Archive for August, 2010

Curmudge, Curmudge…

August 29, 2010

Where to start? Have you read this book?…

Well, I never read it. I’ve seen the movie about a jillion times and Sofia’s seen it too. Anyway, we read to Sofia before bed and she’s become more and more interested in longer books with less pictures and I think her grandmother gave her this one. Anyway, I realize that the movie was a musical and that there would be extra stuff in the book (it’s unabridged) but wow, there’s some extra stuff. So last night, I was reading a couple chapters to Sofia and I got to the part where they are on their way to the land of the wicked witch to kill her because that is the quid pro quo demanded by the wizard. The witch can see them coming and orders 40 wolves to tear them to shreds. As the wolves attack (one by one, like in a kung fu movie), the Tin Woodsman, as he’s called in the book takes his recently honed axe and decapitates the wolves one by one leaving them in a pile of bodies and heads. The witch sees this and sends crows next… the Scarecrow takes his turn at bat and one by one catches each crow and twists their necks off to kill them and makes a pile of dead crows. Then the witch sends bees and they all break their stingers on the Tin Woodsman’s body because it’s tin. I guess those are the bad animals. Crazy book, and the tin man is like one of those transformers… they come to a river they have to ford, no problem, the tin man chops down some trees and fashions a raft for all of them in no time… who needs a heart with those kind of woodworking skills? So after the wizard heads off in a balloon and Dot has to go find Glinda they come to a porcelain wall (no kidding, they refer to it as china not porcelain) and after they scale the wall, there is an entire community of porcelain figurines and streets and houses and animals except these living porcelain figures only come up to Dot’s knees and they can move and live their lives. Dots wants to take one home to Kansas but the beautiful figurine tells her that as soon as she left the area she would become rigid and not be able to move.
OK, my friend Ig was correct about the blue acrylic glazing liquid attempt, FAIL…

So, what to do? What’s the solution?

That’s right, there was a good reason I settled on shellac in the first place, it works a lot better than anything else. I guess now I’m gonna sit by my open window in the studio with a fan blowing out and do my shellacking until it gets cold outside and maybe then I will continue going down the endless paths of acrylic mediums and varnishes and different viscosities, etc. I may have salvaged this one although it’s not something I would duplicate because it’s insane to do all that detailed painting only to rub it off…

And here’s one that’s just the good ol’ shellac that works like a dream…

In other news, Sofia collected flowers while walking the demon dog today so she could press them between the pages of some books…

She’s very happy about the idea of pressed flowers but she wants to get them out every couple hours or so to examine them and see if they’re ready yet.

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Hot Times In The Old Town…

August 26, 2010

So here’s the title of an article in the Louisville paper… “Louisville’s summer tops in nation in above-normal temperatures“. Apparently 80 days since June 1st… 29 in June, 27 in July and every day so far in August (as of yesterday) the temperature has been above the average for here. As I mentioned in the article I wrote in last month’s Pottery Making Illustrated, early on I got turned on to the work of Arne Ase. I decided to post a bit of eye candy of Arne’s today. Actually, I wanted to do this a long time ago but his website was acting funny and now it’s fixed. The way it got fixed is that the gallery section is a separate link that goes off to another section where it didn’t before so before you couldn’t enlarge the pictures of the work. Anyway, if you get a hankerin’, you can go here to see everything. So here’s a couple beauties…

Arne wrote a book called “Water Colour On Porcelain” which details his work with soluble salts (something I’d like to look into and have, enough to know that they are toxic and I don’t think I want to try with a child in the house) but the book is out of print. According to the website, he is writing or has written another book on the same subject which he hopes will be published this year. In other news, the online gallery for the “Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story” exhibition is live. Go here or click on the picture if you get a hankerin’…

The piece above is by Angela Walford from Australia and you can peek in on lots of fun stuff, including many raku firings, complete with groovy videos of all the activities on her blog called Ang Design Blog. Finally, here’s some beer glasses I’ve been painting (not shellacking)…

As you can see from the last picture, I changed the food coloring in the acrylic medium to blue… it’s a bit disconcerting when I walk into the studio and see the blue pots. What you cannot see from the last picture is that I changed the medium. I did this reluctantly. I had some acrylic gel medium gloss around the house that I used initially. This was leftover from years ago and one of my several times that I thought I’d give painting a go. Well, I didn’t have that much so I went to the art supply store and figured I’d go in, pick up some acrylic gel medium and split. Well, just as in every other area of our consumerism-run-amok society (here comes the curmudge), they had two brands of acrylics at the store and each brand had 20 different kinds of medium with hanging placards of what each might look like on the next Van Gogh you’re painting at home but neither had just plain acrylic gel medium gloss. So after two lengthy conversations with the store’s resident painting pundits, I was assured (although I didn’t believe either of them for a second) that this is essentially the same thing but it’s just called something else…

Well, it’s not the same. I mixed some up yesterday with lots of blue food coloring and it applies differently, it is not glossy even though it says gloss on the label and it seems to dry faster. Now, who knows, it might actually be better than the other stuff but I’m not at all happy about spending the time on these without knowing whether I’m just gonna end up rubbing away everything that I’ve painted. Of course I’ve decided to wait a week to be sure so everything is just sitting around drying while I paint more.

