Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Street Art


I'm a huge fan of graffiti and street art.


Here's a four minute sketch of my family that I drew in therapy last week:


Anyone who knows my grandmother will be able to pick her out in about a second.

This is my last night house- and dog-sitting. I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again--and I'm sure Crunch is ready to have his usual routine back. I'll miss my twice daily walks with him--and the millions of Sex and the City and Law & Order reruns.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Other Windy City


Dave took that picture a few mornings ago on his way to work. (Yes, he goes to work way too early.) We've had some crazy wind recently--55 mph-plus kind of wind--and this tree branch didn't make it. Welcome to springtime in New Mexico.

Other than the crazy winds, things have been pretty calm.

Monday, March 31, 2014


On our way onto UNM campus today, we ran into a protest against the police (the Albuquerque police recently shot and killed a homeless, mentally ill man who was camping in the foothills and, a couple of days after that killing came to light, they shot and killed another man who they claim shot at them first). Police in riot gear faced off against twenty or so people in their teens and early 20s who were shouting things. One guy had a sign. Lots of people were filming or taking pictures with their cell phones, including me and Dave.


We were coming to campus to see Sherman Alexie. (This is not a picture of Sherman Alexie. This is a picture of the empty stage that I took while we were waiting for the lights to go down in the theater.)


Luckily the tickets were given to us by a friend who has season tickets to the theater but who is out of town. (I say luckily because I love the guy's novels and movies, but his onstage performance/lecture/thingy was not particularly interesting and I would have felt a bit cheated if I had paid the $150 that the tickets were being sold for.) The whole thing reminded me of the pilot episode of The Boondocks in which one of the little black kids, Huey Freeman, has dreams about telling white people the truth (Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government is lying about 9/11) and provoking a riot. When he does finally get the chance to do it in real life, instead of rioting, the white people all laugh and applaud and patronizingly call him well-spoken.

The same thing happened to Sherman Alexie on Sunday. He talked about how lucky it is for white people are that Indians aren't prone to terrorist acts, openly mocked older white men, talked about how the reservation system is a continuing act of war--and the white people laughed and applauded and lined up to have their books signed.

More Strangeness

In the form of a poster seen hung up all over the neighborhood where I walk Crunch.


I need to have a clearing out of my studio space. There isn't a single area where I can work.


Creative chaos.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


In the morning and again in the afternoon, I get dragged around past every pollen bearing tree in the neighborhood.20140329_072854.jpg
This is the culprit:
There are some beautiful flowers out there right now.
When we're not wandering around the neighborhood coating our sinuses with pollen, we're inside, watching cable TV. (Well, Crunch naps mostly.)

Man, have I watched a lot of TV recently. Okay, it's mostly been endless episodes of various incarnations of Law & Order and millions of hours of Sex & the City. There's been an Iron Chef America thrown in there from time to time, and I watched most of Steel Magnolias the other day, and I watched chunks of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in the middle of the night. (That movie freaks me out. Can you imagine that movie being made today? I mean who could fill the shoes of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford? Meryl? Julia? Sandra? Gwyneth? Ha.)

What else has been going on? Well, not much really. The car spent a big hunk of the week at the mechanic because it didn't pass the emission test. Twice. And it still needs more work before it will pass. Ugh. Car stuff.

But look at the odometer of our little car:


Can you even see the odometer? It says 200002! Our little hoopty has 200,000+ miles on it. I think we'll get another 300 000 miles out of it at least--if it passes emissions.

And these are the first (non-volunteer) seedlings in our garden:



Monday, March 24, 2014

It's (Almost) the End

It's not the end (of the world) came out of the kiln today.

Here's an interior view with some of the pieces in place. I expect that I'll touch up some of it with acrylic paint or acrylic inks. I'm not sure what it needs yet.
I like the rough little nucleolus and its little holder.
Here are a couple of the larger pieces. Someone at the studio who saw them asked, "Do they open up?" And I had to laugh because I was glad that they were already provoking some curiosity.
This is what the inside looks like when it's empty. I attached a lot of the pieces because when I made this (in February!), I was still trying to decide whether or not to attach bits. I've come down mostly on the side of not attaching anything, simply because I like the empty shell, too.  (But not attaching things has its own problems, since with nothing to hold onto, other pieces can't climb the walls, so to speak.)
This mottled, pierced things is the nucleus.
I don't feel like this piece is finished somehow, and not just because of the need to add to it with some acrylics. There's some lack of balance somewhere, whether it's hiding somewhere in the degree of texture or in the color, I don't know. I just know that I'm not yet satisfied with it. Also, this is the least secretive of the early cells--but also the largest of the early cells; I had a hard time focusing on hiding secrets in among the pieces simply because I was focusing on building larger that I had before. Of course, the newest cells are even larger, so now that I've solved part of that problem I can start adding secrets in again.

