Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Sunday Visit and Thoughts about Juggling Your Ambitions

There are always pots waiting to be glazed.

Just a little more decorating to be done and then put them in the kiln.

It was Sunday afternoon and I try not to work on Sundays keeping one day for myself. But there I was again, working. My studio is still a bit crowded and so I decided to move my "open" sign outside wondering if that meant I really was open. "Whatever." I decided. " I am or I am not open. What does it matter? I'm here."
It used to be more significant being open or not. I used to have walk in traffic, lots of people I had never met before. Now, if someone finds me they are usually looking for me.
So I am glazing to some of my favorite music and the little door is open,as opposed to the garage door, and a car parks outside and two ladies get out, one about my age and a younger lady.
They are looking for me so I stopped glazing and talked with them. It turns out the younger lady is 27 and has been making pots for about 7-8 years and found me on the Internet and decided to see if I just happened to be there. Of course, I was.
We did the typical potter chit chat like" What cone do you fire to? How long have you been working? Where does your body hurt? Where did you go to school school?" And we compared the economics of the south east, she is from Radford, VA, close to where I used to live and Tulsa. Sounds like people are buying more there and the festivals are doing better. She was an interesting young woman.

And then we started talking about the "Guilt factor" of being a potter. She suggested this as another chapter of my book. Great idea.

Most people, I think have a sense of their job never being finished. I do believe it is especially true in pottery. Pottery and sculpture is such a labor intensive career that there is always a lot more to do. There are so many stages in the process. Simply waiting for something to dry enough to fire it and cool enough to take it out and glaze it and fire it again can drive a beginner crazy. And it is true as I have said before, when you are in college if you are in an area that requires a lot of reading or writing time, date a ceramics major. They won't have much party time and you can read and write all you want.

But what about the guilt? As a person making a living as a potter/sculptor and being self-employed it is difficult for many of us to give ourselves some time off. We feel guilty if we only work 4 hours in a day sometimes. If we worked for someone else, that would be fine and you would expect that every now and then as a perk. I always feel like when I am working and it is not my normal work hours I am getting ahead and those hours are more special. It is a little game we play with ourselves. It was all I could do to drag myself into work on Sunday because I wanted to stay home and nest in the house and yard. I made myself go work so I would be sure to have my commission finished on time this week. Once I got there I was fine and then was not sure I really wanted to come home.

When I used to have a studio in my garage at home and a big lovely 2 car garage attached to my house, I had to use the the screen door as the "gone to work" message to my brain. Don't step in there and clean the kitchen or poke around. You are at work on this side of the door. By the way, it was heated. I had a washer and dryer in my garage and I undid the dryer vent leading outside, attached a pantyhose filter to the end of the venting and made nice warm moist air in my studio whenever I needed it. Those were the days. Big space and heat!

When I was finishing grad school I was walking with a friend across a farmers field picking up cinnamon patties to fire with, commonly called cow manure. We were talking and I realized I had become a bit boring. I did not want to talk about anything but pottery and do pottery. I still remember the moment and I realized the importance of a balanced life. Don't forget to smell life's roses. It is not all about cow manure.

I will be thinking more about this chapter for my book and I appreciate the idea. How to make potters take a break, accomplish a lot and still have time for life. The words multi- task come into play but so does sanity. Severe multitasking is not the answer either. I think it is about not taking yourself too seriously and still staying motivated and balanced.

Do we work to hard because of a strong work ethic instilled as a child?
Do I work hard because I think I get paid by the hour even though I hardly ever pay myself?
Do I enjoy my work so much I can't stop because I like what I am doing?
Do I think I can get ahead financially if I work harder? That used to work.
Is it all the above?
Am I just avoiding unfinished jobs at home?
Is working too hard just a bad habit?
Is it really wrong to work too hard?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More Wedding Pottery in the Making

It is fun to make the pottery for this wedding and the bride, Monica, has a great idea. The pottery on the tables will be gifts for the wedding party etc. as well. I think she is planning to put dried flower arrangements in these pots. They should add a lovely earthy and very meaningful touch to her wedding. She has ordered 16 small vases and 6 larger ones with a personal message on the bottom and the date. This is going to be a lovely wedding in Austin and I am giving the bride a couple options for her larger vases. Originally we planned to remake the black and white pot in the picture twice this size but glazed like the shiny brown pots on the right. Yes the 23 ounce bottle is in there for a little more size perspective.

