Thursday, August 13, 2009

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

What a jam-packed week of excitement and adventure! I have neglected my studio work, instead focusing on cleaning house, venturing outside (which is good, because summer is fading quickly), and trying to organize.

At the end of last week, I visited my good friend Lisa Kohlhepp in a whirlwind visit to Anderson Ranch - I miss her already! I need to go back! On Saturday, Piers and I dressed up for a lovely show at the Breck Theater Gallery for work by another of my wonderful friends, Jenn Cram, who runs the Breckenridge Arts District, and also Michelle Woods, who teaches at Colorado Mountain College.

Sometime on Sunday, the junko eggs hatched, and we welcomed three tiny, hungry aliens into the world. They're awkward and hilarious, fuzz shooting from their heads like strange dinosaurs. They cheep their heads off until the moment Flip opens her beak slightly - and they fall silent. Such well-behaved children! What parent can enjoy that kind of result with a child in mid-tantrum at the grocery store?!?

Piers changed the lens on his Nikon and captured some amazing family moments. I was shocked he was allowed to approach. Remember, their nest is on the ground, right against the house. It's impossible to creep up inconspicuously; inevitably, you only loom monstrously over the fragile nest.

The little ones are like miniature vases with their wide open yellow beaks and their necks craned upward, pink throats gulping sunlight, bodies gracefully... Yikes, this isn't graceful! A tasty insect: Down the hatch, mama!

Such a tender moment between mama and baby reminds me of even more exciting news: my sister is pregnant! Soon I'll get to change my name to Auntie Iris.

On Tuesday, I drove to a noborigama kiln located between Alma and Fairplay, built in the '70s by Mark Zamantakis. Fellow potter Chris Hosbach and I were to patch the kiln and investigate whether or not there were enough shelves and furniture available so that we (and many others) can do a firing next June. Yes, there were plenty of each, so we mixed up some adobe, and filled in the many cracks. The kiln has not been fired for 10 years, but is in great shape!

I'm standing a the very back, by the chimney, at the highest point of the kiln. There are three chambers for pots, plus a firebox in the front where we stoke the fire. Each chamber is higher than the one before, so the fire climbs up through the kiln and out the chimney. This baby will hold a lot of pots! In college, our wood kiln held about 100 pots, I'm guessing. This noborigama will hold many, many more. Anyone have wood they'd like to donate? We'll need to dry out and chop 5 cords of wood.

Maybe you're wondering about a photo I posted a couple of weeks ago, with my car filled with straw and a wheelbarrow strapped to the top of the car. Yes, that was in preparation for this very excursion - except sometimes plans change unexpectedly... This was the "third time's the charm" attempt, and fortunately, all went well. We were prepared with bug spray, saw nary a mosquito, and the weather was impeccable! Let's just hope the adobe doesn't flake off.

Yesterday, I participated in a life drawing class with Lisa Rivard. I've never sketched a live model before! We started with several 30-second poses, moved to 1-minute poses, then 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and finally 30 minutes. I really enjoyed the brevity of the beginning poses because it shook me out of my usual take-a-long-time-to-draw-that mode. Truly, I've never worked so quickly!

Here are two sketches I'm pleased with: the first was a 10-minute pose, and the second, a 30-minute. It was interesting which poses were harder to complete in the time given; the 15 minute pose flew by before I finished sketching her entire body, but I finished the 30 minute pose in 20 or so. I have a lot of fun ahead of me and I can't wait for the next class!

I hope to have more clay pieces to show soon. Back to work!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

1-2-3, Pitcher!

I haven't done a lot of coiling recently, and I want to do another piece with Piers, so this weekend I built a large pitcher form and decorated it with leaf images. The model plant I used is featured in my July 11th post, sweetly creeping around Syma's bottomless vessel. I love plants with such rich, luminous foliage. So far, I have not decided how I want to glaze this piece. That can wait for a while...