Back On The Horse…

August 24, 2010

Well, my hip’s not 100% but I got really tired of waiting and Saturday I decided it was time to get back on the road. I’m no worse for doing so but my performance is definitely suffering… can’t be aggressive on those uphill grades. So since Mom had the weekend off, I went 28 Sat., 32 Sun. and 28 again Monday. Although yesterday I was starting to feel as comfortable as usual, on the first 2 rides back I had a really uneasy feeling of vulnerability… like certain situations might arise that I would not be physically capable of dealing with. I mean I still have my cat-like reflexes and my super powerful bursting capability but they are attached to a bum hip. Anyway, filed under the heading of “More Unwise Activities”, I started thinking that I would take my camera along for the ride and do a 28 mile Louisville travelogue. This really wasn’t a great idea as I put the camera in the little pouch under my seat that usually holds a spare tire and an allen key and for the first couple miles where most of the traffic is I decided I didn’t want any pics of that anyway and left the camera in the pouch. Of course the bumps in many sections got me worrying that the camera was bouncing around in there non-stop and it was going to get damaged. So I took it out and realized that I couldn’t really take shots left-handed which meant riding with my left hand only on the bike and my right hand free. This is not ideal because the left brake is the front brake and using it alone going too fast could result in another accident. Anyway, this slowed my pace and I basically worried about dropping or banging the camera for the whole first half of the ride. So I put together these pics and numbered them because I figured putting them up individually would be simply too much (click to enlarge)…

So here’s a key if you get a hankerin’…

1 – Seneca Park

2 – Seneca Park

3 – Cherokee Park

4 – That rotten intersection that takes forever to navigate before the bike path starts.

5 – Bike path along Beargrass Creek

6 – After a mile or so it empties out onto more roads with traffic lights but both of the lights on this stretch are crossing one-way streets which means the wait is much less.

7 – Speedometer with temperature at 93 degrees

8 – Back on the bike path approaching downtown.

9 – Slugger Field is on the left and this is the bronze my friend Ray (from Club 53) made of Paul Hornung

10 – Closer to the Ohio, this is a Marvin Finn sculpture garden.

11 – Squirting water by Waterfront Park

12 – Waterfront Park

13 – Down by the Ohio River where the riverboats dock.

14 – The Spirit Of Jefferson (The Belle Of Louisville was out on the river somewhere.

15 – Under I-64.

16 – Back on the bike path next to the river. Under the right side of that bridge is “The Falls Of The Ohio” fossil beds with Devonian era marine fossils.

17 – Bike path, passing old railroad bridge.

18 – Bike path along railroad tracks, most days there are trains parked along here.

19 – Two empty coal barges, I thought it looked like they were racing.

20 – Empty barges.

21 – On this section of the path, every mile or so there will be a series of granite blocks embedded into the path with different terminology referring to something about the river. This one is from the section about the different crafts that were on the river. There’s some about fish, riverboat lingo, local native tribes, flood levels, etc. There’s quite a bit of etymology that is largely unknown except to riverboat enthusiasts and historians.

22 – Here’s a full coal barge… got to make our electricity.

23 – This is the McAlpine Lock to get barges past the falls of the Ohio.

24 – Back under I-64.

25 – Parked train up on an old trestle.

26 – Another shot of the train on the trestle with the bridge that spans the river in the background.

27 – Back under I-64.

28 – Here’s the “Bike Path Closed Ahead – Do Not Enter” sign.

29 – Here’s the “closed” bike path.

30 – More of the “closed” bike path.

31 – Here’s why the bike path is “closed”, probably more for liability worries than anything.

32 – Another pool of standing water. There are several of these but there are well-worn paths in the dirt around the edges.

So I wanted to put this picture by itself because it reminds me of my childhood. Look at all that iron oxide… yeah…

OK, here’s the last picture because after you navigate the “closed” bike path you come to this barricade…

So now, you should stop reading if you don’t like long posts… aw hell, if you read this far you might as well go to the end. Anyway this barricade is impassable on the bike. To the left is a golf course and that tall black fence is to keep golf balls from raining down on your noggin while you pedal by. On the right and not in the photo is a drop off into the Ohio River, it’s not steep but you can’t ride a bike around. So I’ve been coming up to this sign for weeks now and my curiosity is peaked for two reasons… one, I just got done riding through the “closed” path but this one is really “closed” (I don’t get the difference) and two, the DANGER signs. I kept thinking, what could the danger possible be. So I packed the camera back into the pouch and hoisted my bicycle over the barricade and crawled under and that’s why I don’t have anymore pictures. So I’m riding along tentatively because I wasn’t sure where and what the danger would be… maybe tigers lived in this section, or maybe anacondas that could squish a bicycle into a little ball, or more likely a large flooded area that was invisible until you were up to your neck in water. The right side of the asphalt path was a bit eroded in sections and I started thinking that must be it. But then up ahead I see two people in the path huddled around a 5 gallon bucket and a black satchel. I immediately thought that they were foraging, maybe for purslane or morels, and then I thought, it must not be dangerous for people on foot and then I thought maybe they were the danger. As I neared them I could make out, even though their backs were to me that it was and old woman (actually later I realized that she was probably my age) and a young man who was taller than the woman by a good foot. I wasn’t staring at them and was riding along at a good clip (plus my vision isn’t so hot) and when I got up on them, I glanced over to see the man/boy?’s bare ass and it looked like the old lady that was my age was pulling them down. I decided I didn’t want to know what this was all about so I sped up a bit and passed them. As I passed I glanced to see if they were embarrassed (not em bare assed) or defiant or whatever and the man had a diaper on and the woman seemed to be adjusting it. At that point I figured my blog post was going to be longer than I planned. Surprisingly I got to the other barricade and the area inside the barricades was less than a mile or so it seemed. At this barricade there was a path in the dirt to get around and I took that. I met two women who told me the route went on for another 35 miles and I thought what a shame it was to have about 60 continuous miles interrupted in the middle by an impassable mile. The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful except for a butterfly hit me right in the eye. And after I turned around and headed back, I saw the old woman and boy who had moved on from the closed section. The boy seemed to be around 16 or so and I can only guess the situation save that he was at the very least incontinent. So I went back around the barricade and headed home and I came upon the 5 gallon bucket and satchel sitting right where the two of them had been and I slowed down to see what it was. No purslane, no dandelions, no wild onions… rocks, all the same kind, you know the yellow ochre colored stones that have a relatively shiny finish (I like them too, although I don’t forage for them) and they were all about the same size, a little bit bigger than a golf ball. I have no idea how they were going to carry a 5 gallon bucket of rocks, it had to be heavy, of course maybe it wasn’t theirs and they just happened to stop for a diaper adjustment next to them. So there you have it, a typical urban bike ride… hope you made it to the end.

