Friday, November 26, 2010


I got a new pair of Asics from my mom for my upcoming birthday. I decided that if I was going to ask for a new pair of running shoes that I was going to use them well. This morning, as soon as my feet hit the floor I was getting into my running gear, grabbed my phone, streamed my favorite radio station, and off I went on my 3 mile route, albeit slowly, but I was out.
I was amazed at how much wildlife I was viewing at 8AM. It seemed a bit late for all this activity, but maybe the overcast nature of the day extended the dawn for these creatures. The most interesting spotting was this red tail hawk. She was HUGE, fat enough to look like she just ate an animal her size. When I first spotted her she was sitting in a tree at the end of my property. The next thing I know I was being followed at by a huge rapture at a very low altitude. Was this bird trying to tell me something? Was I road kill after only .5 miles? I stopped and tried to snap a picture of this beautiful creature, but she was very elusive and flew into the woods and off on another adventure.
I continued on. I caught something moving in the corner of my eye. I looked into the thicket and spotted a coyote sniffing out something in that particular pile of sticks. At first I thought it was someone's dog that had gotten loose, then I realized that the coloring and scrawniness beckoned a closer look. I was in awe, two great sights on this initial endeavor. Am I being beckoned to do this regularly by the environment?
The rest of my route was only graced by the occasional squirrel and grazing deer but even those seemed a bit magical. I was so happy to be out. I was focused on my goal of competing in a few weeks in Lake Placid and then again in Lake Morey. I am planning on at least those two marathons weekends this year, with Lk Morey being the 2 championship events, 25K and 50K. One of the skaters I work with has decided to try her first marathon, I want her to show her that marathon skating is so rewarding so I will skate with her for the 25K. I know she can finish it. I want to show her that she can accomplish more than she thinks and if that means having to get back into shape myself to do so, well so be it.
So I managed a 3 mile route this morning only slightly winded. I am off to Hartford for some ice.
More later!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just a half mile from the railroad tracks...

Its Thanksgiving here in America and today we are expecting a house full of family and friends. I have been up since 6AM and so far my studio has seen me for about 2 hours, I have made a large pot of Irish oatmeal,  baked 3 pies, hummus and directed Chris on how to make cranberry sauce. I have washed dishes more time than three times and watched the Macy's Parade. I have listened to Arlo Guthrie and William Burroughs. I have talked to friends and family. I have noticed stupid things like the Ronald McDonald balloon in the parade had speedskates on. Where am I going with this? Its 1:05 PM, a full two hours before anyone will arrive, and yet the time with my immediate family has been so enjoyable that the holiday has already been wonderful.  
I want to write about traditions as cliche as that is. My family is not unlike others, we have several, like serving keilbasa and pierogies and making cranberry sauce from whole berries and pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin. When Kenny and I got married we wanted to make a good pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. We went pumpkin picking at Greig Farm and then spent a month searching for the perfect recipe. We baked pies every chance we got, finally settling on one we got out of this unassuming cookbook we received from my mom's friend Carolyn Cherry called The Complete Cook. I have held onto this book as it has several incredible recipes in it that have become a basis for our kitchen repertoire. It is out of print now, but you can still find used copies for under a buck. 
My other pie is one that I originally found in the New York Times Dining In section around the same time 23 years ago and have never seen the recipe reprinted.  It is a chocolate cranberry pie, which is so easy that its almost sinful. It involves making cranberry sauce with orange juice, brown sugar, orange zest and cinnamon. When the cranberry sauce is thick, remove it from the heat and mix in a bag of chocolate chips (whatever you like - semi sweet, white, milk, bittersweet...) and 1/2 cup of pecans. Pour it into a cookie crust (I like a chocolate graham cracker or oreo) but this too should suit your taste. Bake the pie in a 425 degree oven until its bubbly then cool the pie until the chocolate sets up. Serve with ice cream. I like Vanilla Bean spiked with a 1/4 tsp of serrano peppers mixed in (take qt of really good vanilla bean IC and thaw a bit. In the food processor place the IC and chili peppers and process until well mixed, put the IC back into its container and refreeze).
All this talk of cranberries reminds me of when Pete showed me the bogs on this island across the Narrows from his place in Maine. I wonder how many people headed out there to harvest the berries this fall? I wonder if the berries taste different? 

So whether you go over the Throgs Neck and Down the Expressway to MeMe's house we go (as my dad used to sing when I was a kid) or just hang out at home with the tiny turkey for one, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

INVICTUS and the need to be the master of SELF

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
- William Ernest Henley (1875)

I sit here watching one of my favorite movies. I am always intrigued by the motivational quality of this movie. It encourages me to remember that I am the master of my destiny. My professional life sometimes allows me to forget that I have worked very hard to get to where I am. Dealing with people of all ages and composure for an extended time period can get to be waring on the soul . Remembering my passion for teaching and learning is so important. Remembering my love/need of being a maker of stuff is monumental. Remembering my focus crucial. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I love NY

My day dawned early, too early actually, but knowing why made it so wonderfully exciting. I was meeting one of my best friends and her daughter at Penn Station for a blogging adventure. She was coming in on Amtrak from upstate to enjoy a day on my turf. You see, I am always up there. I was ecstatic. I had so many ideas. I only hoped my feet would hold up. 

