The Bottle Kiln At Winchcombe Pottery: History, Celebration and Restoration.

All about the history of the bottle kiln at Winchcombe Pottery, through its time as Beckett’s pottery, under Michael Cardew and Ray Finch. Also includes information about the much needed restoration project happening today.

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Pots and Skeletons in the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave, Belize.

A visit into the deep, dark ATM Cave in Western Belize near San Ignacio. All about our adventure seeing the archeological artefacts, skeletons, pottery and incredible stalactites and stalagmites of the cave.

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WOODFIRE, NC. International Wood-Firing Conference 2017, at STARworks and the Pottery Centre in Seagrove, North Carolina.

The International Wood Fire Conference held at Starworks, NC, this past summer was a blast. Artists and speakers from all over the world congregated near the pottery town of Seagrove to present and discuss all aspects of firing clay with wood. The range of presentations, panel discussions, demonstrations and lectures was amazing. Just to name the plenary speakers shows the calibre of the event: Peter Callas, Louise Cort, Henry Glassie, Mark Hewitt, Anne Mette Hjortshoj, Robert Hunter,  Sequoia Miller, and Jack Troy. Without going in to obscene amounts of detail about all the talks etc., at the conference I'll just share some of my personal highlights. 

The conference kicked off with a barbeque and the Great Pots exhibit at the Pottery Centre. There was a buzz in the air. Everyone had just arrived and was excited for the weekend to come. The show was fabulous, but I didn't get a chance to really explore it until later on -- I wrote a post about it here

Before the conference began, Stillman and I had been at Starworks helping clean the place up, and had seen Alexandra Engelfreit at work on her massive sculpture by the clay factory. She did not have a firing crew lined up so we stepped in, spending a couple of nights helping her fire the work. 

Stillman stoking the left hand side of the kiln.

Action shot-stoking the side and front simultaneously.

The piece was about 10 x 25 feet, and made from 20 tonnes of local NC clay (cameron). Alexandra wet the clay and worked it with her body into the hillside, then slipped it with iron rich okeweemee clay. The kiln was an amazing construction of fibre hung on metal poles, which Andres Allik helped build. We had no idea if we would be able to get it up to temperature, and had to do some quick problem solving, such as creating more draw for the kiln by constructing a chimney out of two empty barrels. The other main problem was sourcing wood. Eddie Bernard of Wet Dog Glass came through with a whole bunch of pallets late on Friday evening, fetching them and breaking them up with his team. By lunchtime the next day, most of the wood was gone and cone 11 was half over in the front of the kiln. Done.

Cooling and almost ready to be unwrapped.

The finished piece with Alexandra at the top end, cleaning up.

Alexandra was very happy with the results-especially the variety of surface effects achieved.

Close up. 

Moving on to other highlights... 

Henry Glassie gave a wonderful lecture discussing wood firing potters from various cultures. He provided insights into some of the workshops outlined in his book The Potter's Art, which I highly recommend. One particular section that comes to mind was his discussion of kalshis, which are made in Bangladesh for carrying and storing water. The potters there create two entirely different lines of the same form in the same kiln by reducing or oxidising them. One comes out orange and the other nearly black. Some people like the orange ones for their water and some the black, so they make both. 

Henry takes all of his pictures with a film camera and writes his books out long hand. Old school.

Peter Callas showed a choppy art video of him and Peter Voulkos working in the studio together. A  twangy discordant Tom Waits set the mood in the background. Seeing Voulkous ripping, bodging, poking, prodding, adding, and subtracting clay on his mad forms was fascinating, as were Callas' additional comments on that time in his life. Seeing the kiln loading and firing was a treat too.

Peter CallasHot Pocket. Anagama fired, stoneware, 2017. $5000.

Someone I had not heard of before the conference was Ryuichi Kakurezaki. His presentation and demonstrations were spectacular. His deft, energetic forms were some of my favourites. I remember one slide of an asymmetric vase, shaped (in an abstract way) like a hare, about to leap into the air. Other vessels sat low on their legs, taking slow steps. Almost every shape was a surprise. As an apprentice in Japan, he said he spent two or three years simply cutting clay and pulling rocks out for his master. He has a three-chambered anagama kiln and uses mostly "garbage clay" to make his work.

Ryuchi's saki bottles.

There were so many little gems during the weekend. There was a whole panel on WADDING, and one on cooling cycles! Yes. That's what I'm talking about. Specifics! NCECA could use more panels on pressing topics such as these. 

There were some great demonstrations too...

Herve Rousseau and Kevin Lips demonstrating together.

Herve and Kevin moving a piece. 

Large fermentation crock made by Daniel Johnston in his demo.

Magdalene Odundo demo pots (building blocks for her pieces).

Ibrahim Said demo pots. 

Ben Owen III demo pots.

To end the conference, Jack Troy gave a rousing speech which included a plethora of apt quotations, such as this one from Margaret Atwood: "Wanting to meet an author because you like what they've written is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pate." He talked about "felt learning" and how using your own pots is like talking to yourself. He also threw out there, "pitchers ought to feel empty!" I was pretty tired by this point in the proceedings, but these sentiments hit home.

Perhaps the best part of the conference were the exhibitions. There was an installation by Daniel Johnston and a whole exhibit about the wild clay of North Carolina. I will be writing a separate post about each of these in the near future.

But the largest exhibit was a selection of work brought by the 60 or so presenters. The exhibition of their work was very extensive and provided a lot of inspiration.  I didn't manage to take a picture of every single pot on display, but I got almost all of them. I hope they serve as a record of the outstanding exhibition for those who saw it, and a window into the art of some of these artists for people who couldn't attend. The artists names are linked to their websites.

Apologies for the quality of some of the pictures -- I was rushing around at the very end of the conference trying to snap a picture of each before heading to help set up at the Hewitt Pottery for the "after-burn." The party was an exuberant end to the conference with great chats and VIP access to the disco in the kiln. But now, without further ado, here are the pots...

Hitomi ShibataZero. Wood-salt fired, STARworks clay, Cone 11, 2016. $1200.

Hitomi ShibataFlower Shaped Large Bowl. Wood-salt fired, STARworks clay, cone 11, 2010. $500.

Hitomi Shibata, A Jar. STARworks clay, Cone 13, 2015. NFS

Sandra Lockwood, Morphogenic Bowl. Wood fired and salt glazed, 2016. $1200.

Kate Johnston, Princess Tree Platter. Wood fired, local clay, salt glazed stoneware, 2017. $250.

Ken Sedberry, Rabbit. Wood fired for 18 hours in a single chamber sprung arch kiln with an external main firebox, sandblasted, 2017. $525.

Michael Hunt and Naomi Daglish, Tray. Wax resist, iron glaze, local stoneware, 2017. $125.

Michael Hunt and Naomi Daglish, Square Vase. Nuka glaze, wood fired local stoneware, 2017. $150.

Michael Hunt and Naomi Daglish, Bowl. Hakame slip, clear glazed local stoneware, 2017. $50.

Mark Shapiro, Jar with Geometric Circles. Wood fired, salt glazed stoneware, 2017. $320.
Mark Shapiro, Small Mugs. Wood fired, salt glazed stoneware, 2017. $35 each.

Mark Shapiro, Covered Box. Wood fired, salt glazed stoneware, 2017. $400.

Dian Magie, Sushi Plate. Wood fired to Cone 11 with pine, pear and oak, 2017. $48 each.

Dian Magie, Fingers of Ash. Wood fired to Cone 11 with pine, pear and oak, 2017. $140.
Dian Magie, Calico Bottle. Wood fired Okeewemee medium with slips, shino, 2017. $120 each.

Ken Sedberry, Large Oval Trout. Wood fired for 18 hours in a single chamber sprung arch kiln with an external main firebox, 2017. $225.

Eric Knoche, Miscellaneous Symbols and Tools. Wood fired stoneware with slips, 2016. $1800.

Tara Wilson, Basket. Wood fired stoneware, 2017. $450.

Simon Levin, Ripped Plate. Anagama fired stoneware, 2016. $120.

Simon LevinOrange Bowl. Anagama fired upside down, 2017. $72.

Linda Christianson, Beaker Ewer. Wood fired 2nd chamber of Noborigama, 2017. $115.

Linda Christianson, Striped Ewer. Wood fired 1st chamber of Noborigama with Bourry box, 2017. $175.

Linda ChristiansonKitchen Bucket. Wood fired 1st chamber of Noborigama with Bourry Box, 2017. $225.

Josh Copus, Stone Vessel, Woodfired Wild Clay Blend, 2017. $400.

Josh Copus, Stone Vessel, Woodfired Wild Clay Blend, 2017. $600.

Josh Copus, Stone Vessel, Woodfired Wild Clay Blend, 2017. $900.

Anna Partna, Spiral Form. Woodfired STARworks Clay, 2016. $350.

Anna Partna, Venus I. Fired in collaboration with David Stuempfle in his wood kiln, 2016. $400.
Anna Partna, Venus II. Fired in collaboration with David Stuempfle in his wood kiln, 2016. $400.

Judith Duff, Tall Bottle. Shigaraki style clay fired to Cone 12, 2016. $900.
Judith Duff, Cut Vase. Shigaraki style clay fired to Cone 12, 2016. $750.

Judith Duff, Oval Vessel. Shigaraki style clay fired to Cone 12, 2015. NFS.

Courtney Martin, Collaborative Platter w/ Jason Bige. Cross draft wood kiln, light salt, 2017. $275.

Randy Johnston, Multiple Spoon Form. Wood Fired Kaolin slip, natural ash glaze, 2017. $3000.

Alix Brodeur, Little Bud Vase, Iron rich clay, wood fired, 2016. $85.
Alix Brodeur, Bud Vase, Iron rich clay, wood fired, 2016. $85.

Justin Lambert, Teapot. Wood fired to cone 10, Porcelain blend, 60 hours, 2017. $175.
Justin Lambert, Jug with Spout. Wood fired to cone 10, Porcelain blend, 2017. $100.

Shane Mickey, Striped Bottle. Wood and soda fired, white stoneware, oribe glaze with underglaze deco, 2017. $130.
Shane MickeyAmber Gnome Jar. Wood and soda fired, white stoneware, amber celadon glaze with underglaze deco, 2016. $160.

Vicky Smith, Extinct Species: Gray Heron last sighted 1999. Wood fired stoneware with porcelain slip, 2017. $550.

Fred Johnston, Jar. Beekeeper Motif Decals from Jindezhen, 2017. $650.

Fred Johnston, Pink Shino Vase. 2017. $225.

Willi Singleton, Tall Bottle/Vase. Wood fired applied ash glazes, 2016. $650.
Willi Singleton, Round Vase. Wood fired applied ash glazes, 2016. $500.

Willi Singleton, Teapot and Teacups. Wood fired applied ash glazes, 2016. $350.

Joey Sheehan, Pilsner. Wood fired in train chamber, 2016. $90.
Joey Sheehan, Vase. Wood fired in train with soda flashing, 2017. NFS.

Joey Sheehan, Platter. Wood fired with glaze, 2017. $275.

Ben Owen III, Pierced Pear Vase. Anagama fired, iron and ash glaze, local stoneware 2017. NFS.

Ben Owen III, Genie Bottle. Copper and ash glaze, local stoneware 2017. $3600.

Mark Hewitt, Large Vase. Ash and salt glaze, wood fired local stoneware, 2017. NFS.

David Stuempfle, Pitcher. Wood fired, salt glazes, local stoneware, 2005. NFS.
David Stuempfle, Covered Jar. Wood fired, glazed, local stoneware, 2017. $600.

Shawn Ireland, Tower Vase. Wood fired, raw glazed, single fired, local materials, 2016. $175.

Shawn IrelandDouble Snack Bowl. Wood fired, raw glazed, single fired, local materials, 2016. $95.

David Stuempfle, Covered Jar. Wood fired, natural ash glaze, local stoneware, 2017. $600.

Takuro Shibata, Triangle Vase. NC clay, ash glaze, Cone 11, wood-salt fired, 2016. $1000.

Takuro Shibata, Platter. NC wild clay, Cone 12, wood fired, 2015. $400.

Takuro Shibata, Platter. VA wild clay, Cone 12, wood fired, 2015. $400.

Ben Richardson, Foliage Vase-Headland Series. Wood fired, 2016. $450.
Ben Richardson, Foliage Vase-Headland Series. Wood fired, 2016. $700.

Logan Wannamaker, Yunomi. Wood fired. 2016. $56.
Logan Wannamaker, Sculpture. Charcoal. 2016. $485.

Will Dickert, Small Jar. Porcelainous stoneware, natural ash glaze and shino type glaze liner, wood fired to cone 12, 2017. $110.

Will Dickert, Basket with Handles. NC stoneware, natural ash glaze, wood fired to cone 11, 2017. $595.

Will Dickert, Basket, NC stoneware, high iron slip, wood fired to cone 12, 2017. $495.

Perry Haas, Blue Green Moon Jar. Wood fired, 2017. $900.
Perry Haas, White Moon Jar. Wood fired, 2017. $800.

Warren Frederick, Ovoid. Wood fired stoneware, natural ash glaze, 2016. $1500.

Catherine White, Shale Moon. Wood fired stoneware, natural ash glaze, 2016. $800.

Catherine White, Shale Kite. Wood fired stoneware, natural ash glaze, 2016. $800.

Warren Frederick, Shield Tray. Wood fired stoneware, natural ash glaze, 2016. $800.

I love this collection of pots. David Stuempfle did an excellent job orchestrating the pieces.

Another stunning selection of wood fired pots.

Pamela Owens, Jar with handles. Wood fired, lightly salted with glass runs, 2016. $250.

Vernon Owens, Candle Sticks in Black Oil Spot. Wood fired, glazed and salted, 2016. $245.

Travis Owens, Large Neck Vase, Commemorative Centennial piece. Wood fired, salt glazed, with copper overdip, 2017. $425.

Joseph Sand, Side Fired Wall Pillow, Wood fired, salt glaze, 2016. $550.

Lars Voltz, Serving Bowl. Wood fired stoneware, reduction cooled, 2017. $150.

Joseph Sand, Side Fired Vase. Wood fired, salt glaze, 2017. $165.

Joseph Sand, Side Fired Axe. Wood fired, salt glaze, 2016. $550.

Michael Mahan, Large Vase with Hedgerow Motif, High-iron clay slip etched, ash glaze, wood fired, 2017. $175.
Michael Mahan, Dinner plate with Hedgerow Motif, High-iron clay slip etched, ash glaze, wood fired, 2017. $40.
Michael Mahan, Small Bowl with Hedgerow Motif, High-iron clay slip etched, ash glaze, wood fired, 2017. $29.

Sid Luck, Face Jug. Wood fired, salt glazed, 2017. $125.
Sid Luck, Water Jug. Wood fired, salt glazed, 2017. $200.
Sid Luck, Drunkerds Jug. Wood fired, salt glazed, 2017. $200.

Andrew Stephenson, Vase With Glass Runs. Wood fired and salt glazed, 2016. $285.
Chad Brown, Jar. 5 day wood firing, 2017. $775.

Mark Hewitt, Platter. Wood fired, salt glazed local stoneware, 2017. NFS.

Ingrid Allik, Flower Vessels. Glazed Woodfired Stoneware. 2017. $55-$85.

Jeff Shapiro, Sake Bottle, Pouring Vessels. Wood fired natural ash deposit, 2017. $550 each.

Ryuichi Kakurezaki, Various Sake Bottles, Wood fired, natural ash deposit, 2017. $1000.

Akira Satake, Sculptural Vase. Wood fired, natural ash glaze, train kiln, 2017. $3800.

Akira Satake, Sculptural Vase. Wood fired, natural ash glaze, train kiln, 2016. $3900.

Akira Satake, Sculptural Vase. Wood fired, natural ash glaze, train kiln, 2017. $4250.

Lindsay Oeasterritter, Bowl. Wood fired, reduction cooled, cone 10, 2017. $280.

Ashwini Bhat, Matrikas. Stoneware, fired in Anagama kiln. $4500.

Mark Hewitt, Large Vase. Local granite celadon glaze, wood fired local stoneware, 2017. NFS.

Anne Mette Hjortshoj, Spoons. Fired in Noborigama salt chamber with various slips and glazes, 2017. $300.

Anne Mette Hjortshoj, Bowls. Fired in Noborigama salt chamber with various slips and glazes, 2017. $100 and $135.

Donna Craven, Tea Mug Faceted. Wood fired stoneware, flashing slip, ash glaze and salted, 2017. $30 each.

