Wood Season


Over the past few years I've found that I work best under pressure; I need deadlines and commitments to work efficiently. At the beginning of each week I set myself a schedule of what I'd like to accomplish, on which day. It's wood firing season, and with a woodfiring on the horizon, time management becomes imperative. For each firing I plan the days I will sand and glaze, when I need to get my last bisque firing in, and how much time it will take for pieces to dry. This planning activates a side of my brain that I really enjoy using – I feel joy while filling out calendars and date books.

Last week I unloaded work from my fourth firing this year, and will be loading my fifth this Saturday. While I still need to sand and wash the pieces we just unloaded, I am instead pulling handles on cups and jugs, finishing up details on prototype vases, and adding rims to serving dishes for the firing coming up. Studio life is a constant balancing and juggling act – one that I am starting to get comfortable with. While one tray of bowls dries you throw creamers. While the creamers are drying you roll out slabs to get them stiffening and then start to trim your bowls. When the slabs are stiff enough to work with you build the walls for vases and slowly dry them while you finish the creamers. On it goes, a carousel.

Here are some photos of the pots that came out of last week's firing. It was my first time leading a firing in the Manabigama, and was delighted to have a great time of eager potters who wanted to learn about firing with wood. The pots turned out delightful.


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A Lot Can Change in a Year.

At this time last year, I was in my final year at Sheridan College and was preparing to spear head my first woodfiring. I had participated in three up to that point, merely showing up for a shift in the middle of the night and receiving a few finished pieces out of the deal. This firing I organized myself, chopped the majority of the wood, filled one third with my work and spent 24 hours stoking the flames. At that time I was preparing to move back in with my parents, while my partner moved to the West Coast. A lot can change in a year.

In the past year I graduated college and exhibited work in Toronto, Philadelphia, Waterloo, Hamilton and Burlington. I moved to Wiarton and worked for production potter Timothy Smith and spent the summer re-learning how to throw. I moved back in with my parents (again). I had 8 firings in 4 different wood kilns. I ran my first workshop. I went to NCECA 2013 in Houston. I bought my first and second Ron Meyers pots. I made pots in three different studio spaces. My partner moved back to Ontario.

We bought our first house.

On Friday we are joining the "homeowners club" in the quaint village of Jerseyville. Our new home is just outside of Hamilton, far enough from the city to feel like the country, and close enough to take advantage of concerts, show opportunities, and Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl. We will have our own store, studio and garden. We might get chickens. We will have our own kitchen! ... and I will have lots of wall space to display my pot collection.

jesse house

I wonder what next year will bring.

Tiny Print co.

I had care cards made this season, to help my customers understand "how to look after your functional art". I believe it is important to support the Canadian economy, especially the businesses in your local area. So when a new print company started up in Milton, ON I decided to see what they could do. And I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Colin Nicholson of Tiny Print co was personable and efficient. His printing was fast and affordable. Not only did he deliver the cards himself, he also took the time to email me back and forth with pantone swatches so my design printed true. Tiny Print Co is a small company, with great quality - I would highly recommend his services.


Check out his website to see what he can do!

Follow the Signs

I have stopped making pots for a few weeks and have instead been pricing, tidying and decorating for show season. I even mopped my studio  (my lungs are delighted). To top off the winter-cheer it snowed last night, just in time for my annual holiday sale and open house this coming Saturday November 30.

The party starts at 10am and the early bird gets the worm - the earlier you come, the more pots there will be to choose from. There will lots of lovely functional art for everybody on your holiday list, and all sorts of snacks to enjoy while you shop! Come by between 10-5 to check out some great work, and shop handmade this holiday season. Look for the painted signs!




How Long Does It Take?

*Tony Clennell, one of the wisest potters I know, once wrote a list of the steps included in the creation of a pot. Potters get asked all the time: "How long does it take to make a pot?" So because Tony hit the nail on the head, here is his answer in the form of a list of steps. I have adapted the list to fit my making process.

1. Pick up your clay at the supplier (often hours away) 2. Unload clay 5. Mix with reclaimed clay 6. Wedge clay, and wedge clay, and wedge clay 7. Bag clay 8. Wash tools, wedging table, throwing bats, wheel and studio 9. Weigh clay 10. Wedge clay

For thrown and altered piece: 11. Throw clay 12. Move pots to drying rack or wet cupboard 13. Trim clay 14. Make darting template 15. Dart clay 16. Roll out slabs 17. Move slabs to drying rack or wet cupboard 18. Alter thrown piece 19. Attach slab(s) 20. Clean up attachments 21. Wedge clay for handles 22. Pull handles 23. Attach handles

For soft slab piece: 11. Weigh plaster 12. Mix plaster 13. Pour plaster hump or slump mold 14. Move mold to drying rack 15. Sand and clean mold 16. Roll out slabs of clay 17. Move slabs to drying rack or wet cupboard 18. Texture 19. Form slabs over molds 20. Back to drying rack 21. Remove from mold 22. Attach more slabs 23. Clean up attachments

Then: 24. Back to drying rack 25. Sign every pot 26. Apply base slip 27.  Back to drying rack 28. Read through atlases, marine charts and fiction for reference 29. Apply underglaze 30. Apply underglaze second (and third? coat) 31. Carve in decoration 32. Back to drying rack 33. Move to kiln room 34. Load bisque kiln 35. Make cone packs 36. Fire kiln 37. Unload from kiln 38. Move all pots to glaze room 39. Sand 40. Wax bottoms and lids 41. Weigh out materials for glaze 42. Make and sieve glaze - for EVERY glaze (there are several!) 43. Glaze each piece 44. Clean up glazed pots 43. Clean kiln and kiln shelves 44. Move all pots to kiln room 45. Load kiln 46. Make cone packs 47. Fire kiln (if this happens to be a wood fired kiln, add about 100 duties to this list.) 48. Unload kiln 49. If pots are cracked or you have a bad firing, go back to step 9 50. Sand and grind bottoms 51. Price work 52. Display work 53. Attend to people that ask questions like:    "How long does it take to make a pot?"

This list does not include: update website, update blog, check email, read other clay blogs, check email again, update Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr (or whatever other social media networking you use), apply for grants, apply for shows, drive work to shows, pack work, check email (again), attend sales and shows of your peers... etc. etc.

*Tony Clennell is a fantastic writer and full of wisdom. So, to be inspired and educated, check out his blog