I was on the 7:24 to GCT with half a cup of coffee and a half an english in my stomach. The train was SO crowded. There were these MS girls that got on the train at my stop chaperoned by two women. Of course, one lost her ticket within 5 minutes of purchasing it, and one got sick, leaving this woman to have to usher her to the bathroom. The conductor was super patient with letting the girls try to find the ticket, but the girls were super rude. I wonder, is this a communication gap. The conductor was incredible, never lost her cool. In any case I arrive in GCT at 8:40, head to get a cup of tea and hit the ATM before heading to Penn Station. I knew the tea would make my stomach turn when it was so empty, it did, and just before meeting Kelly I had to shove a bagel in my face to settle my stomach. BUT EARL GREY IS SO GOOD!!!

We headed downtown to Little Italy, Ferarra's to be exact to start the day off right. Hot Chocolate (with a shot) and a sampling of pastries. The Hot Chocolate (with a shot) was amazing. We left there and headed to China Town, Mott Street to be exact, just walking. Trying to avoid shops with duck and pork snouts was near impossible, poor Maggie. Somehow we ended up at Joe's Shanghai, which was packed with a wait at 11:30. We ordered soup dumplings to go on the principle of experience despite not being hungry, which we shared in the park on Lafayette (around Prince). They were wonderful, but not really able to be eaten correctly, the soup ended up in the container. 

We wondered through neighborhoods, China Town became little Italy became Noho became the Village. We looked in a few boutiques, saw a mini street fair (on the sidewalk) and headed to Washington Square Park where we people watched (and squirrel watched) a bit before heading to the Subway for the 2nd part of our day, the Met, and Central Park, and the Upper East Side...
We got off the A train at 81st and traversed the park, Kelly's daughter took this really cool picture of this guy playing sax under a bridge, I just took the bridge (if you look closely you can see the guy). We had looked at what was being featured at the museum before arriving and with our limited time we wasted no time and went there first. After viewing the Stieglitz exhibit we looked at the Rodin's and then went to find his wife's work (Georgia O'Keefe). We did detour for just a moment in the Impressionists/Post-impressionist galleries where we discussed a few Van Gogh's as well as a Suerat. On our way out we happened upon another special exhibit that highlighted musical instruments from Oceania.

We walked over to Lexington on 81st Street passing some really smelly Ginko trees. As we walked up the Avenue, we found a cupcake shop. Kelly wanted to bring some sweets home. Its funny, after we saw the cupcakes we saw a chocolate babka in the window of Hot and Crusty. That was what they should have brought home or maybe a dozen of the bagel that we sampled to hold us over until dinner. I was happy that they really liked that bagel. Most people outside of NY have no idea what a bagel is supposed to taste like and tend not to like the chewy and crusty consistency as their taste buds have been conditioned by Breugers or Dunkin Doughnuts bready over sized rolls. After walking a bit, we headed downtown to Times Square, which was nuts on a Saturday evening (pre-theatre and pre-holiday). Walking was equivalent to traffic at the inbound GWB on a Sunday Evening. It took us 30 minutes to walk 3 blocks. We walked into the M&M store only to find a line to go up the escalator. Is this what a tourist might think of NY? Its amazing the transformation, Times Square used to be this seedy place where you were entertained by the local voyeurs while heading to the theatre. Now the peep shows might be gone, but that seedy element is still an underpinning of that Disney facade that is there today. With foot traffic that thick and that slow it is a pick-pockets holiday.

We survived, thankfully, and headed back downtown to Herald Square to find a bite to eat. I had this thought that there was this Tavern we could go to, I had my addresses mixed up and we didn't have the time to venture to 18th street. So we headed to Penn Station and just ate at Friday's which was fine. I do wish that I had remembered K-Town though, we could have walked a few blocks south of Herald Square and eaten at Kum Gang Sang which was on 32nd by the Broadway split. I was just so tired by then that I was not thinking to well.

I said my goodbyes and took the C train back to Times Square where I managed to catch the number 7 right away. There was this guy trying to hustle money by break -dancing in the car while it was moving, informing us to look out of the car at Bryant Park, where he hoped off the train, did a flip before hoping back on the train. He then told us our money would be safe with him. For some reason I found this guy as comical as I did intimidating. I arrived back at GCT in time to catch the 7:23, which was about as crowded as Times Square. The same group of 12 year olds were just as obnoxious on the way home as they were 12 hours prior. Weren't they tired? Why did they have to pick that train and that car. I had been lucky enough to grab a window seat. This girl got on the train and practically sat down on top of me and proceeded to talk across the isle to this guy whose brother she dated. They were loud, so was the woman behind me on the phone giving all of her personal information loudly enough to be heard in Brooklyn. I would love to be the fly on the wall when she learns her identity has been compromised. Heck, I could have gone online shopping with my smart phone as she divulged her credit card several times (security code included) as if she was speaking through a megaphone. She was definitely annoyed too. I eventually fell asleep and woke up with only 30 seconds to spare. Missing my stop would have sucked, especially with no one home to fetch me.

