Sunday, March 27, 2011

Karen Karnes

I read the most wonderful Karen Karnes interview with Mark Shapiro this morning.The first pot I ever bought, was one of Karen's casseroles. Some years later, in the early 80's, I was fortunate enough to take a several days, hands on workshop with her at Big Creek Pottery in Davenport, California. This is one of the photos of her from the workshop.

We slept in rough bunk rooms, ate some lovely vegetarian food, and had several days of making pots, watching her work, having critiques and enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the central California mountains just north of Santa Cruz. Daniel Rhodes had a studio nearby and joined us for a party at the end of the workshop, and John Glick and his wife stopped the studio by one day and kindly remarked on a very large bowl I had just finished. It was total immersion in clay for several days - no cooking, no house to care for - just work, eat and sleep. Heavenly!

Here's a link to the interview:


Saturday, March 26, 2011

New handle idea

Got a lot done in the studio today - had a bunch of pots to wax and slip, some finishing work to do on a few others and even found time to throw a few more. Here's a couple of the pots I was working on. The small dishes were made using the method in the Cory Lum video I posted a while back. I used some of my home made stamps to impress some of them and used an old wood printing block in the center of the other the third one.

The second picture is a closeup of a new handle that I put on the oval pot in the background of the first photo. I'm pretty pleased with the look.

Now that dinners done, it's time to head back to the studio to check on some pots,and close up for the night, before heading back in for some TV and a glass of wine with dessert.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fregola with clams

Yesterday was a "go to town day", and for us that's Asheville. The car needed servicing which took longer than usual since the battery needed replacing as well; and there was some food shopping to do and a stop in Black Mountain for lunch at the German restaurant.

It was a beautiful day and enjoyable drive with all the lovely spring flowering trees - Japanese flowering cherries, Bradford pears, Redbud trees and all the daffodils and forsythia. I made an easy dinner with fregola pasta, and the fresh clams I got at Earth Fare. It was pretty light, tasty fare after a big lunch and Jim brought up a lovely Frank Family Chardonnay to go with it. I had never had fregola pasta before. It's interesting, with a texture not unlike cooked barley. It was a very warming, brothy, comfort food, kind of dish, which I think would work well with canned clams if fresh aren't readily available.

Our Japanese cherry tree came into full bloom today and the Japanese quince has started to bloom as well. I did a quick garden check and noticed more perennials like the hydrangeas, are coming to life. It was too cool earlier to work in the garden, so I spent my time baking (banana bread), plant care and household and computer chores. Most of the tomato seeds, cosmos, basil and artichokes have sprouted but the bell and hot peppers are being a bit stubborn! Ron, if you're reading this, I have some hot chili pepper seeds from Peru I can share with you.

Some freshly made pots from two days ago will need tending tomorrow; but they're well covered till then. I made a couple slab plates using the method in the Cory Lum video I posted a while back. I just ordered a larger wooden block drape mold from ebay so I can make some larger ones. There just wasn't time for the studio today and this evening is spoken for with Friday night dinner with friends.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring has sprung

Our plum tree is in full flower this morning - so beautiful!

I checked on a couple of freshly thrown pots at daybreak and they should be ready for trimming later. One was a replacement for a bisqued and decorated bowl that broke yesterday, when I wheeled my chair back. I couldn't figure how that could happen, since the bowl was set back on the table, until I noticed that the back of the chair leans a bit and must have caught it. Lesson learned! Jim's been asking me to make us a butter dish, so I finally got around to it.

Yesterday morning was taken up with bread baking, so there wasn't much afternoon studio time. I cleaned out some old clay bags and dumped some old reclaim clay, and wet down some pretty dry bags of clay so they'd be soft enough to pug today or tomorrow. By the time I cleaned the wheel and swept the floor it was time to think about dinner. Half a day in the studio isn't enough time to accomplish very much.

There's a lot of reclaim I want to dump down the side of an eroded section of our property. Now that I've decided on one clay, and am finally using the pugmill, I don't want these clays taking up studio space and unless someone reading this wants a lot of free cone 10, reclaim and other clays, it will be used as erosion control. Most of it is in usable plastic state.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bread and clay

Here's this morning's no knead sour dough bread - an improvement over the one I made the other day. This time I also added some yeast and used bread flour. The last one didn't rise as much only using the starter, but the flavor was good.

Time to head to the studio, even though the garden is calling and there are onion, garlic and leek still needing to plant; but they'll have to wait till tomorrow. The pots have been patiently waiting for me to get back to them while I try to get a head start on spring gardening.

