Welcome!




Hello there.
I'm a maker. A designer of clay. I make functional art pieces which appear to be something they're not: vintage, rusty, dented, scuffed metal cans.
Often they take the form of Conetop Beer Cans, Lidded Canisters, Spice Tins and TeaCans (anything with a spout, lid and handle.)
I am an inventor of the imaginary products these cans contain, frequently humorous and ironic, with packaging design to match. I regularly crack myself up in the studio.
You are invited to wander the site. Check out the photo portfolios, read a few blog posts about my process, results, encounters and reflections.
Welcome. You'll fit right in.

Stop Look Do

 

A front window of Good Life Ceramics,

A front window of Good Life Ceramics,

A few years ago, my friend and clay buddy John Albrecht sat me down and described his passionate idea for a new clay place. What he outlined back then was not just ambitious, it was a little outrageous. It would be a place, he said, that reached out to both clay diehards AND clay newbies. It sounded like my kind of theme park: excellent facilities, enticing projects for spontaneous drop-ins, members’ studio space and privileges, local clay artists available for consultations, date nights, movies, interesting flex hours. Oh, and a gallery with exhibits and work for sale.

To be honest, the more John revealed of his dream, the more he added each time I encountered him and the more searching questions he asked about kilns and glazes, equipment and tools, the more my curiosity was racing around my incredulity. How could so much be contained in one place? Such a fresh and unique approach! But, really, how?

Well, we are all about to find out because Good Life Ceramics - which is what John has always called this improbable venture -  is about to go live and public.

 

Here’s the main studio area.

Good Life Ceramics

 

A slice of the wheel area:

Wheels at Good Life Ceramics_2015

 

The beginnings of the Glaze Book:

GLCglazebook

 

Some work from the first test glaze firing:

Firstglazefiring_GLC_2014

 

 

Business Card with Mission Statement on the reverse

GLCbizcard

 

It’s that last touching statement on the back of the biz card that is driving this exciting clay amalgamation. And it has been from the original impulse. John freely shares his personal awakening to his own creative confidence with clay and will tell you it was so basic and yet so profound that he felt compelled to orchestrate that opportunity for others. Not just the self-described artists, but to ALL others. That explains the encompassing outreach Good Life Ceramics is poised to deliver in so many energetic ways.

A delightful capper to the whole shebang is the Slip Away Gallery, a developing showcase for invited artists and members. The space honors the late Kathryn McBride, a mentor and muse to both John and me. She helped us each find our creative taproots and witnessed our individual and unique growing confidence. She made clay fun. She would ADORE what John has created for the community.

 

The name “Slip Away” comes from a work of Kathryn’s, a rowboat full of satchels, bags, luggage and backpacks titled “Loaded with Potential.”  John copied Kathryn’s script and I transferred it and painted it in above the gallery entrance.

SlipAwaySign

 

To begin with, the Slip Away Gallery will serve as a center honoring Kathryn, displaying what artwork of hers can be loaned, and raising funds for the Cabrillo College Ceramics program and a scholarship in her name. With enough raised, the College will name the Ceramics Studio in her honor as well. Early donations have put this lovely possibility within reach!

Good Life Ceramics is coming and it’s loaded with potential! Stop Look Do.

-Liz Crain, who recognizes a beautiful dream, even if she can’t quite grok the whole of it at first. It’s like when her boys visited the animal shelter without her and fell in love with Roy, who they described as “part Chow and part Golden Retriever.” Well, she just had to see that dog for herself, and guess who was gorgeous and came to live at her house for 11 years? Yep. But, back to GLC. Here are the details: 3717 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, 831-515-7560, GLConPortola@gmail(dot)com and goodlifeceramics(dot)com.

 

 

Hot Out of the Kiln for January 2015: A Lasting Impression

KathrynTeacupTextureTiles

Textured porcelain hand-built teabowl with celadon glaze in front of three bisqued impressed texture tiles, all by Kathryn McBride.

 

Although I’ve done so a few times, I find it confounding to write about my longtime ceramics mentor,  Kathryn McBride, who died in February, 2012.  Later that year I wrote “What Dreams May Come” about receiving a heartwarming bit of understanding and resolution. Last year I wrote “The Apron” about taking on one of her physical mantles. Regardless of my meager written output, she daily abides in me physically, mentally and spiritually.

Physically: I have many of her tools and materials. And I use them!

Mentally: I call a woven basket she gave me her “In Basket.” It contains small trinkets of hers and when I really need to tell her something, I write it down and put it there, smiling to myself.

Spiritually: Her Christmas Card from December 2011 reappeared a few weeks ago, full of loveliness and hope,  speaking about the coming spring she did not yet know she would never see.

