Friday, February 28, 2014

Pottery Update: Glazed Results

These days I spend Thursday mornings doing pottery on my own, practicing what I learned last fall in my first pottery class using the wheel.

Yesterday eight of the pots I had glazed were waiting for me.

Among them was the plate I had chipped - then sanded - that I mentioned in yesterday's blog post.

There is a little dent in it - hopefully no one will notice!

My next batch - four pots seen here on a shelf in the kiln room, waiting to be fired the first time - will include two with handles! (Attaching handles is another lesson I've had to learn!)

I'm having so much fun doing pottery - something I first thought about learning when I was in my 20s! Why did it take me so long to finally sign up for a course?! (But then again - it's good to have "unrealized dreams" to pursue in retirement!)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Trying To Save a Chipped Pot

It was disappointing - but inevitable - that I would at some point accidentally chip one of the pots I have made. They are very fragile - and the studio I work in has a lot of pots.

It happened after the first firing but before the glazing.

Can this pot be saved? I asked one of the experienced potters.

Try sanding it  before you glaze it. Maybe the chip won't show.

So I sanded it... and it looks better. (I didn't know that sandpaper was part of the potter's box of tools!)

Now to see if the glaze hides the irregularity... A valuable lesson learned.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Warmer Weather Brings ... Pot Holes!

Terry and I took a walk downtown a few days ago.

 The city is still snow covered...

But with changing temperatures - a little warmer, then cooler again - the pavement protests and creates... potholes!

One downtown street near the University of Ottawa even developed a massive sinkhole when part of the road caved in! Fortunately no one was hurt!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Yay! Warmer Weather!!

I was excited about a forecast for warmer weather last weekend. Time to put away my boots?!..

Not exactly! Melting snow creates ...

...PUDDLES! Puddles everywhere!

Even on some sidewalks! (Who designed that building?!!)

I even saw a few brave cyclists on the road. I wonder if any of them stayed dry!

PS My excitement was short-lived... Overnight it turned colder, transforming those puddles into mini skating rinks! So much for our brief winter reprieve!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hockey Fever

Canadians aren't openly nationalistic - except during major sporting events like the Olympics.

What to do when Canada wins Olympic gold for hockey?

Show your pride - and love of the sport - by playing street hockey on a downtown street, of course!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Power of ... Just Hanging In!

You haven't been doing your "spiritual reflections" on Sundays, Terry tells me. I miss them.

Really?! It's not that I haven't been reflecting. It's just that I'm struggling to put into words some of the things I've been thinking about...!

Like the words of Esther de Waal: " is, inevitably, for much of the time, far from ideal, and ... we have to live with that reality: a less than wonderful marriage, a house that is far from spacious and beautiful, a job that is not really rewarding and fulfilling. So how do I handle the frustrations? the limitations? the disappointments? Trivial everyday misery can be the most deadening..."

There was a time in my life when I would have used unhappiness as motivation to seek out a new path - a new career, perhaps, or a new place to live. But somewhere down the line, I realized that nothing is perfect all the time.

So now I am drawn to the Benedictine approach of accepting these trials, perhaps not eagerly, but in the hope that "acceptance will make them life-giving rather than life-denying, surely one of the more difficult things simply because it is so undramatic."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

First Art Exhibit!

I'm not doing botanical painting this term, but I do attend a pottery class in the same building, a visual arts center run by the city.

My neighbor Mary called a few days ago to say the botanical class was having an exhibit and needed more samples. Was I interested in including several of my paintings?

Why not?! So for the first time ever, my work is hanging, framed, in a public place!

One of the problems for me - in botanical art - is that precise names of plants are expected to be on the label. Some have even given the Latin plant name. The beet I painted (above) is an ordinary supermarket beet! (Is there more than one kind of beet?!) I wanted to call it "Beet en Pirouette" as it reminded me of a dancer spinning on its toes - but a fanciful name like that is a no-no in botanical art!

I love this detailed painting in purple that Mary did of an eggplant, turnip and garlic.

Sometime I want to paint a colorful cob of Indian corn, like Carla's.

Here is a close-up of another of Mary's pieces - a colorful turban squash.

In botanical art, everything has to be precise.... Yes, that's its actual color!


Friday, February 21, 2014

Using Wonky Pots

I remember reading that a certain potter had to practice making mugs and bowls for a year before she was actually allowed to fire one and glaze it. Anything less than perfect was squashed, the clay reused again and again. The instructor apparently didn't value anything that was less-than-perfect.

I'm glad my pottery instructors allow us to see our progress by firing even our wonky pots - though at times, I admit, I don't know what to use them for!

I kept the base of one of my mug attempts - fired it and glazed it. Now what to use this tiny saucer for?!  Hmmm... A tea-bag holder perhaps? Though I don't drink a lot of tea...

It could come in handy as a cover for this mug that I bought from a potter at a local farmers market.

I often start a cup of coffee, then forget about it as I read or blog. A lid would help it stay warm a little longer!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Downtown Ottawa In Winter

Cold weather - and slippery sidewalks - often keep me from exploring Ottawa in winter.

(It's easier to stay indoors!)

