This Week

I picked up my batch of pottery from K’s studio last week and, happy to say, they came out not too badly- for the novice I am at least. The mugs I was hoping would shine through did in fact. Finally the clear glaze over the under glazing worked! The Antique Blue and Pippen Green glazes I used on many pieces look all right. The Blue on some of them though took on an interesting bubbling kind of behaviour, which sort of looks intentional I suppose, ( but wasn’t). It works in its own particular way and I’ll leave it at that. Funny though, the Pippen Green, when I went to K’s to pick up she had met me in the yard. She said everything came out fine, but then she winced and said, the green came out an odd colour, maybe you’ll like it, but it looks like pea soup to me. When I saw the pieces I laughed and said, I do like it, in fact I love it ! We both shrugged. Beauty is absolutely in the eye of the beholder. I loaded up the bin with all my pieces and put it in the wheelbarrow, and headed the quarter mile home.

Common use of transport on Protection Island.

I lay everything out on my kitchen table for a good look and decide I’m getting a little closer to what I see in my mind translate into clay and glaze. A little closer, in that I don’t feel the discouragement I felt with previous firings. A friend/ neighbour asked if I will sell, she had bought two mugs from a previous firing, I tell her I don’t know yet, she says to keep her in the loop if I do. I’m tempted, because I feel a little pressure to refinance my material costs. And this batch of work looks all right. I give it some thought, but decide instead to work towards creating inventory, to stock pile. The bit of work I have now may be marketable to some but my work will progress over the following winter. There will be more choices, my studio will be full. This decision comes on the heels of our Island’s annual Art Walk the takes place at the end of November. The craft folks here open their doors to their Christmas shopping neighbours, and it’s always a great success. But. I’m not ready yet. Currently on my shelves are lots of less than mediocre pieces; trials and many errors, then I have this small batch of not too bad stuff. So, I’ll wait and work towards having more of the “pretty good” pieces to offer for sale.

Really happy with the mugs- my gosh I was working on those in the middle of summer- finally finished! And how about that little vase in Pippen Green? Pea soup, or do you see what I see, a lovely autumnal golden green? I have a chance to get one more firing in before K sells her house and moves her studio (and kiln!) to town, so I spent an afternoon in my studio throwing bowls with the intention of consistency. I chose out a couple of bowls from this recent firing that appealed to me size, shape wise and wanted to replicate them. To make a set of bowls. At my work table I weighed out a bunch of one pound balls of clay and began throwing. First one was pretty good, although not like the one I was wanting to replicate, but a better one, so I’d use that as my model for the rest of the set. I used my callipers and measured the width and depth of that “perfect” bowl, and, because the same amount of clay, should be easy to throw the rest the same. (insert maniacal laughter here).

So, I have nine distinct unto themselves bowls. Salving my thwarted intentions with the cry, I am not a machine! It IS hard to be consistent. (um, story of my life in fact) It was like, if I held my fingers differently while throwing one bowl to the next it mattered the outcome.

The other four bowls look nothing like these ~

Practice, practice, work, work.

*Apologies for the text on the photos not being aligned correctly when viewed on a phone device. Not sure how to correct that.

Cheers ~

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 !

Wheel Time

I made some small dishes this week with fitted lids. This was a first attempt at lids, and I have to say, I came pretty close to not bad. The dishes are sized to hold a small wheel of Brie cheese, so it was good practice making a series of pieces to a certain size. I threw the lids “off the hump” as potters say, which meant I could pull three lids from a one pound ball of clay. Below is one lid in the making. I slice that off, then begin another one from the remaining clay on the wheel. (I haven’t figured out how to make and post my images smaller, so please forgive me the massive photos!)

When it was time to trim the lids I had some difficulty in how to secure it to the wheel and centre it; because I had the knob to consider I couldn’t just flip it over and trim. I wound up making a “chuck” using a small cup. I padded the rim of the cup with a ring of clay, and then centred and secured the chuck on the wheel. Then I placed the lid upside down on top of the chuck, centred the lid, and then was able to trim it. That seemed to work, but it was somewhat finicky, and I thought there must be another way so I watched a you tube video on how to trim lids. This is so me. It would have been a good idea to do that first, because I saw there was an easier way to make/trim lids. And yet the lids, when finally done, do actually fit very well on their little pots, so I got off lucky this time. I’m wiser now when I make another set.

The white dish is a plastic Brie container I used for reference. The dish in the back right with the fluted edge was my way to salvage that particular lid. I had trimmed it too thin at the edges, and was about to scrap it, then thought to turn the edges in decorative way- saved!

