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.

The book is here!

A while ago I wrote my good news about Craig’s book coming out. It is on Amazon in paperback and the expensive hardback edition. It really is a surprisingly readable book considering he wrote it as an adjunct text for his environmental law classes.

In his words, “I tried to avoid the non-committal, austere, academic prose that forces students to consume copious amounts of coffee to avoid text-induced narcolepsy. Also, I abandoned all pretense of being a detached, disinterested academic and wrote instead as an outraged citizen of planet Earth.”

He was trying to answer the 2 questions that always came up in his classes:
• How well are our major environmental laws working?
• What prevents them from achieving their stated goals?

Here is Amazon’s description:

“The EPA was established to enforce the environmental laws Congress enacted during the 1970s. Yet today lethal toxins still permeate our environment, causing widespread illness and even death. Toxic Loopholes investigates these laws, and the agency charged with their enforcement, to explain why they have failed to arrest the nation’s rising environmental crime wave and clean up the country’s land, air, and water. This book illustrates how weak laws, legal loopholes, and regulatory negligence harm everyday people struggling to clean up their communities. It demonstrates that our current system of environmental protection pacifies the public with a false sense of security, dampens environmental activism, and erects legal barricades and bureaucratic barriers to shield powerful polluters from the wrath of their victims. After examining the corrosive economic and political forces undermining environmental law making and enforcement, the final chapters assess the potential for real improvement and the possibility of building cooperative international agreements to confront the rising tide of ecological perils threatening the entire planet.”
Yep, I’m proud. He is also a surprisingly cheery person to live with.

Lilies and bunnies

Still playing around with the backgrounds on calla tiles. This one has majolica colors over the white flowers and a majolica wash over the layers of glazes on the background.

The skinny calla tile only has majolica glaze colors over the lily and the background is layers of glazes with no maj. over them. This tile might be my favorite so far, although it doesn’t seem to be other people’s. When it happens that something I really like is received lukewarmly by other people, I wonder if I am seeing the actual piece or my idea of the piece – if that makes sense. Maybe I am seeing it as I want it to be instead of how it really is. Usually it is me who is more critical of my stuff than other people. But my sample of people is small so far and maybe I should put this tile away for awhile and look at it in a couple of weeks and then see what I think.

We have been bunny sitting youngest daughter’s rabbit for the last several days. He is a very friendly bunny and reliably housebroken so I have been opening his cage so he can come out and run around and get some exercise. But he just sits in his cage. I took him out and he hopped back in. He wouldn’t even come out for a banana – otherwise known as bunny crack – so I started worrying a little about him. Was he sick or just too used to being in his cage to be comfortable out of it? Kyla is always really busy with school, work and everything else she does, so was the poor bunny never getting to come out of his cage?

Last night Kyla came over and after putting Gerti outside, opened the door to bunny’s cage and went off to see what she could find in the refrigerator. The bunny jumped out of his cage, ran through 2 rooms, bouncing 3 feet into the air doing 180 degree turns before landing, and in general acting like a wild thing freed from chains. When Kyla came into the room, bunny ran over to her and put his head down to be petted. He then went around the room, nudging at our ankles ‘asking’ for attention.

The next day, bunny still here, but not daughter, bunny again won’t come out of his security cage. I’ve heard of one person dogs but never would have guessed that rabbits were that discerning. He sure is a boring pet when she is not around.

I’ll do it at some point


Not really. I just wanted to type some exclamation points which I was NOT thinking of when I did this design. They just kind of happened. I put the “feathers” on and then the circles balanced them underneath. And so, exclamations.

It’s a beautiful day at least for the next few hours, and I what I would really should do is go out and start building the chicken coop I have been threatening to build for the last month. But it is supposed to rain again tonight and then everything will be soggy and muddy so I should wait. I may be using the weather as an excuse for laziness. But if I don’t get started I won’t have it ready for when the chicks come in.

