Camping Out

We always were a little jealous of the town kids, growing up. Town kids got summer vacation.

Summers on a farm are hard work. Planting and weeding gardens. Cleaning out a winter's worth of manure from the chicken coop, pig pen and heifer barn. Then baling hay, combining oats, baling straw, chopping corn. Harvesting and canning and butchering chickens. And look! It's almost time for school again...

Town kids got to travel. They didn't have cows to milk or pigs to feed every day. Some of them even got to go to Summer Camp, a magical-sounding place where they made campfires and went canoeing and learned to swim. (Possibly, there's a causal connection between those last two.)

We were so jealous.

Many years later, after I finished graduate school, I finally got a chance to experience summer camp for myself. As a counselor. But Buck's Rock wasn't a tents-and-campfires-and-canoe-trips sort of place. It was an arts camp.

Younger me would have been ecstatic.

I was in the Ceramics Shop, of course, even head of program my second year. But there was also Painting, Print-making, Silkscreen, Sculpture. Performing arts like Orchestra, Choir, Drama and Clowning. Photography, Printing (offset and letterpress), Jewelry, Sewing, Batik and Glass-blowing.

Think about that for a second. Glass-blowing, for children.

These days, my summers are a lot like they were in childhood, lots of hard work and heavy lifting, but pottery boxes instead of hay bales. We're still harvesting, but customers, instead of crops. But there's also a hint of summer camp, as well.

I'm surrounded by painters, sculptors, photographers. Potters, jewelers, glass-blowers. Working at an Art Fair is just a little like Buck's Rock. I'm surrounded by enthusiastic, talented artists and crafts-people.

And I even get to stay in a tent.


It was during a sculpture demonstration to the Oregon Potter's Association monthly meeting that I realized that, though I'd gotten my Master of Fine Arts thesis, Stories of My Life, converted to html and loaded to my website, I'd never actually linked it.

Tah-dah! Note the new button in the menu on the left. Following the link will bring up my first serious attempts in ceramic sculpture, including the life-size ceramic cow.

Something New

A couple of years back, I had a customer bring her favorite kitchen item in to Clay Fest for me to replicate: an Egg Mixing Crock.

It was a little thing, about six inches across, four-and-a-half high, holding about four cups, all told. Straight sides, a pouring spout and handle. I couldn't imagine what made it so special.

But I made her one, tweaking the design a little: better pouring spout, my crock-style handle. Painted a rooster on the front. Actually? I made two. I often do that with special orders: if one doesn't turn out, I have the other as a fallback, so don't have to wait for the next firing. In this case, both were fine, so the second one ended up in my kitchen.

Guys, I use it all the time. It's the perfect size for beating eggs for omelets, scrambles, left-over fried rice. It's also not bad for mixing a vinaigrette, marinade or sauce.

So I thought I'd make a few for you folks, see what you think. Not sure what to call them, yet. Egg Mixing Crock seems way too specific; maybe just Small Mixing Crock? In any event, they come in four patterns at the moment: Running Rooster, Goldfinch, Hummingbird and Bunnies. Price is $28. I'll be taking them out on the road this summer, see what happens.

Encore Pattern of the Month:

My mom says the Goldfinches have returned to her bird feeder already. It's May in Wisconsin, and I never remember seeing them this early. For me, they'll always be a summer bird...

Finding Gold

I'm in Wisconsin visiting my wife's parents as I write this, watching goldfinches from the front window. Brilliant streaks of yellow, black wings and tail in sharp contrast, I can pick them out flying well down the block.

It seems a little early to see them. My memories are of watching them in late July or August, down in the ditches on the family farm, tearing into ripe thistle heads for seeds and silk for their elegant, woven nests. Canada thistle and bull thistle are endemic on the farm. I sometimes think if it weren't for what my dad called "wild canaries," thistle'd take the place over.

Goldfinches still flock the ditches for thistle seed, but also my mother's bird feeder, where they make a habit of cleaning out the primo black-oil sunflower seeds before deigning to try any lesser food. So when I got a request for a French Butter dish with a sunflower on top, I couldn't resist adding my favorite finch. Lately, they've been showing up center stage, with a handsome black-capped male feeding hungry nestlings. My well-fed finches are turning up on dinner and dessert plates, square baking dishes and pie plates.

Panning for gold...

See other patterns...