Monday, August 30, 2010

TJ's German Adventure Part 3

When Susanne and I returned from Höer-Grenzhausin, after unloading the new clay, our work began to make the last new pieces for the firing. We shuffled pots in and out of the studio to let them quickly dry in the sparse sunshine (she assures me that this cold and rainy weather is not typical German summer). Pots were progressing through the process, and we were almost ready to switch the studio from wet work to glaze work, when Fritz arrived again...on his way to deliver some 200 liter jars for homeopathic medicine to Switzerland, on the shore of Lake Constance. With all the prep work to be done it was no easy task to abandon ship the next day. But, hey when else would I get to see that on this trip, right? 

Well I again was reminded how small Europe can be, and two hours later we were at the port of entry. Border control is not so stringent and there was not even the mention to look at passports, so now I will have to go back if only to get a stamp. The company the pots were being delivered to was closed for the mid-day meal and with no better alternative we were forced to walk around Lake Constance and hang out on the beach for a while. It was difficult, as I am sure you can imagine, but somehow I was able to survive. It was really wonderful and picturesque, the sailboats drifted by on a lazy breeze, while dense forest sprinkled with rooftops provided the backdrop, and a blimp glided along in contrast to the clouds. A couple hours later we were reminded of our purpose and headed back to the heavy laden vehicle to finish the delivery and continue on our route. It was a short stay, and gladly border control was equally forgiving on the way back, not even a question just a wave from the guard. We stopped on the German side of the lake for a time and it was slightly more breathtaking as we could see the Swiss Alps in the background this time. 

When we got back to the Mörsingen, I was surprised that Susanne had glazed most of the work to go into the kiln, even more surprised that she used the test flashing slips on the majority of the work. Fortune favors the brave? The last firing she had undesirable effects from the slip she uses predominantly and because that is her staple color it is easy to see the problem. There was not much of my work going into this firing, so it was quick work to do my tests and start making wads for the following day(s).

It took two days of loading, but that kiln was well packed. (side note: Susanne has a small anagama style kiln, with an Olsen Fast Fire salt chamber. The salt chamber is what we will be firing on this adventure) Thankfully our two days of loading were relatively stress free. We had some visitors, my first in Germany. The person who helped me through the application process for the Stipend, and found my placement was visiting family and decided to drop by. It is a very nice feeling to not be rushed to get the firing going. And pleasant conversation is a welcome break at almost any time. With the kiln packed and both of the doors (outer and inner) in place, we retired to the fireside where, Fritz's son and his friend were graciously burning sausages for us. Earlier in the day they made torches for all of us. When our meal was finished we lit them and went on a country side walk by fire light. 

Early to bed, fire when we rise. Six o'clock comes early, thankfully Susanne wanted that shift by herself. When eight rolled around so did I. We preheated with a gas burner to about 100° C, our goal was to continue climbing at a rate of 100° C/hour 'til 600° C, at that point we open the second firebox and keep it slow til body reduction. 

We tried to hold the reins up to 1000° and after that point we had to fight to get to 1100°. All in all we managed to start salting around 20:00 (8:00 pm). Salt, get the temperature back up hold, repeat. We finished salting at 22:00 and held the temperature for 2 hours. Then the real excitement came, pulling the grates from the firebox. Battling the heat, smoke, exhaustion, trying to not let my pants catch fire as we scramble to close the firebox. And rushing around the kiln to plug any and all areas where orange and yellow could be seen. What a rush. Cold shower. Sleep over rules. 

And at 7:00 the the next morning, we have a quick breakfast and hit the road to teach children how to make sculpture. Two workshops: one with ages 7-10 making a magic mountain where their creatures can live, the other ages 3-6 making gnomes. Both of the workshops were 3 hours long. The time frame was perfect for the first, but way too long for the little ones. After the story, the first gnomes, a snack and the first potty break, we were only half way there. Hide and seek is a difficult game played in a foreign language, but Susanne was happy to have the help, and it is hard not to enjoy laughing kids.

