Monday, October 20, 2014

Bad Hair Life

I have this little personal fantasy that I am good at everything. This is obviously not remotely true. The long but partial list of things that I am not good at include sports and sportsmanlike behavior, compromise, and being patient with myself and others.  I am also not good at girly-girl things like makeup, nail stuff, and hair things.

See, for example, this:


This is a not-good-at-hair and not-good-at-sculpting-hair combo in action.

I made this bust precisely for that reason. I know I need to figure out this hair thing, if not for my own sake, at least for the sake of the calaveritas, who I imagine want these insane, complicated beehives and victory rolls and bobbed flapper cuts.


She even looks a bit nervous about the whole thing, don't you think?

I thought I would try a garland of roses, so I started to sculpt a few, but I'm not happy with them. She doesn't want flowers, she wants hair--or, more accurately, a hairstyle.

We'll see.

So the big excitement for today is reaching day 10 of our 30 day decluttering challenge. On day 1, Dave and I each tossed out one thing. Easy. On day 2, we each tossed out two things. On day 3, three things, and so on. Today we each tossed out 10 things. So we've each tossed out 55 things, a combined 110 things gone from our lives. (Note that when I say "tossed" I really mean that we have thrown away, recycled, or donated as is called for by each item.)

The big excitement for tomorrow is that Dave's wheel is going to be delivered to the new studio! Yay! The thing is apparently crated and weighs 300 pounds, so we'll see how this goes. But it's finally going to be here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Last Laugh

There's nothing that I love more than the look of red clay. The redder the better, so much so that a lot of my old stuff was expanses of bare clay with iron oxide rubbed in to make it even redder.

So to go from this:
To this:

Is a departure for me. This is stage one of the painting process for this piece, a process I learned during the workshop I took with Janis Mars Wonderlich. I'm trying something new, in other words, but it is definitely a learning process in progress. I love the color which will only intensify as more layers are added. The face will become whiter as the cheekbones are emphasized with a wash of black. The snake's tongue will become redder, shinier, and its eyes glitterier and darker both. And so on.

But what to do with the expanse of skin, arms, breasts, and belly? Leave them dark red, full of life? Paint them a paler brown, or darker? I'm not sure yet. Luckily this is only stage one. The piece isn't even fully dry yet and won't be for weeks.

The upturned eyes make me laugh. They were meant to be upturned for the same reason that saints have upturned eyes, but with the hands clutching the belly, they add some element of mirth, don't you think? I like that.

Someone--who?--will have the last laugh.

Mercury is in retrograde this week. Make of that what you will.

Monday, October 13, 2014

This Day, Monday

Dave took an extra day off this week, after the last grueling out-of-town week.

The day started out with Dave having to run poor little Gray Kitty to the vet. He apparently broke a toe and it looks like it might be slightly infected. The poor little thing got an antibiotic shot and we were instructed to bring him back in a week if it doesn't look better. When they got home, Gray Kitty ran and hid under the bed. He hates the vet--almost as much as he hates being shoved into a cat carrier.

We spent the day running errands mostly, but we did start the day with a blunch/brunch at La Waffleria one of our newest go-to places. We always share a savory waffle and a sweet one. Today's savory was a tostada waffle (a waffle topped with beans, cheese, tomatoes, onions, red and green chile, and sour cream) and the sweet was a salted cojeta and green apple waffle. Due to some cashier mix up, we both ended up with a drink called a London Fog. (Dave ordered one and I made some remark which made the cashier think I wanted one and then it would have been too big a deal to correct her, so I just kept it.) The London Fog, in case you don't know, is a strong cup of Earl Gray tea with some kind of honey-based syrup and cream all mixed together, an Earl Gray latte. It was tasty, but had a bit too much caffeine for me.

After blunch, we went to Target. We didn't need much from there--our list had about five things on it--so I'm not sure how we came home with six full bags. After Target, we stopped at HomeGoods and picked up a garlic press, some small kitchen utensils, and a toilet paper holder for the studio. HomeGoods is right next to Whole Foods, so we stopped in for some fruits and vegetables. Outside the store was a small pumpkin patch with pumpkins for sale, 3 for $10, so we picked up three. Halloween is coming and we clearly need pumpkins for jack-o'-lantern carving.

When we got home, Dave got a call that his clarinet was ready to pick up from the repair shop, so we stopped by there. This is the clarinet that he got in NYC on his last business trip. It's a good clarinet (unlike the six other only-adequate clarinets he's bought in the last five months), so he was glad to have it back.

As if that wasn't enough excitement for the day, we went to Costco where I finally, finally, finally ordered a new pair of glasses. (I've only had my scrip for eight months.) The woman I spoke with recommended a pair of Tod frames, which I like. (I just looked them up online to find out that not only did I get a deal from Costco, they're also Italian, like my current favorite pair.) Along with ordering my glasses, we picked up wine and more vegetables, nuts, yogurt and so on.

Dinner tonight was a huge salad and homemade pizza. We get the pizza dough in our CSA box along with our other vegetables, and we added a sauce of garlic and olive oil, mozzarella and feta cheeses, green chile, tomatoes, Greek olives, and lots of onions.