I cannot wait to do this again. (oh before I forget, McKenna that Jeter Jersey shot was for you!)

Times Square Subway Station from lisa floryshak-windman on Vimeo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoughts about being a maker of stuff

For as long as I can remember my hands have been passionate about getting dirty, manipilating materials and being a vehicle for which my inner most thoughts come to life. For the past two weeks my students have been working on portraits: self and peers, charcoal, paint, sharpie, graphite, heck I even gave them a lipstick and eyeliner HW assignment. The point is I want them to be observant of color, shadows, highlights, and form. Creating the illusion of volume on a 2D plane is tough for a 14 year old. Heck, at 45 its not much easier. I see these exercises I am making them do as building blocks to developing their problem solving skills. Getting dirty is part of letting go. It always strikes me as funny when someone gets uptight about my own presentation of self and says you have a smudge on your face or charcoal all over your hands or as much clay slip on yourself as you used in your work. Those marks are validating, proof of hard core process notes in my work. I would love to take the most uptight festidious person and have them spend a day wallowing in mud, relaxing into it as if it were an uninteruppted train of thought. Not worrying about how I look while I am working releases me in ways that I cannot even begin to explain (statement is not really relavent to what I am discussing, sorry for the digression).
Today I had one of those days where the smell of the oil, the portraiture, the inquistion into the drawings of James Dine (specifically his study of Greek and Roman statuary) made it hard to not work with the materials. I longed for my studio, for time at the MET with a pencil and paper, for stretching an 8x 10 foot canvas and just painting a larger than life version of one of my pots, for doing small paintings of my pots and to be totally engrossed in my work for a MANIC episode, time without other obligations. Where is this coming from? Is it because Chris has a showing of his work at UMass and his large pots are juxtaposed with sensual charcoal drawings of the same? (check it out if you are in New Bedford) I am amazed at how my response to his current gallery showing has me inspired to paint imagery related to my pots but I am cautious of doing so as I am afraid it would be seen as some form of forgery (of idea/practice). So I sit here today thinking, how can I manage this need to create, to see my work in a new light, explore deeply into my soul with a visual language? The desire is there but the solution is hard pressed complicated.
Tonight I will view some work in Garrison NY and tomorrow I am hoping my NYC adventure leads me to explore works that I hadn't thought of. Saturday night and Sunday's studio time might prove to be a necessisity to my creative existance before self implosion of the psyche. I am left thinking that I should also explore my paintings from my homeless series as well but I don't want to get too bogged down in the thought process. I just want to create, be a maker of stuff and then cull from the experience. So if you happen to see me out and about in the next few days and I look slightly disheveled, covered in paint or mud or even charcoal, know that I am in deep, searching for the visual vocabulary like one would seek out terminology in a second language. The next few days are all about process.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the complexity of being a (recent) insomniac

I never thought I would say this, but exhaustion is a physical state that I seem to understand quite well these days, mostly because I have been sleep deprived for quite some time now(going on 4 months). Its not by choice, and not because I am burning the candle at both ends and in the middle either. I actually like sleeping 7-8 hours a night and pride myself on the concerted effort to rise and fall at the same time every day . I just haven't seen that lately. Right now, I am so tired of being tired.

I find myself dead on my feet, cranky, contankerous, maybe even bordering on catatonic. I want to get out and skate in the evenings but find the drive daunting. Imagine that? Well, I decided that tonight I was going to bite the bullet and just go, despite my 3AM wake-up this morning. I was lucky because Bud (coach/Yonkers) and I are nearly neighbors and he was driving to the rink anyway, so I asked him for a lift. I actually enjoyed the workout, despite taking it at a slower pace than I would have. It was also wonderful to rehash our epic rides.

So I am hoping, with any luck that speedskating was just what I needed to sleep tonight, fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Y is a crooked letter...

The Red Headed Riter wrote yesterday about making choices and accepting the consequences of what ever those choices may be, good or bad. Well, that post opened up the proverbial CAN OF WORMS. I remember this one time when I was just 17, I was in this program called Walkabout and sweet on a guy that was the type that ALL mothers would cringe at. I liked being with him mostly because he managed to get under my mother's skin better than I could, and heck, he took flying by the seat of my pants to a new level. Everyone I was friends with waited on baited breath and worried about the prospects of my survival. Even my teachers were concerned. It was about this time in the Walkabout program that the curriculum dictated teaching about the ownership of choices. I remember this long lunch that I had with Dick (teacher) about my current predicament. I am sure now that he was trying to sway my choices to the greener side of the fence. It worked for a time, I settled down a bit. The instruction continued to reinforce those principles and I decided to use them to the best of my ability. My home life was reduced to the silent protest. After a few weeks of this, my friend Cari and I did whatever most sweet but precocious young ladies would do, we packed a trunk, ditched my car,  bought a one way bus ticket and headed for parts unknown. Ok, we headed to New Bedford, reeking near havoc on those friends and parents of friends who were so concerned for our well being. I want you to know, I did leave my mom a note telling her I would contact her when I was settled.

