Archive for March, 2011

HazMat Called You Yet?…

March 27, 2011

In like a lamb but out like a lion. Tricked again… last week it was 80 degrees and I was riding my bike and having an early start to my riding season. Last night I looked out the front door and the snow was coming down…

Here’s my neighbor’s pear tree in full bloom like the pear trees all over the city (took this with a flash)…

I guess we have another week of it before we get back to springiness. Oh, and I looked down and there was a mouse in my Earl Grey or is that my imagination…

At least it looked like a mouse to me. So, ok, I have to tell a doctor story. To be frank, I haven’t had much luck with the ol’ MD’s and I could write a long series of posts detailing my travails. This time though there’s a connection to ceramics so I figured I’d go ahead and jump the gun. Anyway, I have a terrible allergy which is causing me to itch like crazy. It’s a full body thing and has been driving me to distraction. As with contact allergies, determining what you’re allergic to is not only the key but is also incredibly difficult to assess. I went to the dermatologist to no avail and then went to my new MD. This is only my second visit to him. So I detail my symptoms and he asks me the obligatory “is there anything that you changed that coincides with the onset of this condition?” My answer… yes, but I thought I should ignore that and just come in here instead. Not really but after establishing that an allergy can spontaneously develop to something that I was not allergic to before, we moved past the futility of that route. Anyway, the subject of clay came up and I said, “really, have you ever heard of someone being allergic to clay?” Then, with a very excited, eureka kind of inflection in his voice, he said… “here’s what I want you to do.” I want you to get a hazmat suit…

As he was describing what a hazmat suit is… “it’s like a chemical cleanup suit that goes over your shoes and clothes and has a helmet with oxygen and… (at this point I’m trying not to have the look of disbelief on my face) and you have these gloves”. As he was pantomiming the pulling on of the gloves, he stops mid-Marcel-Marceau and says reflectively, “hmmm, now wait, would you be able to work at the pottery wheel with the gloves on?” I was about to try my diplomatic response but he changed up on me mid-thought. “You could just wear everything but the gloves and maybe just tie the hood without the face mask so that this part of your face is uncovered”… and he put both his hands up to his face making a circle with his fingers big enough to see his eyes, nose and mouth through. Then, my specialty… tact. I say, “I’m not sure you understand exactly what goes on in a clay studio.” He says, “hey, you only have to do it for a couple months just to find out if that’s what it is.” This conversation kind of fizzled after that where he entertained maybe one of those tyvek suits because they would be less expensive and if I wasn’t going to use the hood or gloves, I might as well save some money. Then as quickly as the hazmat subject came up, it was abandoned and along with it the idea that we might figure out what was causing my problems. We moved on to treating the symptoms instead. So here’s the unit I got and this is a picture of me after a day of throwing bowls with my toxic clay…

Last but not least here’s a shot of a bowl made with the poison clay (don’t worry, after the piece is bone dry, the toxicity becomes inert and I’m able to work with merely 4 layers of clothes and a simply OSHA-approved gas mask)…

Glamor shot…

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You Say Kingergarten And I Say Kindergarten…

March 25, 2011

Well, it’s been a whirlwind of a week. Mom had a vacation and we didn’t go anywhere so it was a kind of stay at home vacation. We had her Mom and Dad over for dinner on one night, which was fun. Sofia teased her grandfather all night about U of Louisville getting beat in the first round of the tournament. She even went so far and to continually pledge her allegiance to UK which is her grandfather’s nemesis. A couple weeks ago Sofia suggested that while Mom was on vacation that we all go roller skating. I made the mistake of thinking out loud in her presence and in a moment of weakness said, “I bet if I put my orthotic inserts in the skates that I might be able to skate without too much pain. Of course she took this to mean that of course we would skate together. But before I get to that this is an award that Sofia won for first place grades kingergarten through 2nd grade…

