My pottery teacher of years ago once told me (warned me, actually, when I expressed interest years ago in potting full time) “Pottery is a hard way to make a living”. It is very true. A potter needs to be a skilled artist, technician, manufacturer, marketer, administrator, and sales person, among other things, as well as being physically able and have a thick skin.

Throwing pots on the wheel, in reality, only represents a small portion of what goes into producing a finished pot. For every two three days of throwing, there are four or 5 days of doing other tasks. Pots still need to be trimmed, have handles attached and decoration applied, and patiently monitored as they dry slowly before they are loaded into the bisque kiln. If they survive the bisque firing , they are then glazed and loaded into the gas kiln. Because our shelves are so badly warped we also “wad” the bottoms of our pots before the final firing (wadding: dry china clay and alumina hydrate mixed and formed into balls which are strategically stuck to the bottom of the pots to evenly support the base of the pot on the kiln shelf).

A few examples of other tasks we do involve: clay preparation (digging clay, pounding/sifting/”slaking” it down, mixing it, moving it back to the drying area, pugging it (if you have a pugmill, we dont) wedging/kneading it for right consistency); Glaze preparation (measuring out raw materials and mixing glazes in 5 gallon batches; testing of new recipes or color variations also done in smaller batches; doing glaze chemistry); Kiln building/maintenance; Lifting/Carting bags of raw materials & clay; Loading/unloading the kiln; Shipping; Setting up web site / online sales; assembling and maintaining a sales display to take to shows, for example; preparing for and traveling to shows; Find ways to market work (new shows, online marketing, wholesale & consignment opportunities, etc.); etc

When things go wrong with pottery, they tend to go really wrong. Its very disheartening & demoralizing when you have lost half or more of a kiln load of pots that you have worked weeks to produce, due to some glaze, clay, or firing problem. Its even more disheartening when equipment is inevitably going to conk out when you most need it (usually in the last stretch toward a show). Things can go wrong even when you do things right.

We just had a string of bad firings where some of our usually most reliable glazes, thanks to an ingredient problem, not only came out unrecognizable, but fluxed out and ran all over and destroyed shelves. (Raw materials used in pottery are different clays and minerals all mined from the earth, are only as pure as the mine, and can change over time and according to the mine.) The problems are still not quite resolved. I lost I would say at least 1/3 if not more of the work I’ve made this fall due to one thing or another, but mostly due to these glaze problems. Its not just the financial loss, but the emotional strain that hits hard, and doubly so when you have to cancel that show that you were counting on the income from. When you make pots you’re not just manufacturing; you are so connected to your product in every aspect of production, its a lot more, well, personal. For a while there I didn’t want to see clay.

A friend of mine similarly had some very bad luck with some commercial clay (for which, incidentally, the shipping cost more than the clay) she made all of her pots out of for her fall show season. A week after her big fall sale, a customer brought back $300 worth of pots, then another customer did the same. All or most of the pots had quarter-cent sized hunks of the side of the pot popping off. Lime pop-outs apparently, which can take up to 3 months after the firing to appear. Months of work, large financial commitments (show fee, natural gas, clay, etc), and possibly her reputation tarnished, all because of a faulty raw material or the clay not being mixed properly by the supplier. The supplier was very gracious to replace the clay, but the propane has been burned, the pots have been sold, the money has already been spent, and the remainder of her inventory is questionable… and her pride bruised.

We keep making pots because there is always something that pulls us back. Art for arts sake? Bull. Working artists still have to eat and still have expenses like everyone else. Its not impossible to survive off of one’s work but making pots for a living (or any art full time) takes commitment, perseverance, and drive, it is not for the faint hearted.

When you first start learning how to make pottery, you follow your teacher’s lead. You follow the same techniques, use the same tools, and emulate your teacher as best as you can. You take what you learn with you throughout your potting career. Lowell’s favourite thing to say to students as they start out is “First you learn the rules, then you learn there are no rules”. Sure, there are other ways to do the same thing, but as with learning a language, getting a good foundation in the fundamentals is important.

