Friday, November 12, 2010

A Day's Inspiration

It comes from anywhere.  Every day is a mish-mash of noticings, so disparate they almost go.  An old page in my notebook.  A set of colored pencils in a blue paper box. A book about storage. A shop window. A clay necklace that looks like bone.  Sometimes they have to do with ceramics, but most often they do not.  Here's today's sampling:

Window in Edgartown, MV
Page from "Minimum Space, Maximum Living" by Barty Phillips
Ceramic necklace by artist Yasha Butler

Detail from my notebook
Sketch detail from this a.m.
Here's to finding inspiration in the "small parts". Don't forget to notice!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Clay College: The Clay Studio Associates Show

Clay College, in Millville, NJ, is where I have spent a lot of my time the last couple of years.  A fabulous resource for all things clay, it is run by CC's ceramic guru, nay, goddess, Jacqueline Sandro.


There is a sweet little exhibit is going on there at the moment, tucked into CC's brick-walled front gallery.  (CC is charmingly housed in part of an old Woolworth's store in Millville.) The artists are associates from Philadelphia's The Clay Studio.


Here are a few of my faves:

Larry Spitz
"New Growth"
Porcelain, Stainless Steel

Andrew Eastwood

Shannon Donovan
"100 Ws"
Earthenware, Glaze

"100 Ws" Detail

Kathryn Narrow
"Peach Pots"
Porcelain, Glaze

Also at the College was a fabulous demo by ceramic artist, Kathryn Narrow (whose gorgeous pots are above.)  She was wonderfully knowledgeable, approachable, and personable - all the best sorts of "-able".  She might have even gotten me over my fear of that finicky porcelain.

On my way out the door, (sniff - I miss Clay College -) I took this last photo.  For those of you who know me, my house is home to three avid skateboarders: two sons and a husband.  They are as obsessed with skating as I am with ceramics.  As you can imagine, there is NO overlap of these two worlds, so the below photo is a happy crack in the space-time continuum. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

I do not think you can find a reason for everything you make.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The quiet of Toshiko Takaezu

It is always inspiring to come in contact with the work of a genius, especially a genius in your genre.  It's heady, observing the physical manifestation of all that "could be", all those choices, having been weighed and manipulated by someone with deft mind and hands.  And the result stands there before you, decisions having been contemplated and made, close enough to touch.  (And, for the record, though my fingers were itching, I did not.)

I have loved the work of Toshiko Takaezu from the first day I saw her massive Three Graces at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton.  There the three figures stand, larger than us, than life, against the grass, trees, blue sky. They "grace"fully bridge the gap between art and nature, are strong enough to hold their ground against the ground.  They do not get lost. The figures and the landscape are better together than apart.

I appreciate Takaezu's need to liberate herself from the restrictions of the wheel, combining throwing with handbuilding, to create these large-scale works.  I appreciate that she was one of the first modern potters to successfully close her pots, and in doing so, elevated the modest pot to something else completely.

So this week, it was a gift to visit the Princeton Art Museum for Takaezu's quiet show: Presence and Remembrance, a tribute to the thirteen Princeton alumni who were lost on September 11, 2001.

Nineteen pots are tucked into a small gallery on the second floor.  The show is part jewel box, part zen garden.  Some are from the permanent collection there, some on loan.  The designs seem simple and effortless, though I am old enough now to know that things that seem simple and effortless are a result of years and years of exactly the opposite.

Just as her actual, unapologetic fingerprints are on these vessels, her "fingerprint" is on these vessels.  The glazes are matte, painterly.  Look closely at the colors. You might think they're just brown or black, but there are the most beautiful subtle shades of indigo, violet, even raspberry.

I don't want to say too much about them, because it does not do them justice.  Just go there, if you can. Though several pieces are over three, four, five feet tall, it is not just their physical size that makes their "presence" known.  They stand like sentinels, watching us, guarding us, remembering.

The show at the Princeton Art Museum runs from now until September 11th.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sometimes I'm not inspired.  There.  I said it.  (And I'll admit, I ducked when I said it.  What? No lightning?)

These days weeding seems like a good idea, and right now the studio has never been cleaner. Last night I even offered to type up my son's story entitled Food Wars - it's sort of Cool Ranch Doritos meets The Empire Strikes Back.  Genius, really, but LONG.  Sure I'll type it.

Is it the warm weather? I don't love summer, so you'd think I'd want to be in the cool of the basement.  And the clock of the school calendar is tick...tick...ticking down fastfastfast.  Pretty soon my six hours of "free" time will be carried away on a summer breeze. You'd think it'd make me get down to brass tacks.


But this has happened to all of us before, right?  Well, it's happened to me before.  And now that I've lived through a few (ahem) bouts of these kinds of days, I'm not as scared of them as I once was. I used to feel guilty about this dilly-dallying, but now I see it's part of how I work.  I have to tend to the well if I want there to be anything good to draw from: remove the debris, scrape down the sides, refill.

