Monday, December 21, 2015

We Lived To Tell About It...

And here is the story It was the best of weekends, it was the worst of weekends. Keep reading, we'll get to that part.

The Good Part
Last week my older brother and I decided to go to Tennessee for a few days. We like to take my 4x4 utility vehicle down to the old ancestral property and bounce around the mountain. I also like to sing with the folks at the Raccoon Valley campground on Thursday night.  We left late Thursday morning and checked into our motel around four. We settled in and grabbed a sandwich on the way to the jam session. When we got there, the building was full of people having a carry-in dinner before the jam. The ham, turkey, and macaroni and cheese was a little much since we had just eaten but we did manage some coffee and a cookie or two just to be neighborly. There are a lot or old timers at this jam who are good musicians and excellent singers as well. Out of 20 pickers, I was one of the youngest at 65 and several of the guys were in their mid eighties or more. Everyone takes their turn singing two songs, everyone is ready when their turn comes around, everyone is welcome. Norris and I had a very good time and headed back to the motel a little after nine.

The Bad Part

If you want the background on the property in Tennessee, here is some history.  Friday we had a leisurely breakfast at the Super 8 before heading up the road to the mountain. We were staying in Caryville and the drive to Elk Valley was about 20 miles north. We got there around nine and parked alongside the road. When I started the UTV it cranked a little before it fired up but all seemed OK so we started our adventure. We start on about 2 miles of paved road then we cross Little Elk Creek and start up what used to be a road, it is very steep, deeply rutted, rocky, there is water flowing through it and steep drop offs to boot. This leg is 2 or 3 miles. At the top of this stretch is Big Wheel Gap. That is where we turn right up a trail that is still very rutted and wet but not as steep. In places the water was 10 inches deep over a mud base but the UTV went right through it. We finally got to our place and fooled around for a while before the UTV stalled on top of the mountain. Try as we might, we could not get the engine to crank. We cleaned the battery terminals to no avail and decided ( correctly) that the bounce up the mountain might have stirred up residue in my old battery and shorted out some cells. It was about this time that we realized it was 22 degrees, snowing, breezy and we had not seen a living soul all day. We had no food, no water, and nothing to start a fire. We had two viable choices, walk out or die trying. It was pretty much a coin toss but walking won. So we walked. I'm 65 with a bad ankle and Norris is 70 with a bad hip. Left foot, right foot. repeat. Again, again....The hike back to Big Wheel Gap was not that bad. It is along the top of a ridge and we had some ups some downs but pretty good footing and ways to get around the deep puddles of standing water. At the gap, we turned left and started steeply down the mountain. Before long, I had slipped and jammed my left big toe against the end of my boot and deeply bruised the base of my toenail. Every time I took another step it tried to jam again. That was on my " good foot ". The trail seemed steeper and rockier going down and we had to be careful of our footing on the wet trail. There were some creek crossings where we had to wade but good boots are a blessing. It was extremely slow going and when we got back to the pavement, it was still a couple of miles of up and down hill, keep jamming my toe walking. I was thoroughly exhausted, my legs were quivering, and I could barely raise my legs. My blood sugar was probably low as well. Left, right repeat...
Finally about 1/4 mile from the van a pickup came along and I flagged them down for what was left of the way down the mountain. Norris said he would just walk it out because he couldn't lift his feet to get up in the truck. When we finally got to the van we chatted with our benefactors for a bit. Jerry and son Chris said they would take us up the mountain Saturday morning if we got a new battery. It also turned out that we were about as distantly related as folks can be in East Tennessee. My Dad had a "cousin"  by an unmarried liaison my great great great grandfather had before the civil war. Doc and Dad were good friends and remained that way through their entire lives. Doc's son-in-law was Jerry's uncle. There you are, family ! We arranged to meet Saturday and headed back to Caryville. It had been a four hour walk down the mountain and nearly every step of it hurt.We were needing hydration and nourishment in a hurry so we stopped a Shoney's lunch buffet. It wasn't great but it was ready and there was a woman who would bring us coffee. It was a struggle to get up and shuffle back to the van but we managed. Then we drove into Jacksboro to get a battery. Walmart did not have anything close. Advance Auto had one that was smaller but should work. $139 but they would top off the charge overnight for us We were in no position to be choosy. We finally got back to the motel about 5 and collapsed. Everything hurt but if I kept my hiking stick handy I could get to the bathroom.