A Rite Of Passage…

August 22, 2010

For years I’ve heard that one of the problems with modern society is that it lacks significant and meaningful rites of passage. You know, like the Lakota Sun Dance ceremony where you pierce your pectoral muscles with hooks and the hooks are attached to ropes that go over a pole and have the large skull of a buffalo hanging on them (there are variations to this). Well, this was the big week as Sofia began kindergarten on Tuesday and has full days from 9 to 3:45. I had friends that had warned me. They said, “oh, first day of kindergarten is brutal”. I thought, well, the bug is longing for new kids to play with all the time maybe it won’t be as brutal for her as I’ve been warned. Anyway, I was concerned but figured it was something that has to happen regardless. So Tuesday morning, Mom and I take Sofia to the school and they allowed us into the kindergarten room until she found her seat and we said goodbye and as we left the building and got out on the front sidewalk, with the picture of our little bug bravely sitting in her little chair in our heads, the tears started coming down our faces. It was then that I realized that my friends meant that the first day of kindergarten was brutal for me, not for her. And the rite of passage isn’t so much a child’s first day of kindergarten as it is dropping your child off for the first day and going home to the empty, quiet house where nothing seems right and wishing 3:45 would get here faster so we could make sure it wasn’t traumatic for her. What an overwhelming feeling that I had just left my child in the hands of people I hardly know anything about… yuck. So Sofia loves school and wants to go on Saturday and Sunday too… yeah, right, we’ll see how long that lasts. I took her and dropped her off solo on Thursday and I thought everything was cool but just as I said goodbye, she broke down, much in the way I was afraid she would on the 1st day. She grabbed my leg and didn’t want to let go. That was a long day too, of course, she probably got over it in about 2 minutes and it bothered me all day. When we visited the school during the spring to decide which one we wanted (you have to list 1st, 2nd, 3rd choices here), they mentioned that parents could have lunch with the kids and on Thursday, Mom said that she had to remember to ask on Friday when and where, etc. Later when we were all in the car and Mom was telling me that she had asked, etc., Sofia said, “what are you two talking about?” Mom said, “I asked the teacher today about coming up and having lunch with you on certain days”. Sofia got a disapproving look on her face immediately and said, “but I wanna eat with my friends”. So there you have it. Without further ado, it is clear from the comments on the last post that some prefer pictures of kids, dogs, etc., so here’s a few of Sofia the photographer (her latest passion) with peach stains on her face and the demon dog herself…

I also was thinking about the previous post’s grad school story and thought I’d go ahead and tell another college tale. For those of you who are too busy to read a long post (after all, I’m too busy to write 5 small posts), I’m putting in this little warning… STOP HERE.

This is a story about me and Matt from SIU-C in the sculpture program. I always called Matt, Mattie Muckchucker and he’s the one in this picture with the moustache (the other girl in the pic is our good friend Randy)…

