the move is on…


the above picture is of some tiny sculptures i call the saskunei seeds.  saskunei means “no worries” in the fukushima dialect of japanese.  in late 2007 i attended a sweet kiln workshop in mashiko, japan.  it was my first time to fire woodkilns and we fired 4 kilns in 4 days.  one of those kilns was the saskunei smokeless kiln built by kusakabe masakazu.  months later i would get to visit him at his studio in fukushima, two times and spend a couple of weeks there total.  while i was visiting his studio, i made the sculptures above.    pretty soon after that i returned to the united states for good.  on the way back i had a layover in atlanta, which i extended so i could visit my good friend and potter kelly sullivan.  she works over at an awesome studio/gallery mudfire and during the visit, i got to do some work there.  i made some monster sculptures and more of these little seeds, which she fired and glazed after i headed back to florida.  over one year later, on a trip up to bowling green, ohio, a friend and i stop in on her and after all this time i get to see the finished peices.  when i returned to my studio in st. pete, i decided to make a some more of these little guys, as favors for the folks who purchased work from my exhibition.  i’ve given a lot of them out as little gifts, but kept at least a few from each batch, and i’ll keep making them. 

which brings me to the next stop on this train line, philadelphia, pa.  i’ve “graduated” from my residency in st. pete and in january i’ll be moving up to philly.  i started this blog to write about the good times, struggles and process of the clay life and hopefully the next year will bring more to write about.

fireside interview with a.i.r. danielle sigler.

super busy day.  y and i mixed up 1000 lbs of clay for don reitz’s visit.  red, m, y, j and i loaded up the wood train kiln today and tonight, after grilling up some dinner, we started the fire.  red and i are on first shift: 8 pm -4 am keeping the camp fire burning.  red is a new a.i.r. and moved in to my and j’s house after sarah tancred moved up to gainesville to do post bac at uf.

so we are posting live from the fire.

starting it was unceremonious.  y twisted  newspaper and placed it with wood into the bottom of the fire box and red took a torch to it.  in mashiko, japan we poured sake and rice into tea bowls and placed them on ledges specially built into the kiln for that purpose and passed around a lit candle until everyone involved with the firing had touched it and then took it to the kindling.  but i guess in mashiko we didn’t have a barbecue……anyway

nicole: red, how’s it going?  whatcha doing over there?

red: singing and dancin to Kanye and my phone is vibrating annnndddd stoking/stiring the fire 🙂

nicole: so you came from iowa city.  that’s a big wood fire school isn’t it?

red: true that…we had an anagama and some cat arch wood kilns before the flood hit.  Chuck Hindes was a big deal and left as I was entering the program.  So it’s interesitng to see other methods of wood-firing.

nicole: you and m and y fired last month, when i was out of town[ :-(]  was that your first time to fire a wood train?  what were some of the similarities and differences from your past experience?

red: yes, it popped my train kiln cherry…and it was also my first time doing 8 hour shifts with 1 or 2 people.  It was intense because I’m used to 20+ people participating in any wood-fire. The fire was very successful with little to no problems.  It seemed like it was one of the smoother wood-fires I’ve done.

nicole: for you, what makes a wood-fire successful?

red: a successful wood-fire=a pretty even kiln from front to back and  little to no chunky ash left on the pots.  so, the surfaces will have a nice color gradient, and the functional pieces will be functional.  also, less people=faster and smoother loading/unloading and all around firing. side note-a good firing in florida=I won’t pass out from the heat.

nicole: yeah, that had to be hard for you northerners, especially last month, when it was even hotter than it is now.  in japan, they call that chunky ash koge which means “burned”.  i see why koge would be undesirable on fuctional ware, but how do you feel about it on sculptural work?

red:  yes, the florida heat is kinda killing me-especially when I wood-fire.   unchikoge is awesome on sculpture work.  i am trying to put more non-functional pieces in wood-fires anymore.  for instance, i have some pumpkins I made that look pretty awesome in the train kiln.  you have a couple of pieces in this kiln.  have you wood-fired your work a lot?

nicole:  i’ve wood fired only a little bit.  when i was living in japan. i’m excited to see what comes out of this kiln.  i have some of my flora wall peices inside.  i did some with highwater p10 and some with a flashing porcelain body.  we’ll see.  too much ash might cover up my textures, but some koge and some flashing might be pretty sweet.  so one more question: you come from a big wood fire school but you did a bunch of research on low fire glazes while there.  how was it working in such a woody place, doing low fire, and do you ever think you might have liked somewhere that had more low fire focus, like uf, better?

