Monday, January 26, 2015

Slow and Low, That Is The Tempo

We're back in the studio rocking out to Gen X Radio on Pandora, and making pots. It feels thrilling after a big break for moving in and setting up.

I had the great pleasure of hanging out with Kyle Carpenter and friends in Asheville the other night. We had an interesting conversation about mugs, speed, work practices and our course our tender feelings.

Stepping back.... last Fall, I was fretting how long mugs took me and trying to go faster. I was trying hard to make more and be more efficient. I think I got up to about 4 mugs per hour. That's every step of the process: throwing, adding the handle, refining some edges, slipping, painting underglaze, some carving, the bisque firing, wax and glaze application, glaze firing, drawing the artwork, preparing and applying the image transfers, the final firing, and some final quality checks and sanding.

Hitting four per hour was big improvement for me. I had been averaging about two per hour when we first headed to the hills as full-time potters. I was so focused on getting faster. Then Kyle and I got to talking, and he telling me he is at 2 or 3 and happily trying to slow down. He's reveling in taking it slow and getting pulled into each detail. It was really kind of shocking to hear.

But it shouldn't have been. I mean if you know Kyle's work, you know his stuff is really TIGHT. Meaning very consistent, appealing, and ergonomic. I love how his big tankard feels in my hand.

Thinking about all this I made the effort this while starting a big run of mugs to get the new year off and running. I really relaxed into them and made the effort to slow down. It was great, the mugs got a little taller and straighter, the rims more refined. I was super-focused, obsessing really, about perfecting each handle.

Instead of being a little stressful, it was a lot of fun. And the mugs turned out GREAT!

So I gave Kyle a call to talk about the experience and say thanks and we had a great follow-up conversation. We talked a bit about the flipside of how speed matters too, we are trying to make a living with our art after all. It is an interesting tension between wanting to be relaxed and perfectionist, and the financial pressure of having to get the work made quickly enough that you can keep your prices at a reasonable level.

For now let’s ignore the question of what makes a price “reasonable” as that will be a future fun post.

Anyhow, as an experiment I decided to then alternate between speeding up and slowing down over several iterations in the studio. This was a fantastic experiment and I highly recommend it. The slowing down phases of really intense focus are obviously going to help move the work forward. Then when your comfort level and muscle memory build up a bit, you can safely accelerate and hopefully keep a hold on the quality improvements but be more productive.

The final result of all this: I do think making a conscious effort to go against the grain and force yourself to switch up your pace is incredibly beneficial.

I guess the trick moving forward will be developing a good intuitive sense of when to speed up, and when to dial it back a bit.

So give it a try, and please comment and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Exciting animal news...

News from the animal kingdom....

As an artist who features a lot of animal imagery, it is important for me to keep a close eye on the animal kingdom. Holy shit! What a week for news.

First of all, I became aware of the great Turkey Inflation problem looming. In 1929 the average turkey weighed 13.2 pounds. Today's bird weighs over 30 pounds and there are 250 million of them in America alone. At the current growth rate, turkeys will be as big as people in only 150 years, and larger than the earth itself in just 6,000 years.

I'm sorry vegans, we need your help. Eat more turkey! Don't let this happen to us...

Read it on the Economist - which may make you register, but it is worth it.

As an aside, I love the Economist. It actually is fair and balanced but spends their time on logic and science in current affairs, and not loudly making misleading boasts while making a mockery of fact and rationality. But more on Fox(es) later in this post.

Sometimes the animal news tells us a little about ourselves. Viewers of the recent “Eaten Alive” show were pissed that the reality show star didn't actually get eaten alive. Apparently it would be better if our reality shows stuck to script, and not, errr..... to reality? Never watched one so I can't say.

But as an alien from another planet (such as myself) reporting back on human behavior there is some ridiculous irony in a big hungry snake refusing to eat a species exhibiting such apparently distasteful cognitive dissonance.

Doubt me not, get the story at Washington Post.

Snake doesn't eat man somehow made the headlines. Is there no real news available today?

Moving swiftly into more charming realms, we enter the raging debate about the urban foxes of London. Stop channeling Mike Meyers via imagining Cassandra dancing it up at a London night club. 

