Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Women's History and poetry

from your email account go here for an educational quiz...

Take the full Women's History Knowledge Challenge

 I started with the 20 questions version, as Women's History Project posted today...then wanted to see what the "full challenge" would hold.  Golly gee!

I thought I knew a lot about Women's History...nah.  I got about 3 or 4 of the 20 questions right.  No comment on the 50.  How about you?
Flat Creek, Montreat, NC
and to give you something for your efforts (everything is about an energy exchange isn't it?) here's a favorite poem of mine by Mary Oliver...the last line of which always makes me walk around in another space for a while...

Summer Day

So what am I doing with my one wild and precious life?  Sitting here writing a blog that I doubt that anyone reads, just musing, or assembling a body of work by women artists, or avoiding doing something great?

Like buttons.  I've got some interest in having some for sale on consignment at a new cloth and weaving shop in town.  There are certainly other potters already making buttons, but I'll give it a try.  The only thing is, then I also have to work out the logistics of making all the parts, as well as the display and marketing of them as a consignment.  Not my favorite pastime.  Yesterday I realized I didn't need to reem out the holes by hand, but could use a drill bit on my Dremyl tool.  Ha.  So I brought home what I'd done so far, to work on when?  Not sure.  Now would be one possibility.

 Oh here's a picture, I hate when blogs don't have them, don't you?
Feb 26, 2011 First Daffodil

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

then there was also...

Where can people go to learn more about clay, to make beautiful works, and be inspired by others around them?  Archie Bray Foundation, link above.

I'll post some more as I think of

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


go see what's happening in Tampa March 30-April 2...

I haven't begun to search for the Tampa sites which NCECA will bring out...their shuttle busses are going far and wide...and I'm not on a bus, I'm in my car. I may not go as far as Gainesville. I'll try to take know me!  I dare say North Carolina will be a bit lighter this week because so many potters are in Florida!

National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts
here's their link

and in case you don't want to go are some basics...

THEME:  Tidal Forces: The Next Wave


Exhibitions are the bridge between ceramic makers and the viewing public. This vital aspect of our organization and annual conference speaks to our mission of advancing the ceramic arts and educating our communities through dynamic personal interaction with ceramics in exhibitions that encompass the full spectrum of ceramic art. To further increase public awareness and appreciation of the ceramic arts, as well as instigate critical investigation and dialogue, NCECA sponsors two exhibitions in conjunction with each annual conference and helps place dozens of concurrent independent exhibitions featuring ceramics in the conference host community.

Some of the places of interest to me are...

St. Ptersburg, FL...

Eckerd College, New Cobb Gallery, 4200 54th Ave S, 727-864-8340
·       EC @ NCECA, Brian Ransom, Bede Clarke, Stanton Hunter, Joy Brown, Casey McDonough, Mary Law, Jere Lykins, Susan Demay, Robert Hodgell, Ian Meares, John Eckert, Scott Ross, Tai Rogers, Jessica Wilson, Annette Sidner, Tom Judge, Nick Schwartz, Melinda Marino, Alix Knipe, Matt Schiemann, Adam Yungbluth, and more.  Featuring ceramics by alumni, as well as past and current faculty of Eckerd College.  Curated by Arthur Skinner.  Mar 6-Apr 8.  Tue-Sat 10:30am-4:30pm.  Reception Mar 31, 6:30-9:30pm

St. Pete Beach
Nancy Markoe Gallery, 3112 Pass-a-Grille Way, 727-360-0729historic house – please call in advance
·       The Shoulders We Stand On, Virginia Ainslie, JoAnn Axford, Antoinette Badenhorst, John Baymore, John Beckelman, Sandra Blain, Judy Bolef Miller, David Bolton, Andrea Bottelli, Maureen Burns-Bowie, Joan Carcia, Bowie Croisant, Susan Curry, Joan d'Arcambal, Barbara Davis, Scott Dooley, Bette Drake, Laila Farcas-lonescu, Dawn Ferguson, Roberta Griffith, Martha Grover, Vicky Hansen, Marian Heintz, Pamela Herring, Jonathan Kaplan, Jan Kolenda, Justin Lambert, Marta Matray, Joan Matsusaki, Dan Molyneux, Judith Motzkin, Hank Murrow, Joy Elaine Praznik, Catherine Rehbein, Carol Rissman, Renee Rouillier, Donna Rozman, Barbara Schwartz, Sam Scott, Amy Smith, Dinah Snipes Steveni, Rimas VisGirda, Sumi von Dassow, Scott Ziegler, Cristin Zimmer, Eliza Wang.  Potters Council celebrates the community with a show of members' work and will pay tribute to our roots, the significant influences that shape us and guide our work in clay.  We are creative heirs standing on the shoulders of giants.  We cannot help but reference and renew their ideas in our own work.  These distinctive inspirations become the touchstones of our best original efforts.  We do not seek copies of our roots, but works, which honor them with fresh, innovative interpretations.  Curated by Bill Jones
·       Sages of Clay, Cynthia Bringle and Sandra McKenzie Schmidtt.  Works that deeply touch and speak to people.  Throughout their careers, these artists have also been inspirational guides to countless artists who wish to live a life in clay.  Curated by Nancy Markoe
Above Shows:  Mar 28-Apr 15.  Mon-Sat 10am-6pm; Sun 12-6pm.  Reception Apr 1, 5:30-8:30pm

