Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wood Kiln firing

Lately I have been throwing with a CA-2 clay body made by Laguna Clay Co. This is one of the two clay bodies that they make specifically for wood kiln firings. I met a local potter named Frank Gray and he invited me to be part of the next firing. We are hoping to do this firing the first or second weekend of November. The pictures are of some of the pieces for the firing. I took about an hour on Monday to sand them all and get them ready. Above is the best butterbell or french butter dish I have thrown yet. Below are my first attempt at this style of mug.

I have never been involved with a wood kiln firing before but have been desiring to do so for a while. The kiln was built as part of a Concrete Couch project. Concrete Couch is a non-profit art organization that does all sorts of community art projects. The kiln is located on the south west side of Woodland Park. They allow people to pay a small fee for a full or half share and then ask everyone to help split wood and keep the fire going.

I pushed myself a little bit and threw some of the biggest pieces I have thrown so far. I am happy with them and also happy with some of the mugs and tumblers I threw. As of today all the pieces are sanded and ready to be bisqued fired. Frank is able to bisque fire my pieces right here in town and also has community glazes available for the wood firing.

In other news, I threw around 50 pieces with a Redstone cone 6 clay body, also made by Laguna, and those should be being glaze fired this week. They would have been ready last week but my friend's kiln needed to be repaired. Between these two firings I should have around 50-60 pieces that will be available for sale or barter.

I have been really encouraged with the results of my throwing lately. These last few months have been awesome and these pieces are the best I have thrown yet (for the most part). I do not know if I have reached the 1000 pieces thrown mark yet but I do feel like a real (amateur) potter.

Stay tuned for pictures of the pieces from the electric firing as well as updates on the wood kiln firing. If the wood kiln firing actually happens I plan on taking lots of pictures and posting them so you all can see the process. I am not sure how much pottery I will be doing this winter for two reasons: 1) I do not have a heated studio space and 2) I have a job!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pottery Ponderings

Recently I have been posting about hikes and other things rather than pottery. In the past month I have been reunited with pottery and love it! I purchased a used electric wheel and set up a make shift studio in a storage room at the house we are renting. The space is small but wonderful. I leave the door open so I get fresh air, sunshine and can look out at the pine, cedar and aspen trees in our yard. My soul is happy and feeling very restored.

The first few weeks I threw many random things and tried throwing with larger amounts of clay. My wrists have been feeling so much better and this has been a great encouragement. Some folks at a fellowship we visit prayed for my wrists a few times and they are truly being healed! In the past few days I have been working on some really fun mugs. I have nailed down a few mug shapes I really like and am having a blast creating beards and mustaches to put on the mugs. I will post pictures of the first step (pre-Bisque firing) so you can see these beauties.

That was the update. The following paragraphs are my most recent pottery ponderings from the wheel.

Yesterday as I was centering some clay Jesus spoke to me very clearly. This clay was a little difficult to center and I knew there was an air pocket somewhere. When this happens, for those of you who don't know, you have to push the clay down with a lot of pressure. If the clay is in a cone or cylinder shape you have to flatten it out. This forces the air pocket to 'surface' so you can poke it with the needle tool and 'pop' it. As I was pressing the clay down and looking for the air pocket Jesus spoke to me about how he uses circumstances, trials, seasons in life to press me so that he can address the 'pockets' that are keeping my life from being truly centered. Let me expound on that a little.....

We often wrestle with the reality of God's goodness in the midst of the reality of the hardships of life. Most of us go one of two ways in our thinking and living. Some of us fall for a theology that says God is an angry judge sitting 'upstairs' waiting for us to screw up so he can punish us. This is terrible theology. Those who do not think and live with that theology usually have to compromise the absolute goodness of God. This results in a fatalistic theology and leads to skeptism and cynism. Neither of these are good or true theologies.

The reality is that God is truly absolutely good. In all he does and in all he allows. My life experience has shown that, much like when I am centering clay, God works through pressure to bring to surface aspects of my life that are keeping me from being centered in him. An air pocket can cause a noticable wobble in the clay which will show up as I pull up the wall, trim the piece and in the end will look terrible in the finished product. In the same way there are places of our heart, mind and soul that cause a wobble in our journey of life and in the end, if not addressed by God's love and mercy, will result in an imperfect piece of art. So, when you are faced with trials, stresses or just gloomy days, first thank God for his absolute goodness, then come before him with your prayers-earnest and honest prayers.

Paul wrote to the church in Phillipi. "Always be joyful, then in the Lord; I repeat, be joyful. Let your good sense be obvious to everyone. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything; but tell God all your desires of every kind in prayer and petition shot through with gratitude, and the peace of God which is beyond our understanding will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7.

