dust prints

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Last weekend while teaching a workshop one of my students asked if I had invented the technique I call dust prints. I said I don't know, but I can tell you how the idea germinated.
ash-print-2.jpgA few years ago, as I was planning a wood firing, I began to think about how to vary my results on the floor of the kiln. That section has a tendency to be cool and bland. I started to play with putting ash on the pots, but getting the ash to stay in place while I carrying pots to kiln and then stacking them was tricky. It occurred to me if I pressed ash into the wet clay it would stay put. When I began to experiment, the process reminded me of making prints.

dust-print-wet.jpgI began to dust small areas of sifted wood stove ash on my concrete floor,  draw through them and then roll my wet slabs over the image. The ash then was fired in place and thus became an interesting element in my tool bag of ideas for our anagama.

red clay print.jpgAs I have continued to experiment, I have found that pressing a contrasting raw clay into the wet surface was also useful.

basaltt horizons.jpg For me, it is exciting to take my materials and process down to an elemental state. Using ash and raw clays as design elements without need for a recipe or weight--drawing materials fired in place--sends my imagination running.


september pages

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Here are a few pages from my September sketchbook.

horiizon pattern.jpg
I am back from my island retreat where the arc of waves intersected with my sense of pattern.

wave horizon.jpg.
A home where I no longer study the horizon of ocean and sky.

field horizon.jpg
I am back to the arc of hill and cloud.

hill horizon.jpg
Working to translate the magic that I gain from salt water to the grace I love in clay via the margins of my sketchbook.

plate triangle reflection.jpg
"Surely someday we will come upon an island

Detach ourselves from the strangeness of this vessel
And learn the steadiness of land the way
We've come to know the brief, authoritative arc of waves.

We will discover what it means to be sturdy
What it means to recognize the same low horizon
Morning, after morning,
The pattern in the erratic origins of leaves.

There is this and only this.
One day there will be no more water to cross,
We will have reached a point of grace,
Of flickering silver.
Tragedy will have no more boldness in this place.

Molly Brown, section III of "Terra Incognita" Kenyon Review (vol. 30, no. 4, Fall 2008)

looking at august

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Here are some visual musings during August.

I began by looking thought the eyes of a mug made in 1998.

cup.JPGRocks find their way into my imagination in the obvious way as inspiration for form.

rockvase1000.jpgCarried from the shore in my pockets, the rocks get set in bowls and find new solutions in repose.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for stonebowl1000.jpgMy experiments in paint, paper, and fabric continue. Where they end up and how they get used I have yet to decide.
  Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for carrots1000.jpg
Rock, paper, painting and before I knew it August is over.


--All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is the little events, the ordinary things in the garden, the pots on the table, the length of the light of the day. They are contrasted and photographed and marked down on the page. Once combined there are new meanings. Another year of summer light and long days is marked. Suddenly the bleached expanse of days has reached its turning point.

21-white-garlic-2015.jpg"Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story."
--Arundhati Roy, from The God of Small Things (HarperCollins, 1997)

#20 summer solstice 2015

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We tripped over shadows, Richard Tuttle poems informing textile musings, humanity, exhibits, architecture, sidewalks and meals--filling our souls with Philadelphia heat, family stories and urban variety. We filled our bags with Pennsylvania cherries, strawberries, and Virginia dill to keep us going. And, at last, stopped on a porch to watch the world go by.

20-white-dill-2015.jpg"Here, even the light trips
over its own shadows."
--Richard Jackson, from "Self-Portrait as Window," Resonance: Poems (The Ashland Poetry Press, 2010)

#19 summer solstice 2015

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It feels like the true beginning of summer. The public schools have ended or are almost over depending on where you live. The heat and humidity have settled in and the long twilight hours are a welcome respite from the heat of the day. The air has been so thick it felt like we could have caught the light with a butterfly net. It's hard to imagine that the days won't just get longer and more languid.

19-white-onion-2015.jpg"There were days when we could catch light in a butterfly net."
--Richard Jackson, from "That's What I'm Talking About," Resonance: Poems (Ashland Poetry Press, 2010)

#18 summer solstice 2015

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For the December holidays Warren gave both Zoe and I copies of A Year with Hafiz: Daily Contemplations, a translation by Daniel Ladinsky. The idea was that we could have a Hafiz reading club to periodically exchange poems. Our exchanges have been very sporadic, but I dip into the book, using poems as fodder for text brushwork. I have found that random words find their way deeply into my imagination. Today I painted with a long handled brush and water on the studio's concrete floor--part calligraphy, photo-op and floor washing.

