Cyndi Casemier Blog
A friend sent me a note this morning with regard to a piece of pottery that she had received as a gift. She didn't think that it had glaze on the inside of it and wondered about using it. So, I thought I would put some information out there with regard to using pottery in your "every day life". ( You know that is what C2C is all about.)If you are like me, when I travel, I consider what I would like to bring home as a reminder of the holiday. Sometimes, I purchase gifts for friends and family. When, considering pottery, these are the considerations:Will your gift be just a decorative piece, to be enjoyed over time? Reminding you of a lovely day?Do you want to use the mug, bowl, tile, plate in your daily life? If yes. Here is a simple test. You can set the ceramics on a counter, cut a wedge of lemon, placing it on or in the piece of pottery. Let it sit over night. The next day, look closely at the location of where the lemon sat for several hours (12 or so). Is there any discoloration? Changes in the piece? If yes, then, your piece is probably not food safe. The glaze is not a good fit with the clay body or it is low fired (think raku).Raku fired pots are a type of firing that creates metallic shine, crackles, and many times areas of raw clay that will provide a black decorative element. Raku is not water tight which means that fresh cut flowers will probably not work for vases fired in this manner.If you purchase ceramics in the USA, most potters know if their artwork is truly functional and food safe. When, traveling internationally, I always talk with the artisan, asking about how they create their work. If you ask enough questions, you will learn enough about their making, so that when you return, you can stop into the gallery and we can help you decide whether it is food safe.I ask questions like this:Where do you get your clay?How did you make this piece?If in their studio, I ask to see their kiln (mostly because potters love to see other potter's tools and equipment. And, I am a potter.). You will get to see if they have taken care of their equipment and see if it is an electric, gas, wood, or other type of firing. All good information.If in a foreign country, asking how long it takes to fire their work and where they fire can uncover information.At the end of the day, do you love the piece? That is what is important.Buy it (support artists). (The image above is what I purchased while in Italy this spring. I immediately loved it - think water.)Incorporate it into your every day life.Enjoy it for many years and try to do something creative today. It is good for your soul. C2.
Did you receive cut flowers for Mother's Day? I found an interesting article in The NY Times where someone did an experiment with regard on how to make them last a long time. You can learn how here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/science/how-to-keep-flowers-alive.html These flowers were arranged by Grand Haven Garden House. We are partnering with Kathy Kwekel and her professional florists. You can select a vase in the gallery. We will deliver it to GHGH and they will create a lovely flower arrangement to be delivered to a special person in your life. It's a Win-Win Situation for everyone. Lovely Handmade Vase - Gorgeous Flower Arrangement - A Unique One of a Kind Gift Ceramic Pitcher by Richard Aerni Ceramic Vase by Julie Devers
Today is my mentor's birthday. He left this world just more than a year ago. I am still on my Italian holiday. I know that he is smiling that I did "try it and see" in my class at La Meridiana. Daily, I am thinking about the nuggets of take-always from the class. Considering how to incorporate this knowledge into my clay work at home. Robin coached me that I needed to really "see" more of the world and that I should travel as often as I could afford. This trip is honoring his counsel. (A picture of Robin Hopper three years ago, he was always making music with any object available. This time a teapot. How appropriate!) Bev and I had a wonderful day wandering down the mountain from Montepescali heading towards Tyrrhenian Sea to a town called Castiglione Della Pescaia. It was lovely. Lots of families walking, sunning, and playing at the beach. We hiked up to the fortress finding lovely views across the water. But, I digress. Leaving Montepescali was a challenge. One that had both of us laughing. We are staying in an apartment with tiny, very tiny windy roads. The Italians drive effortlessly through these alleys. We had parked our Fiat close to our apartment. Now, I had to get it out of there and down the mountain. As I inch my way down the steep grade, we come to a tight right hand turn with stone walls on every side. Three cars arrive wanting to make the turn also. Finally, I wiggled my way out of the intersection and let them all go through. Then, the church ladies in their 4 inch high heels pass. They wobble down the cobblestone alleys. I don't know which was more precarious me in my little manual car or their walk home. We made it out of the tight maze and onto the open road headed toward the beach. Whew! Being by the ocean, watching people, smelling the salt water, watching children enjoying their time had me smiling in a big way. Our Lake Michigan beach days will be arriving soon and I love them. Have I mentioned that I love trees and their bark? Cypress trees are in abundance here. Check out the arrangement of canopy (I call them umbrella trees) and cypress. In Robin's honor, I will look up the name of these umbrella trees. Their scientific name is Pinus Pinea or Umbrella Pines. These pine trees grow naturally around Tuscany. This is the tree where our beloved pine nuts grow. I think a pesto recipe is in order soon. Quite often, you will find cypress trees planted near a burial. It is believed that they assist the souls of our loved ones to heaven. We made it back to the apartment without a scratch on the car. Walked around our town in the dusk. Our world is an amazing place; filled with people trying to make the best with what they have; just like us; working; raising children; spending time with friends; and trying to find fun when they can. It was a fun day. Happy Birthday, Robin.
