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A few kind people from the UK posted this excerpt from the 1965 film ‘Isaac Button: Country Potter‘, directed by John Anderson and Robert Fournier .

The last time I saw this film (and it had no soundtrack at the time) was at that wonderful Fusion clay conference in Ottawa I had mentioned a few posts ago.  We were very fortunate that conference to have John Leach not only as our presenter, but for his  wonderful narration of this silent film, talking about Mr Buttons and his pottery, as well as fielding questions.

Isaac Buttons was one of the last in a long tradition of country potters.  It is said that he could throw a ton of clay in a day, and gauging from his systematic and efficient way of throwing (a pot in 22 seconds), and the scale of some of his pots, that is certainly not inconcievable.

I would love to have a copy of this film in its entirety to add to my collection, but I have yet to find it for sale.  I’m forever hopeful that it will come up one of these days!

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Playing with Fire, DVDI found this lovely video/DVD put out by the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) online and thought other people might like it as much as I do.

For those of you who raku, or simply love raku pottery, you may or may not know that Paul Soldner is known as the father of modern raku as we know it today… but that is only part of the story.

This video is available at: http://www.playingwithfirethemovie.com

Please check out this video trailer of the film I’ve linked in from YouTube below:

:

Mixing glaze (by the way, the drill and mixer are actually being supported by an adult out of the photo)

Mixing glaze

We try to nurture interest in the clay process and art whenever the opportunity presents itself. (A few years off from being able to wedge clay though. hehehe)


Our last spring art market (and spring show for the year) was this past Saturday. It was a very nice day and surprisingly active quite early, thanks to the Market on the Square farmers market which takes place weekly on the opposite side of Cathedral Square. Lots of positive feedback from artists and patrons alike.

Anyhow this time of year is always a good time to reflect, regroup, catch up on some orders, and somehow account for how quickly winter and spring passed by..

Here is another video from the CBC broadcast archives that was interesting and, once you get past the early 70s-ness of certain things, it still pertains to a lot of issues artists and craftspeople still face today.

The description from the CBC site about this video:

“For the Cammidges of Vancouver Island, crafting is a family affair. Andrew, the father, makes clay pots; his wife Joyce dyes and spins wool; and the children are expected to master a craft, too. The family has joined a growing number of Canadians who have turned to crafts as a livelihood. But it’s no easy ride: in this CBC report, the owner of a craft supply shop says the odds aren’t in favour of the professional craftsperson.

The link to the story: The Crafty Family


The other day, after a chat with my friend in Manitoba, I went to searching the CBC broadcast archives and this one on Michael Cardew came up. Michael Cardew, in case the name doesn’t ring a bell, is an internationally well-known and well-respected British potter who, as I discovered after watching this clip, was actually the first student of Bernard Leach. Nicely presented on this video.

The description from the CBC site about this video:

“After a lifetime at the potter’s wheel, making a bowl is second nature for Michael Cardew. He starts by kneading a hunk of brown clay to remove air bubbles, then positions it on the spinning wheel. He drives his thumbs into the clay, creating a depression in the centre. With intense concentration, Cardew pulls the sides up and out to create a bowl shape. The process, known as throwing, is the focus of this clip from the CBC series Hand and Eye.”

Video link: “How to throw a pot” with Michael Cardew

No, we haven’t fallen off the planet, just everywhere but the keyboard.
Here are a couple of shots of some raku pots I snapped at a show this weekend. Stylized dragonflies and lotuses bottle & a sweet bay magnolia jar.

Other news.. this spring’s last First Saturdays Art Market will be at Cathedral Square in downtown Mobile on June 2nd from 9 am to 3 pm (NB relocated from the Royal & Government location). There will be pottery and painting demonstrations, and starting at 7:30 am on the other side of the square will be Mainstreet Mobile’s Market on the Square farmer’s market. Hope you are able to join us as we go out with a bang.

(fyi This jar is one of the completed pieces from my February 3rd blog entry, where it appeared in unglazed.)

Rusty Wiltjer - Waterford MaineStarting back in the early 90s, in the early days of Clayart and various pottery newsgroups, there was a group of us who used to log onto the #pottery channel on mIRC, spending long hours happily clicking away at the keyboard talking about anything related to clay, pottery, glazes, firing, kilns, design, life as a potter, apprentices, etc etc etc.

One of the people I haven’t lost touch with from the channel is Rusty Wiltjer (aka Grulox). Rusty has been potting for over 35 years now and is one of the more technically capable potters I know.