After several attempts to remake this pot and the play being very soft plastic, it kept wanting to collapse in the center. So I chose one of my favorite methods of hand building, building with slabs and coils and recreated a similar feel to the smaller thrown pot.

It will shrink about 10-12 percent

These pots will be the same lovely shiny brown inside and on the rim and the clay will be a chocolate brown and natural on the belly of the pot. The model pot was 1/2 the size and raku fired and hard to duplicate exactly because of the type of clay.

If the bride prefers I have 6 of these pots made for her which are smaller but closer too the shape.

There are the choices smaller and similar in shape or larger and a little different shape. Not all the pots are fired and glazed.

The bride wants 16 of these and more are firing as I write this blog. I made 19 so she will be able to pick and choose.
She has chosen her clay color and glazes as well. She wants a little variety and an earthy look. She is pleased with the vases and I hope she likes the larger hand built pots as well. We will know soon!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Did you hear what I said?" Book info...

I have been working on my book for about 10 years and I think it is time to finish it and try to get it published. It may be one of those projects I feel is never really finished.

Talking to a friend, he said.” So what is your book about? I started to laugh a little, being embarrassed and not wanting to put him through the agony of me trying to sum up about 45 unedited chapters. He knew what I meant immediately. He is an old friend and a retired preacher I knew in Knoxville when I taught middle school.

“So it is just like when people used to ask me on Tuesday what Sunday’s sermon would be about.”

It goes something like this in my own interpretation. There is the book I plan to write. There is the presentation you hear. There is what I actually write and the book you remember me writing. Sounds like a good explanation to me!

I have been writing this book off and on for about 10 years.

I started scribbling it on paper rapidly in outline form when I was at a conference with my husband. A conference offers me a nice clean quiet hotel room where I can think, with no interruptions. A first I could not write fast enough and I knew exactly what I wanted, an almost how to kind of pottery book. Next, I looked at my bookshelves stuffed with how to books and thought, “No, that is not quite what I want to write. There are way to many already. Writing another book about how to make a coil pot really is not necessary.”

I want to write a book about the essentials of living an artistic life and how to make that possible.

Books that have been meaningful to my life are, Gift from the Sea, it helped me through hard times, Like Water for Chocolate, because of the adventures and they way she added recipes between chapters, not playing by the rules, and Eat Pray Love, the search for meaning in a woman’s life, and the humor of Nora Ephron’s, Heartburn and I Feel Bad About My Neck, which remind me not to take myself too seriously.

I wish I could turn to my husband to help me edit these 45 or so chapters. He is a terrific writer but a bit to analytic for my style writing. My book is more about feelings and surviving as an artist and his is facts and history.

Maybe writing this “life” book is all about being a baby boomer in my 50’s. Another friend said, “Oh yes, my husband is in his 50’s so he is writing a book too.” I can’t let that pop my bubble or maybe it is true and just take it from there.

My most meaningful life book about pottery now is Centering, not about centering clay but about centering your life and Bernard Leach’s book the Potter’s Mark. I must confess, I have never made it entirely through either one. And, I hope to design my book in a way that if you don’t have time to read it all at once, you can pick out chapters to read individually that might be inspiring one at a time. And, I want chapters in between that offer fun projects and yes, food recipes as well.

I am not sure where this book belongs on the shelf. I talked to the editors of Ceramic’s Monthly and they are more into the how to books, in a tight economy. They have tried the more philosophical books and have not been able to sell them. And it may be that Clay Times would read and accept a chapter as an article, I am not sure. It is kind of biographical and probably a little more new age spiritual than I want to admit.

