Poached Pots And Other Delights…

April 15, 2013

Well, the year is slipping away it seems. I’m 55 now and taxes have been filed… so how’s that for accomplishments. So there’s couple things I’d like to conflate. First, this is a picture of my dad who, it’s now becoming very clear to me, only lived one more year than I have already…

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This picture was taken where he worked the night shift. He was in charge of annealing ovens at an industrial forge. I’m sure everyone already knows but I will belabor the example by saying that annealing is a process by which metal is treated (much like tempering) to achieve certain properties such as ductility or homogeneity. Back before computers this was done by adjusting ovens to critical temperatures, holding those temperatures and cooling at specific rates. I only mention this to make a comparison to electric (and now gas) kilns that only in the past decades or so have computerized controls on them. Again, before these controls, achieving certain effects such as crystal formation was a long row to hoe with many many trials and errors. This is not to say that those working with crystals have it easy but only to say that the computer firing profiles have taken away much of the trial and error and have allowed more people to work with crystals more easily. But I use a slow cool firing profile to achieve certain effects also (although I’m not so specific about what they actually are). So my point here is that technology keeps chugging along (actually I guess it’s screaming along now) and I believe we only really notice it in the areas of our expertise or interests such as our phone, kiln, car, etc. But I remember when I went bicycle shopping a couple years ago after not stepping in a bike shop for more than 20 years that just because I wasn’t paying attention didn’t mean that that same tsunami of technology wasn’t affecting everything, even in this case, bicycle design and manufacturing. So yesterday I happened to be driving at a time when I’m usually not in the car and “The Splendid Table” cooking show was on the radio. They were talking about cooking eggs and egg charts. I thought, what? a 3 minute egg, what else is there? And that’s when they when on to describe this chart…

Egg Chart

Actually, this is only a portion of the chart. And what more useful application for technology could there be? Apparently, these precise cooking practices for eggs are possible because of a device that can adjust the water temperature to with 1/10 of a degree F and hold it absolutely steady at that temp for as long as needed… like my kiln! I guess some chefs find the perfect poached egg to be quite elusive. If you’re a foodie or a cooking person, be advised that this chart refers to cooking eggs for 1 hour. The most interesting part about the egg cooking to me was that they mentioned that at a certain temp (I think it was 152 F) that the egg could me molded or rolled out… in other words, it could be sculpted. Like clay! Not sure what I’d do with a pinched poached pot but seems more interesting than trying to make a sculpture with an omelet. OK, well that’s enough of that. The yunomi show is coming up soon and I’m looking forward to that. I also have been processing photos from my last kiln load and will be uploading work all week. Here’s a couple already up…

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I finally got a new photo cube and background. This time instead of a gradated background from black to 50% gray I got one that goes from light gray to white and although the background seems similarly gray in the final shots, I believe that actual pot in the pics looks quite a bit better. Here’s a yunomi I posted earlier but I reshot it semi-professionally…

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Last but not least, I made a new beer glass poster…

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Sayanora.

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Feema Koola Ya Ya, How Arcane…

March 30, 2013

Sometimes as a parent, one looks at their child and may think… she looks like her Mom but I don’t see any resemblance to me. Could it be that she’s not mine? Then she’ll do something or say something or make a face and you think to yourself, oh yeah, she’s mine. The bug has a tendency to endlessly repeat original nonsense words to the point of distraction. And so it goes… feema koola ya ya, feema koola ya ya, feema koola ya ya, feema koola ya ya, feema koola ya ya. This is reminiscent to me of kermikaw kermikaw kermickaw which she used to repeat while jumping on the couch. But that was when she was two and maybe at two she thought that kermikaw was a word but feema koola ya ya she knows are not words that have meanings but repeat she does. I have done this same thing most of my life and so I know that she’s mine. Maybe the phrase is an secret chant that reveals a mysterious truth… or arcanum, which leads me to this book…

arcanum

At the Alabama Clay Conference both Gerit Grimm and Kurt Weiser highly recommended this book (see, I was paying attention) and I usually do not base my reading choices on recommendations from people that I hardly know but I was captivated by the idea of a true story or subterfuge and espionage that revolves around porcelain. I won’t ruin the story (as if someone might actually go read this) but the pith of it is that when explorers brought porcelain back to Europe from Asia, the monarchies went apeshite and the white clay became literally as valuable as gold. To stop the flow of money to Asia, one monarch decided to use his alchemist to find the arcanum for porcelain so they could make their own. Arcanum also refers to the secret formula for turning base metals to gold and, as a bonus, the fountain of youth or immortality. Of course the alchemists never did turn anything into gold and I’m sure they welcomed working on the mystery of the formula for porcelain because it was actually possible. What follows is many years of conspiracy, espionage, back-stabbing, trial and error, war, etc. I’ll leave it at that and only add that the behavior of the monarchies and powerful of the time only confirms that the wealthy and powerful from any time period (and especially our time period) are and were bereft of any sort of consideration of the plight of the masses upon whose backs they accumulated their fortunes. And so another clumsy segue… I’ve been seeking my own arcanum of late attempting to add these feldspars, frits and other crushed up stones and shells to yield a glaze or two to my liking…

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My last big glaze test was a complete bust so I’m hoping for a bit of success this time.

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I’m also working out some different terra sig colors…

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So here’s some of the test tiles and I’ll be firing them in a couple days…

arcanum

Last but not least, even though I’ve been sick I took Sofia to our friend’s home last night to participate in their annual pysanky-fest. I don’t associate pysanky with the Ishtar worshipping holiday that we now refer to as Easter (Ishtar/Easter), to me it’s just an excuse to make cool decorations on eggs. Here’s the bug hard at work…

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I wish I was feeling a bit better and had more time to commit to some intricate eggage but it was not to be. Also, the UofL basketball game was on at the same time and you know how crazy everyone is about hoops. Sayanora.