Yesterday I spent all day going through my seeds, sorting, then planting 24 different varieties of vegetables and flowers as well as transplanting a few kale, which are looking a bit sad this morning. Hope I didn't transplant them too soon. No problem though, since I have enough kale seedlings to feed the entire county!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Daffodils in bloom

I got an early start this morning and by 5am I had my other sourdough bread prepped and on it's second rise.

Yesterday's studio schedule changed when I realized I needed to do some grocery shopping for last nights pizza. When we got home a large mail order from an Italian grocery store needed to get unpacked - great timing, since the pepperoni arrived just in time for the pizza.

While at Walmart I also picked up some more compost and veggie starts, some of which I'm hoping to transplant this afternoon. Since I got such an early start on the bread, I'll be able to get a half a day in the studio before it warms up enough to do some planting.

While the bread is baking, I'm going to make a Jacques Pepin mushroom and leek soup to go with tonight's pierogi dinner. I received Pepin's cookbook "More Fast Food My Way", the other day and it looks like it has are some nice, not very time consuming recipes, which is what I'm looking for this time of year when garden, studio and kitchen are all competing for my time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bunnies are out and hellebores are blooming

The hellebores are blooming and it looks like the plum tree is going to be in bloom very soon. It's too warm for this time of year which may not bode well for fruit production if we get a late, hard freeze; but we are enjoying this lovely, spring like weather!

We had a great St. Patricks dinner with friends, with the the Irish Tenors as background music and enjoying our Irish coffee while watching "The Quiet Man". It's become our St. Paddy's tradition and one we're all enjoying. My friend Laura was intrigued with all my sourdough starters and no knead bread method, so I sent her home with an extra iron pot, some flour and instant yeast and the URL for the Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman you tube video on making no knead bread. Jim says I won't be satisfied until I get everyone baking this bread! LOL

I'm moving a bit slow after yesterday's busy day of cooking and planting. Since I'm trying to plant by the moon signs, dinner party prep or not, I needed to get my peas and spinach planted yesterday.

The new sourdough starter was ripe and ready last night, so after guest left, I got a loaf started, using a no knead recipe and will be baking that this afternoon. Right now it's time to get to the studio for a bit and if I'm up to it, I'd like to find even a little time for some garden cleanup this afternoon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today is the day when everyone is a bit Irish

Wishing all a Happy St Patricks Day; and offering that wonderful, old Irish blessing to all!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Every Saint Patrick's day, I make a corned beef and cabbage dinner, with Irish coffee with extra whipped cream for dessert. We have the Irish tenors as dinner background music and then watch "The Quiet Man" while having our Irish coffee in the living room. My Irish husband isn't a cabbage fan, so I only make this dinner once a year. Fortunately our dearest friends love cabbage, and dig in with great glee while Jim kind of pushes his cabbage around the plate. I guess his Irish, cabbage gene never activated! :-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back to work after company leaves this morning

We've had a great visit with our daughter Erin and son-in-law Sven- had some excellent meals with good and great wines, enjoyed a night of song at friend Jim Stapleton's man cave with his "Sugar Daddy" band, and spent some lovely, quiet family time in between their tourist activities. We all look forward to Erin's joining the band for a few numbers every year- such a treat! Yesterday was their packing, and chilling out day. I gave them a demo of no knead bread making. Sven is getting into baking, and after tasting the sourdough pancakes and sourdough bread I made a couple of days ago, he decided that he'd like to try making his own starter.

The live starter I ordered from Breadtopia is doing well on day three and now I'm just feeding it to get it up to the amount I need to start baking. The other San Francisco starter that had been neglected, actually came to life again after almost two weeks of twice a day feedings. With the arrival of 3 more bread books this week, I'll have no lack of recipes to try.

Jim is driving Erin and Sven to Charlotte this morning for their flight to the west coast for the remainder of their vacation. After they leave, I'll be heading to the studio for the day, feeling blessed in so many ways. I watch the news for updates on the disaster in Japan, feeling so much compassion and at the same time feeling so helpless. I read Euan Craig's blog, see the destruction of his kiln, the damage to his home, and his choice to is evacuate Mashiko with his family to a safer place over the mountains with relatives, and wish I could somehow make it all better for all of them.

And I wonder if mankind will learn from this long term, or like so many past disasters, have a short burst of outrage, and then settle back into complacency.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mashiko Potters need help

Tuesday, 15 March 2011 (from Hannah McAndrew's blog)

The Leach Pottery's Hand to Mashiko
The following has been sent out by The Leach Pottery in St Ives in response to the effect of the horrendous events in recent days on the pottery industry. This first link of mine is to the Red Cross appeal which of course helps with the more immediate and pressing needs.

