Exhibition announcement: Sacred Spaces Holy Places, opening reception rescheduled for January 30, 2016

Due to the impending snow storm the opening reception has been rescheduled. See you on the 30th!

I am pleased to report that I have 3 sculptures in the upcoming show, Sacred Spaces Holy Places at the Nails in the Wall Gallery in Metuchen, New Jersey. These sculptures are dear to me and I’m honored to have them included in such a fine venue in the company of phenomenal works by very talented artists. I would love to see you at the opening reception and would love to hear your comments about my work.


Hotei Hideout, 2008 For more images and statement go to: http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/buddha-and-hotei/statement and http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/buddha-and-hotei/view/340 and

Detail, Hotei Hideout, 2008
For more images and statement go to:

Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature, November 2015

No cheating! Can you tell which one is the human in this picture?

No cheating! Can you tell which one is the human in this picture?


Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature

One of the things that is a curse and a blessing regarding not speaking a language well, let’s say, moi une belle fille Americane who is not all that fluent in French, who finds herself in Paris, is when I visit a place of interest and have no information in my native tongue, I can 1) miss the whole point of the place; and 2) make up all sorts of stories much more interesting than the text provided.

Such is the case of my visit to Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature at 62, Rue des Archives. For those of you who don’t know me, I am the sort who can burrow into my studio or in front of my computer or wander off into the woods for days on end, emerging only to eat, use to the bathroom or have my husband Bill drag me somewhere. I’m very glad to have Bill in my life. He rescued me from a life as a hermit, recluse, and creature of habit. He is my activity director and usually never disappoints. With him I am never bored.  Bill takes his job seriously and makes it a point to seek out places and things that satisfy my sense of curiosity that slants towards the bizarre, unusual and more than dips into the grotesque. Well, our foray to Musee di la Chasse et de la Nature did not disappoint on all counts!

I loved this place. I could live in it. I could decorate my house with every single item in it. It has my number, it is my best friend, I was at home! I knew I was in for a treat the moment we stepped into the very unimposing building, in fact, we weren’t even sure we had arrived. Beyond the street door was a courtyard straight ahead with 3 enormous beehive type structures that were later determined were ovens relating to one of the exhibits. Given they had a striking resemblance to kilns, I immediately broke into a trot. To the right and left in this square little vestibule were doors with very little markings. We went right and found ourselves in a small, bare lobby. Assuring us we were in the right place we were told to go through some double doors and down a hallway, past a set of open stairs with amazing iron worked handrails and chandeliers.

Check out the amazing ireon work on the light fixtures, scones and bannisters in the stair hall.

Check out the amazing iron work on the light fixtures, scones and banisters in the stair hall.

At the end of the hall we found ourselves in a darkened room being watched over by a very nice man who looked official and smart in a uniform that I realized wasn’t a uniform, just smart French apparel. He handed us a card in English that didn’t seem to refer to anything. I just barged in. What lay beyond this door were rooms filled with curiosities, taxidermy, artworks both old and contemporary, and all sorts of bric-a- brac related to flora, fauna and hunting. O.M.G!

This museum is the best representation of the intersection of art and nature that I have ever seen. Some rooms were decorated with comfy sofas and furniture that upon first glance seemed to be “don’t you dare touch” armoires, but in reality were cleverly and expertly crafted please touch cabinets of curiosity with compartments and drawers each containing artifacts, moving images, paw prints and other paraphernalia pertaining to a specific animal, like a wolf in one, a moose in the other.

One of the amazing cabinets of curiosity of the Grey Wolf. Those 2 circles under the words are for you to look through and see a really cool video of a wolf strolling through a make believe forest.

One of the amazing cabinets of curiosity of the Grey Wolf. Those 2 circles under the words are for you to look through and see a really cool video of a wolf strolling through a make believe forest.

Another room was filled with all sorts of bizarre specimens in glass jars, yet another a room of taxidermied baboons playing cards. Presentation of specimens is elegant, grotesque, whimsical, tongue in cheek, a surprise at every turn. What I found especially attractive was that intermingled among the artifacts were contemporary artworks made to mimic the collection.

These are all tureens. Care for some soup?

These are all tureens. Care for some soup?

I took this picture because the dog on the right looks like Petey, especially when he's in the process of trying to take my arm off.

I took this picture because the dog on the right looks like Petey, especially when he’s in the process of trying to take my arm off.

