Diane Puckett

I love mud, be it in the studio or the garden. My first foray into ceramics was in the 1970s. I took a long time off for things like raising children and having a career in the Washington, DC area.

I got back into ceramics in 2000, taking classes from Fran Newquist at Manassas Clay where I eventually had a studio and sold my work.

Since moving to Asheville, North Carolina in 2009, I have established my own studio where I fire oxidation work and raku ware. I have had the privilege of taking classes and workshops from some amazing local potters.

Living in the Southern Appalachians is about as good as it gets. On the best days, the studio windows are wide open, good music is playing with the birds singing along, and I am up to my elbows in mud.

Diane Puckett

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dust Control

This weekend was the annual cleaning of the studio in preparation for winter when the windows are closed and water is an issue. I have no plumbing in my studio so I must schlep in water. Summer is not a problem, as I can just run a hose to the building, and anything really messy gets hosed off outside. Soon the outside faucets will be shut off, and I will resort to carrying in gallon bottles of warm water.

Studio cleaning began with resieving all my glazes. This was a big, messy job but needed to be done. Some of the glazes had what appeared to be small stones which had formed since the glazes were last sieved, another mystery to be solved. I am sure John Britt knows the answer.

I threw out terra sigillata I had made in various colors. It was all made from XX Sagger clay and, when fired, crackled on every piece. Today I made terra sig using OM4, which tends to better fit the clays I use. Word to the wise - terra sig needs to be tested just like glazes.

I also threw out some half-made pieces with which I was not happy, and there will be more to follow those into the trash can. I have decided finishing something I don't like is a waste of time and keeps me from creating something else.

I installed a 12-foot shelf running the length of one wall over the windows, and I plan to install another on the other side. This provides a lot more storage space, and it is a great place for small things which tend to create a lot of clutter and collect dust. Shelves above windows do not block any sunlight and use otherwise idle space. It also forces me to stand and stretch way up to reach those things, something I need to do when I am working hunched over the wheel or work table.

I also wedged a lot of clay which needed to be reclaimed. I detest wedging clay. I am hoping some enterprising person will buy a pug mill, put it on a trailer, and take it around to various potters' studios to pug clay. In the Asheville area, someone could probably do that full-time and have a waiting list of customers.

After cleaning out junk and reorganizing, I even scrubbed the floor and washed the windows. The piliated woodpecker sat outside laughing in a tree, but at least now I can see him.

I want to make a serious effort to keep my studio reasonably clean. This will mean making a concious effort to not create dust inside and to clean any wet mess before it dries. I think it will save time in the long run, but we will see how that goes. It will certainly make the studio a safer place to work.

The kiln is nearly full for the next bisque firing. I have room for something very short on the top shelf, maybe a platter. Later today I am going to Wildacres for an all-week class with Cynthia Bringle, so the platter will have to wait. I am looking forward to a couple days of being off the grid and in the mud.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Measuring Up

I love making big pots. Recently I was reading The Penland Book of Ceramics, and the chapter on Cynthia Bringle inspired me to try to make a tall pot for the first time in several years. I made three sections, each about 10 inches tall, planning to add a top with a narrow neck. I left them to sit in the studio overnight before assembling the pot the next day. About 3:30 in the morning, as I was laying awake solving the world's problems, I realized my kiln would not hold a pot that tall. In the morning, I went to the studio and measured my kiln. I could fit a 25-inch tall pot, still a good size. I assembled the pot, saving the top third for the top half of a large pitcher.

I used plastic and wood ribs to make a lot of marks in the pot. The next day I used a cheap yardstick (less than a dollar from Lowe's paint department) to beat the hell out of the pot. The yardstick is lightweight and flexible, so it really adds some nice marks. Beating the pot also helped to release some of my aggravation with the current political campaigns. It wasn't until I went back a few days later and added Newman's Red terra sig to the pot that I noticed the details of the impact of the yardstick.

In a few weeks I will be taking a class from Cynthia. Making this pot has given me a number of questions for her, so I am glad I made it when I did. Right now it is in the kiln for a bisque fire.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hearing voices?

Today was a day when I needed someone to lock the studio door and not let me enter. Yesterday I threw this rather large vase out of twenty pounds of clay. I planned to pull the top up higher and deeply carve the bottom. That was a pretty good plan, as the vase was made in two pieces, and continuing to throw the bottom would be a good way to make the whole thing catawampus. I put it back on the wheel and did a pretty good job pulling the top. Then my rebellious side took over and decided she would try to throw the bottom higher too. I really did hear that little voice telling me not to do so, but I did it anyway. After I destroyed the pot, smushed the clay into a blob, and stuck it back in a plastic bag, I left the studio for the rest of the day. Maybe tomorrow will be a better pottery day.

