Saturday, December 24, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
Shipping With The Masters
But I also try to come up with some new spin -- some new decorating idea each year. This year the silly idea came to me all of a sudden in a flash of genius. Okay, not genius. Maybe brilliance. No, not that either. Anyway, the idea came to me. It was obvious....
Thursday, December 22, 2011
What To Do?
I'm surprised at how often I'm asked "What can I do with those big bowls of yours?"
Here's an idea -- a salad we just took to a party of 21 people...
And as the salad gets smaller, you get to see more of the bowl...
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I was laughing right out loud. And I was doing so before the internet ever even invented LOL-ing. I was paging through the immensely huge "The Potter's Dictionary of Materials and Techniques" by Frank Hamer. I came upon a listing for "Clobbering". It's a term for over-embellishing pottery in a (vain) attempt to add value to it.
I love it.
Well, here's my TOTALLY UN-clobbered mug. It is nothing but simplicity, shape, glow, and function. Inspired in form by my love for the paintings of Bruegel the Elder -- paintings of taverns, dances, weddings, and gatherings -- all with contemporary pottery candidly captured throughout the paintings. And it was all pottery that was so compelling in form, I wanted to reach into the paintings and pull them out and hold them.
This mug is hand-thrown with high-fired porcelain. Additionally, it is glazed in my Millring Red glaze and sprayed with a light glow of golden rutile -- enhancing the more than ample globe shape that holds a generous 14 ounces of hot or cold liquid.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Evinrude the boat from shore, Hallelujah
Evinrude the boat from shore, Hallelujah
Wind it up and pull the rope, Hallelujah
Putt-putt, pull again and hope, Hallelujah
Hold the choke when it's chilly and cold, Hallelujah
Back the throttle when the spark takes hold, Hallelujah
Grab the handle, steer from the dock, Hallelujah
Blessed days off of the clock, Hallelujah
Fishing's just great there in the cove, Hallelujah
Bamboo bent double as the bobber dove, Hallelujah
12 inch striper grabbed in the net, Hallelujah
Pan-fried eatin' is good, you bet! Hallelujah
Evinrude the boat ashore, Hallelujah
Evinrude the boat ashore, Hallelujah
Thursday, December 15, 2011
It's That Special Season
Soon my family will be gathering from all over the country -- from Texas to Pennsylvania. As a family we really love this time of year when families like us gather to celebrate the birth of Philo Farnsworth -- inventor of the holy television set.
It's a holiday gathering like no other. There will be televisions playing football games in the living room, televisions playing reality shows in the family room, televisions playing cooking shows in the kitchen....even little flatscreen televisions in each of the kids rooms just in case there's a conflict between the cousins over which shows to watch. And they'll all be blaring at just that perfect decibel level -- the level above which it won't be impossible to shout over....but it will be impractical.
I don't know about your family, but my family has a whole list of Television Caroles that we like to sing at this time of year. Well, I guess I should say we used to like to sing them until it finally dawned on us that some of them were too long (had too many verses) to fit in during the commercial breaks. We might miss actual programming.
First we tried shortening the TV Caroles to fit in the breaks. Then, with the advent of tivo, there no longer were commercial breaks, long OR short, in which to squeeze a carole or two. So we gave them up.
We don't miss 'em though......one of my brothers tivo'd last year's American Idol! Between that re-run "Idol" show and the new "Sing-Off!" there will be plenty of music in the Bauman house without all that pesky participatory stuff.
Back in the days before my family was totally converted to Televisianity, we used to, you know, talk and stuff. We'd spend HOURS trying to sus out just how we felt about things, how the world was treating us, what we enjoyed doing, what we thought about the political scene. Trivial, no-account stuff.
Now, television helps us shortcut through all that mudanity. It helps us waste less time on getting to know each other. And television allows us to spend more time on what really matters. Like who is doing well on "Survivor", or who's who in the NFL.
Want to know how that brother you haven't seen in three years feels about the world? ...here's a handy shortcut that has been made available only through the wonder that is television: Simply ask him if he watchs FOX or MSNBC. Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy. Not only is it a practical shortcut, but it rids conversation of all that annoying ambiguity that used to muck up family discussions. It's as easy as black and white....ironically, brought to you in living color!
Your lights are brightly shining
There's a game, and the sound's turned up loud
Long lay the world
So bored and unenlightened
'Til you appeared, put remotes in our hands
A thrill of hope
'Round the clock news cycles
We now can tell
Exactly who we are
Fall on the barcalounger
Oh hear those programs ringing
It's simply divine
The night TV was born
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Birds In The Hand
I've been asked about my post concerning taking special/custom orders. So, fellow potters, Why is a special order not the proverbial "bird in the hand" and, as such, better than two in the bush, you ask?
