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.

Wunderlich Workshop

This week I'm talking a workshop with Janis Mars Wunderlich at Santa Fe Clay.


The first exercise we did yielded the above small figures (to be used as underglaze/glaze test tiles) which were made by passing around a small figure to a new artist every five minutes. (Does that make sense? We started something then after five minutes passed it to the next person, then after five minutes passed on what we were working on to the next person and so on until everyone had worked on each piece--theoretically.)


That was the piece that I started. (I sent it off looking like a potato with a head and it came around with all those changes.)

During the workshop, I also made this, a two-inch tall teddy bear.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Hair"-y Bust

From this:
To this:
The darker clay is a trick of the light--although the second photo is much closer to the actual color o the clay I'm using (a commercially available clay called Annie's Mix).
The "hair" is insane, a coral-like conglomeration all over the head. He'll get a collar of tiny seashells as well. And after that, I think it will be finished (except, of course, for the drying, bisquing, glazing and firing).

Tomorrow I'm off to Santa Fe, for a workshop with an artist named Janis Mars Wunderlich. I thoroughly enjoyed this last sculpture workshop and I'm very much looking forward to this next one.

In the middle of all this, a group of us from the studio, have been organizing the studio sale that is to take place on July 12 and 13. It will be a fast, fun sale--I hope. I hope I sell lots, especially considering how much work I've put into all this.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

New Bust

I pretty much finished my first bust and immediately started working on another. This is how far I've gotten after three very short sessions of work:


It's at the stage where the facial features are mostly done, but it still needs to be hollowed out and have ears, irises and hair added. (Those few little things actually take as much or more time than finishing the face, believe it or not.) I did add eyebrows early on because faces seem ultra-weird to me without eyebrows. I also added pupils though now that I look at it, those also seem strange without irises, like chameleon or praying mantis eyes.

This time, I wanted to try my hand at sculpting an expression, so I chose a wide but toothless smile.


It's interesting what changes in the face when one genuinely smiles. Not only do the lips stretch (the upper lip more than the bottom lip), but the philtrum (the dent between the nose and the upper lip) flattens, cheeks bulge up, the chin widens slightly, the muscles around the nose engage, the lower eyelid lifts and curves slightly, the eyebrows often lift very slightly. Just lots and lots of little changes that add up to a smile.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I had a dream last night that I was riding around alleyways on my motorcycle. It's the second motorcycle dream I've had since giving away my bike. Someday I'll consider getting another one, I think.

In the dream, the motorcycle I was on was slung much lower than my old bike. The road had that unsettling immediacy that it does when you're riding a motorcycle. I was not wearing a helmet. I turned from major street to alleyway to major street to alleyway.

I woke up with a headache.

I don't think those two things are related. (I think I slept funny on my neck and the tensed muscles gave me a headache.)

In the afternoon, my mother came and picked me up for lunch--a shared blooming onion and ribs at Outback Steakhouse--and then asked her to drop me off at the studio so I could get a small bit of work done.

I gossiped for awhile with the people there, worked a bit on some lanterns that I'm making (some for sale, some for the patio), and looked at my sculpture for a bit. (I think I'm done for the moment, but I'm not sure. There may be something missing--but what?--or it may be that I'm ready to let it dry and be bisqued.

I think I've learned what I can learn from it, so I started a new one. I got as far as roughing in the shoulders, neck, and head before Dave came to pick me up.  I have no real plan for the sculpture. I think I need to pick a model--but I need to challenge myself. Maybe I'll even do a bust of myself. Does that sound narcissistic? Maybe I'll do a male face--though those are less interesting to me than female faces to be honest.)

We left the studio and went out to eat. We went to a new place, a vegan Asian place where we ate shiitake bulgogi and various vegetable sushi rolls. It was good! I haven't had any kind of sushi (save for a few sad avocado and gobo rolls at the now defunct Japanese restaurant we used to frequent) in a long time.

We came home via Whole Foods, where we bought fruits and vegetables and ice cream and a whole host of other things we needed.

Now I'm home, chugging water and hibiscus tea to try to flush some of the salt out of my system.

Monday, June 23, 2014


I spent about five hours today working on my bust. I cut it apart and hollowed it out, added ears, and carved in pupils and irises. This is what it looks like now:

I think the ears sit back a little too far, but I'm loath to rip them off and do them again because I think they're relatively good for a first ever attempt at ears.

This is what she looked like sans ears (and eyebrows)

This is Dave's, in progress (sans ears and eyebrows and pupils/irises).

I'm sure you can tell without my having to say, but Dave and I used the same model (different clay though). Dave is going to turn his into a chia pet--he cut a hole in the top to add water and is going to scrape grooves into the scalp area to hold seeds--but I've yet to decide what to do with mine. I am decidedly not interested in hair, so I thought I might want to make it a planter, but now I'm thinking of leaving her bald and painting designs, possibly mendhi, all over her head and neck.

After hours of working, we went out to dinner with friends. I like the restaurant we went to even though the food is not great. I had menudo, and they probably didn't parboil the tripe before adding it to the stew, so it had some of that dank taste that people who don't like menudo cite as the main reason for not liking it. But I did finish most of the bowl.

Then we came home and I changed into my pajamas and went almost immediately to bed.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

CSA, Sculpture Class, and More Cleaning

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

We got our first CSA box yesterday, delivered to our house in a cooler (that will have to be exchanged when our next box arrives).  Our medium-sized box contained beets (with attached greens, yay!), turnips (sans greens), grapes, blueberries, nectarines, kale, tomatoes, garlic, avocados, zucchini and yellow patty pan squash. Am I forgetting anything? We opted out of carrots (we are finishing up a big bag of baby carrots from Costco so we got extra tomatoes instead) and potatoes (which we don't eat so we swapped them out for kale).