One of the basic problems is that I keep changing the design for building it. It will certainly be very simple since my carpentry skills are rudimentary and I may also be hindered by wanting to use recycled materials mostly left over from our bathroom re-construction.

I have been noticing coops as I walk around town and getting new ideas and changing my original plans. It’s surprising how many people keep chickens in this city. Some of the coops are really fancy, with windows and carved gates. Unfortunately the fancy ones were behind enough vegetation that I couldn’t get any good pictures. Some are pretty simple – as mine will be. This one is pretty clever.

A mobile hen home.
It is home to 3 very healthy looking hens so it must be sturdy enough to keep the raccoons away, but it doesn’t really look like it is that strong.

I started thinking about keeping chickens again because 1. I miss seeing them strut around the yard in their silly way. 2.Pest control. 3. Fresh eggs. 4. The sound of chickens makes me happy. Hopefully, their sound will make my neighbors happy. We are really tucked in a pretty crowded area and I have a lot of close neighbors, many of whom have changed since I last kept chickens. The neighbor closest to where the coop will go – about 3 feet! – is happily awaiting them, so I think all will go well. He is hoping the chickens bring more wildlife around. He once watched a young redtail hawk sitting in a tree above my chickens, turning its head from side to side and licking its lips, or so he says.

Yep, all the city wildlife comes out in the hope of a chicken or egg meal. Mostly raccoons, but skunks, opposums, hawks, and cats, feral or otherwise will visit much more often. This might not be a good thing for the Gerti dog who, despite her experience, has seemingly never learned to connect that eye-searing pain and human bellows of anger and disgust, with the striped “kitties”.

and the small one for me

Gotta love underglazes. At the Steve Allen workshop where I learned about using a stencil made on the Thermofax machine, I was told to use dry mason stain, wear a face mask, and don’t touch the line even after the piece is bisqued because the stain will smear. That’s a lot of steps and restrictions so I tried using a black underglaze and slightly stiff brush on the stencil and it works fine – and without the mask – And there is no smearing which will make it easy to add color.

I only made a couple pages of images at the workshop and I have, um, misplaced one of those . To get more images I need a Thermofax machine which is hopelessly expensive, but when I went to get my tattoo last summer (which is a sweet or amusing or ridiculous story depending on your point of view- read on), I noticed that they have one, in fact all the tattoo places have one or something like that to make a stencil for transferring a design from paper to skin. I keep thinking that I will find a tattoo artist to make some screens for me, but I haven’t asked any yet so I don’t know if they would or what they would charge. It’s on my master “to do” list which is a start.

Anyway, I transferred this design and then turned the slab over onto a plaster hump mold so I could add a foot.

The tattoo story: When youngest daughter was about 5 she got her first henna tattoo. She was so dismayed when it wore off after a couple of days that I bought her a henna kit for her sixth birthday and drew a lotus blossom on the back of her hand. We were both delighted. Every few months I would squeeze out a flower onto the back of her hand when I had the time or inclination. Then she would dab it with lemon juice and keep her hand in one position till her skin turned a reddish-brown under the dried paste.

This went on for years. Almost always the same design but as time went on the designs got bigger and the vines would travel down her fingers or up her arm. Around middle school, she started drawing on herself, but always the lotus flower. And at the some point she started lobbying for a real tattoo. The answer was always – when you turn 18 it’s up to you if you can pay for it.

A year ago she was ready with the location (her foot), design (lotus and vines, of course), tattoo artist (well- researched), and cash (not cheap), but started lobbying for something else – that I get one with her. I was really touched by the sentiment, but I am too damn old for a tattoo. And besides, needles?? No thank you.

She is a patient and persistent girl and somehow, and I’m still surprised about this, after about 6 months, I said “OK” but just a tiny one. Hers is beautiful. Mine is simple and small, but every time I see it, I think of her and it is sweet.


When we took in our design, Rob, the chosen tattoo guy, had to shrink down the lotus picture and then make stencils to position them and I had just done the workshop and we talked thermo imaging machines to get my mind off the needle stabbing my ankle.

not B-ed

I’m working on more tiles like this one which has several layers of glazes on the background and then covered with white and then majolica.