But sunny skies and milder weather encouraged us to head downtown for a walk. Snow-covered Ottawa is beautiful, too. The Rideau Canal is still frozen. This part, where locks lead down to the Ottawa River, has not been cleared of snow. (The hills in the distance are in the province of Quebec.)

Across the street, the canal is cleared and maintained as a skating rink.

After walking over to view the skating on the canal, we headed over to Parliament Hill.

The "eternal flame" was still burning!

Later on, over to the Byward Market where it's still possible to have a horse and buggy ride in the winter snow. And, of course, to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or a latte in a nearby cafe.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Where Does the Time Go?!

I stopped teaching in February 2008... a career I started in 1968! Almost 40 years! Since then, I have been trying to live a more relaxed lifestyle, no longer dividing my days into 45-minute periods and my year into two semesters. I eat when I'm hungry and sleep when I'm tired! It's a wonderful way to live - a more natural rhythm, perhaps? I like to think it's the way people lived before clocks and electricity were invented, but I'm not sure!

So it was a bit of a shock - a reality check?! - when I read (about wasting time) that five minutes a day equals "thirty-five minutes a week or two hours and twenty minutes a month or twenty-eight hours a year."

No more excuses for the things I have "no time" to do!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sculpting in Low Relief

I am enjoying my sculptural pottery class so much! Last class we tried our hand at low relief pictures (bas relief) - where objects in the picture protrude from the background.

I had all kinds of ideas of what I'd like to do (faces or fish jumping out of water), but I quickly realized they were too difficult for me.

So I stuck with some simple scenes of objects I know really well - trees!

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Winterlude" Time Again

Ottawa marks winter with a two-week celebration called "Winterlude."

Skating on the Rideau Canal is probably the most popular event - not only with visitors but also with locals. One of my sons, who works downtown, often goes for a skate after work with some of his co-workers.

Skating begins at one end of the canal - and continues for several miles to Dow's Lake, a man-made lake created when the canal was constructed. Huts on the ice - bathrooms and concession stands - are popular stopping points.

Terry and I (who no longer skate) usually head over to a nearby park to see the ice sculptures on display.

This one - a surfer riding a wave - makes me feel cold just to look at it!

 There was a lineup to see the "ice trolley."

Colored ice blocks in a children's play area added a touch of color to the white scene.

This year we also noticed some snow sculptures. I'm not sure how they are made. (Are they snowmen who are watered down?) This one - a woman curler - reminds us of the winter Olympics currently taking place in Russia. (Time to head home to watch it on TV!)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Typecasting... Ourselves

Actors complain about typecasting - succeeding in one role, only to be limited to acting similar characters ever after: Hey, I can play other roles too! Just give me a chance!

But typecasting doesn't just occur in acting. We all guilty of typecasting... ourselves. Having succeeded (or not) at something early in life, we draw conclusions about what we can (or can't) do - without bothering to give it a try.

The point was brought home to me as I was perusing two drawing books...

The first, a magnificent collection of botanical drawings and photos, inspired me when I first started to draw plants.

I soon concluded that - as beautiful as the pictures were - the book had little to teach me.

The artist's style was too meticulous, too perfect - very unlike my own.

I was more drawn to a second drawing book, more similar to my drawing style.

That doesn't look too hard.

I've drawn shoes before, too.

It was a while before I realized that both books were written - and illustrated - by the same artist. 

She doesn't limit herself! Why should I?!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

As Others See Us

I recently attended a retirement party for a former colleague, a teacher who came to Canada twenty-some years ago, a single parent with two young children in tow, fleeing from war in Lebanon.

I realized how brave she had been as her children recounted - with laughter and tears - some of the memories of their early years. The strangest of all was their arrival on October 31 - Halloween. When they stepped off the plane, they were bewildered by the strange people they saw around them. Witches. Others with painted faces, wearing strange clothing.

We were afraid, my colleague May recounted. I thought I had made a terrible mistake and  I wanted to go back. I had chosen Canada over Australia because I remember reading somewhere that Australia had been a penal colony made up of criminals sent from Britain. So I chose Canada. We arrived - and then this!

I thought of another immigrant, a young woman from Somalia who had been in my English class during my teaching days. She laughingly told me that she had fainted when she first arrived. A woman approached her to help her. But she had long red fingernails, something my student had never seen before: I thought her fingers were dripping blood and that she was coming to attack me, so when she approached, I collapsed in a faint.

(Would it be too much to conclude that we never know what kind of an impression we are making?!)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Costs

On this holiday dedicated to LOVE, it's good to be reminded that love is more than a happy feeling: "love costs":

" It costs the little daily things - serving the meals, providing the needs, asking for favors nicely, refusing favors gently. Second, love makes demands... It demands that we share ourselves, our minds, our insights, and our time with one another. Most of all, it demands that we allow the people in our lives to be who they are and grow as they can."*

(*Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, p. 41)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Risky Walking

I don't do much outdoor walking these days. When I walk in our yard or on neighborhood streets, I use wire grips that dig into the ice and snow.

Am I losing my nerve? I occasionally wonder. Maybe I'm too cautious!

But then I hear about the young woman in my pottery class who is dropping out because she fell on the sidewalk and broke her wrist. And now a friend of my daughter's - much younger and more agile than me - slipped on the ice and did the same...

I'd better stick to my cautious ways!