Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Inspiration: Pit Firing

Linda Keleigh. Vase. (source)

Linda Keleigh, Orb. (source)

Anne Armstrong, Vessel. (source)

Anne Armstrong, vessel, (source)

This summery weather is making me long for a good big pit fire. The amazing thing about pit fired vessels is that the decoration is made only by the combustibles near the pot. The smoke creates different patterns, and it's a completely uncontrolled art form, The only thing you can control is the shape of the structure you're firing. To that end a lot of pit fired pieces are highly burnished(smoothed and shined by pressing the surface with something hard and smooth- plastic- spoons- driftwood, it's a time consuming process, and one that isn't required for glazed pieces, as the glaze covers the burnished surface), I especially love the orb above- wouldn't these be lovely in a glass bowl?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Saturday!

Super thunderstorms here today, perfect day for being cozy- how is your weekend shaping up?

Friday, May 28, 2010


We are attachment parents- though I don't always use these methods-(it makes sense for me to use a stroller sometimes), but it seems like attachment parenting is what I would do naturally, reading about atachment parenting is like getting advice from a more experienced version of myself.

Anyways the result of this is, somewhat predictably, that N and I are attached-seriously-attached. It's not a big deal when we're at home- Dada is also an acceptable cuddler for the babe- but when things or people are new this girl wants her Mama to be within arm's reach. It can be a bit vexing as people will either reassure me of how normal she is to act this way (as if I'm worried about it, which I'm not, my girl has a wide independent streak in her, just not around strangers), or try to force her to be okay with being away from me (in the "oh you don't need your Mama" vein of persuasion, which rarely works, and breaks my heart every time I hear it).

The most reassuring thing happened when my nieces were out visiting- if N would cry or get 'sadface' while the girls were playing with her- the youngest girl would say "I think she wants you" to me. It was so simple and true, and refreshing, with no judgement behind it-which is rare when it comes to parenting advice.

One of the ideas of Attachment parenting that sold me on the concept was that you know best what works for your child- that listening to your child and ignoring the advice that doesn't work for your family is the best way to parent. It seems easy enough except that parenting advice doesn't always come in books that you can choose not to read, most of it comes from people you know- who only want the best for you, and that makes it harder to push aside.

Just imagine what a parenting book would be like if written by a child- surely it would contain the other phrase my neice said to me: "I think she just wants milk from your breast now".

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Before the Rain

Last night we planted the garden, or some of it anyways- the corn potatoes and onions. The forecast was calling for rain today, so we made our move after supper last night, it was beautiful out and it made me so happy to live on this particular spot. It seems to be a bit of a tradition in our relationship to plant the garden by moonlight, and even though this was not the way it has been some years (K and I out in the backyard with the work light on, Friday at midnight, casually saying hi to the neighbor as he goes out for the night looking at us like we're insane) by the time we were done the moon was out.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


For the past couple of weeks my oldest sister has been staying with us- and it has been delightful (at one point she said "it's very 'starry night' out there" about the wind and trees, this ability to reference art is only part of why she is so great), her stay culminated on the long weekend with a huge visit-fest involving grandparents, nieces, nephews, aunties, uncles and good friends- they weren't here all at once, but stopped by casually in a way that felt so summery.

The end result of this visit has been a babe that napped for three solid hours after being awake for only one hour yesterday morning. She was happily exhausted from all the jumping, talking, bathing, raspberry blowing, tooth growing, leaf collecting, grass eating, giggling, computer hi-jacking, stair climbing, flower crushing, "ba ba da da"-ing, and she was so tired she even went to bed early last night.

Monday Inspiration-(tuesday edition)- Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago, The Birth Project, Creation Tapestry, c. 1985 (source)

Judy Chicago, detail from The Dinner Party, Hypatia, 1974-79. (source)

Judy Chicago, Heaven is for White Men Only, acrylic on canvas, c. 1972. (source)

Judy Chicago is a titan of Feminist art- though I'm not sure she would qualify herself specifically as a Feminist artist. Her works are inspiring to me partly because the feminism embodied within her subject matter isn't forced or even necessarily angry. These are the issues she's interested in- and they- very naturally- speak about female-ness.

It seems to me that instead of focusing on representing the exclusion of women from history- The Dinner Party -for example- focuses on including and naming (honouring if that's not too cliche) the women who have been absent. Instead of examining the evils that medicalized childbirth has instilled on women's innate power in childbirth, she is just portraying the realness of that power with The Birth Project.

These may seem like small distinctions- her work is still no doubt uber feminist, however I think the difference is enormous- she is creating a new inclusive narrative where some would only harp on about the absence of those stories.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Happy Saturday!