It took me a number of years to finally figure out why taking orders didn't work when, on the face of it, it seemed that an order was exactly that "bird in the hand" -- a sure thing. But most potters I know figured out some time ago that two birds awaiting in the bush are already going to be theirs just as soon as we can get to them. And the perverse thing is that the order is not actually a bird in the hand, rather, it is bird repellent.
Why, you ask?
I've come up with at least four reasons:
1. Not everything a potter makes is equally cost effective where production time is concerned. And the perverse thing is that orders are, more often than not, the least cost effective thing we can make. We rarely have the benefit of practice over multiple pieces to get the order as perfect as the body of our regular work. As a special order, it likely has elements we've never even tried. Those factors all add up to a very non-cost-effective piece.
2. It is not possible to match the order to the expectation. When pottery, by its very kiln-fired nature is unpredictable, it's never going to come out as the customer imagined it when they ordered it. Sure, it might come out even better than they expected.
3. And somewhat connected to #2. What taking special orders does is culls from the pool of possible customers a sub-group of customers who are the least satisfied with your work as currently presented. If they loved what you did as a potter, they would likely take pots from your stock of already made pieces.
4. And here's the real clincher: Most potters I know are already going to sell all the inventory they are capable of making in a year's time. Most potters I know have one predominant determiner of their annual income, and that is how much inventory they can make in a year. Therefore, taking an order does not increase a potter's income -- it merely predetermines what he/she will be making next.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
New Idea For Bauman Stoneware
This is the very first one I've made -- I opened the kiln just a few short hours ago and to my delight, this charmer sat there on one of the back kiln shelves looking perfect. I took the still warm piece (anxious as I was to try out my idea and see if I'd been successful) and I clipped the small electric bulb (included with the luminary) into the bottom and plugged it in.
It glows warmly from within, highlighting the finest of details in the stamped woodland pattern on the outside. The ceiling illuminator that is pierced right through the lid adds even more charm and light.
When the piece is not illuminated, it is an elegant amber celadon jar with a gracefully trimmed foot.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The title for this post is "Bowl Central". The subtitle is "When Will He Ever Learn?"
The sub-sub-title is, "Quite Apparently, Never"
For more than 25 of my 30 years as a potter, my answer has always been an automatic "No". I don't take orders. I never take orders. My system is hardwired and my negative reply is now as automatic to me as is drooling at the smell of bacon....."NO, I DON'T TAKE ORDERS"
....so you can imagine my surprise at me that I always end up taking an order or two.
This year it has been a back-breaking undertaking of 44 14"-16" porcelain bowls. And not just any porcelain bowls, but the porcelain bowls that I have to burnish on the inside as well as trim on the outside. If I don't burnish the inside, I don't get this effect:
Anyway, the throwing portion of the cycle is complete. Unless it's not. If I fire 'em and they don't all come out, then it's back to the wheel. Such is the nature of orders (and a hint as to why I don't take them).
I got to thinking about orders once. It was more than 25 years ago -- back when I used to take orders. In fact, back then I had seven pages of orders -- seven pages, single-spaced type (kids, I am referring to an honest-to-god typewriter. Yes, I had one. Now get off my lawn). Anyway, I had all these orders and the sinking feeling in my gut that told me that the best approach to these orders was to go out, get into my '66 Buick Skylark, do NOT fasten my safety belt, and drive like hell.
There was no way out. It was like the quicksand in a Tarzan TV show -- the one with Ron Ely, not Johnny Weismuller. I'm not that old.
Oh, shut up.
Anyway, no Tarzanian quicksand ever had more suck than seven pages of orders pulling me down into its depths....and certain death.
But I did wonder....
I couldn't help but notice that sometimes....maybe once in every 30 or 40 orders...rather than being the one pot in the kiln that did NOT survive the firing looking as it was supposed to look (like, without cracks or kiln niz falling into the center of it) ... instead, one out of 30 or 40 ordered pots actually came out BETTER than the rest of the firing.
Since I knew that it was my luck that dictated the 29-39 usual-case failures of orders to survive the firing, it FINALLY dawned on me what the exact nature of the dynamic was that I was witnessing. I finally understood what was the overarching law of nature that was ruling my firing of pots that were orders...
