Monday, November 30, 2009

Watching the weather network again

Today I found myself making idle chit chat with someone I barely know in the grocery store and was going on about the unseasonably warm weather we've been having and how unusual it seems, blah blah blah - (like I'm one to comment, I've only lived here a year). So I did a little research back in time and read some of the posts I'd written last November, just curious to see exactly what the snow accumulation for November 08' had amounted to..........zilch!

In fact, my 08' entry could practically be my 09' entry: Doing lots of knitting, unseasonably warm weather, busyness of semester end etc. This week Robin is finishing up at school, getting ready for his final critique on Monday while the kids and I are packing and preparing for a trip. The only difference is this year we are taking the dada with us, and we're heading south not north. 

Despite all of us feeling a tad under the weather the last couple days with sniffly noses, we can hardly contain our excitement about spending 10 days in sunny Mexico this December. My mom has spent the previous 4 winters in Mazatlan and finally the timing has worked out for us the check out the surf and sun, and witness how real snowbirds live. Between having babies and applying for grad school and moving to the States, our opportunity for a winter holiday was slim. Next year Robin will be in full thesis mode - so we figured this year was our best chance to make it happen. 

And it will be well worth the wait, we're all looking forward to some family time with no distractions beyond the poolside. I've got the weather network bookmarked, and it's not for checking the weather round these parts. 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Birthday bash

Last night we lined up a babysitter and joined the group to celebrate Megan's 34th birthday with her. Apparently, having your birthday the day after Thanksgiving hasn't always been much fun for Megan, since people are typically away or tied up with family we made sure to whoop it up and celebrate with her. And I think she had a pretty good time. Happy Birthday Megan! 

Friday, November 27, 2009

The turkey shot we never got

We almost missed getting a photo again, on round two of Thanksgiving dinner 2009 at the DuPonts. I remembered to reach for my camera only halfway through Robin's carving process. It was a huge bird, and very delicious too! We were only too happy to share the holiday with fellow grads Megan and Sunshine who planned and orchestrated the meal entirely  - just in our kitchen so that we could celebrate with our kids and easily put them to bed. Which we were grateful for, especially since Isla's been feeling a bit under the weather the last couple of days. 
It was a fun evening of wine, way too much food and a traditional viewing of Chevy's Christmas Vacation - I had forgotten how funny that movie is. Happy Thanksgiving 'Merica! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dunn to the wire

Well it certainly feels like the holidays have already begun around here, plenty of Christmas craft fairs going on and street decorations already up, they even played a compilation of Christmas medelies during my workout class this morning at the gym! Whoa. I am beginning to understand that the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States is really the big kick off for a month long of Christmas craziness. 

Tomorrow is the big turkey holiday, which we're gearing up to celebrate with some of the other graduate students. Plenty of the students seemed to have already dispersed across the country , returning home or joining friends and relatives elsewhere. More people travel for this holiday in this country than they do for Christmas. 

Our pals Trevor and Donna headed off for the airport in Salt Lake very early this morning to catch a flight to Florida where they'll be spending Thanksgiving before Trevor heads off to China for two weeks.  

Trevor Dunn is a very recent grad of the USU ceramics MFA program. He finished his masters last spring and following graduation accepted an adjunct teaching position with USU and is also the ceramic studio coordinator (technician).  Trevor and Donna first moved to Logan back in 2006 from New Mexico where Trevor had been teaching ceramics and sculpture at San Juan College.  

In his final year of graduate school he received the 2009 NCECA Graduate Student Fellowship Award for a proposed study and film project in Jianxi, China. Trevor's project includes making a video documentary that captures a traditional potter's technique of making large coil built water jars. This will be Trevor's second trip to China, as he spent 3 months there in 2007 where he initially met Mr. Jin and first learned the coil and paddle technique. Check out his blog of this visit.