(B)eer (G)lasses, (B)uddy (G)uy and (B)isque (G)oing…

March 7, 2013

Where to start… Mom and I had a rare night out the other night and went to see the one and only Buddy Guy. Jonny Lang opened for him so it was night full of greasy screaming blues guitar work. Buddy, at age 76, was fantastic. I’ve always liked his guitar playing and I have an acoustic album titled “Blues Singer” that is really my favorite and it shows off his singing prowess which is pretty great too. I never got to see him before and found him to be wildly entertaining in between songs also. Here’s a video my friend Jennifer took with her phone (there’s some cussing at the end so beware the kids)…

There was quite a bit more cussing as the concert progressed (which I enjoy) and Buddy seemed to credit hip hop for making it so he could be himself on stage and talk the way he does normally. Got a bisque going as I type this and hopefully can do a glaze firing next week. I went over to my friend Jeff’s the other day and he’s finally gotten some of his pieces fired. Here’s a bunch of pictures of the work…

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I have to say that one of the dudes strapped to each other in the chair looks like Henry Kissinger. So I was very happy a week or so ago to come home and find that Sofia had dug out the chess set. I taught her how to play and she seemed to catch on to it pretty good. Here’s the bug playing with Mom…

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Of course I think she thought it would be like Sorry or Monopoly and that she might win right off the bat. I haven’t let her win yet and you know what that makes me?… a meanie. Anyway, when she came home from school the other day she was busy writing down some important notes and I found out later that she had some better ideas about how chess should be played. Here’s her rules…

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My favorite rule is that bishops actually accompany the king or queen when they move. Let’s see Bobby Fischer win playing the Queen’s gambit with those rules! The bug has also started doing these silhouette drawings…

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Last but not least, I’ve finally finished burnishing, shellacking, etching, shellacking, etching, shellacking, etching, painting terra sig thrice on a bunch of beer glasses (my aching back)…

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Here’s some psychedelia for any of you shroom eaters…

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Drei Deutsche Kunstler…

February 26, 2013

Last weekend my good buddy Sebastian and I made the relatively short trek to Birmingham for the Alabama Clay Conference. I went last year for the first time and was very impressed by the conference as a whole and especially the artists chosen to present. This year was very much the same thing with three extremely talented and personable artists. Although I’m sure it was not intended, there was a certain Germanic flavor to the conference with Gerit Grimm, Kirt Weiser and Dirk Staschke. OK, Mr. Staschke might not be of German descent but still all those hard Ks and Rs really sound that way. Anyway, it was a whirlwind of events starting with a large clay sale by Alabamans to a symposium put on by the Birmingham Art Museum which included lectures by Magdalene Odundo and Garth Clark amongst others to the artist’s reception at the museum to the pint exchange at the local brewery. Here’s a piece of Magdalene Odundo…

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Here’s some shots of the artists’ demonstrations…

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The following pic of Dirk was an accident but I’m posting here anyway because the flames of the logo on the screen behind him looks like there’s flames coming out of his head…

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I wish I had a pic of Gerit Grimm’s piece finished but it was very blurry when I downloaded it. Regardless here’s her pieces that were in the museum…

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Next up are Dirk’s pieces. The first one’s a bit blurry too and there’s a much better picture of it here. It’s a very large piece…

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Last but definitely not least are Mr. Weiser’s pieces…

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All three presenters were very engaging and funny. Being a Decemberists fan, my favorite story of Kirt Weiser’s was about the Archie Bray and that Colin Meloy (the lead singer of the Decemberists) is the grandson of Peter Meloy who was one of the founders of the Bray. So all in all, the conference was excellent all round. And as I’ve said before the Birmingham Art Museum is a stellar museum with a fantastic ceramics collection. I’ll post a few shots of favorites but if you get a hankerin’ go here to see all the pics I took at the museum.

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How I Ruined TV And Films Forever…

February 17, 2013

And maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll ruin it for you too. It’s actually quite doubtful that I could ruin it for you but you never know. So here’s the phenomenon in question. If you have any experience with video or film production you probably know already that it is much more expensive to have actors on the clock when all they are doing is standing with their back to the camera while the camera is shooting other people (or more commonly another person) in what’s known as an “over the shoulder” shot. So to save money the filmmakers shoot only the scenes where it’s absolutely necessary to see both actors. Then they have each actor come back separately and do the “over the shoulder” shots. Of course, for continuity’s sake, they put something in the lower corner of the screen thus giving the illusion that that other actor (who is actually not present that day) is hearing and reacting to what the actor whose face you can see is talking to. Here’s an example…

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Now the red hair here could be the actual other person in the scene but more likely it’s either a crewmember with similar colored hair or it could simply be some hair inserted by a computer graphics specialist. There are all sorts of solutions like this one…

ots shot

I mean really, it’s just blackness and not difficult to approximate with modern editing equipment. OK, so onward. Sometimes (and it’s becoming more and more frequent), in scenes where they show two people conversing, they show both people/then over the shoulder (ots) of one/then ots of the other/then both again and on and on. What happens to me is I start focusing on the dark blobs in the lower corners of the screen eventually having to rewind the movie to hear what they said because I was paying too much attention to the blobs and whether not they are moving, that the filmmakers had taken the time to make the blob the correct color or even that the same objects are on a table in the background as there were in the scene that had both actors. I’d like to point out here that this problem of focusing has nothing whatsoever to do with cannabinoids. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. As the movie progresses and I’m thinking to myself… “stop stop stop paying attention to the blobs and pretend you’re not noticing them and immerse yourself in the movie”. At some point it seems almost impossible. The next plateau is now it becomes painfully obvious that the actor present in the “over the shoulder” shot is really a solo person on the set completely alone aside from the crew that has to be there to shoot the scene. Once this leap has been made, the acting loses it’s quality and the actor seems to be emoting or overdoing it (because you know the person they’re talking to isn’t present). Then I start thinking about the problems actors must have shooting all their scenes out of order and how they need to remember where they were to make the ots shot seamlessly attach to the surrounding shots. Maybe a better example is needed. The following stills are from a typical movie where a reporter is interviewing someone. I wish I had the video of the movie but I can’t remember the title. It’s amazing that I found these stills at all. Judging by the TV tube’s perimeter, this movie must have predated all this digital HD television rigmarole. I can’t remember the name of the movie but it was a mystery if I’m not mistaken. I will post the stills in order with blob comments when appropriate…

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This is not an “over the shoulder” shot.

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This is an example of the ots shot and it’s apparent that the reporter is speaking to someone with long unruly red hair. This could be an actual person but I can attest that it’s simply some hair pasted to the scene.

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Now this ots shot has the dreaded black blob. This is the cheapest option and in this particular case the actor is sub-par because she’s not even looking in the direction of the other “person”.

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Here’s a darker version of the red hair blob from before. Takes a bit more time but the effect is better than the black blob.