Over time and with experience, we all come to find techniques, tricks, or tools that work better for each of us. Its always fun visiting other peoples’ studios. I’ve noticed over the years that no 2 potters work in exactly the same manner. And potters, while for the most part a kind and friendly lot, are pretty quirky. The longer they work alone in their studio, it seems, the quirkier they get too. …but that’s another post for another day!

Right now I am throwing on an old Creative Industries wheel. I had been throwing on an even older Soldner wheel, up until August when, unfortunately, the 35 yr old motor finally bit the dust (hoping to repair it after this next show).

The chair I use to sit at it is actually an old stool from a yard sale, cut to height. The front legs are cut 2 or so inches shorter than the back legs which makes it less of a strain on my back when leaning over to throw. A low-tech and inexpensive way to work smarter and save your back.

There are a few things I like to have around the wheel:
– A straight sided 2 or 3 gallon water bucket – rim ideal for scraping excess slip off of my hands; clay particles settle nicely in bottom and don’t get stirred up each time I moisten my sponge.
– an old cup to hold my main throwing tools – pin tool, sponge, wooden knife
– a plastic rectangular container for ribs – not pictured, but is an recycled old baby wipes container . The size and shape is just right as was the price
bats – on the left side of the wheel table there is usually a stack of 7″ Creative Industries square bats that I use for smaller items. They have 2 sets of notches molded on the underside to fit different bat pin spacings for both this wheel and the Soldner. Also have 12″ & 14″ round CI bats, and a few Plastibats (which are actually superior, very sturdy and don’t bend, but are unfortunately more expensive). Nice thing about these plastic molded bats is they never rot and seem to last forever. The drawback is they are more expensive, limited in sizes (nothing more than 14″ in diameter). The Creative Industries ones have a tendency to bend when pots being taken off the wheel, so you have to be extra careful.
– a kitchen scale – for weighing pieces of clay out for throwing
– a mirror – (not pictured) helps with seeing the contour of pots while both throwing and trimming. I threw for 2 weeks without one, bending to the side to see the profile, and not only did it kind of slow me down and make my neck/back hurt, but my pots looks different too.
– big table – (the one pictured here is an old door on sawhorses with canvas stretched over it). I will throw a series and when the table is full, get up and move the pots to ware racks.

There was one time I had bins of tools. (Can you have too many tools??) Well, I still have them, but I have narrowed it down to a few that I actually use regularly at the wheel:
– a pin tool;
– a wooden knife;
– a sponge (a medium sized natural sponge; cellulose sponges also work great in a pinch);
wooden ribs (a small kidney shaped and larger one, both Kemper);
2 Sherrill Mudtools – soft/red & hard/green (I like these because unlike a rubber rib they don’t break down and have so far kept their smooth edge; rubber ribs tend to break down within a few months in this climate);
a long metal rib;
– a chamois on a fishing bobber – stays floating in bucket so I don’t ever lose it and its easy to see; cutoff wires of different thicknesses;
– a metal scraper from hardware store;
– a Bison trimming tool
– a Giffin Grip
– a Grabber pad attached to one of my plastic bats mentioned above
– a 16″ square piece of plywood (very low tech) for trimming larger bowls and platters on.
– many sets of metal calipers for fitting lids

Making pots is very physically demanding. Tasks range from lifting heavy bags of ingredients & clay, bending and straining to load and unload kilns, and repetitive movements that can lead to overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Potters need to think ahead and work smart to make sure their bodies can hold up as long as their love for clay does.

Sometimes, though, illnesses and injuries happen no matter how careful one might be. Two of Canadian potter friends of mine haven’t been so lucky when it comes to their health. One has quite serious back problems and has had surgery, but problems persist. My other friend has had epilepsy for years but recently, she has been coping with some pretty serious unforeseen complications relating to her condition. Both friends sought the help of an occupational therapist (O.T.) in hopes that they might help them continue to pot.

In this sort of situation, the Occupational Therapist comes to the workplace, observes the working environment, the working habits, and the tasks that need completing, then makes an assessment and suggests a plan of action.

The occupational therapist recommended to my friend with the back problems, working at the wheel from the standing position. Due to another pre-existing condition, she was not going to be able to be on her feet for any extensive period of time, so the OT worked with her and together, they designed a special “stool”, built specifically to her physical proportions. It wasn’t meant to sit at per se, but it was contoured in such a way that she could take some of the weight off of her legs/feet while still throwing standing up. (Sorry, unfortunately I don’t have a picture.) The other recommendation was that she take on a partner or assistant who would do tasks such as loading the kilns and other such tasks. This worked out quite well for her.