Or the spring after that and the spring after that.

And the spring on its way. *SIGH*

As these springs have come and gone, it is obvious that essences of Kathryn’s influence abide in legions of folks. I say bully for that because it means my grief and my amazement reside in a common pool of tears.  A frozen pool  on which I’ve been skating by my lonely, mostly unaware of the others gliding by.

Yet, this metaphoric winter has given way and the pool is thawing. Sorrow has found solace in company, shared stories, gifts and meaningful action.

I see the big story about all of us in my friend Karen Hansen’s repost of a piece she wrote about Kathryn’s Memorial. We are in good company with our shared experiences and lasting impressions. (Just look at that smile.)

The celadon teabowl of Kathryn’s in the photo up top was sent to me, absolutely unexpectedly, by a former student of hers, who wrote, “I knew you would cherish it beyond anyone I know.” I am dumbfounded by this gift and don’t expect to ever NOT be. It’s arrival sent me looking through my piles of K’s texture plates, thinking maybe I would find the one from which the teabowl was made. No luck there, but I came across some beauties, all the while recalling how she excitedly would take impressions from interesting objects that entered the ceramics studio: embossed leather, fancy art papers, woven mats, and of course of dried plants. The texture plates and the porcelain will be around for, well, perhaps tens of thousands of years, such is the nature of ceramic work.  A literal form of a lasting impression!

And, lastly,  the solace of meaningful action comes from the arrival of a lovely new clay haven in town.  Created by my friend John Albrecht,  Good Life Ceramics  is opening this month.  A bundle of healing is about to be delivered to us all. A new place to DO and find “creative confidence.”

With devotion, I will spend my longer next blog post exploring what Good Life Ceramics means to me and my tribe – with photos!

–Liz Crain, who just loves that the phrase “a lasting impression” turns out to have so many facets of meaning.

A Clumsy and Charming Circle Round

 

dedicationsflowers2014

 

 

 

Each year I spend a bit of time acknowledging my creative space: my studio. I call it the Annual Studio Re-Dedication and it’s as impromptu of an affair as it is sincere. This year it was both clumsy and charming, just the way I like it.

By way of prep, I clean up a teensy bit, taking note of what has physically changed about the space in the past year, as well as how I have felt in it as the seasons circled round, and the making moved through my hands.

I buy a bouquet, dig up some candles, gather some good smells, choose a nibble and a sip, cue perfect music and arrange a few meaningful objets as icons and talismans.

I look forward to this moment as a culmination and a release. There are no rules, it’s about just making the transition, looking over my shoulder before I step through the portal to the next time.

This year I chose the first really stormy day of the season – figuring that even if the backyard flooded, the wind blew hard and the power went out, my candles and the quiet would get me though.

 

 

BeautyShelf12014

Beyond the simple functionality of the room, I noticed my Beauty Shelf.  On the wall behind my busiest work tables, it is a place I hardly have time to look. Here are figures, mostly my own clay sculptures, which silently witness. I appreciate this shelf as a place that holds essential wisdom. These are my guardians – mothers, warriors, muses – and their attributes. When I do have the time to gaze at this shelf, I am reminded of the deeper currents of my creative journey.

 

 

StudioSummationandPlanning2014After moving around and taking in the environmental mood of my space, I settled down and assessed this past year  -  a year in which I was intentionally away from selling and exhibiting, but somehow never not busy in this studio. I sat and wrote about what went well, what did not and what I wanted to attract, absorb and execute in 2015. I did not intend to spend much time with this, but it turns out I was full of ideas and it was fun.

 

 

bittersspilled At one point I reached towards my Beauty Shelf and knocked over my tiny bottle of ceremonial housemade juniper bitters. That smarted! The juniper berries were picked during our vacation at Mono Hot Springs in 2013 and had spent a year infusing into some special ingredients. Was I bitter about spilled bitters? Nah! No scarcity consciousness here. I’ve got lots more of it. That’s how the whole Re-Dedication felt: abundant, sufficient, enough – mistakes and all.

 

StudioRededication2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another round of creating and noticing how it all played out comes to a close. I’ve caught my creative breath and am ready to enter into the stillness of the Winter Solstice time. Looking forward to ringing in the new year with clarity and intention.

 

 

—Liz Crain, who, as you can see from the images in this post, has been fooling around with Photoshop Effects, seeing just how it can add a tad more punch and meaning to her eye-witness shots.

 

 

Hot Out of the Kiln for December 2014: Extra! Extra! Hot Off the Press!!!

 

dobbin

A couple of months ago I got interviewed in my studio about my work. A first for me. (Eeep!)

And photographed. (Quadruple Eeep!!!!)

