Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Be the Penguin

I am this penguin right now. Disoriented, wanting to escape from everything around me. Just head for the mountains and never look back......
One difference, there are some folks I would like to take along for the journey:)

My blog friend Suzan had a great post today at Oldgreymare, I think we all need to jump in the pool with her. I would imagine everyone that reads here can probably agree with her feelings. What are we going to do, this place is a mess!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Southern Girl

 There is a gentle rain falling this morning, it's warm and muggy and there is a rumble of thunder in the distance. I can hear the rooster crowing next door, my mantle clock just chimed eight times. I'm having a pot of warm tea........ and I'm missing my girl.....

I walked down the hallway this morning and Wesley's bed is made, there are no clothes on the floor, no books piled high on her desk, no towels hanging on the door. She is probably still sound asleep in her new house in Winston Salem.

There is no emptiness like the emptiness of a mom missing her child. Our summer was a mess this year, with Gerry's surgery, parents illnesses, no vacation, looking for a new place for Wesley to live at school, and now her going back early for her fellowship program. She leaves for Boston in two weeks, starts the fellowship this Wednesday in Winston Salem, and then begins her final year of film school when she gets back from Boston.

Wesley's southern heritage is starting to influence her writing and her interests. She has recently found the works of Flannery O'Connor and is fascinated with that era and that southern culture. My friend/mentor Barbara McKenzie wrote a book about Flannery O'Connor during her doctorate years at the University of Georgia and she kindly invited us over last week to look at the photos she took during that time.

This is a rare first edition of Barbara's book, I found one like it on ebay for $200, yikes!

The photos are amazing and inspiring and I am so grateful that I have friends with such talent and generosity. We had a great time visiting and hearing about Barbara's days in Georgia in the 1960's. What a time in history that was!

Wesley has to write an adaptation screenplay this year and she chose a short story by Flannery O'Connor for her project. Flannery wrote about the south she knew, the people and places around her, and I have been encouraging Wesley to do the same. The south is so rich and crazy and interesting, how could you go wrong writing about it?! Gerry takes her with him to cover Nascar races whenever he can and she has another idea for a racing documentary. It's exciting to see her so full of ideas and motivation. I am looking forward to seeing how the south comes to life for her after these long four years of film school!

Now..... for me to get on with things. I have time now to make soap and pottery and jewelry, time to sew or knit or weave. Got to fill up that empty space. Glad I have plenty of stuff to keep me busy :)
peace ya'll

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It ain't cheap, it ain't easy

I remember the first time I saw someone throw a cylinder on a potter's wheel. I was smitten, right then and there. I was at the state fair in Raleigh in the yesteryear pavilion. That was 10 years ago. I took a class the next week with Syd Luck at the community parks and rec center and I didn't look up from clay until this past year.

10 years of classes, workshops, seminars, working as a studio assistant to pay my way, teaching classes  so I could have a kiln to use, using recycled clay because I couldn't afford to buy clay just for testing and learning. Working out on my deck and in my kitchen and in the upstairs bedroom in all sorts of conditions. Saving and saving and writing grants to get a kiln and a wheel and a studio..... if there is a hard way to be a potter, I did it. I watched doctors and business executives come into the community studio and spend whatever they wanted on classes and supplies and never took any of it seriously, it was just a hobby, while I was trying so hard to make it a way to earn a living as an artist. Bleh....... it took all my love for clay away. The marketing and the selling and the paying for show booths with what little money I had from selling my work, the pushing and shoving to try and get noticed by galleries and magazines and other potters who I respected. The endless testing and learning and failure and then some success that kept me coming back like a crack head. I wish I had just kept it a hobby.

And so let me see now, where in the fuck did all that get me?....... I still have no money, I haven't made anything I care about in over a year, except a few bowls that were nice. I'm published in a few books... I once had a woman that read the article about me in the Raleigh News and Observer say to me, "you are going to be really big one of these days".  What was that? say again? big.... now just how exactly does that happen? How does one get "big"?

I made some really nice work, made some people happy, shed some tears and laughter with those that loved my work, that was the best part of all of it for me. But I got off the train for awhile, I needed a break, not sure if I am ever gonna get back on it. Something broke and I really don't know what it was or what to do about it, not sure if I even care......

