The New Thanksgiving Tradition…Pots!

5th Annual Open Studio Pottery Sale Monday, November 28th 2:00-7:30

Five years ago my wife said, “Some of my friends told me they’d like to give your pots as Christmas gifts.” I unpacked the few dozen mugs and bowls left from the summer market. Lynn put on a pot of coffee and laid out some of her Christmas cookies. A couple of hours later we were out of coffee, cookies and pots.

The following year we planned ahead. I made extra pots. Lynn made extra cookies. We opened a few bottles of wine. And a tradition was born.

Each year since, our Open Studio has grown: more food, more friends and pottery lovers, and more pots. Once again this year the sale will be on the Monday after Thanksgiving at our home, 132 Windswept Drive, Latrobe.

We will tap a keg from All Saints Brewery. There will be lots of great snacks. And there will be  even more pots this year.

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Wheel Thrown and Hand Carved Key Caddy

I’ve just about finished moving all of the pots from my garage studio into the house for this year’s sale, and I don’t think there is an table or shelf anywhere in our home that is not covered with bowls or mugs or casseroles or vases.

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Thumb Print Wine/Whiskey Cups with Gold Dots

 

I am really excited to share some of my new adventures in clay. In addition to the stoneware and terra cotta pots I’ve been making for years, I’ve added two new types of ceramics: brightly colored cone 05 pots and earthy, rustic wood fired pots (fired over three days with the fantastic Union Project potters at the Laureville kiln).

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Wood Fired Vase

The wood firing was an incredible experience. It is absolutely magical to see the surfaces created just by wood ash and fire.

Please join us as we celebrate the 5th year of this new Thanksgiving tradition. Our Open Studio is open to everyone!

Because Nothing Says “I Don’t Care” Quite Like an Olive Garden Gift Card

The Christmas shopping season is well underway, so folks are snapping up Olive Garden gift cards at  grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations.olive garden gift card

I know that life is especially busy this time of year, so we all have to be extra efficient. But Granny knows just how much thought you put into the gift card you bought for her while picking up chicken breasts, cereal, and two bags of driveway salt.

Not only do you hurt Granny’s feelings with such a thoughtless gift, she probably doesn’t even like Olive Garden. Olive Garden gift cards have become the most dreaded Christmas gift of our time. They are this generation’s fruit cake. The main difference is that some people actually like to eat fruit cake.fruitcake

I suspect Olive Garden cards are re-gifted more often than crock pots and bad Merlot. There are actually websites that will let you resell your gift cards in case there is no one on your gift list that you dislike enough to give the Olive Garden gift cards that you received last year.

But you’re busy, and Granny has everything she needs, so what to do?

This year wow Granny, and everyone else on your list, with a little pot. I mean a handmade mug or bowl or soap dish. You can pick up a some really cool pottery for less money that you probably spend on gift cards. Granny will be thrilled that you were thoughtful enough to buy her something unique. And buying pottery is quick and easy since most potters have open studio sales in December as well as online pot shops.

Of course I hope you’ll visit my online store now or my Open Studio Sale on December 1st. But there are lots of great potters online and across the country to patronize this shopping season. Granny will love it, and you’ll help hard working artists.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite potters. Check out their websites, swing by their studios, and show everyone on your gift list just how much you care.

Jennifer Allen Gravey boat

Jennifer Allen Gravy Boat

  • Jennifer Allen  creates wheel-thrown and hand-built pots embellished with cheerful motifs at her studio in West Virginia. I took a workshop from her this year and was struck by what she said got her interested in potting. She said that as a child she admired the “good dishes” in the china cabinet that only got used on holidays. She wanted to create dinnerware that was as beautiful as those special dishes, but could be used every day. Her gravy boats are especially beautiful and would make a your holiday meals extra special.
  • Alex Matisse is my favorite potter. This year I treated myself to one of his marvelous slip trailed runlets. It now holds a place of honor in my home. His wood-fired pottery
Ales Matisse Charger

Ales Matisse Charger

is rooted in traditional North Carolina clay culture, but he is a potter of the future.

  • Brit McDaniel just opened her Memphis Tennessee studio in 2013,
Brit McDaniel pitcher

Brit McDaniel pitcher

and already she is getting national press. Her contemporary ceramics are casual. clean and spirited.

