Every Friday at Noon, through the month of October, a group of artists, downtown workers on their lunch breaks, kids from the Urban Explorers (and anyone we can pull off the street and hand a piece of chalk to) gather at Frost Park at 9th and Pacific to create public art, build community and socialize.
You don’t need any experience. Heck, you don’t even need chalk, we always have chalk to share!
All levels welcome and encouraged to attend.
The sidewalks are clean after this morning’s rain, and are a blank canvass just waiting for you!
Dia De Los Muertos, translates to Day of the Dead.
Once a little known (to us) observance celebrated in Mexico and Latin America, it has become more prevalent in our society, the predominant culture of which is taught to fear death and the dead.
The closest festival that those of us with Northern European/Gaelic/Celtic ancestry once had is Samhain, which was eventually assimilated by our culture and turned into the modern Halloween which has nothing to do with honoring our ancestors and departed loved ones and everything to do with commercial profit.
Sadly, this is beginning to happen to Dia De Los Muertos as is evidenced by incredibly tacky Halloween costumes on sale, and other misappropriations.
Make no mistake, Dia De Los Muertos is not “Mexican Halloween” just like Cinco De Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day” (it commemorates the battle of Pueblo and achieving victory over French forces against all odds, but that’s a conversation for another day) nor is it about drinking tequila until you puke.
This Huffington Post article speaks to appropriation and misrepresentation of the observance, so rather than wax poetic from upon my soapbox, I shall link it here.
While appropriation and colonization are very real and serious issues based in devaluing and disrespecting other cultures, the United States has always been known as the “Great American Melting Pot” in which many generations of immigrants from different cultures brought some of their own traditions.
We can learn a lot from other cultures and regain some of the connections to the earth and our ancestors we lost when we all melded into a homogenous culture if we approach it with respect and a desire to learn.
This short video explains the basics of the observance…
Today, an example of respectful learning and celebration occurred at the Tacoma Art Museum for Dia De Los Muertos.
A colorful event that included education, entertainment, music, activities for children and sacred spaces created for departed loves ones drew people from all over Tacoma and beyond in the spirit of community.
Offerendas (altars built to honor departed loves ones and ancestors) lined hallways on multiple levels of the museum. Filled with photographs, decorations, memorabilia and often, written explanations about the symbolism and people involved were lovingly built by individuals, families and community groups who took workshops to understand their significance so that they could be created out of love and respect.
I spoke with a Latina woman who was laying out a lovely offerenda she was decorating with feather headdresses, photographs and items of significance or that were favorite things of her departed loved ones. She told me about her father who had passed only one year ago, and her grandmother and aunt. She sadly told of how quickly “the cancer” took one of her relatives and smiled sharing fond memories others.
I then spoke with a Chinese American woman who wanted to take my photograph since I was in costume and we shared stories of observances in our own pre-United States cultures (in my case, Irish) that were similar to Dia De Los Muertos,
I saw people of all ages, classes, cultures and ethnicities come together to learn, share and remember their departed loves one who live in our hearts and stories. I watched people of diverse political leanings learn about another culture at a deeper and more personal level than before. I witnessed healing.
If you didn’t make it this year, you need to put it on your calendar for next year. I certainly hope that the museum will continue to provide this amazing, free event to the community.
There is still time to “get your dead on”. Tonight, on 6th Avenue there is a Dia De Los Muertos
Doors will open at the Studio 6 Ballroom Event space, 2610 6th Avenue, at 4:00 PM for face painting, creating and local vendor setup.
At 6:00 PM a procession will move down 6th Ave, many participants carrying paper mache figures they created in workshops.
At 7:00 PM, there will be live music, celebration and activities back at the event space lasting until 9:00 PM.
Come join your community and departed loves ones, for death is not to be feared, it is part of life and the end, is just the beginning.
I leave you with a charming short film showing a little girl discovering Dia De Los Muertos
For those of you who are local, please consider stopping by this Sunday, October 12th, between 11 am and 5 pm to visit me in my dungeon…. errr… basement studio as part of the Tacoma Arts Month Studio Tour.
