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Arrowmont Fire


Arrowmont Fire 28 November 2016The news this morning about the spread of forest fires into the resort town of Gatlinburg were scary.  The very mention of Arrowmont among the list of 30 or so businesses that were identified as fire-damaged or destroyed made my heart sink.  Pictures like the one on the left, looking up the drive into Arrowmont, left me feeling a huge sense of loss.

The news later in the day sounds a little more promising. Yes there were buildings burned on the Arrowmont campus, but not all.  Mixed reports seem to narrow the destruction down to maybe 2 buildings with smoke damage to others.  That’s still not great news, but there is a sense of relief and thankfulness that no lives were lost and that a special place to me and so many artists survived.

Arrowmont Executive Director, Bill Mays, is quoted in a WBIR-TV interview as saying, “We are OK. Much destruction and loss in our community, many hurting. Thankful the school survived. Thankful for Arrowmont friends everywhere. Please get the word out that Arrowmont is still here.”

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Busy November Wrapping Up


ChenowethARTS Mug - It takes a villageNovember has been a month for making changes around the studio and for exploring new sales opportunities.  ChenowethARTS exhibited with 22 other Tennessee Craft members at Nashville’s Gordon Community Center for the entire month.  Roughly 80 bowls were made and contributed to the Chili Bowl sale at Belmont University’s Art Department.  Most importantly, after several months of agonizing and preparing, there is a new ChenowethARTS shop on Etsy that will feature functional wares and gift ideas…there are still more artistic creations that are intended for gallery display, but barring a change of heart to do craft fairs, Etsy may be the route I pursue for functional pieces.

There is a new slab roller in the studio that can definitely put the hurt on a fingertip (that’s a whole different story).  A whole new world of surface treatments has opened up using my own silk-screened designs to add depth to my usual repertoire of glazing techniques…and I’m having fun with that!  Several new under-glaze colors are making their appearances on test pieces and I am discovering that airbrushing of under-glazes can be addictive  🙂

Gearing up for a hectic holiday season…my best to you and yours!

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Definitely NOT in Kansas…


tornado-witch-finalContainers for plants…they seem to be everywhere. From the big box stores to grocery stores, you see them with their Made in Mexico or Made in China labels at prices that are unbelievably cheap.  I am guilty of buying those pieces, but this year I turned my focus to making a series of self-watering containers for plants that are a cut above the mass-produced imports.

This particular piece came about from a challenge on a Potter’s Council online forum.  The spring season in Tennessee is a time when we experience outbreaks of storms and tornadoes, so my Spring-themed container for a plant pays homage to those destructive events with a hat tip to a famous scene from the Wizard of Oz.

Now that I have opened this can of worms, I have to decide if it is worth it to make more of these things.  The nature of the design takes it out of the realm of mass production and the detail takes so much time that it will be difficult to recover the investment in time and energy. My wife has declared this a collector’s item (hers) and has already pointed to the plant that she wants to see growing in this container.  I am OK with that idea…I had already experienced nightmares on what it would take to ship this thing with protruding legs as far as Kansas…or across the street for that matter.

I do like the idea of narrative pots. It seems a shame that the humble container for dirt and plants doesn’t seem to be worthy of artistic respect.  Perhaps an new class of container classification would boost the reputation of the narrative pot…something like Conteneur de Fleur – Fantaisie could bump the price tag up to something respectable.  So, before this post sounds too much like whining, I did have fun making this piece and that enjoyment has a great deal of value to me.  Now, I have to work on getting that “Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead…” music out of my head.  I am definitely NOT in Kansas, Dorothy!

F3 – The Wicked Witch is Dead 18″ tall stoneware container for plants with self-watering features. Principal container is wheel-thrown in three separate pieces then assembled with hand-built house parts and stocking legs.  Underglaze was applied to the stockings and shoes then the entire piece was sprayed with multiple, blended Cone 10 glazes.  Final firing was reduction, Cone 10 in a Bailey gas kiln.

