Ready, set, click! http://goodelephant.bigcartel.com
This past weekend's Open Studio was a blur of selling. Thank you to everyone to made the trip to Silver Spring! There are very few pots left, they are now listed for sale on my Online Store. It will be open December 15-31, and all orders will ship for $10 flat.
Ready, set, click! http://goodelephant.bigcartel.com
I've been rolling out some new designs this fall. Some of you may have seen prototypes of these at recent shows. I am officially adding these to my line going forward. You can consider this weekend's Open Studio to be their "coming out party."
Ahjoshi Hanbok. This jar is an abstract representation of a traditional Korean gentleman's garment. 11 inches tall. $160
Vase with Wire Handle. Textured to resemble a woven basket. Stainless steel handle doesn't mind getting wet. 14 inches tall. $85
Paperclip Jars. I have a deep and growing love of small lidded jars. Ideas for new forms keep popping up in my head. These are the latest. 4.5 inches across. $38 each.
Small Spouted Bowls. For serving sauces and condiments, and small mixing jobs. These are an updated version of the Condiment Triad, now these can be purchased individually. 3 inches tall. $24 each.
Kimchi Dishes. Really there are tons of uses for these. They are named after the small dishes that cover your table in a Korean restaurant, filled with various kimchis and tasty little salads. 5.5 inches across. $18 each.
Leaf and Pebble Necklace. These are not a new design, I haven't made beads or jewelry in a few years. At most of the shows I attend these days, they forbid you to sell jewelry unless you have been juried into the jewelry category. So these have been around. They will be clearance-priced this weekend at $15 each.
I sprung for a new banner this year!
In addition to the pots pictured here, there will be plenty of mugs, bowls, plates, platters, vases, jars, and as always, elephants. There will be a bargain table with seconds and discontinued items. Expect some homemade snacks too.
Good Elephant Pottery's 8th Annual Open Studio
Saturday and Sunday, December 13-14
10am - 5pm both days
One of the best parts about visiting Lancaster, PA (where I did a show last month) is getting up early to explore the Lancaster Central Market, and picking up all kinds of traditional Amish foods to take home. One of my favorite treats is Shoo-Fly Pie. If you're not familiar with it, it's literal name would be Molasses Custard Pie with Crumb Topping. I decided to attempt one at home for Thanksgiving, and found out just how easy they are. In fact, you should be skeptical of any recipe that doesn't fit on one page.
1 nine-inch pie crust
1 cup molasses
3/4 cup hot water
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk together molasses, hot water, and baking soda. Whisk in the beaten egg. Pour into pie crust. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, brown sugar, and butter, until the mixture looks like sand. Spread evenly over the molasses mixture. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Lower oven temp to 350°F, and bake another 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Seriously, practice some delayed gratification, or your filling will ooze out all over the place.
I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with yummy food and gooey sweet treats!
About a week ago, I drove down to Nelson County, Virginia with some friends. We went to visit Nan Rothwell, a fabulous potter who occupies a special place in my pottery world. About ten years ago, shortly after I had put together my own studio at home, I also made a point to start attending workshops whenever possible. The salt-glazing workshop I took with Nan changed my perspective on everything. I was so impressed by her studio. She operated on a larger scale than anything I had ever conceived of before. And then there was Nan the teacher, to this day the best teacher I've ever had. Though I was mostly happy to self-teach myself in the absence of good teachers, spending some weekends with Nan was of immeasurable value. Oh what a difference a good teacher makes! She's also hilarious, it's just fun to be around her. As I drove away, I was thinking "I want to be like Nan." And from then on, I had a role model for how it's done, and the type of person it takes to make it as a potter. When I became a teacher, I modeled myself after Nan as much as possible. To all of my former students who enjoyed working with me, you can also thank Nan.
In her fall newsletter, Nan announced that she was closing her countryside studio, and downsizing into an apartment in Charlottesville, Va. Semi-retiring, she is now going to teach classes at City Clay, and maintain a small studio. "That's weird," I thought, because this is exactly what I've been planning for myself down the road. Full-time pottery is very physical and I'm not sure I want to do it past age 60. Maybe 55. I think it's smart to think ahead to a downsized life, so I'll be ready to move on when my back and wrists start calling it quits. I would love to get back to teaching classes then, and maybe maintain a small studio. The only difference is that I won't be moving from a country house to a city apartment, my plan is to move from a city house to a beach apartment. But generally speaking, I will be following in her footsteps again.
So I had to visit her studio one last time while I had the chance, and some friends came along: Karen Arrington, Jonathan Gordy, Karen Morgenstern, and her brother Neil. We had a grand time, chatting and catching up, talking shop, and drooling over gorgeous pots. Her studio/classroom is set up as a showroom through the end of the year. She is selling pots, studio equipment and furniture. I bought several nice pots, and also a Thomas Stuart wheel! I've wanted one for so long. I consider them to be the best, something I planned to treat myself to "someday." I've been throwing on it for a week now, it is so sturdy and solid. I'm in love. My older Bailey wheel is now a dedicated trimming station, which is very convenient.
Here is the sake set I bought from Nan last week.
And here is my new Thomas Stuart wheel. I was a little worried about whether I had room for it in the studio, but it turns out to be fairly compact, and it fit right in. Also, big huge thanks to Jonathan and Neil who carried it down the stairs into my basement. It is solid metal and really heavy!
