offcntr: (rainyday)
I frequently say Off Center Ceramics is a one-man shop. Oh, Denise helps with the selling, with show set-up and take-down, even (especially) with loading and unloading kilns. But as for making the pots, trimming the pots, glazing and decorating the pots, that's all me.


When I first started Off Center Ceramics, I did a lot less decorating, a lot more dipping. I had odd, labor-intensive things like cow-handled mugs, 24 different styles of animal bank, incense dragons. I've trimmed that down since, lost the cow mugs, only eight types of bank, and I only make incense dragons once or twice a year. But back in the day, Denise learned how to glaze them: dip wax the base and top, paint wax on the bits where top meets bottom. Dip the head in clear glaze, then wax resist the eyes. Dip the whole body in another glaze, then just the head in a third, snapping it to make interesting drip patterns as it comes out of the bucket. Carefully cleaning up with a sponge where glaze beads remained on any of the wax.

It's finicky, careful work, not excessively artistic, and she excels at it. So yesterday, while I was glazing painted mugs, cat food dishes and stew mugs, she glazed dragons for me. All fifteen of them.

She's so good to me.
offcntr: (Default)
Came across this on the Futility Closet website recently: a house made entirely of fired clay.

Very cool, but I wouldn't want to try and hang a picture in it.

It's here!

Nov. 1st, 2018 02:38 pm
offcntr: (Default)
My episode of Productivity Alchemy went live today! Haven't listened to all of it yet, though I did note an iffy joke by the hosts on the episode number (Hint: It's episode 69). But it's live on the internet, and Kevin researched a bunch of extra references to link in the show notes. Here's a direct link to the episode.

Whoo hoo!
offcntr: (Default)
Former potter and ongoing photographer Don Prey stopped by Clay Fest on Saturday, and sent me this pic.

He got a running start and bless his heart, he's headed for the ground.


Oct. 5th, 2018 09:34 pm
offcntr: (vendor)
From the September 29, 2018 Eugene Saturday Market Members Newsletter, by fellow potter Daniel Conan Young:

Seems about right to me...
offcntr: (window bear)
Found a great quote in the book I'm reading, Edmund de Waal's The White Road: Journey Into an Obsession. The quote is about a potter he studied with in his teens:

He made pots for use. They had to be cheap enough to drop, he'd say, beautiful enough to keep forever.
offcntr: (live 2)
A few months back, a woman and her two grandsons stopped in at Club Mud to visit. They'd seen a photography show at Maude Kerns, then got permission to look in on us.

Annie Heron was making pots, so gave them a quick demo. I was glazing, so invited them back to watch, painted some animals on pots, even took a couple of requests. As I recall, I did a lion and, I think, a raccoon. I also showed off a few things I'd just finished, and was particularly pleased with, including a nice octopus plate. They were nice kids, interested in art, and I quite enjoyed the visit.

About a week ago, Maudes' education director Tanna dropped in to show me their thank you note. With enclosed artwork.

What do you think? I think I need to look into hiring apprentice decorators…
offcntr: (window bear)
I came across this story on a writing blog, encouraging writers not to self-edit themselves into inarticulacy. From Fandoms, pairings and slash:

There was an experiment a professor did. I think it was pottery students. He did an experiment of “quality” vs “quantity”. One half of the class he told; you have to make as many pots as possible. Good pots, bad pots, shitty pots, whatever. The more pots you make, the higher your grade.

The other half of the class were told, “you can make only one pot”. But that pot had to be perfect. The quality had to be high; the highest quality pot would get the best mark.

But when it came to the grading, they noticed something weird.

All the best quality pots were in the ‘quantity’ group.

The guys who were literally churning out pots, trying to make as many as possible, not concentrating on the quality. But every pot they made, made them better at making pots. By the end of the month (I think it was a month) - they had some pretty awesome pots coming out, because they enjoying finding all the ways and all the things they could do to make all their pots. Where as the ‘quality’ guys had spent their time reading up on pots, and technique, and researching and planning; which was all great but they’d had no further practice at actually making pots.

The best way to get really good at something, the only way to be really good at something, is to make lots of shitty attempts at that thing several of which will fail. If all you create are perfect things then you won’t improve, because how can you improve on perfect?


It's totally true. Lord knows how many terrible pots I made on my way to competence, starting with nine dozen hummingbird feeders a week back throwing for Slippery Bank.

And just because I'm pretty confident in my throwing these days doesn't make it any less true. Keep practicing. Keep making. Keep improving.
offcntr: (vendor)
Denise provides the play-by-play for set-up day at the Anacortes Arts Festival.