I read more. There are books lying around the house, like carcasses, their spines up.  I rip out pages from magazines.  Tend to the blogs/websites I like:

And get inspired by things like the clean shapes and colors of these mod vases from 

And by  fellow potter (also Rae: what are the odds?) Dunn, who's pottery I admire...

...but whose sweet little watercolor sketches speak to me even louder... I love reading her blog, which I find thoughtfully simple, quiet, and graceful.

I make another cup of coffee at noon.  (Can you smell the Small World House Blend from out there? Genius roasters.) Heat the milk so that when I'm staring out the window and forget to drink from the cup, it's still hot when I come back to earth.

So back to earth it is.  And on earth there is a lot of running around, the day-to-day frenetics, trying to wear all the hats at once.  It gets really LOUD sometimes with all that noise, and it's as if my head is in a school cafeteria at noon, and I can't hear what my nice quiet friend is trying to tell me.  And it's really important, but I can't shush 500 other loud noises.  I need to wait until the room empties out. My inspiration and drive to create seem to stall, but now I trust that it is just my head making room for what comes next.

I think today I'll paint one studio wall with chalkboard paint.  I want to be ready.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Windy City

Chicago has been on my top five cities to visit, forever, and it didn't let me down.  I found that inspiration runs rampant when you are temporarily without kids, have access to unlimited sleep, eat great food, and see amazing art.  I didn't only remember why I love my husband; I actually remembered why I like him.

Highlights in no particular order:

The Corn Cob Buildings in Marina City.  Designed by Bertrand Goldberg in 1959 to 1964 (my sweet spot for architecture, btw.)

You KNOW there is a lamp to follow, inspired by those scales...

Two splendiforous cocktails: One is the original margarita at Mercadito...

and the other is the Elderflower cocktail at MK, which, unfortunately, shall have to be conjured by your imagination.  I CAN tell you that it is pink grapefruit pink and resides (though not for long) in a chilled martini amongst yourselves....

Where I bought a fabulous purple heathered "Meet me at the Crotch" t-shirt. Get your mind out of the gutter - the Crotch is simply referring to the triangle where the streets connect in the Wicker Park neighborhood.  Geez.  Check out Renegade Handmade's website:

The Cloud Gate at Millennium Park.  Designed by Anish Kapoor,  this really does live up to the hype. Walking around it is like walking around a dream.

The William Eggleston photography exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago, which is a mind-blowing swirl of unbelievable art treasures, including: American Gothic, The Nighthawks, and Van Gogh's The Bedroom.

The Eggleston exhibit is saturated with gorgeous color and captures the beauty and lines of 1960s and 1970s America, with all its heartbreak.

This exhibit was truly amazing and inspiring.  The light.  The vivid colors from those layered dyes. The bittersweet shape of the red tricycle against the hard concrete of the American neighborhood.  Practically worth the airfare to Chicago by itself.

Filled to the brim and ready to get back to the studio.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Want Candy!

Breath deep, people, Spring has SPRUNG.  Smell the earth in the air?  See those smooth green daffodil points peeking through the mud?  The sun is on a different channel.  And listen.  Really stop and listen to the airplane sound of a beautiful day. The bikes are out for the intrepid optimists.  I'm grilling again.  Usually Mother Nature features pretty heavily into my clay work: the flowers, the birds, the colors, but now that the snow and Oscars are safely behind us, and Easter is around the corner?  Time to think about basket filling.  Time to think about making new inventory and Time to think about CANDY.

Mmmmm...Almond Joy Pieces.  That's right, I said it. Teeny tiny Almond Joy in m&m sized bits.  Of course, I am trying to cut back on my sugar (headache issues) and though I might splurge on these, I really just love how they look and feel.  The bright blue against the cream and deep brown?  So

And look at this pretty chocolate "folio"....  Smooth matte paper, same color family.  It's going to be difficult to eat one of these because look how nicely they nestle together: how could one make a vacancy?  How about a set of four bowls in these colors?  A stack of cups?  

I've started building some sweet treats in the studio.  A cupcake lamp base and some little chocolates for a pretty pink box.  I'm pretty sure I have to make a chocolate with a "bite" out of it...They're not glazed yet, but you get the picture. And no calories!
And if I may be so bold?  Want to see the most GORGEOUS book on chocolate and sweet-making at home?  The newest book by Peter P. Greweling, Master Baker and Professor at the Culinary Institute of America is called Chocolates and Confections.  The writing is clear and decidedly un-stuffy and the photos are droolingly beautiful.  He is so modest but I can say all this stuff because happily, he is my brother-in-law.  And yes, this lucky girl gets to eat many of his creations... Can we TALK about his cherry cordials?

