Monday, September 26, 2016


Papa-omm-mow- mow, papa-omm-mow-mow The funniest sound I ever heard. You can’t understand a single word. If you remember this song you just might have a chance of understanding how my brain works. It is full to the brim of useless information- song titles

, old pizza store phone numbers, jokes, trivia of all sorts.
If you think you can plan your life think again. Life is what goes on while you’re busy planning it. I was going to paint the exterior basement of my house today. It is pissing down rain. No big deal I made pots instead.  Life is not about waiting for the rain to stop but to learn to dance in it. I went for a walk in the rain and found this giant puff ball. No, it is not a loaf of bread, it’s a mushroom. I wasn’t planning mushroom, walnut. olive oil and basil linguini for supper but that is what fell into my lap. I was rewarded for celebrating what the day had to serve up to me.
Once I was asked by a banker to prepare a business plan. I answered “ That’s easy I plan to stay in the pottery business”. That was not the right answer and I didn’t get the line of credit I was after.
How does Bruce Dehnert’s brain work when he is making one of these ingots. He starts off with a plan sorta and then the pieces fall into place. Just like life. It all falls into place when you are busy living it. Sometimes it turns up mushrooms and sometimes it sucks like a lemon. When life serves you up lemons you make lemonade.
 I have one squeezed lemon everyday before my coffee. Mark Twain said “ Eat one live frog each morning and that will be the worst thing that will happen to you all day.”

Today I’m celebrating the rain, being tired post firing, the good food that nature has provided me and the preorder of John Prine’s latest album “For Better or Worse”. Whose gonna take your garbage out when I’m gone? I wish my mind was as clever as his.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The "Eh" Team

Here is the Team Canada Women’s Wood firing team moi, Chris de Takesy, Teresa Dunlop, Cassara Kennedy, Jen Drysdale and Energizer Bunny Anne Marie Rowe. We were minus Emma Smith so Cassara Kennedy stepped up as a closer. Duncan Aird normally shares the harem with me.

 I’m not sure how many firings we have done together in the last couple of years but we all know our roles. It is a bit like clock work now. We plan on 100degrees F an hour, hold at radiant heat for 4 hours, proceed at 100 degrees an hour and hold for about 6 hours between Cone 6 and Cone 11. It works out to be about a 30-32 hour firing. The door was our kiln Banksy Anne Marie Row.

It was the perfect Ontario weekend with beautiful blue skies and cool evenings. We had a good blend of wood so it was a bit like being a wine maker. A bit of light red pine o noir , a little blend of white ash Chardonnay and we had a nice supply of big red merlot walnut. We had a couple of hangovers once from an entire weekend binging on the big red merlot walnut so adding some lighter varieties allowed us to consume as much fuel with no hangovers. The surface area of the wood was really small so it meant stoking often. It was like firing with arms full of matches. Our pyrometer went cuckoo with a final reading of 1542C which I believe is about Cone Infinity.  We use the pyrometer to show the gain but “never” rely on it.  We had Cone 11 flat and 12 tipping throughout the kiln. This was firing #15 for that kiln. It is not what I would call an easy kiln to fire. A good kiln takes a lifetime to learn how to fire. This kiln never lets you forget  that if you put half the effort in you had better be ready to accept half the results.

Monday, September 19, 2016

My father was a cross dresser

Here is a picture of my Dad almost 100 years ago.  My grandfather a Church of England Chaplin and my grandmother both killed in WW 1. We think we have come so far with LGBTQI  issues. One hundred years ago in Britain little boys wore dresses until the age of 3 or 4. My dad was no exception. He also took on the maiden name of his mother as his middle name- Jon Cowie Clennell. Oh and if you think I misspelled John his was spelt Jon. We do owe our blue eyes to the Norse men that invaded Northern England. So the hyphenated name didn't just happen with the women's movement of the late 60's. It was what ya did in Northumberland, England a century ago. My Uncle Jimmie was James Proctor Cowie Clennell as he took on the maiden name of his mother and her mother.  These were men raised in the tough mining towns of Northumberland.  With this soft feminine side it's little wonder my dad could act, draw, and tell wonderful stories. My Uncle Jimmie spent his life time in the arts wearing a paisley cravat and sporting a pink woman's mohair hat. When you are born of tough mining stock no one dares question your manliness whatever that means.  Real men can wear pink mohair hats.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I used to be indecisive

