Saturday, September 6, 2014


Services for my uncle were this morning. Dave and I went, met my older brother there. We brought flowers and a big pasta salad to share with everyone at the reception. 

My cousin asked for people to write memories of his father and I wrote about his joking around with me while I was ineptly making tamales one year with my aunt.

Dave and I came home after, got into my pajamas, and went straight back to bed.

I don't deal very well with grief of any kind.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

R.I.P. (1954-2014)

La Familia

My mother, Uncle Elmer, Aunt Charlotte, me.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Away Team Assembled

We fired our very first kiln in the new studio!

Here is a picture of the inside before we closed the lid:


And here is the aft--nope. Just kidding. We haven't opened it yet. It finished firing yesterday (we watched it all day since it was the first firing we've ever done in it) at 4:30 or so and we're letting it cool overnight.

In fact, that was not the final conformation of the work in the kiln. We moved quite a few things around in order to accommodate 4 more ocarinas and a set up of cones that we could see through one of the peep holes. 

More pictures to come!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Days of the Dead, Coming

I've got Day of the Dead stuff in all stages of completion. This guy is green, on his first round of underglaze:

This sculpture is also green. Dave says it reminds him of cordyceps, a kind of fungus:

This crowd are all bisqued, but in various stages. Some were painted and bisqued to cone 3 then painted again. Some were bisqued to cone 06 and then painted and will be bisqued to cone 06 again. They'll all stay in the 06 range now though. They're mainly doing to be wall hangings.


This was an experiment in flower making. She's green, but I don't know if I like her enough to continue:


We spent the weekend working in the new studio space. (We also went to see Guardians of the Galaxy, which I enjoyed.)  Dave is still working on getting his new wheel, one of the big Lockerbie kick wheels with a reversible engine. I'm happy as a clam--or will be once we get the kiln loaded and fired.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Little Worm Babies

We're only just realizing that it's August, but I can already hear the quiet hum of fall underneath the blazing hot sunshine. The cottonwoods outside the window have a few small leaves moving from green to gold, for example, and the nights are dropping into the 60's. A wayward thug of a Rufous hummingbird dominated the feeder for a few days before continuing on its migration. The summer blooms are flagging just slightly, and the garden has the crazy, overgrown but worn-in look it gets after surviving the worst of summer.

I'm falling into nesting mode at home. Dave and I did a moderately ruthless closet cleaning, for example, and weeded through four crates of books and old school notes. We took a load of donations to Goodwill, with the promise of more to come. I've been clearing out old, chipped and cracked dishes, making way for shiny new things.  And I need to go out and buy some picture hanging nails to hang up the framed art that has been languishing near the front door.

 It was my birthday a few days ago--43!--and Dave and I celebrated quietly. I usually travel on my birthday, but this year we decided to stay put and work on getting things arranged in the new studio.

We did have donuts in lieu of birthday cake, though:
That was breakfast, a dozen donuts from Rebel donuts. (It took us 3 days to eat the whole dozen.) My favorites were the triple chocolate in the far back corner and the Boston creme donut with red striped icing right next to it. (But really, just about any donut is a good donut as far as I'm concerned.)

Pressies were spot on this year as well: Dave gave me a new iPod to take to the gym and headphones to go with it, a book of Lynda Barry cartoons, and some new sheets that I've been wanting. He also gave me an iTunes gift certificate (I used it to buy the new Lorde and The Julie Ruin albums) and a Lush gift certificate.  My mother gave me a folding hamper that I've been looking for for over a year (!) and a sketchbook and drawing pencils. My brother took me and Dave and my mom to lunch (vegan sushi at Nu Asia Vegan). Kevin and Kelly gave me a sensitive plant--I used to have one as a kid--and an array of succulents.

A few days before my birthday, I was driving down Rio Grande after having dropped Dave off at work, and a coyote crossed into the road in front of my car. I slowed down and waited and it slowed down and waited, so I drove on. It crossed behind my car and went on its way. The same thing happened a couple of weeks before as I was walking between the garden's raised beds, only instead of a coyote, it was a snake. We have a garter snake hunting in the garden, thinning out the grasshopper population and taking care of the squash bug problem for us. I hope it can dodge the roadrunners who routinely visit the yard.