Cari and I had this thought that we would get jobs, and apartment and attend the Swain School. We would be living high on the hog (talk about undeveloped pre-cortexs, jeez) Anyway, our trip lasted only a few weeks. We were eventually wired money and we had to figure out how to claim it as it required more ID than either of us had. This was my biggest consequence. I was so jaded. I survived this ordeal because of the safety net of friends I had in that location. Had I gone west, to Nevada, which I almost did, I don't think it would have been so pretty. So a long awaited THANKS for SAVING MY BUTT goes out to Denise, Kevin, Kathy, and all of the McKenna's, not to mention my Mom, Dad and Cari's mom. Mind you, that would not be the first or the last bone head move I would pull in my life. There were some doozies in college. The skin of my teeth has been stripped of its enamel several times.

Interesting fact: the Swain School is now part of UMass Dartmouth, and the time I was running away to MA was about the same time my ceramic friends were too. My choice to abandon HS school at that time would not have fared well with BU who took over the School of Artisanry, however.  I  am thankful that I came to my senses and headed home to complete my degree(s). My choice to do so would prove wonderful, despite many more bumps on the road. (Kenny, Justin, Anna, Mikey, Chris)

I know, my posts have been getting a bit too nostalgic, and I think that it is actually starting to bother me. I guess I am just in one of those cycles of working through my past. It might also be that I am trying to catch some readers up to speed. Twenty-five years of absence is a very long time.

Where am I going with this? Ah heck, I am not sure. Oh yeah, back to the discussion of choices. Today I really want to discuss practice, yes, again. I have this exhibition coming up in a few weeks and 1/3 to 1/2 of my work is in the wood kiln, cooling. I am not sure how I feel about that. I wonder if I practiced my craft more if I would feel less uptight about the unknown? I know that those things that went in could have had a bit tighter craftsmanship. I am always in a rush (remember I live at 100 mph). I have this voice in the back of my head most of the time telling me that well crafted work is just as important as thinking outside the box. That voice usually belongs to someone that I really look up in my community of artists but practice is not something that I always follow through on. The choice to rush often leaves me cringing later. When they say that teachers often teach best those things that they are in need to master, well, craftsmanship is one of my biggest pet peeves in the classroom. My students come up with such great ideas and sometimes they rush through it and in the process kill it with the residual mess. I should take some time to learn from them.

Back to The Red Headed Riter and her brief discussion of Sakichi Toyota's Five Whys and how they apply to my current perdicament:

I need to pay closer attention to craftsmanship:
why#1? I don't take the time to clean up surfaces
why#2? I rush
Why #3? I need to do something else
Why #4? I am too busy
Why #5? I live 4 lives at once

Solution: add 5 more lives and become as chill as my cat

Ok that won't work, but sometimes I think that is how my brain thinks. I get so flustered with stuff to do that I eventually become numb and take on more and when that backfires, as it always does, my ambitious nature leads me down into that coal mine that has the unstable roof.

The moral of todays story? I need to slow down long enough to practice what I teach. I need to listen more (yes Chris I learned a great deal from that day of silence and I added it to my book of process- now if I can only learn to use it more consistently). I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

They are beautiful people and then... life at 90 miles an hour happens

I called my friend Pete today. It was so good to hear his voice, and his genuine concern for my well being. We talked for a long while, mostly just catching up on stuff. You see, I have been so busy trying to get work together for this upcoming exhibition that I have neglected a number of things, including my friends. I have been keeping up on my daily reading of blogs, Pete's included. Today he wrote about coffee, and his search for a new coffee maker. While being rung up he realized that the woman had the price wrong so he excused himself as he decided to go check on it, despite having a line behind him. I have to admit, I would have done this too. I have done it at the supermarket numerous times. In any case,  he made a comment in his writing about the patience level of the two men behind him adding that "they looked like they fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down". This had me in stitches as I imagined what they might have looked like, acted like, etc. Then, sadly, I must admit, I realized that stress causes that ugliness. All the life quests that happen in a NY second (a minute is a lifetime around here) makes for deeply uncomfortable people. The bitterness over the impossibility of a task creates these deep lines and pock marks on their faces. They were once beautiful people until life at 90 miles an hour hit.
I write this and think about our conversation and my own life, which is over scheduled and totally stressful right now. (brb, I am checking in the mirror to see if I am developing that Cruella scowl) Pete's right, I travel through my life at 100 plus miles an hour, no wonder I am exhausted all the time. I need to slow down and take the time to smell the roses. What is funny about that thought is that I just spent two weeks cooking my pots and having conversations about how wood fired ceramic artists tend to be down to earth slow cooked foodies and electric fired artists tend to be light, bright and in love with fast food, then there is the instant version called Raku. I guess in this case my life is definitely not imitating my art, maybe I am better suited for Raku? (lol)
When I was growing up I had the tendency to fly by the seat of my pants while I embraced everything life had to offer. I have never been able to outrun that character trait, only now my pants seem to be a bit threadbare and in need of some reinforcement. So please pardon my appearance while I get that hippy patch kit out and stitch things back together. In the meantime, don't forget to laugh the wait at the supermarket off when someone holds up the line. Think of it as a power R&R session ( you can even do some yoga while you are waiting if you want, it will add some flavor to the crowd and relax you even more). Whatever you do, don't scowl, grumble or otherwise show your distaste for the loss of precious time. The world is laden with rogue journalists and you might end up being part of the tale in someone's public forum and described as looking like you fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down before face planting on the sidewalk and getting dragged through the mud. Who knows that rogue reporter may even have incredible shoot from the hip paparazzi camera abilities and your stressed out mug will end up on the front page of blog central before going viral.
Pete, I love you! (so does my composure and complexion) Thanks for making me taking the time out to laugh!


