Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sweetest Ride

I emailed a small group of people that I know would be able to hop on a bike and come out for a casual Sunday morning ride and let them know that I would be going out this Sunday. One person replied and showed up in the morning with a bike and shoes and that sweet smile that means that they really didn't want to get out of bed to go for a ride with someone they really don't know very well.

Cycling is a very complex and emotional activity. You have to really trust the people you are out with from the basic things like being pleasant and courteous to helping in the pouring rain or snow while they have a flat tire and fingers too cold to work the pump and patches. But there are also much more subtle interactions that mean a lot to the people you ride with. Keeping up that chat on a big hill when they run out of air on their end of the conversation and you keep the thought flowing, somehow it is a kindness that keeps their pedals flowing, mentally.

Another kindness is to ask the other rider (s) what they are wanting out of the ride. Today, we were going to seek out amazing baking as a reward after a medium intensity ride. The first question was about the location of the amazing new gravel path that cuts through my neighbourhood, so we headed to the intersection and had a look, then I asked if she wanted a warm up and she said yeah!! Now, I think getting the blood flowing on a short hill or two really warms me up, but when I got home and asked race dave what "warm up" meant to other people. He told me that an easy loose spin would be ideal to get the joints moving, had I known that this morning I would not have started up a short set of two hills just behind my house!!! Sorry Sandy.

We rode along and chatted for quite a long time as the back roads around here are almost deserted on a Sunday morning so we could stay loose and laugh a lot. We did a short, fast highway section and then crossed and headed up our next hill which is steep and nasty!! A quick stop for water and we had an apetite for going "the long way" and descended a long smooth hill together.

It was very satisfying to ride down Richards Trail with a fresh set of eyes. Each time we burst out of a thick grove of trees which smell amazingly like spring might finally be here, we find ourselves slipping through a postcard beautiful valley, thick with green carpeting grass and a mist that slightly alters the colours of each hill as they get farther away or draw closer.

I heard a noise in my drive train and had to pull over for a look. It was the new cable I had just put in which had come unspun and was grating the fender and tire. I was trying to think of a way to keep it out of the way when a pleasant stranger whose house we had happenned to have stopped in front of asked if he could do anything to help. He was sweet enough to go and find me an elastic band which I used to hold the cable back and we were on our way.

We made our way through the beauty and there was a bakery with treats (just where I said it was, hahahahahaa) and conversation and more laughter. We finished the ride together and after a short play date for the dogs we parted company.

There was a small gap in our ability levels but a kindred-ness in the way we decided to spend our morning. I felt safe, that she would have provided any help I may have needed and that means a lot more to me than who pulls the hills in a bigger gear. They say that half the battle is just showing up. In this case, that's the victory! We went out a found a better version of ourselves, the version that actually went out and rode, despite the rain kicking up mud in our faces. I think that each time we do something for our souls and health, we shed a layer of skin, and like the snakes that find sanctuary in my garden, we are a little shinier for it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I have spent the last two studio days working on throwing a second batch of mugs for the cafe that I am working for. The first batch was thrown at 454grams (a pound) of clay and I test fired two of them to see how much they would shrink in size and weight. I discovered with this test that I had indeed made them too small (out of an estimation based on the work I am trying to emulate) so I had a few choices. I could try to sell them the way they were, too small and not what I was trying to do, I could throw them again and try to make them bigger with the same weight of clay or I could use the experiment and start again.

So, I have started again. This batch of clay is weighed at 500 grams and I threw a dozen of them yesterday and then 20 more today. I am still working against the clock as the cafe wants them soon and race dave and I are going away next month to Utah (iron--man--st--george) and I would really like to have them done before we go away.

The shape is not a natural for me so there is a bit more concentration to get there (or close like pots and horseshoes go) and it is quite a step away from my regular work trying to throw the same pot over and over because my work is quite free from form to form.

It looks like the second batch of mugs will be a lot closer to the previous potter's mug that I am using as an example. There is a bit of shrinkage in the wet to dry stage and a lot more lost in the bisque fire then finally with the glaze fire causing the clay to melt into that glassy matrix that I am always chatting about.

Another thing that I am working through is a gig moonlighting as a bike shop girl. It is two four hour morning shifts and gets me some SWEET deals there. My second passion after pottery is definitely (welcome to the blog newbies, read on, hahahahaaa) cycling and bikes in general. The people who run this new bike shop are the most warm and happy couple that I have met in several years.

The issue is that I have gotten my pottery business to a very healthy, self-sustaining creature. Strangely, one that consumes all of the skin on my hands and requires me to bike, run and practice yoga to keep strong and balanced enough to handle the donkey work required. To take a one day a week job seems like letting the side down and that could turn things sour in the studio.
Again with the choices! I think that it is a moonlighting gig that has many benefits. I really enjoy being in the company of the store owners. I thirst to learn more about bicycles and their technology. I have felt like the time can seem to pour out of the house all over my ideas, like there is time everywhere and I find myself standing in a mental pause in the kitchen more than I am comfortable with. I have lessons on Mondays and Fridays, the Duncan Farmer's Market on Saturdays and for jun/jul/aug I am in Sidney Market on Thursdays which can leave me with some healthy parameters.

I think it is really important to have an awareness of the time you spend each day. I re-potted two flats of peppers and tomatoes yesterday before throwing and I am making plans to spend time each week in the garden as I have big plans for growing even more food this year (we ate the end of the rhubarb last week). I want the job to focus me a bit and be a possible a reason to get out to Black Coffee every week.