The garden is alive and well. The tomatoes are stuck in a kind of stasis. It's too hot during the day for the tomatoes to ripen, too hot for the peas, too soon to harvest the quinoa, and Dave is too tender-hearted to pull up the carrots that are turning to orange-hued wood. Only the mass of sunflowers have yielded anything worthwhile, and then only worthwhile to the bees and the birds--an unfamiliar array of finches, quick enough to dodge the cats--that are feeding on the seeds. I hope they leave be the worms we brought home from Santa Fe. I'd like to think the worms are getting plenty to eat and making lots of little worm babies.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Where the Day Takes You

This morning this jaunty little fellow offered Dave a jaunty little wave from his sunflower perch.
These little hermaphrodites traveled all the way from Santa Fe in a paper cup, which they promptly abandoned in favor of our garden.
Lunch was a couple of baskets of fried things (onion rings and french fries), and a couple of burgers (veggie for Dave, meaty for me).
We also had an egg cream, which is the kind of thing that probably went over big in the first half of the last century, simply because people then didn't have access to the ridiculous array of sweet sugar loving treats like we do.
Here I am, with the quartet of calaveras I've made since the workshop. (There are actually two more, still in the green state and as of yet un-transported to the new studio space.)

Friday, August 1, 2014

And You May Ask Yourself, How Do I Work This?

I draw your attention not to the calavera or to her demon accompaniment, but to something infinitely more valuable to me: the window behind them.

 This is the new studio's highlight for me, the windows. They offer a source of natural light and an outside view, something that was completely lacking in the horrible old studio.

As I painted, I had blinds up and the door open and I could hear the birds singing and I could see (see!) dusk approaching.

These busts are entirely new work inspired by the workshop that Judi and I took with Janis Mars Wonderlich. I have never, ever done anything like these coil-built busts.  There are things to be learned, not only from the construction of them, but also from the underglazing and glazing of them. This is the first stage of underglazing.

From here, they'll go into the bisque kiln (again), then perhaps get another underglaze and glaze coat.  But honestly, I don't know. I have no idea what I'm doing, which is a wonderful thing. I was thinking on the way home that when I am in this state, mistakes and successes are one and the same. Both--either--teach me something about this new process.

I'm so happy right now. Even though I walked into the new studio exhausted from too little sleep, I left feeling energized, ready to start the next stage.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Moving Into The New Studio

We are slowly moving into our new studio. We've cleaned up a lot and run a couple of loads of things up there. David has been pricing wheels and is probably going to buy a Lockerbie (one of the big kick wheels that has a motor so that you don't have to kick). I'd love to invest in a slab roller, but honestly, I don't actually need one and really haven't used one in years (which is the outcome of the old studio having such shitty slab rollers that it was pointless to try to use them).

Judi, whose studio we're invading, has a kiln and is perfectly happy to see it get used since she hasn't used it in a few years. I think it will work for us, but it is actually a glass kiln, so there's going to be some experimentation involved. Yesterday Dave clicked it on and tripped the circuit breaker (we also had all the lights on and the swamp cooler running full blast), so we'll definitely have to see how that's going to work.

Aside from that, the space is larger than our old cubicle, with lots of light both from overhead fixtures as well as from two windows. There is a large utility sink and a bathroom. We can open the door and look outside while we work.

I want to get a couple of large corkboards to hang up some inspirational stuff without putting a million pushpins into the walls. And we want to get some corner shelving to make a little reading corner in the bathroom.

I'm wary of moving all of our stuff into the space. We had a lot of crap that had just piled up in the cubicle because, hey, why not keep it? I'd like to purge a lot of it--and did while we were moving. There's still just a shitload of stuff though. The whole patio is filled right now with bins of stuff that needs to be sorted and decided upon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Where to Begin?

Dave and I have left the studio and are embarking on a whole new adventure, working in the small studio of a friend. I spent the day cleaning out that studio (it's been used as a shop/studio in the past, but not for a few years). Tomorrow we'll start moving in.