Lilacs in bloom, spring rains on May long weekend, Family close by, a baby who smells like flowers- these are the things that make life good.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Flea Market Finds

A teeny tiny tea set

and an Edith Gator decorated cream jug.

Also- myriad crocheted and lace trims and some vintage hankies- of course.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Portrait of my Sweet One

I finally finished this portrait of N, I'm fairly pleased with it- I think it's a good likeness, and while not an extraordinary painting- it's okay- It could use more layering- more texture-more 'lushness'-if you will-in the background mostly, which I may work on later.

But man- this was tough- maybe because I haven't painted in a while-but the proportions of her face were hard to grasp for me- if you could see an x-ray of this work-her left eye would be all over the place. I'm chalking a lot of it up to the fact that I was painting the thing that's most precious to me, most complex, and beautiful, and the emotions I feel when I look at her make it hard- if not impossible-to become as objective (or detached?) as you need to be to paint a person accurately.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Inspiration: Adelaide Alsop Robineau

Adelaide Alsop Robineau, bowl, Porcelain, 1924. (source)

Adelaide Alsop Robineau, The Scarab Vase or Apotheosis of the Toiler, Porcelain, c. 1910.

Adelaide Alsop Robineau is a very inspiring figure- Mother of three, teacher, painter, ceramist, all in a time when that was not the norm. She was born in 1865 in Connecticut, and her interest in art was spurred by the decorated pottery showcased in the world's fair. She was not alone in that- one of the best parts of Ceramic history is the way that women infiltrated it around the turn of the century(or really prior to that, perhaps even all through ceramic history- but that's a different post). Because decorating ceramics was seen as 'women's work'- the sort of thing genteel ladies would sit around doing- lots of female artists worked in potteries as decorators- in fact some of the most technically challenging, innovative and intricate works were done by women.

Robineau was determined to go past decorating though- and make her own forms- they are both feminine and the epitome of craftsmanship. The most well known of her pieces is The Scarab Vase, which has over 1000 hours of work in it. She wanted, with this piece, to elevate the perception of the craftsman, and I don't think any other work highlights the extreme skill and time needed to really master your craft, as well as the 'worthiness' of craft (which is another whole set of posts).

I'm a painter by training- mostly- my major was painting, anyways. But I was hard pressed to decide between Painting and Ceramics, ultimately I think like a painter, not a sculptor- I suppose I'm more interested in surface texture and depth of space than I am in form, so painting feels natural to me. Regardless of that, I'm also drawn to clay, and this sort of heavily carved- surface decorated pottery speaks to me- (though I'm sure it speaks to everyone- how could it not?).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Start of Sustainability

These are my seedlings. They are the start of something big- the new garden, It's big- really big- so big it looks small sometimes, because the space just keeps on going and there's no reference point for just how much black dirt is out there.

When we first moved out here- or talked about moving out here- we thought the first year we'd garden- and get chickens, the next year we'd get pigs, then we'd get a milk cow. It was naive of me I know. Last year we had a garden at a neighbours' place- and it went well- it was a little last minute so it was a bit sparse on variety, but it grew amazingly well. So bolstered by our success- this year I ordered seed catalogues in January- January1st to be exact.

All I can say is that planning a garden in January, in Manitoba, is very much like grocery shopping on an empty stomach. The result is a staggering number of vegetable varieties for two people and a small child. There's two varieties of winter squash- not counting pumpkins (there's two varieties of those too)- three varieties of summer squash- three types of tomatoes- five kinds of Heirloom cherry tomatoes (though with names like black cherry and pink ice can you really blame me?).

The garden is our gateway to sustainability, from this we can build. It's going to be a lot of work but it's one more step towards the lifestyle we hoped for.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sweet Sunny Tulips

At the first sign of a frost warning- I cut these tulips- to be honest I'd been waiting for a chance to cut them and bring them inside. They now reside in my Rookwood inspired vase- it's the first time it's held flowers.

I made this vase last year for a university class where I focused on Art Nouveau/Arts &Crafts style carving as well as glaze formulation. It's red clay thrown and then carved with hand built additions. The glaze on it turned out particularly well I think- that variegated effect of white on the bottom and then chartreuse and then copper blue were all unplanned- it just happened to fire that way, that's the beauty of pottery. The form is inspired by Rookwood Pottery- which was a turn of the century American Pottery- with an interesting history for another day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bolero for baby

Yesterday the babe and I whipped up a little peasant-blouse/bolero for her to wear over this sundress when we have family photos taken (well, she practiced standing up in her playpen while I sewed, but her input is invaluable).
I was particularly pleased with how the simple zig zag stitch around the edge was fancied up by using decorative rayon thread- in a variegated lilac. The sheen of the thread against the cotton is subtle but very nice. An easy way to add some detail to a simple top.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Inspiration: Mary Pratt

Mary Pratt, Raspberries Reflecting Summer, oil on canvas, 2000. (source)

Mary Pratt, Cream, 1983. (source)

Mary Pratt's works are unabashedly feminine- and strong- in a world of male paintings. The idea that she infers deeper meanings and critiques of feminine issues through her domestic subjects is powerful. That one can question domestic violence- and feminist issues through paintings of cut fruits and vegetables- place settings, and meat destined for the supper table, is genius.

