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.


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.


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).


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!

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!”


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.”

…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 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”.

pot shelf

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.

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?

Want to Live a Long Life? Throw a Pot.

It is my job is to help people live long, healthy lives. So I give my patients lots of time-tested advice:

Eat more fiber.
Eat less sugar.
Get more sleep.
Take your medicine.
Get your flu shot.

But I’ve discovered a new path to longevity that doesn’t travel through the pharmacy, the organic food section, or the gym. If you want to live a long, healthy life, just head down to your local art center, pick up a big lump of clay, and throw it on the wheel.8b29ac5ebaea3209096cdde02e0d5cb3

Do you think this is Dr Ozish, new age advice?

Do you think I should trade in my medical license for a pair of earth shoes and a hemp shirt?

Well before you report me to the State Board of Medicine check out this evidence:



The Tucson Museum of Art just ran a retrospective exhibit of Mid-century Modernist movement ceramic icon Rose Cabat in celebration of her 100th birthday. She still continues to throw her famous little “feelies” at her pottery studio in Arizona.

rose cabatRose Cabat Feelies

Rose Cabat is not the only  Mid-century Modernist pottery icon who has been honored for a 100th birthday this year. The American Museum of Ceramic Art is just winding up a 100th birthday bash and celebration of 60 years of innovative work for Harrison McIntoshHarrison McIntoshharrison_mcInt.2115523252_1_lmk

Still not convinced? What about Warren MacKenzie?  Sure, at 90 he is a bit younger than Cabat and McIntosh. But Mackenzie, who makes about 5,000 pots each year shows no sign of slowing down.


I could list countless more potters, both famous and obscure, who’ve enjoyed longevity. But I’ll finish up with Beatrice Wood who famously attributed her long life to ” art books, chocolates, and young men.”beatrice chocolate and men I suspect the real key to longevity for Wood, who died in 1998 at the age of 105, was a lifetime spent as a studio potter.

bwSo take your cholesterol medicine, pass up the fast food, and bw2climb onto that treadmill. But I’m heading down to the garage and turning on my pottery wheel.

If you’d like to check out the work of other potters long in the tooth as well as those still wet behind the ears follow me on Pinterest here. I’ve pinned lots of great calorie free eye candy for pottery lovers.