Tuesday, April 15, 2014

She's a Fellow

Ya'll know I love this child, right? So bear with me, here comes some mom bragging! I also love this photo, from a trip we took to Topsail Island a few years ago with my art pals. What a great time we had. I love that smile on her face. That smile has been a fleeting thing these past three years!

This girl has had a long three years in film school. First year was adjusting to dorm life with a room mate and being home sick and all that comes with your first year of college. Truth be known, it was pretty rough for her dad and me too! Second year, she had a single dorm room, she was lonely, there were some crazy people showing up in her life and the teachers were tough. They were going with the weed out the weaklings program, and Wesley had to fight hard to survive in a very male dominated arena. She almost quit, applied for another school, didn't get in. The Universe knew where she belonged.

This year has probably been the hardest of all though. She lives in a house with two boys, and I do mean BOYS. That has been hard. She has had to learn to prepare her own meals, shop for groceries, manage house issues and deal with a really hard school program. School has been the hardest yet, it seems to me that she is writing a screenplay 24/7 and her professors picked her out to apply for everything that came up. She applied for a Sundance workshop, she was turned down, applied for a rather large scholarship, turned down, pitched her monk film last week at River Run Film Festival, didn't win. She made the first cut for teams competing for the Kenan Cirque de Soule program, but her team didn't make the final cut. A big year of rejections, but with the rejections came other opportunities and lessons learned and growth, so all was not wasted.

BUT! TODAY! She got a call. The faculty encouraged her to apply for the Kenan Fellowship, and she GOT IT!!!!   http://www.uncsa.edu/kenan/currentprojects12.htm

I am sooooo proud, can you tell?! So my baby girl will be going to Boston this summer to work with WGBH Boston public television and document the Cirkus program she didn't make the cut for.  She has lived in a world of journalism all her life, and if it made sense she would probably try for a job at a newspaper, but alas, the newspaper business is all but dead. Her dad has strongly advised against that path, knowing all to well where it is leading. He encourages her to look to the future of journalism whatever that may be, and I believe documentary journalism could very well be in her future. The skills she is getting at UNCSA are amazing and will serve her well whatever path she chooses. Money well spent on a college education, I would say!

CONGRATS WESLEY, We love you!!!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Naked Raku..... just jump right in

ME: "I have no idea what I'm doing...."
Gerry: "Aren't those the really nice big bowls you just made?"
ME: "Yep"
Gerry: "Are you crazy?"

There's nothing like throwing caution to the wind and just jumping right in. That's what I love about Raku. I have no expectations for results so I am never really disappointed like I am with cone 6 or cone 10 firings. How many times have I gone downstairs early in the morning after a ^6 or ^10 firing, eager to see the results, and found exploded kiln posts, overcooked pots, bubbles, pitting, crawling, fuck that.  With Raku, I just take what the kiln gods give me and sometimes it's a really nice gift.

Yesterday was a really beautiful day, perfect for a firing. So I experimented with naked raku for the first time. I had no idea how to do it. We tried it at Penland years ago when I took Steven Forbes deSoule's workshop, but it was a miserable failure. The morning after that firing, it was my turn to come in early to clean and prepare the studio for the day's class. Someone had cleaned their naked raku pots in the sink and left all of the broken shards everywhere, it was a mess. Most of the participants mixed the resist wrong and it wouldn't come off the pots. It didn't look like something I wanted to try, so I stayed away from it.

Recently, I found a new curiosity about it, and so I thought I would give it a try. I went online and got out my raku books and read all I could find about the process, I found several people that clearly don't know much more than me but write as if they are authorities, beware. It took some digging, but I found a few bits and pieces that I could put together for something that I thought would work for me. There are several different recipes for the clay slip and I went with the easiest one I could find and had the chemicals for. Why complicate things, right?

I think I might have a new obsession. Bowls and raku seem to fit with me right now, look for more to come. It seems to me that the thing I love most about pottery is the learning. I have just about bored myself to tears with these barns I have been making, I could do it in my sleep. But experimenting with raku glazes and techniques is endlessly intriguing, there are so many possibilities and results, and almost always a surprise.

I had some pretty good results considering I had no clue. Gerry even pitched in and helped me chip off the clay resist. It's a really cool process, laborious and the possibilities for loss great, not for the faint of heart, but I accept pottery loss easily since I have experienced it so often, it really doesn't bother me all that much anymore.