I'm tired of telling the story of why we left the studio, but I will say that it has to do with gender-based pay inequity.  That's enough for me to pack my shit and go. Why support a business that practices that, especially when I can find a business or place to work that doesn't?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Devil Is in the Details

The little devil:


 Can you see what he's doing?




She needs some kind of hair.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Five Happys

Dave is in NYC the first part of this week and weather may keep him there an extra day. One of the things he wanted to accomplish in the city this week (aside from lots of work and meetings, etc.) was to buy himself a new clarinet. When he's traveling, though, he tends to work from sunup to sundown and then has to do things like socialize with co-workers. That would, of course, leave no time to hit up music stores. However as luck would have it, he found a clarinet place that opened at 6:30 a.m. (only in NYC can you clarinet shop at the crack of dawn, I think) and bought himself a clarinet. The seller apparently repairs/restores clarinets, so he helped Dave chose a Noblet clarinet made in the 60s.  We'll see how that goes. I hope it works out, since returning it sounds like it might be a pain in the ass.

The weather here has been glorious and gloriously awful. We were in the 90s all weekend with high (for us) humidity, which negates all the efforts of our loyal swamp coolers. Last night though, there were some glorious lightning shows (which I got to see only because I decided to make a late-ish BBQ dash on the way home from the studio--when vegetarians are away, carnivores will play) followed by lots and lots of rain. Yay! The rain continued on into the morning, thankfully.

The cats went out in the rain for awhile and wouldn't come in. They huddled under the patio furniture, trying to convince themselves that they really wanted to be out there. After awhile though, they had to admit a sodden defeat and come in.  They both wanted treats and wet food for their bravery and then Saba jumped up on the bed for a cuddle (I noticed she lost her collar somewhere, probably scuffling with Gray Kitty).  Now they're laying in the pools of sunlight--the door is open, the rain long gone.

I'm leaving for the studio in a half an hour or so, but I did want to take a moment to return to my recently abandoned habit of noting five things that made me happy in the last 24 hours:

1. The lightning storm. Living in New Mexico means amazing night-time summer storms, complete with lightning shows that we get to enjoy thanks to our low-slung buildings and big sky.

2. The hummingbirds that come to the feeder just outside the front door. They came out in the rain to suck up sugar water to keep their strength up. I love these brave little guys.

3. Ridiculously fatty BBQ for dinner. I don't know what it is about fatty brisket, but man, that is some fine eating. I ordered a pound for myself and had a couple of big sandwiches on wheat bread with lots of sauce and then ate the rest of it for breakfast (along with half a watermelon). Yum.

4. A new direction for my work, inspired by the recent workshop I took. I've been making busts, and last night I started a new one. I don't know where they're going, but I'm doing something new and building up my skills.

5. The wealth of books I've been given or have collected over the years that have to do with Day of the Dead or calavera-ish things that I can use as references for my new work. I've taken, since the workshop, to keeping a sketchbook of ideas and this, along with my books, offer me a way to develop new work.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Studio Sale Postmortem


The studio sale was this past weekend. I, along with two other studio members, organized it. I did the bulk of the volunteer organization and sale set up, another person dealt mainly with the studio director (a job I despise doing because of its extreme unpleasantness), and a third person handled the online advertising and postcard design.  We sold our things alongside seventeen other students and studio members.

I got three pictures of the event, the above pic of Dave's new blue bowls and the below pic of what the general sales tables (not the individual artist's tables) looked like as I exited my cubicle:
The near table is the "bargain table," things people are putting out for $10 and under. Lots of beginner work, one off functional pieces, and things that haven't sold sale after sale.  The next two tables are more expensive work and larger pieces. (I didn't get a pic of the individual artists' tables unfortunately.)

What worked (in the area that I had some control over):

1. The table sign-up sheet. (In the past, we've always just played it by ear when people came in to set up. This year I wanted to avoid the headache of being the go-to person for that mess, so Dave printed up a map of the studio and we had people sign up for their space well ahead of time.)