...It was that one out of 30-40 people who ordered from me actually had luck that was SO good that it even had the power to override my bad luck.
This is science, folks. You can't make this stuff up. Well, you can. But I'm not. Really. It's statistics. Or did you miss the obvious? ...30, 40, 1, and 2, are all numbers. And numbers don't lie. Fact.
Anyway, with each dive into the quicksand, I learn a few new lessons. This dive taught me that I've got some pretty cool tools that I never realized were made for pottery. First, years ago I bought a Craftsman shop-vac. The cool thing about this shop-vac is that the motor is detachable from the canister and can be used as a blower. The way this comes in handy is at the trimming wheel.
When a potter has to trim the INSIDE of a shallow bowl or plate, the trimmings don't escape on their own. There are no little Steve McQueen trimmings riding little motorbikes and jumping over the rim of the bowl to freedom. Instead, what happens is turn after turn of accumulated trimmings re-attaching themselves to the area the potter (me) just smoothed out. If I were the type to gEt ANgrY oR FusTratEd or eVEn a LitTLe, yoU KnOW, CRAzY.....this is exactly the kind of thing that might push me over the edge. Yeah, like I'm not over it anyway. Shut up again.
Anyway, enter the shop-vac. Or, I might say "Enter the shop-blo". I clipped the shop-vac motor to a ware cart right next to my trimming wheel. As I trimmed, it blew. Like magic, or at least like magic that blows really hard, no trimmings accumulated. Smooth bottoms, no re-attached trimmings.
Another cool and indispensible tool around the Bauman pottery is my wand blender. For 34 years of pottery making, I have always covered my pots with slip. I've slip-trailed, slip-stenciled, slip-masked, brushed slip, combed slip, feathered slip, colored slip. And I can't even imagine doing all that without a wand blender. I've also found that nothing beats a Hamilton Beach blender for working with slip. It can make porcelain slip from dry porcelain scraps in less than a minute -- smooth, and virtually bubble-free. Many wand blenders I've used don't move the slip enough and require about as much stirring as blending. Some introduce so much air into the slip that it's really difficult to trail a smooth line without the trailing tool burping at inopportune times. Not so the Hamilton Beach. Smooth, airless slip every time.
So there's my expose on the shop tools that are not shop tools but are indispensable shop tools, nevertheless.
Here's a sneak preview of my next, newest item...
Thursday, November 10, 2011
And that's what happened when I logged on to my Etsy account this morning and found this very heartwarming story greeting me. It made my day, I'll tell you.
"I ordered a blue moon from you last year for my sister who owns Blue Moon Farm in KY. She loved it and especially loved all the care that went into the packaging and shipping. She and her husband run their farm by themselves and take their produce to market each week, and appreciate the work of others like the two of you! Anyway, my brother passed away suddenly last month, and the last time we saw him we were shelling on the beach, and he found a beautiful starfish. Many things since that day have made me feel as if my brother is all around us - finding this star amongst your offerings this year was one of those moments. I am buying it for my sister and it will, I am SURE, be treasured forever. Thanks for listening! :) " Ruth Anderson
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
When It's Tool Makin' Time In Indiana
SP: Am I given to understand that you spent over an hour and a half making a single rib tool today?
JB: Scott, to tell you the truth, the time I spent is nothing compared to the time it will gain me in this huge project --40 18 inch porcelain bowls -- I have to complete this month.
SP: I was told you actually used a piece of nice cherry wood to craft the tool?
JB: The pleasure of a good tool is three-fold:
1. In the crafting of it-- knowing exactly what is needed to make it function well for the assigned task
2. In the choice of materials -- enjoying working with good materials like cherry. Have you ever smelled cherry wood as it's been sawed and sanded? ....marvelous.
3. In the using -- not just the time savings, but the appreciation of doing what you couldn't have without the ingenuity of the new tool.
SP: So, how did you fashion this extended bowl rib?
JB: First, I ripped a length from a piece of cherry that I've had in the shop for more that 25 years. It's actually a piece left over from the cherry that makes up my display. Next, I sanded both sides and the edges smooth. After that I rocked the length along the surface of my belt sander, creating an extremely smooth arc that I imagined might help me achieve the interior curve of these 18 inch bowls.
SP: All that? ...for just one rib?
JB: Yes. Again, it will save me an immense amount of time, but I also take a bit of pride in the tool itself.