I know this is all pretty gruesome and heartbreaking but at the same time it's completely fascinating, sort of like a train wreck.

I know this is all pretty gruesome and heartbreaking but at the same time it’s completely fascinating, sort of like a train wreck.

Check out the painted ceiling. Is that a gnu over the window??

Check out the painted ceiling. Is that a gnu over the window??

I know, I'd rather see him moving around in a zoo (I'm too chicken to see one this close in the wild)

I know, I’d rather see him moving around in a zoo (I’m too chicken to see one this close in the wild)

What do you think they're trying to catch with this????

What do you think they’re trying to catch with this????

Pretty cool contemporary sculpture in the collection.

Pretty cool contemporary sculpture in the collection.

Clever way to display your Aunt Bessie's jewelry...

Clever way to display your Aunt Bessie’s jewelry…

Very cool very large porcelain sculpture!

Very cool very large porcelain sculpture!

So please do visit this wonderful museum. I have made up all sorts of stories about it. There was a room at the end of the exhibit that explained who founded the collection and created the museum. I could only gather with my 3rd grade elementary school level of French comprehension that the items were collected by a man who held a high level position in whatever the French equivalent is to the US Department of Interior, and created the museum and donated the items after his tenure, for the enjoyment and education regarding what the glorious natural world has to offer us.  The elegance and placement of these objects side by side with exquisite artworks, to me, reflect how precious our natural environment is and in a way, how sad it is that it is housed in a museum where it is safe from human destruction unlike what is going on outside its walls all over the world.

Without the help of electronic translators, I think this says that Francois Sommer and his wife Jacqueline created the Foundation of the Hunt and Nature to promote hunting that is respectful of and in harmony with nature.

Without the help of electronic translators, I think this says that Francois Sommer and his wife Jacqueline created the Foundation of the Hunt and Nature to promote hunting that is respectful of and in harmony with nature.

Ok, how close did I get to the real meaning and purpose of the place???



Gallery Crawls: Paris, France, November 9 – 13, 2015 Centre Pompidou

Bonjour!  The next several posts will center on the City of Light, Paris France.  I accompanied Bill on his journey to Paris Photo at the Grand Palais.  What started out as a wonderful week of sight seeing, art viewing and gallery crawling ended sadly and abruptly (with a little scary thrown in) but we did manage to feast our eyes on many many visual treasures before most public spaces were shut down for the duration of our trip.  In my opinion, Paris itself is one enormous work of art, but I will try to bring you into the experiences we had at several art institutions that we visited before all public venues were closed down in the aftermath of the horrible terrorist attacks that took place on the evening of Friday, November 13.

Our first stop on the agenda was Centre Pompidou, as we missed it the last time we were in Paris in 2001 and vowed to make it a priority to visit.  I can’t help but experience this structure as the world’s largest human habitrail.  Built with its inner workings on display like an enormous exoskeleton, the Pompidou houses a vast Modern and contemporary art collection.  Forgive me but I was never much of a fan of post modern architecture, but I did appreciate the building as an emblem of its time in architectural history as a wonder.  Going up escalators in glass tubes would be more of a thrill if the escalators did not have a horrific screech of metal on metal every now and then much like having an ice pick thrust into one’s temple, and if the glass were less cloudy.  But as a voyeur I had a wonderful time enjoying the view and looking at roof tops and at Mont St Michel in the distance.


The World’s Largest Human Habitrail, Centre Pompidou

Vintage Hamster Habitrail, well???



Up the escalator in a giant glass tube


Enjoying the view on the escalator

The art works took me awhile to warm up to, but there was the most amazing show of an artist I previously had never heard of:  Wifredo Lam.  His paintings and ceramics spoke to me in ways I crave:  they contained raw emotion and energy in their intense imagery, color and texture.  The exhibition contained dozens of his works from small to monumental and I could have stayed in that one area the entire day just enjoying them.


Vases, 1975


“Chant des osmoses” 1965


La Jungla, 1943


The place is so big and has so many floors it’s hard not to get cross eyed looking at everything, and hard to not become desensitized by having so many masterworks together in one space, but there was my all time favorite


And a show of  works “Beyond the Vulnerability,” by artist Chen Zhen who died in 2000.


“Beyond the Vulnerability” by Chen Zhen

I enjoyed their childlike poignancy as well as the surprise discovery of a 1913 Chagall painting in one of the corridors not too far away that had a particular resonance to it.