My friend with epilepsy had suffered some major set-backs due to some related neurological conditions, resulting in problems with balance, vision, fine motor skills, hearing, and increased frequency of seizures. Tasks such as throwing, manipulating a brush, and pulling handles were becoming increasingly difficult and sometimes even invoked seizures. A couple of the suggestions that she successfully implemented for working at the wheel were wearing an eye patch while throwing, and throwing with the help of a mirror (no more leaning over). Put simplistically, since her seizures were invoked by certain visual stimuli and physical movements, changing her visual perspective (covering one eye and using the mirror) and way of working, has helped to retrain her brain (much like retraining the brain of a stroke victim) to use different neural pathways to complete specific tasks, including throwing, and work relatively seizure free. So far so good. She is back to throwing again and is doing her first show in as many years this weekend.

I really have to admire my two friends for having the gumption to find a way to keep making pots despite their debilitating conditions and for seeking help from an occupational therapist. I know how difficult it must have been for both of them, after so many years of potting, to have to adjust to new ways of working, but both have made the adjustment successfully and sing praises of their OTs.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day when blogs everywhere talk about one thing: the environment.

Potters tend to have a reputation for being frugal. Some stems from necessity, some stems out of principle. I started thinking about ways in which we here at the studio try to make a difference to the environment and recycle:

– Building: recycled wood & windows in building studio (reclaimed lots of waste wood from hurricanes which would otherwise be taken to landfill or burned).
– Plastics: We recycle grocery bags & use them for shows (people don’t mind when you tell them it is for the environment) as well as dry cleaning plastic which works perfect for covering pots & protecting controlling how they dry
– Paper: Newspaper and newspaper roll ends are used in the studio for a multitude of uses. Also excellent for packing pots away for/at shows
– Metal: We bought a can crusher and while they don’t pick up recycled items here, we take our tin/aluminum cans to the recycle depot when we are in town.
– Appliances: We have two defunct refrigerators & freezers make excellent damp cupboards and places to keep moist clay.
– Old Machinery: our clay mixers are 2 recycled old machines: one is made from an old WWII anti-aircraft gun and the other a 1915 dough mixer.
– Waste wood & pine needles: We get scrap wood cast offs from the local wood mill and use them to fire the wood kiln. Wood and pine needles burn much more efficiently and with less smoke at the temperatures we fire the kiln to, than it would in a burn pile.
– Cast offs: We use cast-off bisque ware (cracked and unusable) in holes in our driveway, and try to use as many of the glazed cast-offs as bird feeders, planters, dog bowls, etc.. Lots of other shards go to a friend who does mosaics. (We have also used waste oyster shells from the local fishery to fill holes in the driveway – smells a bit at first, but definitely organic)
– Our clay: Now that our clay mixer is operational again, we try to pay extra attention these days to recycle all of our scrap clay into a new batch of mixed clay and make it go as far as possible. A lot of the clay we use, we dig ourselves. The white and bubble gum colored clay that we like to use is considered waste clay to contractors (not good for road base) and they are quite happy if we cart as much as we like off.
– Organic Gardening: We try our best to garden as organically as we can. We have several neighbors with horses that are glad to part with their more than ample supply of muck.
– Commuting: Our little chunk of land houses both where we live and the studio, so thankfully I don’ t have to commute anywhere (except to shows, wholesale customers, and some of my suppliers, of course).
With a group of like-minded artists, we also started a small artist collective to hopefully open up more marketing opportunities closer to home and cut back on travel. Less traveling not only saves us expense, time, and wear and tear on our vehicles (and us) but also means less fuel consumed and less impact on the environment.