Big Cell (THIS IS NOW) is drying, waiting to be bisque fired, but I decided that it's going to have a twin, Big Cell II (NOW IS NOW). That's next in line, construction-wise, even though I'm glazing all the time too. (These are glaze-time intensive). Weekend before last I made a maquette for a "lidded" cell, which looks like a rough (very rough) sphere when it's put together.

I'll keep on with these until either The Brain gets bored of them or I get one that I am absolutely in love with. Luckily neither of those things is on the near horizon.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It's Not the End (Of the World)

Yup, I broke it.

It's an easy fix--I hope--so long as the broken piece doesn't warp in the final firing so much that I can't glue it back on. I guess we'll know soon.

Big Cell (THIS IS NOW)

Big Cell (THIS IS NOW) is still green, still in the drying stage, but at the point where I can leave it uncovered until it dries completely.

THIS IS NOW in Braille.  The dots flattened out, but it's still "readable" by touch, I think.


 It's hard to get any perspective on how big Big Cell is from this photo, isn't it? It's about the size of a large, deep punch bowl and it weighs about fifteen pounds without inclusions.

This is the nucleus. I intended the piece inside to be the nucleolus, but it's too small for that purpose I think.
The nucleolus is about the size of an orange.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tortoise and the Big Cell


I fell in love with this tortoise this weekend, a sculptural piece by Sandria Cook.


Here Sandria is seen adjusting the tortoise's head.


Look at that!

In Studio News

Big Cell has a name, THIS IS NOW, taken from Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Little House in the Big Woods.
“She thought to herself, "This is now." She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”
In addition to naming Big Cell, I also added Braille to it using slip dotted on small slabs that I'll attach later. (The cells need more secrets, I think. I've been thinking a lot about how to incorporate even more secrets, hidden in plain sight.  I want them (all my work really) to be handled and touched constantly but I don't want them to necessarily give up all their secrets.) I translated THIS IS NOW into Braille and dotted it on:  ⠞⠓⠊⠎⠀⠊⠎⠀⠝⠕⠺

One of my big dilemmas is how to represent the kind of information that DNA conveys. I've tried stamping words or dichos/sayings into clay wrapped around a dowel, so that I can have the shape/information coiled into the nucleus, but something about that is unsatisfying--and the pieces are not so hearty. I thought about stamping each word (usually of a Shakespeare sonnet) onto its own tile so that you'd have to know the sonnet to use all the words and recreate the poem--haven't tried it yet, but I like this idea (even if I don't like the idea of all that tedious stamping). I've also considered stringing the information onto high-fire wire, so that the whole thing could be bent and coiled after firing without breaking it apart. (Still may do this although high-fire wire is not a cheap option!)  So The Brain is still chewing chewing chewing on these things.

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's A Girl!

I'm still carving stamps. Yesterday I carved a companion for the boy:



Today I carved a flaming heart (no pic yet). Just as with anything, there is a learning curve to carving and I know it will take awhile before I've got anything truly remarkable. I do enjoy it though.

I've also been making monoprints using acrylic paints and a gel plate that I made myself out of glycerine and Knox gelatin. It's been pretty fun. I'm hoping to adapt the technique to clay, using underglazes to print on bisqued tumblers. We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


I woke up this morning with a ridiculous craving for donuts, so on the way to the studio Dave and I stopped for coffee and donuts at Duke City Donuts.  We'd never been there before, but--oh. em. gee.--they have the best donuts. I had a chocolate-glazed, chocolate-cake donut (cake donuts are the way to go, man--forget those yeasty raised monstrosities) and Dave had an apple fritter. We split a key-lime donut-ish thing with whipped cream on top. Every single one of them was the Platonic ideal, donut-wise. They were so ridiculously good that I'm glad they're not closer to us. We added a couple of coffees so the caffeine could help even out the sugar high.

I had a long-ish, varied day at the studio. I set up a wheel near Dave and we threw pots for awhile. (I'm making a few tumblers to use as glaze tests and demo pieces.) After that, I finished glazing one of the cells. Then Dave and I loaded a glaze kiln. When I was finished with that, I started construction on the biggest cell yet. (Big Cell doesn't have an official name yet.)