St. Pete Clay Company
Also in St. Petersburg, FL is a wonderful site where clay is worked and sold, and a Highwater Clay store is also housed.  (For those of us around Asheville, it is much smaller than the store we are used to, but still a great source for clay supplies)

45th Annual NCECA Conference Tampa/St. Pete
March 28th - April 2nd, 2011

St. Pete Clay Co. says..."We are fortunate to have NCECA in our city this year.  During this
time we will be hosting many shows in conjunction with the Morean
Arts Center for Clay and Highwater Clays.  NCECA is the annual
clay conference where thousands of artists, educators and students
gather to share ideas, have discussions and view art by contemporary ceramic artists. 
Because ceramics is such a community based field of art it is a good opportunity to bring
ceramic artists together.
The St. Petersburg Clay Company will be open thoughout NCECA.Train Station Reception Night
March 31st, 2011

 "We will be hosting a reception for the many shows that are being
held in the Train Station in conjunction with  the Morean Arts
Center for Clay and Highwater Clays. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Potters all the time

Have you any idea how many new potters are being born today?  Well, eventually they grow big enough to start making their wares or sculpting their objects of art...and there you have it.  New potters all the time.

I'm on my way to the environment of NCECA, where many many clay artists will be gathering.  There have been some losses this year of the old and great potters.  But the people who gather for this conference will probably be more than a hundred for each space that a recently deceased potter held.  That's a hundred hopeful talented people, dedicating a sizeable portion of their lives to make art out of clay.

Pretty amazing, isn't it?  How many will succeed, do you think?  Half?  A dozen?  One?

That was what struck me when I was sitting in an auditorium in art school, listening to a lecture about Fine Art with about 500 other students.  Well, at least 200.  I just looked around and thought, how many of these people will have their work in a gallery in 10 years?  I figured I wouldn't.  But that's cause I had already recognized that I needed to make a living doing something that provided a.) steady income, and b.) health insurance for myself and my son.

 I salute those hearty souls who step into the hopeful future with determination and whatever else it takes to live the life of an artist.  I know my potter son has spent a lot of his adult life without health insurance or a steady income.  He didn't have job security high on his list of values for a long time, but he's started talking about it lately.  And he's also considering going to grad school in, you guessed it, art and ceramics.  So he will have to wait a while for the steady income and health insurance maybe.  But I think, the world will be a better place for his having created what he can in those years, rather than having traded his artistic endeavors for security.

What about you?  Do you follow your dream?  Do you have what it takes to put your life into your creativity?

Snow is forecast for this morning, before later getting into the 40's when it will melt.  Wonder if we will see some more of whiteness...and if it's finally the last of this winter...

wonder...isn't it all about wonder?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mary Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt (pronounced /kəˈsæt/; May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926) was an American painter and printmaker. She lived much of her adult life in France, where she first befriended Edgar Degas and later exhibited among the Impressionists. Cassatt often created images of the social and private lives of women, with particular emphasis on the intimate bonds between mothers and children.

Wikepedia begins thus, with an extensive biography.  I'll just cut/paste few of the facts, and her paintings here.

... born in Pittsburgh, PA, ]distant cousin of artist Robert Henri.[2] ...began schooling at age 6 in Philadelphia.

Cassatt grew up in an environment that viewed travel as integral to education; she spent 5 years in Europe and visited many of the capitals, including London, Paris, and Berlin. While abroad she learned German and French and had her first lessons in drawing and music.[3] Her first exposure to French artists Ingres, Delacroix, Corot, and Courbet was likely at the Paris World’s Fair of 1855. Also exhibited at the exhibition were Degas and Pissarro, both of whom would be her future colleagues and mentors.[4]

Even though her family objected to her becoming a professional artist, Cassatt began studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, at the early age of 15.[5] Part of her parents' concern may have been Cassatt’s exposure to feminist ideas and the bohemian behavior of some of the male students. Although about 20 percent of the students were female, most viewed art as a socially valuable skill; few of them were determined, as Cassatt was, to make art their career.[6] She continued her studies during the years of the American Civil War. Among her fellow students was Thomas Eakins, later the controversial director of the Academy.

Cassatt decided to end her studies (at that time, no degree was granted). After overcoming her father’s objections she moved to Paris in 1866, with her mother and family friends acting as chaperones.[8] Since women could not yet attend the École des Beaux-Arts, she applied to study privately with masters from the school[9] and was accepted to study with Jean-Léon Gérôme, a highly regarded teacher known for his hyper-realistic technique and his depiction of exotic subjects.

Cassatt augmented her artistic training with daily copying in the Louvre (she obtained the required permit, which was necessary to control the “copyists”, usually low-paid women, who daily filled the museum to paint copies for sale).

 The French art scene was in a process of change, as radical artists such as Courbet and Manet tried to break away from accepted Academic tradition and the Impressionists were in their formative years.

Returning to the United States in the late summer of 1870—as the Franco-Prussian War was starting—Cassatt lived with her family in Altoona. ... returned to Europe in the autumn of 1871, Cassatt’s prospects had brightened. Her painting Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival was well received in the Salon of 1872, and was purchased.  

