Friday, May 15, 2020

Has It Really Been Six Years???

I can't believe it has been almost six years since I posted on this blog.  It has been a busy six years and many changes have happened in my life that have kept me from working on my pottery.  Now, with the "stay-at-home" directives, I thought I would have time to get back to pottery and to renew my ramblings on this blog.  However, with virtual classrooms keeping me busy with teaching and Spring bringing all its many clean-up and outside chores, I still have not had as much time as I wanted to get going in pottery on a regular schedule.

For Sale on Ebay

 As I was sitting at my desk during virtual "office hours", waiting for the occasional question from one of my math students, I put "Straydog Pottery" into a Google search just to see what would turn up.  What I found was that someone is trying to sell one of my pieces on Ebay and pictures of some of my work from past blogs showing up on Pinterest!  To me, that was pretty neat - I always thought I had more of a local following, but this shows that the Internet really can get information out everywhere there is a connection.  This has inspired me to at least try to get the blog going again and to "ramp up" my efforts in the shop.

On Pinterest

On Pinterest

The last six years has not been a complete dry spell for production.  Every now and then, I could sneak into the shop and throw a pot or two - usually face jugs to keep something at Riverside in Weldon stocked with a few of my items.  I have done a few special orders (not my favorite thing to do) and then just a few things I could throw in one sitting that did not have a lot of finishing work to do later.  My plan had been to really start getting in the shop more to build up my inventory and then retire from teaching, using the pottery business to supplement social security and retirement.  However, this Covid-19 epidemic has changed my thinking - I don't think the economy is good right now for depending on pottery as much of an income, at least for awhile.  And, since I didn't actually get to build up my inventory, that gives me another year to work on that and then reevaluate the economy in a year.  So, I will start my 45th year in education next academic year, even though how we start is still up in the air - virtual, face-to-face, or a hybrid of the two.

I don't have many photos of my work from the last six years.  I made it and sold it without a photo account.  The photos here are from some of my past work and some of what I have done since 2014.  I have almost completed a kiln-load to fire, so I will hopefully have more in the near future to share.   And, I have six years of ideas I've been wanting to try to get me going.

I don't know if you're a Trump fan (I'm not), but you have to admit he has made some pretty ridiculous and wrong comments during this pandemic. If you want a laugh, logon to Randy Rainbow for his rendition of "A Spoonful of Chlorox" at
Stay at home if you can, wear a mask if you are out and about, wash your hands frequently, and stay safe.
RIP - Josie and Bear - The original Straydogs - both passed away in the last six years

Monday, July 14, 2014

Congratulations - Peyton & Rachelle

Susan conducting the marriage of Peyton and Rachelle
Something wonderful happened in Washington, DC, Saturday night - bet you don't hear that too often!  I watched my wife, Susan, conduct the marriage of our oldest son, Peyton, and his long-time girl friend, Rachelle.  It was a beautiful service - very different and very unique, but classy and memorable.  I did have a small part in the wedding.  They did not want the traditional bride and groom figures on the wedding cake and had asked me to make some face jugs that looked like them to use instead.  So, . . . I worked at it and gave them a few to consider, but told them that I felt bad because it really is hard to make any kind of female face jug that looks flattering!  They seemed to like the final products, anyway, including the very small jug I made to represent their dog.
One set of Groom and Bride jugs with dog
Crepe Wedding Cake with the jugs
Since my last post, a lot has happened - the end of the school year, a Pig-Picking for Peyton and Rachelle, a show with my pottery buddy Danny for the Halifax Arts Council, and all my pottery efforts being "in-house" because I have not been able to get to the studio.  This last part has really pushed me to grow more as I learn more about using my kiln and glazing with cone 5/6 glazes.  I had started out using Amaco Potter's Choice glazes, which work well.  But, this time, I bought some Coyote glazes to try and was very pleased with the results.  One of them is so close to the cone 10 Turquoise glaze we use at Dan Finch's that I think I will be able to replace a defective lid on a casserole with almost a perfect match!

