Friday, December 9, 2016

The Good, Bad and the Ugly

I have done a workshop for every Guild in and around Toronto and there are several of them. The same guy showed up at each workshop and taped the entire performance. Finally, I said why do you tape the workshop it is much the same from time to time? He said ‘ yes I do love to watch them especially the one where that big bowl you were making flopped! I said “ All the good stuff I did and you like my flop the best!!! Yes, I do!  he answered.
This reminds me of the story of Svend. Svend was sitting in his kitchen looking out over a harbour of fishing boats. He said  “See all those fishing boats. Me, Svend built all those fishing boats. Do they call me Svend the boat builder? No! See all those houses out there!  Me, Svend built all those houses. Do they call me Svend the house builder? No! Then I go make out with one goat and see what they call me!
We are remembered often by that one slip up, the one act of bad judgement, that night on a Halifax peer with one too many drinks, a woman ya just met, a bad tattoo and absolutely no recollection of  how ya got there . All the good you have done  is forgotten by the assembled congregation. You are that minute, that hour, that day forever.
The same with your work. The bad and the ugly will be the topic around Svend’s table. All the good stuff just ain’t as tasty in The Church of the Nasayers.  I Pastor Clennell will give you unspeakable favour in the face of the naysayers as I have shown it all more than once myself.

I like it when I push out the belly of a teapot just until it is ready to split or as in these bowls where I cantilever the rim to a point of collapse. For my friend the camera man here is a bowl that gave up the Holy Ghost. Let it be your favourite moment. Amen!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


That is what I thought Indian chiefs said when I was growing up. Ugh! Now I’m not sure whether they are Indians, Native Canadians, First Nation’s  or what.  My apologies for early and present ignorance.
I just bought this pot today. A woman was selling it and thought it worth some big bucks. It was made in 1953 by my Uncle Jimmie. It is important only to me as I know it’s pedigree.
If you wonder sometimes why Pastor Clennell gets his knickers in a knot when people call themselves potters after 3 guild lessons and the establishment of an Etsy account this pot may tell you the real truth and nothing but the truth.
This earthenware clay was dug by hand in Milton, Ontario and brought to Pinecroft in burlap bags. The clay was slaked down and mixed by an electric driven car differential blunger to a thick slip. The slip was then drained through a screen into what looked like row boats where is would be covered with canvas so the pine needles didn’t get in. The clay would freeze over winter and in late March or early April my Uncle Jimmie would lift off the ice and voila there was throwable clay which of course had to be hand wedged.
They fired this earthenware clay to Cone 2 to make it more vitreous. It was fired in an Alpine updraft gas kiln. When the kiln was delivered they had no way of unloading the heavy beast so my uncle and neighbours dug a hole to have the truck back down into. After unloading the kiln  a team of horses pulled the truck out of the hole.
 What is so lovely about this pot is signs of reduction where the copper glaze turned red. This pot was slip cast and the sprig I believe is something Uncle Jimmie brought with him after working at Medicine Hat Potteries in Medicine Hat, Alberta which then became Medalta( short for Medicine Hat, Alberta) .

My aunt and uncle produced 12-15,000 pieces a year for 50 years so the secondary art market value isn’t really high for their work. I got the pot for $20 which is still probably 20 times what they charged. I’m going to sleep with it under my pillow tonight.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Scratch, scratch, itch, itch

Scratch has once again woken me from a deep sleep. Scratch is in a very foul mood and relentless in his poking and prodding at me. Since this is day one of my getting back into the studio he was reminding me how easy it is to slip into mediocrity. 
“There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity. In every generation the least cultivated taste has the biggest appetite”- Paul Gaugin
Now back in the studio according to Rob Brezsney’s Freewill Astrology  I have been authorized by the cosmos to fabricate my own temporary religion of playing around and messing around and fooling around. If I’m really successful in the spring I can borrow some money from the poets.
I want to firstly thank those of you that were able to make it to the studio sale on the weekend. Your support is appreciated from the bottom of my heart. Also some pots being shipped this week to those that couldn't be here. 
 A sweet wood fired teapot is in transit to Teresa Dunlop.  My buddy Steve Corner aka Stoner wasn’t able to make it down from the north country fair so he texted and told me to send a picture of something interesting. Steve and his awesome partner Lise have a really nice collection of my work covering many different side roads I have wandered off during my journey. This piece is on it’s way to them now. Quiet and strong, serious but playful, functional yet sculptural and with a commanding presence. Stoner if ya want a title’ Running from the tribe.”

I sat in The Cactus Lounge having a negroni with Jack and I kept looking at this piece and liking it more than the day I took it from the kiln. Scratch had been persistently nagging me to keep going on this work but I weakened. Mediocrity was knocking on my door. This weekend reminded me to  listen to Scratch!.