I make utilitarian pots using a precise, clean, and efficient geometric language as I try to define perfectly handmade. The act of making allows me to practice my craft repeatedly while looking for the nuance of how much evidence of handwork I put in and how much hand I take out.
I am curious how functional pots continue to retain relevance in our evolving and modernized society. I believe this importance is due to our innate need for connection to expressive and creative thoughts. Being an artist provides me an opportunity to invent objects which will improve a user’s life through emotional, imaginative, and personal relationship to one maker.
Through usage, the simultaneous attention of the user on the objects and the attention of objects on the user reveals the unique nature of personal production for personal use. The constant refocusing of the viewer/user allows a more conscientious operation of the objects, hopefully presenting questions of what is perfection, and what occurs when the popular aesthetic definition of handmade is circumvented.
My studio practice, and therefor this website, has been dormant for a bit. My life has changed dramatically in the last five years, and its taken me time to process and move forward. I got utterly burntout on making work, I had heart surgery, and I want to become the best possible high school school art teacher I can be.
The other thing that happened is Instagram. For a long time pre-Insta I would use this blog to post pictures, experiences, etc. Since Instagram covers that so well, this space felt redundant. I remember the day back in ’09-ish that I took a picture with my old flip phone and posted it via email to my blog. Blew my mind, felt like I was living in the future. Well that’s ancient tech-history. So now the happenings get posted on Instagram, which leaves this blog to become something else.
When I finished at the Bray in 2012, I was beat. Long story short-ish, I had not imagined my life post-Bray. All I wanted in Ceramics was to make it to the Bray, where all of my art hero’s and faculty had been, because that would mean I had been accepted by the field as they were. So when I was there, all I wanted to do was seize the opportunity. Carpe Diem. So I worked. I worked a lot, and I’m really proud of what I accomplished while there. But it came at cost because it was unbalanced. By the time I left I was completely burntout. The last thing I wanted to do was make more work or do another show. I had been burned financially by a couple of places, and I felt my work never reached a critical tipping point of becoming regularity commercially successful enough to make a living off of it.
So I stopped. I had all this momentum, and I just stopped. I was tired. Turns out, as I learned a couple years later, I was way more tired than I ever should have been because my mitral valve was leaking. This lead to me having heart surgery in 2017.
In 2014 I got this awesome job at Charles Wright. The job challenged me in new ways of thinking about education that I had not been exposed to. I felt I had a lot of catching up to do when it comes to being a skilled high school level educator. So I dove in, and its been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
So now, here in the first few days of 2020, I’m coming off a holiday break that was centered around making work in the studio. My burnout has subsided, and I have that fire again. I again have thoughts about artwork that keep me up at night wondering ‘what if’.
I want to try a different way of selling my work, and collaborating with buyers, without going fully into commission style selling.
My idea is to create a custom order webstore, where clients can order the pots they want. My general analogy for my store, is to function somewhat like a restaurant with a seasonal menu. Customers choose from an ever-evolving list of menu options for what suits their appetite and budget.
This is a solution to number of things for me as a maker…
1) I never seem to have the inventory on hand that people are looking for.
2) Closely related to #1, because the work is spread out across multiple venues, there is always a very low selection to choose from in any one place at one time.
3) I feel a lack of connection to customers who buy my work
4) I can’t explain why which things sell well in one spot, and not at all in another
As for now, the webstore will carry the pots I have made, and will form the beginnings of the “menu”
Over the past 18 months, I’ve taken a much needed hiatus from almost everything involving my personal studio practice. As I was finishing at the Bray in the winter of 2013, I was feeling a serious sense of burnout. Looking back on it, I can safely estimate I averaged 70 hrs/week making work in the studio, for 104 of the 116 weeks I was there. I left with a huge sense of accomplishment about how I had developed and changed my work, but I just didn’t want to keep working that hard and have no financial progress to show for it. I thought for a while being a hard working studio potter was the title and lifestyle I wanted, but after having the privileged opportunity provided by the Bray to test it, I know it’s not the path for me.
