The Wheel in the Studio Goes Round and Round

Work coming full circle in the studio this winter

If you’ve been keeping up with my previous posts since November 2016, you’ll know that I’ve been in a bit of a creative funk.  The results of the election knocked the stuffing out of me and it took awhile to find my creative footing.  When I’m stuck like this I find what I need to do is just shut up and make and let the reasons why take care of themselves.  The act of making with my hands seems to plug my brain into some sort of electrical outlet that ignites the spark that jumpstarts the creative juices into flowing.

For those of you who know my work, I’m not much of a thrower.  There are several reasons both ergonomic and creative.  Ergonomically I seem to have freakishly small hands.  Add to that my lower back is always an issue.  I keep toying with teaching a clay class called Throwing with Tiny Hands and a Bad Back.  Creatively, round forms make me very nervous.  They’re just so- circular!  Circles have so many connotations:  they have no beginning or end; they have a sense of completion; and there’s always that pressure of repetition.  I’m not a production potter by any stretch of the imagination.

But this winter I hunkered down in my studio every day and threw.  There was something very soothing about getting up in the morning, making a pot of tea, putting on an audio book, shutting the door and sitting down at the wheel.  Life at the time seemed so out of kilter, and  I needed the structure of repetitive routine.  I craved the calming influence and hypnotic effect of watching the wheel go round while clay squeezed between my hands.  I began to look forward to my days at the wheel like I never have.  I decided to challenge myself and throw plates, platters, bowls and cups to fill the kitchen cabinets in our new vacation home in the mountains of Colorado.  I may be out of creative gas but I could at least trick out my ride so that when the tank refilled I had more power under the hood and bells and whistles on my dashboard  to go more places than ever before.

I decided to stop being a wimp and to finally learn how to throw plates on hump molds and plaster bats and to make cup handles with an extruder.  I also challenged myself to throw series of bowls and forms the same size, and to nest.

Things started happening.  I found myself adding textures and elements making these round static forms more interesting, more mine.

From there I started thinking about colors, glazes, firing ranges and applications.  In the spirit of adventure I decided to revisit some old glaze recipes requiring spray-on application as well as some I’ve never done before, even using commercial glazes in combination with others.  Spraying involved figuring out the correct thickness, even which air compressor to use.

While all this was happening, the creative current began to trickle in.  I had a bag of glass nuggets incompatible for fusing and a glass lidded jar from a defunct terrarium.  All of a sudden the jar was on its side with the bag of nuggets next to it, and every time I walked by I glued one on.  What began as form of wheel avoidance and procrastination became an Ex-Voto urn for the sculpture Good Friends.

It was such a relief to make a glass sculpture by simple cold working.  But then it made me miss fusing.  I found myself getting emboldened.  While I was doing all these new things, and to a certain amount of success and satisfaction, why not finally get around to finishing some sculptures that have been percolating way too long in my noggin?  Time to fuse some glass and make bases for sculptures and lamps, and while I was at it, how bout some coasters and trays for spring!

Before I knew it, I had completed my goals.  That wheel work paid off in spades.  Not only do I have the dishes, bowls, and mugs made, but I seem to have launched myself into a better place creatively.

Gallery Crawl, January 2017: The NY Ceramics and Glass Fair

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Last Thursday I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Bohemian National Hall for my first experience ever of The NY Ceramics and Glass Fair.  It seemed like a no-brainer that this should be on my list of things to do.  I also had the pleasure of riding the newly opened 2nd Avenue Subway for the very first time.  The 72nd Street stop was just around the corner from the venue and I enjoyed viewing the colorful mosaics at the station.   It was exciting to ride the gaily decorated train through the clean tunnel to the bright and cheerful stop.    I had never been to the Bohemian National Hall, located on 73rd Street. It’s a beautiful building and very much worth the visit.

A mosaic in the 72nd street station stop of the 2nd Avenue Subway

A mosaic in the 72nd street station of the 2nd Avenue Subway

My first stop was  to attend a lecture, The Feminine Clay given by Shannon Stratton.  It was a thought provoking presentation of contemporary interpretations of the figurine  featuring the works of artists Coille Hooven and Chris Antemann, both of whom have works currently on display at The Museum of Art and Design (MAD.)  I enjoyed the lecture immensely as I had seen the MAD exhibits and adored their works.  I particularly enjoyed the thesis of the subversion of the classic figurine for feminist interpretation.  What made it an even bigger treat was that Coille Hooven was in the audience and took questions after the lecture.

Onward and upward to the 4th and 5th floors to view the works on offer in the booths.  In addition to the impressive selection of antique glass and ceramics, several contemporary artists displayed their works, 3 of which particularly impressed me.

I could have spent the entire day visiting with beadwork artist Leslie B Grigsby and her beadwork sculptures.  She uses taxidermy forms to create lifelike animals out of hundreds of colored glass beads.  I will never complain again when I am in the midst of adding texture to my sculptures with the point of a pastry bag.  Leslie has me beat hands down in the intricateness department.  I had so much fun visiting with her, she treated me like a long lost friend and let me hold and handle a couple of her sculptures.  She told me that it takes so long for her to create each one, that when she’s done they are like her pets and she has trouble seeing them go out of her studio and into the world.  Her sculptures are so gestural and lifelike that I can see why, each has its own personality.

