I know you’re waiting with baited breath to hear about the progress we’ve made on our house since the grand frame-raising in September, but that’s not in the cards for this post. Movement on that front has stalled just a bit, so you’ll have to wait just a bit for an update. Hint: the reason includes influenza, pinkeye, and the wettest, coldest fall in a decade.
Between days of work on the house, I’ve been putting in my time in the studio. Since the last post from the Firehouse Studio, the place has become a fully functional work space, although not yet open to the public except by appointment.
Today I’m finishing some mugs I started yesterday on the old Lockerbie kick wheel.
It’s such a thrill to work on the kick wheel, and you should not be surprised by this, because as a non-electric tool, it gladdens my little Luddite heart. All the power for turning the wheel comes from my right leg which kicks the heavy flywheel, producing a slower, more irregular motion (and, eventually, an enormous right thigh). When I use a kick wheel instead of an electric wheel, the pots I make reflect the irregular motion of my foot; they are looser and less perfectly round, full of the gesture of throwing.
They remind me of the reason I make pots in the first place, which is to create something made by the hand, for the hand–a revolutionary action in today’s society of data and dollars. These pots, full of my fingerprints, the gesture of my hand and foot, and alive with the flame of stoked wood, feel real in a way that machine-made objects never can.
But back out of the clouds. Today I’m making handles, made from coils of clay attached to the thrown mugs and pulled into shape by wet hands.
Making a handle is good practice for the rest of life. It involves finding a balancing point between two extremes: elegance vs. comfort, sloppy vs. clean, form vs. function, sturdy vs. delicate.
A challenge with handles is to make them to match the character and personality of the rest of the pot. I also like handles that look like they grew organically out of the pot, instead of manufactured separate from the pot and glued on.
And a final rule for handles: Do not putz! It’s possible to waste a lot of time smoothing, adjusting, pushing, pulling, and the handle almost never looks better for it. If you fail the first time, better to cut the handle off and start over. This rule also works with child-rearing.
I’m never quite happy with the handles I eventually make, which is good, because it gives me something to shoot for next time. Although these ones, I think, are pretty good.
So the mugs are made, now for the pour-over filter cups. These are a (non-electric!) way to make an individual cup of coffee. You put a paper filter with coffee grounds in the cup, pour boiling water in, and the coffee drips slowly through a hole in the bottom of the cup, into your waiting mug below. Hooray! Coffee!
I threw these on the Lockerbie yesterday:
Now that they’re leather-hard today, I flip them over, throw little coils on their bottoms to be foot rims, and cut the drip hole:
Another set of handles, and voila! Pour-over coffee mugs!