Sunday, December 25, 2011


     My Pioneer PL-10 turntable now has a new belt but no counterweight. Luckily I was able to purchase a backup turntable at the local thrift store for $2.50. I have a copy of Getz/Gilberto's Girl from Ipanema on CD and now a copy of the same track on vinyl LP. A comparison of the two through the same receiver and speakers reveals the superior listening pleasure of vinyl. The tones are flattened on the CD despite the bolstered bass tones, while the vinyl reveals the sound of the room, the naked voices of the artists, and the mastery of the musicians of their respective instruments. You can almost feel Stan's breath travel from his lungs through the saxophone, and into the microphone. I am by no means an audiophile but this re-discovery of the romance of vinyl has been very pleasant and has slowed me down a bit to allow a more thoughtful enjoyment of the music I thought I knew.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

New Painting Series

     Pictured below is the first in a new painting series I started yesterday. Painting number two is complete and will be featured soon. These are acrylic and ink on paper and merge my drawing style with my painting style.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Sky and ocean touch
and unfold like parting lips
to swallow the sun

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rejection, And Other Poems

     Today my application to the MA program for Creative Writing in Poetry at Northern Arizona University was rejected. A bit despondent to say the least, I am resolved to publish my poems here instead of exposing them to academic scrutiny. Like them or not, here they come.

Having killed my gods

My mind is stunned
to see I am alone
walking sleepless

I'd hitch a thousand miles
to find one who feels this
a companion in the great erosion
of the past into the future

a fine and beautiful lot
the friendships I've bought and sold
left for dead or killed outright
to appease my cowardice

how befitting this loneliness
a worry to none but me
silently sulking


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Collecting Vinyl

     My vinyl collection has begun, though I have yet to find a proper turntable. None the less, I found it fun to photograph what I've collected so far, enjoying the LPs as objects. Here is one of the albums acquired, Blues Brothers - Briefcase Full of Blues.
Front Cover
     I love the details in the photograph on the front cover, the catch-light in Elwood's (Dan Aykroyd) eye behind his shades, and the smoke rising from Jake's (John Belushi) cigarette and curling past his tie and lapel.
Front Cover Detail
Back Cover
Side One Label

Side Two Label
     With any luck the collecting of vinyl records will keep my blog posts more frequent, records being cheap and plentiful enough to purchase regularly, providing subjects for more photographs.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Function Follows Form (cont'd)

Here is the finished version of the form featured in an earlier post regarding sculptural utility.

This piece is the result of a 69 hour firing of the small anagama kiln built by Brian Harper at NAU in Flagstaff, AZ. The sharply delineated sides of this bottle form create distinct canvases for the kiln to paint with ash glaze. No slips or glazes were applied.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

58 Cedar Ave


Old things
the backyard

befriending the tree
and fence corner
the garbage man
and the beach

hermit crabs
minnows trapped in a coffee can

the water
giving and taking away
the sun
a moment

resting on the horizon
beneath the water

without me
despite me
leaving me

Saturday, September 3, 2011


     In an effort to simplify form and focus on preserving the sharpness of my marks in clay I began making vase forms. I recently glazed and fired a few of my less successful forms in the soda kiln. They were deemed less successful because they flare out at the bottom and I'm currently interested in more obviously rectilinear forms. The large vase pictured here was glazed with what comes out of the wood kiln as a white crawling, peeling shino, however, it morphed into a deep green, almost oribe glaze in the soda. I generally dislike shiny pots but the unexpected results are intriguing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Function Follows Form

     I have made several square cups, bowls, and vase forms after the wood fired masu, the subtle square piece that emerged from last month's wood firings, but this bottle form is especially interesting to me right now. It feels like a unified form in surface, shape, volume, and finished details such as lip/rim and foot. I'm making them in various sizes. The one pictured is about six inches tall. It's striking to me that I have had to approach the vessel via sculpture. Working solid allowed me to detach my mind from utility and tradition. I now address clay from the outside, rather than creating a hollow space and trying to "decorate" it afterward, and function is allowed to follow form.

Monday, August 29, 2011

More Mushrooms!