Matt Jones, Serving Bowl with Cobalt Brush-painted lizards. Wood fired stoneware, 2016. $120.
Matt Jones, Platter with Cobalt Brush-painted Fern. Wood fired stoneware, 2017. $200.
Matt Jones, Pitcher with White Slip Trailing under Alkaline Glaze. Wood fired stoneware, 2017. $120.

Ben Owen III, Sung Style Jar. Anagama fired, ash and cobalt glaze, local stoneware, 2017. $475.

Mark Hewitt, Pitcher. Local granite celadon glaze, wood fired local stoneware, 2017. NFS.

Donna Craven, 2017. NFS.

Kate Johnston, Tulipiere Candelabra. Wood salt fired, local clay and goldluster low-fired electric, 2017. $750.

Herve Rousseau, Pot. Henrichemont, France. 2017. $550.

Simon Levin, Circular Plate. Anagama fired porcelain, 2016. NFS.

Mark Hewitt Pottery. Firing 98 and Kiln Opening. December 2017.

This Autumn cycle of making is always the shortest of the year, so we have been up against it, trying to make enough pots to fill the kiln as well as complete all the other necessary tasks like cutting wood and grinding kiln shelves. We all stepped up and worked hard and managed to do it -- we even had a few pots left over that wouldn't fit in the kiln. One of our tactics was to make more planters and mixing bowls than usual, and these got placed in more varied spots in the kiln, so some of these got nice firings.

Here are a few snaps from the firing...

Early on. Still only a little fire in there: stoking hardwood logs.

Terry Childress (local potter and sculptor extraodinaire) stoking the main firebox.

Mark salting the front of the kiln with the help of Malcolm Henry.

The orange red glow of the pots at the end of the firing.

Here's one of Stillman's that we pulled out still hot!

The 98th Salt Kiln Firing Crew.

The main day of the firing was a blustery fall day but the heat of the kiln kept us comfortable. I am particularly happy with some of the egg vases that I made; I've tried small versions of this shape before but never larger ones. My pitchers and barrel mugs are gradually getting better -- eking toward the goal of Mark's light, elegant forms. 

In other news, the bee hives down in the apple orchard are doing well: they have survived the winter thus far. Fingers crossed! We might even get some honey next year. The garden is producing, too -- I picked some nice broccoli for dinner tonight and there are more than enough cabbages to have a sauerkraut party. 

On to the pots!

First up, here's the big pots from this cycle, in the dusty grey morning light.

Mark Hewitt. Big pot. $4,500.

Mark Hewitt. Big pot. $3,500.

Close up of the decoration. I like the lilac circles on this one.

Mark Hewitt. Big pot. $4500.

Mark Hewitt. Big pot. $4,500.

Mark Hewitt. Big pot. $6,500.

Mark Hewitt. Big pot. $6,500.

Mark Hewitt. Big pot. $6,500

Mark Hewitt. Big pot. $7,500.

Close up of the decoration. I helped dot this one... so many dots!

Standing proud.

Now lets get into the sale, and smaller pots.

Mark giving his morning address before the punters get their pick of the pots. First come, first served!

The orderly walk down to the barn.

The Fervour.

The Fervour Part II.

A local artist painted a picture of Mark which graced the wall of the barn this weekend.

Various pots by Mark.

Cookie jar and pitcher. Mark Hewitt.

Top row = black slipped pots with cadmium yellow rims. Bottom row = ash glazed pots. All made by Mark.

Nice ash glazed ten gallon pot surrounded by bowls.

Mark's blurb from this opening. 

Some more of Mark's ten gallon pieces.

Fancy wig stand by Mr Hewitt. 

Close up of the decoration.

Now on to some flatware...

Mark Hewitt. Bowls with fern decoration.

Mark Hewitt. Pie dish. Ash glaze with blue glass drips.

These plates had a red slip liner which Mark decorated through and then glazed over with a glaze made from a local gravel.

Mark Hewitt. Bowl. 

Mark Hewitt. Plate.

Mark Hewitt. Plate.

Mark Hewitt. Platter.

Mark Hewitt. Platter.

 On to the planters...

Waves of planters!

Some of my planters in the foreground, Mark's in the back.

Mark Hewitt. 120lb planter.

Mark Hewitt. Monster planter.

Mark Hewitt. Rouletted salt glaze planter with blue glass. 

One of my planters, simple wavy incised lines whilst it was on the wheel.

Some of Stillman's and my pots.

Lots of little shooters, plus Stilly's bud vases and bio.

Stillman's blurb from this firing.

Shoppers grazing.

Its nice to see customers who come with their own boxes.

The pots always look better in the sun.

One of my spoon holders that got buried in wood ashes.

Two of Stillman's bud vases and one of my canister jars.

One of my mixing bowls.

Mixing bowls, all lined up.

Mixture of mine and Stillman's pots.

More apprentice pots!

My shelf -- with blurb in the background. 

Some more shelves of mine and Stilly's pots.

Two of my tumblers on the shelves.

And now, in case you have not seen enough pottery, here's a few more of mine with the barn as a backdrop.

Hamish Jackson, 1 1/2lb pitcher and 2 1/4lb pitcher.

Hamish Jackson, 3/4lb creamers.

Hamish Jackson, Water (or beer) bottle.

Hamish Jackson, Egg Vase. I like the ashy side of this one: nice dramatic firing.

Hamish Jackson, Pebble Vase.

Hamish Jackson, Egg Vase.

Hamish Jackson, Salty Mugs.

Hamish Jackson, 3 1/2lb casserole dish.

Hamish Jackson, Beer Tankard.

Hamish Jackson, Bud Vase.

To end here is a great moment I captured of a customer photographing his pots in front of the compost heap.

The heap is getting its time in the limelight!

I had to take the picture he got, too -- too good to miss. The worm bin I made is in the back right, too. Got to give the worms a shout out. 

Finally, here's a picture of some of the kiln shelves that once again need grinding. The myth of Sisyphus springs to mind! 

This is not all of the shelves by the way.

Becoming a Beekeeper: My first year keeping bees in North Carolina.

I've been interested in beekeeping for some time, but never had the impetus to start until I became friends with some local beekeepers when we moved to Chatham County. I joined the Chatham County Bee Association and started going to  their 'Field Days' at the Community College in Pittsboro. The association manages an apiary there for teaching purposes. I had never seen a hive worked before and it immediately made me want to get into it. Seeing the frames of bees and honey being removed from the hive and inspected was magic. Going to association's monthly meetings showed me that there was a whole world to learn about bees and beekeeping.

Honey and bees!

Local beekeepers told me to take "Bee School," a bi-annual class run nearby in Pittsboro, before getting my own hives. I was absolutely going to take this advice, but an opportunity presented itself in the fall when a chap in the association wanted to get rid of his hives. He had started them the previous spring and they were doing well, but his niece and nephew had been stung a few times. So I took the opportunity and got them.

I'll describe my first year beekeeping by the season, as it is a highly seasonal pursuit.


I got the hives on September 11th 2016. They had been started off from packages in the spring of 2016. They had grown up to fill out two deep boxes and one medium each.

My master/mentor Mark and his wife Carol kindly let me put the hives on their property, down in in the apple orchard behind the pottery. I weed-whacked around the area and put down a tarp to help prevent weeds taking over and set up breeze blocks on flat spots for the hives. I wanted to expand the apiary to four hives, so I leveled and set up those spots in advance. It's nice having the hives at work as I can go and check on them at lunchtime.

A couple of friends who are beekeepers helped me move them and advised me on preparing for overwintering. In our area, it's common to have to feed the bees diluted honey water or sugar water in Autumn to make sure they have the food stores to get through winter. I didn't have to feed them much, though, as they had decent enough stores already. Moving them wasn't too bad--we did it at night, with a wire mesh stapled to the front entrance of the hives to stop any bees escaping. We tied a ratchet strap tightly around each and used a hive lifter (which clamps under the handles) to get them onto the bed of the pick up truck. The journey was only about five miles, but I was still worried all the way there!
The hives in their new spot.

We arrived safely and placed them down carefully, leaving the hive closed for a couple of days. Once opened up, the bees reoriented themselves by flying in circles around the hive. It was pretty cool to see, but I made sure to give them some space and not disturb them for a couple of weeks, just observing from a distance.

I named the hive on the left Rosemary and the one on the right Thyme. Bees actually hate thyme oil so this was a poor choice in retrospect. I din not know this at the time. Rosemary has always been a step ahead of Thyme.

Rosemary, in the back of the photo, building up like crazy--lots of foraging and new bees, whereas Thyme in the front is not doing so well.

My first major mistake was being convinced that Rosemary did not have a Queen. I could not see any sign if her, nor eggs or larvae. So I found another Queen and introduced her to the hive. I introduced her slowly as you are supposed to... putting her in a cage watched inside the hive for 3 days. When 3 days were up I let her out, only to see her balled up by workers. They stung her till she was no more. It was a sad moment. The workers are very sensitive to a new Queen with different pheromones, and will only accept her if they really are Queenless. The Queen slows down laying at the end of Autumn and stops altogether in winter so this is what must have occurred: I didn't see any fresh eggs because she wasn't laying.

Experienced beekeeper Lori Hawkins on the right describing how to pick up a frame properly.

In early October 2016, we had a scare from Hurricane Matthew, so I prepared the hives as shown below. Thankfully the main part of the storm missed us, and the hives were fine.

Hurricane prep.

Once the weather got cold, I pretty much left the hives alone. You don't want to open them up and let warmth out during the winter. On the occasional warm day, I had a peek in to see how the stores were holding up. It was a pretty mild winter by all accounts, apart from a couple of brutal weeks, and they came through fine, with no additional feeding. Come January/February, I gave them a little pollen and sugar to get them excited for spring.

Me and some of my ladies.

"Bee School" ran in the winter--one evening every week from eight weeks--and taught me a lot about bees. In particular, I learnt about bee biology and how their colony functions. Bees are complicated creatures! It was an excellent course and I thoroughly recommend taking a similar course if it is available in your area--but there is a big difference between the theory of beekeeping and the actuality of working a hive.

Bee School secrets inside.
One of the best parts of bee school was the equipment building week. 

This is an empty frame, waiting for the wax foundation to be inserted into it. This thin layer helps get the bees started building comb. They will do it on their own but it helps speed things up. 

This is David Jones, demonstrating his homemade device for embedding the wax foundation onto the wire supports by sending a quick blast of electricity through them which melts the wax just enough.

My hive tool resting on the box. The scraping side is helpful to remove sticky propolis, which the bees use to glue the hive together. The hooked side helps lift frames out of the box.

Going out to the field days and watching inspections in action taught me more of the physical and practical skills. It's ideal to find a mentor to show you the ropes if possible; I've been fortunate enough to have several people to discuss problems with and to come and help out.


Once the weather warmed up some (Febuary/March), the bees started going out and foraging again, and the Queens started laying eggs again.

You can see some tiny tiny freshly laid eggs in this picture--they look kind of like rice. Unfortunately the Queen laid them in between the boxes in "burr comb" which broke as I opened the hive up.

I was very happy to find this frame-all of the filled in cells are "capped brood" which means baby bees waiting to hatch. They cap the cells 8 days after the Queen lays them and the workers emerge 13 days later.

You can see drone brood on the bottom of this frame: the cells are slightly larger. Drones are the male bees whose only contribution to the hive is munching on food and then going off flying to try to find a Queen to mate with.

Spot the DRONE. There is only one here.

Both of my hives built up pretty fast--in part I think because of the pollen I gave them (not sure I will do this again). By the time I did a full inspection with a beekeeping friend, the hives had already both swarmed.

I was slow on the uptake and totally missed the signs (Queen cells) and a cramped hive. So in early Spring I had two hives with zero Queens. Bad news. But I did have four Queen cells in one hive, and five in the other. These are larger cells which the workers feed extra Royal Jelly (bee superfood) and then the egg develops into a Queen. If you have more than one emerge at the same time, they will fight to the death! If one emerges before the others then she will go and sting all the other Queen cells before they can. There can only be one Queen in any house!

You can see worker larvae developing in these cells. The bee with its head in there is a nurse bee feeding the young larvae.

With the help of Gerald Wert--an experienced local beekeeper--we split these two hives into five, each with one or two Queen cells. I would have never taken such a dramatic course of action, but now see it was the right course of action. I only wanted four hives, but Gerald advised to make more just in case. The hope was that each of them would make a new Queen, but sadly two of them didn't take. This is not uncommon. So I combined two of the hives (one Queenless with one Queen right) and managed to procure a VSH Queen (see below) from a local supplier to put into one of them. So at the end of spring, I had four laying Queens in four hives. They were weak but Spring is the time of year when there is plenty of forage out there for the bees.

Marjoram and Basil had joined the apiary!


Early summer is typically when beekeepers extract honey in my area. I was all excited and ready to try in June, managed to borrow a centrifugal extractor, and had all my equipment set and ready. Unfortunately, upon full inspection it was clear that the hives didn't have enough stores for extraction. I was not hoping to take much, the hives being young and all, but it was still a tad disappointing. I could have taken a few frames from Rosemary, who was the heaviest by far, but the Queen had been up in the honey supers, laying eggs on the back of frames of honey... this meant that if I extracted that honey then those babies would be lost. I wasn't about to do that! There was literally only one viable frame, which I took and scraped out. It was enough to fill one small glass jar. It tastes good though: we've been enjoying it for breakfast (sparingly) on sourdough toast.

A frame from one of Lori's hives: it is full of capped honey and ready for extraction!

I did a "sugar shake" to see how many varroa mites were in each hive. Varroa mites are the worst pest affecting bees worldwide (except possibly humans). They only made their way to North Carolina in 1990 but have been wreaking havoc since. Last year, 40% of all bee hives were lost in our state, and this is at least in part due to varroa mites. They spread viruses and diseases and can weaken the colony significantly.

One frame removed.

There are guidelines for how many mites is acceptable in a hive, laid out by the state inspectors and general literature. Nine mites per 300 bees is the maximum that is acceptable. Rosemary came in at three, Thyme at 18, Basil at 10, and Marjoram at zero. There are two main ways of dealing with the mites: treating the hive, as you would if you got head lice--with a chemical that kills them--or re-queening the hive. I decided to use Api-Guard, which is a product, somewhat ironically, made from thyme. It is a soft-chemical, but a chemical nonetheless, and I felt bad about inflicting it on the bees. It is not easy trying to kill a small bug on a larger bug. Next time I think I will try re-queening with VSH Queens... these are Queens who have been bred to be "hygienic:" their offspring tend to clean themselves super well, and dump the varroa mites off them.

The treatment worked well enough--I had a significant drop in varroa mites in those hives, and the Queens got back to laying again.


It was just about a year ago that I got Rosemary and Thyme. I have made many mistakes not to be repeated, and am currently just giving the hives a little sugar water to make sure they have enough food to get through the winter!

Some extra equipment I managed to get at a good price through the CCBA, ready for next year.


It took me awhile to get over the sense of fear when pulling apart the home of 30,000 bees (I haven't counted, but that's a conservative estimate). To begin with, I got stung quite a bit: partly this was because I was clumsy... dropping a whole frame of bees usually means you are going to get stung! Also, going down to the apiary without a lit smoker is silly--even if you try not to use it, its nice to have if the bees get riled at all. It blocks their pheromones and tends to make them more docile.

Going barefoot is a bad idea when inspecting, and shorts can also be problematic. Trousers with elastic bands around your ankles are really nice so the bees don't crawl up your legs. I don't practice this, but can see how it would be nice! A veil is essential when you are starting out--the bees tend to fly at your face and eyes when defending the hive. Having not tied my veil up properly and been stung on the eyebrow once, I know the value of the veil. Gloves tend to hinder me more than help, though.

One time I got stung quite a few times in one place on the thigh (wearing shorts), and came out in hives all over my body. Had to nip down to emergency care for a shot of steroids in the buttocks. Apparently this can happen if you get stung right in a vein. I have only had this reaction once. Fingers crossed it doesn't happen again. I now have an EPI pen in my beekeeping stuff too.


