Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Birthday Bonfire

Celebrating life.

Family traditions.
The birthday bonfire.

Intense heat, unbearable brightness, indescribable color. 

A million brilliant sparks.
Wild, passionate, untamed.

We bask in the glow as cold, dark night grudgingly yields, cowering helpless amongst the pines.

We celebrate life!

Flames dance. Gyrating wildly with unbridled passion.

Drawn like moths to the flame, longing to join the dance, we craft a surrogate. 
Fly, my fragile paper creature! 

Find the updraft! 
Soar! Dance!

Live life to its fullest!

Burn brightly!

We celebrate life, and love, and the joy they bring.

We celebrate family. 
Mom and Dad.  
The love they share. The love they give.

 Sharing laughter. Sharing tears. Sharing it all across the years.

The children laugh. They shout. They play. 

Storing memories they'll recount for their own kids some day.

The family gathers.

Light in the darkness.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Duck Bill Pitcher

A.R. Cole was a master of clay. No form defied him. His children were likewise talented, and a number of skilled journeymen turned wares destined to bear his stamp as well. Countless thousands of pieces in hundreds of forms bear the stamp, A.R. Cole, Sanford, N.C. A relatively small number of these also bear a form number. 

Arthur Ray assigned these "catalog" numbers to assist in the placement and fulfillment of large orders.

This "Duck Bill Pitcher" represents form number 192.

Same pot, different face. The fire tempers each side differently. The rate of heating and cooling affects the crystallization in the rutile glaze referred to as Crystal Green. The variability of this glaze from kiln to kiln and pot to pot contributes to its popularity among collectors.

Here at Hoot Owl Harmony, we'll endeavor to bring you more tidbits from Sanford's historically significant pottery tradition from time to time, including additional glazes and catalog numbers. Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

U Pick! Strawberry Time

Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables are the highlight of any table, and the strawberry is the star of May's table in our little corner of the world. After a hectic week of work and school and tennis and soccer, the whole family was thrilled when we set out Saturday afternoon for some quality time together at Gross Farms' strawberry patch. 

Gross Farms always has a bountiful selection of quality fresh produce, but today our focus was on one thing only, the strawberry patch. The counter in the barn was loaded with baskets of big, perfectly ripened berries, but experience tells us that berries you've picked yourself taste twice as good, so we each grabbed an empty basket and headed out to the designated U Pick section of the patch.  

It was a bit cool for this time of year, but the sun was smiling brightly, and the huge red berries were smiling right back. In less than a quarter hour, we had filled our baskets to overflowing with hand-picked crimson perfection, and headed back to the barn to settle up.

Here's Hunter with his strawberry smile on, holding half our haul, with visions of strawberry confections dancing in his head...

It took an hour or so to wash and stem the berries, then out came the flour and shortening for pie-crust making. A couple of cups of flour, a generous pinch of salt, 2/3 of a cup of shortening (didn't have any lard on hand), and 6-7 tablespoons of ice water later, two homemade pie crusts were on their way into the oven. 

While the crusts were baking, we cooked up a couple of heaping cups of crushed berries, two level cups of sugar, a cup or so of water and four or five tablespoons of cornstarch until the mixture thickened into a luscious strawberry filling. When the crusts had cooled, we piled them with four or five cups of fresh berry slices and topped them with the syrupy strawberry filling. 
They chilled for an hour or so, then met up with some real dairy whipped cream in one of Neolia Cole's pottery bowls where they were the undisputed star of last night's dessert table.

Rustic strawberry pie, how fleeting is thy fame! Who knew last night that your scrumptious simplicity would be trumped by something simpler still...

Two cups of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips and a tablespoon of shortening, melted and married with two dozen of the choicest berries, creates a veritable taste bud temblor tonight; half a dozen on a favorite Whynot Pottery plate, and the pie is yesterday's news...

Monday, October 8, 2012

In Sanford, Halloween's arrival is marked by the emergence of hordes of Cole Pottery Jack-o-Lanterns. 

Hand-thrown by Neolia Cole, or her Grandson Kenneth George, or her sister Celia; an infinite variety of visages, each expressing some aspect of the makers' emotions at the moment of creation. 

Mischievous, goofy, placid, serene, wild, insane, rarely menacing, mostly happy, wide eyes, slanting eyes, triangles, circles and gaping snaggle-toothed grins, these creatures of whim.

Joy they bring; surprise, smiles and delight. And don't forget to read the message on the bottom. Chances are, it was written just for you. "Boo!" Have you met yours yet?!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Space Within...

"Shape clay into a vessel; It is the space within that makes it useful."                      
Lao Tsu, 6th Century B.C.E.

Potters are alchemists.

At their behest, all the essential elements of nature conspire to create objects of great utility and beauty.

Earth, Water, Wind and Fire.


And back-breaking labor.

In 1934, Arthur Ray Cole brought his potter's magic and tireless work ethic to the bustling hamlet of Sanford, North Carolina. He brought with him a growing family, a mule named Charlie and a hard-earned bag of potters' tricks. Mysteries gleaned from years of handling the native Carolina clay. Finding, digging, soaking, grinding, cleaning, cutting, weighing, kneading, turning, drying... 

Secrets won from countless firings. Building forms, shaping brick, constructing kilns, cutting trees, chopping wood, stacking wood, loading wood, breathing smoke, sweating bullets...

Mystical glazes. Flows, runs, drips, dazzling crystals of reflected light, and colors, oh, what colors! Every color of the rainbow. A.R. Cole was a fanatically hard worker and a gifted turner, but his glazes set him apart. Brilliant colors, inspired combinations and endless experimentation yielded the results which distinguish A.R. Cole's Sanford pottery from his contemporaries to this day.

Stay tuned for more on this remarkable craftsman and his family...