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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Who the Hell is Krampus?

It is a little early for Christmas blogs... but I just had to plug Krampus for my pottery sale at Regional #7 this Saturday, November 22.

I make little Krampus Jugs.  I can never make enough of them.

I first heard of Krampus when I met a fellow tradesman from Minnesota. He linked me up to this video and it has become "our song". Roger plays a Krampus in the upcoming winter event in Grand Marais, MN.

Die Seer - Ubern See.... we still don't have a translation of the song except the title... "Ubern lake".... I think.

But who is Krampus?

Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas. Europeans holiday gift-giver, St Nick, gives good children gifts on December 6.  Bad children are punished by Krampus, the hell-bound counterpart. He has many names, Knecht, Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf... and Krampus. Krampus punishes naughty children with switches and rusty chains, sometimes dragging them to the firey place below and has been known to eat really bad children. Not a nice guy. Here in America, we have deleted this fellow from our Holiday, except for the finding of coal in our stockings occasionally.

Here are just two of peoples images of what Krampus looks like...

So celebrate the Holiday this year and remember there is a dark side to our traditions. Go buy American Crafts. Be good.

my krampus collection

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Buy Connecticut made Crafts at Local Events!

My old high school, Regional #7 is having a Craft Sale this Saturday, November 22, 2014 in Winsted CT

If your budget is tight this year, or if you need some economical stocking stuffers, why not shop at your local Church, School or Civic Events?  Sometimes you can buy extra mittens for grandkids for under $5.... home knitted mittens by some little old lady (that could be me), home assembled soup mixes, all kinds of cool stuff. And you will support the homemakers and crafters, the sponsor group can make some cash to keep going, and you get some great stuff you would like to make yourself if you had time.

Or, you could support Walmart....NOT.

I will be there in my booth,#78 in the gym, supporting the Agricultural Department of my school and offering some great stocking stuffer's.

the before photo...
I was busy making tiny pots down in the Carolina's and Tennessee fairs in October. I made an incredible 833 pots! Yes, I counted them!  The tedious part comes when I have to load them one-by-one into my kiln. Scoop them out after firing. Dip each one in glaze with tongs. Wipe glaze off the bottom of EACH one. Load each one into the kiln again. The next day is Christmas for me. It is like opening a package because you are never quite sure how they will come out. The outcome is looking down on 833 brightly glazed tiny pots... an awesome sight. They change from flat grays and browns to little jewels. It;s wonderful. It's what keeps me making more.


and the after photo...

I will see you there.... And did I mention the Regional #7 Event is FREE and has food too?

Come out and have a nice shopping experience.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

EKP... East Knoll Potterys' Stamp.... Reggie the potters stamp for Minniatures...

I have come to be known as Reggie the potter.

Locals, my students and on my travels around the country, folks now know me as Reggie the potter. Sometimes I answer the phone as, "Reggie the potter speaking". Sometimes I introduce myself as, "Hi, I'm Reggie the potter.  This past weekend I finally got to go to St Johns pottery in Collegeville MN, I introduced myself to a famous potter in residence there, Richard Bresnahan, as Reggie the potter.

I am also known now for my miniature pottery. Little gems of colorful glazed clay pots. "Still only $3..." at my shows.

Years ago when I first started demonstrating at the Goshen Fair in Connecticut, I made large pots for three days at the fair. I would be at the fair from 8:00 in the morning till 8:00 at night. As all potters know, throwing a pot on a wheel is a fairly quick procedure, especially mugs and small jugs.  All the visitors wanted to see me throw a pot on the wheel and the Goshen fair has a steady stream of visitors. By the end of each day, I would have scores of thrown pots, still damp and heavy to transport home in my car. Some pots I could trim and put handles on the next day, but again, people wanted to see me throw a pot so by the time the fair was over I would come home to scores of pots in various stages of drying and have to finish them up.

