Variety is the Spice

“Describe how you’ve felt over the past 16 months in 16 words – one for each month of this pandemic.”

Concerned, Uncomfortable, Worried, Anxious, Scared, Angry, Sad, Impatient, Doubtful, Disappointed, Bored, Content, Hopeful, Optimistic, Expectant, Enthusiastic!

That is quite the variety of feelings. You might understand the first handful of emotions because maybe you experienced them yourself, but those last 3 – optimistic, expectant and enthusiastic? Yes! I have felt optimistic and lately I have felt especially enthusiastic about the new work that I am making.

How did I get there? Meditating helps a lot and is something that I have been practising for about 3 years. Other things that help me are spending time in nature and my garden, exercising, and practising positive self-talk. In terms of my career as a potter, I don’t have the broader view, so I don’t know what is coming as a result of this changing world. Thinking about how my future will look feels impossible to predict because there are so many moving parts to consider and that’s overwhelming. Thinking about the past and “how it used to be” isn’t helpful either. I’ve heard it said that “all your power is in the NOW” and I am beginning to understand what that means.

Me, meditating outside in the sounds of nature in the spring of 2021.

Meditation is certainly a useful tool for stress, and I’m sure collectively we have all been feeling stress for the past year and a half. Meditation quiets my mind and often times I have intuitive thoughts or get amazing ideas as a result of having quieted my mind. Sometimes I get these ideas while actually IN meditation or while doing another focused practice – yoga. These ideas get me excited about work and then feelings of optimism and enthusiasm for executing my new ideas follow.

Creating new work is common, usual, but now, more than ever, a necessity.

The process of making a large hand built carved mug.
1. Make a large flat slab. 2. Use a template to cut the clay into the size you want. 3. Form the cut piece into a cylinder and mend the seam. 4. Throw another slab for the bottoms of the mugs. 5. Attach bottoms and mend all seams well. 6. Carve the clay with desired tool to make a texture that can be seen and felt when handling the mug. 7. Finish rim and bottom of the mugs so it looks and feels purposeful. 8. Attach a handle and thumb rest.
The finished mugs, still very wet, each with a unique set of carved lines. Glaze will fill recesses and run differently than on a smooth vertical surface. These mugs are presently drying and will be available for sale once they are glazed and fired in the fall of 2021.

In April of 2020, the burning pain in my wrist turned into more. Tendonitis is pretty common in folks who do work with our hands making repetitive movements, and as a potter that is pretty much the job description. Nearly the entire time the pandemic put a halt to life as we knew it, I’ve been hurting.

In the beginning it was incredibly painful. Now it’s only painful when I do too much, and as all things go, if you think about life, we are using our hands all day long for every little thing. In the beginning it was painful to brush my teeth, pull up my pants, comb my hair, and vacuuming the house was definitely over the top! I had to rely on my left hand to wash the dishes, pull laundry out of the washing machine, use a dust rag and vacuum. I had to use my husband to cut vegetables and bread.

Presently my plan is to hand build everything, because using the potters’ wheel isn’t an option. I’m excited to discover new methods of construction, and new ways to use my tools. I’m eager to expand the textured designs I make on clay, and to experiment with new glazes. Hand building an entire collection is breathing new life into my work! Can you feel my enthusiasm?

Hand built “Fishy” mug. Made from a slab of clay that was stamped with a unique “underwater scene.”
Each Fishy mug is one-of-a-kind.



Posted in lifestyle, mindset, new work | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Where I Was. Where I’m Going.

Well, hello again! I have not written a blog here since 2015, but I decided to start writing again as things have changed so much for me especially because of the pause that the pandemic has given me.

I have written some blogs over the past 6 years on a website called SparkPeople. I have been a member there since 2008. SparkPeople is a website that provided a free calorie counter and fitness tracker. Members were encouraged to have a SparkPage that allowed them a space in which to develop friendships with other members, and get and give support through the weight loss process by blogging. SparkPeople is closing down in mid-August. My blogs were always extremely well received by the Spark community, so I decided to blog here again with the intention of satisfying my readers.

As it turns out, most of my blogs on Spark were not weight loss related. For the past several years my blogs read like journal entries and included a lot about my pottery work and family life. The majority of my weight loss was within the first two years of using Spark and then my weight loss stopped and I maintained for a few years, so I started writing different content because I had nothing new to report in regard to my weight.