Back at home. A few hours of regrouping, now we have to pack pots and load the van. There is a market tomorrow, it is only a twenty minute drive but still needs preparation. It is the First Annual Local Products Festival (it sounds much better in German), specifically for food and hosted by the local Brauhaus. It is always fun to see local events, they bring the best people watching. This is no exception, one of my favorite things about this event, all of the vendors were asked to create a quiz for the public to answer to win a prize valued at 20€. Watching people carrying bright green pieces of paper from booth to booth, trying to convince the vendors to reveal the answers. It was a good way to start a dialogue with the customers

We started setting up at 13:00, the market started at 16:00, the weather held until we started packing at 22:30. I am very glad to have had a jacket, the rain got heavier and colder as the pots went back in the van, followed by the rest of the stand. We promised ourselves a Sunday off, like children promise to not wake up before noon on Christmas morning.

We don't allow ourselves to open the kiln before it cools to 100°C, and that happened Sunday morning. We uncased the outer door, then unpacked the van and rearranged everything in the show room. Carefully we remove the top layer of bricks on the inner door, still too hot, but we crane our necks to peer inside and catch a fleeting glimpse, of our pony or our socks? We force ourselves to have some coffee, both of us relying on the strong will of the other to prevent us from un-bricking the whole door. Another hour manages to finally pass, and we briskly stroll to unveil our prize. 

As many potters I know, myself included, the first response is not always the most accurate, and it is sometimes too easy to find fault with one's own work. "Too much reduction the pots are too dark," and "we fired too hot, the mussels have melted too far into the dishes." After is all said and done and everything is laid out for viewing, it was a bit hot (cone 11 flat and just starting to lose its shape), but the colors are actually quite stunning. That whole 'Fortune favors the brave' thing paid off in spades this time. The shells we used did melt a bit too deep, but they are, after all, process marks. The small pieces I put in turned out very well, and I will be able to use one of the big ones for the exhibition at the woodfire conference. Our relaxing Sunday off turned into unloading and cleaning wares for the next market, but the holiday (in terms of unloading kilns) comes more frequently for some potters, and with it comes cleaning up after the party.

The weather has been absolute crap for any work outside, the shelves, the rest of the wood prep, the dirty kiln will all have to remain as such until the sun returns. In the meantime, we are back on the wheels, making new future ponies or maybe socks. Thinking about the next firing in two weeks, right before the conference, the extra (three day) market that came up unexpectedly, and the Open Studio just a few days before I leave Germany. It is hard to believe this is the half way point.

Friday, August 27, 2010

If it's war that you want, then it is war that you shall receive. >:(

Yesterday morning, I got a knock on the door and opened to find the fire marshal there.

I guess he has gotten a couple of "anonymous" complaints about our fire pit aka fire place that is built out of stone out in our backyard.

He was really nice and explained that he has to do this a couple times a week and it's usually from neighbors who are just trying to cause trouble.

Um...ya... you think? If it was really an issue, wouldn't the fire department be called at the occurrence of something happening?

The fire department has been called on us before and they just come over, find out it's in our fireplace out back and then leave.

Anonymous my ass.

He told us the rules and I explained that I'm pretty sure it's from the lady who tore the fence down and now her bushes are browning from the heat.

Matt and I are really losing patience with her. She is just exacerbating a problem that wasn't a problem and she is just causing one and then making it worse. Remember the fence fiasco?

My dear MIL suggested we kill her with kindness, which in most cases would work I think. But with this lady, the nicer you are, the more she thinks she can tell you what needs to happen and then nag you about it.  She is manipulative and uses confrontation as a way of bullying the neighbors. At first we were nice and then it got to where I dreaded going into my backyard because she'd come hurrying out to nag me about one thing or the other. Our trees, the fence, the vines on the wires, the dogs, the kids, the rose bush, etc. Literally every day she'd come out and nag me about something. I'm afraid she wasn't aware of who moved in... Matt isn't one to be bullied. He was tolerant of her at first, but...well... I don't think there is any tolerance left. I want to say "poor lady", but I have absolutely no sympathy toward her. None.

It finally got to where I am pretty sure she could tell neither of us wanted to talk to her ever again. I am pretty sure I made that abundantly clear the last time we talked about the "firepit".

And then, when our chickens got into her back yard under the chicken wire fence we put up to keep the animals in our yard, we opened up a place for them to get back and they just came back over. When they were all back over, she came out with hands on hips. "Looks like you have a problem with your chickens. Sure hope this doesn't happen again." Really? I've never heard such a ridiculous statement used with such a threat behind it. We pretty much ignored her and found the spots that they were able to crawl under and just lowered the fence.