At SIU-C, the foundry consisted of 2 long, parallel quonset huts with a regular door at one end and a huge sliding door at the other on both. When we would work on our assistantship jobs and we weren’t actually pouring bronze and it was cold out, we would leave the big sliding doors shut and locked. Now Mattie and I were making a small burnout kiln I think or it might have been an actual furnace for melting the metals. Anyway, we had a metal barrel that was about 3 feet tall or so and we first poured a 3 inch or so “floor” on the bottom of the barrel with castable refractory cement. Next we cut 3 circles out of particle board and put illustration board around the 3 circles for a cylinder to place in the center of the barrel so we could pour more castable around the outside. So on this particular day, Mattie and I came into the foundry section of the foundry (where the big doors were… all the other students that were working were out in the front room) and proceeded to take the particle board and illustration board cylinder from the middle of the barrel because the cement had hardened. The top wood circle came out easily and then we ripped the illustration board down a ways and it was wet. This is when we realized how stupid we had been and that water had soaked through the illustration board. To make a long story a tiny bit shorter we were able to get everything out of the hardened cement except the wooden circle on the bottom because the cement between the middle and bottom circle had slumped in a bit so the hole was smaller than the wood. Here’s where we had a meeting of the minds… how to get the wooden circle out of the bottom of the barrel? Well, we couldn’t fit a saw down in there and we hacked at a bit with some chisels with not much progress and finally we decided… we should burn it out. Yeah… it’s all about the fire anyway. But how? Naphtha of course… I think we chose naphtha because it was handy. We agreed that the naphtha would soak into the particle board and after a bit of a wait it would burn the wood. Dolts. Anyway, we poured quite a bit in there and waited for it to “soak in”. Then we stood on opposite sides and Mattie got some matches and lit one and threw it in. We were very wary and were shying backwards when he tossed it in but nothing happened. We edged up ever so slowly and there it was, a dead match on the wooden circle. So match #2… nothing, same thing we peer over the edge of the opening to see the impotent match. Match #3… nothing, but this time we both simultaneously leaned forward just a smidge earlier than the other two times and WHOOOMPH, the naphtha ignited and blew a forceful column of fire about 7 or 8 feet straight up. I looked up in shock at Mattie and his moustache, eyelashes and eyebrows were singed at least halfway off but the best part is that the blast had blown his hair straight up and burned it into place. Of course, the very same thing happened to me except I didn’t have a ‘stache at the time. So there we were Laurel and Hardy or the 2 stooges staring at each others burnt hairdos frozen in an upward coif and knowing that in order to assess the damage, we would have to go out through the gauntlet of other students to get to the other quonset hut where our studios were. This was definitely NOT an option because we would never have lived it down… we might have actually garnered new nicknames because of it. We couldn’t get out the locked doors and we were trapped. Amazingly I have forgotten how we got hold of our friend Thad, but I think we simply sat there until he came wandering in and we talked him into going outside and unlocking the big sliding doors and then we snuck across the way to our studios and tried to comb the burnt hair out of the unburnt hair. Later, we entered where the other students were and of course, they could smell the burnt hair and we still looked ridiculous but not nearly as ridiculous as we did before we did damage control and of course we were able to have a modified version of the story to make us look less like morons. OK, here’s another drawing Sofia and I collaborated on…

For the uninitiated, most of the characters in the wizard of 0z are present. And last but not least here’s some greenware…

I’m a bit ambivalent about these beer glasses because they are taking a good amount of time, especially the last one, and I’m using acrylic medium instead of shellac and so far my tests have been just a bit shy in the performance area. So, I’m not thrilled about spending so much time when I’m not sure I can have it work well all the way through. I’m letting it dry for a week I think just to be sure and then I guess I’ll know.

