Friday, August 29, 2008

happy long weekend

hello, yellow!
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I hope you all have a rest from your labors. We're going camping with another family along the banks of the Mississippi River. Camping is one of my favorite family activities- I just can't get enough of it. Summers are so hot and sticky in the deep south- we don't get out in the woods much from June-September, but we're making an exception for Labor Day weekend. Planning to go again in October and any other time I can fit in. Because I do love hanging out in the woods.

When we get back, we're half-expecting to host a dear friend and some friends of hers from New Orleans. Hoping and praying that we won't need to host them, that big bad Gustav will spare the newly-recovering Gulf Coast his fury. So there's a lot of prep-time staring at me today- prep for camping, for guests.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and send prayers and good thoughts for everyone in Gustav's path. Oh, and also, thanks for all the comments, good will, and friendship you've offered this week. I do appreciate it. Cheers!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

sea oats

sea oats
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
well, the cat's out of the bag. I put this picture up on flickr, knowing full well that the woman I made it for would see it. And she did. And she's happy with it. Usually I stick with ferns, ginkgoes, and japanese maple leaves for my leaf impressions, but my friend Naomi said she thought that sea oats would work well in the same application. I decided to try it and gift the results. I've been gleaning ferns from her garden for a couple of years, mostly because my dogs wallowed in any shady earth in my yard until it was (and still is) as hard-packed as concrete. Not ideal growing conditions.

I was hesitant about this motif because my great-grandparents had Homer Laughlin's wheat dishes (the golden colored, gold-rimmed ones), and I never liked them very much. I've been trying to figure out why I didn't like them, and I think it boils down to something very simple. I'm much more of a woodland kind of girl than an open-prairie type. Which explains why, on trips out west, to Austin, Colorado, Southern California, even the beaches of the east coast- I FREAK OUT. I need the trees, the shade, the anchor that they provide in the landscape, and the ferns that grow in the shade. Memphis is covered in a dense canopy of green (Naomi is fighting to preserve some of that green space in Memphis), and it is something I need to feel at rest. The sea oats are a huge thank you to the woman whose garden I regularly plunder. And even though they were SO much easier to paint, I'll be getting back to the ferns shortly. Because I'm a woodland kind of girl.

Edit- This is the china pattern my great-grandparents had.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

deep breath.

funny farm
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Hi, my name is Melissa, and I am a perfectionist. (Hi, Melissa).

Yesterday I said that all of the berry bowls were fine. Um, they weren't when I actually unloaded them. Looked fine, but 3-4 (out of 10) had these tiny little hairline cracks radiating from the center hole. And I just about let these send me over the edge.

So let's talk about perfection. A slightly crooked handle, okay. One side of the rim thinner/higher/thicker/ more curved than its opposite side? Er, well, it's handmade. Spotty glaze? Okay, I can reglaze it. Cracks? Those make me want to tear my hair out. Here's why. The glaze is glass, and it provides a protective barrier for all sorts of bacteria. In theory, bacteria can seep into this little bitty crack and contaminate the other food that it touches. So if you drank soup out of this bowl after rinsing something bacteria-laden (say, raw meat), you *could* get e coli (which, honestly, I've had before, and it was really really bad). But this bowl is for rinsing produce. So it should be okay.

Neurosis speaks up again. If I sent this to a retailer and they noticed it, they'd send it back to me (and think less of my wares). And if it escaped their attention, someone bought it, noticed, and returned it, I would be at fault for sending defective wares. Do I wholesale these things? No. Regardless, it's going into my seconds pile.

My solution (maybe, keep your fingers crossed) was to go online and buy a new hole punch. My old one is 6-7 years old and, admittedly, a bit worse for the wear. That is *probably* the cause of the problem. And it took me hours (and a whole summer's worth of duds) to figure it out. We learn as we go.

