OUTRAGE: Artists Respond to Trump

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GO AWAY

 

In 2012 I began making ex-voto tokens.  Little hearts with messages on both sides.  The front had the title of the category of the message, the back, the individual message.  Each message is a prayer for something I wanted or something I got and was grateful for.  Mainly, the prayers covered issues that weighed heavily on my heart that were too big for me to solve.  In creating them and their containers, I hoped to take their burden off me and kiss them up to God.

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One very unexpected category that came up almost on its own was GO AWAY.  The tokens practically made themselves.  I figured, what or who is on Earth right now, that if they only went away, the world would be a much better place?  I banged out the messages then set out to envision the urn to put them in.  Unfortunately that urn took an awful lot of time to execute.  I had to figure out the design, the engineering, the science and the lighting.  It took 2 years.  I made the urn in 2014.  I thought that by then those issues going into that urn would be stale and irrelevant and even better resolved by that time.

Little did I know!  Inside the GO AWAY URN, from 2012 are:

Newt Gingrich, Election campaign super pacs, Church in politics politics in church, Obama Birthers, Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Julian Asange, Dominique Strauss Kahn, Anonymous Hackers, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Suicide Bombers, Christian Conservatives, Ultra Liberals, Violent Video Games, Facebook as a replacement for social interaction, Peta, Israeli Palestinian conflict, E.L.F., Tea Partiers, N.R.A., Political obstructionists, Radical Muslim Extremists, Health insurance companies, Snooki and Religious Extremists

Aside from Snooki, not much has gone away, and not only are not much in the jar are resolved, those in bold are not only still around but about to run our country.  Sigh.

That same year (2014,) I decided to comment on how social media was influencing people, especially politicians, especially the governor of my fair state, Chris Christie.  I made ECHO CHAMBER.

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This piece is an illustration of how certain politicians can surround themselves only with people who agree with them.  They hold “town hall meetings” where the audience is hand picked in advance, and if anyone else attends and expresses an alternate point of view they are rudely heckled and shouted down, if allowed to stay and speak at all.  It also is a reflection of how social media has put us into gorgeous little boxes of our own points of view; where algorithms hand pick what we see and digest as “news.”  All of our values are constantly reverberated back at us.  That was disturbing to me back then and now that hacking and fake news has been revealed as influencing this last election it is more relevant than ever.

I have had the extreme privilege of having these 2 pieces included in an on-line show, OUTRAGE: Artists Respond to Trump, curated by artist/activist Patricia Dahlman.  When I reviewed the works in the show I wondered how mine wound up among such amazing and provocative artwork by such incredible artists.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks my style is a little out of place, bordering on the side of elegance.  But like writer Flannery O’Conner, I try to bring weighty and distateful subjects to my viewer gently through beauty or humor.  Once they approach my work I then clobber them with the message.

Please take a look a the works in the show.  They truly are amazing.  They express my every anger and every fear.  I am astounded and beyond impressed that these artists were able to turn out this phenomenal work in such a short time.  Me?  I’m still processing my feelings, unable to express most of them.  I’m abashed, grateful and very dismayed that my 2 pieces, made years ago are relevant to this tragic turn of events in our collective history.

 

An Artist’s Role in Troubled Times

MeinmystudioThere is the idea that art is not a ‘legitimate’ type of work; that it is a frivolity best saved for spare time, etc; or a luxury for the wealthy. But for artists who have a vision that they are compelled to share, art isn’t a frivolity or luxury- it’s a necessity. And for society, art is also a necessity, although this may not be realized by many. We are the spirit keepers, the mirrors, the candles. And we need to become our own best friends- to believe in ourselves and what we do. And stick together, rather than compete with one another.  – Agnes Martin

For those of you who do not make art full time, Agnes is right, it isn’t a frivolity or luxury, making art for an artist is a necessity, a bodily function if you will, like breathing.  When tragedy occurs , especially on a global scale,  artists respond.  It’s what we do.  We make art to express collective sentiment, or to mark the event, or to raise money for those impacted.  Artists are active participants in change.

For some of us American citizens, the results of the recent presidential election is a tragedy of serious magnitude.  People are afraid- of deportation; of destruction to the environment; of violence caused by racial, gender and sexual prejudice; of certain rights in place being repealed; and of having all that our country has done to progress dismantled.

