Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New kiln arrives...

     Well, Hot Damn. It's finally arriving today. A new L&L e23T electric kiln. Since 2009 I've managed to make work with a 17" Cress manual hobby kiln. Fine kiln but it has it's limitations with capacity and control over firing conditions. I replaced the elements because my firings were taking longer and becoming inconsistent. Naturally, immediately following, I had issues with the manual controller and flywheel not regulating the temperature rise and eventually tripping the breakers before the kiln reached temperature. There comes a point when the universe helps point you towards your next stage of development, when it says, "Enough with amateur hour," and I guess that was my moment with the kiln. It had served me for 6 years but was I really going to keep putting money into an outdated, inefficient, capricious kiln forever? So, financially, I made the choice to procure some funds and purchase a new electric kiln with a larger capacity and much more control over firings, including heat rising, soaking and cooling schedules which should hopefully result in some progress in my glaze exploration. In addition, since I was dropping a bit of cash, I opted to get a small test kiln at the same time to really expand my options for making work, testing surfaces and glazes, and assist in producing beads and other small pieces, when needed.

     So... moving forward... Next project will be the wood kiln because I have got to do something with all this brick on my lawn.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Quest for balance

     It's been several weeks now and I'm still trying to find a balance between studio and farm, home and work, self-care and other-care, clay and metal. (Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale). When I can't be as productive as I'd like to be in terms of "pieces out the door," I try to work on the things that help later on. I'm getting a new, larger kiln and a test kiln in a few days. In order to make room for them, I had to reorganize the studio space and that meant lots of days where half the studio was outside on tables while I moved, swept, cleaned, screwed in new shelves, re-boxed, labeled, tossed in the garbage and then put everything back. Something about reorganizing and cleaning that sets my restart button.
     Also, using the right tools helps things move along much faster. Concrete = Hammer Drill. Yay.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Studio Days

Sometimes when I am asked trivial things like, "What do you want for your birthday?" or "What do you want for Christmas?" the thing that comes to mind most often cannot be bought. What I want is large blocks of uninterrupted time.

Today is Wednesday, an open studio day at the farm. Here's to sitting with work and zoning out!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Revised Schedule

After some consideration about my studio schedule over the last two years, I'm revising my studio visiting hours to reduce the amount of time I have to make announcements. It makes no sense to try to stay available as a rule on weekend days when all too often I'm running off for firings, shows, and other events, not to mention the personal time I need to help my elderly mother now that she's living with me on the farm. From this point forward, my visiting hours will be 10 am to 3pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the months of April, May, June, and September. If I run into any conflicts during those times, I'll obviously make an announcement but if trends continue, that shouldn't be necessary. All other times by appointment only. If you're visiting the area and want to stop by the studio, email me to coordinate a time.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

See the Art, Meet the Artisan

This Saturday, March 26 at 2:00 pm, I will be giving a talk and doing a little demo at the Madison County Library, Berea Branch, 319 Chestnut Street, Berea, KY.

Sponsored by the Berea Arts Council, I'll show some of the work I've done over the years, give a little insight into what inspires me and do a little carving, under glazing and Mishima demonstration. Come on out and say hello!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Year Interrupted (2015)

No pictures this posting. 

     It's the numerical new year today. For years now I've become more and more detached from New Year's Eve/New Year's Day, the attention paid to it, the celebrations, the ritual. For me, it feels more and more arbitrary. I find myself bobbing along to the seasonal changes more than the numerical changes. Not that I don't appreciate the efficiency of calendars, dates, and so on, just that regardless of what the calendar says, my time clock is definitely working on a completely different schedule. Because of that, resolutions, plans, parties etc., seem arbitrary and silly to me. Nevertheless, numerical New Year's Eve/Day is a time marker and time to look back and forward at the same time.

     I should say that last year was a shit-storm for me, which it was, but as trying as things were, I muddled through and things happened. It began with below freezing and occasionally below zero weather that froze and burst our old pipes under the house in January. My husband and I washed ourselves in water carted into the house from the spigot outside, heated on the stove and poured into a five-gallon bucket where we cleaned with soap, a washcloth, and a cup to rinse off. Because of the ultra-cold temperatures in KY, and because we were one of hundreds in the local area with burst pipes, and because our pipe situation couldn't be properly dealt with until the weather got warmer, the snow melted, and the ground unfroze, we existed like this until early March. Lesson: if you have functioning indoor plumbing, you're already living in luxury END OF STORY. Seriously, quit whining about anything.

