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Fringe Benefits and Kimchi

by Joseph

Homemade kimchi, thank you Una!

Our friend Una Hill came by on Wednesday, along with her daughter Adriana, for a visit and to pick up some mugs for a fundraising drive.

Adriana is in the Hamilton Children's Choir and they are raising money to pay for a trip to Korea this summer. Being a potter, Una came up with the idea of asking her potter friends to donate mugs to help other kids that otherwise couldn't afford the trip. I was delighted to help out and donated some of my mugs. I encourage other potters to help if possible.

Una brought along some of her kimchi that she made as a gift. I love kimchi, especially in a peanut butter and kimchi sandwich! Yes it sounds awful, but try it one day, YUM YUM! Thank you Una and Adriana~


Work from our latest firing~

Getting started early this morning, we braved the elements and wonderful Canadian weather, and opened the wood kiln. With a lot of work hopefully destined for show applications, we were anxious to see how everything turned out. Much to our delight, the copper reds and oxides came out beautiful, without almost none of them oxidizing or washing out. To get these kinds of results, and keep them consistent, in a wood kiln is something of a nightmare. A lot of potters would wonder why even try to do gas firing-esq glazes in a wood kiln, but for us, it's a matter of necessity and love. We're simply not drawn to the heavier forms and glazes of a traditional wood firing and maybe we're too stubbornly routed in celadons and copper reds. It's a love hate relationship as the ash fluctuating in the kiln, the flashing, and the uneven temperatures that are bound to flare up, wreck havoc and ruin on some of our best pots. But sometimes, just maybe, the results can be magical. We've had some beautiful pieces in this firing, especially my fathers large jars and plates, which came out stunning. I wasn't over the moon with my brush work, but then again, I didn't have to throw half of it into the garbage either. And there were some fun pieces in there as well with some elephants for good measure. Here are some of the results :)

soupART on the way!

Every year my father participates in the Norfolk SoupART fundraiser, which combines local restaurants and the Norfolk Potters guild, to put on an amazing event where people can have all you can eat soup, right out of a handmade unique soup bowl they get to choose and take home. This year I will be donating 10 bowls, and here are some of them, decorated with oxides, and waiting to be sprayed. They're actually in the kiln right now, cooling down, and almost ready to serve up some delicious soup! For more info, check out the event here: Every year my father participates in the Norfolk SoupART fundraiser, which combines local restaurants and the Norfolk Potters guild, to put on an amazing event where people can have all you can eat soup, right out of a handmade unique soup bowl they get to choose and take home. This year I will be donating 10 bowls, and here are some of them, decorated with oxides, and waiting to be sprayed. They're actually in the kiln right now, cooling down, and almost ready to serve up some delicious soup! For more info, check out the event webpage: http://www.norfolkartscentre.ca/events.php

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A much needed break

Sometimes you just need a break, so today my father took April, Kiba and I out for a drive and a short walk along Lake Erie. It was cold, windy, but a beautiful clear sky, and a pleasant break from glazing and decorating. I think Kiba enjoyed the outing most of all, although he didn’t even notice the ‘seen better days’ duck laying on the beach. 

trying to get started

Every time we get ready to do a wood firing, there is a hesitation and resistance that engulfs us when faced with exactly how much work we need to do. Everyone always see's a potters job as working on the wheel, but in reality, that is probably only 10% of what we do. Drying, trimming, cleaning, bisque firing, cleaning again, signing, waxing, painting, glazing, cleaning again, stacking and then firing; all these things weigh heavily upon us like an insurmountable summit ahead of a weary climber. Of course, when you are motivated, when you are under the gun, go go go, and working without thinking about how much is left to do, then it's not so bad. But in the winter months, when business is slow, there aren't many shows, and really you just want to hibernate, well, that's when it's hardest to get started. Here are some pictures of my work in the process of being decorated and glazed, something I did today, although I should have done a lot more. 

In these photo's you can see some of the mess and chaos of the studio right before a firing. Work is piled up all over, glazes need to be remixed and passed through a sieve (this can be a real pain, especially when certain glazes, like copper red, settle and turn into mud/glue at the bottom of the buckets), all my brushwork is done by hand, and then dipped into the clear glaze, and each layer of glaze (outside/inside) needs to dry completely before the other one can be applied. All in all, it's exhausting, and we're worn out even before we've loaded the kiln. Although, we'd never admit to any of this of course because being an "artist" is all about expressing ourselves and 'living in the moment' :p Fun romantic ideas which are usually so far from the truth.