Which leads me to these photos of soap. Of course I need something to occupy the greedy creative that lives in my head. "Give me something to do" it screams at me.  Can't weave, can't make jewelry, Wesley's belongings are occupying that room right now and Wesley occupies my heart and my time right now. But she will be gone next week and there will be plenty of time for doing, for making.

When I took the soap making workshop back in June, it was fun, it was easy and I needed some ME time. The instructor brought all the tools and all the ingredients, pointed here, pointed there, I did as she said, and I made soap. Doing it on your own is a whole other matter. First there are the pages and pages of vendors online to weed through, deciding on ingredients and recipes and properties for healing or moisturizing, or whatever.

There is a lot. It's like clay. Do you want earthenware, cone 6, wood fired, raku, slip, oxides, scraffito, terra sig..... it's the same with soap. It's endless, the choices to be made, the direction to go. And just like with pottery: explosions in the kiln, glazes running, crawling, peeling, kilns over firing, etc, etc. , soap can go wrong. It can seize, it takes forever to cure, colors can change, lye can burn (bad), scents fade too quickly, things happen and you have throw aways. It's all hard work!

And there lies the secret...... work hard. When I think about the potters that are at it every day and making the craft of pottery their life's work, they work hard. Gerry has been a photojournalist for 30 years, he started out as a stringer for a local paper, and he worked hard to get the job he has today. He is in a very elite group of photographers, and they all work their asses off to stay there. The soaps I like are made by crafts people who..... work hard. There is no easy way to create quality work. You spend way more money than you should have to and you put in way more hours than any sane person would, because you love the craft you make and you are proud to create a quality product.

I want to explore this soap making thing, I have a vested interest due to the skin cancer that is flying through my family right now and the worries I have over the general state of our chemical obsessed planet. But it is not cheap and it ain't easy if you want to do it right. I sucked it up and bought the things I needed to experiment with a few batches, flew through all of it in no time and I have very little to show for it, except more experience and understanding of soap. I screwed up several batches due to lack of knowledge and carelessness, expensive lessons learned. I am no where near close to making a batch I would call a true success. I spent an entire day testing essential oils, trying to come up with fragrance I like, and I am close to considering just making unscented soap. Those folks who are creating wonderful smelling soaps have got something going on that I am no where near close to understanding. This scent thing is mind boggling! Where to even begin?! At the end of the day, I was dizzy and nauseous and really sick of aroma, I just had to go outside and breathe some fresh air.

I have filled a journal full of notes and as I go back to the beginning and read over them, they start to look like my first clay journals. Full of ideas and recipes and color inspirations, but still no clue about how to make a really good product, ugh the baby steps of craft. And then I remember those early days of pottery making. Already thinking of selling my work before I could even make a decent mug handle.  I find myself thinking of selling soap, what would my booth look like, how will I price items, what will my packaging be like, where will I sell it. Never mind it's been a month and I have yet to make a bar I would even consider selling! I am giving some away though. Testers..... you gotta dip those toes in the water if you are a maker of craft. But none of this is for the faint of heart or the empty of cash. The essential oils alone are outrageously expensive and cost prohibitive to a great extent. I am very conservative with the testing and experimenting, which makes it difficult to get a really good idea of what works and what doesn't.

So, I go back to those days this past February in my mind. Quiet days spent with our monks while the snow fell outside and the fire crackled inside. I slow down, I take time to think about how lucky I am and how so many blessings fill my life, and I spend time with my family and my friends and my chickens. Slow...... is how I want my life right now. I feel no rush to meet a deadline or get product out the door. I would like to make something wonderful to sell, I would actually like to earn a living creating craft, but it will take time and hard work and there is time for that soon, for now I count the next four days until Wesley moves out again and the house is still without her, and maybe I will cry for a day, missing her warmth...... and then I'll go make some soap or maybe even wedge some clay and throw some bowls, Who knows what crazy thing I might attempt in the coming weeks! I really should just go get a job somewhere.... if I just had a skill or two left from the old days, ha!

Just us chickens

I pulled this photo from my instagram, yikes! It got squished up, looks better over there :)

Creativity is sitting in the backseat these days as I ride this summer wave of July. Mornings find us watching/listening to the Tour de France, which seems to be a bit lack luster this year. It is our tradition to hibernate in the cool dark house during the heat of the summer and watch the tour. We are streaming it this year since we gave up cable TV. That way Gerry can pick it up whenever he isn't working. Is there anything a computer can't do these days? 

