.