Life cycle of the honey bee: 

Cell capped
Average Developmental Period
Start of Fertility
3 days
5 1/2 days
7 1/2 days
8 days
16 days
Approx. 23 days
3 days
6 days
9 days
12 days
21 days (Range: 18-22days)
3 days
6 1/2 days
10 days
14 1/2 days
24 days
Approx. 38 days

Worker bee service:

1-2 days: Cleaning cells and warming the brood nest, eat pollen and beg for nectar by older bees passing by.
3-5 days: Some of earlier tasks plus feeding older larvae with honey and pollen.
5-8 days: Nurse bees-hypoparyngeal gland is well developed so they can produce royal jelly to feed young larvae and Queen bee.
8-12 days: Take/process incoming food; ripen honey/store pollen.
12-16 days: Wax glands well developed; produces wax and constructs comb, ripens honey.
17-21 days: Guards hive entrance and ventilates hive, orientation flights.
22 days +: Forage for nectar, pollen, propolis and water.

Helpful Resources:

The CCBA (Chatham County Bee Association) has been amazing; I would have struggled much more had it not been for them. Each meeting has a different speaker come and present on a specific topic such as "using honey as medicine" or "tackling varroa mites." Whilst some of this goes over my head, I always learn things.Wherever you are, join the club--beekeepers who will more than likely want to help you with your bees.

In North Carolina, we have an amazing resource at our disposal--the state-supported (and funded) Apiary Services Program. NC is divided into six zones, each with its own inspector. You can call them out to check on your bees. Ours is Don Hopkins: he is extremely knowledgeable, and taught the bee school section on diseases, pests, and pest management.

There are a lot of books on beekeeping out there, but these are a few I have enjoyed and found useful:

First Lessons in Beekeeping by Keith S. Delaplane
Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston
The Beekeeping Bible by Richard A. Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch

I recently took a test to be basic "Certified" beekeeper but it goes up to Journeyman, Master and Master Craftsman. Heres the site:

 Some beauty to end on:
Here's a picture of some native bees on a cacti flower, atop a cliff, on the island of St John in the Virgin Islands last Spring.

Summer Kiln Opening, Firing 97, Mark Hewitt Pottery.

We were fortunate to have a mild summer's day for the firing; it was hot, but not obscenely so, and the kiln went up just fine. We weren't so lucky for the unloading, however. The air was so thick and sticky it felt like I was swimming in tar pit. I think we each lost about 5lbs in water that day. It takes us a whole week to load the kiln and just a single day to unload. 

View into the firebox, early on in the firing.

It's always a day of mixed emotions; excitement mingling with disappointment, sweat mingling with blood (from nicks on sharp wads or ceiling stalagtites), and fine pots mingling with wasters. It is heavy work, moving all the kiln shelves and furniture out, as well as all the pots. We were all exhausted at the end of the day, but relieved with the results. Upon first glance it seemed like a good firing, and once we delved deeper, we found that it was an excellent firing all told. 

Matt Hallyburton side stoking the kiln.

Flames out of one of the stoke holes.

The firing crew. Top row: Stillman Browning-Howe, Me, Joe Sink. Below: Luke Wheeler, Mark Hewitt, Matt Hallyburton.

It's been an enjoyable summer cycle of making at the Hewitt Pottery, with a little extra time than usual to make pots and experiment with new forms. The International Wood-Fire Conference (that Mark helped organise) took place in Seagrove and provided a chance to see a wide range of wood-fired pottery, listen to talks about all manner of ceramics-related topics, and draw inspiration from the wider community. 

The "Great Pots" show at the Pottery Center was particularly useful; with over 150 pots from the traditions of North and South Carolina. To get to examine some of those old pots up closeparticularly the surfaces of Solomon Loy and Chester Webster's incised decorationswas a real treat. previous post of mine showed some of these pots with descriptions etc. The wood-fire conference as a whole was inspiring, and it prompted me to try various new forms such as rundlets, egg vases, and boxes.

Two of my rundlets (for whisky) and a squared off vase with heron incised decoration.

Is that a heron in a top hat? Yes. Yes it is.

Without further ado, I'll reel out the pictures of the kiln opening. The first weekend of the sale took place last weekend; the second is this coming weekend. The hours are 9-5 Saturday 2nd September and noon-5 Sunday 3rd September.

Mark addressing the morning crowd.

People prepared with baskets!

The procession down to the barn.

Customers scrambling to get the pots they liked best.

The seconds table. Always a bargain to be found here!

I'll start with pics of Mark's work and then some of mine and Stillman's. First up, the biggest of the bunch... 

Mark's big pots.

Big pot. Mark Hewitt.

Big pot. Mark Hewitt.

Big pot. Mark Hewitt.

Big planter. Mark Hewitt.

Big pot. Mark Hewitt.

Customers in the inner barn.

Classic Mark Hewitt decoration: manganese slip lines and white slip dots.

Ash glazed wares by Mark Hewitt

Ten Gallon vase by Mark Hewitt.

Display of some of Mark's celadon work.

More pots by Mr. Hewitt.

Cutomers contemplating the ten gallon pieces.

A few rare yellow glazed pots.

Hot peppers on a salty platter.

Some wall vases by Mark Hewitt.

Vase by Mark Hewitt from right in the front stack of the kiln.

Drippy black slip! 

Classic cookie jar of Mark's.

Ten gallon jar by Mark Hewitt.

Celadon plates by Mark Hewitt.

Dotty decorations. Flatware by Mark Hewitt.

Two of Mark's side plates.

More plates by Mark Hewitt.

Mark's platters hanging on the side of the workshop. These came out particularly well, so I have included a picture of each below.

Platter 1. Mark Hewitt.

Platter 2. Mark Hewitt.

Platter 3. Mark Hewitt.

Platter 4. Mark Hewitt.

Now some apprentice pots...

Fishy bud vase of Stillman's.

One of my 3/4lb honey jars.

Flowers in one of Stilly's bud vases.

Planters arranged for sale. Morning sun casting long shadows.

Nice bit of ash on this one of mine.

Loopdy loops.

Some of my mixing bowls.

One of my quart pitchers.

Mixture of shooters made by Stillman and I.

Mostly Stilly shooters.

Full shelves ready for the sale!

Stillman posing with one of his cute little bud vases.

One of my egg vases, sgrafitto decoration.

One of my handled bottles.

One of my sunflower quart pitchers. I was decorating these at the height of the sunflower bloom.

Another egg vase. Love the salty finish on this one.

Creme Brûlée dishes made by Stillman. He makes a damnably fine creme brûlée too.

A couple of my small footed bowls.

Some of my side plates (first batch) and wasabi dishes.

Custard cups made by Stillman.

One of Stilly's custard cups with loopdy-loop decoration.

More apprentice pots.

One of my two-part vases. 

Trio of my celadon mugs.

A group of cups intimidating a poor little honey jar.

Two of my bottles behind one of Stillman's.

One of my little boxes, with blue glass on top.

Pots pots pots.

One of my heron mugs, inscribed: "Hey Baby, Nice Legs."

One of Stillman's egg vases to end on.

Wood-Fired Ceramics Exhibition, "Connected By Fire" at the Blue Spiral Gallery in Asheville, NC. June 2017.

Last month saw a great many wood-fire potters congregating in North Carolina. The International Woodfire Conference took place at STARworks NC, from June 8th-11th, with a week of pre-conference activities beforehand. I was lucky enough to be able to scoot up to the mountains of western NC to see the exhibitions going on and meet lots of great potters. 

I spent a good bit of Saturday at Josh Copus' compound where two kilns were being busily loaded and anther being built. Josh curated Connected By Fire at the Blue Spiral Gallery in Asheville around a core group of artists who in turn invited others into the fold. I didn't manage to make it to the opening, but I got the place to myself on Sunday morning and had time and space to photograph the work. I did miss a cabinet of cups which was secreted away on another floor of the gallery, and a few of my pics were inexplicably blurry and had to be left out, but I saw most of it. 


I thought it was a delightful display of wood-fired ceramics. The variety of surfaces is astounding; from the warm, glazed surfaces of Bandana Pottery's work, to the dramatic flashing achieved by Copus and Knoche, to the subtler, somber tones of David Peters' work, to the dark, stormy ash build up on Ben Richardson's Deflection pieces. There were surprises, too, such as Jeff Shapiro's ice flow piece which reminded me of an icing accident on a basalt cake, or Will Dickert's angular platters which had me imagining how many different types of nuts I could lay my hands on (seriously nice nut display opportunities), or Mr Oh's bizarre, whimsical wood fired sculptures. 

The firings of the pieces in the show is crucial to their success. Speaking with Josh Copus, he said that he is thinking about the placement of every pot as he's making it in the studio, and not only this but that different local clays end up in different areas of the kiln based on how they look at different temperatures and levels of oxidation or reduction. You can see the care and consideration that was taken in the way these pieces were placed in the kiln and fired. 

Many of the potters use local materials and their work exhibits a raw sensibility: a sense of the earth and the rocks and the geological processes that made them. Being a potter myself, these things greatly appeal to me. To know that slip came from the stream at the end of the potter's garden makes the piece so much richer. Seeing this work and talking with many of the artists involved was inspiring. To know that you can experiment with just about any material you find, and figure out whether it could be useful in a slip, glaze, or clay body, or even just as wadding to place pots on in the kiln, is very exciting. 

It has opened my eyes to a different way of looking at clay. In my daily studio practice, we take clay, made now by Takuro Shibata at his clay factory at Starworks; pug it, weigh it out, and throw functional pots with it. The clay has to be plastic and fine in order to stretch it thin and throw large bellies into mugs or jars. But much of the work in this exhibition veers dramatically away from this way of working; Akira Satake's boxes and sculptures are so far from thinly thrown mugs. It almost seems like he hasn't worked the clay at all: the finished pieces feel so raw and natural, like mountains and trees.

Well, that's probably enough gesticulating from me. Enjoy the pictures! 

Akira Satake, Sculptural Box No. 1. Wood-fired porcelaneous clay. 7.25 x 7 x 6.5. $625.

Eric Knoche, Untitled Line. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 21 x 19 x 6. $3,500.

Akira Satake, Sculpture No. 2. Wood-fired porcelaneous clay. 17.5 x 10.5 x 7. $4,500.

Eric KnocheAbacus No. 3. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 28 x 45 x 3. $2,700.

Akira SatakeKohiki Vase No. 3 (left) & Kohiki Vase No. 1 (right). Wood-fired stretched slip stoneware. $685 & $625.

Eric KnocheHorseshoe Cloud. Wood-fired ceramics. 18 x 14 x 5. $2,000.

Eric KnocheChain. Wood-fired stoneware with slip. 77 x 8 x 7. $3,000.

Eric KnocheMiscellaneous Symbols and Tools. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 30 x 50 x 7. $3,300.

Close-up of: Eric KnocheMiscellaneous Symbols and Tools. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 30 x 50 x 7. $3,300.

Close up of: Eric KnocheMiscellaneous Symbols and Tools. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 30 x 50 x 7. $3,300.

Judith Duff, Wave. Wood-fired ceramics. 9.5 x 13 x 6. $650.

Judith DuffShigaraki Clay Bottle. Wood-fired ceramics. 15.75 x 5.75 x 5.25. $600.

Judith DuffIkebana Form. Wood-fired ceramics. 5 x 17 x 3. $450.

Catherine WhiteEcho. Wood-fired stoneware with natural ash glaze. 17.5 x 11 x 11. $900.

Catherine WhiteSpokes. Wood-fired stoneware with natural ash glaze. 6.5 x 13 x 12.5. $400.

Catherine WhiteStriation (left) & Kite II (right). Wood-fired stoneware with natural ash glaze. $200 & $500.

Catherine White, Pulse. Wood-fired stoneware with natural ash glaze. 10 x 9 x 6.5. $400.

Eric KnocheAbacus. Wood fired-stoneware with slip. 30 x 50 x 7. $2,700.

Tim Rowan, Box. Wood-fired native clay. 8 x 7 x 6. $800.

Tim RowanVessel. Wood-fired native clay. 23 x 9 x 10. $3,000.

Eric KnochePuzzle No. 2. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 9 x 24 x 5. $2,300.

Hyang Jong Oh, Three Birds (sold as set). Wood-fired ceramics with slip and glaze. 36 x 9 x 6. $2,000.

Hyang Jong OhMusician Pagoda. Wood-fired ceramics. 27 x 12 x 12. $1,800.

Ben Richardson, Cleave No. 1 & 2. Wood-fired ceramics. 8.5 x 6. $600 each.

Left: Josh Copus, Large Stone Vessel No. 5. Wood-fired wild clay. 29 x 14 x 9. $900.
Right: Josh Copus, Medium Stone Vessel No. 9. Wood-fired wild clay. 20 x 9 x 9. $450.

Josh Copus, Large Stone Vessel No. 12. Wood-fired wild clay. 26 x 17 x 17. $900.

Josh Copus, Large Stone Vessel No. 4. Wood-fired wild clay. 30 x 17 x 12. $900.

Josh Copus, Small Pixels (sold individually). Wood-fired wild clay. 46 x 34. $30.

Left: Shozo Michikawa. Natural Ash Twist Form No. 2. Wood-fired ceramics. 8 x 4.5 x 4.5. $2,000.
Middle: Shozo Michikawa. Natural Ash Vase. Wood-fired ceramics. 11 x 3.5 x 3.5. $2,000.
Right: Shozo Michikawa. Natural Ash Twist Form No. 1. Wood-fired ceramics. 7.25 x 4.5 x 4.5. $1,800.

Shozo Michikawa. Tanka Bowl. Wood-fired ceramics. 5.5 x 13 x 12. $2,500.

Shozo Michikawa. Natural Ash Pineapple Vase No. 2. Wood-fired ceramics. 6.5 x 6 x 6. $2,000.

Ben RichardsonDeflection No. 1 & 2. Wood-fired ceramics. 12 x 5 x 3. $500 each.

Ben RichardsonDeflection No. 2. Wood-fired ceramics. 12 x 5 x 3. $500.

Josh Copus, Large Stone Vessel No. 2 & No. 11. Wood-fired wild clay. 25 x 15 x 6 & 28 x 17 x 16. $900 each.

Josh Copus, Orb. Wood-fired ceramics. 7 x 8 x 8. $250.

Josh Copus, Large Orb Vessel. Wood-fired wild clay. 19 x 16 x 16. $900.

Ben RichardsonAs Darkness Falls No. 1 & 2. Wood-fired ceramics. 6 x 5.5 & 7 x 5.5. $600 each.

Josh Copus, Erosion. Wood-fired wild clay. 7 x 7 x 2. $240 each.

Will Dickert, Jar Study, No. 1. Wood-fired stoneware. 9 x 7 x 7. $200.

Will DickertTrough Form. Wood-fired stoneware. 8 x 9 x 28. $995.

Jeff Shapiro pieces. Details below.

Jeff Shapiro, Ice Flow Series No. 1. Wood-fired ceramics with natural ash deposit and glaze. 6.5 x 12 x 10. $1,600.

Jeff ShapiroUntitled No. 1. Wood-fired ceramics with natural ash deposit and glaze. 21 x 9 x 4. $2,300.

Jeff ShapiroUntitled No. 2. Wood-fired ceramics with glaze, ash, and shell marks. 15 x 17 x 4. $1,500.

Josh Copus, Large Stone Vessel No. 9. Wood-fired wild clay. 24 x 16 x 8. $900.

Will DickertBoat Form. Wood-fired stoneware. 6 x 8 x 22. $425.

Will DickertLinear Form. Wood-fired stoneware. 7 x 33 x 9. $975.

Michael Hunt & Naomi Dalglish, Fluted Oval Vase. Wood-fired local clay with Nuka glaze. 6.5 x 12 x 5. $175.

Michael Hunt & Naomi Dalglish, Onggi Shield Vase. Wood-fired local clay with slip and glaze. 19 x 14 x 5.5. $800.

Michael Hunt & Naomi DalglishLarge Square Tray. Wood-fired local clay with wax resist and iron. 16 x 16 x 2. $475.

Michael Hunt & Naomi DalglishCarved Tray with Handles. Wood-fired local clay and Nuka glaze. 4.5 x 17.5 x 2. $125.

Michael Hunt & Naomi DalglishSquare Bottle. Wood-fired local clay with slip glaze. 11 x 5 x 5. $175.

Michael Hunt & Naomi Dalglish, Long Tray No. 1. Wood-fired local clay with slip, sgraffito and green deco. 22 x 7.5 x 2. $375.

Sandy LockwoodBlack Jar. Wood-fired salt-glazed stoneware. 7 x 3 x 3. $450.

Sandy LockwoodOrange Platter. Wood-fired and salt-glazed stoneware. 10 x 10. $900.
Sandy LockwoodCups. Wood-fired and salt-glazed stoneware. 5 x 3. $105 each.

William Baker, Triangle Vase. Stoneware, thrown and altered. 7 x 11 x 5. $220.