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Comfortzone Stretch


Ocarina - Face the MusicAt some point this last year, I looked at Mitchell Grafton‘s amazing characters in ceramic enough to say, “I really need to give this approach a shot.”  Matt Chenoweth, my instructor for this last semester,  encouraged me to go beyond just brushing on underglazes and to experiment with the blending possibilities that come with airbrushing.

I’m not quite to the airbrushing stage, but I am starting to get a feel for what happens to different colors of underglaze as they are applied to bisqueware then fired to very high temperatures (Cone 10).  Parts of me like the idea of applying a material to a piece that actually fires out at the same color…that certainly isn’t the case for many ceramic glazes.  Parts of me aren’t crazy about the results because I am not yet comfortable with the fit between color, form, and control that show up on the finished product.  There is a fit out there somewhere, evidently beyond my comfort zone, where a series of ceramic musical instruments with varied human facial expressions will communicate my vision of a Face the Music series.

It isn’t a stretch to connect music and human emotion.  It isn’t a stretch to understand that not all of those emotions/expressions are the same.  What remains for me to see is whether a new approach with more color under better control can take me down a path to a successful series of ocarinas like the one pictured here.

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I Think I Missed March


raku wall masksI would like to attribute my March writing-absence from the world of potters, ceramics, and all things clay art to something besides getting older.  There was this Madness thing going around…and my family stays up to their eyeballs in basketball when the Belmont Bruins are playing.  Then, there are these little guys (and one princess) that are called grandchildren that seem to provide an endless source of entertainment. Then again, old man winter kicked me out of the studio for an extended period…I could go on.

Surprising to me, is the amount of clay work that I have accomplished in the last few months.  I re-discovered the hypnotism of doing raku firings and have enjoyed my venture into the world of whimsical masks that have been raku fired.  Those pieces now outnumber any other artwork hanging in my office.  I fully anticipated that it would be something else (like several ceramic musical instruments)…but, no.

And, after a year of procrastinating/pondering the use of custom decals, I have made several, applied them to test pieces, and successfully fired them.  It took a little digging, but the discovery that my old HP LaserJet printer ink contains iron in the pigment, made it a good candidate for water-slide-off, paper decals.  Like so many things in the word of ceramics, making one’s own decals takes a bit of planing and set-up time, but the results are simply cool.  If I can quit jumping up-and-down long enough, I might even get images of new cityscape bottles online with the decal embellishments.

So. March is gone. It was the best of Madness. It was the worst of missed writing opportunities. It was the age of procrastination. It was the age of re-discovering lost arts.  I evidently missed the Dickens out of March!

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Your “Whistleblower” is Watching


Happy HornblowerThe modern day context of an employee reporting the wrong doings of an organization, (i.e. Whistleblowing) is reborn here. Whistleblowing crusaders rarely wear a mask or a visual identifier of their actions…being real people builds credibility more-so than anonymity.  However, it frequently means less than pleasant consequences for the individual.

But what if that elite fraternity of credible whistleblowers wore a mask. And what if the mask wasn’t a means to conceal the intent but instead to clearly identify the wearer’s intent to be a whistleblowerWell, here it is.

Let’s not get all practical and explain how silly this is. This mask is more of a narrative.  The person behind the mask has a covert view but displays an overt intent.  The cynics of the world might say that real life whistleblowers are more likely to have an overt view, but a covert intent.  For me, I see this as a piece that hangs on the wall greeting the owner with the message, “there is a Whistleblower watching you, you have been warned!”

The freshly formed Lizella Clay piece pictured here will fire to a terra cotta color in the first firing and will be highlighted with stains and glaze in a second, Cone 6 oxidation firing…available in early March 2014.


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Nashville Makes Top 10 List


Looking at the list of The 10 Best Cities to be an Artist, I feel like Nashville is in pretty good company and should be pleased to be holding down the Number 6 spot…and I am really surprised/pleased that Atlanta, another city in the South, is ranked Number 1.   I’d like to actually hear from some of the artists in these cities to get their particular perspectives.  For instance, I can see where Nashville is a great place to be an artist, but is there a strong community of artists, particularly in the visual arts?