The day I thought our house burned down

Yesterday I thought our house was burning to the ground.

Here’s what happened:

It was a beautiful, warm sunny day. Our first warm day so far this spring. I spent the afternoon gardening. Eventually, I decided I needed a few perennials for a shady area near the entrance to my studio. Pretty it up for the people coming to my classes, you know? (Who am I kidding, I wanted them for me, too!) So, I went to Walmart and spent a highly enjoyable hour or so looking at all the baby plants and various bulbs and bags of dirt and compost. I filled my hatchback with good stuff and went on my merry way.

While driving home (and while I was still in town – we live outside the city limits), I saw a huge, wide column of very black smoke out on the horizon right – it appeared to my estimation – where our house should be. But I tried to tell myself no, our house isn’t on fire. That smoke is probably way farther away than it looks, and someone is just burning a field. But the smoke was SO BLACK. Not what burning a field usually looks like. My next thoughts went like this, as I tried again to reassure myself: “You didn’t leave the kiln on or the dryer on or the oven on or the stove on… you haven’t used any of those things all day.”

But the closer I got to our house, the more and more it looked like the fire was coming from our property. And then when I turned off the highway onto the gravel, “smoke” was pouring down the road. (I later figured out that it wasn’t smoke, it was road dust from the incredible amount of emergency vehicles and responders.) And I could see multiple flashing red and blue lights at the top of the hill right where our house is. You can’t see our house from the bottom of the hill, but you can see emergency flashers, apparently!

Naturally, I started freaking out that our house actually¬†was on fire and the only thing I could think was, “Thank God, I left Poppy outside on her chain. Maybe somebody rescued her for us!” Poppy is our puppy. Yesterday was the first day since we got her that I left her outside in the yard while I went somewhere else. When I finally crested the hill and I pulled into our yard, I could see that the fire was at our neighbor’s barn. It was fully engulfed. There were vehicles with flashing lights everywhere. Cops and deputies and firetrucks and ambulances were all over our yard. My husband was here and I ran to him right away and started sobbing because I had really really really thought our house was burning down. It was so scary.

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One of our other neighbors is the one who called it in. He was out doing tractor work in his yard. He saw all the smoke, and he knew that my husband was at work and I would never be burning something in our yard to make that much smoke, and neither would anyone else in the neighborhood. So he and his friend drove up to see what was happening. They could see the fire from the road; they called it into 911 before they even got out of the vehicle. We are blessed with good neighbors!

However, neither of them knew the address of the property with the fire, so they called it in as my husband’s and my address. My husband was at work and he heard over the radio, “Barn fire, building is fully engulfed,” at our address, so he got worried and sped to our place. On the way there he was trying to decide if he should attempt to go in and drive out the truck we keep in there, but then he saw all the smoke from the road and figured it was already a total loss.

Needless to say, we’re both super glad that it was not our house or barn (though honestly, I would have been relieved to pull up and see our barn on fire vs. our house, if I had to choose!). The one that burned down was quite old, and it was filled with scrap metal and piles of wood, so the loss wasn’t enormous. I’m glad everyone is okay and the damage was contained. It did make for a scary evening, though!

fire

This photo by Ashley Renee Pitt.

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After the firefighters left.

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Wreckage today.

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Studio News

Hello hello!

A quick update on how I’ve been occupied lately… (lots of photos at the end)…

Much of my time has been devoted to a project for a lovely local woman, Katie Geraty, and her company, Stone Bone Wood Cloth. For the past year and a half, Katie has hired me to design and fabricate prototypes of small porcelain bowls for her. The bowls are finally ready to launch, along with two other products (custom tassels and bracelets), and… not to be conceited, they are quite beautiful. ūüėČ

Katie¬†launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday¬†to get her business off and running. Click here to visit her page. It would be awesome if you were willing to help support her endeavor, because by¬†supporting her you will be supporting local artists (me included!). She doesn’t mention this in the Kickstarter page, but did you know Katie was told she could have these bowls manufactured in China for pennies on the dollar? She chose instead to hire me to produce them, and she is paying me a very fair wage to do so. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of business practice I can get behind. Creating these vessels for Katie has allowed me to keep pluggin’ away in my studio,¬†and I’m grateful to her for the opportunity!

Here’s a synopsis of Stone Bone Wood Cloth:

“Our mission is to create beautiful objects, hand-made from stone, bone, wood or cloth that are as unique and individual as each of us; objects that remind us of who we are, or want to be.¬†

None of us really needs or wants more stuff…unless it has some personal meaning or resonance. At the SBWC website individuals will be able to go into a ‚Äúworkshop‚ÄĚ and co-create an object that has personal meaning. Co-create means taking a base product ‚Äď a vessel or a tassel ‚Äď and adding elements that make it uniquely your own.”

Check our her page and make a donation today! If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter:¬†You can remain anonymous during the donation process if you’d like. Donors can also choose from various rewards (bowls are some of the choices) and no donations are collected unless the project is fully funded within 31 days.

Some photos (of making the vessels, teaching, and other studio happenings). Click on any circle to open a photo viewer.

Late Night Brilliant Idea… Maybe?

I’m going to be casting some large panels tomorrow. ¬†(24-30″ wide by 60″ long) ¬†I’ve been trying to encourage mold to grow in my slip for the past month just for this project, by leaving the bucket sealed next to the radiator. ¬†I need it to be considerably more moldy and plastic than it is right now. ¬†It’s not working. ¬†[Plasticity refers to how bend-y the clay is; how far can I bend it when it’s wet before it splits apart?] ¬†In my previous projects casting largish (24″ x 24″) panels, they dried with less warping and cracking and¬†were a lot easier to transport into the kiln and ¬†if they were cast from super stinky, moldy slip. ¬†I’m talking porcelain slip that’s a definite dark gray, not the pretty cream or white that it is when it’s fresh. ¬†Slip so moldy that other people on the other end of the studio open their windows and I work with dryer sheets stuffed up my nostrils.

Now you know my goal. ¬†And I’ve told you I haven’t accomplished it yet. ¬†And furthermore, I need this moldy awesomeness by tomorrow. ¬†What is my brilliant idea, you ask? ¬†Here it is: I dissolved a bunch of yogurt starter into some warm water. ¬†And then I mixed that into a 5-gallon bucket of slip and put the whole thing next to the radiator.

Do you think it’ll work? ¬†I hope so! ¬†I really have no idea, though. ¬†Stayed tuned….