Monday, June 27, 2011

First dog, Good dog!

Diva - Nov 1999—June 2011
First of all, thanks to everyone who contributed in money and/or kind words when Diva broke her leg. The leg healed fine but somewhere about two weeks ago, she developed a lump on the front of the shoulder of the broken leg that we thought, at first, was the bone calcifying. Turns out, it was cancer. Within the space of two weeks, the tumor became so enormous, Diva stopped walking on her leg completely. In the last three to four days, it got to the point where she could barely walk at all. In addition, all the other little doggie lumps on her that she's had for years, they, too, started to enlarge. So, this afternoon, we helped her leapfrog over the rest of the pain and misery and run to Doggie Heaven (and all the rest of the animals!).

Thanks to my vet, LW, for being so practical and honest about everything and helping us with this. Thanks also, to my friend, Robbin for letting Maggie and Pooch have their illicit fling nearly twelve years ago and produce the litter that included a brown puppy with long white evening gloves on her front legs. Out of the eight to ten puppies in that litter, Robbin encouraged me to take one home. "You need a dog," she told me. I had picked out a brown and white patched puppy but it was shy and avoided me. And where ever I walked in her barn, this one brown puppy with long white legs kept escaping her pen following me around the barn. I thought, "She's picking me, better go with mother nature's intuition." "Aw, you picked the prettiest one!" Robbin protested.  I offered to give her back but Robbin said no. So she came home with me and howled outside the bathroom window when I was taking a shower, lamenting our separation. She sang beautifully. She demanded attention. She became Diva.

First dog!
Diva was my very first dog. Growing up in an apartment north of NYC, Mom wouldn't let us have a dog so we always had cats. One after the other. Until Butch, the last one and she lasted 19 years. There's the story that my older siblings wanted a dog so badly that when Mom told them they'd be getting a special Christmas present in 1962, they were certain it was a puppy. Imagine their disappointment when I showed up.
Leader dog.
She's had twelve fun years on Sand Hill, chasing rabbits, and unfortunately, catching and eating them as well, along with groundhogs, possum and other small critters strategically deposited in the yard so we would not miss the latest bounty and gift. She would always sit proudly nearby, not touching it and making sure neither Maxx nor Sport touched it either. Then, she would let it rot, cook, dehydrate, you name it, and eventually ingest it, confirming that specialized dog food is a marketing ploy aimed at the owners and not the dogs. Diva enjoyed eating anything, no matter how putrid, and took anything from my hand, she trusted me so much, she was swallowing before the food even hit her mouth. She brought home many presents from neighbors' garbage and supplemented her meals with whatever trash can or dumpster she could get into. To the unknown neighbors/contributors, I apologize. But she sure enjoyed it and, I'm sure, thanked you again and again!

Happy dog!
Opposite dog.
Diva defined "dog" for me, being the first. I love Sport and Maxx, too, for lovable canine qualities, but Diva will always hold a special place in my heart because she was my first doggie love. 

Love for everyone!
I was hoping the leg break would leave her gimpy but at least, give her another year of sun and rolling around on her back. Not to be. The leg break definitely happened due to some trauma; the bruising around the ulna joint was testament to that, but did the cancer weaken a bone that otherwise would not have broken? Did the break, trauma, subsequent surgery and recovery kick-start and accelerate the cancer lurking in her body? Can't really say and ultimately, it doesn't matter.

One last slurp!
I've cried my eyes out this past week, knowing what was coming. As a pet owner, I feel total responsibility for their care and well-being. Because I could not stop the cancer's progression, the only thing I could do was help her transition more quickly and avoid the deterioration and progressing pain. In some ways, I guess I kept wishing she would just be stiff as a board when I woke up. I think I could have handled that better. Now we have buried treasure in our yard, $700 in titanium parts in a dog's leg. (Can we recycle this thing??) We also have years of doggie love and kisses and lots of memories. She has altered my experience of the world and that's the best part of all.