In 1874, she made the decision to take up residence in France. She was joined by her sister Lydia who shared an apartment with her. Cassatt continued to express criticism of the politics of the Salon and the conventional taste that prevailed there.  Cassatt saw that works by female artists were often dismissed with contempt unless the artist had a friend or protector on the jury, and she would not flirt with jurors to curry favor.[20]

Edgar Degas, Portrait of Miss Cassatt, Seated, Holding Cards, c. 1876–1878, oil on canvas
In 1877, ...she was invited by Edgar Degas to show her works with the Impressionists, a group that had begun their own series of independent exhibitions in 1874 with much attendant notoriety. She felt comfortable with the Impressionists and joined their cause enthusiastically, declaring: “we are carrying on a despairing fight & need all our forces”.[25]

Cassatt, self portrait
In 1877, Cassatt was joined in Paris by her father and mother, who returned with her sister Lydia. Mary valued their companionship, as neither she nor Lydia had married. Mary had decided early in life that marriage would be incompatible with her career. Lydia, who was frequently painted by her sister, suffered from recurrent bouts of illness, and her death in 1882 left Cassatt temporarily unable to work.[27]

Cassatt’s father insisted that her studio and supplies be covered by her sales, which were still meager. Afraid of having to paint “potboilers” to make ends meet, Cassatt applied herself to produce some quality paintings for the next Impressionist exhibition. 

Degas had considerable influence on Cassatt. She became extremely proficient in the use of pastels, eventually creating many of her most important works in this medium. Degas also introduced her to etching, of which he was a recognized master. The two worked side-by-side for a while, and her draftsmanship gained considerable strength under his tutelage. He depicted her in a series of etchings recording their trips to the Louvre.  The sophisticated and well-dressed Degas, then forty-five, was a welcome dinner guest at the Cassatt residence.[28]

The Impressionist exhibit of 1879 was the most successful to date, despite the absence of Renoir, Sisley, Manet and Cézanne, ... she remained an active member of the Impressionist circle until 1886. In 1886, Cassatt provided two paintings for the first Impressionist exhibition in the United States, organized by art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel.  Cassatt’s style then evolved, and she moved away from Impressionism to a simpler, more straightforward approach.

The Child's Bath (The Bath) by Mary Cassatt, 1893, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago
Cassatt's popular reputation is based on an extensive series of rigorously drawn, tenderly observed, yet largely unsentimental paintings and prints on the theme of the mother and child.  After 1900, she concentrated almost exclusively on mother-and-child subjects.[33]

In 1891, she exhibited a series of highly original colored drypoint and aquatint prints, including Woman Bathing and The Coiffure, inspired by the Japanese masters shown in Paris the year before.  In her interpretation, she used primarily light, delicate pastel colors and avoided black (a “forbidden” color among the Impressionists).

Also in 1891, Chicago businesswoman Bertha Palmer approached Cassatt to paint a 54' × 12' mural about "Modern Woman" for the Women's Building for the World's Columbian Exposition to be held in 1893. Cassatt completed the project over the next two years while living in France with her mother. The mural was designed as a triptych. The central theme was titled Young Women Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge or Science. The left panel was Young Girls Pursuing Fame and the right panel Arts, Music, Dancing. The mural displays a community of women apart from their relation to men, as accomplished persons in their own right. Palmer considered Cassatt to be an American treasure and could think of no one better to paint a mural at an exposition that was to do so much to focus the world's attention on the status of women.[36] Unfortunately the mural was lost when the building was torn down after the exhibit. Cassatt made several studies and paintings on themes similar to those in the mural around that time, however, so it is possible to see her development of those ideas and images.[37] Cassatt also exhibited other paintings in the Exposition.

As the new century arrived, Cassatt served as an advisor to several major art collectors and stipulated that they eventually donate their purchases to American art museums. In recognition of her contributions to the arts, France awarded her the Légion d'honneur in 1904. Although instrumental in advising American collectors, recognition of her art came more slowly in the United States. Even among her family members back in America, she received little recognition ...

... An increasing sentimentality is apparent in her work of the 1900s; her work was popular with the public and the critics, but she was no longer breaking new ground, and her Impressionist colleagues who once provided stimulation and criticism were dying off. She was hostile to such new developments in art as post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism.[40]

Diagnosed with diabetes, rheumatism, neuralgia, and cataracts in 1911, she did not slow down, but after 1914 she was forced to stop painting as she became almost blind. Nonetheless, she took up the cause of women's suffrage, and in 1915, she showed eighteen works in an exhibition supporting the movement.
She died on June 14, 1926 at Château de Beaufresne, near Paris, and was buried in the family vault at Le Mesnil-Théribus, France.
Much of this Wikepedia article came from Nancy Mowll Mathews, Mary Cassatt: A Life, Villard Books, New York, 1994


 “O how wild I am to get to work, my fingers farely itch & my eyes water to see a fine picture again”.    Mary Cassatt

Saturday, March 26, 2011

M. C. Richards and me...

"Centering, In the Art of Pottery Poetry and Person."