“L’Homme dans la neige,” 1913, Marc Chagall

The Pompidou is enormous and vast, divided into large rooms with small dark corridors connecting them, all filled with art.  Some of the spaces did not exactly allow for enough distance to experience some of the larger works, and if I were an artist who had works hung in the corridors, with their narrow halls and dark tones, I would have felt like Charlie Brown.  But I did enjoy the outdoor spaces with sculptures in reflecting pools.  Between their serenity and the view it was a wonderful experience.  I also enjoyed this sign posted in one of the exhibition halls.


I sometimes wish there were warnings in certain rooms that read, “caution, bad art ahead.”


One aspect of the museum that I found absolutely striking was the dearth of works by women artists.  I saw maybe one painting by a woman and she was married to another artist featured in the same room.  It boggled my mind that there were no works representing the feminist artists in the 1970’s, or any other female artists for that matter.  Upon exiting the  museum we were stopped by a very nice fellow working for the museum who asked if he could have a moment of our time to answer some questions regarding our visit.  It took more than 5 minutes, but he was nice and trying so hard that we tried to be on our best behavior and not be impatient Americans.  One of the questions posed (it was a written list) asked if we had any comments about the collections.  I did my best not to get on a tear or unleash a rant but did my best to convey my dismay that women artists were so poorly represented and the fact that no feminist art was represented at all.  The poor fellow’s eyes took on that blank look I’ve seen men engage when in the company of a woman on a mission (I get that look alot.)




Paris France, November 8 – November 16 2015

Yes that’s right boys and girls, Bill and I were in Paris during the terrorist attacks.  We went so Bill could attend Paris Photo, going on at Grand Palais from Wednesday November 11 to Sunday November 15.  Or at least that was the plan.  We were able to attend on Wednesday and Thursday, after which Bill felt he had succeeded in what he set out to do:  see what’s out there and who is showing what and where, which left us plenty of days to see the sights, galleries and museums on our bucket list.

Or so we thought.

I will be posting all about what we were able to see before the horrific events that shut all public venues down beginning on the evening of Friday, November 13th. But before I do, I thought I would post an entry from my other blog Notes from a Jersey Girl, just to let you know what it was like to be an American in Paris during the horrific events and the subsequent days.

In the post I refer to something named Fred.  Fred is a taxidermy meerkat we bought at Deyrolle.  You can read about that wonderful place and the experience of purchasing him and why he posed such a travel problem in the Jersey Girl blog.

Paris, France, November 13, 2015: after


Notre Dame as seen through the rain from across the street under an awning at Shakespeare and Company

Bill purchased timed tickets for the Picasso Museum for early Saturday morning, so before retiring for the night he set the alarm on his cell phone.  About an hour later it began to go crazy with beeps, dings and buzzes.  What the hell?!  We got up to turn it off, looked at the screen and low and behold there were several texts from friends telling us to stay safe and asking if we were all right.  From our slightly open window I could hear sirens in the distance and a helicopter over head.  Come to think of it, the sirens had been going on for quite some time, beginning after dinner.  Cars with blue lights racing down the streets along the Seine.  We also almost bumped into several people dressed in emergency costume walking over the bridge when we returned from dinner to Ile St Louis.  They didn’t look alarmed so we thought nothing of it.  There was no indication that anything was wrong earlier in the evening.  We took the metro to and from dinner at Boullion Chantier on Blvd Faubourg in Montmartre with friends Nora and Francois, having had a lovely time, with plans to meet up with them after the Picasso museum to go to the Brocante in the Bastille.

Bill fired up the laptop and logged into the NY Times website.  Holy moly terrorist attacks in Paris, right under our noses!  Around the same time we could hear people milling around outside our door and lots of muffled buzzes of cellphones logging messages in vibrate mode outside our room.  120 dead at a concert!  A bomb going off at a soccer stadium?!  Restaurants and cafes attacked?!  OMG!  I lay there in my nice comfy bed staring at the grey sky, listening to the sirens and the helicopter.  No, please God, not again.  I was in lower Manhattan during the September 11 attacks, what now?  We called my mother.  We answered texts.  We frantically texted friends in Paris.  We slept about 2 hours.

“Bon jour, comment va votre famille?” is all I could formulate, right or wrong, reaching into the nether regions of my memory banks to high school French.  I practiced in the shower so I could ask the very nice lady who cleans our rooms and the man who fetches our morning coffee if their families were all accounted for.  They stopped in their tracks, a slight hitch in their steps, a deviation from the morning routine.  Each looked at me and smiled and said everyone was ok, thank you, and for me to be CAREFUL and wished me good day.