*if you are also an artist on the tour who is open on Sunday, stop by afterwards for a bit of decompression, I’ll be around and would love to see you!.
In order to lure as many folks in as possible, I shall be providing wine, cheese and appetizers.
Here’s the map/list of studios… (I’m # 29) There are 61 artists on the tour (some are in co-ops/shared studio spaces).
In other news after all of the crisis, illness, injury, chaos and near disaster of the last year, I’ve had an insanely busy summer filled with performances, art shows, (and when I could get away) hiking, backpacking and enjoying this glorious and highly unusual summer, so now I’m spending every waking moment after work trying to get the house/yard/studio in order before Sunday. (Yikes, I lost control of everything)
I’m finally getting a break in performances and contract work (after the layoff, I REALLY needed the extra money)
My next bellydance performance is at the Urban Onion in Olympia WA on November 10th for the Beats Euphorium Show (7 pm – 9 pm)
My next confirmed fire show is, of course, First Night in Tacoma on New Year’s Eve. It will be another fabulous and fiery New Year.
I’m also finally releasing a photography book (hopefully in time to order for the holidays) which will also contain original poetry I wrote for the August Poetry Postcard Project,titled “Postcards from the Mountain”
I know it’s been a while, but life’s been complicated with a new “day job” I started last week, a heavy performance schedule and some other non-pottery related business and legal complications which I am still trying to get sorted. (let it suffice to say that being a “phoenix” sounds pretty cool, but one grows weary of the smell of singed tail feathers)
But on to the fun stuff! (including finishing up the last of the rewards for those of you who said, “no hurry”)
The bales and silk cords for the pendants are in, as are the magnet backings.
I’ve been working on refining and working out new techniques for glazing. My love of highly reactive, gooey, melty glazes makes designs challenging, but each new firing brings new knowledge and ideas.
I’ve been working on refining and working out new techniques for glazing. My love of highly reactive, gooey, melty glazes makes designs challenging, but each new firing brings new knowledge and ideas.
On to the exciting news!
I’ve been accepted as a featured artist for the Stadium Art and Wine Walk on Saturday August 9th.
The event runs from 4 – 8:00 PM. If you’re local, or visiting you should plan on participating; it’s a fabulous event in a great historic neighborhood. (and there’s wine and food)
I’ve been catching up after the illness, injury and basement flooding and am getting some pretty cool results from my glaze and design experiments…
I finally have a Phoenix design (which several of you have requested) that works with even my gooiest, drippiest, most delicious glazes…
I have a few others come out nicely as well…
Of course, the process is not without mishaps… (this is what happens when you try to rush firing)
For those who don’t already have their rewards, I have two sheets of designs for you to peruse and request (those of you have requested smaller items such as pendants, may want to get something a bit bigger :)… I will be putting together a third sheet later today and getting all of them posted to the website at Phoenix Rising Pottery Studio
For those who are local, some of my work will be on display and for sale at Throwing Mud Gallery in Old Town Tacoma tonight and tomorrow (Saturday)
There is an artist reception tonight (Friday) from 5-7 PM. (there will be wine, beer and appetizers) where you can see the work of 80 amazing artists and meet many of them, including Mark Hudak’s student artists.
Last week, I took a big step in my glass blowing.
Since I have a break between classes and don’t want to get rusty, I was able to talk a friend of mine into renting some hot shop time with me.
Michael is way more experienced than I am; but he is out of practice, so it was helpful for both of us. Sonia joined us and ran doors and served as “creative consultant” (which basically means that she tells Michael what to make and he makes it 😉
So let’s get the “blowing” jokes out of the way.
Here is Michael blowing for me.
and here I am blowing for Michael
The expected/obvious jokes were posted to Facebook from the hot shop.
Working with someone more experienced is super helpful (and it helped Michael to talk me through things he’d recently been refreshed on) but it’s not the same as having an instructor.
Something one doesn’t have to do in beginning glass blowing classes is “play catch” and then put glass in the annealer.
