Can’t be Fall yet

The days are getting shorter and that Fall smell is in the air.  I know some people love this time of year but it always makes me a little sad.  I love those long summer days when you are surprised when you come in from the garden and it is 8:30 and you haven’t even thought about dinner because it still seems so early.

I have had a great time in my garden in the past few months even though we here in the SF Bay area have not had much of a summer.  Fog fog fog – interspersed by a few hot days and then more fog.  The tomatoes are just now thinking it might be ok to get ripe.

I spent an incredible week in Olympia, WA in August.  Not only because my daughter’s wedding – which took place there – was perfect in every way, but because we went from the miserable cold fog to the absolutely best weather week the Pacific Northwest may have had all year.  Claire got married in a beautiful private garden.  Here is one view before the ceremony.

Don’t you just want to roll in that grass? I managed to restrain myself, only because I knew it would embarrass my daughter and I thought I would spare her,  only because it was her wedding day.

I managed to not embarrass myself, too, when I gave my wedding toast, which was a big relief to me.  I get completely tongue-tied when talking in front of groups and I tend to mix up names so I was sweating it for weeks before.  But I was having such a great relaxed time that I wasn’t at all nervous and Claire loved it. Here we are right after.

Remember all those little bowls?  They all now have new homes and I have a small stack of the ones that didn’t come out just right and I am surprised at how many times a little bowl comes in handy during a day.  If you put ice cream in a little bowl, even if you come back and fill it up 2 or 3 times, it still seems like you are having less than if you used a big bowl.

Chix and Trix

Here’s my first look at the day old baby Auracana chicks that popped out of their eggs and were popped into a box and traveled 3000 miles before they were 48 hours old. I expected that they would arrive the next day and I didn’t have all the stuff baby chicks need like food and a way to keep them warm. While the babies peeped their little heads off, I ran around town looking for starter food and a red heat lamp. The heat lamp was easy. The chick food, not so easy. I thought for awhile I might have to mash up worms and sowbugs for a few weeks, but then I found a pet store that was willing to part with a half pound of their own chick food till I could get more.

The coop in its almost finished state. It was a little like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It would have been a lot easier to build if 1. I didn’t vow to only use recycled wood or leftovers from the bathroom remodel last Fall, 2. I had more tools than my vintage saber saw, 3. I had leveled the ground before I started, 4. I had the slightest idea of what I was doing. It is really overbuilt since I had a lot of heavy redwood 3x3s and 3/4 inch plywood. I challenge anyone to find a right angle anywhere.

But in the end, it functions. The doors and lids open and close. It will stay dry and reasonably warm, and most importantly, raccoons will be kept out.

Some of the wedding bowls glazed and waiting. “We” have had a hard time deciding what shape or size “we” want so I am trying out a few different ones.

I did decide to go with the stamp. After finding someone with a Thermofax to make a screen, I found that it is too fussy to align and hold the screen down properly on the rounded base and the lines were too messy in the end. The stamped image, with underglaze painted into the indentations and the excess sponged off, looks pretty good. The stamp gives a sharp edge and good detail. You can even see Trixie’s little tooth. I am leaving the bottoms of the bowls unglazed.

Down with Clay

I enjoyed every minute of my day yesterday. Can’t say that very often. It was a gorgeous warm spring day after another cold, rainy stretch, so everyone was out walking around town, including me. First I took a long walk up into the hills with a friend and I got to live vicariously while she told me all about her cycling adventures in Italy. She and her husband ride a tandem and made quite a splash in some small hill towns. (And when she fell and had to have her knee x-rayed, it cost her not a cent.)

At noon I walked downtown to meet my daughter at the Farmer’s Market for lunch. This guy passed me, bunny hopping on and off the curbs. There is no coasting on a unicycle.

Kyla had her bike and so did everyone else and their mother, except Kyla’s, and it was hard to find anywhere that didn’t already have a couple of bikes attached. She finally found a spot on the children’s playground fence. This person decided to just keep his/her furry bike close.

