Frequently Asked Questions

How did you get the idea?

I didn't start with the idea, but I was prepared to make use of the materials when Chris Griner brought them to me. Because it was claylike, he thought I could make a pot with the sediment, so he intercepted it before it was tossed overboard in July 1996 – on the deck of Research Vessel Oceanus. It had charisma, and kept giving me ideas, and I acted on them.

So, WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) goes to get you mud?

No. WHOI does oceanographic research. They get sediments for their own reasons and, occasionally some extra finds it's way to me. Click here to visit the WHOI website.

How do you get your materials?
The way that has worked best for me is to not ask for materials, and to be appreciative when they come. I try to test them and make beauty with them, and disperse information about the outcome.

How do you use the sediment?

I add fresh water to the sediment, mix it with my hands and pour or brush it on the pots. I never seive it, and never mix places together.

If you don’t make the patterns, how do they form?

I don’t know, can’t watch, can only guess. Pacific sediments are all smooth and brown - I have consistently observed that sediments with shells of foraminifera, after being evenly applied, usually branch while they melt in the kiln.

Amy Wilson Sanger told me, “those patterns are proof to me that there is a God.”
Click here to read Amy's article in Cape Cod Life.

Is the blue glaze sea mud?
No – I use 5 glazes that I assemble from refined materials – white, blue and greens mostly. I also use a copper red, but it usually comes out green.
Don’t ash glazes make the same patterns?
Sometimes, yes. I have seen some that flow downward in branching patterns, but I don’t usually know where they’re from, or what kind of variety they offer. Sometimes melted sea muds appear to rise up - I think that's from crystals forming during slow firing at high temperature.
Can’t you say any mud is from a special place?
Hear me laugh – yes, I can make up exotic locations and stories too...and maybe noone but I would know...but I’ve got enough to do, just keeping track of the facts.

How do people find out about you?

Word of mouth, articles in books, magazines, and radio, and occasional slide presentation, talks, and gifts.

Do you earn a living doing this?

Yes, including workshops and ocassional consulting. I get no support from grants or partnerships.

If I can get sediment, shall I bring it to you?

If it is not polluted and you have unwanted material, I am interested in sediments from new places, but I don't always have time to test them right away.

Do you pay for the sediments?

No. The sediments are not for sale. I have expressed a formal thank you to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution by creating a gift designed with them called The Orb.

Have you been out on a ship?

No, might like to go. I have imagined what I’d do on a cruise, with camera and laptop and handbuilding with clay (if I could get some safe shipping back to port) and quite a few people have suggested it. Maybe someday . . .

How can I get your work?

If you can come to Woods Hole, make an appointment to visit the studio, visit Coffee Obsession, or choose something from the Soft Earth Online Store. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Why don’t you show in galleries?

A good gallery arrangement might be great. As my work becomes more consistent, it becomes more possible from my end. Good curating is needed to represent my work. Maybe the right arrangement materialize. I’m most ready for the west coast because I have so many materials from the Pacific, that are predictable.

Do you teach?

I have and I like to, but I can’t offer administrative time or studio space. I am open to doing short-term residencies, and workshops at schools. I envision it working best as an applied science/art form, managed by an interdisciplinary team that includes people with business management and communication skills.

If I make something out of clay, will you fire it for me?

No, except if it is part of a workshop I am doing.

How do you price things?

I price things after they’re fired (except commissions.) Results vary a lot, so the greats pay for the duds. I factor in overhead, like all businesses do, and try to make each kiln load produce a living wage and pay expenses.

I factor in time consuming details that other potters don’t have – like keeping track of and testing so many materials and writing with a very small brush, and collecting stories.

I also factor in rarity of a material. For instance, a sampler piece with Arabian Sea sediment or if it’s known to contain asteroid particles (I have tiny amounts of each) will be priced higher than pieces from the North Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.

Do you work in the winter?

Yes, but not always on pots. Winter is usually home/office, new investigations, or travel. I can heat my studio with wood, but clay gets cold. The kiln/glaze room is cold.

Would you ever take an apprentice?

No space, no time, no straight going to make use of this model of exchange.

If there were a program in another space and I could be part of a team, I would love to share this way of working and learning. But I can’t spearhead a program, and I’d have to be well-paid to participate in one.

Do you need any help?

I could use help with some things, but I rarely know in time to plan for it. My location is a scale that embodies “small is beautiful.”

Occasionally I hire help – like for this website, lawn mowing, physical therapy, and for massage.

Do you keep regular hours?

Only brief scheduled weekday hours in the summer. Hours by appointment are best because I work in four buildings in three locations. My days form by what my body needs and what work is at hand. My business phone is usually with me.

Do you work every day?

Yes – and often nights and weekends – but precious little time actually making pots.

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