May this be an encouragement to each of us. God is truly good and is in control of everything all the time. Our response needs to be one of thankfulness and our prayers need to be "shot through with gratitude." After thanking him we can then tell him honestly what our desires are. A quick example: my wrists have been affected by carpal tunnel syndrome over the last year. I am just now realizing how God has used this as a 'pressure' on my heart to address deep issues keeping me from being centered such as trusting his goodness. The times I respond in anger, asking God 'why' result only in my heart growing bitter. Over the last month, by his grace, I have been able to respond with gratitude first and then saying, 'Father, I want my wrists to be healed. I trust your goodness.' My heart remains humble and thankful and I still ask for healing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hike in solitude

Today I went on a hike by myself at Mueller State Park. Despite the quietness and rest this season has for me at home I was still in need of some geniune solitude. A trail named, 'Elk Meadow' caught my attention and I decided to explore that one. It is listed as just over 2.2 miles and I thought that would be a good distance since I have only been in Colorado for 3 weeks.

I parked near the trailhead and gathered a few things in a backpack. There were no other cars in the lot so I was pretty excited for a quiet hike. I took a quick peak at the more detailed map and started down the trail. I brought a book entitled, Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies, with me in case I wanted to identify some plants. There were a few along the way that I attempted to identify but am not certain if I am correct. I think I saw: Canadian Buffaloberry, Pineapple Weed, Rabitbush and Angelicas.

I did not pay close enough attention to the map and ended up hiking 4.8 miles. On the way out I went nice and slow and tried to use all my senses to experience my surroundings. The scents of cedar, pine and juniper were very strong as well as the scent of horse manure (the trail was open for horse riding as well.) I stopped a top a hill that looked directly at Pike's Peak. There was a bench in the shade of a tree that looked very welcoming. I munched on some granola bar and banana chips while reading Psalm 36 which says, "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness stretches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep." It was a nice moment of contemplation as I viewed the mighty mountains and beautiful skies.

The return journey was exhausting and I was definitely less aware of my surroundings as my tired body just wanted to get back to the car. At one point, however, I noticed a lovely little violet flower that I had not seen on the way out. I stopped and studied it for a while and enjoyed another moment of slowing down. I also noticed a deer track in some mud on the way back.

Elk meadow
is a lovely place
to study a flower petal
and for a fellow
to rest in solitude.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Colorado Wildness

I have been in Colorado for just over two weeks now. I am adjusting to the difference in culture, schedule, home, relationships...well, pretty much everything. My soul is already feeling refreshed and restored as much of the buzz and adrenaline of the city is gone. I have spent so many years sleeping with noise-air conditioner, people yelling on the street, sirens, etc.-that I find my mind and body a bit restless most nights here.

Last Saturday we (yes, I am aware that I just switched from 1st person singular to plural. sorry grammar folks.) drove to Mueller State Park in Divide, CO, and enjoyed a beautiful hike through a forest of pine, cedar and aspens down into a gorgeous valley with a wee pond. We then made the trek back up the hill into the forest to circle around to the trailhead. It was very peaceful and quiet. Besides birds, trees and plants we did not see anyone else on the hike. We are still adjusting to the altitude and dryness so the 1.3 mile hike was enough for us.

Today we drove into Pike National Forest in search of a hike. We stopped at a little gravel parking lot along the Platte River. We got out and looked around, put Shiloh in the Ergo carrier and did some tight rope walking across the river on a fallen tree. We hiked up a little ways but stopped as it was steep with lots of loose rocks. No need to tumble down the hill with our little guy helplessly attached to mama's back. After our descent we let Shiloh out and he played with rocks. I was telling Dana about a book I am reading called, Last Child in the Woods, which talks about the desparate need to get children to experience nature, when I realized I was just standing on the river bed. So, I decided to experience nature with Shiloh by wading in the river. At this point Shiloh was standing in the river, walking around and throwing rocks. When he saw what I was doing he started taking Dana's shoes off.

For the next thirty minutes we all waded in the water, threw rocks and looked at what appeared to be gold flakes in the bottom of the shallow river. Shiloh sat down in the water a few times when he lost his balance but did not seem to mind too much. He had a plastic braclet which we threw upstream and he caught as it floated by him. I saw some tracks on the other side of the river and went to investigate. I am not sure what they were from but as I looked around I suddenly noticed wild rasperry bushes along the riverbed. I told Dana, 'Look! There are tons of wild raspberries.' However, we had seen a sign in the parking lot that the area was treated with lots of herbicides and decided not to eat the raspberries. In our little outing I was able to identify the following plants: thistle, wild sage, wild raspberry, red clover and yarrow. There were so many others but I am happy to start small.

