Sunday, April 26, 2009

On Breeze's Second Birthday

I and John Bauman are back from our run in the woods where I came nearly nose to nose with a four-point buck and he snorted and ran off and John Bauman (like a millstone around my neck) held me back or I would have had, like, the best breakfast EVER.

And so, as I am inclined to do, I turned my angst into song. Like most genius-types, I disguise my sources almost entirely, so it might help, if you want to sing this song along with me, for me to give you, like, a hint: This song can be sung to the tune of "Doe a Deer" by Rogers and Hammerstein. Not that it has to be, but it does ( <----"does".....i kill me!) work well that way.

Doe, a deer, a female deer
I just love fresh venison
Meat, the stuff a deer's made of
So far, I really like this song

I like grain and dairy too
But on-ly if they're made of meat
Which is why I like a nice big cow
And pigs and poultry too.

Doe, a deer, a female deer
I've a thing for venison
Bucks are al-so made of meat
A-and so I like them too

If I find a carcass and
It's been rotting for some time
I roll in it for a while
And give off a heavenly smell.

Breeze Bauman

Friday, April 24, 2009



CHICAGO, IL – Attorneys representing a group calling themselves "Latter Letters For Equal Labor" (LLEL) filed suit in district court yesterday on behalf of this newly formed organization, claiming that letters A-G should no longer be allowed to double up in function by merely adding a "#" or a "b".

Yesterday, at a rally staged on the Cook County courthouse steps, several of the plaintifs were interviewed.

H, a disgruntled letter had this to say, "It's really not fair. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, yet only seven of us get work?! What's up with that?"

J added , "Yeah there's no fairness, and there's really no good reasoning behind that unfairness either. I mean, there is no particular "G-ness" to G#. It's a whole different note for gosh sakes! I'm sorry to get so riled, but it really angers me that the same few notes get to work, while the majority of us letters remain in the unemployment lines. We'd rather be on the treble or bass lines, believe me!"

"The way I see it, if every letter that doubles itself up by the dubious act of simply adding a sharp or a flat were required to give up the act, H, I , J, K, and L could have full employment" , added L. "And if you add to that the number of times the other letters claim a sharp or a flat, other letters could have at least part-time work.".

It was obvious that this would still leave letters with no hope of employment. When asked about this, Z responded, "I'm here at this rally to stand in solidarity with my LLEL brothers. What's good for them is good for the whole alphabet!" He then added, "…….I was told there might be free beer at the rally?"

Asked for comments, F, who often uses a # and thus would certainly stand to lose if this case were to go forward, had this to say, "You know, you just can't win these days. I mean, in the current political climate, when so many jobs are going overseas and off-shore? … and now they are demanding that we begin to outsource? I just don't get it."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mixed Up Media

I was following this boat through the foggy Tennessee hills between Knoxville and Chattanooga. The boat-on-a-highway theme was fitting -- I probably only travelled 20 minutes of an 11 hour trip without being in a fairly driving rain. The roads home were waterways.

Of course, I missed the dogs -- Breeze and Ariel -- and when I saw the name on the boat, I couldn't suppress a big grin.

But the odd coincidence of boat/dog names was only the finishing touch to a rather miraculous weekend. Miraculous, because I was witness to some incredibly strange phenomena at the weekend's art fair where I was set up to sell my pots

1. First (and probably the strangest) phenomenon:

There are a couple of Biblical miracles that came to mind as I watched the incredible -- the supernatural -- unfold before my very eyes. The Book of II Chronicles tells of the prophet Elijah spending some time living with a very poor widow and her son. During the time of Elijah's stay, he watched God's amazing providence as the widow's bottle of cooking oil never emptied. Every time she needed the oil to cook something, she poured it from the cruet and, sure enough, there was always more oil for her to pour out.

Later, in the Book of Matthew, Jesus asked a young boy for his couple of loaves of bread and a few fish and then proceeded to not only feed a crowd of 5,000 people, he actually ended up with baskets of bread and fish left over.