    My dad, who was 90, was becoming more ill. He had fallen one too many times back in his New York apartment in late 2013. His physical injuries, the fact that he couldn't walk, and his ever spiraling dementia meant my mother (now 87) couldn't properly care for him. That meant he spent his last year and a half in a nursing home about five minutes away from my mom's apartment. In late February, Mom called my sister and I when it became evident he was in his last moments. It snowed 8" that day on top of the 10" already on the frozen ground. Around that same evening, the temperature plunged to -24°F. My father passed away. He was 90. We missed his funeral. Not really a big deal for me as I had made my peace with Dad's passing some time earlier but the timing couldn't have been worse. When you love someone with dementia, you kind of say good-bye a little bit at a time. Fortunately, my younger brother and some of the grandkids were able to make it to the funeral.

     In early March before we actually got the pipes fixed, my sister and I travelled back to New York and met up with my older brother who flew in from the West Coast for a memorial get-together of sorts. When we were all gathered with Mom, we went over to the cemetery where Dad's remains were interred. I hoped to have one final moment of solemn good-bye. Instead, I ended up having one of the most bizarre experiences of my life to date, right there at the freshly dug and buried gravesite of my late father. Not a psychic thing, no "ghostly" thing, just utterly bizarre. The kind of bizarre where you look around in your mind if not in real time and wonder, "Is someone filming this? Is this a set-up?" At a later date, I hope to write it all down –with pictures– but seeing as I haven't even told my widowed mother about this incident, it'll have to wait.

     In the midst of all of this snow and cold and dying and traveling, I continued to make pots but the artwork dropped off as I tried to crank out pots for sale in adverse conditions. I did mange to participate in the local Red Lick Artisans Tour which was good. On the down side, though, due to the logistics of coordinating the participants, I'm not sure this tour will continue as no one is able to devote time to organizing the tour. I'm not a resident of the Red Lick Area so I have to rely on others to be a guest artist. The flip side of that is that I have managed to pick up some more local places that want to sell my work. My sales on Etsy have also more than doubled for the year so YAY. 

     But what really interrupted my flow of work last year only began after Dad died. The reality for my mother who was trying to survive on her own at 87 in a suburban apartment in NY without a driver's license and having to rely on the kindness of friends and family nearby was about to change. She was becoming frailer and needed help herself. All of her kids were scattered across the USA with our own homes and families. As I said to her, "I'll take care of you, but you gotta move to KY." So with the little money that she gathered from insurance from her sibling's deaths in the previous six years plus Dad's death, she provided the financing and we agreed to build her a small cabin on our property (which will become a studio addition later on) so that she can live out the rest of her life near (some) of her kids but still maintain some sense of independence. She still gets around but it's limited and she needs assistance. The cabin sits right behind my present studio so when I'm working, I'll be available to her.

     That being said, constructing a cabin, no mater how small, is time-consuming. Initially, the people I tried to contact for excavation, foundation and building work all flamed out on me with no-shows, no replies on estimates or ridiculous estimates that simply indicated that they didn't want to do the work. The delays pushed me back further and further in the year until I finally found a builder who was willing to do the limited work I needed and let me handle the coordination of the electric, plumbing, and drywall. So here's a shout out to Estes Construction and Excavation, Lisle Electric, Dunaway Excavation, Kirby Plumbing, Hardy Gas and Earl Hunt Drywall for helping us get Edna's Hacienda and Smokehouse up and running. (In the midst of all of the sub-contractors doing their work, I managed to keep my business going. Yay for me, too!) My husband and I handled the insulation and are handling all the finish work, trim, flooring, painting now that all the contractors are done. This has meant (for me, at least), my pottery business has gone into hiatus since mid-November when I went to pick up Mom and cart her back to KY. She's not living in the cabin yet as our finish work is taking much more time than the previous building work. Until I can get her moved out to the cabin, my business (and life) is grinding like a stuck fault line. She smokes and it's stinking up the house, not to mention it's triggered my asthma. I love her but I can't ask her to quit smoking at 87. Instead I'm using it as motivation to work faster!

     Beyond the mother situation and cabin work interrupting my work, I also have some kiln issues that have put a kink in my plans. I hope to get them sorted out in the next two weeks. In any case, all of this has diverted energy and organization, firing schedules, blog writing, shop listing, strategic planning, shows and so on. Time has flown by and nothing has gone as I had imagined it and yet, things still happened. I guess that's why I'm skeptical of resolutions and future plans for a whole year of time. Sure, I'd like to plan all sorts of things for Tea Horse Studio for 2016 and make lots of interesting art close to my heart and exhibit work but as much as I have ideas for a new kiln or two, expanding my current studio, expanding my clay lines, my galleries, attending outdoor shows in my new tent, introducing metal work back into my mix, experimenting with mixed materials in my artwork, getting back into some painting, all of it, the reality is it might not happen. One of the basic tenets of Buddhist philosophy that resonates with me is not becoming attached to things, ideas, expectations because when we become attached too dearly, we set ourselves up for suffering if things break or degrade (which is entirely possible/probable eventually) if things don't work out (which they might not), if things change (which they surely will). Instead of plans, I'll set intentions and after that, well, we'll see what happens. Right now, I'm going to enjoy this moment.