Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Different Kind of Luxury again....

I mentioned in a previous post that I had ordered A Different kind of Luxury. Well it came today, and I have not put it down for several hours. It's really wonderful. It transports you to the world of these people that are living simply and intentionally in Japan and I just love it. It has everything that I love in a book. Here is an excerpt that will transport you too for just a minute:

As I look again around the three rooms that make up Nakamura's house I am able to take in its aesthetic in a new way and appreciate this house seemingly empty of everything except the smoke from the fire. Next to the irori fire pit, where we have now returned to rekindle the fire for another cup of bancha, I look more carefully at the simple fire implements, the several woven wheat colored kindling baskets, and a blowing tube of bamboo for bringing embers to life. Each object I see he has chosen with deliberation.
In the adjacent cooking area, back in the shadows, stands a heavy ceramic, nutmeg colored urn almost three feet high in which Nakamura stores his water. To the right of the sink, there is an ochre earthenware pot with a fitted lid containing ash from the fire, which along with a stiff natural bristle brush is all that he uses for washing dishes. Amber colored wooden shelves hold glass jars of spices, powders, chili peppers, and several types of flour, all lined up and classified by size. A well proportioned cast iron spatula with a long tapering handle and a blade shaped like a ginkgo leaf hangs on a post in the center of the shelves, Behind the shelves, his cereals and grains are stored in glass jars in large hanging straw baskets suspended from the ceiling.

The book continues on to tell the stories of fascinating people, living simple but very full lives, it is very descriptive and you feel that you are right there with Andy Couturier on his journey. Now, since I am a Libra I have to swing over to the other side and offer one small critique of the publishing. This is a book I want to savor and I will read it again and again, it's very well written and I love the people the author chose to write about. However, I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the book itself. I love to hold books, I love the smell of them, love beautiful photographs. There was such an opportunity here to make this a really special little piece of art. I am guessing that it was a budget issue, but somebody with a bunch of money should re do this book and give it what it deserves. I would love to see the photos get better play, it's ok that it isn't a hardback cover, but I like a cover that feels satiny, not a cover that feels like a beach paperback. The horizontal sizing is also strange to me, I like it, I just wish it was more artistically done, at least it's not an electronic book. I'm going to be the only human on Earth without a Facebook and an electronic book, but I'm ok with that! This thought about the books' design came to me as I was reading about the care that Nakamura takes with his book making and the quality of the work of each of the artists and I wanted to get that same feeling for this book. The cover is beautiful, but it's just missing a certain something that would make it even better as you are reading it. Sorry Andy, not your fault, talk to that publisher and get a book artist to make your book even better than it is! you could even charge more for it then :)
Except for that minor thing, the book is great, glad I stumbled on it, thanks to the blog world! What did I do before I found you bloggers?
My reading habits have changed so much over the past few years. I never read fiction any more, there are so many great non fiction books out there and I learn so much from them. I have a hard time getting through fiction just like I can't watch much TV anymore, except for Current TV and American Idol(sorry, but I love that show). Wesley is reading English literature right now, and she is into haikus, so I'm reading to her from my book about Japan and she is reading excerpts from Oscar Wilde and crazy poems that she finds, pretty funny conversations around here right now, but never dull!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rain Sun Rain Sun Rain, but a bright spot anyway

Weekend rain, Monday rain, Tuesday sun, Wednesday rain. Come on..........
Yesterday was beautiful and I got so much work done, today I want to climb back in bed, it's pouring outside.
BUT! Here is a bright spot. I got an email this morning from the Chatham Artists Guild that my application was accepted!!!!!!!! Happy dance, happy dance. I applied last year and was turned down, but what was I thinking, I didn't even have a studio. But this year, I will have a studio, and I am already considering how to decorate it for the tour and making a list of things I want to make.
The Chatham Artists Guild is a great group, the studio tour they put on is wonderful, and I am honored to be included. It takes place the first two weekends in December and there are amazing artists and studios to visit. Wesley and I started going on the tour the first year we moved here. We pack a lunch and stay out until dark both weekends. Every year I would tell her that one day I was going to be on that tour, and now I am. YAY!!!!!!
I can't believe I am thinking this, but I wish December would hurry up and get here. Wait, what am I saying!?!?!?? Anyway, high five everyone, stay dry, stay warm, stay cool, whatever....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Different Kind of Luxury