Why am I here at this auspicious moment?  Was it just an accident of time and place or am I here for a reason?  Why am I in the midst of terrorist action yet again?  All I could think of was God must want me here, but why?  Being over 50, and reading that most of the dead, terrorists included, were in their 20’s with the days of their whole lives in front of them spread like jewels, my heart went to the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  No one should ever have to bury a child.  Then I got angry.  Let me tell you, if I had to pick between sadness, depression or anger I’d take anger any day.  Anger gives you energy.  Anger gets you moving.  Anger gives you fuel to put one foot in front of the other.  Depression and sadness make you take to your bed and pull the covers over your head.  That will not do if your life maybe at stake and who knows what the light of day would bring for us?  No way am I curling up in a corner for some terrorist, no way, no how.  If I’m going down I’m going down swinging for the bleachers.

So we got up, showered, dressed, ate breakfast and went out the door.  My first stop was the church about a block away.  On September 11, before heading home, I stopped in the nearest church I could find.  On September 11, 2001, in New York City, the door to every house of worship was flung open.  Men and women of the clergy paced outside.  People of every color, persuasion, ethnicity, religion, non-religion seemed to be inside each one, stopping for a moment to take a breath before continuing on.  I kicked myself this morning for not remembering my rosary beads.  Anyway, I just needed to go to church to regroup.  I get there, and there’s a sign that it’s closed for the entire day!  I snuck inside anyway and was quickly ushered out.  Wow!  So different than at home.  I guess church is just another public placed closed by the government on this day.  I suppose it’s for my safety but to be real, if I’m going to die, the best place for me to die would be in church.  I’d already be in God’s house, I’m sure the tunnel with the white light at the end would be just through a hallway off the nave, right?  A real cultural correction for me!

So we wandered around a bit.  Bill wanted to go to the Bastille.  I thought he was nuts.  Let’s go to a place the French are really patriotic about when there’s a Jihad going on, oh let’s do!  Then we went to the aqueduct now converted to a park on top, stores below.  Bill wanted to walk on top.  Hello- ducks on parade in a shooting gallery! I don’t think so!  We managed to wander back to the hotel, but really, aside from a line of people snaking around the block to give blood at a clinic, and public buildings closed, there was no indication that anything was wrong.  I was surprised.

My friend Marybeth said if people were like fruit, Americans would be peaches:  soft and sweet on the outside but hard on the inside, while the French are like melons:  hard on the outside but soft and sweet in the middle.  Well the French were putting us Americans to shame.  Heels down, chin up, grab mane was the mantra of the day for everyone we passed on the street.  I was impressed.  Rather than run around like hysterical squirrels the way I do in a crisis, they carried on, hard shells intact.

And speaking of hysterical squirrels, how the hell am I going to get Fred on an airplane in his huge white cardboard box during a state of high terrorist alert?!  Lastly, how do I categorize this installment?  I was just thinking yesterday that this was the first trip Bill and I have taken in years that doesn’t qualify as a wife survival test.  But then again….  Is this a diary?  Survival test?  A rant?  Maybe all 3.

Let me close with one of my favorite prayers apropos of the occasion.  It’s to my favorite uber saint, Saint Michael the Archangel.  If you are not familiar with the hierarchy, archangels trump superheros.  They have amazing powers and are not to be trifled with.  As I pray the following words I envision the AK 47 wielding, grenade tossing demons wrecking havoc over the innocent souls in Paris, who did nothing to deserve their fate other than be in the wrong place at the wrong time, being stuffed straight back into hell where they belong, to atone mightily for all eternity:

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..


Gallery Crawls, September/October 2015: Denver, Colorado


Exploring fine art in Mile High City


Denver, CO:

My museum i.d. got a work out at the Denver MCA where we took in the Marilyn Minter show, Pretty Dirty. I am a huge fan of her work. I love her mash up of beauty and the grotesque as commentary on the fashion industry’s definition of the feminine ideal. She is a feminist after my own heart as she brings the average viewer to places they ordinarily wouldn’t entertain, to give them a glimpse behind the façade of beauty to reveal its hidden cruelties. I particularly responded to her videos and photo realist paintings.


Me in front of Marilyn Minter’s “Kicksilver,” 2009, Wallpaper at the Denver MCA.