I suited up in the hot shop sweatshirt (with hood over my hair) a welders style face mask and big, fat asbestos gloves to gently cradle/catch Micheal’s first piece when he broke it off the pipe. Then I had to get it into the annealer as fast I could so that it would not crack. When trying to load the far back, I heard a sizzle. Just enough of my hair was poking out the side of the hoodie to burn.
Added to the list of “weird things overheard at the hot shop” we can add, “You smell bad” (referring to the stench of burnt hair) which was spoken to me as I was working the furnace door while Michael was gathering.
At the furnace, another classic line was uttered, “Don’t just stand there and watch me strip, close the door, you’re cooking me here.” I was watching with great fascination while extra molten glass was stripped off the blow pipe into the bucket and slacked on shutting the door after the pipe was pulled out.
The first pipe we grabbed was plugged as I tried three times to get a decent bubble, Michael tried several times, and even Jake took a shot at it. We just decided to get a new gather and start over. At least it wasn’t me being a loser. Blowing and capping takes time to do well, and I’m still really new.
We both do puntys differently, I like them hot and pointy, and he likes them shorter, blunter and cooler. Since the punty maker is responsible for the safety of the blowers piece as it’s broken off the pipe, I did it the way he wanted it done as I do not want to be responsible for dropping someone else’s work.
I tend to want to heat the glass more than he does. My first two pieces were easier to cut the jack lines into because I heated them up the way I like them, I had a very difficult time with the 4th piece (the 3rd one imploded because I didn’t cool the end well enough and it blew out too thin) because I pulled it out of the furnace sooner than I would have liked based on his advice.
This is where moving from student to artist is tricky; I need to listen to and learn from those who are more experienced, but I also need to learn when to do things the way that work best for me, like heating to the level I find easy to work with, and to say things like “Get your lips off my pipe buddy” (another now classic line) uttered when he was going to be helpful and blow my bubble for me 😉
I managed to get three pieces out of the evening, an ornament (a great practice piece), a bowl and a wavy bowl.
I’m really happy with the wavy bowl and the way my swirl turned out (I used the optic mold)
I’m surprised how deep this color was (now that I’m no longer a beginner student with color provided, so I had to run up to Gaffer USA to buy color and I got a sample pack)
I did have to grind the bottom of the blue bowl a bit to get it to sit flat
The ornament ended up a little oddly shaped as I blew it too thin and then flashed it too hot; but it was salvageable.
It was quite the adventure and learning experience.
I’ve been having a blast at both Throwing Mud Gallery and in my home studio working on my pottery.
I’ve grown a bit weary of throwing bowls, although I will have more fun when decorating my home thrown ones with brushed glaze rather than the dipped glaze at the studio. (hey, guess what a lot of you are getting for the holidays?)
so I’ve been adding mugs to the mix. Mugs require throwing a cylinder which is a slightly different teqhnique.
The handles have been a challenge; cutting to the right length, shaping, decorating, attaching so that they don’t crack, go limp or fall off…
My first handles were pretty amateurish, but I’m feeling pretty good about a couple of them that I put on today, especially the one on this pitcher.
Pitchers… Oh, yeah… I’ve been throwing pitchers… Here’s one that came out of the kiln today as well as one that was practice for throwing bottles, it actually makes a lovely bud vase for a large flower with a short stem.
I got a wild hair the other day, and decided that I wanted to start throwing goblets. Goblets are one of the most difficult things to throw.
There are several different methods, and they can be thrown in one or two pieces. Proponents of each method have their own arguments why one is better than the other.
For example, a one piece goblet does not need to be joined, has no unsightly seam, does not require dry time to complete, has a nice heavy base so the goblet doesn’t tip over when filled.
A two piece goblet is less squirrelly to throw, has a thinner more elegant stem that is hollow so it won’t explode in the kiln if any moisture is left in it like a solid stem often does.
There are more, but you get the idea…
I came home from work the other day and decided that instead of cleaning my house or working in my yard, that I wanted to play with clay, so I decided to throw a one piece goblet.