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Here’s the black blob again but a bored graphics person gave the blob “person” a horn growing out of their head.

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Here’s a blurrier version of the red hair. The extra blurriness creates more depth of field.

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Here’s the bad actor again. She wasn’t looking in the right direction so the film editor must have decided to put the black blob up higher so that it wouldn’t look like she was talking to the ceiling.

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Sometimes other parts of the body are inserted. Here a fist is inserted to show that the other “person” in the scene is upset by what the actual actor is saying.

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Another black blob… it’s obviously not important what’s there this far into the scene.

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Red hair blob is bigger as if the other “person” is leaning closer to the reporter.

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Black blob bigger for the same reason as the previous shot.

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This is not an ots shot, the reporter has ripped the hair off the actress.

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Just a touch of blob to accentuate the surprise and horror of the actor that’s really in the scene.

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Same here.

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Ditto on this one too.

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Final shot… no “over the shoulder”. That concludes the example section and I hope this gives you a peek into my mind’s inability to enjoy TV or films. Remember to repeat this mantra when viewing… Don’t look at the blobs, don’t look at the blobs, don’t look at the blobs, don’t look at the blobs.

4 Years Blogging…

February 4, 2013

Well, yesterday was the 4 year anniversary of this blog. It is interesting to look back at the stats and see how much time and effort has been spent on blogging. I believe in retrospect it has definitely been well worth it although I have gotten to the point where I’m unable to spend as much time as I used to. So here’s the obligatory picture of the bug compared to the first pic I ever posted of her…

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And while the subject of blogs is front and center, Sofia was given some assignment at school about picking a subject of interest and doing something about it and she decided to make a blog herself. The subject she chose was littering and although I helped her format the pictures, what the pics were of and all the writing was completely of her doing. If you get a hankerin’ head on over to http://litterbad.wordpress.com and leave her a comment if you like… she’s been coming home from school everyday wondering if anyone commented on her blog. I don’t have the heart to explain how traffic is garnered, etc. In other news, there’s the kiln. Thanks to everyone who had suggestions on solving my wee dilemma. I got the elements replaced and shelves kilnwashed and fired a glaze firing with a couple of refires I had lying around. The results, I’m embarrassed to say, have simply left me with a newer dilemma. The kiln went off in less time than usual (which I thought was a good sign and still do really) but I put a couple cones in there to make sure that it was getting to ^6. All I had handy was ^s 6 and 7. After the firing, ^7 was flat as a pancake…

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The embarrassing thing is that, although I don’t remember really, I think that years ago when I got the kiln that I never put cones in to see if the temp on the controller was really the temp in the kiln which begs the question now… was it always going to ^7 and beyond or not. I’m definitely not willing to risk 3 months work on the chance that there’s no difference. So, as we speak, I’m running a bisque test with some cones that my good buddy Sebastian gave me. I’ve got 06, 05 and 04 in there right now. I lowered the peak temp number half the degrees between what it was and the next lowest cone equivalent and after this if everything is copacetic, I’ll have to do a similar test at glaze temps. Then I can fire for real but I will be anxious either way and regardless of the results of the witness cones. A week or so ago there was another opening out at Mt. St. Francis. It was the work of Joy Tanner and William Baker. Here’s Joy’s blog if you get a hankerin’. After these years of blogging and being a regular visitor to Joy’s blog for some time, I was really looking forward to meeting her and William but alas they got iced in at home and apparently couldn’t even get out of their driveway. Here’s some shots from the opening…

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And of course here’s the discerning eye of Sebastian…

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I’ve got three coats of shellac on all of these…

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I’ve also been attempting to reproduce a bowl from a few years ago and it’s a bit more difficult than I thought it would be…

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Last but not least, here’s a couple pics of the refire I mentioned above…

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I really like this one and since it was in the load that went to a flat ^7, I’m not sure if the differences I see in this piece are due to a higher temp or simply because it was refired… or both. That’s all I have.

Element(ry) My Dear Kiln Repairer…

January 12, 2013

Look what I got…

elements

The post’s title seems to be a bit misleading in retrospect. I got the elements a week or so ago and was waiting for a warmer day to spend in the cold basement replacing them. So yesterday it was balmy out… typical January weather in KY (and certainly nothing to be concerned about). After spending all day I felt a little stoogie about the whole endeavor…

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I replaced the elements first because I figured even if that wasn’t the problem, it was long overdue as I haven’t changed them since I got the kiln and I’ve never changed them on this brand of kiln. Coneart kilns have a groove that the element rests in and the entry gap is just slightly smaller than the diameter of the element itself. Although this is a pain to remove the old one because if one is not gingerly about it the area of the joint between the bricks can easily break off, it really is simple to put the new ones in. See how nice and clean it looks for a change…

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Here’s a closeup…

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Anyway, after that I put in a new thermocouple and tested it. I opened the kiln at about 900 degrees and the middle elements still were not glowing. Next, I replaced the associated relay and tested again… no luck. So now I don’t have any idea what to do although it’s been suggested that at 900 degrees or so maybe the middle elements just aren’t required yet. Guess I have to talk to someone at Coneart or do the test again only at a significantly higher temp. While in this mode I decided to clean my shelves and kilnwash them and the two new ones I got. It seemed like a good time to try Mr. Jeff Campana’s self-leveling kilnwash recipe that one can read about here if you get a hankerin’. Aside from the self leveling aspect, Jeff has replaced half of the EPK with calcined kaolin (glomax… which I cannot believe that I had on hand. Must’ve purchased it over 6 years ago and can’t for the life of me figure out why I got it) and added Darvan 7, ostensibly to reduce the shrinkage of the kilnwash. Darvan is a deflocculant and I never get tired of the apparent magic of adding a deflocculant to a pasty mess and seeing it instantly get less viscous. Here’s a short video about flocculated and deflocculated glaze preparation by the inimitable John Britt…

I followed the recipe to a T but tried to use a roller and the shelf soaked up the water in the kilnwash instantly. After removing that, I soaked the shelf with more water and tried a brush. This worked much better but not what I wanted exactly… so I tried something else. I took one of my brand new shelves and ran it under the kitchen sink until it was completely saturated then poured the kilnwash out of a measuring cup and let it “level” out. There was much tilting of the shelf back and forth to get coverage but look at this beautiful pool of kilnwash on the new shelf…

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It dried nicely too. I don’t usually get carried away like this on this type of activity but thought that may the thing to do next would be to add a little ridge along the perimeter of the shelf and “fill” the space with a perfectly level shallow pond… we’ll see. Last but not least, there’s been a lot of shellacking goin’ on. This pic has all the pieces with two of the three coats of shellac…

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Might be able to fire in another month or so.