I will have to re-draw these callas after I cover the tiles with white glaze, but I drew them so I can know where to not put the colored glazes. It seems partially like a wasted step. I wonder if there is pigment or something I don’t know about that would show through the white glaze so I don’t have to re-draw over the white. Any ideas?

2 weeks ago I couldn’t wait to have a stack of these tiles dried, and bisqued so I could draw the calla lilies on them and do more of the thick glaze layers on them. I could see the images in my head and was so impatient with how long the process was. Now that I unloaded the bisque, have several formed tiles and more drying, and it’s time to set brush to clay, I have to search around for that muse.

A few days ago, I started thinking again about image transfers on clay and did some experiments with printing on plaster and also started a few bowls like this one.

Would I be happier if I could stick to one thing for more than a week? Probably, but I’m not sure. I might like jumping around. It is a little frustrating, but I never get Bored. Not that I’m easily Bored, I’m more like easily intrigued by new things.

When I was a child I learned never to say the B word. Uttering “I’m Bored” in my house saddled you immediately with scrubbing the bathtub, folding clothes, raking leaves or whatever else popped into my mother’s agile mind. She saw no reason why a kid should be bored. She certainly didn’t feel responsible for her children’s entertainment and if you couldn’t figure out what to do with yourself, she would be in charge of it for you.

Every September, when I taught second grade, some kid would whine “I’m Bored” and I would stop everything and dramatically tell the story of all the things that my mother would make me do if I ever said that word. Maybe I embroidered a little but that’s what makes a story, right? Anyway, they got the point and I didn’t have to hear that irritating phrase (except occasionally when it was said with a grin or a giggle, hoping I would tell the story again). Even the kids who used the B word when they really meant “this is too hard for me,” usually figured out another way to express their difficulty.

Both the draw and the pitfall of clay for me is all the possibilities and even though I get a little frustrated with myself for flitting from one thing to the next I’m never B word.

Keepin’ goin’

There have been some pots made during the chaotic last couple of weeks. Many more are s-l-o-w-l-y drying. It has been raining so much you can wring out the air around here. But at least it is not snow. Last week on a sunny day, it was even raining plumblossom petals.

So back to the chaos (admittedly comparatively mild as real chaos goes, but no fun nevertheless) which in large part was caused by the news that funding for Craig’s job was cut along with hundreds of other university lecturers in the Golden State (which is kind of a funny name to call it when the gold is long gone, especially in the area of education). Sigh.

Hopefully, by next fall the budget will be healthy enough to give him some work. Ironically he got the news about his job at about the same time that the publisher told him his book will be out in a couple of weeks and is already listed on Amazon. Hey, maybe it will become a best seller and then get made into a big Hollywood blockbuster and . . . OK, that’s an unlikely scenario for a book about how and why the EPA can’t do it’s job but it’s a fun dream.

Yesterday during a dry spot and having some pent-up energy, I attacked the vines that are threatening to weigh down our fence. I realize the Before picture is much prettier, including that unseasonal nasturtium, but it had to be done and the fence will be covered again in a minute or two. This vine, a Thunbergia, is a close relative to the brooms in The Scorcer’s Apprentice that kept growing even when chopped to pieces.


Still looking for the exact little bowl to use as a mold for my little bowls to replace the one that was stolen with my car. I have tried other bowls and tried throwing them myself, but nothing is just right. I know that old-style cafeteria bowl is out there somewhere, so yesterday Craig and I went to one of my favorite places. You can find any kind of junk or treasure in their acres of warehouse and outside yards.

I imagine most cities have a place like this but the amount of STUFF that comes in and out of here amazes me. I can go here twice in one week and see completely different things.

Most of the material I used for my studioette comes from here, including lumber and especially windows and doors and the tables I work on. Some of the stuff is unusual and lots just looks like junk to me, but, hey, one woman’s junk is another’s etc.