I followed instructions that I had read seen, got a nice sturdy base and a well shaped cup. I didn’t care for the shortness/thickness of the stem, so I started working it up and thinner.
That’s when the cup portion fell off center and started to wobble. As I got it back on center and reshaped it, it finally collapsed, and this is what I ended up with. Goblet fail.
I went into the studio today to work (I’m still taking lessons ,which include one studio session each week) and told Mark about my goblet fail.
I was waiting for the oft uttered “You need to learn to walk before you run” instructor speech, but instead, he went to his work area, and showed me three different methods of goblet construction: one piece (the one I tried) two piece throwing the stem off the hump, and the two piece method he uses.
It was a super great help, so after I got my handle attaching, trimming and glazing done on my other projects, I sat down and tried it. One thing that really appealed to me, is that this method is similar to the way glass goblets are blown.
I’m pretty excited about what I ended up with. If the trimming and connecting goes well, I should have goblet win instead of goblet fail.
Goblet win would be awesome, as I’ve already got people lined up wanting me to do commission work.
Just for fun, I shot a video of the first stages of throwing a pot (controlling, coning/centering, opening, compression/control, and the first three pulls). I totally screwed up four pots (stage/camera fright?) but finally got one to stay together for the video. (I had a blast choosing the music to go with it)
Oh, and this is the pot once it was finished.
Next time, I hope to have shots of the goblet all put together, trimmed and glazed.
An adventure with a group of friends, doing something I always thought was cool (in a hot kind of way) just before I was getting ready to head in to surgery.
We went to the Tacoma Glass Blowing Studio for the “Glass Blowing Experience” which is working in pairs, one on one with a glass blowing instructor to create a piece of art glass.
You get to do a lot of it yourself, but the instructors help you with the really difficult parts so that you actually get a piece you want to take home.
It is fascinating the way the glass melts, changes, takes color and can be manipulated into different shapes/color patterns.
I came home with this bowl (Jake did the rim)
After that, I was hooked and signed up for the two day workshop. My partner Bruce and I made several items and worked much more independently,but still had some help with the super hard bits or if we got into trouble (for example, when spinning open a bowl the rim can get pretty crazy if you turn the pipe too quickly) The glass was still fascinating.
I came home with several awesome things, including this jellyfish paperweight; I chose the colors specifically and pinched up the top to make it look like the Portuguese Man O’ War that terrorized our beaches where I grew up during the warm El Nino currents. Brian helped me with this one.
After that, I decided to take the six week course, which meant that I’d have to switch up my bellydance classes from Tuesday night in Tacoma to Sunday afternoons in Seattle, but it was worth it. At this point, my partner Justine (who had also done the experience and two day workshops) and I were working almost entirely independently, Billy was our instructor and while he was there to guide us, we learned a lot by doing it ourselves.
We also made mistakes and more than one piece either imploded in the furnace or fell off a cold punty. (two pieces that dropped were actually salvaged by a fast moving Billy with a hot was of glass on a punty pipe.)
For those who do not know what a “punty” is, it’s a cone of hot glass on a smaller pipe that the piece is passed off of the blow pipe to. The punty must be as perfectly centered as possible and just the right temperature to allow it to adhere well to the bottom of the piece before it is broken off of the blow pipe (the end that was on the blow pipe is then the new “top” that is opened up.)
We also did a couple more floats to practice designs and an ornament to practice blowing the bubbles…
this is the first bowl I blew with no help at all. It’s not perfect, but I did it all by myself 🙂
and these were my first cylinders.
I learned a LOT from the mistakes such as the need to flash big pieces more often and to torch the punty/moil so that it doesn’t get cold, crack and blow the piece)
For example this lovely vase that I was really excited about (which was on the punty not the blow pipe) blew off when the moil on the punty got cold and cracked. Our instructor tired to save it, but alas, it imploded in the furnace. (notice that I loved coming to glass blowing class in the same pants I wore to ceramics class) it’s amazing that I never baked them hard by standing so close to the 2200 degree furnace.
