Saturday, January 28, 2012

Back to the Weary Grind

A brief rundown of the last month: back to teaching and books; massive studio cleaning, and drying and bisqueing of some of Michael’s work for the February shows while he was away on a trip; the annual post-Christmas head cold, and the descent of said cold into a nice little case of pneumonia- dee-lightful.  On the bright side, it’s been fairly warm, I mixed eight glazes last weekend (and had help sieving them, thanks Deb!) and kicked butt on the January studio to do list...and I’ve gotten some nice pots made too!

Amanda Thatch, one of the out-going Core students said something this Fall that I found interesting: that in all of the Penland classes that she’s taken, she’s always found that the last piece from each class is the one that has the most influence and direction for her.  Since I started making pots again I’ve had that not-so-subconscious thought in my mind- where did this particular class leave me, and what direction will I take after it, particularly through the lens of the last completed pieces I made there.  Before getting to the new pieces I’ll just state two main conclusions that I’ve come to, the second of which is not really a surprise at all, come to think of it, neither are...just a question of acceptance.  1. The things I value most in my (and others’) pots are function, technique and process- I am a fairly practical, quiet, straightforward person with both feet firmly nailed to the floor; when I try a new, trendier, less simple, style of work in trying to be clever, to impress others, then I tend to get bored with it after a few months (see the figure-based pots I was making this last Spring).  The work I keep coming back to (my own, and others’) is simple and loose, but structured and with intent; having graceful lines in the form, and with the bones, the skeleton of the pot, showing through in the throwing lines.  2. I need a soda/wood kiln, or at least a soda kiln...and, since I don’t have one, and won’t for the foreseeable future; I need to find a surface solution that doesn’t blatantly show that I’m grinding my teeth and wishing it was something else.  On that cheerful note, let’s look at some pots!

This is the pot that started the latest batch- one of the sets of auction mugs I made post session at Penland, and soda fired in Julia with Susan Feagin.

This is the first set of pieces that I made back at Boneyard- similar decoration, different forms.  I think the decoration is a little sparse, and some of the vines have an unfortunate resemblance to zippers.

...Now the second set- I tried increasing the coverage of the decorations, and tried coming up with a few different patterns.  Also the scale and shape of the canister lid knob is changing- the new ones are thrown hollow...

 ...and this jar is the latest permutation.

I’m thinking kiwi celadon and some transparent ash recipes for glazes, but I’ll run the plain cups as tests before I do the rest...I also may start thinking about using a brighter white slip (maybe 6-tile or Grolleg) as a base coat for the transparent glazes.

It’s been several months since this blog has seen a recipe, so here’s a seasonally appropriate one that I’ve been sitting on since mid September.

Clam Chowder

¼ pound Bacon
½ cup Shallots, chopped
1 small Yellow Onion, chopped
¼ cup Flour
½-1 tbs Bourbon
1/3 cup Dry Chardonnay
6-8 cups water
½ tsp crushed dried Thyme
3 cups diced Potatoes
10 oz can small or chopped Clams
1 cup raw Ocean Perch filet, chopped
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
(Preferably organic- it tends to be far thicker, and taste better too.)

Fry the bacon until just cooked, then remove, and reserve.  Sauté the shallots and the onion in the bacon fat until transparent and starting to brown.  Add the flour and stir just until well blended, then deglaze the pan; first with the bourbon, then with the chardonnay (don’t put your head over the pan when adding the bourbon- the fumes will knock you flat!), then add the water (more or less depending on how thick you like your chowder), thyme, potatoes, and the juice from the clams (reserve the clams).  Chop the reserved bacon and add to the soup, simmer 8-10 minutes.  Add the ocean perch and continue to simmer until the potatoes are soft.  Stir in the reserved clams, remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the heavy cream just before serving. 

Please note that this tastes best the first day- after that the cream tends to separate on re-heating...perhaps fixable by adding cream only to individual portions just before serving.