Thursday, August 29, 2013


Did I say that I would be posting once a week about The Studio Potter archive? OH, I meant once every couple weeks, give or take a few days. A couple of volumes covered, you say? Well, that has been downgraded to one volume (= 2 issues). Nevertheless, here are some highlights:

Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 1972

Daniel Clark was a New Hampshire potter living and working in the 19th century who kept a "line-a-day" diary of his work and life. On page 3, Gerry Williams, SP's first editor and co-founder of the Daniel Clark Foundation, the original non-profit organization that was created in order to produce The Studio Potter, writes:

"For whatever reason Daniel Clark felt the need to preserve his moment in history, we are very fortunate it survived.  If there is meaning to its ghostly resurrection across the years, it lies, perhaps, in the feeling of identity it evokes.  In Daniel Clark we see ourselves. There is a kinship which exists between potters; neither age, nor place, nor time itself can alter or diminish that kinship."

Clark recorded his ailments believed to be associated with lead poisoning and may have "succumbed to its lethal effects" in the end. (Williams, p. 3)

Pete Sabin wrote an article titled "Some Thoughts on Apprenticeships" which were, and still are, an important part of studio potters' lives; this topic continued to be shared through many different voices in subsequent volumes. I am compelled to provide you with a quote from page 9 that is a clear indication of how times have changed ( . . . or not, depending on your point of view). He writes:

"Although no preference for either sex was indicated [in a SP survey of selected New England Potters about apprenticeship], a few hinted darkly that the presence of a shapely apprentice sometimes has had an unsettling effect on marital relations."


Finnaly, on page 18, Paulus Berensohn gives us a sneak peak into his yet to be published book, Finding One's Way with Clay. He divulges his fantasy about "the curriculum of a new school of pottery" including such courses as "How to keep a journal", "Carpentry", "How to bear leisure", and "Cooking".

Vol. 2, No.1, Summer 1973

Gerry's editorial hints at the future of the publication of which some statements have proven to be true and other's not. One you can judge for yourself is, "SP is for hardcore pottery. Nothing else will do."

From pages 4 to 10 John Glick gives a frighteningly logical and thorough discussion of approaches to setting up one's pottery studio and most of those words are still good advice. I was his studio assistant in 2006, and remember standing on those very bricks, loading and firing a soda kiln in that very shed. Good times are had and beautiful pots still pour (no pun intended) out of Plum Tree Pottery in Farmington Hills, MI.

In the early days of SP, studio glass hadn't seen the 80's yet as is made clear by Michael Boylen, who remarks in his article, "Studio Glass in Perspective":

"There is little market for pretentious glass sculpture that makes the New York shows and gets a lot of media attention."

Boylen was first a ceramic artist, and stuck with clay throughout his carrer. Until recently, he taught ceramics at Marlboro College in Vermont. This is not the case as we know, with another ceramist turned glass-blower, Harvey Littleton, who you may know as the master grandfather of studio glass in the U.S., and, at the time this issue was published, had only had his studio up and running for about ten years.  

Pete Sabin conducted an interview with Jack O'Leary, a potter well versed in chemistry and technical requirements of glaze, gives a useful comparison of Wood Ash to Feldspar as components of glaze formulas close enough in their chemical make up to be substituted for one another. O'Leary's son, Eric, now runs the art and design company Tariki Ltd., LLC.

Charles Musser wrote "The Pottery Film" in this issue, and later produced the film An American Potter, about editor Gerry Williams. Info about the film is available on Musser's website, but I was unable to track down the original film.

This issue has a wonderfully detailed section on the sprung arch kiln, and an illustrated page of "Funky Tools" by Mike Cohen who stuck around New England to found the successful Asparagus Valley Potter's Guild and annual tour.

That's All Folks!

Next:  "Green" Kilns in olive drab, California Potters, and Janice Joplin. (So come on, come on, come on . . . back here, back here for the next post, now baby.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

1972, "New England Studio Potters"

Coming up will be a series of posts (one per week, but don't wait to pee) in which I'll cover a couple volumes at a time.  I won't give a comprehensive overview (I'm throwing this party) but will collage together an intriguing glimpse into a rich documentation of the lives of American studio potters from the last 40 years, and share with you the legacy of my field, my mentors, my work.

So, I'm here in Massachusetts (yes, spellcheck helped me with that one).   As I assume my new role as Associate Editor of The Studio Potter, I am taking it upon myself to get familiar with the whole history of this publication, starting with Vol. 1, No. 1, from 1972.  I wasn't even a twinkle. I know you'll either scoff at that braggadocios tone, or delight in the sarcastic naiveté, but my goal at the end of this series is to have graduated another level on the "dues paid" mountain.

Shall we?

First of all, let me just say how AMAZING these silk-screened covers are.  Yeh, HAND PRINTED. The construction-orange one wouldn't even register correctly on my camera; it kept blinking back an forth from negative to positive colors. I'm sure I'd have a seizure if the screen was any bigger.  But, you know it's awesome that I just bought a new pair of Adidas running shoes the same color!  AHHEM! Ok, like I was saying . . . The care in craftsmanship of the inaugural issues of SP is par for the course among us potters, and like a pot, this publication is an object, a product that you hold in your hand(and still is - but that is a discussion for another day) so, this then leads me to the preliminary discussion of economics. The Studio Potter was started by a group of New Hampshire potters who set up the Daniel Clark Foundation, a non-profit organization headed by editor Gerry Williams and his wife, Julie, and the cost was $2.75 per issue, $5.00 for a year subscription.  Nowadays, I would pay probably $20 minimum for any artists'  9.75 x 11.5 inch original print!  Considering this, I got to thinking, how does today's Studio Potter compare?  Let's take a look-see:

Whatever.  Moving on, this is what Edwin Todd from Highgate, St. Mary, Jamaica, had to say about the first issue and it's price in 1972, printed in the second issue, Summer 1973, Vol. 2, No. 1:

"—found the magazine interesting and fairly informative.  I must say, however, the title should be, judging from the first issue, "New England Studio Potter", and that $2.50 is a lot of money to pay for so much space taken up by over-large photos of N.E. potters.  Why, for example, double, that centre page; and why so much glazed paper (expensive!)?  . . ."

"Captains of Industry - Potter's Guild of N.H. 1972" as labeled in the contents page of SP Vol.1 No.1

Mr. Todd took out a two year subscription. 

That first issue was a whopping 20 pages, and as we can see from the peanut gallery, too much room was dedicated to elaborate, redundant photography.  But alas, SP  has endured.  As other publications have taken over the roles that these first issues forged such as kiln building, equipment specs, toxicity dangers and studio management, this publication has continued to deepen its investigation of the lives of studio potters and the discussions they want to have with an emphasis on highlighting the unique voices of both craftspeople and those that support their lives and livelihoods. 

I can see that this post has gone on long enough, but has allowed me to introduce to you the next few months of what you will read if you visit again.   

Next:  1. Who the hell is Daniel Clark? 2. SP's first 4 issues; the highlights most noteworthy (or humorous).