I desperately wanted to take home a vase I had made entirely myself, so I was able to work very quickly and blow this one in a little over 20 minutes. No, it wasn’t as good as the first one, but it survived the process and I made it entirely myself with no one else touching it (well except passing it from the pipe to the punty)
Six weeks after we began, Justine and I “graduated” after blowing our first plates and doing another cylinder because they are fun. (Billy hummed Pomp and Circumstance for us)
So yeah, I’m hooked, and will be starting intermediate classes in July and helping some friends with production work 🙂
and I’m no longer a “beginner” glass blower (but I will always be a student and be learning)
I’ve been wanting one ever since college; which was [cough] a long time ago.
After getting settled into my house where I finally have room (a great basement and a detached garage for future expansion) I started checking craigslist for used kilns and potters wheels every few weeks. They were all either too expensive or too far away.
I finally got lucky and found a small old Duncan kiln that would plug into regular household current (didn’t have time or energy to wire up 220 in the basement) and an old ( and virtually indestructible) Shimpoo RK-2 potters wheel just across the bridge.
Before I committed to the sale, I checked around and discovered that Paragon, who purchased Duncan had the manuals online for download and still sold parts, so that sealed the deal.
Although my manual was not available online, I emailed Paragon and was sent the correct manual for my kiln. That’s pretty awesome customer service!
My dance friend Jason rode out with me to pick them up and helped me schlep them into the basement.
I decided that I didn’t want to develop bad habits on the wheel since it had been so long since I had used one, so I signed up for classes at Throwing Mud Gallery and it didn’t take too long to get the feel for it again.
Once I was confident that I knew what I was doing again, I started playing on the wheel.
I threw what I thought was a decent bowl and got it trimmed up.
Firing an old manual kiln takes work, calculations, practice and more than a bit of luck…
There is no computer to ramp up, hold or cool down so you must pay attention. It has a kiln sitter which holds a pyrometric cone or bar designs to melt as certain fireing temperatures known as “cones”. If adjusted properly, when the bar or cone melts a lever drops which shuts the kiln off. There is also a safety timer which will shut the kiln off after a certain amount of time in case the kiln sitter does not work.
Here’s a shot of the kiln sitter from inside the kiln.
and after a firing to cone.
With the timer set, the cone in the kiln sitter and my first home made creation inside, it was time to fire up the kiln.
The next morning I was super excited to see what I would find.
I found one blown up pot. The bottom was blown off and what was left was in tiny pieces. It must have been an impressive explosion.
At least when I mess up, I do it big.
Of course, we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. I learned several things from this.
First, make certain that the pot is bone dry, or candle it first (fire on low setting with lid propped open to dry it out, which will wear the kiln elements out early).
Next, ramp up the heat very slowly. (kind of a pain with a manual kiln, but better than having to vacuum up pottery shards.
After doing some reading and talking to Mark at Throwing Mud, I threw another pot, dried it fully and tried again with a slow, three stage ramp up.
This time it was SUCCESS!
I got a lovely, bisque fired pot ready to be glazed.
and more ready to go in for the next firing once they are trimmed up…
I really didn’t want to mess up the glaze firing, so I was very careful with my ramp up and cool down.
The next morning, I discovered an intact glazed pot 🙂
I did a little happy dance after that.
This pot is under fired which is no biggie, I can just refire it. What would have been bad would have been blowing it up, or melting it to the shelf.
My little ancient Craigslist kiln will fire some glazes to perfection, but just doesn’t have quite enough ooomph for high fire glazes, the only ones which are certified food safe. Since I want to create functional art, I want my plates/bowls/bottles to be food safe.
So I got an awesome deal on this Paragon Xpress 1193 High Fire Kiln (aka “My Precious”)
This means that I can use my cute little Craigslist Duncan kiln for bisque firing and the Paragon for glaze firing. Just like a “real” studio.
Soon, I will be able to turn out things like this at home (although I’ll still do some studio time at Throwing Mud because I like everyone there 🙂
If you need me, I’ll be down in my basement in my studio.
Oh, how wonderful it is to be able to say that after all these years.