There was a lot going for Trevor this week, besides preparing for his trip to China this past week, Trevor also finished up his toolmaking class with a potluck last Friday and managed to squeeze in a firing of the train kiln to get some new work out for his upcoming "Postgraduate Fellows" show that he is part of with fellow graduates Denny Gerwin (Sculpture) and Scott Foster (Painting). The show opens up in the new Studio 102 Gallery on December 14th. 

Trevor was also kind enough to answer a few of my questions amidst his crazy week. Here's what he had to say:
Why USU?
It was my top choice for a graduate program, for many reasons including the woodfiring research and expertise going on here, the calibre of the faculty and their complementary teaching styles. Also I was looking for a program where I wouldn't have to justify why I wanted to make functional pots.

Why Clay? 
I didn't choose clay so much as it chose me. I was actually half way through completing an English Lit degree when I was introduced to clay through an extracurricular attempt to make a present for some friends that were getting married. I kept checking out the wheels and decided that despite being in my senior year of and English degree, I was interested enough to shift gears and take my undergraduate degree in ceramics and sculpture. 

What are you making now?
Right now I'm making pots again. I spent a lot of time on my thesis work over the last year and I felt like I was forgetting how to make pots. I want to make work that has gestural qualities in fluid lines. 

We're sorry we'll miss the opening on the 14th because we'll be in sunny Mexico drinking mojitos on the beach, but I don't think Trevor will notice our absence because he won't be there either - good luck in China Trevor! 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bye Bye Grandma Lady

Who knew a month could go by so fast. We held back the tears and said our farewells to Grandma Lady yesterday. It really was such a treat to have her stay for an extended visit here in Logan with us this past month. The time flew by, but we accomplished much in the weeks she was here. The quilt for Isla's bed kept us busy the entire time she was here, but we still managed to make several outings in and around Logan, even made a special mother daughter trip into Salt Lake to witness the Morman tabernacle choir rehearse late one night. I am truly grateful to have had the extra support in the way of babysitting, but what was more appreciated was having the company. 

The kids loved her to bits and I cried watching Roscoe stand atop the stairs last night calling her name. They will surely miss her. 

But the good news is that in only two short weeks we'll be joining her again for a little Mexican holiday in Mazatlan! whoo hoo

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Success rate

With woodfiring, it is often a given that some pots don't always make it through the rigorous process of firing at such high temperatures. Some pots crack, others become warped or come out with their parts fused together. Most woodfirers consider this loss just a part of the process, that there will be both success and failure with every firing.  They also keep this in mind during both the loading and unloading of these wood kilns, as some areas of the kiln are more prone to potential disasters. But, as with many things in life, the greater the risk - the greater the gain. And those potential disaster zones can also produce some of the most beautiful pots. 

With this last firing, everyone was happy with the high success rate, and to uncover some gems from those risky sweet spots. 

Much like the gamble of firing with wood, the same goes for entering pots into juried exhibitions and shows - sometimes you get in, sometimes you don't.  Along with unloading a fantastic firing this week, Robin also received an email about the 2010 NCECA National Student Juried Exhibition he entered awhile back. And he was accepted! 41 works were selected from across the country, and Robin's teapot is one of 22 graduate pieces that will be exhibited in Philadelphia at the annual NCECA conference next April. Congrats dada, we're so proud of you. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One of the crew

Despite the late start they got, Robin, Bobby and Christa finished firing the train kiln by 1 a.m. early Monday morning. I bundled up and headed over to the school around midnight to see if they were going to go all night but by then they were already at cone 11 and concerned about the silicon carbide shelves that were beginning to form drips on the undersides. They all seemed happy enough to mud it up and call it a night, and they all looked overdue for a good night's sleep, especially Christa who took on the graveyard shift the first night and spent most of it warding off sleep and hypothermia. 

Christa Ames is a classified 'special student' here at USU, which means she is hovering in that space between undergrad and graduate school, obviously committed to clay and wanting some time to develop her work in a supportive and educational ceramics environment. Which is why she chose to come to Utah in the fall of 2008, having finished her undergraduate degree at Washington State University in the Pacific northwest. In Pullman, she was the only ceramics BFA grad in her graduating class, and although found herself amongst a group dedicated to the arts, her studies were definitely cross disciplinary and she felt she wanted to work awhile within a larger community of clay junkies more like herself. 