The show for the Halifax Arts Council, a "Sip and See" held at their center in Roanoke Rapids, was successful in a number of ways, but, most importantly, almost every piece of mine had been made, fired, and glazed in my own shop at home.  It was validating to know that, even though I miss the weekly camaraderie of the studio and the learning input of working around others, I could be completely self-sufficient in keeping up my inventory, if need be.

Table at Sip and See
Table at Sip and See 2
What I have liked about these cone 5 and 6 glazes is that I can get close to a reduction look with the electric kiln.  After reading an article about the logic of lengthening the glazing time and, more importantly, slowing down the cooling time to mimic how a gas reduction kiln works, I have decided that the next load will take about an extra eight hours to fire.  Below is a few samples from the last firing.  These are using Coyote brand Mottled Blue, Pistachio Shino, Matte Green, and Eggshell glazes, as well as Amaco Potter's Choice Firebrick and Salt Buff glazes.

Mottled Blue with Salt Buff carvings

Matte Green

Pistachio Shino

Pistachio Shino center with Salt Buff rim

Matte Green, Mottled Blue, Firebrick, Pistachio Shino bases with Eggshell top
A final note - my inventory of face jugs has been depleted due to the demand for these pieces at Riverside Mill in Weldon.  So, I have started rebuilding the inventory and am adding more of the "animal themed" face jugs.  These have sold well at Riverside and at the last couple of shows I have done.  When Susan saw the lion jug I had just worked on, she immediately suggested "Wizard of Oz" jugs!  Maybe I will give that a try! If you have any suggestions for pottery ideas, send me an email and let me know.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Days = Clay Days

Snow days are great days - you can get so much done that you didn't plan on doing because you can't do the usual expected activities, like updating your blog that you haven't touched in 5 months!  I actually planned on doing this earlier since Susan mentioned my blog (with the address) in the Christmas letter that, believe it or not, went out on time this year.  But 4 or 5 inches of snow in eastern North Carolina provides the time nicely.

Finch Open House - November 2013
Elephant Face Jug
Since my last post, we have had our Open House at Finch's.  It was a great day - perfect weather and good crowds that filled the 4 greenhouses and surrounding areas.  I was able to set up a space at the Halifax Days in December where I unveiled the first of some new animal facejugs.  The elephant created a great deal of interest!

Christmas 2013
We had a full house of family at Christmas with the kids coming down from Chicago and NYC.  Our son from Florida was here in November for a conference in Raleigh, so he did not come at Christmas.  But, through the wonders of SKYPE, we were all together on Christmas day for presents.

Turtle Mugs
Carved Platter
Susan took on a part time position as an adjunct professor at the community college, teaching classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  This means that I have not been able to go to the studio at Finch's because I do not want to leave Mom by herself in the evening.  

I have been spending more time working in my shop and have done a few firings - bisque and glaze.  It has actually been pretty good except for when the temperature drops like it has today.  Last night, while throwing a dozen pie-birds, it was getting colder and the water especially got frigid quickly.  Even with my little oil-filled radiator cranked up, the temperature dropped to the 40s in the shop overnight. 

Potter's Choice - Salt Buff and Rutile Blue

I have been trying some of the Amaco Potter's Choice glazes which are supposed to produce reduction-like results in an electric kiln. They aren't bad - I just need to work with them some to get the look I want.  I am going to order some other glazes once the threat of freezing is not a problem.

Large Urns - shortest is 16"

I just got the word - NO SCHOOL AGAIN TOMORROW - more time to work on pottery.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Alright, alright, alright!  I know - it has been almost a year since I last posted on this blog.  It has been an incredibly busy year - the change to blended learning at school has been very exciting, but also very time and energy consuming.  And, with Mom living with us, my "spare time" has been very limited.  What time I found, I used to make pottery - not write about it.  Hopefully, this year will prove to be a little better.  My position at school has changed to "Dean of College, Career, and Student Life" and will have me working more with counseling students - one of my favorite things to do in education - and will maybe leave me more time to work on my pottery projects, including keeping the blog updated on a regular basis.