Enter The Fray…

August 18, 2010

I have been frustrated the past two weeks by my recent bicycle injury but more than that by what I missed out on online while recovering. Apparently there was an incendiary guest post over at Sawdust and Dirt and by the time I figured out that it had occurred, it was taken down. Today, an apparently lengthier entry by the same guest blogger has been posted. I have been temporarily inspired by Mr. Pilcher’s call for more lengthy discussions and less slapdash entries with pictures of what I did yesterday. Of course I say temporarily because I’m somewhat laid up and I don’t have any pictures of what I did yesterday and I’ve already been leaning toward longer entries (although I suspect many people have neither the time or inclination to read them through). But like Mr. Pilcher, I’m a self styled curmudgeonly heretic of sorts myself and although his clarion call was to write something more in depth about the creative process… I am not going to do that directly. Instead I’d like to tell a story of ceramics and by correlation imply where such a story led which is… to me and my current work. I had a great undergrad teacher, Fred Shepard, who was a functional potter and had an absolute mastery over the materials. He was also a very funny guy. He had an ex-student who had gotten the job of teaching at the University of Montana alongside of Rudy Autio. Fred said to me and another ceramics student graduating at the same time, you all should go to Montana and study with Rudy and he probably leveraged his connection with his ex-student to get us both in but I have absolutely no proof of that. So Montana, here we come. Mark, the other student, and I leave Murray, KY on one of the last days of August. The day before we left we were cutting tobacco for 6.00/hr. in 95 degree heat. After an incredibly long ride, we arrive in Montana a couple days later to the beginnings of winter. We actually drove through an entire season. A beautiful place, Missoula but I was soon to have my bubble burst. It became clear the first day that Rudy wasn’t going to be interacting with us nearly as much as the other instructor, who shall remain anonymous. He approached Mark and me the first day and said that if we wanted to excel in the program, we would take his performance art class each semester. Hmmm, this was 1982 and all I could think was… performance art, wasn’t that all done with about 20 years earlier and more importantly, what the hell does this have to do with ceramics and me coming all the way out here to study it. Well, obviously I was wrong about it all having been done with by then but it did fit in with the overall feeling that eventually became clear and that was that this little alcove had somehow managed to slow time and that I had entered a vortex sending me back to the 60’s. Sure, performance dude had an remarkably obedient dog named sponge that would do anything he said or die trying and sponge was a real advantage when keeping the performances entertaining. Anyway, we said no and didn’t take his class although we were in an extreme minority. Initially, I helped Mark finish building a beautiful new kiln that was only partially done when we arrived but soon I realized that I couldn’t get much done during the day and shifted my schedule to come to the studio at about 10 p.m. and leave when people started showing up in the morning. I never had any interactions about my work with the performance dude. He seemed clearly to be absolutely uninterested in ceramics and I figured that he felt that this was his punishment for us not obliging him with his performance initiatives. Well, so much the better. Early into the first semester, a new student from back east showed up, I don’t recall his name but I think it was Dave. Dave was a potter who worked for Peter Voulkos back in New Jersey, I think. He was not Mr. Voulkos’s student but someone that worked for him to fire, etc. Since Rudy and Voulkos were friends, Dave entered the grad program with us. Dave made big, thick, rough twisty pots that were very heavy. Dave also did a lot of cocaine and PCP although I never saw him actually take them. Dave also blew the roof off the new kiln that Mark and I had finished by relighting a burner that had been out for quite some time while candling. So one very cold night while I was working, Dave showed up and it was about 2 or 3 p.m. I heard him come in and waited for him to pop his head into my studio space but he went straight to the kiln room because he had been waiting to unload a recent firing. I figured that he’d stop in a bit later. Suddenly, I heard some small crashes and then an unbelievable cacophony of heavy things breaking and breaking glass and screaming. I came out of my studio into the general clay area to see Dave, high as a kite, with only his underwear and boots on, with blood on his underwear and legs from a cut he had gotten from one of his broken pieces, standing on the wheelhead of a potter’s wheel and after throwing one of his large huge pieces against the clock above the sink, shattering it and having it all fall into the sink, jumping from wheelhead to wheelhead screaming and ranting. I managed to calm him down and get him to put some clothes on and leave mostly because I wanted to stem the destruction. By the time I had intervened, he had thrown 2 of his pieces into the undergraduate ware shelves breaking entire shelf-fulls of work. There was glass and blood and pottery shards everywhere. I spent the hours before Rudy and performance dude got there cleaning up what I could but there was no hiding the damage that had happened so quickly. I normally wouldn’t have stayed until Rudy and performance dude showed up but I felt without some explanation that they would be at a loss for what happened and maybe connect it to me since they knew I was there all night on most nights. They were not happy and I didn’t tell them about the blood and other crazy parts of the story. Now when I agreed to go to Missoula, I was told that Mark was getting an assistantship and that if I could somehow get through the first year, I would receive one the second year. When summer came, I caught a ride with my girlfriend to Chicago and another friend picked me up and took me to Louisville. I received a letter after a month or so from Rudy saying that he regretted that they couldn’t give me the assistantship as promised and it was only later that I found out that Dave had gotten it. I don’t tell this as a sour grapes story… it’s just what happened and I have no regrets. My time spent watching Rudy do demos for the undergrads was worth being there in itself and he eventually trusted me to fire some kilnloads of his beautiful pieces. I also got to go to a Stephen DeStaebler workshop in Idaho, lounge naked in natural hot springs with snow all around, go white water rafting and go tubing down the Rattlesnake river in the coldest liquid I’ve ever been immersed. Now, Mark left after the second semester (they were on the quarter system) and took a job with Beverly Pepper and when he was trying to get out of there, we both applied to other schools. When I received word that I wouldn’t get the assistantship, I called my undergrad sculpture teacher and he said call Tom, the sculpture prof at SIU-C and see what he says. I called Tom and he said within the first 30 seconds… come here, you’ll get two assistantships if you want them, no need to apply, just get here. He delivered, I was at SIU-C for 3 full years and for all 6 semesters I had 2 assistantships. I never returned to Montana or my girlfriend and she married performance dude. From what I understand, neither of them is involved in art or performance and they raise sheep somewhere up in Montana. Fast forward to 2004 after a 21 year hiatus from clay. A friend of mine’s girlfriend was a young promising ceramics person here in Louisville. I spoke with her on several occasions about getting back into ceramics. She decide a year of so later to attend a clay school up north, that shall remain anonymous. Halfway through the first semester, my friend told me that she had been persuaded to get into performance art. What? I stand firm on what I believed then and still believe. What does performance art have to do with ceramics? Not a damn thing. But what gives? So there ya go… wouldn’t you rather have a picture of my dog and some greenware?

Thought I’d Get Here Earlier…

August 15, 2010

Where’s here? Well, my last post was my 365th post and this is 366. From April to August of last year I was posting 28+/month so I figured I’d be at 366 sometime in April but here it is late August… que sera sera. You’d think since I’m laid up that I could do a lot more posting but I swear not being able to move like I want is abjectly boring. This wednesday it will be 2 solid weeks and I think I’m finally on the mend but doubt that I’ll be 100% by then. I decided on thursday of last week that if I didn’t throw some prototypes for this commission that I wanted to get, that it would be literally impossible to get them fired by the time of the presentation. This was a mistake in more ways than one because I spent a solid 7 hours on both thursday and friday and by the end of it my hip hurt a lot worse and I figure that I set my healing back more than the 2 days I spent working. Here’s a couple shots of the beer glasses I was thinking of using for the commission…

