My studio is located in a separate building Kathy and I designed and constructed behind our century-old house. Flower and vegetable gardens and a chicken pen lie between the two structures. I enjoy the clucking sounds of our hens while sitting at my potter’s wheel, and can gaze out the window upon the rich colors of the garden as I wedge clay, assemble pots and glaze bisque-ware.
The ceramics studio is not large, but is efficient. It is equipped with two electric wheels, one for throwing and the other for trimming and decorating. This allows me to switch from each phase without having to stop and clean up, facilitating the flow of work. I like the back and forth interaction with the clay, from the plastic forming step, to the malleable leather-hard refining stage, to the delicate dry phase while loading a bisque kiln load. I use a large rolling pin I made from one of our crab-apple trees to make my slabs. I keep a collection of old weathered boards and log rounds for pressing the slabs against, imparting their patterns and textures into the soft clay. A clay extruder and lots of hand tools round out the forming equipment.
I have an electric kiln in the studio, which I use to bisque all the work, and to glaze-fire many of the pots and sculptures. Some of the pieces are reduction-fired in a friend’s gas kiln.
Once each year, I take a batch of pots to fire in a wood fueled anagama kiln, which Conrad Calimpong built at his home and studio in Ferndale, in northern California. Conrad is recognized as an expert in the art of wood firing, is an outstanding ceramic artist, and a dear friend. Many decades ago, I was his first ceramics teacher. Now, I am honored as he shares with me the ancient and elusive art of firing pottery with wood as a fuel.
The other half of my studio is set up for working with wood and metal. It is equipped with a cabinet table saw, band saw, radial-arm saw, drill-press, shaper, router table, disc and belt sander and a small planer for building furniture and wood sculpture. I also like to make metal sculptures, so the workshop also is equipped with gas and arc welders, a metal-cutting band saw, grinders, anvils, etc. One wall is covered with all sorts of hand tools mounted over two long workbenches. Many of my tools belonged to my father or grandfather. When using them, I feel a connection to their departed spirits.
I love the feeling of creative promise and excitement that wells up in my heart as I stroll out to my studio to begin some new project. I cannot wait to get my hands around a lump of clay, a hunk of wood or an old chunk of iron.