When Spark shuts down and I will no longer have access to a calorie counter or fitness tracker. Instead of finding a replacement for Spark, like many who rely on these tools to guide them through the process, I feel this utter joy and freedom in stopping the hyper focus on my weight.

When I think back, I have lost weight with tools and gadgets but mostly without the help of those things. It’s not rocket science, although I’m sure the diet industry makes most people feel like it is. Move more, eat less. That is the formula.

One of my friends on Spark posted an update a few months ago that was a post from a nutritionist calling out “diet culture” and it’s toxicity. I didn’t even KNOW that DIET CULTURE was a “thing.” And when I dug a bit further I started wondering if focusing with laser-like precision on my weight was a good thing for me. It felt good at one time, but now I feel like it isn’t a good thing to focus so intensely and I also feel it is a time and energy suck to track food and all of my activities, steps, and glasses of water consumed.

When I first began counting calories on Spark 13 years ago, I discovered that I actually was eating too much, but honestly didn’t think I was eating any more than anyone else. While that may have been true, not everyone’s body is the same. When I counted the calories I had consumed on Day 1, I saw that I was eating what I thought was an astounding amount of calories – more than 3000 a day. It was definitely enough for my weight to have increased gradually and steadily over time. I have lost a total of 135 pounds from my highest weight, but if I counted all the pounds lost over and over again all throughout my life…different story.

In my mid 30’s I was around 300 lbs which put me into the morbidly obese category. I decided “why not try more activity?” So I joined fitness classes and I began to lose weight. Just with increased activity I shrank several dress sizes (from 26 – 18) in a couple of years then plateaued.

I moved from Manitoba to Quebec and I gained some weight because my lifestyle changed. By the time I was 48 I was feeling really unhappy with my weight and then I discovered Spark. With calorie restriction I lost several more dress sizes (from a size 22 – size 10) by the age of 50. But when does it stop? Do I really want to be weighing my chicken breast and serving my rice with a half cup measure the day I croak? Or do I want more freedom? I have a friend who is 80 and she is dieting and keeping very active, and she is very angry with herself when a week of pretty hard core calorie restriction only produces a one pound loss.

“You are so free you can choose bondage.”

My weight has been a subject of focus for me since the age of 5 when my tummy was poked at by my mother and then the doctor, and I was pronounced fat. I was put on a diet.

In my late 20’s and early 30’s I rejected all diets and I’d say “If you don’t like the way I look, then look the other way.” I subscribed to a magazine called FAT!SO? and wore a button that said, “How dare you assume I’d rather be skinny.”

My weight loss “journey” has been lifelong, y’all. I’ve been called “fat cow” in the schoolyard and I have been called “skinny bitch” when I lost weight.

“People will love you. People will hate you. And none of it will have anything to do with you.”

Diet culture” refers to a set of beliefs that values thinness, appearance, and shape above health & well-being. Additionally, the concept places importance on restricting calories, normalizes negative self-talk, and labels certain foods as “good” and “bad.”

Toxic diet culture has a way of making us feel guilty for eating certain things or for not exercising a certain amount. Food and exercise are meant to be celebrated; they are a form of self-love. Fuel your body out of love, move your body out of love, and stop restricting yourself out of love.”

Diet culture feeds body shame, fuels body discrimination, and fosters disordered eating. It instills the false belief that eating certain foods and living in a thinner body increases one’s value.”

After researching diet culture, I realized that having that laser-like focus on my weight isn’t the healthiest way to live. It was the statement from The Nutrition Tea on Instagram that made me stop in my tracks and reconsider what I was doing. The statement was “This is a reminder that you don’t have to earn your food with exercise.”

Another statement produced an “AH-HA!” moment and it went something like: when someone comments on your weight they have disordered eating.

Well, that is just about everyone I ever met! I recall my father taking food right off my plate saying “I’m saving you from yourself.” One of my best friends said I was always looking at men who were “out of my league” and followed that up with, “Maybe you don’t have a boyfriend because you’re fat.” I nearly threw her out of my apartment and ended our friendship. But instead I said, “I can not believe that you just said that!” And she said, “I can’t either! It just came out. If you want to end our friendship over this I completely understand.” She was nearly in tears and truly embarrassed. I forgave her and later realized that her eating was disordered. This friend grew up watching her mother weigh and track everything she ate, every day for years, and I think she kind of resented the whole act of restricting calories, which is something that I have done on Spark every day for 13 years.