Alas my i.d. did not charm the nice folks at the Denver Botanic Gardens into waiving the entry fee, but the visit was worth every penny. Flowers were blooming everywhere, each garden more spectacular than the other. A highlight of the visit was Deborah Butterfield’s The Nature of Horses sculptures placed throughout the venue. Their gestural grace and beauty translated in painted bronze cast from scavenged wood bring to my mind the ghostly “Performed Invisbility” works of Anna Mendietta.  There was a wonderful video of her making these magnificent works that is a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes for an artist to create work, from inspiration to execution.


Entrance to Denver Botanic Garden



The gardens were a riot of color



“Crane,” 2006 by Deborah Butterfield

The art scene is hopping in Mile High City. It seems you can’t throw a rock without hitting a gallery everywhere you go, but a great concentration can be found on Broadway and Santa Fe Drive.

We visited several galleries highlighted by Solace, a show of sculptural forms of household objects dipped in latex and shaped into wall hangings by ­­­­­Amber Cobb at the Gildar Gallery on Broadway. Cobb’s wall hung works, common household objects coated in latex and hung on walls were at times grotesque, mysterious, sensuous and evocative. Solace is a show worth seeing in my humble opinion.  Also on display were fanciful ceramic horses and other figurines one would have in a child’s bedroom that were dripped with white plastic. My favorite in this series was Transitional Figure 8, a figurine seemingly dripping in white plastic. I responded to the way the liquid plastic had dried on and off the piece, leaving what looked like sticky drips in columns off the piece that pooled around and under it. In my opinion the drippy, white plastic coatings of these objects evoke the sugar-coated, sweet, fond memories figurines such as these would evoke if one were to stumble upon them in an attic box or at a jumble sale.


“Transitional Figure 8” by Amber Cobb on view at the Gildar Gallery

We cruised down Santa Fe Drive, another gallery hotbed. There truly is something for everyone’s fine art taste on this boulevard. I enjoyed visiting Mai Wyn Fine Art. Mai Wyn Schantz was there creating one of her wonderful oil on stainless steel portraits of animals. She was in the process of setting up one of the steel “canvases” with masking tape and was very generous with her time and let me take photos of her studio. The gallery had many fine works to enjoy as well.


Mai Wyn Schantz preparing one of her steel canvases for painting an animal portrait.


Mai Wyn Schantz in her studio.

Whenever we are in the area we always stop in Space Gallery. Housed in an industrial style contemporary structure, the exhibition space and façade is as interesting as the art showcased within. The space is a great venue for events as well as exhibition space for fine art. This time I enjoyed paintings and sculptural forms. In particular I was attracted to paintings by Betsy Stewart.

To be totally biased, my favorite 2 stops were at abecedarian gallery for the Content: Artifact show, featuring one of Bill’s 3D printed sculptural works, “Celluose” on the exhibition poster, and Mike Wright Gallery, that had a show that ran from July until September entitled “Paperwork” that featured three of Bill’s large format panorama images from his Borderlands series. We had very nice visits at both galleries and it was so nice to see people as excited about Bill’s work as me.


Entrance to abecedarian gallery, note the image is of Bill’s 3D printed sculpture “Cellulose!” 😀


Works of “Danze” exhibit on view at Mike Wright Gallery during our visit.

Bill firmly believes that Denver, Colorado is the place to be at the moment for fine artists. It was fun having him squire me around and show me his favorite places.

Gallery Crawls, September/October 2015: Chelsea, NYC

Welcome to my first Gallery Crawl installment, Sept/Oct 2015. After spending the summer outdoors it was fun to return to prowling galleries and museums to see what everyone else in the art world is up to. Compared to me, everyone is very productive, creative and innovative.

Chelsea, NYC:

Wearing my gallery crawl face in Chelsea

Wearing my gallery crawl face in Chelsea

In September, I saw 2 bodies of work that inspired me, in particular, Stay Gold, works by Gregory Hayes at Nancy Margolis Gallery. To me, the works had a little bit of influence of Sol Lewitt, a dash of Agnes Martin and a hint of Tibetan sand mandala. Another show that caught my eye was the breath taking large format photographs of cathedrals in Facades, works by Markus Brunetti at Yossi Milo Gallery.


In October we were pleasantly surprised by works in several shows. Based on what we’ve been seeing both in Chelsea and Denver, photorealism is making a comeback. I enjoy photorealism, the mastery of the media astounds me. If you get a chance, don’t miss the an impressive show of the incredible soft pastel on paper works in SLIP by Zaria Forman at Winston Wachter Fine Arts.


