A Suspicious-looking Pile


Where are you and what are you doing?  I’m waiting for pictures from this morning (unloading the kiln) to upload to flickr.  It’s taking FOREVER!  Does anyone know how to make it faster?  I don’t really understand that site very well.

Anyway, the kiln was a success and I’m signed up to load it again on Monday.  It’ll get fired on Tuesday even though I’m leaving for America that day.  That sounds so romantic or adventurous or something, “leaving for America,” doesn’t it?  It has a nice ring to it.  🙂  I’m going back for a few days for my friends’ wedding (Lauren and Stefan).  It’s going to be so fun!  I’m really looking forward to seeing them get hitched.  They have lots of activities planned for the weekend, before and after the wedding ceremony.  So, it’ll be a whirlwind, I think, but that’ll be exciting.  Plus, Lauren asked me what I’d like to eat after she picks me up from the airport and I said, “chicken,” and she said, “Let me guess, not fried and no sour cream.”  Right on the money!

The best part of my day so far (in addition to the good firing) has been receiving a belated birthday package in the mail.  The package contained a few different things, including a very suspicious unlabeled photo of a small pile lying on some carpet in the sunshine, which I think might be related to toilet-training a small child… let your imagination run wild on this one, and I think you’ll be correct…

Flickr is still only 51% finished, so I’ll put a few of my own photos here for you.  I’d love to hear what you think!  I think I fixed it so you can comment on here without entering your personal information.  (I still moderate comments before they’re published though; I get a lot of spam comments on dog-training, for whatever reason.)


Here's the kiln after firing, waiting for the saggers to cool enough to pull them out. Since heat rises and the tiles are so thin, I was able to take 17/20 of the white tiles from the shelves below while waiting.

slip casting

One of the white tiles I pulled out from the bottom of the kiln.

sagger firing porcelain

One of the saggers, right after opening it (you can barely see the tile where it's hidden under the burned sawdust)

black porcelain

a black tile, view 1

black porcelain

same black tile, different angle to the light

acorn sagger firing

experiment with acorns on top of the tile, sawdust beneath (with notes to myself)

More pictures on my facebook page.


Weighting, Wayting, Waiting.

I apologize for the title.  I’m a bit hard up for a clever line this evening, as you can tell!  Ha!

I’m waiting for my kiln to cool so I can open it and check out the results.  (See yesterday’s post.)  Opening kilns is always a surprise.  As I’ve told my students, it’s a little bit like a Christmas gift from your grandma – it can be a time where words fail you, in a good way or… not so much.  (Let’s give thanks for grandmothers who remember their grandkids, though!  You’re great!)

I should be able to open the kiln tomorrow morning.  Hopefully most everything comes out A-okay so I can start putting the installation together.  I’m nervous because this firing was so much longer than my test firing.  I hope that doesn’t mean that the carbon had more chance to burn off.  But because there’s absolutely nothing to be done about it at this point, I’m trying not to worry.

So, instead, I’m wishing I was going to Negreni Fair in Transylvania this weekend.  It sounds like quite the experience.  Abel told me about it as we ate lunch yesterday.  Whoa there, Mom.  Here’s how it went down: I left the studio en route to get cake for lunch.  My decision making skills at their finest, yes?  Igen.  Abel walked out at the same time.  Once we got out of the gate, we stopped sort of awkwardly on the sidewalk and looked at each other.  A1: “What are you doing?”  A2: “Um, I was going to eat lunch.”  A1: “Huh.  Me too.”  A2:”Oh.”  A1 & A2: “Well, we could eat together.”  So we did.  (We didn’t have cake though.)  While we were eating, he told me about this huge flea market (Negreni Fair) that happens in Transylvania every October on the second weekend of the month.  I tried to find more information about it online, but this link is the best I could do (in English, anyway).  It sounds like you can buy pretty much anything there.  What this lady writes about echoes what Abel spoke of, although she doesn’t have horses listed, and they were one of the sale items he rattled off in his description.  From what I understand, it makes the flea market here in Kecskemet look like a one-family yard sale.

Maybe next year!

The Plan for the rest of the weekend: open kiln, start laying out installation, make tiles, go to Vienna (I almost forgot!), make tiles, load kiln again.

Check back tomorrow to see what happened with this kiln!  Nighty-night!

Ah-nold Schwarzenegger… and a Box Full of Acorns

Want to know the greatest way Ever to listen to different accents?  Wait for it…… Wait for it……  The secret’s in the Schwarzenegger.  For real.  All you have to do is ask someone how to pronounce the name of California’s former governor.  I don’t quite remember how it came up, but at the birthday party on Saturday night, I happened to say his name, and everyone around me said, “Whaaat??  Say it again!”  So I did, and then we went back and forth with everyone saying, “Arnold Schwarzenegger,” according to our language’s accent.  So we heard his name in Hungarian, Portugal’s Portuguese, Spain’s Spanish, Finnish, Irish, and French.  We each thought how the others pronounced it was hilarious, but I think we all agreed that the French accent was the best.