On the left, I'm finishing the last major coil. This piece has 12 or 13 coils - I add a moderate amount of clay each time and pinch it upward, adding 1 1/2"-2" in height. Then I make small alterations to the profile. I don't use a potter's wheel or banding wheel to create the shape, as you see in the picture. The piece sits on a bat and I eyeball the evenness of the sides as I walk around the piece or reposition the bat. What I like about a large, symmetrical piece - balance and calm, significant but gentle interaction with its environment, and quiet containment of a large space - I try to translate into softly asymmetrical shapes. Since I keep the rough texture my fingers create while I pinch, the shape will never be "exact" (as it could be if the walls were smooth). Working on a stationary bat, I am less quick to "correct" every wayward angle and the shape becomes more suggested than precise.

Here I am defiantly pajama'd (because I can, if you ask why) working in the living room, finishing the leaves on the pitcher. I pretended this was a plein air excursion - visiting a plant in its "native" environment (ie, sunny windowsill). I'm usually not supposed to cart my clay around the house because I leave little shavings everywhere!

The vases in the corner are pit fired from earlier this year. (Click here to see them unfired.) The philodendron behind my head is a gift from Lisa Kohlhepp, who clipped it from a plant at the Breckenridge Brewery and rooted it for me a few years ago. The image of his first set of leaves is on another large pot I made, and it sits outside year-round, soaking up sunshine and moisture, just like the plant. These are the mature leaves - last year, I accidentally left him in my windowless kiln shed for a week and I thought I'd killed him! Piers chopped off all the leaves (the brown sadness that was left), and two weeks later these three giants emerged. This is also the plant with 3' aerial roots exploring our living room, inspiring me to make the wall piece Aerial Roots.

Here is a close-up of the leaves. Click it for a bigger picture, and you can see the leaves more easily. Now that I've finished forming and carving, I'll let the piece dry. Next is the firing and glazing stage, and then I'll turn it over to Piers to carve and attach a handle. Easy as 1-2-3!

A New Face

We adore the animals and plants around us. Well, not the mice (Iris) or spiders (Piers)! Outside, there are two foxes who we've seen on a regular basis - Ferdinand has been visiting for three or four years, and this is Linden's first year. She likes to sun herself to sleep in the juniper bush by our driveway. Vladimir, our dog, barks and whines at her, but she knows he can't get off the deck to chase her (but would they make beautiful, fluffy babies? I know Piers wishes they could get to know each other better) and I think she likes having a "big brother" around while she snoozes to warn her of other animals approaching.

Piers kept three empty 5-gallon chinking buckets next to the house for a few weeks. Recently, he moved them to the back of the garage with the rest of the buckets. A tiny junko bird kept squawking at him, and he finally found her nest on the ground, sheltered by a dandelion leaf. This mama seemed really miffed at Piers, and we avoided her "territory" next to the driveway, beside the steps up to the deck (and the front door). She's so diminutive and angry that Piers has named her... (be warned, this is awful!) ....Flip. You know, Flip The Bird. Groan...

Yesterday evening, I was standing on the deck talking to Piers as he unloaded his car. Suddenly, Flip flew in. She looked all around, hopping this way and that, making sure "no one" was around to follow her to the nest, and quickly scuttled into the plants. Piers and I each stood only three feet from her. Apparently we no longer pose a threat.

It was particularly sunny yesterday, and she pushed away her dandelion roof. Here we have At Home with Flip. This morning, she pulled the leaf over her nest again, and it is nearly invisible. Piers reassures me that Linden will not discover the tasty eggs inside.

This afternoon, I'm going to patch up a naborigama kiln near Fairplay with some fellow clay folk. Chris is bringing adobe ingredients, and I'm supplying straw, water, a saw, and a wheelbarrow. The straw bale is really long, so the wheelbarrow had to be strapped to the top of my car. See the straw poking out the back?

The window in this picture looks into my studio. Flip's nest is just to the right of my back bumper, against the house. When I look out my studio window, I see an assortment of wood Piers keeps outside, behind the garage. I have a very small friend who hangs around there, and I named her Bernadette the Bunny. Piers is appalled at my choice - "What kind of name is Bernadette? What about Tiger, or Oprah, or Ellen Johnson Sirleaf?" Oh well, he'll name our next friend.