For serious publication. (Total freeze with barely audible eeep.)

The article was just published in the toney Santa Cruz Style Magazine.  (OK, I’ll peek…)

Whew! It’s an issue with a series of articles about many local ceramic artists: functional, sculptural, teachers, healers and more. There is safety in numbers and I am in comfortable company. My Tribe!!!!

It’s said that all press is good press. Not to me. I only want the press that is insightful and honest.  That is crafted by artist writers and artist photographers who tell the artful truth with words and images and don’t just fill in the blanks and column inch limits.

So, Thank You to writer Stacey Vreeken and photographer Bill Lovejoy. Let me mirror back to you my love because your interpretive, expressive work reflects the truth of our time spent together. It is relaxed, funny and so dang good. It takes my Eeep Factors down to Simmer.

And just so you, Dear Readers, get the Full Reveal, here’s a bit of backstory and participant-observer notations from the Spotlight and Hot Off the Press Seat.

In advance, of their visits, I sorta figured I could really only show up as myself. I did nothing special, dressed in my usual clothing, did not tidy up the studio and trusted in veracity. It was the right choice, as it fed their natural selves as well.

Back in the day, Stacey’s kid Jack was in Kindergarten with my now-twenty-something younger son Max. I liked her then and, while we only occasionally connected,  I have always noticed her bylines over the decades since. When she visited, we happily veered off-road to kids and music and food and life changes. I felt this catch-up conversation was as organic and real as any I have ever had, and we discovered passions in common while she dug deep into the soft loam of my artistic process and philosophies. Her writing reflects a real conversation!

I did the same with Bill and it was even better. Better because, while we talked, the words weren’t the point. He just kept clicking away. Hardly did I pose. I just moved around and told him what I was working on and laughed the entire time. While I was in no way self-conscious, my big concern was that, in all my naturalness,  I would look like a horsey Dobbin. Some of us are photogenic and most of us need the help from our good angles. I let it all out in a cosmic guffaw. Bill did well with that – and I found myself at peace with the photo below. Yep, that’s me.

 

SantaCruzStyleBillLovejoy

Photo by Bill Lovejoy

 

-Liz Crain, who now knows how the best interviews and photo shoots are conducted and will hardly settle for less.

Giving Away the Milk, the Cow, the Pasture – Or Not

cowandpasture

The Facebook post asking about ways to increase sales hit me like a ton of foam peanuts. Soft, but hugely enveloping.

I watched the comment thread develop. Since it was from a delightful, intelligent group of solopreneurial women, it got more observant with each comment.

The discussion explored the rationales of offering small incentives – discounts, freebies, two-fers and the like – to one’s current and especially, prospective buyers, enticing them to buy.

Then it hit me: this is NOT small! It is the crux of nearly every trading decision. It is as ancient as any marketplace. What makes it a Deal?

I first fell into the Add Something Extra camp and not the Mark-It-Down Group. I commented about why I felt so and then thought further about what I really do and wrote:

“Thinking “outloud” here: Sometimes I just spontaneously GIVE something to an admirer who I feel strongly could not buy: a student, a single mom, a kid, a rattle to a traveling shaman, a person who came to my open studio in the final minutes and got the last pit-fired pod pot I wanted to sell out of. I recognize that spirit when it moves me and I just do it. If the Big Idea is to share my work, selling becomes just one way to do that. Finding my Perfect People and selling them what they want has strangely let me love my Slightly Imperfect People in another manner. I still donate pieces to events and causes I believe in, not just because the organization sent me a letter. Oh, and I trade a lot for more art and services! It is not black and white, which selling or not selling necessarily makes it seem. Yes, I need to make a profit, I need to thrive, but my goals stretch in concentric circles and I am at the center of all of them.”

Coincidentally, that same afternoon a collector came by and bought two larger pieces. I felt strongly that he intended to buy at least one piece, but I also extended my “Family and Friends” discount to him with genuine hope he would end up with the two pieces he said he really wanted.

In the evening, still thinking about the marketplace, the deal, giving, discounting, adding lagniappe, I remembered The Seven Laws of Money, by Michael Phillips, a book which has become more understandable to me in the decades since the 1970s when I first read it. The Fifth and Sixth Laws are bookends and below are some of the author’s points that seem to apply:

 THE FIFTH LAW—YOU CAN NEVER REALLY GIVE MONEY AWAY

THE SIXTH LAW—YOU CAN NEVER REALLY RECEIVE MONEY AS A GIFT

-Money as a dynamic flow is the essence of The Fifth Law. Money describes a relationship: borrower/lender, buyer/ seller or parent/child. Money flows in certain channels-like electricity through wires. The wires define the relationship, and the flow is what is significant. By looking at money in a larger perspective, even gifts are subject to being part of a two-way flow.