I think I hate this woman. They are chickens for Pete's Sake!! She even mentioned to my mom that she was surprised we let them run around with the kids in the yard.


Today, she came over and said, "Some of my friends who come over to play bridge noticed that Linus is left alone outside a lot."


I'm just saying right now, that if she involves my parenting into this little control game she insists on playing, things are going to get ugly. U.G.L.Y.

I kind of told her like she was stupid for even bringing something like this up that we have a window. I can look outside to keep an eye on him. I don't leave him unsupervised. Just because you can't see me doesn't mean I can't see him.

She returned with "Oh, well I'll let them know. You know, with that wading pool there and all."

Stay out of my fuzzing business!!

 It should be interesting when authorities are "anonymously" called on our parenting.

I'm afraid things are going to get ugly around here. Very ugly indeed. :/

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A little bragging...

Today I met with my family to eat out at a joint here in Utah to visit with family from out of state. I giggled pretty good when, after knowing this person since I was 16, I could tell that my very first boyfriend was in the restaurant by the back of his head.

And all I could think was, "Thank God I didn't stick that one out."

I then started to think of he and the four other long term boyfriends I have had and all I could think was "Wowzers I've found myself some doozies."

First one was something of an Eeyore. Woe is me, my life is so bad, feel bad for me, blah blah blah. Then, after he told all of my guy friends he had cheated on me, he then had the nerve to try to get my sister to do "things" with him. You know... "THINGS". As long as I dated him, he was a man-child. Using the charity of others to keep him fed, clothed, housed, and a vehicle handy. He needed a mother to take care of him and I had no desire to be that person.

Lesson learned: I'm still wondering this... I am not sure I got anything out of this one.

Second one, I considered marrying, got engaged, wedding date came and went, no planning came about. I figured that it really wasn't "meant to be" and tried to call the whole thing off. I was his first real girlfriend and while I was probably good for him in terms of teaching him some social skills and he taught me some great lessons, we obviously weren't suited for each other. I was never skinny enough, never blonde enough, boobs never big enough, and so on. And he was right. I never was enough for him. Which is ok. I was perfect for me. He ended up finding the perfect girl for him though. She is exactly what I would have constructed for him.

Lesson learned: Credit is very important. How to balance my checkbook (not that I do, but I know how to). Your reputation is important it may be the first first impression someone gets of you. I don't need to be tan to be beautiful.

Third one, well, he was the biggest doozie of them all. I will start off with saying that the military in our country is great and people who can and do go fight for the country I live in to keep my freedom or whatever reason they are called to fight for are amazing people and not something I can do. That being said,  I can not date a man who has been in the military. They almost always pick up quirky behaviors that my hippie self doesn't mesh with. Then, I go and not only date an army guy, but infantry/sniper/ranger. What the heck was I thinking? Nevermind, don't answer that.  Anyway, he was the worst of them all. Very abusive mentally, emotionally, and started to move onto the physical portion when I worked my hardest to get away from the SOB. I won't go into too many details of the nightmare with him mostly because I don't want any sympathy over it. I learned very valuable lessons from this waste of skin and three years, way too much crap, one failed pregnancy, and a bloody nose later, I was able to break free from the manipulation.

Lesson learned: Beginning stages of how to keep a house clean. Jamaican Blue coffee is amazing. What it feels like to be an alcoholic. How much stress one can live with before it affects the body and what my personal breaking point is. Inner strength I didn't know I possessed.

I was able to do that with the help of my #4 long term boyfriend, but that's not really right... we were on again/off again for a long time. I think we were more off than on though. He is a great guy but just a little broken, like a lot of us are, but he won't just settle for things. So, we were great together as friends, we weren't so great together as bf/gf. He didn't want to date me but didn't want me to date other people. I loved his family so much that I continued to go back and try to deal with his "crazy" before I finally just couldn't deal anymore. After finally getting over that with #4, we are in a good place in the friend department. He certainly had his issues and downfalls but, due to what I allowed myself to put up with, I did to. He helped me work on getting rid of some of my crazy and I showed him that he could be himself and I'd still like him no matter what.