I have a friend who has been through the self publishing, print it as they buy it and with her help it might all fall into place given enough time to work on it.

But I do know I can only write when I am not home and can not feel obligated to go to the shop and make a living with my hands. I have written several chapters in the hotel room while my husband attends his academic conferences, about 20 chapters in hotel rooms in Hawaii, and several more chapters while staying with friends with great feed back on my ideas in Costa Rica. I still need more time and a little help with formatting etc on my computer.

Writing is as rewarding as making pottery and certainly does give my tired arms a well deserved rest. I have always loved teaching and helping my students of all age to find their way through art and life.

How about, “Finding your way, an adventure through the essentials of art and life?” or “Getting there, the essentials of life and clay.” Well, maybe. Just write and edit and put the icing on the cake later.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yum, Corn tortillas with fresh roasted corn and goat cheese.

So I try not to like to cook and really enjoy food. Can't help it, I guess. Found this recipe in a Cooking Lite Mag today while doing physical therapy for my arm. I made it a little better on the second round. Quite tasty and fun to make. PS I can never follow any recipe exactly, it is just not my nature. I can always make it a little better! This was part of a propel water advertisement and I had to read it three times to see where the water comes into play.
So, here it is, my version and theirs.
Goat Cheese and Roasted Corn Quesadillas

Ingredient shopping list:
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 ear, I bought 2 just in case)
2/3 cup (5 ounces) of goat cheese, softened ( I bought 4 oz because it was that for $3.79 or more for about $7.50 or so, I can find something else to add for the price difference.)
1/4 c green onions, (forget it, I have sweet white onion I can add with the corn)
1o TBS of bottled salsa verde, divided (never bought it in a bottle before but OK)
Cooking spray
8 (6 inch) corn tortillas (no problem, gottem)

Oh yes, make sure you already have some crystal light and vodka and crushed ice in a blue mug from Mexico (my addition, of course)

Prep with my own additions:
They say 20 min from start to finish, they must be on something. Cutting fresh corn on the cob with a sharp knife is not something I want to do so quickly!

First, make you drink and heat your skillet, calphalon if you have it. Drink a few swigs so you don't cook too lightly. Get out the butter too.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over med high heat. Add corn; saute 2 minutes or until browned. STOP. It stuck. Add garlic olive oil and cook longer. Never spray your nonstick cook wear with cooking spray. It sticks and makes your pans ugly and sticky. Loosen up, use oil and take another swig of CR and vodka.
Now are we cooking Medium instead of light?

Place corn in small bowl. ( What about the rest? Add it too the other the top of the other casserole in the oven.Should have only bought one ear like it said.)
Add goat cheese while wishing you lived in Santa Fe and could use fresh goat cheese and realize maybe you should have spent a few more dollars and bought the larger pkg.
Add goat cheese to corn and stir well until blended. That is not as easy as you think since the cheese is a bit cold and the corn is hot having just bought the ingredients spontaneously.
Divide the corn mixture among four tortillas, spread to within 1/4 inch of edge, eating corn that falls off quickly. You can't sprinkle green onions on top because you did not buy them. Be happy with onion you mixed with corn as you sauteed it.
Drizzle each with 1 1/2 tsp of salsa. Do vodka dance while you drizzle and wish husband was already home. Oh that was salsa on tortilla not salsa dance!
Top with remaining tortillas. Add a pat with your palm so they stick together. Pat pat pat.

Drink another swig of your refreshing vodka drink and count to make sure you have your tortillas in a row.

Heat pan over med-high heat. Check. Coat pan with cooking spray. Uncheck. Use butter and remember Julia Child said it is OK just don't overdo it and you can have it. Check. Place two quesadillas in pan and brown on each side for 1- 1/2 min. or until golden.
Remove from pan and put on plate and call husband to table for taste test.

I say don't cook the other two yet because there may be improvements to be made.

