Thursday, May 26, 2011

Having Fun and Letting Go

I've always been a perfectionist. I think that's a good thing in a lot of ways. It helps me keep high standards for myself in what I do and what I create. It's also been a tough thing to deal with at times. Tough when something is as good as it's going to get and perfect is not an option. Tough when there's no such thing as perfect. Tough when I worry that I'll be judged based on perfection and I won't let less than perfect be okay. Tough when just having fun would be the perfect thing.

Over the years, I've noticed myself slowly letting the perfection thing loosen a bit. I'm learning that there's no such thing as perfect in some things. I'm learning that my idea of perfection may not be other people's idea of perfection. I'm learning that others may not judge me or like me based on perfection or lack of. In fact, they might like me better if I just relax a bit. I'm also learning to let go of it sometimes and just enjoy the process of doing. The ceramics class I took with my daughter this semester was a perfect exercise in letting go of perfection.

I learned pretty early in the semester that clay can't always be told what to do. It can be manipulated but I have to learn to let it speak and go with that too. The type of clay, the thickness, wetness or dryness of it, the weather and my skill or lack of have huge roles in what the clay will or will not become. Then, the glazes seem to have a mind of their own. They don't always turn out the exact color that was hoped for. The thickness or thinness of it's application and the way the piece was fired prior to glazing and other forces affect it.'s best to let go and enjoy the ride.

The semester just ended and all of my pieces are done. Here are some of my projects and how my ride turned out...

One of the first assignments was to roll out clay into slabs and create three plates. I cut out a circle and placed a rolled piece of clay underneath the edge to create a raised edge and hold it up while it dried. I decorated this one with handmade leaves and berries. The plate projects were painted with colored slip (wet, soupy clay colored with minerals) and covered in a clear glaze to make them shiney. The colors didn't always come out as planned. The white on this plate, in spite of many coats, came out blotchy. And, the berries that were supposed to be red/pink, came out blue. But, I like it. This one is 9" across...

I decorated this plate with a free-form daisy and vine that I painted on. The background was yellow but turned gray during firing. This one is also 9" across...

I went beyond a circle to create my third slab plate. It's a tropical leaf that is 6" wide and 18" long. I made the small end thick and strong but it somehow ended up breaking during the first firing. I never glazed it and fired it again because I didn't really want a platter that was glued together. It sure would have been a great piece though.

The next project was also constructed with slabs of rolled clay. We were to build a birdhouse inspired by some kind of architecture. I originally thought of doing a Southwest style house but in the end created one with more of a cottage feel. I hand carved all the little tiles/shingles on the roof and the wood grain in the shutters, hand sculpted every little leaf, and the vines were extruded through a little die/press. I loved how it looked when I was finished constructing it. As I glazed it, I had a vision of yellowy walls, a brown roof and shutters, and green vines. The glazes had a different idea...yellow, rust and brown. Oh well. I like it anyway. It's 5" wide by 7 1/2" tall.

Our next project was to be constructed with a coil of clay, twirled around and stacked on itself and then smoothed. It was supposed to be inspired by Native American pottery. Somehow, mine took on a shape totally different than I had envisioned. I'm not really sure how that happened but I really like it. I'm happy with how smooth I was able to make it. People kept asking if I had thrown it on the wheel because it was so smooth. That's cool! The next step was to let it dry a bit and then burnish the surface by rubbing a smooth stone on every inch of the outside surface...for a long time. That pushed all the bigger grains of clay down and left it very smooth like polished stone. It was then fired for about an hour until it was super hot and glowing orange. At that time, I removed it with gloves and long tongs and carefully placed horse hairs on it. The hair would sizzle, curl and twist as it burned and left really cool designs on my vase. After it was cooled and cleaned, wax was applied to the surface and polished. I love this one! I've seen pots like this in Native American shops but never realized what those lines were. Now I know, and I love and appreciate them much more. This is 6" wide x 8" tall.

For some reason, I always thought I'd get the whole throwing pottery on a wheel thing down pretty easy. It didn't look hard. Well, I learned a lesson on that! I didn't do too bad for my first semester but there's a lot to it and I have a lot of practicing and learning to do. Here's my first bowl. It doesn't show in this picture but it has a big hole in the bottom. I'm not sure what I'll do with a holey bowl but, I'm proud of it none the less. It's 5" across by 2 3/4" tall.

I kept at the wheel, practicing and practicing. I wasted some clay in the process. And, I made bowls of many sizes and shapes. One of our projects was to create a "set" of bowls. These don't really match in shape or size and they don't even fit together to be nesting bowls. But...they are all bowls and I made them! They range in size from 4 3/4" across x 2 1/4" tall to 6" x 3 3/4".

