If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
My mom, like most, had a host of proverbs, sayings, and epigrams to help encourage us, or maybe to fall back on since they can serve so many purposes. I know my mom didn’t come up with the quote above (Thomas Palmer [1792–1848] did), but it’s always stuck with me. When it comes to making pottery, it’s probably the only rule you really have to remember.
I’m thinking about it now because my fiancée and I are planning on building a manabigama wood-fire kiln. On a beautiful day this past June, we made a trek up to Bowling Green, Ohio, to see John Theis (one of the designers of the kiln along with Bill van Gilder) and purchased a set of plans. After clearing some land, we rented an excavator, purchased some gravel, excavated for a few hours until it started to rain—record-setting Ohio rains for the month of July— 17 inches in three weeks. Things have dried out since then, so now we’ll try, try, again this weekend.
The rain forced me to finally get back into the studio after a long hiatus (the space heater I used the last time I was in my studio was still sitting in the middle of the room). Once again, I was reminded of how elusive success is in pottery, especially when you’re a little rusty. As usual, I made some simple forms that I’ll use as glaze tests to help loosen me up, then progress onto some more ambitious pieces I’ve been pondering.
In that spirit, we hope this issue will help you generate some ideas. Sumi von Dassow’s apple baker, which she demonstrates in the In the Kitchen series, contributes to the list of items you can use or give as gifts this holiday season. You’ll notice this issue focuses on surface decoration and we’ve got a great line-up to inspire you. Give these techniques a try, and see if there are any that you can incorporate into your own work. Angelique Tassistro’s soft, layered underglaze technique (see cover image) came to her as a happy accident, Tracy Gamble combines techniques she learned from attending a recent workshop, Paul Wandless shows how to make latex sprig molds, Susan Mussi revives an ancient pouncing technique, and Sharon Romm discovers how easy it is to use cake decorating skills in clay.
Whether you’re constantly working in the studio or an occasional dabbler, there’s something for everyone in this issue. While every technique requires some getting used to, just remember to try, try, again and success will surely come your way.—Bill Jones, Editor
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