red: i’m really interested to see how your pieces will turn out and think they’ll be a good contrast with your soda pieces.  when i first got to Iowa, i did primarily functional work and wood-fired alot.  it wasn’t until my last year and a half of undergrad that i started experimenting more with low-fire sculptural.  it was nice to have that contrast in the studio because i got to work on my own alot while still having the wood-fire community.  i enjoy the process of wood-firing a lot but like the product of the low-fire colors better.  i needed to get more color in my work.  i think i went to a school with more of a sculptural, not wood-fire program, i would have been more experimental in my work earlier.  but, there were a lot of people doing sculptural-like lee johnson (BFA, who is now at RISD), matt dercole.  So i always had artists to influence me and talk to about different firing and building  processes.  but i like how i now have a broad background in different methods of firing and building.  not a lot of facilities have wood-fires.

nicole:  well, you really come across as confident in many different areas, maybe that’s from your education as well as your personality.  so now, here you are, in florida.  for the next year or two.  before we finish up here, any major goals for the year?  and btw, who are some of your favorite artists or influences?

red: florida=skin cancer state lol.  1st, i’m going to try not to get skin cancer 🙂  my goals are to build up a better portfolio, learn from the awesome artists at the clay company and the area in general, and try to get into grad school.  for some reason, most of my favorite artists aren’t clay artists.  some big name artist that influence me are lisa orr, salvador dali, and i’ve been getting into jason briggs.  who are your favorite artists?

nicole: well, you know i’m really intrigued by jason briggs.  i’ve also always admired louise bourgois and eva hesse.  i love how their work is respected within the minimalist movement but it has so much heart.  i’m really excited about work that’s happening now which is beginning to unite clay and contemporary art.  well, yay, that was fun.  thanks for writing about what’s going on with you.

red: samsies  (^^^)

words to live by…


i received john cage’s list “some rules and hints for students and teachers or anybody else” when i was an undergrad.  i think my teacher gregg moore said something along the lines of rule “check out rule 4″ (rule 4: consider everything as an experiment”) because that rule has a box around it and the class he was teaching was about surface experimentation but but i think he knew that the other rules would stick with is as well and they did… even when i was overseas for 3 years and that piece of paper was in the u.s..  those especially sticky rules were

rule 1: find a place you trust and then, try trusting it for a while

rule 7: the only rule is work.  if you work it will lead to something.  it is the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.  you can fool the fans but not the players.


helpful hint: always be around.

it’s funny to put them in a list together because over the years they have applied to life in different ways depending on the context, time and country i was in but those are the ones that have been bouncing around my head the most all these years.

i still have the same piece of paper that was handed out that day.  not so surprising since (among other things) i still have a box of freshman biology 1 AND 2 notes but i do think it’s funny how you come to rely on things that come to you through positive experiences.  i just googled “john cage some rules and hints” and the list came up first thing.   hard to believe i ‘ve never googled it before.  i just pull out the folder i keep with various readings i’ve picked up over the years and pull out this old peice of paper when i need a reminder of all the other great rules that are on this list.  lately i’ve come across this list in other people’s collections.  “hey, you should look at this…” they say and i’m pleased to see what it is.
the list in it’s entirety is below (you can also click the title).


By John Cage
Rule 1: Find a place you trust and then, try trusting it for a while.
Rule 2: General duties of a student:
Pull everything out of your teacher.
Pull everything out of your fellow students.
Rule 3: General duties of a teacher:
Pull everything out of your students.
Rule 4: Consider everything as an experiment.
Rule 5: BE SELF-DISCIPLINED. This means finding someone wise or smart and
choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To
be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
Rule 6: FOLLOW THE LEADER. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no
fail. There is only make.
Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the
people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.
You can fool the fans – but not the players.
Rule 8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different
Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than
you think.
Rule 10: We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules, and how do we do that?
By leaving plenty of room for X qualities.
Helpful Hints:
Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read
everything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully and often. Save
everything. It may come in handy later.

cha cha cha changes…

i guess there always comes a time when you have to decide whether you are going to write about how great everything is or how things really are.  the thing is that things are not usually great with out some hiccups or horrible with out some bright spots.  the last month has been quite a lot of both.  it’s been awesome seeing friends prepare to exhibit, to see them succeed and move onto the next step in their careers.  it definitely makes me very excited for the next move i’ll make and for my upcoming show but it’s hard as well to see folks moving on.  it occured to me while wondering the streets of bowling green, ohio with j and s that this last year has definitely been a hey day.  these are the times you remember.  i’ve always felt confident that if you go after what you want the universe (or whatever) will sweep in and provide support, whether that means money,friends or public transportation.  and it certainly has.  what a great year with a great studio, great friends and roommates, great jobs, the list could go on and on.  great and comfortable.  then enter the last week.  studio is full of new people, everything at work is different and of course two of my favorite folks are gone.  thank goodness for j and n.p. and m and v.    it’s funny though because everyone is going through these changes alongside me but for some reason i’m balking.  i just don’t want to move right along to the next step.  i feel grumpy about music in the studio and and nervous about sharing the bathroom with some one new and possible less tolerant than s and i feel like i want to escape.  why the heck am i so full of all these super useful and rational feelings?

