Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Magnolia

Sometimes in life, when the going gets tough, the best way to cope is through distraction. Like the magnolia tree outside my window that captivates and pulls me into the moment; the tree that keeps on giving – never static and always beautiful throughout the year especially when it flowers in early Spring. Back from a nice weekend away in Maryland, I noticed that in just 3 days, the magnolia had fully bloomed and started dropping its flowers. Usually they last at least 2-3 weeks but the erratic temperature and late spring frost damaged the buds. Chalk that up to global warming. There I said it. On my drive down to MD, I heard an excellent interview with Johann Hari on NPR who just wrote an article that subject for ‘The Nation’, “The Wrong Kind of Green’ . An engaging speaker, Johann takes mainstream environmental groups to task for selling out their principles, often in exchange for money from the worst polluters. And he doesn’t mince words advising us Prius driving green bag toting recyclers that we are better off directing our conservation energies by joining a Green activist group. One more worthy cause to add to my ‘to do list.’

Back to my magnolia – I did manage to salvage some flowers, put them in a vase and plaster cast a few firm ones as part of my ‘favorite garden plant’ memory series. Tomorrow I’ll cast some yellow forsythia and purple vinca flowers to complete the set of porcelain plates I’ve been working on. Oh wait, there's that lilac tree in my yard set to flower in June and the wisteria vines loaded with buds, and the wild violets popping out from the ground, and the dandelions... well they might be difficult to cast. It's been awhile since I've had my hands in clay and this magnolia slab plate was a good way to get reacquainted with the slab roller. The plaster mold is still slightly soft but I couldn't wait any longer. Making plates with ultra thin slabs of porcelain is always a challenge in the drying and firing process, so I’m trying Matt & Dave’s new Cone 6 porcelain clay which promises to defy the cracking and warping traits I loathe about porcelain. Will post the results after the bisque firing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

'Wilson' porcelain bowl

Inspired by everyday objects around my house, this is a cast of my son’s basketball made in porcelain and glazed in his favorite color. For fun and memories, I made molds of some of his discarded balls that were lying under bushes and in the woods in my backyard. Actually, this basketball is the template and inspiration for many of the bowls I've made. So, I've decided to name this series of porcelain bowls, "Wilson". Does anyone remember that from the movie 'Castaway' with Tom Hanks?

I'm heading to Maryland for Easter weekend and will be posting more on this series next week.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The ambidextrous brain

Oh, how I wish this was a blog post with a picture of new work in progress. Rather than my dog Riley relaxing near two ailing Macs splayed open on the floor. Prepped and ready for a few hours of clay making earlier this week; remnants of dried clay and glaze wiped from the workspace, clean tools, a bag of new porcelain ready to be used - all was right in the world. Until my trusty five year old Mac laptop which streamed hours of endless music from Pandora failed me. Fortunately, it wasn’t the hard drive, but the internal AC port (the thingy that powers and charges the laptop) that was shot. Ever since I dropped it at an airport last year, it’s been a dance of jiggling the power cord just so – to keep it powered.

It was clear; no music, no art. The day of reckoning had come to fix it for good. Shifting from right brain to left was not in the plans. Nor was the delicate task of performing microsurgery on a laptop. Especially one that requires an entire toolkit to remove a hundred or so miniature screws of varying sizes known to mankind. The logical solution was to perform a transplant: remove the hard drive and install in a spare (problematic but fixable) laptop. Normally, in situations like this I’ll advise my clients, mostly artists, to just buy a new laptop and be done with it. In the long run it will save everyone much time and expense to start fresh. But, personally I hate to spend extra money on stuff that can be fixed by my hands… besides it was a challenge. As it turned out, the spare had the wrong blood type (hard drive connector) and I’m left to put everything back together and figure out which screws fit in which holes. Maybe I’ll just transfer the data from a backup and be done with it. And listen to an audio book or NPR in the meantime. Recently a client asked me, “How do you manage to be creative and technical at the same time - and what do people do without someone like you to fix their computer problems?” The first part of question was easy; most artists are problem solvers requiring the analytical left brain. The second part of the question left me thinking what you blogging artists do when technology fails. I wonder…..

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Glazing time!

The pets have been fed....
My daughter had breakfast and my son is still sleeping (he is a teen after all)
A quiet Sunday and it's glazing time!
Choose a color palette from the test tiles
Gather the pots
Start sanding
Prepare to mix the glazes
lather, rinse, repeat

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seeking Inspiration

I’ve been hit by Spring Fever of the worst kind. The past few weeks I’ve been staring blankly at shelves full of bisque ware begging to be glazed. It could be the buds blossoming on my favorite magnolia tree or the crocuses pushing up through the last remnants of melted snow. Or a bit too much left brain technology problem solving + a few warm sunny days = a serious case of 'glazers' block. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with glazes but my painterly technique and a heavy reliance on test tiles is very time consuming. I am envious of all the prolific ceramic artists/production potters whose blogs display shelves upon shelves brimming with pots of all sizes. Somehow they magically end up on Etsy perfectly finished.

So I asked myself, what is a blocked artist/procrastinator to do? Seek out inspiration! Looking for fresh ideas, I attended almost back to back exhibits at the New York’s Annual Armory Art Show (international contemporary art) the first week of March and the Architectural Digest Annual Show (Designer/Artisan home trade show) last weekend. Both were located in football field size loft like spaces at Piers 92 & 94 on 12th Ave in New York. Each show was unique and packed full of creativity, enough to get me motivated and...start glazing.