And as it sometimes happens, people fall in love, sometimes with like minded and in this case - like obsessed. She met Bobby Free (also a USU clay student) here in Logan and together I can't decide who is crazier, but a great couple and by Robin's standard a swell firing crew. 

Here's a bit more about Christa:

Why clay?
Although my very first piece was a pink bunny that I made when I was three, still owned and cherished by my mother, I had a very inspirational high school ceramics teacher that was more likely why I got into working with clay. 

What are you making right now?
Right now I'm making these sculptural narrative scenes that are part fantasy/ part reality I guess you could say. I make reference to things that have happened to me in these scenes as well and mix it up with mythology or fairy tales. I'm also using a cross section of materials to have a certain versatile affect.

What inspires you?
I'm inspired by the natural world and how we, as humans, fit or do not always fit into it. I'm also inspired by old fairy tales, story telling, dolls and other references from my childhood. 

What's next?
My plan is to be here until May and then I'll be moving back to Helena, MT. (Christa spent last summer working at the Archie Bray during the break). But I have a couple of ideas that I'd like to pursue, such as a month long residency in Vallauris ,France. I'd also like to have a show in Seattle that features my great grandmother's dolls. 

Speaking of great grandmothers.....Christa brought over a quilt this week that has been hidden away in a trunk for many decades to share with my mom and I since we happen to be on a bit of quilt craze at the moment. Christa's quilt is called a crazy quilt that has been pieced together with a multitude of bright and vibrant velvets and other fancy fabrics that my mother has gone rather crazy over herself. The quilt is in impeccable shape considering that her great grandmother made it and how it has stood up over time.  Christa's ambition is to finish the quilt (as it was never bound and finished), and my mom has been more than happy to do a little research and give her a few ideas on how she might go about it.  

And speaking of dolls.....Christa strikes me as someone that my Isla could very well grow up to be like if she remains as engaged and fanatical about her precious dolls, coupled with her daddy's possible genetic penchant for a life dedicated to clay.  

Sunday, November 15, 2009

You would think I'd have more time blog of course, with my mom being here and all. But this week has been a whirlwind of preparations since the actual birthday  - we've been gearing up all week it seems, planning and preparing for the birthday party! 

And here she is in all her purple glory blowing out the big 4 candle! It was a very fun afternoon filled with balloons, wall art, a fishing game and a purple cake. Thanks to my mom, the dishes are done and little evidence remains that we had a houseful of squealing, excited children overrunning our home today. And I am exhausted! I can barely imagine how Robin must be feeling after putting in an 18 hour workday yesterday at school: loading, crash-cooling, unloading and reloading kilns only to move right into firing the wood kiln in sub zero temperatures, only to get up again this morning to put in another firing shift AND make it back in time for the birthday party. Well done dada. 

At least he took a break to have cake with his girl and share a beer after the party with our friends Dan and Maria before heading back to the school to finish firing it off tonight with Bobby and Christa. I spent a couple hours on shift with him last night in the early hours of the firing so the kiln didn't offer much ambient heat yet, and it was freakin' cold outside. We spent more time inside the studio running out every few minutes to throw wood on. At least tonight the kiln will be pumping out the warmth and there will be more action around the kiln to help pass the hours. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Belly

Happy Birthday to you.

Happy Birthday to you.

Happy Birthday, dear Isla.

Happy Birthday to you.

 - we love you Belly. Thanks for all the birthday calls and wishes from friends and family. She had a wonderful day. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Labour day

This morning I woke up with the worst kink right in the middle of my neck. I could hardly even move my head to rouse Robin to fetch the muscle relaxants. Most of the day was spent catering to my stiffened posture, and keeping medicated enough to keep the worst of the pain at bay.... As bad as it sounds, it was nothing compared to the state I was in four years ago today - my labour day! 