There is a poem that we used to send in a sympathy card to clients at the vet clinic where I used to work years ago, called "The Rainbow Bridge." Google it, I can't bear to post the link. My friend, Tammy, who worked with me, asked, "Have you ever read it? Read it," and handed it to me. I had to turn away and walk into the next room to finish reading the poem after two lines because I started bawling my eyes out. It gets so bad for me that even saying "The Rainbow Bridge" gets me choked up. It's such a sappy, happy fantasy of losing an animal friend and the hope that they'll be fine and you'll see them again but it works on every emotion I've got. So you'll have to find it on your own. I have decided, though, that, as an atheist with a general buddhist philosphy, I have no need for heaven or hell, god or gods. Having said that, if I was made to pick a fantasy belief system and a final destination when I die, I've decided I'm going across the Rainbow Bridge to Animal Heaven. Much more fun there.

That's all, folks!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's not that I don't love you...

Sport admiring flower...
... I do, really, I do. It's just that, well, bookkeeping needs to be done and it really isn't smart to put it off six months at a time. So I've banished myself to the office in the house in my least favorite place, in front of the computer, for the past three days, while it's hot and sweltering outside. That means I've delayed glazing and working on my sculptures (something else I've been putting off), but there comes a time when things MUST GET DONE. This has happened once before to my husband and me, letting things get away from us. The accounts for my business aren't really that complicated yet, but it's the home account with two people adding transactions and neither of us really being all that eager to do the bookkeeping that goes along with it, that has created this voluminous pile of paper that goes 'round and 'round in circles.
     So what that means is more delay in new work to show, new work to upload to my Etsy shop , new work to expand on. Sad time. I hate the grown-up part of life...

Sunday, June 19, 2011


     Dreary day in Irvine, today. My husband is napping on this Father's Day. I'm getting ready to call my own father back in New York and wish him a Happy Father's Day. I am grateful to still have him at 86 years old. He's a little repetitive now but still cute for an old man. A few years ago, he came out for a visit and we took a walk around the garden, I knew in my heart, it would be the last time I could have that kind of cognizant connection with him because I could tell, although he was there physically, albeit getting slower, mentally, he was drifting away. I looked at him at the edge of the sawdust pile with love in my heart and burst out crying, hugging him and just telling him that I loved him. I couldn't tell him any thing else that I was thinking. And just like Dad has always done, he held me and told me he loved me, too, nothing else. Unspoken communication. Father love. My husband does it, too, with his son who lives away from us. The situation with his son is sad because of the interference his ex-wife still causes but the bond between father and son is as strong as ever. Despite her best efforts to break that bond of love and supplant another in the role of "father," she has failed. I do worry about my stepson's inevitable resentment toward her for denying him childhood experiences with his own father but ultimately, that's her own doing and my only concern is that my stepson not let that interfere with his emotional well-being and yes, his ability to love his own mother. In the mean time, I wish for my stepson, the ability to pass on that same strong bond of love to his children and to those special people in his life in the future
     To my husband, I wish a fabulous nap in the other room until it's time to watch some golf! Time to call Dear Old Dad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beautiful Bisque!

First test load!
I think I just wet my pants. I finally fired my kiln for the first time. I'm such a wuss. Get a new used kiln with no instruction manual and spend weeks fretting that everything is not right and that somehow, you will screw it up and all your pots will explode, I say EXPLODE!  But alas, they didn't. My biggest problem? Not finding a manual or someone else with this kind of kiln. Cress makes similar newer models but oy vey, the instructions leave much to be desired. Horribly written.

So here's the deal for any old Cress kiln users with a KilnSitter [tm] that say "TurboFire" and have a thumbwheel and side dial on them, the dial on the side can be set to manual or one of several automatic firing schedules, "A" being the fastest firing with a fast ramp in speed; the letters following indicate slower firing speeds. Or you can set it to "Off/Manual" and fire it manually by using the thumbwheel on top to increase the power and ramp the heating. When you set the dial on the side to a letter, the thumbwheel moves automatically depending on the schedule you choose. When you set it to "Off/Manual," you move the thumbwheel yourself. I read someone's comment that these old Cress kilns with the thumbwheels act like digital programs on new kilns but it's an analog device.

