Saturday, October 31, 2009

More candy please

Once upon a Hallowed eve, Snow White and a friendly lion went out in search of candy. 

Snow White, who was older and more experienced in retrieving candy from adults, was keen to teach the friendly lion how it was done. 

It did not take very long for the clever little lion to catch on and he himself became quite astute at filling his bag full of sweet treats.

Along the way, Snow White and the lion discovered many others that shared their love of candy and were happy to join in on the quest. 

Snow White was the happiest she had ever been, dressed in sequins, amongst friends and a bag full of all the candy she could ever dream of eating! Even when it came time to go home to bed, she made no fuss, having had her fill of chocolate, and happily drifted off to sleep clutching her candy bag.

The lion on the other hand was not as happy to call it a night!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


It was the perfect day for the annual fall Chili Bowl sale. We woke up to an inch of freshly fallen snow yesterday morning after a storm had moved in some time during the night. The snow kept up throughout the morning and I bundled the kids in their snowgear and winter accessories to meet Robin for lunch at the university and check out the event.

Each year around this time the ceramics students make a series of bowls to sell as part of a fundraiser for the USU ceramics guild. Along with your bowl, you get a serving of hot chili and the event is held outside of the student center here on campus, hoping to attract plenty of hungry students as they head over to the food court for lunch. Last year the event was so successful they actually sold out of bowls. 

Isla picked out a bowl of Christa's that she fancied and we managed to get a quick lunch in before both kids started complaining of cold hands and overdue naptime. The rest of the afternoon was spent anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Lady Slipper Rig! My mom and Sam arrived in Logan just around suppertime last night, but we were forced to wait until morning for our first tour of the 'house on wheels' as Isla refers to it. Sam and my mom are enroute to Mexico again for the winter, but this year they've decided to change things up a bit and instead of their regular timeshare condo, they'll be mobile with all the luxuries you could ever imagine. 

The kids and I got the grand tour and even took a ride in it this morning. We buckled up in the back, riding easy on the leather couches and went for drive. Isla was impressed to say the least, Roscoe was not quite as sure of the moving part and kept a good grip on his mama's sleeve while in motion. This unit has so many switches and compartments, I am sure Sam and my mom will be kept busy all winter long just trying to figure out what does what! 

Monday, October 26, 2009

What to do about the flu?

Ahrrrr! I'm starting to get a little freaked out about this whole flu thing. People are getting sick all around us it seems, there is tons of media hype about the H1N1 virus right now, yet the vaccine seems still evasively unattainable. Besides, I feel like I'm still sitting on the fence whether to even get the darn thing. Right now only the kids would be eligible regardless of whether we all wanted to get it or not. The health department here, just like all over this country I can imagine, is experiencing a slow rollout of the vaccine and is limiting eligibility to those in higher risk categories. But with schools closing down due to mass exposure to the virus, and mixed stories about unforseen risks associated with getting the shot, I'm feeling a tad confused over the whole issue. 

We haven't quite barricaded ourselves in our home just yet. Although I admit I have been way more cautious in terms of selecting what social outings and public gatherings to attend this past week. We've been hanging with our pals that are all reportedly healthy and have had some fun with pumpkins this week as we lead up to Halloween this coming weekend. 

The kids and I biked down to the North Logan Pumpkin walk and met up with some friends to check out this annual pumpkin extravaganza. Last year we went at night in order to see it all lit up, but chose to see it by day this year so as to not have to deal with crowds and/or cranky children. This event draws people out by the thousands apparently, which we witnessed last year. But by going during the day, the kids were able to run around and even get some playground time in. 

We also acquired our own pumpkin to carve this week and took it over to Kate and Mike's place for a carving party. Funny how the idea of 'carving pumpkins' is seemingly a child friendly event, when really the whole aspect of preschoolers wielding large knives is perhaps not really that great of an idea. The kids vanished anyways and went off to play after a few minutes of getting their hands goopy and we parents were left to hack away at our artistic leisure. It was a fun night of eating chilli, making faces and talking about the swine flu!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meet Megan

Meet Megan. Megan is a first year graduate student here in ceramics at USU. Rather I should say she is the first year graduate student in ceramics at USU, because unlike the other grads, she wasn't paired up with another applicant for the 09-10 school year (they typically accept two per year into the program) for whatever budgetary, administrary, unforseen circumstances that played out last spring. And much to her credit, Megan is charting the waters of being a first year graduate student alone and doing a fine job of fitting in with the existing motley crew that is USU.  

Megan Mitchell, originally of New Hampshire, moved to Utah this past summer equipped with a fine arts undergraduate degree from Carleton College in Minnesota and plenty of life experiences in the world of clay.  Her devotion to a life of clay first began while living in Montana, which continued to evolve upon moving to California to work at the Hoyman Browe Studio in the Ukiah Valley in Northern California as a potter for three years before deciding to take on graduate studies. Megan knows more about a chainsaw than anyone in the entire ceramics department at USU. 