Other news that will blow your mind:  I have a kiln firing right now.  Aren’t you excited??  I thought so!  I packed my saggers this morning, and Jakob loaded them into the kiln for me early this afternoon.  It’s kind of nice not having to load the kiln.  (It’s one of the rules here, and it’s not one to be ‘bent,’ trust me on that….)  I’ll put some pictures below.  Most of the boxes are packed full of sawdust because it makes a really nice black, but I have one stack of “experiment” saggers in the kiln too.  Those are filled with a variety of things like acorns, acorn hats, dried up geraniums, juniper bush “leaves” (What are they called?  They’re not leaves and they’re not branches.  Hm.), and wire.

The saggers are really packed tightly because they haven’t fully shrunk yet, as they’ve only been bisqued (fired once, to a much lower temperature than this second firing).  I was worried Jakob would tell me I needed to take one stack out, but he just smiled and waggled his eyebrows and crammed them in the kiln.  Aha!  I wasn’t able to get as many tiles into each sagger as I thought I could, so I’m going to have to do four firings, at about $125 a pop.  Yikes.  Oh well.  It’s just money, right?  It’s not like I have to cut off a body part and put it in each firing or something.

With that lovely thought, I’ll take my leave for the evening!

porcelain tiles

Some tiles and saggers. I was happy; only three tiles crumbled into dust when I was packing them!

clay saggers

Here are the stacks of saggers. You can see that the bottom four on the left have been fired to temperature. That's what they'll all look like after this firing. Also notice the small blue plastic bag, which contains wad clay that (pardon my language) Smells Like Ass. For real. It was bad enough to drive everyone but me out of the kiln area when I was packing. It's the white stuff you see pressed into the cracks between the saggers here. And no, despite having washed my hands at least 5x since this afternoon, I haven't gotten rid of the stench. Yech.

Gas Kiln

Jakob and Klara debating how to best pack the kiln, with Abel documenting (he's working on a special video project for the ICS with Janos, the director). Abel and I are going to try to do a collaborative piece, using my tiles and his videos.

Full Gas Kiln

The kiln is full!

Herend Porcelain

Jakob, Ilona, Peteris, unloading Ilona and Peteris's kiln today.

Why Hungary?

How did I end up in Hungary this semester? That’s a very good question, and it’s one I get asked quite often here.

The answer is tri-fold:

1) I didn’t study abroad as an undergrad and I’ve always regretted it. Both of my older sisters spent semesters elsewhere (one in Puerto Rico and one in Australia). They both loved their time in these other places. This semester is kind of – well, not kind of – it is my last shot to have my own semester abroad. This spring I’ll be working fiendishly on my thesis show and report, so it won’t be possible to be anywhere other than UMass-Dartmouth. And then the plan is to graduate, so it follows that there won’t be any more study abroad opportunities!

2) I know the current director of the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. (Eric Kao, a UMassD grad: MFA Ceramics, 2009.) I saw him at NCECA (national ceramics conference) last year and he mentioned that he thought it would be great for UMassD to have some sort of an exchange with his program. When we spoke, I was really busy, so I didn’t really take time to immediately think about his suggestion.

3) After final reviews last May, I had some time to reflect on the year, and I thought, “Hey, maybe I should take Eric up on that offer, and see if I can study abroad in China for a semester.” I love porcelain just a little bit, as I’m sure you can tell from the byline of this blog, and Jingdezhen is referred to as the porcelain capital of the world. It has a 1,700 year history with the material. Pretty Amazing. But then I had some health issues (everything’s fine now) and I decided China was maybe not the best place for me to be at this point in time. I still wanted to study abroad though, so after talking to my adviser, I decided to apply here, to the International Ceramics Studio of Hungary. This place also has a strong history with porcelain (not nearly 1,700 years, but still good); I believe this is largely due to its proximity to the Herend Porcelain factory.

So, here I am! I’m grateful to have this opportunity and I’d like to thank everyone at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth for making it possible. Instrumental in the process have been: Profs. Jim Lawton, Susan Hamlet, and Deborah Carlson, Dr. Memory Holloway, Artisanry Department Chair Alan Thompson, as well as Dean Adrian Tio and Assistant Dean Heather Bentz. I’d also like to thank my fellow graduate students at UMD in ceramics and many other departments for their support.

UMass-Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts is home to many talented, hardworking, and kind professors, administrators, and students. I remember being amazed when I first got here at the depth of skill and originality shown in the undergraduate and graduate work, across all departments. This is a school where the students are encouraged to find their own voice and make their own work, something I think is somewhat rare in universities. I can quite honestly say that this program has shaped who I am, what I make, and how I regard the act of making.

Want to see some work by some UMass affiliates? (Sorry if I link to you and you don’t want me to! Email me and I’ll take it off. Also email if I didn’t link you and you want to be linked.)

http://bethanyrusen.com/, http://laurenldeserres.com/home.html, http://abbierpowers.com/,

http://averylucasart.com/home.html, http://www.katzceramics.com/, http://dhameehahn.com/home.html,

http://tomshieldsart.com/home.html, http://jodistevensart.com/home.html, http://www.lasseantonsen.net/Site/Home.html,