So here's what I did with the first test bisque load. I put in a small cone 07 cone in the KilnSitter and the timer on the maximum hours since I knew I would be monitoring this firing closely. I set the thumbwheel to the "/ \" position and the dial on the side to "Off/Manual." I cracked the lid a couple of inches and unplugged the top peephole. Initially, I left the side dial on "Off/Manual" and moved the thumbwheel to "1" and let the kiln click on and off for about an hour, then realized I'd forgotten to engage the thumbwheel button. No problem as it wasn't on an automatic program anyway and I think that's what the button does, engage the thumbwheel to coordinate with the side dial setting. After about another half hour when I felt comfortable that the temp had reached over 212°F, I set the side dial to "E" my slowest setting, depressed the thumbwheel button, lowered the kiln top completely and let the kiln do it's thing for another hour. Once I reached some low color (can't remember how long), I set the side dial to "C," a middle setting and let the kiln ride until it reached temp. I probably could have set it to "A," it's fastest once it reached color for a bisque firing but since it was my first one with this kiln, I went for the middle of the road. The estimated time on the KilnSitter was about 6 hours. I plugged the peephole after it shut off, turned the thumbwheel back to the "/ \" position and let it sit until this morning.

Everything came out just fine. I did not have a witness cone set-up in the kiln but I may do that in the first glaze firing. I still have quite a bit of greenware left to bisque and will probably get to that first. The glaze firing will be a more anxious time for me but it would be anyway because glazing is always where my best laid plans break down. No doubt I will be ready for a cone 6 glaze firing when the temps outside get back into the humid 90°'s.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Cups ready to be bisqued...
Right now, I'm about to head out for a weekend with my husband to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. We've been together for 10 years but due to some delays in proceedings, we had to put off the wedding until 2005. So, in the mean time, here are some shots of the things I have worked on in the studio. I am working in whatever reclaim is around the studio, mostly porcelain so far, some donated clay from my old school, a brown, cone 10 stoneware in reduction and some purchased Standard 182 with grog stoneware clay with which to experiment. I am working on the horse cups again, plus some buddha cups and playing around with other functional ware. I do have one sculpture that I am making but it's been on hold so far. I am due for days of bisquing in the next week. Temps outside will be in the upper 80's to upper 90's. This will be spectacular. I am so looking forward to this, the weather and the electric bill.
Buddha head.
More horses
The weather has played a huge part in my schedule of late. We seem to have gone from cold and rainy to hot and dry in the space of a week. So much of rural life is dependent on the weather and the windows it provides, you have to take advantage of things while you can. So, now that it's hot and dry, much attention has been paid to plants, garden, fertilizing and H-A-Y. Hay, which must be dealt with, as an unwritten rule of nature, on the hottest, muggiest days summer can muster. And in handling hay, one must don gloves, long sleeves and long pants because otherwise, you'll cut yourself up, big time. So it makes for an incredibly uncomfortable experience that, at the same time, is a necessity. I believe there is a life lesson in all of it. Besides "Jesus, this sucks."
Curvy curves like billowing, crayon clouds.
Footed Mugs
When I work, I like to have large blocks of uninterrupted days so that I can let my ideas and motivation flow from one to the next. I absolutely detest appointments and errands that get in the way of that. I know it's just a part of life and it's necessary, but I always find it scatters my thoughts. You would think I'd get the hang of adulthood by now. You would be wrong. I think I like to recreate the happy times as a kid when I would get so absorbed in my artwork and exploration, everything else around me would melt away.

I see you!
Had lunch recently with my stepson. He is an awesome dude. Here is his eye. It a fabulous eye. All you get is an eye as he's a technically still a minor, plus I think he'd freak if I published a picture of him on the internet in public without telling him. Mind you, he's already on Facebook, tagged in photos, with a thousand or so "friends" but that's not the point. So for now, I give you his eye. He and his life story so far, have been an inspiration to me in my artwork. I doubt he knows that but if he reads this, he'll get the picture. Anyway, as a woman who has avoided having children, herself, having this stepson has been an amazing experience. I've learned a lot about myself, him, his father, his mother and also, I've uncovered many things about my relationship to my parents and ultimately, my relationship to me and how I developed, how I became me, as opposed to an extension of my parents. He's taught me about self -awareness as I watch him grapple with it and all the complexities that are, really, rather simple. In many ways, not being a mother has allowed me to observe more fully, without the emotional strings, without the uncut emotional umbilical cord that seems to be prevalent in mother-child relationships. Anyway, kudos to him and his continued journey through life. He's ALL RIGHT!

Succulents bloom!
And a hearty thanks to my friends for house-sitting while me and the husband are enjoying our time together!