Coming from away, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of things such as public transit for commuters and carpooling lanes when I first got down here. SUVs are the vehicle of choice it seems here and its not uncommon to see a Hummer or 2 cruising up the road. No attention to carbon emissions on old vehicles either. Big cars, big boats and often big inefficient houses too. How do permits get granted to construct on valuable wetland? Always has baffled me how a place with so much sunshine has so few people taking advantage or even the slight bit knowledgeable of solar power. Welcome to the Alabama Coast. Consuming with very little thought of conservation. You used to be able to see to the bottom of Mobile Bay not 50 years ago, apparently. Not now though. Pollution from industry-friendly Mobile and other places upstream have unfortunately taken its toll. Its a pity.

Southerners are known to be resistant to change but hopefully they will sit up and take notice before it is too late.


Here is one of the mugs I made lately, specifically of native clay for Magnolia Spring’s own Moore Brothers’ Market, a quaint little country grocery store that shares premises with Jesse’s Restaurant . (Their building is officially registered on the National List of Historical Places.)

Magnolia Springs is not very big place, with about 1,000 friendly inhabitants. The focal point of the village is its natural springs, from which it obviously was named at least partially after. Just down the street from both the springs and Moore Brothers, is the Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast, which has been featured by several magazines such as Southern Living and Gentry to name just a few. It is quaint, off the beaten track, and, if you’re looking for something just a bit different, its a nice change from the more typical hotels & motels located in the neighboring cities of Foley and Fairhope.
Magnolia Springs also boasts one of the only, if not the only, all-water mail delivery routes left in the United States which, in my opinion, fits the character of the place to a T.

Since I moved my wheel outside, I’ve noticed a surprising number of new little creatures that I probably wouldn’t normally see on my usual trip to the studio. Gekkos, Red headed skinks (a lizard), blue racer skinks, crab spiders, a rainbow of different colored dragonflies, etc., all going about their business seemingly undisturbed by my presence and the constant hum of the wheel. A great place to look for design inspiration.

Saw this unusual little fellow hanging out on a loquat leaf around dusk. His/her body alone was close to an inch long. Always suspect of unusual looking bugs since moving to the south, I checked online to make sure he/she wasn’t venomous. From the Dave’s Garden web site (a great gardener’s resource, btw), I learned he/she was a “Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans)” that loves to eat bugs (including wasps) but is not known to bite humans. I was glad to know that since the plants in that part of my garden, especially my gardenia, have had a bit of an aphid problem the last 2 yrs. I’m always in favor of a natural predator vs using pesticides.

I was throwing mugs today. My 3 1/2 year old wanted to smell the pots as they came off the wheel. She leaned very carefully over to give one of the wet pots a sniff.

“What smell like?”

I kept throwing and absently said “Uh.. mugs..?”

She huffed then said “No, Mommy. Not smell like mugs.. Smell like money!”

..little parrot pottery child..

Absolutely beautiful day out today, here on the coast. While I do miss my fall days in Canada, on days like today, they couldn’t be further from my mind. Low humidity, sunny, slight breeze, and in the 80s F.

The deck on the studio (all built from wood gathered from the beach after hurricane Ivan) was finally(!) cleared of the last bits of refuse scrap lumber today. Gave it a good sweep off, cut back the blackberry vines that were working very hard at taking over, and I was quite amazed at the transformation.

Once the spot was clear, I just went ahead and brought out my wheel. Not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before but I am so glad I did. Made for a much more productive day. I was able to be outside, have a clear view of my much happier 3 1/2 year old playing in her wading pool, and able to throw for a lot longer with relatively few interruptions. Even the dogs and cat were happier as everyone now had an equally prime spot beside my chair.

I think I may do it all over again tomorrow. No rain in the forecast until later in the week.

I’ve been out of commission for almost a week now with a bad head cold. I have no idea where I picked it up, but it hit me like a truck early Saturday morning as I was getting ready to go run my usual errands.

Today, while still a little foggy, is the first day I’ve felt semi-human. The possibility of a wholesale customer popping by sometime in the afternoon was motivation enough to get presentable and head out to the showroom to straighten up and take stock of what I had before my guest arrived.

Took the opportunity to snap a few photos in the gap between when my customer left and my daughter’s school bus was to arrive.

One thing about being sick and out of commission, no pots are being made. Its even more challenging when you have small children (and I have 2 less than the age of 5).

It was good to see the pots and think about clay again. Time to regroup and get back into the groove.