I have two girls, younger at that time with doll houses so I had begun to make little pots for their dolls.  One day at the fair, I showed someone how to make them off a hump of clay and that began my career as the miniature potter.  It has worked out wonderfully for me. Not only do I enjoy making, decorating and glazing thousands of them each year, but I can make them at the fair with a small amount of (heavy) clay, dry them by the end of a summers day, pack them in layers of sawdust from the Goshen shingle mill outside my door and bring a little box of gems home ready to fire and glaze. Soon these will be poured into the basket bin at the next fair for sale... "Still only $3"... and the circle continues.  Fun.

I have a little stamp I put on the bottom... EKP. East Knoll Pottery, the name of my works, is the name of my old house in Torrington Connecticut.  East Knoll was the name given the little brick house I live in, on a knoll on the east side of an old highway in my little village.

Quite a few visitors lift up my little pots and ask me what the EKP stands for, so I thought I would clear it up.

This year I have some new items along with the old standards. I have new Momma and Poppa molded gnomes. I have sold out of my first batch of cast gnomes and need to make another batch next month for my fall circuit. I have my chef heads for tooth picks, Krampus and troll heads, little bowls, pitchers, face jugs and swirly plates. Lots of George Ohr influenced vases and a few coveted piggy banks. I have more of the little jugs with naked mermaids and popular deer drawings. My cows and sheep drawings are improving too.

Come and see them all at this years fairs.  For my long standing customers, I will be in the same spot again at the Big E in Springfield in September.

All my minis will have my little EKP stamp on them. Come and collect some more! See my fair listings below...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Francis Cooke, Mayflower Passenger, Wool Carder by Trade

Looking into my genealogy I have found mostly farmers, blacksmiths, sugar makers, florists, mechanics and factory workers in my past. I did find a potter connection in Vermont in the 1800s. Just recently, after 16 years of working on my family genealogy, I finally came across a Mayflower ancestor, Francis Cooke. His occupation was listed as a Wool Carder. What does that mean in 1620 New England?

Cute girls in linsey woolsey fabric dress

How much need for a wool carder was there in Plymouth MA in the 1620s? Born in England about 1583, Francis was living in Leiden by April 1603, when he worked there as a wool comber. 

The only animals for certain on the Mayflower were two dogs, an English mastiff and an English spaniel. There were probably a few chickens, there was talk of giving given chicken broth to an ill Wampanoag native American. Five more ships brought more Pilgrims and more supplies, including cattle to the Plymouth colony between the 1620 Mayflower till the mention of sheep in 1628. In 1623 there were listed on a following ship, six goats, fifty pigs and many chickens. No sheep. In 1628 there were exchanges of lambs for cows going on, but it is not certain when the lambs first showed up. 

Francis was there to show them all how to comb and card the wool. What is the difference between combing and carding.  When did people shift from combing to carding and why? 

"Before the arrival of hand-carders, only combs were in existence, and it is possible that short-staple wools were simply tease by hand before spinning. However it may also be that combs were used in a more general way on all fibres." 
"English Medieval Industries", edited by Blair and Ramsay
For worsted yarn, simple wood combs were used to separate and straighten the fibers. The teeth of the combs might be wooden or, as the Middle Ages progressed, iron. A pair of combs were used, and the wool would be transferred from one comb to the other and back again until fibers had been straightened and aligned.

In the central Middle Ages cards were introduced. These were flat boards with many rows of short, sharp metal hooks. By placing a handful of wool on one card and combing it until it had been transferred to the other, and then repeating the process several times, a light, airy fiber would result. Carding separated wools more effectively than combing, and it did so without losing the shorter fibers. It was also a good way to blend together different types of wool.


William Bradford wrote that there were ordered on board the Mayflower 125 yards of Kersey, 175 [ellons?] of linen cloth. In 1636 there was an order for every householder to plant one square rod of flax or hemp per year. Cotton was unknown in those days. It is not written, but we can assume at least one spinning wheel was on board, although perhaps, they only brought the necessary metal parts for wheels and looms and assembled them with Massachusetts wood when they were able.  Or maybe they brought or carved drop spindles? It is more likely that spinning wheels were brought over on the Fortune or Anne(1631 and 1623). In England and Holland, many pilgrims were engaged in the fiber trades and occupation. William Bradford was a weaver of a course fabric named Fustian. 