She was beaming when she brought it home and showed me and I was very proud of her. Imagine my shock though when I was made aware that all this time she has been attending kingergarten and not kindergarten. I still haven’t made a trip up to the school to look into what the exact differences are between kingergarten and kindergarten. All kidding aside and acknowledging my absolute abhorrence of our culture’s acceptance of rampant misspelling, this is not the type of thing that leaves me ringing with confidence at the educational prospects to come. So… the roller skating rink is definitely a slice of the American culture. From the curmudge’s point of view it is crowded, noisy and has the most awful pop music cacophony blaring from speakers throughout the building. Sofia was so excited that she had found something “athletic” that I could do with her that I couldn’t back out once we got there and I had eaten too much and too late the evening before and was hungover to boot. I hadn’t skated in a very long time and early on (before I got the hang of it a little) it wasn’t really hurting my feet and was temporarily happy about finding something that maybe I could still do but as I got more of a hang of it and started to push off a little more, my feet really started to hurt and eventually I had to stop. Fortunately, I skated long enough to satisfy the bug’s insistence that we skate together. She had a great time though and that’s all that counts. Here’s the speed demon on wheels herself…

In other news, before today we had about a week of glorious weather with a day or so at 80 degrees or so. This allowed me to get my first 130 miles in on my bike. There’s been a bit of progress on the “trying to get the bike adjusted so that I’m not in pain after 20 miles or so” front. My good buddy Vern let me borrow this Br00k’s saddle…

The word’s still out on the relative comfort/discomfort as I haven’t put nearly enough miles with the seat to know. I did, however, go to the bike shop looking for a new stem arrangement and the dude there told me that these seats are notorious “assk1llers” (his words). He added, “plus it takes a long time to break them in” to which I replied, “no problem, the guy who loaned it to me already broke it in.” He looked at me like I was an imbecile and said, “he broke it in for his ass not your ass.” I didn’t have a reply to that. I did get the stem thing worked out as I replaced the old one with one 30mm shorter and you’d think that 30mm wouldn’t make so much difference but I finally felt like I wasn’t reaching so much for the handlebars or skootching back on the saddle. Here’s the new stem arrangement…

It’s currently 37 degrees and the balmy days may not return for a week or more. Because I’m a bit of a milquetoast when it comes to riding in the cold, I’ve been curious about wind chill. You know, your standing on your porch and there’s a good wind blowing but it’s 60 degrees F and sunny and it seems like a good idea. But if it’s 60 degrees and the wind is 30 mph, that’s a chill factor of 55 which is a bit chilly and that’s if you just facing the wind standing still. Add to that, riding 25 mph into the wind and it drops even more. Anyway, won’t get back to that for a while. On the clay front, I sold my first piece to someone in Austria. I also got rejected from a yunomi show in NY. Still plugging away at decoration, this one took me quite a while…

Spinach And Kale Give Us Paws…

March 17, 2011

On Sunday the weather was absolutely beautiful and today is supposed to be even better. We decided that it would be good day to get around to that garden that we were going to put in the front yard. The bug was very excited about planting stuff and even vowed to eat the spinach and kale we are growing. Of course she pointed out that that didn’t mean she was going to eat any other spinach or kale, just the ones we grow. So we tilled a little patch amongst the ivy and adjacent to the butterfly bush and did a little sowing…

So after we sowed the seed and sprinkled water to give it a good soaking, I was trimming the wild shoots that grow from the wild root of the “walking stick” tree (filbert). My next door neighbor has an old husky named Zeus and I like Zeus because Zeus is the only dog of the 16 within two house of me that doesn’t bark like a maniac and disturb our lovely springs and summers… and falls and winters. Zeus stays to himself and never visits but for some reason on this particular day, he wandered over and Sofia pet him for a bit. His owner came out on the porch and called him home and Zeus with his giant paws decided to take the shortcut home and walked right through our freshly planted plot. I was scrunched down under the filbert tree and had to simply watch as the big husky lumbered through the muddy surface…

I thought Sofia was going to have a conniption but I quickly assured her that the seeds didn’t care about the paw prints and everything went back to normal…

Our next mini-project was to plant this potato that the bug and I had started as our own little horticultural experiment in the kitchen a month or so ago…

Not sure whether it will survive as I’ve never done it before but I believe that she got the point.

