Just Look at What You’ve Done.

Today as 2015 winds down, and you tally all you’ve accomplished, don’t forget the many people you have helped with your pottery purchases.

$10 goes to the Potters for Peace Water Filter Project for every pot you’ve purchased. This project helps families in some of our world’s poorest countries have safe, clean drinking water. This year, thanks to you, I’ve been able to donate $5,460 to Potters for Peace.

So today, as you drink coffee from your pottery mug, or toast the new year with a ceramic cup filled with your favorite spirits or brew, know that you have given many grateful people a big, clean, life-giving drink of water. Cheers!

And if you’ve got a few minutes between bowl games and parades, checkout this video that shows the good works done by Potters for Peace

Thank you!

Short on Space? Then You Need a Decorative Bowl.

Sunflower salad bowl set in terra cotta.

Sunflower salad bowl set in terra cotta

My youngest recently moved back to the states and rented an apartment above a sandwich shop in Brooklyn. She’d say it is cozy. I’d say it is small. Really, really small.

My wife and I helped her shoehorn a few pieces of furniture into the place. Then I asked if she wanted me to make a set of dinnerware for her, as I had done for her siblings.

“Well, Dad,” she said, “I don’t have room for plates and cups and all that stuff. What I need is a bowl.”

“Just a bowl? One bowl!”

“Yep.”

So I made her a bowl. One bowl.  I carved leaves around the border and fired it with a Shino glaze that changes color from green to brown to gray, depending on the light. I have to say, it is a special bowl.

Organically Shaped Bowl and Wine Cups

Organically Shaped bowl and wine cups

The bowl moved to Brooklyn with my daughter. It decorates an open shelf in her kitchen/living space where it is usually filled with fruit or vegetables. At meal time, the bowl gets to work serving up salad or pasta. Then it moves back to the shelf where it holds the next day’s produce and, hopefully, warm thoughts of home.

When space or time or finances are limited, we tend to think that there is no room for beautiful things (Think Soviet Block concrete apartments). I believe that it is especially in those situations that we must have something beautiful to expand our days and fill our hearts. As Dunja Von Stoddard, a textile designer and ceramicist recently told Remodelista, “…life is too short to be surrounded by ugly.”

This is Why You’re the Favorite

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Your siblings bought Dad golf balls, tube socks, and a tie for Father’s Day. You’re getting him a hand-made, one-of-a-kind mug….and a little something to go in it.

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It’s no wonder Dad likes you best!

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There is still time to select the perfect mug. Check out the “shop” page on this site for links to my online shop as well as other places you can pick up a mug for that special guy.

…So Do Something Already

You watched the news in horror.

“Somebody should do something for those people,” you told your family over dinner that evening. They agreed with you.

“Somebody should help,” you told your coworkers the next day. They agreed as well.

Some people did help. Thousands died. You sympathized idely.

Then the second quake struck. Many of those who were unharmed by the terrible April 25th earthquake in Nepal were not so fortunate two weeks later.

Have you done anything to help yet? I’m ashamed to say I have not.

Fortunately there is something we can do. And it is easy. And can take minimal time and expense. And we can get something beautiful in return–in addition to the beautiful feeling of knowing we have offered some small measure of help.clay for nepal bannerMany of the world’s most famous potters have generously donated their work to an online store and auction called Clay for Nepal. This is an opportunity for you to purchase fabulous works of art that you might never have access to in the US.

Pippin Drysedale

And since the artists are donating their work,  almost all of your purchase price goes to relief for the Nepalese people.

Kris Coad

Kris Coad

BRIDGET BODENHAM TEAPOT CUP & SAUCERCheck out the cool clay artwork on the website http://www.clayfornepal.com. The site is packed with eye candy for all pottery lovers.This is an incredible opportunity to acquire some fantastic pots, so log onto the site early to get the pots you love before someone else does. But keep your curser off the Ayumi Horie cup. That little baby is mine!

Too Cold to Pot

A fraction of Otto Pearsall's Ceramic Library

A fraction of Otto Pearsall’s Ceramic Library Ready for a Cold Winter Day in front of the Fireplace.

So what does a potter do when the mercury drops out of the bottom of the thermometer and his space heater just can’t warm up the garage studio? Well I’m planning to spend the day in front of the fireplace with Otto Pearsall.

I never met Mr.Otto Pearsall, but I’ve enjoyed many winter evenings in his company.

His son, George, and I met at a craft show shortly after I took up potting. George showed me pictures of his father’s finely crafted pots. He told me that his dad  threw pots well into his nineties. When Mr. Pearsall became unable to prepare his own clay, George wedged and pugged it for him so his dad could still practice the craft he loved. By the time George and I met, his dad was too frail to sit at the potter’s wheel. The last of Mr Pearsall’s clay had dried in his pugmill, locking the blades for good.