oh yeah!  i hate change.  i crave it but when it’s happening i hate it.  for awhile.  and then i get over it.  at least i think i do.  and i better get over it soon because i have about 700 things to do in the next month.  so check back in a month.  let’s see if the brattiness gets the best of me.

post from the road.


we left yesterday and stopped in atlanta around 8pm.  kelly of put us up for the night.  after looking at new work of kelly’s (and making a sweet little trade–wall piece for wall button, and me purchasing a couple of bowls) we ventured out to little 5 points to get burgers at the vortex. after that we headed to cabbagetown to meet up with blackie and patty, checked out their sweet space, rooftop view and kudzu graffiti among other things.  so great to see old friends.

today we leisurely made our way to asheville getting in just before everything closed.  all talked out we decided to type our conversation for a glimpse into all this fun.

jamie:  was it yesterday that we left?

nicole: um hm.  here we are in asheville.  what do you think so far?

jamie: i wish something was open!!  good food though.

nicole:  yeah, my portabella and goat cheese sandwich ruled.  but you’re still burping up onions aren’t you?

jamie:funny…it hurts!!

nicole:  good thing i can’t smell.  in that little car.  no but seriously.  we met some of the residents at oddyssy.  that was cool.  loved the drawings and the phobia cups.

jamie: they were both very cool…have to stop back tomorrow for a tumbler and maybe a phobia cup for you…

nicole:  yeah, but i have to decide which phobia.  cats, puppets, sitting??  might have to go with sitting.  i am kind of uninterested in sitting generally.

jamie:  no seriously, i noticed throughout the drive..

nicole:  i get so antsy.  i hate sitting still.  when you guys aren’t in the studio i am constantly constructing with dance moves.  to gravy train.  anyway, i also dug their salt kiln.  it’s a nice size to fire alone.

jamie: i think we all do that…singing, dancing…its always a good time chillin in the studio alone.  their spaces really were amazing.. huge too!

nicole:  yeah, and also more enclosed.  they could rock out in their spaces anytime.  haha.  anyway, think we can get a tour of highwater’s factory tomorrow?

jamie: maybe we can try… how about the fact we werent dripping sweat the second we walked into the spaces??  that was pretty sweet too no need for ac

nicole:  that was nice.  you really do type with one hand!

jamie: ok we are freaks lets go check out the town

ok folks, it’s almost 7:30 pm.  we’re going out.  heading to lexington or cincinatti tomorrow.

soda firing with fireworks.

friday.  my day was made complex by the fact that the minivan had a minor melt down on thursday.  conking out on 22nd st. literally in front of a automotive shop which burned down about three months ago was funny, having n- from the clay co behind me at the light was lucky. she was kind enough to lend me her aaa service and found a car shop.  s- came by and helped us move the car out of traffic.  we had some fun mosquito infested converstaion while we waited by the  burned out auto shop for the tow truck to arrive.  i had to commute the next day to sarasota so my parents came and got me and i so i could drive their car to work the next day.  my luck seemed to continue because the problem was minimal, fixed on friday and i was able to get out of work early to go and pick it up.  definitely best case scenario.  with a little help from friends and family what could have been a real mess was made bearable.

friday night loading with j- ended up taking a little longer than originally planned.  when we finished up at 2:30 am we decided NOT to start at 6 am.  first turn up was at 9 am.  s- and r-sensei were firing rudy inside.  they had started at  6.  we had taken good notes during the last firing and this time everything seemed to stay on a similiar schedule.  around 6 pm s- and r- headed out.  it started to get dark.  i knew that we were looking at an estimated soda time of 1 am and though i was looking forward to the fireworks we would see after the sun went down i was starting to feel a little clausterphobic.  i’ve never been a big fan of dusk.  day is great, night is awesome.  dusk is clasuterphobic.  but once the sun fell i started to get my second wind.

once the fireworks started going we climbed out a second story window to the roof where i could see fireworks going off for 360 degrees.  the best show in my line of sight was coming from down town st. petersburg.  seeing fireworks definitely makes me nostalgic for tokyo.  there’s no fourth there of course, fireworks are a summer long thing with different areas hosting shows.  most are free, some you can pay a fee for good seating (ash and debris falling on your head good) and some you have to brave psychotic crowds to see.  in the event listings each event has a number next to it, so and so thousand for example.  knowing that the sumida river event was the biggest of the year i incorrectly thought that the number was the amount of folks in attendence.  i felt very silly when i finally realized the number was the amount of fireworks being fired off.  sumida river, the last time i went boasted 20,000 fireworks.  crazy.  regardless of the numbers thoug there is something about all that sparkly light in the night sky.  it’s breath taking.  j- said she’d considered becoming a pyrotechnician.  that would have been awesome.  just like judy chicago.

