Tag Archives: Bigfork Montana

Pottery Travelogue: Montana Reminiscence

I was astounded by what I saw yesterday in Bigfork in the way of clay. Fantastic stuff; highly inventive. It’s been a week since we were in town sleuthing around, but my mother and I are slowly working our way up one side of the street and down the other. So far, I have permission to photograph work in a co-op gallery and am going to approach the people in another. Many competing interests at the moment, but I’m hoping I can talk to them because I want you to see photos. Montana-wide artists, most from areas nearby. I am going to Augusta this Thursday, en route to Great Falls, and in that iconic Montana town is a venue that sells tiles made by Michael Cohen, subject of a Smithsonian oral history interview I posted recently. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to go there to see his work. Can’t wait! I first heard of Augusta and nearby Choteau years ago when I lived in Missoula. Ripley Hugo had connections there that she told me about and, as I heard her describe it, I could tell it was the real Montana. That has all changed now, but Choteau still has the cachet of a Montanan’s Montana, despite celebrity residents. David Letterman lives there and since he moved in, there has been more media visibility. The same thing happened to Bigfork over the years. Celebrities in every nook and cranny. You’d never know it by the locals’ reactions. That’s why Clark Gable loved Montana. He could go to restaurants and bars and not be bugged by paparazzi or gawkers. He came up often to fly fish on Rock Creek, east of Missoula, where my grandfather fished with a fly line. Gable appreciated the fact that the populace didn’t make over him. It’s always been a hard life here, though, especially if you’re not rich. Now, it’s mainly a service economy, except for ranching and farming. Recreation, tourism and hospitality. Montana has a mythic quality in the minds of many and thousands of tourists go through Yellowstone, Glacier, etc. each spring, summer and fall. Not many people make it through the winters unless they can handle very cold weather. I was a grad student in Missoula during the winter of 1988-89. I will never forget it because the weather got down to – 90, with the wind chill factor. When the weather drops that low, celsius and fahrenheit are equal. It was so cold, ice formed on my glasses lenses when I walked outside. It was so windy, we students had to huddle together to move across campus because it was too windy for people to walk singly. These days, I have to laugh, because schools are closed in the Vancouver, B.C. area if one snowflake comes down. Not so in Montana. So, many people who fall in love with the area in the summer can’t make it through a winter. At -90, gas gels in car tanks. For some reason, my little Datsun B-210 always started that winter. I did have an engine block heater, but that can’t account for it 100%. Journalism students had to cover the city council meetings and I remember literally boating across the snow to make it downtown from the U District. We lived in a heritage home that had been renovated, but the wind from Hellgate Canyon was so strong, we had to nail a wool blanket on the inside of the door frame. Despite the closed door, we’d still find a mini-snowdrift on the floor behind the blanket in the morning. Enough reminiscing, though. Here we are, on Flathead Lake. My mom and I watched mother woodpecker peck two mullein stalks this morning and, during lunch, we saw a hummingbirds are resting and supping from the feeder hanging from the deck. I’ve named this year’s pine squirrel “Scout” and he’s often seen scooting across the deck with cones bigger than his little noggin…

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Pottery Travelogue: Western Montana

Northwest Montana

Glacier Park Montana, by Monte Dolack

As I write, I am looking out over Flathead Lake, the largest lake west of the Mississippi River and what really amounts to an inland sea, like the Great Lakes. The moon is waxing and last night the reflection over the water ripples made the world look very serene…. Yesterday afternoon, Mom and I made a quick run into Bigfork to do a little grocery shopping and, while we were there, we took in  a few shops and galleries. Bigfork is a wee village of 7,500 and, while it has become touristy, it’s still a gem. Western Montana has a high percentage of writers and artists and the village has a number of galleries that represent Montana artists. I like to take in the exhibit at the local art museum and, currently, “Treasure State Remnants: Ghost Towns of Montana” is showing. The exhibition, which runs through August 27th, “contains 42 framed images that are accompanied with text explaining the demise of many of the towns in Montana as part of the ‘boom and bust’ time in the west.” The museum was closed yesterday, but I hope to see the show this week. I especially want to see images of Garnet, one of my favorite ghost towns. Missoula artist, Monte Dolack, has done a fine rendition called “Garnet Ghost Town.” My favorite gallery in Bigfork is Bjorge’s. Another destination visit is Art Fusion, where there is always something new and pleasing. Western motifs aplenty,

Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park

landscapes, animals, but plenty more, too. We went to a co-op gallery, yesterday and I am going back to take photos to post this week. Saw some amazing raku, zany plaques, plus unique raven sculptures. Stay tuned… Tomorrow, we’re going to go hiking in the Montana side of Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. One of my favorite areas is glacial blue Iceberg Lake which is right up against the Continental Divide. Astoundingly dramatic!

Garden Wall, Glacier National Park. Source: Wikimedia Commons


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Open Studio Report: 8/2

"Sheaf of Wheat," Tile Master, Shino glaze

It was a fine day…warm enough to prop open the studio door. Joan and Nan are on holiday, so Gary, Otto, Pauline, Sylvia and I enjoyed each other’s company. Soon the gals will return and Pauline and I will leave. (Pauline is going to Paris!) Mark and I will be picking up my Mom en route to Bigfork, Montana, where we will spend the last of our holiday time with my in-laws. During that two-week period, I will be blogging about ceramics action in Big Sky country. Back to the studio, though. I am happy today because my “Sheaf of Wheat” tile is finally finished. After the tile was bisqued, I coated it with white underglaze, then poured Shino over it. It looks like wheat on a bright summer day! Same treatment on a “Trees” tile, which made it look like High Summer. I have molded “Wheat” and will be making thicker and thinner versions of it. Next time, I am going to write on the sides. Poetry, separate words, or prose. Cursive writing …maybe something about the goddess Ceres/Demeter. I see red wheat and a soft, spring green version, too.

Israeli wheat field. Source: Wikimedia Commons

What else did I do today? Think, think. I continued experimenting with the tube-lining or cuenca technique. Over the weekend, I made the outline of a Dard Hunter rose with terracotta slip on a 4×4 white clay tile.  Made the slip and used an old agave squeeze bottle. The slip was thick enough but the bottle was hard on my hands. Today, I experimented on a 6×6 white tile. Pauline showed me how to darken black slip with black underglaze,

"High Summer," Shino glaze over white underglaze

then thicken it with a few grains of epsom salts. Worked like a charm! Using a smaller squeeze bottle, I was soon making an outline that I will eventually fill with glaze and glass. I’m aiming for a stained glass effect. Once I have it down, I’ll experiment with Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts motifs. I can thicken any slip this way, but I want to stick tube-line with black at first. A chocolate-brown would be nice, too. It is painstaking work and Otto kept saying, breathe, breathe! Sure enough, I was holding my breath while concentrating. Steady hand… Since I won’t be back in the studio for almost three weeks, I tidied up in the damp room. I will have my work cut out for me when I get back, with many things to bisque and glaze. By 12:30 p.m., we were seated on the terrace of a nearby restaurant and we dined in the warm summer air; it was lovely. I noticed that almost all the snow has melted off the mountains beyond the North Shore. There was a nice breeze and trees framed the second-floor terrace. Ah, summer….


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