"The Crossing Point, Selected Talks and Writings"

Mary Caroline Richards
(1916 - 1999)


A poet, potter, teacher, and mystical philosopher who said that all of her art was "a celebration of the numinous," M.C. Richards often remarked, "We live in the universe, not just on Maple Avenue." Supremely self-confident, renowned for her warrior personality, she attributed much of her lifelong fearlessness to her mother's wisdom. When she was an impressionable eight-year-old, for example, a distraught neighbor came running to M.C.'s mother to tell her that M.C. had climbed up on the roof and was perched precariously at the edge. Her mother went out and called up to her daughter, "Oh, M.C., you look so beautiful up there all silhouetted against the sky."
Mary Caroline Richards

Mary Caroline Richards was born in Weiser, Idaho, in 1916 and reared in Portland, OR.  She received a doctorate in English from the University of California at Berkeley in the 1940s, when few women received more than a high-school education, and later taught at the innovative Black Mountain College and other universities. She left two marriages and a number of unsatisfactory love relationships and started a new career at the age of seventy by joining the faculty of Matthew Fox's Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality. As a seventieth birthday gift to herself, she had her ears pierced.   -- Mary Ford-Grabowsky

M.C. Richards also is the subject of a biographical movie "The Fire Within" taken at her home in PA where whe gave workshops, painted, and lived in an intentional community Camphill Village, an agricultural community in Kimberton, Pa., where she had lived since 1984. (The Black Mountain Library owns a copy of this film available to be checked out.)

The Fire Within is a portrait of a remarkable woman whose greatest artistic ability was perhaps to find the artist in others (despite her own impressive output as a writer, painter and potter). Most of the film centers on Richards' last years, including footage of her as she taught, wrote and worked with many special-needs adults at a Camphill Village in Pennsylvania; Richards touched the creative spark in them while working on her own art at the same time. The film offers us a striking picture of a woman who was as down-to-earth and forthright as they come, but who was likewise a dreamy visionary. She was a contradiction, and a fascinating one.  (movie review by Ken Hanke | 04/28/2004, Mountain Xpress)

Cover art for film
My life was definitely impacted by M.C. Richards.  In the 1970's I read "Centering."  The book, which became an underground classic, pulled together ideas about perception, craft, education, creativity, religion and spirituality, arguing for the richness of daily experience if carefully attended to, and the creativity of the average person. ''Poets are not the only poets,'' Ms. Richards wrote.

At that time I was not yet a potter.  I was a "hippie".  I was willing to step into the unknown, several times actually.  My boyfriend, Charlie, and I opened a co-op store in Tallahassee, naming it "Pottery, Poetry and Person." after M.C.'s book title.  Another friend, Martha, was the co-op sponsor of the book portion of the store, a loft full of great new age reading including overstuffed chairs in which to sit and read.  No big box book stores had thought of doing that in 1976 yet.  My share of the co-op was some pen & ink cards and calendars, and doing most of the hands on managing/sitting there.  Other arts and crafts were also represented, leather making, silk flower arranging, batik painting on cloth, wood inlay, watercolors. 

Charlie taught at the local alternative high school.  He learned how to make pottery, bought a wheel and some kilns, and we started making pottery there in the back of the store.  I watched what he did, and tried the same.   I even started doing demonstrations at the local fairs, as well as carrying pottery to sell there.  It was a great thing to do in the 70's in Florida.   I still have a couple of bowls that Charlie and I made...he threw them, I glazed them. One plate I made from beginning to end is carved in a Native American design, and is still in my collection also.  (It is not at all in a style MC would have promoted, being very tight compared to her organic flowing style).

Fast forward to when I finally decided to become a "real artist" and go to the University of Florida in the 80's, studying under Nan Smith to learn everything I didn't know about ceramics.  There was a lot.  But I also wrote to M. C. Richards (via her publisher probably) and told her how she had influenced my life.  She actually wrote me back.  I didn't understand that a famous woman, who had published two books, could write a student on notebook paper, but I was so excited, I carried her letter folded in my pocket of my coat.  I rode (as most students do) a bike around campus.  Someplace or another, the letter fell out.  But M.C. never fell out of the special place she holds in my heart.

M. C. Richards also planted the seed that led me to Black Mountain, NC. 

As you may already know, after I got that BFA in ceramics, I stayed in school to get an M.Ed. and Ed.S. in counseling...and found that some of the ideas being promoted for counselors still echoed those that were spoken of in "Centering."  M.C. had taught at Black Mountain College, which closed its doors back in the 50's, but not before impacting the arts and education. 

Black Mountain College was the college where performing and visual artists and John Cage engaged in a "Happening" in 1950, well before it happened again  in 1968 when I was briefly an art student in The Hartford Art School in Connecticut.  (I also was the receptionist there, thinking myself less talented and more inclined to be earning an income). 

Black Mountain College was a short-lived laboratory for innovative teaching and art whose faculty and students included Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, David Tudor, Robert Rauschenberg and Charles Olson. They had workshops where everyone shared making pinch pots, exploring words in creativity and "brain storming."  Buckminster Fuller, (grand-nephew of Margaret Fuller, another genius) tried out his first geodesic dome there, and returned to make a more successful one than the original one of venetian blind slats.

M. C. Richards had translated a play from the French which was produced at Black Mountain College, including Bucky Fuller as one of the characters.