Lesson learned: Many different types of music I now love. How to be a better family member and friend. How to treat my job and those I work with. I learned patience and met her too (his sister's name is Patience). I mostly learned finally with this one... THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. I am who I am and if he doesn't want to be with me, that is his problem and I don't need anyone to be happy.

That final lesson is what I needed to learn to finally turn to Matt and say "Ok. Let's do this." He had always been on the outskirts and many times, I needed him, but was too afraid to call, find him, or ask for help. We finally were single at the same time and I had gotten over the initial reason why I wouldn't date him (long story, TJ laughed really hard when I told him... I may never reveal the true reason.)

So, now on to my bragging.

Granted, if we had started this dating/marriage/family thing sooner, things would most certainly be different. Just as good? Maybe. But definitely different since we would have had different life lessons up to that point. But... I sure wish I had the choice to go back and start "us" sooner.

Not only is Matt the best husband (ya, he has his moments just as everyone does) but he is such a great best friend. He doesn't allow me to shut down my communication. He makes me talk to him. He is gentle in his approach and I am learning to talk about things I don't talk about easily.

He is an amazing dad and I couldn't ask for anyone better with the kids. He obviously loves them and the look on his face when he met Bea for the first time...well, I fell in love with her from his look. The pure adoration was amazing.

He still kind of likes me and still thinks I'm pretty good lookin' which is a plus after seeing babies being born. All I can think is Ew gross, disgusting, make it stop, MAKE IT STOP!!

And what makes me love him even more, if that is even possible, is that he is the spitting image of Linus. I have a challenge dealing with Linus. He and I don't speak the same language. We have our great days and our BAD days. I look at him every day and see Matt. It is something of a reminder that Linus is probably destined to be a shit sometimes. And it's ok. Matt turned out freaking awesome. If I can keep my head and keep smiling and continue practicing patience, Linus will turn out amazing as well.

So, I'm pretty lucky. One out of 5 isn't very good odds, but isn't the reward even greater when the odds are bad? I can't believe that he's still around and takes care of me and loves me. I can't believe that he still likes me even knowing what kind of crazy he's gotten himself into.

Anyway, what started this? That my Grandpa's sister, "Nanny", happened to mention that she thought that I chose very well and that she had spoken to others and they felt the same way. I got myself quite a Sweetie. So, I just wanted to brag a little about that. :D

Not that you can tell from the quality of this one, but this is Matt 
Compare with Linus... creepy huh?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Green Heaven

I have seen my heaven and it is good.
It is green.
It has a name.
It is called Oregon.

Or more directly it is called Coos Bay/North Bend, Oregon.

I just enjoyed the best vacation I've ever had. Matt's brother, Ryan, and his family moved to that area where Ryan is now practicing dentistry. We were able to take the trip up to visit them and I am now in love.

I think it might have something to do with the drive up. As I drove, I passed lakes, streams, ski resorts, and the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. As we got into the Coos Bay/North Bend area, I just felt very comforted. It's not a big, busy area. Nothing like the Bay area in California. San Fransisco, Oakland, etc... WAY too busy. This place had a small town feel to it. Which, no that I've had kids, I am a fan of. It actually had something of a run down feel to it. Which makes me more comfortable than being in an area of huge, big, fancy houses.

It was so neat to see trees and plants I've never seen before. There was a tree there that was obviously an evergreen but had the most amazing branches on it. I can't even describe it and I didn't get a picture of it.  There were also wild blackberries EVERYWHERE! All over the sides of the roads. Everywhere you looked. And if you know me, you know I love hydrangeas and they were all over as well. The most amazing, beautiful dark blues and purples.

The weather the whole time we were there was 50-70 degrees. It got windy, cold, sunny, warm and everything in between. There were times of high humidity and mist and times of lower humidity that I didn't notice it. I hear that is the weather year round. Ya. Year round weather of 50 to 70 degrees. It didn't really rain once while we were there and I enjoyed the wind  a lot.

Matt and I had a good time trying to catch crabs. We only caught one that we could keep, but more on that later. Great story. We went clam digging and if you ever get a chance to, take it. Even if you don't like clams. Go do it. You can always put them back to dig back into the sand. It is like a treasure hunt. You look all over for holes in the sand and then use the tool to dig in and sometimes you get a clam, who knows which kind you'll get, sometimes you'll get a shrimp, and sometimes you get nothing. Ok. I lied. Sometimes you get a dead shrimp you killed or a mashed up clam, but whatever. The clams are funny too, they'll squirt water on you from their neck. It was so much fun and my abs hurt for days after. Great workout.

