Monday, December 31, 2012

Seeking Clarity and a Happy New Year

Here I am.  One day before the New Year.  One day before I walk over the thresh hold into 2013. I have thought about my word for for 2013.  What do I want to concentrate in the year of the Snake? 

2012 Word
For 2012, I chose the word simplicity.  Paring things down to simple forms.  Simple daily rituals.  Uncluttered.  Simplicity is more complicated than the word seems.  It has greater depth than what first appears. Here I am as I said at first, still with no word passed on from simplicity.  Is it because simplicity is covering up my word? Or is it clearly there right before me? 

across the way behind the fog are the Santa Cruz mountains, over which beats the Pacific

From simplicity comes clarity. Clarity. Where did that come from?  I think that's it.  What I have looked for all along.......Clarity...


*In the meanwhile, I updated my two other blogs: knit 1, clay 2 and 1 Simply Home. Wanted to start the New Year with something new on all three blogs. If you knit, I have free to keep those hands busy and warm!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy 14974.930th Day

Even after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."
Look what happens with
A love like that.
It lights the whole sky.

 ~ Hafiz of Persia

sunset at Westport Union Landing State Park (located just before the Lost Coast of  California)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks and Driftwood Wing

The Way In

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding,
and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth, be plant
desiring sunlight, believing in water.
To enter fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

by poet and writer Linda Hogan, from Rounding the Human Corners, 2008

Driftwood Wing
20" x 17" x 3"
ceramic with terra sigillata, glazes
found objects and twine

Sometimes it takes a while before I finish up a piece.  I do sketches and make plans.  There is momentum and in the wee hours, maybe, inspiration.  Mostly it is just trying different things. 

Over the year I have found things left or washed up on the beaches here.  Mainly I find things in the most ordinary of places, in the gutters, on the cracked sidewalks or even forgotten corners of my house.  I rarely go to flea markets or garage sales although I know they can be treasure-filled.  I am not a seeker of those objects displayed.  Bits and pieces find me. These are little inconsequential gifts from flotsam gods, who whisper in a language of coincidences and wonder.

trail out to Pacific Ocean near Mendocino. California

Today,  I have to find my inspiration in making sweet potato pie.  There's also a roast turkey to consider.  I saw its wild cousins just the other day taking a stroll through the industrial park near the bay shoreline.  Imagine, wild turkeys in an urban area!  They caused a little ruckus as they scattered across the street, dodging trucks and startled commuters heading west towards the bridge.  I had to laugh and give thanks. 

once the  land of the Tuibun Ohlone---now Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Area Wildlife Refuge

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lino Block Clay Tile and Honking Geese

The fruits are all done and off to the various markets, I was at a lost.  It's all that hurry up and get it done.  Pack and ship. What is the deadline date?  Get it there before first, second, third Friday (or Saturday) art walk.  Inventory lists and contracts in order. Checking that every piece is perfect, polished and tagged. Carefully wrapping and boxing.  Delivering.  All done now. Finished for the year.
last of this season's persimmons on porcelain tile
postcard size lino block and old, trusty cutter
some freehand penciling and then carve deep
stamped porcelain slab--takes a bit of muscle and a mallet
add some washy orange and green---cover with satin transparent

add one persimmon
sign back of tile
I sat  in my very messy studio with a few rejected and blemished ceramic pieces wondering what to do next. Outside I heard geese flying over head, squawking and honking, heading towards the verdant lawns of Chabot College. It made me laugh. Every day they fly by.  I've been so busy that I had not noticed.  I had not heard.  So I listened and knew what to do next.  I said, "Thank you."

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thorton Wilder 


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beauty of Numbers and a Seven Year Old's Mind

one, two, three, four, five
six is on line of seven
autumn day haiku

Other people buy flowers.  I buy branches.  Branches with green acorns. Chestnut with their spiky puff balls.  Even nightshade when I can find it.  Occasionally, I get pomegranates hanging onto long, thin branches with their tiny leaves. Naturally, the most exciting for me is a big branch of persimmons.

I hung the branch over my pantry door.  This is a favorite hang out.  All love to draw on this door.  Some leave their opinions of menu selection (the big people.)  Others sketch their vision of the future (middle-aged child space traveler.)  Lists get erased by little hands (Tough Little Girl.)  Drawn over with wild circles, toothy dinosaurs, smiling robots and big autographs (Confident Cousins Three.)  PoPo has long since learned to leave his memos at the very top of the door.  Out of the reach of children and MoMo.
the beauty of numbers by Noah, age 7

"If numbers aren't beautiful, I don't know what is."   
mathematician Paul Erdos

 Numbers aside---opened the kiln and surprised
to find my jade green and crackle oribe plates
were not the color envisioned

I forgot to put in copper carbonate! And I forgot to put in the rutile!  Oh my, the kiln gods still came though and these are nice in spite of me.  The yellow is a luscious quince color with rusty flecks.  Perfect for little purple and green figs.
I am very tempted to keep these, but they are promised.