It’s supposed to be 73 and sunny today and I was hoping to get a bike ride in but it’s a damn holiday, there’s a Louisville and Kentucky basketball game this afternoon and we’re having Mom’s parents over for dinner… and I need to get some work done too… and there’s this writing I’m doing right now. I just returned from the post office (hurray) and my usual eavesdropping revealed another conversation that left me wondering where people draw the line with small talk. The lovely woman behind the counter is always pleasant and seems a bit conservative to me… not politically conservative, just conservative. Anyway, one guy in line was a groundskeeper and the woman looked past him and asked me if I had any green on and I said, no… I’m not big on holidays. The guy looks at me and although he had a green cap on, said, I’m with you, and I usually tell people I have green underwear on. I was about to say that I might have some green scum on my back molars when the prim woman behind the counter says… yeah, maybe you just have a green skid mark in your underwear and then laughed heartily. I was a bit taken aback and realized that maybe I’ve got her pegged incorrectly. So onward and upward, here’s the bug with some of the Strawb3rry Sh0rtcake swag she got from the birthday party the day before…

The deco goes on and filed under “cant’ leave well enough alone” is this one…

Here’s a closeup…

I was really excited but after trying something a bit different, it left all these flecks of black that wouldn’t sponge away. It’s still possible that they will flake off in the bisque so I haven’t decided yet but definitely going up the learning curb. Have a good “snake shepherd” day.

A Coiled SPRING Of Industry…

March 13, 2011

Well, I didn’t mean to leave that last post up so long, especially since it represented such a awful experience… again. Actually, as awful as it was, I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve done it so many times now that I’m getting good at it. I just drag a trashcan from outside, put it under the lowest horizontal pipe where I have a hole drilled and covered with duct tape, rip the tape off and almost all sewage drains into the can with nary a speck of dung getting on me. Then, with the snake, it’s getting to be like a good fisherman who can visualize what’s going on at the end of his line by the way the line feels running over his finger. As I feed the snake into the pipe, I’m starting to notice slight differences in the way it feels and am able to visualize the tree roots blocking the drain. This is not something I aspire to be good at though. So that was last weekend and this weekend is the beginning (I think) of real spring weather. Yesterday was yet another idyllic Sofia and Dad day. It was sunny and warm and we were going all day. We hung out a bit in the morning and had coffee with our neighbor. Off to Vietnam Kitchen for lunch, here’s the bug “patiently” waiting for her soup…

While waiting they were showing the tragic devastation in Japan from the tsunami. Sofia started grilling me on all the different kinds of natural disasters and how they are caused because she wanted to rank them from bad to the worst. Anyway, that led to talk of our own little flooding going on down at the river and we decided to stop at the waterfront and see what’s going on. Here’s you tour guide…

Here’s a shot of the submerged staghorn sumac…

Here’s the bug with some driftwood and an action shot as she adds to the debris…

After the river extravaganza, we headed home to walk the dog and get cleaned up for Sofia’s friend Eva’s birthday party. It was a veritable cuteness overload with 10 or 11 six year old girls. Eva’s mom and dad were pros and had all sorts of activities planned and kept things moving throughout the event. One such activity was a floor covered with balloons and inside of each balloon was some candy. The idea was to pop the balloons to get at the swag and the lot of them descended on the balloons like a school of hungry piranha…

On Thursday my great friend Kathy and I went to the “closing” of an exhibition of drawings by my/our first drawing teacher ever at Murray State University in 1977…

The drawings were by Dale Leys and not only was Dale my first drawing teacher, I was in his first class as a teacher. Here’s Dale in front of couple pieces…

If you get a hankerin’ you can check out Dale’s drawing at his website. There were lots of beautiful drawings and many were from Dale’s trips to Italy and were drawings of Venice and Firenze. These two and a detail (with corvi) were my favorites and seemed evocative of the work he was doing when I was still in school. I apologize for the photos, I had a hell of a time trying to get a nice shot…

And while I’m on the subject of drawing teachers, my good friend Vern (who was my second drawing teacher ever) sent me this pic of his latest digital piece…

In other news, my decoration phase is in full swing…

Here’s some texture closeups, I like the last one best but it took so long that I doubt I will be doing many like it…

Last but not least, the bug was in a particularly hammy photogenic mood as we got home last night so I took some spring pictures with the obligatory stump picture. I should go back through the old posts to find other pics of her on the stump just to show how fast she’s growing, it’s amazing how much just since I started this blog…

Well, busy week coming and weather promises a bike ride… hopefully another week won’t past before I get around to posting again.