Why clay? 
My undergraduate degree was actually in print making and painting, and it wasn't until after I had graduated that I really got into the medium of clay and  became more interesting in working with it. It was at the Northern Clay Centre in Minneapolis that I first became inspired and became aware of the potential of working with clay. I then moved to Montana to take a job working on a trail crew, and because of the seasonal nature of the job I had winters off, so that was when I really started up with an actual studio practice. In 2003 I took a job in Whitefish where I fired my first wood kiln and the experience brought my two worlds together - I was hooked! 

Where do you fit on the scale? (Clay Obsession scale)
I'm an 11! 
Megan is a first year after all, and seems to suffer from first
 year graduate student syndrome. Her symptoms include: working at all hours of the morning, day and night in the studio and has to be told when to go home by other graduate students and/or faculty, dressing up for gallery openings only to find herself amongst her peers all of whom are still donning clay stained studio garb and often finds herself awake at night obsessing about what she is going to make next and how to solve her latest clay-related conundrum.
Why USU? 
It really came down to the faculty, other students, and the facilities being the strongest. Logan also offered me an affordable place to live.  

What do you consider your schtick?
I don't have a schtick, no wait, I guess you could say I'm a press mold junkie.   

What are you making right now?
I'm trying out new processes everyday. Trying not to box myself in. Right now I'm working on a series of plates that have combinations of patterns and images. I've been hand building too, coil building. I also have been incorporating various printmaking processes in my clay work, like stamping and silk screening.   

Inspired by?
My immediate environment. I'm drawn to patterns in my surroundings, mostly architecture, like doorways, windows and fences. I'm really into boundaries or openings, such as a view into the intersection between an inner space and an outer world.  My ambition is to somehow convey the feeling of distant space. I really like that about Logan, the view, and how far you can look out on the horizon. 

What's next?
Well, I have to saw that I have three years of grad school ahead of me and I am very excited to not have to think beyond that right now because I have spent a lot of time the last few years doing just that, planning for what's next.  

What do you miss the most about your former existence? 
My dog Rocky, named after Rocky pond, where I used to swim as a kid. He's one of those mystery breeds, but my theory is that he's an Australian Shepherd, lab cross.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

International Wives Club

Today I stepped up to a podium to give a 15 minute presentation on my home and native land, flashbacking to grade three Social Studies as I rattled off the names and capital cities of each province to a group of 20 or so women from all over the world. I hardly consider myself the targeted demographic for this group I was recently invited to join - the USU International Wives Club -  but was highly encouraged to attend by the organizers, and curious to say the least. I was intrigued to get the initial invitation about a month ago to come out to their meet and greet, which I did and thoroughly enjoyed. 

I have met women from Sudan, Iran, Korea, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Ghana, just to name a few. All of these women have come with their husbands, some with children, and are tied into the university to study or teach. The weekly gathering offers childcare and an opportunity to network with other women, but primarily has been organized to help these women learn english. 

Although I sometimes feel slightly impostor-like at these meetings, they all seem to have accepted me for whatever international flavor I have to offer and today was no exception, as they had several questions for me about population, weather and unique Canadian cultural traditions. 

What I have been most impressed with is the level of education and breadth of experience each of these women have, many of them putting their own career goals on hold while their husbands are here to further theirs. I find myself cheering them on, for their supportive role, and I admire their courage because it far outweighs mine. I haven't met any other Potter's wives, but there are several Engineer's wives, Scientist's wives and even an Agronomist's wife! 

Go Wives Go!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Weekend Report

Nothing like a brilliant and fun filled weekend to get you out of a funk. Seemed we crammed in as many outdoor and social outings as we could manage the past couple of days. With the fall colours in full splendor here throughout the canyons, and warm enough temperatures that you could practically be in shorts, it was great to frolic in the leaves with friends and go pumpkin hunting. 

Robin was participating in a visiting artist workshop all day Friday and Saturday but we were able to sneak him away for a couple hours in the afternoons to enjoy the weather together. Two of the closest canyons to our place are ablaze with hues of red, orange and yellow. 

We also attempted to find ourselves a real pumpkin, and drove out to the same orchard and pumpkin patch that we picked our winner from last year. But sadly all that remained were soft and starting to go off. We've got another lead on where to get a good one and hopefully that lead turns out or we'll have to settle for our artistic renditions...

George McCauley , was the visiting artist, down from Helena MT to share some insight and offer up some demos to the clay students. George left a great impression on several of the students, many of them happy to have given up their weekend for the extracurricular workshop. I got the chance to meet and visit with George at a potluck at John Neely's place on the Friday night and then again at Dan's place Saturday night. 
Thankfully our friends Donna and Trevor offered to watch the kids the first night, so we didn't wear them entirely out both nights in a row.  