Nicole and I moved to Seattle, and I was able to come full circle to complete a dream and teach alongside my college faculty at the University of Washington. I was also coaching rowing (lots of pictures in a prior post here), and that gave me a real sense of satisfaction being involved with athletics again. Athletics has always been a big part of my life, and reintroducing it felt natural. I was making a few pots here and there, and that felt okay for the time being. I greatly enjoyed no longer being financially dependent on my work. The position at UW was always a temporary one, so I knew I needed to come up with a longer term solution.
After much introspection, I concluded I needed the combination of making, teaching, and coaching in my professional life to be truly happy. I also wanted things that a full-time position provides like a livable salary, health insurance, retirement, paid time off, etc, etc. At this time I was coaching high school boys and really loving it, and based on what the boys and their parents were telling me, I was feeling like a successful instructor for that age group. I realized I could possibly teach/coach/make at a private high school. I followed a tip given to me in graduate school, and applied with Carney Sandoe. It worked, and I am now very happily employed at the Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma WA.
I now teach four classes of ceramics and one class of photography. I will also be coaching the golf team in the spring. I am back to making art, and have a few shows coming up that I’m excited about. Life is good.
I recently had the pleasure of working with Red Wing Stoneware, in Red Wing MN. They asked me to come in as a consultant to provide some additional training for their employees, specifically to help with the mold making process’s for both slip casting and RAM pressing.
Red Wing Stoneware has been around for a long time. They have a great history in American production, and its all detailed on their site here.
The show room, the huge signs can easily be seen from the highway
Downtown Red Wing, a very quaint town
Inside the factory, lots of slipcasting in progress. In this case, a gang mold for spoon rests.
Molds being cast during the morning shift, these will be drained before lunch, then dried, cleaned up, and the molds reassembled after lunch.
Besides slipcasting, many forms are made with good ol’fashoned wheel throwing.
The throwers are talented, and quick.
The throwing station.
With a division of labor in play, the throwers do not trim.
Pieces being “blue lined”, a signature of Red Wing
Glazing is done with a combination of dipping and spraying.
While in factory, its impressive the pure volume of work moving through.
Ware carts of work ready…
One load going in…
One coming out, with another ready to go.
Finished work on the shelves ready to go out.
More finished work.
Custom work for Red Wing Shoes, or as they call it in Red Wing, “the shoe”.
Production manager, and head mold maker Bill being introduced to the process of turning prototypes on the wheel. Before this, the throwers would make the prototypes, but could not optimize them for mold making and RAM pressing.
Halfway through making RAM press molds, the lower is already finished, with a handbuilt clay positive.
The air release system for the upper section of the mold.
Fitting the air system in the ring.
Brillant way to route the air, Bill was my teacher about this one.
Ready to pour.
After pouring, cut the cross section. Looks good. The bowl pressed beautifully, mission accomplished.
On the way out of town, had to stop here. Just a fantastic place.
I’m excited to have the opportunity to be teaching two upcoming workshops.
From June 16th to the 22nd, I’ll be at Arrowmont School of Crafts in Gatlinburg Tennessee, to teach “Prototype to Product”. Here is the link with more info about the hands on workshop on the Arrowmont page.
From September 3rd to the 7th, I’ll be working locally in Seattle at Pottery Northwest. My hands on workshop, “Slip and Slide”, is five days long and will cover all the basics of getting started with slipcasting.
I have just posted “stunt cups” on Etsy. Actually, I posted them a couple days ago, but gave everyone on my mailing list first dibs as a way to say thank you for being on my list. If you would like to receive these type of emails in the future, please sign up here…
These pots are a slight deviation from my prior work. I wrote one prior post about this idea here. A while back I noticed that some of the surface designs I had done looked similar to the cross sections of half pipes, tabletops, etc. I went forward with this idea (and with a lot of digital help from my wife), made vector files of the drawings of the athletes, then had decals digitally printed. Snowboarders, Skateboarders, Mountain Bikers, and the like are now throwing huge tricks on the sides of the pots.
I’ve always been involved with these types of sports, so it seemed like a worthwhile project. Part of me feels that I am misbehaving by doing this, that the pottery police are going to serve me a cease & desist, and that is partly why I like doing it.
Etsy is not the only venue I am going to be selling these through. I am working with the local board shop (snowboards, skateboards, clothing, accesories, etc) here in Helena, called Four O Six, and we are going to have some out for the upcoming fall artwalk. I wanted to release these independently first, then move outwards from there. Hope you like ’em.