Successful DCC firing includes mugs destined for Vine Sourdough Bakery and cafe

Two late January glaze firings in the District Clay Center gas kiln were successful enough that I will be able to bring a slew of pretty nice new mugs with me to Florida in early February.

I’m still having issues with two key glazes — White Salt and Woo Blue — but I’ve successfully substituted Leach White for the former and have simply deemphasized the latter, for the time being. I’m also getting excellent results with Blue Black (essentially VC AA Blue Green, but with bentonite) on a particular mug shape that I informally call Thin Curvy. Examples of both Leach White and Blue Black glazed mugs are below.

The Florida-bound mugs will be distributed to friends and at Vine Sourdough Bakery, some for Vine to utilize for customers, some to sell on a yet to determined date in mid-February.

Just-opened DCC kiln, January 30, 2018

Blue Black (out), Waxy White (in) glazes; reduction-fired

Leach White glaze over Laguna Dark Brown clay; reduction-fired



District Clay Center kiln beginning to bear fruit, grudgingly

It can be a challenge to fire an unfamiliar kiln for the first, or even the fourth, time. The Bailey 34/22 at the District Clay Center has been no exception.

The DCC Bailey 34/22 kiln chamber

I’ve now fired the DCC kiln four times and am still a long way from understanding, not to mention mastering, it. Unlike all the other kilns I’ve fired — which were essentially slightly elongated (vertically) cubes —  the 34/22 is a decidedly tall column. I’m still trying to figure out how to manipulate, or at least coax, it with the ideal mix of gas and air.

The kiln has some cool spots, which I’m only beginning to identify. Also, it has a large and very efficient exhaust system, which does a terrific job of sparing the studio from firing fumes, but also obscures one of the key ways I’d grown used to “knowing” a kiln: through the smell of exhaust escaping from it.

As a result, glazes that I’d grown to fire with ease have been very fickle, resulting in about a 50% success rate. My refuse collectors are no doubt getting tired of the weight of my rejects-laden garbage can 🙁

Still, I’m starting to get some keepers out of the kiln, the most notable of which are as follows:

Woo Blue and Shino ramen bowls

Blue/Black and Waxy White

Woo Blue over Shino

Stay tuned.


McKenney Hills holiday pottery sale, Saturday, Dec. 9

Longtime pal and fellow potter Gwen Fitzgerald will be joining me for a holiday clay sale, Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. , in my new home, at 10205 Leslie St, Silver Spring, MD.

Gwen and I met at Glen Echo Pottery in the early 2000s, we’ve remained good friends since, and we’re now neighbors in the McKenney Hills neighborhood of Silver Spring.

Gwen still throws at GEP and fires her work in its soda kiln. Like the kilns I fire in, the GEP kiln is fueled by gas, but bicarbonate of soda is introduced into it, which produces remarkably enhanced glaze colors, which make me very jealous 🙂 Much of the work Gwen will be selling — including mugs, bowls and vases — is “soda-fired.”

I’ll be selling mostly work recently fired in the gas kiln at the District Clay Center, with which I’ve been involved, helping with the center’s gallery, since July of this year. I’ll be selling mugs, bowls, pitchers, platters and covered jars.

We will be accepting cash, checks or credit cards.

Ten percent of our sales will go to charity, Gwen’s to SPCA of Anne Arundel County mine to Casa de Maryland and Progressive Action Montgomery County.

Some of the work we will be selling is arrayed below.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

John’s setup

Gwen’s setup

John pitcher

Gwen mugs

John bowls

Gwen jar

John mugs

Gwen mini vases

John mugs

Gwen bowl

John platter

Gay Smith workshop at Truro Center for the Arts

A lovely workshop with Gay Smith at the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill (TCA), on Cape Cod, ended today. The 5-day workshop, called Fresh Approaches to Functional Pots, was a hands-on affair, and while I attended Gay’s morning demonstrations, I spent the afternoons working on work from home that couldn’t wait. I also had time to enjoy uniformly spectacular early summer Cape weather — mid 70s, sailing breezes, remarkable light — and buzzing Provincetown, before the arrival of the full summer crowds.

The TCA has been offering workshops since 1971, but this is the first year it has been able to provide accomodations to workshop participants, thanks to the recent acquistion of 11 acres and several buildings about a mile from the main campus.

Gay’s inspired instruction, a wonderful living space, and an attentive  TCA staff, made for a terrific week on the Cape.

Gay Smith making a point at her June 2017 Truro Center for the Arts workshop


Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill


Part of the housing at Truro Center for the Arts

2015 Alfred University and 2017 St Pete firing results posted

I have posted pots from both my 2015 workshops at Alfred University and my March 2017 firing at the Morean Center for Clay in St Petersburg, in the Gallery’s Still Kiln Warm section.