What I’ve learned about how to make a lid is to throw it upside down, like a little dish, this way the inside rim is already done. It’s sliced off the wheel or hump and the top knob is made the next day by placing and centring the lid right side up on the wheel and with the surplus clay left when the lid/dish was removed is trimmed into the knob. Genius. No mucking about with a chuck. Wait, I don’t want to speak too soon, not until I actually try the other method, and see how they come out. That is my focus the next couple of days; Dish With Lid Project! These little dishes, when finished, are intended to be sent to my daughter in Sorrento. She has a business called The fridge Light, (on instagram @thefridgelight /www.thefridgelight.net) and she’s asked if I could make her little brie pots for her Charcuterie boxes, how could I refuse her and the practice I need?

My songwriting I think has taken a vacation. I have been working on a song off and on but nothing seems to be jelling, so I won’t push it. The previous ones I have written and posted came together each week- many times on the challenge’s cut off day- almost of their own accord. But I did spend a lot of time letting themes and lyrics stew in my mind over the challenge week, then would cram an entire day or two with the guitar in finding chords and a melody, then hours rewriting, well, you get the idea. I was like a college student cramming for finals with pin point focus. I loved/ love the process, but these days my energy is on other things I guess, so I’ll just go with it for now.

Today I received my second vaccination of Pfizer, and hoping I won’t wake tomorrow with a reaction of covid symptoms. Bob had none with his a few weeks ago, nor my son or daughter. But I know friends who were hit hard after their second, so fingers crossed.

Cheers~

This week

My regular postings have lagged, yes I know, busy days are whizzing by and the hours within them seem like mere minutes. I tell myself I will write and post in the evening, but by then I’m done and in bed by nine. Currently I’m nursing a knee injury that I hope won’t incapacitate me for too long, but it slowed me down enough to allow me to get my WP post done because I have to sit! Previous to injury I have been getting some work done on the wheel, but I’ve done no writing on any of my stories. Finding that quiet, reflective time has been elusive to me lately but I am consciously moving to reinstate a set block of time each morning for planting myself at my desk and committing three hours to the page as I was doing not so long ago. Songwriting I suppose has been filling the “writing” quotient the last three months, taking the place of my other writing, but even songwriting has dropped out over the last three weeks; again it’s finding that reflective stretch of time. I do however have a song I’ve started working on, began writing two days ago and expect to post on Sunday. (Hmmm, maybe knee nursing is just the thing, I can’t do anything else right now but sit and write, play guitar!)

Last week in the studio I decided to make some large bowls. I had previously made some small bowls; I hadn’t gotten my new wheel or throwing bats yet, and I had some challenges removing my little bowls from the wheel head, but still managed to without causing much damage. Now that I have my new wheel, and removable bats, I knew the first thing I wanted to try out was to see if I could make a larger bowl since I now wouldn’t have to sweat over trying to slide the finished piece off the wheel head, or have to leave the bowl on the wheel to set up until the following day before removing it, tying up my wheel for hours.

So I weighed out and wedged nine balls of clay ( I have 9 Bats) at three pounds each. I would test myself to see if I could actually make something larger than a mug or cereal bowl. I had never thrown anything on the wheel over one pound, and if I may indulge for a brief second, I am happy to say each large bowl came out rather good- well, a true professional potter could likely squeeze out even bigger bowls with three pounds of clay, but mine came out well proportioned, not too thick, not too thin. Usually in a throwing session I’ll have a couple of pieces that go awry and need to be tossed back out on the board. This session however, all nine bowls were brought straight to satisfying completion. I popped out the bat and bowl off the wheel head, set them aside on the table overnight and the following afternoon removed them from their bats easily without warping the bowls. So, I was kinda thrilled. And I am loving my new wheel.

Fresh big bowls still attached to their bats, soon they’ll be removed and bottoms trimmed. I placed my little one pound bowls beside my three pound bowls for comparison.

Next I thought I’d try marbling my red, and buff white clay after watching a youtube video on it. I combined the two clay bodies and wedged out six, one pound balls, and started throwing. Very soon I was having difficulties. I had been careful when wedging the clay because I was attempting to not over blend the clay too much and lose the distinct white/red marble, but it meant I still had air bubbles in my clay, so after I scraped the two failed pieces off the wheel (see, I told you!) and tossed them back on the table I re-wedged the remaining four balls, hoping there will still be enough marbling running through. Not the case. The clay did become more on the homogeneous end of the marbling spectrum after more wedging, and the ones that I scraped off the wheel, after re wedging them they was no marbling at all in them, just a pale shade of red by the time they became mugs. But there was some marbling clearly coming through on two of the mugs which made me happy.

