Comments Off on Getting it in Gear

Getting it in Gear


cupimaticThis is another test of the 3-D gears-on-tiles that I started a week or so ago. This time, I used old clock gears to make imprints into the tiles as a textured background for the project.  Hopefully, a little stain or wiped-off glaze in the imprints will add dimension to the piece.

When finished, this set will be mounted and framed 12″ x 12″ panel.  I’m still pondering if the mechanics implied by the gears should produce something that overflows the half-cup in the lower Left-hand quadrant..or, if light emitting from the cup might be a better effect.

The best news about this sort of project is it can be spread over several days of preparation and the actual construction completed in a relatively short span of time.  The 3-d gears begin as small bottle-top flanges that are cut from a larger lump of clay on the wheel (throwing off the hump).   That first part, the preparation, really does give new meaning to getting it in gear.

Comments Off on Finding Potter – Not You, Harry

Finding Potter – Not You, Harry


As the popularity of JK Rowling’s characters exploded, the likelihood of successfully searching Google for a local potter /craftsman by including the word “potter” in a search string diminished dramatically.  I posted that issue on a forum over at just recently and received good reactions to my post, “Google – Find a Potter“.  The consensus of opinion from a small group of responder (but very engaged/passionate responders) is that the following search terms are most likely the best to use when searching for a potter/clay-artist…obviously, if you know the individual’s name or the name of the studio your chances of success are excellent.  But what if you are in a new place and just want to see who-is-doing-what with clay?  Here are the recommended search terms:

  • pottery
  • ceramics
  • potter
  • crafters
  • hand made

I like this list, even though I’m scratching my head about still including “potter” on that list (no offense, Harry).  So, here goes.  I reviewed the meta data, title tags, and content on my own site and have made sure that these words are included…ok, I excluded crafters to avoid the whole clay is a craft not an art debate.  In the next month or so, the amount of time that it seems to take Google to circle back around to index the content on my web site, I hope to enter “Nashville” plus some of these terms and have my site show up on the first page of the search results.  I tried it today, and…nothing – not even page 2 or 3, so today is my baseline for this experiment.

For those who actually use Google to find clay artists and potters when you are on the road, I would be curious to know if you use other search terms…I guarantee that there are artists out there who need to know! And for the hard working potters in the world, take note: look at your web content and make sure that your copy includes descriptive words that people might actually use to find you (see list above).  Don’t be a muggle…use your magic to be discovered on the web!

P.S, And bless all those clay-artists/potters whose actual name is “Harry“.
P.P.S. Yes, I get it. This very post is the most likely to return in search simply for the concentration of key words…we shall see:)
P.P.P.S.  No one uses “Home Page” in a search engine  to find you, so use something else in you title tag…trust me on this!!

Comments Off on Back to Not-So-Basics

Back to Not-So-Basics


MugPhlute 2013 This year took a turn (no pun intended) to wheel-thrown pieces. That ‘turn’ is one I did not expect to take a full 12 months. Making functional wares is not my favorite thing to do, but the process is one that has deepened my respect for those who do this full time. Immersing myself into several hundred pounds of porcelain and stoneware also improved my skill level immensely. The exercise of making 300+ mugs (and improving along the way) alone became a challenge as well as significant time for personal reflection. There are clear signs that ‘production pottery’ is not a direction that suits me. I still trim the bottoms of my pots and I consistently texture the bottoms and imprint my initials…those actions take time. For some production potter friends, it is more time than they spend throwing and finishing a pot of the same size. I can’t seem to cut loose that fact…and am OK with that realization as well as the financial consequences.