     Impatience and opportunity got the best of me yesterday and I weathered the lightning and rain to ascend the San Francisco Peaks in search of mushrooms. I was elated when I found more than eight different species in less than 100 yards of hiking. The rain had subsided but the dripping from the tree canopy was too plentiful for me to take out my camera, so I collected one of each species found and brought them home for study. In one spot I found three species withing two square feet. Here are a few photos of the specimens featuring a beautiful bowl by Candice Methe, decorated with Burrowing Owls (my favorite).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Mushrooms Are In

     This morning I walked around my little corner of Coconino National Forest and was very pleased to find a pair of mushrooms growing in the footprint of a fallen ponderosa pine. I won't guess at the type of mushroom or whether it's edible but it was exciting to see just the same. There's something magical about the way mushrooms push their way out of the soil, seemingly overnight, and their variety is almost without bounds. I plan to spend considerable time photographing and learning to identify our local fungi this autumn in hopes of one day harvesting the little gems for consumption.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


     On the way back from Phoenix this past weekend I enjoyed a shin-scraping romp through the blackberry bushes along Oak Creek. The grocery bag I carried became wet with berry juice as the weight of the harvest began popping the berries at the bottom of the bag. I also sped along the path under the apple trees to pick a bag of small ripe apples. As I write the smell of cinnamon, apples, and blackberries is wafting from the oven as I am now baking an apple-blackberry crisp. A fitting reward for a few deep scratches and a sweaty brow. The apples are pictured here in a bowl by Kazu Oba and the berries on a plate by Takashi Nakazato.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Red Consolation

     This morning I set out to find and photograph mushrooms. The monsoon rains and cooler temperatures bring a good variety of fungi to the ponderosa forest. I think, however, that I am a bit early this year and will have to try again in a week or so. As a consolation I was rewarded with the discovery of a small patch of delicately beautiful Western Red Columbine.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Abundance

     This year's monsoon season has been erratic and rains have been very localized. The wildflowers have, however, been very forgiving. They can be enjoyed readily and in abundance. Today I took some time to wander around the ceramics complex and kiln yard and gather a little sample of each available variety.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Whiskey Cup

     Here are a couple of photos of a whiskey cup from the latest salt firing. Made from a dark clay body and dipped in Barnard clay slip then rubbed clean in select areas and lined with a celadon glaze, it was sheltered from heavy salt during the firing and maintained an overall matte finish. These are made in the same way as the tea bowl sculptures. I still regard them as in progress.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wood-fired Masu

     Our recent kiln opening at NAU yielded possibly my favorite, if not my best, piece of utilitarian sculpture to date. It was a piece I had regarded as a mere exercise in mark-making and almost threw away instead of firing. At the beginning of summer, two weeks after graduation, I had the idea to create some clay boxes as maquettes for larger pieces I may like to make in the future. The goal was to make tool marks in clay that would not be touched, therefore remain sharp, as opposed to softened by handling or refinement. I carved seven boxes from solid blocks of wet clay. One of these was square, the rest rectangular. It was the square shape that almost did the piece in. Squares are...square, boring, lifeless, predictable, dead. I would come to be delightfully proved wrong. The piece was loaded in the front of the Double-Wide Train Kiln which was fired for 45 hours then lovingly reduction-cooled by yours truly. The piece caught my eye only after I had examined every other piece I had made for that firing. It waited patiently as I poured over the flashy surfaces of the loud chunky tea bowl sculptures and small sculptural cups which I had been so anxiously awaiting. As I filled each bowl looking for leaks it sat on the dusty shelf watching. After a conversation about the aesthetic significance of wadding with Kazu Oba I was curious about the bottoms of my boxes. Some of them received long coil wads rather than the small round ones usually applied when loading the kiln. I examined the boxes, giving greatest attention to the rectangles. The square was of so little concern that I had relegated the wadding to chance and had "thrown it on the pile" of other pieces to be loaded, giving greater care to my favorite pieces, even ensuring that they face a certain way on the shelves when loaded. Then, a day after the unloading, I finally picked up the little box. As I turned it in my hand to consider the flashing left by the wads on its bottom surface, the marks nodded gently to the glory of the square. I turned the piece over and over considering its surface, angles, corners and inside. It was then that I saw the potential of the piece as a drinking vessel. The image of traditional masu wooden sake ware flashed in my mind. I walked to the sink to test it for leaks. At that moment, when the water filled its volume, the jeweled green wood-ash-glass came to life. This piece was made to be filled with a clear liquid and contemplated and savored as one savors the drink from it. The next night I carried the piece in my pocket to a dinner date. My friend, a ceramic artist and educated collector of Japanese wares, reacted to the piece as I did, confirming for me that I had incidentally created a pleasing object of sculpture and utility. We headed out to a local Thai restaurant where we drank sake, I from my new found gem and he from his favorite small bowl-shaped guinomi that he carries regularly. As I sipped from the corner of my stone-like masu, I began to understand the dignity and significance of food drink and friendship.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Tea Bowl Process