-The giving of money is an emotional not intellectual contract. Money is borrowed, lent or possibly invested. It is never given or received without those concepts implicit in it.

-When you get money, you must follow the Second Law and deliver something for it. A gift of money is really a contract; it’s really a repayable loan, and it requires performance and an accounting of performance that is satisfactory to the giver.

-Money acts as a mirror, because it reflects our values and our perception of the world.

-Money is not the root of all evil; the love of money is the root of all evil. It is this fear of talking about money, because it might reveal our true nature to the world that we continue to remain unconscious.

And here’s my point: it’s all a flow, an interchange in a much bigger level. Make, destroy, don’t give, give, barter, exchange, sell cheap, discount, sell dear: all the same.

 

cowpasturemilk

 

-Liz Crain, who intuited this all along, but had forgotten it in all the biz learning she needed to do to become a professional. The circle has come round in satisfying ways and is expanding outward now in profound ones.

 

Spicing It Up: Hot Out of the Kiln for November, 2014

 

spicetinsclassshot

 

A few years ago, I tried my hand at a handful of ceramic spice tins.

It was a premature and unfocussed effort.  While those sweet works eventually found homes, in my artist’s heart they were close but not fully realized. They were something I needed to circle round to again.

I could be more patient. I could be more handy with my materials. I could be more.

Happily, just in time for the season of flavors and family, of memories and good smells, may I present my more?

THIS time I got what I wanted:  The More from my hands and heart.

I got the Stoned Soul Picnic of spiciness and love!

Here is a realization in every sense. Here is an ending and a beginning. Here is sweet and spicy jubilation!

–Liz Crain, who understands how repetition and working in series feeds the necessary learning to fulfill the original impulse.

 

Sitting One Out

 

 

Works of Elaine Pinkernell, Hank Scott and Paula Prekowitz

Works of Elaine Pinkernell (on wall), Hank Scott and Paula Prekowitz, with Weller ceramic basket and faux poppies on left.

Last fall, during the 2013 Santa Cruz County Open Studios, I determined that I would not be applying in 2014.

For the best of reasons! My older son Roger had proposed to his love Cassandra and they set the date for early September 2014.

Their wedding would be in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a whole wide country away. I knew I wanted to focus on that wedding and not have the pressure of a looming OS season right after.

From the get-go that decision created a heady freedom and rapidly led to taking a conscious Full Year Away from active applying and showing. (I kept two shows: the annual Association of Clay and Glass Artists Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival in July and an invitational  three-artist gallery exhibit in July-August.)

I went deep into my studio practice, redefining my path. I observed the hell out of the year’s cycles and refined my core values to lead me into action again in 2015.

Besides the nearly empty 2014 schedule to stretch out into, I looked forward to at last visiting my OS South County clay buddies, something I can never do if I must be open at the same time.

Before I speak to my own touring fun, how did it feel to NOT be a part of the Open Studios 2014 In Crowd?

In a word: fabulous! But here are some details.

Did I miss…

 - the application process in the late winter? NO!

-  the thrill of the acceptance notice in late spring?  Kind of a lot, because acceptance is balmalicious to the artist’s soul.

-  the pressure to make a lot of new work all summer long? Are you kidding? No!!!!

-  designing and ordering a postcard or meeting the various Arts Council OS Guide and Exhibit deadlines and duties?  Not really.

-  moving ALL the furniture out of my dining room/showroom and scrubbing the patootie out of the floors and walls?  Hell, no.

-  arranging my gallery, my studio, the storyboard and hallway, the sales area, the reception table? Well, it benefits from annual purging and representing, but truth be told, again, no.

-  living in a gallery setting for a few weeks? Nope.

-  sharing my art and my process with my visitors? Very much so!

-  the students with Open Studios visiting assignments? Yes, as they are one of my favorite kinds of visitors.

-  seeing my annual collectors and fans? Quite a bit.

 - the awesome sales? Duh.

 

StudioofYumikoAso

Wonderful studio of Yumiko Aso

Here is what I was able to do when I created a vacuum in my schedule:

- actively coach and assist several colleagues doing OS for the first time, when there are SO many unknowns and they are desperate for guidance.

- gladly deliver work to the Open Studios Group Exhibit to help out an artist with compelling family concerns, because I would see a few folks I knew would be there. Win-Win.

-cheer on my artist friends and promote their work and Open Studios on social media because I had no distractions.

- visit those studios in my area I longed to see.

OpenStudio of JohnMaxon

John Maxon’s Place!

Here is what happened on those visits:

-I was overwhelmed with the caliber of art in Santa Cruz County. There are not hyperboles enough to describe it. Bow down.

