Monday, December 31, 2012

Sleight of Hand

 #3 Blue Dotted Vase

The Pajaro Valley Arts Council Gallery is having a show during January called "Sleight of Hand".  I have to select four pieces for the show.  So, I've spent the past few days, in the shed, studying my work. The first three pieces were an easy choice.  But, I'm not so sure about the fourth piece.  I'm really excited to be in this show.  It will be fun to see all of the work assembled.

#1 Arbol de Vida Wall Wreath

#2 Large Pointy Heart Wall Piece

Possible #4 Birdy Vase

Possible #4 Sanded Pink Vase

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas...

Another holiday has come and gone.  Right now, I'm sitting amidst stacks of thank you cards.  My favorite part of Christmas Day was sitting, eating, and chatting with Jordan and Kevin.  Also, I enjoyed seeing the plastic manger scene, which caused many an argument during holidays past.  My brother and I would take turns getting to have it in our rooms during Christmas vacation from elementary school.  You'd think that a scene depicting the birth of our Savior, would have a calming effect.  Blame it on the glitter…  I remember it actually being thrown once, along the lines of "If I can't have it, no one else can either!"  We missed all of the family members that were absent, but thought of them throughout the day.  And, we looked through some photo albums of past Christmases, with much embarrassment over the hairstyles of yesteryear.  And, now it's on to making some New Year's resolutions!

Not So Merry Christmas...

The Plastic Manger Scene 

Excellent Picture Frame...

Irritated, As Usual...

Swag BFFs...


Awesome Giant K...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ack Ack Ack!

The Happy Couple

We earned 100 class points, and the students voted to make clay monsters from Jenni Ward's wonderful blog.  It was a blast!  The kids made pinch pots, and then added decorative elements to give their monsters character and attitude.  We just finished glazing them today.  After the second firing, they'll be ready after Winter Break.

Painted Toenails

Aliens and a Possible Killer Oyster

Heaven Help Us

Red Eye Flight

Last Firing

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Caul's House

I recently heard from a dear, old friend after a long hiatus.  This is an essay that I wrote 
in college, after visiting him in his new digs.  

Caul speaks with only a slight southern accent.  Underneath a shock of brown hair are two blue eyes ringed by golden flecks of color.  His skin is freckled.  Around his wrist is an old watch on a greasy band.  As he guides me through his house, he gestures and points with excitement.  The house is located at the edge of four adjacent parking lots in downtown Salt Lake City.  It consists of three large rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen.  All of the rooms face northward, and there are high ceilings and long, tall windows.  Each room is a compositional masterpiece arranged by Caul.

The front door opens on the living room.  One corner houses a large industrial heater, with several curving pipes that pierce the ceiling.  In the center of the room is Caul's desk:  a fragment of an enormous, metal Sinclair Oil sign supporting a thick, glass bank door.  This desk fills the entire room and is covered with books, magazines, pens, and projects.  It is a central feature in his house, hinting at his obsession with design.

The bedroom is relatively empty, except for a single mattress resting on two rough wooden pallets, and an old stool.  The bed is near three tall windows, and breezes blow white, lacy curtains across the sheets. Green ribbons hold a few of the curtains in place against their dark wooden frames. Occasionally, the lace blows outward, and touches red stone window ledges.  The bed looks so comfortable.  Caul has a difficult time getting up in the morning, which is understandable.  On the floor, at the foot of the bed is a broken brick, isolated and somehow important.  The old stool in the corner belonged to his grandfather in Louisiana.

The study contains a brown, leather armchair with a footrest.  Ringed around the room, on the floor, books line the walls, and large grey stones serve as bookends.  His favorite book is Walden.  All four of the walls in the room are papered, but the ceiling is bare.  It is raw concrete, pink and yellow with erosion.  The thin cracks are filled with plaster.  One exposed bulb hangs from the cement.  The texture reminds him of rock formations.  It is his favorite room.

The bathroom and the kitchen are both sunny.  The tub is old and rounded, with claw feet.  Beside it, is a child's rusty beach pail, filled with shampoo bottles.  There are several exotic oriental soap bars and a razor on the shelf, beneath a cracked mirror.  In the black and white tiled kitchen, is a leaded glass cabinet full of the dishes that Caul has collected for years.  Plants in clay pots rest on the window sills. He shows me a tiny ceramic skunk, as I drink lemon-water from a ribbed green glass.  And, he tells me that he loves his house.

