Tag Archives: Ceramics and Pottery

Working Small: The International Orton Cone Box Show

As I look over toward my secretary as I type, I see my tiny box collection. The miniatures are made of wood and metal. Some contain surprises, others are empty. Some are decorated, others are plain. I am not alone in my quest for tiny art objects. The First National Orton Cone Box Show opened in 1975 at Purdue University. Pyrometric cones. The show was the brainchild of a ceramics professor, Bill Bracker. He was inspired by a collection of tiny ceramic pots a student had made and stored in a cigar box. Seeing the collection of small objects made Bracker remember all the odds and ends he stored in pyrometric cone boxes. An idea surfaced and Bill’s colleagues encouraged him to pursue the idea: a juried show for small ceramic pieces that would fit in an Orton cone box. The year was 1974. “A show of miniatures would be a perfect opportunity for a juror to adjudicate the actual pieces while still keeping shipping and handling costs down for artist entries,” according to the Orton Cone Box Show site. Bracker approached the Edward Orton Jr. Ceramic Foundation about sponsoring a show, which they did. Pieces in the show measure  3″ x 3″ x 6″ or 75 mm x 75 mm x 150 mm, the size of an Orton’s Large Cone Box. “The show experienced a period of inactivity following the departure of Bill Bracker from Purdue University shortly after the third show,” according to Wikipedia. Inge Balch, a professor of Art at Baker University, in Baldwin, Kansas, asked Bracker to revive the show. That was in 1993.  Since then, it’s become a bi-annual event. In 2010, the show opened at the Lawrence Art Center, in Lawrence, Kansas, and the exhibit traveled to Tampa, Florida this spring, for the annual conference of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). The show is now an international event. Here are some links, one and two, which give more information and show photos of entries. According to the  entry form for 2010,

  • all artists are eligible to submit up to two pieces
  • the entry fee is $35
  • each piece must be able to fit into an Orton Cone Box (3″ x 3″ x 6″) but it doesn’t have to be mailed in a cone box
  • all entries must be available for purchase
  • all entries must be composed of a minimum 50% clay
  • all work must be original
  • no single work must exceed $200 in value
  • pieces will be sold or returned by UPS
  • nominal prizes are awarded

The NCECA conference in Tampa took place this March 30-April 2, so the show just closed. The Orton cone box exhibition featured 100 artists, 150 pieces, with 11 countries represented. In addition to Edward Orton Jr. Ceramics Foundation and the Lawrence Art Center, the 2010 show was sponsored by Brackers Good Earth Clay. Bracker, along with his wife, started a pottery and pottery supply business in the early 1980s. He passed away in 1993, but Anne Wuest Brackers continued the business and sponsorship of the show. The Orton Cone Box Show is an interesting story which illustrates the power of one, Bill Bracker.

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Open Studio Update, 4-5-11

Things clicked along pretty smoothly today. I did take a green tea break at one point, as I found myself tired out. It tasted good and perked me up. Lifting things in and out of the damp room and expending brain power on tricky projects = break time. Later, we went out for lunch. Gary wasn’t in the studio today. We all missed him, but he showed up near the end of our lunch, so there was a nice bit of continuity.

"Girl with a Tea Cup," by Harold Gilman

Update: Formed the lid to the bird house. It’s a low, wide cone and, at present, is resting on yellow foam rubber with wadded newspapers underneath. The rolled out slab was too damp and it cracked. The cracks are now filled with clay. Fingers crossed. Paper clay RX if that doesn’t work. Glazed the oil lamps. I can’t wait to experience the soft, golden light of an olive oil lamp. Ovid said, “The lamp burns bright when wick and oil are clean.” On another note, I am waiting for a Happiness Engineer from WordPress to transfer the contents of this site to another. It is supposed to be a seamless process. In the meantime, I am trying to learn about SSL and IP. I will continue to cram until they get in touch. If I have a shop front through Etsy.com, I may not need the SSL. Also, I am considering whether I need a dedicated IP address…and I am now looking at HostGator, too, since there are more hosting services to choose from for this swap out.

"Sunrise," Terra Cotta with Shino glaze

PLANS: I took my ‘Trees’ mold to the studio to today, intending to make some more tiles, but ran out of time. Therefore, I brought white clay home and will make about eight more tiles this week. Even though they are made from the same mold, none of them truly look alike, as I vary the treatment with each one. Am rather partial to ‘Trees.’  The new ones I make will be thinner, less heavy. Several years ago, I made a small tile, a reproduction of the famed rose designed by Dard Hunter in the mid-1900s. I thought of molding the tile I’d made, but decided it’s sub-par. I am going to carve another, fire, and mold it. I adore this stylized rose and want to see it with more finishes. In addition, I am going to mold something else that has taken some consideration, as it is personal. But it is so lovely, I want to share it. My “Sunrise” tile was made for our cottage, Sunrise Cottage, and the name for both comes from an exquisite silent movie filmed by German filmmaker Murnau, who was noted for expressionist cinema. Below is a photo of our cottage in the snow….