- I LOVED touring in my “forbidden” area of South County and wished I could have gone to more studios.

- I bought pieces from artists I have been drawn to for a long, long  time – and not just ceramic artists! I surprised myself a little. I spent more money than I ever have on the tour.

- I appreciate all the effort  it takes to tour OS studios and am grateful all over again to the visitors who manage to come by my place when I am showing. The choosing, the mapping a tour plan, the orienteering, the parking, the hunger management, the needs of the body,  the group cohesiveness, the socializing! Thank you!

- I will never consider refreshments at my own OS semi-adjunct again! Sometimes that’s all folks on a Tour get! Some water! Some grapes! Some sesame sticks! Please!

- The conversations in the car with the folks I was touring with were valuable beyond mere chat. I know that’s not technically a direct result of OS, but, then again. Pick your touring companions well and you have benefits beyond the incredible art viewing.

- I watched my own visiting and buying behavior and it was not particularly random. I pretty much knew going in whether I was going to buy or not, only surprising myself one time, and even then I needed to return the next day to do the deed, having thought about it overnight. I needed time NOT talking with the artist in order to decide on a specific piece, the one that spoke my name. Note to self: too much friendly artist chat might negatively impact a visitor’s ability to decide. (Weird vibes, overcrowding and nonchalance do for sure. At least for me.)

-Every single artist spoke of how hard OS is and how tired they were. How it impacted their homes, their families, their day jobs, even if they had done it for decades. Maybe I am a Mother Confessor Type, but I know it to be true for me as well.

Here’s to the intrepid creatives abounding in my corner of the planet. Long may you show, share and sell – and, my advice?,  sit one out sometime if you can.

ShrinewithEblockbyKarenHansen

Ceramic shrine with wooden “E” block by Karen Hansen

-Liz Crain, who will jump into the Open Studios fray in 2015, richer and wiser for not only a Year Away, but for a Year Observing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Out of the Kiln for October 2014: Still Life with Chainsaw OR …Cans Have Meanings

Still Life with Chainsaw

As a maker of ceramic cans, I have to admit the idea for a Can o’ WhupAss has crossed my mind more than once over the past several years. But, I hesitated. Would it be Too Obvious? Too Crass? Merely Clever?

So, I never went there.

Then, almost inevitably,  a canny collector (pun intended) casually asked me if I had ever done that.  I admitted to having always wanted to, so she spurred it on, asking me to make not one, but TWO Cans o’ WhupAss for her, my design.

A large part of the meaning of a piece like this comes from the sight gag: a REAL can of *fake* WhupAss, replete with tag lines and slogans! (“Use Full Strength” “Don’t Make Me Open It!”) But it is also a faux metal 100% ceramic can. Hmm, very interesting. Oh, and it really opens and could really contain *something.*  It’s part of the dramatic interactive meaning.

And to get it all exactly correct, I needed to ask my canny collector just how SHE spelled WhupAss?

Whoop Ass? WhoopAss? Whoopass? All rejected as “too blue-bloodish”  by her reckoning.

Whup Ass-WhupAss-Whupass: all were better suited to the hillbilly connotations. I chose Whup Ass for graphic layout reasons, but was more than happy to get the tonality dialed in.

I made a third can for myself – but someone else already wants that. I am glad I took the time to get it right in form and function. It seems a Can of Whup Ass is somewhat of a household necessity, full of meaning, and I might soon be making more.

-Liz Crain, who often places her Hot Out of the Kiln work on a nearby wooden surface to cool fully and noticed the matching chainsaw when taking the photos. Meaning Galore!

 

 

 

 

Proud New Member #34585

BCCACard2014

 

Of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America! With Full Rights and Priviledges!

Yes, I sort of backed-into this membership – and that is another story of internet intrigue and connection – BUT,  the better takeaway is that it is proving interesting.

For starters, a LOT of the folks who enjoy my ceramic beer cans were at one time, or still are,  serious beer can collectors, so it makes sense to belong to a long-lived organization that reveres them – even if my ceramic versions tend to baffle (One guy says to another “Hey, here’s one that will never rust! ” and his buddy replies, “Yeah, but if you drop it, it’s over.”)

They have a magazine that is rife with imagery and some passionate writing:

BCCAMagazine

 

Also note that they have an Annual CANvention. Missed it this year in Texas – and just like NCECA, I will wait until it is drop-dead daytrip EASY to attend before signing up. But in the meantime, the pages are full of imagery, interesting and well-written history and LOTS of current chat  columns with titles such as “Point of Brew.”

