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st. helen's ash, wedging, & contractors

updated fri 28 jul 06


Little Creations on thu 27 jul 06

This is long for me as I can't usually find/make the time to respond. =

When I was a kid in the early 70's my aunt Dora started me on the =
potter's path. She had a beautiful house and studio overlooking the =
Toutle river just up from the mouth of the Toutle where it dumps into =
the Cowlitz river. She died from cancer in the late 70's and willed me =
her studio to use whenever I wanted - I lived about a 1/2 mile away =
(still do, in fact). Before I could get old enough to appreciate it St. =
Helen's erupted and I watched her beautiful house and studio break off =
of their foundations and float down the Toutle to be crushed by the =
Mickey Mouse (local name) bridge as the river had risen so much it was =
sluicing over the bridge. I also had/have relatives in Eastern =
Washington State at the time where feet of ash, a very coarse ash, fell. =
The upshot of this is that I pushed around so much St. Helen's ash that =
I did not begin to think of saving any. However, along the area where =
Dora's house was, and the rest of the river for that matter, you can =
find tons of the stuff in varying degrees of coarseness depending on =
where and how deep you dig. It's all still there and locals =
occasionally dig the stuff for use as fill. It melts well and forms a =
runny glass when used straight as a coating on the outside of a pot - =
though alone it's a long way from being a glaze.

One thing Aunt Dora insisted on was wedged clay. She would wedge clay =
until it was soft and warm and alive. Many others that I've had the =
privilege of knowing over the years insist on the same. They had few if =
any s cracks. When the did they always blamed themselves for poor =
wedging. Lately I've watched folks buying up puggers and repugging the =
brand new clay instead of wedging it. This has to be cheating....and =
cracks abound. A few of the old timers with stiff joints are doing this =
as a way to start the process but finish with the very important =
wedging. There is no substitute and it really builds the upper body. =
Maybe there is a "new" workout craze to be tapped here for the =
infomercial folks. I agree with David.

I also speak from experience regarding contractors. I was at one time a =
contractor. I did honest work for honest people and had a word of mouth =
reputation attesting to the fact which brought in much of my business. =
I was not the cheapest. Did I mention honest? It was impossible to be =
the cheapest while being honest. The cheapest contractors out there =
paid their employees under the table, did not pay any =
unemployment/social security/insurance/etc on them. They usually cut =
corners by not even doing all of the work needed in inaccessible areas =
and hid the real cost of bids by not telling the client about the true =
extent of the problems until they were halfway into the job. I =
initially lost a lot of business by giving an honest bid ($$$ which =
covered my bond/taxes/time/insurance/material) for a job with the =
explanation that there would most likely be more work that needed to be =
completed once the floor/wall/roof was opened up - you don't know until =
you get there. The client would be upset by my "padding" my bids and =
"creating" work and would use a cheaper contractor. Only to get nailed =
in the middle of the project with price increases for "unforeseen" =
problems and unknown costs. I most always got the next call for the =
next project or to finish the 1/2 completed one. I agree with Wayne.

Tony Little
Little Creations Pottery
Castle Rock, Washington