Have you seen this book? Jody had a blog post about it not too long ago. This looks like a wonderful book, on my list of books to order. I have been reading the blog that goes along with it and have found it very interesting. The blog this past week has been talking a lot about the nuclear plants in Japan, well worth a read if you haven't yet. The book is more about living a sustainable and simple life, a couple of potters are included. Here is a great quote from the blog:
A Different Kind of Luxury is about exploring a feeling that is there in everyone - "A desire to be free." It's there in nearly everyone - very strong in some, to a lesser extent in others. But surely most people, at some point of time in their lives, have said to themselves "I don't want to be part of this system. I don't want to live a drab routine life. I don't want to follow the usual pattern, go to school, go to university, get a high paying job and struggle all through life to make it big in our profession, retire and then die. There is something wrong with this system which intrinsically thrives on exploitation -- of nature and of the poor. I want to break away from this system and live an independent life." Most of us, however, dismiss this feeling as blasphemous. Some believe it may be possible but are weighed down by too many constraints in our lives. This book is about those who not only dreamed but also fulfilled their dreams. About people who wanted to do a lot of things, and did all of them. About those who are governed only by their heart and not by the economic system. About those who, in their own little ways, make a big difference to the world by showing that there is tremendous beauty and excitement in simplicity.

It's a rainy cold Sunday morning and I am less than motivated to do much more than sit here with my cup of green tea and my blog friends and catch up with what you are all doing! Peaceful Sunday everyone.

Friday, March 25, 2011

You shouldn't have!

I was sitting at my wheel this morning when the postman came and had a huge package in his hand that looked very much like a painting. I was wondering if Gerry might have ordered some large prints or something. So I cleaned up my hands and came up to the house to see what it was. The return address was from Alaska! Cindy Shake, you crazy woman!!!! You shouldn't have! But I am so glad you did. Cindy, metal artist extraordinaire made me this wonderful sign to go on my studio. I love it love it love it love it love it!!!!!!!!!!!! It is absolutely perfect. I am speechless, and overwhelmed with gratitude for your thoughtfulness.
There is so much detail to look at, I sort of want to put it inside so I can look at it all the time. Right now I have it on the path that leads down to my studio, on a metal pole, but I think it will have to replace the pottery shard sign I made and I will put that one on the path. I didn't feel like ladders and hammers much today, but later, when I have time, it will find a permanent location.
If anyone out there needs a great sign for their studio, I would highly suggest giving Cindy a commission to make you one. It is just fabulous!
Sorry this is a terrible photo, everything is gray today, but you get the idea.
Cindy also sent me a Spring raven banner to replace the holiday one, but Wesley sort of claimed it for her room. All of the colors are the colors in Wesley's room and it would look good there. I like the one I already have, but maybe Wes and I will share the Spring one! It's so cheerful. I may use it for my tent with all the sales I have coming up.
I just can't tell you how much this means to me. There are members of my own family that have barely acknowledged that I have been doing this, and yet my blogger friends and potter friends here have been so supportive and cheered me on and I really truly appreciate all of your kindness. I hope that I can pass on some of this generosity to all of you in some way!!!! Thanks so much everyone, especially YOU CINDY!!! XOXOXO

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Back to the pottery

Gerry started doing a little landscaping for me around my studio. It's looking really nice.
I got some actual work done yesterday, put some terra sig on a bunch of tiles (I'll show you those later) made a couple of houses and threw some bowls. I put some Michael Simon-ish feet on this house, just trying something different. I think I like them equally as well as the other feet I make for them.
This is the first house made in my new studio, soon to be for sale, maybe....
I love throwing bowls....
My sign is from the very first play I did for the Charlotte Repertory Theatre called Pump Boys and Dinettes. Ironically the playwright Jim Wann in from Chapel Hill and wrote the play here. Little did I know when I was working on that set in Charlotte that I would one day be a potter in Chapel Hill. Doing props for that show was the most fun thing I have ever done. I made fake pies, musical instruments out of car parts, shopped in junk yards for old gas pumps and restaurant supply shops for dinette furnishings. When the curtain came up on opening night Wesley and I burst into tears. This sign reminds me of that show every time I see it. Glad I had the sense to save it when the Rep closed it's doors!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dennis Hopper

