Want to win a handmade cup? And the MFA thesis show (finally!)

Hey!  Where are you and what are you doing?  I’m sitting in my studio, waiting to have a meeting with my adviser.  I’m hoping he’ll have some novel ideas about shipping my work.  I have a show in Colorado in June, and I did a shipping estimate for it yesterday.   Guess how much it was?  The person who guesses closest will win one of my small translucent porcelain cups!

Winner’s cup may differ from what is shown here.

I’m going to be strict here, and say you must be following this blog in order for your guess to be counted.  How do you do that?  Simple: enter your email address in the box on the right hand side of the page where it says, “Stay in the loop!”  Leave your guesses in the comment section here; the contest will end & the winner will be notified on Sunday at 5pm ET.

Alrighty then.  As you begin formulating your guesses, I’ll enthrall you with the remainder of this post.

As I was saying, I got the shipping estimate.  It’s now clear to me that I either:

a) need to find a wealthy sponsor


b) need to figure out a different way to ship my pieces,


c) I’m not willing to change my work


d) I don’t own a teleporter.

I really hope I can figure this out, because I’m not sure I can afford to do the show otherwise.

Moving on, here are some pictures from the MFA thesis show opening reception, which was held on April 7th.  It was really fun to see everyone who came out to the show.  Extra high highlights were my parents, who flew in from ND, Meredith Morten, who many of you might remember from my adventures at the ICS in Hungary last fall, and Bethany Rusen and David Doktor, who braved the east coast traffic from Philadelphia. 🙂

Click on one to open a photo viewer.  The photos end with the installation process for my 22′ porcelain column.

Latest Piece (in progress)

Hey!  What’s new with you?  I’m pluggin’ away at my thesis show.  18 days til the opening!  Right now, I’m working on a new piece that’s a little different than what I’ve been making for the past couple of years.  It’s my last addition to the group of pieces I’ll be submitting for the show.

The piece is comprised of many individual porcelain objects.  Each one fits in the palm of your hand.  I’m not quite sure what to call them.  (Suggestions welcome.)  They’re going to sit in porcelain bowls (black in black, white in white) that are sunk into pedestals with built-in heat lamps.  The lamps will heat up the ceramic and make them nice and warm to hold.  Holding something warm that fits snugly in the palm of your hand has a strange way of warming your core.  They’re a little bit like picking up a sun-soaked, water-worn stone on the beach, but they each also carry the imprint of my hand, and I’ve polished certain areas where your fingers might rub.

porcelain worry stone

I was talking to my adviser about them last week, telling him that I really really wanted to make these but I didn’t know why.  He said something about touch seeming important, as well as age, I think.  I can’t remember exactly.  However, I do remember that his comment made a connection for me – when I was in Istanbul, one of the most compelling things I saw was the impact of human touch upon the architecture.  Some of the buildings there (like the Hagia Sophia) are 1500 years old.  When you have a structure that’s that old, some parts of it are naturally going to start to fall into some sort of decay, no matter how good the upkeep is.  What was curious to me, though, were the places where people have inadvertently caused the erosion.    In those places, the degeneration of the building’s original form didn’t seem like a loss.

For example, when you pass a marble column and absently let your hand trail around its corner, you don’t usually think you’re leaving a mark.  But if thousands or hundreds of thousands of people over one and a half millennia do the exact same thing when they walk past that exact same column, all of those casual caresses add up.  The stone corner becomes soft, rounded and smoothed into a new shape by nothing stronger than human skin.  You start to wonder who else touched that column.  The sheer number of people who must have made that same action is incredible to think about.  Each one of those people had a unique life.  What was it like?  Why were they in that place?  What were they contemplating as they walked around that corner?  So many people, so much time, so many untold stories.  I like the mystery of it.  I like the connection to the past and the implications for the future.  I wonder who else will run their fingers across that same stretch of marble.  What will that column will look like in another 1000 years?

If I could get even a fraction of all of that wonder into my pieces, I would be a very happy camper!

(Click on images above to open a larger version.)

I didn’t take a picture of the column I’ve talked about in this post.  (There was one in the Hagia Sophia that was much loved.)  But, just for fun, here’s a picture I took of a floor in that same place:

Going up to the second level of the Hagia Sophia. The stones have been polished smooth by people's footsteps.

All images are copyrighted, Amy Uthus 2010-2012.

Istanbul: the final days

Before I write the last Istanbul post, I’m going to throw a question out there about the flag counter I have installed on my site – It says I’ve had 246 visitors, but according to my wordpress stats, I had 324 visitors this week and there have been 2,123 overall.  I don’t know which one to believe… does anyone know?  It’s bugging me!