Our other excitement was starting a new de-cluttering project at home. The project runs thirty days and each day you have to get rid of the number of things that corresponds with the day you're on. So on day one, we each got rid of one thing. On day two, we each got rid of two things, and so on. By the end of the thirty days, we'll have each gotten rid of 450 things, 900 things altogether. Amazing, right? (If we follow through to the end, it will be amazing.) This is day three and I'm wondering what we find to get rid of. I think I'll take the opportunity to clean out my closet and get rid of some books that I'm not planning on reading ever again. (I'm looking at you, Absurdistan.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Evolution of Eve

The sketchbook:


I quickly sketched out two versions of the same idea, a pregnant calavera, holding her belly.

Getting to this stage took an afternoon. (She's about eighteen inches tall or maybe a bit taller?)
When I was done, I coiled out some snakes and draped them over her shoulders. I liked the idea of the serpent hinting at pregnancy and birth as punishment for Eve's disobedience.

I wrapped her hands, sans fingers, in damp towels to keep them from drying out and wrapped her up in plastic for the night.

This part took another afternoon:
I added the rose headband (if I had really stopped to think about it, I would have made them apple blossoms) and eyes. The serpent evolved from the two primitive things into this large, forked tongue version that curls around to rest its tail on her belly. I added her hands last. I wish I had gotten close-up of the fingers. They're skeletal, built on nichrome (high-fire) wire (as is the serpent's tongue).

Here's a closer look. Her face is very...skewed, but I like the eyes rolled upward. (And I have to remember that my only goal for this sculpture was to put arms on her, since I've been building busts and armless torsos, never having tried to sculpt arms.)

The serpent is going to be emerald green with a vivid scarlet tongue. The roses will be red, of course, as will her nipples. I wonder what color Eve's eyes were. Maybe I'll make them green, the same green as the serpent. Maybe I'll paint on an apple tattoo on her arm or give her a "Good & Evil" tramp stamp.

 I think I may have to make a version of Lilith next.

After I was finished, Dave and I took Crunch for a walk then we went to dinner with Judi and Paul, to the new Chinese place that we seem to find ourselves in a few times a month. We always over-order and this time was no exception. We started with egg rolls and hot and sour soup (for Judi). We ordered green beans in black bean sauce, baby bok choi in garlic, twice-cooked pork, the house tofu dish, and vegetable lo mein. We had rice and tea and fortune cookies. I came home stuffed to the gills.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

She (In Progress)

New girl, mostly completed, now with teeth, eyes, hair and rose. (No arms though. Very Venus de Milo.)
The rose is not attached. I don't know if it will be or not.
Since I've taken these pics, she's become a blue-eyed blonde in a blue dress.
That is stage one. She'll be bisque fired then I'll add further color to her hair and eyes, do a wash of black to emphasize the teeth and cheekbones, and add eyebrows and makeup. The color of the dress will be intensified, too. Then she'll get some shine with some clear glaze or Gerstley borate. So she's about a third of the way finished at this point, if that.

All last week, I was baching it because Dave was out of town on business. I spent most of the week burning through seven seasons of Gilmore girls on Netflix. The show starts out all right, but then it becomes a train wreck. You can't look away. I've taken to fast forwarding through the bulk of the episodes in an effort to get to the end of the series. At the end of the day I'm definitely not a fan, but once I start in on a series I feel compelled to finish it.

Dave came home very late last night--delays got him home after midnight--with a handful of omiyage for me, two books (Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimmage and the new book of short stories by Hilary Mantel, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher) and some banana conditioner from The Body Shop. I started the Mantel. I love the way she writes.

Today we slept very late, had lunch (burgers, green chile cheese fries, onion rings, shared chocolate shake), and went to the studio. I started a new sculpture, this one with arms.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Happs

I went with David yesterday because he had to get a haircut for an upcoming business trip. While we were waiting, I watched one of the two hairdressers give a little girl (about four years old) a haircut. It was super cute, a little A-line bob with short bangs. I put myself on the waiting list and, when it was time, I requested the same haircut minus bangs. It was a big enough chop that a woman, total stranger, in the waiting room commented on how much hair I had cut off. It was probably about six inches or so--nothing compared to the fourteen or more inches that I hacked off in August.

I took delivery of several packages this week: Several new books including a new anatomy book to replace the one that I use at the studio that got caught in the rain and which became a mold factory. Two TheraBands that I'm using as a self-treatment (based on an article I found in the New York Times online) for my tennis elbow. Two new clarinets for David, which brings the total number of clarinets that he has to five I think. Maybe six.

I slept like a fiend all week. Allergies, I think, kicking my ass. I had hours and hours of insane dreams, wall-to-wall dreams, detailed, like I've been tapping into stories that were ongoing, like tuning into a show already well underway.

I did not get to the studio all week, but I started several sketches for new work, a kind of burlesque Day of the Dead series. I'm struggling about how to make them personal. I'm drawn to the images and to the form and to the material of course, but is there anything of me in them that makes them more than interesting exercises?