2. Extra volunteers for each shift on the busy days. We normally have 2 people per 3 hour volunteer shift, but this year I decided on 4 people per shift on Saturday (our busier day) and 2 per shift on Sunday. We could back it down to 3 people per Saturday shift and 2 per Sunday shift and we'd be fine.

3. The deal with the charity worked fine, I think. One potter grumbled that their sales (of our donated work) took a chunk out of our sales.

What didn't work:

1. The amount that I still had to fork over to the studio percentage-wise, despite doing as much work as I did. The studio takes 1/3 of the sale price, but my deal is that, for the amount of work I do to organize and promote the sale, I "only" get 25% taken off my sale price. That's still an excessive amount as far as I'm concerned, considering that the only expense to the studio is the postcard printing and the cashier (the owner's daughter) for the duration of the sale. If I can't negotiate this down to 0-10%, I may have to start doing smaller sales elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Post-Punk Calaverita

Here's the new calavera:
She's a beaut, I think, complete with mohawk:
And a spiked collar, of course.
And her head comes off. You can use the lower portion as a vase if you want, and the head sits on a portion of neck, its own sculpture.
I'm enjoying making these crazy things.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Calavera Girls

The sculpture workshop has me in bust-production mode. I'm not working nearly as large as I did for the workshop. This piece is only about nine inches tall.
Everyone who sees it comments on the devil's penis.

This second bust is par for the course:
I've since added a lollipop, but I'll let you guess where it goes.

This is Hannah, the young woman who taught the first bust-making workshop I took, where we strove for realistic busts (not the second workshop I took where I made all the crazy stuff like the calavera girls above).
Fw: Horsehair firing
We were firing horsehair that day.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dave (& This, That, and the Others' Work)

Today was Dave and the Dalai Lama's birthday!

happy monster dave

That's Dave (as seen through my photobooth monster filter)!  It was a quiet birthday. We opened presents (lots of clay tools and two new mugs), had a big breakfast (calabacitas, eggs, homemade salsa, and beet salad with a lime-ginger-cilantro dressing), then we went to the studio. Dave made an ocarina with his new tools and I worked on a new bust. We both helped someone with a horsehair firing. We came home and had Dave's favorite birthday dinner, cheese fondue. (Ugh, so much cheese!) Dessert was not birthday cake, but miniature pastries from Whole Foods. 

Dave's present to himself is going to be a new clarinet, so that is something to look forward to.

This, That, and the Others' Work

 This was the group of workshop participants:
(Travis, Gloria, Craig, Kelly, Stewart, Janis, Brigid, Susan, Me, Judith, and Judi.)

Are you curious about what some of the other people made?

I posted Travis's work previously, but here is a bit more from a couple of the others.

This is Kelley, a 21-year-old from Ohio, Snapchatting a photo of herself with her work. I thought it was funny, so I took this photo of her taking a selfie.
Gloria came to the workshop from Dallas, TX, with her husband Stewart. They sat across the table from me and Gloria worked away while Stewart talked and talked and talked and worked a bit. (I actually enjoyed the chatter and his wit and insights.)

Gloria made this five-piece garden totem:

The workshop was valuable yet frustrating. I gained knowledge of useful hand-building and glazing techniques that I can apply to my work, but I was often frustrated by the other workshop participants.

For example, I have little patience for people who continuously monopolize the instructor's time to the detriment of the other students. (We had one of those who--bonus!--also happened to be a vocal racist.) I have little patience for people who think a clay workshop is kin to group therapy. Unfortunately, the instructor was far too generous with her attention to these types of people.

The other frustrating thing was the expense of the workshop venue. Santa Fe is an expensive city, yes, but the workshop cost per day what I pay per month for studio time at home. So there was a tremendous amount of pressure to get things done.  Also, there was some very inflated pricing for the artist's work in the studio's gallery. Of course nearly all galleries take 50%, but in the case of this particular gallery, there seemed to be an additional markup beyond the 50%. (One work that had been priced in another venue at $975 was priced in this venue at $1450.) That seemed a bit overly greedy. I would have loved to have purchased a piece, but it was a bit rich for my blood.