When we moved from our big, old house with years of accumulation that I couldn’t deal with, I called Urban Ore and they filled up a truck with our old aquariums, chairs, window frames, rusty kid’s bikes, etc. The Salvation Army can get picky about what they take, but the Urban Ore guys didn’t think anything was junk. Their mission is to keep stuff out of the landfill.

With no idea how marine eco-systems worked, there were around 40 dumps around the SF Bay until the Eighties. Our local landfill is now a park, as many of them are, with tall vent chimneys in the middle and 17,000 feet of PVC piping underground to collect the decomposition gases into one area to burn before the emissions are then released into the air. When the park first opened, sometimes the flames would come up through the chimneys. Dramatic but gross.

Now garbage from this area is taken to a Transfer Station down near the freeway and then trucked about an hour away to another spot that used to be beautiful, but before that the Urban Ore people are on hand to pick through and save anything that they think might be reused.

A little of what we saw:

We took home some milk crates, light fixture covers, a small table and some wire for the chicken coop I am planning. I didn’t, however, find that perfect little dish.

Search and Snip

I was so happy to open the kiln and see this staring back at me. Not because I like how it looks, although I do like how it looks, but because I was relieved to see that the glaze had stayed on the tile and not gone running off. The glaze was very thick in the background and there are several layers of different colors with the majolica over everything. I had some nightmarish visions imagining just how far a pile of glaze could run – kind of like a cartoon horror movie with hot lava.

I am happy with how the glazes on the bottom came up through the top even though some of it is not what I expected. There’s that first glance inside the kiln that can disappoint because it doesn’t fit my image of how it was supposed to be but if I let go of that I can appreciate what did happen.

It is 7×8 inches in size and framed like a little box and on the next one I will remember to end the glaze at the edge and not go over the sides.

I’m still in the mood to sketch some callas. The one that I picked did wither before it was completely open as I thought it might. I tried to buy some, but haven’t found any open ones so I have been on the lookout for a place to pick them. They don’t grow exactly like weeds around here, but some people think of them that way because they can get thick and overgrown. My quest is to find that uncared for patch. There are some beautifully tended plants on my block which I would never touch, but I have been scoping out the neighborhood and I found a place today where the callas are clearly on their own and no one will mind if I take a few.

While I was writing this about going out and picking flowers my dad called talking about being snowed in. He lives near Pittsburgh and he hasn’t been out of his house for days but at least he has heat and power unlike my sister who only lives a mile from my dad. So sorry if you are one of those snowed-in people.


It’s a seasonal thing – the object of my mixed emotions. In the spring this tree has many small white blossoms and limey green new leaves – Like. In the summer it provides deep shade and develops cute little green clusters of seedpods – Like. In the fall, the seedpods turn bright orange and hang from the tree in bunches – Like (with reservations because I know what’s coming). In the winter, the seedpods fall EVERY time the wind blows. The seedpods hit the ground and explode open – Hate. Really Hate. Each one of the gazillion little seeds inside each seedpod is hard and sticky.

Sticky enough to attach to the bottom of your shoes and don’t easily scrape off. Sweeping them away each day only seems to make more fall. They especially like to attach themselves to fur.

It’s amazing how many hard tiny seeds can hide in Gerti’s fur. We try to brush her off before she comes in but apparently we miss a million or two.

We went to great lengths to save this tree when we expanded our house around it because it does such a great job of visually screening the close-by houses from our view and vice-versa.

As spring comes on I will start to Like it again when I sit inside and watch bird courtship dances in the branches just out the windows and appreciate that I can walk out my door and see leaves instead of a new crop of graduate students studying over breakfast on their deck. Just have to continuously sweep for a few more weeks.

I guess it could be worse. It could be snow.

Recently I vowed (hah!) that I would sketch a calla lily every day and I am proud to report that I came close to sketching it every day until it withered and then the other day while walking in the Ft. Mason area of SF

GGBridge from Ft Mason

Alcatraz from Ft Mason

I wandered into a community garden and sketched these while waiting for some friends.