Thanks for indulging me as I whine about miniscule cracks in something that isn't supposed to be watertight in the first place.
We're half-way there to the long weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the good, the bad, and the whiny

the good
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
After two weeks of school, little boy's been hit with the first stomach bug of the year. We're hanging out on the sofa today, reading, watching videos, playing interactive caillou games. Getting bits and pieces of work done between the low-key activities.
Item one- unloading the kiln. It was mostly good. The ladybugs were great. All of them (but one, which will be reglazed) turned out just as they should. Most of my berry bowls did well. The platter that seemed to go on forever had its predictable effect of making me love the meticulous fern-painting episodes.
The icons, well, those made me want to cry. The glaze was uneven, splotchy. The faces were lovely, but I am not happy with the background and the coverage on the priests' and nuns' clothing. Acrylic paint is not usually a solution for glazed pieces, but I am planning to experiment with my stash of oil paints.

Today, though, is not the day to do that. Today is a mama day. So I will go and revel in being my boy's mama. The pottery will wait until tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
This was the last of a dozen pieces to be glazed on Sunday afternoon. All that was left was the detail work. I spent most of Saturday waxing, dipping, cleaning off the bases, and loading the kiln with finished pieces. These dozen were left for Sunday. I thought I was looking at two hours' work, but in reality, I got all 12 pieces finished in about 45 minutes.

The plates, a couple of bowls, and a cup to be re-fired were dipped and/or touched up on Saturday. I went over the raised dots with red glaze, then out came the tiny detail brush to paint on the ladybug dots, heads, and antennae. I love these little whimsical pieces, and I was almost all out of them.

I fired the kiln from 3pm to midnight. I'm hopeful that the kiln will be cool enough this evening to unload.

It is good to start the week without last week's work hanging over your head. Hope yours starts well!

Friday, August 22, 2008

at long last

at long last
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
This piece of furniture is a once-neglected family "heirloom." I remember it being underneath my great-grandparents' carport in Louisiana. When my grandfather passed in 1998, we were asked to pick which items we wanted from the house. I thought this large empire-style piece was an old mantle. Three years later, after I married, I brought it home. But it's not a mantlepiece, it's a huge chest of drawers. It was falling apart, since it lived outside for 30 years. It's made of cottonwood, dates from at least 1890, maybe earlier. It was covered in a mahogany veneer that slowly peeled off. I had the piece rebuilt and imagined it stained ebony.

When my mom moved back to Memphis in 2004, she got really irritated with this ratty piece of furniture living in my dining room. Last year she took it out to refinish. She painted it black and returned it when I was in DC. Today I finally finished the project. I took an old lavender-scented votive candle to wax the drawers, took a deep breath and bough ten glass knobs. I defiled my debit card doing that. But it looks so perfect.

I am so happy with this project, because this is the only thing that I feel like I finished this week. There have been fits and starts on glazing, museum-work and school-related meetings happening, and I am amazed that it is already Friday. My goal is to have the kiln loaded and firing by Sunday morning. Keep your fingers crossed for me, will you?

I love this piece of furniture. It makes me happy. And so I hope you have a happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

one local supper- 20 aug

let's talk about something pleasant, shall we? Like last night's wowser local supper. This, friends, is my famous (well, to me) tomato cobbler. Several years ago Martha and Oprah made a tomato cobbler with a gruyere crust and all sorts of fantastical goodness. I had a currant tomato plant of seven at the time, which translates to hundreds of pinkie-sized tomatoes. What to do with them? Pile them in a ramekin, gratin dish, or casserole with herbs, onions (I used shallots then, halved baby onions yesterday), breadcrumbs, and a scant dusting of cornstarch stirred into the tomatoes just to bind everything together. Bake around 400 for 30 minutes or until you can't wait anymore. If you're not trying to be local (and out of local cheese), gruyere is fabulous with this. So is a chapeau of whole wheat pastry. Simple was divine, too.