Today I began to wonder if I actually have an eating disorder as a result of being on diets, being told at a young age that fat is bad, being called names no matter what size I was, and even being asked, “Please don’t lose too much weight because if you do, I won’t feel good about myself.” Seriously? Seriously!

I have been restricting calories for the entire time I have been using SparkPeople with greatly varying results. I did lose a significant amount of weight. I do feel better having done so. I feel it is so much easier to move and I have better balance and stamina, so truly I have no regrets. I also regained some weight and have been down on myself for it for the past 5 years. And ya’ll, it’s only been maybe 20 pounds that has me feeling so down on myself. Recently I decided to give up on being down on myself. It’s a practise, and one that I am getting better and better at doing.

These insights, coupled with the closure of SparkPeople have given me the opportunity to free myself from tracking everything I eat and every calorie I burn and balancing it all like a chequebook at the end of each day. Instead I have been listening to my body in all respects, and nurturing myself to where I really want to be, which is super happy and healthy right up until the day I croak.

There is so much more to life than focusing on what I eat and how many calories I burn and getting in 10,000 steps a day and making sure I drink my 8 – 10 cups of water. For a while it worked and it felt great to use guidelines. Now it feels great to have this inner knowing that I don’t need the hyper focus on this subject any more.

Posted in health, lifestyle, mindset | 11 Comments

Impossible Task?

I think I may have set out to do the impossible when declaring earlier this year that I shall make regular blog posts so you REALLY get an idea of “the life o a potter.” With ironic laughter I say to you, oh brother! What was I thinking? I don’t really have THAT much time on my hands. None to spare, actually. My days are filled to the brim right now, especially with my upcoming annual summer sale on June 27 & 28. Also, not many people read my blog, but I get quite a lot of action on my Facebook business page (see sidebar for link) which is where I have been trying something relatively new – chronicling my days in the studio through photos and a few words.
Are blogs a thing of the past? Mine might be.

Posted in life | Leave a comment

Alarming!

For the last two weeks I’ve been trying something new. I’ve planned it so I can spend entire days in the pottery studio without the stress of extra things to do besides making pottery. It’s lovely! And it’s because I’ve dedicated an entire day to get grocery shopping, errands and batch cooking done, and an entire day in the office doing paperwork. So far it has worked out well.

I find that I often plan too many things to do in a given space of time and then when that activity exceeds the time I thought I would need it to complete it, other tasks on my schedule get dropped off pretty quickly and put off to another day. In an effort to be more aware about the passing time (because when I get engrossed in something time seems to stand still), I’ve used the alarm function on my phone. For example: 7:00 a.m. – alarm goes off to wake me and then another is set at 9 a.m. for yoga. The alarm I set for yoga is called “ripples” and is very pleasant rather than jarring. With all the sounds available on phones these days the alarms can be as lovely or annoying as you like.

I have set my alarm to let me know when I need to start dinner, go for a walk, get ready and leave for appointments, etc. When I set those alarms for all of the things I want to do in a day I REALLY started to understand how little time in the day one has for everything one might like to accomplish. This exercise has been both helpful and annoying. Some days it feel like I’ve just begun something and an alarm is going off to signal the start of a new task. It has driven me to turn off the phone for the entire day more than once.

Using this alarm system is something I’ve been doing for about 6 months, off and on because TO DO lists weren’t working for me anymore. But sometimes I just know that a day by alarm isn’t in the cards for me, so I refrain from setting the alarms and use a list instead. On days that I have to be somewhere specific I will use the alarms and stick by them. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned from using alarms and lists is that I need to try and accomplish fewer activities and tasks in my day.

