Have you ever heard of TED Talks? I’ve been obsessed with them the past few years. I’m working on a special film project about the “Big Pots” and sculptures below. The art is set up, and now I’m looking for more inspiring ways to talk about it.
To enter, you must leave one, genuine comment on this blog post, or the moderator will not approve your comment or include you in the giveaway. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Please allow up to 48 hours, or sometimes even a bit longer, for the moderator to approve your comment. Limit one comment entry per person. Void where prohibited, over 21 years of age only. We will pick winner before June 5th, 2018 around 2pm Central and will be notified via email. The winner will receive the pottery shipped to them nearly anywhere globally, totally free! You can view more details at the Cherrico Pottery Giveaway Policy here or the Cherrico Pottery Terms and Conditions here. If you have any more questions or concerns, or please reach out to Joel Cherrico, anytime at our email here: email@example.com
*This is a guest blog post, edited by Joel Cherrico and written by Macy Kelly: CSB/SJU Marketing Intern at Cherrico Pottery. In this post, Macy addresses fan questions from Cherrico Pottery Facebook Live videos about why Joel uses traditional kick-wheels instead of electric, motorized wheels like most potters.
You may be wondering why Joel Cherrico kicks his pottery wheel around and around, instead of simply pressing a motorized pedal and letting the wheel do the work. He learned to make pottery on an electric wheel in high school and understands that it might be easier, faster and less stress on the body, but he chooses otherwise.
The Karatsu kick wheel was handmade by a local woodworker who used wood from a local Maple tree. Sanded, finished wood is beautiful, which is often why Joel decides to perform his pottery craft on this wheel. The bench was made from White Cedar from the Minnesota North Shore.
When Joel broke the Guinness World Recordstitle for “most pots thrown in one hour by an individual” the Karatsu kick wheel was a key factor. Previous potters who attempted the record all used electric wheels, and the previous record holder used an electric wheel to throw 150 pots in one hour. You can watch Joel set the new record on his Karatsu-style wheel here,breaking the previous record by nine pots.
Unlike electric wheels, you can’t just crank the motor and power through the clay. It takes training, balance and a deep understanding of how to throw pottery while kicking at the same time. Artistry and athleticism are equally important. 40 pounds is extremely light for a pottery wheel, so there is no momentum to keep the wheel spinning unless it is constantly kicked. You can learn how Joel used meditation and intense physical training to accomplish this epic feat.
The wheel is so lightweight that it must be anchored to a board, held in place by the potter’s body. Downward force makes the potter and the wheel joined in the act of throwing.
Karatsu wheels are rare. It’s tough to buy or find one anywhere. You can learn how they’re made by reading “Body of Clay, Soul of Fire”or finding a local wood worker who might be able to craft a replica. You might even be able to reach out to the St. John’s Pottery directly and respectfully inquire about the process of learning how to use and obtain one of these rare wheels, which were originally brought to the Minnesota area by renowned potter Richard Bresnahan.
This awesome YouTube videoshows an artist crafting an Onggi kick wheel, which is a type of precursor to the Karatsu wheel. Onggi wheels have been used for centuries for larger pottery, generally over three feet tall. There are similarities between the two, but both are hard to find for purchase. Any talented crafts person could design and create a gorgeous, functional Karatsu or Onggi-style kick wheel.
York Kick Wheel
The second wheel used to craft Cherrico Pottery is the York kick wheel, shown below. It’s only about 16 inches tall, made from a cement mold around metal bearings. To raise the wheel to a proper throwing height, Joel crafted a Black Walnut top with White Oak risers, which are secured to the wheel like a pottery bat. The 24 inch height helps improve throwing posture, since older potters commonly struggle with back pain from bending over low wheels for decades.
The York weighs around 80 pounds, which is twice as much as the 40 pound Karatsu, but it’s actually more portable. It sits on three steel feet, so it does not need to be bolted down. It can be picked up, moved anywhere and taken apart in two pieces. Easy assembly and light weight make it extremely portable, compared to commonly used Lockerbie kick wheels weighing around 300 pounds each.
The York wheel has been great for performing pottery demonstrations all across the Midwest. In 2013, Joel used it up to five times weekly at local farmers’ markets and art festivals (left photo) and he brings it to Duluth Art in Bayfront Park in front of Lake Superior once annually (right photo).
It was created by Roger York in 2008. Joel purchased it from Mr. York during his sophomore year in college, after they spoke on the phone a few times about Mr. York’s career as a potter and his decision to make wheels. The wheel took him four months to craft and he only charged $250. He was 87 years old. Mr. York published the patent online here for free and you might be able to find one on craigslist someday. If you find one available, please email us here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Most people don’t know how to use this wheel and would gladly sell it for cheap. Joel was recently gifted a second York wheel for free, so he can put it to good use.
The York wheel is considered the “work horse” of Cherrico Pottery because of how this durable tool can travel easily. Rope is wrapped around Joel’s wheel because he used it so much that the thin middle piece (shown below) began to crack. The middle, cement section was wrapped with an entire roll of duck tape for strength, followed by rope for aesthetics.
Both Karatsu and York kick wheels are currently used to create all Cherrico Pottery. Next time you see Joel spinning pottery live on the Cherrico Pottery Facebook page, try and guess which kick wheel he is using.
What is one thing that you have learned from watching Joel throw pottery on his kick wheels in his YouTube or Facebookvideos? Share your newly acquired art knowledge in the comment section below.