The Better
Saturday morning was colder but Jerry has an old beat up Suburban that he has modified with heavy springs, a lift kit and a big block engine with 350 or so horsepower. He also has permission to pass through some property with a private road that is better but a lot longer than the way we go up. For good luck, we took the Suburban and Chris's 4 wheel drive pick up. I cannot imagine walking back up that mountain with an automotive battery in tow but that would have been our other option had we not met these guys. Chris is in the logging business and knows the terrain of the area well. He also knows who is up to what, who you can trust and who you can't. He knew exactly where our property was and drove right to it. That is when his Suburban stalled and didn't want to start. A little shove downhill was all it took Then we piled in and went up to the knob where we left the UTV. Luckily it was still there and it only took a couple of minutes to put in the new battery and get rolling. Our new friends headed back to the shop on the long road and we headed back our way since following them would have put us on a state highway for a couple of miles. It was a difficult drive down the mountain and there was more water running in the road than the day before. By the time we got back to their shop they were there waiting for us and we talked and got better acquainted as I loaded and secured the UTV. We could not thank these two guys enough, nor could we force any money on them. If I had not flagged them down Friday , I have no idea if we would even have been able to get back up the mountain with that new battery or not. Now we are a little worse for wear but everything should feel better by Christmas. We also have two new friends who should be a big help in sorting out property lines and such. Saturday had gone so smoothly that two hours after heading up the mountain, we were driving the van up toward I-75. We took a long lunch at Sonny's BBQ and made it home about dark Saturday. Sunday involved a lot of sitting still and taking pain killers but Monday is better. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Shelves Again

People ask me about shelves all the time. I am reworking an old unit this weekend so I thought I would show a few points. I like for the frame of the unit to have four feet and bolt or hinge together to act as one unit when in use but easily go flat to transport. For indoor shows, this is not so important but next summer when you take one of those fold out units that have separate" towers" with 3 feet each and try to shim them on uneven ground, good luck. The system for this unit is simply two ladder style units made from 2x2 and 3/4 inch dowels that are very stiff . These are carriage bolted together with a lightweight frame in between.
The unit is strong and stiff but very light weight

The rectangular frame bolts between the uprights
with carriage bolts and wing nuts that stay on the frame between uses

Rear view, arrows insure correct assembly
note corner reinforcement and notches in the vertical stiles of the frame
Each joint has glue and two 3 inch screws holding the joints together
The unit is sized to take standard 1x10 lumber for shelves. I love red cedar for shelves but they were $23 each and pine was $4.75. It's going to be pine at least until I see if I like how this works out. As always, when you load your shelves, try to put heavy stuff down low for stability. I'm going to finish touching up the paint and take these to Cincinnati Clay Alliance Holiday Fair next Saturday on Clifton Ave. about half a mile north of U.C. Stop by if you are in the area.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Everyone Struggles with Handles

I've been at this stuff for 10 years and have learned a thing or two. Can I make a decent handle that looks good and feels good? Usually. Have I ever made a perfect handle? Probably not but I keep learning and refining . I was taught to make a handle, shape it let it set up then attach it. I have tried putting a plug of clay on the pot, then pulling and I can do that but what works for me is a hybrid of the two. I pull handles, put them flat on a 1x6 and let them (or force them) to get dry enough to handle without marking them up. I score my mug, apply a little slip and while that settles in I cut the top end of my handle at a shallow angle and trim a half circle on the lower end. I hold the handle almost upright and blend the upper attachment area together. Then because the handle is still flexible, I make my loop and attach the bottom of the handle. A little clean up and refining the loop and it's done. P.S. I can pre cut the length easily because that 1x6 is 5 1/2 inches wide. I use that as a gauge and all my handle straps end up the same length. The best tip I can give is "attach the handle at the angle you want it to end up at and don't change it once it is stuck on the pot"

My handles have not always pleased me, some days they still don't.  I dug some oldies out of the back of the cupboard to review and discuss. The pictures are quickly snapped but should serve the purpose. Also I don't understand the optics of it but handles almost always look larger in a picture than in person. Go ahead and chime in in the comments section. I'm a big boy, I can take it.

Basic D handle This droops a little and could be a little beefier

The body could be shaped better. The handle is set too high but the size and shape aren't bad

pulled on the mug. upper end needs to be a little heavier.
 I think this method is easiest if you come off the mug at 90 degrees
 but that doesn't always look good.

Nice negative space and placement , but it is a little thin for a mug this size

Handle too heavy and there is a slight kink in the curve

Large soup mug Handle droops a little but works very well
the weight of the full mug has leverage that is counteracted by fingers under the loop.
In this style, the finger(s) inside the handle keep it from tipping and
the fingers outside the handle support most of the weight.

another big soup mug
Happy with this one

Good negative space, fingers are not forced against the hot mug

current handle I'm trying the lower placement and like it so far

Good negative space

Very large mug, beefier handle, even curves and
almost symmetrical teardrop shaped negative space
Pleased with this one

big 30 oz mug
I would like a little steeper rise where it attaches

Pretty happy with this one

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WNCPF Trip in Review

Last week was awfully busy. I'm trying to get orders done and get ready for CLAY ALLIANCE HOLIDAY FAIR but all that had to stop for a few days. The first Saturday in November is The Western North Carolina Pottery Festival in Dillsboro NC. This is the best clay festival I've seen and potters come from Texas, Minnesota, New York and other far away places every year to sell pots for 6 hours. My friends Mike and Karen Baum do the show and I take the camper down so I can be there to wrap pots for them.