Some marbling came through

The shape and size of the mugs came out nicely I think; I just finished putting the handles on a couple of days ago. I have been pulling handles for all the mugs I’ve been making, but this time I rolled out a slab of buff clay and cut strips for handles. Next step is bisque fire and glaze and I’m debating if I should use underglaze again because I’m concerned as to how they may turn out due to the issues I’ve been having with the final clear glaze with my previous pieces. I do have a new clear glaze to try out that comes premixed, which should eliminate any clouding, or opaqueness problems I’ve been having; but, I’m still hesitant to commit this last body of work to a possibility of it failing again, so maybe I’ll just do some test tiles instead! I do have “regular” glazes I could use too, which are predictable in their outcome, more or less.

Handles on

So, with a hobble and a hitch I’ll see about finishing that song next. Cheers to all ~

This Week

I picked up my mugs from K’s yesterday and, sigh, the clear glaze, again, didn’t quite do what it was supposed to do. I have to admit though that most of the mugs, although they didn’t come out as I had expected, are still acceptable. One in particular though- the photo top left, came out particularly heinous, but K said I could re-fire it to correct the “holes”. As you can see, the clear glaze fired whiteish and a little thick in places and clouded the detail I had painted, but on some of the pieces it also kind of “works” as part of the overall glaze effect. So, feeling somewhat ok about this batch of ceramics, (looking for perfection in imperfection!) But, we do have another clear glaze we are going to try out. It comes already mixed in a four quart container, and if that doesn’t work I will put aside underglazes for the time being until we get it figured out- I mean how hard can it be?! ( well, apparently‚Ķ.)

In the meantime I will revert to the usual glazes we normally see on pottery.

Got out for a sail yesterday, and although the winds were iffy to none (still indoctrinating Squilly -aka Sequoia- to sailing, so picking gentle weather days) we were entertained by a small pod of five Orcas for two hours! They were too far off for my iPhone camera, but close enough to see their details with the binoculars. There was a lot of full body breaching and tail lobs (slapping) the entire time! That much action is a rare occurrence to witness so maybe there were two happy groups meeting up and communicating, or they might have been hunting salmon, and communicating about the school of fish they found, who knows, but it was spectacular. After the first hour people heard the news of the pod and three Whale Watching boats showed up and then a few private power boats arrived to have look. All keeping a respectable distance from the pod.

The garden is growing, I have three support structures I need to build for the pole beans that are now four inches high- better get on that, like Jack and the beanstalk they grow fast from this point on. The pollinators are out in full force. This one bush in particular in my backyard, a Grevillea type- Canberra Gem, really attracts the bees, hummingbirds and butterfly’s and I managed to sneak a photo of this Western Tiger Swallowtail beauty.

Cheers!

This Week

I suppose the title should read The Last Two Weeks since I didn’t post last Thursday. As I had mentioned on my Sunday Songwriting post (that was posted a week late)- things got busy with putting the vegetable gardens in, errands into town to get stuff for the gardens etc. We also managed to get out for a sail one beautiful sunny day, our first of the season, and Squillie’s first sail ever. We picked a calm day with light winds so she wouldn’t feel threatened when the boat leaned when under sail. She did great! Nervous, but she held her composure like a champ for our four hour cruise in the Strait of Georgia

Sequoia’s first sail

I’ve been getting some writing done in the mornings. It’s funny that I am retired, my schedule is of my own making, and yet to lock myself down in the chair for three hours in the morning is harder than it sounds. Especially this time of year. I’d already been out for my two mile walk at six thirty, I make breakfast, wash up and now, I say to myself, sit down to work. But the sun is up and the day outside beckons me like a cheerleader with a bullhorn. So I think, maybe I should do the outside work first, then come in and write. And many times I do that, because I feel guilty for being in the house at my desk until noon when the day is gorgeous. That arrangement doesn’t help my writing, I know my best time for doing anything creative is at the start of the day, when my energy is winding up and I really need to honour that. By the afternoon I really lack any creative focus other than making dinner.

I spent three hours today putting the final clear glaze on my clay work- at last! That was a long wait for the first firing. I was excited to see my mugs, it’s been a couple of months, and I was concerned about how much they may have shrunk in the firing, as has been the case with my past pieces. When I saw them today I was really happy to see their size was just what I wanted, and really happy with my designs and underglaze colours. K usually has the clear glaze already mixed up, but not this time, so I made up a big bowl of clear glaze and set to work dipping the mugs. Now the wait for the final firing and keeping my fingers crossed the clear glaze doesn’t come out milky and too thick this time. This last firing phase has been the frustrating part for me, the time and effort spent in making the pieces, and then the end product is less than satisfactory. But here’s hoping for a stunning reveal this time!

