Friday, September 24, 2010

TJ's German Adventure Part 4


  TJ Edwards To continue from the last installment.

The weekend after our firing, we had a market. It wasn't too far away and Johnny Cash was keeping up company. We weren't rushed to set up which is always better than the alternative. It is always interesting seeing all the different booths being set up and the different styles that the emerge. This particular market is only for clay work, and this type of market is quite frequent in Europe.

With the market there often comes a themed exhibition. This time the theme was drinking vessels. While we were still at home and packing the work to leave we talked a lot about what she should submit...a tea bowl, a tea pot with drinking vessels, a small arrangement of her mugs which are lovingly referred to as "sacks with handles." 

Much of her work is quite nice and a combination and evolution in style from when she was making electric fired work and transitioning toward wood and salt firing exclusively. Some of her mugs are inspired from French style studio pottery. Thrown on a slow turning wheel with soft clay then unceremoniously picked off the wheel, celebrating the finger marks where she grabbed it at the base. She has a connection with this way of working and will likely develop a production line around the aesthetic...when there is time. 

I really like her sacks with handles, especially with the story that accompanies them. When Susanne first started making them, her son's girlfriend, Kasha, was spending some time with her while she was making handles and that was her description, but as English is Susanne's second language it sounded quite different. When the story was retold to me I laughed and Susanne articulated sacks a little more clearly for me. 

Obviously my vote went to submitting the sacks with handles, she agreed and delivered the set with the title in English. Once we were finished setting up the booth, we made our way to the champagne toast and opening ceremonies. Part of the ceremonies was announcing awards and I am pleased to say that Susanne's "Sacks with Handles" won the 200€ prize for traditional ceramics. 

Susanne has been working with clay for more than 20 years so she knows many of the potters at these markets. The whole time while setting up and making our way around the rest of the sales areas it is like grand reunion. It is nice to see community like that. 

As the market progresses, the temperature also rises, and peoples desire to carry things goes down. Probably my favorite customer at this market was a six year old girl who walked straight into the booth picked up a medium sized serving bowl and immediately said to Susanne, "This one is mine and I am waiting for my parents so no one else buys it!" Hooray for those parents encouragement of their children's aesthetic appreciation. 

At the end of the market we hurriedly packed the pots and the set up to get home to some guests that had stopped for the night on a several hundred kilometer cycling tour. The next morning just after breakfast Susanne got a call from a market in Austria that she had been put on the waiting list for. Surprise we are going on another market in two days, and the next firing must be postponed.

Susanne takes the time to finish all the wet work while I cut and stack the rest of the wood. No easy task but it is nice to not have that job looming over us any more. We pack the car Wednesday night, and drive to Gmunden, Austria Thursday morning for the 22nd annual potters market. We don't arrive in Gmunden until late in the evening, it isn't too difficult to convince us to set up in the morning instead of in the dark. 

Sometime in the mid afternoon the weather changed for the worse, cold rain accompanied by forceful winds eventually added up to a broken umbrella and Susanne and I standing in the rain for most of the rest of the day. A big thanks to our neighbors who let us stand under their tents and loaned us a personal umbrella for the part of the afternoon. 

The bed and breakfast where we were staying loaned us a replacement booth umbrella for the rest of the market. Saturday there was a throwing competition, men's and women's division. The competition was for throwing the widest closed form with five kilos of clay in eight minutes. the Ladies went first and someone had the great idea to throw a large bowl and fold the rim over to make a hollow rim. The people conducting the challenge made an addendum to the challenge for the men and it had to be completely closed. 

As a joke Susanne asked if I could throw on behalf of her studio, since I am her assistant. The company giving the prize allowed it, and of course I was game. I was the fourth to throw and the first to have a score. My score of 36.5 cm stood the test against 16 other potters. Susanne's prize is a guaranteed spot in the market next year and one ton of clay. It was really funny and a big joke with the other potters to find out how I was going to get the clay back to Tennessee. 

Austrians know how to host a market. Saturday night the city hosted a banquet, great food, wine, and beer a plenty. Great conversations and dancing well into the morning, which made Sunday a bit difficult. The sun finallymanaged to find its way through the clouds and made for a nice finish to the market.

We were back in Mörsingen, a fast two days and then back on the road for the First European Wood fire Conference. It was really interesting to hear about all the diverse thoughts and working methodologies in one realm of ceramics. One of the ceramic schools did a great experiment, which I hear will later be published in the Log Book. The premise was to do a firing for at least 24 hours in a miniature anagama stacked in a similar way, there were ten minigamas built and each was fired only with one type of wood. What a great learning exercise for the students. And to be able to directly see the effects of the various woods was very interesting. Of course there was much more than that but I have to save some stories so I have something to tell when I get back. 

This week has been jam packed, rushed bisque firings, cutting the grass, raking the cut grass, glazing, loading the salt chamber, packing the pots for a market this weekend. On Monday we fire, then we prepare the studio and house for the Open Studio next weekend. The last two weeks here are going to be quite intense and full!

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