“One year from today, my goal is to break ground on a new pottery studio that supports future pottery production with 100% solar fired pottery.”
I failed. I still live in the same tiny apartment that I lived in while writing “A Potter’s Journey” years ago, and I work in the same dirty, old studio. The pottery is fired with 100% of whatever fuel is generated by the electric company.
Most of the World Record Pottery Planters have been given away, purchased by people globally and opened remarkable new doors to new fans and celebrities alike. It almost didn’t happen, because I threw my back out practicing, which can be a serious problem for potters. Pushing through that failure led to achieving the ridiculous goal of actually braking the record- on a kick-wheel, for the first time in history!
“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”
This doesn’t mean you should let your ego run wild, trying to be better than everyone. It means that audacious goals will bring you to EPIC new heights, even if it’s not the heights you expected. You, and everyone around you, will achieve what you never thought was possible.
I might live in a tiny apartment, with the same dirty, old studio, but that apartment is shared with the love of my life. We’ve already drawn a floor plan for the studio we hope to build together and we’re saving money. We’re also setting more audacious goals and feeding inspiration into our artistic careers, like this trip to NYC to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson at the StarTalk RadioPatreon Party….
…or our annual trip to the Rocky Mountains to escape the madness of modern life for a short time, to relax in the vast mountainous landscape.
Dream Big, Start Small
Even little actions, like this technique I developed to reduce cracking in my “hump thrown” pottery, can have profound long-term effects. I use this technique every time I throw pottery, and millions of people have been captivated by it.
Cherrico Pottery has long been fans of Dr. Tyson’s work, specifically because he sees the value in art. He says artistic expression and scientific discovery cultivate the same emotions. It’s both a scientist’s and artist’s job to communicate the awe, splendor, and the beauty of the world around us. Dr. Tyson says that one large difference between art and science is that if a scientist doesn’t discover something in the universe, someone else will. Art, on the other hand, is something different:
Our friends at StarTalk created a video with a few reasons for why it’s important to continue art education. Dr. Tyson is an expert in the sciences, but he understands that in order to succeed and grow in scientific knowledge, you must have certain skills that aren’t always taught in science classes.
One of these skills that overlap between art and science is creativity. Dr. Tyson points out in this video that the human mind is capable of both precision and creativity. The best scientists are creative and the best artists bring some rationality and order into their artwork. What makes Joel’s Cosmic Mugs so spectacular is because he has integrated both creativity and order into each mug. The cosmic glaze on each mug is not meant to depict the cosmos, but instead, express it.
When Dr. Tyson speaks about the topic of art and science, there’s a good chance he brings up Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting, Starry Night. He often says that it’s the first painting that didn’t reflect reality, but instead emotion. He says that art and science are the two of the few things we create that will last past our lifetime.
Joel Cherrico will be exhibiting and performing live pottery demonstrations on his York Kick Wheel August 19th and 20th in Duluth, Minnesota at Art in Bayfront Park. One of Joel’s best BIG pottery jars will be on display, as well as a few of his best Cosmic Mugs. This will be Joel’s 7th year participating in this festival. He will also be crafting Cosmic Mugs live and anything else he’s inspired to throw, while breathtaking Lake Superior shimmers in the background.
Just one of his Big Pots will be on display in Duluth. They take a LONG time to make. In a hurried month, Joel can throw, fire and finish 100+ Cosmic Mugs in under a week and have them ready to order, but one Big Pot takes several months from start to finish. Just the drying takes a few months! Read about how Joel creates these beautiful works of art in a blog post he wrote back in 2012:
Big Pots deserve to be displayed on a stand as beautiful as the Big Pots themselves. So, Joel and his team have been creating beautiful wooden slabs over the last month to use as pedestals. The pedestals also help to level the jars on uneven ground. Four different types of wood slabs were harvested in sustainable ways from the St. John’s Arboretum with the help of a full-time forest technician: Aspen, Maple, Sugar Maple and White Oak. Slabs were dried slowly in Joel’s pottery kiln at 100 degrees C. for a few days, and then hand-planed, sanded and finished with love by local woodworker Tom Kuhn.
And yes… that is actually real gold in the bottom right corner of the gorgeous red jar. That is the Cherrico Pottery jar Joel plans to display in Duluth. Hope to see you there!
September 24th, Joel’s artistic talent will be on full display when he participates (for the 7th time) in the Millstream Arts Festival, located in his home town, St. Joseph, Minnesota. This is where Joel lives, works and operates Cherrico Pottery. They even generously put his work on billboards around the city.
Joel is passionate about supporting the community of St. Joseph, and his unique partnership with the Local Blend is a perfect example of that support. If you’re not too busy, come see Joel create his famous Cosmic Mugs and learn more about his artwork by absorbing the energy of his specialty “Big Pots” in person.
“The most important thing is communicating with the user. It is only when the user feels the presence of the hand of the potter that communication truly exists.”
We decided not to wish you a “Happy Asteroid Day!” because it’s not really a celebratory day. It’s an international day for the science community to educate and raise awareness on the seriousness of asteroid collisions with Earth. June 30th was chosen to be International Asteroid Day for a reason.
June 30, 1908:
Referred to as the “Tunguska Event,” an asteroid exploded over a Siberian forest causing mass devastation. It was a mystery to natives for decades on what caused this explosion, until scientists stepped in. It’s the largest impact event on Earth ever recorded during human history.
“You kind of want to know how to move asteroids around – that’s a good thing to be able to do, because one day we’re going to find one with our name on it.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
Our friends at StarTalk created a video with some of the best reasons for why it’s important to care about asteroid research. Dr. Tyson is an important science communicator, but he also has a soft spot for art (shown by The Starry Night painting reproduction hanging in his office or the Copper Red Mug that snuck into this interview):
Here at Cherrico Pottery, we donate regularly to The Planetary Society as members and periodically for additional research and understanding of asteroids. You can hear straight from them about the importance of asteroid defense in this video they launched today:
($126 value: $48 retail + $15 packing and shipping each)
You can win this free Asteroid Cup and a set of these Cosmic Shot Cups in honor of Asteroid Day. Simply answer the question below in our comments to enter:
How has science impacted your life?
Leave a comment below before Friday 7/7 telling us how scientific classes, scientific discoveries, or science in general has impacted your life. We’ll pick the best 3 comments and give the winners this Asteroid Cup and 2 sets of shot cups, totally free!
To enter, you must leave one, genuine comment, 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 24-48 hours for your comment to appear. You must also be on our email newsletter distribution list to qualify, so please make sure you are okay with receiving our email newsletter before you leave a comment. We will pick winners Friday around 2pm Central and you will receive the pottery shipped to you nearly anywhere globally, totally free. *ENDED: Congrats to our winners Nancy, Valerie, and Lou. Thanks so much to everyone for participating!
*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!