A ton of things were accomplished last week (using both lists and alarms) including:
-making new pots; bowls of all sizes and mugs
-a really big grocery shopping trip and a bunch of errands
-cleaning the entire house, 5 loads of laundry, cleaning the wood stove, and batch cooking
-writing two blogs and publishing one
-tax prep, filing, organizing my desk, and scheduling tasks for the next two weeks
-music time with Chris

Posted in life | 1 Comment

Big Bold Blue

Before Yule I fired one last load for 2014 and took a few photos recently. I love this blue. It’s a recipe of Val Cushing’s that I call VCAA Blue. Cushing passed away in November of 2013 and Ceramics Monthly featured him in the magazine in April 2014. On page 68 of that issue there are recipes for many of Cushing’s glazes including the one in this photo. It’s the first recipe listed on the page and is called V.C.A.A. Copper. If you want blue just substitute cobalt carbonate for the copper carbonate. I ran out of cobalt carb though and had cobalt oxide on hand so use that at half the amount.

IMG_1778
Salad/Serving bowl 9.5″ x 2.75″ $60.00

Last week was very busy. I had some rehearsals with Chris for Friday night’s performance, my truck broke down, and both JF and I are still sick with what is probably the one type of flu that wasn’t covered in our yearly flu shot. He’s coughing a lot and needs rest. The weekend was good for getting some rest.

I had a workshop on Saturday with two 11 year old girls from the ‘hood. It was great fun! I took them on a tour of the house, we made tea and then we went for a tour in the pottery gallery so they could pick colours for their projects. We then got down to making some pottery. If the moms agree I will post photos from the workshop in a future blog.

I spent some time in the pottery on Monday and Tuesday working with a lovely dark stoneware called Dark Cal 5 made by Tucker’s. Luckily the weather warmed a bit to allow me to work plus I put the clay up on the work table to warm so the cold, wet clay doesn’t make my hands ache after I work with it. I also limit my time with my hands on wet clay or in the water bucket. The pain I get in my hands after working with the clay is really not fun. It keeps me awake at night and that’s not productive at all.

I love how my shiny white, 50/50, and blue-semi gloss glazes look on Dark Cal 5. I’m excited to be making some large pieces right now. In Saturday’s workshop one of my students wanted to make a snake because she wasn’t really into functional pottery. She said she wanted to create a sculpture. Okay. No problem. Let me think (fast on my feet) for a minute. One requirement was that the snake be no longer than 18″ because that is the shelf size of the big kiln. I usually bisque fire in my 3 cu. ft. kiln but once in a while, when the diameter or length of a piece exceeds 12″ I need to fire it in the 7 cu. ft. kiln which then requires me to produce a HUGE load of green-ware to fill that space.

Here’s a short list of the things that are filling my days…and nights!
*Making a large load of big pots and small pots too, but large centerpiece pots too.
*Making music with Chris. Last night we got together for the first time after our Friday night performance. Our partnership works and we have similar tastes in music. We spent an hour choosing new material and then I taught him a couple of my original songs, one of which is on my CD, “Following Instinct.”
*Blogging – this blog was written in short spurts over the past 3 days. I’m finding it tough to find the time to write more often. I’m doing what I can though. 🙂
*Cleaning up my email inbox, printing out receipts that I need for tax purposes, printing out songs for choir (Thursday nights), and answering email from last year!
*Cooking – Roast chicken on Friday. Big pot of chicken soup on Monday. Today: Quick Rye Bread.
*Working out – walking when weather permits and yoga daily
*Errands and appointments- grocery shopping, banking, eye glass repairs, dentist.
*New job? I need cash flow so I decided to make it known that I darn socks. A neighbourhood friend tells me that people would pay me money to repair their socks. I hear that people just throw their socks out these days. What if they’re really good socks like expensive merino wool thermal socks? Or wool socks grandma made? You should mend those. Don’t know how? I do. Bring me your socks and I will extend their life. My friend Suzanne (see her blog “Womangue” posted on the side bar to the right…scroll up a bit) did the art work for the Darn It! poster. I just sent her the “copy” (words) for the poster today, so I don’t know when I’ll have the finished product, but I’ll post a copy of it here when I do.

Posted in life, my work | 2 Comments

String of Days. January 6 – 10.

Monday night – up very late looking at assisted care info for my parents and writing a lengthy email to my siblings.