Here are some quick pics of the bowls I fired. They are a bit blurry, I shot them on the table by the window this morning, and as is the case every Monday since I don't know when, the sky is cloudy.
I'll try for better shots after coffee, but you get the idea. I really love the way these turned out. Very pleased indeed! Just wait till I figure it out and really know what I'm doing!

I was exhausted at the end of the day and Gerry wanted noodle soup. Not really feeling like cooking, but noodle soup sure sounded good, so a quick shower and a helper in the kitchen, and we had noodle soup after a successful day of naked raku.

Whoop! Happy week everyone!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Simple....... Bowl.

I'm obsessed with making bowls right now. Bowls are so satisfying to make. I love the inner curve, I love to carve a foot ring. I took me forever and ever to make a bowl. First my friend Barbara McKenzie taught me how to make one,then Susan Wells, then Deborah Harris taught me how, the Ronan Peterson, then Susan Filley. They all have a different technique, all different in their approach, and trying to put all the things together that I learned from each of them was difficult.

I once commented to a very gossipy woman in a community studio that after taking one of Susan Filley's classes on making bowls, I couldn't make a bowl to save my life. It was misinterpreted and that comment was shared with Susan as me saying Susan couldn't teach bowl making very well. I was mortified and contacted her immediately to explain what I meant. Susan Filley makes one of the most technically correct bowls I have ever seen. My other teachers made great bowls too, but their techniques were easier to reproduce. Susan was way beyond my skill level at the time, and try as I might, I could not do what she showed us.

I kept at it though, determined to make a bowl, and now my bowls have a little of each of the teachers I studied with in them. I remember bits and pieces from them as I make each bowl, and I can make a pretty fine bowl now. It's not a Susan Filley bowl, but it''l do.

No artist statement required here. No metaphorical meaning, no explanation of why I made this, what was in my subconscious. It's just a bowl...... pure and simple. Perhaps maybe one metaphor, the way I want my life right now.... simple, filled with good and honest things.

Thanks to my friend Trish Welsh for getting me back on track with bowls and raku. She had asked me to make a bowl for the food bank's empty bowl fundraiser, suggesting that since I didn't make functional ware, I could make a raku bowl for the auction. Well, now, that sounded perfect and gave me a little kick start I needed to get back to clay.

 Obligatory pet photos: Jasper, Wesley's beta fish that I am babysitting right now. Crazy fish!

Callie, glad to finally have naps in the sunshine.

Kiln is firing a bisque today, hope to raku some bowls next week! and Laura, if you are reading this, I am testing some glazes, we will raku together sooon!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Raku again.......

This is a photo of a wall in the convention center where Full Frame was held. I thought it would be good inspiration for carving clay. Can't you just see some nice white porcelain carved like this? Or some raku clay.....

I am feeling the raku bug bad these days. Must be the warmer weather and the longer days, just makes me want to be out there firing my kiln. I got out all of my old journals and went back through them, reading my notes from workshops and classes I have taken. On one page, I wrote so specifically on how to mix a glaze, even describing to myself what tare weight was, like I wasn't going to remember that! Made me laugh to see how far I have really come in this clay journey. So much learning, so much self teaching, so many mentors and teachers along the way.

The clay energy is flowing once again, it just took opening the studio door, opening a bag of clay and sitting at the wheel for awhile, feeling that oh so familiar rhythm. "Just get to work" as the saying goes....  So this week, I made a few bowls I like, some slab trays, and few pendants, and some tiles. Simple things to keep me interested and not irritated.

I got out the journals to review my raku recipes, I have them scribbled down everywhere in these pages. I do have my regular glazes very well organized, but there are lots of random notes too.  There are still a few I want to test, and for some reason, I have this interest in naked raku, something I have never really been attracted to. Funny how our tastes change. So I mixed up the slip and glaze and think I might give it a try. I think it would be fun one day to do a show with Gerry, his black and white photography and my black and white raku. Maybe when he retires we will start that journey.

I'm going to stay on this path for a little bit, explore, experiment and see what comes of it. Right now I have no interest in building little barns, they may come back one day, but if you have one, good for you, there won't be anymore for awhile. (I do owe a couple of people one, so I might make a limited number at least for them).  For now, it's all about the bowl......