We got our super groovy lunch of veggie rolls and almond and hemp milk drink and a really delicious dessert although I can’t remember what it was made of. Kyla’s roll was made with Spicy Love and mine had Infinite Love mixed in and boy could I taste it!

and Kyla’s iced coffee.
As we were enjoying our tasty nori rolls while sitting on the grass to the side, we saw some people walking through the market in furry cat suits of all types, carrying signs saying things like”Clay is Bad”, “My cat even hates Clay Aiken” and chanting, “Down with Clay”. This town is known for protesting lots of things, but I couldn’t figure out what Clay Aiken could have done that deserved these people’s time and energy so I sent Kyla (who is a much better photographer than I am) over to see what was going on and snap a few.

The tip-off is in this last picture with the guy with the big camera. He is photographing Kyla photographing the “cats”.

Some company was staging a phony protest to make a You Tube video to promote an new brand of organic kitty litter!! There were at least as many people videotaping the scene as partaking in it. And then there were all those releases to be signed by everyone whose image had been captured.

A few minutes later we noticed these signs were everywhere:

and on the other side of the park there was a long line of people waiting to sign up to get $20 to wear a cat suit or carry a sign. It was a really hot day. Those cat suits and heads were heavy. Especially after the suits had been worn by a couple of other people, they should have been paying at least double that.

Just above that sign we noticed another furry thing.

Anyone know what it might grow up to be?

Then to top off my very spring day, I took another walk later to a small lake in the hills and watched the sun ‘slowly sinking in the west’. Good day all day.

Drat and Drat again

I grimace a little when I think of how easy I thought it was going to be to get a screen made for “the wedding bowls”. Turns out that tattoo artists use a different 3M Thermofax to make transfers for their drawings. Their process makes a carbon copy on a tissue-y paper. I want to burn through an emulsion layer on a woven screen. Drat!

I’m still trying to track down someone with a real Thermofax. Just in case I don’t find one, I am getting a stamp made with Trixie the bulldog’s sweet face, but it sure would be easier to print on each bowl with stain instead of stamping and wiping stain on and off again. One less step for each bowl is one less step times 100 to 150!

I spent all day at the studio today, teaching my class (there are some pretty wonderful newcomers – all with different interests) then loading the kilns and trying to get it all done before the kids’ class comes in. I really wanted to get a couple more trays glazed and in the kiln before I left. As the kids came in, I was moving my small bucket of celadon glaze to another part of the studio and somehow it jumped out of my hand and landed on its side on top of my left foot. Hard to believe how high glaze splashes. Drat!

From the knees down on both legs, my pants were covered in glaze. Surprisingly, my right shoe was glaze free, but the left shoe was a completely (beautiful) pale green. The only good news is that the glaze was fairly thick and didn’t spread too far out in every direction. OK, so maybe that’s a stretch to find some kind of good news. The reality is that it took me a loong time to clean it and myself.

I did stay, though, till I got the trays glazed and then dragged myself and my wet pantlegs home. A friend called around 6 suggesting a dog walk down by the bay. First I said no, but she convinced me it would be beautiful. She was right. It was only slightly windy after a few days of rain, the sun was at that perfect place to make those Modigliani shadows and the birds were singing their invitations for the night. Gerti and her buddy, Bella, dove into the high grass with just their tail tips proving they were still with us. No drat for this part of the day.

Gray is the new black (parenthetically speaking)

My new favorite glaze is this velvety gray. I keep wanting to touch it to see if it is as soft as it looks. I wouldn’t have thought I would like it so much, but there it is. It came into my life at a good time (this is kind of a love story) because I think I mentioned my daughter is engaged and she is getting married in August, which is not much time to prepare for the wedding she wants. The good news for me is that she is doing all the planning since she knows the event I would plan would not be the one she wants. My casual party plans don’t exactly mesh with hers and her intended’s.

OK, the connection to the glaze is coming: Since the wedding will be 2 states away in Olympia, WA, she wants to put welcome/wedding-weekend-survival baskets in everyone’s hotel room. (I’m getting there.) So I am making some little bowls to fill with chocolates (or mints or Advil or something). They think the gray glaze will be perfect for the bowls.

