Thursday, November 24, 2011

New Idea For Bauman Stoneware

It's hard to believe that something as opaque as porcelain can actually be translucent. But if thrown delicately it can be, and this luminary proves it . Such was the inspiration for this small lamp/lantern/luminary.

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

Bowl Central

about 1/4 of the bowls of my latest project

The title for this post is "Bowl Central". The subtitle is "When Will He Ever Learn?"

The sub-sub-title is, "Quite Apparently, Never"

"Do you take orders, Mr Bauman?"

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" 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


In past posts I've commented about my (especially initial) misgivings about selling via the internet. My fear has always been the internet's impersonal nature wherein I never meet patrons face to face. Well, it has happened often in the past -- folks have a way of allaying those fears. They contact me with the nicest stories about how my pots fit into their lives -- often accompanied by photos of the pottery in its new home.

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

Thanks, Ruth!

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

JB: Thanks.

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)

I'm really excited to be heading back to the Dillsboro, North Carolina "Western North Carolina Pottery Festival" Saturday, November 5. I'm especially excited because I've just had three of the best firings I've had all year...

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!