This is how the pieces look before I coat them with clear glaze, which doesn’t look clear at all when its applied just white and chalky. Now they wait for the glaze firing – the final fire- and oh I hope they emerge like little jewels!

Cheers!

THis week

Completed under-glazing my mugs. Each one different; seems I can’t repeat myself. Well, I have a couple of fruit motifs, but It would certainly be a faster process if I had set pattern or motif for all my mugs. But no. Too boring. Every piece is pondered over, held, and stared at for many, many (ahem, many) minutes before I make a mark. But, I am still exploring the process too, so I want to try different things. I’m playing with rubbing off some of the colour, and using sgraffito, and loving the process. I use a limited palette; Red, Blue, Yellow, Black, white, and for fun, turquoise. I can mix pretty much all the colours I need with Primary colours, and it’s cost effective too.

Underglazes are similar to working with water colour or acrylics, and so versatile in expression. The only tricky part is the applied colours change somewhat in the final firing so I’m never positive how the end product will look. It’s a surprise when the kiln is opened. Fingers crossed the final firing comes out well, a lot of head scratching went into each piece!

In Process- Doing sgraffito exposes the red clay that I can use as a colour element
This red clay body was first covered in white underglaze, then the red. Sgraffito exposes the layers.

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!

A Little Space

I made a couple of purchases the other day for my basement studio. A six foot long plastic banquet table, an adjustable, portable table top drafting board, and an easel. Boom. The long table replaces a small drafting table I had picked up second hand a couple years back, but it wasn’t working for me, I needed more space to sprawl. The drafting board is compact and can be easily moved, used anywhere, or folded up and put away until needed. And the easel is an upright model, not a tripod, so takes up less floor space.

One side of my small studio works fine, the pottery side. I have my wheel well placed next to the wood stove, a long canvas covered work table with a full length shelf underneath that holds boxes of clay and other related material, and a short table with a small shelf for under glazes and brushes. And I have a tall shelf unit that holds all my clay work in process.

It was my studio’s “painting” side I was struggling with to get right. Like a bird fussing over its nest, I’ve prodded and pecked until it “felt” right, until it had flow. It has to work. Especially so since I do have to consider the size of my studio area. It’s small.

But I believe I’ve got the lay out just right now~

So I originally had this post close to sharing on January the 11th but, well life, I guess. So this is what I’ve been doing between then and now. I’ve settled into my studio- it feels good, got some pots thrown.

Freshly made, now waiting to trim and foot (clean up their bottoms) and apply handles to the mugs.

I’ve also spent some time in my kitchen, making French Macarons, meat pies, and carrot cakes. I’m enjoying once again making edible stuff. I moved away a bit from baking especially. Because I kept debating with myself the downside of the combination of sugar, and eggs, and butter and how expensive those ingredients are, and for what? To make me fat. (..ter). But since Christmas baking, I’ve reconnected with confection. Although maintaining a workable distance for the sake of weight. And I do have a captive neighbourhood who are more than happy to relieve me of the caloric burden, if I so choose. Oh, and Bob. He will oblige willingly. And he lives with me, so that’s handy.

I once had visions of having a bistro/bakery. It’s one of the main reasons why I trained as a chef and baker. That or an amazing boutique Bed and Breakfast. Fifteen rooms. Waterfront. Oh what I thought I could’ve done with that.

Mini 4″ Carrot Cake with candied carrots and caramelized walnuts.
Mini carrot cake. 2021

But, everything is in its place, as it should be. So, a little baking; a little cooking; a little clay work; a little painting; a little writing. I’ve also joined up for a fun project called The Sketch Book Project from the Brooklyn Art Library. They sent me a booklet filled with 32, 5 x7 white empty pages, and I am to send it back by August’s end full of whatever I have created within. Then it joins thousands of other little sketchbooks to be cataloged in their library. My niece is participating too- so we’ll inspire each other.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m boiling orange peels in simple syrup and they are ready to tray. Cheers ~

Sweet Little Days

Ok, I have found that I am not keeping my promise in making weekly posts. It’s not as though I’ve been unable to. The weeks seem to float by, like ‘sweet little days,’ to clip a lyric from John Prine; so unassuming that I’m caught unaware. And the next thing I know is- I haven’t posted anything.

