Sunday, October 4, 2009

Big Ron - the kiln

When big ships are built in a ship yard, they start in many small pieces: first a keel, then ribs are framed up, then bulkheads, hull plate, decks. At some point it all assumes sufficient enough form that it clearly becomes a Thing in its own right. And sailors, being historically inclined to the superstitions, pause at that moment to go a step further. They christen their work with a little ceremony. They give the Thing a name, and a gender to boot. And then they throw it in the water and cheer when it floats.

This is the traditional scene where the young girl in a Sunday dress leans out over the edge of a platform, cracks a bottle of champaign on the stem, and the ship slides down the ways and splashes into the water. After the ceremony, the work resumes and continues until commissioning, but from that moment on the Thing has been personified. "She's coming along nicely." "She'll be a fast one." "Her shear line is perfect."

And so it was a little bit this past Saturday with Michael's kiln. The Ronald D. Mahan Manabigama Kiln. As gender goes, it seems to clearly be a "he-kiln." Like its namesake, it is big, barrel-chested, thick, and sturdy. It's going to get things done.

[Some of the Happy Campers in front of the kiln, clockwise from left: Mrs. Ron D. (Helen) Mahan of Waxhaw, NC; Michael Mahan, Seagrove, NC; Dr. Andy Bean, DesMoines, IA; Randy Mahan, Charlotte, NC; Chad Roberts, Jacksonville, FL; Al Cook, Norfolk, VA]

Saturday was the type of beautiful fall day that folks from Carolina brag about being "Carolina Blue." Many of Michael and Mary's artisan friends were there, and it was the kind of interesting crowd where no-one was a stranger. Randy Mahan and his family cooked the turkeys. Al Cook brought some Chesapeake Bay oysters forcing everyone to improvise with a variety of Michael's tools in order to shuck.

My Mangrove Fetish, indulged

As soon as I arrived I made a bee-line for Michael's studio. It was my first visit but I had been pining for one of Michael's mangrove themed pots that I had seen on line. I picked one out and clutched it the rest of the day like a squirrel guarding nuts. Patti bought it for me and she also became smitten with a piece by Chelsea Mahan that came home with us too. This is a picture of it at home this morning in front of a Clyde Butcher print. Clyde Butcher is sort of like the Ansel Adams of the Everglades.

Catching up with old friends

Telling Fish Camp yarns was actually kept to a dull roar on Saturday. A lot of our kids were with us, and apparantly they've all heard these stories so many times they can roll their eyes and finish the story even when somebody else starts. I know we're all starting to get a bit long in the tooth, but listening to one of your friend's adult children tell one of your favorite Fish Camp stories is a funny mind-bender.

My son Hayden was content to mingle among the guests who knew me and ask about any "particularly embarrassing" stories that he might not yet have heard. Fortunately, he is clueless about the existence of the double-secret Fish Camp Code of Silence, and what little parental authority I had left before Saturday remained intact.

Brad Neat wanted very much to fly up, picking up and bringing Robbie Mahan with him, but an onerous aviation forecast for the western part of the Florida pan-handle made that trip un-wise. That 's just part of the general aviation gig. It's like traveling by sailboat, and you have to go with the flow of what mother nature serves up.

Dr. Andy Bean took the award for farthest traveled. He is the Sam Walton of Dermatology Clinics and has one coming soon to a location near you.

[Dr. Bean]
It's really a pleasant kick to be surprised. At one point Patti walked over to where I was standing on the lawn and said: "Do you see that nice lady over their talking to Al Cook? She says she knows you." A gracious Helen Mahan said that thirty years made it excusable for us not to recognize one another. Helen is still in Waxhaw, is a very proud grand-mother, and her family is doing fine. She is standing in front of the business end of the kiln, where it will eventually be glowing cherry red for days at a time while it bends its will on the ceramics inside.

[Helen Mahan and the inside of the kiln]

Sheez. This guy's looked like a hunk since we were kids. You'd think he would give it a rest and start looking his age like the rest of us.

[Al Cook]

Getting the friendly squeeze by the Mahan Boys. I brought Michael everything he needs to put up a Bimini Ring Toss game. (Technical instructions contained in the post about Gene Geh) If he sets it up somewhere and gets good at it, it will drive his customers nuts, and they will compulsively and involuntarily continue to return to his studio again and again for yet another attempt to figure out its hidden secret.

Michael announces that lunch is ready to be served. The Fish Camp way.