I think these collectors are nearly 180 degrees  out from what I do with ceramic beer cans. They seek the un-sullied, near perfect candidate, while I speak to entropy and survival. We DO have an intersection of the inevitable, but just why I am a member of this organization is about an artform, perhaps not the one I create. 

Ancora Imparo: “I am still learning”  – Michelangelo

Coming up is a local get-together that I will probably attend.

Extravaganza!

I will go out of most curious curiosity. Out of a reporter’s need to witness and describe and an artist’s need to  immerse and synthesize. Who ARE these people? What ambiance is there? Can I connect on any level? All to be seen because all to be experienced.

-Liz Crain, who thinks it’s funny she came to the BCCA because a local chapter member linked to her Etsy Shop with an element of disdainful misunderstanding, which she is on a semi-campaign to gently set to rights.

 

Hot Out of the Kiln for September, 2014: The Artist Goes to Her Son’s Wedding

 

RogerandCassandraWeddingShot

 

The kilns have been cold for over a month now. The studio barely opened.

There were life-changing events beyond my creative corner to prepare for and hasten to! They involved traveling to New Hampshire and dressing up. They involved meeting a bunch of  folks, new and old,  eating occasions aplenty, fascinating new sights, and tears of joy.

And dancing. Lots of dancing!

My older son Roger married his dream girl Cassandra on Lover’s Lane in the White Mountains, amid emerald open spaces, trees just beginning to tinge, mountain views and emotional mists.

I returned charged from the good effects of travel alone, but noticeably juicier and with a certain ratification of the rightness of my life.

 

-Liz Crain, who plans to run madly off in all directions with this ratification for as long as she can.

August 2014 Hot Out of the Kiln: The New New Kiln

Last January I took glad delivery of Blue Tsuru, my ginormous front-loading L and L Kiln. I think I  mentioned it on a webpage I no longer maintain. You might remember. It looked like this:

BlueTsuru-1

 

She was placed, leveled, wired-up and test fired.

Things went wrong.

Irrevocably.

No one’s fault, really. Shit happens.

And here we have the “18 1/2 minute gap”  while things were rectified.

Throughout I continued to make new work, sometimes firing it in my smaller kilns, but building to the first load for this one.

Fast Forward (another tape-derived term) to this month.

 

BlueTsuru-3

We did two successful low and high temp test firings, to everyone’s great relief.

BlueTsuru-5

Here’s the first bisque loading, in  which I thought would cram her full. Turns out she’s not just ginormous, she rivals the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns

BlueTsuru-4

And, since  we are paying complete attention to what the electronics, the thermocouples AND the actual temperature is on each shelf, here are the cone-packs from that firing. Not sure why the bottom did not register our heatwork witness cone goal, but too cool, especially for a bisque,  is better than too hot. These are problems we can work out!

Turns out Hot Out of the Kiln means more than ever this year.

Liz Crain – who has no words for that moment of opening a kiln after a firing. There is nothing like it. “Christmas” or “Surprise Party” pale horribly in comparison. It is its own moment of grace. A bolt of enlightenment. Every time.

 

 

Keeping Your Drain Unclogged With a Homemade Clay Glop Trap

HomemadeClayTrapGraphic

 

I have no running water in my studio. I like it that way. Being a ceramic handbuilder, I work fairly dryly and clean up often, but, even for me,  there comes a time when the water bucket needs changing. And, if you didn’t already know, clay and ceramic materials make serious sedimentary glop.

For over a decade, I have drained my bucket carefully into a sink (usually the kitchen because there isn’t one in the laundry or garage) and taken the slippy gloppity-glop stuff out to the trash and wiped the water bucket out with a rag,

I coveted Gleco Traps and even The Cink , thinking that when the laundry room got reconfigured, I would install one or the other and be relieved of a certain sort of well-founded guilt.

So, yes, it was just a matter of time for the kitchen sink to clog due to my slovenly clay glop-dumping ways, even if I was careful.

I could blame the recurring kitchen sink stoppages on the lame This Old House Plumbing or Too Much Chicken Schmaltz Down the Drain for so only so long.

Turns out, no amount of industrial-grade drain cleaner will move clay glop. No amount of plungering or snaking, either.

It means Going In:  the kitchen sink P-trap is removed with amazing swearing by my live-in plumber. It is manually cleaned – with the  full smelly reveal of my slovenliness – and replaced, with more swearing, as I vow to be even more careful.

But, no no No NO MORE!

What you see above is the explanatory diagram for a Homemade Clay Glop Trap, lovingly built by that same live-in plumber. Here are a few photos too, now that you can see how it works. And yes, it needs to be manually emptied and cleaned out when either the water collecting pail or the clay glop accumulates, but it is a straightforward job, unrelated to the configuration of the house plumbing.