A few years ago while working at the kiln I had a dream about boiling seas and dead potters, it was quite disconcerting and happened to be the same night that Steve encountered spirit like things in the coop. It was a strange firing for me, but one that produced a few nice pieces. Last night I had another one of those nights, I was swimming in the New Bedford Harbor near the hurricane dyke and was swept out to sea by a massive tidal wave. I was held under for what seemed to be forever and popped up gasping for air and with the shoreline out of sight. Interesting thing though, I actually felt like I knew which way to swim. I woke up at that point and so I am not sure if I made it out of my perfect storm? I think I did.

The day at the kiln was filled with its usual antics. Steve and Joe goofing on each other and then on Chris. Chris firing a shot back at them once in awhile even though he was watching the pyrometer and the back pressure intently. They even took a few shots at me while I was trying not to talk to much. Silence had evolved into this project of sorts. I was again trying to focus on the rythym of the kiln by listening. It was hot in the kiln shed, but much more bearable than it has been in past firings. I think the breeze of the cold water helped. We were stoking the kiln with a combination of pine and floor boards from an old factory in New Bedford. Come to think of it, the last time I had that dead potter dream was the firing where I pulled thousands of nails out of floorboards from  the fairhaven mills so that we could stoke with them. The wood we used today was so resinous that it ignited on contact with the flames creating this long trail coming out of the side of the kiln. Is there a connection?

An old friend (Tim) showed up to watch a few stokes and was amazed at the enormity of the process. He even got to witness us salting the kiln. I think we left him speechless? Speaking of ghosts, as I left the area yesterday I decided to go look at the ghost of the Lincoln Park rollercoaster and take pictures of it. I have this idea for some new work.
By the way Steve was featured in the NYT this weekend, check it out.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Sound of Silence

I spent the day silent for the most part. I listened to both Chris and the kiln, tried not to engage in conversation too much. What I found was my ability to focus was a lot greater than I anticipated, though now, after it all I feel like I took a 200 mile bike ride. Staying that quiet all day was as mentally challenging as one of my longest endurance endeavors. I was left wondering how people manage a vow of silence without driving themselves nuts? John Francis actually enjoyed it because he found for the first time in his life that he was listening intently. I could see that thought having validity. There were nuances to today's conversations, directions, etc. that I would have missed completely if I had been speaking as much as I usually do. I laughed so hard at Joe's banter, mostly because I listened to it. I always knew he had a good sense of humor, but today I actually listened.

My day started with Dan and Steve goofing on me as we transitioned into the new shift and ended with Dan and Steve goofing on me again. In between was this mass of chaos that amounted to holding the kiln at cone 12 for hours before charging it with 16 bags of Cowboy charcoal in these shoots that Steve built, then having to control the burn so that the kiln didn't suffer a quick death. It was one of the most incredible kiln shifts I have ever been a part of. It was so exhausting that it was rejuvenating. Its almost over.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I get it now...I am taking a VOW of silence

Dear Chris,
Yes, I know you know everything I have said, but I needed to direct this to you so that you can understand my point of view in reference to THIS firing.

I woke up at 3 AM yesterday and stayed up for 20 hours and that hurts.
I stacked a cord of wood and that hurts.
I drank 1/2 a bottle of wine and a manhattan and that hurts.
I woke up with kiln cough after one day and that hurts.
I spent another 8 hours standing in front of a 2200 degree furnace and that hurts.
I inhaled a huge chunk of hot wood ash and that really hurts.
I am tired from trying to decide if I was hot or cold and that hurts.
I am only 1/2 way done...and I know I am WHINING?

I arrived at the kiln at 7:15 for a 7:30 shift. I worked the door and then stoked for a bit. I drank a caffeinated coffee and learned where my wonderfully gorgeous sweet daughter got her gift of gab. Holy crap I can talk up a gibberish storm! Its distracting to everyone around me! Once again, just like my visit to the tile maker in Korea, I get it, which took some long needed kinesthetic learning.

I learned that instant hot was not hot enough to cook oatmeal in a thermos and that cold curry still tastes good, but it would have been so much better HOT. Using a pen and paper to write down the information  works. I will now become a list maker and that makes me feel old!
So tomorrow I am taking a VOW of silence and hope that you are not saying YEAH RIGHT by the end of my shift. I understand. I get it! I know just HOW important the legacy of this particular firing is!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

pictures and...