I was so proud, not especially of the sketches, but just that I had 1. brought a sketchbook 2. used it.

Here is how one of the small bowls came out. And a bigger one that is ready for some clear glaze. It might be a little overworked, but I usually like the glaze pencil more after it softens the lines in the firing.

Growing up

My youngest turned 21 last week.

What a milestone. For her, yes, but equally for me. Wasn’t she just 12 last year? Time goes by so quickly in retrospect. I knew it was coming, and, as she pointed out, she has been legally an adult for the last 3 years, but 21 is really adult

She had classes all day on her birthday and work in the evening at the restaurant where she works a couple nights a week, but she called when she was done at 10pm and wanted to take us out for a beer so we could be with her for her first legal carding. Oh, so exciting. We sat in the very crowded studenty place, struggling to hear, over blasting music, her very savvy critique of one of her sociology professor’s theories, and I thought, “Dang, she sounds like an adult.”

The next night she and 10 of her friends came over for dinner and birthday cake – which was very fun with a mixture of a lot of laughing and intense intellectual college student conversations. I thought again, “Dang, she really is an adult.”

Then it was time for them to go and get ready for a party at the house she and 5 of them share. Birthday girl was saying good-bye to Gerti and put her through all the tricks she had taught her 9 years ago, then got down and rolled around on the floor with the dog and I was happy to see my 12 year old was still in evidence. And I thought, she is still my baby.

But I sure didn’t say that out loud.

testing testing 1-2-3

I resolved a couple of weeks ago – it wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution, but just an everyday kind of decision, to exercise every day instead of the 2 to 4 times a week I had been doing. For me exercise means walking – fast and uphill on good days, and I’ve been being pretty good at sticking to it, for the last 6 days, anyway.

Yesterday, though, I was busy with other things and it was getting dark and cold and the couch and my book were calling to me, but, and I’m proud of myself here, I grabbed Gerti’s leash and took her off for a night walk. I did this a lot last summer, walking up in the hills in the long summer evenings, listening to music, watching – between the houses – the sun go down behind the Golden Gate Bridge, but by 6:30 on a cloudy evening in January, it’s just dark. which doesn’t bother Gerti in the least and after the first chilly, ‘this is work’ few blocks, I started enjoying myself.

Some thoughts on walking in the dark:

Dark is pretty private. / Dogs see better in the dark than humans. / You can sing along to music and not be embarrassed because there is no one around to hear you and even if there is you can’t see their faces. / You can wear your old jacket with the paint on the sleeve. / Plants and flowers look really different in streetlight or porch light. / People store some funny things in their garages. (I went by a garage that I pass by often and tonight, with the lights on inside, I saw that it was full of humorously costumed mannequins – feathers, frizzy wigs, fairy wings).

Today I did another kind of walk I don’t normally do even though it was in the daylight. There is a road through the park that runs along the ridge above town that is heavily traveled except from November to March when the rains come, so that the newts can cross the road to mate in the creek. We didn’t see any but they were probably watching us from the dark under a log.

I spent much time this week preparing and firing test tiles, trying to figure out how to harness the good parts of layers of glaze bubbling up under majolica and also under underglazes. I didn’t get as much information as I wanted because there wasn’t much bubbling, maybe because they were lower in the kiln than last time, but I think I now know which white glazes are best for this purpose.

What made me the happiest in the end, though, was this little scrap of a test. It has just the amount of shine and watercolor matte sheen that I am after.

Here is a look at the other tests of all the white glazes I had access to, with majolica on the left and underglaze on the right in each picture.

Cone 05

Cone 5


Meredith, of Whynot Pottery has conceived of, and is organizing a show called “Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story” that will take place in early October in Seagrove, North Carolina. I think there are about 44 potters from all over the world that will be participating – New Zealand, Australia, Spain – just to name a few of the all-over-the-world places. Organizing and communicating with all of these people must be a huge undertaking, especially when Meredith has to keep repeating herself with some people because their spam filter is so picky. (Am I the only one?) As if that isn’t enough, she is also putting together an online show to run concurrently. Pretty impressive.

