Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Phoenix Kiln firebox, EKU Campus
     Okay, I'm misrepresenting a bit. This picture is of the Phoenix kiln at EKU. The wood firing I'll be participating in will be in Waco at a friend's place but I don't have big fiery pictures of his kiln. Yet. Bill's kiln is a Bourry box design. Low-key firing that allows for less stoking, more beer and wine coolers. I have about a dozen pitchers, teapots, cups, mugs, soap dishes and pendants (yes, trying once again!) for this firing. I had tried to play with some pendant designs in porcelain but I thought they came out like shit in the last electric fire. So I've changed direction a little bit. We'll see what happens. I think I'm not cut out for the small fiddly bit stuff. Should the shelves collapse during this firing or some other catastrophic thing occur, I've been told that there will be another wood firing at this same location some weeks from now. As such, I am still making pots. Must take advantage of space in wood firings when you can so that means I'll have many warm, earthy-toned pots for the holiday season. I hope to do some more electric kiln work. We'll see how well I can get my shit together. Oh, and did I mention that I'm still working on sculptures????
     I have such a headache. It makes me cranky. I think it's this menopause thing. That plus the incessant inanity of the political landscape. I am consistently amazed at the inherent narcissism of people of a certain faith that they can see their "end times" just around the corner. In their lifetime. Because all of humanity has waited until they were alive to experience it. Just for them. And not for all those other generations before them that were dead certain that the end times were happening to them... and only them. Or... or... this could just be another election and next decade, we'll have to pay our bills again. Chop wood, carry water, people. It wouldn't be so bad except the media has a hard-on for the craziness because it gets ratings. If people can't tell the difference between a presidential debate and American Idol, maybe one network can siphon off some viewers from the other in all the confusion. When does Rick Perry join Dancing With The Stars?

     Latest music offerings have been mostly 70's soul and R&B until this afternoon when I popped on the classical again. Sometimes, I listen to a station that's supposed to be a kind of yoga-type, meditative, new-agey music channel. It plays unobtrusive music in the background that isn't strictly classical and I can get into the flow of working. Helps with the focus. Most of the time, that is, but sometimes it just slides right into muzak and it takes me a few minutes to realize what I'm listening to. Usually the overwhelming thoughts of wanting to kill something alert me to this and I change the station. BAN THE PAN FLUTE. And please, enough with the sounds of waterfalls. Makes me want to pee all the time.
     Current thoughts have been gravitating towards parasites, validation and meditation. Not sure what to make of this but I have been working on a small model of my inner eye model of my meditative state. Hrm. I'll leave it there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Enlighten: Nathaniel Miller, Botanical Photography

Phalaenopsis Orchid, © Nathaniel Miller 2011
     One of the things that inspires my work and informs it is the abundant nature around me. I remember several years ago when I rediscovered the joy of enjoying a flower: the color, the scent, the form. The cliché, "Stop and smell the roses" came floating to the forefront of my mind as I was soaking in seeing, really seeing, nature in front of me. When I go to my studio in the spring and early summer, I have these roses at the end of my walkway that are so pungent, so perfumed that when I close my eyes and breathe in, I can practically taste the scent in the back of my throat. In these moments, I know that material gadgets and things don't hold a candle to the environment we already inhabit—but we rarely take the time to become aware of it.

Yellow African Daisy, © Nathaniel Miller 2011
     Nathaniel Miller's botanical photography captures that richness of experience for me. The use of macro photography replaces our eyes but also aids our ability to get right up to the subject. He pours you into the middle of the flower's petals or the connection between blooms. His framing immerses us in the richness and luminescence of color, cropping out any distractions. You can almost drink in the perfume off the screen or paper.

Stargazer Lily pistil and stamen,  © Nathaniel Miller 2011
     My rediscovery of nature and my connection to it reaffirmed the fundamental message of life on the planet: we exist to reproduce. Nothing pares this down as well as the flower and it does so in such a beautiful package. We forget that the purpose of the flower is all about the reproduction and in parallel, we forget that about our own humanity. That simple realization is what keeps me coming back to issues of sexuality, maturity, relationships in the human experience in my own work and how, it seems, we often intellectually remove ourselves from our own basic nature. It seems Miller also has come to this epiphany and celebrates it with his lens. I think that's why I love Miller's images so much. In his compositions are great balance, beautiful detail, color, richness of floral beauty and inescapable sexuality. Awesome.

