Tag Archives: friendship

Open Studio Update

The Washbrook Lane Snowdrops This has been a very busy week folks and while I’m keeping to my MWF schedule, I’m publishing posts later than usual. Please bear with me… I am always thankful for your readership. This week, had to be businesslike and tell my friends I wouldn’t be able to join them at the local restaurant on Open Studio days for a whole month. Naturally, I will miss the socializing, but am finding that after I break for lunch and visiting, my brain goes in siesta mode. At the present, I feel very focused and must stay focused. It appeared that we were all quite busy yesterday. Nan was working with underglaze is on slabs. Otto was staining the bust of the man smoking a cigar and trying to figure out what to do with the base it sits upon, to make it light or dark. Dan had made up some beautiful new glazes and unearthed and reconstituted some old ones. I used some of the latter and Pauline suggested I use one of the new variegated glazes on some of my tiles. As she was talking, she was trying to figure out which glazes she would use on Crocus tommasinianus LC0031 a bisqued soft box she’d made. Three of Joan’s black animal miniatures turned out perfectly… a manganese glaze that looks metallic. Speaking of metallic, Gary glazed one of his big horses in bronze and it looks fantastic. A real wowza piece! No camera this week, but I’ll take photos next time. As for myself, I have been keeping to an ambitious schedule, working long hours in both the studio and at home. It has taken me time to hit my stride, as far as a production schedule goes, and I won’t be letting up anytime soon. Aside from producing a lot of work, I find such intense contact with clay is very stress relieving and grounding. It’s also healthy! Wedging and working clay is physically active and I felt like I’d engaged in quite the aerobic tilemaking the other day…I kid you not! At present, I continue to build my inventory, only now it is becoming quite apparent. (Jan pats herself on the back.) I took one step further today by signing up for the local art walk. As I told my husband last evening, I remember when we’d attended an art walk in Bellingham, Washington years ago… must’ve been in the early 1990s. Back then, I never would have dreamt that my work would eventually be exhibited in such an event and I don’t mind saying so. It was a time when I was not as fully connected with my art as I had been, what with immigration and a new career. I did do some throwing during those years, but nothing consistent. Later, as I attended art walks in my locale and appreciated people’s work, I always felt a little tug on theJonquil up close heartstrings when I saw clay work. The feeling was most notable last year, when I thought, gee whiz, I could do this… And, this year, it will be a dream come true. Three neighboring cities come together for this event: ArtsConnect’s ArtWalk. Today was the deadline for applying and I dashed down to the arts centre with my application and check. While there, I checked to see if my pendants were out of the kiln… no, not yet…but I brought home 10 completed Snowfall tiles. Yesterday, I also finished five Sunrise tiles, placed 10 from my new series in the bisque area, and began finish work on five Sheaf of Wheat tiles. Tomorrow, I’ll go pick up the glazed pendants and think about jewelry findings. I have a Creativity Group workshop to conduct on the 25th and must be ready for it. All in all, a mighty productive time and soon it will be full-on spring. I already have lettuce and radishes coming up in my little greenhouse!

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Tea for three

Yesterday, I had a lovely time in Vancouver having Afternoon Tea with two friends. Jennifer took Tamina and I to Urban Tea on Georgia Street in Vancouver. It is a beautiful tea room, windowed on the south side. The staff is genteel, the tea list extensive, and the tiny morsels that accompanied it delicious. It brought to mind Laura Childs‘ tea shop mysteries which are a fun read on rainy days. Death by Darjeeling, the English Breakfast Murder, and Chamomile Mourning, to name a few. Set in Charleston, South Carolina, the protagonist, Theodosia Browning, exposed me to conversation about tea that seemed more like talk about wine. I had not known there were so many particulars. But, today, for instance, the tea sommelier showed me their gold tip Assam before I left, explaining the initials that mean it is the best possible tea of this variety. I did not know there was such a system but I do know how to appreciate a good cup of tea. I learned to drink Assamese tea in the mid-1970s…strong and served with cream and sugar. I fell in love with it and have sought it ever since. I have a treasured tea tin from Harrod’s, which my mother brought me from London. Tea is in vogue, once again, though I don’t know if it will ever eclipse coffee or the Starbucks invasion. In the 1990s, my father-in-law and I used to banter about which had more caffeine or black tea. I don’t think I will ever know and I’ve seen articles which support both positions.  Along with tea, of course, comes the serving implements. I have a lustrous brown ceramic teapot I bought at Saks Fifth Avenue in Florida but, as much as I like it, it drips. I don’t know how to prevent it in making a teapot, but it makes a big difference, especially if one is using a freshly laundered tablecloth. Two days ago, at Caffe Divano, I had a lovely Yunnan tea, smoky and rich, served in a little black pot with a metal mesh insert for loose tea. It was the perfect tea after walking four miles. Teapots are originally from China and the first ones were quite small. “The Chinese historically drank the tea directly from the spout,” according to the Wikipedia entry for teapots. “The size reflects the importance of serving small portions each time so that the flavours can be better concentrated, controlled and then repeated.” There are a number of sites focusing on tea, including that of the United Kingdom Tea Council. Or you can listen to an excellent audio program by the BBC called “Tea: in our time.” Now that I have experienced Afternoon Tea, it’s time for High Tea. Perhaps at the Secret Garden?