The Alfred firings marked the first time in about seven years that pots of mine were fired by someone other than me, in this case Alfred ceramics graduate students. Given the super high volume of pots fired during  the workshops; the heavy utilization of a new kiln; and the availability of almost exclusively glazes unfamilar to me, I was very pleased with some of the results. Particularly successful were one tall jar and some darkly elegant cereal bowls.

As noted, the March 2017 Morean firing also presented its challenges, in this case of my own making. Nonetheless, it was not an entire fiasco. I was particularly pleased with the results of a new tallish, concave mug form that I intend to explore further.

I’m now back in the studio, beginning production for at least one firing in the DC-Baltimore area this summer and two in St Petersburg later in the year.



Partially successful Florida firing

As a result of a couple of rookie mistakes — too stupid to mention — my first firing in two years — at the Morean Center for Clay, in St Pete —  was less than splendid. (The kiln itself fired superbly, as always.) But, the combination of just getting back in the kiln saddle again and the kind of great studio social interaction I’d also not had for a couple of years, compensated for the loss of a few pots and some blemishing of a few more.

A few before/after pics are below. I’ll attach a few individual pot photos to this post once I’m back in Maryland, with access to my photo equipment.

As sort of icing on a partially risen cake, tests on one formerly problematic glaze (yellow salt) and one new (for me) glaze (temmoku) turned out well enough that I’ll use them in my next batch of pots.  Now, back to Silver Spring to make them.

Florida, kiln-firing vacation

Bisqued pots ready to be glazed and fired

According to this blog, I last fired my work a little less than two years ago — June 2015 — if you discount work that was fired for me at the Alfred University workshop in July 2015. Next week, I’ll be firing again, at the Morean Center for Clay, in St Petersburg, Fl. The firing will be part of a near three week trip that will include brief stops in South Carolina, two longer ones in Gainesville, Fl and about at week in St Pete.

If it seems strange that I have a studio in the Washington, DC area, but am driving close to 1000 miles to do a glaze firing, let me explain. Gas or wood-fired kilns, which I need for my glaze, as opposed to bisque*, firings, are a very rare commodity. They are found only in colleges or universities, private studios, or community studios. Non-students don’t have access to “academic” kilns; private studio potters pretty much never risk allowing others to use the equipment upon which their livelihood depends; and, community studios almost never allow non-members to fire their kilns. In fact, the only community studio in the US that I know of that rents out their kilns to experienced kiln firers is the Morean, toward which my car is pointed.

As my blog documents, I’ve fired a lot in the Morean’s lovely gas kiln. This firing will include 30 mugs, 4 pitchers and about 20 bowls. One of the bowls is very large, my largest ever, and I made it extra big using a throw and coil technique, whereby I throw an initial bowl and then enlarge it — out and up — by adding clay coils to the rim.

It will be great to smell gas again, knowing that finished pots are being birthed.

Boxes of bisqued-fired pots and glaze buckets ready for the trip to Florida

*bisque firings are the first of two pottery firings, and are done in an electric kiln. They typically heat to about 1800 degrees and partially harden the pots, which are still porous enough to accept glaze. The second, glaze-firing heats to about 2400 degrees and cures — if you will — the glazes.

Silver Spring studio up and running

Eighteen months after throwing for the last time, and 15 months after moving to Silver Spring, Md, I’m on the wheel again. In my new home studio.

The studio is in a 22′ x 11′ converted sun-room, with spectacular, natural light.

The features I’m most proud of are a long, narrow work/wedging table, which I built into a window frame for rigid support…

a taller, rolling work table for — among other things — rolling out coils and handles…

a 40-gallon, garden-hose supplied, water tank that takes 10 minutes to fill and gives me a week’s worth of water…

a spiffy new Skutt 1027 electric kiln — which is actually in my basement — that zipped effortlessly through three loads of mugs, bowls and pitchers last week…

and a new Denon D-M40 mini hi-fi system, with a PSB subwoofer, captured in a couple of shots above.

Now, to Florida, for my first glaze firing in about two years!

Throwing larger workshop

I will be conducting a 4-hour, demonstration-only workshop covering how to increase the size of pots you can throw, on Saturday, October 24th; 10 am to 2 pm; at Art Alley studio, 716 N Main St, Gainesville.

The workshop will cover cylindrical forms — including jars, vases and pitchers — and plates and platters. In many cases, the techniques covered allow one to at least double their usual object size.

The fee for the workshop is $25 for UF and other students and $35 for non-students.

To register, please e-mail me via my Contact Me feature.

Oribe jarThe Oribe platterMatisse lined jarOribe, cane-handled jar

Mugs accepted for 2015, Cup: The Intimate Object XI

Five of my recently fired mugs will be in the 2015 edition of the Charlie Cummings Gallery’s annual Cup: The Intimate Object show. The show, which includes on-line sales of all entries, will include over 1000 cups and mugs from over 200 artists. A reception will be held on Friday, October 2nd, 6-9 pm. The gallery is at 2040 NW 6th St, in Gainesville.