Native clay jar with brushwork
Stylized dragonfly design

by Anne Webb

approx 11.5″ H


Today was the first run of our “new” clay mixer. In the spirit of recycling, the mixer is a converted 1915 dough mixer from an old bakery.


As you can see here, its powered by the still useable motor portion of an old generator.

(Our other mixer, which served us well but finally rusted out this spring, was made from a Second World War anti-aircraft gun.)


Designed Stoneware Vase
Tenmoku Variation & Celadon glazes
Incised design

Approx 7″ H

Anne Webb, 2007

I can’t keep track of how many conversations I’ve had these past few years about how people don’t support the arts or come out to events. Lots of frustration on the part of artists, organizers, and institutions.

Here in Mobile, galleries come and go, and those galleries that are still open, are hanging on by their teeth. Museums have their own issues and “perhaps” stay alive longer since they get some governmental support. Artists are being forced to adapt more than ever before to make a living. This is not just a local phenomenon, although at times it feels that way, especially when we see other communities here on the coast and elsewhere (entire communities), show a genuine interest in art and their culture, and rally to make those kinds of events a success.

With the older generation of collectors and patrons dying out, it seems the new generation coming up are more interested in buying the big showy house and big showy vehicle, and then going to Pier One, Rooms to Go, Target, Walmart, Art Wholesale Warehouse, etc., for everything else. Is this a statement about our culture and the direction its going, or what?

I know that there are a lot of people who probably think that art is a waste of time and money, but it really is a chronicle of our culture, who we are/were, and where we are going as human beings. Goodness knows there is more to celebrate about a city’s heritage than its buildings. Thinking art and culture has no value, is incredibly short sighted.

Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowments for the Arts, couldn’t have said it any better when he addressed Stanford graduates at their commencement ceremonies this year:
http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2007/june20/gradtrans-062007.html .

Its amazes me, in this day and age, that some people still cannot differentiate between a nude and pornography. I recently talked with someone who even thought a classic like Boticelli’s “Birth of Venus” unsuitable for family viewing. I was floored.

Tonight I was watching the local news, having a quiet time after everyone else had gone to bed.

One of the stories on the program was about local reaction to the cover of the latest issue of Current, a local weekly arts & entertainment magazine put out by the Mobile Press Register. On the cover this week is “Nude in the Garden”, a painting currently on exhibit at the Chesser Gallery by local artist Mary Elizabeth Kimbrough. The painting depicts a nude in a non-explicit pose, with one breast showing.

According to the story, one citizen has taken it upon herself to approach store owners to get them to remove the issue from the stands and has plans to contact advertisers as well. At the time of the article she had successfully been responsible for the disposal of 300 issues. How very presumptuous of her to assume that everyone feels the same way as she does.

Another story, though more tragic, comes to mind when I hear things like this ..one that I heard from several reliable sources when I first came down here to the coast. A number of years ago a family donated a sizable collection of paintings to a local art center after the artist, a relative, had died. The old guard of the center, apparently, took it upon themselves late one night to pull out all the nudes and burn them! Criminal.

Where does censorship end?

I certainly wouldn’t expose my kids to pornography, but I have little doubt or hesitation that I will take them to exhibits at museums and galleries that may have nudes (art). .. a better alternative to a lot of what is on TV these days.

I didn’t think much about the presence of that painting on the cover of Current when I picked it up earlier this week, but I congratulate the editor for putting it there. It may have sparked a little controversy, but at least it got people here in Mobile and southwest Alabama to think, discuss, and interact more about ART. Its something we desperately need here.



Lotuses & Dragonflies
Raku Vessel

Anne Webb, 2007


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.)

One of the pieces we have up on ebay this week:

Raku Pottery Plate
Incised Spiral Design
approx 11 7/8″ W

by Anne Webb, Webb Pottery

ebay Item 130082820501

To view all our auctions, search for our
ebay ID: webbpots

Peacock Feather Designed Raku Jar, Anne Webb

Raku Jar with Stylized Peacock Feather Design
8.5″ H x 5.25″ W
by Anne Webb
Item #130079977793

Raku Bank with Art Nouveau Bee Motif, Anne & Lowell Webb

Raku Bank with Art Nouveau Stylized Bees
3″ H x 4.75″ W
by Lowell Webb, decorated by Anne Webb
Item #130079980946

Mark Saturday March 3rd on your calendars.