Tuesday – slept in until 8 a.m. It’s -29 C on the lake today. Too cold to make pots. Too cold now to walk outside. I’ve got a niggling dry throat too.
Tried to figure out how to get photos from my iPhone onto my new laptop. No success so far. I often wonder what the designers mean by “user friendly.” It should be simple. I plug the phone into the computer and and click on yes when prompted to upload photos to computer. I’m confused when the message on the screen says there are no photos on my phone. There are too. Over 800. Meh! I have to do something else and try to figure it out later. Technology is not my forte. Manual labour is more my thing.
I went online to pay my driver’s license and after a finally getting to the part in the drop down menu where I choose what it is I wish to pay the SAAQ, all selections are in French only. Thanks to Google Translate I figured out that I needed to pay my “permis de conduire.” Most websites in QC are in French only. English is merely a courtesy not extended very often, but at least some government websites try to have an English page.
After all that I found out that my driver’s license can not be paid on line after all. SIGH. I have to make a trip to town for that plus a few more errands. Round trip is 80 minutes plus the time needed to get the errands done.
I wonder what kind of work that I can get done today?
Later…apparently none.
The truck’s transmission is not happy and the heater fan broke today. Now I have no transportation. Gah!!
I talked to my dad and mom is starting to eat a little but now dad is sounding congested and started to cough when we were speaking. Oh dear.

Wednesday – Another cold day is upon us. It’s currently -20 C with a windchill making it feel like -28 C. The temperature is supposed to drop this afternoon and then the winds will pick up to 60 km/hr giving us a windchill of -35 C.
I feel frozen in my chair. I’m wrapped in a big wool blanket and the fire is going but I can feel the wind whipping through the place. We are right on a lake and the northwestern winds hit the length of the cottage. Slowly we are making improvements with insulation.
I decided the best way to get warm was to move so I did. I revisited an old workout DVD and practised yoga.
My parents are constantly on my mind. I have communications with one or both siblings each day. We have to get organized and make a plan. I need to write some email. My mind is completely scattered. I’ve started sorting receipts over on the coffee table, I’m cleaning my desk too, and I’m very aware that there are important things to record in my calendar. There is a pile of stuff on JF’s desk that I need to file.
Communications first.

Thursday – I felt it coming on earlier this week. I definitely have a cold and I’m starting to cough. I also have DOMS from a tough abdominal workout yesterday so I really feel my abs when I cough. Ouch.
It was -35 C this morning at 7:00. I have no idea what the windchill was. Five hours later it has “warmed up” to -23. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it. This cold (outside and the one in my chest) is a best treated with sitting in front of the fire under a wool blanket. The reality is when one is sick one needs to rest.
Talked to mom today. She is up and doing dishes and eating a bit more. That’s good news.
Tax receipts were sorted and bundled yesterday and the filing was done. The desk is clean-ish. I think I’ll defrost a chicken so I can make chicken soup on the weekend.

Friday – Thank goodness! The weather has turned for the better. A paltry -10 C at 8:00 a.m. Other good news – our sort-of-feral cat pooped in the litter box! Yay! She’s getting old. Fourteen this year. She’s very outdoorsy and had needed to recently be re-trained to use the box. We had a different box last year, and you know how that goes with cats. Something different = possible threat to cat’s life. I’m not sure how the cat can perceive a litter box as a threat, but that is what I’m told. I’ve observed her jumping 5 feet straight up into the air at the sight of a leaf on the deck, so yeah, new box = threat to life.

My cold isn’t too bad today. I’m not done with sneezing and blowing, but I have some energy so I shoveled snow for over an hour. There’s more to do but I was too tired to continue. We sure got a lot of snow last night. The trees are weighted down with ice and now this thick layer of lovely, clean snow. It’s very pretty.

ice

I’ve been quite busy all day long with all sorts of things – dishes, recycling, compost, cooking, planning, social media for business and I even got a little surprise. I found out my friend’s son, Jude is having a photographic exhibition on Friday, January 16 at Cafe des Artistes in Buckingham. I’ve been invited to come and sing a few songs. Once upon a time I was a rock star. Actually, I wanted to be one, but it didn’t happen. I suppose the closest I got was “troubadour who released one CD.” But that was years ago. Man, I am rusty! I hope I don’t embarrass myself.

Saturday – Sinuses blocked. I slept with my mouth opened for a good part of the night and woke up feeling like I had been in the desert (on a horse with no name) with my mouth opened to catch all the dry, hot air. I thought I was getting better but I feel extremely tired this morning and not really motivated to move.
Temperature on the lake at 9 a.m. was -26 C.
Errands in town today – groceries, heater fan for the truck, kitty litter, return DVDs to rental place. After that I’m going to cook something akin to winter comfort food (Green Lentil Dahl maybe) and huddle under the wool blanket on the couch for the night. Tomorrow I’m getting together with Chris to see what tunes we can work up for Jude’s photo exhibit.