Tomorrow is my sweet Isla Belle's fourth birthday! So that technically makes today my labouring day. My sister called this afternoon to remind me of this reason to commemorate and I spent the rest of the day thinking about my little girl and what an incredible and inspiring little person she has become in her four short years. 

And although she may be only four, she has become my wisest and most respected teacher, teaching me important life lessons each and every day. Such as.....'s okay to wear what makes you feel great inside, even if it means changing twelve times a day to find that perfect outfit.'s important to dance around your livingroom at least once a day. 

.... it's important to
 try and put yourself in someone else's shoes every once in awhile to appreciate how good you've got it. 

....if you don't ask questions (lots and lots of questions), you'll never learn a thing.

....even when you feel like you are facing an uphill battle, it's important to not give up. 

....everyone deserves to feel like a princess. cream solves everything! AND

...the most important job in the world is being a good mama to your babies (even if they are plastic!)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Pie eaters

I love having my mom here! We've had such a productive week quilting, touring around and checking out our favorite local spots and events, baking (not so productive), and even some free babysitting. Woo hoo!

Last night we went to a pie party at Trevor and Donna's place! The USU ceramics gang all got together to eat pie. The only criteria for this party was that you had to bake a pie - sweet or savory. What was even better was that Robin volunteered to bake the pie - rhubarb, his favorite. The first portion of the evening turned out to be quite the culinary experience which included sampling spinach quiche pie, a tomato and basil spelt flour crust pie, and a pork and veggie shepherd's pie. And that was just the first course. We moved on to a dessert choice of blueberry, rhubarb, apple, cherry, pumpkin cheesecake, lemon tart and a yogurt with peach topping pie. There was even a chocolate ice cream pie!

The second half of the night we turned their living room into a dance floor and tried to burn off all that pie. It was a very fun night indeed. Thanks mom for the fun pass out!

Friday, November 6, 2009

0 for 2

Well it's been somewhat of a disastrous week, in the kitchen anyways. On Tuesday I set about baking a cake for my friend Kate's surprise birthday party that had been planned and orchestrated by her husband Mike. I had spent the morning with my mom and the kids and had planned to get cake baking once they were down for a sleep. My choice of cake was a yummy recipe that I'd made from the Rebar cookbook before, a rich and delicious layered chocolate cake. So I knew that I'd have to devote some considerable time to the baking and assembling. I had forgotten although that this particular cake required parchment paper for baking, and in my poor judgement I skipped it (to forgo a trip to the store), and of course the first layer of the cake came out of the pan in clumps and crumbles. So off to the store I went to get parchment paper, now at least an hour behind schedule for finishing before the surprise party. I did manage to finish the cake (two layers instead of three), after another flopped layer came out sunk because I tried to rush it, but we did make it to the party in time without spoiling the surprise and had a very fun time. 

My second failed baking attempt happened Wednesday afternoon with a batch of botched bread. Somehow the oven was turned off inadvertently and my loaves came out slightly moist with a few sink holes. The bread is still edible, but not quite as pretty as I had hoped.  I am however thrilled to still have the company of my mom to distract me from my culinary failures. She has decided to stick around for a while and help out in more ways than one. 

The weather has been gorgeous this week so we've been doing lots of walking on the local trails and around the neighborhood. Yesterday we made a trip to the lake to feed the ducks and hang out in the sunshine. We've also been to the fabric store to pick out some material for a quilt for Isla's bed. When she told me that she was going to stay a few weeks, I jumped on the chance to put to use her quilting expertise and hopefully we'll get a good portion of the quilt done while she's here.  We've already got the squares cut and have begun piecing them together. 

Mom's timing is perfect for an extended stay. This semester has been a particularly stressful one, with a very full load for Robin, we both are grateful for the added support she'll provide this month. I even got out to a movie the other night, and perhaps with another adult around to help with the kids I'll be able to focus a little more when the oven is on.