Monthly Archives: February 2013

Day 32: packing it up

“Endings are nowhere near as fun as beginnings.” – St. Earth

Dear Scott,

Stop procrastinating and get it over with.

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Day 30: Plans

“There.
That heap’s about a hundred fifty tons.
Go make yourself a life.” – Jack Troy

Well, Carter, my man,

It wasn’t a great day for photos, overcast and cold, so the new pots are still stashed in their boxes. I should get them out and line them up on the window sill. I’m foolishly denying myself the gratitude of dwelling on them some more while the effort it took to get them like that is still a fresh memory.

Here’s a pic of Mags and I with our favorites from the kiln (hers was some bits of clay jewelry, hidden in that napkin that’s keeping them from clanking together too much):

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And I’d aimed to write some today about that firing and how I felt about it; the ways in which it confirmed some hunches and started a bunch of new leads; how it was much more of an exploratory firing, with still-new glazes and clays in a completely unfamiliar kiln, and tht therefore it wouldn’t be proper or smart to hold it to the same standards and expectations as I would a firing back home. Oh, and I had some more thoughts to share about this journey coming to an end, about how I’m much closer to the “and back again” part than the “there” part, and the implications of that… But… You know: plans.

Today was more like aiming for that distant shoreline, hammering down to throttle, and then going belowdecks for a long nap. Wake me up when we hit something.

As I mentioned privately earlier, I’ve had some wonderful responses to that article I wrote for CM — which means that issue must have hit the mailboxes and CDN servers in the last couple days. And so I’ve been trying, I fear unsuccessfully, to reply in kind. I really wasn’t expecting any substantive feedback, beyond the great help you gave me in the editing phase, so all of it has been a sweet bonus; payment of another and better kind than I could have asked for.

It’s funny that they mailed the advance print copy to my home address after we’d left to go dragon hunting, and that, as a non-subscriber, I can’t access the online version. (I could pay up now to see it, I guess, but my stubborn self-defeatist streak keeps getting in the way of my reason.) So here I am replying to people who just read it, and I haven’t even seen it in the final format myself. I’ve almost forgotten what I wrote! (Duh.) (Surely it’s around here somewhere, if I’d pause to dig for it.)

Anyways, it’s getting late for this here blogging experiment, too, and I’ve got to think a little harder about what to do with it and how I want to proceed when I get back to the Shire. There are things I’ve really enjoyed about the format and the tool, but also ways in which I think it might be my undoing; toys that I probably can’t be trusted with longer-term. Then again, up until a couple days before I started this, I had no idea I was even going to be doing it, until you talked me out of my plan to go full radio silence for the month. And that’s seemed to work out pretty well, hasn’t it?

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Day 28: coming back into view

“Some people say the sky is just the sky, but I say why?” – Paul Simon

Hello World,

Sorry to keep you in suspense about that firing; that wasn’t by design. After cleaning out the kiln and sorting out its furniture, I had a mad scramble to get all my gear, junk and pots out of the studio by yesterday’s 9pm deadline. Just barely made it. In the midst of that, I never quite got the pots back out to the sunlight to photograph them, and then they went into boxes for transit. Bummer.

Here’s a snapshot of one of the keepers:

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I’ll try to get them back out and shoot the good ones soon. There were plenty to be excited about, mixed in with all the usual false starts, missteps and plain old failures.

More about those and all that later, I hope. I have a headfull of thoughts about the pots, the month, the eclipse and my rapidly fading time to see by its temporary, surreal light. But Family Day makes its demands. Why deny the obvious, right?

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Day 26: cooling off

“Every once in a while, you’ll succeed. Most of the time you’ll fail, and most of the time the circumstances will be well beyond your control.” – Aaron Sorkin

The day after a firing is always weird, and it seems like I say so almost every time. No exception today. Waiting, waiting. Anxious to see it. Trying not to cool it off too fast.

Miss Lucille went off without a hitch, twelve and a half hours, three point five pounds of soda, both tens bending, barely half a cone apart. Not bad for a crossdraft that neither of us had fired before, my first pure soda firing since 1999, and with sketchy past logs to work with.

So, we wait. Sometimes the worst ones are the easiest, and vice versa, so the fact that it wasn’t more of a struggle makes me nervous. Heck, with 55 pots in the purgatory between started and finished, the wind blowing the wrong way or the sight of a deer running into the woods makes me nervous.

