Sunday, December 27, 2009

Alaskan Outpost

(I wrote this about 4 days ago, but was unable to post for a variety of reasons. Enjoy!) For the second year in a row, I'm spending my Christmas in the great state of Alaska. Yes, it's snowy, and yes, it's cold, but it's also quite beautiful. Cold is only relative, as currently it's 30 degrees (F). The darkness feels like it is a bit much, but I realized the other day the sun sets only an hour or so before it does on the east coast. No, I can't see Russia. And no, I don't see Sarah Palin. These are the two main questions I'm asked when people learn I'm going. I stay with my sister, she lives just outside Anchorage (the most populated city in the state). We don't have to mush about with dog sleds, although I would love a husky to call my own. Anchorage isn't some sort of social backwater people imagine it to be. There are all the amenities you can find in any other place in the "lower 48." Sure, there are rural areas, but I grew up in the rural south and find that Anchorage has much more to offer. It's a beautiful state, and everyone should visit. But I do recommend the summer as it's a bit more mild and less adverse-weather prone.

My favorite parts about this trip: sledding down the driveway with fear of running into the road, making cranberry-popcorn garlands (pictured above) for the first time ever, making the best kugel of my life (without the apricot nectar), watching White Christmas with my sister, meeting my nephew for the first time, and catching up on season one of The Big Bang Theory. Oh, and wearing these astoundingly comfy and warm slippers from the bestest sister ever.

I've yet to get my usual sludge cup though. (Yeah, we never got around to that.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ceramic Sentiments II: Dinnerware

As much as I love classic pure white dinnerware, but with squared sides and rounded edges, I did not feel like working with porcelain or a slab roller when making my own while in school. Plus, since I've never been in the perfect financial position to purchase the dishes I truly want,
I've continued to use my own over they years. I do love my dishes, but I find myself critiquing them fairly often. I would use the celadon green differently on the center of the plates by making a stronger linear design--not rely on gravity to pull the glaze in interesting directions. (This works on some objects, not on others.) I would make my bowl rims stronger. Rims are a weak point for me in my throwing. I spent years trying to make them thinner and then I was suddenly told I needed to make them thicker! But it's true, for bowls or other vessels that will experience wear (How many times do you clink your spoon against your bowl when eating cereal?) you need a rim that can withstand the use. I also wish I had a foot rim on the bowls, but you can't tell from the photo, so why should I worry?

Enough about what I don't like about my dinnerware, because these are just the first few photos of my whole set. This is a salad/dessert plate and a general soup/salad/cereal/if-you-can't-eat-it-out-of-a-bowl-it's-not-worth-eating bowl. The glaze is an earthy Alfred Yellow, chosen because everyone chooses blue (or something in the blue family) or celadon green for their dinnerware and I wanted mine to be different. I like not having blue dishes; these are warm and comforting, much like food. The rim accent is actually a black glaze, but chosen because the interaction with the chemicals in the yellow pulls out the iron, so it fires red. (One day I'll give the "grand feu" explanation about the 5 high-fire colors and why dishes tend to be blue.) The weird blobs in the center of the plate and along the sides of the bowl are celadon green, but look black in their post-fired state. Although, in the right light (but not these pictures) you can see a hint of green that contrasts nicely with the red and yellow, bringing a little cool color spectrum to the warm colors. I wanted to see more flow in the lines of the green, but sometimes your plans and the kiln's plans don't match up. Even so, I love the rims of the plate. I might not like my bowl rims, but I am a champion plate thrower. Plates are easy to throw, but have a huge wastage rate because it is difficult to get the entire play to dry evenly without warping. Even so, these turned out very nice with very little warpage. These were fired to Cone 10 in a gas kiln, leaving the plates to the mercy of the drafts and chemical reactions of the reduction atmosphere (also to be explained later). I was lucky (or just good at knowing how the kiln fired) as I didn't lose any pieces of my dinnerware to the kiln!

Don't worry, there is plenty more dinnerware to come, so don't be disappointed. We've got plates, tumblers, coffee mugs, and the pitcher that started it all yet to cover. And if you're looking at this thinking you would like me to make your dinnerware, I would love to make it for you! I just like to be paid in advance.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ceramic Sentiments

In my past life, I was a potter. Not really my past life, but the life I had before finishing college and venturing into the "real world" and having a "real job" and then leaving all of that behind to pursue a graduate degree. I actually have a degree in pottery, and I spent 3 summers as an apprentice at Whynot Pottery and DirtWorks Pottery. I also worked for one summer at the North Carolina Pottery Center, which is responsible for my foray into the museum world.

I miss being a potter and am always keeping one eye open and an ear to the ground to find a nice part-time apprenticeship in the Alexandria area. I keep nosing around the Torpedo Factory, but nothing turning up yet.

A while ago someone friended me on Facebook and asked why there weren't pictures of my work on there. Good question. I don't have any digitally. Bad, I know. But, I'm working on that! I will slowly begin taking photos of my work in my possession. Some pieces were sold and I don't have photos, but if they turn up, I'll be sure to share.

We'll begin a coffee mug. This is my absolute favorite, do-not-touch-it-or-I-will-hurt-you, coffee mug. It is the coffee mug all I made after it aspired to be, yet each mug after failed in some small way or other. The shape is perfect for keeping the coffee piping hot for a long time, while also holding a good one-an-a-half to two cups of the liquid beauty I consume each morning. The handle was pulled perfectly with a small ridge down the center, and while skewed a little to the right, it was attached with precision and blends smoothly to the body of the mug. The opening lip is thin enough to break the elixir of life as I drink, but angled just-so to keep me from spilling it on myself. (A problem I often have with other cups and containers.) The glaze is one of my favorite Cone 10 cobalt-based glazes, Seager Blue, with enough iron to create rings of orange where it breaks in thin spots or over the perfect finger ridges running up the sides. The rounded sides also fit nicely into my palm to warm my hands on cold mornings. I love this coffee mug. I will love it until I die. And the best thing about it--ceramics last practically forever so loving it until I die is actually an option.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hatchback, no back, fries, whip cream

This title has nothing to do with anything. It's just written down in my little book I keep handy to write down funny things I overhear. At some point in October I wrote it in blue pen. It's been driving me crazy for the last week because I don't know the context or what it even means. Usually I can remember where these things come from--like my "Big Fruit" story--but this one evades me. Does anyone one out there know?

The real reason for this post, however, is to share my new favorite t-shirt. As Kelly predicted, bacon is making an appearance early on my blog, but this time it is to endorse a shirt about bacon, not the salty, sweet, chewy, crispy, glorious strips that make each day a little brighter. When reading one of my favorite food blogs, I came across these for Fleisher's Meats, based in New York. While I can't get their tasty products in the DC area, it does serve as an even greater impetus to head up I-95. But before I even try that grass-fed organic beef or pork, I need to proclaim to the world that Bacon is the Gateway Meat.