I’m really flattered to have been invited to participate because the show includes some of my favorite potters and bloggers, so it would be great to be in Seagrove in October to actually see the show and meet people I have been “talking” with. (Not to mention that just being in NC in October would be gorgeous. Last week I watched the movie, Goodbye Solo that took place in NC in the Fall and the red on some of the trees was unreal.)

One element of the show will be excerpts from blogs and maybe a statement about why we blog. That will take some pondering to put into words, but I do know that one of the reasons is community and Meredith is very good at helping to create this. She has a very distinctive voice in her own blog and the comments she leaves on other blogs. Her support, concern, experience, and humor show through in all of them.

Thank you Meredith, for bringing together all these potterbloggers and being willing and able to organize this show.

Clay and Blogs: Telling A Story
October 1 thru October 29, 2010
Arts Council of Moore County
Campbell House
432 East Connecticut Avenue
Southern Pines, NC 28388

Opening Reception Oct 1st from 6-8

Call a calla

I was startled by calla lilies once. Not real callas, but a painting of calla lilies. I saw it in a local art gallery and the lilies spiraled up soft and loose, but powerful and, you know, vital or something, out of an intensely dark and colorful background. They didn’t look at all like the puny snail-nibbled, bedraggled flowers growing crowded alongside the house I lived in then.

I go back and forth on my infatuation with callas, but they are calling to me again. I’m not sure why. Today I cut the one calla in my yard that is starting to bloom from the one plant I own. I plan to make some sketches (at least one, I hope) every day as it opens. If it opens. Sometimes after cutting, they don’t. I planned to pull up a chair and sketch it outside, but it rained all day so, oh, darn, I had to bring it inside to the warm, dry house.

This little critter hitched a ride into the warm, dry house under the petal curl, and got sent back out right after it was photographed.

I have some avoidance issues with sketching. At least once a month I resolve : “Every day I will do at least one sketch” or ” I will do one sketch of Gertidog every day,” or that tree, or the view of . . . . whatever. I follow through for a day or two and then it just slips my mind – possibly on purpose. (Why is that? Now I start rambling so if you are in a hurry you might want to skip to the end parenthesis. It’s my “I wish I was perfect” model. Some of my drawings are OK and some of them just aren’t. I want my sketches to be good if they are going in a sketchbook that I will go back and look at, or yikes, someone else would look at, and see all of my mistakes. So I start drawing in a too controlled way that I hate, but can’t seem to get past, but that I know, if I sketched more, I would get past. Maybe I should just draw on scraps of paper that I could easily cull at will because you know you shouldn’t tear too many pages out of a sketchbook because it looks really silly with a big spiral and 10 or 20 pages inbetween the covers.) So it’s a battle with myself, but now I really, really promise myself I will sketch this calla lily every day till it completely opens. If it does.

I did a few pages of sketches and then there were these little bowls just sitting there and I guess I’d rather do my sketching on hard clay. And then trying out some color

but I kind of chickened out on the one with the white background. I think I will wait and see how the blue one comes out before I start piling up the color. I’m not exactly sure how much I color I can put on before it gets muddy or just what color(s) I want to use.

What I really should do is a color sketch every day. If I can make it for a week doing one sketch a day, next week I will add some color to every sketch. Um, I promise.

No Cuppa Joe

I have had this cup for so many years. It looks like it would be hard to drink from but it’s not, although you do have to interact with it with intent and decisions about angles and lip placement. It’s not a cup you take for granted.

It was made by Anne Christiansen although I may have spelled her name wrong. She was kind of famous around here. People used to line up for her twice yearly sales and leave with big boxes of stuff and not because it was cheap. She was a very quiet, unassuming woman who always seemed surprised that anyone would really buy her pottery. She moved away to teach somewhere. I often wonder what kind of pottery she is making now. I also would like more of it, having broken all of her bowls and most of her cups over the years, as happens eventually to things that you use many times every day.