 It was AHA night in downtown New Bedford. How exciting, to work all day on the kiln, come home, wash up and head out to look at and LISTEN TO art!!! Seeing friends, especially at NAVIO, was the best too. Charlie you are beaming whenever your son Felix is mentioned, congrats! Dan I am so proud of you, your show looks great!

Firing the Anagama

November 11, 2010
Gustin Studios
South Dartmouth, Ma
Windy, Sunny, Freezing Butt & Broiled Breast

The morning dawned very early, I was on the road by 3:30 AM. The cat barely stirred before I left. I was exiting the highway at 6:50, just time enough to hit the grocery store prior to the start of my shift. Today’s shift was heavy-handed, and the beginning had this feeling of being sluggish. I had to hold back my feelings as I knew that that regardless of how much lag time there seemed to be now, there would be a ton of work to do later.

I was correct in assuming that as 10 AM rolled around I was in deep, first manning the pyrometer, then stoking. I think I muscled my way in to the positions out of the need to stay warm. Its friggen cold out here. This continued until about 2PM when Steve arrived with the charcoal and shoots. I was ready for a break. So I pulled out my computer and wrote a bit. Then I got cold, really cold, unbelievably cold. The wind was whipping off Buzzards Bay and quite frankly it felt as if it was taking the whole thing with it. What to do? Well, there was a cord of wood delivered that needed stacking so I started to stack it, then Peter joined me. We had the wood stacked in less than an hour. Just in time to change shifts.

Its 4:45 PM right now and I am headed to New Bedford for AHA tonight with Tom and Linda. I am so excited to see Dan’s show, as well as the rest of the local art scene. More about that and pics later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Doing the Pigeon

I spent part of my afternoon knowing I had to get into the studio, but so exhausted from the weekend that I needed extra motivation. While I was cooking dinner (oven fried chicken was really cooking itself) and trying to decide what I wanted to listen to, I started to sample a wide range of the stuff on my ipod, but that was boring, so I moved to the CD's in our VAST collection that I never listen to, then came you-tube. I spent an hour alone going from Rebirth Brass Band and Kermit Ruffins to Eric Clapton and Dr John, then came Bowie. I melt at the sound of his version of America, and Heroes. Then there were the suggestions and my list grew and grew until I finally said put the bloody thing on Shuffle and cue up the Pigeon and that got me thinking of the saga of Mikey and Old Ben.

When Mikey was two, his first real inseparable friend was this kid Ben. They met at CCD (Dianne and I were both teaching and Mikey and Ben were being watched by a volunteer mom) They hit it off big time. They got into so much mischief together too. Dianne started to watch my kids while I taught art after school in Bedford. Mikey and Ben decided to test her resolve by doing things like floating plastic boats in the toilet. Dianne had such an incredibly patient sense of humor. To this day we laugh. Somewhere along the way, Anna and Justin started to hang around this girl in Justin's class called Katie. She had a younger brother Ben who was Mikey's age. Mikey couldn't fathom two Bens so to differentiate for his own sanity, the new kid was dubbed New Ben and his first buddy was now called Old Ben. That was until OB moved to a farm in Brewster, then he was known as COW Ben. Mikey and Old Ben were like Burt and Ernie, Oscar and Felix, Fred and Barnie, etc...but as 2 yr olds do, they would replay that dance scene from Sesame Street and then dance around DOING the PIGEON. This would repeat over and over again. They never got tired of it. I probably just embarrassed the hell out of my son Mikey, but every time I see that video I laugh. It makes me really happy and not want to give up.

Mikey and Ben eventually parted ways. We often wonder what he is up to. They are so different Mikey tells me. I get the feeling they really are no different than when they were two, and in another life, Mikey and Ben will hook up and go hiking. Ben will be super prepared and Mikey, well, he will still be flying by the seat of his threadbare pants adding the spit and vinegar required for an epic journey. (Here's to Burt and Ernie!)

After 3 hours in my studio I managed to get a lot done, considering my eyelids were heavy with sleep. I am finally off to climb into bed and find that elusive thing called sleep!

Grilled Chicken and Iced Tea

Dear Pete,
My blog post today is a letter to you because I need you be here experiencing my life with me right now. I am so incredibly busy, no, make that overwhelmed with,no more like consumed with, better yet buried under mountains of MUD. Mud in every potential stage of its being, from slip to the dried out caked up stuff. I want to say I need a change, but I know that where I am is right for me. I just need to accept being in this moment, living each second as if it were my last, trying to find the sequence to unlocking that monster that is living inside of my head. I miss talking to you. Diner run soon? Studio day soon? Yes, I am groveling, I need you to pull me away from it all as you seem to know how to do.

Preparing for this exhibition is scaring....................I can't say it. I won't say it. OK, damn I feel like I am that little girl on the playground meeting a group of kids for the first time and hoping that I get to play rather than get pelted with acorns.

I need grilled chicken and iced tea!!! (Next week?)