Such was the nature of the miracle I witnessed as the artist (set up right next to me all weekend) who won the top prize in the oil painting category sold thousands and thousands of dollars worth of merchandise over the weekend.....and yet not one oil painting! Shocking, indeed.

The cynics among us might point to the 25-plus plastic bins that spanned the space from the right hand side of her booth to more than half the distance to my booth (we both having paid extra for corner booths) -- the bins all labeled on the outside for easy access and recall as to the contents so as to waste the least amount of time while restocking -- as having come correllation to the artist's financial success and multiple sales. Pointing to those bins, those cynics might claim that this oil painter was selling something. To those cynics I can only tell you, "You must be wrong, because...

1. The show's rules expressly stated -- in no uncertain terms -- that every artist, in every part of the park, had to make sure that their entire art fair presence was confined entirely within their 10' X 10' booth space. That meant ---again, in no uncertain terms -- that nobody was allowed to use the grassy area behind them, nor any paved area beside them (but not within their 10' X 10' allowance) to store extra inventory.

Because these rules were stated so expressly in the artist packets (that were emailed to us months in advance of the art fair), I can only tell you that the scientist/rationalist in me can only conclude that the 25 plastic bins, clearly labeled for convenient access and restocking, must have been a figment of the imaginations of the passersby -- a figment brought on (no doubt) by the mass hysteria of our age.

Besides, this was (as I previously stated) an Oil Painter. Thus, even if those plastic bins, clearly labeled for convenient access and restocking, were somehow not a figment of collective imagination, they couldn't have been oil paintings....could they? Does one store stretched canvas in plastic bins? Surely this is just one more piece of evidence, indicating that those bins did not actually exist. So I think it's safe for me to conclude that the miracle of the event -- The Immaculate Sales of the Art Fair Oil Painting Artist -- stands.

2. Possibly not quite as shockingly miraculous as the first
phenomenon, but strange, nonetheless...

I saw not just one but TWO potters who were capable of throwing shallow bowls that were so perfectly uniform that, not only did they stack perfectly, but they could be held either rim-to-rim OR foot-to-foot and there wasn't a micron's difference in diameter from top to bottom!

When craftsmanship reaches that level of perfection, the cynic sometimes questions whether some sort of machinery -- some sort of technology -- has crept into the art fair scene. Those cynics might question whether or not those bowls were actually made by hand.

But I can assure you with the same certainty borne of having read the artist's packet of information, rules, and the show's prospectus, that ALL the work in the show was hand done work. Knowing the rules helps when trying to decide whether something is hand done or mass-produced by technology or machinery. If the rules state that things must be made by hand, rest assured -- they will be made by hand.

Besides, the bowls in question had those distinctive rings that one can only achieve by throwing clay on a potter's wheel. If that fact is not a nail in the cynic's coffin, I don't know what it must take to convince them.

Perhaps those cynics are just beyond hope.

Oh, here's what my booth looked like this weekend. If I hadn't been the guy taking the picture, you'd have seen me standing behind the counter, big 'ol smile on my face...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back To Back Wins

I've never started a year like this. I have my first outdoor show coming up this weekend and for the first time ever, I'm having trouble with all my glazes at once.

I finally am getting the Ferguson glaze (pictured) working again. And after six firings, I am getting the green to work on most everything. The Millring red, however is just not reacting well with the clay body. I think I'm going to become a porcelain potter whether I want to or not. Hey, I've got two pug mills. Why not?

Actually, I've always loved working with porcelain and I make about fifty porcelain pieces a year for my own enjoyment. I just wasn't sure about making the jump to all the necessary extras required to fire it. I guess I'm about to find out!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Epilogue: The Great Glaze Crisis of '09

Well, after making an exhaustive list of the possible causes for the glaze falling off my pots and onto the table -- a glaze I've used for 30 years and with which I'd never had this kind of problem. I finally, with the kind aid of Pete Pinnell (who generously responded to my query with a detailed list of possible problems), nailed down the problem.

