Monday, September 17, 2012

An Open Studios Welcome

The 27th Anniversary Open Studios Art Tour begins on October. My studio will be open on two weekends, North County weekend October 13 & 14 and the Encore weekend October 20& 21 11 am. to 5 p.m. If you are finding my Blog from the Open Studios calendar or one of my postcards, I would like to extend a special welcome. Also, I wanted to offer more detailed directions to my studio as the ones in the calendar are not complete. Please see the driving directions below for more help.

I encourage you to read some of my earlier posts as well as viewing some of my recent work. With this tour there is always a special emphasis on the studio. I think you will find my studio quite special and you will see why it has such an impact on my work. If you have any questions regarding Open Studios days, directions to my studio or about my work, please feel free to contact me at
If you are local to the area and have not purchased a calendar, I highly encourage you to do so. The proceeds from calendar sales helps to fund this program. It will also give you visibility to some talented artist and beautiful work. Please refer to the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz's website for more information.

Directions to my studio:
Take Highway 17 to the Scotts Valley Granite Creek exit. This is the most northern of the two interchanges. Regardless of the direction you are traveling on Hwy 17 the exit will put you on Scotts Valley Drive. There will be signs at these intersections directing you to Glenwood Drive. On Glenwood you will pass the High School and Bean Creek Road before reaching Weston Road. There will be plenty of signs to insure you arrive without any wrong turns. Once on Weston Road, enjoy the drive, It is a private, scenic and curvy road. There will be additional signs along Weston Road that will direct you to Ohlone Trail. An easy right onto Ohlone and you are just a couple hundred yards from my studio. There are two areas for parking. These will bewell marked. Park your car and enjoy a quick stroll to my Gallery under the Redwoods. After a little relaxing and looking at my work, you may want to tour the studio. There are two ways to get to the studio, aptly named Hillside Pottery. One, if you feel up to a short walk you can take the path through the Redwood grove behind our home and arrive at the studio in a short order. Or, if you do not feel comfortable walking up the hill, we have a small 4 wheel drive golf cart type vehicle to shuttle you up. Either way, I know you will enjoy the surroundings and seeing a working pottery studio.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

At work in the studio

I am very fortunate to have a wonderful and large studio. It is located in a grove of Redwoods on the hill behind my home. So the name Hillside Pottery was adopted for the business. Access to the studio requires a little energy to walk a great path up a hill and through trees A beautiful path but it does require good shoes.

Maybe a little catch up is in order. My earlier post shows the construction process, but left us with an empty building. I spent the year after that adding lights, building workbenches, seating and wedging tables. Most of the wood came from trees on our property. It feels good using these tables because the trees had to be taken out as they were a risk to our home due to some disease. So, they do continue to live as part of my studio and play a big part in the creation of my work.

Pictured here are a couple ware carts of bisqued items. To give you an idea of how many pieces it take to fill my kiln, I need to have three of the carts full to have a complete kiln load. The loadable space is 38 cu. ft. Prior to retirement it would take me several months to make enough pots to fill the kiln. So, I have only been able to fire the kiln about eight times since it was built. Most people would agree that it takes many more firing than this to learn your kiln. Every kiln has a personality. Even when built from the same plans with the same burners. In fact just the difference in loading can change the firing characteristics. I hope to have more firings a year now that I am devoting more time to my work and the business. In the picture below you can see several large vases in various stages of completion. The larger kiln also give me the freedom to fire larger pieces. This also helps to fill the kiln faster. And, it also changes the way the kiln fires as large pieces make for a much less dense load, less pieces, less kiln furniture.

In my next post I will show some finished work and write about what I was attempting to accomplish with the approach and methods.

A Long Absence

Well if you look at the dates of my previous posts you will notice it has been some time since I have posted to my blog. Well a life change has happened and I am now able to start having a more active web presence. Last September I was offered an early retirement package and so here I am a retired high tech worker beginning his career as a starving artist. OK, I do have enough to eat and enough time to devote to my pottery and sculpture. Also, I applied and was accepted to the Santa Cruz Open Studios tour. The use of a blog now plays a important part in having a face with the local community. So, I will be relearning how to type and start posting some of my activities and some pictures of my work. If you have not met me I would recommend you read the earlier posts on the building my studio and kiln. This will help you to understand a bit about me and how I arrived at this point in my life. Watch for more postings. I look forward to hearing from you if you have questions or comments. My next postings will be about the studio today and some of my current work.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Building of the Kiln

It was time for a bigger kiln. Do I buy one or, I could build one myself. Lot's of people do it right. OK, where do we start. I have the site. Since I built a metal building. Building it inside solved the issues of site preparation and a roof. So, what's next. What kind of design, how large, soft brick, hard, fiber, arch or flat top, burner configuration, car kiln, Wow.

So, after hours of web surfing I came upon some pictures of a workshop given by Nils Lou building a Minnesota flattop (MFT). A few more hours on Clayart and I had made a decision, the MFT. The web site provided a lot of pictures but no design. So, I started counting bricks and came up with a reasonable design. That is after converting the brick count into multiples of 9 inches and 4 1/2 sideways. It did take a while but I came up with some drawings and material sheets and got out the credit card. Do you know how much it cost to ship 8,000 pounds of brick? So, I looked for a plan B. After many hours of investigation, I found I could ship the brick from China to California cheaper than from the mid-West. So, I became and importer. Interesting.

Brick delivered, metal ordered and picked up, burners selected, and a friend cornered to do the welding, I started the journey. The cart built after a few mistakes (nothing an angle grinder can't fix) I started laying out the kiln. The pictures from Nils workshop were invaluable. Cinder blocks down and the cart and track fastened, I started laying bricks.