Snapdragon Flower Buds,  © Nathaniel Miller 2011
     Miller uses a Canon Powershot SX IS5 with a macro lens for his images. He's been taking botanical images, starting with his love of gardening in his backyard, for about 10 years. You can learn more about Miller and view additional images or even order prints here on his blog. Miller has made some select images available on various items such as organic t-shirts, phone cases, laptops skins and more prints available for purchase at his Cafe Press site here. [All images on this post © Nathaniel Miller 2011]

Monday, September 19, 2011


Buddha Cup, salt fired
     Well, a few pots did survive the Great Salt Fire Tragedy of 2011 and I've started posting some of them on Etsy starting with this Neolithic Horse Bowl and Buddha Cup. I added images of the kiln disaster to the EKU Ceramics Facebook group page. Potentially, more photos of the wickedness of the kiln gods will be added by others so feel free to join the group if you like to laugh at other's pain. Or commiserate. Or have a fetish for kiln disasters. Whatever floats your boat. EKU Ceramics also announces other kiln firings on their group site from time to time on that Facebook page as well.
Neolithic Horse Bowl, salt fired
     Other than that, I am slooowly grinding through my list of things to do and have made some progress on the sculptures that I am working on this year. getting my hands in clay means I don't do the internet/twitter/fb/socialmedia-look-at-me, look-at-me thing consistently but I know I'll be forgiven for this. After all, when I'm not blogging, more time for Glee, right? Or something like that. 
     I am having the most amazing time hormonally, riding the roller coaster that never ends. [Please make it end]. Working while "under the influence" is an exhilarating experience of contrasts, the meditative zen of carving or throwing with the total hormonal fits of rage at dropped tools, slumped clay or these days, shitty music on the radio. I don't know why that is but sometimes I'll suddenly realize when I'm working, "Hey! Wait a minute! I absolutely detest this music and if I keep listening to it, all my work will suck as a result!"Nice to know after I finish this peri-menopausal ride I have osteoarthritis to look forward to.
     I will update the sculpture progress soon but next time I will be posting a bit about a photographer who's work gets me all giddy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When Kilns Go Bad

Salt firing at EKU; 9/10/11. Oh, dear.
You win some, you lose some and we lost a few pots in this firing. One mistaken assumption when firing pots is that they are inanimate objects and therefore, how can this have happened?? It happened because fire moves the air and heat creates expansion. Balance a shelf on a post that isn't steady and as the temperature climbs, the center of gravity shifts and that's all it takes. Or it could have been a nick of the angle iron during the salting. Whatever the reason, one post moved and the whole right side came down. Well, it came down until the top group of shelves rested on the top of my tall pot.
Vase holding shelf up. Look at the salt sheen!
     It certainly seems like a disaster and in terms of the number of good pots vs. damaged pots, I had more damaged pots that good pots, unfortunately, but that's the nature of the beast. Tragedies like this happens in ceramics and there is no getting around it. I remember in my first ceramics class, my professor demonstrated the pluses and minuses of a pinch pot by cutting one in half. However, he didn't use a pinch pot that he had made. Instead, it was a student's pot that they probably diligently worked on for hours and in an instant, he had sliced it open, much to the shock of all of us. When he was finished pointing out the good and bad points, he tossed the whole thing in to the reclaim bucket. Part of the lesson that day went beyond the pinch pot. It went to the nature of making pottery and ceramic work. Don't invest emotional energy into any one pot on its way to becoming a finished piece because all sorts of disasters can happen on the way. And they don't just happen once. They happen repeatedly, to experienced and inexperienced potters and ceramic artists alike. Invest emotionally in your skills, your artistic vision, your craftsmanship, but the pots themselves? Be grateful when they come out of the kiln and not before then.
Hanging teapot.
We all sighed then took lots of pictures. Even with all the disappointment, the salting itself was fantastic. Look at the great warm toasty colors and orange peel textures! Needless to say I have kitchen shelves at home stocked with freshly ground mugs and cups and vases and water pitchers.
     What does this all mean for me? Remaking a whole bunch of things. Well, I will have a few new items listed on Etsy this week so some of the pieces from this firing will make it to the outside world. I did get to see that some of my new ideas are workable and now I have the opportunity to tweak them some more. I have a wood firing to participate in a few weeks from now plus an upcoming anagama firing so I will continue to be busy, busy, busy making, making, making pots, pots, pots. And sculpture. All is well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


