Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Listening to the Sounds of a Different Drummer


Art is about being curious. About knowing how things hold meaning — trying to make sense of oneself, one’s environment. 
Kiki Smith
Prudence and the Pileated Woodpecker

Deep fall has come.  It is very hard to spend any time indoors wedging clay.  Or glazing for that matter.  The morning fog has returned---muffling the sounds of nearby commerce. On other hand, it ampliflies the hammering noise of a Pileated Woodpecker. Its red crown bobbing to the sounds of different  drummer...tilting its head to eye its work. Making adjustments. It must love the soft wood of the Bishop pine---now studded with holes and stuffed with autumn acorns. Industrous nature art at its most expressive..

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fifteen Seconds of Fame and Flame

Wish Collector

Imagine my surprise when I opened the San Francisco Chronicle to the travel section and found a photo of this piece.  It is also online at SFGate.  Check it out here

old piece (Fire Eater)  that I never finished and don't know if I ever will
My kiln was having technical difficulties for a while.  Along with my wireless and the laptop. They decided to shut down along with the Federal government. To add fuel to the fire but not the kiln, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit-train) went on strike causing a bigger and longer traffic nightmare for the entire Bay Area.  We couldn't get out of this area even if we put the Jeep in 4-wheel and climbed our way out.  Or leave at 4:00 am.  Which we did.

walking by one of the smaller Sequoias
We were planning to visit Redwoods National Park. Remaining positive we decided to go visit Calaveras Big Trees State Park instead.  The dogwood was in the last throes of autumnal hues.
What's left of a dogwood flower---beautiful to the end
This morning the strike was settled and the trains are running.  My glitchy kiln finally reached temperature and my laptop has a new power supply.  The wireless is still iffy, but the corner cafe has free wi-fi and great croissants.  During the weekend we went up to the P.S. House (passive solar.)  I raked our required fire truck turnaround which is big, gravelly and ugly.  Not anymore.

leaf litter made up of tiny Coast Redwood leaves

“The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward."
from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tiny Show

Foundlings  (sold)  
Once a year Pence Gallery sends out 5" x 7" canvas boards for their Tiny Show. Years past I would just paint a still life or portrait of one of my pieces.  This year I decided to do a sculptural piece that fits on the board.  I built the "portrait" on a slab measuring 5 3/8" x 7 3/8" ( I estimated the piece would shrink less than 1/2") and trimmed away the background.  It came out of the kiln, fitting the the canvas board right at the edge. 

At this angle it does seem the sides are going off, but they actually line up. 

Tiny Show
Pence Art Gallery
October 4-29, 2013
Artists' Reception:  October 18, 6pm-8pm

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Winding in and out of clay

The moment one gives close attention to anything, 
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.
~Henry Miller

first teapot made on my brand new wheel-2006
My studio was a mess. A big jumbled mess.  Moving a studio was harder than I anticipated.  There were things in there from the dawn of my clay time. It was time for the hammer and trash bin. Sorting and re-evaluating what is necessary and what is not. 

stages of Change
Easily distracted,  I wound my way through unglazed pots and failed experiments.
Of things saved and forgotten.  
Kept bits of things just in case I forget how to do something.  
As though the magic should slip away and these little bits would bring it back.
Practicality was the name of the game.  Anything gathering dust would have to go.  
In the corner sat my wheel.
My first ceramic love, the first thing I bought for my studio. 
Lost beneath discarded things piled on top as if a pack mule.

All summer The Excuse blurted out, hurriedly, with a blush, "The sea calls and I haven't time to make pots!  Maybe next week after I finish a few sculptures I will get back to you." 

And off I would go.  Again and again. 
Only returning with Autumn at my heels to take a peek at the wheel.
Knowing a decision needed making.
A decision that winds in and out of me.
That changes with the tides.
I find my way to my wheel to throw one last pot. 
Winding in and out
 Clay washes over me.
And I fall in love all over again. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Doing some cleaning to welcome October.  Be back next week.

