Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mr. John Steinbeck

Today is the birthday of Mr. John Steinbeck. My first Steinbeck book, The Red Pony, was assigned in a junior high class. The scene describing the dying horse was so vivid and shocking. During high school, I read East of Eden. It was pretty overwhelming to my tender, inexperienced high school mind. Later, my roommate in college, a native of Seaside, introduced me to the delights of the Monterey Bay landscape. We once made a summertime trip to pre-aquarium Cannery Row. It was quiet and a little bit dusty, not the crazy tourist trap that it is today. The canneries were rusted shut. Some were completely falling apart, and it seemed like a very authentic place. We also hiked around Point Lobos. I remember sitting on the sand, being hypnotized by a blue cove. There was no one else on the beach. It was so very quiet and clear. I knew that Doc Ricketts had probably climbed across the rocks before me, to collect samples.

For me, the landscape is so much a part of Steinbeck's work. I remember an acquaintance in college disparaging Steinbeck, by saying that he could spend an entire chapter describing a damn dirt clod. I think that this acquaintance was maybe referring to the first chapter of East of Eden. The landscape is crucial: it is the SETTING. It almost always functions as another character in each novel. Each time I drive down the peninsula, I think, "Ahhhhh, this is Steinbeck Country." There is a stretch of road from Castroville to Salinas, along the railroad tracks, that never fails to make me think of Adam Trask. Watsonville, the city where I live, was the setting of In Dubious Battle. Traveling in the Monterey Bay Area, is like visiting Thomas Hardy Country in England. The Steinbeck novels and the land are inextricably linked.

It's difficult to pick a favorite book, but I am especially fond of The Pastures of Heaven. It is a collection of short stories about an assortment of different characters, all living in the same community. One family's behavior profoundly affects all of the other characters. Yet, they are oblivious. Another favorite, is the short essay, "About Ed Ricketts". I recently downloaded East of Eden, so that I can listen to it during my commute to work. It's the perfect soundtrack for driving through the forest and the rolling hills of Mount Madonna and Day Road.

Happy Birthday to you, John Steinbeck. And, thank you for charging where I live with history and with complicated characters...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hands-On Extravaganza

The student becomes the master...

It's that time of year, when hands-on projects converge.  Students in my fourth grade class are studying Native Californian tribes. Each student wrote a research report and created a coiled basket. Baskets were very important to the tribes that we're studying. They used baskets for cooking, gathering, and for storage. Some tribes created traps for catching fish using their basket weaving techniques. The Pomo tribe of Northern California, took decorative storage basket making to a whole new level. They used feathers, shells, and beads for decoration.

The first round of Cup Swap projects are out of the kiln, and are ready to be glazed on Friday. The second round of Cup Swap offerings are cooling right now, as I type. There's going to be a lot of glazing going on in Room #23. It's always exciting when the kids start making color choices for their cups. My glazed cups are in the load that is cooling. I can't wait to make some sweet trades!

First bisque fired cups...

Student baskets...

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Dubble Bubble

Today I attended a clay seminar in order to learn how to transfer two-dimensional images onto clay. The presenter told us that we couldn't post any photos of her, or of her work on the internet. She said that we could only use our photos of her to better understand her process. She spent the first two hours of the seminar making a bowl on a slump mold. Then there were hours spent watching her glaze work, and dry the work with a heat gun on the lowest setting. The last hour of the seminar involved what I really wanted to learn. It was rushed. As I was sitting there, I looked around at the other participants. I have learned so much from the friends that were in attendance. I have an entire notebook filled with all of Elaine's secrets, delivered by her at a free outdoor workshop. Liz has shown me how to make faux finishes on clay, and how to be more thoughtful about my work. Christine has made me laugh, and has taught me about versatility. Her thrown work is as lovely as her handbuilt work. I also met Julie, a new mosaic friend. It was interesting to be surrounded by such generosity, while the presenter seemed to grudgingly share parts of her process.

Then, I drove back to my sister's house. Her workshop is full of giant papier mache beads that she is going to string onto a pole. The beads represent her favorite foods. She was excited because she had just used paste wax, in order to shine up the beads, and to give them a rich finish. So, here are some pictures of artwork. She didn't stipulate that I couldn't post them! I have noticed that many creative people understand that their work will often be copied. But, they also understand Austin Kleon's secret #6 of unlocking your creativity: Do good work. Share it with people.

Tart & Savory

 Slice of Pie

A Green Olive

Bacon Strips & Raspberry

Workshop Bench

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Patience is a Virtue

"A watched pot…"

So, the nichos are cooling in the kiln, after last night's firing. I decided to fire them to Cone 3 in order to toast their color and antique them a bit. To quote Mr. Tom Petty, "The waiting is the hardest part." When the temperature cools to 100 degrees, I'll be able to take them out and see the results. Thankfully, I'm going to a movie and an early dinner in Santa Cruz with friends. That will take my mind off of the thermostat dial! Maybe.  

Before the final firing...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Shadowy Hamburgers

There is a lot of stuff to wash with coffee colored underglaze...

Nicho with a birdie top...

Washed and ready for the last firing in the kiln...

Nicho with eye sprig molded top...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Nichos Before the Last Firing

Turquoise & Chartreuse

Pink & Chartreuse

Minty Purple

Purple and Straw

Happiness Jar Stopper


Friday, February 1, 2013