I am revisiting the sculptural aspect of clay. The hand-built MugPhlute image on this post is something that I made 2 years ago, but did not glaze fire until the end of 2013. The form did not seems to stand on its own and I was afraid to glaze it, knowing that multiple glaze firings would be risky with so many joins and varying clay thicknesses.  Now that it is glazed, I think I can call it a completed sculpture with functional parts (a couple of horns and a ocarina).  Even completed, I am having second thoughts…

Clay is such a plastic media and I love taking advantage of that plasticity.  There is a point, however,  where functional plasticity and clay gymnastics cross that I want to explore.  The MugPhlute in this post crosses that line too far, methinks.  If I had to create a Likert Scale that ranged from Pure Function to Sculptural Whimsy, this one falls off the end of the whimsical scale.  Somewhere in the middle of that scale is a point where function is implied and sculpture re-enforces the implied functionality…the piece is still true to its functional roots but stands on its own merit as an artful sculpture.  Although I cannot put my finger on it, my thoughts lean toward religious icons from a number of past civilizations where pieces possess middle-ground qualities of  functional narrative and figurative sculpture,  simultaneously.

It may be back-to-ocarina building time for me. It may also be back-to-figurative sculpture time. Maybe I can train my wheel to take some of those functional, basic forms and get to that not-so-basic middle-ground world. Or maybe, I should simply take less allergy medication (having just re-read what I wrote above) *grin*.

Comments Off on Hope House International Project

Hope House International Project


Hope House Project MugsA few years ago, I was invited to attend a gala dinner event for Hope House International, a non-profit organization that does incredible work with orphans in Ukraine. As part of the event, there is an art show that features paintings from children in Ukraine and others from area artists. My host friends were talking about this one day and we bounced around a few ideas of how some of my clay work might end up in that show. Well, here we are, about 6 weeks away and I am frantically wrapping up the pieces to be fired, glazed, and prepared for this event.

I have my own orphanage story from Ukraine. It isn’t one associated with Hope House, but it remains fresh in my memory as I work in the clay that ultimately turns into something (no pun intended) that will have some small impact at Hope House. In 2004, I traveled with the Belmont University Sports Evangelism team to Ukraine to work with a local church In Zhitomir. One of our adventures took us to a nearby orphanage where I met Aleksandr and a couple of his friends. The three boys played with my camera/video gear while I watched nervously, and although I understood nothing of the words spoken, we had a good time. I thought little of it until our leader stopped me a while later to say that I had no idea how special that time was for those boys. That time with the boys and the comment from my team leader stay with me even today, several years later…knowing always that there is still much to be done to bring hope to the many children who find themselves in Ukranian orphanages.

I continue my support of Hope House International and am happy to be a part of this year’s gala event. I would like to say Thank You for the quick turnaround (and solid advice) for the custom clay stamp from Joel Socwell at

Comments Off on Reflecting on Studio Efficiency – Meet Lori Watts

Reflecting on Studio Efficiency – Meet Lori Watts


I have yet to meet a clay artist outside of school settings who claims to have more space than they need to get their work done. Most, including me, have carved out a space somewhere that works just as long as there is some semblance of order. I have written about the work flow in a clay studio before and confess that I tweak that process with some regularity. It is refreshing to read that others face similar struggles and that they stop to reflect on the process occasionally.

Assorted Mugs - Lori Watts

Assorted Mugs – Lori Watts

Lori Watts is a clay artist living/working in Augusta, Maine. Her blog, Fine Mess Pottery, is one that I frequent and one that I recommend to other clay folks as an example of someone doing it right. In a new year’s post, Lori writes about her clean-up and re-organization of her studio workspace…and titled the post, A Work in Progress. It is worth the read if you have ever considered having your own studio. Lori’s focus on efficiency speaks well of her effort to keep her Fine Mess from becoming a Big Mess, a focus that I’ll need to remember. For me, there are points from her post that I will have to address that I have not seriously considered…like a place to process/package orders and where to keep those favorite books so they’ll not get covered in studio dust.

Enjoy A Fine Mess…and bring along a cup of coffee. I’ll stop now, before my coffee gets any colder.

Comments Off on Ditto… Thinking “Ghost” are you?

Ditto… Thinking “Ghost” are you?


