Monday, March 7, 2011


I went to Syracuse last Friday to pick up clay and glaze materials to beat the incoming snowstorm and to replenish some inventory depleted during the winter months. While there, the guy getting my stuff asked if I was a “thrower”. I said “Yes, I am a thrower” and then asked about hand building to which I answered; “yeah I hand build as well but I am a reluctant participant”. This got me thinking about when I did start hand building, certainly not at Cleveland State despite the urging of Dick Schneider.

A long while back, I hurt my left hand, specifically my index and middle fingers. I damaged the nerves and ligaments and on top of that, I got a rather bad infection. The doctor was very clear, no throwing for quite a while and depending on the extent of the injury, I may not throw again. This news was certainly not well received and after less than a week without throwing, I started getting very irritable and antsy to work with clay. I started doodling up some ideas for potential hand built pieces and was at it the very next day.

Luckily I had a slab roller for the hump molded plates and trays I make. This made the whole process a bit easier. Working with a purpose and careful not to use my left hand, I set about building teapot after teapot for decorating in various surfaces. By the third week or so, my hand building skills improving, I started making these large house boxes (hauskasten). During this period, I made almost 200 hand built pieces in three temperature ranges and a half dozen surfaces. Though I was dragged into hand building by absolute necessity, a very reluctant partner in the process, I have continued to hand build to this day. I guess it is true; every cloud does have a silver lining.

(Illustrated is a “RunningMan” teapot which measures about 16” x 16” x 2” and a “LandscapeMan” lidded house box which measures about 20” tall. Both are inlaid engobe into my ishime-ji surface. The teapot, which is fully functional, was included in two national juried exhibits of teapots and illustrated in the book; HANDBUILT CERAMICS by Kathy Triplet. The housebox was also in an exhibit; The Tea Party at GBF Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio.)

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