While I worked in my cubicle, I listened to some crappy music station playing crappy music from the 70s and 80s. Man, there was a lot of crappy music back then. Of course, I can sing along with most of it.

More pictures of pictures from my Mother's collection:

Look at this picture of my older brother! Ha! Ha! Ha! He was the cutest little kid ever, no?


When he was younger, he looked like a Kewpie doll, but then he grew out of it and into this.


My little brother on the left, me on the right, in my grandmother's house. I wonder what we were doing. Playing some made-up game, I'll bet. I was probably around six--?--which would make my brother around four years old.


I like that picture of my grandmother.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Learning C(a/u)rve

We spent all day at the studio but when we got home I had the chance to try out my new buddy!
A Speedball carving set, handle and five blades.

I've been wanting to learn how to carve stamps for awhile, but for one reason or another have always hesitated. Today I decided that I was just going to go for it, so Dave and I went to a local art supply shop and picked up the carving set, a brayer, and two kinds of carving blocks (the cheaper, crumblier gray block and the pricier, rubberier pink block).

Step one: The drawing of a little Day of the Dead-ish figure on a post-it note that I transferred to the gray, crumbly block.

I carved out the stamp and inked it up with black acrylic craft paint to get a first impression.
Then I made a couple of small adjustments and carved out the background and made this next impression:
Still needs a little cleaning up, but otherwise I like it!

The stamp itself is kind of scary looking, don't you think?
I'll definitely be doing more of these. I'm fascinated by the process. The Brain has a hard time figuring out the negative, reverse-image impression aspect of it and I'm sure the first time I try to carve words should be fun.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Photos of Photos (from My Mother's Collection)

This photo was in my mother's collection--it is of me and my two brothers--but I swear I had never seen it before.


I must have been about four years old when it was taken, but I have no recollection of that either.

This photo of my uncle somewhere in Germany, I do remember. He must have sent it to my grandmother sometime in the early 70s when he was in the army and stationed there, and I remember seeing it in the dresser drawer she kept photos in.


I had never seen my this photo of my grandmother either. It must have been a school photo--?--or a photo booth photo. My aunt pointed out the holes in the seam of the sweater here--a sign of neglect or the sign of a worn out favorite article of clothing?


This is a photo of a photo of my great grandfather, whom I never met.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spring? Yes? Spring? Spring? Yes? No?

It's spring and then it's not spring, but this tree, the plum tree in the driveway, thinks it's spring still.


This little tree has been going nuts for a couple of weeks now. The first day it was in full bloom, I walked out to take a look at the flowers and the whole tree was abuzz with pollen-drunk bees.  They paid me no mind.


At the studio, I've been working on getting the last of the bisqued cells glazed. The inclusions are getting bigger and bigger. Some of them are the size and shape of plums and some are the size and shape of those little gem donuts you can buy in convenience stores in packs of six. (No, I wasn't especially hungry when I made them.)


I have another cell completed and drying right now, the biggest yet. Can't wait to go bigger even.

In cat-related news: Gray Kitty has been under the weather since the dental work but Saba has bounced back, despite her getting the worst of it. Poor thing is always trying to sneak outside (she's not allowed until she's back on solid food, two weeks from now), but she wants to go out and eat grass. She's had a few chaperoned walks but there's no grass to speak of yet. Today as a treat for her, I went to the hippie-dippy co-op where we do our shopping and I bought her a $7 square of wheat grass, meant to be juiced by hippies.

Yesterday I ran around a bit with my mother before heading to the studio to do more glazing. I worked for about three hours then got to the point where I just stopped being able to make decisions about where to go next, so I packed it in and came home.

When I first arrived at the studio though, I came in on the tail end of one of the classes and so I stopped and chatted for a few minutes with the teacher and one of the students. I remarked on how quiet it was, people working away, and the teacher said that was a sign of people engrossed in making art. Which I guess I agree with generally, but someone needs to tell The Brain that because it insists on chatting away even when I'm being quiet and working. Sometimes I need to stop and write things down so that The Brain will stop chewing on them.

And then last night there was a dream about clay and---what? In the first part of the dream, I was riding a motorcycle through a city at night. It was raining and there was a lot of traffic moving swiftly. The roads were crisscrossed with trolley tracks and I had to dodge several trolleys, all lit up inside and carrying passengers. I arrived at a small apartment building and parked on the sidewalk and spoke to someone outside the building about the ride. I went in, checked my mailbox, and then that part of the dream ended. (There may have been some part of the dream in which I was in the apartment, but I don't remember any details.)

