extra-curricular activities: pottery

On August 7, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

“Why should one reject the perfect in favour of the imperfect? The precise and perfect carries no overtones, admits of no freedom; the perfect is static and regulated, cold and hard. We in our own human imperfection are repelled by the perfect, since everything is apparent from the start and there is no suggestion of the infinite. Beauty must have some room, must be associated with freedom. Freedom, indeed, is beauty. The love of the irregular is a sign of the basic quest for freedom.” – Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman

I often wonder what people are actually doing with their time. What are they really doing? What are they doing, and why? They are doing every imaginable thing, I suppose, and a number of other activities I can’t yet imagine…but I cannot help but be curious about the micro-level specifics here.

I wonder, too, what am I doing, and why?

Sometimes it seems to me I am not doing very much, and ought to do—somehow, in some way—more. I am surely right about this.

Here is something I am doing. I began, this spring, to take a course in wheelthrowing. I love it, and wish I had taken one sooner. I have every intention of becoming a competent potter, a title that is far away right now but achievable. [Any of you who have tried your hands at pottery will know how challenging it is, and how dispiriting your first attempts can be.] It is deeply satisfying to create a useful, beautiful object. I appreciate how tightly any art or craft is tied to a conversation about beauty/aesthetics, a conversation I have barely begun here but one which occupies me constantly.

Now, about three months in, I am…let’s call it enthusiastic. To approach a craft with discipline and high standards is a supremely humbling exercise. I thought I would show you a bit, pottery being my current vehicle for expression (expression being always, amidst whatever else it  may be, a matter of style) and the activity taking up most of the time not already taken up by work. Being so new I am still feeling out a style, trying out different ideas of what a plate or cup or bowl or vase might be and focusing on learning good technique. These are not exactly useful or beautiful (not useful or beautiful enough to even give away yet, for example) but they are drafts of those things.

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Centering, where it all begins and where it can all go horribly wrong.

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I am just now making my first attempts in porcelain. I like its responsiveness but I also like the warmth of dark, rough clay bodies.

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The glazes are another world of complication on top of the variety of clay bodies and shapes.

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Handles are difficult! I am otherwise pleased with this pitcher, with its squat, toddlerish proportions.

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I am drawn to many of the traditional Japanese glazes like this shino glaze.

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I also like a lot of traditional Japanese silhouettes, like the tea bowl.

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Lately I like to make little creamer-like pitchers. Did I mention that handles are really tricky?? I have a new, powerful appreciation for all ceramic handles everywhere.

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Things at this point rarely turn out how I imagine but sometimes there are nice surprises. That red part…I thought that was going to be green.

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Wheelthrowing involves beautiful tools and accessories.

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Trimming is an art in itself. My favorite stamp at the moment is this oak tree.

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we like: Urban Art Bar

On December 13, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

Urban Art Bar is a cool concept, a bar in Southie where those with or without experience with acrylic painting can follow [or not remotely follow] an instructor painting a certain image. You check out their calendar and select the image you want to paint, then just show up, drink, and paint away.

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The painting on the night I went was Starry Night, a favorite. For the most part they are not known paintings, just simple, approachable images one could create in a couple of hours.

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Revlon Matte Balm in Standout

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It’s great to walk around and see how differently everyone interprets the image. And some people clearly focus more on the drinking part. I’d never done acrylic painting and found the experience to be a great introduction, with a fun, supportive atmosphere.

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Check it out if you’re in the area!

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crafted: multi-strand necklace ft. pearls, coral, lapis lazuli

On August 29, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

I recently made a multi-strand necklace, inspired by a challenge on the pearl-guide beader’s forum to put something together with three strands or more. [If you’re here from PG, you may have seen this already.]

Provided it’s feasible*, I love to make stuff. Maybe even more than the making, I enjoy thinking up stuff to make. Or rather thinking up stuff I want and, when I can’t find it, concluding that I’ll have to make it. If I have or can acquire the know-how, there is that undeniable appeal of being able to make myself precisely what I want (and such good gifts they make, too), with no compromise. Well, unless I muck it up.

*at least roughly within my abilities, i.e. the project won’t be abandoned, or a disaster, or impossible, or an ‘educational experience’ with no tangible results…(there have been a lot of those)

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IMG_6236I used lapis lazuli chips, coral branches, and 5-5.5mm button pearls (all from JP Stachura). I knotted the pearl strand (on Power Pro, if you’re interested) and simply strung the others.

[Possibly you remember how much I  like pearls. How very much.]

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IMG_6235I love, love these colors together. Separately, too, but especially together. From the beginning I was set on weaving the strands together (rather than making a torsade), to emphasize the jagged quality of the elements, and break up the chunks of color.

IMG_6234Part of the challenge was naming the piece. With the coral and the pearls together it seems like the necklace of a sea nymph to me, so: The Nereid.

I like naming things.

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into: pearls, pearls, pearls

On March 4, 2013 by theseventhsphinx
bonjour mes perles...

bonjour mes perles…

About three years ago I thought: pearls. Why don’t I wear those?

I did a lot of research (about two years just browsing and researching) before making any purchases and, after a rather indulgent and permissive winter*, I show definite results.

*with the stunning jewelery in the recent Anna Karenina film perhaps a minor catalyst.