I'm getting bored talking about my studio and I'm still dealing with a few things there so instead I thought I would put up this photo. Who doesn't love Dennis Hopper? I just think this is a great portrait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just some stuff.....

This is a Primitive Baptist Church on the way to Gerry's parents house. Apparently he has some relatives buried in the cemetery beside the church. I really like the shape of it, may try and make a template and see if I can get a similar from in clay.
My studio and I spent some time today getting to know each other. I haven't been on my wheel in weeks, threw most of what I made back in the bucket, but it was good to be back to work. I did manage to make a couple of little barns and a few bowls. It got up to 85 degrees and it was nice and cool inside, so hopefully it will be ok out there without AC, at least until the temps hit 100 for days and days, like they did last year.
Do you do this? Get a really nice journal and then freeze when it comes to putting the first word on the page? A student of mine gave me this very very nice journal a few years ago for Christmas and I froze every time I tried to write in it. First of all, I couldn't decide what I wanted it to be. It was going to be a travel journal but we didn't go anywhere that year. Then I was going to use it for clay, but it just seemed too nice for that. I have saved it for just the right thing, and then it came to me.
When I packed up all my stuff, I had all of these postcards from artists that I like. I had all over the walls and I knew I didn't want to put them back up. So I have glued all of them into the journal and they make a really cool book. It's almost full, but it's fun to sit and look at all of the cards I have collected and it makes a nice addition to my studio.
Wesley is on Spring Break this week so I am trying to spend some time with her. Not a lot of work getting done, but there will be plenty of time for that soon enough. Right now it's time for being with my college bound girl! Hope you are having a great week.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eight years

I found this really ugly "bowl" when I cleaned out the upstairs bedroom where I used to have my wheel. I had boxes of really bad pottery that I had saved, maybe so I could see my progress over the years, maybe because I was too lazy to try and deal with it. But it's all gone now, I threw out a LOT of stuff. But I kept this, it was dated 2003 and it is the first pot I threw on the wheel at Clayworks in Charlotte NC. I put petes weathered bronze over some brown glaze and if you know weathered bronze, you know it runs like a mother. I had to grind the shelf because at Clayworks that was the rule, it was so embarrassing to walk in that morning and see my poor little bowl attached to the shelf with a note instructing me to fix the shelf. I will tell you that I have never had another pot stick to a kiln shelf. Lesson learned! This thing probably started out as three pounds of clay because that was how I was taught to throw, wedge up some 3 lb balls and get going. It took me almost a year to understand the concept of wedging and over three years to center clay. Slow learner and left handed, when I tried doing things backwards from what I was being taught it all came together. I didn't take to throwing naturally, I had to work at it, but if I try now and I'm not lazy I can throw a very nice bowl.
Eight years ago this month I started taking pottery classes at a community studio and today I made my first piece in my very own studio. A studio I helped build and a studio that money from the sell of my pottery paid for. Brilliant! It was like a religious experience. We finished off the shingles this morning, I had a cup of coffee with my carpenter, we hugged goodbye, had a happy ending, took Wesley to lunch, then the art library at UNC, then came home and made my first house in the afternoon light, with nothing but the sound of birds chirping and squirrels running around in the backyard. Breeze blowing through the windows, heaven! I had so much room, my tools were clean and I could find them, my surfaces were clean and I had a place for all of my slabs. As I worked, I wondered at the way I have been making pottery for the past few years and I now think that I have had temporary insanity. No one would try to make work the way I have been doing it and have their sanity. This is how the REAL potters must feel :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just a few more