My Three Lives; a philisohical beehive

I spent the weekend helping to load the wood kiln at Gustin's place. I am in love with this work, everything about it, from the crazy amounts of menial labor to the grand social experiment, to hiding the stress of loading work. I especially like the mechanics of firing. There seems to be this grand circle of life that becomes so apparent with the wood kiln; earth and fire colliding in a horrifically violent and incredibly peaceful manner. Eventually the dragon gives birth to the flame kissed and ash licked work often holding nothing back. Cords of wood reduced to nothing more than a single dustpan full of clean white ash.
On Friday night I was told I live three lives at once; educator, artist, and homemaker (mom, wife, athlete, coach, cheerleader, etc). My head often spins like a top, thirty five directions at once. Last night multi-tasking created this anxst that has made me long for a summer day by the pool with Pete doing nothing except listening to the breeze and each other or a camping trip with Kenny where we climb some mountain and just sit. Calgon definately needed to take me away, or maybe the guys in the white coats?
I spent the day freezing my tail off yestreday. For some reason, I was so cold that miserable was not the even applicable. I am not sure if its the change in my size, the actual weather, the standing still, the buzz of emotional ware and tear, the fact that I was tired? Who knows. All I know is that it was hard to concentrate on the work of loading. I eventually gave up at 4PM and left to tend to my other two lives, finishing up my grading and coaching a bunch of kids to light ice on fire with 16" of steel. I arrived to Lovey bringing me dinner, Dan bringing Chris over and the whole lot being on the ice already. Two jackets on and moving around and I was still cold.
On the way home, Chris ran into to the store to get me a bottle of water, I was so thirsty, hmmm, maybe that was why I was so cold? I opened it and immediately dumped 1/2 of it all over myself. Now I was cold and WET! In anycase, I survived the last hour of my journey and decided to leave the rest of my tasks until 4AM, took a very LONG HOT shower and tried to get some sleep.
Morning came to quickly. I had one of those nights where I wouldn't let myself relax. I think I was just afraid I wouldn't wake up in time and be left with a grading nightmare. It was fine. They were finished and posted by 8AM, just as required. Tonight I will sleep, I hope!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

OK now for the philosophical stuff

I woke this morning listening to a podcast of The Story and there was this discussion with a banjo player about his brush with Pete Seeger, and how he became a mentor to him. I immediately start thinking about my work, and how many people have had a positive influence on me as an artist. Maureen Mills has talked about the need for practice, I agree whole heartedly that practice, and lots of it, breeds results. Its the discipline to do it that is so hard to stick with. This is where loosing focus is like getting bored, its easy to do and hard to break through, even when its something that you are truly passionate about. This morning I was thinking about my own practice, Arnie mentioned a few nights ago that I seem to live three lives at once, Maureen has told me time and time again about how I need to choose one and practice it, and be OK with that decision. (This is not the only person to have told me that in my life by the way; Nana, MeMe, Mom, Dad, Kurt Matsdorf, Bob Ebindorf, and Val Cushing...) Being a mom and a teacher is what I seem to practice the most, then comes my artwork and despite wanting my work to get top billing, it cannot, at least not right now, because the other two are more necessary for my survival. Its funny, sometimes I think that my life as an artist is steeped around all the perceptions and ideas that I have rattling around my brain, while that is true, I have come to understand as an educator, that the craft of being a maker is what I really need to spend more time at doing because that is what is going to deliver those ideas to the surface. The teacher in me needs to be a teacher to myself and foster the discipline.

I woke this morning knowing that I have a bunch of work to do. I also awoke this morning knowing that I have a fantastic exhibition despite that in my reach. I am learning, I am practicing, I am creating and I will keep working at it until the 11th hour.
On a side note, for all my hometown friends, Diana Thomas came up at the kiln yesterday. She is in a show at NHIA soon. The group was talking about how she was an artist from Maine. I just had to correct that. Diana, if you are reading this, I wish you the best for your show!

With that bit, I am off to the kiln (not sure when my grades will be done - it will be a late night!)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I am not in Kansas anymore, crap!

When I was growing up I had these friends in New Bedford, they were a huge family, eight kids in all. They actually came from NY (at least when I was little) by way of Cape Cod, eventually settling in NB. Denise, Kevin and Sean and I were really close, not necessarily in age, but in spirit, and that bond no matter how old has been hard to break. For instance, I saw Kevin and his wife Cathy for the first time in 20 + years tonight and it was like we had never parted. They were one of my all time favorite couples in HS, maybe it was because they nursed me back to health when I was a really ill run-away (fever and infection) never questioning anything except my health. I also saw Timmy tonight, another blast from my past. I think about how I met him when I was maybe 8 or so. We hit it off then, and despite the 25 plus years absence of contact, hanging out really seemed like I was home again.
What is it about the South Coast? I am so intrigued with this area. I am drawn to it as if there are spirits that mandate my presence. I spoke a few weeks ago about how this area is so haunted, so steeped in the other realm that the air is heavy. Don Henley had it right, Old World shadows hang heavily in Providence but I have come to the conclusion, dead potter dreams aside that its even more so in New Bedford. Sometimes I feel like a refugee here, more so when I was younger, but still I am caught off guard when I am hit with that overwhelming feeling of being HOME when I am here. Denise, Kevin (McKenna), and Tim, this one is for you to jar your memories. If you only knew what that song still means.
So, how did the loading day go? Well after a spectacular night at Arlynn and David's house, I arrived at the kiln to find the air circus like, a wonderfully cold but thrilling day for a loading, no dead potter dreams, no angst, no worries. I surprisingly lost all worry about my work. It was incredible! Not much more to be said. My history with this place this time is the history I left here 25 years ago. By the way, I found my camera!