It is a time for us artists to hunker down and figure out a way to respond.  Usually when faced with a catastrophe, my creativity goes out the window for a good long while.  It’s as if all my creative energy goes elsewhere.  Within me is an ominous radio silence, like the quiet before a tornado when all the birds stop singing and the air is completely still.

The day after the election had me metaphorically face down on my shield.  I was devastated.  I felt all the fight drain from me.  Meanwhile on social media I watch all my artist friends spring into action.   There are calls to action, conferences, symposiums, calls for entry for themed shows, calendars for organized protests, all within a week after the election.  I seem paralyzed.  I feel as if I’ve been through so much that it’s taking me longer and longer to bounce back.  What can I do to help support those willing to be on the front lines?

I thus retreat into contemplative mode.  By quiet contemplation and prayer I seek out the small still voice that will lead me where I need to go and tell me what to do once I get there.  And that small voice is telling me right now that alot of healing and peace making is needed right now.  Comfort and healing is a major thread in my work, has been for  years.  This I can do.  As I pray for healing and comfort to those suffering, and for wisdom and peaceful hearts for those now in charge, I leave you with who I am as an artist and how I respond to times like this through my work:  come inside my work and rest.

 

A Breakthrough and A New Assistant

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Not a bad weekend shut in the studio, for a change!

As the saying goes, “don’t give up just before the miracle.”  All the clay I touched for the past month wound up in that endless cycle of wedge, throw, reclaim, wedge, throw, reclaim.  Sigh.  Whether my efforts made the clay just a boring blank cylinder with no spirit, or a structural failure, everything just kept going into the damn bucket.  In bygone days, when I was young and had more ego than brains or skill, I thought every single time I touched clay had to be a masterpiece.  Runs like this would be crushing and I’d leave the studio and walk away from clay for a good long while.  Now I just persevere.  I realize that nothing worth creating comes easy.  There is no antidote to this situation but hard work.  I also realize that my absolute worst day in my studio as a full time artist equals my best day when I was stuck in an office driving a desk for 23 years at a job I had grown to loathe.  Audio books and a new puppy helped too.

Enter Mel.  Our teenage Treeing Walker Coon Hound who we adopted on February 2, 2016.  Mel was rescued from a neglect situation in West Virginia, fostered while he got shots and neutered then sent to a kennel in southern Pennsylvania to adopt out.  We managed one week without our dear Petey who died with us here at home then we realized the house was too empty and clean, the studios too quiet and our lives without that happy canine chaos that gives us our energy.   He’s a big white warm soft bundle of love requiring us to change his name from Boomer to Mel, short of Marshmallow Pie.  He’s very good in the studios, he even has his own cubicle.

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Mel , our new studio assistant, in his studio cubicle reporting for duty.

After about a month of fruitless labor, things started happening.  More shapes were coming off the wheel to be put in the wet box instead of the reclaim bucket.  I wasn’t happy with them as is, but no matter.  I kept throwing.  All of a sudden I could see shapes for my commission project that had me baffled and clueless for months;  I could see sculptural infrastructure that could be assembled from forms coming off the wheel.  Suddenly these cylindrical forms, so lifeless and lackluster were blank canvasses for me to alter and add texture to make them come alive and sing.  Hmmm!  All of a sudden I’m dragging out my Haeckel books and hunting for ideas, making slip and filling my decorating bag.

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My current treasure troves of ideas and inspirations

 

And suddenly, here I am, breaking through to the other side, busting out from craft into art.

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Functional forms given spirit and life

 

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3 plain bowls demanded to be assembled and turned into a sculpture

Glass was happening in the studio too.  My students are wonderful.  They make thoughtful, deliberate, creative work.  They are putting alot of care and effort into making elaborate creations so output is slow.  I took advantage of the empty kiln space and made some work of my own.  Aside from incorporating it into sculpture I don’t work with glass as a primary medium, but every now and then it’s fun to make a tray.  It’s straight forward “what you see is what you get” manner helps clear and calm my mind in between elaborate clay projects or when working in clay is more of a wrestling match than a productive, fun pursuit.