Monday, April 7, 2014

Full Frame

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival was this weekend in Durham NC and Wesley's documentary film class received a grant for the students to attend as fellows. She had great access to the festival and spent the past four days watching documentaries. I went along on Sunday and saw two incredible films with her.

 Film kids are crazy and smart and interesting, and did I mention talented!

 This is Wesley's observation of her cup of coffee, see what I mean :)
I didn't see that in my cup....

We had such a great time together. Between films we had a coffee break and then a dinner break. We got the most amazing brick oven pizza a couple of blocks away. They had a row of aquariums along the entrance way and suspended above the aquariums there were trays of basil and grow lights. Aquaponics right there in the restaurant. It was very cool. Best pizza I have ever had!

We saw two films that were intense and heartbreaking and a cold zap of reality check. One was a documentary of one man's memories of Cambodia during the Pol Pot era, The Missing Picture. He used clay figures to animate his memories. Clay people out there, you would love these carvings, they were just enchanting. It really helped cushion the horror and painful story of the brutality to man during that regime.

The second film was a documentary of the rebels fighting for freedom in Syria. Well done, harrowing, and eye opening. Bassat Saroot is the main figure in the film, the leader of the rebels and once one of the best soccer goalies in the world, he was on his way to the Olympics but instead chose to fight for his country. He is still fighting..... Wesley also saw a doc about Prop 8, a film about vietnam vets that do reinactments (why?), and a few other interesting things. What a great opportunity.

The last film of the festival was the Syrian film we saw, Back to Homs. We rushed from the restaurant to get there in time and I had not bought a ticket. It was sort of complicated being with Wes and the free pass. The students had to wait in the last minute line, let the ticket buyers go in first and then see if there were available seats for them. I sort of disagree with this plan, but that's another topic. We bought two tickets for The Missing Picture just to make sure we both got in. Tickets for each film were $15, which is a chunk of change if you are going to see a few films. There are passes, but also expensive....
Wesley was stressing that I was going to have to spend another $15 and then maybe she wouldn't get in. I kept the faith and for some reason walking there from the restaurant, I knew that there would be a ticket for me somehow, I just had this feeling..... When we got to the theater, we were the first to arrive. The girl at the door announced that since I was the first there and without a ticket, she had a free ticket for me. Some man had left a ticket with her for someone that might need one...... Karma.

Here is the trailer for The Missing Picture. If you have a chance to see it, I think you will enjoy it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

hello, studio.........

Today the stars all lined up. I had absolutely nothing pressing to take care of, and I was able to walk out to my studio at 10am and there I stayed until 6pm!
It's been a year since I worked out here..... wtf?!

Just like riding a bike. I threw a few bowls, started out with three pounds and ended with 6 pounds and then my wrists and upper arms were screaming. I didn't realize what good shape my arms were in when I was throwing all the time. Gotta get back in shape! I stuck with the simplest thing I know how to throw, just to warm up and remind myself what this clay thing is all about. That way I didn't get pissed off immediately and I enjoyed the day, getting to know my studio all over again. It's been awhile....


More stuff.......

Books from thrift stores and second hand book stores

and a dirty wheel, what could be better?!

I agreed to donate a bowl to my friend Trish, a great potter here in Chatham County and a hard worker for the local food bank. She had asked for a donation for the Empty Bowls fundraiser and I told her I didn't do functional pottery, then she suggested a raku bowl for the auction. Well, heck, I can do that! So hopefully one of these bowls will go to the C.O.R.A. auction, shhhh, don't tell them though, if they don't know, they will survive the firing and be beautiful. If they find out, they will kill themselves!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Another photojournalist gone

We woke up this morning to an email on Gerry's iphone that his colleague, AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus had been killed in Afghanistan. Gerry worked with her at the Vancouver Olympics and was quite honored to be included in that staff of really amazing and award winning photojournalists. I'm sure if you listen to NPR you have heard the news today about her and reporter Kathy Gannon. Our prayers are with all their families today...........

This is the fifth photographer that Gerry has worked with in the past ten years that has died recently, only one of them dying in retirement and enjoying a good life after the news business. The others died while doing what they loved best, shooting great photographs. It is a hard business to stay alive in!

It was with great sadness that I read this story about Anja from the Washington Post, well worth a visit to see her amazing photography. This was a horrible and senseless killing. Why have so many lost all sense of respect for human life?