Wiltjer Pottery Sink For the last few years, Rusty has focused on developing and producing his handmade sinks, including his pedestal, vessel, and self-rimming models. They are all individually made on the potters wheel, glazed, then high-fired in his gas kiln . I’ve seen a lot of sinks potters have tried to make out there and .. well, there are handmade sinks, and there are handmade sinks. Rusty’s a precision thrower and his sinks are thrown well, designed well (including back-flow), and are finished well.

Wiltjer Pottery Air Orb 2H DrumWhen I visited his site yesterday I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of clay drums he now has up …and each with a sound clip! Its amazing how a slight variation in vessel shape can affect the tone and pitch. Did I mention Rusty also drums professionally and has on and off since he was a kid? For some time now he has been having a weekly drum gathering session at his house where a bunch of like-minded percussionists (I assume all on handmade or primitive drums?) get together and just jam.

Wiltjer Pottery - Captain Drum Head, 28Rusty’s studio is nestled just outside the town of Waterford, Maine, about one hour north of Portland. If you would like to find out more about his sinks, drums, and pottery, or would like to contact him yourself, please feel free to check out his web site www.wiltjerpottery.com.
Rusty Wiltjer live performance.. in his bandana
Here’s a picture of Rusty playing a live performance with singer songwriter Kristen Short. (Nice bandana eh?)

In these days of rising costs of materials, operation, gasoline, travel, and show fees, artists are having to rethink how they do business.

Most artists I know have had to face the reality of being more selective and discerning about what art shows they do. Travelling 800+ miles to do a show, paying an exhorbitant show fee (cuz the organizers are getting greedy – $1200 for one outdoor show in Michigan which is preposterous!), with no guarantee that you will even make expenses is just not feasable. Some people I know who still travel away for shows try and be smarter by clustering their show bookings, but even then, one person I spoke to last summer, who did 3 shows on one trip, said his gas alone was at least $800.

In an attempt to be creative and get something going in our area for artists (which hopefully for some will mean less travel), our group The Coastal Artisans (a collective of 13 artists formed last year) in conjunction with the Museum of Mobile (the history museum) , are presently working on putting together an art market (official name yet to be announced) right in downtown Mobile, across from The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center and the Museum of Mobile on the SW corners of Royal and Government Streets in the green space where the old city hall used to stand.
Our mission is to benefit art, culture, and tourism in the city of Mobile and surrounding area, while at the same time providing self-representing working artists with a quality local event where they can show and sell their work. Like the Coastal Artisan show at the Botanical Gardens in December, the market will have an eclectic mix of invited artists presenting in a range of mediums. It will run the 1st Saturdays of March through June. I should have more info soon on the Coastal Artisan blog/website.

Just a few of the Other attractions downtown: On March 3rd (the first day of the art market) is The 18th Annual American Cancer Society Chili Cook-Off over in Bienville Square, just a couple ofblocks west. The Museum of Mobile has an exhibit on the “Transatlantic Slave Trade” starting Feb 7 that is supposed to be very good. The Exploreum has a wonderful exhibit “A day in Pompeii” running through June, and in their IMAX Dome Theater will be “Greece: Secrets of the Past”

I mentioned in my last post about my friend Charles posting some of the film clips of him being interviewed on YouTube. I can certainly see the value of having some sort of presence there from a marketing perspective, but it also gives me an excuse to go play with some of those movie or video programs that have remained up to this point, at least, unused.

So here is a slideshow I threw together with some photos I had on hand. A few things to work out yet, but, like anything else, there is a learning curve. Man, the technology that’s available to us is amazing isn’t it? And I didn’t even need a Mac to do this.. who knew!
(NOTE: To play the video clip, please click the little “play” right arrow thingie icon in the bottom left corner of the window below. )

Well Christmas is right around the corner and December seems to have passed as soon as it came. There were a lot of pots made in between illnesses and the different obligations and distractions that typically pull you away when you have 2 small children.

Our much anticipated Coastal Artisans Art Show took place on December 2nd (the invitational art show that we had been busily organizing since early last spring) and I am so very pleased to say it was a great success, thanks to a lot of elbow grease on everybody’s part, great community support, and, of course, a buying public. It was a very positive experience and imminently rewarding. We have a really personable and eclectic group of artists and I feel very fortunate to have been able to get to know them over the last several months. I really look forward to working with them again next year. In case you who were involved are reading this blog, I wish to thank all of you who participated and to everyone else who so generously helped us make everything happen.