Posted in life | Leave a comment

Cold Snap

Yesterday it snowed, then rained and then snowed again. The temperatures dipped down below -20 Celsius. Currently it is -21 C with a windchill of -30 C.

The first thing I usually do in the morning is eat a bowl of homemade granola and Greek yogurt and then JF and I head out to the forest reserve for a short hike or snow shoe. When we get back home I head out for a walk of about 45-60 minutes along the country roads and then settle into my yoga practise. Exercise is done by 10 or 10:30 and then I head into the studio.

On cold mornings such as this I tend to want to stay in bed under the heavy quilt which I did until 7:30. We missed our walk, but we did it on purpose. It’s far too cold this morning for outdoor exercise. I decided to start this blog, place a vitamin order online and check my email.

It’s nearly 10 a.m. and I still haven’t ventured outside. Maybe later.

Yesterday, my last day of vacation (I take 2 weeks off from the Winter Solstice until the first Monday in January to rest and recharge) I decided to clean the house. I dusted, vacuumed, washed floors and dishes and then made a Mexican Feast for dinner. I found a recipe for “Batter Tortillas” in a Betty Crocker cookbook that I acquired in my 20’s and rediscovered in my 40’s when I spied a copy of the same cookbook at a friend’s place. It’s not, in any way, an authentic tortilla recipe, but I find it easy and I enjoy the taste. I don’t like 100% corn tortillas and I do not eat wheat, so buying tortillas is not for me. These batter tortillas are easy enough to prepare with 2 parts spelt flour and 1 part corn meal, but they do take time to cook because I can only cook one at a time. It’s completely worth it though. What we did not eat was placed in the freezer. I’m big on batch cooking and freezing. I love cooking, generally and yes, my cupboards are filled with pottery. Most of it my own. I enjoy the way food looks on pottery. It’s so rustic and homey.

I also prepared (from scratch) refried beans, guacamole, spiced ground turkey and caramelized onions and peppers. We topped the “burritos” with grated organic old cheddar, tomatoes and lettuce. BURP!! Yeah, it was really good and it’s what’s for lunch too. 😀

The sun is shining and I am very tempted to go out for some fresh air, even if I don’t get very far. The snow shoes are right by the door and the lake has not been trod upon yet this winter. JF saw a skater speed by a few days ago though!

The studio feels fairly toasty and I have good light today, so I shall spend some time in there photographing new pots, cleaning up and I will also spend an hour or two on tax prep.

Later…
I lasted only 10 minutes outside with my glasses fogging up and my fingers getting so cold they started to hurt. I have crappy mittens. I wish for leather ones that cut the wind and that are fur lined. Wouldn’t that be something? I got my cardio workout done indoors followed by a great yoga practise.

I was in the studio photographing goblets and I decided to call my parents. My mom will be 80 in August and my dad is turning 82 in May. They still live in the home they bought as newlyweds in 1955. My mom has had the flu for a week now and I decided to call to see how she’s doing.

Mom is a type 2 diabetic and a couple of years ago she had a small stroke that didn’t do a lot of damage. She mixes up a few words here and there, but other than that she seems okay. My dad has sciatica that has him using a walker right now and so my mom had been taking care of both of them until she came down with the flu.

She was at the hospital last week – they went to emergency because I thought that my mom’s speech was a bit slurred when I was talking with her, so I called my brother and he got them to the hospital. It could have been another stroke, but it wasn’t. She was sent home with the diagnosis of influenza.

When I called dad answered and said the paramedics were there and they were waiting for an ambulance. What?! My guess is that because my dad is using his walker and mom is so sick, that it would have been impossible for him to take her to the hospital on his own. He must have been really worried about her to have called for an ambulance. I live in Quebec, my sister in BC and my brother in rural Manitoba. Our parents are in Winnipeg. Dad said he’d call later tonight when he knew more, but really there was nothing he could tell me. He seemed rather confused…or in shock. Poor dad. I really feel for him.