It could be a beautiful cup to drink my morning coffee from but I don’t. Drink coffee. Ever. Well, there was that once in college, but there were extenuating chemical circumstances . . .

I have always thought it was because my mom drank so much coffee that I turned against it. She would make a big pot in the morning and drink several cups a day. I don’t think my sister drinks coffee either. Really, I don’t like the taste of it, or even the smell. Lucky for me, then, Craig doesn’t drink it. In fact, he is slightly allergic to it.

All of my kids became coffee drinkers as teenagers. Probably because they thought it was some exotic beverage they never saw at home.

I’ve been told that I don’t drink coffee because I have immature taste!!? (Maybe that explains my childish love of chocolate.) One day a group of friends thought I should be drinking coffee and tried to stage an intervention, by making me order a latte. I played along and stirred the milk and coffee around and around the cup with the thin popsicle stick and warmed my hands around the cup. You know, just looking the part.

There is a coffee place a few blocks away that roasts their own coffee and at about 10pm the aroma wafts all over the neighborhood. Neighbors comment on the warm, friendly smell of the roasting beans. I don’t tell them that I shut my windows until the wind changes. It isn’t very popular to be anti-coffee, which I’m not, really.

I’m not a coffee curmudgeon. I go out for “coffee” with people all the time although I order herbal tea. I appreciate the smiley faces the barristas draw on the latte foam with chocolate. I enjoy the Italian names – the Frappiccinos and the Macchiatos and the Cappuccinos.

Most people I know depend on the caffeine to kick start their days or keep them moving through the afternoon. If I have any caffeine after 3pm I am awake till at least 3am.

So it is now 2:30 am and counting. I had some tea with a friend today after dinner and even though the restaurant listed the tea as non-caffeinated, I grew suspicious when it slowly occurred to me that my friend had not been able to insert a word other than “uh-huh” for the previous 10 minutes.

Can you imagine what I would be like with coffee?

and for the next test

I waited all day at the studio for the kiln to get cool enough to see what my majolica tests looked like even though I had forgotten to bring lunch or even any chocolate. That’s because, if you remember, I am very invested in these glazes, to the tune of I-spent-my-returned-Christmas-present-money to buy them and I want something to show for it.

The results were not what I had hoped for but after the initial disappointment, and a little talk with myself, I started seeing the results a different way. I had wanted to experiment and that means not everything will turn out the way I planned. Looking at it that way, I could appreciate what came out of the kiln for what it was, not what I thought it should be. So.

Isn’t this wild? The face I put on this tile didn’t look anything like this. I wish I had the imagination to make those wild eyes and green lips. Nope, it was just a regular, realistic-like looking face and then the glazes had their own party under, over and around my picture and made it their own way

A light blue glaze went down first, then yellow, and then persimmon under the white, with the majolica colors on top. That light green and blue green came from the yellow and blue mixing, but it mixed differently in different places

Pretty amusing. It looks like an old photographic slide that got thrown onto hot coals. Those windows and rooflines were straight lines before the kiln lid was closed and the electricity switched on.


I fired this small tile again with more majolica glaze on top thinking that I put too thin a layer on before the first firing, but in the second firing, more of the black came up through the white. (I put white glaze over black and then painted Spectrum majolica colors over that.) So the face, which after the first firing was just somewhat fugitive, now reminds me of a magazine picture that spent a few weeks in the compost pile.

What I am after is the color blend behind the flowers, where the persimmon comes up through the white in a kind of watercolor-like wash, not the bubbly breaking up of color on the flowers.

I got a beautiful sweater for Christmas. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly fit. I returned it to the store which didn’t have another one like it, so, fashion took the hit as usual. I took the refund to Leslie’s and bought more jars of majolica colors. I am invested in making this process work in more ways than one. I did more tests today – lots of them – every combination I could think of. I may be going about this majolica overglazing the completely wrong way and if you have any solutions or ideas, I’d love to hear about them.