The base is constructed of hard brick on the cinder block foundation. The cart seals by using a wedge layout of soft brick. The wedge widening towards the front of the cart, (The front is where the door is), creates a reasonable air tight seal as you push it into the base of the kiln.

The next courses of hard brick are laid. Notice the hard brick portion of the wedge that is part of the kiln floor. The soft brick slides up against this with the cart pushed in. The first two course of soft brick for the door have been laid on the front the of cart. The door was not completed until the roof is finished.

Once the burner ports and flue are formed using hard brick, we begin laying the soft brick walls. This portion of the constructions goes quite quickly.

Construction of the roof is one of the most labor intensive steps. I put out the call for help to a large group of pottery friends I am very lucky to have. I admit it most likely could have been done better and more efficiently. But this was my first time and I gave it my best shot. A plywood platform is constructed and supported inside the kiln. With the support in place and the crew on site we began placing soft brick in place. This roof is the one place where mortar was used on the top half of the brick. This provides additional support for the bricks in the center. The metal brackets and threaded rod create tension which hold the bricks in place. The soft brick is very rough and you can lift about 5 or 6 of them stacked side by side by pressing on the outside. Like this: o|||||||o . So the metal roof tension brackets can hold up a lot of brick across an unsupported space of over 40 inches. So with the bricks/mortar dry and the tension set, you can remove the roof support. I definitely had my fingers crossed during this step. It held :-)

Home Stretch. Build the door and we have a kiln. Well there are a few more details; corner supports, burner stands, gas lines, thermocouples, stack, damper, shelves, posts. Well you get the idea. I should mention now that I am somewhat at the end. You should size your kiln interior based on standard shelf sizes. This will save you a good amount of money. As you will have spent a large amount of it by now.

This was a labor of love. At this time I have only done one bisque and one glaze firing. Both went reasonable well. It takes a while to learn a kiln. I figure after about 20 firings I should have some idea how to fire the new kiln. I have also found it takes a bit longer to fill a 38 cu. ft. kiln versus the my old 10 cu. ft. kiln. I will post later on my learning progress. I would be happy to discuss my experience with building the kiln. There are at least thousand things not in the posting. That would be a book wouldn't it?

Ok, now what else do I need to build for the studio. Time for a beer.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Studio Construction

Never being one to shy away from a challenge, even when encourage to do so, I constructed my own studio. I live on 5 acres in the Santa Cruz mountains in central California. So, the first challenge was to find a flat area large enough for the building. There wasn't one. So, in comes the bulldozer. My wife was smart enough to discourage me from renting one. I contracted with a local excavator that had cut many of the roads in the area for logging. When a workable site was located the bulldozer went to work cutting a road to a site behind our house and up the hill. The road ended up being a little steep. But, the site and view is great.

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The site was ready and again my wife suggested I might want to subcontract the concrete work. The contractor was a great idea. Within a couple days he was ready to pour. The concrete trucks could not drive to the site and a pumper was required to move the concrete up the hill. It was quite the production. I'll admit there is no way I could have pulled this off on my own.

Now time for the building. I chose to go with a steel building for a number of reasons. One being that I could have a kiln inside and not have to worry about fire. It also turned out to be cost effective.

So, with the slab done, shipment of the building was requested. The deliver day was quite hectic. But, that is another very long story. Because of the location of the site, the building materials could not be initially delivered to the site. Using a 4 wheel drive pickup, we (the wife and I) transported all the steel to the site and were ready to begin erection of the building. I have several adventurous friends that I hooked into providing grunt labor. After just one day the structural steel was up.

Now began the very long process of putting up the walls and roof. Since I was only working weekends and a few spare hours during the day when I could get away from my day job, this next phase of the building took a couple months.

But it did finally get built.

And now of course you need some work spaces and benches. A couple years ago we had a couple very large Douglas Fir trees taken out and I milled them by hand knowing I could always use the wood. I know you are saying "This guy is nuts".
I will admit it seems that way sometimes. Even to me. Using the previously milled wood I built several benches for working, glaze materials and mixing. I also built seats and a work area for my wheels. I had use this set up a couple years ago while in Japan studying.

After many months of work I had a great work space with more room than I have every had. So, now it was time to build the kiln. But that is another story.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Artist Statement

I am drawn to clay because of the tactical and visual elements. I love the process as well as the surprises. Taking elements that occur quite naturally in nature and forming and creating something that is functional and visually appealing is a wonderful experience. Glazes and firing provide an endless opportunity to interact with the natural processes to create beautiful surfaces. The simplicity, the complexities and the unexpected are exciting. Glaze development is my passion and nature my inspiration.

Nature has created some of the most beautiful works of art in the universe. It happens somewhat by chance under a set of principles, properties, or rules. Somewhat intentional and somewhat luck. A snowflake, ordered by the laws of crystalline structures in ice, and the beauty, the result of it's random structure. A gas nebula in space, ordered by the laws of gravity, rotation, and creation is virtually random.

The right situation and events need to be in place. So, this is where I like to believe I fit in. Glazes offer a way to interact with nature and collaboratively create beautiful surfaces. I enjoy putting together a situation under a set of guiding principles (glaze limits) and seeing what order and chance create. My ongoing quest is to learn more about the rules that govern these processes. In this collaboration, I put the ingredients in place and at some point relinquish control of the process to the firing. Sometimes very loosely and sometimes with much abandon. The results can be intricate patterns, unusual textures and vibrant colors. Always surprising and sometimes beautiful.

My forms I see as another element of surface exploration. Different shapes and surfaces can affect how a glaze develops. The process of forming clay shapes is also quite fascinating. You must balance the working characteristics of the clay with the forces of gravity, surface friction and centrifugal force. I find the process meditative, interesting and sometime frustrating. But, when you find yourself in harmony with the rules of nature, Or in the right spot at the right time, and just a little lucky, beautiful things can happen.