Who said a high sodium diet is bad?

When firing a salt glaze kiln, what one needs is salt, salt, salt!

My friend Beth Mohr, who I’ve mentioned before, built a salt kiln a few years ago and luckily, for me, lives very close; close enough to haul pots over for a good dosing of the salty stuff.  She was kind enough to let me put quite a few pieces in this time, so I could really test different clays and decorating techniques.   If you follow my work, you know I am very taken by early American wares.  I was shooting for a nice blue cobalt on white look, but what I got was a beautiful mocha and caramel blush look with dark blue cobalt decoration.  We were very happy with the way the kiln fired, even though we were not trying to reduce it much, it must have been in a mild reduction for a good while.   But if you read my post on  “No Expectations” you would know that I am not dissapointed in the least!!


I will have these pieces and more at the Indiana Artisan Marketplace, in Indianapolis next weekend.




So, come by and visit, Booth #311, bring a bag of kettle chips, and we can exchange stories of high sodium diets.

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Coming Attraction (Hoosier Fun and Yum)

Indiana’s Premier Art and Food Experience will be happening at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis on Saturday March 31, and Sunday April 1.  10-6pm and 10-5pm respectively.    If you come, please stop by and visit, I will be in Booth #311.  For more info,   IndianaArtisan.org


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Snake handling

If you don’t know me, I feel obligated to tell you I am a folk potter.  I enjoy using my hands as tools, taking clay, and throwing it into pots or molding the clay into things to stick on pots.    So you may have seen pots of mine with snakes on them.   “Oooh, yuk!”, you may say.    “Oooh, Aah”,  I say.    Don’t get me wrong; I don’t particularly like snakes, but I don’t dislike them either.  They, like all things, serve a purpose on this planet; and to me, in this part of Indiana,  it means blacksnakes around the barn and chicken house, which means less mice. (and sometimes eggs)     I also enjoy historic pottery, which brings us to why I make the snake jugs.   Symbolically, they are to remind one that the whiskey in the jug is good for medicinal purposes, but if abused, it will bite!   Good advice indeed!   Hast thou been bitten??  Well, I thought it might be fun to show the steps in bringing one of these to life.    First, one needs a freshly thrown jug that can be put aside for a few hours until it hardens up a bit.

There is a timing aspect at this point because the clay on the jug has to be moist enough to apply the snake, but not too wet so when the snake is pushed on, it won’t deform the jug.    OK.   Now one needs a snake.   Oooh, yuk!  No, No , No, not a real snake.  I said I was a folk potter, not a crazy potter.


I know it doesn’t look like  a snake, well kind of; but the idea is to roll out a coil of clay in the shape of a tube.  In this case,  about five feet long.   The next thing is to start the modeling process where the head is shaped and the scales are incised one by one.  Yes, I said one by one and there are hundreds on the average snake.  (although I’ve never really counted)   For this particular jug, I want to make the head appear to go into the jug and then reappear as the pouring spout of the jug.  Pretty cool, huh!?   So, if you’re squeamish, skip down a few lines.   The snake doesn’t really go through the whole jug, it just looks like it does so I have to cut the head off…   Oooh, yuk !

Now that we have a snake that won’t give us any problems,  I can confidently handle him, wrapping him around the jug, making a handle with his body and finishing up somewhere lower on the jug with a little bit of relief.  I can only imagine if someone was looking through the window of the studio when I was doing this, they might just rush in to save my life.  (or run away screaming like a little girl)  This is why snake handling is not for the faint of heart.

OK.  So now the snake is contained, the snake has been reattached to  it’s head.   (ok just pretend)   Then I pretty up the head by giving it fangs, which every symbolic, whiskey scaring rattlesnake should have, and color its eyes with black slip.   The snake is now ready to be a righteous snake and save you from the depths of falling into the jug.   Well, not quite, first he has to be fired at 2345 degrees and go through the depths of a fiery kiln in order to save you.  But he does,  Oooh, Yay!



Here is the snake getting ready for his firing.