Also not to be missed are the Japanese Propaganda Kinomos from 1905 – 1941 at the Edward Thorp Gallery. We happened upon it completely at random, it pays to go above the first floor in gallery buildings!!! At first I thought I was looking at work by a contemporary artist making anti-war commentary by painting on kimonos, but when I read that these indeed were actual antique kimonos made to be worn I was floored.

Rocking the Roy Lichtenstein mural at the Gagosian

Rocking the Roy Lichtenstein mural at the Gagosian

A huge treat was seeing Roy Lichtenstein’s Greene Street Mural at the Gagosian Gallery. His works have a special place in my heart as I worked for him and his family on 3 projects in my days as a construction consultant. One of the highlights of my career was going to his studio on Washington Street in the West Village and notarizing his signature. What a thrill!

Etsy Sale!!!!

Throughout the month of October, my entire Etsy shop is 15% off!

Head over to my Etsy shop and use coupon code FALL2015 at checkout to receive 15% off your entire order.

Discount expires 10/31/15. Discount doesn’t apply to tax or shipping.

Come browse, come shop!!

Choose from a wide variety of ceramics and glass ware, home decor objects and fused glass jewelry.  May I recommend…..


Red and white shino glazed 6″ scalloped plates with matching matcha chawan cups











Raku fired red stoneware sake bottles with gold glaze








Upcycled maple syrup glass bottle tray with mica powder inclusion.

Upcycled maple syrup glass bottle tray with mica powder inclusion









1" diameter "Red flower" mille fiori fused glass necklace on black chord

1″ diameter “Red flower bouquet” mille fiori fused glass necklace on black chord

Good-bye Summer, Hello Fall!

I just returned from a truly fabulous and restorative vacation in Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I got to jog, bike, ride horses, sleep, eat alot of fish, drink some fancy drinks and best of all, think.  Something about being in nature, especially in the woods and by the sea causes my mind to relax and wander and wonder.  It sets me up for the long stretches of work, both physical and creative, in the months to come.

There’s nothing like a climb up a long hill to help set goals.  I’m not a climber.  My body is stocky, meant for rocketing downward, taking advantage of gravity.  It takes me way longer than I’d like and uses much more energy than I think an average mortal needs to expend to jog or ride a bike uphill.  When my lungs feel taxed and my muscles start to complain my mind gets desperate for distraction.  These times are great ways to problem solve, strategize and plan.

What percolated from these sessions was this idea:  I hope to have a regular posting series entitled “studio tours” to let you know what’s happening (or not) in my studio on a regular basis.  I’ll let you behind the scenes to see that not everything that goes on in that place results in a finished product, but that the journey is what’s most important.

Now that I’m home there are different hills to climb:  teaching, sculpting, writing, promoting my Etsy shop, learning new social media platforms, selling work and trying to juggle them all and balance them with life in general.   I look at this last sentence and I feel  like I am at the bottom of a very steep hill with just me, my trusty bike and my thunder thighs.     Wish me luck, here goes nothing!  Happy Fall everyone!

Enjoy this little video as metaphor for the state I’m in.

Dealing with Mutts, Duds and Clunkers, Our Wayward Pottery Children


Mutts.  Duds.  Clunkers.  Everyone has them coming out of the kiln.   What to do with them?  Ceramic pieces are durable goods made from ingredients mined, mostly in third world countries.  As a potter I never forget that and don’t take my choice of medium lightly.  I try to make every piece count.  Not every piece comes out of the kiln the way I want it, in fact, quite the opposite.  Given that they are the product of my hand, heart and energy, AND durable goods, I try to give them the best shot at a long and useful life.  Thus, I am famous for re-fires.  My motto being, “fire it til you like it or it breaks!”

Here are the befores and afters:


Check out the bright blue bowl, the small vessel to it’s left, and the small bowl on the far right. These were my “almost but not quite” keepers.[/caption]

“Almost but not quite” keepers are definitely annoying.  I scrub at them them, hoping against hope that what I’m seeing is something that is some sort of water soluble layer hiding something truly amazing underneath.   But no, I rub furiously at it like an Alladin’s lamp, wishing, just wishing that my tired, filthy and sore body didn’t go through all that work for nothing.   But, with a heavy sigh and heart I realize it just wasn’t meant to be and that glass of wine I reach for is for consolation not congratulations.