 

~Peter

Baked Potatoes

Growing up at our old studio on Old School Road, James, April and I, often had to wait for the school bus outside our home. We were all in the French Immersion program and had to be bused to our schools (at least before high school, after which my parents drove me each day). Waiting inside the studio on a cold winter morning is one of the things I remember most clearly from my childhood. The studio had an old furnace system, with long exposed hot water pipes, perfect for holding onto and warming up your fingers. We'd stand there by the front window's, waiting for the bus to pull up. If we had time, one of my father's favourite things to do was bake us potatoes in the fireplace. We'd wrap them in tinfoil and set them amid the coals, eagerly waiting to cut them in half and see the steam rising out of them. With just a little salt and pepper, safely stored away in a cupboard just for this reason (and sometimes a little olive oil), we'd devour our warm snacks before setting off to school. 


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We still bake potatoes in our wood fireplace, and on a cold winter day, when the wind cuts through you and you feel that dampness down in your core, for me there's nothing quite as heartwarming and filling.

~Peter

Bits and Pieces

by Joseph Panacci

Was it born, was it made, or was it more likely bits and pieces coming together slowly.

Yanagi talks very eloquently about the old Korean potters making everyday rice bowls without any thought to them. They were simply made to be used everyday, and sold very cheaply. They were not trying to be artists, but just trying to make a living.

My newest mug with our local farm glaze, chattering and new handle.

I wish I could go back to a simpler time, when you produced work that was natural to your surroundings, only using materials available locally. Today it is not possible to be a “Unknown Craftsman” for our minds are contaminated with too much information, and our world is now wide open. We have access to everything, skills and knowledge to learn any technique, raw materials from all over the world, etc. 

I believe we as artists/potters are more like bits and pieces of the past, trying to find our unique style in a wilderness without any direction. My mind is contaminated with images and information, too many historical references, examples of pottery from the Greeks, Romans, Chinese. Koreans, Japanese, English, African, etc. All very distinct and beautiful. So how can one potter today be original from the past? Not easy to be sure.

New mug with a darker clay body, with the same clear glaze inside and overlapping.

Within the last year I have developed a new mug form, handle, and texture. very different from my regular mugs of the past. The bits and pieces came together slowly, at first I liked the foot ring that my friend Robin puts on her mugs, and I did try something similar on my sanity mugs at first. Later my son Peter was working on faceted mugs, and needed some ideas on how to make a handle for them. I showed him one technique of using a coil of clay, squaring it, and then twisting it to reflect the faceted sides of his mugs. At the same time I was developing a new robust form for my mugs and wanted to use coil/slab build handles, and not pulled handles otherwise I would just repeat my regular handles.

Robin's Mug 

Peter's faceted mug

I slowly started by flattening a coil of clay and then twisting it and flattening it again. Then I tried to stretch it longer and get it thinner, my form for the new mug slowly became more robust, and I started adding deep chattering for texture on them. I have also taken into account how they are to be glazed and fired in the wood kiln. Now I'm using stoneware and porcelain clay, and leaving the outside of the stoneware mugs unglazed to let the flashing and heavy reduction do their magic during the firing, and the porcelain mugs glazed with the farm shino glaze. 

Freshly made handles, ready to be applied onto the cups.

Close up of the new handle, it's form and line, each one unique, is what makes them exciting for me.

Were these mugs “born or made.” I like to think they were more likely an evolution of bits and pieces from my experience and influences around me. All coming together slowly, as the distinct styles from region to region and country to country of the past.

"Naked" porcelain showing the flashing from our wood firing. 

"Naked" porcelain showing the flashing from our wood firing. 

I've also applied this new handle design, with some beautiful results, to my large pitchers. The copper red glazes flow beautifully along it's line, creating truly unique and stunning effects.

I've also applied this new handle design, with some beautiful results, to my large pitchers. The copper red glazes flow beautifully along it's line, creating truly unique and stunning effects.

This mug is just a mug

Something a lot of people may not know is that my father spends a great deal of time reading and writing poetry. I've been telling him to share some online, so here is the first of many to come :)

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This mug is just a mug

It is not a fashion statement or the latest trend
Or a political point of view from left or right
It is not a religious experience into the afterlife
Nor does it contain any philosophical insight

This mug is just a mug

It is not laced with gold or silver
Or made by a famous potter
It does not hold any age old wisdom
It is fragile if dropped, it will not last forever

This mug is just a mug

While never the same, it is one of many
Lovingly crafted on the potters wheel
It is meant to be enjoyed and used everyday
While you ponder life's unsolved mysteries.