M. C.'s pottery and painting (like her prose and poetry) is loose, organic, speaks of the creativity rather than the polish, and is definitely inspired.  She taught me the value of process rather than everything.  That was fundamental in counseling as well.  I may have tried writing poetry also, but am willing to appreciate that written by others.

My youngest son went to a Waldorf school for a year also, which was based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.  I just realized that MC wrote the book that I read about him also!
Toward Wholeness: Rudolf Steiner Education in America.

And another influence of MC...when I interviewed at one of the rehabilitation centers where I counselled, I impressed the director by describing the organic crossing point in all plants (see below) as MC had taught.  Whether a person or plant, we all have almost microscopic points where change a plant from root to stem as the cells have different a person when change becomes healthy rather than unhealthy for the organism.

It's all about Centering.

Seeing with Your Inner Eye

Avocado half with pitPicture in your inner eye, your inner sight, four avocado seeds on the window sill. Three are suspended in a glass of water and have sprouted. One is still dry and papery and brown. Each of the sprouting seeds has its own character. One has two long roots, like two rubbery legs folding around each other in the bottom of the glass. Out of the top rises a cluster of tiny seedling leaves, and surprisingly, on this one, these leaves are white -- little tight white albino avocado seedling leaves, coming out of that big hard seed knob. Another has one short straight root and one straight shoot bearing green leaves at the top. The third has neither root nor shoot, but the whole seed has been split open by a thrust from inside, and the two halves shoved apart by the germinating seed force -- that little bunch of stuff, big as the end of your pinkie, shoving those big doors aside like a tiny Samson. It is a wonderful sight. And now let us look at the fourth seed, dry and papery and brown, nothing showing on the outside. But within are a life force and a living plantness which we cannot see with our ordinary eyes. If we are to behold the wrinkled old seed in truth, we have to behold it with imagination, with our inner eye. Only with the inner eye of imagination can we see inner forms of Being and Becoming. In this lifeless-looking seed there is a germinating center, totally alive and totally invisible.
-- from The Crossing Point
Selected Talks and Writings

Friday, March 25, 2011

Your fav woman artist?

WHo is your favorite woman artist?

I guess there's no secret that mine is Georgia O'Keefe, then Judy Chicago, Mary Cassatt, Adelaid Alsop Robineau, M.C. Richards, Maria Martinez (Black on Black pots)...and a few more who do fabulous work today.

Now, I would also like to share some of my more recent pots.  That's what this blog was designed for well as a place to journal whatever I think is important enough to share.  Please forgive me when that sometimes becomes trivial.

Large fruitbowl on stand, thrown, pierced, assembled

Fruitbowl on stand, thrown and altered, Bellas Blend, porcelaneous cone 6

Thrown goblets, assembled

Thrown pierced and altered bowl

Thrown bowl, altered and pierced

Medium bowl, thrown

Medium bowl

Owl mugs...just for the fun of it!

OK, besides me, who's your favorite woman artist?  (Yes, of course you get points for chosing me, but they won't buy you nuttin')


I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree, past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree. Georgia O'Keeffe

Thursday, March 24, 2011

links to Women's pottery blogs

Here are some of the women's blogs which I check (almost daily, if I have time).

This is a great thing to read over morning coffee, and much more inspiring than the news or anything on TV these days.  I check these 'cause the authors tend to regularly post something.  Many blogs are bookmarked but not checked any more, because they just don't post frequently.

Amy Sanders

shambhala pottery

/jennifer mecca

Tracey Broome

Flat Creek in Montreat, Feb. 2011.  Beginning of warming..

Jose goes to Pot

art biz blog


Covered in Mud


There are probably more, because if I notice something interesting on one of their "blogs they follow" I sometimes go off on tangents and look at them too.  Of course, I'm leaving off all the men potters today...and believe me there are a few who do great blogs.  Next month perhaps.  See, there doesn't have to be a Men's History Month.  They've kind of written the book, as the feminists say.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Village Witch

There's a gifted witch hereabouts, who shared at our UU church in Black Mountain last Sun...

She spoke of her mountain Celtic roots, the agricultural turn of the year, and chocolate Ostara bunnies.  Byron has given much to the communities of Asheville and Black Mountain, teaching workshops, writing frequent blogs for the local newspaper, the Citizen Times, and sponsoring many acitivites.  Her blog is here...

The Village Witch

This is her web site

Byron Ballard

I met Byron within a few months of moving here from Florida.  In Florida, and I imagine over much of the earth, it is considered proper etiquette (which I know very little about, the proper kind, or even the way to spell it, let alone the ways to follow it) to not tell other people if you know someone is a witch.  It is their identity, and probably a safety measure to let them decide whether to be "out" about it or not.

So whenever a witch has told you that they are one, usually, at least if you've been around pagans very much, you just introduce them as "one who follows the old religion" or "a follower of earth based traditions."  That is, if it's really important in the discussion at all.

Byron is definitely out there.  Not only in being public, but also in being a public leader.  She also has her own traditions, which have as much root as those of others who practice the art.  They are Hoodoo, to her tradition.  I especially like that Byron is active in interfaith efforts in her bring together the differences so there is communication.

Byron helped teach the class "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" with me a few years ago for women at the UU church here.  (You've probably heard me talk about the class as well as the book before).  She also volunteered to co-teach the sequel class, "Rise Up and Call Her Name," with a couple of other brave and entertaining women.  These curriculae were adapted from the ones the UUA puts out, to represent the interests of the leaders and the students.  So, though the classes cover topics, the actual activities are much different than what the written texts might offer. 