That blue bowl- yes, it’s an amazing color blue, for bowling balls, not for bowls.  And those yellow patches where the glaze ran thin, can we just not mention them please?  The little green vessel to its left- that one falls into the “close but no cigar” category.  It’s a pretty glossy green but it was supposed to be satin turquoise blue damn it!  What’s up with that, huh?!  And that poor green bowl to the far right.  Can we talk?  The glaze was so thin the grog showed through.  And can I confess:  I’m sick of green raku glazes.  (or at least I have so many of them at home that I don’t need another new one from a workshop, not to be ungrateful or nothing.)

There were also, not pictured because they are heart breaking, 2 large white stoneware bowls that were complete and utter failures.  One just got a layer of flashing slip, but because it was raining so hard the humidity would not let the poor thing dry.  I tried everything:  I put it in the drying closet, hit it with a heat gun, blotted it with paper towels.  I finally gave up and just stuck it in the shino kiln thinking that maybe it would get visited by the kiln faeries who would wave their wands and turn it into something amazing.  Let’s just say they passed me by or were off that night or grounded by the rain because it came out a matte gray color what I imagine dolphin poop looks like.

The other was a tragedy.  I carefully glazed it for the soda kiln and had what I thought was a real winner on my hands.  Bruce looked at me sheepishly as I stared down at the matte brown and yellow mess in my hands as we unloaded the shino kiln, and confessed that it didn’t fit in the soda so he stuck it in there instead.  What a pal.  So I needed to see if I could work a little magic on those and learn a new trick or 2 while I was at it.

So I reached into my bag of tricks. For the raku pieces, I slapped on some Egyptian Turquoise blue that I got from a Myra Toth workshop at Beatrice Wood in 2008 and got busy.

E voila! As they say in France:

This one is now a winner!  Added a coat of “bowling ball no more” on top!


Still green, but now interesting copper red flashing and turquoise blue and a nice glow.  Toned down the grog feel a bit too:





And my little vessel has more intrigue, depth and texture, especially on the bottom (that you hardly every see, this is my luck again)


So 3 are salvaged, phew!  Big sigh of relief and high fives all around.


Those 2 other bowls?  Why no pictures of before or after?  They fall into the “you win some you lose some” and “once a mess always a mess” categories.  I added my most dependable clear satin cone 6 glaze, “Pauline,” from my days as a student at MSU and fired them in my electric kiln.  All I can say is, the yellow one is less unappealing as the grey one and they are both now pressed into service in my kitchen, where all my problem studio delinquents wind up.  My kitchen cabinets are like a pottery home for wayward children, but they are getting used.

Hit the Floor Running, Let’s Go to Peters Valley!!!

Miss me?  We were in Cape Cod for 2 glorious weeks of sleeping, eating, biking, horse back riding, and lazying about in slouchy clothes.  Naturally I set off for the trip bags loaded with all sorts of electronics so that I could WRITE, PHOTOGRAPH AND BLOG every day while away.  HAH!  Except for one torrentially rainy cold day, I didn’t even peck at a keyboard.

One thing I did decide to do on a whim just before we left was decide to enroll in the Peters Valley Workshop, “Battle of the Burn” given by Bruce Dehnert and Steve Cook.  It cost a fortune and was immediately after not one but 2 trips and who in their right mind would go to a place filled with mosquitos and ticks with marginal accommodations to fire pottery outside 24/7 with a bunch of like minded fools?  ME!

So before I left I e mailed Bruce to inquire if there was still room for one more student, and how much work I need to take with me.  I figured the class would be full and I’d just go off to the Cape but NOOOOOO he replied immediately to say he’s delighted I’d take it could I please whip up about 40 pieces to bring.  FORTY?  FORTY!

So I became a one person pottery factory, banging things out as fast as possible, side stepping embellishments or anything creative or complicated and easy to break, i.e. blank canvas type bowls and plates.  Bruce said to use raku clay or stoneware, ticking off how many pieces in which clay.

Typically my go-to clays are high fire stonewares from Standard Supply:  S182 a nice smooth bright white, easy to throw and durable for gentle raku, smoke and luster processes, but also good for wood firing and salt fires; S239 a raku clay that’s very dependable but for my tiny achy hands hard to throw and a buff color that isn’t really my thing, and S108 a medium grog red stoneware that I recently discovered does wonderful things in raku especially when coated in clear raku glaze and spritzed with ferric chloride while piping hot fresh from the kiln.  I hadn’t used the 239 or 108 in awhile but knew my 182 was just the way I like it in the way of soft and wet.