Considering how challenging it is to not only create a nice bowl on the wheel but to try and repeat a shape, I'm pretty happy with them. I'm especially happy with the shape of the big white one. I glazed them in colors that I thought might look good together. Most of the colors turned out how I planned. This is my set and I'm sticking to it!

This project started out to be a bowl but when it threatened to colapse on the wheel, I did my best to save it and turned it into a squat little vase. I think it will look beautiful with big rose blossoms piled into it. It's one of my favorite projects. I love how it looks in it's blue/green celadon glaze. It's 5"3/4" wide by 3" tall.

The body of this pumpkin was created by a talented student who loves to make pumpkins. She made a hollow ball on the wheel (amazing!) and showed me how to create the pumpkin shape by gently karate chopping the little grooves. I later added a stem and leaf. The glaze colors turned out great on this. I love it! Thanks, Tanya! :-)

One of our assignments was to create a set of four mugs or cups with handles. I tried to do it with slab construction but frustration with that sent me to the wheel. That went a lot better and gave me more practice at throwing. They're not exactly the same but they're close. I decorated each one with handmade oak leaves and acorns...some of my favorite things!

The colors were supposed to be yellow with little rusty speckles on the body of the mugs and handles and the leaves were to be a rusty color. They came out close. I'm pretty happy with them. I ended up with five mugs that are all about 3 1/2" wide (5" with the handles) x 3 1/2" tall.

I really wanted to make a pitcher on the wheel and thanks to the help of a patient and talented student, I did it! Yay! Thanks, Frank! I applied the handle later and glazed the whole thing in "Stoneware Blue". I glazed it a little thick though and another firing will be needed to allow little gas bubble spots to finish glazing over. It's 6" (8" with the handle) wide by 6 3/4" tall.

I was a little frustrated sometimes through this semester but more and more I gave into just enjoying the process and being excited to see how things were going to turn out. It was a great opportunity to practice letting go, letting be, and having fun. I think it went pretty well because I'm planning to take another semester of this fun next Fall. And, I now have a much greater appreciation for this art form. The best part is that I took the class with my daughter. We got to spend a lot of time together being creative, supportive and having fun. How great is that?!!! :-D

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vintage Lace

My daughter and I went on a vintage home tour a couple of weeks ago. There were six old, restored homes on the tour and a Restoration Faire. The homes were lovely and interesting. The most beautiful home seemed to be haunted. We got a reallllly creepy feeling when we were upstairs and in the back of the home. It was even creepier to find out later that other people had the same feeling in the same parts of the house. My daughter was creeped out so much that she not only wanted out of the house ASAP, she wanted to get off the property. I've had uneasy feelings in some old homes in the past but nothing like that. Yikes!

The Restoration Faire was the best part of the day. We found wonderful things. My daughter bought three beautiful old books for her growing collection. We also found some beautiful lace collars. There were quite a few and some even had matching cuffs. We settled on two collars. I bought this one...

My daughter fell in love with this...

They're so pretty! We don't have an immediate use for them but we're hoping they'll work great on some future vintage style dress projects.

We're not sure what this crochet lace would be best for but my daughter had to have them. They're so pretty.

I love antique shopping and searching for special little treasures. Finding them is such a thrill! :-)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pretty Pink Posies

Precursory pink posts permit posting pretty pink posies...

This beautiful bouquet came from my garden and was a gift to my mom for Mother's Day.

I've been posting pink this week and thought it would be perfectly permissible to post one more...with a little alliteration, of course. I thought about posting it for Floral Friday but I have some very busy days ahead. Best wishes for a beautiful weekend! :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tickled Pink

My mother-in-law loves all things pink. She also loves life and knows how to have fun. One of the things she enjoys is riding her bike. In fact, she has a yearly tradition of meeting up once a year with several other ladies in another state and spending five days riding their bikes and staying at bed and breakfasts and inns along the way. They rode the Katy Trail in Missouri the past two years, different sections each year. They're heading to a new destination this year, somewhere in Minnesota, I think.

When she bikes, she likes to wear pink and she likes to put pink things on her bike. It can be bells, streamers from her handlebars, little stuffed animals, etc. She doesn't put a lot of stuff on it, just enough to add a touch of fun and whimsey. We decided to help her out on that this year.

My husband and I were shopping at Home Depot on Saturday and found this in the garden section...

We knew immediately that we wanted to get it for her. It's meant to go in the garden...another place that she like to add little touches of fun and whimsey. However, my husband had a different idea! He took the bird off it's wire stick and attached it to a bike bell mount. Ta da....a bike gizmo that mounts on the handlebars!...