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Jewelry bits, trays and coasters are nice palate cleansers in between clay projects

Now when I sit at the wheel I feel more back in the saddle.  Glazing here we come, yee hah!

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!
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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.

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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:
http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/buddha-and-hotei/statement
and
http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/buddha-and-hotei/view/340
and

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???

 

 

Living in the Lull

Since my last post I spent a week out west and am gearing up to go to Cape Cod for two weeks.  Each day requires me to be out of the studio.  It’s an odd state of affairs, especially since the days leading up to last week’s trip involved so many studio deadlines.  I wish I could tell you that last week’s trip to Colorado and New Mexico was educational, inspirational and productive, but it wasn’t.  It was relaxing, adventurous, raucous and extravagant.  I browsed ceramics shops in Old Littleton, Colorado and Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico.  There’s lots of impressive stuff out there.  What struck me was the pricing of ware that is similar to mine- almost half the price, retail.  How is this possible?  I guess their cost of living must be alot less than mine, those lucky ducks.  I can’t afford to sell my work at those prices, not with my taxes, the cost of my chemicals and utilities.  Depressing.  I saw some really really nice raku and crystalline ware though, and I drooled over the work in the back room at Santa Fe Clay.

I managed to pick up some nice pink stain at Santa Fe Clay.  I can’t seem to find just the right shade I’m looking for to make slip.  I wonder why that is- is it the chemical composition making it prohibitive, or is Steve Jaskowak (the studio manager at MAM) correct in his uber male logic:  no one wants to use the color pink?  Maybe a little of both?

I picked up a new “kiln saint” for my studio.  Every potter has a kiln god protecting his/her firings.  I’m Catholic.  I have kiln saints.  Don’t want to get in trouble with the Man Upstairs by worshipping false idols or anything.  This is Saint Michael the Arch Angel.  I got him in a church gift shop in Taos.  This version is pretty cool, I was especially attracted to his foot stepping on the devil’s head.  For those of you not familiar with him, St Michael is one of the highest ranking saints.  He stands next to the throne of God ready to go to battle.    He has a big sword and carries a shield and wears armor.  He is the quintessential uber action hero. The prayer to him starts, “Saint Michael the Arch Angel defend us in battle…” and goes on to ask him to protect us from the fires of hell and to send the demons back down below, cool stuff like that.   If he can’t protect a firing, no one can.

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An interesting side trip was to the Stations of the Cross in San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado.  We walked up the side of a big hill along a path that had statues representing each station.  At the top of the hill was an awesome church, and just as wonderful, a bathroom.  I typically don’t take pictures in churches unless they are really irresistible.  I’m too busy praying and being awestruck.  Behind the church was a wooden cross where pilgrims draped rosary beads.  I find expressions of faith like this very powerful.  Why did these people feel the need to do this?  Was it an act of thanksgiving or desperation?  These token gestures drive alot of my sacred art work.  They remind me of one of the Stations:  Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus, when Veronica wants to help Jesus in his agony.  She can’t save him or do anything tangible other than to wipe his face with her veil.  A simple act of charity and love by an average woman with not alot of resources.  It reminds me that sometimes the simplest things can make a huge difference in someone’s life and to never turn away from someone in need just because the obvious solution is not at hand.

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On the way back to Colorado from New Mexico we stopped at a cafe for breakfast and a bathroom break.  The bathroom was festooned with art, alot of it bad.  This sign was hanging next to the toilet.  I am of two minds about art theft.  On the one hand it really ticks me off as it’s hard enough to survive and scrape by living on the proceeds of one’s art, but hey, if someone liked it enough to steal it, it is kind of a complement.  Kind of.

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Delivery of the Lola Urns

So yesterday I carefully wrapped up the 2 urns and drove to Bedminster to deliver them to my client Ann.  She is the dream client.  She not only told me the golden words, “take your time,” she also added the unthinkable, “have fun.”  I really wanted to do a good job for her.  When I create funerary pet urns I want to see a picture of the animal, I want to know its name, and I want to hear stories about it.  Ann sent me a picture of a beautiful dog with a big grin on her face, looking up.  Ann told me Lola was a show dog, had a great sense of humor, and that Lola taught her to laugh and have fun.  I could tell she really really missed her.