I celebrate a dear friend, Bryron Ballard...and wish her many more enchanting ventures and friends.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Totems or not to totem

Many people are sort of stingy with "their ways."  I find I am too eclectic to have that attitude.  I learn whatever comes my way, and am very grateful to be given different disciplines from which to study.

Totems are usually animals, usually part of various Native American traditions.

I give you a link which will start with crow...and if you can listen, have your sound on when you click on this link. 

Crow Medicine

There will be other animals listed as's a great site for you to consider the medicine of these animals, and what they might mean in your modern life.

So I consider the Japanese and Chinese and English and French and Native American potters have taught me something, all of them.  I also like many of the spiritual paths that they follow, and can say they offer me a lot. 

I hope you can do the same, learn from the soil wherever you may be planted, with the native weeds as well as the more exotic and ornamental imports.  Perhaps our scientists are wise when they try to keep the immigrant invaders in their place (or rather, our of our place), but with a global community, it's unlikely to work.  We have Kudzu and those fish that eat everything.  Now it's bedbugs.  What next?  I would imagine the American tourists have certainly carried many an invader back to Africa.  But there just aren't any scientific reports yet.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Winter may not be over but...

The equinox has passed, and there are those who say that's the beginning of spring.  Most who have lived in these mountains a while know that there is great likelihood of further frosts, and maybe even snow still.

There it was, the super moon, supposedly 14% (or maybe 17%) bigger than it's smallest, as the arc around the earth takes it further away or closer, as it was Saturday for it's fullness.

After 3 sunny hot days (in 80s two of them) the daffodils have slightly fried.  They won't be here (at least these blooms) another day.

I loved the 2 grey (French?) geese, trying to pretend they were stones, and tucking their heads under wings.  Didn't work.  Just behind me ran the kids from a birthday party, with their new fishing rods.  At least the geese got away and swam out to the island quickly.  I used my camera to protect me and walked off around the lake.  Dogs and cell phones were the remaining bothers to the day!

The little white duck in the foreground always has a topknot, and I call him Daffy Duck.  I don't know the species, they are definitely not big enough to be geese.

The Canada Geese had a squable and I was able to capture the take off of one.  It may have been another grey trying to find a mate, not sure.

It was indees a pleasure to see Mr. Wooduck, and maybe his wife.  But she reminded me a lot of female Mallards, at least with her blue and white barb on her wing...and I'd thought female Wooducks were browner.

The Cherry tree overlooking the lake had just started to bloom.  The one in my yard hasn't yet let a single blossom out of its pregnant buds.

I heard that the rec center is due to open again soon...which is across the lake below Tomahawk Mountain (to the right) while to the left the Blue Ridge Parkway could be seen going in and out of the tunnels along the top of Craggy Mountain.  I'm sure I had a few friends hiking up in those woods on Saturday during this warm sunshine.

I especially liked this couple, as Mrs. Mallard was just standing on one leg as I passed by.  Mr. Mallard was shyly looking at me over his back, so you can't see his pretty head on the left.

Mr. Wooduck getting out of the water as a Candada Goose swims by.

The view from my living room window, whenever I pause in typing to gaze outside...there are 2 garages across the street.  One is filled with junk, and has been cleaned out at least 3 times in the the 2 years I've lived here...there's still an old wringer washer in there!  The other garage is partly hidden by it's squat shaped pear tree, which is in full bloom suddenly.  In 2 days it went from grey to this bounteous beauty.

But today the cold and clouds have returned...perhaps winter still has a few words to say.  Brrrr.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Equinox

Perhaps my guardian angel?

I didn't grow up learning a thing about angels.  They didn't have a place in the religion of my youth.  And even as an adult, I didn't hear much about them until fairly recently.  I have a friend who talks about them with great familiarity, and I feel like I missed out on something wonderful.

So I've at least been noticing birds.  They have wings.  They sing.  And there seem to be some who just pop into my attention when I least expect them.  I do talk to them, doesn't everyone?  Crows, mockingbirds (like my "perhaps guardian angel"), sparrows, towhees, cardinals, wrens, hummingbirds, know they are almost everywhere.  When I go to the Lake Tomahawk I get to see Canada Geese, French Geese, Mallard Ducks, white ducks, Wood Ducks, and Muscovy Ducks. 

It amazes me that these little feathered people, creatures that walk around rather awkwardly or perhaps hop sometimes, can just stick out their wings and flap them a few times, and they are airborne.  To fly, isn't that miraculous?  Have you ever done it, and I mean on your own?.  One friend speaks of how she has in the past...and I think I did as a child too.  It was something maybe out-of-body for me...certainly if you want to be scientific about it.

OK, this was supposed to be in honor of the Equinox. How about a 5000 year old celebration of the sun inside the cairn at Loughcrew, Ireland?  This video is especially to be commended, because so many equinoxes have rain and no sun shining to the headstone at all.