Claytrap-1

The side view of the whole set-up

claytrap-2

Sort of bird’s-eye view

claytrap-3

Opened up Sort of Bird’s Eye View

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Close up of Inner Tube Guide into the Collecting Pail

Liz Crain – Who waited entirely too long to make a fairly simple correction to a very real problem. She has heard these called “tolerations” and just realized they are actually a form of denial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Annual Tales of the Festival

 

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What follows are my lovingly-curated observations from Booth 23 at this year’s annual Association of Clay and Glass Artists Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival.

Making my best artwork and supporting it with improved booth infrastructure, perfect prices and personal stamina is always a challenge.  And this year I almost did not make it at all as younger son Max fractured his pelvis and needed surgery to place pins in it only a week before. But he quickly got better, it worked out and make it I did.  It was a rewarding weekend in so many ways beyond the satisfying sales figures.  I enjoy collecting the stories to share with you, so, as I did last year,  here are the Tales of the Festival II.

What changed this year? Instead of driving 55 pre-dawn miles and setting it all up on Saturday like an early morning maniac, I and my loyal support team (family) put up the booth and tables on Friday, ate a fantastic lunch and called it good. We brought the artwork in at a reasonable hour on Saturday morning. This was so much saner than trying to pull off the historically busiest first day sleep-deprived, anxious and achy from all the loading, lugging and locating. It was as fun as camping!

So, let’s look at what went down with The Collectors, the Tribe and the Crazies.

THE COLLECTORS

It’s true, I do have Collectors now.  Some come to this Festival seeking me out. Some find my other venues throughout the year and buy more there.  Some email me with their special ideas. These are the folks who get my work and have the means and space to acquire it. My Dearest. My Perfect People.

The Jet-Lagged Loyalists: Even though they had returned from three weeks in Eastern Europe only a few hours before visiting me, this vocal and enthusiastic couple playfully chastised me for not sending them a postcard this year (Note: NO-ONE got one, what with the Broken Pelvis Incident.) They reminded me about their stellar ideas for robots and gumball machines and took home two big pieces. Loyalty like that cannot be created, only treasured. I love them dearly and promised to be a better communicator!

 

RunciblesBlergandWeakWeaselinstalled

The New Enthusiasts.  I have a thing for typography buzzwords. Some of the “product brands” I invent use a type designer’s vocabulary. It’s nerdy and esoteric. It was great to have an astonished new enthusiast start laughing raucously at it and make a purchase. She brought her husband back on Sunday, whereupon he responded to the Interrobang and Octothorpe TeaCans because he knew immediately what they were referring to!  Later they sent me a photo of the pieces they had bought installed on their ornate liquor table (see above!)  and requested a Right of First Refusal for a specific piece we all want to see get made. They feel like my new best friends on the playground. “I’m FIVE too!!!!” she exclaims, holding up all fingers on one hand. So lovely.

THE TRIBE

Facebook Friends in 3D:  The ACGA is a wide-spread and growing group, with many artist studios ringing the SF Bay Area, Silicon Valley and the North Bay. A lot of them know each other from way back and get together often.  Being both newish to the group and located one mountain range away from the epicenter, here on the Monterey Bay,  I know many of them only as Facebook Friends. It was beyond lovely to meet a half dozen in person this weekend. Whether they were in their own booth, visiting mine, or dropping by the Festival to enjoy it all, they – and their work – looked better in person.  I was pleasantly surprised at their sweet mannerisms, voices and cadences. The Presence of the Original cannot be overstated.

Booth-a-rama:  Social media or no,  I now know scores of the artists who show at this Festival. It is special to see them in their traveling habitats with their art. I both traded and bought work from several.  I yakked casually, shared confidences, pricing opinions, sold stickers and feedback about how the festival was going. There is a whole ‘nother village backstage of the village!  It is good to have the collegial interest and support. No competition, only camaraderie.

THE ADORABLE BUT CRAZY

Of course there are the visitors. SO many visitors! The economy is very obviously picking up. Saturday was packed all day long. Sunday was lively but felt the impact of the World Cup Finals.  Another telling change is that 66% of my sales were made with some form of card on my iphone card reader – the rest in cash. Not ONE check was written. A first.

Most visitors are lovely aficionados or willingly along as friends of one. A tiny few just don’t make sense, but they make the best anecdotes! Yes, an undeniable part of Festival Booth Management is suffering gentle fools.

Here is this year’s crop.

