Monday, September 28, 2009

Ron Philbeck's Sale

Sunday morning we woke up and said "It's a beautiful day. We should drive up to Ron Philbeck's sale."

It's a nice little drive from Athens to Shelby, and when we got there in the afternoon Ron and Sarah welcomed us like old friends - come on in, would you like some coffee or tea or water, let us show you around! I told Carrie, that's what people mean when they talk about "Southern hospitality."

Ron's got a nice set-up for his studio and gallery, and he makes you feel right at home. Eva picked their flowers and kicked her soccer ball around their big front yard, Lucy crawled around and tried to eat grass, and we bought an awesome serving bowl and a mug fresh out of the kiln.

Carrie likes Ron's owls, and I like his goats, so the serving bowl has an owl against a nice amber background.

The mug has an upside-down goat on one side and an owl and upside-down possum on the other side. Ron confessed that he can't always draw the goat correctly. (I didn't admit that I usually forget Hector's goatee.) Sarah agreed with me that the upside-down animals are cool.

It's nice to meet a blog friend in real life, and even better to learn they're just as nice as they seem online. Carrie and I have been talking a lot lately about what makes not only a good potter, but what makes a potter a good person and a good member of the art/craft community, and it seems to us that if you can't afford to be encouraging, supportive, generous and enthusiastic about others' work, experiments, and education (because everyone is always learning), then you're not fit to be a potter. And Ron and Sarah are all of those things.

(Oh, thanks for the clay, Ron!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Handmade. pass it on....

So I've been reading this guys blog for a few months (Arthur Halversen) and recently saw that upon starting his Facebook Fan page and asking friends to further invite their own friends and build up his fan base,  he was challenged by a well meaning friend as to WHY he (the friend) should care about promoting  handmade? Sure, his buddy Arthur is a potter and so he's to do what most of us do when a friend invites us to a fan page-- click a button on his or her computer screen-- become a fan or shhh... sometimes ignore.

Anyway, their discussion came down to the hot topic amongst many pottery blogs already-- the idea of Educating people about handmade and craft. Now Gabe and I are not usually big fans of that approach, but what struck me here was that further into this discussion, Arthur's friend recommended a marketing guru- Seth Godin. If you are trying to sell your art/craft and have 17 minutes to spare watch this clip.  This guy talks about starting a movement within your tribes, your curent circles. And telling your story everyday, so its more genuine and realistic. Sites like Facebook are created on this concept so why not jump in and use it?

Arthur and friends were inspired to start the following, and we at Old Cat Died thinks it is a splendid idea! Its called Operation C.U.P. (Citizens using pottery) and it is about getting pottery into the hands of people that don’t normally use handmade ceramics. All you need to do to participate is get a handmade cup this holiday season for a best friend.

I probably drink out of handmade cups 99% of the time but probably 90% of my friends do not.

So here's what I am thinking, from Now until the end of 2009, OCD will give you a big 5 bucks off any of our own mugs/cups  from our Etsy shop that you buy specifically for this cause.  Mention C.U.P. in the memo to seller and we will make sure we refund you the dough.  Get those handmade wares out there!

Here are some of my fave Etsy shops as well:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Love Shack Project

We're starting a new public art project here at Old Cat Died. You remember the Love Shacks? Of course you do. You loved them.

Well, it's time to share the love. We're going to be putting a Love Shack in surprise spots all over Athens - birthplace of that famous band with the funny hair - for the next - month? Two months? However long they last. And we'll let you know on the blog and Facebook where you might find one of your very own.

Today's Love Shack is tucked into a special mailbox somewhere in Normaltown. It doesn't look like a real mailbox, but surprise, it is!

If you know where it is, feel free to go find it. Or leave it and create new Old Cat Died fans. Old Cat Died is for everybody - and we have lots of love to go around.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Some Tests and Experiments

Old Cat Died has been in an experimentin' mood lately, and here are some of the products of our play.

The first is Gabe's attempt to import some William Blake etching/engraving techniques to clay, specifically Blake's method of mixing etching with white-line engraving to create layers of texture and an illusion of depth. (Many engravers use similar techniques, but none quite so boldly as Blake.).

You can see in these images that there are two layers of scraffito. First, Gabe brushed on a panel of white slip and carved through the white to the clay below - the usual scraffito method. The figures and text are in this layer. Then, after bisquing, he colored the composition with underglazes and carved through the color to the white slip underneath, creating highlights and textures in white.

All of the elements in the composition are taken from Blake - the figures come from Jerusalem (the woman) and America (the man), while the textures in the sky and ground, as well as the halo around the man, are approximations of Blake's characteristic engraving patterns.

This experiment, done on a hollow wall hanging, is relatively successful, and we can see uses for it after some refining. The colors are pale due to a watered-down application of underglaze (hoping to approximate Blake's watercolors, but just kind of weak). We also found that we could carve with a wooden tool when the underglaze was wet, but had to use metal once it was dry, leading us to wonder if we could be weakening the body. That could be a problem on a functional piece. Overall, though, it looks like a potentially attractive technique.

After finally getting a Ted Saupe cup, Carrie has been experimenting with a more intentional but still organic and rough-hewn version of the hand-built cups she had left behind for wheel throwing. This highly-textured tea-bowl is a handful - but surprisingly comfortable to hold and well-balanced.

