Tuesday: 21 February 2006
Last spring I was out in the country at a salt firing, having my first taste of white lightning (flavored with a kiss of peach), drinking beer and talking with the host and a friend of his who was much older in age and wisdom. Both they and their wives were potters, scraping by without side incomes, so they tried to be thrifty. For instance, we were using shipping pallets and crushed rock salt to fire a large kiln made of dry-laid recycled brick. Not romantic but the combination worked well together. The earthy image was nearly destroyed when a daughter showed me her second-generation camera/cell phone as she left to party in Athens 40 miles away.
I don’t remember the context; perhaps it was cans of used paint that were here and there and needed a home. The host allowed that 15 feet away he had buried many gallons of used motor oil left over from an experiment to see if it could be used as a kiln fuel (not with any modifications he had tried with his kiln). About 10 feet away was a buried TV and next to that ... The elder friend mentioned a tradition he claimed was common among rural folks with lots of land. I think he called it a ‘culch pile’ but it could have been something very similar. The pile was in a hole or would be periodically pushed into a hole to be buried. Cars, beds, farm equipment, whatever did not have another use or was waiting for that use to be discovered. He described it in the sense of a dump, not in the sense of a resource. I will allow that there may not be much of a difference and I am sure he would agree.
It did remind me of a hole, left over from a tree fall, that used to be so far away from the house, out in the distant wildland, but which has been creeping closer every year and is now well within civilized territory. It contains about 15 plastic garbage bags of used clay cat litter from before we converted to cedar shavings. That is the closest I have come to a culch pile. Definitely not a resource awaiting a newly-discovered use.
There was one pot of mine in the firing, the only one I finished during the course. My goal was not to produce pots, but to find out if I still could do it after 25 years of neglect and 16 years of disability. I could, and at the end of the course I rushed to finish a pot only to have some experience with salt firing and to have my bone fides at the firing. It was bisque fired while still damp, so of course it warped. And it was slipped by a friend only a few hours before loading and it suffered the usual tramas of handling that are faced by still-damp glazes and slips. And it was in the cooler, and less reductive, part of the kiln. But with all that, it did turn out nice. Many of the pieces a potter loves the best are often without any technical merit but yet somehow incorporate their faults into a unique fusion of form, clay, texture, color and function that describe great pots and sometimes great art. This pot is not one of those, even though the instructor/host has developed some very nice salt slips and glazes. The pot is about 8 inches in diameter.
Pablo - email - url
In the rural Midwest it is not uncommon to see ravines on open farms that are filled with household debris: appliances, old cars, box springs, old boards, and loads of unidentifiable junk. I suppose these might qualify as well. My guess is that this is a practice of an earlier generation. I’m not sure such use of the land is done any more.
Wednesday: 22 February 2006 @ 06:54:46
madcapmum - email - url
I think the bowl is beautiful!
I remember when I lived further north, on an acreage, that I’d go wandering in the bush and find, from time to time, a small “culch pile” (though I’ve never heard of the term before now). Usually the bulk of it was a dismantled old vehicle, some broken crockery, a few other household goods. I was quite young, and I thought they were the equivalent of finding treasure.
Wednesday: 22 February 2006 @ 08:19:18
Mark Paris - email
A couple of thousand years from now archaeologists will be poring over those refuse dumps like they do at prehistoric sites all over the world today. They will consider them treasures. I wonder what they will think of plastic bags of clay with intespersed droppings of small carnivores. Will they end up in a museum?
I was a little shocked to hear of the buried oil containers, but then I remembered how we used to change the oil in our old cars. I won’t go into that.
Wednesday: 22 February 2006 @ 09:32:48
Rurality - email - url
That must be the difference between AL and GA... here they don’t bother to bury their old junk, they just throw it out in the woods.
Wednesday: 22 February 2006 @ 09:59:31
dread pirate roberts - email - url
culch is definitely not junk to be discarded. nor is it broken things. screws, pipe fittings, bolts, nut, hinges, drawer pulls, all qualify. advanced culch includes working but obsolete machinery which may become useful someday. keep that kitty litter far away!
Wednesday: 22 February 2006 @ 12:58:13
FloridaCracker - email - url
That’s a great pot. I always wanted to try pottery, but so far have not.
In FL they used to throw junk in to the nearest sinkhole... which drained directly into the shallow aquifer in our karst. Genius.
Wednesday: 22 February 2006 @ 16:20:35
Mark Paris - email
Once upon a time there was nothing wrong with dumping our trash whereever we wanted to. Some of my closest relatives, the chimps, do it all the time. They toss their fruit peelings (the ones they don’t eat) and whatever else over the side of their temporary nests, and then the next day they move on. When we were few and the trash we threw away was not harmful, it was OK for us humans, too. But now we are too many and our trash is too dangerous to do it that way. Unfortunately, some of us haven’t realized that yet and we continue to act the way our cousins the chimps act. I have always thought that particular human behavior strongly belied the common anti-evolution saying, "I didn’t come from no monkey!"
Wednesday: 22 February 2006 @ 16:41:23
Wayne - email - url
Glenn doesn’t have much couth, so i’ll answer a coupla things even though he wrote this - first, FC, Karen, MCM, Glenn is a superb potter with a very nice feel for glazings and shape. But he won’t get back into it. I really wish he would.
Mark, I hadn’t thought of that angle, but it is very suggestive of the origins of people who dump crap, isn’t it? Just a small story - for some reason people seem to think the environs of our Volunteer Fire Department building are suitable for dumping. One afternoon one of our colleagues was driving by and spied a truck with old mattress and other assorted things dumping in the woods connected to the immediate area. She got the license plate and hauled the woman into court, successfully, too.
DPR, and Karen too, since I know you fall into our category, there will come a time when those who sneer at our packrattiness will kiss and bless us for our foresightedness, when those items become precious as barter!
Wednesday: 22 February 2006 @ 19:17:13