Whistling Denture Man  The jury is really out on whether this guy was crazy or just being his charming 80-year-old self. He had plenty of time while his lady friend shopped, easily sharing that the thing that was keeping him vital was building his Dream House – an all steel beauty, even the built-in furniture, he was proud to say.  I soon realized his soft but whistling speech (which sounded like the beaver in Lady and the Tramp) was probably due to his dentures. Love that. But I really took notes when he said that when he died he wanted his ashes put into an Etch-a-Sketch so his great-grandchildren could play with him.

Wandering Philosopher  When the booth is quiet, it’s an art in itself to listen wholeheartedly to someone who feels that my attention is exclusively available for them to expound on their pet theories. And it is an art to be responsive but to not go completely down the rabbit hole with them. I’m better at not being monopolized than I ever have been, but it is SO hard when that person is as unique and interesting as, say, Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie might have been on a random Sunday Art Festival in the Park. This Very Tall Lanky Spirit told tales of his life, his travels, his jobs, his politics, his bons mots, his children, his passions. When time’s up with folks like this, and there are others to greet, I want to practice Kindness. Like Ram Dass said, “We are all walking each other home.” Especially the Wandering Philosophers.

 

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I leave you with the view from from the chair I finally sat down in after packing it all up on Sunday. The curb was full of other artists’ cars. We were fully packed, I had done my check-out, and there was nothing to do but wait for a spot to open up. Another artist and her entourage were doing the same. They had wine, but no corkscrew. I had a corkscrew AND cups! She sat in the other folding beach chair and we all spent an absolutely wonderful hour in the slowly emptying park getting cozy and swapping tales. It was as peaceful of an end to a long and fruitful weekend as I could never have imagined.

 

–Liz Crain, who gets better at the fullness of this Art Festival Life only by living it.

Hot Out of the Kiln for July 2014: “OUT OF THE WOODS”

Here’s something wondrously new for me: my first three-artist invitational exhibit. I’m sharing the photos and this post the day it opened.

Out of the Woods 5-72dpi

You’re seeing work from the three of us. The provocative paintings of Courtney Johnson, the charming ceramic and bronze animals of Paula Wenzl Bellacera and, from me, the Amador County Series beer cans and some great new TeaCans.

All will be at the Fine Eye Gallery (in Sutter Creek, CA) “Out of the Woods”  Fine Art Series from July 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014.

You are invited to take yourself out to the charming Mother Lode for a visit. I will be going later this month to see it for myself. (Maybe even drop off replacement work!)

 

Out of the Woods 1-72dpi

 The Title Wall: SO Proud!

 

Out of the Woods 2-72dpi

One more gallery shot.

–Liz Crain, who is proud to return to Amador County as a professional artist, having lived there for 12 years as an earnest and dedicated wannabe.

Kudophobia’s Evil Twin

 

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Kudophobia means Fear of Praise – or even Fear of  Glory!  I’m not sure it’s an official word, but it’s certainly an Official Fear.

I have a bit of it, at times, being more familiar with my decades-long learning and artistic struggle and less with any sort of  praise-worthy attainment.

I sense that most creatives experience something similar, especially when, after the searching, they start to bring forth the work they have imagined from the beginning.

It might go like: I think I am totally NAILING my ideas and STICKING their landing as well, but I am so used to NO-ONE noticing, I am unsure what approval means.

So, it’s awkward.

Or – even awkwarder – when you:  Buy a piece. Ask for an interview. Offer a show. Request a commission (But read my thoughts on that. as I am getting wiser.)

Kudophobia, in short,  brings out my most flagrant unchecked uncertainty and self-consciousness and in the face of it, I anxiously self-check and awkwardly hide my light under a bushel.

I’m better at NOT doing that than I ever have been, but it is still part of my world. The Devil You Know is a friend of mine.

I am also studying the feeder beliefs to this and I have discovered that at the root of Kudophobia is its Evil Twin: Atelophobia, (which is most definitely a real word.)

Atelophobia  = Fear of Not Being Good Enough.  AKA: The Imposter Syndrome. The fear of being found to have feet of clay, being only human, being a one hit wonder. Being “Merely Clever.”

Elizabeth Gilbert has at least assuaged this one with her first TED Talk, one I have nearly memorized and have mentioned here before. The cure for Atelophobia – and consequently its Evil Twin Kudophobia – is in knowing that we are NOT geniuses, but rather we HAVE them, at our service.

But only when WE show up and do our parts as well. Check your Ego at the Door! Ole!!!

Whenever I feel the old anxieties I try to remember: my joyful job is to do the work only I can do. What happens afterwards is not in my control or of my doing. Effusive Acclaim or the Suckitude of Being Discounted and Overlooked, even Criticized = Same Irrelevancy Factor.  And Same Phobia Fighter.

–Liz Crain, who now wishes to discover the Phobia Fighter for Plutophobia, the fear of wealth.