Sunday, January 2, 2011


For the last few days I've been trying to clean my shop.

Stop laughing.

No, really. I mean it. I'm trying to clea...


...anyway (or, as a good Hoosier would say, "...anyways")...

I've started in with clearing off shelves and cabinets. I have an embarrassment of riches where warecarts are concerned. I have 12 steel framed ware carts that can hold 18 1'X3' plywood shelves.

10 of those 12 carts are full of....of....stuff. Half-done ideas. Mold-making ideas. Tools. Giffin Grips. Wax resist bottles. Brushes. Guitar picks (how'd those get in there?). Magazines and...

...books. Uh-oh.


Ever try to clean up a shop with books and magazines that need to be put away? Well, if you're like me, you can't simply pick up a book without also leafing through it.

And so it was that I stumbled upon the Functional Pottery, Robin Hopper book yesterday. And I leafed through it for probably the first time since I got the copy in 2000, when it came out.

If you'd asked me about the changes I've made in my pottery over the last ten years, I could probably try to list things -- new ideas -- as I remember them happening. But leafing through this older book shocked even me at the changes I've made, and the different way I look at a pot in just a decade's span.

Quite possibly, nothing has changed for me as drastically as this pitcher. Oh, I still make "the same" pitcher. Functionally I'm still making a 2-quart green pitcher with a leaf impression on the sides. But, my how the shape has changed.

I started to make more gourds. In one such manifestation of the gourd shape, I started making a gourd pitcher. I immediately noticed: 1. How much more naturally and easily the gourd-shaped pitcher lifted by the handle (and from the table) with the center of gravity lowered in the now more bulbous belly. 2. How much more easily and gracefully the liquid poured from such a shape, when the gradually narrowing neck channeled the fluid toward the narrowing spout.

Noticing the improved ergonomics achieved by simply lowering the center of gravity, I changed all my pitchers to that general shape.

I also changed the chemistry of that glaze. I changed the color and I changed the surface. I wanted a more irregular surface with rivulets of glaze adding interest. At the same time, I maintained that break-to-white line that highlighted the textures with which I decorate.

Thanks for indulging my walk down memory lane.


  1. Oh John, Now you're making me realize how much I need to clean up my shop. And I KNOW there are books out there.

    I go through the same thing: Oh! Look at that cutoff piece of Cocobolo, that would make a great knife handle. Oh man! That Bocote has really darkened with age. I bet I could make some guitar binding out of that. Is this piece of curly maple too small to use? Maybe it's big enough for a soundhole inlay?

  2. I fear my body has followed the path of your pitchers. Happy New Year.

  3. we've clean the studio twice before Christmas and then ... well we fired and did a few Christmas projects and now what I find is I have to go out and clean again....
    someone once told me if your work studio is too cleans means you are not working.

  4. my studio is generally cleanish but i have always gotten bogged down by seconds. pots that are too flawed to take to the store but not so flawed as to be thrown in the shard bucket. last week i bit the bullet and cleared the shelves...feels great. no need to surround yourself with substandard pots.

  5. Dru, I'm told that if we will but spend the 24+ hours actually getting our shop cleaned, it will save us 24 hours of production time over the next year. With a one-for-one proposition like that, how can we lose?

    Dennis, I still have the broad shoulders of my youth. They sit somewhere down around my waist these days.

    Cookingwithgas, Please don't tell me you cleaned your shop TWICE before Christmas. Do you have elfin help?

    Heidi, Flawed pots on the shelves can be so depressing. And it's something I've noticed about internet marketing -- there are now exponentially more "flawed" pots. Pots that I have absolutely no problem standing behind and selling at an art fair are still sometimes not "ship-able". "Flawed" takes on a completely new meaning when suddenly viewed relative to shipping a pot. Just an unfortunately placed iron spot is now "flawed", where internet marketing is concerned. It is still perfect for an art fair, where patrons handle the piece, compare it with other similar pieces, and decide that the iron spot doesn't matter (or, more often, don't even notice it).