Friday, April 29, 2011

The Law Of Averages

There was this guy, pretty much nondescript in every way you could imagine -- average height, average weight, average build. But the one thing this guy could do that WAS extraordinary was to summon up the dead and, by this supernatural act, tell you exactly what was used to paint on a canvas or paper -- oils, watercolors, pastels, charcoal.

He was a medium medium medium.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Dandelions are dangerous
Dandelions don’t need gardeners
Dandelions are artists
They ignore all the boundaries in the yard
Flower beds? They’re in them and they’re out of them
Wreaking their insomniac havoc all about.

The crafted and groomed watch jealously
From their straight rows and their well planned lives.
And they can see who is having the fun
Painting dada smiley faces on daVinci lawns

The other flowers are not stupid
Just stationary
And, sheltered as they are
They know who’s been around.
Growing zones?
Don’t make me laugh

The other flowers are not stupid
They just have the plastic left on their couches
They have their “Do Not Touch” signs
Displayed in their careful elegance

Meanwhile the children make chains with yellowed fingers
Meanwhile the children test to see if they like butter
And the crafted and groomed look on
And wish they’d come up with that simple idea first.

Dandelions are artists.
With their outrageous style
And a bright yellow Tina Turner hair-do
With outrageous opulence that doesn’t spare a Springtime acre
Subtlety be damned.

Dandelions are dangerous
Dandelions have no need for gardeners
Dandelions are artists.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In The Morning

...light shining in the window lets me know everything's alright...

I expanded this piece out a bit more. I'll probably take one more go at it, taper the base and faux-foot it later today.

Meanwhile, big doin's at the Bauman Pottery. Breeze turns 4 years old today!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Getting Stuff Done

Dealing with bad clay has made me timid about making my larger pieces so far this year. I think I've finally got the clay issue ironed out, so I'm leaping (with a bit of faith and my fingers crossed) into some bigger pieces.

The image above is the pre-expanded stage of what I've expanded a little in the next image. Tomorrow I'll finish pushing it.

On the table with the larger piece are a few of the larger bowls I threw this morning. In the distance (on the ware cart beside the wheel) are 14 teapots I just finished.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Potters Are The Nicest People

Ever noticed that "nicest" is one of those words that doesn't look like a word? I always have to check my spelling when I type "nicest". Anyway, potters seem to be the nicest folks in the world -- thoughtful, generous, intelligent, inquisitive, and incredibly good looking too. I've given it some thought and I've concluded that we potters are edging our way down the evolutionary path toward becoming a new species. We'll probably still choose to live within earshot of homo sapiens, though. They're not as evolved as we are, but they are, nonetheless, entertaining. And they seem to like our pots.

Anyway, I bring this up -- the part about potters being kind and generous -- to say that while I was down in Chattanooga last weekend, Ron and Susan Sutterer drove six hours -- all the way from Floyd, VA -- to meet me and see the pottery (and, of course, the other potters at the 4 Bridges Art Festival). And, knowing that she may just be my favorite potter in the world, they stopped by their neighbor, Ellen Shankin's place, and bought one of her mugs (in the picture) to bring to me as a gift.

Earlier this year, Ron sent me a video he'd taken while walking the streets of Floyd on a Friday evening. There was music being played on every street corner and every bar. It looked like such fun -- I can't wait to make a trip down there. I'll bring my guitar and mandolin.

Ron and Susan are also terrific potters. Here are a couple of their pieces:

Today I'll be working on the couple dozen pie/baking dishes I made yesterday (you can also see them on the cart behind the picture of me holding the Ellen Shankin mug.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


“Here, take it”

“What is it?”, I said

“It's a pencil. Take it”

“What do you want me to do with it?”

“Draw on the paper in front of you, there”

“But I don’t draw. I can’t even draw a straight line”

“Then don’t draw a straight line. A straight line represents the narrowest of marking options you could ever choose. A straight line is a straight line. Every other mark is something else. Every other mark is everything else.”

“What if I don’t like what I draw?”

“You won’t be the first one to have drawn something you don’t like. The sun will still come up tomorrow.

But it also doesn’t have to be the last thing or the only thing you draw. If, by some strange circumstance, you draw a thing of stunning beauty your first time out, the same sun will come up over the same horizon each day.

Maybe someone will see your drawing and love it as much as you do. Maybe a million people will see your drawing and love it. But the sun will come up and the sun will go down and after enough times of this rising and setting, everyone who loved your drawing, including you, will forget about the drawing.

You’ll move on. You can start over. One breath doesn’t last a lifetime. One meal doesn’t last a lifetime. There’s more paper. If you don’t like what you did the first time, do something different the second time.

If you don’t like what you did the second time, do something different the third time.

If you don’t like what you did the third time, do something different the fourth time.