Kiln Blues…

December 11, 2012

Well, this can’t be good…

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We had our annual xmas sale at the mount a bit back and I hurried to get a kilnload fired before the sale but alas I was too late. I was cutting it close to begin with but as I went to check the kiln one morning… it wasn’t done firing. In fact it hadn’t reached peak temperature. After much consternation, it did finally complete the firing at a whopping 24+ hours. I checked the relays and they seem ok (although I’ve ordered more already) and did an element test and the top two elements are dead, or appear so. I can’t complain as I haven’t had a peep out of this kiln is 7 years and I guess it’s about time for new elements. As far as the sale, it was better overall than any previous year which means that it’s growing after 5 years or so. Here’s some shots from the sale…

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Here’s some of Mr. Cheek’s work…

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And here’s some of Mr. Moh’s work…

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Pictures were taken and here’s one of me in front of my table of pots looking a bit suspicious…

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The bug and I have been working on another collaborative drawing…

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As you can see, Sofia was not interested in turning the drawing upside down and back so one side is definitely hers and one’s mine. Here’s the bug at her office…

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Lately she’s cleared a space on the table next to the computer that she refers to as her office. For a week or so she’d get up, get dressed and head straight to her office and after school come directly upstairs to work in the office some more. She’s been writing books which are illustrated of course. They’re mostly about teachers and principals acting badly and get their just deserts. Now she’s moved on to Greek gods. Last but not least, I’ve managed to get almost 100 pieces in my etsy shop. Here’s some (clicking first image will go to etsy, the rest enlarge)…

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Burnish, Shellac, Repeat…

November 24, 2012

Very busy around here because, you know, it’s that time of year again. I’m thankful, as many are, that yet one more 2012 holiday has passed and only two more and I’m in the clear til Smellentine’s Day. My timing this year is off as I’m a bit behind getting ready for the xmas rush (if there actually is one). I think the week and 1/2 I spent on the roof and the two times I’ve gotten a cold in the last couple weeks didn’t help much. So after the throwing and trimming, the tedium begins. First there’s a coat or sometimes two of terra sig and burnishing. I made a little video of the burnishing…

It’s not the most exciting movie but that’s what gets done before the first coat of shellac. Then there’s cleaning up the feet and shellacking the chop mark…

Then, after the etching…

Chop shot b&w glamor shot…

After first coat of shellac (first of 3)…

Another b&w shot…

So, on to other things. I went out to get a beer a while back with a friend and he pulled out on of these…

At the beer place he had it loaded with india ink and the reason he was showing it to me was that we had talked before then about some of the limitations of brushing shellac, in my case, but anything that gets brushed. The main limitation is that you can only brush a line as long as the brush’s load lasts. This is not a huge problem for me but I was and am very curious as to how the removal of this limitation would affect the decorative stage. So, a couple days after our beer drinking, two of them arrive in the mail and I’ve been waiting for the shellacking to begin to try it out. So here’s the pieces of the brush…

Then I got an eye dropper and loaded the chamber with shellac…

This is where the problems happened. The way it works is that a bit of a squeeze on the chamber holding the liquid forces said liquid to the brush’s tip…

But I had to squeeze like hell and once the flow started I thought I’d be home free but alas the shellac was simply too thick and dries too quickly for me to use effectively. However, if you’re a potter and you do a lot of stain underglaze work, I think this thing would be great and maybe you’d just like to use it with ink. I’m gonna get some different colored india ink so the bug and I can use them for our collaborative drawings. Last but not least, for her birthday (she’s 8! AAhhhhhh!) the bug got some high top sneakers with sequins and purple this and that all over them and I didn’t like them but that’s the way it goes. Fortunately, she did not like the way they felt so they took them back (her and Mom) and came home with some c0nverse allstar5 and it just so happened that I needed a new pair as my old ones are threadbare. Sofia was very excited for me and her to have the same shoes because other than our matching “hell0 k1tty” pajamas, this is the only apparel that we have in common. So I had to get the same color and everything…

Pot…

November 15, 2012

My last post made me start thinking of those nostalgic herbal days of the past. As a child of the 60s/70s, I grew up in an era that preceded the “war on drugs” with its commensurate “this is your brain on drugs” PSAs which, by the way, have been immensely successful in some ways. I found this out many years after college when Mom and I got together. She’s at least one generation younger and occasionally a conversation with her friend or friends would meander around to drug use or maybe just college shenanigans and I would relay a story from the old school days that inevitably revealed the preponderance of mary jane, say in the dormitories or something, and the friend would suddenly look at me with the look. If you’re in your 50s, then you probably know the look… it’s the “wow, I knew you were old but I didn’t realize you were one of those criminal druggies the frying egg warned us about”. The fact is that I didn’t even know anyone in school who didn’t get stoned at parties and other social events and of course there were some that started when they awoke and kept going til they hit the sack. The dorms were crawling with parties and everyone it seemed had a rolled up towel at the base of their door. We’d play darts, listen to our LPs or sit around and have hilarious conversations that we would forget ever happened the following day.

So here’s my favorite cannabis story. The background for it is that I never tried pot until I was 18 in central NY, which in retrospect probably had more to do with availability than anything else because I lived in a very very small rural town. Sure there were kids that got high but it wasn’t as prevalent as it certainly must have been in larger towns or cities. I mention this only to point out that the couple of times I partook prior to college did not qualify me as experienced in any way. So, at 19 I ventured south not realizing the vast differences that still haunt me today. At Thanksgiving the first year in KY I traveled to Louisville to spend the Thanksgiving break with a friend who had graciously invited me to his home because I couldn’t afford to make the trip north. I also had no car and no driver’s license (another story) so I wasn’t going anywhere. The point is that it was November and I had only arrived in KY two months prior. So I came up here to Louisville and my friend (let’s call him Marvin) lived south of downtown in what seemed like an urban irish neighborhood but who knows really. So we arrive at Marvin’s house and his Mom’s in the kitchen and his Dad’s not home… yet. We say hi and immediately head upstairs to Marvin’s little brother’s room. The door was closed and as we opened it to enter, a dense cloud of smoke wafts out of the room. We entered the room and quickly closed the door. The only light in the room came from a window and it was overcast so the room was relatively dark. “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” was blaring from the stereo and Marvin’s brother was sitting cross-legged on the bed with a bread bag full of pot in front of him…