Yesterday, was glaze day in the classroom here at LaMeridiana. For me, it was all a bit overwhelming. Not because, I feel incapable of glazing my ceramics work. I felt overwhelmed by 14 people doing it at the same time. Everyone was polite, doing a dance in and out from the glazing area and the spray booth. Antionette was involved every step of the way; helping students, letting people spray glaze on to their delicate work of very thin porcelain, and providing support. The spray gun's pressure was enough that it could send the piece flying across the booth. Franco, the studio technician, was very patient throughout the long day. Cleaning plugged spray guns, answering questions, and mixing up glazes. As a potter, I know that glazing my work, takes just as much time as forming it from that lump of clay. At the end of the day, I can walk away feeling pretty good about my long hours or just "eh, we will see". I have taken enough courses to know that outcomes in a classroom will vary. It's not my studio. Not my wheel or tools. Not my preferred clay. Not my studio in which I can be free to think, process, and make. BUT, the classroom does open my eyes and send me down a new path, maybe just a tiny jog. This small "ah-ha" is enough to give me the push into new artwork that has me walking into my studio with sketches, questions of "what if?", and the necessary desire to try again. Thank you to these friendly dogs, Antoinette, Teya, Claudia, Lucia, Franco, Alessia, Pietro (and everyone else on the La Meridiana's staff) who welcome us; assist us; help make us comfortable; and feed us. You have made my visit and learning to LaMeridiana special. Tomorrow, we open the glaze kiln. Unload and see our results.
We are on the final round of working in the classroom. Yesterday, was a bisque firing day. Many in our class hopped on the train into Florence. La Meridiana arranged a guide for us meeting us at the Train Station, walking us through parts of the city and into the Ufizzi Gallery. This is the way to learn more about Florence. Our guide was knowledgeable and friendly. She pointed the high points and elegantly bypassed the not as important buildings and artwork. Whenever, I visit art museums, I stay away from the rooms filled with Renaissance paintings. I have always found them dark and forbidding. Our guide showed me that there is so much more to know and understand about this era. One thing of interest is that many paintings inside of the Ufizzi Gallery "glow" and not just from the lighting. The paint is so vibrant. She informed us of the various periods and how the painting styles evolved over the decades and centuries. We also had wonderful views of the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio. I slept on the train home. My classmates are learning that I can sleep on any moving vehicle. Take good care and do something creative today. C2
Yesterday, three of us took off by train to visit Faenze. It is about 3 hours north by train. We had all variations of trains, local, fast, and then regional. Bologna Train Station was a bit confusing - three levels of tracks. Thank goodness, a number is a number, so that you can find your train and the track that it is located on. Faenza seems to be a very nice town. It had a nice boulevard leading from the train station. We found lunch at a restaurant that meant "Gypsy" in Italian. Their placemats said "Not all who wander are lost." We had a nice day of wandering in the Museum of International Ceramics. Lovely older building with a contemporary annex. Here are a few of my favorite pieces that I was able to spend time with yesterday. We are back to making and finishing work. Gorgeous day of sunshine (sorry, my Midwest USA friends.) Take good care and do something creative today. C2
Yup, lots of pots being made. Very thin porcelain bowls and more. We are turning hand-built and wheel thrown bowls into sculpture. Very small sculptural artwork. None of our pieces will be as fine as Antoinette's but we are making progress. Last night we took a ride to the small hilltop town of Barbarino. An organic grower of grapes and olives, La Spinosa, hosted us for wonderful food paired with several of their wines and olive oils. Claudia, director of La Meridiana, used to be a partner with this group. She was our tour guide being very informative and fun throughout the evening. La Spinosa means the porcupine in Italian. They had large porcupine needs in cups around their store. I wonder if that means I might come across one on my walks to school? It's Friday, our fifth day at LaMeridiana. We will put in our last long day. The goal today is to not crack or drop anything accidentally. :) Take good care and do something creative today. C2
I walk to school each morning seeing the fog hanging in the valley just like it did in Vermont. It's lovely. It's also a nice way to start your day walking to your course. I get to see any changes in the grape vines and olive trees, think about work to be completed. Since arriving in Italy, plants are waking and you can see them greening up. We put in a long day yesterday, 9am until almost 10pm. I had a much better day of making and working on the forms that I created both on the wheel and hand built. Antonionette works the room. She goes from artist to artist checking in with them, answering questions, solving issues. Then, goes back to demonstrating or providing technical information about porcelain and its properties. She reminds us that porcelain is a Diva, one of a kind. She follows her own rules. It's a fun analogy. We have been challenged to find work that resonates with us in Peter Lane's books focused on porcelain. Then, research that artist. Look, really look at their designs. Begin sketching. Keep sketching. In a year or two, look back to see if you are getting closer to your ideas. BUT, stay the course. Work that intrigues me: Take good care and be creative today. C2