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A ray of Sunshine

Today is a better day. The kids seem well rested and happy, it's a warm and beautiful fall day and I'm stoked to have my first USU interview ready to post. Fellow grad student Sunshine Cobb is in her final year of her MFA here at USU, so we got to know her last year and we're thrilled she's going to be around for this one too! Besides having an obsession with clay akin to Robin's, she's also been a great knitting partner and pal for me. And the kids love her to bits.  

Thanks for being the first interviewee Sunshine!

Sunshine Cobb is a third year graduate student in the ceramics dept at USU. Hailing from California, she mostly misses lemons and long walks on the beach with her pina colada road soda. Sunshine is her real name and she moved to Utah in August of 2007 to pursue an MFA in clay. Since moving to Logan, she has developed a love for long winters and a recent passion for printmaking. She also likes goats and hip hop music. Here's a bit more, in her words......

Why clay? 
I think it's a really useful medium. I like that it offers an accessibility to making functional objects that fit into people lives. I feel that through clay, my creative energy is channelled appropriately, in a non-ego driven way that can have a voice and make an impact.  

Where do you fit on the scale?(Clay Obsessionscale)
I'm a #10, for sure. 

Why USU? 
It's potter friendly. When I visited the program before being accepted I could see that the ceramic community here is really great. 

What do you consider your schtick?
Functional pots. My aim is to become the world's best potter.  

What are you making right now?
Basins. Apparently calling them bowls, isn't good enough. 

Inspired by?
architecture, urban decay, rusty cars and peeling paint, landscape

What's next?
incorporating more old time craft into my vessels, like wire handles. 

Why goats?
They are kind of naughty, they have square pupils and have such inquisitive faces. 

This photo would brighten anyone's day, eh? 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It ain't easy

They said it would be hard. And they were right. 

A series of several challenging days in a row have left me at times questioning, Why are we doing this again? Only to be reminded of the many hours and numerous conversations Robin and I had a few years ago when we decided to embark upon this crazy adventure of graduate school with a family. Questioning the financial burden we'd be taking on, the stress of moving far from our support network and loved ones, trying to anticipate the doors it might open up for us. It was a lengthy process of weighing in all the pros and cons, considering what we'd be giving up temporarily for the long term benefit of us all. 

I think even as well prepared as we tried to be, I don't think we realized how unbalanced our lives would really become. Robin's days seem consumed with juggling his teaching, his own coursework and studio practice, all the while trying to figure out the greater picture of where to take his work and what direction this intensive opportunity will steer him upon its completion. With firing shifts, visiting artist lectures, readings and time dedicated to critical reflection, there is no surprise that he feels stretched and unbalanced. Only to come home to his kids, yearning to squeeze whatever attention there remains out of him. And a partner that herself at times feels abandoned and ill equipped to do yet another bed time routine on her own. 

It's a struggle. All I can say is Thank God for that late night glass of wine, when the kids are in bed, the pots have been covered up for the night and we get the chance to look across at one another and remember why we are doing this. 

They said it'd be hard. And they were right. 
We said we would get through it. And we will. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Potluck

Last night we bundled the kids up in the brisk evening weather and strollered our way over to Dan and Maria's for a potluck. Dan is Robin's graduate advisor and one of the ceramic dept. faculty. Maria is also a potter's wife and subject to hosting many potluck parties in her home because of this privileged status. We're fortunate to live only a few blocks away which means we can easily enjoy that second glass of wine at gatherings at their place. They also have two little kids that get along splendidly with our, another bonus for parties at their place. 

The purpose of this particular gathering of clay folk (not that there has to be one) was visiting artist Hun Chung Lee, a Korean sculptor that the crew visited while over in Korea this past spring. Hun Chung is here for a workshop at USU and as is customary, a potluck is typically held as part of the visit, another way to continue the pot talk, only accompanied by great food and over bevies. 

And there is ALWAYS great food. Ceramic artists are nearly always also great cooks. My guess is that it serves the dual purpose of putting their wares to work while celebrating their intended use. And if you are going to make beautiful pots, you better not serve up a b-rated dish in them. Potlucks in ceramic circles are always a sure bet, and last night was no exception.  
Last night's gathering also got me thinking about how this group of graduate students can be likened to a potluck. A potluck of people. The group is made up of 6 (sometimes more, sometimes less) individuals, all coming from different places, offering up different ideas for the group to consume and critique. The larger ceramics community only makes the potluck more varied, with undergraduates and faculty all contributing and adding flavor to the communal whole with their own work, in their own individual ways. 