Tell husband he must split the remaining white wine from yesterday even if he doesn't want to. The crystal light was necessary for assisting the cooks creativity and to stay lose making a better meal. Check.

Tastes pretty good. Neuvo Okie Texie Mexie. Glad I did not go ahead and cook the remaining two. Add shredded cheese to inside of quesadilla to hold it together more and add a little more flavor. Add a little more butter while browning the quesadilla. Now that is good. A little bit more fattening but worth it. Some fresh cilantro would also be a good addition.

And make sure you have more that 20 minutes and enjoy. Yes, with my improvements, I would serve this to guests. But, there are none left so don't even think of taking it for lunch tomorrow with a bottle of propelled water. Besides, that is not a green idea. Those bottles are quite polluting. Take some filtered fresh water in your own reusable bottle. Thanks anyway for the recipe.

Wild Women Wear Purple Travel Company! My New Business!

Give me some purple paint and I can make this into a fun traveling school bus.

Can't get it out of my mind. I would love to start a new business called Wild Women Wear Purple Traveling Company. Well, I may have to shorten the name but...
So here is the plan or dream or whatever you want to call it.

Doesn't everybody just love traveling and having a good time? John and I are real "snarfers" and we snarf out every interesting place we can find and be there. We have a tendency to gravitate to bookstores, coffee shops and brewpubs and galleries where ever we go. I got the spirit and energy and he has the reporters nose and the map skills and never forgets any details.

I want a more than comfortable big van to start small for long trips in the US and I think a purple school bus would be nice for closer trips with more people. Everything funky luxury. We never run out of fun places to explore, wine, good cheese and dessert. Main course meals are optional.

John and I can take you to places you did not even know were interesting close by and extend trips from there. Tom and Susan in Costa Rica at VistaValVerde? $30-$40 hotels on the Big Island in Hawaii and free campgrounds on the Big Island and a bus that goes around the Island everyday! San Miguel de Allende in Mexico is fun and so is the Copper Canyon and Zacatecas (very few gringos in Zacatecas). And, who knows, I still want to go to Japan and found out a year or so ago I have a cousin there who owns a zoo in Tokyo. I want to go back to Italy, Greece and Spain and the Island of Majorca.

How about Santa Fe with the Hot Springs at Ojo Calliente, the magic dirt at the Cathedral outside Espanola. The blue hole in Santa Rosa.
How about bicycles at Big Bend National Park and the little, so called row boat, there that takes you to an isolated Mexican Village just outside the park on the other side of the Rio Grande?

And of course there are lots of fun day trips in OK that most people don't bother to check out like the Wichita Mtns. complete with Meer Burgers, and the panhandle of OK with the highest point, the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve for a picnic and see the bison if you are lucky and more. Art tours in OK, mom and pop restaurants and B&B's along route 66.

OK, it is just a pipe dream. I am thinking about it. Why would I want to take a group with me if I enjoy the freedom of going to these places so much? Cause it is fun and we know how to do it and get there. Could I stand trying to please people all the time. Keep 'em happy? Maybe that is where wine and chocolate come in handy. But I can't stand whiners. Screen the whiners out? Fill out a what if situation application?

I am thinking about this as a new business idea. A group of ladies started a Pink Limo Service in Austin Tx and John's sister rented it with the works for a day around Austin with the works for the whole family complete with a crown for his 80 year old mother. Pink is not my color but Purple will work.

Hmm Let me think about this new ideas. Gotta go make pottery for now.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

L&L Kiln on sale at Brookside Pottery Tulsa until Dec. 31st

Liberty Kiln 2 1/2 " brick, easy to use and easy to plug in, fits a dryer plug and usually sells for $1645, now $1345 till Dec. 31st. Get the specks from Great for schools and hobby potters.