Next to it is the arugula man's spicy mesclun mix, topped with sauteed green beans and bell peppers. The peppers were orange and red, and those baby onions play a starring role here, too. They were still hot when I placed them over the greens, so they and their pan juices wilted the greens just slightly and formed a dressing. Little boy declined on everything but the green beans. He had a non-local hebrew nation kosher beef dog instead.

Yesterday was a cool and rainy day- I spent the entirety of it working on this piece. It is so beautiful and will be so pretty when it's finished, but it took about 3 hours, start to not-quite-finished. The fern got painted and waxed, but it was too humid (steady rain all day) to dip the background. I'm not charging enough-this piece was custom, so the next time I make one of these the price will go up significantly. Some ferns are simple and easy to paint, but this type was painstaking. Learn as we go, don't we?

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

mr. rogers

I am not a fan of TV. I don't like to sit and watch it; I don't like my child to watch it. I'd go so far as to say that I'm even debating on whether or not I really want to get a converter box. We don't have cable, and most of what is on network broadcasts is frenetic, trashy, or crazily biased and sensationalizing. We watch more PBS at my house than any other network, but little of that, either.

Turns out we're about to watch even less. See that new button over there to the right? I learned about the Save Mr. Rogers campaign from my friend Molly . After reading her post on Mr. Roger's disappearance from the daily PBS lineup, I went here. I wrote a letter to PBS. I hoped against hope that the Memphis affiliate wouldn't follow their lead. But alas, Mr. Rogers will only be broadcast daily for another week. They he'll be banished to 6am, 9:30 am, and 6pm on Sundays. I don't know about your family, but we're not up at 6am on Sundays. By 9:30 we're on our way to church and Catechsis, a montessori-based religious training program, which I help teach. At 6pm, we're having Sunday family dinner. No TV allowed. We may be the only family around without cable of tivo, so unless I break down and buy a half-dozen Mr. Rogers dvds, he is effectively out of my child's life.

Little boy is a very smart boy, very active, and shows some signs of having ADHD, just like his Daddy does. I try to limit his TV viewing to things that aren't frenetic, but calming, educational, uplifting. As much as I might like Arthur and Word Girl, they don't really fit that bill. I'll give my affiliate credit- they answered my query promptly. PBS did not. And I regret reading that part of their answer put the onus on Mr. Roger's demise on the Mr. Rogers foundation for not creating new material with the vintage footage in their collection. Or not doing it fast enough.

I hope I don't sound like I have sour grapes, but the results are less TV at the Bridgman house, which may, in the end, be a good thing.


Melissa's Bottletree
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Tiffany asked about this bottletree, so I thought I'd properly introduce it. This particular bottletree was a gift to me from Gary for our first married christmas. He made it out of hose clamps and cable wire, sunk in concrete in an old galvanized bucket. It sat in our side yard at our old house (that's where this photo was snapped), where you could see it from the road.
Bottletrees are a Southern thing, specifically a Mississippi thing, but interest in using them as a decorative garden element is spreading. Originally, it was thought that the decorative, colorful glass bottles would attract and catch evil spirits (the wind whistling in the bottles made folks think of "haints.").
I love mine- the bottles are mostly blue, red, turquoise (including some old glass telephone pole insulators), with some good greens thrown in for good measure. Right now our camellia/rose bush (they grow together and are 12' tall, 10' in diameter) are hiding it from my view, so I'll need to move it this fall when my garden beds get a good de-thugging. Sometimes people use 5" posts with dowels inserted to hold their bottles. Other people use old defoliated christmas trees as a base. It's rare to find real trees used, but sometimes you can find them.

I've never had a bottle break in the winter, though if the pot's not sunk the spring winds will sent the whole thing crashing to the ground. We've gotten away from using wine bottles unless they're cool and swirly like last week's asti bottle, but beer, saki, and water bottles are fair game (mostly because of their smaller size). Eventually I'd like to put another smaller one in the front yard (what will the neighbors say????), but I need a little fence around the front garden before I'll be comfortable with that.