Designed Stoneware Tripod Vessel by Charles SmithOne of the members and a co-founder of The Coastal Artisans, is Charles Smith. A native of Mobile, Alabama, he is one of the region’s most well known, widely recognized, and certainly respected professional visual artists. He is a true craftsman with a shrewd business sense, a great sense of humor and a heart of gold. Some of you may be interested to learn that a number of video interviews with Charles have been posted on YouTube, where Charles reflects upon technique, design, and artistry, among other things. To view these eight videos, including a slideshow of some of his pots, go to http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=smithpots.

Something else that has gone on in the early part of the month, as mentioned in my previous posts…… On Saturday Dec 16th, the Gulf Coast Kiln Walk Society had the official opening of their anagama kiln. Sadly we weren’t able to make it over be there for the event, but not for lack of desire (my 4 year old brought home yet another cold from school and this time, everybody here got it.). According to a recent email from Marty and Brenda Stokes, the firing took 5 days, as it did last year when Brian Harper helped them fire it. I can’t wait to see the pictures and, with any luck, a video of the event on their web site.

The first weekend of November is always a popular weekend for art shows andsales here on this part of the Gulf. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, here are but a few of these events to check out:

  • This Friday night, Nov 3rd, between 5 and 10 pm, Main Street Mobile will be closing down Conti Street again and opening it up for the evening to the arts. ArtsAlive! on Conti Street is a bi-annual event, usually held in May and November and is a celebration of “visual, performing, and written arts” as well as local artists. Please refer to their calendar for more info.
  • Fri Nov 3rd through Sun Nov 5 – The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival , Pensacola, Florida
  • Sat Nov 4 & Sunday Nov 5 – The Peter Anderson Festival, Ocean Springs, MS

Alabama’s Governor Riley announced at the beginning of this month that 2007 would be officially Alabama’s Year of the Arts.

The campaign is designed to be a year–long celebration of the arts in Alabama that encourages both visitors and Alabamians to spend time experiencing every form of art that Alabama has to offer.”
according to the Alabama’s Bureau of Tourism & Travel web site

In addition to a brochure they are putting out, they are compiling a database of artists, arts organizations (including galleries), events, and attractions online that they will be drawing from for future promotional information, publications, and happenings. In the next couple of weeks they will apparently also be revamping the existing web page, making it a lot more extensive, and hopefully a resource that will benefit everyone in the arts community. You can learn more about their plans and keep up with the latest news on their web site.

Sometimes working as an independent artist tucked away in your studio can be a tad isolating. If you haven’t heard anything about this, don’t feel you’ve missed out. Its still not too late to get your name/event/gallery into their database.
Artists have been asked to submit information directly on their website
at: http://www.800alabama.com/yoa/signup/artists/index.cfm?action=new,
art organizations (including galleries) at: http://www.800alabama.com/yoa/signup/organizations/index.cfm?action=new,
and if you have an arts event, list it in their calendar at: http://www.800alabama.com/things-to-do/events/submit.cfm.

My apologies to those of you who may have tried to access our web site for the last week only to get a “page not found” message. I can assure you, we have not fallen off the planet and, I’m happy to say, we are still most definitely very much here.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, we, along with 11 other artists, have formed a group called the Coastal Artisans, a self-representing collective of noteable and established artists from the Mobile, Baldwin County, and Surrounding areas. Our mission is to present a broad range and eclectic mix of quality artwork to the public, and increase art awareness in the community.

Our artists include: Charles Smith, pottery; Chris Hartsfield, Watercolors; Kurt Thomas, Serigraphs, Screenprinting; Phillip & Jaclyn Benedict, Fine Jewelry & Handcut Gemstones, Rick Tino, Acrylic, Watercolor, & Gouache; “Spike” Cloninger, Fine Lathe-Turned Vessels; Lowell Webb, Pottery; David Atwood, Stained & Fused Glass; Anne Webb, Pottery; William Colburn, Metal Sculpture; Scott Blackwell (Mombo Designs), Cajun Art & Design; Lillie Mack & Marilyn Gordon (Blackbelt Designs), Fiber, Fashion Design; and Jimmy Stroud, Nature Photography.

On December 2nd, we are happy to announce that we will be holding our First Annual Christmas Show and Sale at The Mobile Botanical Gardens from 9 am to 5 pm. Its a one day only event and is being held in conjunction with the Master Gardeners’ and Annual Poinsettia Sale events at the Botanical Gardens.

To find out more info about our group, our artists, and our Christmas Sale, please check out The Coastal Artisans’ blog/website (http://thecoastalartisans.blogspot.com) . We will be adding more info in the months leading up to the show.

My name is Anne Webb and I'm a studio potter living and working just outside of Magnolia Springs, on Alabama's beautiful Gulf Coast. Please leave comments!
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