L&L Kiln on sale at Brookside Pottery Tulsa until Dec. 31st

I use and sell the very best electric kilns on the market, L&L Kilns. Mine get heavy use and have had very little maintenance. A really important feature that makes all the difference in the world is that the elements are encased in hard brick so they don't fall out and dangle. That saves a lot of money. My studio has no heat and I figured I could use these kilns to heat my studio in the winter when I fire. Wrong. They are made to hold heat and they do a good job! So much for that idea. I love both my L&L kilns. Before I bought them,I figured I wanted to sell and buy Skutt kilns. They are good too but I feel L&L has surpassed them over the last 35 years. And Paragon is cheaper, but you get what you pay for. They are not as durable and economical as the L&L. These are great kilns! I can order one for you and have it drop shipped to your door. Just give me a call and I will help you through it! This is a very easy to use and easy to install version. I own the Easy Fire because it is bigger and the Jupiter as well. This is a great little kiln!

This kiln is on sale for $1345 until Christmas and the furniture is $200 plus shipping For more info call: Linda Coward, Brookside Pottery (918) 747-7574 or my cell at (918) 697-6364.

visit for more technical info about the Liberty Bell Kiln, great for schools and hobbists.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bird Stories

A simple bird sitting on the line outside my pottery shop.

This guy named Neller's rescued from a city drain has been scene in the yard with several birds of all species in his mouth looking proud. Never trust him!
Angel holding bird, made by me last year. Still available in a gallery in Sapulpa. About 29 " Tall

This was really fun to make. Bird Woman. $45

Book with wings. Located in the Contemprorary Museum of Art in Fort Worth. Enormous!

Parakeet for sale spotted in a pet shop in Costa Rica.

I love birds and tonight was a very good bird night. I was sitting at my potter's wheel throwing in the early evening and I felt like stopping and looking out the big garage door behind me to enjoy the evening sunset light. And there, on the channel 2 tower I saw what I thought might be a hawk. It shuffled and shook it's feathers and I knew it was true. I am certain it is the same bird I have been circled by in my studio all week. I usually look up only to see a trace of him going by or see his shadow. I think he has been checking me out.
He was majestic sitting on an available metal rod sticking out near the top of the tower. I put on Native American Flute music and thought he might come down to visit near the open garage door of my studio but he didn't. I offered him a glass of red wine but that was not his cup of tea. He just sat. Perhaps if I had played mouse music he would have come down.
There was a small mouse on of my students saw the other night who wanted to come in the door of my shop but changed his mind when he heard the students cackling in my shop and having a good time. Maybe the hawk knows about him. A nice little mouse sandwich for later.
Anyway, it was quite the moment, doors open in the shop, all alone, making pots, the hawk and the nearly full moon. That is when I am grateful to be an artist and have my own shop.

Bird stories. I have so many.

The shop owner where I worked in Austin Texas said she was working in an open studio in Austin with the windows wide open when a small bird came and perched on the window seal. She put her hand out toward the bird, with her index finger pointed out and it came and perched on her finger. Someones escaped rescued bird perhaps?

My Grandmother told me when she moved to Rising Sun Indiana she was walking down the sidewalk and splat, bird poo smacked her on the face. She was having a very difficult time with so many little children to raise and very little help from her spoon playing, bar hopping husband, and the poo was just a sign of the luck in that town after moving there. The Ohio river flooded and took all her possessions away floating them down the river in the 30's flood. Her name was written on the bottom everything she owned after that, just in case, I suppose.

My husband and his roommates, before we got married had parakeets. One died and the other was terribly angry and nasty after that. One night he had a little extra bird tonic, he got real friendly landing on every ones head etc. Amazing what a little tonic will do. Later he was eaten by the cat.

I visited a friend who was ill with cancer and I saw a dead hawk in the yard. Fearing the worst and old wives tales I did not want to be superstitious and think this meant death to my friend. It scared me. Later a medicine man, Native American, explained, many times an animal will give its life for the human to survive. My friend survived and thrives now. I had daydreams holding this friends hands flying above the trees of his property spinning and flying toward good health. OK, so now I have lost half my readers because of the lack of rational science in the writing. Try me again later.