So, remember, all snakes are not bad, and all serve some purpose.  When you see the snake jugs I make, think of the good that is actually the intent and a little less of the…   Ooooh, Yuk!



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Darwinism, part deux

Last March I talked a little about how pieces evolve around the studio and am always excited when someone challenges me to make something in a way I have not done before.

“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”  Confucius

So, recognizing I am not the wisest of men, nor the stupidest,  (although there was that groundhog incident; which is a story for another day)  I figure changing what I make, or adding to a form I have been used to, will lead me down a path of enlightenment.  Or, it just might be fun! 

 Case in point:

The storage jar in the middle, with the fun little singing black bird on top was inspired by a jar I saw in the American Folk Art Museum.   The sgraffito design and the bird finial are different, but what was unusual is the angled sides of the storage jar and how thick the sides were which allowed for deep carving.   Well,  I had this at an 18th c. market event and was asked if I could make a lamp in this style.    The result was a really striking lamp with great character, form and function.  It’s fun to look at too!  


As seen on the lamp, the black diamond pattern that encircles what would be a lid, becomes a focal point.    I have done this pattern before and it truly catches the eye with it’s contrast.    So from this lamp, the design is now asked to be made smaller in the form of a sugar bowl.



One can see in the background a plate that carries this pattern around the rim, but the sweet little piece in front is the piece that people want to pick up and touch when they see it.  Perhaps it’s the bulging little belly, maybe it’s just how right it fits in one’s palm.  I’m not sure what it is but it is cute and has already been done several ways in recent kilns.

So to sum this up, I can only say that I am glad not to be the wisest of men, nor the stupidest, because change seems to enlighten me when I am in the studio.  (as far as the groundhog story, you’ll have to ask Ruth.)

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The word on redware

Early American redware is a tad peculiar when it comes to tableware; potters felt the need to say something, and say it on their wares they did!  Was it social commentary?  Was it useful?   Was it humorous?  Was it based in a need to remind oneself of religious faith?          Yes!      Yes!     Yes!     and     Yes!

This month, I have put together a small exhibit at The Alexandrian Public Library in Mt. Vernon Indiana that has some examples of redware with words.       

One of my favorites;  “Sing, pray, and go on God’s way.  Perform what thou has to do faithfully.”

How about, ” To love and to be loved is the greatest joy on Earth.”      or    

“Everyone says I have such a beautiful wife.”  

 In my research, I have come across some great pearls of wisdom expressed in very few words.   I have also found some bawdy plates that make me wonder what on Earth was going on with that potter!  (all of the phrases I use on my plates are family friendly)   And then I find some that are in German where something definitely gets lost in the translation.   Nonetheless, the words on redware are always interesting and make me pause and try to connect with the potter of the period.     If you would like your word on redware, I can do that;  and we’ll make  people two hundred years from now wonder, what on Earth was on that potter’s mind!

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Unto us a Child is born










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      We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

I want to thank everyone who came out to the Open House this past weekend and to all of the other artists who were on our “Over the River and Through the Woods” studio tour.   I have met so many nice people through the making of pottery that I can honestly say it is one of my life’s greatest treasures.  It is hard to explain how making items from clay from the Earth can be such a satisfying life venture.   It is the time of year for reflection, and without getting too mushy, I must say that I sincerely appreciate all of my customers,  and think with joy about all of those people who will be receiving gifts from my hands this Christmas.   I do not take for granted that the gift of passion has come from above.  As I put on one of my plates, “The hands of God mold the clay that is us.”   Amen.

As with gladness men of old,

Did the guiding star behold,

As with joy they hailed it’s light.

 Leading onward, beaming bright.

So most gracious Lord, may we evermore be led by thee.

As with Gladness Men of Old by Conrad Kocher & William Dix


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Seeing Red

Seeing red is truly an emotional experience.  Not the anger emotion, but an ‘emotional bucket’ of sadness, awe, wonder and anxiety.  Do I like seeing red?   The fact that I make redware pottery for a living is all you need to know to answer that.  November brings on the reds that trigger the ‘emotional bucket'; so I thought I would share some of the red sightings around the pottery before the wind blows the red away.     The first image is the beautiful cock’s comb, covering the garden with its’ late Fall splendor.