The pros of doing this is that, yes, of course we are supporting local-ish, organic farms. We get the box delivered to our house, which is nice. And because it's just a straight up fee ($36 for the medium box we ordered), we avoid the sticker shock of buying organic fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. And hopefully the novelty of having them delivered will prompt us to develop the habit of eating more vegetables during the week. (This morning's breakfast was squash and kale over quinoa, so that's good.)

The cons are that the box arrives hella cold, even the things that should not be refrigerated (tomatoes, garlic, nectarines) come icy cold. The other thing I hadn't thought about was that now we have this cooler that has to be exchanged the next time we get a delivery, so we have to store it until then. Space is at such a premium in the casita that the cooler is a bit of a nuisance.

The service offers the option of having things other than produce delivered. We could order milk, cheese, bread, pizza dough, coffee, tortillas, eggs, and a bunch of other stuff. I think we might consider trying those things out in the future, especially if it's something that our local co-op doesn't carry.

Sculpture Class

Our last sculpture class was yesterday afternoon.  Most people (not me, not Dave) got through the majority of their sculpture, including hollowing out the damn things. Mine wasn't dry enough to hollow out, so I spent most of the class helping other people cut theirs apart.  When I get back to the studio (today hopefully), I'll hollow mine out and decide on finishing details (ears, hair, etc). I'll post pictures soon.

I'm glad I took the class. I would never have done a bust otherwise, and I'm already looking forward to doing more.

More Cleaning
Not very much more, but I did clean and organize the kitchen cabinets nearest the stove.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Too Much Talk About Cleaning

Got up this morning with some extra energy in the tank, so I cleaned the refrigerator. (I don't know why it's such an odious task to me--I'd rather scrub the toilet--but it is.) I took out all the shelves and drawers and washed them and tossed all the expired things and wiped down all the jars and bottles and such that were going back in.

I'm always surprised at the amount and variety of condiments that we have. Seriously, we have both Marmite and Vegemite, jars and bottles of mustard, ketchup, mayo and vegan mayo, about six kinds of vinegar, ponzu, black bean and sweet chile sauce, soy sauce and liquid aminos, vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, kimchee, pickles and pickle relish, two jars of capers, three jars of bouillon, a bottle of ginger syrup,  and on and on. The whole door is filled with condiments, all of them absolutely necessary of course.

We don't have a lot of ordinary things in our fridge like butter or milk, but we do have coconut milk (sometimes flax or rice or soy milk) and coconut creamer for coffee. We don't have meat or meat products, but we do have soy deli-style sliced "meat" (a rarity actually) and usually lots and lots of cheese. We have chia seeds, of course, and low-sodium V-8, and San Pellegrino (which I started drinking by the case when I gave up soda) in glass bottles.

One of the two drawers intended to hold vegetables instead holds bottles of beer and a large bottle of stupidly expensive tonic water and a bag of medication, pills and such, for both cats and humans.

Anyway, I've been on a bit of a cleaning jag recently, but a slow-motion one, tackling one or two big cleaning tasks per day. The Brain hates to clean, mostly because The Brain has always hated the routine aspect of it. (Though really, The Brain hates routine in any form--not just the tedium of it, but the ridiculous self-imposed goal of perfection that makes any routine task too heavy to even contemplate. Like today for example, The Brain almost threw in the towel when it came time to put all the shelves back into the refrigerator. The Brain wanted to vary the normal configuration of shelves, but then couldn't come up with the perfect configuration, one where the tall carton of coconut milk fits on the top shelf and the tall bottles of San Pellegrino fit on the bottom shelf without making the shelves in-between two inches apart. We finally compromised by laying the San Pellegrino bottles down on the sides, but that is not entirely satisfactory.)

Tomorrow's task is rearranging the kitchen cabinet that holds dry goods, pasta and baking supplies and spices and such.  (I started to do it today, but after throwing out four half-consumed boxes of taco shells and accidentally dumping cornstarch and lemonade drink mix on the counters and myself, I decided to wait until tomorrow to finish.) After that, the top of the refrigerator needs to be de-cluttered and then I want to go through the dishes and such that we have stored in the lower kitchen cabinets. Then I'll get started on the big closet, tossing out the clothes and shoes that I haven't worn in a long time.

Dinner: We ordered a pizza (for Dave) and wings (for me). Heartburn, here I come.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Back to It

Dave and I have started back in at the gym. We went Friday evening (the best evening to go) and tonight (the worst evening to go). We're both doing warm-ups on the elliptical trainer followed by about 40-45 minutes of weight training. I was sore on Saturday and Sunday, but less sore today.  I realized that I really enjoy going to the gym, even if getting there is a pain.

The only problem I have now is that I don't have any real gym clothes. Right now I'm just wearing t-shirts and loose fitting nylon capri pants (which are fine in hot weather but stink after a single workout), but I don't have a sports bra that fits, so I'm wearing my regular bra. It's fine, but not nearly as supportive as I want it to be, so I have to get online and order a new one. Really good sports bras in my size run upwards of $100.

This weekend, in addition to the gym and studio, we also went ahead and joined the local CSA. Our first Harvest Box delivery is this coming Saturday. We opted for every other week, but we'll see if we want to move to every week after a couple of deliveries.  This week, we're expecting turnips, avocados, zucchini, broccoli, garlic, nectarines, tomatoes, blueberries, grapes, and kale. Most if not all of it is organic and we don't have to pick it up, it gets delivered to us.