Not A Fun Day Sunday…

March 6, 2011

Here’s a picture of my favorite thing in the world and my most unfavorite thing in the world…

Nuff said.

I’ve Been Musing…

March 5, 2011

Thursday was a banner day. First I found out that I was featured on the illustrious Carole Epp’s blog, Musing About Mud… (click pic to go to the post)

I’m sure that every clay person online is familiar with Carole’s blog but I will nonetheless point out that it is becoming an indispensable online resource for calls for entries, ceramic employment opportunities, residencies, workshops, and any other ceramic related information that is deemed important. For the last two years she has had an “Artist Of The Day” for the month of February and apparently there were so many this year that the daily eye candy has bled into March. Of course, last but certainly not least is the posts concerning her exceptional work, both functional pots and provocative sculptures. If you haven’t checked her blog out (which seems unlikely) and you have a hankerin’, head on over and take a peek… Musing About Mud. In addition, that morning I was informed that one of my pieces was on the front page of etsy. I think it’s the first time that’s ever happened. I don’t know how long the listing stays on the top page, it might be an hour or a half hour or 15 minutes but it’s not very long. Anyway, I got there in time to see it and decided to take a screen capture so I’d have proof (you’ll have to click to enlarge enough to see the prices and descriptions)…

It says “handpicked items” although I believe the items were actually “mousepicked” or “cursorpicked” but hell, why split hairs?, I had a piece on the front page and not only that, it was the most expensive item for sale of all the others by far. Apparently the person doing the mousepicking had a thing for dogs or, who knows, it might even be their dog and they’re trying to get rid of it. I’m quite surprised that the powers that be over at etsy would allow this kind of thing but there’s the proof.

OK, onto a couple greenware shots but first, I was having lunch with a good friend of mine and we were heading out of the restaurant when I spied a young girl (around 16 or 17) sitting in a booth feeding a baby. Something didn’t look right and as I got a bit closer, I realized that she was “feeding” a doll. She had the bottle poised right to the doll’s mouth just like it was a real baby. She saw me eying the scene and looked a bit uncomfortable so as I passed by the booth, I paused, bent over a little to get a closer look at the doll and said… “aaaaawww, he’s so cute!”. Apparently, she didn’t think this was funny and blurted out as we moved on… “school project”. As we got outside (this is how clueless I am), I made a comment to my friend that I thought it was strange and he informed me that she was most likely taking a parenting class in school. I said, well ok but she’s alone in restaurant, why not ditch the doll in the booth and eat and resume when you’re done? He told me that these dolls are quite sophisticated now and if you toss them on the floor they cry until you pick them up. So I guess they have to carry them around and tend to them just like a real baby. That’s all really fine and good but if she’s in “parental” character all day, then people stopping by to tell you how adorable your child is is as much of what it’s like to have a baby as feeding and rocking to sleep. The more I think about it, I’m kinda pissed that she didn’t give me the obligatory, “oh, thank you, no one’s ever told me that before” instead of the rude mother “school project” remark. I think we know what kinda mom she’s gonna be. OK, here’s some greenware. This is my quadruple “V” cup…

Civinivatonceannatonceanniva…

March 2, 2011

Where to start? Have you read this?…

This is a great book, especially for a six year old. We finished up all of the Oz books and my good friends Jerri and Roger had sent Sofia this book a while back. We read it and the bug was rapt and now we’re reading it again. The book is huge and loaded with tons of beautiful drawings. In fact some passages of 10+ pages tell the story without words, just a sequence of drawings like this…