Cool folk tradition, now mostly practiced by yuppie/hipsters. Not that I'm including myself in either of those categories.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

school days

in use
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Ahh, routines. I'm so happy to be back to the steady pace of school days. When I'm not working, it goes like this- 7am coffee. 7:30 little boy breakfast. Get dressed, make lunches, putz around until 8:40. Out the door to walk to school. 9:00 walk home, more coffee, email, blog, laundry, cleaning, whatever moves me around the house. 10-1 studio time. 1pm lunch, shower. 2pm walk to get little boy, walk home. 2:30-5 snacks, playtime, finishing up studio work, laundry, dinner prep.

Once work work begins in September, that will be my Monday routine, Tues-Friday I'll be out of the house and studio time will be bumped to the 2:30-5 and after supper. I love a routine.

These sweet little vintage napkins were a score at my favorite thrift today. $1 for 3 linen napkins, one for each of us. I also got a new wool rug for the den that might qualify as my "thrift score for the year"- years past include a 24" light-up globe, a pottery barn trestle desk, a vintage burberry trench coat, and Gary's 50 cent brooks brothers suit. And, of course, my own pottery. The rug matches the sofa, covers up my nasty 1970s linoleum floor. That will be the next big house project, but until now, the rug covers it nicely. Especially for $40! Reduce, reuse, recycle- thrifting covers two of the three, right?

Monday, August 18, 2008


I realized that I haven't been present much here. It's been a busy several weeks, but also really good. The traveling, cooler temperatures (it's unheard of to NOT have to run your AC in Memphis in August. Mine's been off since I got home last Monday!) that mean more outdoors time, a new/old piece of furniture that belonged to me great-great grandparents (more on that later), the first week of school, getting caught up on pottery (ahem. Still not really there yet!)- well, I've been crazy busy, but in a good way.

The farmers markets continue to be so good. I picked up these heirloom cherry tomatoes on Saturday and plan to incorporate them into a cobbler for this week's local meal. And I'm thinking about the bowl, too. I made this little bowl (it probably holds 4 c) in 2004 as part of our wedding gift stash. I made dozens- to give singly to people we didn't know well (co-workers, casual acquaintances) or to give in sets of 2-4 for people we knew better, or as housewarming/hostess gifts. We use it quite a lot- it's the perfect size for a party-serving of hummus, guacamole, salsa, or side dish for a meal. I'm on my way back upstairs, so this little bowl might be reintroduced into my lineup of wares.

I'll do a bisque firing this week, so if you're on the berry bowl list, I'll have some in the next week or so. I am SO behind on these. And I apologize.

Happy week, ya'll.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I have a good friend, Rayner, who hails from the Mississippi Delta. Land of Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, excellent music, dire poverty, and not much to do. She says that when she was growing up (and still, today, based on the personalities of my Delta friends) that anything was an excuse for a party. "It's rainin'! Let's have a party!" sticks out in my mind. In Rayner's honor (and because of the fan-tabulous peaches I got at the farmer's market on Wednesday), here's my rainy Friday evening party. Really cheap Italian asti mixed with pureed white peaches. A bellini without the prosecco. I have a bottle tree in the back yard (another Delta tradition), so when I saw this super swirly bottle, I knew that I had to buy it for the bottle tree, if not for the liquid it contained. Asti is a bit sweet, but mixed with the super-sweet-essence-of-summer white peach puree, it goes down nicely.

