The Seduction of the functional arts is the possibility of overlaying the familiar with a sense of wonder…

I feel no need to apologize for being a functional artist. For decades, I believed that I was a more complete person when I was serving others in some way. Creating objects felt like the most natural way I could do just that. The fact that the things I made had identifiable value because of it’s usefulness, let me feel like I had value too. It’s a comfortable feeling and I still feel this way most of the time. It may be just something that’s in my own head, but I know that I’m not alone in this thinking. Outwardly, making objects that are beautiful for beauty’s sake is an activity that helps lift the spirts of others by giving people something beautiful to discover for themselves. Inwardly, it’s an activity that allows me to discover the beauty and wonder within myself. 

Isn’t this the purpose of art?

Scraping the Surface

A bit of the ol’ before and after shots. 

This came out from a shelf near the bottom of the Cobb Mountain wood/gas soda kiln. The surface was pretty much completely obscured by mysterious what-not. The only surface treatment given to the exterior was a helmer/soda ash wash that was brushed on. Works handled identically that were placed in other points in the kiln came out much differently.


A little elbow grease put into diamond pad sanding managed to lightened up the surface to a point of readability and softened the surface even more to the touch.
Thinking that this alone isn’t enough though. One more trip through the kiln to add a highlight or two. Until then it’ll just get put on the working wall in the studio and it’ll land where it lands when it’s time.

Know These Makers?

My hat’s off this week to Nick Kesler. A fellow Ceramic artist that started something new on Instagram and for reasons unknown, he included a few of our works in his initial launch of his “what’s happening this week on Instagram” treasury. 

Pretty cool Nick. A decade ago, we all loooooved these treasuries on Etsy and maybe it’s time to revisit a winning format on s new platform.

Like I said… A lift of the hat and salute to @njkclay on Instagram.

Well done Nick. I really hope this catches on.

Bottom to Top


Form bottom to top. There’s a quite a lot of difference in between the two extremes in a gourmet atmospheric kiln. Just a few inches this way or that way, or maybe a kiln shelf or two up or down makes so much difference in the final results. Figuring out what to put where for best results, and more importantly, what placement would condem a piece of work to the shard pile is the most important question that I need answered. (I just don’t get the opportunity to put work in soda kilns often enough to casually fuck around. If and when the opportunity comes up again, I won’t be walking into this as blind.) As far as results go, the new Cobb Mountain Soda kiln didn’t disappoint. With what came out of the kiln, separate designs can be now created specific to the different zones in the kiln.

A few studio notes regarding the work that we had came out of the Cobb Mountain Crossdraft Soda kiln two weeks ago. From bottom to top, the different levels fire completely differently. …Duh… Zones.  The design of the kiln allows for firing with both wood and gas, topping it off with soda, and the crew that fired off the inaugural kiln load used all of the options to good effect. After starting with wood, they brought it to a flat eleven at the top and 9 at the bottom with a heavy dosing of soda as it came to temp.

I used a Helmer Flashing Wash exclusively  on the exterior surfaces of the Rooster Yunomi, brushing it on restively thinly, and a Bell White used as a liner glaze.

The image below is a piece from the bottom shelf. Sitting in the coldest zone in the kiln, it under fired. Cone 9 dropped but the design muddied up to the point of being non readable. Thuddy is an appropriate adjective to use with this piece.


The piece below is from the next level up from the bottom and successfully dropped the 10 cone. It appeared to have gotten a huge dose of wood ash as well as a healthy dose of soda which pretty much obscured the design, but a little bit of wet sanding and the rooster started to peek back out from under the rivulets.


The  work from the middle shelves hit cone ten and reacted well with the fuming soda. These came out of the kiln beautifully. From this moment on, this is the sweet spot I’m going to go to sleep dreaming about.


But the place that I’m already plotting a return to is the top shelf. It’s the thunder bitch spot. The work needs to be set with the wood flashing and a heavy cascade of soda vapor in mind. Both will obliterate any design that’s facing the onslaught directly, but knowing that… the things we can do! Oh My!!




Dem Bones



After years of doing this design with varying degrees of success, I finally opened a kiln and found what I needed to see. Absolutly stunning surfaces. Absolutly stunning.

When this is what I see go into a kiln. A quick 50/50 cobalt wash. A Bell White Liner. A thinned Red Shino…


And this is what comes out.


Seriously. I couldn’t be happier with what is in front of me.

Now the question becomes, do I keep repeating that success over and over again until I’m sick of the design, or do I celebrate with a bottle of wine, take pride in the accomplishment and move on, or do I just file the design away like an old favorite piece of sheet music, a treat to be pulled out years down the road?


Quick backstory… These three pieces are a few of the pieces that came out of the Cobb Mountain Arts and Ecology Project’s new Wood/Gas Soda kiln. Admittably, there weren’t even a full dozen works that made it into the kiln, but I absolutely LOVE what I’m holding and I’m not in any hurry to let it go. After all these years, these are surfaces that best mirror what’s in my minds eye. I just don’t have reasonable access to make this happen again…



Tossing the Dead

Pretty close two 2 and a half years ago I watched Jess move part of her studio into this space with Frank Sheldon. It was a move that was exciting, a story that was brimming with lots potential to create new possibilities.


It was a story where I played a minor character role as someone that was sitting back and watching. It was a story with plenty of take away lessons. Lessons about using contracts, helping friends, sharing space, and just showing up.

Unfortunately the most recent lesson is about what happens when the land that the studio is sitting on suddenly became very, very valuable to the hospital a few feet away and now this chapter is closing up.


So here is the big take away on all of this… how streamlined a ship is, affects everything…

Equipment clutter, a build-up of half finished work, and hoarded materials doesn’t lend to the running of an effective space, it doesn’t enhance the work flow, in the day to day workings of a space, its trips it up. During the eleventh hour, it helps turn a move out into a nightmare (let alone a double timed move out).
It definitely has me looking at how I’m managing my own small studio space, which in all honesty, looks like it’s developing many of the same disfunctional management strategies. Strategies that put undue emphasis on investing limited resources into daydreams about tomorrow rather than finishing today’s work at hand.

The new checklist… clear the decks, scrape off the barnicals, and toss the dead into the ocean.