The top picture is a collage of selected pics from the Design Show I attended with Joe. He doesn’t like me taking pictures of him so I managed to grab a behind snapshot of him viewing the delicately carved wooden torsos. The bottom set is from the Armory show that I attended with my artistic daughter, Audrey (shown taking a picture of us in an artwork of mirrors). I was fortunate to run into my artist friend, Marilyn Dintenfass (Babcock Gallery) presenting her new collection of beautiful color saturated abstract prints. Passing one of my favorite actresses, Glenn Close, appreciating the art was quite thrilling as well. Wish I had the nerve to tell her much I love her role in 'Damages'.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring can't come soon enough

As predicted, the torrential rains slammed the NYC metropolitan area last weekend (roughly the equivalent of 4 ft. of snowfall). I was relieved to see the final clumps of snow melting away the memory of the massive snowstorm that hit the East coast a few weeks back and took out the power of some 250K families in the Hudson Valley. ­ Three days of no power, water, and heat in freezing weather was an eternity. Had I been alone perhaps I’d have managed but with two sullen teenagers in a house without Internet/TV, conjured scenes from the 'Shining' with 'REDRUM' scrawled across the walls. The barely used backup generator in my backyard failed me because the mice took over and ate through the gas line. My lazy cats looked at me like 'what did we do wrong and where's my food BTW?' A much planned and anticipated weekend away at the Philadelphia Flower with Joe got cancelled as he drove up to my rescue. Wading through 2 ft. of snow, my kids and I shoveled feverishly but got nowhere. We finally gave in to the futility of it all, tossed aside our shovels, and fell flat on our backs laughing that exhausted uncontrollable giddy laugh. You had to be there. Or not. In the end, we all survived.

I did learn a few things:

  • Did you know that 5 gallons of snow equals 1/2 gallon of water when melted?
  • That snow makes your hair nice and shiny in a gummy kind of way?
  • You can crush coffee beans quite efficiently with a meat mallet
  • Prevent freezer food from thawing by packing in plastic storage containers under two feet of snow
  • Snow is the pefect backdrop for photographing pottery

Most importantly extended periods of no power can test your mental reserves and the only ones who will save this planet are blue collar workers because they know how to effortlessly handle a chain saw and get the job done without complaint...

And speaking of blue, that indescribable color inside a pile of shoveled snow is otherworldly. But I’m looking forward to the pale green color or newly formed leaf buds.

Spring can¹t come soon enough....

Friday, March 12, 2010


Sooo I figured if I waited until after St. Patrick’s Day, it would be exactly 3 whole months since I’ve updated my blog. My, how time flies when you’re busy. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading the many interesting pottery blogs in wonderment and slight guilt that I’ve neglected my writing. A few standout blogs come to mind: ‘The Traveling Potter’ Linda Starr’s musings about life and clay on the road in her RV, Heather Knight’s move to a co-op studio packing her lovely botanical and seashell inspired porcelain pieces, Kitty Shepherd’s stories of life in Spain and England while cranking out museum quality ceramic art, Whitney Smith’s lessons on the business of Art, and so many more potters writing about life as an artist and making really beautiful work. How do they balance their art making and blogging I wonder. On a personal level, so much has happened that I needed time to go offline, retrench, shift gears and prepare for some changes ahead; many of which I’ve been dragging my heels along the way as time marches on. There have been ups and there have been downs. But it has triggered a fast and furious creative spell pushing me forward in my clay making venture. Biding time as I prepare to move residence this summer, I decided to make the most of the situation, clean up my basement and convert it into a studio. Then I purchased about 300 lbs of Helios porcelain from Highwater Clays in North Carolina (which in itself is a story), then my very supportive beau, Joe, bought me a used portable AIM test kiln for experimenting with glazes.

Tired of bartering for the use of a kiln, I set out to purchase a larger used kiln but couldn’t find anything within a 100 mile radius through Craigslist and turned my efforts into researching the perfect digital kiln. I got a real sweet brand new 4.4 cubic feet L&L E28S-3 Easy fire kiln 22-3/8" Diameter by 18" high in January. Nervous about the expense, a potter friend told me, “you have to spend money to make money’. As luck would have it, an IT consulting gig covered the cost while Bailey’s Ceramics had special pricing on the kiln with free delivery. Meaning that FED EX dropped it off the bottom of my driveway the eve of a rainstorm and my kind electrician, Tony saved the day by towing all 500 lbs of it up a few hundred feet into my garage where he ultimately wired and installed it just right. Through trial and error and adjusting the thermocouples, it’s been working great as I’ve finally overcome the fear of firing my own kiln. I’m busy working on a few lines of functional ceramic art pottery and plan to set up an Etsy shop by the end of this month – if all goes well that is. As all potters know, there are disappointments and successes in the whole firing process and the pictures I’m posting are some of my favorites. With less than 100 lbs. of the creamy Helios left, I am itching to try out a 30 lb sample of 'The Coup' Cone 6 porcelain I ordered from Matt & Dave Clays which promises to be gentler and less temperamental than most. Told ya I've been busy. More pictures in the next post.

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