Craig can’t believe I did this. Either putting it together or breaking it apart a few days later.

I got it at the De Young Museum at the Amish Quilt show in a moment of either weakness or bravado. It seemed like a good idea at the time and then later I thought about not even opening it. I did because a holiday guest expressed interest in it but then got distracted by something else.

So there it was sitting on the table. I could have swept it back into the box. Instead I spent HOURS – I won’t even say how many, matching colors and shapes. Publicly I make fun of my drive to sit there till I finish it, but secretly I really love the visual and spatial challenge. Yes, Craig – who still can’t believe it – I was having fun even when I was screaming and pulling my hair in frustration.

Gerti interruptions

Gerti is a very well behaved dog so when she dared to put her feet up on my lap to get my attention away from the computer, it worked. I called Jana who always likes to take a walk with Gerti (and me) and we went down by the bay ~ where the watermelons grow – [sing along, now]. (I have no idea what kind of punctuation to give to a musical aside or the parenthetical explanation that it is a song.)

– to the dog park where the doggies can run free and that’s a big deal in the city. Right off the parking lot we saw these guys

doing just what Gerti would be doing if I let her. Only an absurd amount of yelling over many months broke her of the idea that she could submarine herself in mud repeatedly and then be allowed back into the car for the ride home.

Most dogs go to the dog park to run and play with the other dogs. Gerti goes for the human interaction. She has been called slut puppy more than once for her trick of lying down in right in front of someone walking by and rolling on her back hoping for some belly rubs. Which she usually gets, because she is just so silly looking, but there are those who are immune to her wiles who just step over or around her. She’s doing that maneuver a little less, however, since she passed the 9 year mark.

I followed some advice I got from Linda and a couple other bloggers but I don’t remember who they were, who recommended the Wellness Formula to ward off colds and flu. A friend serendipitously was ordering some a couple of weeks ago asked if I had heard of it and if I wanted her to order some for me. I said yes, and here’s the proof.

It’s sitting on the windowsill along with some other good advice that came my way.

Random sightings

As I was driving back from the studio late this afternoon I kept stopping to look out at the bay and the sky over the Pacific. I love big sky vistas.

I woke up this morning excited about great ideas for using the majolica colors. I couldn’t wait to get to the studio so I could cut some tiles so they could dry and I could get to testing out all those amazing ideas. But on the drive over, I just couldn’t quite remember why I had been so excited.

You know how you wake up sometimes with the elated certainty that you have dreamed up something so profound you can’t wait to share it, and then you try to tell someone and all at once, it doesn’t really sound so profound and maybe it doesn’t really even make all that much sense? I’m afraid my wonderful ideas might have been a dream just sliding into waking thoughts. Or, worse, all the fantastic ideas were real and I had forgotten them all! A nightmare.

I did some other wonderful or necessary things at the studio and then I enjoyed the drive home. It was a beautiful day and I have been feeling terrific after feeling crappily flu-ridden for so long and I was noticing things I hadn’t really noticed for awhile. Like this house that I posted pictures of last March.

When I went by today, I noticed how busy this guy has been. This is all junk that the sign says he finds by beachcombing. I know there is a lot of junk that ends up at the beaches and the bay, but this is amazing. Look at this beetle and caterpillar:

The beetle is made of Bic lighters which are clearly battered, but the caterpillar is from brims of baseball caps and whiffle balls that don’t look like they have spent much time on a beach or being buffeted by waves.

There are signs on a couple of the sculptures and standing close in front of the one below, I thought he must have a friend named Ester Rynne who liked to dance till I stood back from the sculpture and then looked again at the sign and saw that the first letter of each name was written in a red color that had badly faded.

This guy must have some very good neighborly relations. The 2 adjacent houses are sporting more sculptures, too.

I do have some mundane plans for tests on those tiles – cone 5 base glazes under the Spectrum Majolica; using a thinner layer of white, etc., but with luck and maybe more dreams, I really will have some fantastic ideas.