Now on their way to Pence Gallery in Davis.  Time to go back to the chalkboard.  I think I am going back to figures....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Glazed slab plates and Rabbit Bird

October's journal consists of slab plates pages.
Written in copper carbonate angst and rutile blues.
A testament of process
in its trial and error ways

Base glaze GA 23 with 2% rutile all over
Chun with .25% cobalt carbonate thinly brush in center
GA 23 with 3% copper carbonate small dot in very center

GA 23 with 3% copper carbonate over wash of RIO 
 GA 23 with 2% rutile one half, other half metallic black glaze (shimmers gold specks) 
 Below: Lazertran decal I made with my HP laser printer and baked onto a hanging bowl
October just flew by and I can not believe it is November. 
It will probably fly by, too!
on November's work table

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quinces and more Quinces

The quince has a strong apple aroma that's heavenly. The scent filled the house making everyone crazy with thoughts of quince jam and buttery biscuits.
It was time to do a quick stretch and take a good look at the hues and tones.  I wanted to record all this quickly, because I really needed to cook that quince! 
I started out drawing a quince on tracing paper. This way I could transfer and position the outline onto watercolor paper clearly and cleanly.  I quartered a full sheet of hot press 140 lb. paper.  I transferred the sketch to two sheets.  That way I had two to work on at same time. Quickly I went into that quiet, timeless world.

 In the meanwhile, the clay quinces were finished cooking in a sense.  They were cooling in the kiln.  Out they came---lifeless, drab and yucky pink beige. The clay I use bisque fires to this color, but oh it dresses up right pretty. It takes on terra sig, slips, glazes, washes and anything else you throw at it beautifully so long as you give it the respect that it deserves.  The kiln was filled with other lovely things, but those untanned quinces got me all excited!  I put aside my watercolors and pulled out my oxide stains, underglazes and glazes. 

One of the first things I do with sculptural work fresh out of the kiln is to give them a rutile/frit or a red iron oxide/frit wash.  Areas that I need light I sponge away the wash completely.  I do like spots here and there, so I will leave those and any scratches, nicks, and nooks.  The rutile wash fires to a earthy yellow and adds warmth. The frit, I use Frit 3134 or Gerstley Borate, gives the oxides a little shine, a little twinkle.  Next I brush on two coats of white underglaze or slip (formulated for bisque.)  It's like gessoeing a canvas. The subsequent paint will clearly show its best hue. Same with underglazes and quinces. 

Now there's one layer of wash and two layers of white (dry to the touch.) The quince has shades of green left from its youth. It shines out from underneath the veil of yellow summer sun.  It makes sense to put down some bright chartreuse green and let it dry.  The next layer is a thin coat of yellow.  The green will peek through here and there.  It will add dimension and interest.

The leaf is a very dark green on a quince.  I really love the contrast of its dark, gray green leaf with the bright lemony hue of the fruit.  Even though I knew I would darken this leaf I still did a base layering of white.  There's a wash of red iron oxide, then a layer of blue, followed by yellow.  Finally a wash of black. Smudging any harsh edges helps to blend the underglazes so brushstrokes will not show after a firing.  I tend to daub and smudge. Once the color is where I want it---it goes in for a second firing. 

unfinished---needs more work
Now the quinces are ready to cook!

"The things I like best in T.S. Eliot's poetry, especially in the Four Quartets, are the semicolons. You cannot hear them, but they are there, laying out the connections between the images and the ideas. Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath."  

Lewis Thomas 
from The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Clay persimmons fresh out of the kiln

Remember the square box pattern?   One pattern and only four seams?  Some straight edges turned into curves, v cuts in the corners and wah la!
 Add some fruit---nature's fast food
(all fruit from my studio 100% clay based and enriched with terra sigillata)

from 5 July 2010 post
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked 
down the sidestreets under the trees with 
a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon
fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! 
Whole families shopping at night!  Aisles full of husbands! 
Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!
--and you, GarcĂ­a Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
from A Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsberg

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's October and it's time again for clay fruits

Quinces and pomegranates are showing up in the farmer's market now.  Quinces are so voluptuous.  I find them visually yummy although tastier if baked.  They have yellow fuzzy skins with peach-coral blushes reminiscent of their blossoms. There is a hint of wondrous green at the stem end.  Their puckered belly buttons pull in a deeply secretive way. How could I not make some quinces?  They look like pears on steroids, too!