This is a volunteer burning bush that we moved several years ago that brings us great joy in the Fall.  Placed by the split rail fence, the contrast of the gray rails and the bare trees in the woods is truly striking.

Just a few months ago, this beautiful dried hydrangea flower was as blue as the sky.  Now its dark red petals turn our otherwise drab little brooder house into a colorful canvas.
Even though the tomatoes are green this time of year, the Swiss chard is putting on its’ show for us in the vegetable garden.
When the sun is setting, the bright red stems are a treat for the eye, and soon will become a treat for the palate!
Even the Head Gardener at the Bee Tree Pottery Estate is decked out in red.  Coincidence?  I think not.  It’s because she works so hard doing Fall cleanup that if she passes out from exhaustion, I can find her easier.  (It’s like painting the handle of your favorite garden trowel red.) 
And last but not least, I will leave you with the last of the leaves on the Sumac, a true sight for sore eyes.
So there you go.  Seeing red was not as bad as you thought it was going to be.
I’m glad you stuck around to view these before we’re all seeing white, which brings on a whole different bucket of emotions!

Lots of new redware in the studio also.  Come and visit, maybe do a little Christmas shopping.  Gift certificates are also available in case you’d like to surprise someone but not sure what they would like, or may already have.  Lots of red;  Guaranteed!

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This little light of mine

Forget the lights of Vegas, Broadway and The Riviera.  What stirs my soul is the warmth of one little candle, casting its warmth across the table,  rays being filtered through my pinot noir, dancing on my delectable victuals as if to say, “Enjoy my presence, I am here for your pleasure.”  And pleasure it is to dine by candlelight.  Why is that?  Is it a reflex of comfort relating to fire, born thousands of years ago in my cave man genes?  Who knows, but to me, there is nothing more comforting than that one little light.

This little light pictured is sitting in a redware candleholder, that has black slip covering it and yellow slip trailed accents.  Is it hard to see?   Yes.  But the beauty of low light lets your eyes adjust in such a way that one begins to focus and see; I mean really see!  Maybe that’s what is so intriguing about it, it commands that we focus on what we’re really looking at, forcing us to see more than if it was lit by bright halogen lights, and may I say, much warmer and comforting to the eye.

So, this little light of mine shines bright enough for me; let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

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Holy Bowly!

I know that doesn’t even really make sense; not like Holy Moly, Holy Toledo or Holy Cow, but it is fun to say and actually makes a good title for this post.   You may ask, what good is a bowl with a hole, anyway? Not much I say, if it’s just one hole; but what about 186 holes?  Holy Bowly!  

With that many holes, it has to be good for something; and it was!  This hole lined bowl with this style rim could easily be placed on another bowl to separate curds from whey, or strain away any water from your freshly washed veggies.  This piece was inspired by one in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The bowl has black clay banding and yellow slip trailed around the rim.  And yes, the holes were all made by hand, one hole at a time.  Holy Moly!  But wait, there’s more holes in this story.  (somehow that didn’t come out right)  In the same time period, early 19th c. , the women of the kitchen space were also using berry bowls or , deeper colanders to wash or temporarily store their berries.    This piece too was inspired from the collection at PMoA.  And what I think is cool, 256  holes!  Holy Cow!  Yes, each hole is punched while it is still green, then cleaned out, then brushed, then cleaned again, then brushed again, and then all is reversed from the inside out.  Making holes is hard work.  I’m so proud of my holes I took a close up so you can see the holes, or not see the holes.  I’m not sure which is correct?

So, I can’t think of anything else to say; I guess you now know the whole story; but I did take one other image of the strainer that I thought was really cool.  Well it’s really just the shadow of itself.



Holy Toledo!  Is that cool or what?!


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