This new relationship with the land called Colorado is pretty exciting. We are looking forward to getting to know more of the land and the people here. Ah, it feels good to write again......

Oh yes, and yesterday I went to Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs and glazed all of my pottery pieces. They should be ready to be picked up on Tuesday. I am very excited to see how they turn out especially because I experimented with some color combinations that Jennifer (the potter whose studio and kiln I am using) had not done before. I hope to post pictures and such next week.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A recent homily

Scriptures: Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23 and Luke 24:13-35

As we continue the celebration of the risen Christ into the celebration of Pentecost, we can reflect how these two gifts-the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit-are the mainstays of our faith. This faith was made possible not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the imperishable loving sacrifice of Christ.

We read of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, how their hearts burned within them at his words and their recognition of the risen Christ while breaking bread. Then we read of Pentecost and the receiving of the promised Holy Spirit. They are intertwined. The Holy Spirit illumins our eyes to perceive the risen Christ, who is our source of life, joy, peace and love.

Brennan Manning, in his book, 'Abba's Child,' uses the term 'present risenness.' The risen Christ is present in us and with us just as he was with the two on their way to Emmaus. Manning says our awareness of this present risenness changes everything and allows us to cope with anything. Today, in sharing the Word, songs and communion, let us be aware of Jesus' present risenness among us.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Second Glaze firing

The second glaze firing went really well. Enjoy the pictures. I am taking a hiatus from pottery indefinitely as my wrists are not doing well. Bummer! Please pray for wisdom, healing and grace. Peace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

glaze refiring.....

Well, the results are in......

The re-firing went pretty well. I was not even sure if you could refire pieces so I am thrilled that we even have finished pieces of pottery. I love pottery because it is always a learning experience. Most potters, I think, would argue that there are few to no 'master' potters. It is a discipline, art, craft that reinforces humility, even for those who have worked with clay longer than I have been alive.

Once again I am in awe and fascinated at the change that fire and heat bring out during the glaze firing. In the previous post I shared a picture of the pieces with the dry glazes on them. I wish I would have done pictures of individuals pieces so you could see the transformation. I learned a lot from this first firing and re-firing. I have some fun ideas for more things to attempt in the next round of wares.

The one bummer from the re-firing was that the Teal Blue glaze got overfired. Every piece with Teal Blue turned tar black. I was really excited for a mug I made for my friend Chris but Teal Blue was the main color. I am still proud of it and going to give it to him, but hopefully can do something similar to it with a better turn out of the Teal Blue.

My two favorite pieces are a butterbell with Amber as the underglaze and Cream Rust as the overglaze and a honey jar with the Amber glaze. These two pieces alone are worth all the time, money and energy I've put into all of this.

As of right now I am planning on taking a hiatus from pottery until my wrists get better. I am not thrilled with this but know that I need to be serious about getting better. If you think of it, please pray for grace, wisdom and healing. Thanks. Stay tuned for more fun pottery putterings with Poetree. Love!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

glazing pics and video

One beautiful thing about pottery is it requires you to slow down and do things well. Or at least if you want the best results. This is definitely true of glaze mixing and application. For our first round of glazing we have chosen four glazes from Bill Van Gilder's 'Wheel Thrown Pottery' book. The glazes are all cone 6. I used these glazes at my dad's back in May when I did my first glaze firing.

We decided to go the make your own glaze route because it is definitely the less expensive route. I do not really understand the chemistry of glazes but the mixing of it is a lot like baking. Each glaze recipe lists the main ingredients, which add up to 100%, with colorants in addition. We decided to make some big batches because we intend to use these glazes often.

I made a video that demonstrates the basic glaze application process but it is too big to upload. So you get the short verson. If nothing else it is entertaining.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

First Bisque firing

Well, we did it! We did our first bisque firing last night. It took about 9 hours and everything 'made it.' We hope to do the glaze firing next week sometime. We actually have enough for 2 glaze firings! The kiln fired beautifully. I stayed up most of the night but the kiln sitter shut things down around 4:30am this morning. There are few things we will tweek, but overall I am impressed with how well things went.

If you are on facebook you can see photos here.

'You have no equal' and 'Beatitudes'

My apologies for falling behind with the homilies. In an attempt to get 'caught up' I am going to post the last two in one entry. They are short anyway.

'You have no equal' January 16th.

Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

'You have no equal,' says the Psalmist to God. He seems so caught up in God's mercy that his short verses of song almost interrupt one another. 'How much you have done, Yahweh, my God-your wonders, yours plans for us-you have no equal."
What a statement and how true it is! There is no one like God. No one is as worthy. No one is as merciful, loving and patient. David, Isaiah, John and Paul all declare God alone is worthy. He gives every gift we need, he spoke of Jesus and revealed him as the Lamb of God-your wonders, your plans for us-you have no equal!.
This we must cling to. In trial, fear, boredom, temptation-Yahweh is unlike any other. David goes on to say: "You, Yahweh, have not withheld your tenderness from me; your faithful and steadfast love will always guard me."
Praise God, he has not withheld his tenderness from us. His faithful and steadfast love is always with us.


"Beatitudes" January 30th.

Readings: Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12.

Jesus went about proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. What is the good news of the kingdom? Look at Matthew 5:1-12. The good news is:

-The poor in spirit are blessed with the kingdom, not the wealthy and powerful.
-The gentle/meek inherit the earth, not the strong and proud.
-Those who mourn are comforted not forgotten.
-Those who hunger and thirst for uprightness will be filled, not the glutons.
-Those who are merciful will be shown mercy and no longer taken advantage of by the merciless.
-Those who are pure in heart will see God, not the ritually pure and self-righteous.
-Those who are peacemakers won't be silenced or outcast, they will be recognized as true children of God.
-Those who are persecuted receive the kingdom not the persecuting oppressors.
-Those who are slandered, persecuted, mistreated will rejoice in their great reward.

The way things seem to be are not real or lasting. The powers that be keep a good illusion and show but they will be exposed and humbled. God's kingdom alone is eternal. He is for the poor in spirit, weak, mournful, broken and desparate ones who long for truth, peace and justice-for his kingdom. Even in persecution and trials there is hope. The rule, domain, dominion-Kingdom of God is ours. This is good news indeed! The kingdom is here already but not fully. The kingdom is within, around and at hand. One day all will be as our Father wants. But even now we ask for the kingdom to come more fully in our weak bodies and lives.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pottery Putterings

Hello world!

I have not posted much on here in the last several months in regards to pottery. I believe the last thing I posted was that we had just installed a new wheel in our studio. The past several months have been a dance of two partners: joy and frustration.

I have been overjoyed at the proximity of creating with clay. It is amazing to be able to go out to our front porch and spend time creating with clay. I have a whole list of different shapes I want to develop and have been able to make several of them 'successfully.' For me, success is usually not measured only by having a finished product. For me, success is when I have fun, work peacefully, know when to take breaks and learn from the experience. Some of the pieces I have been working on have been: 'French' butter dishes aka butterbells, a pinch pot (to left), a bowl with a handle, a garlic jar (below right) and a honey jar. See pictures for some of the unfired pieces. We are hoping to do a firing in early February.

The frustration has come from a 'handful' of things. I am still having difficulties with my wrists and hands. This definitely affects my ability to throw pottery. So far I have been taking it very easy and throwing only small pieces every once and a while. I go see a specialist tomorrow and hope to get some answers and direction. It has also been frustrating balancing family, work and pottery. Also, the fact that it is winter has been challenging as well.

Overall, it is really wonderful to have the ability to create. The studio is very much a shared space and I am excited for the possibilities that this space holds. I will be posting soon to let you know how the first firing goes. We are going to be mixing on our glazes from the raw ingredients and I will let you know how that goes as well.

Some of the books I have been looking at for inspiration and learning are: Val Cushing's Handbook, The Potter's Manual by Kenneth Clark, and Wheel-Thrown Pottery by Bill Van Gilder.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Year's Homily

Every 2 weeks I lead a service at Sholom Home where I work. For the last one I posted the homily that I did for the Christmas service. I have since decided I might as well post each homily that I deliver to encourage, provoke thought and just to have some consistent to share on here.
Who knows, I may even try to do something like a podcast some day. But for now, here is the New Year's homily. Enjoy. Be blessed.

The texts, which I encourage you to read are: Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 147:12-20, Ephesians 1:3-14 and John 1:10-18.

"These Scriptures reveal God's heart for us, his children. They reveal his abundant goodness. Jeremiah speaks of a time when God will gather all his children and they will gorge on his lavish gifts. Paul says it was Father's pleasure to bless us with all spiritual blessings and to adopt us. John proclaims a God who is so good and loving that he becomes one of us and through him we have all received one gift replacing another.


God is abundantly good. He is the perfect Father giving every good and perfect gift. I believe gifts are intended to be received. I believe this year God wants us to receive his lavish gifts. We need to focus on being his children and receiving his love rather than doing better or making resolutions to try harder. Paul says 'he chose us in Christ before the world was made' and that adopting us was 'his good pleasure.' We do not earn his love. We receive it freely.

Father, you are abudantly good. Help us receive your good gifts this new year. Amen.