He hands Marvin a spleef and, being as inexperienced as I was, I voiced my reticence about getting stoned while his Mom was just downstairs. Marvin assured me that his mom never came up to their rooms and that I shouldn’t worry about it. Well, I doubted that there would be a problem because, well because clearly Marvin and his brother had no compunction about it. So I thought, what the hell and we got really baked. I remember to this day that wonderful Stevie Winwood song pulsing with the surreal lyrics and suddenly the door opens and this big, very stout red-headed dude walks into the room with a menacing look on his face. He was not sociable or friendly in the least and he kept staring at me in a very disturbing manner. I know what you’re thinking… that I was so stoned that I was just being paranoid. To counter this notion, I’ll take a brief digression as I point out that years later I became friends with another Louisville native who coincidentally knew this same football-player sized redhead. Before I ever relayed this story, he told me a story of how they had gone hiking down in the Red River Gorge together and as they stopped to eat something, the dude took out a shotgun and as he loaded the first bullet said… “one for X” (insert my friend’s name there) and after loading a second said… “one for me”. Fortunately, nothing tragic came of this but it gives you an idea of the sense that I felt in Marvin’s brother’s room. Eventually the big dude left to my great relief and I settled back into a blissful euphoria. As we relaxed in the smoke-filled room, I was wakened from my reverie by the sound of Marvin’s mother yelling up the stairs… “dinner’s ready”. As they say, or should I say, as they text nowadays… OMG! OMG! Really? Dinner’s ready? Of course being the veterans that Marvin and his brother were, they had no problem with this and simply dismissed me as being silly. So down the stairs. At that point Marvin’s father was home and his other brother, a law student at UofL and his sister were all seated at the dinner table and I was about as stoned as I had ever been. Introductions were made and of course that entire interchange was peppered with my thoughts of “did I just say that out loud?” and “was she talking to me?”, etc. We eventually sat down to one of the longest meals I’ve ever eaten. Aside from playful smirks and jibes from the other siblings, what I remember most was Marvin’s father, who I eventually came to be much closer to, holding court in a way as he talked on and on about the local democratic politics of whatever district they resided there in the city. I hadn’t a clue what he was on about nor do I now but what I really wanted was to climb those stairs as soon as possible and get back to that cave of a bedroom and chill chill chill. Thus my real introduction to the demon gateway drug was complete. The next day was a repeat of that day and we went out that night, robbed a liquor store, beat up a homeless person, stole a car, tortured a stray dog and finally jumped off of a 10 story parking garage because we thought we could fly. I guess those PSAs were right and war on drugs is legitimate. And now all these years later, no one realizes that I am addicted to meth and heroin… isn’t it obvious by the pots I make? Lest this post be all about pot and not about pots, here’s the cuppage I’ll be working on for some time…

Get Up, Stand Up, Mon…

November 10, 2012

“Stand up for your rights”. I don’t usually wander into the political arena here on the blog because, well because, people are crazy about all that deceit and disinformation but I have to say that there were some good signs of progress (at least for me) that came out of the election, not the least of which was the votes for legalizing the demon weed. Unfortunately, the conflict between the federal law and the state law have rendered the vote, more than likely, ineffective. But one can hope and as coincidences would have it, last week the bug and I stopped in at our favorite Vietnamese grocery to pick up some necessities and got some rastafarian hair… I mean some long string beans. Sofia immediately took to the rasta look and fired up a spleef in the kitchen…

Oh, they grow up so fast. There’s a striking resemblance don’t you think?…

Anyway, it’s been busy for some time here as Sofia’s birthday and all hallowed e’en are in the same week. She dressed as a hula dancer for halloween…

And she had a blue cake that Mom made for her birthday…

So she’s been having quite a whirlwind. She asked for books for her birthday this year (a dream come true for mom and dad) and hoping it lasts. Also, the bug brought this drawing of Mr. and Mrs. Scars home from school, it cracks me up…

Anyway, if you’ve read this blog at all over the years, you’re probably aware of how much I abhor the holidays so I’m glad to get one out of the way and been wishing the election would be over for more than a year. I have been trying to get another kiln fired before the holidays (the ones I really hate) and unfortunately I was already cutting it close and got sick on Monday and am still not well so I lost a whole week of productivity. I’m about ready for deco though…

In other news, I think this computer is on its last leg and hate the realization that I cannot function as a potter without one. It slowed down the other day to the point where I wanted to throw it out the window. I believe the hard drive is going as there’s an audible whirring sound when I turn it on. Maybe it has something to do the the 15,000 photos on there? So, I leave you with a bit of Bob…

Man, Did We Ever Get Plastered…

October 29, 2012

First off, the good news…

Maybe I should say that it’s better than good, it’s done as I have serious misgivings about the actual watertight-ness of my job. It’s interesting how easily I was able to subjugate my perfectionism on this job. Of course, if it does leak, I guess I’ll be back up there next year doing it all over again. Hopefully, if it does leak, it will be like the last leak insofar as it was gradual enough for it to take several years to make its way to the interior of the house. Anyway, I’m not fooling with it for some time either way. Sofia and I decided to tackle a long overdue project yesterday… making wet boxes. I knew that she would enjoy mixing plaster because it’s messy but also there’s the hidden chemistry lesson as she was able to feel the plaster going through its reaction and getting very warm. Here’s the process in steps…

In other news, all hallowed e’en is approaching quickly and although I abhor holidays, I can at least stomach the dressing up as one’s secret alter ego and parading around the neighborhood. The candy and commercialism… not so much. Strangely, the school has decided to try to extend the whole silliness by having a week of nonsense which included “silly hat day”, “weird socks day”, “dress up like a word day” and the infamous “crazy tie day”. Much to the bug’s dismay and much to my delight, I realized that I no longer own a tie of any sort. I consider it a form of success that my wardrobe no longer includes a tie or a suit jacket… I’ve finally arrived I guess. I hope no one dies for a while, not the least me. Consequently, I had to make a tie for the bug to wear that day and she was fine with that… no picture however. I did get this one of her considering a hat for the hat day…

That pic is somewhat reminiscent of Mr. McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange”. Also, for days now, Sofia has taken to wearing a pair of my reading glasses that broke and had no lenses. She’s worn them out to lunch and today she had them on when she left for school…

Sorry, a bit blurry. Anyway, making cups this week as I did last week. When I visited my good friend Ig in Des Moines, he had hundreds of pictures of his last visit to Singapore. I have been fascinated by an enormous project taken on there that includes these giant man-made trees that are and will be plastered with plants. I first read about this “Garden By The Bay” in Smithsonian magazine a while back and when I tried to find pics online, there were few. So I got some of Ig’s pics when I visited because his pics were really nice and from several vantage points. As it turns out, in the time since I first looked online for pictures, there’s been many more added so this isn’t quite the public service I intended. Apparently, this entire area was a swamp the last time my friend traveled there. Anyway, here’s a couple teaser shots and a link to an album of many more pictures on FB if you get a hankerin’…

Click here for more pics.