This commission is essentially the equivalent of a large wholesale order with some differences of course and all the time I’ve been working on it, I keep thinking of how great it could be and not just for me but for the client and the museum. Of course I’m impotent as far as being able to change the dynamics of the way it works. See, the museum has a very nice corporate salesperson who puts together orders for clients to use as gifts and this helps keep the museum flush and gives work to the artists that the museum represents and the client gets something handmade and custom made to give out for special occasions. So that’s a win/win/win. Of course the fact that the client doesn’t understand a couple key things keeps me fantasizing about sending a gift to the person in charge with a diplomatic letter attempting to explain how to leverage the situation even more to everyone’s benefit without really doing anything more than 2 little things. The first thing is that since this is an annual thing at xmas (from what I understand, they do it every year), why not sign off on the final choice in March? This would give the artists 2 or 3 months to make a prototype and 7-9 months to execute the order… in this case 250 pieces (not sure about everyone else, but this is a big order for me). I can only speak for myself but I’m confident that many potters would agree with me on this… the largest impediment to the client getting something really nice is that I’m constantly cutting back on what I propose because I don’t want to be unable to finish so if removing the time crunch is simply a matter of signing off earlier, it’s likely that any artist that is vying would be less inclined to cut corners on the design because they fear not being able to complete the project and this would mean that the client would end up with a nicer product at the same price that they’re already paying. I would even go so far as saying that I would probably propose a piece that’s worth more than the client is paying because the order is so large. Of course the second thing that could be changed (of course I’ve been on the corporate side of things long enough to know that bureaucracy, amongst other things may simply make this impossible although it’s an easy “concession”) is to ditch the precious logo. I keep thinking in my head that if 250 gift recipients were given a lovely vase as the gift that more than likely 250 of them would not display it with flowers as a centerpiece on their dining room table if the lovely vase has a logo front and center. Actually, the amazing thing to me is that this insistence on the logo is the definition of “logoware” and going to the museum in the first place seems contradictory to logoware. At our company, we got cups with logos and shirts and hats with logos and t-shirts and the cups were good for meetings and maybe some people used them at home but they’re never considered by anyone involved to be special and if they are… well, you got me. At the very least, if the company is afraid that they won’t get credit for the nice gift that they’re giving, they could have the logo on the bottom where it’s not up front and center. Oh well, I guess that’s enough on this… just that because of these issues combined with my untimely injury, I will not be able to vie for this commission. On to what do you do when it’s 100+ degrees every day and you can’t move around. We did some collaborative drawings again…

Sofia’s been cracking me up as well as amazing me as she’s been on an improvisational singing bent. I swear while we drew yesterday, she sang an uninterrupted stream of consciousness for almost 2 hours straight. It was as if I was just listening to her thoughts as they appeared in her head. I wish I could have recorded some of it because some parts are hilarious and I honestly wonder where it comes from. Here’s a snippet that I wrote down: “Charmie Mistoe was her name/Charmie Mistoe was her name/I never had a girl like that/She always wore orange pants/she always wore orange pants that were too small.” The part about the orange pants came out just as she changed markers and picked up an orange one. So anyway, that was yesterday and today she decided that she’s a photographer and I let her take as many pictures as she wanted to with my old camera. Her she is on a mission…

Here’s a self portrait…

Of course, turnabout is fair play and I think she was trying to get back at me for taking so many pics of her (panda/giraffe/lion/pig)…

Horizontal Weekend…

August 9, 2010

Well, I’m still laid up. I went to lunch with a friend on Thursday (the day after the injury) and it took me so long to get to the car and into the car holding on to anything I could along the way that he brought me some crutches later that evening. On Friday I was feeling optimistic because the crutches weren’t needed really if I was careful and I took that as a sign that my increased mobility would just keep increasing. Unfortunately, my optimism about returning to the studio today has been squelched as I seem to have plateaued in my recovery. I had the bug this weekend but couldn’t walk the dog and really I’m bored out of my skull just sitting or lying around in positions that don’t put stress on my leg. I won’t continue because it has to be as boring to read about as it is to experience. So what do you do when you’re horizontal and can’t do anything? Sofia and I did some drawing this weekend. The first two are hers solo and the second two are collaborative (click to enlarge)…

Looks like we’re going to have to get some more of that long narrow bristol board. On Saturday, I thought I was up to Sofia and I trying a new mold my friend Ray gave me with 3 vases in it. The slip was too thick and after fighting with the mold to drain it, I regretted not waiting…

It’s strange that when you can’t seem to get a break, you just wanna have a break and when you get a break, albeit because of an injury, you just get bored and wish you could get back to work.

