Day 25: {some bad pun about fire}

“Control is for suckers!” – St. Earth


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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Day 22: @Klinehaus

“Hi. Can I ask you a question? Before you answer, let me ask you another question.” – Merlin Mann

Dear Pottery Bloggers,

Envious yet? If not, this one should do it.

Cindy and I got to spend a good chunk of the day hanging around with MK (a.k.a. Frodo, The Esteemed Mr. Kline, Klineola, etc.) at his place just a few miles down the (winding, mountain) road from P-land.

As anyone who’s ever had an “open” studio knows, there are several versions of the studio tour: the Drive-By, the Stop In, the Have a Chat, the 60-Minute Special, and the Grand Tour; the last of which consists of something like a few hours of intense conversation interspersed with a detailed investigation of showroom, studio, kiln shed, property and house; includes a homecooked meal, and is generally followed by transacting for a small stash of pots before apologizing for blowing most of the day and beating a retreat, the whole way home saying to one another, “That was amazing!” and “Why don’t we do that more often?”

Needless to say, we were privileged to something like the Grand version today, and it was… well, in a word, grand.

(I suppose there’s even something beyond that — say the Grand Mal Tour (you know, because it’s mind blowing)(sorry) — in which you have multiple meals and then drinks and end up around a campfire looking at the stars and talking shit about how big the universe is or something, but that probably happens rarely amongst people who aren’t already old friends or playing romanticized roles in some dumb movie.)


So I got the play the role of ” don’t be creepy” blog fan; to look around going “Oh yeah, this looks familiar” and “I remember when you wrote about this thing here”, which, since Michael and I had laughed at this phenomenon the other day, had a tasty meta layer to it. (Nothing like blog nerds getting together “IRL” and talking about their blogs. Ugh… I kind of hate myself for enjoying that as much as I must confess that I do.)

I also got to see a metric ton of really excellent pots, many of them verging on flat out amazing. The showroom was overloaded with pots I’d love to own, and Cindy and I really had to work at it to settle on a few mutual favorites. It will be a great pleasure to have more MK pots at home to use and study.

Then there was the “close but no cigar” pile; which is always an education in what the potter was going for, where those pieces came up short and by how much, talk of technical glitches and aesthetic also-rans… somehow that’s another layer of pottery heaven.

And, of course, the personal collection, from dirty coffee mugs scattered around the studio (including, gratifyingly, one of mine — and it didn’t even appear to have been placed there strategically in anticipation of my visit), to an open kitchen cupboard with literally months worth of information stored in the clay there, to shelves and cabinets and things on the floor around the house; the collective physical manifestation of two artists’ acquisitions and curatorial preferences, compiled and layered over years of domestic life. Often, stepping into another artists’ home is like a reassuring brush with the truth that we’re not the crazy ones; that it’s the rest of the aesthetically bankrupt world that’s got it wrong. I love that.

Ah, my god. I could go on and on. And of course, there are photos — where are the damn photos, Cooper, right?! — but alas, they are lingering on the memory card of a physical camera someplace, just a few hops too many away from the Internet for me to dig through them and come up with a few representative frames just now. Later, I promise. (Also, since Cindy was doing the shooting, and I frequently felt the hot, self-conscious vortex of the lens aimed in my (and MK’s) direction, I expect there will be some good ones.)(If I cared about blog traffic — news flash: I really don’t — I believe that’s what those in the biz refer to as a “teaser”.)

Ah… the stuff I’ve already missed: Jack the dog, the scythe, the clay pit, like Jack Troy’s vision made real; venison chili, those Sam Taylor pots — jesus do I need to get me some of those — that one little, narrow, casually fluted and oh so lovely cup by St. Simon himself; plates with sweet little pictures carved in by young hands; talk about so many things, the intertwining, unremembered but cherished thread of a conversation that fuels itself and seems endless, never enough time or breath to touch every idea or say it all; the landscape — those mountains, trees, sky, dirt, a place with a very strong sense of place; a Ruggles & Rankin pitcher that I just might commit a crime to possess; a tile floor that’s definitely going to set an expectation with the wife; the indecision over which big pot to choose, where and how to crack open the war chest and make our stance on what represents our ideas about which pots are worth owning the most, which objects we want to personally encourage the world to generate more of. My oh my.

What a day.

Oh yeah, and: Teeerpstra!

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Day 21: Caveat

“Look me in the eye and tell me /
That I’m satisfied.” – The Replacements

But of course, it’s not really three days off, is it?

I set the alarm on Friday for 5:30, so I could get up to the studio to put all that greenware in proper position for drying through the weekend, and to splash glaze and wads on a dozen pots that might make it into another kiln, all before driving out of town. And later tonight, after we drive most of the day, I’ll go back to load up a bisk, so it can fire off overnight, in time to unload late Monday, glaze Tuesday and load Wednesday, and fire Thursday so it can cool Friday and unload Saturday. Even in the most mundane of tasks and the most down of downtimes, we’re always thinking about our future pots.

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Day 20: Respite

“Your will succumbs to a death by a thousand cuts.” – David McRaney

Dear Penland Pot Shop,

Three weeks on, three days off…

that sounds about right.

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Day 18.4: Bulk Bag

Dear Frodo,

The last two days have been great fun. Too much fun! Thanks for imbricating pots together, indulging my conversational agenda, and all the good feedback about my crazy future project ideas. We’ve got to do it again sometime. Should be easier, tomorrow, to get those auction mugs wrapped up tomorrow without me jabbering in your ear the entire time.

So my “bulk bag” experiment resulted in 31 pots started yesterday; so far 26 finished today, with five left to trim in the PM session. That’s not too shabby, and proof that I can indeed push the pace when I’m motivated to do so. That might come in handy later, back in the real world. It will be interesting to see if they are qualitatively different once the memory of the making process is gone. For example, I was really racing through those mug handles this afternoon, spending far less time fussing over each than I usually would (and with a good chunk of my attention elsewhere) — will it even show when they’re done? And if so, is it enough to make it worth spending an entire afternoon finishing, say, 12 mugs when I could finish 16 or 20 instead?

We’ll see. Maybe the slow pace I’ve acquiesced to isn’t the inevitability I thought it was. Maybe it’s as much a matter of context and intent as destiny. Maybe I need to take the 80 Cup Challenge to find out where the outer limits really lie. Like my Dad always said, “If you’re going to dream, you may as well dream big.”

Uncle B.

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