I'll write another post about the cooking and cleaning of our catches. So funny I am glad a witnessed it all.

The beach was perfect!! Hot sand, cool wind, cold water. No need to feel obligated to wear a swim suit. A lot like Bear Lake for those of you who have been up there, but more fun. There are tide pools to look at and the sand is better for sand castles. We watched a couple of kayakers riding the waves and it looked like a ton of fun. Linus even had a good time after a little bit. Bea...well...she's been pooping sand since Monday.

The people though, that is what made the trip for me. Every where I went, the people were so laid back, so nice, and so ready to chitchat. I love it. I love being able to make random small talk with the lady at Walmart as I'm buying my shellfish license. I love going to 7-11 and talking to a woman and her little girl about the weather and then having this guy all covered in tattoos joking with Linus and just as friendly as can be. The people there really made the trip for me. After of course the awesome time I had with Jessica, the kids, and the husbands.

(Apparently the sand dunes were cool too.)

Anyway, I keep trying to talk Matt into moving there. I need a place where I feel like I am home. I got there and felt that I was home.

Anyway, we will be visiting again and again in the years to come. Thank heavens for Jessica that they have an apartment above the garage. Makes it nicer having guests over I think.

P.S.- Jessica, I think we need to sit and discuss recipes next time we are there... you have some great ones.

Anyway, if I could choose my heaven, that would be it... maybe with a glorious beach front property.

And a boat.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thank you from the bottom of my heart

Dear George,      

Thank you so much for being such a saving grace for those around you.

You came into my life when I needed you the most. Pretty soon, I loved you dearly, but didn't need you so badly. Then you became Dammit Dog.

I want to thank you for being Dammit Dog. Thank you for trying to french kiss EVERYONE you saw (except for the crazy guy at the condo that you wanted to kill). Thank you for being bull headed, stubborn, and passive-aggressive. Thank you for peeing on Matt's feet and making him give me the ultimatum of him or you.

I did have to choose him, because, as a dog, you didn't work. I had quit my job and Matt paid the bills.

Thank you for being so good to your pet human. He's a good friend and like it when my friends are happy. You make him very happy. I like that you have become such a "dude's dog". You have matured into a great dog (even though you still try to french kiss me and it's gross). I know that your pet human needs you very much and you have been so good to him. Thank you for taking him on walks, cuddling with him, and in general just being there. You are a blessing even though Matt still thinks poorly of you. I can't blame him.

I want you to know I forgive you for nipping at Linus. I would to if a toddler was trying to stick a finger up my butt. Thanks for not actually biting him and just warning him.

I love you and am so very thankful you are around.


Monday, August 9, 2010

My funnies for this far.

I say so far because we are driving to Oregon with two kids. Not just any two kids, but our 10 month old and 2 year old. In a car. For 15 hours.

And you know what? I am looking forward to it. But there may be more funnies to add to my blog after the trip.

If I come home.

(By the way, Jessica and Ryan, I may be moving in permanently...SURPRISE!!!) :D

So, on to my funnies.

This is how she sleeps ALL of the time. Keep in mind her head is on a stuffed animal. Either that or she's stuffed herself into the corner.

We are teaching her what her duties are early. But, in our forward thinking household, us girls are allowed to wear pants.  

Bea is officially my daughter. She is vocalizing her opinion on housework.

I should be embarrassed about this, but I'm not. These b lack things are flies. They are from the chicken poop. They can't help but come into my house. This is just to show how awesome my air conditioner is. I don't have to kill my flies. My air conditioner does it for me. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

TJ's German Adventure Part 2

Now there is a plan: two salt chamber firings, two markets, wood fire conference, open studio. Not necessarily in that order, but plenty to do for the next six weeks. 