William Baker, Square Bowl. Stoneware, thrown and altered. 8 x 11 x 11. $495.

William Baker, Bottle No. 1. Stoneware, thrown and altered. 15 x 6 x 6. $325.

William Baker, Bowl No. 2. Stoneware, thrown and altered. 7 x 8 x 8. $260.

Josh Copus, Large Stone Vessel No. 8. Wood-fired wild clay. 24 x 8 x 7. $700.

Close up: Josh Copus, Large Stone Vessel No. 8. Wood-fired wild clay. 24 x 8 x 7. $700.

Eric Knoche, Untitled Form No. 3. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 36 x 24 x 14. $5,700.

Close up of: Eric KnocheUntitled Form No. 3. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 36 x 24 x 14. $5,700.

David Peters, Bowl. Wood-fired local stoneware. 5 x 13.5 x 13.5. $375.

David PetersSeven Sided Jar. Wood-fired local stoneware. 14.5 x 17.5 x 17.5. $1900.

David PetersFour Sided Jar. Wood-fired local stoneware. 8 x 13 x 13. $600.

Eric KnocheUntitled Form No. 2. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 18 x 16 x 14. $2,800.

Eric KnocheUntitled Form No. 1. Wood-fired stoneware with slips. 16 x 18 x 15. $3,000.

Akira SatakeSculpture No. 1. Wood-fired porcelaneous clay. 12.5 x 7.5 x 5. $1,800.

Akira SatakeSculpture No. 5. Wood-fired porcelaneous clay. 6.25 x 8 x 7. $725.

Great Pots from the Traditions of North & South Carolina: Exhibition at the Pottery Center in Seagrove, North Carolina.

Over the past year, Mark has been busier than usual. As well as making his usual quota of pots, he's been helping to organise the International Woodfire Conference (which happened a few weeks ago) and the Great Pots exhibition that coincided with it. During the winter, after we 'd fired the salt kiln, Mark drove around the South meeting collectors and pickers and dealers, trying to find the very best examples of traditional North and South Carolinian pottery. The idea was to showcase the rich history of pot making in this area to all of the world-class woodfire potters who would be visiting for the conference.

The proceedings opened at the Pottery Center, with the Great Pots on display. We ate NC barbeque, (pulled pork, collards, hush puppies, and the like), chatted with new and old friends and took in the pots, excited for the weekend's events to come.

This exhibition and accompanying book (above; it can be purchased here) acts as a sequel to Mark's previous exhibition and book, The Potter's EyeA few of the same pots were included, such the one from the cover of The Potter's Eye by Solomon Loy. It was a real treat to see this one up close! When I asked why he wanted a few of these previous pots, he simply said, "I just had to show those ones"... they acted as a starting point -- a measure of quality. The choice of pots was mostly a matter of which ones Mark particularly liked and felt needed to be shown.

This makes the exhibition all the interesting because his perspective is different from the usual art curator or collector. Being a potter, he appreciates all aspects of the pots, from the forms, to the decorations, to the way the handles were put on, to the firing, to the clay etc etc.  In this way, the exhibition and accompanying book are truly a sequel to The Potter's Eye. 

There are over 150 pots in the exhibition and book, each with a little lyrical note from Mark portending to why he included that particular pot. The pots are organised into five sections, with informative, engaging essays from authorities on them: Linda Carnes-McNaughton on earthenware and the pots from Alamance County, NC, Charles (Terry) Zug on alkaline and salt-glazed wares, Philip Wingard on South Carolina stoneware. As there were so many pots to fit into the Pottery center, Mark was creative in his display; arranging groups of pots together, almost in still life scenes. This was partly out of necessity but also inspired by an exhibition of ceramics called "Parades," organised by Gwyn Hanssen Pigott (2006-2008), at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

I went back and revisited the exhibition last weekend with less people around and was amazed by the quality and breadth of the work. It was wonderful to be able to walk around them slowly, feeling the surfaces and examining the clay bodies. The pots have a power in person; particularly the larger jars, churns, and jugs. I love the wide bellies, high shoulders, and strong forms of many of these pots. The wide range of wood-fired surfaces struck me too; all different permutations of wood ash deposits, salt and alkaline glazes, over and under fired, as well as dainty pinkish deer spots. I particularly enjoyed the accidental surfaces from firings gone awry; you can see some pots where the kiln bricks melted glassy drips onto them. But also, in contrast to these gnarlier examples, I loved seeing the crisp, delightful incising of Chester Webster's work.

To start this post, I have included a few pictures of the exhibition as it was laid out in the Pottery Center. These quick snaps don't really do the pots justice, but give a sense of the exhibition. Below those are some of the pictures used in the book (which Mark kindly sent me), taken by professional craft photographer Jason Dowdle.

The exhibition is up until July 22nd, 2017, so get over to Seagrove and check it out if you can! If not, there's always the book. It is a very nicely put-together tome with excellent photographs, as you should get a taste of in this post.

I love these earthenware pots, particularly the sugar bowl up front. It is so alive and expressive, over the top in its slip-trailed decoration but humble in form. 

This large mixing bowl is amazing. The glaze must have been applied really thickly as it ran down and puddled in one side of the base.

This pot is attributed to Milton Rhodes (1843-52). I find the decoration very odd. You can see it two ways; either a slip trailed woman in a hooped skirt is at the center, with flowers up above, or the flowers are eyes, her torso is a nose and her skirt is a gaping mouth. Great shape, but I find the decoration rather unsettling!

Mr. Hewitt giving a talk about how the exhibition came to fruition, in the teaching wing of the Pottery Center.

One gallon crock stamped JD CRAVEN BROWER'S MILL, N.C. I rather fancy this one as a bread bin.


I like how slender this whisky jug is. Pretty light too (not that I picked it up or anything).

I really like this Chester Webster jug too: despite being underfired, it has a lot going on in the surface. I like shape of the the neck and lip too.

Now on to Jason Dowdle's professional pictures. I've included the entries as they are in the book: with all the details of the pots and Mark's comments underneath. Enjoy!

Alkaline Glazed Stoneware (NC)
DANIEL SEAGLE, ca 18051867, Lincoln County, NC. Fifteen-gallon jar. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 18 × 19 in. Collection of Quincy, Betty & Samuel Scarborough.
Orthodox, generous, and calm, with somber notes, Daniel Seagle’s giant pot possesses an accuracy and girth that set a standard.

DANIEL SEAGLE, ca 18051867, Lincoln County, NC. Five-gallon jar. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 16 × 13 in. Collection of Danny Richard.
Pottery collector Danny Richard got a call from someone in Lincoln County saying they’d found old pots buried under their house. They knew he was interested. Covered in dirt, a pig in a poke, he paid the price. All except one looked cracked or broken. He put them in his pickup, drove away, then stopped by a creek, took them to the water, and used his shirt to wash away the dirt. This one was baptized intact.

JAMES FRANKLIN SEAGLE, 1829–1892, Lincoln County, NC. Half-gallon jug. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 9½ × 6 in. Collection of Scott & Wendy Smith.
Another talented Seagle, Daniel’s son James Franklin, precise, disciplined, carrying on where his father left off. Different times though, the pre– and post–Civil War South.

ISAAC LEFEVERS, 18311864, Lincoln County, NC. Five-gallon jug. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 18 × 13 in. Collection of Quincy, Betty & Samuel Scarborough.
IL: tragically rare letters. The orphaned apprentice who died at thirty-three. The stick figure–like drips, from excess glaze tipped back after the pot was dunked, are deliberate. If you pay attention, control of process generates ornament.

SYLVANUS HARTSOE, 18501926, Lincoln County, NC. Large rundlet with glass melt. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 13 × 18 in. Collection of Allan & Barry Huffman.
A submarine or a “medicine” bottle? Glaze application drips and a pool of glass give a liquid air to this curious container.

UNKNOWN MAKER, Lincoln County, NC. Five-gallon jar with glass runs, ca 1875. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 16¼ × 13 in. Collection of Scott & Wendy Smith.

Moore and Randolph County (NC) Salt Glaze
CHESTER WEBSTER, 1801–1882, Fayetteville, NC. One-gallon jug, underfired with pale wad marks. Salt-glazed stoneware. 6 × 10 in. Collection of Quincy, Betty & Samuel Scarborough.
Discarded, damaged, and unearthed at the shard heap, it is an exquisite reject. The frost nipped it, it never grew up, it fell before its time. Contemporary in its ethereal wad markings, it held promise, but never water.

CHESTER WEBSTER, 1799-1882, Randolph County, NC. Three-gallon jar with incised bird, fish, and date, 1851. Salt-glazed stoneware. 15 × 12 in. Collection of Tommy & Ann Cranford.
A whimsical bird plucks a fly from the date-filled air, while a fish pirouettes behind. Chester’s humor didn’t fester.

CHESTER WEBSTER, 1799–1882, Randolph County, NC. Two-gallon jug, with incised bird. Salt-glazed stoneware. 15 × 9 in. Collection of Quincy, Betty & Samuel Scarborough.
A perfectly poised profile rewarded with a trilling bird, or is it catching flies? Either way it’s smiling.

CHESTER WEBSTER, 1799–1882, Randolph County, NC. Four-gallon jug, with incised heron. 18 × 10 in. Collection of Tommy & Ann Cranford.
Webster incised herons, Cardew painted them. One flew overhead when I first stood where my chimney would be.

T. W. CRAVEN, 1829–1858, Randolph County, NC. Ten-gallon double-handled jug, with cobalt sumac tree. Salt-glazed stoneware. 21 × 14 in. Collection of Quincy, Betty & Samuel Scarborough.
Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, this captivating beauty was damaged, perhaps by frost, and crudely repaired with epoxy. There’s no hiding loveliness, though.

NICHOLAS FOX, 1797–1858, Chatham County, NC. Half-gallon jug, with kiln drips. Salt-glazed stoneware. 7 × 6 in. Collection of William Ivey.
A sweet shape with juicy drips and luscious ash.

J. J. OWEN, 1830–1905, Moore County, NC. Two-gallon patent jar. Salt-glazed stoneware. 17 × 10 in. Collection of Jugtown Pottery.
Beaten, broken, maybe even shot, this jar is an invalid. Dignified nonetheless by its spectacular tonal variation, its hole is a badge of honor for years of service.

J. H. OWEN, 1866–1923, Moore County, NC. Drain tile. Salt-glazed stoneware. 15 × 7 in. Collection of Jugtown Pottery.
A piece of minimalist abstract art? It depends on the context.

TEAGUE FAMILY, Randolph County, NC. Grave Marker for James R. Teague, 1938. Salt-glazed stoneware. Gift of Charles G. Zug III, Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 84.42.1. (Photographs by Scott Richard Hankins).
This one gives me the shivers.

Alamance County (NC) Salt Glaze 

SOLOMON LOY, 1805–ca 1860, Alamance County, NC. One-and-a-half-gallon pitcher with ash runs and kiln drips. Salt-glazed stoneware. 11½ × 9 in. Collection of Robert & Jimmi Hodgin.
Its shape is stiff and squat, but its delicately pinched throat and spout combine with the glistening ash runs and a diaphanous kiln drip to make it spectacular.

SOLOMON LOY, 1805–ca 1860, Alamance County, NC. One-gallon jug with ash runs and kiln drips. Salt-glazed stoneware. 11 × 7 in. Collection of Robert & Jimmi Hodgin.
Add more colors to the mix, and here’s another wonder. Dark patches from salt shadows and a swath of slow-cooled ash distinguish this treasure.

Sleek, narrow-mouthed, and infinitely varied, these stunning canning jars are unique to Alamance County. Like leaves they shimmer and glow, all dappled and drippy, set up for a show.

TIMOTHY BOGGS, 1849–ca 1910, Alamance County, NC. Canning jar. Salt-glazed stoneware. 11 × 7½ in. Collection of Robert & Jimmi Hodgin.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, but didn’t quite break. Injured but not discarded, no longer useful but valuable nonetheless. An exotic, wild, damaged beauty, treasured despite its flaws, for its flaws.

SOLOMON LOY, 1805–ca 1860, Alamance County, NC. Eight-gallon jar. Salt-glazed stoneware. 20 × 12 in. Collection of Joseph & Amanda Sand.
Of all the potters in the South, Solomon Loy seems to have deliberately composed the abstract appearance of his stoneware pots, artfully finessing the process of salt firing, with its accompanying kiln drips and ash runs, and consciously layering seductive colors and enigmatic textures.

SOLOMON LOY, 1805–ca 1860, Alamance County, NC. Ten-gallon jar with ash runs and kiln drips, stamped “S. LOY 1856 10.” Salt-glazed stoneware. 19 × 14 in. Collection of Robert & Jimmi Hodgin.
An amputee, with stumps where its handles used to be, this big jar remains magnificent, proud, and undaunted.    

Earthenware from North Carolina

JACOB WEAVER II, 17741846, Catawba County, NC. Plate, ca 1790. Lead-glazed earthenware. 4 × 9 1/2 in. Collection of Tommy & Ann Cranford.
Unlike most of the early earthenware potters in North Carolina, who worked in the eastern Piedmont, Jacob Weaver built his kiln in Catawba County, known primarily for its later alkaline-glaze tradition. This kiln site and plate were only recently discovered. Simple, controlled, and lively, the plate has a beautifully executed set of polychrome slip-trailed lines with sgraffitoed rim decoration. Incredibly, it has remained in perfect condition since the 1790s.

SOLOMON LOY, 1805 ca 1860, St. Asaph’s tradition, Alamance County, NC. Small plate, ca 18201840. Lead-glazed earthenware. 2 × 6½ in. Collection of Robert & Jimmi Hodgin.
Fleshy pink blotches with black and white dots. A straightforward description says little about the wonders of this masterpiece. Warm and embraceable, with a cloudy gray quadrant where the smoke choked the gritty clay into soft, blushing halos. Dots float along the surface like confetti.

 Attributed to WILLIAM DENNIS New Salem Quakers, Randolph County, NC. Plate, ca 1800. Lead-glazed earthenware. 2¼ × 10¾ in. Collection of Stephen C. Compton.
An autumnal mood resides in the fernlike decoration and deciduously swaging border of this plate. Its character marks the reliability of the cyclical rhythm of the seasons.

SOLOMON LOY, 1805–ca 1860, St. Asaph’s tradition, Alamance County, NC. Miniature mug, ca 18201840. Lead-glazed earthenware. 2½ × 3½ in. Collection of Tommy & Ann Cranford.
One can only imagine the delight a youngster would have using this sweet spattered mug, or entertaining with it as part of a doll’s tea set. Childs play, imaginative and unbroken.

Pots from South Carolina

THOMAS CHANDLER, 1810–1854, Thomas Chandler Stoneware Factory, Kirksey’s Crossroads, Edgefield District, SC.Double-handled five-gallon jug with slip-trailed floral motif, stamped “CHANDLER MAKER,” ca 1850. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 19 × 11 in. Collection of David Ward.
Soft color on strong form while the decoration sits perfectly on the shoulder. Big blue celadon, calm and authoritative.

THOMAS CHANDLER, 1810–1854, C. Rhodes Factory, Shaw’s Creek, Edgefield District, SC. Three-gallon jar with slip-trailed floral motif, ca 1850. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 15 × 11 in. Collection of Jim Witkowski.
The shape is superb, the handles snug, and flowers flow — alive, deftly drawn. A different performance on each side, all bathed in luxuriant celadon, the perfect tone. Layer upon layer of slightly changing excellence, Chandler’s repeated themes and variations resemble a fugue.

UNKNOWN MAKER, C. Rhodes Factory, Shaw’s Creek, Edgefield District, SC. Five-gallon Jar, slip-decorated with a “number flower” on one side and a flower on the other, ca 1850. Alkaline-glazed stoneware (with repaired neck). 14½ × 12 in. Collection of John LaFoy.
Does a repair ruin a pot? Is such a flaw acceptable in an exhibition? The rest of the pot is fabulous, the “5” flower (the rare Rhodesian genus flora numerica), with a second exotic on its rear. But that green neck? Probably done with great care in the 1960s by someone who should have known better, it’s like a blemish on a pretty forehead.

UNKNOWN MAKER, C. Rhodes Factory, Shaw’s Creek, Edgefield District, SC. Three-gallon jar, slip-decorated with the profile of a man on one side and a flower on the other, ca 1840. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 14½ × 12 in. Collection of John LaFoy.
The slip was dark, the figure’s race unclear. A person in profile with hair, an eye, an ear, teeth, a kerchief, buttons, frills, and fingers, warm ochre red bleeding through the glaze. A complex moment recorded. A life.