I'm doing more research on seed shapes. I find the textures and rhythms of seeds and seed structure fascinating. It's why the textures, outlines and shapes keep reappearing in my work. I need to go back to the basic and fundamental expression of botanical and animal life to make my point. Or to connect with myself and connect myself with my origins. There is a tendency to detach from the beings that we are intrinsically when we are using computers, satellites, electronic forms of communication. I am aware of the dichotomy of what I try to convey in my work and the ways I get that message out, beyond the clay forms I create. Currently, so much of the way we interact is another step removed from our true nature. It also seems to me, the more we practice these forms of communication, the more we forget where we came from. I feel quite strongly, that when we begin to forget where we came from, the pain we feel upon tragedies become more confusing and surprising, as if we are profoundly shocked that suffering can happen to us. The suffering we feel is profound, yes, but it's the confusion and shock I see people experience, including myself, that picks at my brain. The virtual world is just that, virtual but not corporal. Have we really disassociated that much that we think that planetary life exists "out there" in pixels, words on a flat panel? I guess it's why I return again and again to seeds, sea life, anatomy, life textures and combinations of them.

Devil's Claw, Adaptation exhibit, Irvinton House Museum, 2010
Not to mention the subject that life itself encompasses, sexuality. It's almost comical the way humans in many cultures regard the very function of life, reproduction and sexuality that expresses it in the entire continuum of forms, as something to be compartmentalized, shunned, moralized, you name it. I pick on Western American culture because it is the one I grew up with and continue to experience on a daily basis. I am not advocating for anything when I comment in my sculptures and functional forms except, maybe, to say, "Lighten up, people!" And when I say " the very function of life, reproduction and sexuality that expresses it," I am not narrowing the field to an idealized version of motherhood over fatherhood, heterosexuality over homosexuality. Quite the opposite. Sexuality exists on a continuum, regardless of whether life is reproduced or not. Which is why I find the discourse and vitriol surrounding adult homosexuality, equality in marriage in current US politics and so on, to be so, well, juvenile. Really, people. Lighten up.

In my forms and textures are paths and connections, cell walls and tendrils. It's all defined by the highs and lows, the textures on the plain, the depressions and the ridges. It's reminiscent of the world we live in and are part of. If I can't be conscious of it while being inundated by flat LCD displays and glowing monitors, I can feel it under my fingers when I hold a cup or pour a teapot or look at a sculpture and wonder when that organic reference first entered my brain in my lifetime that popped out of my hands and became the object in front of me.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kiln Off

Awesome juice cup! Sippable or chuggable, your choice. Seriously, field-testing one at home and it rocks! Available on the Etsy shop for only $22. Great idea for upcoming gift ideas!
My kilnsitter just tripped on my recent glaze firing. I will be bringing the work inside plus other items from my online shop to the Richmond Pottery Festival this weekend at the grounds of the Irvinton House Museum, home of Richmond Kentucky Tourism. I'll also be demonstrating a coil pot that will eventually become another one of my sculptures. I hope the weather will have improved by then. We have the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumping rain on us now with no end in sight until Thursday. Set up is Friday. This ought to be fun. Well, compared to how dry it's been in the last of the summer weeks, it should make setting up tents easier.
     I'm not quite sure how I feel about the whole outdoor festival thing. I like the idea in concept but the reality of weather issues, set-up, take-down and hauling things around gives me some pause. Particularly at my age. I guess I'll opt for the local stuff for now and see how things go.
     The teapots coming out of this firing are prototypes. I've already decided upon glazing them this week that I'll be revisiting some of the designs and construction issues with new forms and multiple pots. With an upcoming anagama firing at EKU slated for this late fall, I may try and try some forms out for that firing. There is a salt firing that I'm participating in this weekend but no teapots in that one, just cups and pitchers.
     Time is moving differently for me these days. I think it's the menopause thing. I feel like I'm running faster and faster trying to keep up with... well, anything and everything and yet I feel like I'm not necessarily getting anywhere and I could use an extra few hours each day. Something is up with that.