Instead... the real problem: the cute little red foxes with the pointy ears that are taking over London. This apparently age-old urban blight has been made worse by the recent illegalization of fox hunting in Britain. There are now more foxes in London than double decker buses!

On one side of the debate we have fox rescue organizations and treatment facilities, with sympathists leaving out food and night time cameras to catch video of these charming furry friends. And on the other side, hired snipers defending the lives of free-range guinea pigs in backyard charming English gardens from these demonic marauders.

It's all true, at least according to the New York Times. Man are people weird.

Well at least them foxes queue up properly.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall 2014 Update

The pots I am currently shipping to my gallery friends are special to me because I started working on those series early in the summer. This was one year after moving to the mountains to give up teaching & curating in Atlanta in order to make work full-time.

I took a break mid-summer to work on some new illustrations and patterns of illustrations at my drawing table. This was really the first attempt at covering pots in patterned illustrations since I switched to earthenware, and I am excited how the first pots turned out.

The new illustrations of instrument players have also been very well received, and I've already started drawing the dancers that obviously must follow them!

During the summer we also had our first vegetable garden and started restoring our pastures, which were important first steps in breathing life into the old farm that we bought and moved to in GreenEville, TN. It was a busy exhausting summer but we have loads of pottery and fresh pickles to show for it!

Here's our pottery and pickles summer of 2014 slide show...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mountain Update

The past few months have been a whirlwhind... we transitioned MudFire to a new management team, moved to the mountains, got busy in our little basement studio for fall shows, started building a new studio building, had bunches of visitors, spent time in Asheville, and.... WENT TO DOLLYWOOD!

We're super-excited to get our new studio setup. Here are a couple in progress shots. You can view more and stay in touch with new additions via the Flickr set.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Big Changes

I'm sorry, my friends, for not posting in so long. Life has taken a major series of turns. It's exciting!

Long and short, my lovely lady Luba and I decided last year it was time for a major change. The glamour and attraction of city life had faded and we had a major hankerin' for some tree time and some serious fixin' to pottery-make. You see already my language is affected.

Speaking of pots, there are two must-see pottery shows in the Southeast this coming weekend. A good distance apart, so we'll let it slide if you just hit one.

We are showing with a huge, gigantic, ultra-mega large group of artists at Fired Works in Macon, Georgia. A quick drive from Atlanta. Did we mention there are a lot of artists?

Also, we were tickled pink to be invited to show with a group of our pottery heroes up in North Carolina at the Madison County Potters Market. We were actually tickled bright red, a deep purple, a glowing orange and every other kind of tickled. This is a top notch group and we're a little overwhelmed to be included.

Madison County Potters Market

OK, back to changes. Basically, we lined up an awesome group of conspirators to take the reins at MudFire, allowing us to head north into the hills real soon. We are confident that MudFire is on a newly re-energized path to even more mega-awesomeness. And we have some big plans for the future to fine tune this year.

In the meantime we'll be making pots and growing food (sans-Monsanto) up in Appalachia. Note field. Note tractor. Here we come.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Please Help

I'm excited to be participating in a breast cancer fundraiser called Barbells for Boobs thru CrossFit East Decatur next door. I hope you can help support my fundraising goal by donating at...

Together we can save lives by helping provide mammograms and other cancer screening services for the low income and underinsured. Thank you for your support!

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Image Gallery

I'm just back from several months of field research, and happy to be back on my home planet. After years of quietly observing the Critter Pack on planet Snacklandia, I have finally made inroads and begun to earn there trust. They are beginning to reveal information about the flora and fauna of their settlements and allowing me brief glimpses of their social interactions.

I have documented this information on a series of new pots, with samples viewable as a gallery on my artist website. MudFire will be having an online sale in September too, you can stay tuned for news there via the quick signup form.

This new work will also be available at FRANK, Crimson Laurel, MudFire, YoungBlood, the Perspectives pottery sale in Watkinsville, and shows at Cedar Creek Gallery and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. I also had a cup juried by Pete Pinnell into the upcoming cup show at the University of Missouri. Busy summer!