UNKNOWN MAKER, Upstate South Carolina, or Thomas Chandler School, Martintown Road Pottery, Kirksey’s Crossroads, Edgefield District, SC, or John D. Leopard, Bacon Level, Randolph County, Alabama. Ten-gallon double-handled jug, with red ochre bleeds and residual ochre nuggets. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 20 × 14 in. Collection of David Ward.

LINNAEUS LANDRUM, ca 1829–1891, Landrum Pottery, Eight Mile Branch, Columbia, SC. Three-gallon jar with feldspar glaze, stamped twice “L.M. Landrum, Columbia S.C.,” ca 1860. Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 15½ × 11½ in. Study collection of Philip & Deborah Wingard.
Maybe it’s the crazing, the color, the shape, or the feeling it conveys? Somehow the gray-green, silky soft patina and sweet shape make this one an absolute winner.

DAVID DRAKE, ca 1800–1870, Lewis Miles Pottery, Horse Creek, Edgefield, SC. Twenty-gallon jar inscribed, “Nineteen days before Chrismas Eve — Lots of people after its over, how they will greave . . . LM, Dave, Dec 6 1858.” Alkaline-glazed stoneware. 21 × 19½ in. Collection of Corbett Neal Toussaint.
Dave Drake’s verse haunts, as do others on his pots. Some of them express resistance in the slave South. This one, for instance, may refer to the grim practice of giving slaves to a new owner as a Christmas present, or of leasing enslaved laborers to other area slaveholders for one-year stints, starting on New Year’s Day. Good tidings on Christ’s birthday? Joy, peace, love… and families torn apart?  The enslaved potter Dave Drake exposes their grief and suffering through his hands, intellect, and voice. Drake was taught to read and write---a star that was allowed to shine, while others were not.
Let there be light!

Kiln Opening at Mark Hewitt's Pottery, Firing Elle, Spring 2017.

The pottery looked as clean and ship-shape as I have ever seen it by the time people arrived on Saturday morning. It was a lovely day and a good crowd showed up early; there was a line by the time I arrived. 

The firing went well -- we've been continuing to experiment with glazes, in particular the celadons based on this Salisbury pink granite which Mark collected from a local quarry. We've been focusing on trying to make it craze less as a bisque glaze (with high percentage of the granite) and developing raw glazes with it that still look attractive. Still some refining to do but we're definitely getting closer, and we're pleased with how many of the pots came out. I plan to do a post with our findings and test results in more detail some time this spring.

There are still plenty of pots left for next weekend; we saved some to put out fresh. 
Saturday April 29, 9 - 5pm, and Sunday April 30, 12pm - 5pm. 

Mark addressing the congregation early Saturday morning.

People flow down to the barn.

We lined Mark's big pots up this time, rather than having them in the round. I think they look great down in the field like this.

Big pots. Monumental pecan tree in the background.

Mark Hewitt, Big Pots. Spring 2017.
Mark Hewitt, Bloom. Large stoneware vase. $4,500.
Mark Hewitt, Tears for America. Large ash glazed stoneware jar. Spring, 2017. $12,000. 

Close up of Tears for America.
Mark Hewitt, Pirouette. Large celadon stoneware vase. Spring, 2017. $9,500. 

Mark Hewitt, The RaverLarge ash glaze stoneware vase. Spring, 2017. $9,500. 

One lady getting up close and personal with The Raver.

Close up of Raver.

Mark Hewitt, Wiggle Waggle. Large celadon stoneware vase. Spring, 2017. $6,500.
Close up of Wiggle Waggle. 
Mark Hewitt, Into the Night. Large tenmoku stoneware vase. Spring, 2017. $6,500.
Close up of the glass drips on Into the Night.
Mark Hewitt, Black Eye. Large salt-fired stoneware vase. $5,000.
Close up of Black Eye.

Into the barn...
The roses are out in force.

Mark Hewitt, Platter and ice cream bowls. Spring, 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Pitcher and barrel mug. Spring, 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Ginger Jar. Spring, 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Vases. Spring, 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Gravemarkers. Spring, 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Two Part Vase. Spring, 2017.

Mark's little blurb for this last cycle.

Mark Hewitt, Two Part Vase. Spring, 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Iced Tea Tumblers. Spring 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Ginger Jar. Spring, 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Ginger Jar. Spring, 2017.

A couple happy with the ginger jar they had picked up.

Mark Hewitt, Ginger Jar. Spring, 2017

Mark Hewitt, Umbrella Pot and Mug. Spring, 2017.

Mark Hewitt, Various Pots, Spring 2017.

Mark Hewitt, 10 Gallon Pots (and a few mugs). Spring, 2017.

Will they all fit?

Here's a couple of pics a mix of Stilly and I's pots on the shelves, just before the customers got into them:

Blue celadons on the top, green celadons in the middle, and tenmoku on the bottom shelf.

Now a smattering of Stillman's pots...

Stillman Browning-Howe, Various Pot. Spring, 2017.

Stillman Browning-Howe, Tankards. Spring, 2017.

Stilly's blurb.

Stillman Browning-Howe, Bud Vases. Spring, 2017.

A couple checking out one of Stillman's jars.

Lastly, some of mine...

Hamish Jackson, Various Pots. Spring, 2017.

Hamish Jackson, Wall Vases. Spring, 2017.

Hamish Jackson, Wall Vases. Spring, 2017.

Hamish Jackson, Souffle Dish. Spring, 2017.

Hamish Jackson, Teapot. Spring, 2017.

Hamish Jackson, Canister Jar. Spring, 2017.

Hamish Jackson, Two Part Vase. Spring, 2017.

Hamish Jackson, Canister Jar and Cruets. Spring, 2017.

Hamish Jackson, Small and Large Cruets. Spring, 2017.

I took some of my favorites at home with a Flotone backdrop:

Hamish Jackson, Celadon Bud Vase. Spring, 2017.
Sgraffito under blue celadon glaze.

Hamish Jackson, Small Footed Bowl. Spring, 2017.
Red slip with white and red slip dots applied when wet and moved around to create this marbled effect.

Hamish Jackson, Barrel Mug. Spring, 2017.
White slip dots under green celadon glaze.

Hamish Jackson, Tea Tumblers. Spring, 2017.
Red and white slip trailing under blue celadon glaze.

Hamish Jackson, Creamer. Spring, 2017.
White slip circles and red slip dots. I love how clean and translucent this glaze came out.

Hamish Jackson, Souffle Dish. Spring, 2017.
From the front stack of the kiln: it got a lot of ash hitting the surface.

Hamish Jackson, Large tenmoku teapot. Spring, 2017.
Red and white slip under tenmoku.

Hamish Jackson, Family sized celadon teapotSpring, 2017.
Brushed red slip and white slip dots under green celadon glaze.

Hamish Jackson, Family sized tenmoku teapotSpring, 2017. This was fired on the floor of chamber two, at the foot of the big pots. 

Hamish Jackson, Yunomi. Spring, 2017.
Shino with red iron oxide over the top, wood ash collected on rim.  

Hamish Jackson, Pair of celadon cruets. Spring, 2017.Sgraffito under two different celadons. 

Hamish Jackson, Celadon cider jar. Spring, 2017.White and red slip trailing under green celadon glaze.

Hamish Jackson, Shino cider jar. Spring, 2017.Fired in the front stack but protected by a bag wall; the surface up close is luminescent and sparkles green and blue.

Hamish Jackson, Quart pitcher. Spring, 2017.Blue glass under celadon with bone ash addition. We only got these red drips on a few pots -- not really sure why.

Hamish Jackson, Shino soy dishes. Spring, 2017.Red iron oxide under shino.

Hamish Jackson, Canister Jar. Spring, 2017.Brushed shino glaze and wood ash (this one was buried in wood ash next to a stoke hole). 

Hamish Jackson, Canister Jar. Spring, 2017.Red and white slip trailing under green celadon glaze. 

Hamish Jackson, Canister Jar. Spring, 2017.Red and white slip trailing under tenmoku glaze. 

Hamish Jackson, Yunomi. Spring, 2017.
Red iron oxide under green celadon glaze: front stack. I don't know why but this glaze has such a silky soft feel to it.

NCECA In Review: Portland 2017. Concurrent Wood Firing Exhibitions: Ashes & Flux and Great Waves Over the Pacific.

These two wood firing exhibitions were held concurrently in the Chehalem Cultural Centre in Newberg, Oregon. Wood-fired pottery is what I am practicing and love, so I was especially excited to see these shows. The Chehalem Centre was a bit of a drive outside Portland, but we hooked up with some old friends and ate at a fantastic Korean market on the way.

In the interest of good record-keeping, I have written out the labels on the pieces as they were in the exhibitions, including their prices. I've also included links to the artists' websites where I could find them.

Great Waves Over the Pacific: On Wood Firing. (March 7 - March 25, 2017)

This exhibition focused on the influence of the artist Takashi Nakazato's influence on Japanese and American ceramics. Nakazato travelled widely around the Pacific learning and sharing methods of making. Takashi was born into a pottery family. His father was the twelfth in line of a long line of masters in the Nakazato family. They are the most eminent family in Karatsu, whose name has become synonymous with pottery. 

Takashi has pushed the traditions of his family, creating ceramics with a new vitality; he uses the term 'Karatsu Nanban' to describe his style. 'Nanban' refers to unglazed pottery which had long been made in other parts of Asia, such as Southern China, but never Japan until the sixteenth century. His influence in America has been in aiding the spread of wood firing unglazed work, especially in anagama kilns. The artist Ruri organised this show around these principals. Ruri fired the FuuKooGama, which she owns and operates, before the conference started with guest artists John Neely, Doug Casebeer and Chris Gustin. Wish I could have come out to see it in action!

I did not photograph every piece (should have in retrospect) but here is a smattering...

View from afar.

Flow, Ruri. Anagama fired stoneware. $900.

Vase #1705, Chris Gustin. Stoneware. $4200. 

Vase #1704Chris Gustin. Stoneware. $3800.

Close-up of the above piece. I love the soft satin surface of these pots.

Just Like a Drop of Rain, Ruri. Anagama fired stoneware. $1900.

Buena Vista Vase, Brad McLemore. Ceramics. $95.

Tea Bowl 2, John Neely. Wood-fired stoneware. $400.

Kaiseki for Two, Collaboration between Takeshi Nakazato, Fumiko Nagai and Ruri. Wood fired stoneware.

Small plate with wadding pattern, Fumiko Nagai, and Chop stick stands by Ruri.

Close up of Nagai's small plate with wadding pattern.

Square Platter, Brad McLemore. $175. 

Bardo, Ruri. Anagama fired stoneware. $900.

Considering Ruri's hanging sculpture. Photo credit: Brad Yazzolino

Gustin's gourd and I, getting intimate. Photo credit: Brad Yazzolino

Ashes & Flux. (March 7th - 25, 2017)

This exhibition was in the same gallery space as the Great Waves show, and the transition was easy. Ashes & Flux represents the wood-fired pottery of the North West. It concentrated on the work coming out of four anagama stye kilns: East Creek, Noble Hill, Pleasant Hill, and the FuuKooGama. 

The four kilns represented with a bit of info on each.

Central to this blossoming tradition is the East Creek Anagama. This was the first anagama kiln built in the U.S. west of the Mississippi. The project was started by Nils Lou, Frank Boydon, and Tom Coleman approximately 32 years ago. It was based on an eighth century Korean kiln. Made of over 5,000 hand cut bricks, it measures about 16 feet long, 6 wide, and 5 tall. Many students have come to help prepare for firings and take shifts firing the kiln. It was East Creek that spawned the other three anagama kilns included in this exhibition. I'll show the pots from East Creek first though.

Red Barron Flying Ace, Andrew Butterfield. East Creek. $80.

In front: Gourd 3, Lori Allen. East Creek. $350.
Behind: Funky Bottle, Lew Allen. East Creek. NFS.

Sculpture #2, Don Haskisson. East Creek. $320.

Whiskey Bottle with Tomobako, Joe Robinson. East Creek. $195.

Hammered Jar, Lew Allen. East Creek. $120.

The Better to Smell You With, Andrew Butterfield. East Creek. $75.

Cut of the Same Cloth, Mya Haskisson. East Creek. $200.

Cut of the Same Cloth, Mya Haskisson. East Creek. $200.

Steeler, Mike Helle. East Creek. $450.
I love this fish.

Steeler, Mike Helle. East Creek. $450.

Jar with Lugs, Joe Robinson. East Creek. $975.

Gourd 2, Lori Allen. East Creek. $350.

40lb Jar, Joe Robinson. East Creek. $1850.

Completed in 2004, the Noble Hill anagama was built (on a Christmas Tree farm) by Mark Terry. He was inspired to build his own anagama by years of firing at East Creek. It is only about 120 cubic feet (about a third of the size of East Creek's kiln). In its 13 years of use, Terry's kiln has been fired more than 60 times and served to introduce many young potters to wood firing.

Ariadne, Mark Terry. Noble Hill. $2800.

Bottle, Amy Burnham. Noble Hill. NFS.

Bottles, Amy LeFever. Noble Hill. NFS.

Drip Vase, Jim Busby. Noble Hill. NFS.

Drip Vase, Jim Busby. Noble Hill. NFS.

Whiskey Vase, Amy Burnham. Noble Hill. NFS.

Stoneware Teapot, Burk Kielber. Noble Hill. $350.

Stoneware Teapot, Burk Kielber. Noble Hill. $375.

Jar, Jim Busby. Noble Hill. NFS.

The FuuKooGama was designed, owned and operated by Ruri. It was modified/built with help from Yoshiyuki Ito, Mashiko. The main aim was to vitrify the pots without any slip or glaze or really any form of surface manipulation. FuuKooGama means "Wind and Light Kiln" (Foo means wind and Koo means light). She describes in her video interview (linked below) that often you cannot see wind or light, but can feel it: Ruri tries to express something she cannot see through clay that is transformed in her kiln. This definitely ties in to Takashi Nakazato's teaching. As well as the below pictures, all of Ruri's work on display in the Waves exhibition was anagama fired for seven days in the FuuKooGama.

There is a great video on youtube about Ruri and her work, especially discussing building and firing the FuuKooGama. This is part 1 of 2:

I particularly enjoyed how she talks about the flame in the kiln moving like a mountain stream; speeding up where pieces are closely packed and causing flashing effects.

Woodfired Vases, Kimberly Ota, FuuKooGama. NFS. (The centre and right vases).
Long-necked Vase, Nathan Paddock, FuuKooGama.

Large Bottle, Brad McLemore. FuuKooGama. $200.

Conversation II (Diptych), Ruri & Brad McLemore. FuuKooGama. $200.

Some of my favorite pots from Ashes & Flux came out of Pleasant Hill. It was started in 2000 by Tom Rohr and Kathryn Finnerty, but has since been taken over by Jesse Jones and Lauren Sommers. They have four wood kilns now. The first was built in 2001; a 60 cubic foot two-chambered wood, biodiesel, salt kiln-named 'Pepino.' Next came a 110 cubic foot anagama, named 'Tomogama,' in 2007. Then they added a wood/biodiesel soda kiln in 2014 and finally a small wood/biodiesel train kiln was built in 2014.
Pitcher, Spencer Dixon. Pleasant Hill. $250. (Fired in the train kiln).

Pitcher, Spencer Dixon. Pleasant Hill. $250.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

As you can tell, I liked these plates a lot. Amazing silky flashed surfaces. Jesse told me that the plates were unglazed and unslipped going in the kiln; made using a g-mix... a clay mixed by a local company called Georgies. They were fired in the anagama close to the floor, about 18" off the face, in a stack of four with about an inch in between each plate.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

Vase, Richard Brandt. Pleasant Hill. $450. Anagama fired.

Gongfu Cha Set, Jonathan Steele. Pleasant Hill. $200.

Cast Solo Cups, Jesse Jones. Pleasant Hill. Anagama fired.

Sipping Set, Barb Campbell. Pleasant Hill. $300. Anagama fired.

Trio of Vase, Barb Campbell. Pleasant Hill. $400. Anagama fired.

Jar with Bronze Lid, James Tingey. Pleasant Hill. $600. Anagama fired.

Lauren and her mum enjoying the exhibit. Photo credit: Brad Yazzolino

This exhibition reminded me how large wood kilns such as these can bring people together and foster learning experiences outside of formal college environs. I think it could be an interesting model to consider when I build a kiln of my own. Having additional people to help prepare all the wood, grind the kiln shelves, load, and fire must be pretty nice too!