I will seek to see this opportunity as a chance to snug up the schedule that has been seeping into and out of each day like the summer nights used to when I was a child up north. The dusk was setting and the first star of the night was showing over the lake to the west from the yard and a few minutes later (time wasn't static back then either) the dawn was warming the night sky over the backyard with a peachy summer colour that I will never forget.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

get back on the bike

I have to head out today to pick up the DFM banner from the sign shop who was putting a 9 on it where the 10 was. Then I am off to take some fresh mugs out, a funny idea because the mugs could last about ten thousand years and they just came out of the kiln. I have to go to the bank and do chores in general. So I had a coffee powered cruise through the website I love called cycle chic, the original from Copenhagen. There half a million people ride bikes of all kinds to work and play everyday, in every kind of clothing, facing every type of weather and a wonderful webguy has been taking and collecting millions of photos of the city full of bikes.
{the wonderful photo above is by Kurt Knock}

It is truly inspiring, in fact enough for me to go put on my bike pants and the new water proof bag that Robin gave me, he just opened a new bike shop here in Duncan and had this bag hanging around for a while, so when he saw me beating the crap out of my larger waterproof bag, he went home and took the bag out to the next race that race dave was going to attend and asked him to give it to me!! How sweet. His new bike shop is at at the south end of town before the silver bridge and is having a spring tune up special for $20.

I have had to pick up and dust off my soul after a very long hard weekend with lots of sitting around staring at my pots without anyone buying them. The Market was great, as always, but the art show was an exercise in futility and stubbornness, staying put for 36 hours and then packing up everything and hauling it back up the sherman road hill. It is time to shake off the weekend funk and take over again! That starts with the bike pants......and a great peruse through a photo gallery of cyclists!! Okay, now back to work, this morning I am starting the smaller kiln (sputnik) as the large kiln (shuttle) is too hot to unload, still at 650 degrees from last night's firing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

CVAC Art Show Gift Shop

I am in the gift shop in the building beside the art show that is this thursday(10-8),friday (10-8), saturday (10-5) and sunday (11-4). This venue is at the Native Cultural Centre beside VIU and across from super--store in Duncan. I have a lot of my really big bowls there and a wider selection than I usually take to the DFM as there was more room on the bike trailer with out the tables and tent!!!

I am not about to complain so I will just say that I knit A LOT on my new sweater today.

A photo of the bowls for Hilary's Cheese.

I have to go pick out something different to wear tomorrow and get another ball of wool. Apparently, when people see you two days in a row they expect that you will not be wearing the same clothes the second day! Go figure, talk soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hilary's Cheese Cafe Clay Commission

Busy week ahead, the CVAC Art Show is this week and I am there in the Gift Shop section thur/fri/sat/sun and it looks like helpful dave will be sitting the table on Saturday as I have to go to the Market. I am going to pack up my two tubs for Duncan Farmer's Market and then pack up all the rest (that will fit on my table) and take it down to the Show for Thursday 8am. I would like to ride the bike and haul with the trailer but I'm not sure if I can pack it up in a different way or make two trips. We have two hours to pack in and set up, but I'll see what I can do to avoid the car.

I have been working away madly on a wholesale order for Patti (of Hilary's Cheese in Cowichan Bay, fame) they have served their homemade soups and coffee in the most delightful yellow bowls that a potter friend made for them. She moved away a few years ago and I have offered to make any new work that they might need. Hilary brought me two bowls and a mug that they would like me to copy for their cheese shop and deli. I was thrilled and sent a long list of questions to Patti outlining what I need to know before I start.

It turns out that the bowls and mugs they have are exactly what they want and that is what I have been working on for the last few days. Jana (the potter who made them) was a very fine potter who threw on the thin side (I am a bit more beefy in my pots) but for this order I have taken the final bowl weights and worked backwards towards estimating the weight of the clay that Jana would have started with. I was amazed that she was able to get a bowl that large from so little clay so my work was set out for me!!

I made a few attempts and then went and unpacked the bowls that Hilary had brought down for me to study, were they ever light! So I tried really hard, wedged up 40 balls of 400 grams and got started. First of all, my hands are not small at all and the small balls of clay were a challenge to wedge but I quickly got used to it and after 40 balls of that size I am a pro. Then I had to figure out just how the three little "blips" in the lip were made and then practice that sweet trick.

I sat and threw them all in one go and I am very proud of them. The truth about my ability to work backwards from the final size and weight of the bowls and then guess how much clay to start with, will remain unknown to me for a few weeks when they are trimmed/dried/fired/waxed/glazed/fired and I can compare the volume of soup they would hold to that of the two examples I was given.

I should have spent all of Friday working in the studio trimming the 40 bowls but my new worker bee for the Market called and asked for help. It turned into a marathon of organization that lasted 5 hours and I wasn't home until quite late. I then had to pack up my work into the tubs and then load the trailer and strap everything down and then I had to get all 40 bowls trimmed as they were just right for trimming. I had turned the wareboards from back to front and changed the shelves they were on, as the lower shelf is much drier than the top one.

I was up until 1am, but that meant that I had time to spill my guts to nurse dave when he got home at 11. We had tea and chatted while I trimmed and then off to bed only to get back up at 7am to get all dressed for the rainy cycle into town.

I was very impressed when I got there to find that each stall on the street had been carefully marked with chalk and the numbers written in! That is a lot of work that could have been avoided if only it would quit raining for a few hours so the pavement could dry and the permanent feltpen marks could be refreshed. The Market was a good day and the ride home was damp and a little painful as my legs were pretty stiff from two, 1 hour runs last week, but it was satisfying to get home.

Well, I have to send 5 emails and then get back downstairs and into the studio to start work on the mugs. The final glazed mug weight 310 grams and by my "mathish" calculations Jana must have started with about a pound of clay or 454grams. So I have some test balls weighed and wedged and we'll see if I can get close to her volume/size and shape.

Here goes!! ttyl