On the way, is the Raccoon Valley Escapees Campground and on Thursday night folks come down from the hills and play music there. Most of them are older and some are in their 80's. When you hear them play you know what 60 or 70 years of practicing will do for your pickin ! Each of us do 2 songs until everyone has had a turn then we do one each until it is time to go home. Nobody passes. Nobody scratches their head trying to come up with a song. When it's your turn you stand up ( some of the older guys have a mic at their seat ) and get it done. It is a very nice group of regulars and I have played with them once or twice a year for 5 years or so. It is an honor to play with people who sound so good and make it look so easy.

Not our rig but there were 3 like this in the campground, Sheesh!

Friday started with an easy drive to Dillsboro. If you go, take 40 to Waynesville. then west on 74. You do not want to go through Pigeon Forge !!! I got down there about noon and started running into old friends immediately. I helped get some tents up for the clay Olympics and the fun started about 1:00. Twelve potters competed for tallest 5 lb cylinder, Widest 5 lb bowl,Tallest 2 lb in 2 minutes and a blindfolded challenge. Everyone had a great time and Featured artist Sarah Wells Rolland took the overall championship.
Some pots Sarah Demonstrated on Saturday.

After the Olympics there is a lull of a few hours that a lot of the potters use to go check into hotels and such since they cannot set up until about 7:00. John Bauman, Roxie Clark and I have used it to make music the last couple of years. John brings the pickin skills, Roxie brings the voice, youth, and good looks, I bring the nerve.. It is a lot of fun and a good chance to get to know some people beyond their pottery. After we played, I saw more friends and went to dinner with Mike and Karen before setting up. Pitching the Craft Hut, unloading 60 boxes of pots and setting up displays took us to 9:00 pm and I was ready for bed but four women came beating on my door. What's a guy to do? I let them in.

Overnight, we had a hard rain and Saturday we had off and on mostly light rain all day. We started stocking the shelves about 6:00 and were ready by 10:00 when they opened the gates and people started coming down the street. This is a destination show. You don't have a bunch of townies out to walk their dog. People book a room a year in advance and come out to buy pots. They don't come from Knoxville or Atlanta to go home empty handed. We were slammed until about 2:00 then it was more manageable til we closed at 4:00. Late in the day I managed to get out and take some pictures.

Jim Rhinehert

John Bauman

John Bauman

John Bauman

Sarah Wells Rolland

Tom Wirtz

Tom Wirtz

Laurie Faye Long

Laurie Faye Long

Tony and Mindy Winchester

Tony and Mindy Winchester

Tony and Mindy Again

Courtney Tomchik

Courtney Tomchik

Doc Welty

Roxie Clark in Doc's booth

Royce Yoder

Travis Berning

Richard Aerni

Rob Withrow. That;s Rob on the left. He never looked better

I also picked up a couple of bowls to take home

John Bauman

Royce Yoder

The show closed at 4 and with a ton of help from Evan Allhands and fiance' Lauren Canfield we got knocked down and loaded by 6:30, a new Baum record. After the show there is dinner for everyone and a party if you have the strength. I made it through dinner and stumbled to the rig in the darkness. Sleep came soon after. By 7:00 am I was motoring north on the slow road. I took the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville and had most of it to myself. No large game sightings but some nice views and 3 different flocks of turkeys totaling about 30 birds. From there I picked up 81 and 25E to slip through the Cumberland Gap that my ancestors had walked through 200 years ago. It was an excellent trip even with the rain . I see more old friends and make more new friends every time I make this trip. Sometimes it is exhausting work but people bond through shared suffering and these are great people to bond with...Also all guys know that if it doesn't hurt the next day (or two) you didn't really have fun.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Iffen' Grip

Here is a traditional Ohio trimming aid called the Iffen Grip. As in iffen' you be needin' to grip something, make one of these.

That's all, don't forget to tip your waiter.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Yellow Springs

Yellow Springs Ohio is one of my favorite small towns. It is very relaxed and progressive. It's kind of the Berkley of the Midwest. There are lots of artists in the area and every fall for the last 15 years potter and ceramic artist Lisa Goldberg has organized an open studio tour which is always fun to attend. Loads of new work, guest artists, treats, and nice people. I went up yesterday but you can still go today. Tomorrow( Monday) guest artists Didem Mert and Jenny Mendez are putting on a tandem workshop at Cornell Clay in Dayton. If you can get away, it should be a lot of fun and a lot of knowledge. Both of them do some pretty spectacular work.

When I headed out yesterday I forgot my camera but I did bring home some treats to share with you.

Didem Mert

Lisa Goldberg

Naysan McIlhargey

Bruce Grimes.

Between the plumbing repair I told you about last time and general chores, I have also been working on a new ( old) song
Thanks for stopping by.