Uh Oh.

I hardly ever use glossy glazes…  But, I wanted these to be watertight, so why not?

"Curse you, yellow glaze!"  It is a beautiful, runny, glossy yellow glaze, and when it behaves, it has small pink bursts of color underneath the yellow.  I can safely say, that any kiln misfortune that I've had in the past year, has been because of this glaze.  It has leaked, pooled, and ruined pieces.  So, after last weekend's firing, where the glaze puddled, and ruined two kiln shelves, and some posts, I took a moment to drop kick the half-filled glaze container into the trash.  It felt good.  Really good.  Now, the dremel tool is hooked up to the charger, and I'll try to salvage the shelves.  This is why I pretty much always use underglazes and washes.

The yellow glaze on the interior leaked and puddled...

No worries with the magenta gloss that went on the interior of this one...

There are some nice things happening on the surface of this one...

These posts are now glazed to my giant bottom kiln shelf…  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Let Right Be Done"

Experimental Vases and a Cup of Decaf Earl Grey

After an extremely trying week, it's time for a little art therapy.  During the past month, report cards, parent conferences, and assorted stressful meetings have kept me out of the studio.  So, it's high time to get back.  Glazing is a very contemplative activity.  But, I'm hoping to fix my mind on pleasant things, instead of dwelling on the junk, and the disrespectful, insincere language that is cluttering my brain right now.  I keep thinking of a catchall phrase from a movie called "The Winslow Boy".  In the movie, a father defends his young son from accusations of dishonesty, and loses his life from the battle.  The father's motto is "Let Right Be Done".  He is firm in the knowledge that his son's good name will be exonerated.  I feel that I have made some choices for the greater good this year, and here's to hoping that right will prevail.

Two years ago, at a seminar taught by a lovely Native American basket maker, I learned that in her tribe, basket makers would never work when they were upset.  Each basket making session began with a prayer, so that the mind would be right, and the soul could connect with the work.  So, I'll start my glazing with a prayer, and a heart full of gratitude for the kindness of true friends.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thankful List

Some thoughts about the things that make me thankful...

10.     The ability to laugh in the face of disaster.  This has certainly made life more pleasant and

9.       Eyesight remaining relatively stable.  These peepers have always been very light sensitive.
          And, bifocals notwithstanding, I can still see what I'm making pretty well.

8.       Food and shelter.  These are tough times, and I'm grateful to be able to pay my mortgage,
          despite pay cuts, and other nonsense.

7.       The kiln.  Life was all about mooching, before I became an owner.  It's almost as crucial as the
          washer and dryer…  Almost.

6.       Work-a-holic-ness.  I am thankful that I was raised with a strong work ethic.  There is never
          enough time in the day.  I often hear kids say that they're "bored".  That is a phrase that was
          never acceptable or used in our home.

5.       My students.  Each day is a new learning experience for me.  Kids sap my strength, but
          they offer joy and laughter in return.  It seems like a more than fair exchange.  It kills me when
          they draw little pictures, or write letters, or tell jokes.  They just never stop giving.

4.       My friends.  I'm a curmudgeon.  I don't have a lot of friends.  But, I treasure those that I have.
          They fill my life with laughter, and happiness.  They are supportive and kind, and not just when
          it's convenient.

3.       My pets.  Both of my cats are complete characters.  One is an angry, miserable tramp.  But, I  
          love them to bits.  And, Betty is the most loyal dog ever.  She wags her tail at 5 a.m. each
          morning.  You can't beat that for positive attitude.

2.       My parents.  My mom and dad raised us in a home where we all cared about each other.  They
          always provided for us spiritually and materially.  I remember calling them with the supply list for
          my first college design classes.  It was a ridiculous amount of money.  They didn't even flinch.
          Or, I remember telling them that I wanted to go back to college to get my teaching credential.
          Again, no flinching.  Both of them always want what is best for their children, and provide the
          help and support for our happiness.  