AAA cultured freshwaters, ivory, 7-8mm 18" necklace, 8-9mm studs; Pearl Paradise

AAA cultured freshwaters, ivory, 7-8mm 18″ necklace, 8-9mm studs; Pearl Paradise

Got a few pairs of earrings in different styles (you can see the 8-9mm studs in action here) and a classic 18″ necklace in the holiday sales, an 8-strand bracelet. Investigating longer ropes of 50+ inches (which just 15 years ago were thought suitable only for grandmothers. So old-school they are fresh again), and have determined it makes sense to get a short (acquired!) and a medium length necklace that match (with identical clasps as well) and have the option to wear them linked together.

To get the most for my money, I went with cultured freshwaters. They are almost pure nacre, which means you don’t have to worry about a thin (unless trés $$$) layer of nacre wearing away to expose a dull bead†, and they can come in a lot of funky shapes and colors that I find really modern. Most come from China. Quality and size in any pearl are a matter of the species of bivalve in question, the water quality/temperature/depth of growth/duration of growth, and other stuff that isn’t even fully understood at this point.

† as with nucleated pearls like akoyas and south sea pearls, at which point the pearls become pretty much unwearable. These nucleated pearls have hardcore, loyal followers, however, who believe them to have superior luster and orient (a.k.a. ‘rainbowiness’), in the case of akoyas, and undeniably larger size, in the case of south sea pearls, which are cultivated in a mammoth species of bivalve.

I found that it may be cheaper and more satisfying to buy the pearls wholesale and knot longer necklaces myself. Project! The knots serve to keep the pearls from rubbing against one another, which can chip and dull the delicate nacre (pronounced NAY-ker), and from being irretrievably lost if the string breaks. They are traditionally strung on silk thread suitable for the gauge of the drill holes, though contemporary jewelers often use some more durable synthetic blend. Does everyone know these things? I did not know these things. It is also a useful long-term skill as any strand of pearls requires periodic restringing, which is not so cheap. And then, of course, you can realize your own designs and repurpose old necklaces, etc. Ah. To have proper skills.

I knotted this!

Pearl jargon: little pearls klink, medium sized pearls clank, 10mm+ pearls klonk (and are known as ‘klonkers’).

There is something warm and approachable about pearls (and semi-precious or opaque stones, but especially pearls) that glittering, faceted gems do not have.

[Not that one wants always to be warm and approachable.]

Opulent yet subtle and wearable in contexts high and low. Relatively affordable.

[Especially if they are fake, or of middling quality. Some of the pieces in the first photo are costume jewelery, which have their place. Some are low-quality in the traditional gem-appraisal sense, as in not round or flawless, but in the modern eye this can make them even more appealing.]

I maintain that they go with anything. They are less aloof, yet can meet the rubies and sapphires on their own ground, as proven in the jewelry and gowns of so many medieval and renaissance portraits. [Of course, in great quantity the subtlety goes out the window.]

They warm to the skin, glow with luster and orient, and love to be worn. Properly cared for, they will outlast you.

Also, they make stellar gifts. And, if you talk about them enough, people will give them to you. Inexplicably, some people seem to have pearls they do not want.

pearl resources:

http://www.pearl-guide.com/  extremely helpful forum and lots of useful links. The loudest piece of advice I took away from the forum was, get the best you can afford. I like this approach in general.

http://www.pearlparadise.com/ the vendor I’ve made most of my purchases from, they also sell pearls by the inch and have great customer service (no issues about returning pieces to correct matching or sizing issues, and a 90-day return policy). Great sales sometimes, too.

http://www.stachurawholesalegemstones.com/ this is where I got knotting supplies and the more colorful wholesale pearls. They also sell other precious and semi-precious stones.

Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls interesting book about the pearl industry at every level, from the farm/ocean to the customer. If you are ever mesmerized by pearls –how they are heavier than they look, how they seem to glow from within, how they came straight out of some bivalve just like this (treated pearls aside), a gift of nature– this is for you.

crafted: I knit a thing!

On February 12, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

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I have knit a few things, actually. Pretty much all scarves, but scarves of increasing complexity and (to me, though I give them away) appeal.

The beauty of knitting something yourself is that you can get (skill/fortune willing) just the design you want. Again and again I come up against this wall of knowing precisely what I want, and not being able to find it anywhere [ex-cerebrum]. Or perhaps it can sort of be found, but is not realistically purchaseable. This doesn’t mean I can’t have what I want, though…it just means I can’t have it yet. And that it may require a crafting adventure of no small effort/duration. [Possibly years. But I can be patient.]

This is the scarf I knit my little brother for Christmas. It was a kind of dry-run of the pattern, to see if I want it for myself. Which I do. In cream, and a slightly smaller gauge as this one turned out so wide as to border on editorial (I didn’t quite follow the pattern. Typical.).

[Though that’s going to take a year or more. This scarf is 6′ long, and I am only sporadically in the mood to knit.]

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I like the simplicity of this pattern*; the end product looks kind of intricate but the pattern itself is all intuitive repetition and doesn’t even require consulting a guide.

*Lion Brand Harbor Scarf pattern, in Loops & Threads Cozy Wool in ‘moss’

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