I discovered a few summers ago that if I placed a full box of chalk on my front stoop, my sidewalk would be quickly transformed with fanciful creations. Some days, the children of the neighbourhood draw extravagant obstacle courses down the entire block’s sidewalk, complete with fierce animals, walls of fire, and boxes of Minecraft-like TNT. They take turns running the course, sometimes in pairs with littles matched with older children, running and squealing as they hop over deep dark holes and bear traps. When they’re not crafting obstacle courses, or hopscotch grids, the kids are creating elaborate trails and parks for their matchbox cars and plastic ponies. Their sweet heads, bowed together as they first build their world with chalk lines, then back together again as they create stories within their world. The colour and chaos brings me out onto the stoop with my tea. The kids, refuting boundaries, creating what they want, and working together to craft a world and a story, not always amicably, but from nothing. It helps me drive my own creativity to see these children freely combining ideas, breaking “rules” that they don’t even know exist. The mosaic creations are my favourite. They appear on my walkway and stairs, often when the children need some quiet distance from their wilder romping and play. Each child, from 3 years to 9 years, plops down by a block, and meditatively colours each square within the block. When the blocks are coloured, I can’t help but be joyful. I love to see them when I leave home, I love to see them when I come back home. A pair of sweet kids down the block coloured these last week because I was having A Very Sad Day, so I must be obvious about the joy that these simple blocks bring me. We all need a simple joy. What’s yours?
The Red Clay Rambler himself, Ben Carter of @carterpottery , at a wonderful workshop at North Mount Pleasant Arts Centre in Calgary, Alberta. Ben is a magnificent instructor, and my own rumination on pattern and proportion as a result will be guiding my next round of bowls. More greatness from Ben can be found on his website Tales of the Red Clay Rambler #ceramics #LifeLongLearning
Our dining area didn’t have any art on the wall for seven years. We are artists, the children and grandchildren of artists, yet those walls stayed bare. We couldn’t decide on just one piece, or a few grouped together, to place on the only remaining wall space that we had, so that wall remained empty. In this, our eighth year in our home, Jay found a solution. He installed a rail shelf as our own gallery space, and we can now rotate our art pieces that have spent too much time stored away. This photo of art on our rail is an acrylic original by Marylin Carter of Carlyle, Saskatchewan. It is the first artwork that I carried with me on my journey through cities, roles, and homes. It will now, with me, greet the brown landscape of early Alberta spring.
The best way to make time stand still for a potter is to have them wait for parts for their kiln. My kiln is like a giant toaster oven, if you wanted to heat your toast to 1200°C. It has several coiled wire elements running around the inside that turn orange when turned on. My kiln is an old school non-computerized Paragon, so the temperature is more of an estimate than exact as you see on a toaster oven, but I can control how hot it becomes by using the low/medium/high knobs. When one of those glowing orange elements stops working, I can’t heat to my target temperature at the correct rate, and my glazes are no longer predictable. I can hope for the best and use witness cones, but I’m not confident in the guesswork. When an element goes, I’m stuck. This week, I learned the hard lesson that replacement elements aren’t regularly sold by local shops. Every kiln make and model needs a different type of element, and stores might keep the popular ones on hand. Should they run out or, like me, you need an element for a rarer kiln model, the only answer is to order from afar. I am confident that I can install it once it gets here with a needle nose plier and a screwdriver now that I’ve successfully removed the broken element without electrocuting myself. I had no idea I could manage, but I’ve learned that to indulge in ceramics is to never stop learning, whether it’s creating a new form, glaze chemistry, or figuring out how to install an element. I’m waiting for the mail to bring me parts from shores far south. I’ve ordered an extra to have as backup for next time. Until the lovely people at my local ceramics supply call me, I’ll thank my lucky stars that this didn’t happen right before a large wholesale order was due, or before a craft show. -Cara
My Etsy shop has been in “vacation” mode as I heal from a head injury that started pretty simply. I smacked the back of my head, hard, on the underside of a truck, and saw black. I didn’t pass out, and definitely wasn’t hurt enough to prevent me from cursing until I caused myself to blush. The goose-egg grew, and the pain from the hit didn’t subside. The intensity eventually dulled a bit, but that throbbing with intermittent stabbing sharp pain continued. I finally saw my doctor two days later because Things Were Not Right. He did a quick follow-my-finger, look-over-here, squeeze-my-hands. I bombed those tests, and the next few ones too. I don’t remember much about that week, but I do remember my doc’s diagnosis: Concussion. I’d thought that concussion was a serious injury caused by sports injuries. Could a whack on the back of my head really be that bad? I was right that it was a serious injury, but wrong that it is only caused by larger scale accidents. A week after diagnosis, while getting up from a CT head scan, the world started falling and swirling in every direction. When the world stopped moving, I went back home, and I slept. Contrary to most old wives’ tales, concussion patients need sleep so that the brain can heal, and the accompanying exhaustion was something that I’d never known before. I would sleep for 14 hours, get up for breakfast, then go back down for a 3 hour nap. One morning, as I turned to get out of bed, the world shifted violently, spinning horizontally and vertically at the same time. My husband took me to urgent care and the doc diagnosed me with Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo (BPPV). Calcium deposits in my inner ear had been knocked loose by the head impact, and the deposits had become free floating debris in my inner ear, confusing my brain by sending contradictory messages: while my body joints and eyes claim that I’m laying down, my inner ear is reporting that I’m spinning as the little bits of sand spiral about, so my brain ensured that I experience both. It’s a terrifying experience, yet very treatable with the Epley maneuver. So that’s what I’ve been doing since April 2014. I was accepted into the brain injury program, and I’ve been working with occupational therapists, physiotherapists, recreation therapists, productivity specialists, and a psychologist to help me process and heal. The BPPV is gone. I’m “on track”. There is no magic pill or magic exercise, but I’m working my way back to normal. It’s taking so much longer than I expected, longer than I thought, longer than I want. The worst part about concussion has been the absolutely denial that I’ve experienced. “I’m fine! I just need to sleep more for a few days!” I told everyone, and then “I’d better find something useful to do since I can’t read, write, knit, be on the computer, or do really anything that I normally do!”, without actually acknowledging the restrictions, the limitations that were overwhelming my life. I’m now through the denial and into the serious planning and pacing to get back to my normal. I’m starting the work needed to re-open my Etsy shop in the spring as I slowly create inventory, and hoping to be ready to take custom orders as well however I need to take it slow to start. I’ve started back to my day job, which I greatly missed, for a few hours every other day. My goal setting is becoming more reasonable although still a tad optimistic. So that, in a nutshell, is my latest (and current) adventure. Thanks for your patience if you’re a family member, friend, or customer, and I’ll be posting photos as I work on getting the studio back on track. -C