Glamorous Injury?…

August 5, 2010

So yesterday, I was working on my idea for this commission and it’s 100+ degrees outside with a heat index of 110 and it’s about 3:30 in the afternoon and we’ve got a babysitter lined up for 6:00 for the first time in over 6 months. Mom and I were thinking… how about dinner and then a movie, how luxurious would that be? So anyway, earlier in the day I went to the bike shop and got some degreaser and lubricant for my horribly dirty bicycle chain. I cleaned my chain (although probably not up to snuff of the more persnickety) and was antsy to go out and ride regardless of the heat warnings. I mean really, I had already gone out a few times in 98/99 degree heat what’s a couple more degrees? So I leave around 3:45 and I go to the end of my new urban route and turn around and I’m a bit low on water (I quaffed a big glass before I left the house and I have 2 bottles on the bike). The few sips that are left in the bottoms of both water bottles are hotter than the water in a hot shower and don’t really seem to slake the thirst very much. So on my return I pass the downtown waterfront park and the Belvedere and I know there’s some water fountains around there somewhere. Now I’d rather elaborate a truly glamorous story of attempted rescue… say that maybe I was riding along the railroad tracks parallel with a speeding train and could hear (how could I hear, I know) a young mother on the other side of the train screaming… “help, help, my baby, somebody help” and then I race the locomotive and dart across the tracks in front of it but as I cross the tracks the engine clips my back wheel and sends me flying 30 feet through the air and that’s why I cannot walk today. But… the truth is that the reason I cannot walk today is that while riding on the wide sidewalks of the waterfront park, I pass a man sitting on a bench (in the sun) and ask from my moving bike, “do you know where the water fountains are?” He mumbles something and I think about just continuing on my way and finding them on my own but I felt like he was being helpful so I decided to circle back. Now the sidewalks are wide but in the area I was at the sidewalks are in pairs with a stretch of sandy gravel betwixt with trees planted and that’s where the bench was that the dude was sitting on. If you ride a bike you know that sand is not a good surface for a road bike. As I circle behind the bench and the mumbling dude (Michael) points to the water fountains clear across the park, I say thanks and proceed toward the sidewalk again. So there was a 3 inch ledge formed by the edge of the sidewalk and the mushy sandy gravel and when my front tire hit the mushiness, my bicycle twisted sideways quickly and although I managed to kick out of my right clip-in pedal, my left foot remained attached and I fell to the left and my hip landed squarely on the corner of the ledge of the sidewalk. So there I am, 10 miles from home, lying on the sidewalk with my left foot stuck in the pedal clip (unable to twist it out because of the pain in my hip), sun shining bright, thirsty and writhing in pain… a pain I can’t remember having in quite some time. Dude is standing over me saying, “are you ok man?” and I’m swearing and saying no. He lifts my bike so that I can get my foot free and I try to stand by cannot and eventually crawl through the damn mushy sandy gravel to the shade of small tree. Michael asks if there’s anything he can do and I say that I’m dying of thirst so he takes my water bottles and goes and fills them up. I lie there in the gravel and wait for the pain to subside a bit. When he returns, I quaff an entire bottle of water and lie there for another 5 minutes and fortunately Michael is not much of conversationalist nor chatty at all. Eventually, it occurs to me that I cannot walk home because… 1, I have plantar fasciitis which is why I’m biking in the first place and 2, because I have bike shoes on with clips protruding from the bottoms and 3, (although I didn’t realize it yet), I cannot walk. I also realize that if I don’t get on the bike and make it home, the real pain is going to set in and I’ll be stranded “On The Waterfront” with no way to get home and then Quinnie, the babysitter, will arrive and Mom will think the worst, etc. So I mount up and pedal the remaining 10 miles trying to use only my good leg. When I get home I take a shower and limp around and think… we can still go out. It’s such a major ordeal to schedule a night out that I figured I could be in pain at the movies and dinner as well as at home staring at the wall. So we go out to dinner and about halfway through, I feel like I’m gonna faint and after dinner we abort the evening and head home. At home the real pain sets in and I sleep downstairs on the couch. I also have a nasty abrasion that runs from my wrist almost to my elbow and I think that’s what scared Sofia when I got home. She’s a doll and has been nursing me, bringing me blankets and fetching water and she helped me climb the stairs this morning which took me about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, there will be no throwing or working for at least a day or so. So Meredith, I swear I didn’t get injured to give you “accident company”. Anyway, glamorous injury… not even close and I’m gonna come out and say it… my first bicycle accident occurred at a speed of less than 1 mile per hour. On to a lighter topic… or heavier I guess depending on your take. I grew up in the north and have lived in the south since I was 19 which means I’ve lived here much longer than I lived there. Now, there’s dolts everywhere and the north is no exception, in fact my sister’s ex-husband is a dolt comparable to the one in this video, and I’m not posting this to cast aspersions on the south but when attempting to describe a nuanced flavor to the stupidity that the south has to offer to a northerner, I inevitably hit a wall where said northerner thinks that I’m exaggerating for effect or sometimes I simply am unable to relay the reality of it verbally. A good analogy is trying to relay a story about rampant marijuana use in the dormitories when I was in college to a person a generation or two later who grew up with “this is your brain on drugs” commercials. The younger person always looks at you during the story with that “wow, I didn’t realize you were a druggie” look. There’s a context to history that is very difficult to describe unless you lived through it. So here it is, the Basil Marceaux dot com candidacy for governor of Tennessee. Since it’s difficult to translate into English I will precede the video with a couple key points that he makes that may be easy to miss (especially for northerners)… first, he wants to do away with gun permits and have everyone have guns with no punishments whatsoever unless you kill someone in which case you will be murdered and then after that be sent to jail… presumably to rot. He also wants to grow grass in every vacant lot in Tennessee and turn that grass into fuel to sell for money for the budget. Look, I can’t make this stuff up, and of course there are larger issues here like why is this guy on TV at all and why does the news have to pretend that he’s legitimate. Maybe this is the result of generations of Americans having mercury put in their mouths by dentists…

Striped Like Dad…

August 4, 2010

When you get a bit older and you have kids, you start to realize that you share a lot more with dear old Dad than you thought when you were less long in the tooth. Similarities pop up all the time but many are fleeting and difficult to substantiate. I realized today that I’ve become my Dad in yet another way and one that I never saw coming. First off, we’re a swarthy bunch, my siblings and I (except for one glaring exception… you know who you are, miss blue eyes), just like Dad was, and Grandpa, and who knows? Past grandpa were generations of Sicilians who I doubt were blue eyed, freckled pale faces. So my Dad loved golf. His standard attire for golfing all summer was golf shoes, white athletic socks that came halfway up his calf, golf shorts that came a bit more than halfway down his thigh, a short-sleeved v-neck (with buttons) golf shirt with sleeves that came almost to his elbows, a golf hat, sunglasses and a golf glove. In certain lighting and when he didn’t have his golf attire on, he might get a second take from someone because his face was dark except for the slightly lighter circles around his eyes and the pale top of his forehead… still, this could be and was overlooked mostly. The true test, which rarely occurred, was when we went somewhere that swimming was the activity and my Dad would come out with just swimming trunks on… he looked like a strange multi-colored animal with white feet, white thighs that came out from the legs of his swimming trunks, white torso complete with white shoulders and biceps, the aforementioned circles around the eyes and pale forehead and the piece de resistance… one white hand ala Micha3l Jacks0n from where he wore the golf glove. The rest of his body in between these very pale areas was a very rich dark, deeply tanned brown… so he had dark bands of tanned hide that started from his wrist to just past the elbow, from just above his knees to halfway down the calf and a dark face with accompanying V below his chin. It was hilarious to look at and he didn’t give a rat’s ass as they say. Sorry to belabor the point but I have been doing some serious cycling lately (by serious, I mean often more than fast or far) which has me out in the sun each day. I spent 1 hour 45 minutes riding yesterday and the temp was 98 according to my new cycling speedometer. So I wear bike shorts that come halfway down my thighs, a helmet, bike gloves, a short sleeved shirt and socks that don’t necessarily come halfway to my knee but they go past my ankle. I got home from riding and on my way to the shower caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and there it was… I look like my Dad. If someone had told me back in the day that someday I would resemble my Dad in this way, I would have insisted that they were delusional but there he was in the mirror, looking back… all striped. And honestly, I don’t give a rat’s ass either. Before I continue with the cycling, here’s what I’ve been working on so I can break up this post with a picture…