It is easy to start them as I do the pears.  I pinch them out of one big lump of clay and model them a bit with a wood tool.  The leaf is actually very thick in the center.  It has an illusion of being thin by placement and shadow.  The ones made of sculpture clay will have color galore.  The ones in porcelain I may leave white.  For now I need to let them dry a bit.  In the meanwhile, I am going to pull out my watercolor things and paint me some quinces! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Clay boxes and talismans

 “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
―poet Mary Oliver

When I walked into the garage, it seemed this piece was looking up at the morning light streaming in.  Herr had moved it onto his work table with great care while I was away.  So it was startling and unexpected to see it there.  It  is ready for its first firing. This sweetness is called "White Trinkets."  I was working on some wall boxes and some thoughts about objects/charms/etc.  About the desire to keep found bits of things and how they come into our lives.  What they represent to us and how do they connect us to this earth, to each other and to the inner self.  How collecting and the saving daily what-nots hold some untold tales or are simply amulets wanting to hide in a pocket and are magical in their finding. All this led to the thought of white boots, white mini-skirts, white birds and a tiny white pouch.  From opened boxes to unexpected moments......

Monday, September 24, 2012

Falling in love with Fall again


...I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its
jewel boxes
is endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure...

Pablo Neruda

wheel-thrown, altered, soda-fired box with linen waxed twine and glass bead

September is just flying by for me.  It seems as the days grow shorter I get this feeling that I must rush through my day to finish up whatever I was doing during the foggy, cool days of summer.

Autumn begins here as an awakening.  As if to say--hey, wait a minute---what happened to summer---where's that little bit of promised warmth----that shimmering heat?  And summer here replies before it leaves with a teasing, temperate breath and cloudless skies.  So we have to enjoy this little bit of leftover summer before the fog rolls back again. That is what I have been doing this month.  Enjoying this little bit of leftover summer.  And falling in love with Fall again...what am I to do?  I can't help it.......

Sunday, September 23, 2012

wall boxes

wall boxes for daily bits---working with the meaning of flotsam, jetsam, lagan, derelict

Monday, August 27, 2012

Boxed Woods pt 2: Or how to make a slab box with one piece of paper

  • Use one sheet of cheap printer paper or any light weight sheet of paper about 8" x 10". 
  • Draw 2" border.  This is the body of the box---consisting of sides and bottom.  
  • Draw 1/2" border on the outside of inner rectangle.  This is the pattern for the top and lid. 
  • Have at least three slabs ready.  Minimum size 9"x 12".  Between 3/8"-1/2" thick. No thinner. No thicker.
  • The first slab needs to remain soft and have its own board.  It will be cut and form on this board. 
  • The other two slabs can rest on another wood board or sheetrock.  These will need to set up a little longer to leatherhard.

Use a soft pencil or fettling knife impress the first set of lines (above photo.)  These are guidelines for the body of box. Remove pattern.

Cut out corners.  Using finger run it around line and make a shallow trough.  This trough is to help bend up the walls.
Bring up the walls and line up the seams of the corners.  Push gently and squeeze in the corners.  Go around each corner.  Once walls are up gently run hands around outside bottom edge.  Do not try to lift box.  It will not like that at all.  Smooth out all corners.  Add coils inside the corners and smooth.  The box is still too soft for much and will be wobbly.  Let set up a while and occasionally check and push up walls to straighten.  Lightly cover with plastic and let set up to soft leather-hard. It will have a little give but not leave an indent.  Brush on slip if doing sgraffito drawing.

Use a roller of some sorts to compress sides flat.  It helps to sharpen the corners, too.  Scraping the the sides works, too. I leave the bottom edge alone. This keeps it from looking overworked. Besides, I like its soft and rounded edges. Once the feet goes on it even looks nicer.

Place pattern over leather-hard slab.  I went over the lines again so the top is more apparent. Impress markings for top and lid.  Remove pattern and trim away outer lines of rectangle.

Make sure that it fits over the top of the box.  A little bit of overhang is just right.  Now it's time to cut out the lid.  For a beveled edge I use a good old fashioned wooden rule with a metal strip and an craft knife.

 The lid and top opening is now done.  For the flange I make a smaller frame than the opening and attach underneath.  Strips of slab can also be used.  The bevel edge is mostly decorative and a small flange is necessary to keep the lid from falling in just in case it shrinks in the firing.  It looks nice, too.

top frame is the flange, big frame is the top, solid piece is the lid


Inside flange now attached
Attach lid. I like to roll out small coils and spread up using the fettling knife or rib in  "icing a cake" motion.  Little feet are added. Now add some way to lift the lid................

One little box filled with surprises!

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