After that call I was feeling very distracted. I called my sister to let her know what was going on and took a few more photos of new blue spiral ware. Then there was a knock on the door. Wood was being delivered. I had forgotten. I helped the delivery guy by opening and closing the door as he loaded wood into the house. We buy recycled wood “logs” – basically hardwood sawdust that is compressed into a log. They burn more efficiently and are better for the environment. It’s a lot cleaner in the house too. One time we bought a load of wood that was pretty wet and covered in green mold. That was gross and then we found these recycled logs.

Back in the pottery I priced some pots that had been unloaded from the glaze kiln just before I took my winter break. I put the new pottery in the gallery and cleaned up a bit in the workshop and put the photographic lights away thinking the whole time about mom and sending her good energy.

Many texts and phone calls and email have been flying between siblings today. The tax prep will have to wait.

I got a call from my mom tonight. She is home from her visit to the hospital. After all the tests the doctor said that she has a strain of influenza that wasn’t covered by the general flu vaccine that she received. She sounds much better than when I spoke to her last week. As mom put it, it has been determined by the health professionals that she will indeed get through this.

Posted in life | 1 Comment

January 3rd, 2015 – Preparing for The Storm

An appropriate title for today as there is a storm warning and I’m returning to the pottery on January 5th to start new work for the year.

It’s Day 13 of my vacation and as I near the completion of it I am drawn into thinking about work even when I have vowed not to do so, yet it seems to me that waking up on Monday without a clue of what to do first, is foolish. I have a list of suggestions like “inventory” and “tax prep” and “new work” and “reading day.” “Clean workshop” is also on the list.

The thing is, I’m not really interested in either the snow storm brewing or another storm of pottery-making. I’ve had my fill of working like mad to meet a deadline that is unrealistic for me to meet in the fashion in which I would like to meet any deadline: with a solid collection of 2-3 styles of great quality stoneware pottery made for every day living.

I can only achieve this goal if I give myself time and 3 months isn’t enough time, so I plan to skip spring art and craft sales in the city (Ottawa/Gatineau). My work cycle is about 6-8 weeks but I also must include time from January to April for inventory, tax preparations, lesson planning and teaching pottery workshops and classes. No, three months isn’t enough time right now. My pottery stock is depleted. I want to present a great collection at my summer sale at my home gallery in June and then keep adding to it throughout the rest of the “making season” (July – November) when I will present my pottery again at my own gallery sale on the Thanksgiving long weekend in October followed by the many fine local art and craft shows from November 2015 – December 2015.

January is usually the worst month for pottery-making because it’s cold. When it’s very cold outside chances are that the clay will be too cold to work. Boxes of clay sit on the cement floor of the workshop and even though the workshop is heated, the clay can be too cold to work and give me terrible pains in my hands. If it’s too cold then I have to do something else and there is no shortage of something else to do. There is always something to clean, for example, I need to clean the kiln shelves – scrape off the old, flaking kiln wash from the shelves and apply fresh kiln wash afterwards. I usually need to recycle clay and there is always marketing to do and a growing list of website improvements and photos of the new pottery to take.

I have a private workshop booked for Jan. 17, so the first thing on my list is to make the workshop an inhabitable space for a couple of young artists to come and do some work. I love teaching. I have a lesson plan already worked out. I’m happy to start the new year with the thought of passing along some clay skills to the new generation of “maybe an artist one day!”

Posted in business, my work | 1 Comment

The Real Life

My blog is titled The Life of a Potter, but I don’t write often enough for you to really get a taste of what I do, my creative process, the challenges I face, the fears I have, or the accolades I’ve received.

I’ve thought about this for a few weeks now and have decided that I’m interested in sharing as much of my day as I can so that through this blog you can get a realistic idea of what it’s like to be a potter.

I can not yet say that I can live off my income from making art, but this is way beyond being a hobby. When I am asked what I do for a living I say that I’m an artist.

I am exceedingly thankful that I have a partner who has a good job. It’s a rare gift to be able to make art and not have to spend most of my day working for someone else. I’m lucky. I know.

I think that art is important. In fact, both JF and I think art is important. I think that often we tell ourselves that we don’t have time to make art, but art is a process that takes time and sadly, in our instant world “taking time” often seems out of the question. Yet there are some processes that can not be rushed and it takes time whether you wish it to or not.

