Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Sniffing glue.
This is my studio. This is my studio on crack. Oh, I'm just kidding. This is Kentucky. We don't do crack. Just meth. But seriously, I'm exploding the studio again. Moved from the gourd pins above to glazing for a firing that will take place, with any luck of mine, on the hottest day of the week because that's when you want to add copious amounts of heat, people. When it's 90-plus degrees and humid.

Pots for upcoming salt firing.
I am getting ready to help with a salt firing at EKU and will be adding some pots of mine to the kiln including the vase forms above (but not the sculpture behind it). Some of the posts will be more neolithic horse cups. Alas, they will not be done in time for the Richmond Pottery Festival that same weekend.

More pots, teapots, test tiles to glaze.
After this go-round of items, I have to get back on the sculpture work. I'd like to be producing more teapots and I will but if I don't get to some sculpture, I'll descend even further into peri-menopausal madness with no outlet and that's the kind of mix of circumstances that gets you on the news. Nothing wrong with functional work and I did promise myself to work on teapots for the next 2 years but sometimes functional work makes me want to throw it and smash it. Don't know why. I think it hearkens back to my punk days.

What's wrong with this work space? NO SCULPTURE YET!
Okay, I'm off. Today is a day of errand-running and food-eating. I have a lunch with clay people and plans for the salt firing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Brain in a Hammock

Zen kitty meditates on bed.
When I was younger, I viewed meditation and these eastern-type religions as "other," "freaky," even "dangerous," even though I identified myself as a staunch atheist and very anti-religion. Why dangerous? Why be threatened by something you reject? Strange. Still, I was always curious about meditation because it never seemed as if there was a good, clear answer as to what it was. So that made me more curious. What do you do when you meditate? After all, being raised Catholic, defining prayer was easy. You put your flat hands together in front of you, palms together, fingers pointed up, bow your head and recite some words. Catholicism had a whole list of prayers for every occasion. If you needed to specify it for someone or some thing, just adjust the first or last lines and voila! Customized god message!
     So was meditation the same thing but different? 'Well,' I was told, 'not really. It's not a request service, for one thing. Meditation was about emptying your mind.' Really?  How do you do that? And why? 'Well,' I was told, 'you sit quietly.' Yes, and... then what? 'Well, you just observe how erratic and noisy your mind is.' Yes, so what's the trick to emptying it? 'Well, there is none, really. You just watch and be still. And breathe.'
     Well, of course I'm gonna breathe! Talk about frustrating. This made no sense at all and yet people I admired and respected talked about it all the time. They "practiced." They felt better about themselves. They enjoyed it, but all their descriptions about it still made no sense to me. What was I missing? Education? A degree? Some frequent flyer miles? What did it take to suddenly "get it" about meditation? Did I have to get older to magically understand? 'No, just sit quietly and practice.' Yes, but what do I do? 'Well, nothing. But don't forget to breathe.'
     This is silly, I thought, but I did it anyway. And immediately noticed that my head was swimming with thoughts, some that made sense, some that referenced events earlier in the day, worries about family, work, friends, pets, the economy, a note to myself about some sneakers I needed to check the price on, don't forget to get some milk on the way home, what was the name of that song earlier today and then oh, yes! I loved that color of that flower I passed on the way home, reminds me of the time I was on the subway and that "Can Man" appeared. Why can't my mom and dad ever come down to visit me in the city? Where are we going for Thanksgiving this year anyway?
     And so on. Wow! And that was only in the first few seconds! Jeez, I thought to myself, I suck at this. How am I ever going to get my brain quiet? I immediately gave up. However, I stayed curious so I tried it again during my first attempted yoga classes and noticed I still sucked at it. They did a little chanting and I felt incredibly self-conscious and stupid and it only made the inner voice in my brain have something new to fret about when I was supposed to be "QUIET." Still, I kept at it, hoping I'd find some trick or thing I was supposed to be doing. And then an amazing thing happened on the way to my sitting, breathing, observing mind. Small moments would go by when I would suddenly feel like I had re-emerged into the thought stream. I realized that I had had a brief second of no discernable thought. Just for a millisecond. I wasn't aware of it so much as I was aware that I was thinking again so it must have happened just before I became aware I was thinking, right?!? I nearly freaked out. My god, I thought, if I could string a whole bunch of those moments together, I might just get this meditation thing! So I've kept at it ever since. I tried it at home, in yoga class and particularly on the subway rides to and from work when I lived in NYC. I figured if I could manage a few quiet moments of meditation during rush hour, meditation in a candle-lit zen temple would be a piece of cake.
     I wouldn't call my home in Kentucky a candle-lit zen temple but it suffices when I sit and meditate at home. I'm much better at it now. I can sit for an hour when I have the desire but mostly I stick to anywhere from ten to thirty minutes, whatever feels good at the moment. Some days my head is still filled with nonsense, other days I manage a deep blankness, moments when I feel like the ping pong balls in my brain settle down just briefly and the grey matter lies back in it's hammock with a hat over its awareness and rests. It's a small chance for the electronic synapse roller-coaster to reset itself and get ready for another day of thinking. Ah, peace...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

12 oz.