Draw close-to-a-straight-line or close-to-a-circle or close-to-a-square or close-to-nothing-at-all-in-particular. Put the pencil lead to the paper and move it. Move it around. Move it about. Don’t lift it up. Shift it. Slide it. Put it on its edge.

Balance your lines on the very finest point of the pencil. Don’t erase. Or erase. Wet your thumb and smudge your not-straight lines and make them not-lines.

Make a not-so-round circle and fill it up with not-so-square boxes. Make symbols and then modify them. Checks, tic-tac-toes, letters. Write non-words with imaginary letters. Stick some light in some shadows and block out some bright spots.

Nobody’s watching. But the world is waiting. Oh, it doesn’t know it is. It doesn’t suppose that way. It’s simply diminished by any lack of a single blade of grass in a meadow or a single leaf in a forest of trees or lack of a pencil drawn across a blank page. It doesn’t hold its breath. But it’s waiting nonetheless.

It’s what we do. It’s how we fill it. Pencils. Paper. Imaginations. Creations."

Getting Off The Dime

I just got in from Chattanooga where I participated in the 4 Bridges Art Festival. I saw some very inspirational clay work there -- Shadow May, Shirl & Jim Parmentier, Andy Smith, and Larry Spears, to name a few of the best. I also met a blog reader or two, and had some time away from the studio to do some thinking.

This youtube seems to be making the rounds of the internet of creative people. Mostly folks who don't need the message seem to be the ones inspired by it, but it's sparked some interesting discussion nonetheless.

I was at first inclined to bristle at the oversimplification behind video's thesis. I think I was mistakenly reading into it that all that was needed to make great work was to get off the dime and get started. Upon further reflection, I don't think that's the idea.

Because he introduced the subject by much repetition of the word "great" (great works to make great impressions on great people), what the writer seemed to be referring to was a specific dime on which he was encouraging the reader (or listener) to "get off" -- the dime of expectations too high. And I know what he means. I think. I think that especially people my age have life experiences -- and, maybe more importantly, tastes -- that intimidate them from even attempting creative endeavors.

It is a concept long referred to as "Sacrificing 'good' at the altar of 'best' " -- the crippling notion that unless one can achieve some standard of excellent, one won't even try for good.

I think that's one reason why, though I dabble in music, I don't write lyrics. My standard -- acquired by voracious listening to the best writers EVER (coupled with the number of times I've cringed at the amateur lyrics to which I've been over-exposed) -- intimidates me from even attempting to write lyrics. I can't get it out of my head that what I write should measure up to the standard exhibited by the music to which I listen.

But what I further take from the writer's charge is that if we DO just get off that dime, we will MOST LIKELY be naturally channeled to the next important step in creative endeavors -- problem solving.

In other words, if we never start, we never advance to solving the problems we create for ourselves by our first clumsy attempts. BUT.....if we do but start, we USUALLY find pleasure in the creativity, and that inspires us to move onward. As we solve the problems we create for ourselves by just DOING, we then tend to grow exponentially.

And, okay, sometimes we fall flat. But sometimes, though we don't meet our initial expectations, we do find:

1. A more educated way of looking at what once were our expectations, and we now judge those expectations through the eyes of experience.
2. New expectations and the surprising realization of just how much sidewalk there is between the gate of what we thought we knew, and the door of knowing.

Monday, April 11, 2011


HK? --I don't know where my mom picked that up. I smile just remembering her saying it. I doubt my mom coined the funny little acronym, but I've never heard anyone else use it. "HK?" -- said with a li'l shrug of the shoulders ..... "Who Cares?"

Anyway, Carter asked (in response to my last post) if the folks who buy my pottery really care about my obsession with surface and detail -- do they even notice? Or do I merely make what I like, and hope someone comes along for the ride?

Well, if John ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Really. It's such a phenomenon that I've heard it over and over again in discussions among fellow potters at art fairs: When we've got stuff we really, really like -- work we're really excited about -- we emit clayomones that attract people like crazy.

And people gravitate right to the work we're proudest of. I'd call it magic if I wasn't so given to scientific explanations and stuff.

But beyond that, I aim for a "timeless" quality to my work. Whether or not I achieve it is beside the point, but as it is my goal, it implies a few things:

1. Work that cannot be easily dated -- doesn't immediately imply the date of its creation. And for this reason, though it may not be the hottest ticket in town, nevertheless, it will play forever. Some songs are that way. They sound like they were written anywhen and you can live with them anytime.

2. Timelessness at its best means work that will continue to surprise and delight LONG after being first introduced. THAT requires depth, detail, or something that will hang around after first impressions have been long forgotten.

So, yes, I suppose the detail is all about delighting me first. If I'm delighted, it's been my experience that others will be similarly delighted. They may not verbalize what it is exactly about the work that appeals to them, but they always gravitate toward the things that are most successful in the way I intend them to be.