Vastly unlike my normal post-firing routine, however, today I had the fantastic distraction if a group trip to John Britt’s studio down the mountain. It was like two solid hours of a firehose to the brain; so much information and intrigue, it was hard to even file it away for future reference. I learned a lot from just a quick look around his kiln shed and the several small, unusual kilns there; proof that there are many options and ways to go about building such things. His glaze room is a thing of beauty. One entire wall was lined with small tubs of raw materials; every glaze ingredient I’ve ever heard of, and several I hadn’t. The space and organization dedicated to exploring glazes there was inspiring and impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen better.

I got to ask him a few questions, about the relative toxicity of an oxide-saturated matte black glaze from the P-land studio (Answer: probably not food safe; send it to a lab to get conclusive results). And about a fantastic cone 6 reduction test tile of a Teadust glaze; exactly what I’ve been wanting to get from mine for almost 15 years. (Answer: less talc and/or more flux.) And about which glaze calc software he uses. (Answer: surprise! More than one: Insight and HyperGlaze.) And about his choice to go all metal for his kiln shed, from massive structural I beams to metal struts for the entire roof. (Answer: wood will always have a lower ignition point years later; why risk it?) In each case, he was tremendously generous, completely open about sharing his vast experience and knowledge, and seemed enthusiastic about almost any topic — I could listen to him talk about ceramics for days on end.

I brought home a small Oil Spot yunomi, brown and black, a great varying glaze pattern where it changes around the fluid form, and a second copy of his high fire glazing book, my primary source and the assassin of my 20 years of xeroxed and hand-copied recipes, filling two massive binders and now almost completely useless by comparison. Now I can have a copy at the dining room table that doesn’t have chrome and feldspar dust on it.

Whew. That was just the morning. The days here in the mountains are jam packed and sensory overloaded, from the misty clouds over ice-shrouded pine trees to Maggie Bear helping me pack up pots to haul home and starting to clean up the mess that I’ve made these past few weeks. In some ways, it feels liked it’s been an entire season, or a miniature second life; in others it seems like I was just getting started, and it’s sad to have to pack up and start reconciling this fantasy journey with the reality of home. It will be good to go back, but hard to leave.

Home, I guess, is where the wheel is.

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Day 25: {some bad pun about fire}

“Control is for suckers!” – St. Earth



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Dear Miss Lucille,

As your colleague, Miss Julia, gave me a hard tutorial last week, perhaps you could go a little easier on me today? I mean, yes, it’s all for the sake of future learning, everything is process over product, every pot’s a test tile: I get it. I’m not being greedy; I don’t need all 55 of my wares to come out great, or revelatory, or “flawless”. Really I don’t.

But I’ve seen what you can do, with your other students holding the reins, and I’ve now had two little batches of my pots come through your tutelage very well. So I have some expectations — in spite of myself — and I have hopes, because without those how do we ever get to cone ten?

Anyways, all’s well so far; the early morning climb was like a dream, and not just because I was still kind of sleepy; it’s getting hot in there and I still see conepacks, and I feel like I understand what you’re telling me thus far.

So go a little easy on me, will you? Please? I’d really appreciate it.

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Day 24: Fresh from the crossdraft soda

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February 20, 2013 · 11:09 am

Day 23: eclipse

“I was the living embodiment of a weird song with a soft verse and a loud chorus.” – Steve Hyden

Dear Carter,

So I’m sure you’ve noticed the eclipse over in the right sidebar, because you’re rather observant. And I also suspect you’ve figured out what’s going on there, with that most iconic bowl from my last firing cycle at home gradually fading from right to left, like its being occluded by something else, something previously unseen but with the power to hide all that was formerly known, if but momentarily. Yes, I’m fairly certain you’ve figured that out by now, because, as I seem to keep telling people, you’re really freaking smart.

So I won’t belabor you with more metaphors about my chosen metaphor, as fun as that can be, and I won’t gin up some fancy diatribe about how I expect to return Back Again from my adventures to There as a completely reinvented aspect of my old Hobbity self. No; tempting as it is, I swear I won’t.

Because in my post-Dream era, I have to be wary of attaching rampant significance to transitory experiences. My neural pathways are dug and primed to believe in such things now, because I’ve run so many cycles of current down those channels over the years. The wasteland of innocence, depleted and schooled by experience.

So as I start thinking about my old hole in the ground, and returning to it, and all the ways I find to bury myself in its comforts and routines, I’m trying to remember that this month doesn’t change everything; it can’t possibly be transformative to the extent that it eclipses twenty years of prior experience. Rather, it’s just another waystation on the path to wherever I’m going; a good waystation, for sure, but more a dot that helps form another segment of the lines we’re always trying so damn hard to divine than a brand new line towards some scintillating new, go for broke horizon.

Help me remember that, would you? I’d appreciate it. I’ll be better off if I do.

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