Ok, here is the last of the studio pictures. Just some overalls from each corner. Today was a total day of rest. Wesley and I went to Looking Glass in Carrboro. It's sort of a coffee shop/head shop and has great panini bagels and even better chai. They have a side yard with tables and umbrellas and we sat outside and had a great lunch and just soaked up some sun. Gerry is shooting the last of the basketball for the season, shooting women's NCAA regionals at Duke.
This table belonged to Leonora Coleman, the founder of Claymakers in Durham and I treasure it. Her daughter gave it to me when Leonora passed away and I think of her often when I sit at this table. Leonora brought me in to Claymakers as a studio assistant and I learned so many valuable things working there. She was a difficult woman for many, but she was amazingly kind to me and I enjoyed working with her.

My wheel area is the most cluttered area, but nothing can be done about that. The mirror above my wheel is an old medicine chest that was being thrown out. It's great, I can store small tools inside. When I throw larger vases I have to have a mirror. I throw in sort of a sitting/standing position. I found this stool at an old junk yard and it is a perfect height, my back almost never gets tired in this position. The crates came from an old apple stand up in the Blue Ridge mountains. I bought them years ago for $1 a piece. Try to find them for that now! I have a dozen or so of them and use them for everything.
These were Gerry's beakers and I have adopted them. They are darkroom beakers and were part of the darkroom equipment of the photographer that photographed the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. His son gave them to Gerry when we were in college. Imagine if they could talk....
I decided to take down all of the cards and pictures I had up on my wall in the house. Too much clutter. I put up this piece of wood left over from my last wood firing and have just put up a couple of things that I like. I may rotate them from time to time, but I really don't want to put up an entire wall of stuff like I had before. The very old putty knife belonged to my dad, I use that thing every day for something, and the brush on the right is the brush I used for years to clean off my drafting table. I now use it at the end of the day to brush up scraps laying around. It's a great brush. The metal rulers were from my college days used to cut mat board. A metal ruler is a must have for me.
So that's it, I'm done, time to get to work. As my grandmother used to say, I am plumb wore out! My hands hurt really bad, I hurt my right middle finger pretty bad when I dropped the 4X4 on it, yesterday I pulled a one inch splinter out of my thumb while planing the hole that was cut out for my window frame, and just the hammering and picking up wood and moving things has been a real workout. I'm very proud of this space and proud of myself for having done so much of the work. It now feels very much a part of me. The money I made selling pots paid for it and I have worked hard this past two weeks, I have learned a lot and I have some new very crazy friends, people that I would have probably never met if I hadn't hired them to do this work.
Several of you have commented about insulation, but if I put up insulation and then sheet rock, I will lose what I love most about the walls. Because the kit was pretty cheap they gave me some of the roughest wood you have ever seen, most builders would have thrown it out or returned it, but I loved it, some of the pieces still had bark on them. I will probably freeze in the winter, but I'll face that when it gets here. Maybe I'll do like Jen Mecca and wrap the whole thing in plastic. Maybe I just won't work in the winter, I don't know....
I wedged up some clay today and first thing Monday, I get to work. Sunday is my mother in law's birthday so we are going to spend the day with her.
Thanks to ALL of you for cheering me on through this process and for all of your comments. They kept me going on days when I really did not want to do this anymore. I wish I could blog more about some of the things that went on, but it's not appropriate and all has ended well. I did have a couple of meltdowns, but mostly just kept working at it and gaining more and more tolerance for others that live a life style quite different from mine. I'm glad these people came in to my life and I am a better person for having worked with them. My mom used to tell me that we must accept people for who they are and find something good in everyone that comes in to our lives. Wise woman!
Happy weekend!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Come on in, I'll show you around....