We go out in the yard in the evenings when it gets a little cooler and let the chickens play in the yard. It's way more interesting than trying to find something on TV. Wesley and I have been searching thrift stores for furnishings for her house. Not a lot of luck, the thrift stores are thriving these days, and you have to move quickly to get the good stuff.  I literally turned my back yesterday after spotting a really cute bedside table, and it got picked up by someone else. I love the thrill of the hunt for the really good stuff though, it's way more fun than the mall! 

My summer has been a blur of family necessaries. Gerry's surgery, his mom and dad and their issues, finding Wesley a new house. I managed to squeeze in a moment or two in all of that for myself, but it sure has not been about me this summer, everyone but....

I dreamed about holding a sleeping baby three nights in a row, and googled dream interpretation out of curiousity. According to "those that know about these things":

- To dream sleeping baby/s: symbolizes great development of the future; tomorrow will be even better than today; you are in the right direction; there isn’t any need to change something because prospect of success or happiness in the future is developing well.

That's sounds good doesn't it! Glad it doesn't mean I am about to become a grandmother!  Five more days with Wesley, then it's back to school for her. Our very last back to school summer.... sigh.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fourth Year

Wesley and I spent the day in Winston Salem, house hunting, enjoying our last two weeks together before her internship with WGBH Boston begins. How is it possible that she will be a college graduate this time next year? Didn't I just go shopping for her first backpack to start kindergarten?

We found a cute little house, ok neighborhood, not the greatest, but UNCSA is in a terrible area, we were lucky to find what we did..... Then we went to one of the little gems in Winston Salem, Reynolda, had lunch at Silo and then walked around in the gardens. You could smell the perfume of the roses everywhere and the vegetable crops were bursting with squash and corn and peppers and grapes, and everything! what an amazing place in such an odd town. A town that tobacco built..... 

One more year and Wesley will be done with this place. What a challenging four years it has been for her. I'm not sure I would have survived it. She had some serious life drama with some kids that weren't ready to handle what life was throwing at them, drama with professors and EGO, drama with roommates, and a school that pushes kids to the brink every single day. Every time I tell someone she is at UNCSA, they say to me, I hear those are the hardest working kids out there. No lie, they are!

I'm so proud of her for sticking it out, there were times she didn't think she would make it and now she is a fourth year, going to Boston to learn from some of the best in the business. Not bad for my little girl who used to be so shy and quiet. She is a fierce young woman now, ready to go out there and make a difference in this world!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Who can you believe?!?

I have been reading a lot about different clays that are being used in soaps for beneficial skin treatments. I like the connection with soap and clay and I am experimenting with red and green clays, as well as kaolin and bentonite. Yesterday I made a batch with green clay, green tea, rosemary and lavender. I would have photos but my camera batteries died while I was setting up to shoot (of course).

Anyway, I have been looking around at websites that describe the benefits of red clay and I came across something interesting. All the websites praising their french red clay products say the very same thing:

"French Red Clay comes from hematite iron. The red color is the result of the copper oxides. It is rich in iron and other minerals. It is used as a strong drawing clay. This means it draws out toxins in the skin. It is used in medicinal preparations, soap making, and cosmetics as well as other preparations."

Since I am a potter, I know about oxides and I was curious about this description of the hematite and the copper oxide. It is my understanding that red iron oxide come from hematite, and copper oxide is usually a green, although I do have a red copper oxide, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to put it in soap it's so problematic, and isn't copper oxide toxic, would you want to use it as a body product? 
Is copper oxide in hematite, I can't find anywhere that says this.

This got me to wondering where everyone was getting their information and if it was indeed accurate, so I emailed several of these soap makers and suppliers. I got emails back from a few saying they didn't know, no one seems to know for sure.... isn't that reassuring. Since everyone is describing french red clay the exact same way, it leads me to believe there is some cut and paste going on from the supplier and does the supplier know what they are saying, or was it a misprint, or am I wrong and copper oxide is in hematite......

I am confused, can you really believe anything you read on the internet? and if not, who can you believe!?!?!?  and why don't these soap makers verify their ingredients?!?!?!