Catch Up

Summer is winding down on the pacific north west, the temperature is cooling, the rains are upon us. I have to confess that while I love the summer heat- and we did have record breaking heat this summer- the warm clear early mornings, and warm sultry nights, I do embrace the transition into Fall. The air becomes richer, especially the petrichor, the rich mineral, earthy smells that come after a rain. I love the cool breezes that coax the leaves from their branches, the changeable weather, the big dramatic clouds, the slanting afternoon light.

I was born in California where the season’s transitions went unheralded, traditional celebration dates like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter were indistinct, weather wise. The sky was blue, the air warm. Well, maybe a little cooler in December, but leaves stayed on the trees, and flowers continued to bloom. I remember going with my parents to buy our Christmas tree. It was always in the evening and lights were strung around the fenced concrete lot that was filled with fresh cut trees. Walking into it was like entering a forest, and the smell was absolute heaven. This is the only time I had actually smelled a tree, and it was intoxicating. When I moved with my family to Canada at age fifteen into rural Mill Bay on Vancouver Island I had no trouble adjusting from big city Huntington Beach to life in the woods. I fell in love with the new surroundings, the variety of flora and fauna, the deep lushness of green, the smell of soil, of sea and stone, and especially the changing of the seasons. I experienced my first actual Autumn, then a real winter with snow. Instead of buying a Christmas tree in a parking lot, I trudged through acres covered in snow with a boyfriend to cut the perfect tree down. I ice skated on a flooded field under a full moon and brilliant stars with my new schoolmates. It was off the charts exhilaration to me. But I digress.

I did thoroughly enjoy our heat wave this summer- brought back California days for me- and I set up a spot outside to work under the dappled shade of a sumac tree next to my studio door. I brought my pottery and underglazes out to a low wooden table, put on a straw hat, some great music and immersed into hours of painting mugs and bowls. Then I packed them all up and dropped them at my neighbour K’s studio for their first firing. Yesterday I went to her studio to help unload the four shelves my pieces took up in her kiln. While unloading, K said she is listing her house of twenty years and moving off the island in a couple of months. Funny thing is I had a premonition she might when I bought my new wheel. I remember thinking at the time how I’m making a commitment to ceramics by acquiring this new wheel and then thinking, this would be the time my potting neighbour moves away, taking her kiln with her. What would I do then? I’m in no position to purchase that piece of equipment at this time.

Fortunately there is a ceramic studio, just opened three years ago, downtown -across the water for me- that welcomes drop-in’s, and also work done from private home studios to be brought in and fired for a reasonable fee that includes the use of their glazes. So instead of packing up my pottery in the wheel barrow to take down the road to my neighbours kiln, I’ll be packing it in the wheel barrow and then down to my boat, and then across the water, then pack it up to the car to drive to the studio. Ah, such is the paradise of island life. I have already signed up for an under glazing workshop there in November, so I’ll get a better idea and more information then, but I think it can work out just fine.

Also this summer I celebrated a thirty year anniversary of married life with Bob. Our big date for this milestone was to check out the newly built Malahat Skywalk. It didn’t disappoint, the view was great, just that it’s a view we see every time we drive to and from Victoria from other lookouts on the Malahat. But it’s the construction of the tower that’s an architectural marvel. Next visit I will go down the slide. On the way back up island we stopped in Duncan for a pint and a plate of Calamari. Generally it was a relaxed and simple acknowledgment of years together that shaped into an easy perfect day for us.

My vegetable garden became a garden of volunteers this summer. I planted nine tomato starts, but had many, many other tomato plants spring up all over my garden, seeds from our compost we dug in to the soil in early spring. I decided to allow them to grow where they sprung, which was a crazy, chaotic way to grow a garden. They came up in the bean row, in with the chards and kale, the snow peas. They came up among the several squashes that also were volunteers. Namely pumpkins. The funny thing is I planted pumpkin last year and nothing came of them- this year four beauties, along with little golden pumpkins. The unexpected bonus volunteer that popped up this summer was an avocado. Two in fact! I spied a vaguely familiar stem with long leaves growing near the pumpkins. I dug down and bingo, a split avocado at the root. I have tried countless times with a seed, and the cup of water, and the toothpicks, to start an avocado in the kitchen window. Never successful. So I dug them out and put them in black pots to baby inside over the winter. Look at that two toned squash, beautiful !