Well I think that's all for now. Wish we had had time to go out and visit these kilns. Next time!

NCECA In Review: Portland 2017. National Student Juried Exhibition, OCAC.

It was about 8:58pm when we made it to the Oregon College of Art and Craft. The gallery closed at 9pm. A late dinner had postponed our arrival somewhat. But the lady in charge was very nice and let us in to see the show for as long as we liked. The pieces sat well in the newly renovated gallery at OCAC.

Being in the gallery after hours, on the night of the reception, there was a kind of leftover electricity in the air. The feeling that hundreds of people had already traipsed through and had their fill. Despite the lack of functional work, I enjoyed the show; the choices were whimsical. I particularly enjoyed Kaysner's cow, with weeping feldspatic chunks, and Pasquale's utterly squashed donut.

I have not included all of the pieces in the show, but most of them, with links to the artists websites where available.

Black Holstein Shigaraki, Elliot Kaysner, 2016. 
Terracotta, underglaze, felspathic chunks. Graduate, Arizona State University.

Regretting Yet Wanting, Taylor Pasquale, 2016.
Ceramic materials, ceramic plate, donut. Graduate, Kent State University.

I was curious about the lifespan of the donut. Pasquale told me she does not treat it with anything, replacing the donut if it's part of a new show or she's taking photos. She says, "The donut looks so good when the glaze is still wet and drippy, but the reception didn't line up with that part of the piece's life cycle."

I had most fun with Kingshill's Dream Truck. Coming upon it, I gave in to the urge to pick it up. In doing so, I realised it came apart -- the surfboard was completely unattached and the whole cab was removable, too. Surprised and delighted I took the cab off and placed the board in the flatbed of the truck. That was about as far as it went; I was tempted to take it off the pedestal, onto the floor, but resisted.

Dream Truck, Patrick Kingshill, 2016. 
Ceramic. Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I emailed a bit with Patrick Kingshill and he said that Dream Truck represents a departure from his normal practice of making functional vessels. He is an 'obsessive doodler' who grew up in Eureka on the coast of Northern California and has surfed since he was 14. The downside to getting a grad degree in Nebraska = it's very far from the surf. This latent desire really came out in this three-dimensional doodle.

Dream Truck, Patrick Kingshill, 2016. 
Ceramic. Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

No one saw as I gingerly put it back together.

I did not touch Franco's Golden. In fact, I felt rather awkward examining and taking pictures of her golden behind. Imagine applying that lustre in the studio. 

Golden, Lorraine Franco, 2016. 
Ceramics. Undergraduate, University of Miami.

Golden, Lorraine Franco, 2016. 
Ceramics. Undergraduate, University of Miami.

I have to admit that some pieces fell flat in my eyes; Bevington's It's okay... I'm okay was simply silly, and I did not find much significance in Jeong's Want to Value

It's okay... I'm okay. Ashley Bevington, 2016. 
Clay, glaze, wood, mirror, paint. Graduate, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Want to Value, Kwan Jeong, 2016. 
Porcelain, underglaze, low firing glaze. Graduate, Syracuse University.

Overall, I was left wanting more pots. There were only four representatives of functional ceramics in the exhibition. When I got to McDaniel's Sunshine Mug I had this sense of deja vu because, as I realised later, it had been featured in the NCECA Program guide. It made me laugh at the time though... to have a simple, yet well-made, mug sat right next to Fahley's deconstructed horse. It felt totally incongruous... as if someone in charge had been like "oh shit, we need a cup in the show." 

Sunshine Mug, Caelin McDaniel, 2016. 
Stoneware. Undergraduate, Edinboro University of Pennysylvania.

Survived by:, Shauna Fahley, 2016. 
Ceramic, wood, resin. Undergraduate, University of Washington.

Stuart Gair's tea set also felt out of place, as if stranded on a life-raft in a choppy sea of ardently Parisian coffee drinkers. 

Large jar, teapot and teabowlStuart Gair, 2016. 

Soda fired stoneware. Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I thought the other two functional pieces were thoughtfully placed, though: Tang's porcelain jar stood out, with its bright shiny porcelain surface and obsessive blue dots, complemented by Deroualle's soft panels nearby. 

Individuality, Tiffany Tang, 2016. 
Porcelain. Graduate, University of Montana.

Untitled, Louise Deroualle, 2016. 
Ceramic. University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Close ups...

Individuality, Tiffany Tang, 2016. 

Porcelain. Graduate, University of Montana.

Untitled, Louise Deroualle, 2016. 
Ceramic. University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

And I chuckled at the ironic placement of Kellner's earthenware Meat Tray underneath Larrabee's skeletal Companions. 

Companions, Teresa Larrabee, 2016. 
Stoneware, underglaze, mixed media. Post-baccalaureate, University of North Texas.

Meat Tray, Andrew Kellner, 2016. 
Earthenware. Graduate, West Virginia University.

I thought, to begin, that the show's main collision was between 'art' and 'craft.' But then, it is not that simple -- many of the sculptures, such as Wilson's Foul Fowl and Calhoun's Self-Image, are finely crafted, and Tang's piece could be seen as Art with a capital A. Perhaps a better way to describe the collision is between the 'conceptual art piece' and the 'functional pot.' This is the great dichotomy of the current ceramic art world, especially that of university programs. Students seem to be pushed to conceptualise first and make second. 

Foul Fowl, Mary Cale Wilson, 2016. 
Earthenware. Graduate, San Diego State University.

Self Image, Liam Calhoun, 2016.  
Raku fired ceramic. Undergraduate, Buffalo State College.

To my mind, there is something inherently special about a well-conceived and executed functional pot; the possibility of its use imbues it with some sort of magic. But this magic was present in Kingshill's Truck, too. I wanted to take it apart and play with it. And that is not to say I value function over all else, but it certainly informs my aesthetic inclination. Would I enjoy Cinelli's Reliquary for Boredom more if it 1) were an open vessel 2) did not have a brain hovering over it and 3) did not have a fancy title? Possibly. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I am a peasant potter at heart.

Reliquary for Boredom, Mike Cinelli, 2016. 
Earthenware, commercial underglaze, terra sigilata. Post-baccalaureate, University of Mississippi.

There's more under the surface of my present thoughts, bugging me. Take Ballard's Brave, for instance. What does a peasant potter do with that? It's earthenware, sure, but with nail polish?

Brave, Rachel Ballard, 2016. 
Earthenware glaze, micro-crystalline glaze, nail polish. Graduate, Georgia State University.

I don't know. I'm confused. That's NCECA. Maybe that's the point. Maybe it's fine. I should probably let go and embrace the collisions. Here's a last couple of pieces with fantastic surface and texture.

Blue Velvet Water, Sarah Heitmeyer, 2016. 
Slip cast porcelain, glaze. Graduate, SUNY New Paltz.

Squares on Squares on Square, 2016, Yewen Dong
Ceramic. Graduate, School of Art Institute of Chicago.

Squares on Squares on Square, 2016, Yewen Dong
Ceramic. Graduate, School of Art Institute of Chicago.

I can't help feeling that we should have separate exhibitions for students' functional and conceptual pieces, but the clash of them can indeed be compelling. Perhaps I just want a fairer representation of the excellent functional pots being made out there. I want them to be prominent and not feel like afterthoughts. Here is my afterthought for now... LeFever's untitled wall sculpture. It was made originally with a 3D printer and then slip cast from that. The world's a changing.

Untitled, Amy LeFever, 2016. 
Slip cast earthenware from 3D printed model, designed in Rhino software program. Graduate, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Mark Hewitt: Ginger Jar Production. Spring, 2017.

I was invited by the Boston-based Pucker Gallery to do a take-over of their Instagram account a couple of weeks ago. The Pucker Gallery represents my mentor and boss Mark Hewitt, and they are currently having an exhibition of his work. 

Generally I don't get the opportunity to take a lot of snaps at work, since I'm busy with other tasks and my own pots. I thought it would be nice to share some of the pictures that I posted for Pucker with some of the nearly-made-its. They follow Mark's ginger jars throughout the week. There are a few pictures to provide context, and some videos, too. I appreciated having the chance to record Mark's process a bit more, too.
Good morning from the Hewitt Pottery! Mark is in full flow churning out ginger jars this morning. He started with 18 little 1 1/2lb bodies and is on to 2 1/4lb ones now. This one is about to come off the wheel. Larger ginger jars to follow after lunch. This is the first post of this weeks insta take over by me @hamramics by the way.

Last board of the day-board number 6-slides into the drying rack. Now Mr Hewitt is going to get on with making lids and I'm heading home. More pics to follow tomorrow! 

The potters hands! Mark finishing up his batch of lids this morning. He'll get them out in the sun to dry and add the knobs this afternoon.

Mark trimming up the lids for his ginger jars and adding knobs. Only 40 more to go! 

How do you know it's a Mark Hewitt? The stamp on the right is Mark's monogram. W.M.H all rolled into one. The 'elle' refers to the firing... we go numerically in the salt kiln and alphabetically in the newer wood kiln. Elle = L so this will be the twelfth firing of the kiln.

Mark trimming up the lids for his ginger jars and adding knobs. Only 40 more to go! 

Trimmed up lid with its freshly thrown knob. Two expectant ginger jars in the background. Happy women's day!

Some of Mark ginger jars about to be put under plastic to await decoration on Friday. He's flying along making larger 5lb and 8lb jars today, whilst @stillyv (my fellow apprentice) and I clean and wash kiln furniture.

Stillman weighing out some balls of clay for himself.

Mark throwing larger ginger jars later in the week-8lb ones.

The look much larger in real life.

The master at work, from above.

8lb jar from the side.

Here's a view from across the pond. Mark's house in the front, the barn which we use as a gallery at the kiln openings in the back and the solar panels that power the property on the right. The workshop and kiln are obscured from this angle but I'll get there later. This is @hamramics reporting from the Hewitt Pottery.

View from the roof of the kiln shed.

We ran out of space for pots in the workshop so have had to store some in the back chamber of Mark's newer wood kiln. His mugs up front and some of my teapots etc behind.

This is the salt kiln that Mark built in his first year in Pittsboro (1983). It has seen 96 firings so far and shows no signs of falling apart yet. Touch wood. The design was based on Thai climbing kilns and came together with the help of Svend Bayer. The kiln fits so many pots it takes us a full week to load. We light the fire (generally) on a Wednesday afternoon and finish firing on Saturday afternoon. It's an epic and crucial endeavor-4 months worth of work all inside one kiln. Once fired we wait a week for it to cool and then get to crack it open and see how they came out.

I think this is the heart of the Hewitt Pottery: the dirt floor of the workshop. It is gnobbled and gnarled from years of potters' feet walking to and fro. The bumps are hardened like polished river stones and can easily put you off balance if you take a wrong step. Carrying boards of pots felt dangerous when I begun my apprenticeship, just as I'm sure actors quiver as they "tread the boards" for the first time on the main stage. 

When people arrive, they always react to it; once a group of kids from a school for the blind visited and were excited to find such a bumpy landscape in the studio. Mark calls it his air conditioning unit as it helps keep the workshop cool in the summer (perhaps cool is an overstatement). My favorite feature is its ability to absorb all sorts of spills; splashes of water or glaze or clay disappear underfoot. We have to sweep very infrequently, and when we do it is with the romantic sense and dusty scent of being a potter sweeping a dirt floor. I could go on, but will spare you. I say tear up your concrete floors and go back to bare earth! 

End of the day. Mark working on lids, Stillman watching, barefoot as usual!

Mark decorating one of his fat 5lb ginger jars this afternoon. Red slip banding with white slip swirls. Mark is working on the treadle wheel that he built when he first started the pottery. 

Closer angle - different pot but same idea!

Freshly trailed jars.

Mark switching between the treadle wheel and one of our electric wheels.

I asked Mark to give me his best Ai Weiwei pose. Here it is. You'll be glad to know he didn't actually drop the jar.

This is the final post of my Pucker Gallery takeover. It's been a fun week sharing pictures from the pottery. I thought it fitting to end on a pic of the current team... Mark (@wmhewitt) on the right, me in the middle (@hamramics) and my fellow (barefoot) apprentice Stillman Browning-Howe (@stillyv) on the left. Thank you @puckergallery for inviting me to do this!

Now I really need to pack as we leave for NCECA in Portland tomorrow and it's late and I am horribly unprepared. First task: find my waterproofs.

All About Ceramics Crazing: Why Glazes Craze And How To Avoid Crazing

At the Hewitt Pottery we have been developing some glazes using local granites with a high felspatic content. The glazes are beautiful and sparkly but we have experienced some issues with crazing, so during our recent snowstorm, I spent some time reading through books and looking online to see what I could glean. I wanted to share the sum of what I have learned here in three sections: 1) Why is crazing a concern?, 2) Why causes crazing?, and, 3) What can we do to eliminate crazing?

1) Why is crazing a concern? 

Crazing can be an attractive feature of a pot and is often called "crackle" when intentionally used, such as on this tea bowl:

Intentional crazing, or "white crackle" glaze, on a tea bowl by Richard Brandt.

There are reasons why crazing is not ideal for functional pottery, however. Crazed pots may leak if the clay body is not totally vitrified, and potentially be unsanitary as bacteria can grow in the cracks. Structurally, crazing is also an issue as Michael Cardew points out in Pioneer Pottery, (p. 84), "It has been proved that glaze fit has a major effect on strength."

Cardew describes an experiment (recorded by Bettany and Webb in the British Ceramic Society's publication Transactions. Vol 40, p. 316), in which rods of porcelain are treated three different ways: some are left unglazed, some are dipped in a crazing glaze, and some in a sound glaze. The results after firing showed the comparative strengths of the rods in the proportions 40 : 100 : 160 (crazed : unglazed : sound). The results indicate that "vitreous ware with a non-crazing glaze may be three to four times stronger than ware which is crazed." Furthermore, a properly glazed pot will have a greater resistance to thermal shock. As a potter engaged in producing functional pottery, strength and resistance to thermal shock are important qualities, especially when one considers the competition of industrially produced wares.

The ideal, as Daniel Rhodes puts it in Clay and Glazes for the Potter (p. 255), for maximum durability and fit, "a glaze should be in slight compression over the body." See the kitten sweater below... it should be just a little bit snug for optimal cuteness.

This is Mango (not our cat, unfortunately).

2) What causes crazing?

John Colbeck (Pottery Materials, p. 61) says, "Crazing occurs when, on cooling, a body does not shrink more than the glaze." In other words, the glaze shrinks more than the body. It's as if Mango the kitten jumped into a tumble drier wearing her knitted sweater; the sweater would likely shrink more than her body and it would be quite a squeeze. This analogy doesn't totally work... but I wanted to include a picture of a cat in a sweater.

If you have a glaze that shrinks less than the clay body, then you can experience shivering, although this is more rare than crazing. {Side note from Michael Cardew on the difference between these defects: "It is always easy to tell the difference between shivering and crazing. Sometimes mild shivering may look like crazing, but the cracks are not on the surface of the glaze only; they can be seen right through the body" (p. 86).}

Crazing is not related to the shrinkage rate of the clay. As Rhodes points out (p. 255), all of the shrinkage happens when the wares are heating up. During the firing, whilst the pots are red hot and the glazes are still wet and molten, they fit the pots perfectly. It is upon the cooling of the kiln and the contraction of the wares that cracks form. The key point is that "some materials expand more when heated, and therefore contract more when cooling." This is called the coefficient of expansion. He goes on to say, "The cause of crazing, then, is always to be found in a high coefficient of expansion (and therefore contraction) in the glaze relative to the expansion of the body." I have copied out Rhodes' list (from English and Turner) of the expansion coefficients of some common materials used in ceramics:

SiO2          .05
Al2O3        .07
B2O3          .66
Na2O          4.32
K2O            3.90
PbO           1.06
ZnO           .07
CaO           1.63
MgO           .45
BaO           1.73

We can see from this list that oxides vary wildly in their coefficients of expansion: "Silica expands less than one eighteenth as much as sodium. Clay, being made up of alumina and silica, has a medium expansion; but some glazes, especially those high in soda, may have a high expansion" (p.255). So it's clear that your clay body and glazes will vary in their coefficients of expansion depending on the differing oxides present in them. Going into the science of this a bit deeper, we arrive at the formation of a substance called cristobalite. 