Stoneware Cup in Ivory and Blues, $22
Today... well, today seemed like one of those days where you need to climb Mt. Everest but you can't seem to get anywhere because you're running on a hamster wheel instead of a linear path. I have about six different projects going on in the studio and a few home projects on top of them. I'm trying to keep the juggling act going all day long and some days, like today, I wonder, "Have I accomplished anything?" Mind you, from experience I know that sometimes in the midst of what seems like utter chaos, things are moving forward even if you can't see it, measure it or sense it. Still, I do have this desire to imbibe in some red wine when I encounter days like this and my new stoneware cups always make me think of a big hearty cup of wine (Or mead. I've never had mead. Wonder what it's like?). Since these babies can hold approximately 12 ounce or more of a liquid, that's almost 2 glasses of wine! Anyway, I finally got all my pix of the stoneware cups taken, the measurements written down and my boilerplate for the style of cups saved to a text file for some cutting and pasting over the next few days so yay for me!
Stoneware Cup in Ivory and Brown, $22
     Finally got the last of my slab vases slipped, dried and ready for bisque. Some have the styling that I've done on my neolithic horse cups from earlier in the year. I'm trying to sneak in this bisque before I get back to glazing the rest of my teapots and creamer/sugar jar sets. There is a salt firing coming up at EKU and I'd like to get some of the additional cups, vases and pitchers ready for that firing. Unfortunately, I won't get my neolithic horse cups done before the Richmond Pottery Festival which is coming up on Sept. 10 and 11th but they will be ready for Christmas inventory. Included in the group are some new designs of Buddha on the cups. Hope they come out. I may work on some more for an upcoming anagama firing that is slated to happen, tentatively, for October or November. The colder the better.
     Did I mention I'm working on some new sculptures?
     So in the mean time, since I haven't got enough to do in clay, I'm also working on additional gourd pins and pendants with a few pendant experiments in porcelain. Making them keeps me entertained but here's the thing, I'm considering a redesign of my Etsy site that splits my clay work from my gourd work. I love working in both mediums but as an Etsy shop, I think they have different audiences. Question is: what do I call a new shop if I do this and how much extra work am I making for myself? Is this a recipe for a marketing nightmare or am I paving the way for a smoother ride in the future?
      Somewhere this will pay off but today, it just seemed like chaos. I will post some shots of the progress in the next few days, loaded kiln, boxes of pots to be glazed, pins in progress and what have you. And in the midst of this, the animals howl and call for attention and food. My poor little Ruby has a crack in her hoof with a likely abscess. It means daily treatment of standing her foot in a bucket of water and epsom salts for as long as we both can stand it and then some medicine on the funky part of her sole. Although today, I almost thought it looked like her abscess might be breaking out which would be awesome.
     Tonight, no wine because its too late in the evening (would be a terrible waste of a nice red wine this late in the day) but a nice cup of darjeeling suits me just fine... 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Healing time

The itching has abated and the bites are fading. I find that I prefer pain to itching. The worst days were the first two days after everything exploded on my body. Over time, I scratched until it started to sting which they say you shouldn't do but I felt better! Knocked me off my yoga routine and my studio time but I slowly got back into things by the end of the week. Now it's all about getting reorganized.
     In the mean time, this is a treasury of some funs stuff I found on Etsy:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Total Distraction

Rash? Or Chiggers? All I know is my husband and I went out this weekend to clear a tree that had been fallen for some time. This morning, I was on fire. All down my right side, the right side of my neck, around my right arm, across my belly but not at my belt line, across my chest, tiny bumps that seem to blister but they don't behave like poison ivy. We looked up poison sumac, poison oak, you name it. I still can't figure out what this is. I suspect a major infestation of chiggers but they're not like the ones I've gotten before. They also exhibited some weird white, pus-like stage at one point, like zits except for the itching.
     I do remember clearing some vines from this fallen tree and feeling this dust fall down my side into the sleeve of my shirt, on my head. I thought it was just old pine needles but who knows, maybe I hit nest of chiggers that I dumped down my shirt. I give up. Juts make it stop because if it is chiggers, from past experience, I'm going to be scratching well into October.
     Everything got washed including me, twice. The second showers was an endorphin rush. The hot water hitting all the bumps produced this overwhelming feeling... like, like... well, like the approach to a great orgasm but without the release. Complete anticipation of a great feeling but then... nothing. Awful. So I bathed myself in Calamine lotion and then, it burned. Better than itching, I think.
     It has produced an extreme sense of awareness as in 'I am completely aware of every bump that itches at any given time.' This is no substitute for the yoga I gave up this evening for the agony I'm in at the moment.  I can only hope I'm not swollen like a tick in the morning.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kiln works! Cone 6!

First crack of the lid this morning!
Well, that anxiety trip is over. (I should qualify that and wait until the electric bill arrives) My first glaze firing is done and it was successful. For the most part. I hit cone 6 but just. The glazes all fluxed but I think they could have done with a longer soak so I think next time, I'll adjust the cone in the slot to get a harder firing. The witness cones at top and bottom fired pretty evenly and cone 6 is over but just, just half way and cone 7 didn't even budge. I'd like to see cone 6 more committed and cone 7 just about tipping. But everything looks good. I did a whole bunch of different glazes, a bit like a kiln load of test tiles on functional work, just to try out ideas, color combos and re-acquaint myself with the glazes I have on hand.