Someday when I'm old, I will look back on my life as a potter, and know that I did a good job. After several years of applying, and many more years of ambition, I've been juried into the 2015 Smithsonian Craft Show. I've always regarded this show as the top of the craft mountain. And now Mea the old lady can say "there I was, spinning around like Maria Von Trapp."
My quest was to make gray pots in a wood kiln. It's not that my quest was so difficult, it's that I only get to wood-fire about once a year. I have always loved the brown and celadon green pots that I've gotten out of wood-firing. But as you've probably gathered by now, my aesthetic priorities are soft shades of gray. In recent years another priority has emerged, which is that I now support myself financially with nothing but pottery sales. Therefore everything I make must make sense within the line of work that I present for sale. My wood-fired pots are special to me. I do want them to stand out when I display them with the rest of my pottery, but also to look like they belong. Now, after about ten years of trying, I think I have struck the right balance.
All of my attempts to make a gray glaze for cone 10/reduction resulted in blue glazes (shudder). And sometimes I made gray pots by accident, mostly with heavy crusts of salt and/or soda. I love that look, but I need a process that is more predictable, and more food-friendly. Last year, the answers began to emerge for me. The basis of the solution is porcelain. In order to make gray, you need to start with a white background.
These pots were thrown in porcelain, then brushed with a thin layer of a gray flashing slip. I've learned this slip does not look great on stoneware, it just looks flat and brown. But the white porcelain peeking through brightens everything, creating pretty shades of gray and brown with lots of variation.
And this is the second approach I took this year ... these pots were thrown in stoneware, then brush with porcelain slip. I carved a minimal pattern through the porcelain, to reach some of the brown tones of the stoneware. Then I fired them in the salt chamber of the kiln to receive some of those gray tones of salt.
I'm really pleased that I got to wood-fire with my friends from the Greenbelt Community Center again this year. Even though I no longer work there, I was able to sign up for this workshop, which is now deftly led by Karen Arrington. And once again we had a great experience working with Jim Dugan at Baltimore Clayworks, where we always get loads of guidance and expertise.
I get a lot of nice compliments at shows. But once in a while I hear something that strikes me deeper, and really makes me feel good. Yesterday at Art on the Avenue, a woman looked around my booth for a few minutes then said, "Ceramic is such a hard material. But your glazes look so soft. It's a nice combination." I've never thought about my work like that before, but I do now.
Near the end of the day, another person walked into my booth and said, "People are talking about you up and down the avenue." That one made me a little nervous. But now that I have totaled up my sales for the day, I don't think I need to worry about it.
And it's not because I have two shows and a wood-firing. It's because the Orioles are in the playoffs! Unlike two years ago when landing the second wild-card spot was a breakthrough accomplishment, this year they won the AL East by a wide mile. Expectations are high. I will not try to predict how far they will get. But the farther they get, the more difficult it will be for me to handle. I'm basing this on 2001 and 2002 when the Maryland Terrapins made the Final Four. I couldn't sleep. My heart pounded and I got light-headed. My hands and feet were tingling. My blood pressure was either really high or really low, I'm not sure. It's going to be the same this month.
I will make sure that I am next to a TV or radio for every game. I apologize in advance to everyone who I blow off this month. I might be in a state of high-stress, or elation, or crying my eyes out. And thank goodness this Saturday, October 4, is an off day for the Os, because I have my first fall show! (Art on the Avenue in Alexandria, VA)
Let's go Os!
I got a new stamp to mark the bottoms of my plates and platters. It's larger and easier to read than my previous stamp. I can only use it on flat-ish items that are built on a hump mold, because it needs the support provided by the mold in order to make a clean impression. Also, it's too large to fit on anything three-dimensional. The stamp is rubber so it tends to stick to the clay, but a dusting of corn starch solves that.
This is one of my favorite designs. I've been making "the captain" for many years. The design has been updated a few times, but is essentially the same: a medium-sized, deep dish, flat bottom, vessel with a lid. The name "Captain Casserole" describes its superhero-like functionality. It not only cooks and bakes, it can serve, store, and transport. It makes a grand entrance at potlucks. The lid also works as a bowl. And, as much as I love casseroles, both the pots and the foods, I felt that the word "casserole" had developed an outdated and frumpy reputation. An association with people who can't cook, other than dumping a can of condensed soup over other canned products. I'm trying to elevate the word "casserole" into the realm of good food and serious cooks, by making it sound courageous and cool. I know there are people who always saw it that way, all I want is for everyone to agree.
One of its strong suits is covered roasting. This method allows you to slow roast inexpensive cuts of protein. The covered vessel keeps everything juicy and fork-tender, while still allowing the meat to brown.
Start with a glug of olive oil in the bottom of the pot, then a layer of sliced onions. Salt and pepper 1.5 lbs of shorts ribs, cut "flanken-style" which is another way of saying "the way Koreans cut their short ribs."
Layer the short ribs on top of the onions. Cover with lid, and bake at 300°F for 3 hours.
This is how the short ribs look right out of the oven. Yum.
Served with a sweet potato salad. This exact recipe works for brisket and lamb shanks too.
Braising is a lot like covered roasting, only with a little liquid to create a steamy environment, and a nice sauce at the end. Combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and 1/4 cup honey. Add one clove of minced garlic, a tsp of minced fresh ginger, and whisk it together. Pour the liquid over four chicken thighs in the casserole. Cover and bake at 350°F for 1.5 hours.
Oh yeah. Get in my belly.
Served in a bowl over rice, with some strings beans that I managed to harvest despite the bunny problem. This exact recipe works with a small whole chicken, or thick cut pork chops.