Kip O’Krongly is a Minnesota potter whose rural-themed pots make me smile.

Kip O'Krongly Chicken Flock Mug

Kip O’Krongly Chicken Flock Mug

  • Harrison McIntosh  celebrated his 100th birthday this year. His Mid-Century modern pots are  as awe inspiring as their prices.
    Harrison McIntosh Vase

    Harrison McIntosh Vase–all I want for Christmas.

    I’m telling Santa that I’ve been a very good boy this year. Do you think his elves will log onto 1st Dibs and pick up a Mcintosh pot for my stocking?

Eat, Drink, and be Merry…and Cross Christmas Shopping off Your “To Do” List

Mark your calendar now. My third annual Christmas Open Studio Sale is just one month from today. Monday Dec 1, 2014  3:00 to 8:00  at my home studio,132 Windswept Drive, Latrobe.

I’ve been throwing a lot for the event, so I’m really excited about the pots I have to share this year.

Hand Carved Stoneware Mugs $23 each

Hand Carved Stoneware Mugs $23 each

I made extra mugs since they were popular gifts for teachers and coworkers last year.

There are some sweet little holly-leaf soap dishes, olive oil bottles, and honey jars. I also made some huge statement bowls, some footed vases, as well as a few chip-n-dip sets.

Cookie Jars $45- $60

Cookie Jars $45- $60

Folks on your gift list who were especially good this year might be lucky enough to open one of these cookie jars on Christmas morning.

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The cookie jars are glazed an understated sandstone Shino on the outside. Surprise! Inside pops with shinny red glaze.

We will have good treats to eat and drink, including holiday cheer from All Saints Brewery.

As usual, I’ll make a $10 donation to Potters for Peace for every pot sold.

If you can’t make it to the Open Studio Sale, check out my online shop or stop by the Latrobe Art Center Holiday Open House, Saturday, Dec 6. You can also find my pots at The Main Exhibit Gallery in Ligonier and Rizzo’s Marketplace. I’ll also have pots at the IUP Fall Pottery Sale Nov 14th and 15th, 9:00am to 7:00pm. In the Robershaw building on the IUP campus.

SKIP THE MALL. SHOP SMALL.

Reflections on a Rookie Season

When I first started potting a few years ago, I gave handmade mugs and casseroles and planters to family and friends. They often encouraged me to sell my pots, probably because they were running out of attic space for the unrequested stoneware I “gifted” them. Our garage became the repository of pots without a home, much like the Island of Misfit Toys in the classic Christmas TV show Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

blue bowl

“We have more pots than friends,” my wife said, “You’ve got to start selling some of these pots.”

But I didn’t want to sell my pots. Maybe I was a little fearful that no one would buy them, but there was a bigger reason I didn’t want to go pro. I enjoyed throwing pots on my new wheel so much that I didn’t want to taint the experience by turning potting into a business. I’d already learned in my day job, practicing medicine, that the challenges of running a business can overwhelm the satisfaction of a cherished career.pots drying

Also, it just didn’t seem right to make money from my new avocation. After all, I was lucky to have the time and resources to take up potting. God had given me a small measure of talent for the craft. And I’d been blessed with a fantastic teacher, George Evanko, who showed me how to center a lump of clay on the potters wheel and magically turn it into a vase or a bowl or a mug.

Last year some friends convinced me to sell pots at a hospital fundraiser. Suddenly I was a professional potter.  I signed up for the local farmer’s market and several craft shows.fd pottery logo

I looked for a way to do something good with the profits I might make. I found Potters for Peace, a nonprofit that teaches people in 18 countries how to make inexpensive clay water filters to purify their drinking water. This project is important because 1.7 million people, die every year from preventable water born diseases. Most of them are children under the age of five. I committed to donate ten dollars for every pot that I sold to Potters for Peace. I am proud to tell you that at the completion of my rookie season I’ve earned $3,120 for Potters for Peace.

It is sort of ironic that when I became a physician I expected to some day travel abroad in order to provide medical care to those in need. After 20 years in medical practice, I’ve still not found a way to do so. Yet just one year of making mud into pots in my garage will help improve the health of people in ways I never accomplished during two decades in medicine.