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries. —A.A. Milne

Thursday, September 5, 2013

One Clay Bird at a Time


“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”  
~Anne Lamott 
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Summer is about over and I still haven't gotten what I needed to do done. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I have no words at the moment.  I think the sun ate my words and spat them out over the ocean.  Maybe they will come back riding on the next high tide.  Or return to me, bird by little clay bird.  In the meanwhile, here's another very short video.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mugging it up with Dogwood Ceramic Cups

This video was made last month.
 It was too long for Blogger.
I tried trimming it.  I deleted things I didn't want to delete.
I can't find the middle part. The one where I carved and modeled the face.
The only part that survived was the face painting part.
Even the painting part was too long for Blogger.
So I tried YouTube for the first time.
I hope this works.

(P.S. The mug starring in this video is the stunt double for the one above.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Breaking clay rules and wide-eyed wondering

head for twine and fossil
fired once to Cone 04
terra sigillata, oxide stains, underglazes

clay is leather-hard with three layers of white terra sigillata
little hole for metal pin which will help anchor head onto body

hands dangerously far out from body
making it precarious
 in harm's way
 but too dry to fix
head getting bone dry--terra sigillata buffed with an old cloth
features made up with underglazes
hair has a Copper Luster glaze I mixed up
for blush I used crushed up clay body brushed on (like blusher!)
face done-hair next
checking for fit
fresh out of kiln-bisque-fired to cone 04
(looking Minoan)
layering of blue and yellow in the eye came out as a lush shimmering green
after first firing--needs to go back one more time as I need to do the back
and still worried about that hand

Sometimes I get caught up in a moment and forget about the "clay building rules."  The one in particular about appendages and things that stick out.

I really love how far from the body that hand is, but it is in a position to get knocked off.  Fragile. Yet I couldn't find it in me to change it.  Besides with all my indecisiveness, the clay made my decision for me drying fast and bone dry.  So into the kiln it went.  At least now it isn't brittle.  It is vitrified.

What was I thinking--oh, yeah---I liked the way it looks.  I still do.  A ceramic hand away from any supporting, bracing structure.  No buttress, no hidden wires. Not pressed against anything.  There's a feeling of depth, of personal space in that little distance.  Ethereal.  Delicate. Strong, a touch defiant.

I will need to think on this a while.  I will build another body and seriously deal with the depth and supporting structure--without compromising that feeling of space.  And I think I know what to do now.  It just might work. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Twining Carefully in Clay and Thoughts


Twining Thoughts

Timekeeper's Crown and Nest Dreamer in Blue Skirt
sold                                     sold

Hidden Fauna in Floral Spinning

There are requests.  To repeat a certain piece now and again.  I gently remind that I approach my work with an openness that what happens happens.  There are no molds, no formulas.  No time schedule. I have to admit I tend to do things in a rush when I have a deadline. That nearly last minute "what shall I do" sort of thing.  There are times when fear is running about in the studio.  Like a little rodent.  I  know to stay attentive to details, remain true to my intentions and convey my own sense of the world.  Even if fear is running about on little rat feet. 

Working on an un-promised piece, there is room for the moment. It is a little more personal, a little less anticipatory.  The secret is transforming the technical, pragmatic purposefulness into something visual appealing and inclusive.   It opens up possibilities, a new adventure.  It is unsure and unknown.  It wraps around and embraces.  It is work.  A labor of love.

When it is ready to go out to a gallery I hope it will connect with someone in a special way.  

currently working on teapots and face cups

The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly — without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child. 
David Bayles
Art & Fear

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The wisdom of Yogi and some Pear Butter

"If the world was perfect it wouldn't be."
Yogi Berra


Cyclical.  That's what's happening.  Something wobbly cyclical.  Summer hasn't march in an even beat.  It is still part of the circle but not ticking evenly.  It seems like summer speeds up and then slows down.  Then speeds up again. I wanted do something different, but somehow it was the same.  Then I realized there are little changes all the time in my studio.  I just can't see it because I need new prescription---or do I mean perspective?