I read a Barbra Kingsolver book and she described birds eating from the park rangers hat while she wore it. I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Barbara, a real treat thanks to a dear friend introducing us, and I asked her about that scene. I told her I knew she did not just make it up. She agreed. Her husband is a bird scientist and she told me how to make that happen. You get a lively bright hat and put it outside with birdseed on it. When the birds find it, you move it and bring it in. Repeat several times. After a while, try wearing it and sit still in the yard and they will probably come to it and eat out of the hat on your head. I have not tried it but I love the idea.

So, birds have it down and they have Mother Nature on their side. How many times have people tried to fly? What fools we made of ourselves. And birds, well the just take off and do it. We make up myths about flying too close to the sun. Fat chance that will really happen. OK, so we have hang gliders and parachutes. Big deal! Those are only forced temporary solutions. Otherwise somehow we have to use incredible amounts of fuel, build big metal machines and about pop every one's ears to get off the ground. Remember first we must be searched for tweezers, 4 oz liquids or more, etc in case someone doesn't want to plane to fly right.
Well. Birds just fly and do it right. No metal detectors needed there. No shoe removal or fees for baggage.
I still remember the poem from the first grade, something like:
Little Robin Redbreast,
Hopped upon my seal,
He asked me for a crumpet
and something something meal, oh well, almost remembered it.

and I think that I shall ever see a -----as lovely as a tree. Oh well. That is 2 strikes out.

The hawk was incredible sitting on the tower.
And I remember the owl surprising me on the line watching me as I left my shop one night recently. And for several years, until last year, I had a crow who would come to my back door and we would squawk at each other repeatedly. I don't see him anymore. I heard there was a disease killing them a couple years ago. Where did he go?

And my wonderful poet friend, Jeff Danial Marion, in Tennessee wrote a wonderful children's book called Hello Crow about a crow who stole shiny objects in his childhood. A beautiful book and a wonderful story.

And finally, when my son was about 5, I had him by the hand and we were heading quickly to the car for him to rush to school and me to rush to work. As usual, we were running on the edge of time and he was dragging his feet. He looked up at me and said, "Hey Mom, did you notice the birds on the line?" I stopped looked at the birds and realized we can learn a lot from our children. Slow down and enjoy the birds.

Tomorrow I will look for my friend the hawk again and try to think of more bird stories from years gone by.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Earthy Weddiing Pots for an Austin Tx Bride

Having lived and worked in a pottery shop in Austin Texas for 4 and a half years this is an especially fun special order. Weddings in Austin are fun and variation is appreciated. It is a sophisticated down home kind of place to be. The arts are strong there and it is a great place to be part of again.

The blue pot is the one Monica saw that she liked in my shop and we based her pots on variations of that pot, about that size. She ordered 16 variations of the tall vase and 6 variations of the pots pictured below.

She also like the black and white raku pot form and wants me to make 6 about twice that size.
A coil will have to be added to make the hole smaller and to keep it earthy.

A few of the 16 pots drying upside down before they are fired. I always make extras. So far I have 19.

This form loves to sink in because of the plasticity of this dark brown clay. I will re-support it tomorrow when it sets up a bit and narrow the hole.

Almost, not quite. But it will be altered and be just fine. This clay was a bit stiff and making my shoulder a bit gimpy not to mention my wrists. Still, it is fun to do.


Several of the finished forms below. More to come!

The soon to be bride lives and goes to school in Boston and will be married in Austin. She came to visit me in my studio and we picked out just what she wanted. It should be a lovely wedding and I believe we have similar taste which makes this special order more fun. She understands the beauty of one of a kind pieces and does not want everything to be the same. These will be lovely on her tables and will make great gifts for her wedding party and will last forever. They are thrown on a potter's wheel and are stoneware which will make them strong and can last forever. Each vase has its own personality and yet they work wonderfully as a group. I will post more as they come out of the kiln in the next week or so.