pleasant weather has continued. We attended a fundraiser for a
Catholic charity that provides support for single mothers last night.
It was a very nice event, but also coincidentally provides me
with a bit of fodder for a Phil Steen video I'm contemplating on fund
raising While installing the display
of pottery at the Coeur D'Alene library the other day, I saw a new
hardback book on the life and times of Scrooge McDuck. As a child
I had a subscription for a couple years to Uncle Scrooge comics, and
only later did I learn they are regarded as classics due to their
cartoonist, Carl Barks. One glance at the book told me these were
more modern (by their shading in the backgrounds, unknown in the 60's).
But I got the book anyway, and was delighted to find that in the
90's, the comic franchise was still going, although mostly marketing to
Europe. A skilled cartoonist took Carl Barks stories as his Bible
for making an authoritative biography of the fabulously stingy duck,
using stories and incidents from some of the comics I still possess
from the series. These newer comics are now being reprinted in
book form, due to the rising popularity of "graphic novels" which are
essentially book length cartoons. I've also been getting (mostly
as gifts from my son) book collections of Little Lulu comics,
reprinted by Dark Horse Press, lacking the color of the original
comics, but containing all the comic genius. I still enjoy
reading them--I guess I never did grow up...
church up by Priest Lake today, we took a drive up the east side as far
as Lionhead State Park. Just before arriving there, we saw a
little turnout for Moose Lake, so we took it. We'd already
noticed the mushrooms all over along the highway, resulting from their
heavy rains recently. Moose Lake is vastly overnamed--it's the
small pond in the middle of the photo, which we walked around in a few
minutes. It's the photos of the mushrooms which I pasted around
the outside that made the trip worth while. They were in
colors from red to blue, and we'd never seen so many in one day...
I don't know the names of many mushrooms--and if I did they'd
probably be Latin and rather boring--but as artwork they're
tremendous--faux fall flowers...
I filled every ware board in the pottery, mostly because I didn't get a
couple firings done last weekend, being gone during vital parts of the
day or evening... So I fired two bisques today, and will have
lots of pots to glaze tomorrow, and empty ware boards after that.
In the afternoon I pressure canned 14 quarts of tomato puree, using our
50 year old canner, but modern processing times. When we started
canning tomatoes, we met an elderly lady in her 80's who canned
tomatoes by boiling them and putting them in jars and screwing on
the lids--no boiling water bath canner for her! It could be that
the older varieties of tomato were acidic enough to do that, but we
stuck with canning them in a canner which was a major purchase for us
at the time, and which we gave our kids baths in when babies as well...
The canner developed a flaw in the enamel and started to leak at
the bottom. Thinking about how in boy scouts I learned you could
boil water over a fire in a paper cup, I sealed the leak up with epoxy
cement. It has never leaked to this day, so the theory was sound.
But canning theory has evolved, and pressure canning is recommended for
tomatoes now. Some yard sale or other along the way we got this
old aluminum pressure canner, with instructions for use with coal or
wood stoves in addition to electric... The rubber seal is still
pliable and functional, the main thing that might doom the canner,
besides a clogged pressure valve, which might doom me...
I forgot to give the timer for the second kiln enough hours to complete
the process, so I had to refire it today, slowing down my glazing
schedule. In the afternoon I went into town shopping for things
including wood to make some new shelves for craft fairs. The old
ones required screwing together with a cordless drill, and took TIME,
always crucial when setting up for a show. The new design, common
with potters at fairs, resembles two ladders hinged to each other,
folding out to make a tripod to support one end of a display board.
I got one built today, mostly salvaging from the previous
supports. I have to make 5 more in the next couple days.
October 6 Another very nice warm day, spent working... Hmm, I see the problem...
While it would be good to goof off on days such as these, I was working
on the shelves again. Then we got a call that our last cord of
wood would be arriving shortly, which needs to pass through the very
part of the garage I was working on shelves. So I moved saws and
tools out of the way, and helped unload the pickup load of wood,
filling the center of the garage. Then I had to stack enough of
it so I could resume work on the shelves. By 6
I was tired, and suggested hot dogs on our backyard campfire for
supper. After supper the neighbors came over and we roasted
marshmallows and sang a few children's songs, so I guess there was a
bit of goofing off after all.
Today was a great day to work, since it drizzled continually. I
mixed glaze, fired two glaze kilns, and finished the shelves for the
craft fair, and packed everything ready to leave early on the morrow.
