Friday, April 18, 2014

Losing Chardonnay

This week we lost one of our fur children. Chardonnay, our big yellow tabby, lost his valiant battle with kidney disease. We knew it was coming, but that didn't make his loss any easier to accept. He was with us for almost 19 years -- a long, happy life.

It seems so strange to not hear him wailing loudly for his breakfast in the mornings. And to not see him peering through the French doors as we pull into the driveway. It's not until they're gone that you realize how large a role a beloved pet plays in your life. They stake out a claim not only on your couch but also in your heart. They're a part of you, day in and day out. And so when they leave us, we grieve deeply. It's their absence, the emptiness of the chair they always napped in, the silent kitchen in the morning, that reminds us just how much they filled up our lives. And fill our lives he did, in so many ways. He could be funny, maddening, irresistible, amazing and demanding. But most of all, he will always be unforgettable.

Rest gently, sweet Chardonnay.


Monday, April 14, 2014

A Folk Pottery Find in the North Georgia Mountains

Tucked away in our state's beautiful mountains is a gem of a museum. For those interested in Southern arts and culture, the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia is a must-see. It showcases the work of North Georgia potters whose handcrafted wares allowed people to prepare, preserve and store foods and beverages in the era before refrigeration. Back then, pottery was essential for survival. 

After refrigerators became commonplace, many of their pieces began to be acquired by collectors.When the Smithsonian Institution focused its attention on the work and processes of White County potter Lanier Meaders, he became internationally known. The attention paid to Lanier and to other potters in the Meaders family by the Smithsonian raised their work and that of others in the region to folk art status.

The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in Sautee, near Helen.

My husband and I have an especially keen interest in this museum. He's related to the Meaders family and Lanier Meaders, who made utilitarian wares along with his renowned "face jugs." Lanier's face jugs feature grinning or grimacing characters, often with "teeth" made from porcelain clay. For Lanier, creating these grotesque pieces was simply a fun diversion from the more serious side of the pottery business. He was amused but puzzled when people began stopping at his small pottery operation in White County seeking to buy something so "ugly," as he described them.

When a documentary film on the Meaders family's work and processes was released by the Smithsonian in 1976 at a special event held at the Library of Congress, it cast the attention of the cultural world on this plain-spoken man and his family. It also transformed a humble household commodity, along with the quirky face jugs, into highly collectible art.

Lanier had clay in his blood, so to speak, but didn't take up the profession until he was in his 50's. His father Cheever was an accomplished potter with a well-established business supplying general stores, hardware stores, and gift shops. Several uncles and other family members were also skilled potters; Lanier's mother Arie took up pottery making at 60 and became widely known for her highly decorative designs. Lanier didn't have children, but members of his extended Meaders family produce pottery to this day, with multiple generations still shaping clay by hand.

Naturally, their works occupy much of the Folk Pottery Museum's display space, along with those of many other well known North Georgia pottery families including the Dorseys, the Hewells and the Fergusons. The museum's collection features an amazing number of pieces from the earliest periods right up to contemporary works. Each has its own story and provides a fascinating glimpse into the social, geological and economic aspects of our state's history.

The museum's Suzanne Reese-Johnston offers a warm welcome to visitors. Suzanne herself is an established potter with an extensive knowledge of the craft and its history. The painting behind her, by Clarkesville, Ga. artist Linda Anderson, depicts a typical early pottery operation in this mountain region.

A display of pitchers, bowls and crocks prior to glazing and firing. The photo is of Lanier Meaders working in his White County pottery shop. It was originally published in the book "Brothers in Clay: The Story of Georgia Folk Pottery" by John A. Burrison.(University of Georgia Press).

This kiln looks life sized here, but it's actually an exquisitely constructed model in a glass case.

Face jugs by Lanier Meaders. He marveled that anyone would find these whimsical creations, which he described as "ugly," appealing enough to buy. Demand for them was high: he produced and sold several thousand of them over the course of his career.
This massive specimen greets visitors in the reception area.
Natural wood and lots of glass give the museum a rustic yet comfortable atmosphere.

My hubby with a toothy friend
This trip was a wonderful experience. We learned a lot as we immersed ourselves in pottery appreciation. We also admired the beautiful views surrounding the museum of rolling green pastures and dazzling dogwoods at the peak of bloom. Secondary stops at Shapiro's Gallery and the Old Sautee Store offered fine handicrafts and unusual gift items. At Suzanne's suggestion we had lunch at a tiny restaurant adjacent to the Store. The vegetable panini sandwiches we ordered were absolutely delicious! There was more to see in Sautee Nacoochee, and we would have liked to tour the studios on the Folk Potters Trail as well, but we were running out of time. As we headed for home, we vowed to return there soon and are happily looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Watch Out! Cookies Can Cause Problems!

If you've been trying unsuccessfully to leave comments here on my blog, there's good news. The problem is now fixed! It seems the difficulties had something to do with cookies. If your system was set up to block cookies, you were blocked from being able to comment. Techo-Luddite that I am, I had no idea this was happening. Then a friend told me she had been trying repeatedly to leave comments with no luck. It was good she made me aware of the problem, but I was thoroughly puzzled as to why this was occurring. So I went looking for answers.