In the next part of the dream I was taking down a booth at a show, trying to pack up my things so another potter could set up her wares in the same booth. I had several pieces in my booth from another potter at the studio, a woman whose work I like, but mostly because I like her quite a lot. As I was packing up my things, one of the show's organizers came over and asked me about all the work I had and I said that some of it wasn't mine but that I hadn't paid for it. I explained that the other potter, this woman I like, had given it to me and I was trying to sell it. The organizer said that the other potter was problematic, an oblique reference to the potter's mental illness (a real-life fact) and I woke up thinking about that and whether my liking her--and by extension liking her work--had something to do with the fact that she has this mental illness.

I'm not drawn to people with mental illnesses in general, nor am I repelled by them, clearly.  I suppose I have some empathy and some sympathy, though that depends largely on their levels of neediness. (Growing up with an addict parent has made me hyper-sensitive to people who are putting out their feelers for co-dependent enablers and I am able to hack those feelers off with a hatchet.) But this woman, this other potter, is not in the least bit needy, so I like her.  I think if it ever comes down to it in that way, I would want to be her.

(Oh, I forgot to say that in the first part of the dream I was male and in the second part of the dream I was female. That happens from time to time in my dreams--and from time to time in real life.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The First Rule of Glaze Club

Yesterday was the first meeting at the studio of something that I'm tentatively calling Glaze Club. The whole idea stemmed from a suggestion by a new studio member who asked me how she could acquire more knowledge about glazing. I organized a small meeting and invited everyone in the studio via some signs posted on the door and about a dozen people showed up.

Glazing can be complicated.

I had made arrangements for three of us to have short presentations with examples. I presented a sponged glaze technique, another potter talked about how he glazes with squeeze bottles, and Dave showed two examples of one of his favorite glaze combinations. A fourth potter brought some work as well and she spoke about her glazing and post glazing techniques. There were questions and answers and an exchange of information, which was nice.

It was determined that we'll meet about once a month and I took volunteers for the presenters for next month.

Test tiles. 
Getting people to make test tiles is like trying to get them to pull out their own teeth.

It's funny but when I was talking to Dave about it, he said, "It'll be good for you to give away some of your secrets." As if that were ever going to happen.

New Work
 (I do not like to give away my secrets.)

No, but really: I am a bit (more than a bit if I'm going to be completely honest about it )of a secret keeper when it comes to my work. It's not that I think other people can do what I do, but nothing irks me more than seeing my work knocked off by people who don't have the knack for it. (I'd probably be more irked by seeing my work knocked off by people who were better at it that I am--although that's probably not going to happen because people who are better at it than I am are doing their own thing. The real problem is people who are just good enough at pottery to adequately steal ideas from other potters. I think imitators should have to stand trial and lose a finger or two. But that will only happen when I run the world.)


After Glaze Club broke up, we had to run to buy Dave some gloves at REI. He's headed off to Minnesota where temperatures have been consistently below zero for a while. (Unlike here in NM where temperatures have been in the upper 60s for awhile.) I worry about him in the cold, simply because temperatures below zero are unimaginable to this desert-born brown girl.

Today is Sunday and it's not early (10:30-ish as I write this), but I would like to get a little more sleep out of this morning and then get some stuff done at the studio. That's my plan for the day. That, and I need to go out and pick up some bananas.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Happen at Once

A straightforward retelling of the days just past would have to include the books that I've finished (a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and a book of the articles she wrote for the small newspaper that serviced her small farming community in the Ozarks), the book I just reconnected with (Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch), the lunch I had with my mother at the Hispanic Cultural Center's restaurant, the class that David and I taught on Wednesday evening, and the pizza we had for dinner last night after retrieving these two from the vet's office where they had dental work done:

Gray Kitty

A cleaning for Gray Kitty.


A cleaning and three extractions (bringing the total up to 12 since we've had her) for Saba, poor thing. She is the most darling cat ever, but humorless, and didn't appreciate the enforced seventeen hour fast just prior to being sedated for dental work. She came home (they both did) wonky and sad and starving. I felt terrible for them, so they got lots of canned food and pets and space and time to sleep it off.  They'll go back next week or the week after to check that everything's healing all right.

I haven't been to the studio this week any day but Wednesday when we were teaching so I couldn't work on my own stuff. I went into my cubicle for awhile and just looked around at all the stuff in progress and felt momentarily overwhelmed. I want everything to happen at once, of course.