I've been thinking about how my little
business is a little speck floating on the larger economy. Last
month the stock market defied expectations and rose significantly.
Usually Septembers are a major slowdown from August, but this one
was very good for pottery sales. I'd prefer not to be subject to
the vagaries of the stock market, but everyone is somehow tied to it.
The boom -bust cycle which goes back a long ways, mimics the
life-death cycle of hunter and prey, or winter and summer. I wish
economists could do enough prescribing to keep the troughs higher and
the crazy manic peaks lower (like gold prices currently), but its
obvious no one is really controlling the world economy, some are just
bigger specks floating on it, able to make a few waves...
The bazaar in Sandpoint was a bit of a surprise--We were told we'd get
10 X 10 foot spaces, although I had my doubts when they sent a
map that had circles instead of squares on it. As it was, it was
lucky the next booth had 6 foot tables. Mine were 8 feet, and
abutted those tables. The actual space was close to 6 X 8 feet,
which would be 1/4 of the advertised area. It didn't really make
any difference in the end--except I'd sometimes have to crawl under my
shelves to get out. Sales were modest, but acceptable. The
community center is a lovely old log building with white chinking
between the dark stained logs. There was great food provided by
local Mennonites (I only had a raised donut, but the pies and soup
Sales at home topped the sales at the bazaar today, but the bazaar was
still reasonable. It's just a lot of effort to do these shows,
particularly if not driven to it by need... I
stayed home and picked tomatoes and prunes and watched football.
I did also fire a couple kilns, since the pots are pretty well backed
up... The weather was in the 60's and verging on moist, with a
moister forecast followed by a solid frost on Monday. It's time
for frost, but our grapes would like another week or two...
The frost finally hit last night. We gathered boxes of ripening
and green tomatoes. The frost was light enough to spare our
dahlias, with luck for another week. Our grapes need a couple
weeks without a hard frost. Over the weekend we
went to the symphony--one of Bach's Brandenburg concertos started it,
and the Firebird ended it, and I slept through Prokofiev's highly
chaotic piece. One of the reasons I'm reluctant to go listen to
the symphony is that a lot of it affects me that way. There are a
lot of classical pieces I'm very fond of (probably the same ones they
get tired of playing so they avoid). And there's nothing to beat
the dedication of classical musicians, who practice hours every day,
compared to my own playing around for an hour or two per week.
We got another cord of wood yesterday--we guessed we had enough, but
the wood supplier called with another load, so we took it. It's
better to be safe than sorry with wood supplies. We're also
shopping for a new fireplace insert for the blue cabin, to improve the
October 13 I got the new Phil Steen video up on fundraising http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcigTz7RfKE
I made the video in one take--Moby the cat is a totally instinctive
actor--can always tell where the action is (I changed his name in the
video to protect his identity). This morning I made mugs and
creamers and chip and dips. This afternoon I visited the
chiropractor again for a sore back, and arranged for the purchase of
the wood insert. This evening Jonathan and I practiced for the
bluegrass showcase this Saturday. Full day...
It was meeting day again--3 of them. Two were local Chamber and
Maine St. redevelopment meetings--new sidewalks, lights, benches, trees
for Maine St. if we get the grant... The other was the potter's
group--vital planning for our upcoming yearly sale, with only 3 in
attendance... But the basic work got done...
I also picked up an antique kiln that a Silver Valley Lion's club
wanted rid of. It's missing chunks of kiln brick and is seriously
old, and I'm not sure how best to get rid of it, besides the free
listings on Craigslist. I'll take a photo and give the potter's
group first crack at it. It was a nice day
outside, but I spent the morning assembling pots, and the rest of the
day and evening in meetings. That's more tolerable in January.
I was loading a bisque kiln today when I noticed the dozen batter bowls
I'd made earlier this week didn't have handles on them. A senior
moment... I might be more successful if I stuck to one thing,
like potting, but I like to have a lot of irons in the fire (not sure
whether for branding or ironing)... So today I had web page work for
both the pottery group and the folklore society, whose events are on
successive weekends in November. I worked on finishing the window
I started a week or two ago. And I may watch football or can
tomatoes tonight... (I wonder which one will win...)
No tomatoes canned yet... We had a nice performance at the
bluegrass showcase Saturday. It was a little chaotic at the
start, since the school was locked until shortly before I got there due
to a scheduling mixup, and we were scheduled to go first, but they
opened a school room for warm up so we wouldn't have to do that in the
hall.. The rest of the evening's entertainment were fun to watch
as well, including a group with 3 under-15 year old top fiddlers...