Drinking cups ready to be listed!
     One thing I tried out this time were some underglazes in a range of colors just to get the feel of using them and seeing what my brush technique looks like. I also included some test tiles of slips with a clear overglaze for reference. Next up will be combos and eventually I think I'll settle on some ones that I enjoy. I did test a tile of slip from the ground in the horses pasture. I call it Sand Hill slip. Straight out of the ground, mixed with water and sieved, it comes out this deep brown semi-gloss. But strangely, when I applied a clear overglaze, the overglaze stripped the color out of the slip leaving almost an antique look. I think I may have to experiment with this a bit more!

Underglaze fun
     I played around with dotting and swirling the inside of the pots for fun. I think more for me than anything else.

Swirls and dots, ice cream and coffee!

     Tomorrow I'm out of the studio running some errands but by the evening, I'll be back working on glazing the sugar and creamer pots and starting on some tea pots. My latest sculpture is finished and drying for the kiln. Friday will be photo day and the Etsy listing will begin! It's about time!

Monday, August 8, 2011

What's your routine?

The Co-Dependent Seeker, (right foreground on stand) Dogwood Art Festival 2011, Knoxville, TN
I love variety but I also need structure. Even when I'm feeling spontaneous and about to burst from boredom, I still gravitate towards some kind of sameness within the madness. This year is my first year after school that I've dedicated myself to my work as a professional. What kind of routine am I developing so far?
     I've had only a couple of shows, the Dogwood Art Festival this past April in Knoxville, TN and this upcoming one in Stockton, CA at the LH Horton Gallery at San Joaquin Delta College. I've also gotten a small presence on Etsy and I'm getting ready to do my first glaze firing in my kiln plus a salt firing at EKU in a couple of weeks. After that, I'll be participating in the Richmond Pottery Festival in Richmond, KY again this year. Things are picking up slowly yet I still get frustrated by the pace of my progress. Should I be? I mean really much of this has been about getting used to the routine of being a full-time artist and artisan. Thinking about all the parts needed makes me dizzy and overwhelmed when I list the ones that come to me off the top of my head, inspiration, incubation, designing, making, glazing, firing, cutting, turning, gluing, constructing, finishing, cleaning, mixing, researching, connecting, blogging, tweeting, marketing, learning, bookkeeping, accounting, strategizing and finding time to do the household things in between all that and not feel neglectful, guilty and absent. So, in retrospect, so far, I'm realizing that I've been adding each piece this year as I get more comfortable with all of it and I slide into a routine of my own. That may leave me the opportunity next year to add more applications to shows, add more inventory, add more marketing, add more festivals and outlets for my work to be seen.

Upcoming show, Stockton, CA; Grounded Flight
I dunno. It still overwhelms me but I suppose that's why wine and coffee exist.
     Having said all that, I do try to add things into my daily routine that keep me feeling focused and energized. What are the kinds of things that people do, independent professionals, to keep them steady on the forward track?
     For me, my day starts early in the morning, feeding the animals. In many ways, the fact that they need food each morning and that they rely on me to give it to them keeps me disciplined and gets me out of bed. Otherwise, I can comfortable see having days where I negotiate with myself that I don't really need to get out of bed...not today. So chalk one up for cats, dogs and horses!

     After that, it's the oatmeal and double cappuccino hit for breakfast followed by computer time to check the news, correspond, blog, tweet, list new items, do bookkeeping, shipping and any other office work. I give myself about 2 hours between 7:15 to about 9:15 for all of that and then it's out to the studio to figure out what happens first out there.
     When I do get out to the studio (followed by some of my dogs and cats who love to come in and sleep while I work) the radio goes on first. Every once in a while I find it necessary to have quiet, nature quiet, to gather my energy and focus, but for the most part, I like to have something on in the background and my taste varies from day to day between classical, opera, Bollywood, blues, independent rock, and old soul and R&B. If I could find even more eclectic music from around the world like traditional Tibetan, Indonesian, Japanese, you name it, that would be terrific but for now, Aretha Franklin is helping things along.
     I'll work for hours until mid-day and lunch, go back to the house for food and maybe to fuss with the horses, check email, Etsy and so on, and then back out to the studio until my husband gets home. When he does, I usually quit for the day so I can spend some time with him. He works weird hours so I take what I can get. Dinner, relax and then in the evening, after my husband goes off to bed, three times a week, I'm doing yoga and taking time to meditate for a few minutes. Getting back into yoga has been such a boost to my discipline. I'm terrible when it comes to sticking to any kind of physical routine but for some reason, even if I'm not so sure I want to do yoga that evening, a few warm up poses and I find myself pushing and challenging myself and before I know it, another yoga hour has passed. By then, I'll either wrap up my day with final emails or Etsy work, maybe another short stint in the studio and then usually, a list of what I need to remember to do the next day.
     And then I do it all over again.
     Yup, looking back so far, I think I'm chugging right along. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...