A couple of weeks ago was the first time I had fired the kiln in a very long time. It went quite well other than the burners going out after the second charge of soda. I am not sure whether it was a draft, pressure change, or a poltergeist. Talk about "deafening silence" in the kiln room. The roar of the burners disappeared and the only sound was the fan.
First reaction was "oh #$%(@@*!" Of course the burner wouldn't relight, so the gas had to be turned completely off and everything reset. The gas is controlled with a lever and has a pressure gauge. The blower is adjusted with a round valve that has the paint scratched off one of the spokes so you can tell approximately where you are in the turn. In order to keep track of the cycles around, you pay attention and keep copious notes in the kiln log. This makes it very unlikely that the original setting can be exactly replicated if the burners go out.
Flames shot out of the ports for a brief time until I got the air adjusted correctly, but the kiln only lost about 20 degrees. The new setting was a close approximation, but not quite as efficient as the original one. Instead of shutting down around 7:30-8:00 p.m., the firing lasted until 9:30.
We unloaded late Friday afternoon. I should have learned by now to reserve judgement of the work until the next day. My first reaction was disappointment. I focused on the pieces that were flawed and completely ignored the ones that were fine. Is that human nature or a personality flaw?
Having given it a few days, I see that there were successes as well as failures. Now it's time to haul out the dremel to clean off wads that stuck to the bottom of some of the pots and take some pictures.
It feels great to be back in the studio. I am glazing for a firing at the beginning of October. I had planned on firing at the beginning of July, so I have plenty of bisqueware on hand. My strength is slowly returning. Lifting kiln shelves shouldn't be a problem, but throwing is still painful. Here are the first tumblers decorated with lithographed images that I threw without wrist apparatus.
Using my wrist is supposed to be the best way for it to regain strength, so since throwing has been painful I have been playing with slab work. I have been texturing the slabs with wooden stamps that were originally used for fabric stamps, as well as bisqued clay stamps. I had made the clay stamps quite some time ago by carving images into plaster and then making an impression of the image with clay. A studio mate had given me two of the wooden stamps, and another studio mate generously shared some of her wooden stamps. I will eventually print on these forms, but wanted to wait until I had practiced a little in case there were cracking issues. Not having the ink on the piece makes the clay easier to reclaim if necessary.
It was great to use other people's stamps but it seemed like a good idea to have more of my own. So, since the Brimfield Antique Fleamarket happened to be last week I went to see what could be found.
Of course being an antique flea market, there are antiques...
As well as sculpture...
And then, you find the more eclectic, unique items...
Doesn't everyone need a plastic costume from a museum in Leominster, MA (according to the tag)?
Or maybe a sculpture made from old metal tins and assorted plastic doll parts.
I found what I was looking for within 20 minutes of arriving but spent 4 hours wandering around enjoying the sights. Here are the stamps I picked up.
This Sunday I am participating in the Fall Edition of stART on the Street, Worcester, MA. - a free event with over 250 artists, performing groups, and activities for children. It's a fantastic event that is a tremendous amount of fun. Hope you can make it!
Out of physical therapy and have permission to return to a full workload...after my strength returns. That means I probably shouldn't pick up 50 lb boxes of clay just yet.
Here is a photo of my lumpy, therapy rattles and whistles. Yes, the turtle is a whistle, but the rabbit is not. The ocarina only plays a pentatonic scale instead of a full octave. That's what happens when one doesn't follow the tuning instructions in the book. Sure was fun though.
These are the first cups thrown "post-cast/splint" It was wonderful, and very painful. The tendons in the fingers are still protesting about being forced to move in ways that they recently haven't. I realize that they don't look like much, but it felt wonder-
ful to throw again.
Of course the garden still calls to me every day. The beans have been prolifically producing. I love how the purple ones contrast so beautifully with the leaves. Too bad they don't keep their wonderful color when cooked. Here is some more of the harvest.
Great news, the cast came off and I am in a removable splint!! I really don't have a wrist and hand, it is more like a "wrand". The strength and flexibility in that arm/wrist/hand have been greatly reduced, but I have been told that it should come back with the help of physical therapy. Thank goodness for physical therapy and forward progress!
In an effort to strengthen my hand I have been making pinch pot rattles and whistles. My studio mates are very good-natured. There have not yet been any complaints regarding the "toots" that come from testing out the whistles. The forms themselves are lumpy and rather unrefined looking. Regardless of how they look, it feels great to be handling wet clay again.
I did go blueberry picking, as planned. The bushes were absolutely loaded with berries, which made the picking easy. I picked enough for us to snack on and put in the freezer to enjoy this winter. The berries looked wonderful on the bush and in the bucket, but I think that they looked even more delicious in a handmade bowl.
I decided to pull some garlic to check on its progress. Surprisingly it was ready. One bulb had begun to separate, a sure sign that it's time to pull it. The greens have been removed, and now the bulbs will be put up in the attic to dry. Some of the bulbs are rather small. I should have fertilized with some fish emulsion, but didn't get to it. Still not a bad return: one bulb for each clove planted.
On Saturday, July 21st, I will be part of ArtBeat in Davis Square, Somerville, MA. It will be possible with LOTS of help from my marvelous and supportive family. This is a wonderful, fun event with live music, delicious food and lots of great art. There truly is something for everyone.
I now have a much smaller, lighter swimming cast. A lifesaver in this hot weather, and rather stylish too. Thanks Ava!! I
was even able to trim out some tumblers that I had started the week before I fell. It's great to have more mobility, but frustrating to still have the limitations. In an attempt to curb that frustration, I have not been going into the studio and instead focusing on other interests at home.