So, it's rainin', ya'll! Let's have a party! Happy weekend.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

one local supper- august 13

This was my first real cooking since I came back from DC. I ate and ate and ate there, so I didn't want to really cook. Plus the larder was pretty bare (it still is), so I didn't have much to cook until after yesterday's farmers market trip. We did have some local black angus flat iron steak that Gary had thawed, marinated, and partially cooked, so I knew I needed to use that. Generally, I'm not much of a meat eater, but I bought this after talking to the farmer (rancher?) and it was a huge piece of meat for $9, and it makes my boys happy. I took some zucchini, tomatoes, bunching onions, and basil (some of which had been languishing in the produce drawer for a week or two) and made a simple sautee (the leftovers have been added to my frozen ragu from a couple of weeks ago), and sliced up the potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil, topped with kosher salt, and roasted them. I am a potato fanatic. These were between golf-and-baseball sized, and I could have eaten six of them. I only made 4 to prevent that from happening. I ate 2.
All of the veggies came from my friends at Whitton Flower and Produce. The potato recipe came from Mark Bittman's Minimalist Cooks at Home, which I cannot find anywhere (and it's making me a little crazy, because it's my favorite cookbook and I'm a little afraid that I inadvertently purged it at the end of June when I was doing the great de-junk). It has a name, but I have no idea what it is. Fancy Crispy Potatoes, we'll call it for now.

We also got some slam-fanstastic peaches at the market yesterday- about 25 of them. Elbertas, the "regular" kind, and some big white-fleshed varieties (sorry I didn't pay attention) that is making me crave a bellini (4 T white peach puree per bottle of prosecco), so maybe when I do "real" grocery shopping later today I'll pick up some prosecco and indulge!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

back to daily life

Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I'm back from my little girl's trip to visit my college buddies at my friend's home in Alexandria, VA. It was beautiful, inspiring, refreshing, exhausting. I met my single culinary desire (soft-shell crab), visited Trader Joe's (Please Please Please come to Memphis!!), flew for the first time in 8 years (um, it's changed a LOT!), acquired more new yarn than I thought possible (winter socks for the whole family), caught up with my girlfriends, three of whom I hadn't seen in five years, and was excited to "meet" a new bloggy friend, though it felt like we'd known each other for at least five years. Did I mention that it was blissfully cool? Never got over 85? And the cool weather inexplicably followed me home?

School started yesterday for little boy, so today is my first full-time day of back-to-pottery since the first of July. Museum work won't start again until the first of September, and I have a lot of catch-up to do in the next two weeks. First step-I stopped to gather ferns for a custom order wedding platter after school drop-off. Now it's time to get to work. And I'm excited about it!

That's the wonderful thing about vacations- the sense of renewal that comes when you get back home and fall into you routines with new vigor.

And thank you for the responses to my eco-responsibility-sustainability post. I appreciate the feedback!

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Oh, hi there. I'm back. I actually haven't left yet. I've been having an internal debate with myself over my pottery packaging materials and my greening desires. At my house we recycle all we can, use CFLs on all of our lamps and overheads (except those with dimmers, because I can't find CFLs that work with dimmers), eat organic and local as much as possible, and it's all going really well except with my packaging materials. Boxes I don't worry about- they're recycleable and I reuse the ones that come to the house or recycle them in our bins. I reuse bubblewrap- I've only had to buy a single roll of bubblewrap this year, so that's not SO terrible. But you know what I hate? The foam in the tops and bottoms of my boxes. My dad and stepmother shipped medical/surgical devices for years- very delicate stuff- and always used egg-crate mattress type foam. It's wonderful stuff except for how its made. And that it's not exactly biodegradable. I've reused all of it that they've sent me over the years and am nearing the end of the foam that I bought- a single twin-sized piece that was $10 at the biggest big-box store that I don't like to shop at. I'm wondering if shredded/crumpled newspaper would work as well as it does. I dislike packing peanuts, although the corn-based ones are okay- though corn-based anything is another issue entirely.

Pottery-making isn't exactly earth-friendly. Clay is mined, the glazes are toxic chemicals until firing, and the firing uses a LOT of energy. On the up side, all of my "throw aways" are recycled into mosaics or hung as garden art, I re-wet and re-use all of my clay scraps, slip, and pieces that crack or warp during drying, and most people don't just pitch a handmade pottery piece after a year or so, the way one might with a big-box dish. The production of my pottery doesn't bother my eco-consicence, but my shipping materials do.