We had dinner out twice this week, once at a new Indian/Nepalese place and once at our new favorite Chinese place. Left to his own devices, Dave would live on cheese and bread and frozen dinners and I would live on fried chicken and eggs on toast probably. We need to re-focus on incorporating a few more vegetables into our diets.

I found a poem by Jorge Louis Borges. It's called You Learn:

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

That you really are strong

And you really do have worth…

And you learn and learn…

With every good-bye you learn.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Summer to Fall

I started a new sculpture on Saturday, another coil-built calavera, this one with more of an hourglass figure.


I was going to cut out the ribs--the space between the ribs, actually--but ended up applying them instead.  They're not attached yet, here, I was just laying them on to see how I liked the look.


Since I took that photo, I carved the teeth and added hair and eyes. I may add a corsage at her waist. I think she'll remain armless though.

The whole thing was intended as an exercise in figure modeling, which I've never done.  I wanted her to have a very cartoon-y, Marilyn Monroe-ish figure, and she does, but there are many, many improvements that I can make in future sculptures of this style.

In other news:

I had another session of physical therapy this morning. My arm is definitely getting better. I came home taped up with Kinesio tape. The jury appears to be out in terms of its effectiveness, but I like it actually. Even if it's all down to the placebo effect, it makes me feel better.

After PT, Dave and I went to have breakfast at a newish place, Tia B's La Waffleria.


The food was really good. The service was super friendly and super inefficient.  We shared a waffle rancheros (a waffle topped with eggs, red and green chile, and cheese) and a sweet goat cheese and port-soaked cherry waffle. I had a latte and Dave a London fog.


Now we're back home and  I'm back in my pajamas, listening to the rain outside.

It seems like over the weekend, we went from summer to fall.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mixed Bag, Kiln-wise


The first cone 6 kiln was a mixed bag. We over-fired a bit, going up too far (almost to cone 7) and too fast (5 hours). Some things ran. Some things had lots of pin-holing in the glaze. Meh. We'll get it right next time. Now we'll just scrape the shelves and move on.

Dave has pictures of the work, so I'll upload some of them for posterity next time.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tattoo You

My girl has tattoos now:


We fired the kiln to cone 6 today. Well, Dave did, really. I just babysat through part of it. While I was there, I got a lot of work done, carving and painting and such.

The tattoos that I painted on my larger piece were not done today, but last weekend. I did them using a book of Sailor Jerry and other old school tatoos and a tissue paper transfer technique that I saw on youtube.  After she's fired, I'm going to haze out the tattoos with sponged on white underglaze and then send her through the kiln yet again. I like the idea of ghostly tattoos on the calavera girls.

And Christmas is coming so I carved and painted these today.  They'll go in the next bisque kiln.

Tomorrow we'll open the kiln and see what kind of messes we've made!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Boring Week

It's been awhile since I posted anything.

Where to begin?

Fall is fast approaching. The last two days have been gloomy and rainy. Today was not. Today was relatively sunny and warm, but those cloudy, cool, rainy days made me think that Halloween and Thanksgiving are just around the corner. 

This past Monday I went to the doctor. I have a mild case of tendonitis in my left elbow, so I received a referral to a physical therapist who I will see next Monday.  The doctor also prescribed me some mild painkillers--a prescription-strength version of an OTC med--which I filled and added to the bag of medicines that I don't take.  (Lots of good stuff in there, let me tell you.) I hate taking medication for anything really, so I generally don't unless I absolutely have no choice about it.  I'm hoping PT provides some relief so I don't actually have to resort to pain meds or worse.

What else?

Dave and I have tried out a couple of new restaurants since I last posted. We had lunch in a very good but very expensive (too expensive to survive in its location, I'm afraid) vegan sushi place last weekend.  We shared an order of vegan yakisoba and several vegan sushi rolls, all very tasty. We've also had dinner a couple of times in a Chinese restaurant whose claim to fame is a close association with a Chinese action movie star--Jackie Chan maybe? I forget. The food there is a strange mix of Americanized Chinese food and actual Chinese food, I think. Anyway, it's relatively good.

We spent last weekend at the studio, where we were planning on firing our first cone 6 kiln--until we found out that the kiln's electric controller wouldn't allow us to go past 2000 degrees which is way below the 2200-ish degrees we need to hit in a cone 6 firing. (Doesn't sound like a huge difference, but actually there are nine cones between the two temperatures.) The kiln is actually rated to go beyond cone 6 to cone 10, but the controller was intended to be used for glass firings which are far lower than ceramic temperatures in most cases.

Anyway, we're hoping the problem has an easy fix: After some discussion with the people who manufacture and sell the controller, Dave found out that there is some kind of secret menu to the controller that he's going to try to access this coming weekend. 

The firing is primarily pieces we've glazed with a handful of test glazes, commercial glazes that we've never tried before. After leaving the last studio, I vowed never to buy another glaze or any product from there, so we've got a lot of testing to do to find products from other companies that will work for us.  I will hopefully have some pictures of the work when it comes out on Sunday or Monday.

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?