Gardening is one of those interests. I have had more time to spend garden "attending" this year than in the past. Things I discovered that could be done in the garden with one hand and some persistence are: digging compost, putting up a cucumber fence, planting seeds, and tying up tomato plants. That was before I got the smaller cast. Weeding and watering are a snap with the lighter cast.
They seem to be ripening early, and picking was not “fun”, but it was a useful way to spend some time. The patch is overgrown and needs to be constrained. Most of the best plants have migrated to the back of the compost pile. The challenge was balancing a bowl with one casted arm, picking berries with the free hand, and not tripping on the underbrush.
If you are not familiar, they are the yummy and visually amusing seed heads that have to be picked off the garlic plant to encourage bulb development. These are delicious cooked in many ways.
Next will be blueberry picking...
"This week is critical..."
That’s what the doc
said. I think he is waiting
for my bone to implode. However if it doesn’t happen this week I’ll be out of
the proverbial woods; or at least out of this heavy cast/splint and into a
smaller, lighter one. There goes
the upper body workout.
Before my doctor’s appointment we had attended the graduation ceremony for the Dynamy Youth Academy. It is a leadership and college access program for at-risk youth. My husband is a volunteer tutor for this amazing institution.
The graduating class was an inspiring group of students. They exhibited confidence and poise. They expressed gratitude to the people in their lives who had encouraged and guided them during their high school years. Someone took the time to see the gifts these students have, and help them to develop and nurture their talents. Because of this opportunity and the students’ hard work they are moving toward a bright future. It was very moving indeed. It made me think that there are things in life that really are critical; many of them infinitely more so than how a bone is healing.
I realize that this may only be exciting to me, but my daughter and her friend added some visual interest to my cast. The images are a definite improvement. Here are a couple of photos.
It appears that in my world it is always lunchtime or bewitching time. Currently, either works for me.
Thanks Ariel and Anh. Hugs to you both!
Here is a not-so-wonderful photo of my original splint. Who would think that one would need ALL this to hold one little bone in place. Guess all that I know about medicine is showing, huh?
Anyway, this week the doctor said that I could avoid the knife for yet another week because the fracture had stayed in place. Big hurray for the bone!!! One caveat...I "am not yet out of the woods". Translation- I may still need surgery. More X-rays next
This second not-so-wonderful photo is of the new look of my old splint. A marvelous layer of fiberglass was added to tighten everything up, and hopefully
continue to keep that bone where it belongs. Now I can actually see how swollen my hand and fingers are. Don't you think it looks a lot sleeker than the old one?
On Friday the doctor decided that the reduction (sounds like kiln terminology) was “acceptable” at present and that it would be best to wait another week before deciding whether or not surgery would be necessary. It appears that this type of fracture has a tendency to not stay put and often requires surgery to stabilize it.
How do I feel? Relief because it appears to be healing properly. Anxious because I am not certain what will be the next step. Just a tad stir crazy because of the physical limitations this event has created for me. So, what better way to hopefully quell these unhelpful, monkey mind emotions than a virtual visit to a place that focuses ones thoughts on something bigger than oneself.
The New England Peace Pagoda in N. Leverett, MA is an inspiring place. When you arrive, there is a steep dirt driveway that brings you to a gravel parking lot. The able-bodied park here and walk up a gravel road before arriving on the grounds of the temple and pagoda. All are welcome.
As the name suggests, this is a place dedicated to world peace and nuclear disarmament. With so much turmoil in the world, it offers a sanctuary as well as a springboard for involvement with a community of like-minded individuals.
I am drawn here on many levels. I feel a
strong connection to their political cause. I respect how it has been built
little by little by the hard work of many individuals. I love how its
structures contrast so strikingly with the New England landscape. I am captivated by the symbolism and
artistic designs incorporated into the architecture and grounds.
Hope you enjoy your visit,
Please click here to see more photos of the Peace Pagoda and grounds.
I had mentally planned to begin posting on June 1st. The first of the month seemed to be a great way to initiate what I’d hoped to become a consistent habit. With regards to what to post, the choices seemed obvious.
I love process and have been playing with lithographed images on clay. Since I soda-fire, which creates a rather hostile environment in the kiln, I first began to make buttons. I wasn’t certain that the images would hold up and not be obliterated by the kiln’s atmosphere. Buttons gave me the opportunity to experiment with juxtaposing images, and using different ceramic stains without investing an extensive amount of time into each individual piece. They proved to be the perfect vehicle. Here are more images of buttons.
Next, I moved to small trays and tumblers, still experimenting with the application process, the best way to apply the image to different forms, and the timing of it all. In ceramics, timing is everything. Currently, I have been working on larger forms; vases, bowls, pitchers, oil bottles, larger trays. My goal has been to have the images become a more integral part of the form. In other words, for them to “make sense”.
Now I have come to a roadblock or maybe a juncture. Monday, while walking our dog, I fell and broke my left wrist and sprained my right. I don’t know how long I will be away from the studio. My appointment with the hand specialist is Friday. I try to follow a “no attachment to outcome” philosophy, but some situations are more difficult than others.
Believe it or not, observing the dog that I tripped over (isn’t he cute???) is helping to foster that "no attachment" philosophy. The situation is also encouraging me to more carefully examine and possibly realign the relative importance of things in my life. Which brings up the the question: "How should I be focusing my energy? "
Sacha (diminutive for Alexander) was in the local pound for over a year until he came into our lives. The dog officer didn’t have the heart to put him down because he is such a "good" dog, even though being totally oblivious to the fact that there is someone on the other end of the leash. Although his situation was not the best for him, he maintained a sweet personality. Now, I realize that dogs supposedly live in the moment, and I also acknowledge the necessity of planning for the future, but maybe we should all periodically take a moment to lie in the grass and enjoy a beautiful day.