"Pair up in threes."
Yogi Berra

Every year I do pears in the summer.  Not many.  Just enough to keep me busy, but not so much to keep me from enjoying making them.  This year they came out so beautifully stippled and scarred.  As if they were grown in an abandoned and overgrown orchard. Last year I trimmed an old magnolia tree and dried the branches just to make the stems for the smaller pears. The large pears (about 7" tall) have ceramic stems as I can make them thick and sturdy.  The terra sigillata was made last year and left to age under the work table.  It is now silky and goes on with a satiny hue.  A bit of flannel and an old polishing stone and  a bit of soft buffering was all that was needed. Oxidation fired to cone 05.  A finishing touch of a stem and they were done.  

"When you come to a fork in the road take it."
Yogi Berra 
We drive by the few remaining pear orchards (more vineyards now) whenever we go up to the P.S. house.  The Barlett pears are so buttery and sweet this year.  I bought 15 lbs at a pear festival.  They ripen all at once.  So I did a little canning.  Pear quarters bathing with a few cardamom pods, a couple of whole star anise, 1 rather large cinnamon stick in a honeyed light syrup. Yum.  I also spent some time making strawberry jam and pear butter.  The pear butter went into half-pints.  It reminds me that unlike my ceramic pears, these are not calorie-free.   A little bit goes a long way to tasty sunny happiness.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Love is all you need and a little bit of clay

  “We love the things we love for what they are.” 
Robert Frost
white rabbit, white rabbit

"It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love."
John Lennon

“For love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love.”  
Soren Kierkegaard
Timekeeper's Crown and Fauna's Maquette ready for a high speed getaway
The last few days of June was some kind of wonderful. 

Love.  It's easy.

 And now for July...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Woes of a Part-Time Ceramic Picture Taker


There are days when auras are feeling purplish.
when a camera is just standoffish
and the lights (or lamps, they say) are a little bit dim.
Let's just say
 the tripod was feeling down,
the battery low,
the remote far away in its own little world
both diffusers out of their depth.
This was how it went
 on and on,
without a clue
from her above
time clicking and clucking away
At the last photo shoot.

(the sculpture is titled:  Hidden Fauna with Flora Spinning)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Clay wishes and a found key

 "I've got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.” 

  from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

We finally got the official keys to the our castle. And I finished up 12 pieces to go to an invitational next week.  My attention was divided between building the passive solar house and creating work for this invitational.  Things kept happening.  Schedules not kept.  Bits and pieces everywhere.  Clay drying out.  Glazes drying out.  Ideas drying out.  There is something about consistency.  If I work daily, with consistency, just work, things happen, a small spark grows. For some time it was all I could do to throw some kindling on the embers.  I kept hearing White Rabbit in the Disney film:
 "I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! 
No time to say hello, goodbye! 
I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!"

Sentinel's Soliloquy

But it all settled down and things got done.
not late...just in time 
And the embers still glow.
Now for a big piece of heartwood.......

Monday, June 10, 2013

Top of the Morning Ears

 Ears too tall to fit in kiln!
  Built up first
then cut at leatherhard
at an angle

Looks very pensive without ears

ears hat?
after first firing
This fauna isn't done yet.  I need to do some washes on it and fire it again. That should do it.  I will then attach the ears permanently using a bonding product and fill in any gaps. It will look like an ear cap.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sneaker Waves and Ghost Trees



It seems the ocean has washed away my words.  
Caught by a sneaker wave.
Still and silent,
I have spent early mornings
watching the abalone divers.
Rubbery and squeaky in their black suits
as they measure their catch
pried from
their ocean rock home.
Harbor seals appear as if ghosts
 in the summer fog
reminding me
to dip my hands in tide pools,
chase hermit crabs and sculpins
and softly rub the backs
of starfishes.
 Ghost Tree

clay has called me back
so much has happened in my little studio
in between the ocean 
the golden foothills
fauna and flora
just wait 

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