Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm a Cone 11

I had a very vivid dream about doing pottery last night. It was amazing. My dreams have been very real lately, not sure if it's the stress of graduating this week (yay!) or getting rejected from a few more jobs (boo!), but I wake up and can recall my dreams in incredible detail. Which is nice, but sometimes confusing.

But dreaming about clay, glazing, and firing was really nice. I was taking a class in ceramics somewhere, and my favorite part of the dream was when the woman showed me how to set up cone packs. In the dream I looked at her, smiled, and told her I learned long ago how to set up cone packs. For those of you who don't know, temperatures in kilns are measured by pyrometric cones. Each cone has a number that corresponds to a certain temperature that you want the kiln to reach (ideally). I really like cones aesthetically after they are fired - especially Cone 10 firings. They slump over, like they just gave up, but if your kiln didn't get too hot, and you put a Cone 11 in there, it stands up defiantly. I like defiance. I'm not much of a rebel, but there is a part of me that secretly sides with rebels. I can't explain it. I'm a rule follower to a T, but sometimes, I want to do the tiny rebellious thing, just because I can.

I feel defiant today. I've been feeling down and insecure this week, but today I feel strong. I can stand up to the world. I have talents and gifts, and I know that it will come through some cover letter and I will get a job that is perfect. I will find the space where I can be a Cone 11. Standing proud, strong, and not taken down by the fire.

Photo from

Monday, May 9, 2011

Renwick's Craft Invitational

Last weekend I went to the Renwick's Craft Invitational, "History in the Making" which will be on the first floor of the museum until July 31st. The four artists in this year's invitational are silversmith Ubaldo Vitali, ceramicist Cliff Lee, stained-glass artist Judith Schaechter and furniture maker Matthias Pliessnig. The work by all four of these artists is astounding, beautiful, and full of detail and craftsmanship.

When you enter the gallery, you are confronted with the highly refined, reflective surfaces of Vitali's silver work. Often, not one who loves silver, I really liked his quality of craftsmanship, attention to detail and clear knowledge of historicism. Even before reading his biography, where I learned he's from a long line of amazing silversmiths, I was taken by his awareness of history and how he made it modern, without making it postmodern. I really enjoyed the sketches for his work that were included in several of the cases, helping me to understand how he arrives at his designs.

Cliff Lee's porcelain work shows his background as a neurosurgeon with small details that I think would drive any other person blind or crazy. Or both. His work is sensual and his colors are rich and deep. He's spent a lot of time working on researching, developing and creating his glazes. One of his glazes has a long history, one better told by the wall text at the exhibit. (This is my passive-aggressive way of telling you to go see this!) His work is so refined and delicate, yet sturdy. His celadon glaze is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. And it highlights his intricate carving in a way I'm pretty sure the Chinese originally intended.

The stained glass by Judith Schaechter is some of the most beautiful contemporary stained glass I've seen. I've been in a lot of churches (where else do you see stained glass?), researched Tiffany, but her work is thoroughly of today and takes stained glass to a level of storytelling and deeper emotions than what I've seen in other works. Rather than stick to one color in a pane, she uses several techniques to achieve patterns and create multiple colors to tell her stories. With a leaning toward the macabre, her work is delightful and disturbing. But the way she truly won me over was with her Judith and Holofernes window. One of my favorite apocryphal stories (that I only learned in art history classes), she turned it to an almost whimsical, playful image of a young girl merrily going about her way. I loved it.

If I'd seen the furniture of Matthias Pliessnig earlier on in my life, I might not have the feelings about furniture that I do. However, his use of boat-making techniques to make organic, flowing furniture captivated me. I wanted to sit on it, I wanted to touch it, but instead, I just spent a long time staring at the bench in the room, moving around it, seeing it from different angles, and being astounded by his ability to manipulate wood in beautiful way. Fortunately, the Renwick has a "touch" gallery, and I was able to touch a sample piece of his work, finally, tactile enjoyment of the smooth, bent wood. If only I could sit on it. Or take a nap.

Go now before the invitational closes! The works are absolutely gorgeous and it is so heartening to see such beautiful craft on display. It gives the potter in me hope.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Embracing Unemployment

I'm entering week four of no job and I still have the ups and downs anyone looking for work does. The hopeful cover letter sent to the organization I'm dying to work for. The bleary eyes from reading job description after job description, wondering how I can more eloquently express that yes, I do have excellent written and oral communication skills. The frustration from the passive rejection that comes from an empty inbox and a silent phone.

But those are the bad things. The good things are these:

I actually stopped and smelled roses today. I went to my local coffee shop where I go to hang out for a few hours and interact with other people, just to keep the insanity at bay. Today is so beautiful, so I decided to take a long, meandering walk home. Joblessness = more time. As I walked down a street I'd never been on in my neighborhood, I came by lovely, huge, red blooms, gently swaying in the breeze over a fence. Roses are my favorite flower and I was compelled. The sun was shining, birds chirped (I only hate that sound in the morning, it's awesome in the afternoon), and the roses smelled heavenly. Sweet, but not overpowering. And they had that grown-in-nature smell that hothouse roses will never achieve. It was perfect.

I've started reading novels again. I had trouble reading for fun while in graduate school. All that other reading just made me want to put down books at the end of the day and watch something on television. But with the library only a few blocks away, I've started taking weekly trips to find new books, maybe read some old favorites I don't own, and actually read a book in only a few days, not a few weeks. It's like reconnecting with an old friend.

I do want a job, don't get me wrong. But it makes it a little easier when I have things that I can enjoy in the midst of the exhausting hunt.

Photo: Roses from the rose gardens at Reynolda House, take by me, 2010.