Friday, May 22, 2015

Winter, Spring, Studio Tour

So glad that winter is over!  My friend Suzanne was up at the School this spring for the 8-week class with Cynthia Bringle, and her constant refrain was "I want Snow!  Where's the snow?!"  Maybe it's the residual trauma from the frozen wood kiln building class of spring 2013...people in Charlotte must lead deprived lives!  I'm from Illinois where a winter storm usually involves 1/2 inch of ice, followed by between 4-12 inches of snow, and then 24 hours of 30-40 mph winds...but road conditions that wouldn't make me blink back home become show stoppers here when you add hills to the equation! 

Fortunately this winter I was holed up in the Penland Clay studio, first doing the Winter Woodfire Residency, where 6 of us fired the wood kiln off over 5 days (beautiful pots, but yet another reminder that I don't have the endurance for multi-day firings!), and then making 500 mugs for the Penland 2015 Benefit Auction.  The mugs were a slightly insane educational 8-week sprint, but I'm happy with the results.

Firing the mugs had me falling in love all over again with that part of the process- golly I've missed venturi burners!  I always think of firing as though the kiln is like a musical instrument: if you know how to play the multitude of variables available at your fingertips, you can coax all manner of subtlety and variety of tone from the kiln.  The person I have to thank for introducing me to the idea of having a passion for firing in particular, and for teaching me a lot of the nuances of firing, was Tracy Dotson, who passed away recently.  Tracy was a potter, but I think even more so a builder and firer of kilns...and his enthusiasm was contagious.  I had the good fortune to fire a kiln with him during a Penland class some years ago, when I was just starting to learn to fire.  It was just the two of us out on the kiln pad, and he spent the afternoon talking and showing me through every little detail of how to adjust all the variables involved, and different ways to read what was going on in the kiln.  The technical knowledge was a wonderful gift, but just as important was his passion for firing.  Tracy once told me that after he unloaded a firing, he liked to climb into the kiln and sit inside for a while, soaking in the warmth left in the kiln from the firing. 

Right now I'm finishing up work for the May firing with Gay Smith- by the time I leave the studio Sunday everything has to be glazed, wadded and ready to go in the kiln!  The work from this firing is for the June Toe River Arts Council Studio Tour which is coming up on June 5-7th.  I will be showing again at Gay's studio at 1529 Cane Creek Road, in Bakersville NC. The weather up here is lovely and warm now, and the mountain laurel and rhododendron are blooming, so hopefully a lot of people will come out for the Tour.

FYI, the TRAC tour hours are 12-4 on Friday, and 10-5 on Saturday and Sunday, with a reception at the TRAC Gallery on Upper Street (269 Oak Ave.) in Spruce Pine on Friday from 5-7pm

You can find more information about the tour at

Auction Mugs- I particularly liked the shot below on the part of the Craft House porch
 where Penland gets its logo from.

 Work in progress for the the upcoming firing, with Tristan the Corgi, my four-legged decorating and advisory/supervisory staff, with his friend and visiting nap specialist Ruff.

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