     As requested, I'll give a not-so-brief description of my process for creating my tea bowl forms (pictures below). A little more than a year ago I was "invited" by my professor to abandon wheel-throwing and work solid. His advice was appreciated and heeded readily. I had been struggling to find myself in my pots. Every vessel I made was more sculptural than utilitarian. Adding to the frustration was the ever present glaring eyes of my influences staring at me from the clay. Working solid allowed me to explore surface and volume with diminished attention to historical ceramic form and without concern for utility. (Older posts will reveal the results of the past year's work with solid ceramic sculpture.) I was eventually able to find my own marks using anything but clay tools. My work now focuses on surface as the primary component giving the impression (no pun intended) of an artifact, incidental to another process, re-appropriated to a new purpose. In non-art speak, marks you wouldn't expect are found where you wouldn't expect them. Or, someone picked up a piece of junk and made it look like art, etc.
     After graduation I finally felt like I could make art just for me instead of making to satisfy my professors, assignments, or other artists. I wanted to apply what I had learned from the solid forms to my favorite utilitarian form, the tea bowl. Being a wood-fire clay artist I admire the history and aesthetics of Japanese ceramics. Way back in the 1990s a teacher of ours, Don Bendel, told us "If you don't know what to make, make tea bowls." I came to see the tea bowl as the artist's signature. They bear a character unique to that artist and an individual artist can be recognized by his or her execution of that form. It is very important to me to establish "my tea bowl" in order to see myself as a successful clay artist, bona fide if you will. I am still developing my interpretation of this form, simplifying the process, focusing on key elements as needed. I don't often impose the traditional terms, chawan, kodai, etc., on these pieces or their anatomy because I still need to think of them as sculpture first to allow for an openness to the process.
     Still reading? Okay, here's how it's done. I start with a solid lump of clay. It works best if the clay is relatively stiff, un-throw-able on the wheel but plastic enough to take marks readily. I form the lump into a solid cylindrical shape. I roll a rough rock, piece of asphalt or concrete, or other rough surface over much of the clay. I compare this to a painter toning his canvas with a wash of thinned earth-tone before beginning the actual painting. I find it best to work with the clay at eye level on a piece of newspaper for ease of movement. I then begin to develop a composition of marks made with objects I've found in the trash, while out walking, working in the kiln yard, or otherwise near at hand. Examples include; portions of broken brick, a landscaping stake, rusted bed-spring, broken band-saw blade, and mystery objects on whose purpose I can only speculate. It's important that they don't cost any money and can be kept or discarded without the feeling of great loss. Once the composition is established I begin to hollow out the form. This is a process still in development. I have used the potter's wheel and banding wheel in this task only to be met with my old obsession over detail and symmetry thus overworking the lip into a cracked and stretched ugliness perched atop an otherwise acceptable sculpture. I have found it more efficient to just scoop out the clay while rotating the piece in hand atop the newspaper. Once the inside is complete I cut the lip. I purposefully follow the composition of marks, undulating the lip to accentuate different surface elements. Then I set it aside to firm up enough to allow me to cut the foot of the piece. I hold the piece upside-down in hand and rotate it while cutting up to 3/8 inch off the outer edge of the bottom of the form leaving a foot with a rough edge in the middle. I then address the outer edge of the form to unite the outer and under-side surfaces, the latter being much smoother by contrast. Firing methods will differ according to the character of the clay body and surface. While the example pictured is unglazed, others may have liner glazes or clay slips applied to the exterior. More examples will be posted after the next kiln unloading.
     If you've made it to the end of this explanation you're admirably persistent and probably deserve some reward, or perhaps your television is broken. In either case, thanks for your interest. The piece pictured was fired with out glaze or slip at the bourry box end of the new switchback kiln at NAU. The bourry box was not used for the inaugural firing. Instead, the last side-stoke hole was used to achieve even temperature at the back of the kiln. This piece was directly under the side-stoke. Unfortunately or fortunately, a large sculpture fell on top of it at some point shielding it from further ash deposits lending a subtle surface and color variation that serves the piece well, I think. Due to my own impatience to get pictures, there are a few pieces of sea-shell on the surface that need to be soaked in water and dissolved. Otherwise, a good sign of things to come for these forms and the switchback kiln affectionately nicknamed by Sensei Takashi Nakazato "Twin Dragons Kiln".

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Unloaded (addendum)