Enjoy the seasonal change, get cozy, make cocoa. Cheers to you ~

Volunteers!
The tube slide goes from top to bottom

and Cheers to us !

In the Studio

I’ve had a productive week. Sixteen mugs, three small bowls, and a vase thrown on the wheel. I ran the risk of not getting handles attached to five of the white mugs and getting their bottoms trimmed up; I had left them to stiffen a day too long on the shelf, so it was a scramble in getting them trimmed, pulling handles and getting them on. As I was working I knew there would be cracks at the joins, and I really thought I’d missed the window, but with a good roughing and lots of slip I hoped for the best. Then I went on to work with red clay.

Sure enough the next day when I checked the white mugs they had indeed formed cracks where the handles joined the mug. I set to work with a paint brush, vinegar and a flat, wood tool and mended the fissures. I had to do this every day until all the pieces were completely dry. Why Vinegar? It moistens the semi dry clay without adding extra water to the clay because it quickly evaporates. So it gives me enough time to manipulate the softened clay to make minor mends.

Luckily I managed to save all the white mugs. The red clay pieces were carefully monitored as they set up. Then I spent a day trimming the bottoms and pulling handles and attaching them. But checking them the next day I spotted a few of them had small cracks, so out with the brush and vinegar.

I have been making a lot of mugs, trying to get them right. When I first started making them they came out of the kiln so small, not taking into account how much shrinkage happens. Then, when I think I have a good size mug and glaze them, I’m unhappy with the end product after the final firing. In the last firing for example the clear glaze applied over top of the underglaze, was too thick and caused some lumpy and cloudy areas in the final fire. So, trial and error, and practice, practice, practice.

I think I’m getting closer to the size I’ve been after, and the thinness. Tomorrow I’ll be under glazing. I’ve stumbled upon some designs I was quite happy with on my last batch and I’m excited to get to work. Fingers crossed this batch is the charm!

Then I made a mini-Apple Pie and Orange-Fennel Ice Cream, because- balance.

Cheers!

Rainy Day

Just back from Salmon Arm visiting my daughter, her husband and my two granddaughters, one of which we celebrated her third birthday.

The card I made for my granddaughter. She’s obsessed with dinosaurs. Knows many of their names, since the age of 2. Genius.

I managed to get the final glazing done on a batch of mugs and bowls before I left. Still working on getting the size of my mugs right, and to get that perfect “Lip” on the rim. I use underglazes to create my patterns and designs, the final glaze is a clear glaze on the bisque ware.

Here are the under-glazed pieces before I coated them in the final fire glaze:

Here is one of the mugs, bisque fired and ready for final fire glazing. The size is better, I’ve been more aware to make the mugs on the large size to compensate for shrinkage. Most of my past mugs have come out of the bisque fire rather teensy.

The same mug painted with the final clear glaze. Looks kinda crappy, but it will be clear and the images beneath will shine through when it comes out of the final fire.

Then there is this bowl. I was attempting my first ever large bowl when it suddenly collapsed. I was about to pull it off when I noticed it fell into a pleasing way. It had a shape. It could still be something. I thought, meh, fruit bowl?

So I left it on the wheel for a day to set up, and then removed it to a board to dry further so I could clean up the bottom. Then I painted a poppy image on it, and hope for the best! Below is the bisque fired piece.

I hadn’t played my guitar or had done any writing over the week I was away in Salmon Arm, a house with two toddlers is a BUSY house. Now I’m home, that’s deathly quiet, and back to my creative practices. On this stormy, rainy October day it was spent in the kitchen making tomato jam and figuring out what treats to make for the ghosts and goblins that will be coming by my door in a few days.

Cheers~

Studio Work and Back to School

I’ve been a little preoccupied over the last few weeks. One, I’ve been getting some work done in my studio. It took me a while to get myself down in to the basement- my studio’s location-because I had to overcome a ridiculous hang up; where will I put the things I make? Where will I store them? True, there isn’t a lot of space down there, yet presumptuous of me to worry about stuff I haven’t even made yet.

So I gave myself a pep talk: just get in there, make stuff, then consider the logistics.