A friend from back home, and also an avid blogger (While Tangerine Dreams)
has inspired me to incorporate interviews into my blog. She is a fantastic promoter of the handcrafted and herself is a maker of her very own handicraft. She's been writing a weekly post called Etsy Fridays on her blog that features other makers, specifically those with Etsy shops. Way to go Cathy! So I got to thinking, what better group to interview than this motley potluck of clay junkies! So stay tuned for more on who's who at USU, (if they are willing that is....)  

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Are you committed to clay?

I once thought that there couldn't be anyone more committed and obsessed with clay than Robin. But now, after many years of mingling and hanging out with ceramic folk, I realize that they all a little obsessed and fanatically devoted to the material. 

I am not a 'maker', instead I consider myself an 'appreciator', and in my mind - equally as committed to the cause of educating and promoting the use and integration of handcrafted objects into everyday life.  Luckily I have avoided some of the craziness that comes with being 'clay obsessed', instead having observed many variations of the obsession, I've come up with a Clay obsession scale (with the help of some seriously obsessed individuals). In most cases these are their words (and actions), not mine........

If you consider yourself committed clay, where do you fall? 

Clay obsession scale
Scale of 1 to 10
1 = you don't own your own wheel, but love to get your hands dirty and play with fire. 
2 = your preferred handle is sideways and your teapots don't pour. But heck they sure are pretty. 
3 = you are a pottery workshop fanatic and all your friends and family receive pottery for their birthdays and at Christmas. 
4= you carry a sketch book and often can be seen doodling pots and/or kiln designs. 
5 = you dream of traveling to Japan at some point to sweep the floors of a master potter for three years before you are even allowed to touch clay. 
6 = you are always trying to trade or steal back old pottery of yours that was once gifted to friends and family. 
7 = all your clothes are permanently marked with clay and/or glaze. 
8 = you mail order pottery videos and surf the net for pottery blogs and ceramic websites.
9 = you can fire an anagama single handed.
10 = each day you wake up early and pick your favorite mug off the mug shelf, fill it with coffee and head straight to the studio to finish handles before your pots are too dry, make yourself another pot of coffee, check kiln that was candling, turn it up, check mugs that are still too wet, decide to make plates, lose track of time because you have moved onto bowls, check mugs that are too dry, spritz mugs, cover with plastic, go and chop wood, lose track of time, check mugs, mugs are just right but you don't have time to finish them because you are teaching a throwing class, teach class, forgot about potluck, run home and whip up some potluck dish, go back to studio to check the kiln, forget to check the mugs, show up late for potluck still dirty, have dinner, talk pots, excuse yourself to go back to studio to fire off kiln, trim plates and finish mugs, kiln still not done, go back to potluck where everyone is passed out or still drinking, realize you missed dessert so you go back to studio to check kiln, kiln is overfired and mugs are cracking, reclaim mugs, head home, dream about pots, start again. 

Truth is, I'm surrounded by 10's!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

USU MFA exhibition

Last night I snuck out of the house for an hour to check out the MFA graduate exhibition at the school. The show features all the current fine art graduate students from all of the various art disciplines, although it seemed ceramics was the definite dominant medium. The art department created a new gallery this year to exhibit student work and that of visiting artists. It's always great to see the work in a formal setting. 

I missed the first half hour flurry of hungry students that were there to check out the work, support their grads and of course clean up the refreshment table. But despite not getting to sample any of Sunshine's flaky pastry treats, it was great to have the chance to look at the work "sans enfants" and mingle with Robin and his peers. Thanks to Kate for spending the dinner hour with my kids so that I could sneak away. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wind and Wailing

I don't know what seems to have been blowing more the last few days, the wind or Roscoe's nose! It's been stormy, rainy and rather miserable today and poor Roscoe's mood is to match since he's caught a rotten cold. The rest of us seem to be fighting it off, although I'm feeling on the brink but have managed to keep it at bay thus far.

We all had a fitful sleep last night, playing musical beds to try and keep at least the healthy child from getting woken up. Despite Roscoe's need for hourly attention during the night, it was actually the wind that kept me awake. 

We live right at the mouth of the canyon and every night without fail the wind comes gushing out to smack our little brick house square on. But last night it sounded more like a train wreck and felt like even the brick were being jostled around.  

Our hurdle into wet and weary weather has me wishing I could have somehow stuffed myself and the kids into my brother's backpack and wound up in Spain for the next couple of weeks. He and his girlfriend just flew across the pond to take part in a 17 day historical walking trail across northern Spain (800 km). Sounds both romantic and exciting......for them! Oh,  I just had a flash of drudging down the trail, carrying two kids on my back plus all our gear, with tiny voices continuously asking "when are we going to get there mommy?" On second thought, I think I'm better off here with the colds and the blowing wind. But best of luck to them, can't wait to see the pics...................

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Guessing game

One of these teapots was entered in the NCECA National show today....
One of these teapots currently is steeping a hot pot of chamomile tea......
The rest of them are for sale........