The Leach Pottery says:
The trustees and staff of the Leach Pottery would like to express our great sadness at the recent catastrophe that has beset Japan. The Leach Pottery’s historic and current links to Japan, dating back over a century, are of great importance to us and the friendship we have received from the Japanese people over the years has been unwavering. We have not forgotten the support we received from the people of Mashiko pottery village and members of the Mingei Association in 2008 when individuals collectively donated over £40,000 towards rebuilding our pottery in St Ives and we would like to offer them back the hand of friendship now.

We are launching an appeal to raise funds for Mashiko which has been badly hit by the earthquake. Mashiko has over 400 studios and kilns, providing the main livelihood of the village, and the recent quake has caused considerable damage to both kilns and buildings. Mashiko’s two main museums, the Mashiko Ceramics Museum and the Hamada Reference Museum have also been badly hit.

Mashiko Town in Tochigi prefecture is located about 60 miles north of Tokyo. In 1923 Shoji Hamada, co-founder of the Leach Pottery in St Ives with Bernard Leach, returned to Japan following the Tokyo earthquake of 1923. He settled in Mashiko with his family where he set up his own pottery, now owned and run by his potter grandson Tomoo Hamada, who attended the reopening of the Leach Pottery following its restoration in March 2008. Shoji Hamada also established the Hamada Reference Museum in Mashiko to display his stunning and internationally acclaimed collection of crafts and ceramics.


You can donate to the Leach Pottery’s Mashiko Earthquake Appeal in any of the following ways:
By phone – call with you credit or debit card details on 01736 799703

By post – send a cheque to the Bernard Leach (St Ives) Trust Ltd. (marking the back of the cheque ‘Mashiko Appeal’. Send to Mashiko Earthquake Appeal, The Leach Pottery, Higher Stennack, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 2HE

By internet – donate through your Paypal account – please add a note clearly stating ‘Mashiko Earthquake Appeal’

If you are a UK taxpayer you can Gift Aid your donation by including the following information: Your name, address and postcode and confirmation that you wish the Leach Pottery to treat your donation as a Gift Aid donation. This simple act will allow us to claim a further 25p for each £1 donated towards the appeal.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sourdough bread

Yesterday was baking day using a new sourdough recipe. I wanted a lighter bread to use for tomorrow welsh rarebit dinner and this one fills the bill. I made a mistake on the size for the last rise and wound up with a loaf the size and shape of a ciabatta; but the bread texture and taste are very good. I think this one will make great toast. Next time I'll add some whole wheat (25% of the flour in the recipe), to make it a bit healthier.

This morning I made sourdough pancakes.. Daughter and her husband leave Wednesday, so I'll be able to get back to the studio to finish decorating. If weather permits, I need to plant peas and spinach sometime this week. I'm so glad I started this work cycle earlier so I have plenty of time for the garden, baking bread and family visits.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Planting day

I'm pooped! While the rest of the family played tourist today, with a trip to Linville Cavern, I decided to take advantage of this beautiful day and do some planting and a bit of weeding. I planted 50 strawberry plants, an apple tree, four ferns, about ten lilies of the valley and three oriental poppies. The garden is a mess and is going to need a lot more cleanup work this spring; but today was a good start.

There's still garlic and shallots to plant; but they're going to have to wait till our company leaves.

Some winter perennials are blooming as well as the Johnny jump ups; and some other perennials are peeking through as well. Spring is coming!

Time to hit the shower and get ready for dinner.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Non studio productivity

No studio time till the middle of next week when company leaves; but the house is super clean, animals are fed and exercised, new lettuce, broccoli raab, another kale variety, and rose campion seeds are planted, a new rye sourdough is started and the last of the other sourdoughs is fed (I'm not giving up on that one until the new one arrives and gets started!). I even found time to order some new seeds and write out some new recipes to try. I'm currently intrigued with some Peruvian recipes and will try them as soon as I get some of the unique hot, aji peppers called for in some of these dishes.

I'm also making headway with paper work and catching up with backed up reading material while I anxiously await this evening's arrival of our daughter and son-in-law who are flying in from Munich, Germany. Two days ago I promised them mild, sunny weather, which is what forecast. Wonder what they're going to think when they see this new, light covering of snow!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

R.I.P Toshiko Takaezu

Toshiko giving Beatrice (Beato) Wood a throwing lesson at Beato's studio in the early 80's.