Okay. Now I'm packing, and I'll be back next week!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

new martyrs icons

new martyrs icons
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Well, there's nothing like having a customer who wants to see that you've at least STARTED the piece that they requested back in June to spur you to work. I admit it, I've been a slug. Bindy, if you're reading this, thanks for kicking my rear in gear!
Yesterday afternoon I made the first of two Martyrs icons - on the right. This afternoon little boy and I went up to crank out the other. I still have some smaller ones to make before September first, but I feel great relief that I've gotten something done. Ladybug ware and berry bowls still to come, but that will happen next week, after my trip, when school begins again.

I'll be back here next week!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

one little supper- 5 august 2008

one little supper
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Small supper tonight, but peas are filling, you know? We had polenta squares with goat cheese, lady peas and arkansas traveler heirloom tomatoes dressed in salt, pepper, and olive oil, and some sauteed yellow zucchini with basil. Pretty yum.

Did I tell you that when I go to the farmers market I'm buying a bag of lady peas to blanch and freeze for the winter? Every time? The rest of this bag got dressed in some lemon juice with the olive oil (a huge and decidedly non-local improvement), and next time, I'm cooking some shrimp to go along with this for a Low Country (that's coastal South Carolina, if you didn't already know) kind of supper.

This may be the extent of my cooking this week except to prepare some things for the boys to eat while I'm gone so that they don't subsist on PBJs.

Tomorrow- POTTERY POST. Finally, huh?

Monday, August 4, 2008


Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
This week will be a scramble. We made it back late last night from our weekend away. Little boy and my nephew, Hunter, played and played. This was the nicest state park I've ever visited. Temps down below were in the 100s. High 80s and breezy up at the peak. Blissful.

I'm playing catchup this week--with meetings (work starts again soon!), pottery, and packing. I head to DC for a long-awaited girls' weekend on Thursday, via Nashville.

I was thrilled to finish my airplane sweater late late last night. I think I'm going to wear it to death this fall.

I promise this will be a pottery blog again soon. During the dog days of summer, I don't fire the kiln much. My little bungalow is 86 years old and doesn't have enough power to run the kiln AND the AC during the summer. Even if I have work to fire (ahem), I have to wait until the nights dip back down into the low 70s and 60s before I can fire at night. Our lows these days are in the 80s, so our AC runs more than I'd like. Just so you know, and this happens every summer. I think I need to start taking summers off instead of taking January off as I have traditionally done.

Happy week, folks!

Friday, August 1, 2008

how I spent my week

frank detail
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I'm not sure how one hour of active teaching, two hours of prep/clean up, each day this week sucked the week away, but indeed it did. Here's what I have to show for it. A detail of my frank icon painting. I was really thrilled with how the kids (and the adult helpers) took off with this project. We started out drawing, then began painting, then added paper, fabric, feathers, ribbon, foil- you name it. If we could figure out how to glue or staple it to the canvas, it was fair game.

It has been crazy-hot here this week, so little boy and I have been camped out under the air conditioning and ceiling fans watching movies, reading books, and trying to move as little as possible. Yesterday we went on a little river adventure at our newfavorite place, the Mississippi River walk at the Mud Island River Park. Less nature interaction than our all-time favorite greenbelt park, but there's wading, so it's a trade off.

This afternoon we're heading off to see my Dad and my sister's family. Another adventure at Mount Magazine, where it is said to be 15 degrees cooler than the rest of the entire south. I'm game.

Oh. I promised several of you berry bowls by next week, before I leave to go on my girls' trip. Um, I haven't been up in the studio in two weeks, so I apologize for my delay. I think next week is berry bowl production week. Monday-Wednesday, anyway.

Happy weekend, everyone!