Mary Pratt is an unbelievable artist- and her biography is worth checking out- an understanding, and appreciation of her works is much improved by knowing her intentions. When I first saw her works, I was impressed- in how 'real' they are, and knowing how demanding it is to create photo realistic works (far too demanding for me), but in knowing a bit more about why she's painting what she's painting- I'm impressed on another level.

Mary Pratt Links:

biography at Collections Canada

works at Trinity Gallery

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Things My Mother Taught me

1. Delight in your children- even when they rebel against you.
2. How to be a Mama Bear.
3. You shouldn't get angry with people- you should get angry with situations.
4. Family is so important- even if you dislike them sometimes.
5. Try something three times before you decide to quit.
6. You have to stand up for yourself before anyone else will.
7. You should treat your kids with respect, even when they're young.
8. Sometimes you have to let others make their own mistakes.
9. A hug can fix almost anything, laughter can resolve a fight.
10. It's not a bad thing to have a face like an open book.

My mom is amazing, she is my friend, and teacher. Somehow she managed to reign me in as a teenager(not that it was hard to do, I'm sure) with respect, and love. I never hated her- I never even shouted that I hated her when I was having a temper tantrum, though I do remember apologizing for my behaviour. All my girlfriends envied me- even when she suggested we watch a video on abstinence on a Friday night.

When my heart was broken she let me have the morning off school and took me shopping- that probably goes against all the advice in parenting books- but it worked for her. She managed to be my friend and my parent, all while going through some tough times of her own. My mom was a safe haven for me then, as she is now. Isn't that exactly what a mother should be?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Things my Grandmother Taught Me

1. It's important to be yourself- always- no matter who that is.
2. You can turn a day around with a little candy.
3. Cookies taste better when you make them a little fancy- with a cherry on top.
4. You can make a 5 yr old feel so special just be letting them be the boss for an hour.
5. You feel better when you take care of yourself- and your appearance.
6. Even if you fight sometimes- your husband can still be the love of your life.
7. The excitement of stirring the pot is not worth the trouble.
8. Everyone shows love differently.
9. Singing and dancing are fun- even if it makes you feel foolish at first.
10.It's important to pay attention to children.

All of these things I've learned through her example- and I can't be more thankful to have her in my life.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Inside Again

This photo was taken last week - when it was warm, out by the asparagus patch. The charming aspect of the chilly outdoor temperatures is really waning around here, it's supposed to be warm again on the weekend- hopefully they're right, right now I'm fighting the urge to bake cakes and make soup, when what I need to be doing is painting. Maybe I can make some small cakes?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependant on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do"- Galileo

This quote puts everything in perspective for me- that no matter how busy we are- no matter what giant tasks we have on our lists, the smallest of our tasks is also important. And that even while focusing on the big ticket items we can spare some concentration for the daily minutiae. But most importantly to me it implies that you can do so lovingly- that a full busy life is no excuse to slog through the daily routine, frustrated that you have to stop what you're doing and, yet again, change a diaper.

It's no secret that savouring the small moments is key to enjoying your life, but for me this quote allowed me to see 'interruptions' as a chance to collect my breath, and relax, to step outside the big picture, if only for a moment- when I can remember to think of it, that is.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Inspiration: Egon Schiele

Madchenkopf, Egon Schiele ,1918 (source)

Four Trees, Egon Schiele, 1917 (source)

Autumn Trees, Egon Schiele, c. 1918 (source)

Despite his sketchy moral history, Egon Schiele is one of my favorite artists (his history is worth checking out if you think our morals are loose in this day and age, it's kind of reassuring). His works have 'soul', as one of my profs would say, Soul in art is hard to define- but you know it when you see it. His images have a tortured quality- which oddly I don't find depressing or overly maudlin- but only real, with a jagged sense of reality- they remind me of how the world feels when something truly amazing happens.

It's like the way the world feels after your child is born-it's messy and painful and complicated, but all in such a good way- that even the messy and painful bits are joyous (Is there a German word for that feeling?). Maybe it's a vulnerability that's present in his works that makes me love them- because really is there any feeling more human than vulnerability?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday, Snowy Sunday

It's funny how one snowy day can bring back all the winter funk you thought you'd got rid of. On the plus side- the canopy from the trees leaves an interesting pattern on the grass- like a dusting of icing sugar on a cake.