George asked if I’d be interested in his father’s collection of pottery books.

“Sure!” I said, unaware of the incredible library he had amassed.

There were boxes and boxes of pottery books. There were books about wheel throwing, slab building and coil pots. There were books from the seventies with pictures of earthtone pots suspended from macrame hangers. There were books about Pre-Columbian pots from Panama, Pennsylvania German tulipware, Anasazi pottery, redware, Japanese ceramics, and Mid-Century earthenware.

There were books by and about the masters, MIchael Cardew, Lucie Rie, Warren MacKenzie, and of course Bernard Leach.

Mr. Pearsall Kept this Note from the Crafts Council in England Inside Lucie Rie's Retrospectiv

Mr. Pearsall Kept this Note from the Crafts Council in England Inside Lucie Rie’s Retrospective

THE Book (a Collector's Item) by the Man Who Reignited the Pottery Movement in the Twentieth Century

THE Book (a Collector’s Item) by the Man Who Reignited the Pottery Movement in the Twentieth Century

There were portfolios of carefully curated ceramic exhibits. And there were academic monographs.

I suspect some university ceramic departments maintain lesser libraries than Mr. Pearsall’s collection.

A Few o Mr. Pearsall's Books With the Tabs Annotating Important Images

A Few of Mr. Pearsall’s Books With the Tabs Annotating Important Images

I discovered that the pages of many books still held tabs and sticky notes he had inserted to mark key passages and pictures.  It was like having a personal pottery professor to highlight the most important points.

Unfortunately Mr. Pearsall passed away before I had the opportunity to meet him. But as I spent time with his library, I began to feel that I was spending time with him, sharing his love of the art form that is at once ancient and contemporary.

Rized Pots by Voulkos, Takemoto and Others. 1969

Ceramic Art In America: Pots by Voulkos, Takemoto and Others. 1969

There is nothing I enjoy more than potting. But when it is too cold to pot, a day with Mr. Pearsall and his library is a pretty great alternative.

Of Paris, Pots, and Rhum de la Reunion

This colorful earthenware bowl compliments the curves of the rush seat chair in our little Paris apartment. A simple salad and cheese became a feast in this setting.

This colorful earthenware bowl complements the curves of the rush chair in our Paris apartment. A simple salad and chevre became a feast in this setting.

Our daughter, Julia, could not make it home for Christmas, so my wife and I flew to Paris to celebrate the New Year with her. We were fortunate to find a perfect, little Paris apartment on Airbnb. The flat, just steps from Rue des Martyrs, and artfully furnished by a young designer, became home base for our exploration of “The City of Light”.

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My wife fell for glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, sparkling at night, from our kitchen window. I fell for our landlord’s collection of pots: some terracotta, some earthenware, some painted, a few chipped, every piece functional.

My favorite pot was a tiny, asymmetric cup with mottled green and white glaze. I suspect it was intended for espresso, but I pressed it into nightly service for sipping the smooth Rhum de la Reunion that Julia brought for me from the island in the Indian Ocean where she has been teaching English.french terracotta vase

We hit all the obligatory tourist spots: Montmartre, Champ-Elysees, the Eiffel Tower (during the day and at night),  Notre-Dame, museums, parks, and statues, statues, statues.

But when you travel anywhere with a pottery nerd, you must be prepared to spend lots of time looking at pots. My wife and daughter graciously indulged my “pot thing”, and patiently walked through room after room of ancient pottery in the Louvre while “normal” tourists swarmed the Mona Lisa.

Prehistoric pots in the Louvre with amazingly contemporary silhouettes.

Prehistoric pots in the Louvre with amazingly contemporary silhouettes.

We saw African pots at the Quai Branly Museum, huge garden pots at Versailles, and humble, vintage pots at the Paris flea market.  And on one lucky day we stumbled upon A Ma Table, a fantastic shop with contemporary and vintage pottery from across the globe.A-ma-tableThe shop was always bustling with locals. I watched a woman inspect dozens of handmade pots, one at a time, before selecting a delicate pinched bowl.  I realized that the French are as discerning about their tableware as they are about the food that goes on it, oh joie de vivre!

new years treats edited

Treats for our Veille du Jour de L’An celebration purchased from shops along Rue des Martyrs. We were lucky enough to score a few beignets, which the patisseries make specially for this holiday.

Paris was perfect: the food, the wine, the art–and the pots. I returned home with such beautiful memories, that I expected to bask in the afterglow for a long time. So it was heartbreaking to wake up on the morning we returned to news of the terrorist attacks on the city.

I just recently learned that “City of Light” or “City of Lights” is a crude English translation for Ville Lumiere, which actually means “city of enlightenment”, the model that the United States adopted for a culture of free speech and the exchange of ideas. Lets all pray that Ville Lumiere will blaze through this terrible darkness of terrorism.