Handling the ashes of beloved animals to create the glaze always makes me wistful.  I feel a reverence about them, and I fully realize the import of what I’m holding in my hands, how loved these animals were and how bereaved their owners are.  I try not to waste a molecule of it, and I sift it to only use the finest grains (otherwise it’s a bear to sieve.)  I always return the leftovers to the client and don’t put the ashes in the urns myself, I let them do it.

I drove to meet Ann at her job at a store called The Coach Stop in Bedminster, which is my favorite store on the planet.  (High on my list are hardware stores, ships chandlery, chocolate shops, ice cream parlors,  saddlery/tack shops and sporting good stores.)  The shop is owned and run by Tierney Sullivan.  It is more than a store and she is much more than a shop keeper.  It is an epicenter for the equestrian world, a clearing house for animal shelters and not for profits, and the nerve center of the community.  Tierney, just meeting me once, agreed to take all my horsehair work on consignment.  Bless her sweet soul.  In the few times I’ve been there she has taken my used dog beds, old but very nice boxes and given me really really great advice about my horse.  The NJ equine world is very small and it seems we know so many people in common.

Anyway, I unwrapped the urns and handed them over.  Ann seemed to really like them.  She seemed so in control of things.  I would have been a puddle.  She didn’t even blink when I handed over the left over ashes.  I told her to look at the bottoms of the urn where on each I embossed a message.  It just struck me at the last minute to add “Annie loves Lola 2015” on the foot of each.  She took a look and burst out crying, which set me off, then set off Tierney.  A poor slob of a guy had the misfortune of coming in at that moment to buy something.  The estrogen was palpable in the air.

I didn’t take any formal pictures of the urns (no time) and in no way would it have been appropriate to take images during the delivery.  I asked Ann to send me images if she wanted to and will show you if she does.

Another day another firing

Today was a marathon.  Taught in the morning, raku’d in the afternoon.  It was the last day of teaching my glass class.  Usually, we have a party and do no work, but this time it was only a 4-week course so I put out all the glass and let them rip.  They were like glass factories, I could hardly carry everything they assembled to my studio to fire.  I have a feeling I’m looking at about 4 or 5 loads.  By next Tuesday?  OMG, I hope so.  The good news is that the spoils from Sunday’s glass workshop have been fired, ground and delivered.  One item to tick off the list.

Meanwhile, I raku’d a Lola urn.  Lola was a very beautiful dog owned by Ann, who really really loved her.  She hired me to make an urn to contain her ashes, using some of them as bone ash to a glaze recipe, which just so happens to be Steve’s Blue Raku Patina, and that means, raku.  Ann gave me carte blanche to create an urn.  She sent me a picture of Lola and she told me to have fun because that was what Lola was all about.  I made an urn that was pretty representative of her head, but Ann wanted to go with one of my more classic wheel thrown urn shapes, so I did, so in this case she’s getting two.

I dragged trusty Beato outside and set her up and turned her on before I left for school, then come 4:45 it was ready to pull.  Beato is great because I can do just one urn and a lid and be done and cleaned up by dinner time.  Everything went really well except the lid touched the urn body in the reduction can and they stuck together.  THANK GOD I was able to separate them without any breakage.  PHEW.  Oh and did I mention it was forecast to storm the same time I was supposed to pull?  But all went very well!

I dragged Beato back in the minute she was cool enough  and now she’s got the “head” urn inside for a fast cone 06 commercial glaze fire. What a wonderful little work horse. May the force be with us!  Tomorrow is a glass day in Elmo, the Skutt  1027  and probably the next, and the next and the next…)  such is life as a kiln wrangler in the kiln rodeo!  I’m really really tired, a tad sore and a bit smelly, but whenever it got hard I remembered that when I was tearing my hair out at my desk job in NYC or on the table having surgery or getting radiation treatments when I had cancer, what kept me going was that someday I’d have days like this.  FABULOUS!

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The human kiln sitter

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Doing the devil dance

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Target temperature, ready to pull

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Into the reduction can

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Don’t drop the lid!

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Adding paper

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First “burp”

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Second “burp”

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Lid and urn fused together in the reduction can

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Carefully separating them while still hot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spraying with water to bring out the colors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ready to be dunked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cooling in the water bucket