On Sunday we did church at Priest Lake again, and came home in mid
afternoon, taking advantage of the cool but bright day for a hike.
We started hearing a grating call, and then a flock of these
birds came right by us...
first I thought they were Canadian Jays, but then recalled one time
seeing a Clark's nutcracker at the top of our pine tree, many years
ago. So here was a flock, and this was my best photo. They
have a really obnoxious call, like a crow but more gravelly...
With the hard frosts, we cleared our grapes and apples away,
leaving only the potatoes, squash, and carrots to harvest. So we
let the chickens loose today. Before long they found the only
thing they could bother--our strawberry bed--where they rooted around a
lot. That's chickens for you. In the
afternoon I worked on making a couple outside water faucets so they
would drain outside the house and not freeze. I got about half
way done before I had to quit for Monday Night Football.
I finished the plumbing, including removing a sink in our garage that
we never used. I made about 60 pots this morning--there's a good
chance I'll run out of clay before a scheduled trip to Seattle next
month--I guess that will be a forced vacation...
A local business owner brought me a sample of some broken pottery found
near her store this morning. I knew it to be some goblets that
had S cracks in the middle of them, making them "Third Quality," which
I might otherwise just trash, but figure people might find a use for
such pots priced at $0.00... So a few little boys on bikes showed
up a while ago, wondering what we had that's free. That day one
of them said he wanted to get something for his mother's birthday, so I
picked a pot off the second table that hadn't been selling, and gave
him that one. The problem is, it's kind of like feeding cats
tuna--they always want more, and can get pretty obnoxious about it.
The kids were back twice since then, and last night I gave them
the goblets, which became litter... Our pottery display is easy
pickings for shop lifting, vandalism, etc., and young kids have
historically represented the biggest threat of that, so it's hard to
strike a balance between being nice to kids that wander by, and making
it clear to them that we're a business, not a free for all.
I was trying to get a lot of stuff done before leaving for a trip to
Minnesota. I took care of yesterday's pots, but left a kilnload
to glaze upon return. I pressure canned 11 quarts of tomatoes. I
spent time dithering about choices about the insert stove that we're
getting for the cabin. I still need to pack.
that odd way of airway ticketing, I started flying east to Minneapolis
by flying west to Seattle in a smaller commuter plane. It was a
clear day, and I always enjoy looking out the window, guessing at
landforms and cities. We flew right over this lake, which I used
to live by, 55 mile long Lake Chelan in the Cascade mountains of
Washington State. The towns of Chelan and Manson are on it, and
the prominent point towards the middle bottom is Wapato Point, housing
a reservation casino. I couldn't see the orchard area where we
used to live, farther up and around the bend... I
had a good visit with family in Northfield. My son and his wife
joined us for the weekend from the Chicago area. We walked along
the now sedate river where several weeks before it had flooded my
brother's and several other's businesses, and the Carleton college
athletic center and stadium. The day after I left to return home
a record wind storm swept the multi- state area, sparing
Northfield for the most part, where my family lives, but causing a lot
of other damage in other areas. The sedate college town of
Northfield used to have an unofficial motto of "the town of cows,
colleges, and contentment." In recent years, they had hailstones
large enough to destroy every roof and car exposed to it, and have had
several floods at various times of the year. So I suggested their
new motto should be "Cows, colleges, and catastrophes."
Oct. 28 The
day after I returned from Minnesota I got interviewed for a newspaper
article which is mostly supposed to promote our upcoming pottery sale.
The reporter asked that I write a statement about my "art."
So this is what I wrote:
I make pots in an ancient method that was displaced by the industrial
revolution--hand thrown on a potter's wheel. Every pot is slightly
different--every lid must be trimmed to fit--every glaze decoration
comes out slightly differently. The pots are made by hands for hands.
The handles are formed to the exact shape that is most comfortable to
thumb and fingers, since it the hand's shape that determines it.
Because they are made by hand, rather than by machines that can
churn out thousands, the results are valued for their scarcity as art if
they look and function well enough, Making things out of clay appeals
to our base instincts--the mudpie of childhood, slightly grown up.
People often comment on how therapeutic making pottery is. I don't
disagree with them in theory, but if it's therapeutic I must be the best
adjusted person on the planet, having made 100,000 pots over 35 years.