Leslie B Grigsby with one of her beadwork creatures

Leslie B Grigsby with one of her beadwork creatures

Leslie's artist statement

Leslie’s artist statement

A fawn beadwork sculpture by Leslie B Grigsby

A fawn beadwork sculpture by Leslie B Grigsby

After leaving her booth I made my way to the booth of Hideaki Miyamura.  His booth contained vessels with stunning satin lusters.  I was drawn to them as iron to a magnet.  At first I thought they were blown dichroic glass and I spent quite some time looking at them up close to determine that they were indeed ceramic.  I asked Hideaki if the glazes were the result of fuming and he told me no, they are porcelain fired to cone 13.  Huh.  I have never seen glazes act that way at that high a temperature.  Another penny into the bank known as all the things Lisa never knew that never cease to amaze her.

Stunning creations by Hideaki Miyamura

Stunning creations by Hideaki Miyamura

As I left Hideaki’s booth, my lusterware antennae began to quiver.  I was picking up a vibe that glaze nirvana was close by.  I followed the signal and hit pay dirt (stoneware to be exact) when I came upon the booth of Michael Wainwright.  His platters and vessels share my form sensibility and his use of platinum and gold are what I hope and dream I can someday achieve if I ever stopped being a cheapskate and forked over what these materials cost.  I fell in love with one of his crystalline free form platters.  To me it looked like a giant slice of a precious mineral.  I am so thrilled with my tray.  We had a very pleasant chat before I snatched my tray and scurried home like one of Leslie B Grigsby’s squirrels with a prized nut.

Clay artist Michael Wainwright

Clay artist Michael Wainwright

Michael's booth

Michael’s booth

My beautiful crystalline tray made by Michael Wainwright

My beautiful crystalline tray made by Michael Wainwright

Overall it was a wonderful time.  My only regret is that I didn’t revisit the Fair to attend the panel lecture Buy, Sell or Give? What Happens When the Kids Don’t Want It? that included friend Ulysses Grant Dietz, chief curator of The Newark Museum.  I have attended many of his lectures and they always delight and inform.  Sorry I missed you Ulysses, next time!

 

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.

 

May Day May Day!!!! Peters Valley Open House and Studio Tours

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May Day can either mean May 1st,  a day to celebrate or  May Day May Day a distress signal.    Thankfully in my case it was a celebration, as in my line of work it could have gone either way.  Yesterday was the Open House and Studio Tours event at Peters Valley Craft Center and I was asked to fire the raku kiln as part of the festivities.

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Sharon Pflug-Moench (left) and I (right) doing the heavy lifting at the Peters Valley Raku kiln

 

Knowing my schedule would only permit me to make enough ware for 1 or 2 loads I reached out to teacher, potter, and good friend Sharon Pflug-Moench to make ware and join me in the effort.  She did not disappoint.  We had enough work between us for 6 loads, a full day of firing fun!

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Sharon aka Lucy and me, aka Ethel with the ware waiting to be fired

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Caught Instagramming- red handed!

Sharon and I are the clay version of Lucy and Ethel.  We’re soft-hearted tough cookies.  We work well together.  We get into scrapes.  We generate alot of laughs. To temper us and provide support were my husband Bill and her husband Paul- Ricky and Fred, although none of us could decide who was who of that pair.

True to form, like every other time I have raku fired at Peters Valley, it poured rain all day long.  You can set your watch to it.  You want rain?  Call me, I’ll either schedule an outdoor picnic or a raku fire at Peters Valley.  I’m so used to it I don’t think I’d know what to do if the sun was shining.

Joining us in the ceramic studio were director Bruce Dehnert, his wonderful wife Kulvinder Dhew, and fellow potters throwing on wheels, including Linda Garrabrandt of MudSlingers Pottery Works.

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Kulvinder Dhew arranging Bruce Denhert’s work for sale, while Linda Garrabrandt of MudSlingers Pottery Works throws clay in the background

Visitors came and went and pots went in and out of the kiln.

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Vases fresh from the kiln “steaming” until cool to the touch

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I was nervous about firing hot and fast in a kiln set up differently than my own, but it’s alittle like riding someone else’s horse:  the basics are the same I just had to learn its nuances and how to get along with it.  Everything worked out fine and the kiln saints and devils smiled upon us.  The pieces survived the firings, the glazes came out great and the humans came out of the experience unscathed, just filthy, tired and wet, but very very happy.

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In terms of kiln saints, I brought the heavy artillery: St Michael the Archangel, Pinocchio and the little devil who, if the sun were shining as he is solar powered, would be dancing a little jig

I had the good fortune to meet many people touring through the studios, show my work, eat a great meal from a food truck (fish tacos with the most divine fries!) and even get interviewed by a reporter at the NJ Herald.  Look at me, I wound up the lead article in their on line edition the following day!

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For my next Peters Valley trick I will be teaching the 3-day raku workshop Raku Rodeo the first weekend in June.  Get out your umbrellas and galoshes and come fire with me!

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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

Good-bye Summer, Hello Fall!

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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.

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).

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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!!!

PACKING:

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!

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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!!!!

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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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