Tuesday, November 27, 2007

reports on two fronts

The first, and most significant, is that tomorrow at 3:00 we close on the sale of the property where we live. Tomorrow at 4:00 we close the house we are purchasing for our next home. A LONG time coming, but it is finally here! Great relief. Of course, then the work of packing all our acquisitions over the last 28 years begins in earnest. There is some work to be done before we can move into our next home so we will probably be moving in early January.

The second report is that I have been a bit active in the studio. I've been just dabbling there recently but did spend Sunday and Monday making a more concerted effort at making at least a kiln load of new work. Today I got a request for a special order so that gave a new impetus to my time in the studio. It felt good to have a real goal in terms of work. And I felt good about what I was able to accomplish--though I almost always like my work when it is still in the wet greenware stage!

Today Doug Fitch mentioned his catch of sprig molds and had a photo of a bowl of his favorites. That stimulated me to make some--which I've been intending to do for some time. So this evening I carved about 9 of them. I carved mine in plaster. I don't know why I chose that in stead of carving into clay. I think the clay will last longer. So if I like any that I have made I may reproduce them in clay later.

I expect to sleep better tonight than I have been sleeping recently. Unless I am ready to start worrying about all the work to do between now and the move! Maybe I can postpone those worries a bit...

Monday, November 19, 2007

acquiring vs. eliminating

My current goal is to clear out as much as possible before we move. But my actions are not in line with my aspirations.

Jim’s father, George, acquired a nice collection of pre-Columbian artifacts from Mexico in the middle of the last century, before there were laws prohibiting the export of these antiquities. He has many figurines and many bowls—almost all made of clay. A year or so ago, George called me asked me to stop by his house on my way home from ceramics class. When I got there he had put out a small selection of his bowl collection—6 or 8 select pieces. He told me pick out one, he wanted to give it to me. I was thrilled and have really loved having the lovely bowl.

After I selected my pick from his collection, George called the director of the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) and offered them their choice of his whole collection. SAMA chose the rest of his bowls! They said lots of people had collected the figurines and had donated them to the museum but they did not have a nice selection of bowls. There was one bowl that George did not offer to me or to the museum—it has always resided on their dining table. I mentioned to George that I really coveted that bowl and he promised that it would be mine one day but he intended to keep it as long as he had a dining table where he could enjoy it. Well, they are moving into a retirement home this week—and have no dining table! So Friday he gave me that beautiful bowl. What a treasure!

And speaking of treasures I got two more from Ruth and George this week. Neither one is the treasure that the pre-Columbian bowl is, but I am happy to have them in my collection. One is a pitcher with a nice mottled turquoise-blue glaze—made by Harding Black.

I had no idea they had that piece—nor did they. Neither Ruth nor George had any knowledge of Harding Black’s work and were very happy that I was excited to have it. The second little treasure is a small vase (5” tall) made by the Newcomb College women in 1930. It is the “Vase with Drooping Leaves” in blue and green matt.

I like the work of the Newcomb College women and am delighted to have this small vase from their china closet. (See the moon peeking through the drooping leaves?)

There is one more gift from the china closet. Toby Jugs! Not really treasures, but fun to have!

Not so nice, nor so English, as Doug Fitch's wonderful slip ware but they did belong to Jim's English grandmother, Violet, so they are special to us.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

off topic

But, really, it IS the current topic: the sale/the move. This has become such a nightmare, such a roller coaster drive. There are 2 real estate closing pending: the sale of the acreage that our house sits on, and the purchase of the home we plan to move into once this property does sale.

The ‘acreage’ is 30+ acres owned by Jim’s father, his 3 nieces, one nephew and our 1 acre. Getting the family together to agree to the sale terms was a huge hurtle which was accomplished about 3 years ago. Then there have been many hurtles getting the legal changes required to allow commercial development here. We expected the closing on this property to occur early in October, but it was postponed to early November, then to the end of November.

The sellers of the house we found in August agreed to a contingency contract to be closed by early November. We had to renegotiate that closing to the end of November, which the sellers were not happy about but reluctantly agreed to do. I guess the down-turn in real estate has worked in out favor. However, the new delay is not a happy situation.