around 12:30 am we got everything ready to soda.  shot in some soda/sawdust chalupas, sprayed and then added some wood for good measure, let it burn and then shut her down.  i finally made it home around 2.

just as the exhaustion threatens to settle in, it’s time to soda and just as you think you’re going to drop from the heat, and dehydration you’re done and it’s time to start wondering what’s going to come out.

christmas or halloween??


can you see the cones?  rough, since it was taken with my cell phone.

can you see the cones? rough, since it was taken with my cell phone.

soda pop goodness.

friday night after a long week of work we loaded up the soda kiln.  c- was having an opening for his show in the gallery, everyone was wearing cute opening clothes, c- was even wearing pants, not shorts, but we were all sweaty and disgusting, shuttling work, wadding, loading.  we finished around 10, turned on the pilots and hung around the kiln pad for a few hours drinking and chatting with other a.i.r.s.

somehow i dragged myself out of bed at 6, getting to the clay company and doing my first turn up at 6:20 am.  it was really interesting flying solo.  for the first few turn ups i was a little insecure.  is this enough sputter?  too much?  but eventually i got comfortable trusting my gut.  r- taught me well, whenever i wasn’t sure i’d stop looking and listen to the fire.  sputter-check.

even at 6:20 am, it was already hot.  i spent the 28 minutes between turn ups sitting in one of the cushiony barber chairs yawning and sweating.  oh and i heated up my leftover gyro in the peep.  yum.  when j- rolled up with iced coffee, it was a good thing.

almost everything in the kiln was porcelain with no glaze.  we did a long, full on body reduction, adding wood to the ports in hopes of getting a good amount of carbon trapping.  there weren’t any major stalls, the kiln was pretty even troughout.  at the end of the day we had 11 flat on top and about halfway down on the bottom.  sodaed using a mixture of soda ash and baking soda in “chalupas” and sprayed and then added a bit of wood at the end.

good times!kiln 001

kiln 004

kiln 006

kiln 009

kiln 011

here are some pics of j-‘s sweet work!kiln 012

kiln 013

last stop.

friday after work i went to visit s-.  we walked around her neighborhood for awhile looking for apartments for me.  after my lease is up here in st. pete i am thinking i’ll move to sarasota.  i had entertained some sweet thoughts about screened in porches and tomato plants but i have recently decided that i am only looking for temporary sublets.  i love my life here in st. pete/sarasota but i am ready for another adventure.  in january of 2010 or so i am gonna roll on from these parts.  my clay co. residency ends in september, my contract with creative clay in december.  yeah, the economy is in a downward spiral, and i don’t know what that will mean in another 6 months or a year, but i know i have to keep moving forward.  there are so many good reasons to stay in one place but one thing i learned in tokyo is that it’s even when it’s easy and comfortable to stay in one place it’s not always the right thing to do.  i might have multiple jobs and a studio here, and in tokyo i had the ultimate good thing (l.o.v.e.) but there’s something bigger than all that.

getting on your train tracks and staying on them and taking them to the last stop.

studio day

ok, i’ve been working full time for about a month now.  in theory it’s not many more hours but it’s really kicking my ass.  i feel the days passing, get up, go to work, take care of mundane tasks, get into bed, restart.  it’s not a nice feeling.  there is so little time to just “be around” the studio.  the salt and soda kiln have been fired in the last week and i wasn’t present for either.  it’s not the one job, of course, it’s just that between working in sarasota, with the commuting, and part time at creative clay, and one day the the clay co my days are packed and i’m starting to feel a little claustrophobic.  i love all the things i do but everyone needs a little spare time right?  ok, my pity party is over.  today i did have the day off and i got to work in the studio for the majority of it.  i finished up a third in the chicken butt series and started a fourth.  j- and i are going to fire the soda kiln this weekend and i’m hopeing to get all four of them in.  i’m always pushing it to the last minute with firings…

number 3

number 3



work for sale at st. pete clay.

the garden and flower sale was a success.  everything ran smoothly and i even sold some of my work.  today was great as plenty of friendly faces came out to support the cause.  it’s so awesome to see people buying handmade (and hand grown) products.  with the economy continuing to tank i think it is our responsibility to keep buying handmade objects.  walmart may be able to sell everything under the sun cheaper than a bag of clay, but when walmart tanks too, where will we be?  let’s keep supporting each other, bartering and doing it ourselves!

planters with succulents (separated and rooted by my mom from her own collection of succulents) still available at st. pete clay for a limited time.  anyone interested in some free plants or trees for their yard should plan a visit to the gugliotti’s house in sarasota county.  my dad loves to share his plants.

flower pots 030

flower pots 033flower pots 027