Loughcrew Cairn in Ireland at Equinox
Everyone is a bit miffed at Gaia right now...or more awestruck than usual.  That's thanks to a couple of volcanoes, and myriad earthquakes recently.  Our Mother Earth has done her nature washing, shaking, rattling and rolling in the changes that are perfectly normal to her, but that inflict hardship and pain on the small species that seems to have overridden her surface.  In the greater scheme of things, as earth revolves daily, as it spins in it's arc around the sun, people are like fleas, though perhaps a bit more intelligent.  That is still debatable.

When you think of the daily or yearly cycles of the earth, it seems pretty immense.  But let's get some real perspective.  Look at this site to see some amazing events, thousands of light years away.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

That means that the light took that long to reach the viewer from the place we think we're looking at....which may not even be there any longer.  If the site shows something on earth on the particular day you look at it, check the archives for some views from the Hubble Telescope of the dark field, where thousands (of course really many more) of galaxies were photographed that had never even been seen before.  A recent post said it's picture of a galaxy was "located only about 21 million light-years beyond the stars of the Milky Way."

How about a million?

a Million Galaxies

OK, I digress (again).

I do want to acknowledge the great equality of day to night hours at equinox...which happens twice a year.  I love the feeling of balance this gives my life.  This is when sunshine is at an optimum angle coming into my living room...and during the summertime it probably won't enter much at all, whereas during the winter, when the tilt of the earth means the sun is much further south, the sunshine peeps deeply into the room.  This is something we all know, and mostly ingnore.  Do you remember when you first noticed how your life was influenced by this angle of the sun?

Well, that's what my angels feel like.  That I am part of this life, this existence on EARTH, which is governed by laws of nature, and probably some other forces that are unknowable...but they still penetrate my life and help me to enjoy my daily existence.

Thanks angels.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cynthia Bringle

CYNTHIA BRINGLE  (b. 1939, Memphis, Tennessee)

Happy belated birthday, Cynthia!

A bowl a birthday!

Cynthia Bringle is known for both her functional pottery and for her enthusiastic teaching and mentoring. She has had a long career at Penland, North Carolina, creating work that reflects the culture and history of the southern highlands. Cynthia began as a painter, and continues to paint as well as decorate her work in a painterly fashion, creating what she terms as ceramic “Wall Paintings”
Cynthia began her career at the Memphis Academy of Art where she first took a short course in clay. She then took courses at Haystack School in Maine. and at Alfred University. At Alfred, she studied with both Robert Turner and Ted Randall. It was then that she returned to North Carolina and began teaching at Penland School, where she helped develop the ceramics program. She now lives permanently in Penland.

At Penland she built a gas car kiln, a wood-fired kiln, and a raku kiln. She enjoys working with the Anagama kilns, creating work that utilizes the resulting ash deposits of the firing process. Cynthia Bringle exemplifies the best of 
 American functional and non-functional art pottery.

Here are some of her wonderful works...

I've been so pleased to see Cynthia's work at various shows in NC.  And I've actually met her a few times, when visiting Penland. 

If you haven't had a chance to go there, please put it on your bucket list...about an hour's drive north of Asheville and Black Mountain.  There are open houses available several times a year, classes in all craft disciplines, and a gallery of gorgeous goodies.

information is here 


Friday, March 18, 2011

Judy Chicago, feminist, artist


In 1971 Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro jointly founded the CalArts Feminist Art Program for the California Institute of the Arts. Together they organized one of the first-ever feminist art exhibitions - Womanhouse - January 30-February 28, 1972. In 1973, Chicago co-founded the Feminist Studio Workshop, located inside the Los Angeles Women's Building, a seminal feminist art teaching and exhibition space.

Currently, Chicago is married to photographer Donald Woodman and serves as the Artistic Director of Through the Flower, a non-profit arts organization created in 1978 to support her work. The U.S. copyright representative for Judy Chicago and Through the Flower is the Artists Rights Society.[4] A biography, Becoming Judy Chicago; A Biography of the Artist, by Dr. Gail Levin, was released in February, 2007.

Judy Chicago is an advisory board member of the organization Feminists For Animal Rights.

(Source: Wikepedia)

Judy Chicago, born Judy Cohen, went to auto body school, boat building school and apprenticed as a pyrotechnician, to prove her abilities in the very macho based pop art world of Los Angeles of the early 1960’s.

Judy began producing metal and fiberglass sculptures, displaying explicit sexual and feminist imagery. She began teaching at the California Institute for the Arts becoming a leader in the Feminist Art Program. Judy was determined to bring female themes and images to the art world that was dominated by male artists and male historians.  She continued to paint, sculpt, produce craftwork and write; most of her themes continue to revolve around Feminism.

The Dinner Party Installation, first exhibited 1979 Brooklyn Museum

The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art, is presented as the centerpiece around which the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is organized, at The Brooklyn Museum. The Dinner Party comprises a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history.

The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored.

Susan B. Anthony plate, Judy Chicago

Georgia O'Keefe plate, Judy Chicago

Emily Dickenson plate, Judy Chicago

Margaret Sanger plate (early birth control activist)

The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table. This permanent installation is enhanced by rotating Herstory Gallery exhibitions relating to the 1,038 women honored at the table.

Sojourner Truth plate, Judy Chicago

Virginia Wolfe plate, Judy Chicago

(Source, Brooklyn Museum)

 Her own web site is...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today in the world

I'm taking a break from writing about the past.
Today is too full of troubles.