Roof, Roof! Woof, Woof! Gok, Gok! I’ve Got Shingles…

October 14, 2012

When I was visiting my friend Ig in Des Moines, we had a familiar conversation that David Sedar1s covered in his book once. He said that every time he talks with someone that knows another language he likes to ask what is written as the sound a rooster makes in the morning. The hilarity is that people of other languages don’t think that a rooster sounds even remotely like “cockadoodledoo” and their rooster sound seems equally absurd to us. Anyway, Ig and I were talking about dog barks in other languages and I found a chart online to give other languages’ version of our “roof, roof” or “woof, woof” or even “arf, arf”. The slightly disappointing thing about the chart was that the difference between dog barks and cat mews wasn’t all that different but Ig grew up in Indonesia and when I asked him what the Indonesians would write for “woof woof”, bingo… “gok, gok”. Cracks me up, I wish all the dogs in my kennel of a neighborhood were making gok gok noises instead of the incredibly irritating American bark noises. Gok, gok just seems so much more subdued. Before moving on, here’s a pic of the dinner party we had at Ig’s the night before I left. Great food, great people and great conversation. Of course this is what happens when the photographer takes just a second too long to click the “shutter”…

Lots going on here at home not the least of which is that the bug finally got her own wheel…

So serious. Here’s a couple more shots…

A family that throws together… glazes together.

I thought I was a perfectionist, trying to teach Sofia how to throw revealed how much she’s got that particular personality trait…

So, moving on… what does the potter do after coming to the end of a long deadline. Roof, roof! We’ve been having problems with leaking in the ceiling of our living room for quite some time and like all roof leaks, they get progressively worse as time passes. “When it’s a’rainin’ it’s too wet to fix it and when it’s dry it’s just as good as any man’s roof”. As much as I love this quote and think that they are words to live by, there comes a time when things just have to be addressed. So fixing the roof and being a full time potter present one of the true dilemmas of my life. I don’t generate enough income to have someone fix the roof and expending that kind of money on the house is a good way to make me have to quit ceramics and get a job that pays minimum wage or greater. Of course, fixing the house by myself which is much more economical takes an inordinate amount of time which is time away from making pots. Catch 22 if you ask me. But I checked the weather radar and figured I had a week of temperate weather without rain and decided to go ahead. I have regrets already but maybe after it’s done they will dissipate. So I was very curious to see what was under all those shingle causing us so much grief. I figured a hole maybe a foot square or some small section of rotting wood. Here’s what I found…

What say we get a closer look at my small section of rotting wood…

This small hole of rotten wood was 9 feet by 4 feet with one of the rafters completely rotted so that I could crumble it with a squeeze of my bare hand. The hole presented a major problem in my race against the imminent rain that is on its way as I type this. I got 3 tarps up there last night and the wind picked up about midnight last night when I heard this crashing noise. This morning I found this on the sidewalk by the street in front of my house…

I guess it wasn’t as heavy as I thought. If I can get through today’s storm without inundating the entire house I’ll be home free. The whole thing begs a much larger question though… what kind of dumb ass decides to re-roof his house at age 54? There was 3 layers of shingles that need to be removed and a tin roof underneath them. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never been this sore in this many places all at once in my entire life. I’m tired, sore, scraped, cut, hammered and feel like my ankles were tied together and I was dragged behind a pickup truck for miles. The human body is an amazing thing. OK, on to other things. The Louisville Clay 10 Anniversary show is having its reception this week…

And here’s a couple new pieces on Etsy…

Speaking of Etsy, I was very disappointed this week to find that they removed the “Ceramics and Pottery” category from the home page’s search. One can still find the category but it was difficult to find and I believe this will inhibit traffic to potter’s stores significantly.

It Must Be Something In The Acorns…

October 3, 2012

I’m writing this post from Des Moines today because this last weekend was my Michigan show’s closing reception and my first workshop. Before I get into that I would just like to mention that I’m a bit put out by a recent discovery that occurred while there. Not only was this my first workshop but it was also my first visit to Michigan (and it’s much closer to Louisville than I thought). It’s these black squirrels which I believe are really gray squirrels except that they’re black… see what I mean, that sounds ridiculous. I’m 54 years old and I’ve never heard of the the black gray squirrel. I couldn’t get my own picture because the ones around the art building at Olivet College seemed much more skittish than our very own Louisville gray gray squirrels. Someone at the show told me that there were spotted ones too that were black with white spots but I’m not sure if they were pulling my leg or not. Anyway here’s a pic I found online…

I just didn’t want to find out this way… someone could’ve told me. Anyway, onto the workshop. There was this little girl that was really interested in learning to throw…

Oh, sorry that’s something else… I’ll come back to that later. I have to say that my being nervous about this whole workshop demonstration thing is a bit of an understatement as I’ve never throw with anyone watching me before except Sofia. So before anyone even arrived we were setting up the wheel and it’s a Brent. And I have a Sh1mpo Wh1sper. One of the main features of the Whisper is that when you push the pedal to the “off” position the wheelhead stops instantly and then it moves freely in either direction just like a banding wheel. I’ve grown accustomed to this feature and I don’t consciously think about its use. The Brent, however, is different… when you push the pedal to the “off” position, the wheel head seems to coast to a stop but the deceiving thing about it is that it is still engaged with the motor. So the first thing I do is push on the pedal to see if it’s on and I back off the pedal and grab the wheel head with my right hand (just like I always instinctively do with the Whisper). Of course the wheel head doesn’t stop and the underside of it tears the skin off of my right pinkie finger<– redundant, I know. An inauspicious beginning I know. The next thing I know I'm wedging clay and bleeding on the canvas wedging board. But for all my internal anxiety, things went relatively smoothly from then on and the mission was eventually accomplished. Here's some pics that a young woman named Stephanie took with my camera…

I didn’t realize it when this shot was taken but everyone seems rapt with attention except the infant. Apparently he was much more interested in the woman on the far right’s hand bag. I mean jeeez! Here’s some more pics…

Another awful revelation is that the back of my head looks like a skunk’s ass or as they say in the south, a polecat’s hiney. In addition to the throwing I took a few sets of green beer glasses that somewhat illustrate the steps of the decorative process.