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice very earnestly. “I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.” — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll

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An energy shift in the clay studio

When someone leaves, they take their energy with them. Sure, there may be a trace after they leave, but it’s never the same again. So it is with my friend Gale as she leaves our Open Studio. She’s moving to Vancouver Island, not that far away, but further than an easy drive to the art centre. A fine painter and maker of clayscapes, she’s a talented woman.

I will miss her during our Open Studio Tuesdays and lunches downtown. She taught me to listen to and hear the understatement and subtlety of Scottish witticisms. I’m sad to see her go, especially since we only recently recognized the extent to which we got along and enjoyed each other’s company. It hasn’t been easy for me to make friends in Canada. But Gale was from ‘somewhere’s else’ and that commonality spanned any divides. I’ve enjoyed our walks along Rocky Point and the cuppa that waited for us at the end of the trail.

Gale welcomed me to her home for a proper cup of tea served with accompaniments on the dining table built by her husband’s father, or was it grandfather? A massive, dark, Arts & Crafts style table from the birthplace of the style. She showed me the massive brass tea scales, her father’s trade, polished to perfection.

Gale taught me a few things, too. I learned that my stereotyped notions of the Scottish are incorrect…that it is not a country of homogenous peoples and that Glaswegians come in every stripe. That the dialect of the Highlander is soft and soft-spoken. Also that one might move to the Highlands but will never shed the label of outsider. Also that a man’s kilt isn’t nearly as expensive as the sporran that adorns it….

One of the most important things Gale taught me is to not feel bad about my heritage. Putting down the United States or Americans is a Canadian national pastime. While I’ve become a naturalized citizen, I’ve had to stomach much prejudice since I arrived 20 years ago. She reminded me that the U.S. has many high points…the people are friendly…it’s the birthplace of jazz and of many literary figures, along with artists and thinkers. Her message is, in fact, that much of it is good. It was refreshing to hear. While I, myself, utter my fair share of criticism about my birthplace, the bashing by others here can get old…and boring.

Lawrence, Gale’s husband can only be described as a Scottish leprechaun. It’s been a long time since I’ve been held in stitches by a master storyteller. He is that but, even more so, a sailor. He’s sailed since the age of four. Yes, four. Today, during lunch, I listened to talk about shimmying up masts and following winds…. Some time ago, Lawrence and Gale sold their house and bought a sailing yacht. When I heard that, I thought, perfect…people who actually followed their bliss. Soon, they’ll spend their time on the Strait of Georgia when they’re not on land. They’ve traded in the hectic pace of the Lower Mainland for Island Time. The slide show below is of pics taken during one of our walks along the waterfront here. I wish them all the luck and Godspeed.

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Clay, ceramics, and camaradery

It was so wonderful today to be in the company of five friends with whom I have worked in the clay studio for some time. I had not seen them for one month and two days! Many studies and stats point to the importance of a good social/support network. People with a rich life benefit in many ways…they have lower incidents of heart attacks and cancer, they are happier and more well-adjusted.  Their outlook on life is more positive.  Aside from the act of working in clay and benefits derived from the creative process, the chance to work with a set of people over time is something special and not to be taken for granted. It was great to see them all today and we had a good, old time telling stories, swapping yarns, hearing about how each of us is doing and what we’re doing. Plus, the very act of breaking bread together has much to be said for itself. It’s a tribal act and a bunch of people who regularly meet for lunch are doing much more than just being in each other’s company. They are sharing a primal act. In our case, smile, much of what we order is shared, whether we’re splitting appetizers or an order. Taking sharing another step! It is all a very bonding experience. If this were men who had read Robert Bly, I would expect to hear drum beats and whoops in the background…” male bonding.” Instead, we meet in a pub on the main street of a small town.  (No, we don’t drink our lunch!) Some time last year, the pub was sold and the management changed.  Well, we didn’t much like the changes we saw and, in terms of new policies and treatment toward employees, we all decided to look for a different place to meet.  Over a number of weeks, we sampled different restaurants, looking for one that met our needs.  It had to be within walking distance.  It had to have decent food.  Prices had to be reasonable.  It had to be able to accommodate a large party of up to 13 or 14, at times.  Today, it was just the core group, six of us; however, the numbers are flexible and there are often more around the table.  The three restaurants we tried were a bust. The first didn’t really have its act together for such a large party and the ambience wasn’t that great.  The second place was comfortable, if kitschy, but pricey.  The last-place was a café art gallery combination that seemed promising, at first.  However, after we ate, we talked with the owner for a moment, telling him who we were and, and to our surprise, he immediately started acting arrogant and being critical of the art scene here. Then, he quickly went on to assure us that to he could not represent any of us because his clients were sewn up.  He continued, saying that galleries were closing right and left and on and on….  We all looked at each other in amazement.  All we had done was to be friendly and let him know we were from the Arts Centre two blocks away. So, after that, we didn’t much feel like going back there, either. We deliberated.  Discussing other restaurants, some notorious dives, some not so good, and we ended up making a decision: to go back to our original haunt and take it for what it was worth. That’s what we did. Patronage had fallen off markedly. What had once been a bustling pub, full of people, was now a big cavern with people at only several tables. Well, as far as our little company goes, it means excellent service, since we’re practically the only ones there, good seats, because we can sit anywhere we’d like. In addition, it met all of our other criteria. So, we are back where we started. Throughout the year, week after week, Tuesdays from 1-3 p.m, you would all be able to find us at this little pub. There’s something very comforting about that fact. Continuity. Familiarity. Friendship. And breaking bread.

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