I came back to the studio with the idea of a quick turnaround on the ideas, and over the last two days have built a small bust using the things I've learned. I can't wait to have some finished big pieces!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Orale, Little Loca! (Talking to Ghosts)

It was the last day of the workshop today. It was a long, exhausting, inspiring week.

This is my girl, the little cholita calavera bust, built and underglazed in Janis's style.


The rest of the class used a smooth, lily-white porcelain/stonewear clay,  and I did try it on the first day, but on day two I chose to use this rough, groggy red sculpture mix, similar to the clay used to make bricks. I don't like using white clay; it's cold and unsettling, like talking to ghosts. The minute I switched to the red clay and started building, Little Loca up there came out.

This is the back view:

(I wish I had made the hair longer.)

I was trying to recreate the hairstyle of the cholas who used to live in my neighborhood when I was a kid. I was fascinated by these women, with their over-the-top makeup and hairstyles and their way of dressing like men in baggy chinos and oversized shirts.

In this workshop, as is often the case in the clay world, I was the only brown person in the room. At the end of the day when we went around showing our finished pieces, I tried to explain to a bunch of white people (most of them from the east coast) how I had been inspired by the late '70s/early '80s chola cultural phenomenon, but it was like talking to ghosts.

Anyway, she and I had to part ways for the moment since I didn't want to transport greenware back from the workshop. She'll dry over the next couple of weeks and be bisque fired up at the studio in Santa Fe and I'll go and pick her up. After that, I'll finish her makeup and add other details and do a final firing at the studio.

Here are a coupe of test tiles that I made to see how the underglazes were going to react to the red clay:


Janis admired them, so I gave them to her, both of them. (She had to take both because I was afraid that if she only took one, it would be lonely in the inhospitable land of Ohio where Janis lives. When I told her that, she laughed, and my friend Judi said, "She's not kidding," which kind of pissed me off since it seems common sense to me. But again, there's no understanding the logic of ghosts.)

These are larger, more lurid skulls, wall hangings, still green:


I've never really embraced this lurid, florid style--I'm more about taking this type of style and reverse engineering it (so to speak) to try to add some sophistication to it via austere restraint--but I thought it would be interesting to adopt (and adapt it to) Janis's own exuberant style.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day Four? Already?

This is her, close up, with the beginning of a paint job:
The lens of my camera is a dusty mess, but she's a white face, blue eyeshadow and a red shirt. Red, white, and blue. My all-American girl.

While I was waiting for her to dry, I threw together some more calaveras, ornate ones. These are two of the six or so I made this afternoon.
This is Janis, working madly on her figure. Four days ago, this was a bag of clay. Now it's a twenty-plus inch sculpture with thirteen smaller figures clinging to her.
Janis's assistant is a young man named Travis. He made this sculpture in four days:
Here's a close up:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day Three & Extraustion (Extra Exhaustion)

When I got to the studio at nine a.m. this morning, this was a pair of boobs and a neck, no head.


By the time we went to lunch at 11:30 or so, that was what it looked like.


I made and attached those pieces as a pair of earrings and the pendant on a choker. Then I started painting the first, pre-bisque layer. I got most of the face painted white, dark gray circles around the eyes, and the hair.

Tomorrow I'll add some of the characteristic makeup and do some sgraffito on the piece to pull some of the texture back out.

This is like Project Runway with clay.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day Two & Exhaustion

Day Two of the workshop with Janis Wunderlich:

Janis works alongside us, circulating, giving demos, doling out advice and encouragement. 20140701_175003.jpg
Here she is working on her own piece, with an in-progress work (that she brought with her) in the foreground.

Her figures are incredibly complex, with a lot of surface detail:

Some of them fit into the palm of my hand.

This is the first piece I finished, a mook-ish like figure in a party hat, waiting for his guest--?

The guest, also in a party hat:
The second figure I started is a bust, built with coils, hollow, like Janis's own work. I've made three small pieces and one and a half large pieces in two days.

My god, I'm exhausted.