After all, I woke to find the vase of daffodils on the dining table had been tumped over by the cat, and soaked the table cloth, the oak table, and through it's old cracks dripped onto the carpet which is soaked.  I'm grateful it only had a couple of cups of water in it.

Then it was cold here in the living room at my desk.  After I put a jacket on, turned the thermostat up 10 degrees (to 60) and even covered my legs with a sweater (the floors just have freezing temperatures till the mid afternoon most days)...I was able to see the computer screen against the glare of sunshine through the blinds.

So now I've watched local news, listened to NPR noon news, checked several world news sites, and am currently listening to a podcast of BBC news (from earlier this morning).

It's depressing.  Of course.

But I also read some blogs of potters, including Euan Craig who just evacuated his family from their home, which was damaged by the earthquake in Japan on March 11, and he moved them inland to avoid possible contamination from a nuclear emergency.  Nobody knows how much that crisis will mean to anybody, and there isn't any notification on a regular basis that can be counted upon, apparently.  One of the news stories had to do with this lack of reliable news.  Euan's blog is very moving, and can be read here...

I am among those sending energies through prayer, meditation, psychic or magikal techniques, and every possible way from my being to those who have suffered from the recent earthquake.  I was glad to see the international pottery community is also reaching out to the big Japanese pottery community which has been affected.

(I can't get the following link to work, so here's the entire article about one of the fund raising efforts.)

Handmade for Japan: eBay auction March 18-20 to help the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.  

Handmade For Japan's mission is to raise money through an online auction on March 18-20 for relief efforts to assist the victims of Japan's catastrophic earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear emissions.

Handmade for Japan is an online auction of unique, handmade art donated by concerned, invited artists. One hundred percent of all net proceeds collected via the auction will be donated to the relief efforts in Japan.

Because of the urgency of the situation, the auction will begin on eBay on Friday, March 18th and end on Sunday, March 20th. The auction items will be listed under the "Handmade for Japan" seller ID.

Previews of the auction items will be available in English and Japanese through Facebook pages and Twitter updates. All inquiries in either language should be sent to

Who We Are:
Handmade For Japan was borne out of concern for Japan's residents by Japanese-American ceramic artist Ayumi Horie. She, Ai Kanazawa Cheung, and Kathryn Pombriant Manzella have mobilized to solicit, promote, and auction handmade pieces of art generously donated by talented artists throughout North America and Japan


 (also posted yesterday was this:)

Mashiko Potters need help

Tuesday, 15 March 2011 (from Hannah McAndrew's blog)

The Leach Pottery's Hand to Mashiko
The following has been sent out by The Leach Pottery in St Ives in response to the effect of the horrendous events in recent days on the pottery industry. This first link of mine is to the Red Cross appeal which of course helps with the more immediate and pressing needs.

The Leach Pottery says:
The trustees and staff of the Leach Pottery would like to express our great sadness at the recent catastrophe that has beset Japan. The Leach Pottery’s historic and current links to Japan, dating back over a century, are of great importance to us and the friendship we have received from the Japanese people over the years has been unwavering. We have not forgotten the support we received from the people of Mashiko pottery village and members of the Mingei Association in 2008 when individuals collectively donated over £40,000 towards rebuilding our pottery in St Ives and we would like to offer them back the hand of friendship now.

We are launching an appeal to raise funds for Mashiko which has been badly hit by the earthquake. Mashiko has over 400 studios and kilns, providing the main livelihood of the village, and the recent quake has caused considerable damage to both kilns and buildings. Mashiko’s two main museums, the Mashiko Ceramics Museum and the Hamada Reference Museum have also been badly hit.

Mashiko Town in Tochigi prefecture is located about 60 miles north of Tokyo. In 1923 Shoji Hamada, co-founder of the Leach Pottery in St Ives with Bernard Leach, returned to Japan following the Tokyo earthquake of 1923. He settled in Mashiko with his family where he set up his own pottery, now owned and run by his potter grandson Tomoo Hamada, who attended the reopening of the Leach Pottery following its restoration in March 2008. Shoji Hamada also established the Hamada Reference Museum in Mashiko to display his stunning and internationally acclaimed collection of crafts and ceramics.


You can donate to the Leach Pottery’s Mashiko Earthquake Appeal in any of the following ways:
By phone – call with you credit or debit card details on 01736 799703

By post – send a cheque to the Bernard Leach (St Ives) Trust Ltd. (marking the back of the cheque ‘Mashiko Appeal’. Send to Mashiko Earthquake Appeal, The Leach Pottery, Higher Stennack, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 2HE

By internet – donate through your Paypal account – please add a note clearly stating ‘Mashiko Earthquake Appeal’

If you are a UK taxpayer you can Gift Aid your donation by including the following information: Your name, address and postcode and confirmation that you wish the Leach Pottery to treat your donation as a Gift Aid donation. This simple act will allow us to claim a further 25p for each £1 donated towards the appeal.


So my inner potter is touched deeply by these efforts to help our brothers and sisters in Japan.  My little vase of flowers which fell over is such a trivial concern.  I have not got the imagination (and I'm a creative artist!) to comprehend the enormity of suffering in Japan.  I can only hold my heart and send whatever energies I can to those sweet souls.