Okay, moving on.  Rachel left on Sunday, after admonishing Beth and I to photograph any and all sacrifices of animals that we saw in the streets (due to the holiday).  Before this, however, she made sure to stock up on as much Turkish Delight as she could carry, especially the pistachio kind.  Umm, umm!  Deeelicious.  She was our supplier the day before, preventing a lot of Hanger from happening while we shopped.  Thanks, Rachel!

When she left, Beth and I walked around looking for sacrifices.  Finding none, we looked for an open museum.  Failing at that as well, we stopped in a shop to look at the funny but strangely comfortable Turkish pants.  I’d purchased a pair the day before, with help from Rachel’s haggling skills.  (The poor guy working in that shop was defenseless!  He got so flustered.  He ended up desperately yanking a mannequin off the wall and stripping it bare after he couldn’t find the same pants in his racks of merchandise and Rachel declared that we were leaving because he was too slow.  When we finally paid and left him alone, he made us promise to tell his older brother, who was watching the stuff set up outside the shop, that he did a good job.  Too funny!)  Anyway, we looked at some other pants, somehow striking a good deal without Rachel.  We had to promise that we wouldn’t try to return them later (or something, I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about) and we had to be quiet about how much we paid as there were two other older ladies in the shop at that time.  Older ladies must be better marks.  Huh.

Then we ate lunch.  We were the only two in the restaurant.  I thought it was a little creepy.  I felt like the waiter guy was staring at us the whole time, and not in a friendly manner.  He sat facing us a few tables away and messed around with his laptop the whole time we were eating.  I was glad to pay and get out of there.

MUSEUMS:     After lunch, the museums opened (1:00 b/c of the holiday).  We went to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts first.  The museum has sections for Calligraphy and Manuscripts (beautiful!!), Damascus Documents, Carpets and Rugs, Woodenware, Metal-Glass-Ceramics, Stoneware, and a few others.  I really wanted to see the ceramics since we didn’t get to see the ones at Topkapi Palace.  There weren’t that many of them.  Overall, the pieces (not just the ceramic ones) in the museum were nice.  I thought a few of the “restoration” jobs were a bit out of place, however, and I wasn’t totally convinced that preservation is a main focus of this particular museum.

From here we went to the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.  There are three buildings: the Museum of the Ancient Orient, Museum of Archaeology, and the Museum of the Tiled Kiosk.

The Museum of Archaeology “houses over 1 million artifacts that belong to various cultures collected from Imperial territories.”  The Museum of the Ancient Orient houses a lot of Egyptian artifacts.  I was surprised at the geographic area represented in this museum.  It was different than what I think of when I hear the phrase “Ancient Orient.”  I think I maybe just don’t know enough history?  The Tiled Kiosk museum was exactly what I thought it would be though!  Lots and Lots of tiles and other ceramics.  Small but nice.

After the museums, we walked to the Blue Mosque to see it at twilight.  Then we ate, packed, and went to bed.

LAST DAY:     On our last day, which was really only a morning, we walked to Suleymaniye Mosque.  It’s supposed to be the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul.  We were a little hesitant to walk there because we had a hard time judging distances on our maps, and we didn’t want to miss our flights.  But we made it quite quickly.  It’s near the University, so it’s fairly easy to find.  (Note: The university is walled off, so you can’t walk through it.  There are guards at the gates!)

The whole way there I was telling Beth how I wanted to buy another cup of freshly pressed pomegranate juice before we left.  I’d decided I was willing to pay up to 7 lira for it.  There was a young guy (15, maybe?) selling some right outside the mosque, so after paying to use the disgusting bathrooms (which were made more repellent by the presence of fake flowers tucked all over the place), we stopped to get some.  Imagine my delight when the response to “how much?” was “1 lira”!  I almost felt bad giving him just one when I was prepared to pay so much more.  The guys selling it outside the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque charge 5 and the restaurants are sometimes even higher.  So we sipped our juice as we walked back to the tram line.  We stopped at a little man selling scarves on the street.  Good thing we’d finished our juice because he gave us hot chai tea.  So we carried that to a courtyard outside the university where we drank it and chatted.

Soon enough, we had to go catch our tram to the airport.  We got there with what we thought was plenty of time (over 2 hours) but the line for passport control was, well, out of control.  We both made our flights though.  What a trip!  Here are some pictures:  Click on one to make it bigger and open a slideshow viewer.  Navigate with the left and right arrows on the far edges of your screen.