I used to be indecisive but now I'm not so sure! I have bought into less is more, understated is where it's at and now more is more. Excess is never enough. Kinda enjoying adding layers of surfaces from making marks in the clay, adding coloured slips, multiple glazes, brushwork, and sprinkled ash and soda ash all on one piece. With all this change in the pots has come a change in my house. The pot is the person, no disguise is possible. I enjoyed painting my bathroom Grilled Cheese Yellow and the door red. More than ever The Cactus Lounge expresses who I am. As I sat writing this I looked over at my birthday present of Outsider Art I bought myself in NC and thought holy shit I am becoming what I collect. I love this painting. There is not one spot on the image where your eyes can rest. I am perhaps one step closer to the asylum or as my mum used to call it "The Funny Farm".
Maybe I will create a Quiet Room with some of my favourite quiet understated pots. I think most of my house is a celebration of North America. Leach said we have no tap root. Ain't that great!!!!
We don't have a yolk around our necks. We are not bound by old traditions. It's like they sent us a kiln and forgot to include the instructions how to fire it. We don't know the rules so we aren't breaking any any. I have an appointment with the lawyer tomorrow.. I'm thinking paisley and plaid and my Husqvarna safety helmet and face shield.  The chain link chaps is probably carrying it a little too far.  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Crazy meet Crazy

Kimmy Harcourt wrote: I've always loved both your pots and your musings/rants and words of wisdom.

Dear Kimmy: Do you realize the buzz it is for me to see a young person that some 20 years ago was all eyes grow to become such a fine potter? I remember well the workshop from Hell.It was probably my first workshop ever. There was an ice storm and we had no heat, no light, no electricity and yet we continued with the workshop. Your mum who loved you dearly drove you thru the storm each day to be sure you were safe and sound. Should have known then that you had the bug really bad.
Since then you went on to be the clay technologist for Tucker's Pottery Supplies the last 20 years, built a wood kiln, made and fired some superb pots. Proof of those good pots were at the recent Women that Wood Show at the Carnegie Gallery.
You have built a foundation to build a career on. No short cuts, no learning exclusively from U-tube, no business name and an Etsy account before you could even centre. You have done your homework over the course of 20+ years. Where did they go????
This is called a commitment to the craft. Welcome to the Mutual Admiration Society. Potters that admire other potters who have done their homework, put in the hours, taken their licks, won some and lost some, talk the talk and walk the walk,
Hold my hand baby and I'll escort you to hell. It may be the insane asylum for most people it is home to me. It is where all the good stokers reside. Frank Tucker will be there too. He can't stoke worth a shit because he can't stop talking but he pours a damn fine drink so he is always welcome. Hey Doc all women are crazy! How much crazy can you handle? For me the crazier the better. Crazy meet Crazy.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tony Clennell- Tap Dancer

Whenever I go to make these cups I think of my friend Bob Reimer of Alberta. I first met Bob at an Alberta Potters Conference and we were in a show together. He had these little cups in the show and I think every potter bought one. I saw many cups like them in Volterra , Tuscany at this wonderful museum of Etruscan artifacts. I’m almost sure Bob was referencing these cups with his soft clay and slow wheel. .
Bob left us too soon at the age of 57. Here is a pic of the handsome devil.
To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research. 
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car. Being a potter is a faith, a calling, a dedication to a set of values, a lifestyle, a brother/sisterhood. Geezus, Dan shouldn’t have called me a Zen potter prophet cause I’m making all this weird shit up now.
Being a potter is more than a few courses at the Guild and an Etsy account. I think what I have been reminiscing is what would now be called the dinosaurs club. Those that have a solid foundation in the craft. It took me a lot of years before I had the nerve to call myself a potter. I haven't said it takes schoolin' but I am saying it takes a lot of self education, time in the studio working and hanging with the best you can. Wanna play better pool

- then play somebody who is better. 

My Dad insisted I take tap dancing lessons when I was a kid. Gee, thanks Dad! I don’t call myself Tony Clennell Tap Dancer.