Artists around Mobile and surrounding areas are getting ready for the first of four outdoor art market days that will take place in Downtown Mobile. We have a growing list of participants including painters, printmakers, folk artists, potters, jewelers, glass artists, sculptors, and more.

For more info and updates in coming weeks, please visit our website/blog: http://artmarketdaymobile.blogspot.com/

Hope to see you there!

The only pictures of designed raku pottery I’ve had up on the blog have been finished ones. I thought it might be kinda cool to see what these pots look like in their raw state.

Here are a few I’ve been working on that are still very much in progress. One has an iris design and the other, bay magnolia. After studying a subject, whether it be a peacock feather or a particular flower, and making my sketches, I visualize the design layout then carefully carve it into the surface of the “leather hard” clay.
Green Webb Pot with Incised Iris design
Carving a design into clay is much different than drawing or painting it. The positioning of the tool initially can be tricky and carving, like anything else with pottery, takes practice. After you spend all that time and effort making that pot — throwing, trimming, and waiting for the clay to be just the right consistency– you have a lot invested and you don’t want to mess up. Once you lay your tool into the clay and make a cut, there is no going back or correcting it, so extra care needs to be taken.

Incised Bay Magnolia Design - raw clayAfter the carving is complete, the pot is left to dry usually for about a week or until it is “bone dry”. It is then bisque fired, glazed, then fired raku kiln. (Please see my post from July 18th for a description of the raku process).

I will try and post pictures of these pots again once they have been glazed and fired.

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”

Anne Webb Pottery Stoneware Pitcher with Stylized Iris Brushwork Design
A big part of the appeal of pottery for me has always been the ongoing learning curve; no matter how “advanced” you get there is always some new avenue to explore, experiment, and discover.

I’ve been experimenting with brushwork for a while now, trying different styles, brushes, pigment, and subject matter. The brushes that I like best for the designs I’m doing are ones that Lowell has made from local bamboo and deer/dog tail hair. Each brush has its own personality and make for a nice spontaneous bold brush stroke.

Anne Webb Stoneware Pottery Pitcher with Stylized Iris Design, 2004Today as I was cleaning up my computer hard drive, I came upon some photos from over the last few years. I was intrigued at how much some pots and designs have changed or evolved in a relatively short period of time. A natural progression I suppose. I had been told that the more you do an image, the more it seems to take on a life of its own.

It never hurts to go back every so often and revisit and reflect upon your work from the past. It can be a good point of reference or even source of inspiration.

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. )

Webb Pottery Stoneware Mug for The Coffee Loft, Anne Webb 2006 Annually I make a series of custom stoneware mugs for The Coffee Loft, one of two coffee shops in and around Fairhope, Alabama, on Mobile Bay’s Eastern Shore. Located on North Section street, this popular spot attracts a broad range of people, mostly on account of the excellent coffee and customer service, but I think also because of the wonderfully laid-back and eclectic feel of the place, a far-cry from the typical impersonal cookie-cutter style coffee franchises that have crept in and popped up everywhere.

You can usually find something a little different to look at everytime you go in, whether it be some new art for sale by a local artist, or even just the people who walk in the door (i told you it was a diverse crowd). Just yesterday I popped in (for some real coffee on my way home) and on display was a new crop of whimsical art by Ameri’ca Jones Gallaspy, Gloria Tullos, and a few others.

Webb Pottery Stoneware Coffee Mug for The Coffee Loft, Anne Webb 2006They serve freshly brewed coffees, teas, baked goodies, sandwich wraps & other fare made on-site. They also have a nice assortment of coffee beans, ground coffee, and teas to choose from. (My fave to get are the chocolate covered espresso beans!)
The Coffee Loft is located just down the street from the Eastern Shore Art Center, at 503 North Section Street, Fairhope AL
(251) 929-2299

Comfortable & roomy seating. Lots of parking.
Good Hot Coffee
Open 7 days a week.

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.

Further to my last post, and upon searching upon the newly updated Kiln Walk web site, they have four or five great and informative video clips about their 35 ft long anagama kiln and the firing last year that are bound to get your woodfiring juices flowing – the construction, bricking it up to fire, as well as other tidbits from Brian Harper and Don Reitz.