I had one bag of 239, hard as a rock, a tiny amount harder than desired but workable and several hard as rock bags of 108 but a bucket of reclaimed that I could make passable.  And so, before leaving for the Cape I was able to bang out 6 plates, 9 chawan, assorted little tiny dishes and a few big bowls in 182 and 7 bowls in 239.  I left them to dry for the 2 weeks and would fire them when I got back.  I also left the hard as rock bags sprayed then wrapped in wet towels and crossed my fingers.

Once home the bags were still hard as rocks but I managed to get 16 one pound balls out of the reclaimed 108 so I banged out a bunch of chawan, 5 plates and assorted tiny things.

Typically I open flame fire very slow and steady which allows me to get away with minimal breakage, but when you’re in a workshop firings are hot and fast and all bets are off.  If  you don’t build your pieces durably or bisque low enough you wind up with a very sorry pile of broken shards or worse, everyone is pissed off at you because your pieces exploded and took out the rest in the kiln with them.  I like to bisque fire my ware high, to Cone 1 (2028 degrees F) or 2 (2034 degrees F.)  I just don’t like the open pore feel of high fire stoneware fired at low temperature and I find that those temperatures close the pores enough to keep me happy but still survive the fire and accept the smoke.  Bruce warned me not to bisque too high so I decided on cone 03, 1987 degrees F.  The 182 clay load came out fine but in the case of the red 108 clay bisque the kiln agreed with Bruce, and even though I didn’t change the programming from the 182 firing it fired to between Cone 06 (1830) and 05 (1870).


Add to the mayhem going on in the studio, my videos, Horsehair BBQ and Strike Firing Lusterware are finished!  They are not yet ready for distribution on the internet, but Bill and Lin managed to make wonderful packaging, and my next door neighbor Andrew, a lawyer, drew up an ominous disclaimer (you can’t throw a rock in my neighborhood without hitting a lawyer, but don’t do it they’ll sue you) and Jerry added it to the videos.  So voila!  10 of each are ready to distribute.  In between rounds of pottery I tested each and every one on my laptop, desktop and DVD player (which btw I didn’t even know how to turn on until this adventure.)  I am so sick of the sound of my voice, but I must admit they look pretty good, I just hope they are instructional and not boring as all hell.  Bruce said to bring them and I’m really thrilled about that, THANKS BRUCE!!!


So armed with the materials list for the workshop and the suggested packing list from the facility I basically took my extra big go-to-workshops bin and tool box and threw everything that would fit in them.  Clay tools, glazing tools and chemicals, fire safety gear, feathers, shells, horsehair, combustibles, spray bottles, turntables,  even kiln saints, you name it, it’s crammed in the box.  I’m a neat freak and hyper organized so things went into marked containers by category for intimidating fellow students.  I also create a notebook, 3 ring binder, waterproof sleeves (a fellow student once borrowed my notes and spilled an entire jar of glaze on them the bastard) and all sorts of printouts, firing charts and schedules.  This ritual, even if it’s overkill, somehow calms me down.  God forbid I’d get stranded in a foreign ceramics studio without my blank firing schedule templates!


Forget about the templates, then there are personal things I suddenly will die if I don’t have while there like wine, chocolate, coffee and iced tea.  You may say, “what, you can’t get them at Peters Valley?” to which I respond, “NO!”  It’s literally in the middle of nowhere, and although the food is excellent and you get plenty of it 3 times a day, it’s the little things that suddenly become extra valuable like alcohol (for drinking discreetly by my lonesome outside the studio, or for trading for other more valuable rare items- not that I can think of any) chocolate and ice cubes.

There are essentials to remember like a pillow, fly netting, bug repellent, poison ivy medication, anti itch creams and flip flops to wear in the shower.  I hear things are looking up at Peters Valley and that now one emerges cleaner from their showers than before they entered, but it is communal living at its most basic.  I managed to snag a SINGLE ROOM WITH AIR CONDITIONING!!  From the tone of the voice making my reservation, it may be in the next county so I am going to throw my bike in the car too.  If I had a canoe I’d probably strap it to the roof, but for now one suitcase, a bag full of survival gear, a bike, helmet and bike shoes/clothes and a cooler full of wine, chocolate and caffeinated drinks, I think I’m set.

See you in July!!!!