Tyler thinks I built him a new dog house. Tyler would be wrong! I am pretty much finished with this crazy project. I ran short on roof shingles by 8 shingles because we made the overhang better than the shed plan called for, so I have to make yet another trip to the hardware store and give them more of my money. I also have a little more painting in the back and I need to trim out the back windows. Mostly I am done though.
My Habitat store windows worked out great, not bad for $1 a piece. They were a bitch to put up by myself though. I love the light that comes in here in the afternoon. I knew it would be like this.
Before I started construction, I cleaned and organized every one of my tools, my books, molds, boards, all pottery related items. We made several trips to throw out recycling, and I got rid of a lot of things I really never use. Staying with William Morris' famous quote, if it wasn't beautiful or useful it didn't come through the door.
I also wanted the inside to be restful to the eye. The space is small and I wanted it to seem as large as possible visually, so I kept down the clutter, white washed the walls, and used minimal color and texture. I wanted old metal, glass and old wood to be dominant. I have also used some burlap and some off white canvas. The only plastic is some of the jars for my chemicals. I would like to have all of these glass, but it doesn't seem practical. I would hate to drop a jar of red iron oxide and have it break.

I covered these boards in burlap that I had left over from a set I did a few years ago. They are perfect for displaying my pendants. There is a little work ready for the kiln, but not much. I have to get busy!
I have tried to fill my space with things I have found and things that friends have given me. My friend Melissa brought this back to me after playing at South By Southwest. She said she bought it for me in a redneck truck stop. I love the way the light looks on it.
My raven flag from Cindy Shake has finally found a permanent home. It has been all over my house.
I'll show you more tomorrow, gotta go watch the second half of this Carolina game. Go Heels!

Thinking of others

I have been so caught up with all this crazy construction, I haven't had time to express my sadness for the people of Japan. My wish is that everyone there will soon feel the peace that this photo of a potter in Onta seems to depict. I found this on the internet and loved the calmness of it. I'm hoping to have this same feeling next week in my own studio!
We are also hoping for the best news of the NY Times journalists that are missing. Gerry and some of the NC photographers know Tyler Hicks, and we are praying for those journalists and their families.
What is going on in this world? I have been pretty much out if it for a couple of weeks, but of course living with two news junkies I catch bits and pieces of their conversations, just enough to know that I want to go into my studio, shut the door behind me and close off all of the news just for a little while. Otherwise I am overcome with the feeling of helplessness, how does one person do anything about all that is crazy out there?
Peace everyone.....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Really close now

So much got done today. The rain stopped, the sun came out and we worked all day, painting, finishing some trim work and cutting out the back window. Tomorrow the shingles go up. That was supposed to happen today but the tar paper was damp from the rain. These colors just sort of chose themselves. I was being really lazy, not wanting to make yet another trip to the hardware store, so I pulled out all of the cans of paint from under our house and started trying them all out for the trim. The gray wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be, but I like it. I added the mustard color, a can from our bathroom color, and then black, which I always have around for projects. Not bad, so different from what I thought I was going to do, but I like it and I like the way it came about.
I have so many new carpentry skills and a good understanding of building things that I didn't really have before. I have some cuts and bruises, my finger still hurts from the 4X4 I dropped on it, my muscles ache, but this has been a really interesting process.
I hung the front windows by myself and tomorrow I will put in the back two while the shingles are put on the roof.
I walked around this evening just as the sun was setting and shot a few pics of what it is looking like in my world these days. Piles of stuff everywhere.

And there it is!! With my raven flag from Cindy Shake blowing in the wind.
And, because it was rainy yesterday and I didn't have enough to do and I wasn't already tired and sore enough, Gerry and I decided to rebuild the path down to my studio and add this brick wall at the end of our driveway. He felt like the approach to the studio looked pretty bad and wants it to look a lot better so we are working on that too. There is a lot of landscaping yet to do, it's mostly mud right now, typical construction site, but we'll get there. Just have to remember to take a breath!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cat's Cradle