Brenda and Marty Stokes have worked very, very hard in the last 4 or so years at getting the Kilnwalk Society going (including donating a piece of their land for the project), and I can’t personally think of any better ambassadors for such an endeavour. This is one of the most exciting things that has happened to our part of the Gulf Coast potterywise and its open to everyone, not just academics.

(Remember their second anagama firing is coming up in just 3 weeks.)

The Gulf Coast Kiln Walk Society, out of Navarare, Florida, has some pretty cool and exciting things coming up this fall, including the second firing of their 32 foot anagama kiln which they built and fired for the first time last year.

Mr Masayoshi Shimizu from Iwade City, Japan, will be arriving November 27th to orchestrate the firing which will take place the first week of December.

Events relating to the firing include:

  • Dec 2-4 – Glazing and loading of the kiln
  • Dec 4 – The Ceremonial Lighting of the Anagama Kiln
  • Dec 16 – 9:00 am Kiln opening
  • Dec 16 – 9:00 am – 4:00 pm – 1st Annual Woodstoke Pottery Festival

While the deadline for members to submit a piece to the firing has passed, its a great opportunity to and see a master at work and find out what the excitement of an anagama firing is all about.

Mr Shimizu will also be holding a master class and slide presentation at the University of West Florida on Wednesday, Nov 29.

As per the Kilnwalk calendar, please note that all events are free and open to the public. Please click on the links above or call 850-939-2744 for more info.

Hope to see you there!

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

Please check out this exhibit by Joe Molinaro and my good friends and Nan Coffin and Richard Burkett at the Charlie Cummings Clay Studio and Gallery in Fort Wayne, Indiana:

http://www.claylink.com/currentexhib.html

This exhibit runs from Oct 6 until Oct 27th. Unfortunately we have already missed the date for Joe Molinaro’s free lecture at the gallery: “Evolving Traditions and Outside Influences Facing the Ecuadorian Amazon.”

Richard Burkett teaches at the University of San Diego and Joe Molinaro teaches at Eastern Kentucky University. Joe, Nan, and Richard have spent extensive time doing research in Ecuador working amongst potters and collecting their work.

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.

Yes we are still around, but the web site has been down for the last 3 days. Unsure what the problem is this time but am hoping that some light is shed by sometime later today.
Later today: Found out the Webb Pottery site will be down at least until Thursday or Friday. Problems with web host server. Please bear with us. Thanks!

Webb Raku Vase - Stylized Art Nouveau Oleander

Vase with Art Nouveau Stylized Oleander Design
Incised design, Raku fired

Approx 12″H x 6.5″W

Anne Webb, Webb Pottery, 2006

Recently listed on ebay: Item #130030461617

In line with my last couple of posts, here are a few more links for you …just some of the many out there.

NCECA – National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.
The Ceramics Web – a Database of all sorts of resource links, datatbases, and material put together by SDSU’s Richard Burkett
Clayart Archives – Clayart, the popular ceramics email chat group originally put together and moderated by Joe Molinaro and Richard Burkett, now moderated by Mel Jacobson, is still going strong after 15 to 20 years. Instructions to become part of the Clayart discussion group, as well as the archives of all posts since Clayart’s inception can be found on this site (www.potters.org). Discussion on just about every aspect of ceramics.
Arts, Crafts, & Theater Safety – Find out a little more about Monona Rossol, one of the leading authorities on studio and material safety.
Hyperglaze – Glaze Calculation Software & Info, Richard Burkett
Insight – Glaze Calculation Software & Info, Tony Hansen & Digitalfire
American Ceramics Society
American Craft Council
Southern Arts Federation
Southern Artistry

I mentioned in my last post how isolating working alone in your studio can be. As any artist knows, the arrival of a new catalog or magazine can sometimes put a little more wind to your sails just when you need it.

On more than one occasion I have had beginner potters come into my booth at a show with that hungry thirst-for-knowledge look in their eyes, excited to see anything made of clay, and sometimes even more excited to meet the artist.

There are so many great magazines out there that offer informative articles, tips on technique, calls for entry, upcoming workshops and conferences, as well as info on suppliers and new equipment available.