A Bit About Cristobalite:

John Colbeck explains (p. 62):

  • "Crazing needs to be considered in relation to clay bodies as well as glazes. The important factor to remember here is the role of cristobalite. Cristobalite, a crystalline form of silica, undergoes a contraction about 22°C (far below the temperature where glazes are molten). Cristobalite is formed quite slowly, at temperatures above 1,020°C, from the free silica which exists in bodies. It is not found in glazes because the free silica, whether high or low, react with fluxes to form the glaze solution. Thus bodies in which cristobalite has developed contract at 220°C as they cool, where glazes do not. It is this contraction of bodies which helps in the prevention of crazing by putting the cooling glaze under compression. Thus to diminish the tendency of a glaze to craze, any steps which assist the formation of cristobalite."

This leads nicely on to the important bit -- how to adapt glazes to reduce or eliminate crazing.

Two of my mugs from firing 96 at the Hewitt Pottery. If you look closely, you can see the crazing.

3) What can we do to eliminate crazing? 

Adapting your clay body:

Conventional wisdom suggests that adding silica to your clay body is the first port of call. Cardew says you can increase silica in either body or glaze, but that it tends to be more effective in the body.

Colbeck says you can assist the formation of cristobalite by adding silica to the body because this "will increase the free silica in it which is available to form cristobalite" (p. 62).

Rhodes agrees but warns, "bodies that contain more than about 25% of silica may be hard to fire without dunting or cracking." Conversely, bodies with "less than about 10% of silica... may be expected to be difficult to fit with glazes" (p. 256). There is clearly a sweet spot to be found with the amount of silica, and subsequently cristobalite, in your clay body. In A Potter's Book, Bernard Leach recommends 5-15% cristobalite in a body. He says this is enough to produce the cristobalite squeeze, "which exerts a centripetal compression on a glaze which tends to prevent crazing" (p.176). He notes that cristobalite can be cheaply acquired as powdered silica-brick waste.

Leach goes on, "the addition of powdered flint is usually the first alteration to a body to prevent crazing, but more important than an increase in quantity is a decrease in the particle size of silica." This is something that none of my other sources mentioned, but it is worth considering. He also mentions the option of increasing the cristobalite content using talc as "it acts as a catalyst and assists the transformation of silica" (p. 176). He also makes a distinction over vitrification; "in non-vitrified bodies the amount of flux should be increased and in non-vitrified bodies the reverse is true. Finally, in bodies which contain ball clay and china clay, the former should be increased, the latter decreased" (p. 177).

This advice is all well and good if you have the option of changing your clay body easily and testing it extensively, but many potters do not have this luxury. Changing the formulation of the glaze may be an easier option, or the only option.

Adapting your glaze:

The aim here is to reduce the coefficient of expansion of the glaze (to stop it contracting as much on cooling). This means adding oxides with low coefficients of expansion and decreasing some of the materials with higher coefficients of expansion. As Rhodes points out, this can be tricky "without altering the maturing temperature or appearance of the glaze" (p. 255). He recommends:

      1) increasing the silica
      2) decreasing the feldspar
      3) decreasing materials containing potash/soda
      4) increasing the boric oxide
      5) increasing the alumina

Leach also recommends increasing the silica content and possibly borax or raw boracalite (B2O3), and/or decreasing the alkaline content of the glaze.

Thinning down the glaze may also help reduce or eliminate crazing; as Colbeck says "thick layers of glaze are always more prone to crazing than thin" (p.62).

The website/database Digital Fire has some excellent articles on the subject. It recommends decreasing the potassium oxides and sodium oxides present in your glazes: these are typically found in potash feldspar, soda feldspars, nepheline syenite and frits. The issue with reducing your these is that the glaze may be less inclined to melt, so then you have to add some more flux and these adjustments may alter the look of the glaze. Digital Fire also recommends increasing your magnesium oxide. Talc and dolomite are excellent sources of MgO and purportedly effective at high temperatures, (for cone 6 you may want to use frits like Fusion F69 or Ferro 3249). They show one test where an addition of 10% talc helped eradicate crazing.

One of my teapots from Firing 96 at the Hewitt Pottery. The crazing is particularly obvious where the glaze is thick around the lid.

Final notes: 

You can tell how much your glaze does not fit your body by looking at the cracks: a network of lots of small cracks means you have greater stress than a few larger cracks. It is easier to fix the latter as you might expect.

Rhodes also posits that over firing can cause crazing, "if the firing has proceeded to the point where the free silica in the body has entered into glassy melts with the other materials, it does not go through any crystalline change upon cooling and so does not lose volume and put the glaze into compression" (p. 256).

Another issue can be removing pots from the kiln whilst they are still too hot: the kiln must be under 200°C. The heat shock of opening the kiln too soon or even putting wares atop of an oven/stove can induce crazing.

This post has been about primary crazing, but there is also such a thing as secondary crazing. This can happen with bodies which are not fully vitrified. Colbeck says porous bodies can "subsequently absorb water, causing the body to expand fractionally" (p. 62) which can craze a previously uncrazed glaze, months or even years after coming out of the kiln.

I don't want to end on a downer, but Daniel Rhodes does say that in glazes with a high content of "soda or potash in the form of feldspars, frits or raw alkalines," it may be "impossible to correct crazing without completely altering the character of the glaze" (p. 255). Our celadon glazes do contain a very high proportion of feldspar so the exercise could be tricky. It is worth a shot though -- especially if you have the ability to adjust your clay body as we do. I plan to test various methods and see what works best.

I hope some of this was helpful. Like a wise karate master from the movies, I leave you with these simple words...

Glaze on. Craze off. Glaze on. Craze off. Glaze on. Craze off. 

Works Cited

Cardew, Michael. Pioneer Pottery. London: A. & C. Black, 2002. 
Colbeck, John. Pottery Materials: Their Composition, Preparation and Use. London: Batsford, 1988.
Leach, Bernard. A Potter's Book. London: Faber and Faber, 1945. 
Rhodes, Daniel. Clay and Glazes for the Potter. Third ed. N.p.: Krause Publications, 2000. 

Firing 96, Mark Hewitt Pottery. Firing and Kiln Opening.

It was an unusually mild but blustery morning when I arrived at the kiln at 5.30am. Stillman and his brother Leavitt had taken the night shift, which ran from midnight until then. Their job was to maintain a reducing atmosphere in the kiln and not worry too much about heat gain: by limiting the amount of air entering the kiln, oxygen is pulled out of the pots and glaze materials. There still needs to be enough oxygen for the wood to burn, though, so it's a tricky balance of blocking the kiln up whilst not letting it stall out. Reduction tends to make for nice deep colors rather than pasty ones.

Daybreak at the pottery

When I arrived the pyrometer read about 2100°F. Black smoke emanating from the chimney and piles of ashes halfway down the kiln suggested that the boys had done a good job. Side stoking helps to keep the reduction throughout the kiln rather than just up at the front near the firebox. Mark and I took over whilst the brothers Browning-Howe went off to nap. We continued reducing for a few hours before opening the air up some and going for temperature gain.

Early glow from stoke hole 1.

Stoking wood prepared, resting on the kiln.

It took us a while to get the cones moving, but once we did the progress down the kiln was pretty fast. By midday we had a full team out helping. Joe Sink in the firebox, Matt Hallyburton and I side stoking one side, Mark and Stillman working the other. We had to be vigilant watching for sparks or lit leaves flying around as the wind was quite strong. Nothing calamitous happened but the conditions were potentially dangerous.

Joe stoking the firebox around midday.

Matt side stoking.
By 3pm we were salting the kiln, catapulting 150lbs of salt throughout the kiln with a leaf blower. By 4pm we were opening up the stoking holes to crash cool the beast and peek inside at the orange glowing pots. This crash cooling helps the glazes set and avoids any crystallization. By about 6pm we clammed up all the stoke holes and set to waiting.

Buckets of clamming (a mix of floor sweepings, clay, and sand) with which we seal the kiln.

Early on in the firing (top picture) and right at the end when we opened up to cool fast (bottom picture).

A week goes by whilst we bite our nails.

Here's a picture of the vegetable garden in the frosty early morning to provide a little pause here. Its not a great photo so you probably can't tell all thats in there: garlic, rapini, winter peas, buckwheat, rye, collards, sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, chard, lettuce, kale, tat-soi, turnips, carrots and I'm sure to be forgetting something.

The plastic sheeting is to cover tender buttercrunch and other greens from the frost.
Opening the kiln was a pleasure. We got it nice and hot, and reduced, front to back. The ash glazes came out deeper and more golden than I have seen in my year-and-a-half at the pottery so far. The EPK slip was dark and ate up the salt nicely, and we got lots of wood ash drips at the front. Our new glaze made from local granite was a bit of a mixed bag; it looks fantastic when really hot, but matte in cool spots. Now we know for the future and can pack accordingly. It was an excellent firing; Mark said it could be one of the best ever. So, like a vintage of wine, we shall remember 96 as one of the rather fine ones. Below are pictures of some of the pots on the first morning of the kiln opening. Enjoy.

Mark Hewitt 120lb planter, 2016. Close up of the ash glaze over incised floral decoration.

A few announcements before letting in the customers this morning.

The remaining big pots (some had already sold).

Big pot, Mark Hewitt. Ash glaze over manganese slip with glass drips.

Big pot, Mark Hewitt. Ash glaze over incised floral motifs, stamped neck, manganese slip finial.

Big pots, Mark Hewitt. Mixture of lilac slip and yellow glaze decorations.  

Close up of the neck on one of Mark's big pots; ash glaze with glass decoration.

Monster planter, Mark Hewitt. Manganese slip lines, white glaze dots, and glass runs.

Ash glaze 120lb planter, Mark Hewitt.

Considering a large platter. We fired these underneath the main stacks of pots: some got covered in ashes

These pots were simply slipped and accented with glass. The salty atmosphere of the kiln made them shine!

Close up of one of Mark's bowls: there is a really beautiful quality to this glaze.

One of Mark's ash glazed cereal bowls.

Sweet plate-- I like the drips peeking out over the rim.
Into the inner barn...

Mostly ash/alkaline glazed pots by Mark.

10 gallon vase, Mark Hewitt. Ash glaze over incised zigzagging lines, blue glass on shoulder, manganese slip neck.

Grave markers, Mark Hewitt.

Canister jar, Mark Hewitt. EPK slip.

Tankards (and pitcher), Mark Hewitt. Slip trailed decoration.

Cookie jar (7lb), Mark Hewitt. EPK slip.

Various of Mark's pots with our new local granite celadon.
And now some of mine and Stillman's pots...

A couple of shelves of my pots.

Tumblers. Stillman Browning-Howe. Slip trailed decoration.

Small 3/4lb cruet, Hamish Jackson. I am really into these; definitely have to make more next time. 

Spoon holders, Hamish Jackson. 

Teapot, Hamish Jackson. My first teapots at the Hewitt Pottery! My favorite things to make by far... so much to go wrong but I love them. Mark is very particular about them too: they have to be light with low bellies, high handles, and sharply upturned spouts.

Water (or beer) bottle. Hamish Jackson.

Cookie jar, Hamish Jackson. Black slip dimpled by heavy salting with blue glass drip.

Considering one of my tankards.

Tankard, Hamish Jackson. My first attempt at doing these curly handles -- quite fun.

One of my pitchers and a couple of mugs. I am not happy with the shape of any of these, really, but especially not the pitcher; it needs a fatter belly, and a tighter, longer neck.

Mixing bowl, Hamish Jackson. Slip trailed decoration.

Wall vases/pockets, Hamish Jackson. I like making these; especially as they remind me of bees.

Some of mine and Stilly's mixing bowls.

Bottle, Hamish Jackson. Nice firing on this bottle: plenty of salt and lots of wood ash collected on the shoulder which melted down.

Ginger jar, Stillman Browning-Howe. It was great watching Stilly get into making his first ginger jars; his enthusiasm is infectious. Some of them, like this one, came out really nicely.

Cookie jar, Hamish Jackson. This was glazed with our granite celadon + 1% ochre.

Flower pot, Hamish Jackson. Slip trailed decoration.

Much interest at this table -- some bargains to be had. 

Jar, Adrian King (former apprentice); still up for grabs!

Mark rockin' out in the kiln. We put a disco ball up for all those who needed a break from the riotous christmas shopping.

Nice chap clutching one of Stillman's jars and heading for the checkout (or the disco kiln?). 

This lady came prepared with not one but two baskets.

96 done.
 Roll on 97.

Visit to Svend Bayer's Pottery in Sheepwash, Devon, England

It was a fine spring day in May when my wife Lauren and I visited Svend Bayer's pottery in Devon; the bluebells were in full force. Visiting Svend was a must on my trip to England. I knew of his work and that he had been one of Michael Cardew's apprentices, but Mark Hewitt's admiration convinced me that I needed to go.

Beginning in 1969, Svend spent three and a half years working with Cardew, and afterwards worked at Brannam's as a production thrower. Brannam's was earthenware pottery manufacturing mostly flower pots and pitchers at that time. In a conversation with Lucy Birtles (published in Ceramics Monthly, March 1995), Svend said this was valuable experience: "having to make 120 pots a day, all exactly the same, instead of the 20 I'd been used to making." Cardew famously said Svend was his best pupil and a "force of nature." Receiving such a stunning compliment from Cardew was uncommon.

In his time after working with Cardew, Svend's pots became simpler and less ornamented. Cardew said that form was of utmost importance: 90% of the success of a pot was its form. Despite this proclamation, Cardew still utilised many decorative techniques, just as I am being trained in at the Hewitt pottery. As Mark says, though, and as I have observed at kiln openings, often the decoration sells the pot despite the form (and as an apprentice, some of my forms don't hit the perfect pitch, so nice decoration is pretty important)!

Later in this post, I have photos of Svend's current work and a few examples of pots he made whilst apprenticing at Wenford Bridge. The primary difference is that his pots have moved away from the decorative techniques of Cardew. Svend mostly uses the wood firing process to decorate his pots, rather than techniques such as slip trailing, slip combing, or sgraffito. His pots have gained a simplicity and purity that is hard to express in words and without one of his pots in hand. Svend says: "shape and form are all-important. Kilns, glazes, decoration must never take over--they are only there to help." He goes on, "To me, throwing has always come first. Wood firing has occupied another pinnacle" (p. 49, Ceramics Monthly, March 1995). I think this is a large part of the power of Svend's pots: form resolutely comes first.

Visiting Svend's gallery was wonderful. The simplicity and economy of forms surprised me... he does not make a great variety of pots, but those he does make are very well made. They feel good, with a reassuring heaviness. His knobs, rims, and handles are all chunky; not just to be practical but also because they add to the generosity of the pots. His handles appear to truly grow out of the body of his pots, something I am always aiming for. The curves of his forms are deliberate yet dainty... satisfying to behold and to hold. His pots make you want to squeeze them. We could have spent our plane ticket home multiple times over if we had bought all the pots we wanted.

Svend has built, torn down, and rebuilt over twenty kilns on his property in Devon. Sometimes they only got fired once before being re-configured. He said he'd learnt something new every time he built and fired a new kiln. This is a level of commitment to wood firing that many potters do not possess. Most people build a kiln and work with it even if it doesn't fire quite right. The time, energy, and money to tear down a kiln and rebuild it is huge. Svend invests in this experience, just as he does in the protracted firings which give the pots their complex surfaces. Form comes first but firing is also crucial. His tremendously neat wood stacks represent his work ethic and methodology.

Without further ado, here are my snaps from the day:

Bluebells in the woods beside Svend's cottage.
The first of Svend's current kilns.
Inside the kiln.
Wood to be cut.
Svend's other kiln.
View from the chimney.
Nice stack.
Love the stoke holes.
Pile of broken pots and test rings near the kiln shed.
Shells used to place pots on in the kiln.
Svend's large pots sitting out in the garden.
View from the other end.
Nice ash drips on this one
Close up of one of Svend's big jars.
Gnarly jar by Charles Bound.
Svend's cottage with a freshly thatched roof.
Svend and Lauren, humoring me for a photo.
In the workshop...

Big pots sitting out to dry in the middle of the workshop. If this was my studio I'm sure I would accidentally bash one of these. No doubt.
Pots glazed and ready to be fired.
Medium sized pots ready to be fired.
Handled bowls drying out. 
Upside down bowls drying out.
Bowls. Glazed inside only.
Slip decorated serving bowls.
Freshly handled pitchers.
The new clay Svend was trying out when we arrived.
One of Svend's kick wheels with two large balls of clay ready to be thrown.
Pitchers resting on another of Svend's kick wheels.
Postcards hanging up in Svend's studio.
One of Svend's sculptures in progress.
Honey jar.
Glazed vases ready for firing. Love the symmetry in this picture.
Closer view of one of Svend's unfired large pots.
Nice lug handles on these large jars. 
Significant handles.
Jugs from above. The ridges in the handles are obvious from this angle.