I like how the wings and feet wiggle with little bumps and will probably flap in the breeze. Isn't it cute?!

I can't imagine looking at this and not smiling!

The best thing...she loves it! I guess we could say she was "tickled pink"! And, so were we that she liked it. :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pretty in Pink

Now that Mother's Day has come and gone I can finally post another shawl that I made. I've been keeping it under wraps until I gave it to my mother-in-law for Mother's Day. It's another South Bay Shawlette...the eighth one that I've made. Can you tell that I love this pattern?!

I crocheted it with a size "I" hook and used one skein of Knit Picks Stroll Tonal yarn that I bought before Christmas. The colorway is "Blossom". It's perfect for my mother-in-law who loves everything pink. It's even prettier in person.

I like the different shapes that show up in this pattern...depending on whether you focus on the holes and see flowers or the shells and groups of three that look like little huts...

Here it is blocking...

The finished size is 50" wide at the top by 29" long from the center top to the bottom, center point.

I took a risk with this gift. When my mother-in-law knew I was thinking of making these for other family members for Christmas and she asked me not to make one for her. She wasn't accustomed to wearing things like this and wasn't sure how to do so. So, I made her a cowl for Christmas instead. When I gave it to her on Sunday she loved it. She was excited and happy to recieve it and shared with me that when she saw others recieve them at Christmas, she was a little sorry she'd asked me not to make one for her because she thought they were so beautiful. I'm so glad I took the chance and I'm so happy she loves it.

She's going on a Hawaiian cruise next Fall for her 50th wedding anniversary and already has plans to take her new shawl along. I think it would look great over an all white or all black outfit at dinner or anytime. The color and flowery pattern look very tropical too. :-)

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I've always been a person who doesn't like going with the flow of "normal". That doesn't appeal to me at all. It seems so boring! I like to do things differently and do different things. What I like and my interests just happen to go that way. One of my newest interests is a bit out of the norm as well. The Bodhran...

It's an Irish drum. I'm not sure if I have any Irish in me. But that's okay. A good friend of my daughter brought his Bodhran over a month or so ago and I was fascinated. About a week later he let me borrow it. I quickly went to YouTube, pulled up some instructional videos and started learning to play. I spent hours that evening beating away at the drum. It was so fun and, believe it or not, relaxing.

I soon bought my own Bodhran. I've been practicing just about every day since and working my way through a series of lessons on YouTube called Bodhran Master Class. The instructor, Michelle Stewart, breaks it down and makes it simple and fun to learn. You can see and hear her playing in this VIDEO.

I played the clarinet for about three years when I was a kid but sadly gave it up in eigth grade. In my 20's I took piano and voice lessons but then life got busy. I tried the piano again a few years ago but I can't seem to get the notes to stick in my head. I really want to play an instrument and I'm fascinated with so many of them. I love this one because I don't have to read music. It's fun and, so far, I'm sticking with it. Who knows, maybe it'll give me some knowledge and confidence to try out some other instruments and actually get the whole reading music thing to stick. I can only hope. In the meantime, I'll keep playing my drum and enjoying every beat.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Clever Little Shawl

I've been working on a fun little project...

The pattern is "Carol's Clever Little Shawl". I found it on Ravelry when I was doing a search for Civil War era and other historical patterns. The pattern creator studied a historical 1800's shawl and created the pattern based on that. I think the shape is interesting. The results posted by other Ravelors are wonderful and they had great things to say about the pattern. I wasn't sure how hard the points would be but I decided to give it a go. It turns out that the points are really easy. I've pinned them down to see them better. The shawl is knitted back and forth in short little rows, building from one side/end to the other.

The ends have a point/leaf shape. I love this feature but after knitting one I agree with some other Ravelers that it might look better if it was a little smaller. It's a little large compared to the points. A smaller one would be better proportioned. I don't really want to rip it out at this point. If I make another one, I'll definitely make them smaller.

Another feature of this shawl that I really love is the little pocket by each end point. The shawl is wrapped around the back with the points meeting in the front and one point slips through a pocket to hold the shawl on. No more falling off! I love that! It really is clever!

I'm using a size 7 circular needle and I used size 5 douple point needles for the pocket sections. I'm knitting this with some Filatura Lanarota Puno alpaca yarn that I had on hand. I love this blue color. I think this is going to look great with my western boots, a pair of jeans and a nice white shirt. I can't wait to wear it!....Next Fall or Winter of course...after I have some time to thaw out and enjoy warmer temps for a while. ;-)