In Anacortes, the streets don't close to traffic until 6 pm the day before the show. Booths will set up in the street against the east curb, the west curb, and right down the middle, standard size ten by ten feet. We try to be on a side street close to time so we can begin load-in promptly: drive in close to our booth space, get everything out of the van and off the roof, raise the canopy before Frank drives the van offsite to park.

Practice at weekly Saturday Markets helps us with quick unloading. We need any time we've saved to shim and level the display furniture. This is a real street, with almost three inches difference between the front of the booth and the gutter. It looks weird to see the shelf unit shimmed as much as it needs to be level. Hopefully, pots will interrupt the line once everything is out.

Distraction comes when food truck trailers try to park on the east curb south of us. The first fifth-wheel trailer takes forever, but finally manages to park smoothly; the second--with its enormous pick-up pulling--has problems. Too big to simply back and fill around the booths already set up. Thankfully, the show's volunteer crew is able to relocate a booth already set up in the center row to give the food rig a more reasonable angle. Once the pick-up truck is gone, we pause to help our neighbors carry their canopy back into position.

Muscle memory helps us with the familiar unloading of pots--we do this every Saturday, after all. Sometime in the middle, we take a break for sandwiches and fruit. Hands get shaky when we're too hungry--not appreciated around pottery.

After the break, it's time to finish up the remaining load-in boxes, and decide what more needs to be done tonight. Paper items like shelf talkers--small signs with item names and prices--and business cards won't go out until morning. We're near the ocean, and there will be moisture overnight. The sun is getting low behind the buildings, and we're not certain how much help we'll get from streetlights. If we come in an hour early tomorrow, there will be time to put out the extra items there's shelf space for in this 10x10 booth, and rearrange the last few items in the display.

So we stop; we need to be awake enough for the 20-minute drive to Oak Harbor where the motel is. Button up the booth: pull in the restock boxes, move everything away from the gutter (don't want to be surprised by rain), and loop velcro straps from the walls around the canopy legs. Once upon a sale we actually used the corner zippers provided by the manufacturer, but no longer. Too hard on my hands. Arthritis...
offcntr: (rocket)
Ursula Vernon is a talented painter of the fantastic and whimsical. She's an author of fantasy novels for children and adults. And she's the creator of the greatest webcomic epic ever, Digger, featuring a pragmatic wombat adrift in a world of gods and magic. Who knew she'd also done pottery?

This piece is from her Tumblr, Squash Blossoms. She totally gets it.

Smashing Pots

Every now and then, people ask me if I should go to art school, and I usually say something like “Do you want to go to art school?” and if they say “Yes,” then I say “Yes,” and if they say “No,” then I say “Don’t.” This is why I am a crappy source of career advice.


There is ONE class that I think nearly every writer, artist, and creative type out there would benefit from, and as it happens, it’s ceramics. Preferably with a strong wheel-throwing component.

No, really.

Back in ceramics class, in college, at the end of the year we would gather up all our dishes and pots and sculptures that we had labored over for weeks—and you really do labor for weeks, because you’re sculpting and drying and firing and glazing and firing again—and we would look at them.

And what we generally realized was that we had created a lot of things that sucked. There is just a point where you hold this lumpy-ass thing in your hand and you realize that it has not added to the sum total of awesome in the universe—and that you don’t have to keep it.

And then you wind up and fling it into the massive dumpster behind the ceramics studio and it smashes against the bottom and a demented exhilaration surges through you and you grab the next one and smash it and it is glorious. 

Now, there are people who do not smash their failed work, who cannot bear to do it, and so there was always a shelf full of sad lumpy clay things with a little “free to good home” sign on it. Some of them possibly were adopted eventually. Mostly, though, we learned to smash.

Pottery, particularly wheel-throwing, is wonderful for this, incidentally. You fail over and over and you fail fast and you are creating quantity to lead to quality. You throw and throw and throw and things die on the wheel and things die when you take them off the wheel and things explode in the kiln and after you have made a dozen or two dozen or a thousand, none of them are precious any more. There is always more clay.

It breaks you of preciousness and perfectionism. You can’t fiddle for two hours with wet clay on the wheel getting it perfect. It’ll be an over-saturated lump of mud long before then. If the walls are thrown too thin, they are too thin. It’s not worth fixing. Start over. Do it again. Finish, don’t fiddle.

I can’t do pottery any more because if I tried to hunch over a wheel these days, my back would go out so hard that I would never walk upright again. But I still think it was one of the most valuable classes I ever took, because it taught me to acknowledge failure, not to fear it, and then smash the hell out of it.

(reblogged with the permission of the author)

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