OK. The inside of the bowls is decided. Now we just have to decide on the graphic on the back. I had a stamp made with their initials and wedding date, but the little plant stamp I tried to use alongside it is just not what they are looking for. The next idea is the face of their English bulldog (Trixie). Trixie is adorable in a silly kind of way.

This is drawn from an actual photo of Trixie. I could get a stamp made of her face and stamp it on the bottom of a bowl with the initial stamp next to it, but I’m thinking of having a screen made of Trixie’s mug and the initials together and printing it on the bottom. That way I will eliminate the step of having to put color in the stamp depressions. Since I am making upwards of 100 of these, (couples only need one bowl, right?) saving a step or two would make me happy. Check back to see how it’s working. I’m curious myself, but before I can start, I have to find a place that has a thermofax machine to make a screen for me from my drawings. I’m going to be calling tattoo places tomorrow to see if I can talk someone into helping me. I’ll pay, of course. (Hopefully I won’t have to resort to getting a tattoo of Trixie on my bicep just so I can keep the screen afterward.)

Nice Nest Needed

I’ve been making many trays lately. I want sets of 3 that nest nicely but with different textures, sizes, and colors. I have a bunch of nice trays but only 2 so far that nest nicely. There should be another smaller tray nesting nicely on top of that orange one, but I have not gotten that nice nest, where each tray has its own personality, curve and color but still relates nicely to the others. The single ones will find nice homes and look nice on anyone’s nice table, but the nicely nesting sets are not nice enough yet.

My little friend, Violet comes to stay with us sometimes while her parents go to have some fun on their own and last night was one of those nights. We were all looking forward to it. She had just come back from a full and exciting spring vacation and she re-packed her rolling airplane suitcase full of things to do at our house, things she might need, and things to show us. But somewhere on the freeway over here, the vacation caught up with her and she fell asleep. Really asleep. Her mom carried her in and put her on the couch and she stayed asleep even when she rolled off onto the (carpeted) floor.

I didn’t, while she was peacefully dreaming, tickle her a little to wake her up so we could play, but I considered it. Her thoughtful mom always brings something when she comes and she brought me this picture in a beautiful Violet-made card:

Violet in a field of callas in the garden where her parents were married.

Ah, spring changes

The skinny columnar apple trees are in bloom. The trees don’t put out lateral branches but bear on short spurs near the trunk. That’s why I can have 7 different apple varieties in a 4×4 foot plot. That one in the middle is a little slow in popping out some blossoms.

Lots of changes besides the ones in the garden. Older daughter got engaged and will be married in August and Son and new wife have come from Tokyo to live nearby. I’m so happy to have them across the bay rather than across the Pacific.

The biggest change is that I have not done much clay work for the last month. It wasn’t just Eli and Junko staying with us till they found an apartment, or building the “taking forever” chicken coop with my shaky carpentry skills (more about this venture later), or becoming a co-author on a friend’s in-progress book about growing fruit trees (hopefully there will be more news about this later, too), although those things have taken up a lot of time, but also that I took a sort of leave of absence from clay because I have been confused about what to do. The calla series started to fall a little short of what I envisioned and I’m not sure why. Maybe I got a little too careful and precise and the results were then more controlled than I wanted them to be but I didn’t know how to loosen up.

So, I taught my classes at the studio, worked on a commission and finished some pieces in progress, but didn’t start anything exciting to me. Kind of felt like I was puttering. Right here in the narrative I would like to be able to say, “and now I have it all figured out and I will be finishing up the calla project and starting to do more image transfer on clay, or whatever,” but I’m not quite there yet.

This poppy is about to pop its top. About 2 seconds after I took the picture the pointy bud cover was on the ground. Wish I had caught that.

I went to San Francisco this week to hear Ian McEwan speak and read from his new book, Solar, which a friend had lent me. (This book was nothing like Atonement.) I don’t always like to hear authors because sometimes they can be a little boring even if I like their writing, but he was pretty wonderful. He was relaxed and funny and open even when a physicist in the audience chastised him slightly on his liberties with science. The Herbst Theater had these beautiful murals all around and I amused myself while waiting for him to start by taking pictures of them.

I guess you can figure out which one I was closer to.