SP: Well, I'll grant you that it's nice looking tool, even if it is simple
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Carolina, Here I Come
I've got the van AND the trailer all loaded up. I'll make it to Knoxville by tomorrow evening. From the State line southward I'll be hearing David Loggins singing "Girl From Knoxville". It's an old favorite song, so I don't mind it swirling around in my brain.
Dar usually drives the stretch from Lexington to Knoxville so I can enjoy the changing topography and do a little wide-awake dreaming for a few miles.
Yesterday's firing was as good as the previous two (okay....there was the one pitcher I forgot to clean the foot and fused it to the shelf....but other than that) and this firing had all the color in it...
See y'all when I get there.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
In My Van I'm Going To Carolina (again)
********************************** Additionally, I have the first series of acorn teapots I've done in several years, and I'm really happy with the improvements I've made in them... So, if you're in that area, come on down and meet me, Dar, Breeze and Ariel!
Monday, October 31, 2011
Farmer John Bauman watched the group of trick or treaters leave. “Those may well be the last,” he thought as the taillights twinkled in the night, “but the candy is getting low. I should get some more out, just in case.”
So John went out to his woodshed to get another couple bags of candy. Why the woodshed? Well, John kept the Halloween candy out in the woodshed so that he wouldn’t be tempted to eat it all up himself before Halloween even arrived, which had come very close to happening several times. You see, the candy liked to call out to John late at night. But, once he started keeping it out in the woodshed, the calls were fainter, and the thought of having to walk all the way out to his woodshed was enough to save his Halloween candy from those late night munchings.
On the way to his woodshed, John walked past his jack-o-lanterns. His many jack-o-lanterns. How many? Well, John knew. There were 87 of them this year. Farmer John was famous for his pumpkins. He grew them wherever he could. And every fall, his little farm would turn orange. And every Halloween, he would give pumpkins away to anyone that needed one or just wanted one. And those that were left over he would carve into Jack-O-Lanterns, sometimes a hundred or more, and place them all around his yard. It was a lot of work, but not for Farmer John, because John loved his pumpkins and he believed every pumpkin should have a chance to be a Jack-O-Lantern.
Well, when John entered his woodshed to get the last of the candy he had hidden from himself, he looked around for his ladder, for, of course, he had put the candy on a high shelf to make it purposefully hard to get at. But he didn’t see his ladder anywhere. Then he remembered. He had left the ladder back at the house. He had been using it to put on the storm windows, because the weatherman had said that an early winter storm was coming and the next couple days were supposed to be very, very cold.
But, John didn't want to walk all the back to his house for the ladder. There was no need for that, he thought, no need at all. John decided he could just crawl up on the firewood he had stacked against the wall. So he did. But just as he had reached the top and was reaching for the candy, a log rolled out from under his foot, and Farmer John lost his balance and fell. And the entire pile of logs came tumbling down on top of him.
When John came to, he tried to move, and realized he couldn’t budge no matter how hard he tried. Not an arm, not a leg. Nothing. He was pinned helpless by the toppled firewood. "Oh you dummy", he thought. "Couldn't go and get the ladder, no, that was too much trouble. Dummy!" Then he felt a cold wind blowing into the shed. And he could hear it whistle in the trees.
That wasn't good. The winter storm was predicted to be a fierce one. And if it got as cold as the weatherman said it was going to get, well, that really wasn't good, not at all. John pushed again at the logs, he pushed as hard and as long as he could push, but nothing budged.
Then John began to slip from disgust into a cold realization. You see, John lived alone, and he knew it could be a several days before anyone would think to come check on him. And if it got as cold as the weatherman said it was going to get, well, that would be a couple days too late.
Even though he knew no one could hear him against the wind and the miles, John began to shout for help, again and again, as loud as he could. But John was old and the wood was heavy, and his yells grew weaker. And Farmer John could feel himself slipping away. “Now you’ve done it, you old fool, now you have really gone and done it. This is not good, not good at all. Not good …”
And John's eyes began to close and darken, but before they did, he thought he saw something. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw one of his pumpkins roll up to the door of the shed and look in on him.
"What the heck..." and then John passed out.
Meanwhile, back in town, the firemen were cleaning up after the Halloween party they had thrown for the kids when the phone rang. Jim answered the phone, and then shouted to the others.
“That was Alice Martin, and she said she saw flashes of light coming from Farmer John’s place. She said it didn’t look like a fire, but she wasn’t sure what else it could be. She just saw bright flashing lights, over and over. John, Pete, let's take the pumper and roll.
When the firemen arrived at Farmer John’s place, they saw what looked to be a hundred jack-o-lanterns glittering all around the house. But they saw no fire. Everything was fine.