The process of making pottery is fascinating to me, and I hope it is to you too. It’s a lengthy process and it’s my goal to share the process with you. Not only am I an artist and a potter, I also run a business, create things from scratch, run a household, pursue hobbies, have a social life, and manage to stay happy and healthy too.

If you’ve read past blogs you already know a bit about me:
I end up doing a lot of things myself because I can and because I think that developing new skills is important. For example I’ve constructed my own display boxes that double as packing crates and I make my own signs. Here’s a blog about making my newest signs:
https://blog.lmserafin.com/?s=how+I+made+my+own+sign

As you can see, I’m the type of gal who would rather have fabric to make my own clothes than buy off the rack, yarn to knit my own sweaters and a cow to milk so I can make my own yogurt, butter and cheese. I do most of my cooking from scratch including a rather recent foray into making my own Greek yogurt. I would grow a vegetable garden in the summer if the yard got enough sunlight. But my garden is part shade so I grow hostas, some irises, lilies that always stretch south east as the sun climbs in the sky then passes behind the hills. I also can grow some herbs like lavender, oregano, lemon balm and bee balm.

My life is full and I made it that way because I like the experience of doing things for myself. Sometimes I end up saving a buck or saving time. Mostly I learn something new. I guess I’m a little old fashioned. (I still have a fondness for dial phones, VCR’s and tape decks.) Sometimes doing things the way I do them is out of necessity and sometimes it’s just my preference.

Right now I’m taking some time off from work to rest and recharge from a very busy 2014. It was a year full of very intense work and travel. When I come back to the pottery workshop in January I will start posting a little something and I hope to do that almost every day.

Thanks so much for dropping by my blog and buying my art. I appreciate the support. I could not have done it without so many pottery lovers out there! Thank goodness you appreciate clay.

All the Very Best of the Holiday Season. May 2015 being you much joy.
Lisa-Marie

Posted in business, fun stuff, life, my work | Leave a comment

Artisan and Craft Shows Right Around the Corner

It’s been a beautiful fall! It was so colourful out here in the woods. Most of the leaves have fallen off of the trees now and only the Beech tree leaves are hanging on, golden brown and rustling in the wind.

In the pottery I’m glazing 7 pointed star tree decorations. Every one of them is a unique piece, never to be repeated twice. It is impossible to replicate a piece when making things by hand and one-by-one. Each star is hand cut and after the stars are bisque fired I paint on layers and layers of glaze for an amazing and dazzling finish.

Here’s an example of some I’ve made in recent years.

Doves and 7 pointed star, "Star Brite."  White earthenware with layered glazes and bursting crystal glaze centre.

Doves and 7 pointed star, “Star Brite.” White earthenware with layered glazes and bursting crystal glaze centre.

For November and December I’ll be at 4 artisan and craft sales in the Ottawa/Gatineau region.

The first one is on Saturday, November 8 at Buckingham Elementary School, 615 rue Georges. The sale starts at 9 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m. Last year there was no craft sale in Buckingham, but this sale is sure to get you started on the right foot where gift shopping is concerned. There will be artisans there who make jewelry, wood sculptures, home decor, knitwear and of course I’ll be there with my pottery. Proceeds from the table rentals (a fee that we artisans pay to be there) go to the school for various student activities. It’s a win-win! Come out and support local art!

On Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., I will be at the Ottawa Valley Crafts and Collectibles (OVCC) Christmas event “Joy!” at The Library and Archives Building at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa. The charity we are supporting is the Ottawa Senators Foundation. To see who is selling at this artisan event, go here:
http://www.ovccshow.com/
“The 2014 OVCC | Artisans @ Archives Christmas Art & Craft Extravaganza”

On Saturday, November 29 and Sunday, the 30th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. I’ll be at the Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Boulevard in Ottawa’s east-end, for Baz’Art – The Holiday Show and Sale along with 32 other artists and artisans. http://shenkmanarts.ca/en/calendar_calendrier/november_novembre_2014/bazart/index.htm

And for my big finale I will be at MAC Fair on Saturday, December 6 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. MAC Fair is held at Immaculata High School, 140 Main St., Ottawa ,in the gym and there will be 100 crafters and artisans there! Tune in to http://www.macfaircrafts.com/event-details.html
for more details.

Posted in my work, shameless self-promotion | Leave a comment