18-white-caligroahy-2015.jpgA Coat Rack

Let this page be a coat rack you leave something

Something that you will be better off without.
Something that if you no longer carry it's weight

you will look less cunning and dangerous, less
inclined to explode. And you will know more mirth if a thorn in your
mind you let me keep: a pin-cushion my being,
why not, for you?

--Hafiz, excerpt from A Coat Rack, June 8, Daniel Ladinsky, A Year with Hafiz

#17 summer solstice 2015

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This week we have started each day picking high bush blueberries. Most of my local friends also have bushes and we have been comparing notes on when and how we pick and mulch and protect our crop. Mostly I go out and pick and smile and think of the book Blueberries for Sal. I have very fond memories of the blue-black illustrations by Robert McClosky of a mother and daughter picking blueberries. I related to Sal in her overalls and her inability to fill her bucket because she ate most of the berries. The short version of the story is that Sal and her mom go out to pick berries. Mom heads uphill filling her bucket so they can preserve them for winter, while Sal sits and eats most of hers. On the other side of the hill a bear cub and her mom echo their actions. When both youngsters are done eating their fill they go in search of their Moms and somehow Sal follows the mother bear and the cub follows Sal's mom and how will they all find their way safely home?
  I can understand Sal's impatience with her inability to fill her bucket and the sound of berries hitting the near empty bottom of the bucket. And there were times as a kid when I reached for the wrong Mom.

17 white-berries-2015.jpg "Keplink, Kerplank, Kerplunk," the sound of berries hitting the bottom of the empty bucket.

#16 summer solstice 2015

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We dipped into suburban Virginia on our errands this afternoon and as the returning highway looked terrible we chose to mosey home along back roads. The summer daylilies bloomed in clumps along the road speaking of summer like painted islands along twisting blacktop. The deep green of shade, the blazing hot sun, and the stacked up clouds were the odes in a chorus singing to these long days. The vision of lilies was exactly the taste of summer I needed.

16-white-lilly-2015.jpgMorning Poem

Every morning

the world

is created.

Under the orange

sticks of the sun

the heaped

ashes of the night

turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches --

and the ponds appear

like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.

If it is your nature
to be happy

you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination

alighting everywhere.

And if your spirit

carries within it

the thorn

that is heavier than lead --

if it's all you can do

to keep on trudging --

there is still

somewhere deep within you

a beast shouting that the earth

is exactly what it wanted --

each pond with its blazing lilies

is a prayer heard and answered


every morning,

whether or not

you have ever dared to be happy,

whether or not

you have ever dared to pray.

--Mary Oliver, from Dream Work

#15 summer solstice 2015

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When we are stacking the kiln we have a kind of short hand for how we refer to different series of pots. Generally one of us is in the "driver's seat" stacking, another is wadding as we go and a third helper is outside the kiln handing us pots. I might say, 'bring in the largest of the bird vases or the rest of the poem cups or the skinniest tulip vase." Our helper said, "usually I get the names, the bird vases look like birds, the poem cups have a hieroglyphic-type text on them, but I don't get the tulip reference." I had to explain that when I first started my studio Korean stores in NYC were just taking off and I loved the tulips they sold. I wanted to make vases that held a bunch of tulips with ease.

Now that the tulips are long gone in Virginia I have been putting all sorts of other things in these vases including bolting lettuce. I don't know what my assistant would have thought if I said, "please pass me the fattest lettuce vase." I often let some lettuce go to seed. They grow into three or four foot towers of color and sculptural blossoms that, in turn, self-seed for next year's salads.

"It began in the cold light of the A&P by a rotating seed display that had been placed beside the lettuce bin. There, side by each, the lettuce and the lettuce seed. I stood dumbstruck. This lettuce and this seed had something to do with each other. I knew, of course, that the seed made the lettuce. But I had never once wondered how the lettuce made the seed. I suddenly needed to know. I decided to buy a packet of seeds, plant a few, and watch very carefully."
--Mary Anne Mclean, Mary Anne's Garden, page 7.

Recent Assets

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  • ash-print.jpg
  • red clay print.jpg
  • dust-print-wet.jpg
  • basaltt horizons.jpg
  • ash print plate.jpg
  • wave horizon.jpg
  • plate triangle reflection.jpg
  • plate round reflection.jpg
  • field horizon.jpg

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