Last week, the buyers of the acreage sent out a notice that they could not close before December 7th. That threw Jim and me into a tail spin. We are the only ones hanging on the closing of this sale to move forward—all others are already out of here! Jim has managed to get the buyer to agree to close on our one acre part of the sale on November 28 as we expected, allowing us to close on the house purchase on the 30th as planned. That was a great relief—but an uncertain one since there have been so many proposals and so many changes.

That is the short version of the last couple of months. The uncertain conditions of our life have left me bewildered, discouraged and unhappy. I have wished I could escape into the studio and ignore all this around me—but I have not been able to manage that escape.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

touching clay, lightly

I am loading the kiln today. I have to refire a pot that I had not signed but sold last week! I promised to put my name on the piece and refire it (with fingers crossed). But you can't fire one piece--it takes a whole kiln load to make a firing. I had several pieces that did not come out of the last firing in satisfactory condition. They were very rough inside and out around the rim for about an inch or inch and a half--glaze too thin. I read on Clayart that a help to refiring is to coat the piece with Elmer's Glue and then apply the glaze--my previous experience was that the fired piece would not hold the glaze. So Friday I coated pieces with Elmer's Glue, left them to dry over night and yesterday applied the glaze by many dips into glaze--which has adhered to the glued surface. Very curious to see how these pieces come out.

Another little touch of clay: Visiting an acquaintance's home Friday night I spied a beautiful carved wooden block. I was itching to have a stamp from it so asked the hostess what it was. It is a family treasure. Once belonging to the grandmother in Greece, it is a stamp used for making the host for the communion service. I asked if I could make a pencil rubbing of the surface--thinking I might try carving the design into wood myself to make a stamp. However, the rubbing did not come out well so the hostess insisted I take the piece home and make my rubbing then return it to her. How incredibly generous! So I made an impression from the wood block into a thick slab of clay. I will let it dry slowly--all wrapped up--then bisque it to use as a stamp. The impression in clay looks great. I will return the wood block tomorrow. The wooden circle is about 4 1/2" across.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

yes, I've started

but I have not gotten very far. I am determined to sort out the Keepers from the Not-to-keep-any-longers that fill our closets and drawers. It is so hard psychologically. I am attached to ‘things’ that have NO value for me or anyone else other than that I once used/purchased/received/wanted that ‘thing’. Now it takes space, makes clutter, and collets dust. It has got to go. But first I have to wrestle with every single piece! I started yesterday in earnest and today have a serious back ache! hmmm

And I am dying to get out to the studio. But I know that it is not a one hour break kind of thing. Once I get set up, wedge clay, and get to the wheel the hours roll through my fingers without notice. It is certainly not an hour break kind of thing. Maybe the solution is to give myself one day a week to be in the studio. Maybe if I can look forward to that one day a week it will be easier to focus on the sorting and packing business the rest of the week.

It looks like the closing on the sale of this property is going to be delayed. We expected the closing to be next week--on the 8th. But we have been informed that it is unlikely to be that soon (soon? this has been going on for years!) but maybe within a couple weeks. How discouraging. We are eager to get the contractor busy replacing the roof and refinishing the floors which have to happen before we move in. But that can't happen before we close on that property. And that can't happen before we close on this property. Does that sound to you like we are going in circles? It does to me. We are not looking at doing the work that Andrew is doing on his house--I hope we are not facing that!--and we are not doing it ourselves like he is. Still it seems like a huge challenge ahead getting from here to there!

In the last few weeks I've begun enjoying a cup of green tea in the morning instead of coffee. I had tried before to like green tea--I liked the idea--but somehow could not cultivate a taste for it. Recently I found a tea shop near by and decided to give it another try. The packages of tea come with very explicit directions--the amount of tea per cup, the temperature of the water and length of time for the steeping. Well, it seems to have made all the difference. I make one cup at a time and carefully (obsessively) follow the directions and I love my green tea. I was using too much tea, too hot water, and not steeping the tea long enough. I am using handle less tea cups. I want to call them "tea bowls" because that calls to mind the Asian tea cups. But I've been corrected several times being informed that "tea bowl" is a ritual item for the tea ceremony. The "yunomi" is the Japanese word for the handle less tea cup for everyday use and the translation of that word is "tea cup". But who would know what I am talking about when I say I like using a yunomi for my morning green tea? "Tea cup" brings to my mind a lovely porcelain cup with handle and saucer!