I assume other people hear that little voice. So far, every time I have ignored it, I have regretted doing so. I really need to listen to her and save myself a lot of aggravation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Progress in Handbuilding

I have been working on handbuilding with Mary Mikkelsen for the past several  months. Handbuilding is a slower, more meditative way of creating pottery.

Most of my handbuilding begins with making slabs of clay. I don't like making slabs, so I tend to make a number of them at one time, layering them between sheets of plastic and sheetrock. The plastic keeps the clay from drying out and the sheetrock from getting moldy. I have a small slab roller but find the best work comes from handmade slabs. Today the UPS man delivered a huge rolling pin, which should help.

Once I get a couple good-sized slabs made, I am quite happy to spend the entire day making things, stopping only when I run out of slabs or my back gives out from standing in the same position all day.

This is a piece I made yesterday. I added the feet today. The newsprint under the feet allow them to move as the pot dries, helping to prevent cracks. This is a low-fire, red clay. I don't usually use dark clays, but I have some and need to use it. I prefer not to throw with it, as throwing makes a lot more mess to clean up. Even though I know light clays make just as much mess, somehow the mess from red clays seem a lot more difficult to clean up. In my fantasies, I have a studio large enough for two complete areas, one for light clays and one for dark. In reality, I clean a lot.

I used the leftover slab to make this wallhanging. The insert is woven strips of clay. I am not sure where I am going with this piece. It is really a prototype for future wallhangings. I like pieces which hold organic things such as pinecones or seashells. I had not idea what to put inside this piece so decided to try weaving some clay to see how that works out.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It has been nearly three weeks since my knee surgery, and I am finally back in the studio. Today was spent glazing pots and loading the kiln which as I write this has just begun firing. It will be two days until I can open the kiln and see the results of my work. Opening the kiln always feels like being a kid on Christmas morning, hoping I will get at least some of what I wanted!

I have begun taking hand-building lessons with Mary Mikkelsen. Mary and her husband Henry Pope collaborate in making beautiful work at Mikpo Pottery, and learning from her is a wonderful opportunity. Now that I have gotten glazing out of the way, I have enough room in the studio to practice the techniques Mary showed me. Working in a small studio means space is always an issue, but having the windows open makes the space feel larger. One of the birdhouses on the studio porch is again inhabited by a little Carolina wren who sings from sunup to sundown. This spring he seems to especially enjoy singing along with Robin Bullock's guitar recordings www.robinbullock.com .

I have also resumed hammered dulcimer lessons with Donna Germano classictouchmusic.net and am trying to spend some time each day practicing that. Playing the hammered dulcimer is like trying to pat your head while rubbing your belly and standing on your head at the same time. If it doesn't drive me batty, perhaps the brain exercise will help prevent dementia. There is a little song sparrow who sometimes sings along. His taste in music is obviously not nearly as good as the house wren's.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dry Ridge

People keep asking me why I chose the name Dry Ridge Pottery. We live just south of Weaverville, North Carolina in an area known as Dry Ridge. We are surrounded by mountains which do interesting things to our weather. Often in summer, huge rain storms will come toward Dry Ridge, and they pass right by us without leaving a drop of rain. Others in the area get frequent downpours while we get almost nothing. Last summer we had two days of rain, the preceding summer, one. Better to be Dry Ridge Pottery than Dry Ridge Farm.

Today I picked up some gorgeous new glazes and am anxious to try them on those lidded jars. Buddy accompanied me to Highwater Clay for the first time and made lots of new friends. Unfortunately, he cannot hang out in my studio, as the stuff on the floor of a pottery studio is not something he needs to ingest, and Buddy eats just about everything he can get hold of. One of his current favorites is maple tree seeds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I opened the kiln today to discover that two pots had exploded in the kiln. These were two of the four pieces for the fountain. I imagine they were not quite dry before firing. The challenge will be making replacements that will fit with the pieces that survived. Thankfully, it was a bisque firing, so I did not have pieces glazed to the kiln, and there was no damage to the kiln. It did motivate me to vacuum the inside of the kiln, something I needed to do.

Clay shrinks as it dries and again with each firing. Making replacement pieces of a certain size and shape is always a challenge. Pieces also tend to change shape a bit, which is why lids are usually fired on their pots rather than separately. Even teapot spouts thrown on the wheel tend to uncoil a bit in firing, so, if a spout has a definite bottom, many potters will attach them turned a bit so they will rotate to the correct angle. Just one more reason I don't like to make teapots!