I’ve compiled below for those budding new artists, collectors, and anyone else interested in clay, a short list of some of the more well known (in North America at least) publications with links I’ve found to their web sites.

Clay Times (cover pictured here)
Ceramics Monthly
Pottery Making Illustrated
Studio Potter
Art and Perception (Australia)
Ceramics Technical (Australia)
Ceramic Review (UK)
Critical Ceramics
American Craft Magazine
Art Calendar

Working alone in your studio can be a lonely existence at times and the arrival of new catalogs and publications gives us potters a chance to find out what is going on out there in the clay world and makes us feel a more connected member of that community.

For as long I have been potting, I have always been excited to get the latest catalog from The Potters Shop . A few times a year they would send out their thickly folded pastel colored catalog with literally hundreds of wonderful books, videos, and a selection of tools, to pour over and discover as I unfolded each section. I could always count on finding something that was new, or at least new to me, and at a good price.

Steve Branfman, a veteran potter, seasoned lecturer, and author of books such as Raku: A Practical Approach and A Professional Potters Handbook, runs The Potters Shop out of Needham, Massachusetts, along with his wonderful staff. They don’t just sell books, but it is an actual working studio with a gallery, classes, and rental studio space.

You can view their huge selection of books in their Online Catalog, or you can contact them directly for one you can hold and read offline.
Here is their contact info:
The Potters Shop – 31 Thorpe Road, Needham MA 02494
info@ThePottersShop.com (781) 449-7687 fax (781) 449-9098

Because of surgery recovery and other irons in the fire, we decided this year to not do our usual Labor Day show. Even though recovery went better than I expected, I think it was probably a wise decision. It has allowed me to ease back into throwing, enough time to try out some new forms and designs, and to reorganize my work space.

My eldest daughter started at school four full 4 days a week this year and I am amazed at how much of a difference it makes to my routine and productivity. Believe me, having 2 small (and busy) children and trying to make pots certainly presents its challenges, to say the least! One has to learn 1) how to work smarter, 2) not to leave critical things to the last minute (because inevitably that will be when your child decides to have a meltdown or get sick), and 3) not to beat yourself up if you don’t get everything done. No small task for a skilled procrastinator.

Then doing craft/art shows with small children …that’s another experience. At an outdoor show its a little more doable than an indoor one, but, believe me, having to keep a steady eye on a child while trying to deal with a customer is tough, if not impossible. So last year when a friend of mine offered to watch the girls while we went to a show in Ocean Springs, MS, I jumped at the chance.

The day started out well but Saturday morning, shortly after setting up (in the pouring rain), I started to feel quite ill, with the flu, as it turned out. Lowell kept asking me if he needed to take me home but since we had driven all that way, were already set up, and I was convinced I was going to will myself better, we stayed. By the time I finally got to calling to check on the girls, I learned that they had already been sick since early that afternoon. The choice had been made for me, we had to head home and get the girls. Luckily Lowell was healthy enough the next day to head back finish the show so that saved us.

This fall, with children as a consideration but also the ballooning cost of gas and travel, we had to think hard about our show schedule. Staying closer to home seemed a little more prudent. In hopes to create a niche, we, along with a group of other select local artists, are putting together a special one day show at Mobile’s Botanical Gardens this late this fall. Our group is called the Coastal Artisans. The group has intentionally been kept small, limited this year to 12 to 14 invited artists, to ensure quality and an eclectic variety of mediums. Its an experiment, but if it works out well, we plan to make it an annual event. Look for more about our event in future posts.

In my surfings in the wee morning hours (my period of solitude with noone to bother me), I found 2 valuable websites: 1) Artbizblog – a blog by Allyson Stanfield that covers a plethora of valuable art marketing info and tips for artists; and 2) the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) – an organization that helps out artists providing “direct financial and educational assistance to craft artists, including emergency relief assistance, business development support, and resources and referrals on topics such as health, safety, and insurance.” ..including artists who have been victims of natural disasters, such as Katrina.

Other news… It was down for longer than I had hoped, but our web site and regular email is back up. (yay!) If you tried to contact us and haven’t had a response, please send your post through again.

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!
Drawing Day 2008
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