After much investigation, I finally found an inquiry in Blogger's Help Center that sounded like what was happening here. The solution offered was this: go into Settings, then into Posts and Comments. Under Comments, go into Comment Location and change it to Full Page. So I did, and now it appears all is (finally) well.

If you've been inconvenienced and frustrated by this glitch, you have my sincere apologies. Hopefully the problem is now behind us, and you can comment to your heart's content. I look forward to hearing from you.

A Thought for Sunday, April 13

"Working in the moment" is a dance of doing and looking, creating and appraising, affirming the self and criticizing the self. It's the artist saying in one breath, "I am god" and saying in the next breath, "Am I ever human!" -- Eric Maisel, Ph.D., Fearless Creating: A Step by Step Guide to Starting and Completing Your Work of Art

Friday, April 11, 2014

Poetic Justice, Black Cars and Big Cats

This post doesn't discuss art or jewelry making but it does address something many of us have experienced: a maniacal driver who's putting everyone else on the road in great danger. How many times have we witnessed outrageous behavior behind the wheel and thought, "Where are the police when you need them?"

Well, today I saw one of these supremely selfish, uncaring drivers get exactly what he deserved. (And no, he did not wrap himself around a phone pole.) Let me tell you, it was really sweet. There actually IS some justice in the world.

Hubs and I were coming back from the mountains, where we had enjoyed a most delightful visit to a very special museum. (I'll tell you all about this museum in my post on Monday.) We were driving home on Georgia Highway 20, a very busy highway, exceptionally busy on this late Friday afternoon. There was a mile long string of cars behind me as well as in front of me, all basically observing the posted speed limit of 45mph, give or take 5mph.

As we proceeded westbound, I glanced in my side mirror. To my shock and disbelief, I saw a motorcycle coming up on my left -- in the TURN lane -- traveling at an incredibly high rate of speed.

Now, if you are not familiar with turn lanes, they're an extra lane that's to be used only for turning, not traveling in. They're clearly marked as such so there is no mistaking their purpose. This motorcyclist clearly did not give a flip that he was traveling like a bat out of hell in a restricted lane. Nor that he was moving at better than twice as fast as the speed limit and the rest of the traffic. He, obviously, was far more important and special than anyone else. He blew past us all like we were standing still.

And then -- from out of nowhere -- there appeared a low profile solid black car with a strip of low profile  lights on top. It was in the oncoming lane, but suddenly and with almost animal-like agility braked, performed a well-practiced U turn over the median markers and went flying after Mr. Hotshot. Truly, it was a thing of beauty to behold. That sleek new patrol car looked like a black lynx going after a ground squirrel. You could almost hear collective shrieks of approval from every other driver on the road.

As we cruised past a gas station on the left, there was the motorcyclist at the pump. And pulled snug up right behind him was the Georgia State Patrol car, blue lights flashing merrily. Eat, big cat, eat!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Must-Have Book for Artistic Inspiration

Ideas for paintings and other art endeavors are all around us. Our familiar environments are rich with possibilities -- objects, colors, textures, patterns, and so forth -- but sometimes the problem is, they're so familiar we don't notice them anymore.

Books and articles on finding inspiration often suggest taking a camera to remote, less familiar locations to capture things that could prompt ideas for your art. This is a great way to go about rousing a sleeping Muse, but what if you're housebound? What if you don't own a camera? Aren't there any other ways?

There's a book that can help you if you're struggling to come up with ideas. It's 210 Imaginative Ideas for Painting: How to Find and Keep Your Inspiration by Marjorie Sarnat. If you can't find any ideas to work from in Sarnat's book, you might want to take up another line of work.

This author has thought of and describes almost every possible thing, condition, or scenario under the sun that could serve as a basis for inspiration. Do you paint still lifes? How about depicting a piece of fruit splattered with drips of colorful paint? If you work in collage, how about collaging one of those small poseable mannequins sold in art supply stores? Or painting a room's interior as seen through an empty goblet? Ideas for realistic and figurative work abound in the pages of this book.

Practitioners of non-objective art aren't neglected, either. Just two examples: homing in on a few square inches of old, worn out denim to use its faded markings as a compositional aid for creating an abstract piece. Or using unexpected surfaces and unusual shapes such as pieces of 2x4 lumber as supports for abstract, primitive or folk art works. There are many, many more.

Sarnat also provides a great many helpful insights on such topics as working in series, developing a signature style, creating a sense of mystery in your work, and determining what makes subjects "worthy" to name just a few.

I had no idea when I downloaded this book to my Kindle what an amazing resource it would be. I now view it as a studio essential. Get a copy and you may find you now have too many exciting concepts to choose from!

©2014 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Thought for Sunday

"Refuse to allow yourself to have low expectations about what you're capable of creating. As Michelangelo suggested, the greater danger is not that your hopes are too high and you fail to reach them; it's that they're too low and you do." -- Dr. Wayne Dyer in 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace