Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pick your teacher

Pick your teacher not your nose! When my kids were picking classes to take as electives I always told them pick the teacher not the course. A good teacher can make learning anything enjoyable and easy.
Katie is on day 5 of three hour private mentoring with me. She has made 30 mugs with handles, 10 creamers with handles and today after handling the creamers she made 10 bowls.( Ok her handles need work but I still maintain it takes longer to learn how to pull a handle than throw a cup). At the guild classes she walked away with 13 pieces after 8 weeks. She said today I make making pots so easy. I guess after 10's of thousands of pots through these fingers I might know a thing or two. I have made all the same mistakes as y'all have a hundred times or more. Now I can see them coming and can head them off at the pass.
We need accreditation to teach school. I had a Honour's Bachelor's degree and a Bachelor of Education to teach high school. I had 35 years of making pots and a MFA to teach at the college level.  As it should be! To teach clay at a professional level I believe it requires more than 5 night school classes and selling your pots at Nancy's Nibbles and Knits. I'm talking about making pots at more than the entry/ recreational level. For people like Katie that want to make good work and sell them I say  don't be penny wise and dollar foolish. Seek out a good teacher! Good teachers are much more than good makers. They can teach!
Here are a couple of cups from Jen Drysdale from the last wood firing. Jen's work has changed and grown so much through the wood fire mentor ship program that I have the pleasure of leading for the Hamilton Potter's Guild.  Why fire a wood kiln? Why fire a wood kiln for over 24 hours?  No glaze and such a beautiful surface. That's why!

Monday, August 31, 2015

comin' around

This week is proof positive that my little house has become a home. You have to be a friend to have friends.  I've had some really encouraging comments these past few days. Birds of a feather flock together and I am in with  a pretty great flock.  Friday I had Steve the Potter fly in for lunch. Steve has his pilots license and a little Cessna he is leavin' the farm in. Steve joined me for lunch with my old dancing partner/potter Shirley Clifford. I think I have been friends with Shirley for over 3 decades. Then my student Major Jane Thelwell ( four tours of Bosnia) joined me for supper and stayed over. We solved all the problems of the world and everything there is to know about the life of a potter..
Four of my students rolled in today to fire the wood kiln. We had a pot luck at The Cactus Lounge. 
Today Teresa and Chris both independently said your blog has been on a roll of late. You are on! You have landed on your feet.Your thoughts are reflective, funny and food for thought.
 I know I am in good company. I truly love my life and my friends.
Also got a bit of good news this morning . My student Joon Hee Kim has been accepted into the Chelsea College of Art(England) for an MA in Sculpture. Jooh Hee applied for a BA but her work was so strong they gave her a generous scholarship and have accepted her into the Masters program. So this year I have 3 in Britain- Joon Hee, Amber Zuber MA at Royal College of Art and Jordan Scott working at the Leach Pottery in St. Ives.

My motto " If you want praise go show your work to your mother or partner.  If you want the truth come and talk to me and my students. They have all learned soooooo well. I think I'm comin' around!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tony's Pizza, Tony's Clip Joint and Tony's Club Mud

There are some spaces in my Spinning your Wheels at La Meridiana in Tuscany. I thought I'd post the itinerary for any of you that might be tempted to spend two weeks making some pots in one of the most inspirational settings I can imagine. Every hour has something planned with some great side trips to Volterra which has the most fantastic collection of Etruscan pots you will ever lay eyes on. The visit to "Super Mario" the big pot man is worth the price of admission. This guy puts on a performance. I do also the idea of a spaghetti night watching  a spaghetti western. Bring your chaps and lassos.  As for the firing we have the option of either a soda or carbon trap shino firing. Both excite me.
We will make and talk about our work each day. I have been thinking about Italy this week.  It's such a civilized place with awesome food, wine and in a incredible facility. It's sneaking up on me.
Here are some crazy ewers I made after visiting the museum in Volterra. I need another fix.


 Spinning the Wheels – Programme Schedule Day
Studio work
Around the studio works ( this is a flexible proposal and will be adjusted according to the ceramic needs)
Arrival between 3 and 7 pm., with pick up at Certaldo train station at 6 pm.
8pm Opening dinner hosted by La Meridiana
Introduction to the studio and studio rules
Start studio work
8:30 Welcome breakfast
12:30 lunch
2 pm shuttle to Certaldo alto for inspiration and to the supermarket for groceries for your daily needs
Dinner on own.
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
5:30 pm Wine tasting and light dinner in Barberino. This is a pleasant introduction to many aspects of Tuscan live style!
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
Studio open late ( 10:00 pm) with pizza delivery at 7.30 pm
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
4:30 pm Coffea break with local Honey tasting
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
5:00 pm Introduction to Boccaccio, the medieval novelist, then trip to Certaldo alto, Boccaccio’s birthplace. Dinner in Certaldo
Morning critique
Demo and making
12:30 lunch
Spaghetti cooking demo and dinner and Movie night with Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti western.
Studio closed
Day trip to Volterra and the “handle museum”. Lunch and dinner on-own
Finish Work
12:30 lunch
2 pm shuttle to Certaldo for groceries
Day trip to Siena Lunch and dinner on-own
Decorating and Glazing
12:30 lunch
Firing/ cooling
Day trip through the Chianti area and to visit Mario Mariani, a traditional potter who makes the big, traditional terracotta containers. On to Greve and marvelous Chianti hills.
Open kiln, clean workspace,
12:30 lunch
2 pm Visit to San Gimignano. See studio of Franco Balducci
8 pm Closing dinner
Shuttle to Certaldo train station

Friday, August 28, 2015

Showing my ash!

I had to resort to using the red phone to try and find out an answer to my green flames. My friend and Prof John Neely is who I turn to when I have a head scratcher concerning a wood kiln. I fondly refer to John as the man with the ceramic brain.
Here is John's answer:
"Wish I had a good answer for you. About all I can offer is kind of a round about take on the subject. You’ll remember from salt kilns that sodium burns yellow - well, calcium is more orange, potassium burns purple and boron blue or green. I don’t really know much about other colors (except magnesium, which is white) but that is how miners used to analyze the rocks they were dealing with. A “flame test" was the first thing they tried. You also know that carbon burns yellow, orange or red, depending on temperature. Pine usually is dirtier - meaning more carbon which would look red or orange. My guess is these minerals are what influence the flame color."
So to add to the mystery here is a picture of the ash from the firebox. I thought I was hallucinating but the ash was green. I asked Duncan and Cassara to confirm and it is indeed green. So this must back up the theory that it is the mineral content of the wood that is giving us green flamers. It seems that certain woods contain a significant amount of boron. Apple orchard farmers can have their soil tested for boron. There is more to know about this wood firing than I can fit into this life time. I think I'll come back smarter in the next life.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

You're OUT!

You’re OUT  and don’t you come back until you have learned the rules. I have decided to appoint myself the Standards Committee Chairman of my own collection. 

First candidate- Ronnie the Rat Meyers,  Professor Emeritus, U of G, Athens, Georgia
Oh my Ronnie these plates have yellow, red and pink stains. You know they are disallowed. What if someone took one of these plates and served coq au vin, or stuffed whitefish with lemon sauce or southern BBQ on one of these rough edged plates. Could you not have sponged down the sharp lines? I’m sorry you shipped your work all this way but you are OUT!

Second candidate- Bruce Dehnert Head of Ceramics at Peter’s Valley Crafts Center, NJ. Oh Bruce your edges are sooooooo sharp! Have you never heard of a green scrubby? What if a customer decided to put their lips to the edge of your vessels?  Your pots are kinda wonky too! Why didn't ya clean all that clay shit off the sides? They don’t look like you have mastered the craft. We here at The Cactus Lounge don't like marks of process.  Sorry man but you are OUT. I still like you as a person though, OK?

Candidate #3 John Chalke The Canadian Cowboy and Conscience of The West- Holy shit, Batman these glazes are beyond acceptable. What if someone took this pan off the wall and decided to serve a Cornish hen in it? The glazes are all bubbled up, sharp and goodness me they just might kill someone. Johnnie my old friend wherever you are please don’t scorch me for this. I’m just doing my job. You’re Out!

Candidate #4 Dan Murphy- my prof at Utah State University. Oh Dan, this dang moon jar is all lop-sided. It ain’t even symmetrical for heaven sakes. It has these scars on the side of it like it fell on something during the firing. The rim is kinda sharp and it is leaning over all wonky like. You call yourself a Professor- ha! As much as I hate to say this- You’re  BIG TIME OUT!!!!!!

Oh man this has been stressful.  I fear my whole house may well be a danger zone. I have so many pots with all these imperfections.  How could I have chosen so unwisely. Where do I begin?  I'm having friends over tomorrow so I had better trash my entire collection for fear of a law suit. Soooooooo much stress!  I had better go for a run. It helps me get away from all this responsibility. Have a safe day everyone and by all means stay clear of nasty pots.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ban Ceramics Education

I’ve come up with a brand new plan. We need to scrap Ceramic Education in the schools. I can’t tell you how many students in the course of my 15 years of teaching at Sheridan College told me they sold more pots at the Guild Sale before they came to Sheridan than they do now as better potters. Don’t go pointing the finger at me! I was only a part time faculty and had them for a total of 7 weeks during their 3 year program.
I have 4 of my former students coming this weekend for a wood firing. Last long firing we discussed “how to keep love alive? This time the firebox conversation will be what the hell happened to my work? Why is it
not selling at the entry level like it used to?????
So if our plan as educators is to have our students gainfully employed in clay upon graduation then we need a brand new plan. We do need to make money. There is no way I want to eat Ramon noodles each day and I like my little Cactus Lounge and my old car.  I also like good pots! My definition of a good pot is copied from Hamada- A good pot is one that I like.
There are some great pots being made today. The best I have ever seen in my 64 year history. I feel a change coming. It is a small ground swell but it is enough to give me hope.
From my vantage point I have seen potters that made their best work while in college and the prospects of making a living has kept their work on hold for decades.
Same ole, same ole.
Making a living is important and they should stand proud.  I am most interested in those that have made a living and continually made outstanding work. Kayo Young is having a show at the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas, Ontario in Sept. Kayo is one of Canada’s best kept secrets. His work in porcelain is ever changing, beautifully executed and he has made a good living. That deserves a standing O.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Your Voice

First let me start by sending my condolences to my friend Carter for the loss of his Dad. Carter I hear your voice. I hear the sadness and I understand all about feeling a lack of motivation to make-work at certain times in our careers. Mend yourself man and we await your comeback.
I’m feeling somewhat reflective tonight.  Fools think that financial success and artistic success are synonymous. They are NOT!  One of the members of my mentor ship group belongs to a co-op that accepted a financially successful potter. Now the financially successful potter has all but killed my mentee’s presence in the gallery. To my mentee all I can say is keep your voice. You didn’t join a wood fire mentor ship group to follow the market place. Your choice has been to march to a different drummer.  Your work is growing! All in the group are urging you on. The people that read my ramblings each day are not your average everyday potters.  Your work is not destined for the home of everyman but is destined for someone’s home.
Then on the same day I heard from a friend that has been fired after over 25 years of teaching at a local art school for having a voice. A teacher without a yearly contract must keep their mouth zipped when it comes to what they see as injustice. Question the powers at be and you are toast. The world needs more voices. Good on you. Take a bow!
I once had a professor Jim Miller that said _ Say something stupid and all will say “Oh that’s Tony Clennell the guy that said something stupid. Say something intelligent and they will say “ Oh that is Tony Clennell that said something intelligent.” Say nothing at all and they will say Tony Who? So much of the work I see in the market place today says nothing at all. It is a sea of sameness.  The big voices whether I like the sound or not speak above the crowds. Your voice and your work it is one. Sometimes I wish mine were softer, more refined and more polished. As my boy hood hero Popeye the Sailor Man said “ I yam what I yam and I ain’t what I ain’t- toot, toot!
Be authentic!