Cole Park played at the Cat's Cradle tonight and can I just say that it was very much a proud mom moment. My 17 year old daughter sang a song she wrote on stage with her best friends at a club where Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Bend Folds, R.E.M., John Mayer, Oasis and many many more great Indie bands have played! Unreal. The Cradle is legendary. I don't know any other 17 year old girls around here that are doing that and I am so in awe of this child. I wish I had video, but I stopped doing that, I found I missed too much while trying to deal with the camera, so Gerry shot some pictures and we enjoyed the show. These kids have worked so hard to get to the Cradle, sort of the Holy Grail for a Chapel Hill Indie band. And they finally made it!
These kids are some of the smartest, most talented kids I know. All good students, all good people, and so much fun to be around. How did I get so lucky! Here is Wes singing one of her songs with Joe on keys, Daniel on guitar, and Matt on harmonica and vocals, backing her up beautifully. Wes and Matt have been playing together since 8th or 9th grade, boy have they come a long way in a very short time!
Her friend Mie sat in on a couple of songs playing Sax. They will both be at the School of the Arts next year, maybe room mates, which would be great.
I needed a fun night out, nothing has happened on my studio, carpenter is sick, I'm a bit pissed, and really tired of this project. Ready for it to end. So thanks to my beautiful daughter for taking my mind off of things for awhile and giving me a great night out!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The rewards of selling pottery

I got this email today from my friend David. With the chaos in my life right now, it was such a nice note to receive. You may remember a blog post from the last wood firing I did, David was one of the great people I fired with. He bought one of my little houses during one of the holiday sales I did. It was one that I had put a church steeple on. This was a great way to end a pretty ridiculous day that I really can't blog about....

Dear Tracey,
I waited for the right moment to send the lovely little chapel to my sister-in-law.
She just wrote back and said that it arrived on the day her son left Afghanistan - after 9 months. As expected, she loves it! In her note she said:
"We put a battery operated tea light in it and we have it on all the time. Tracey couldn't have known when she created this special piece how much peace and joy it would bring me."
I know that you knew this piece was special so I'm pretty sure you knew it would bring joy. Many people could have enjoyed this piece (I was sorely tempted to keep it) but I just wanted to let you know it's in a home that especially appreciates it.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Moving in

The roof is up on my new studio and I am moving in today! It is a daunting task, and I am sitting here on my third cup of coffee gearing up for a long day. Yesterday was a long day and probably the most work my guys have done in one stretch. They were pretty wiped out at the end of the day, but had plans for Friday night, which I know included lots of alcohol consumption. They work hard but they play even harder. Ahhhh youth, I remember those days......
Has it only been a week since these two walked into my life? I feel like they have been here a year. The one on the left, Jake, has plans to join the Navy and become a Navy seal. He's a really smart guy so I could see that happening. The one on the right, Ryan, is a crazy Irishman, with no plans that I can tell, he just likes having a good time. Super smart as well, and could have a very bright future in construction if he wanted one. I have had a blast working with them and getting to know them. A relationship with them is not for the faint of heart though. They are pretty rowdy boys. I commented yesterday that I wanted my studio to have a lot of character and Ryan said it should since it was built by a couple of characters! Boy, that's for sure!!!
There are still a few things on the outside to finish up, don't know when I will see these two, but I have two days of shelf building and unpacking and sorting to do on the inside, so I'll check in with all of you on Monday hopefully with a tour.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cremation Urns

My step father asked me this week to make him a cremation urn. I have never made one, not even sure what they look like so I did a quick google to get some ideas. Maybe it's just me, and I do not intend any disrespect here to the maker, but this personal portrait urn concept is a bit creepy. I wonder how Barack would feel about being a cremation urn?
I know Hollis wrote a great post a while back about making a glaze with someone's ashes. I would be totally into doing that but I think he wants the urn before the ashes would be available, so I'll have to come up with some other meaningful ingredient. I think it will be a Raku piece.
Fingers crossed that I get a roof today!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


We were supposed to get thunderstorms and tornadoes by noon today, but it's 2pm and it hasn't rained a drop yet. I told my boys to not come today, shouldn't have done that I guess, but I sort of needed some time alone to sort things out. I got the inside walls white washed and the exterior stained, so time alone was well spent.
My house, inside and out, looks like a bomb went off. Is it any wonder I was irritable yesterday?! This time next week, I will be making something, at least that is what I keep telling myself.
I am loving the way it's shaping up.... so close now, just need the dang roof!