“Aw, Alice just saw all these jack-o-lanterns, that’s all. She’s getting a little dingy, bless her, or maybe she's nipping her recipe bottle again. Who knows. Call the others, there is nothing here. Let's all head home.”
“Wait “ said Jim, “shouldn’t we maybe check on John, as long as we're here?”
“It’s past 11. The lights are off. He ‘s probably asleep. There’s nothing going on here. Just all these pumpkins. Sheesh, I’ve never seen anything like it. That John is something. But, no, let’s just go.”
And the firemen walked past all the jack-o-lanterns, got back into their truck, and drove away, drove away with John left behind alone and trapped in his woodshed.
But, just as the Firemen were turning onto the main road back to town, their mirrors were filled with a bright flash of light. They turned around and saw Farmer John's place just erupting with strobing lights, like lightning, except they were flashing from the ground to the sky.
“What the heck... Turn, turn around. What the heck is going on!”
But when they reached John's yard, they saw no flashing lights. All was still and quiet. And they stood puzzled and confused, until Jim said, “What the ...? Look at that! Look! Those pumpkins. Were all those pumpkins over there before? They couldn’t have been. Look!”
And the fireman saw close to a hundred jack-o-lanterns, all tightly circled around the old woodshed. “There is something going on over by that old shed. Those pumpkins weren’t there before.”
And as the men watched, a pumpkin began to wiggle and roll aside. Then another, and another, until there was a path, a path between the pumpkins leading right up to the door of the old shed.
The stunned fireman followed the path. "Oh my god! Look, it’s John! Pinned under the firewood”
The firemen threw the wood aside and pulled Farmer John out to safety. He was cold and shaken, but he was all right. The firemen walked Farmer John back to his house. And as they did, they almost started to tell him about the strange flashing lights. Almost. But as soon as one started to try, he stopped, for how do you tell such a thing?
"Oh, am I glad you guys came" said Farmer John. "How did you.., what made you think to check on me?"
"Um..., a hunch? Um, and Alice thought she saw something. And, uh, well, we just thought we would check. It was a quiet night."
Farmer John just laughed. “Well, whatever it was, you fellows sure saved my bacon. Here, have some of this candy before I eat it all.”
The firemen stood in silence. Something very strange had happened, but what? Whatever it was, it was a good thing it had happened. Very good. They looked at John. And they looked at all the twinkling pumpkins that were now, once again, gathered around his house. And slowly, each began to just shake their heads and smile. And they took some candy. There was nothing else to be done.
“Well, you take care now, John. No more of this crawling around on woodpiles, you hear?” And the firemen walked back to their truck and drove off, each silent in his own thoughts. Each with their own smile.
At his kitchen table, Farmer John had a smile, too. A smile, and some tea and cookies. And just before he went to bed, Farmer John Bauman put down his cup of tea and walked outside. The twinkling jack-o-lanterns were gathered protectively around his house, warming the cold night air. John's smile got a little bigger. “Thanks, guys. Thanks.”
Then Farmer John went back into his house and tucked himself in safe against the night.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
You ran to the arms of God,
Not in the way you were taught,
But in the only way you knew how.
I doubt that He was calling you.
I don't doubt that He's now holding you.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Well, in the midst of busily getting ready for the Circleville Pumpkin Festival that starts a week from Tuesday (the pottery is pumpkin central -- several hundred pumpkins on the shelves, in the kilns, on the work tables, glazed, bisqued, drying -- I also just made my 1000th sale on Etsy. The pumpkin pictured above was shipped off to Easthampton, MA.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Circleville Pumpkin Festival
October 19-22, 10 AM to 10 PM each day.
After a Summer season of art fairs, this celebration of autumn and harvest should come as a welcome change of pace. I plan on bringing not just my pottery (LOTS of pumpkins and gourds), but also my wheel in order to demonstrate each day (and into the night).
By coincidence, I was set up next to Jill during that Ann Arbor Art Fair this summer and found out LOTS about the competition of growing giant pumpkins. See, Jill has been growing the giants for a few years and what she described was a wonderful culture of gardening and crazy competition to create these monster pumpkins. I will be furthering my education on the sport, as Circleville hosts one of the country's biggest weigh-ins for the competitive growers.
There will also be TONS of pumpkin pie and other baked goods made from pumpkin. I will be in heaven. I LOVE pumpkin pie! And pumpkin bread. And pumpkin souffle. And....well, you get the idea.
I will be madly making gourds for the next three weeks!