and this…

As far as the title is concerned, the bug has been singing “civinivatonceannatonceanniva” for months now, so much so that I occasionally sing it. It easier if you break it down to civi-niva-tonce-anna-tonce-anniva and reminds me of when we were young and we were too hip to repeat supercalafragilisticexpealadoshis and instead opted for ishbiddilyoatenboatenbobobadeetendottenwaddatenchoo. I don’t even remember how old I was when that shite was going on. Also, under the category of “kindergarten”, the bug has come home recently with one of those interactive slap/clap games done to a chant. The chant goes like this… “I don’t wanna go to Mexico no mo mo mo, there’s a big fat policeman at the doe doe doe, he will grab you by the collar, make you pay a dollar, I don’t wanna go to Mexico no mo.” This is all repeated incessantly while slapping hands together and then after the final word, the faster of the two players reaches out and taps the other on the forehead and says “shame”. This is some playground nonsense that no doubt goes on at kindergartens everywhere but lately Sofia has been coming home with something similarly nonsensical and sometimes a bit horrific to a 6 year old… stories of “history”. So far we learned of Martin Luther King and how he was shot and killed. Then we learned of Abraham Lincoln and how he was shot in the head and killed. Of course there was the fairy tale stories of Columbus and our first president George. My question from the get-go is why are we telling this to kindergarten-ers? The bug came home and said that someone shot Lincoln in the head because he wanted to keep slavery. Then come the questions like… what is slavery? Why would anyone shoot someone in the head? (I did answer these which led to more complicated questions that I also answered.) I take the cue that she doesn’t have a context for these events to mean that they are inappropriate for kindergarteners. The piece d’ resistance was before bed a couple nights ago, she says… Dad, I don’t want to be president. I ask why even though I already know and she says, I don’t want to get shot in the head and die. Kudos to the school system! It turns out that the advocates for classically educating children promote a program where history and such (things that require a more advanced context of the world) are delayed until what we would describe as middle school years for precisely this reason. Sure, I’ve already gotten the party line which is some version of “well, they’re gonna have to know it sooner or later”… to which I say, why not later? Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, there’s a long row to hoe here and it can only get worse as her head gets filled with nationalistic apocryphal stories and her not having any way of evaluating what part is real or not. George didn’t chop down the cherry tree, Paul Revere didn’t ride solo yelling, the British are coming, and Columbus… well, I better nip it in the bud. We went out for beers last night and here’s a pic of the future anything-except-the-president, no POTUS hopefuls in this family…

On to terra sig greenware. Definitely some improvement going on. My idea now is that because the ts was put on after the pieces were bone dry that, although there is some adhesion to the clay body, it is a distinct stratum of material and once the sponging begins it is easier to dislodge as opposed to just the clay body itself which is not in strata. Whatever though, I decided to be more careful, read: take even more time…

Are Those Accurate Punctures?…

March 1, 2011

Yep, my xmas present from Mom was a gift certificate at an acupuncturist. I guess in her mind, it was a last resort. While I was there I figured we should just go ahead and address all my ailments. Apparently the heel of my hand correlates to my feet and those several in both my ears correlate to one of the other ailments (I think it was the pain in my gut). It was relaxing and I’ve yet to notice any changes in my foot pain. What surprised me was that she put the needles in and then asked me to walk and see if I noticed anything different. The idea that I would get immediate relief was interesting and, of course, disappointing when it didn’t happen. I figured that there was simply a place to stick the needles for whatever ailed you and it would either work or not. Anyway, we’ll see but it feels like the PF is here to stay. I’m having a bit of trouble concentrating while I type this because I have an audience and their stares are somewhat disconcerting…

I took the next obvious step with the terra sig and before I get into that, I was told that there’s a woman up north that simmers her terra sig on the stove and that this helps it shine more. I’ve never heard of that and am curious. I’m actually more curious as to how it would occur to someone to try putting their terra sig on the stove in the first place. I guess potters have tried everything under the sun at one time or another. Anyway, here’s the shellac over the top of some black ts…

I was pretty stoked (as they say in college) at this point but soon found out that it was silly of me to think things would work perfectly the first time. This one’s not a total failure or anything but I guess I’ve run into another learning curve. I have to say that I really like the high contrast. From what I can tell, because the terra sig is so much more dense than the regular clay body of the pot, it requires more rubbing to get the etching to begin in earnest. The shellac has only so long before it breaks down so extra sponging time is not a good thing. Also I think the density of ts means that the shellac doesn’t penetrate as deeply as it does on the regular clay body and this too hastens its breakdown. What to do?… not sure. I could thicken the shellac to make it tougher but that would inhibit its penetration even more. There’s a sweet spot in there, I just have to find it and apparently the sweet spot is different than the old sweet spot. Oh well, trials and errors. Here’s how it looks so far…