And I regress, I may not have fully explained the purpose of the experience. Truthfully, I didn't know what to expect when I agreed to come, and of course my views will continue to change through the days ahead. The internship, has a very malleable structure, the interns bring their skills, knowledge, talents, and everything therein to add to the company; to learn from the people with whom they are working. Being grafted into a one person company gives a much more focused perspective. Previous assistants for Susanne have had knowledge, but a very empty toolbox. "It is likely that I will never have another assistant like you," she says. Most of them never learned to throw, and I am the first that has been able to help with some of the other processes as well. Although it is a very different experience from being a resident artist, being an assistant lends itself to learning better studio practice. I am finding what it is like to struggle through making the pots that you like in a culture that, much of the time, doesn't appreciate the style. Thanos' always told me that it is our (the potters) responsibility to educate the public on what good pots are. Subtext: what they are worth, and why they are worth having. 

As we work it is a joy to have conversation about many different topics, of course a reoccurring one is tasks for the day. Also, her journey with clay for the last three decades. It is nice to share the different experiences that we have had, failures, successes, and of course there are at times more than sprinkling of personal life that shapes our choices and paths. "It is difficult, a few years ago, I had a business that I was making good money at, but I felt empty. I didn't like the work I was making, and when I started to really pursue learning again it was like waking up from a very long sleep. Now I am happier, making less money, but I feel connected to my work again." These conversations give light to what studio life is like here, and aid in the formation of a friendship.

Last weekend we went to Höhr-Grenzhausen, the capitol for German ceramics. There are many factories that are still functioning, making traditional German ceramics, tiles, etc. One that, eleven generations later, is still making salt glazed vessels, I had the pleasure of a private tour through their factory. This company does many different things: slip casting, jiggering, and wheel throwing are all utilized. One of their biggest productions is the steins for Oktoberfest; these are jiggered, then hand decorated and handled, the girl that was pulling handles did 100 per hour. While their line of hand made objects are for special customers, the production is still quite amazing. Depending on the size, 10-20 pitcher per hour for 8 hours, completely uniform. 

Just a few minutes walk down the road was where the weekend was spent. Suzanne's partner, Fritz (also a potter), is building a community of studio artists and potters. He and some colleagues have purchased and have been renovating a massive slip casting factory, providing living space and studios for more than a dozen artists. The number varies, but with the Glass and Ceramics University 10 minutes away there might be a continuous feed into the workshop. Cheap labor at least. :)

After picking up some raw materials we head back to Mörsingen. Back to work...our first firing is less than a week away.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

For happiness sake.

Once upon a time, I lived in a very old house. And then that house burned down and someone in the youth group I was part of in church had the brilliant idea in getting a journal. One for me. One for Tyne. And they passed it around the other girls in this group and had everyone write down their fondest memory or what they really liked about us. I can't remember what they called it, but still to this day, I love to go back and read the good qualities that others noticed and remember that if it touched them, then I should continue and find ways to greater strengthen it.

Then, I had a random facebook message from an old old friend from elementary school. I instantly remembered something that was a fond memory of him and wondered if he even remembered it.

Then, I remembered being told of a fond memory and realizing that I didn't remember until being told and that, yes, it WAS a fond memory. Thanks for jogging the cogs a bit.

THEN I remembered that it is my husband's grandfather's 80th birthday coming up and thought I'd pass this along. Mostly because there comes a point in your life, I think, that you really have everything you need. You probably have everything you want but could always upgrade them for more pricey, luxury items, but why do that? There is a point that people treasure the home made gifts, the pictures, the simple notes, the more 'heartfelt' gifts much more than the ones that may be useful.

It turns out, that he is kind of like me, and I love to keep old notes, cards, silly sentimental things and go back through them. I love to reminisce of those times and, yes, I am the kind of person that loves to sit and look at other's vacation pictures and family albums because it interests me. I love to read old letters. Not only mine, but finding my parents' love letters or old correspondence from or to my Grandparents is just so interesting.

I told my DMIL that maybe they could get a journal and pass it around to family and friends of Reed and let them write in it their fondest memory or how he touched their life. Just to kind of send him down a great memory lane for his birthday. Something he can go back to and read later.

So, THEN it prompted me to send this out to those of you who read this. Go to your email, your facebook, your myspace, your address book, and to everyone that you can, send them a short note of your fondest memory of them. Don't ask for something back, just put your memory out there for that person to have and hold on to as long as they'd like. I think you'll be surprised at the responses you get back.

This is my version of "The Happiness Project."

Try it. I think you'll like it.