Friday, June 29, 2007

Pottery festival date

Just tested the link for the pottery festival and the date hasn't been changed yet. It's Nov. 10, 2007. Hopefully this date change will happen soon.

I have some friends who have been blogging longer than me and they have really nice blog sites. You should check out Ron Philbeck's site at Ron does soda fired work and I have many of his pieces that I really enjoy using. He makes these cool covered boxes with animals on top. I have one that holds my sugar so I get to enjoy the smiling turtle and the bluebird perched on it's back every time I make hot tea.

Jen Mecca is another friend who makes beautiful whimisical work. She uses these great little swirls and squiggles of clay to finish off handles and feet and puts little sprigs of clay in the shape of leaves and flowers. Her spot is

Hope you go and visit both their sites and jump to their websites to view.

Pottery Festival details

The last few days have been non-clay days. I had to finish a grant report for the Carolina Pottery Festival. This is a really wonderful event that was formed seven years ago and happens annually on the second Saturday of November. You can see the bare details at We hope to get a snappier website up this year! It's one of the largest pottery only festivals in the Southeast. Over 90 potters...what a visual feast for pottery lovers.

Also moving things around in the studio to be more efficient and registering folks for classes. I did get some test tiles made and have ideas for the design of several more and made a large square platter of a dark red clay with white clay slip laid on top and bamboo branches carved back through. That's called sgraffito. Usually I just put a clear glaze on top of that but I want to try some extra color with this, so after it goes through the bisque firing, I'll apply underglazes (kind of like water color or tempera) but designed to withstand the high temperature firing. Then the clear glaze over that. I've got the way I want it to look in my mind. We'll see how it turns out.

And I did get another large braided basket done. I bought this huge roasting dish several years ago with the idea of using it for a form and it worked great. So I guess I did get a little clay work done.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Electricity, rain, kiln firings and farmer's markets

Well, today dawned bright and beautiful. I want to get a walk in this morning. Weather looks like electrical storms and rain will be the norm again this evening. I have been trying to get back into the groove of walking exercise after foot surgery in January. Old bones protest loudly sometimes, though. I have been watching the weather like a "chicken hawk" as my dad would say. With computerized kilns it is too risky to try and fire when there is a possiblity of storms.

I would like to get a glaze firing in before the weekend because I am testing a new white clay and I really need to see how my glaze colors will look on it before I commit more time to new work in this clay. It may be back to the drawing board if I don't like how everything looks when fired.

Being a potter is a most unusual craft. I can't imagine making my own oil colors as a painter, or weaving the canvas or cutting down the wood for a canvas frame to paint on. Yet many of my friends do just those types of things as regards to clay. I buy my clay already mixed, but there are lots of folks who are mixing or digging their clay. I do mix my own glazes and so have become very attached to the colors of my pots. That's why I am in this quest for the perfect white clay body--strong enough to make larger pots, white enough to be a wonderful background for my glazes, with a subtle depth so that the clay doesn't look flat or without life and not too dense so that it doesn't react badly in the kiln to temperature changes between the air and the kiln shelves. Lots of technical stuff to master in this craft.

New ventures I am working on this week, besides the clay quest, are gallery representation outside of my region and a trial run at a nice, small fresh market in Belmont this weekend (weather permitting of course). It sounds really interesting with fresh flowers, vegetables, baked goods and a few craftsmen. I also found some historical chalices that I would like to try and some tiles with a type of Arts and Crafts theme. That is probably enough new stuff to last through the end of June!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

technical stuff

This is a photo that my son took inside St. Louis Cathedaral. I love how the candles reflect in the darkness.
Tomorrow I go to Shelby to see how to update my website. I have been putting this off for a long time. I love making pots and firing the kiln, but trying to get new pictures up on the site is almost beyond me. Hopefully my webmaster will speak slowly and repeat often!

Also taking work to Buffalo Creek Gallery. Have had work there for just about 2 months.

Then I get to buzz back quickly and open up the gallery. Tomorrow is filing and organizing so the clay will call continuously and I will have to ignore it. I have so many things I want to try out now, so it will be difficult.

