Upcoming Events

The morning chill in the air beckons for a change in the seasons. I've spent the summer learning Claude's stoneware process, enjoying the rhythm of working in the studio, and experimenting with high-fire clays and glazes. As the end of August rapidly approaches, here on the edge of the mountains we cling to our favorite aspects of summer - heirloom tomatoes and peaches, evening garden walks, afternoon thunderstorms, and midnight jams - as we plan for an exciting and busy fall.

We will host and participate in a variety of events in the upcoming months, including the Fall Open House Festival at the pottery, American Craft Week in Western North Carolina, the Upstairs Artspace Art Trek 2015, and a trip to set up a booth for the 34th annual Seagrove Pottery Festival.

Please consider joining us for one or all of these happenings. In the meantime, enjoy the photos from around the studio. Our marketing support (Darby Kirven) did a photo shoot this morning as I glazed pots for another firing.

All best,

Tyson

September 19 - 20

Art Trek 2015

http://upstairsartspace.org/exhibit_display.php?eid=95

 

October 2 - 11

American Craft Week in Western North Carolina

www.americancraftweek.com/wnc

 

October 17

Fall Open House Festival - Little Mountain Pottery

(this is my major annual event)

www.tysongrahampottery.com/events

You are invited to attend the 2015 Fall Open House for Tyson Graham at Little Mountain Pottery on October 17th from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. The day will feature Tyson's latest stoneware and redware pottery, guest artists, and mountain music. This event is part of American Craft Week in Western North Carolina.

For 39 years, Tyson's mentors, Claude and Elaine Graves, held an annual open house at Little Mountain Pottery. The weekend brought together pottery enthusiasts from around the Southeast, who showed up early and packed themselves into the studio as they eagerly awaited the opening of the kiln. Old-Time and Celtic musicians played for hours, and guest artists sold their work from tents around the pottery. These events brought people back year after year and influenced multiple generations of artists, collectors, and musicians. The Graves retired in 2014 and brought Tyson Graham into the fold. This year's Open House marks the introduction of the new potter and a continuation of years of festivities at Little Mountain Pottery.

November 21 -22

34th Annual Seagrove Pottery Festival

http://www.seagrovepotterymuseum.net/





Slabs, Slips, Sgraffito, and Wax Resist

These past few months have been busy and I have learned so much as I settle into the studio. The Spring rains have brought all sorts of inspiration. I've been decorating pots with trees and flowers while I explore a process using slips, sgraffito, and wax resist that am learning from Claude Graves here at Little Mountain Pottery.  

Here's a summary of the process:

You start with a lump of clay.

You roll out the clay using a slab roller:

You drape the slab of clay over a hump mold. The mold can be ceramic, wood, cloth, newspaper, or just about anything you can think of that will create your desired shape.

You smooth the clay as you press it onto the mold, then you trim the edges.

smoothing the clay with a sponge

smoothing the clay with a sponge

trimming with a cheese wire

trimming with a cheese wire

Then you let it dry on the mold for a while.

After it is dry enough to remove from the mold and not collapse, you let it dry in the sun.

Once it is completely dry you can start decorating. For this platter, I start with a wash of "dirty" slip: a slip made with local red clay.

Then I add splatters and scratches.

Then, using wax resist, I paint stripes.

I like using the colored wax because it's more visible.

I like using the colored wax because it's more visible.

Then I paint slip over the entire platter. 

The wax resists the black slip, leaving what's underneath untouched.

The wax resists the black slip, leaving what's underneath untouched.

Then I add the sgraffito. I scratch through the slips and the wax to reveal the red clay beneath.

Once the piece is absolutely dry it is now bisque fired. I bisque to cone 010.

after bisque firing

after bisque firing

Then you wax the bottom of the platter and coat it with a clear glaze. 

I pour the glaze over the platter because it is too large to dip. Then I touch up with a brush.

I pour the glaze over the platter because it is too large to dip. Then I touch up with a brush.

Then you fire the platter a second time to cone 04.

The finished Night Tree Platter.

The finished Night Tree Platter.

