As the primary contact for most sales out of our shop in Maine the most frequently asked question I hear is “What is this used for?” One such item is our demitasse cup. As a tiny vessel it has been bought for many purposes. In the hands of an owner it becomes a pill dispenser, a tooth pick holder, a sake cup, a safe place to hang earrings, a vessel for salt, pepper or condiments for individual seatings. They hold olive oil for dipping bread, melted butter for lobster, and homemade facial scrub. They are used for testing coffee roasts.
Some items, like our Dessert Cup [internal link], are less often questioned, yet, also put to multiple uses. Yes, they hold yogurt and fruit, and ice cream with any topping you like. They have also been bought to hold flower arrangements, and make-up brushes.
Then there are the ribbed soap dishes[internal link]. No one asks what is this for, so I have to tell them, ‘That is a tray for holding watercolor brushes.’ or ‘That holds business cards.’
Though I have been planning this for some time—only over the last 4 to 5 years have I been working with crystalline glazes. A process much more demanding that non-crystalline because the effect is literally grown by precisely ramping and soaking the molten glaze to develop a wide variety of crystalline patterns. I make a photo series of the developing crystals to determine the precise moment when the crystal patterns reach a desired ratio. Many may find the technical aspects of my new adventure tiresome but I’m enjoying every minute.
“If a kiln is small, I might be able to control it completely, that is to say, my own self can become a controller, a master of the kiln. But man’s self is but a small thing after all. When I work at the large kiln, the power of my own self becomes so feeble that it cannot control it adequately. It means that for the large kiln, the power that is beyond me is necessary. Without the mercy of such invisible power I cannot get good pieces. One of the reasons why I wanted to have a large kiln is because I want to be a potter, if I may, who works more in grace than in his own power.”
Have you ever felt you were a spectator rather than a participant in your life? A twist on Allen Saunders expression “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”.
When like an unreal dream you are startled with the gift of a George Nakashima table and within the same year a brilliantly manic friend gives you a Shoji Hamada plate saying “thought you should have this”.
One day I find myself glazing a bisque plate which has been gathering dust in inventory for many years. As the dry glazed piece waits weeks for me to load the kiln—I walk by thinking it will not fire well and come close to washing it off (to re-glaze in another way). I finally load the kiln and happen upon the patient plate which I decide is needed to fill kiln space—even though I have zero confidence in the result.
Imagine my surprise & chagrin on unloading a piece as beautiful as any I have ever touched. A piece I seem to have made and glazed and fired—but the result of which did not come from my confused efforts. This experience is a hubris killer as well as a powerful motivator to persevere while being skeptical of one’s inclinations. Have you ever experienced anything like this?
To paraphrase Yogi Berra—you can observe a lot by watching YouTube.
If your curious how I do what I do—browsing my Water Stone Sink / Maine Kiln Works YouTube Channel could be entertaining and perhaps educational. A few of the video edits are my crude efforts but most were created by my best friend in this world—Patrick Barter. Much of the content is unusual and in many cases unique. Though I didn’t hatch female, I enthusiastically support the feelings so well expressed in Peggy Seger’s song ‘Gonna Be An Engineer’.
I am never happier than when making, breaking, mulling mistakes and wondering aloud with my hands: “what would it be like to make THAT”. A few of my THAT’s can be seen at my YouTube Channel.
Though it has taken a VERY long time—I’m at last attempting to create a comprehensive site to display our hand formed Porcelain & Stoneware as well as a range of tangential activities & interests. Perhaps my long suffering customers will be pleased to see results after repeatedly seeing my site development plans delayed. Everything around here is long term—making patience and persistence essential.
I am currently spewing out new pieces and processes at an unprecedented clip—the result of herky jerky planning and testing which is finally bearing fruit. We have scores of new glazes and have successful crystalline firings. Please take a look and offer your suggestions and encouragement ✈