It is hard to believe that the steamy Demi Moore – Patrick Swayze potter’s wheel scene in the movie Ghost is over 20 years old. It isn’t so difficult to believe that fans of that movie can still tell you what the reference to Ditto means. So, imagine that I am cruising the art and craft galleries in Anchorage one day and discover a lovely display of pottery at Arctic Rose Gallery & Art Center. I pick up an interesting looking mug, flip it upside down, and carved into clay is the single word, Ditto. If that just gave you Ghost cold chills stay with me. If it didn’t, simply believe that I was in that gallery to keep the single degree temperature outside from chilling me!

Jenny Ditto -

Jenny Ditto – Anchorage, Alaska

As it turns out (no potter’s wheel pun intended…ok, well maybe), “Ditto” is the signature of Anchorage clay artist and entrepreneur Jenny Ditto. My discovery of her work began with a Google search of clay studios that I might find within walking distance of the Westmark Hotel in downtown Anchorage. Midnight Potter Studios comes up in the search but it is several miles from the hotel. I called the studio anyway, convincing myself that a cab-ride adventure might do me good. Jenny let me know of an upcoming, weekend open-house in her expanded studio space and let me know that I was welcome. I am so glad that I ventured out…but not so sure that walking back to the hotel in 12F temperatures was all that smart (but that is another story).

To me, Jenny the artist-entrepreneur is where the world of clay arts is headed. Talk to most clay artists and they will tell you that being consistently productive and adaptable to market trends is hard work and not always as profitable as they would like. Bills, on the other hand, are relentless. Passion to keep the fires going drives an entrepreneurial spirit that leads clay artists to expand into teaching wheel-throwing classes, collaborative projects with other artists, partnering to share space/expenses, and being extremely creative/frugal with the resources available. Jenny Ditto is about all of those things. Jenny’s vision includes a cooperative studio space downtown where multiple artists produce, teach, display, and generally expand the arts community. I love that! Note to any angel-investors reading this: Funds provided to Jenny Ditto’s project will be fruitful, I’d bet Demi Moore’s potter’s wheel on it! *grin*. I definitely vote for downtown, if nothing but selfishness to avoid defrosting my toes again. Jenny would welcome your help, even if it is something as simple a donating a Gleco trap for a sink.

Be sure to visit Jenny’s web site: Midnight Potter Studios

Allow me one last, goofy, Ghost movie reference. If you’re ever in Anchorage and tell Jenny, “I love clay”…she can honestly reply, “Ditto”. Yes, I did go a long way to say that…so shoot me 🙂

Meet Wendy Gingell


I may have been freezing my rear end off while stomping around the streets of Anchorage over the week of Thanksgiving, but there were a number of people who warmed up my stay and made all that walking well worth it. My last few days in Alaska coincided with the Craft Weekend at the beautiful Anchorage Museum. Among a host of artists and authors at the event was Wendy Gingell, a ceramic artist who is a relative newcomer to Alaska.

Wendy Gingell

Wendy Gingell – Anchorage, Alaska

It took about two seconds to see Wendy’s smile as I introduced myself to her at the show. Wendy is a gracious hostess and shared great information on her graffito style and glazing technique. Her work is focused on function. Mugs, plates, and bowls are all handmade and include Wendy’s special touch of designs lightly carved through a layer of underglaze. Wendy’s passion for clay-art and craftsmanship shows in her work as well as her conversation…and it is contagious. I suspect that her students get hooked on clay like so many of us who are fortunate to have teachers like Wendy.

The Anchorage Museum shop displays some of Wendy’s work…and, in my opinion, would do well to include more. She shows in several places across the lower 48 and has a web site that is well worth perusing: You can follow Wendy on Twitter here: @WendyGingell and find her on Facebook here:

I understand that there are days in Anchorage when the temperatures actually gets above 19F…I might have to check into that some day. In the meantime, I’m confident that any visitor to Wendy’s studio or any of her shows will receive a warm welcome and a terrific impression of her work.