I've enjoyed taking this process and giving it my own imagery and approach. There are so many possibilities. I use it for my Night Daffodil pattern as well. Here are a few pictures of the Daffodil pattern coming together:

A finished Night Daffodil platter

A finished Night Daffodil platter

Here are some details of various pots that came from this process:

detail of tree plate

detail of tree plate

This process could be taken in so many directions. I feel like I'm just starting to scratch the surface of it's possibilities. 

Now I'm off to the studio. My Spring Kiln Opening Festival is coming up on May 16th, and I need to get busy filing those kilns!

Moving to the country

In October 2013 I was sitting on the front porch of the Moonshine Cabin with Claude and Elaine Graves and I heard the question "have you ever thought about doing pottery?"

The moonshine cabin

The moonshine cabin

Darby and I were in town to visit and play tunes for the weekend during Little Mountain Pottery's 39th annual kiln opening festival. Over the past ten years I never missed an October opening at the Graves' pottery, and the weekend had become a sacred event for me. It was a mixture of wonderful people, lively music, and great food, but there was something more, something indescribable that drew me back year after year like some sort of pilgrimage. Those weekends centered around the unveiling of the Graves' latest work, which Claude would pull one by one from the ancient looking kiln as people, packed elbow to elbow in the back of the studio, would call out "I want that one!" or simply "Claude!" the instant the pot saw sunlight. Old time music swirled through the cracks of the studio's walls as craftsmen (Don the furniture maker, Richard the Luthier, Becky with her felted rugs, Zeke with his gourd banjos) all displayed their work outside the pottery, and children danced in the grass. These weekends always filled me with energy. Despite little to no sleep from playing tunes all night with Zeke and Jacob, I was more alive after a kiln opening at Little Mountain Pottery. 

View from the cabin on the morning of the Graves' 38th annual kiln opening festival at Little Mountain Pottery

View from the cabin on the morning of the Graves' 38th annual kiln opening festival at Little Mountain Pottery

So when the opportunity arose for me to spend time learning from Claude and Elaine it felt like winning the lottery. I immediately signed up for classes in Columbia with Paul Moore at Southern Pottery to begin learning to use the potters' wheel, and started spending as many weekends as possible in Tryon delving into slip techniques and firing kilns under Claude's guidance. I set up a small studio in Columbia and would throw pots and decorate them with slips and sgraffito there and Darby and I would drive them up to Tryon for firing. Some days I would work my restaurant job from 6:30 to 2:30, then immediately head out to the backyard studio and throw pots until evening. I have drawn, painted, and built things my whole life, but never felt as productive and satisfied as I do while making pottery. The process is meditative, fluid, peaceful, and elemental.

The Graves' studio and gallery

The Graves' studio and gallery

Making mugs February 2015 with Claude Graves

Making mugs February 2015 with Claude Graves

Some of my pots before my first sale at Little Mountain Pottery in October 2014

Some of my pots before my first sale at Little Mountain Pottery in October 2014

Last fall and the beginning of this year has been eventful. I had my first pottery sales at Little Mountain Pottery in October and December, and I left my comfortable job of ten years roasting coffee and working in the kitchen at Immaculate Consumption in Columbia. Darby and I sold my house in Columbia to some good friends, and on January 27th I proposed in an empty house with nothing in it but Darby, a banjo, some tools, and our dog.

Darby and me in front of the studio

Darby and me in front of the studio

 

We headed up to Tryon at the beginning of this month with our six chickens and our dog Trudy to live in the Graves' Moonshine Cabin while I work in their studio under a loose apprenticeship for this next year. Here we plan on enjoying the change of pace and different lifestyle that comes with moving to the country as we start this new chapter of our life together.

The view as I walked to work on my first day in the studio full time

The view as I walked to work on my first day in the studio full time

Our chickens exploring their new home

Our chickens exploring their new home

Some pots after their initial bisque firing before glazing.

Some pots after their initial bisque firing before glazing.

The first mugs of 2015

The first mugs of 2015

image.jpg

I'm working on firing my first pots of 2015, so stay tuned for updates!

-Tyson