Just got word that Toshiko Takaezu, an icon in the Ceramic world has passed. She was a lovely, warm, gracious lady and a superb artist and teacher. She will be greatly missed.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Last nights pizza and pitiful loaf of bread

Last night was pizza and margarita night; and this morning I baked this pitiful looking loaf of no knead, dried cherries and pecan bread. It didn't rise overnight using the sourdough starter, so I added some instant yeast to it with a bit of water, which of course made the dough too wet even with a bit of extra flour added; but I decided to bake it anyway for the taste, knowing the texture is going to be off. It flopped badly when I put it in the hot pot, resulting in this homely looking loaf; but the taste it good, so the recipe is a keeper.

After 5 futile days of trying to bring old sourdough starters back to life, and wasting a lot of flour in the process, I dumped two of the jars yesterday and am still giving the other one a few more feedings for another couple of days while I wait for some fresh and some dried San Francisco sourdough starter I ordered yesterday. The fresh one will only need two day of feeding before it's ready, so I should be able to try some new recipes in another week or so.

There hasn't been time for the studio with a day used for food shopping and other chores, plus all that wasted time on the sourdough starter as well; but I'll get a good half day in there today.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Re-built bagwall

Got the bagwall re-built and cleaned out, which took quite a while since I had some fused brick that I had to chink out. I didn't mortar the bricks, just made a thickish slurry of 75 alumina oxide and 25 epk and slathered than on to keep them from sticking, in case I want to make later adjustments.

Found two more kiln shelves that I'll have to grind. I had to wedge up some clay and throw Jim another mug for this firing(I broke his favorite wood/soda fired oribe mug yesterday). I have the 6 tile slip that I used and hopefully I also have that Shaner Oribe on hand, otherwise I'll have to batch some in a few days or just use my new Oribe.

Glazing and decorating is also on today's "to do" list. Time to make breakfast and on to the studio.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Bag wall re-build

That T shaped bag wall configuration in the last firing did not work in my cross draft, so this mornings job will be to rebuild it. Once that's done I'll batch up a few more glaze tests. Since it's going to be another nice day today, I might take an afternoon studio break to do a bit of garden pruning and cleanup. The day lilies are already up 3-4" and some tree are already budding, hopefully, not too soon.

Yesterday I got all 15 advancer and nitride bonded kiln shelves ground. I broke a good corner chunk off one of the advancers when trying to support it against my knee to grind the edge. I also batched up a few more glaze tests and got them on to test tiles. In spite of feeling tired, I felt good at the end of the day. I fell asleep during Top Chef (we watch it in bed), so I'll have to watch the re-run next week to find out what happened.

The San Francisco sourdough starter, which I started yesterday morning, came alive overnight in the heat box, and at 7 am it got it's first 12 hour feeding. These initial 12 hour feedings can take three days. Once the starters' foam and bubbles increase the mixture 2" after about 2-3 hours of the last feeding, it's done. I can't wait to try it!

Time to make the kielbasa and raisin toast breakfast and head to the studio.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Unloaded bisque

Here's my San Francisco sourdough starter, on it's first "wake up" leg. As per the instructions, I made a hole in a Styrofoam box, and put in a 25 watt bulb as the heat source. The starter has to be around 90F for 24 hrs to get it started; and then 12 hour feedings after that until it gets fully activated. Luckily I had this other dried starter on hand, after my other starters couldn't be revived. The person who sells this one swears that it's from the original, San Francisco starter. I'll soon find out if that's true or just a good marketing ploy.

Yesterday I got a full studio day, which wound up being too much for the first day back. I'm still wiped this morning. I spent 2 hours yesterday taking burners apart and cleaning them and still couldn't get the two main burners to turn on. I might give it another try this morning. I mixed three of my liners glazes and got the bisque unloaded and did a few other studio chores.

My Harbor Freight saw horse order is en route; but I don't think I want to wait for them before I start grinding these kiln shelves. This is the last sunny, warmish day for the next ten and I want to take advantage of it since I prefer when possible, to grind them outdoors; so I'll get my old throw pillow to sit on and get on with the job in the warmth of the afternoon.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Light studio chores today

Got all my little scraps of pot sketches sorted and filed, once yesterdays thunder storm passed and my little Jack Russell Bodhi, was no longer clinging to me, shaking uncontrollably.

I have a small "To do" list of light studio chores for today. First, I need to test the burners on my small Olympic gas kiln and if all is well, I'll try to get the kiln put together if I can do it alone. My husband is now dealing with the same flu symptoms I've had, as well as a badly pulled sacroiliac, so if I can't lift those kiln rings that job and re-firing soda pots from the last soda kiln firing, will just have to wait. The past couple of weeks I seem to be spending more time waiting to do things, than actually doing anything!

I also want to unload the bisque kiln and re-mix some of my liner glazes and touch up some soda pots that need re-firing.