A coarse woolen cloth with a dense twill pattern and napped on one side.



flax plant

flax fiber

linen fabric

The Dutch made a light fabric out of hemp they called canefas, derived from the Latin word cannabis. It resulted in or word 'canvas". Canvas was originally a hemp product.

Hemp in the field
Hemp fibers
Canefas fabric

A fabric with a linen warp and woolen weft. The linen is a strong fiber and the wool is warm... a great combination for durability and warmth. (In the Torah, Jewish law forbid wearing it, so it has been around for a long time). I am sure that the Pilgrims started weaving this as soon as they started shearing the sheep. 

linsey woolsey

As far as I can research, is a textile blend of cotton and linen, a hard wearing stout fabric with a short nap.


Teasle for creating the nap

the teasel flower

And then came the looms. 

I feel pretty certain that the simple tape loom was soon carved out from a slab of New England wood. They are so easy to make, just the simple plank with holes and slots for the warp.  Soon pilgrims would be weaving narrow bands of cloth for clothing and bags from the wool, flax and hemp my ancestor Francis Cooke had carded. 

English tape loom, Deerfield MA

Want to learn more about tape looms? Search my blog at the top of the page for more of my tape looms blog pages and visit my web site, or Amazon to find my book on the history of tape looms and how to weave on them... "Tape Loom Weaving... simplified" 

And for fun... google images for Tape Looms and see the hundreds of individually carved tape looms from all over the world! They are all amazing works of folk art... that worked!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A line-up of funny looking Men... Face Jugs are Fun to make!

Jugs are head shaped! There is a face trapped inside the clay... waiting to come out!

I demonstrate early American pottery at fairs in the Carolina's and Tennessee.  People always stop to ask me if I have been to Seagrove, North Carolina to see the potters there. It is a pottery mecca. You can spend days looking at over 100 potteries in the area today. There was a good quantity of good workable clay so English and German potters started making earthenware in and around Seagrove before the American Revolution. No, I have not been there. Although I have been near it, I have not had the opportunity to stop by. Also, I am usually in a hurry to get to my next gig. And, I am a potter. Although we potters do get together and talk shop, admire each others wares and share information, joys and failures... and a little whining, I don't usually go out of my way to seek them out.  No offense. I will stop by someday when I can.

Many people ask me the origins of face jugs.  I suppose the southern tradition is that they were effigies for slaves to mark their graves. There is a great explanation by a modern potter who makes face jugs in Ashville NC. Jim McDowell, Check it out, very interesting.

I found one old face jug made in New Hampshire. As many potters did not mark their wares, I cannot tell what the history behind it is.

Looking down their noses
Look at a jug. It looks like a head. It is begging to see, hear and talk!  It's just fun to make a face on it. "Put a face on me!"

Some people call them ugly jugs. Some are pretty ugly, some are downright scary.  Were they meant to scare away demons?  Some are silly.  I like both. Deformed ones not so much, realistic ones are creepy too. Sometimes at fairs I ask children to help put faces on my little jugs.  These are about 1" tall and kids come up with great faces. Two of my granddaughters love putting faces on jugs. At 4 and 6 years, they can see faces in the little pots just like I do. The faces just emerge.

little jugs... about 1" tall
"See, we made these, it was fun!"
So here is a new batch of jugs. The corn cobs made fine corks and they are cheap, plentiful, hanging around and pretty cool. If they fall in they will eventually rot and you can get them out again, unlike real cork corks.

I mostly sell at shows, but occasionally sell my jugs on Ebay. Check the jugs below for the most recent postings. If you like them and are interested in seeing more, add me to "follow this seller" and you will receive updates and listings on your Ebay homepage.