Our home, Sunrise Cottage

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Clay & Self-Sufficiency

I  was at a garden centre yesterday, one that I particularly enjoy: Brian Minter‘s Country Garden. You can find ordinary and rare or unusual plants there. I saw saffron crocuses being grown for the first time… He also sells about 15-20 different kinds of seed potatoes. I finally decided on Norland, an early red. I trust his quality and selection and have listened to his shows and read his articles for years. I have his videos and really rely on them. In addition, he has a beautiful botanical garden, Minter Gardens, which rivals Butchart Gardens. Brian Minter is always willing to answer any question you might have and he is very approachable. Yesterday, I noticed that he’s getting ‘up there’ but he still has loads of get up and go. The centre also has beautiful gift items and curiosities. My friend Minoo and I slowly worked our way through the aisles and displays, clucking over this and that. As I was weaving my way around, I was, once again, struck by the fact that there were quite a few things on display that I could make. Knowing this affords me a sense of self-sufficiency. Yet, it’s one thing to know how and another to act on it. If I am truly interested, I’d better jot down some notes and make a few sketches before I forget. The fact remains: clay folk can make just about anything they want. Growing up with brothers and a father who were handy helped me immensely. That atmosphere informed me and I became conversant with electric and hand tools. By my teenage years, I was very comfortable making things on my Dad’s workbench. My mother’s father was also very handy and I spent enough time around him to bolster all these parts of myself. And my mother taught me everything I needed to know about cooking and sewing. It feels good to be able to do these things, but I am not talking about pride. I don’t like the word ‘pride’ or ‘deserve’ and I steer clear of them and what they represent. I don’t mind ‘gratified,’ though. Yesterday, it felt good recognizing that I could make some of the things I saw as we roved around Minter’s garden centre. I am eons away from ceramic mastery, but I’ve reached a point where I’m confident in ability. Technically, I can put something together according to plan. And ideas come to me. I have also worked in clay for so long now that I am so comfortable with the stuff it almost feels like an extension of myself. I identify with it. I’m happy to be where I’m at and happy to be doing what I’m doing. It feels good to become inspired and to know things are within reach if I want to travel a certain path. I’ve lived many places and moved many times, originally as a result of my father’s career and, later, out of habit and because of schooling. During those periods of my life, I was more interested in working with sculpture and abstraction. Now that I’ve ‘settled down,’ I am seeing myself making functional things I’d have never dreamt of making in the past and it’s sort of ironic. I recognize that my values, priorities, and tastes have changed or shifted. Some not all that much, but my needs certainly have. I ordered a greenhouse yesterday, my mother’s Christmas gift to us. As I was ordering it, I thought, gee, I could make some nice ceramic finials to run across the top of it after it’s up. Yes, I’m enjoying a sense of place and an inherited can-do mentality.


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Pottery News Round-Up

Every week, I come across intriguing articles about ceramics and pottery, so I decided to collect and post current news each Friday. I’ll give you the headline/link, author (if listed), source, date published, and a brief summary. The featured articles or videos are timely and a range of sources will keep us informed. Current news & events about clay. Enjoy!

Deciphering The Elements Of Iconic Pottery, redOrbit, March  30, 2011  —”What do cutting edge research into future space travel and the investigation of ancient ceramic pots have in common? More than you’d think.”

The Secret History Of: The Chicken Brick, by Kate Watson-Smyth, The Independent, April 1, 2001 — A terra-cotta cooking pot enjoys a renaissance.

Student Union Board To Close Pottery Studio, by Eliza LaJoie, The Cornell Daily Sun, March 31, 2011 — This seems very sad to me…a clay studio being closed to make room for meeting space?

Santa Cruz-area potters to sell wares to help Japanese village, by John Sammon, Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 31, 2011 — A lovely story about potters selling wares to benefit Mashiko-town, Japan, which was so heavily hit by the recent earthquake. Home of Shoji Hamada museum and many traditional potters and potteries.

Creating ceramics can offer some therapeutic properties, by Daniel Foster, InlandSoCal, March 31, 2011 — Story about a retired court commissioner who took up ceramics to balance her life.

Let’s Create! Pottery Hits Mac App Store, prMac, Mar 31, 2011 — And I thought I’d heard of everything… This story is about Let’s Create! Pottery, a Mac OS app that allows you to create virtual pottery online and send it to your friends!

Potters throw a conference and Tampa Bay’s the big wheel, by Kim Wilmath, St. Petersburg Times, March 31, 2011 — Coverage about an international pottery conference, the 45th annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts‘ conference.

White Forest Pottery, by Wendy Ilene Friedman, San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 2011 — The story covers a woman who “a garage studio hobby and turn it into a thriving online business.”

Gladstone Pottery makes china flowers, StaffsLive youTube video — A historic British pottery is featured in this video and it’s worth a look-see just to view this amazing compound.

Jersey’s ‘secret potter’ retires after 44 years, BBC News, March 30, 2011 — “A potter who ran a tourist attraction in St Ouen in Jersey has retired after 44 years.” There’s more to it than that, though. The creator of a marvelous form of ‘agateware,’ Mr. Bouchet, has destroyed all his recipes, records, moulds, clay and special equipment.” Why couldn’t he have ‘paid it forward?’

Deciphering the Elements of Iconic Pottery: What do cutting edge research into future space travel and the investigation of ancient ceramic pots have in common? More than you’d think, Nanotechnology Now, March 28th, 2011 — Abstract: “Attic pottery is the iconic red and black figure-pottery produced in ancient Greece from the 6th to the 4th centuries B.C. …Such pottery required immense precision to produce, and the means by which craftsman created these vessels is still not completely understood.”

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