Into the gallery...
Vases. Svend Bayer.
Nice crackle glaze on this vase. Svend Bayer.
Large lidded jar. Svend Bayer.
I like the handles on this pot.
Rows of bowls and honey jars. I was quite tempted by the jars. I love the galleries on them.
Beautiful surface on this jar.
Jugs with just the inside glazed.
Nice fat jugs. Great big bellies and handles on these.
Vases fired on their sides, on shells.
Bowls with handles-fantastically ergonomic pots--holding them just makes you want to eat soup out of them or cereal or whatever. And to see them lined up on hooks in your kitchen. I may have to be making some based on this idea.

Closer pic of the handled bowls.
This was my favorite of Svend's handled bowls but unfortunately it was already sold.

So much going on in this surface.
Vase. Svend Bayer.
A few of Svend's flattened sculptures. Super dramatic fired surfaces.
Black teapot that nearly came home with us.
Beautiful big jar. It looked lovely illuminated by the light streaming in from the window.
Sweet little lidded bowl.
Plates and bowls.
Platter. Svend Bayer.
Pitcher. Svend Bayer.
Honey pot. Svend Bayer. This one nearly came home with us. Such a lovely shape.
Some of the sold wares, set to one side.
Teapots made by Svend during his apprenticeship with Michael Cardew.
Scraffito coffee pots (Wenford Bridge).
Lidded pot. Svend Bayer (Wenford Bridge).
Salt shaker with twist on lid. Svend Bayer (Wenford Bridge).
Sweet little jar. Svend Bayer (Wenford Bridge). 
Fish plate. Svend Bayer (Wenford Bridge). I love the jauntiness of their back bones. It almost looks like they've just been hooked! 
Classic slip trailed decoration. Svend Bayer (Wenford Bridge).
Baking dish. Svend Bayer (Wenford Bridge). I'm a sucker for this classic Cardew decoration.

Firing 95, Mark Hewitt Pottery. Firing and Opening.

I remember thinking in July that this summer in North Carolina had not been as hot as last year, but the last few weeks have proved me wrong. I'm beginning to appreciate it when people talk about the 'sultry south.' It has been stupidly humid and 90+ degrees for weeks now. Not ideal conditions for firing a giant salt kiln. The weather wasn't too bad during the loading, but we had a hot one for the final day of firing. We stuck it out, drank gallons of water, and all survived, taking a couple of days off during the cool down to recover. When we opened up the kiln the results were very pleasing, especially at the front of the kiln where we heavily reduced the pots.

The pictures start out with ones from inside the kiln during unloading and then switch to pics of pots in the barn just before and during the sale. The sale was on this past weekend, but also this upcoming weekend if you missed it (September 3rd and 4th, Saturday 9-5 and Sunday noon-5).

The front stack of the kiln.

Nice ashy pots in the front stack. Mark's is in front, and Adrian's jug hiding behind the prop.

Mark starting to unload the second stack.

Nice wood ash drips on this pitcher.

One of my bottles, fired on its side.

These shelves were at the top of the first stack and got extremely hot. Our wadding wasn't big enough on these bowls, so they stuck down tight with all the ash and salt n the atmosphere.

Stillman unloading pots.

One of Mark's big pots. This one weighs around 350lbs. Not so easy to get in and out of the kiln!

Some of Mark's pots ready to go up to the workshop.

Salty upside down mugs.

Pots from the mid section of the kiln -- my canister jars and Mark's vases/pitcher.

More of my canister jars and a couple of Stillman's juice cups.

Big pots in the middle of the kiln.

Fat jars about to come out.

Some of my planters on the top shelf and one of Stilly's honey jars.

This was a shot glass made with some raw clay brought to us by Dustin Fowler. Lovely dark clay which he assured us was cone 12 clay. It was not. Some of them warped and melted much more than this even.

One of the cone packs from near the back of the kiln. Cone 12 starting to go down.
 The pots always look best when you get them unloaded and out in the sun.

Mark's massive jar out in the sun. "Enough." Mark Hewitt, 2016.

Big pots all lined up for cleaning.

My favorite big pot of the cycle. Mark Hewitt, 2016.

Mark Hewitt ash glaze planters from the back of the kiln.

Mark Hewitt planter. Close-up of the ash glaze.

Oak leaf incised decoration with ash glaze over the top.

Mix of mine and Stillman's pots.

One of my whisky flasks.

A few of my water bottles. These were a lot of fun to make. I can't wait to have enough to bottle a whole batch of beer.

One of my two-part vases. Ash glaze.

Couple of tankards and a vase.

Bud vases and a whisky flask.

Spotty canister jar.

My blurb, up in the barn.

Couple of different shaped vases -- I had fun adding the tops to them and like how the one on the left turned out.

Some of my wall pockets, hung up and ready for the sale.

The two large pots here were made by Adrian before he flew the nest.

One of Stillman's custard cups.

One of my custard cups.

One of my sawanaky's. I'm happy how fat I managed to get this one.

Tea set made by Adrian.

Rice bowls made by Adrian.

Display of Stillman's work.

One of Stillman's custard cups. I like the loopy decoration.

Stillman's blurb.

The pots look so good in the sun.

Stillman's custard cups.

One of my sushi platters.

A few of my tankards and one of Stillman's jars.

Various canister jars.

One of my favorite canister jars. This one got a nice firing: slightly buried in ash at the bottom of the kiln.

Another pleasing canister jar.

Some of Mark's vases and a wig stand on the right.

Pitchers and jar by Mark Hewitt.

Nice ash glazed jar and mugs by Mark Hewitt.

Baluster jugs by Mark Hewitt.

The sale! On Saturday morning there were more people than I have ever seen at a kiln opening. It was nice to see plenty of fresh faces who had never been out to the pottery.

The line of people walking down to the barn.

The crowds arrive.

Chun glazed dinnerware by Mark Hewitt.

Some of Mark's ash glazed bowls.

More of Mark's flatware.

Ash glaze and blue glass!

Some chilies from the garden garnishing the shelves.

A customer checking out some of Stillman's bowls in the sun.

Me taking a picture of someone else taking a picture of someone looking at a pot.

Close up of the handle and script on Mark's largest jar (titled: "Enough").

Floral decoration with flowers.
This lady was happy with her new Mark Hewitt pitcher.

I particularly like the decoration on the back of it.

Close up of the neck of one of Mark's big pots.

Visit to Clive Bowen's Pottery (Shebbear Pottery), Devonshire, UK, May 6th 2016.

I have long admired Clive's pots; I became aware of his work whilst I was at Winchcombe Pottery.  Over the past year here in North Carolina, Mark has often mentioned Clive in the studio, so paying him a visit was a high priority on our trip to England. Luckily he also lives within five miles of Svend Bayer, who we also visited, and who will be the next victim of this blog.

A bit of history on Clive: Clive studied etching and painting at Cardiff College of Art and then began an apprenticeship at Yelland Pottery under Michael Leach in 1965. He also did some work at Wenford Bridge in the early '70s, and threw some pots at Brannam Pottery. Since 1971, Clive has been working from Shebbear Pottery. He has not signed his pots since the early '70s, but he does not need to: the red Fremington earthenware clay body, warm lead glazes, and loose slip decoration make his pots unmistakable.

We've arrived!
It was a grey English day in May when Lauren and I visited Shebbear Pottery. I had written to Clive and Rosie from the states and arranged our visit in advance, so we were lucky enough to have lunch at the Bowens'. As Rosie whipped up a storm, we went out for a ramble around the workshop and to the greenhouse to pick salad greens.

The courtyard at the centre of Clive and Rosie's house, workshop, and kiln shed.

The two resident ducks.
When we walked in to the workshop the energy was immediately apparent. There were boards of pots stacked up, decorated and ready to be glazed. I wish we could have seen Clive at work but the evidence of his labor was all around us. He makes a wide range of pots, from bowls to mugs to storage jars to vases and large umbrella pots. Clive's forms are strong--a product of his early immersion in the Leach/Cardew school--but it is his decoration that I find most alluring. The pots feel so alive and fresh.

The American folklorist Henry Glassie (who has written many books about craft all over the world and taken a particular interest in pottery) visited the Hewitt Pottery a couple of months ago, and I mentioned that I would be visiting Shebbear. His eyes lit up. Henry is in the process of writing a book about Mark Hewitt and his former apprentices, and had been over to see Clive and Svend, among other people and potters, as part of his research. He admired Clive's work and said that he understood the decoration in terms of jazz: Clive's love of jazz directly feeds into his decoration. I can see where Henry is coming from; Clive's sliptrailing and wiping seem so spontaneous. It's clear that Clive is decorating at speed: there is no way you can decorate with that fluidity if you are moving slowly or thinking too much. It seem to me that each pot is an improvisation on a theme, with similar motifs and movements repeated but in slightly differing ways, with the form determining some of the perimeters for the motion.

Where the magic happens.

View from Clive's wheel.

Boards of pots waiting to be fired.

Clive had decorated this pot on the morning we arrived.

Big pots. I really like the shape of the middle one.

Decorated pots ready to be fired.


Proud jug (or pitcher, depending which side of the Atlantic you are on).

Bowls; the shape reminds me of Cardew's rose bowls.

Tiles out to dry.

Clive uses these to make slumped molded dishes with slabs of clay.

Another couple of large jars.


Prawn tile amidst the normal ones.

Horse sculpture by Clive's daughter.

Sink, tools, and tasty tiles.

View out of the back door to the studio.
Clive's kiln is a magnificent beast. It is based on Cardew's kiln from Wenford bridge, with a large circular chamber leading to a bottle chamber. You fire off the first chamber getting it to top temperature before moving onto the bottle chamber. The bottle acts as the chimney and pre-heats on account of the fire in the first chamber. These two chambers have the potential to hold a great many pots, so Clive has never actually fired them both together, preferring to simply use the bottle as a chimney and stack the circular chamber. I have never seen a kiln like this and would be fascinated to help fire it sometime. The kiln room was much more enclosed than the kiln sheds I am used to seeing around North Carolina. It felt cozy, with shelves full of old pots and store cupboards full of yet more pots, and an upper gallery which allowed a bird's eye view down over the kiln.

View down the circular chamber of Clive's kiln. You can see the bottle neck in the right edge of the photo--the chambers connect underground.

The bottle chamber of Clive's kiln.

Looking down on Lauren and Clive beside the kiln.

Some of Clive's saggars. Most of his work is fired in these to prevent ash hitting the pots.

Kiln furniture and saggars.

Firing wood.

Some pots that Clive made on a recent trip to Japan.

Platter made by Clive in Japan.

Fish tile. Clive Bowen.
Clive describing some of the beauties. Top left is a salt glazed pot from Jugtown in Seagrove, North Carolina.

The mug in the background is a Michael Cardew.

Clive's collection of little teabowls, waiting for a bespoke cabinet to house them.

This pot was made by Clive and fired just down the road in Svend Bayer's kiln.

Lovely jar by Clive. I really like the way the handle sits on top of the domed lid.

Here are some of marvelous pots from inside the house.

Plate made by Jo; one of Clive's kids.

The jar on the left was made by a potter who stayed with them for a while. Excellent chattering pattern.

Large goblet by Michael Cardew, I like the lug handles and classic decoration.

Casserole dishes and baking pans above the stove top.

Baking dishes in the Bowen kitchen.

I can see a chicken in this.

Nice little functional serving or cooking dishes. I want to make some similar to these.

Sweet little casserole dish made by a visiting Norwegian potter to Shebbear.

Plates that Clive made to commemorate the births of some of his kids.
Saving the best bit til last, here are some pictures from the gallery that is attached to the house.

Wide view of Clive's gallery space.

Clive in the gallery talking to Lauren.

Clive Bowen. Potter at large.

Large jar with substantial knob. Clive Bowen.

Storage jar. Clive Bowen.

Slump molded dish. Slip trailed decoration. Clive Bowen.

Bowls. Clive Bowen.

Tankard. Clive Bowen.

Large chesty storage jar. Slip trailed decoration. Clive Bowen.

Platter. Slip trailed fish decoration. Clive Bowen.

The teapot we came away with. It has been in constant use since we got back to North Carolina and I can report that it pours perfectly and holds almost enough to fill my tea flask.

In case there weren't enough photos here or you would like to snag one of Clive's pots, here's a link to his website:

Mark Hewitt Pottery Spring 2016 Kiln Opening, Firing Kay

Our recent visit to England has somewhat slowed down my bloggering activities but now I have so much material and so many pictures to share. During our two week trip we were able to visit Svend Bayer, Clive Bowen, the pottery and museum at St Ives, and the Sainsbury's Centre (which has an amazing collection of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper pieces). Oh and an exhibition of Michael Cardew's pottery in Chipping Camden. I have my work cut out! But first I should put up some pics from our recent kiln opening.

This was a particularly exciting firing as the kiln was mostly filled with experimental glazes made using local materials. It was also Adrian's last firing as an apprentice at the Hewitt pottery. The firing went very smoothly and our expectations were mostly met by the results. The celadons and tenmokus were particularly dazzling, whilst the shinos proved a little trickier; some came out fantastically but others crawled. Overall we had some lovely results and a good sale. People responded well to the new glazes. At the end of the post I have included some pictures of my pots taken at Adrian's house with his flowtone backdrop. Personally I prefer seeing pots with a natural background such as a barn door or a grassy knoll, but in order to build a portfolio I am trying to document in a more professional manner.

Big pot by Mark Hewitt. This one is called "Mr Softie"
Empty kiln (apart from all the wads!)
Big pot by Mark Hewitt. I love the shape of this one.
Detail of the glass drip on this pot.
This one sold before the sale began.
Big pot by Mark Hewitt

The crowds arrive!
Marbled plate by Mark Hewitt.
Two part vase by Mark Hewitt. Regretting not snapping up this one-it was a super second.
Some little espresso cups I made.
Adrian and Patrick Rademaker (visiting up from Florida) stole my camera and blessed me with this picture of themselves, plus ruder versions!
Tableware by Mark Hewitt.
Jug/pitcher and mugs by Adrian King.
We have to write a little something for each kiln opening. Here's mine.
Droopy bellied sawanaky with shino glaze.
Cider jar/jug by Adrian King.
Celadon teapot by Adrian King.
White glazed vase with finger wiped decoration by Adrian King.
Heron scraffito tankard by Adrian King.
Two carbon trapped shino tankards by Adrian King.
Vase/wine vessel by Mark Hewitt. Ash glaze.
Celadons! Oh glorious celadons, by Mark Hewitt.
Big fat jar by Mark Hewitt. Tenmoku glaze.
Tableware by Mark Hewitt.
Nice tenmoku jar by Mark Hewitt.
Two part vases by Mark Hewitt.
A couple of my mugs. They have gone up from $9 to $15 this firing! Quite the increase!
Rows of my pots.
Casserole with lizard scraffito decoration.
The full inscription reads "Bernie is boss." If I could vote in the elections here it would definitely be for Bernie!
Display of my pots before the punters arrived.
Shooter, sawanaky and honey jar hanging out together.
Two of my tumblers. I like how the one on the right curves in at the top: I was aiming for this torpedo like shape.
Covered dish by Adrian King. You can use the lid as a bowl to eat from too.

I met this lovely lady at La Meridiana whilst she was on Mark's course. It is fun to catch up at kiln openings!
Some of Adrian's platters.
A rather handsome umbrella stand by Mark Hewitt.
A couple of my smaller casserole dishes.
And now on to the pictures I took using Adrian's flowtone background. Getting the light/highlights just right is an art I have yet to master but I think the results are alright. I would appreciate any feedback on the pics if you have any advice or suggestions.

Two part vase, celadon glaze.
Two part vase, tenmoku glaze over red slip decoration.
Sawanaky jar, shino gaze over red slip decoration.
Sawanaky jar, celadon glaze over red slip banding and scrafitto marks.
Vase, celadon glaze over red slip banding.
Two part vase, tenmoku glaze over red slip decoration.
Tumblers, tenmoku on the left, shino on the right
Barrel mugs, celadon glaze over red and white slip decorations.
Small bud vase, tenmoku glaze.
Shot glasses/shooters, celadon glaze with red slip dots under.
Large casserole dish, celadon glaze over red slip dots and lines.
Large three handled casserole with fish decoration, tenmoku glaze.
Small casserole dish, albany slip over red slip decoration.