All the rain this summer has really put things around the house in bloom.  The hydrangea bush is loaded with blooms and, of course, the crepe myrtle trees are spectacular.  I even caught a few pictures of hummingbirds at the feeder.  Mom turned 88 this July.  She is the youngest of four daughters and all are stilling alive and kicking.  She says her aunt always claimed that the family was made up of "long livers" - apparently so.

I have not had any time to sell at shows this year, so my inventory is growing - slowly, but growing.  I will be at the Littleton-Lake Gaston Festival on August 31 and the Finch Open House in November.  I will share more about those shows in the very near future.  I also think I need to set up an account on Etsy and see if I can do some selling online.  We will see how it all turns out.  Enjoy the pictures - there's more to come!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quite a Year!

It is hard to believe that it has been about a year since I last posted on this blog, but it really has been busy - unfortunately, not "pottery busy" but school busy.We have gone into a new blended learning model at the school and this has created a great deal of extra work getting everything started and going as smoothly as possible.  I am hoping this will settle down soon and I can get more "wheel time" in my shop.

I have been able to get some time in the shop - sporadic and and lean at times - so I do have an inventory to take to the Open House this coming Sunday, November 11th.  If you are in the Bailey, North Carolina area on the 11th, it is definitely worth coming to Finch's.  There will be over 50 potters with their wares, food, live music, and demonstrations.  Come by and say, "Hi!"

Much of what I have done this year has been facejugs.  They continue to sell just about anywhere I go, and I even had a person contact me after seeing this blog and order a facejug through the mail!  Although I shaved my beard, I maintain the look on the facejugs and have added a few cigars into the mix.  I also got on a kick of seeing how small a facejug I could make.  In the pictures you will see the smallest - one by a quarter for comparison and the smallest sitting on a bottle cap.  I haven't fired that one yet - I'm afraid it will get lost in the kiln!

Other than the facejugs, I continue to make functional pieces - especially lidded casseroles and pie plates.  I glaze-fired in my own kiln this summer and it worked great.  I just need to figure out oxidization glazing to try and get it the way I want it to look (like reduction firing).  I also want to mix some glazes for myself and experiment some with that area of the craft.

Everything else is about the same.  Mom is still living with us, the boys are spread all over the eastern US, and Susan continues to pick up stray dogs - we're up to ten now with the addition of a puppy a few weeks ago.  So until next time (hopefully in a couple of weeks instead of a year!), enjoy life, vote on Tuesday if you have not already voted, and come by the Open House on the 11th if you are in this part of North Carolina.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Video, Randy Brodnax and Don Ellis Workshop, and Open House

This is just a quick post to let you know about a few important events happening this weekend and next.  And, I have a chance to try sharing a video of me throwing a pot for a worship service Susan conducted on The Potter's Hands at church.  I don't know how to add music at this point, but if you do a search for the song Potter's Hands, you will be able to hear all sorts of versions of this praise song - it's one of my favorite songs.  Susan took a video of me going through the process of making this pot and while she showed it in the service on a screen, I was actually throwing a pot in the sanctuary.  It really was interesting in that both the video and myself throwing live were in-synch.


Besides the pottery worship service, I wanted to share two other things that are happening this month at the studio.  First, we have a two day workshop with Randy Brodnax and Don Ellis this weekend.  If you haven't seen any of their work, you can check out some videos on the Ceramic Arts Daily page.  I am really looking forward to this workshop and hope to learn a lot - especially about raku firing, which is their specialty.

The other thing that I want to share is the annual Finch Potters Open House next Sunday.  If you have never attended one of these Open Houses, it is worth the journey if you are close enough to Bailey, North Carolina.  Sixty potters in one place present a full day's worth of observing and shopping.

Go to for more information on both the Open House and this weekend's workshop.

Hope to see you at the Open House if you are in the area.