So Sunday (Sofia attended a bridal somethin’ or otherin’ sans me), I decided to brave the nasty intersection of Grinstead and Lexington to enter the bike trail that is supposed to go around the city. After 10 miles from my house, I was cruising on Main St. downtown by the waterfront and then continued along between the river and the railroad past the McAlpine lock on the Ohio and down toward the west end. About 14 miles into the ride, signs warned that the bike path was closed and not to enter… so I kept going. Apparently there was some flooding there earlier in the year but no big shakes. At 17 miles, the path was barricaded for real so I headed back but sometime soon I’m gonna see what’s going on there too. On Monday, I drove toward the southern end of town to meet an old friend, Scott, who is a cycling enthusiast. He took me on a beautiful bucolic ride out in a somewhat rural area where the cars were scarce. It reminded me of Western K3ntucky where I went to college. Yesterday I went on the same ride as Sunday and I was struck by the contrast of the two rides. Although both rides had an element of adventure that I was not expecting, they were like touring different aspects of the same location. One, the industrial urban part of the city with barges and trains, urban decay and rusty train trestles and the other the rural outskirts past homes with big yards and big vegetable gardens, cows and forest. I don’t want to come right out and say it but I think I may be starting to like cycling… after you get past the pain of it all there is a certain feeling of self reliance and the amazing efficiency of this human powered machine. Scott is way into the whole thing as well and let me know that my chain is dirty… so I gotta get on that. He also mentioned that he had completed his first century ride (100+ miles) which I have yet to do. Technically speaking that’s not true… although it wasn’t quite the same when I did it. It was back in Murray, KY in 1978 or 9. I had a class with a girl named Pam that I had a crush on because she was such a wise ass. As the spring semester wound down, she mentioned that she had to go back home to her family’s marina on Lake Barkley to work for the summer. She gave me her phone number and said in what I thought was a very suggestive manner… come up and see me some time. I thought, wow, that would be fun but how the hell would I get up there as I had absolutely no money, no car, no friends with cars and Murray in summer was extremely depopulated. Anyway, the dog days set in and I found this bicycle behind our apartment. It was a 10-speed, very heavy steel framed and stuck in 6th or 7th gear as the shifters were kaput. In the inimitable manner of a young man with a not-quite-fully-developed frontal lobe, I imagined a scenario where I road a mere 30 miles or so and Pam would be so happy to see me that she and her family would feed me and I would stay overnight (of course), hey maybe stay for a day or two and then head back the same 30 miles or so. So I hit the road with no extra clothes, no water, just her phone # (of course I neglected to call first but maybe that was because I couldn’t pay for the long distance call). After a grueling day climbing hills in the one gear and dodging traffic all the way, I arrived at a little park a ways down the road from the marina. I stopped because I saw a drinking fountain and as I sat under a tree in the shade, I spied a pay phone and figured it was time to call Pam and announce my arrival. Her mom answered the phone and told me that Pam was out on the lake with her cousins from out west and she could call me back at the pay phone in an hour or so. After quite some time, she did call and told me that she had to entertain her relatives and this was not a good time and that maybe I could come back later in the summer, but part of me felt like she was just blowing me off because she never thought that I’d actually show up. So now it was 4 or 5 in the afternoon, I’m exhausted, haven’t eaten and have no recourse but to drink a lot of water and head back to Murray… which I did. I remember excruciating pain (I should remind you that this was my maiden bike voyage and had not been riding at all) and almost spontaneously weeping on the bike from the various pains. I knew instinctively that if I dismounted that I would never get back on the bike so I stayed on and plodded onward. It got dark with 20 miles to go. When I arrived in Murray I got off the bike in the yard in front of our apartment and instantly fell to the ground as my legs would not support me. I laid there for hours, slept most of the next day and finally recovered the day after that. I eventually made the exact trip in a car and clocked the miles on the car’s odometer… 52 miles one way. So way back then 30 years ago I did my first and only and unintentional century ride. Back to ceramics, I’ve been distracted for the last couple days because I’ve been offered the chance to try for quite a large commission… 250 of something. Of course, as with this type of job, there are requirements and timetables that really push the limit of what one sole potter can accomplish by themselves and I’ve been stewing on how to get the job and have it actually be completed within the time constraints. More on this later I’m sure.