Have been working on communion sets this week. Tried to do some research at the library for images of historical chalices and patens but really couldn't find much. That was disappointing but did not stop me from leaving with an armful of books.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

New Orleans- the lost landscape of my youth

Last week I went home again. To New Orleans. I had visited there vicariously in my mind through old connections during Katrina and the media blitz afterwards. I had seen the aerial photographs in magazines and newspapers and the email images sent by classmates of Marion Abramson High School, moldering and dank and abandoned. I spent hours on the internet trying to find the view of my old house, amidst the others of New Orleans East that had been swallowed for weeks by a soup of Lake Pontchartrain overwash, sewage and dead animals.

Then I went home for real. We were going to celebrate a joyous occasion-the wedding of a nephew at St.Louis Cathedral. We drove along the Gulf Coast on a sunny afternoon and the irony began to hit me. They have cleared and cleaned the coast line pretty well. There are still concrete slabs and abandoned houses but many times you would have had to have seen the grand homes and businesses that used to line a now very empty area of the coast. The beaches LOOKED clean but my imagination brought to mind the tons of scrap metal, cars, garbage, house pieces and countless paraphenalia of modern life that was pulled back out to the hiding water by the retreat of the storm surge.

We drove through New Orleans East on the interstate and didn't stray off. The mall that was brand new in 1975 when I graduated, where I had my first exciting foray into food service at an old fashioned ice cream parlor restaurant, where we shopped for jeans and prom dresses and even deposited our straw hats full of tip change at the inside bank was a pile of rubble.

As we got close to the I-10 highrise I saw the hotel I waited tables at during summer break. It was boarded and abandoned, along with the rest of the area around it. Then I saw the view of the old neighborhoods where kids on bikes, teenagers in cars and people on the street used to be the norm. The norm now was silence and stillness. Where noise and movement, joy and strife and the normalcy of life used to be on display for all to see had been replaced by grimness, no people for miles, no life for street after street.

The French Quarter looked similar to what I remember from my teenage years--except for the people. There was hardly any noise, din, crowds, music. It was so quiet and subdued. The tourists who had never been there before probably thought it was quaint and comfortable and enjoyable. Nothing like the up-in-your-face city that used to be my New Orleans. I felt like we were walking in a ghost town. A forgotten ghost town. So many people had left that remembered what it was like, that it's past is disappearing. And the future seems hopeless for a return to those old days. It took hundreds of years to be what it was in the days before Katrina. Decades seem too short to imagine that the Big Easy will be a big or easy way of life again.

The night of the wedding the irony of the present was most physically evident to me. When we were riding on the high rise of the interstate again, the faint lights of neighborhoods were visible below us. In the darkness were great patches of unlit areas that should have been glowing with lights. Street lights, house lights, car lights, neon lights, spotlights from businesses, security lights, traffic lights, police lights. Darkness reigned instead.

After the celebrations, we started the long ride home in daylight, and decided to veer off the interstate into my old neighborhood. My son mentioned taking pictures but somehow I couldn't bear to do that. Not because they were so terrible but because the opposite of the old adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" was true. They would just be photographs of abandoned houses, cars, streets and lives. They would FEMA trailers and bad roads and the sign of hope in the few houses going up. Never would they tell the story of what it felt like to be back in the landscape of your youth and find it had disappearred. Only words could describe the story because the sight of the tragedy of what happened in New Orleans is only one of the ways we perceive and process mentally. The pictures could never portray the silences, the loss of motion, the lack of smells, the feel of the houses, asphalt, rusted cars. And the memories of laughter in Joe Brown park, sunning out on the Lakefront, riding the riverboat and dancing, the smell of the peach trees in my backyard, marching in the football field of Abramson and trying not to land on a red ant pile, pushing through the crowds on Bourbon street, waiting for a table for coffee and beignets, watching the water and waves of the lake from the levee behind my house, the glowing lights of flambeau carriers and the drumbeat of a high school bands at the parades in Chalmette all seem to be drifting away, hardly possible in the city of the present. They seem a dream in the lost landscape of my youth--New Orleans.