Click below to check out Chocolates and Confections on Amazon:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

spouting violets

Words and clay?  Not exactly like chocolate and peanut butter - wouldn't say they were two great tastes that taste great together.  Muddy fingers don't do well with keyboards.  But as it turns out? My writing, wordy brain LOVES clay.  Working with clay is a very physical thing and my mental body is free to move around and wiggle jiggle free.

Winter is usually my high-concentration time.  Long evenings, staying in as opposed to going out, finishing little projects that wouldn't see the light of day in the summer.  Usually I use winter to tuck into some big, fat books.  And my glazes for the last few months have been the cream and white and icy blues of the season.

But I must be over all this snow.  I have Spring on the brain.  My concentration is lacking and I keep bringing work upstairs so I can look outside.  I don't want complicated plot lines and deep characters!  I want poems and snippets and pretty word pairings.  My fancy has turned to poetry.  My work has turned to flowers and birds, and words.  Flowers: Little flower-patterned dishes, Rosie candles, a new lamp design with "petals" like a peony.  Birds: 20 little ceramic birds in clover green, carnation pink, lemon and blue bonnet; birds on the lip of a Tweet candle, on the shoulder of a Tweet lamp.  Words: my new "Bloom" pots, with Molly Bloom's final words carved into their sides. I have abandoned my beloved, glassy high-fire glaze for the pop colors of low-fire.  Can there be seasonal change in ceramics and literature?  It's a little early for this, isn't it? Damn that groundhog!

So on my weekly trek to our excellent Princeton Public Library, I passed right by New Fiction.  I headed upstairs to the poetry section.  I pulled two favorite poets: Miss Emily Dickinson, the careful, amused observer of the natural world around her, and mr. e.e. cummings, the colorful, sing-song bard of the fractured word.

Dear March - Come in -
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat -
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are -
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well -
Oh March, Come right up the stairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

I got your Letter, and the Birds -
The Maples never knew that you were coming -
I declare - how Red their Faces grew -
But March, forgive me -
All those Hills you left for me to Hue -
There was no Purple suitable -
You took it all with you -

Is it sacrilege to follow the elegant Miss Dickinson with e.e.? Maybe.  But I think mr. cummings, the saucy little minx, is up to it.

Song I
can  dy   lu
       pinks shy
greens   coo   l  choc

   un   der,
   a   lo
    tive    s  pout

Both hopeful, both Spring, both violet and purple.  I'm thinking I should order some new glaze.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lola Brooks and Tracy Kendall

A renegade jeweler and a bespoke wallpaper artist.  Inspiration for clay?  You bet.


Lola Brooks, a jewelry artist with more than her fair share of tattoos, (two sleeves full, thank you very much,) has a beautiful, irreverent, tongue-in-cheek approach toward precious materials. 

I love the chunky, candy-like quality of these heart brooches - those pink faceted gems - delish.  And the garnet-studded net of her bleeding heart is at once a little squirmy and a lot rockin'.  I love that she takes these precious objects and turns them into something else - something with wit and soul and life.

Find out more about Lola Brooks at


If Lola Brooks is a rock star of jewelry, then Tracy Kendall is the couturier of wallpaper.  Her three dimensional work is elegant, witty and perfect.  I love her use of words, of repetition, of unorthodox elements.


Why let the gorgeous words of Tennyson and Shakepeare languish in dusty books?  Let the lines from A Midsummer Night's Dream breathe and inspire stitched in a fluid font on your bedroom wall!  I wonder if Tracy Kendall's handwriting actually looks like this? 

See more of Tracy Kendall's work at

Monday, January 18, 2010

Daily Routines

No, not daily GRINDS, daily ROUTINES.  The good, loose order of daily life things. Like: morning coffee and toast, a proper lunch in the early afternoon, times for returning emails, for laundry, for blogging, for cleaning clay tools, for picking kids up from school. Etcetera, etcetera.

My non-negotiable daily routine is a morning walk. Soon as I drop the kids off.  Even in the rain because God knows I'm not made of sugar.  I breathe belly breaths.  Sometimes I take my ipod and sometimes I don't.  I try to clean my brain's house, shake out all the crap.  I leave a trail of detritus behind me - little pieces of mental paper on which are written all my "supposed tos and shoulds and have tos and don't wanna dos". I envision the passing cars ripping right through those little bits.

And then I fill my brain back up, with other things, cleaner things: the dark framework of winter trees against a cold, ceramic blue sky, lacy green lichen on bark, half a pretty walnut, an impossibly red cardinal against a last small pile of snow. 

I return a half hour later, or an hour, maybe even more if there's a considerable amount of crap to shake loose. I empty my pockets.  Here's today's collection:

Check out the piece of wood that looks like a long-billed bird.  And the long twist of vine.  I even love all their shadows.

And then as C.S. Lewis said: "The routine from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident..."

Read about the daily routines of the likes of painters Gerhard Richter and Jasper Johns at:

They procrastinate and dilly-dally and lolly-gag just like us.