Friday, November 5, 2010


I can't find the bloody camera!!! Now I know that I talked about the philosophical end of this firing and how I was NOT going to be in everyone's face documenting the thing, but honestly, I did want to post at least one or two pictures from my grand adventure here in MA! Oh yeah, if you haven't gathered I am here in Dartmouth, Ma. (next to New Bedford) I am so excited about the work I am putting in to the firing, but at the same time feeling like the work I am putting in is insignificant. I am totally not sure why this is happening. It seemed important while I was creating it. I am disappointed that I don't have more in the line of bigger stuff though. Everything I am firing ( 13 whistles, 23 cups, 7 olive oil bottles, 7 beads, 3 bowls, 2 boxes, 1 teapot and 1 object) is small, really small. I am thinking that the firing fee is just payment for the joy involved with the chance to be a pyro for a few days.

I am pumped, just the same. I am still playing with glazing techniques, but this time, working with the same 5 glazes as the last time, I am happy to say that I have expanded to include resist. So, maybe I will see something new? It has been one hell of a week in that respect. I had my glazing plan all worked out in my head. I knew what I wanted. Yet, somehow, with the end of the quarter being moved so that my grades are due Monday morning at 8 AM I have blasted through my work, heck 13 pieces came out of the bisque kiln this morning. So, I am not sure what I will get (fingers crossed).

This kiln has always held some amount of karma within. Many that know me well have heard about my weird dreams and interesting happenings surrounding firings, Today was no different, My ride up here, riddled with traffic and no one to share the space with except Buddy Guy, BB King and a sandwich until the Rhode Island border, then as I passed exit 3 and thought about Chris, Anthony, Henri, Evelyn, and Helen and that house by the cove, and then my cousin Matt and his life in Narragansett I started to once again think about the history of the place I am going to. Tim and Denise, so essential to my New Bedford experience as a kid have been back in close touch with me. When I hit Rhode Island, my phone rang, it was Arnie. I miss Arnie, I haven't spoken to him in ages. he has an opening tomorrow at the Clay Art Center (6-8 PM- so go) . He wanted to wish me the best for the weekend. Wow, here I was feeling bad I was missing his opening...? All at once the phone rang 9 more times (at once) for a total of 7 more artists and 2 New Bedford friends. A few that I have not spoken to in a few years, completely out of the blue. It seemed as if the kiln's Karma was calling me. Someone in some conversation talked about the widow's walks in New Bedford. OH my, I am suddenly transported and floored by a dream of a few years ago where I was haunted by dead potters.

This kiln will be different, some of Toshiko Takaezu's last work will be fired in it. Ten yers ago, when I found my way into the world of MUD I met Toshiko in Saratoga, NY. I helped load one of the pieces she created at Skidmore that summer into the kiln. Interesting, when my work comes out of this kiln it is destined to that corner of the world.

Not sure what tonight's slumber will hold...? I can't believe I cannot find the DAMN camera! (I will look in my skate bag, which is in the car, maybe its there)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

glazing day

I am lugging all my work back to school this morning so that I can have the room to spread out when I glaze. If it had been a nice day I would have raced home and spent the afternoon outside on the patio glazing away in the midst of falling leaves. I had hoped that the colors would inspire me. Interestingly enough I have Bill Daley's e-mail to me on my mind as I glaze on this dreary day. I think how perfect, I can look outside and experience the color of the rain against the oranges and rusts of the leaves, so perfect, a purple haze in a yellow field (true compliments of nature).

Monday, November 1, 2010

blogger of the month

Kelly named me "blogger of the month", wow. I am honored. Thank you. Its funny, being designated has left me with this compelling need to write and a bit of writers block.I am perplexed. Last night I ventured down to Flushing to skate. Chris whined a bit about it, but came around eventually. It was actually an enjoyable evening. I got to rehash my trip to Korea which consisted of a thousand questions about favorite foods, kimchi, chilies, how hot it must have been, and how I communicated. I even got to hear Annyounghasehyo for the first time since I have been back. The evening ended with Kenny meeting us with an order of Joe's Shanghai , I only wish it was soup dumplings, but Kenny didn't think they would travel so well, or be easy to eat in the car. (by the way Kelly, you should watch the video as an instruction manual for part of our adventure) The kung poa chicken and general tso's chicken were outrageous enough though. It was also good to see Anthony, who, seeing that he is local to the Flushing rink, should speedskate!

So my day today? Two biopsies on my skin that took forever and a trip to the Asian marketplace that included a great conversation with the cashier about my choices of greens and chilies, and again my trip to Korea. Its 3PM and I feel like I have not accomplished much so I am off to the studio now, hoping to finish up the last of the work for the kiln. I still cannot figure out exactly how I want to glaze my work. I am so tempted to leave it raw, but know I will hate myself for doing so. (excuse me while I stress a moment)
More in a bit.