 

I can self sabotage like a champ.

And I know I’m not alone in this. Why do we self sabotage ? Especially when it’s something we love to do, or have always wanted to do? Self Sabotage is slithery, sometimes – many times- I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I don’t know about you but I can always come up with a justification for not doing something.  I’m working on rectifying this, and recognizing when it’s happening is the first step.

There should be a Self Sabotage Anonymous Group.

 “Hello, my name is Debra and I am a self sabotager.”

“Hi Debra.”

The other preoccupation; I’ve enrolled in a Fiction Writing university class! It was hit and miss for a bit because I was on the waiting list. This happened mid January and I’ve got three weeks assignments in. There are reading assignments, then questions to answer in paragraph form. We submit our own short story piece every other week and give constructive critiques to each other. The instructor then does his final critique privately to each student at the end of each week.

Writing is a passion for me. I’ve been writing, privately, for many years, and have kept journals since the age of fourteen. Badly written pieces aside, I want to do this. These first few weeks have been illuminating, and I’m loving the process!

And let’s just add that I need this class.

The bonus is the class is conducted online, which is ultra convenient. If you don’t know, I live on a tiny gulf island and commute by boat. So when it’s a snowin’, blowin’, sleetin’ or a rainin’,  I. don’t. care. I’m snug at home.

Enrolling in the class was a positive step in taking something I imagine I can do to the next level. It is also a sly method to seek some outside validation. In other words I can write till my fingers fall off and think it’s pretty good. But, in fact, like Schrodinger’s cat, I’m a great writer- in my eyes – in my house.

Now I’ll see which state collapses when observed by a third party.

I continue doing Morning Pages. I believe they have been instrumental in guiding me to dig down and mine the good stuff I had buried over the years. Focused journalling, is what I call it. Three pages every single day for nearly five months now.

Happy Creating ~

 

Attachments

IMG_2624I have a blue cup that I drink my coffee from each morning. I will not use any other as long at it remains intact, which  even though a long vertical fissure emanating from a big chip on the rim could render its holding properties null and void, still the little mug remains defiant.

I bought the cup in Cowichan Bay what has to be 10 years ago from a woman potter whose studio was down near the water just off the main street. I can’t recall her name, she’s identified only by what I can guess is a letter “J”  scored into the clay bottom. I’ve been back since to see if she was still there when I had thoughts of replacing my blue cup when its crack grew longer, and thinking its life was over, but her studio is gone. I searched another potters wares while I was there, picking up and holding several cups but nothing felt quite like the one I had.

It’s not that I won’t use another cup at home, It’s just when I am at home my blue cup- nick named by my daughter as Old Chippy- is the one I will always prefer to use. Oddly too I will never drink tea from it. Only coffee. Tea can go into any cup. I don’t care.

Allow me wax poetic over Old Chippy-

It’s a mighty little mug. It is well proportioned and exhibits a lovely shape that could almost be called delicate, but not so much that a man would feel awkward drinking from it. I love this mug. No explicable reason can follow such an arcane statement. It could be the color, or the shape, its size that gives me just the right amount of coffee that I need. It’s not too big and it’s not too small, its rim the correct thinness that allows my lips to receive the perfect sip. It could be that the fingers of my right hand are an ideal match for its handle, that its lower contour fits comfortably nestled when it rests in my cupped left hand. It “cups” well, living up to its primary function.

I believe my cup has feelings. Weirdo. I feel that it would think I thought it ugly with its cracks and chips  if I were to begin using a new cup. But this would never be the case. My cups patina only enhances, the chips and crack a testament to duty and purpose and fortitude, proclaiming its brawn and determination to remain engaged in the task that it was made for until it absolutely can no longer.

There is courage displayed there in my cup, and something of The Velveteen Rabbit perhaps.

I am aware that this is an odd attachment but this awareness carries no shame. My cup is made of earthen clay, shaped by a person’s hand, infused with the potters intent and attention, fused by fire and air. I suppose I am remembering what I read in my Findhorn Cookbook given to me by a friend when I was 17, about that community that honoured the spirit not only in the growing things in their gardens, but also in the equipment, machines and tools that they used. So I don’t feel too out-of-place, or left field. Or weird.

 

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