Thanks so much for reading this post and for following Cherrico Pottery. Please subscribe to our email newsletter here and leave a comment below before this Friday telling us one thing you have learned about Joel’s pottery or Cherrico Pottery in general. Joel will pick the best comment about the best lesson one person has learned, and pick them to receive one free Cosmic Mug. To enter, you must leave one, genuine comment about something you have actually learned from us, or the moderator will not approve your comment and include you in the giveaway. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Please allow 24-48 hours for your comment to appear. You must also be on the newsletter distribution list to qualify. Joel will pick one winner Friday around 6pm Central to get one of our best Cosmic Mugs, totally free. Thanks!
Thank you to everyone who entered last week’s Cosmic Mug Giveaway! Five lucky winners have an email in their inbox, ready for a Cosmic Mug shipped almost anywhere in the world, totally free! Didn’t win? Don’t be sad…because I made more Cosmic Mugs and launched an even better giveaway!
These mugs are very difficult to create, but I successfully made a bit batch! I can afford to give them away for just a couple more weeks, before having a HUGE batch available at HUGE price discounts. This giveaway runs for two weeks, so you have an even better chance to win by referrals to friends and family who might get a kick out of getting their own chance to win a Cosmic Mug. Good luck!
If you’re dying to get your hands on a Cosmic Mug, I was able to save just three more jewels available in my online store here. Feel free to use this 30% off coupon code as a thanks for subscribing to my email newsletter: COSMIC30
Otherwise, stay tuned for a HUGE body of cosmic pottery available at discounted prices soon and ready in time for Christmas delivery.
Studio Shot: Cosmic Serving Bowl
“This is the aspect of the art that interests me…the audience.
…much more so than the fact that people call it art. Call it craft, I don’t care what they call it….long after I’m dead somebody will figure out what it was and how important it was. In the meantime, I get my kicks out of people seeing the work.”
I remember the first time glazing a pot in Sam Johnson’s ceramics class last year. I had made this slightly uneven coil vase with pockmarked walls nearly an inch thick. The piece was truly ugly, an ogre really, but I couldn’t see the pot as anything other than beautiful. It was my Princess Fiona and I was its Shrek…At least until I glazed it.
Like most naive ceramics students, I pictured glazing just like painting. I picked out a handful of colors using the test tiles as my guide, and then brushed swooping glaze patterns all over my vase. By the time I finished, the pot looked like something straight out a kindergarten arts and crafts class. I on the other hand thought it was a masterpiece – a trophy of abstract art. When the thing (it was beyond a pot at this point) finally came out of the kiln, it was hideous. I looked over at my professor for encouragement. Sam walked over, took one look at my monster, turned to the class and said:
“Opening a kiln can be like Christmas or Halloween. Either the pots look amazing and you fall in love, or the results are horrible and you want to smash everything.”
Unlike my great clay ogre, Joel can’t afford to make ugly pots. He makes his living through pottery, and as a result, his experiments with glaze need to be calculated and precise. He needs to know exactly how each part of the glaze works; how copper, cobalt, and iron make red, blue, and rust colors when the glaze reacts with fire in the kiln. Glazes transform clay bodies from ogres into princesses. However, as Joel continues to explore glaze chemistry, he finds that these potions are often difficult to create. Like the alchemists I wrote about last post, Joel works tirelessly to find the right balance of form and color that’ll turn a clay body into a beautiful work of art. For his livelihood, each glaze must reach for a certain standard of beauty.
Looking back at his previous body of work, I think Joel’s been chasing this certain type of beauty all along. It’s been hidden in his work throughout the years, and now I feel we’re just starting to uncover it in the color blue.
Take a look at the gallery below to see an evolution of this blue color. Even in woodfiring, salt firing and copper red glazes, the color blue shows up. I can track the color throughout his work back to 2008:
Numerous potters talk about the lore of blue pottery. Throughout the ages, potters can’t seem to shy away from it. I’ve heard some contemporary potters even refer to the color as cash-flowblue.
Our text book this semester has been Bernard Leach’s A Potter’s Book. Now a 50 year old text, Leach provides a rich history of how ceramics has evolved. His book not only offers rich lessons of the past, but it also gives insights into the future. But even Leach, who wrote the book after decades of experience under his belt, could not seem to understand the lure of the color blue in ceramics. These stories share his experiences with blue glazes:
“At my St. Ives workshop each summer we are asked by three visitors out of four for colour and yet more colour, blue and the more intense the better, is easily the favourite.”
– A Potter’s Book, page 36
“Yesterday we had a good bunch of people, 2 of whom at least knew a good pot when they saw it. One woman started by asking if we hadn’t got any ‘blue pots’, and when David showed them that the last olive-blue glaze for which we have experimented for years, she said: ‘Oh! Do you call that blue?'”
– A Potter’s Book, page 227-228
Perhaps what this all boils down to is something we talked about in the beginning -the pursuit of beauty. Some of the best potters in the contemporary art world don’t make beautiful work. Their work is strange, ugly and confusing.
With this in mind, does the color blue still have a place in the contemporary ceramic world? This poster sits above our workspace, and it’s made from postcards Joel picked up in Philadelphia in 2010 at NCECA (National Council for Education for the Ceramic Arts). It gives a snapshot of the contemporary ceramic work, and shows only a handful of simple, blue pots. Joel will be at the conference in Milwaukee next week networking with contemporary potters and pottery enthusiasts. His goal is to show that the color blue continues to have a strong lure in both historical pottery as well as contemporary ceramics. He wants his work to be a bridge between historical potters like Leach and contemporary artists like Paige Dansinger. As a result, we’ve prepared some innovative market ideas, re-designed the website home page, and packed the online store with blue pots and artist collaborations with Dansinger. We’re prepared for the biggest ceramics conference in the country and we’re hoping to lure people to us with our blue pots!