Later that night was the closing reception and a couple I know from undergraduate school showed up. I hadn’t seen either of them since 1985. Regular readers may recognize him from this picture…

That’s my friend Randy on the left. His wife Liz was at the reception also and it should be noted that in the above picture both Randy and me are wearing Liz’s dresses. Anyway here’s a picture of us at the event…

It’s clear from the picture that the years gone by have definitely made us both a little blurry. So, the work was very well received and sales were brisk. My hosts, Thia and Gary were extremely generous with their time and effort and we had a great time socializing both evenings that I was there. Earlier when I realized that the show was relatively close to Schaller Gallery, a gallery that I’ve been wanting to be a part of, I invited Anthony (Mr. Schaller) to come to the reception and maybe take some pots back with him. He and Michelle did attend and on Sunday they did load up some pots to take back to St. Joe. It was very nice meeting them also and hanging out for a bit. If you get a hankerin’, check out the Schaller Gallery website, it is a beautiful and very clean site. Here’s my page…

Last but not least, here’s what I missed by coming on the trip (and am still missing) and the expression on her face pretty much sums up her feelings about me leaving for a week…

Show’s Up…

September 11, 2012

Just a couple of shots of the show…

Nina And Pinta, My Ass…

September 1, 2012

Regular readers of my blog have probably come to think that I am an accident-prone person and with good reason. It’s funny to me that considering the number of sprains, bike accidents, hematomata, etc. that have occurred just since I started the blog that, for some reason, I never think of myself as accident-prone. Hmm, maybe that’s why it keeps happening. Well, this week I went out cycling a few times and one time my good friend Andy went with me on my regular route. My regular route happens to meander through the downtown waterfront park here in Louisville. And as one exits this park, one approaches a swooping bricked slope that terminates at the Ohio River’s edge. Normally, as I approach this slope I shift to a higher gear and get some speed up (about 24 mph) to carry me up the incline that immediately follows the downward slope. So this time, as I approached with Andy directly behind me, I see this…

I went back with Sofia the next day so when we were riding what I saw was just the boats… with the names Nina and Pinta painted on the stern. Now, combine the sight of the Nina and Pinta with the fact that the Santa Maria was absent and my poor eyesight and the fact that the barricades in the picture were not positioned yet (apparently, they had just docked), my normal curiosity, etc. and we have a recipe for… what? Well, even though they hadn’t put up the barricades with ropes and such, they had positioned a stationary object off to the left by the pylons that hold up that restaurant. Tied across there was that plastic yellow “caution” tape that police, EMS, firemen, and road workers use. Of course the tape is only about 2 inches wide and the wind was blowing and it was kinda folding, thus reducing it’s size which is all to say that since I was gawking at the boats and then there’s my vision… I didn’t see the tape at all. As I picked up speed swooping down near the ships and heading toward the taped barricade, I heard Andy shout… “dude, what are you doin’?”. I glanced back at him pointing in front of me, then turned back to see the tape. I was going about 20 mph and I was within 10 feet when I realized what was going on. I hit the tape right across my chest and my immediate thought was… come on tape, SNAP LOOSE. Just like in the cartoons, the tape stretched and stretched slowing me slightly until right before it sent me to the ground, it finally broke. Here’s my left bicep area where the tape got me…

In retrospect, the realization of what could have happened has sunk in. If the tape was a mere 6 inches higher where I hit, it would have clotheslined me at the neck which certainly would have taken me and the bike to the bricks and might even have broken my neck, who knows? So the bug and I went back the next day and they had put up more substantial barricades and were charging to go aboard. Here’s some more shots of the nefarious ships…

Upon further inspection coupled with the events of the previous day, I started thinking that these were not really the notorious Nina and Pinta we were all told about when we were being indoctrinated in grade school and that they were in fact some sort of pirate ships. The first clue was the jolly roger that I remember flying the day of my bike incident (which was suspiciously absent when the pictures were taken), the accident itself (which could be see as the landlubber’s equivalent of walking the plank) and this…

Now, correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty certain that these boats did not come with bass boats with outboard motors attached. Imagine how quickly the disappearance of the natives would have happened if those explorers had the internal combustion engine. And what about the painting of the name… not very authentic if you ask me. It seems that the Spanish monarchy could have done better… maybe some gold leaf? By the way, there was a sign asking for people that might want to sign up to be part of the crew… pirating or potting? I guess I’m simply to old to start pirating so I’ll stick with the pots. Here’s a couple more that will be in my show…

Damn, I Forgot To Put A Title (Just Remembered)…

August 23, 2012

Well, it’s been a long row that got hoed for me to get ready for my show in September up in Michigan. Here’s the announcement…

I suggested a different title… “Wanna Come Upstairs And See My Etchings?” but I fear it’s another case of “older reference lost on younger viewers”. I guess nowadays the equivalent would be something like, “Wanna Come Upstairs, Not Have Sex And Compulsively Check Facebook On Our iPhones To See If Anyone “Liked” The Picture Of My Lunch?”. Of course that’s a bit long for a show title. Anyway, the pots are gone and the show is being set up soon. Here’s a sneak peak at a couple of the pieces that were sent…

In other news, the bug started 2nd grade on Tuesday. Needless to say, she was very excited about this and we were not so much so as the house will quiet down substantially during the days. Here she is with her new school backpack and ensemble…

After a brutally hot July, we’ve been having an August that’s much like October. It won’t last I’m sure but now that the work for the show is delivered I think I’m gonna get back in the saddle (bike saddle that is). Here’s some new pieces I’ve recently posted to etsy (clicking takes you to etsy)…

That’s all for now.