In my last post I mentioned that I will be involved in the Nanowrimo (National November Writing Month) and that is precicley what I have been up to. The goal is to write about 1700 words a day to a total of 50,000 by the end of November. I started the month with a story I had already in progress, with 25,000 words already written. My goal is to have a written draft completed by the end of the month. The challenge too that I’m trying to overcome is the need to edit as I write. Having a stiff timeline like the Nanowrimo to work under pushes me to power through and not over think. To “fix it later.”

I compare it to the cooking competition show Chopped. The chefs are given a black box containing crazy mismatched ingredients and must create a delicious plate of food, within a sharply limited time frame, that is then put before the judging panel. In this situation, the chef cannot spend moments thinking; it’s Go- NOW!

Except I have thirty days to put something together, the chefs have twenty minutes.

Anyway, I’ve been tapping away on a historical creative non fiction, rather ambitious for a first novel; go big or go home and all that, and I’m making good strides. I think I am. That’s the thing with writing a book. You sequester away for days, months, years, as nearly a hermit, with no guarantee anything will come of it.

I’ve begun a little practice of waking early, before dawn, and heading out on a walk. It’s early enough that no one is out, and I feel like I have the island to myself. As the sky lightens I find images to photograph on my walk, so it becomes an Artist date ( The Artist’s Way ) and exercise at the same time, win-win!

I’m loving starting my day like that. When I get back home, some yoga, then breakfast, then feel I can sit down to write for a few hours- sometimes more than a few hours.

I’ve recently gotten my pottery out of the kiln, a big bin of mugs, some vases, and a couple of bowls, and I’m happy with how they came out. Almost. Still having issues with the clear glaze I apply over the underglaze; coming out on the opaque side rather than crystal clear on some of the pots. And my mugs could be slightly bigger- I’m surprised how much shrinkage happens in the bisque fire.

So that about catches me up. I can’t accept that I haven’t played any music for two months, so that is an issue in need of rectifying.

Cheers and stay well ~

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~

November blossom, Vancouver Island 2019

Spring Push

March is here and I’m happy about it! Time to start thinking about the veggie garden and other gardening activities, time for being out doors more than indoors, and soon time for swimming in the river and ocean.

Half of the month of February was taken up by a minor injury that required five stitches and two weeks to heal. I was pushing down on a large bag of my recycling bag to make room for yet a little more, and a can sliced into the fleshy part at the base of my right hand thumb. A nice fillet of palm.

I buy hardly any canned products, but that little can of evaporated milk got me. I clean all my recycling, because I’m an obedient citizen (insert sarcasm ), but it was still a can, and a deep slice. Off to the walk-in clinic and stitches, and a tetanus shot for good measure.

A note about the young resident doctor at the clinic. I chatted with him about where and how long he has trained, etc. He says UBC and ¬†eight years, then the residency. He put his rubber gloves on, got the tray of sewing gear ready, then he reached in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone- had a look, swiped it to read something, then slipped it back in his pocket. I said, “Would you mind changing your gloves.” (it wasn’t a question) which he promptly did; I think he realized his slip. I thought, Didn’t they teach you hygiene in med school? Cell phones are petri dishes!

The cut kept my right hand in limited use. I managed to get some more pottery under-glazed, but throwing on the wheel was out of the question, or hand building.

I got some writing done too, class work, but also concentrated on a non-fiction short story to submit for the CBC competition that ended yesterday, the 29th. I had changed my submission story three times. I started with a story from my childhood and a grade five bully. Wrote 2000 words on it, then thought who wants to read about an old woman’s little bullying ¬†episode from 1967?

So I started another story based on the life of a good friend of mine, someone I am close to and love like a brother, and who has overcome real hardship. 2000 words. Then thought- is this my story to tell? Then I started the third -and last story, because I was running out of time! I chose an event from a 1997 sailing trip from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas I was crew on. Some interesting things had happened on that voyage, so with one week left till deadline I wrote another 2000 word story and got it in last night.

Writing non-fiction is harder than writing fiction. More fun to create a world. Writing fiction is far more entertaining than trying to unearth anything interesting from my own mundane middle-aged life to write about!

I’ve submitted to this competition three other times in the past. Spoiler alert- I’ve never won, or was ever short listed. Never expected either, and still don’t. Right now I’m just working at getting comfortable with submitting! Of course my writing is garbage, that’s ok. Maybe it’ll improve, it’s why I’m taking a writing class. Each time I polish something for submission it’s good practice, working with a deadline, all that. ¬†I know I get better by increments. And that’s quite enough for the time being.

Happy March !

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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