Unfortunately it's not guaranteed therapy--I've still got my issues ;-)
I'm in a group of clay people (CAGNI), all of them in it for
love--some of them like me actually making some money from their
avocation. All of them are capable of taking a piece of dirt and making
something that can touch a person's heart.
I'm also a musician, a cook, a gardener, photographer, and a writer,
and in all those endeavors it's the same thing--taking something
commonplace, and making it something beautiful, something that does
touch the heart. I prefer to sell my pots where there is a positive
feeling, including the setting and the entertainment, such as Art on the
Green, or the upcoming Fall Folk Festival at Spokane Community College,
or the CAGNI Mud and Spirits sale at the Jacklin Arts and Cultural
Center, where both my potter and my musical friends and myself reach out
to connect and share themselves with the people who come.
I can't design and build the clever next generation cell
phone--teams of very smart people have to do that. But I can make a mug
you will want to hold while you talk on your phone, or a platter you
might send off a picture of on your cell phone to a relative or
friend. Like the cell phone design, my pots are evolving--changing
over the years. I develop a new glaze, which leads to a new line of
decoration. A customer suggests I make a beer butt chicken cooker, and
after figuring out a process to make them that doesn't result in half of
them breaking in the firing, I have a new hot item my customers enjoy
sharing with their family and friends at Christmas.
One often hears that hardly anything is made in the US anymore, and
for many consumer items that seems true. But there is a push back to
that, which has become popular, of buying locally grown and produced
goods, which is good for reducing environmental costs as well as
improving quality. This is true of locally made pottery as well.
It's rained over an inch in the last week, plus a half inch today,
making yard work not likely... But there is inside work related
to the garden, such as making grape juice from our 3 gallons of grapes,
or sorting through the ripening tomatoes. I also used a few of
the tomatoes to make beef stew from some leftover steak. I finally finished the window installation today--we've had some potted plants looking forward to it.
It only misted instead of raining today, so I harvested carrots--6 feed
bags full, leaving about 1/3 in the ground to harvest in Winter or
Spring. This evening we went to see Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.
As they mentioned there was a reason the early Warner cartoons
were called Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes--music and animation were
a great combination. So the Spokane Symphony played the
arrangements made for a number of Bugs Bunny and other Warner cartoons,
which sounded a lot better than it ever did coming out of a TV screen.
Open Season by C J Box The
first Joe Pickett, Wyoming Game and Fish man. Gripping suspense
more than mystery, but well plotted and written. I like the rural
setting. Changes by Jim Butcher I'm
not sure if this one was the author tiring of some of his characters
like A.Conan Doyle did with Sherlock, but it was definitely a shake up
in the line up. As usual the action and suspense were great. Body Work by Sara Paretsky. It's
been a long run for the V I Warshawsky detective series. It
started before the age of cell phones, and now has texting and lots of
computer stuff and avantgarde art as its backdrop, as well as the
Middle East conflicts. I think I prefer some of the earlier ones,
but they're all worth reading. Scarface by Andre Norton (1948) Before
she became a grand master of Sci Fi, Andre dabbled in other formats,
such as this pirate yarn, quite conventional, along the lines of
Captain Blood. Adventures of a Cat Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater Aside
from his predictable fixation with food, Daniel's mind wanders far in
his imaginative novels, particularly this series beginning with the
Neddiad and the Yggysey. It's a very interesting universe, seldom
truly scary, but genuinely weird. Star Island by Carl Hiassen He
revives a couple of major character from previous books, both
wackos--one an environmental extremist--the other a weed wacker
wielding psychopath, and combines them with a sort of Prisoner of
Zenda story for the current age, focusing on a pop starlet and her
double. It was hard to find a sympathetic character in the
mess--there were a lot of ironically funny lines, but the story was
bleak. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher More a mystery than most of the series--who killed one of the White Council, and why? Nowhere to Run by C.J. Box A
new author for me--an Edgar mystery winner. I don't like it when
the police detective goes into a dangerous scene with no backup--not
realistic. But in the Joe Pickett novels, he's a Fish and Game
officer, and they actually do a lot of ticketing armed miscreants with
no backup. This is the first of the series I've read, so I didn't
necessarily follow a lot of the back story, but the main story was
rivetting. It managed to catch a bit of the current Zeitgeist of
political disillusionment. The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa
Uncle Scrooge rides again, but it's a young Scrooge, taking the
chances he made Donald take in his elder days! A sympathetic look
at the famous tightwad...