During The Heat Wave…

August 4, 2012

Well, my 3rd bisque is cooling and I started glazing yesterday for the show I’m having up in Michigan in September. The people putting on the show will be coming through Louisville August 22nd to pick up my pots… how great is that? No shipping. So I’m hoping to do 3 glaze firings, take pics, pick out the ones for the show, price list, etc. in the next 17 days, no problem right? Despite the harried pace, other things are still going on, not the least of which is the bug’s summer vacation is winding down. It will be no fun when she goes back to school as the house will seem deserted again. So, I got in this show. We also attended a show at the Mount last weekend exhibiting the work of Sandy Miller who combines weaving with some of her pots. Here’s a couple shots from the opening…

Sandy also has a blog here with plenty of pots, plants and cooking going on. I don’t have any finished pieces yet so here’s some of my greenware vases…

I also managed to get a couple quick shots of my friend Jeff’s pieces in his basement studio…

I wish I had had more time to set the pieces up a bit but I was in a hurry. In other news, I shaved. As most men know (and some women too), one of the best things about beards is incrementally shaving them off to see the different looks one might adopt. It really never gets old. Unfortunately for me, I hate growing one so much (because of the constant tickling and itching) that I don’t get to do the incremental shaving ritual. So anyway, to Mom’s horror I shaved all but my mustache and acted as though I was gonna leave it that way. Anyway, before I get to the picture of that last remnant, I’d like to discuss Godwin’s Law. It states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Naz1s or H1tler approaches”. If you’ve been online in the past 3 years, you’ve no doubt witnessed proof of Godwin’s Law hundreds if not thousands of times. A variation of Godwin’s Law known as Godwin’s Hirsute Phenomenon states: “As the incremental shaving of a full beard to no facial hair whatsoever proceeds, the infamous H1tler mustache will inevitably be either the penultimate stage or the final stage.” So without further ado and with the appropriate disclaimers… one, it’s a joke so let’s leave the anti-defamation folks out of it and two, I should’ve taken my glasses off first.

Finally some more greenware…

Sayanora.

Nostalgia…

July 21, 2012

I was very surprised this morning when a fellow Gottuso (whom I’ve never met) posted this picture on farcebook…

Yep, the boston store in beautiful downtown Utica, New York. It pains me in a way to think that I worked there for a short stint at the age of 18 and although I was legally an adult another 36 years has passed since then. This shot seems to have been taken a bit before the 70s as evidenced by the cars. Those cars were still around in the 70s but they were fewer and farther in between. Nevertheless the cars that were there were yet to be the cars of post-Japanese-car America. Anyway, the Boston Store predated the homogenization of the shopping experience. So, I was a “stock boy” there which didn’t mean that I was put in stocks all day for public humiliation although humiliation was part of the job. This whole nostalgic escapade will serve as a lovely segue into my first brush with hospitals and the medical establishment after my rheumatic fever diagnosis years earlier. Luckily for me, Mr. Fleming’s penicillin had been invented (discovered) prior to the mid-20th century and I recovered only to get appendicitis while in stocks at the Boston Store. I complained to my manager at the time of a severe pain in my abdomen, upon which, I was escorted to the “coat room” for the miracle sensation of the time… bromo seltzer. This made the pain increase and I left to go home early (and I never returned as it turned out). On to Faxton hospital where I was quickly diagnosed with a stomach ache even though me and my Mom ventured to them that appendicitis seemed to make more sense. Nope, we were told and I was given an antiemetic. I asked what it was for and they told me that it would stop my vomiting. I replied that I hadn’t been vomiting. They answered that it would keep me from beginning to vomit. Ten minutes after taking it, I was kissing the porcelain goddess (one of my early brushes with porcelain). They sent us home and my appendix burst inside me during the night. Surgery followed the next day and a Dr. Zwahlen removed most of what was left. I say most of because a week or so later as my recovery was in full swing, I noticed that the wound was swelling. I called a classmate that I knew had had her appendix out and asked if this was what happened to her and she said yes (of course I didn’t actually show her how much bigger it had gotten). Then I was lying on the couch watching TV in my underwear when I felt a warm liquid on my side. *warning: don’t read after this if your are squeamish. I looked down in horror as a milky puss was literally squirting out of a hole at one end of the laceration left by the operation. I ran to the bathroom sink and squeezed that sucker as hard as I could stand and I swear about a cup and a half of that poison liquid drained into the sink. I later found out that if the wound had had just a touch longer to heal and had closed up that the burst of puss would have happened inside my abdominal cavity and I would most likely have died. To add insult to injury and surgery, a followup was scheduled with Dr. Z and as I lie on the table, without warning, he reached down with both hands and grabbed the area where I had been cut and squeezed as hard as he could to make sure that I had gotten it all (and I had). Those were the days. In other news, I’m trying to meet a rapidly approaching deadline. Here’s a bunch of greenware with yet another coat of shellac to go…

Cat Scratch Fever…

July 7, 2012

Just a short post (hopefully) today. I wanted to start with a picture of Mr. Steven Cheek‘s pieces that are in the Dinnerworks show that I didn’t have access to when I did the last post…

Beautiful pots with many many hours of carving. Here’s a video that I had to post. You may remember I did a post recently about the proliferation of cat pictures on FB here. And while I still marvel at this phenomenon regarding our #1 invasive species, this video may help to explain a disease that is spreading across our nation…

Now I’m not so much of a luddite that it hadn’t occurred to me that this might be a joke and if it is, then I believe it’s very funny in a very creepy kind of way, not to mention that the girl should receive an academy award for the performance. But, it seems real to me and for some strange reason it is not difficult for me to believe. In that case, it isn’t funny as much as a bellwether for the downfall of western civilization. Of course she could simply have a bad case of Toxoplasma Gondii which has been revealed in many studies and was on this episode of radiolab. OK, enough of that. Etsy managed to do an upgrade that I really thought enhanced the site. It’s a new “about” page with a scrolling “slide show”. I’ve updated mine here…

Check it out if you get a hankerin’. I decided to grow a beard for the umpteenth time and although I managed to get past the extremely itchy phase, it seems as though that will just result in the ongoing just very itchy phase so off it comes. Plus I was starting to look even more Kentuckian when I smiled my semi-toothless smile. Here’s a shot before shaving and with my power specs with flashlights…

Last but not least, here’s the bug’s latest. Her very own fairy puzzle…

Sayanora.