One other possible issue, not listed in yesterday's post was that the label on my tub of bone ash had fallen off. So there was the additional, though unlikely, chance that I'd put in something other than bone ash. Thankfully, that wasn't it. Though Pete Pinnell informed me that bone ash can cause that kind of problem too (he also said he uses synthetic bone ash).

The problem was tin oxide. Yup. Over the years I had slowly converted the glaze from Ken Ferguson's original (with tin oxide as an opacifier), and had been using zircopax as a total substitution.

I wasn't aware of this, but as Pete Pinnell informed me, "...did you add more tin oxide? It is also quite fine and can cause a glaze to take up water (and therefore shrink a lot)."

I got some zircopax in this morning, made the substitution, and voilĂ !

Just as a little post script...

If I ever decided to move to California and take up acting in film, I would adopt the stage name "Beau Nash". And if someone asked me if I was synthetic, I would merely respond, "Of course. This is Hollywood."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Perfect Storm

The perfect storm I seem to have created appears to go like this:

1. Because I failed to notice a 500G counterweight on the far side of my Ohaus scale several years ago, I put WAY too much of something in that glaze. Fortunately, I noticed the weight as I was setting the scale for the next chemical (I always mix 10,000G batches -- 4-6 batches at a time in paper bags, so that I only have to go out to my barn to get another pre-measured, but unmixed batch when I run out). Anyway, it resulted in such huge batches, that it's been years since I've mixed this glaze. That made me more uncertain about how different ALL the chemicals might be from the last time I mixed this glaze.

2. Since zircopax is expensive too, and I just happened to be virtually out of it, I decided that since I had quite a bit of tin on hand, I'd half-and-half it. Now, Ken Ferguson's original glaze didn't have zircopax at all, but I'd learned over the years that, for my purposes anyway, the substitution didn't make any difference.

3. I've been using two clays in my studio for about four years now. One of them is Laguna's B-mix which is quite possibly the least consistent commercial clay I've ever used. (if I had the patience for wadding and the like, I'd probably
switch to one of those new super-silica porcelains like Turner's or Coleman's). This only matters because, in order to keep the B-mix from gassing out and giving me surface bubbles, I've been bisquing higher. Even that would be okay (sort of) except that I bisque in a gas kiln and have a half to a full cone's difference at bisque temp. That means that the stoneware on which I was putting that glaze was bisqued higher than necessary. I even found a piece that was bisqued lower and the glaze (though somewhat thinned) didn't curl off.

4. The bisque ware has been accumulating out in my barn over the winter. So it was quite possibly a bit cold and damp (one of the lesser possibilities on the list)

5. The batch of glaze was over half new glaze. That means that it had only sat overnight in the vat. That means that its particle size hadn't deteriorated from sitting in water for a long period of time -- hadn't "aged".

6. The perennial problem I face with that glaze -- no hydometer can measure it as thin as I like it (they sink below the surface when the glaze is right). At one time I tried to make a hydrometer specifically for that glaze. I maytry that again.

The fix I'm trying right now (I won't know until I open the kiln tomorrow) is to single dip the glaze and then spray the areas that I wanted better coverage. At least doing it that way, the glaze stayed on. My fingers are crossed as I'm typing this. That's made for lots of typographical errors, but when you're superstitious, what else you gonna do?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ready, Set, Go

Getting ready to fire tomorrow. Some jars with deer -- part revisiting my past and part remembering my adventure with Breeze (I made the jars the next week).

The Cobbler's plates. We're down to a couple of old plates I made years ago, and one of Jo Severson's that I don't want to break. So I finally made some for me and Dar. Again, the patterns revisiting my past pottery (from the eighties. Was that really twenty years ago?)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Limburger send your smell away
Cheddar, the orange one on the tray
Gouda's very very extraordinary
Muenster, not the Addam's family

Jack, don't hit the road I love ya babe
Colby, just the smoky taste I'm bound to crave
Gouda's very very extraordinary
Muenster, not the Addam's family.

Bleu I serve you in my salad bowls
Swiss I stick my fingers in your holes
Gouda's very very extraordinary
Muenster, not the Addam's family.

Oh baby baby,
I'll Brie around.