The outside appears craterous, but the inside breaks into this rich, glassy green that makes you think of a geode split open.

Our other formal experiments have been these wall hangings. They are very simple slab constructions, folded over into pillow-like forms.

They are decorative, cone-1 pieces, playing with textures and glaze combinations. As you can see, we have all kinds of collisions between glazed and raw panels, color combinations, and textural accents. These are hung on copper wire, a holdover from the mobiles Old Cat Died began with. The copper suits the clay color and the glaze palette we have been using, and as it ages and oxidizes copper will just deepen the earthy, material feel of these hangings.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

All Kinds of Craft Markets

The Lyndon House Gypsy Market was a great success - we highly recommend other Athens artists and crafters to give it a try next year and support this wonderful area resource.

It was quite a day for us. We made a lot of sales, almost a third of what we brought with us, and more importantly, we made more contacts with local crafters. We also met Peter Loose, a local artist we love (I desperately want one of his handmade dulcimers, one shaped like a rooster to be specific. It used to hang in the Flat Penny, when that awesome little gallery was still there, and I would go in perdiodically to drool over it and touch it longingly).

(Note, this is not the dulcimer, just a Loose painting of a rooster. I'm terribly disappointed that he doesn't have it on his website.)

At the very least, it would have been nice to get his signature on some Bongo books.

We also met a sweet lady named Mary who makes Teabirds - little teacup and saucer constructions that sit on copper sticks in your garden or yard. She buys teacups and saucers from antique stores, estate sales, thrift stores, etc and combines them. People loved them - everybody who saw them smiled. Nice lady, no internet presence.

Seeing all the other crafters at the market, about who has email lists, who has websites, who has etsy stores and blogs, makes me think about how the craft fair, art market, and gallery relates to the new electronic world. Maybe later I'll have a chance to post some thoughts and ask for feedback. For now, thanks to everybody who came out to the Lyndon House Saturday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lyndon House Gypsy Market - Athens GA

Old Cat Died will be at the Lyndon House Gypsy Market Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10am to 4pm.  Come on out and say hello.  There might be somethin' in it for you!

And if you can't come out, there's always our etsy page:

Come find something you love!

Friday, September 11, 2009


A while back, I posted a somewhat random Facebook status: "Mastering is just another word for enslaving." I've been reading a lot of William Blake in preparation for my PhD comprehensive exams and dissertation, and had in mind Blake's dictum (if there is such a thing for the most perversely upside-down mind this side of Lewis Carroll), "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's."

As I was reading, I happened to look down and see a book of Carrie's, "Mastering Cone 6 Glazes." It struck me as an odd title for a book about ceramics; even though I get the word "masterpiece," and have a master's degree in literature, I can't think of art, craft, or interpretation as something to be "mastered." I'm a pretty thorough postmodernist, at least in that I see the inquiry of art as being something reticulated, recursive, and self-perpetuating. There can be no mastery, either over art or over the critique of art, because to truly "master" anything is to close it off, to define it finally, and to end its growth and evolution.

Then Carter Gillies challenged me with a response:

"And yet not everything mastered becomes enslaved, and not everything enslaved is truly mastered. I would hate to think I was enslaving clay when my relationship to it seems more a liberation and a facilitation of its potentiality. However, that being said, some potters ARE callous slavers who use the medium in entirely self serving exercises. In art, it seems that to be a master is more like being a lover than a slaver. A master artist often creates as an act of devotion not just the imposition of selfish desires. It may even be more true that the master is a 'slave' to his medium than the reverse."

That paradox is something that a Blakean can get behind - the master becomes a slave to his medium even as he seeks to enslave it.

The way Blake presents it, we really don't have a choice as we whether we are "enslaved" or not. We are human, and thus we are limited - by the capabilities of our bodies, by the circumstances of our lives, by the environments which sustain or hinder us, by the quality of our minds, and on and on. We can't be all-expansive; we can't be gods. So, whether we realize it or not, we are always enslaved by something. We can choose to be aware of our limitations and create the thing that enslaves us, or we can remain ignorant, pretending to be free and be all the more enslaved. We can learn to work with our master, or we can resist. We can facilitate, or block.

I also like what Carter says about devotion. To me, saying that we are all enslaved by something is saying we all worship something: to the truly enslaved, the slaver is a god, all-powerful and terrible, to be feared. To the creatively enslaved though, the slaver can be a god we commune with, a god that sustains us.

Blake had much to say about self-serving art. Throughout his career he scorned commercial engravers who, unlike himself, would take any job they could get regardless of the quality of the project, and he despised painters who turned their talents to flattering the aristocracy and to painting fashionable, jingoistic historical scenes. And part of his bitterness in his later years came from being passed up, time and again, in favor of more popular or commercially viable craftsmen.

It would be nice to pursue this line of thought further - what exactly is "mastery" of an art or craft like pottery?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September Giveaway!

It's time for OCD's monthly giveaway!

This time around we're offering this juice cup to anyone who can answer a trivia question about the Sparkling Bros. Carnival:

What kind of music does Purple Myrtle sing in the bathtub after a long day performing?
a. Motown
b. opera
c. jazz
d. gospel

A couple of rules:
You have to answer in the comments section of the blog - Facebook answers don't count!
Only one answer per fan.

First person to answer correctly gets their very own Purple Myrtle! Good luck!