Big or small, I like them all.


Lovable faces...


Creepy faces...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Weaving... Big Time in Lowell, Massachusetts

Every ethnic group in early America had its weavers to weave the carded and spun wool and linen across America.  In the 16th and17th century, whole families got involved in weaving. Men would travel to area towns and weave on a families loom or bring his own loom on his wagon and stay at ones house for a few days as he wove their cloth.

In the late 1700s, weavers would pick up their yarn at spinning mills and bring it home to weave.  Soon, the power loom was developed and water power was harnessed to produce fabric more efficiently.

Boott Mill 1870s

Lowell, Massachusetts...

Three enterprising men opened the first mill in Lowell in1823. By 1840, 8,000 workers were employed at the mills. On farms and in small towns jobs were hard to find. Young women were lured to the mills for the jobs and pay they offered.  Twelve hours days, 6 days a week, the workers made a salary on the average of 50 cents per day running several machines at a time, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing yards and yards of cloth. In 1851, 362,000 yards of cloth per day where cranked out in the Lowell mills. Three dollars a week was a lot to send home to their families on rural farms.  The Industrial Revolution changed the life styles of many small trades.

Cotton Fiber
Warping spool

The Weaving Room

Boott Mill Today
Roger and I stopped by Lowell a few weeks ago on a rainy Monday afternoon. We took the Boott factory tour and after that, we went through one of the restored boarding houses run for the mill girls.

The mills put many small time weavers out of business. Now in the 21st century, hand weaving on a foot powered loom is coming back into style again. Like knitting and crochet, weaving is a very enjoyable skill to learn.

Today, there are thousands of men and women who enjoy weaving on the old style floor loom using foot power instead of water power. A whole new crop of weavers are joining experienced weavers of the past to recreate old patterns and come up with some exciting new ones. You can never run out of patterns to try or things to make from your weavings.

I found a video with narrow bands being woven on a modern loom in China... a little choppy video, but beautiful music...    

And, the Ekelund weaving technology in Sweden, a patented color pixel modern machine to create the beautiful patterns below.

I weave on simple Tape Looms. This weekend, Saturday, May 24th, I will be at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival in Commington MA. I will be selling my book, Tape Loom Weaving... simplified and also doing a demonstration on some of my looms.

On Sunday, May 25th, I will be demonstrating pottery and weaving at the Comstock and Ferry Heiritage Festival in Wethersfield, CT. Comstock and Ferry Seed Company is over 200 years old! The festival will be located on beautiful grounds, with musicians, food, crafts, costumed demonstrations and SEEDS!

Come out and enjoy Spring and Planting Season in New England at two of the first festivals of the year!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Eric Sloane Museum and the Connecticut Antique Machinery Power Up... Pottery, Wooden Ale Bowls and History!

Roger gets set up to turn his bowls as museum host Barbara admires his work.

Roger comes out from Minnesota in May and this year we were invited to demonstrate at Eric Sloanes Museum in Kent CT.  Roger built a Norwegian style pole lathe last year here in CT, and got to show it off at this wonderful museum.  I brought my tent and my wooden pottery wheel. I made some miniature pots, always in demand at my upcoming fairs and events, the 30 I made today I will add to the thousands for my customers to purchase and cherish this year.  (Still only $3 each, check my web site demonstration page for upcoming events).

My grandchildren love to help display and rearrange my wares! Isobel and Meta 6 and 4, already make little pots on my potters wheel... continuing the love of making simple things with your own hands with slow, meditative methods!

My grandchildren came along with their mom.  The Museum and the adjoining Antique machinery and the wonderful weather we had made it a memorable day for all of us.  We met some new people and inspired many to learn our trades and share their experiences.

Wood carving enthusiasts learn the ancient technique and simplicity of a foot operated pole lathe.

If you missed this years Power Up, sign up for this blog and come visit us next May! We will be there again to enjoy a bit of old fashioned family fun in the foot of the Berkshire hills. Join us!