1.       My family.  My sister has volunteered in my classroom each Friday for 12 years.  It is a 2 hour
          drive.  One way.  My brother has a house full of my art work, and always gives the best presents.
          He is so generous, and thoughtful.  My other sister makes me laugh.  I love spending time with  
          her.  I wish that she lived closer.  And, all of their spouses are wonderful and kind, too.  But that
          is no great surprise.  Oh, and they all have pretty fabulous children.  Sitting at the "kid table" at
          Thanksgiving is a delight.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why We Read

The Big Blue Faux Swedish Bookcase

Today, after school, I was talking to a student about the importance of reading. I'm sure that she was just staring at me, and thinking, "Whatever, lady." But, I really meant it. Reading is like breathing.

How can we live our lives without having read Dickens? Any Dickens. My personal favorite is ever changing. Sometimes I think that I love Our Mutual Friend the best. But, then I remember Miss Pross and Sydney Carton in Tale of Two Cities, and my opinion changes. How can we not feel the frustration of faithful Gabriel Oak in Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, when we too, know how it is to pine away, filled with unrequited love.

There is so much emotion in reading. It never fails that I cry during read alouds in front of my class, or that I have to stop to laugh. This year, during The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, I got to the part where Kenny hears the church exploding, and finds the shoe that he thinks belongs to his little sister. I just lost it. It's one scene that just perfectly sums up the suffering during the Civil Rights movement. My students stared, and some nervously giggled. It's amazing that a book can have the power to completely silence a room full of children, and can force a tired, jaded teacher to sob.

I remember taking a required writing course during a Spring Semester in college. One afternoon, the professor read to us from "Araby", a story in James Joyce's Dubliners. Towards the end, he broke down, and pulled out a handkerchief. He told us that the language in this passage was so lovely that it always made him weep. Crossing a bridge over the River Liffey, after arriving at the Dublin train station on a backpacking trip, made me think back to this professor. Imagine Joyce forging such a distant connection over time and space.  

I want my students to know that I mean what I say about reading. It is important. It's a lifesaver. It's a way to explore and learn. It is an escape. It brings joy and sorrow. I number Scout Finch, Jo March, Adam Bede, and Elizabeth Bennet among my best friends.

Cupboard of Treats

Some Old Faves

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Back to the Brush

Recent Cardboard Collage

I've missed painting.  Somewhere along the way, I've taken a huge detour from being a painter. It has been a lengthy hiatus. Recently, while sitting in my new dentist's office, I spotted some kind of cool abstract paintings. They were layered collages of shapes and colors. Since I had a root canal and two crowns, I had the opportunity to study them at great length. My sister donated a package of perfectly cut rectangles of cardboard for my classroom. Guess what? They are my new experimental canvases. With a couple of coats of house paint, they are primed and ready to go. Here's some work from the olden days. Future posts of newer work are in the pipeline!

Corazon on Canvas

Comic Collage



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Just What the Doctor Ordered

"We're not making a lot of money, so we might as well have fun."

Thanks to Liz Crain, we were able to attend Lana Wilson's seminar at the Richmond Art Center today. What a fantastic experience. The ride there, with Liz, was wonderful. The seminar was a pleasure. And, finally, there were some amazing gallery exhibits at the RAC. This day was exactly the motivation required to nudge me back to work in the studio. My favorite Lana quote of the day: "I'm not very happy if I'm being careful." Me too! I'm shaking off my end-of-October inertia.

Sink mat and stamp texture for a teapot...

Pressing a Buddha tile...

Layered tiles...

An assortment of feet...
Underglaze layering before combing...
Carving away into the clay...
Adding bits of colored shavings back onto the tile...

The results of the inlays and the carving...

Making a teapot top...

The teapot...
My new Lana Wilson bowl...

"When you're in a field for a long time, it makes sense that you would change your mind."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Speedy Plates Incorporated

Suave Plate, Swirl Plate & Pail Plate

Open Studios lasts for two weekends. On the first weekend, I sold a lot of pieces, and my living room looked kind of empty. In fact, I brought out some older work to fill in, and some of those pieces sold as well. So, it seemed like a good idea to make some plates and bird nests to fill in for the second weekend. Some of the plates will go on the wall, and some will be on plate stands. The turn around time was fast on these babies. The trickiest part was gently, oh so gently, forcing them to dry during the first firing. Here they are just before getting clear glazed. Fingers crossed that they'll be ready for Saturday!

Plates Attack the Driveway

States with Pointy Handles Next to California Plate

Clear Glaze First Coat