 

by Joseph Panacci

New Work from the latest Firing!

Here are some pieces from the newest firing! I was extremely happy with the new celadon glaze my father mixed, it's a lot more stable, less crazing, AND the oxides came out nicely :) Again, the brown and black glazes are made from local clay, right from a farmers field here in Norfolk :) Among the pieces are a simple decorated tumbler, large, medium and small bowls, a sake bottle and cup, and a normal tea cup on it's own. ~ Peter

Firing Update, a Grueling Affair

It's 3:20 am, I'm exhausted, covered in soot, ready for bed and there's no rest in sight. Over the past few days, amid the abundance of snow, we've been working feverishly trying to get all the work ready for one last firing before Christmas. Sunday I was working at 10 am until past midnight, glazing, spraying and cleaning all my work. Today, even with our best efforts, we didn't get the kiln loaded and ready to go until 4:15 pm. So I'm 11 hours into this firing, with a possible 1-3 more hours left to go, (if not more due to the cold weather) and I feel downright drained. But the end is in sight, and without any mishaps, the kiln should be ready to unload Thursday evening. It's moments like this that make me wonder why we do wood firings, and why we don't charge a huge premium for all this extra labour.

Elephant Surgery

These elephants, among several others, were the victim of my dads clumsiness, and have suffered tremendously. So I'm trying to do some damage control and reattach limbs, trunks and even heads. Some of them will make it through, others, like the one with only 3 legs, will have to soldier on as is. ~Peter

New Work, Ramen Bowls

Here are some bowls I've been working on, trying to make them a little heavier and deeper, hopefully perfect for eating large bowls of noodles and soup, like ramen or pho :) I've also tried making lips/side dishes to accompany each dish, allowing you to cover the soup while serving, they're definitely still a work in progress and I will have to do extensive product testing to see how they stack up ;) ~Peter

ramen bowls and lids

New bowls and Robin's new puppy!

First, our good friend and fellow potter Robin has a new puppy, and what a beautiful dog she is, half german shepherd and half lab, Sophie :)

And second, here are some new bowls I've decorated, waiting to be fired, of places I've been to in Sapa, Vietnam. You can see the original images along with what I've painted with oxides. Hopefully they come out well in our next firing! ~Peter

Making some sake cups

Here's a video of me making two sake cups, throwing off "the hump". This just means I'm using one large piece of clay to throw a lot of small pieces, rather than cutting the clay into individual chunks. It saves time and can be a lot easier, although I do find, for me, since I'm not used to it, that it's hard to establish the 'bottom' of the piece and that judging exactly how much clay to pull with takes a lot of practice. Anyways, these pieces are for some friends of mine, so I thought I'd share how they are made :)

 

here's the url if you can't see the video below: http://vimeo.com/80674959

Finally some room to breathe :)

Well it's been quite hectic these past 4 weeks. We've had 3 guild sales, our own Christmas Country Open House/Studio tour, an exhibition with the Norfolk Arts Center and a 'Meet the Maker' talk/presentation. And not to mention 2 wood firings, so all in all, a very busy November. But now, with a little time to unwind and relax, we're finally getting back to work and 'normal' life :)

And with that, winter has finally arrived and we've had two wonderful snowfalls. There's something about the world being clad in white which makes the cold a little more bearable :) It also makes Christmas all that much more of a reality and really gets you into the spirit of the season.

The view across the road this morning

On that note, we are keeping the studio open on a regular basis, so if you'd like to come by, maybe have a nice baked potato with us, please do :) We are also working on some new work and filling some orders for one last firing before Christmas. So if there is anything you'd like us to make, now is the time to ask. I've been working on some shot glasses and sake sets people have asked for, so don't worry, they are already well on their way :)

~Peter

Our First Christmas Open House!

Today marked the beginning of our first Christmas Open House as part of the annual Norfolk Country Christmas Tour! Joseph, Robin and I were all delighted to welcome everyone into our studio and we want to extend a big thank you to everyone who helped with our kiln opening! We hope you all enjoyed the excitement of first opening that kiln and seeing all the surprises (good and bad) waiting inside! We hope it brought you a little closer to our work and what makes us so passionate about wood fired pottery.

If you didn't have the chance to visit us today, we will be open tomorrow, November 17th as well, from 12-5pm, and we hope you'll drop by, have some apple cider and see what we've been up to. Please check out the other wonderful venues on the tour. This years Country Christmas Tour features amazing art work and local delicacies with 9 wonderful places to visit. You can find out more about them in the Events section.

 

~Peter