Sunday, September 28, 2008

finished lady sweater

finished lady sweater
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
YAY! Blocked, vintage square shell buttons sewn on, ends woven in. I was a little surprised that the sleeves were so belled, but I think I'm going to be living in this once the weather gets cooler.

If you're a knitter, here is the pattern, and details are raveled.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

celebrating the little things

Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Are you worried? I'm worried. Sales are slow, I had a big car repair this week, virus season is upon us, and there's the rest of the world that seems to be tanking. I am not naturally an optimist- it is so easy for me to get bogged down in the worry. I don't know about you, but I'm making a concerted effort to focus on what's good and wonderful in this life, especially right now.

This morning I bought a load of wonderful crunchy delicious Arkansas Black apples, grown 20 miles from my home. I picked up my CSA and found more produce than I'll be able to use in a week. I had an extra $5 after I bought my farmers market groceries and treated myself to a bouquet of sunflowers and horsetail grass. The heat has finally broken, I'm wearing a hand-knit sweater, and focusing on what's uplifting:
knitting, cooking, fall leaves beginning to color up, an upcoming camping trip, another 5k to run, intensely blue sky that only happens once summer's over, open windows, a job that is keeping me busy, a beautiful happy family, Saturday morning pee-wee soccer games, friends and customers asking hopefully after my holiday pottery plans - the list could, and should, go on. Let's all focus on what's good and possible instead of worrying about what is or might happen. I hope that you all find something wonderful this weekend to buoy your spirits.

Happy weekend.
Some of these apples are going to go into a surprise galette for my boys this evening. I wish I could share it with you, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

test bowls

test bowls
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
These are two tiny bowls I made out of the Mississippi River clay. I just took them out of yesterday's bisque firing. I have to say that I'm pretty shocked at how much they look like terra cotta. I've used terra cotta clay before; it looked the same before and after firing. My river mud was deep brown/black even when bone dry (here is a finished, but still unfired, mud bowl. There's obviously a lot of iron in that clay. Any other colorants have fired out, and it's possible that they'll fire out even more on the next, higher temperature.

Later this week/weekend I'll glaze the pieces in this load*. I'm going to try a clear glaze, because for these pieces, the color of the clay is why they even exist. But, since I don't know if these will even stand up to cone 6 firing (2200 degree Fahrenheit range), I'm not risking my "good" piece yet. The experiment goes on. Slowly.

*This load included a few berry bowls, but out of this batch of 11, 5 cracked. At least I know before glazing, but those aren't good odds, friends. I don't know which were cut with my new hole punch, though. I didn't do anything to distinguish them from the ones where I used my old one. I know that I STILL owe some of you bowls, and I'm sorry that it is taking me so long to finish them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

pottery again

Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I photographed this vase early this afternoon because it sold and I'd forgotten about it. I had to hunt through the bins of things I had listed on etsy to find it. I love its shape and wanted to be able to reproduce it. Sometimes I'm very "out of sight, out of mind."

I love how this nestles into the palm of my hand- its shape is almost oniony. When I was in college I had nice hands, but eight years of almost constant clay have aged them. Right now they're in pretty good shape- no water-logged, peeling fingernails or torn cuticles. My nails are as long as I can stand for them to be, even when I'm not working in clay. Aged hands are a small price to pay for the pottery- and perhaps because of how weathered they are most days, they are my favorite part of me.

Today I broke my clay hiatus, doing some last-minute sanding/trimming and bisque firing, and I made a couple dozen small crosses for the Episcopal Bookshop in Memphis. Later this week I'll glaze and hopefully have some new work to show you.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Clanjamfry 5k

My time: 37:25. 97% running (I took 3 30-45 second walk breaks), middle of the pack. And now I'd like some ibuprofen.

Friday, September 19, 2008

green:target love

green:target love
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Since I don't have any (not a bit) pottery to show you or talk about here lately, I thought I'd show you what HAS been turning my crank lately. Green. Brought to you by Target. I'm not a big shopper, really and truly, I despise it. But I needed some things that required a target run last week and I saw these shoes. Actually, I'd seen them a month ago and couldn't shake their memory. I went to not-my-usual target and there they were. Cushy, suede, grass-green, and my size. For $24.99. I bought them and have worn them four times since last Friday. Including several days of standing all day. I have really high arches and can't wear just any shoe, but these worked. They also come in purple, black, and brown. I love the green. That trip also netted the pleated-neckline apple-green rayon knit Isaac top. I've worn it twice. I think it works best on flatter chests because of how the pleats fall, but whatever. I love the color.

Today I realized that I needed a pair of running shorts for tomorrow's 5k that aren't shorty-short. And cottonballs, white-out, air-born. And this bag. Because I forgot my reusable bags, and because of the chevron quilting, and because I'd been thinking about making a tote for schleping all of our family's stuff to church, school, soccer, here, there, and everywhere. But time is a factor. I had $16.99, but not the hours to sew. Instant gratification isn't usually my MO, but today it worked.

All of this green love makes me think of Erin and her everything-green. Usually I'm a blue girl, but for some reason, green is my thing this fall.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


vintage buttons
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
the February Lady Sweater, a great grown-up sized adaptation of Elizabeth Zimmermann's February Baby Sweater, has been my latest "big" knitting project. It's my second cardigan, first real lace project. But I haven't been working on a whole lot lately. All of my waking at-home time has been spent on teaching prep. Everything else has fallen by the wayside. I am 70% finished (maybe more!)- I have a sleeve and a half left, plus blocking so that the lace portion will stand out nicely.
Last week I went through the vintage button stash that a friend inherited from her mother then donated to our church's craft room. These are what I came up with. I LOVE the black and ivory swirly plastic (or bakelite?) buttons. They just don't work well with the variegation in the kettle-dyed yarn (it's arucania nature wool, if that means much of anything to you). I also picked out these snaggle-toothed shell squares. I think I'll end up using these, because I just think they're charming. I love shabby-chic, lived in, time-worn, comfortable things that have a history. At the same time, I'm a very "linear" person- I like clean lines, clear spaces, symmetry. These buttons don't say that, but then neither does the yarn. I'm keeping my eye open for more choices, but honestly, if I have time to be looking, I think I'd rather be knitting.

Two weeks ago I threw some pieces and thankfully wrapped them up well. This afternoon was the first day I've been up to the studio to check on them- life has been a three-ring circus lately (sometimes good, sometimes trying, all the time busy). I may just be able to trim them on Thursday. And I still hope I'll bisque fire this weekend.

Happy mid-week, everyone!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Hi again. I thought I'd better post now because it's going to be a crazy week after the weekend that was a three-ring circus. I attended a huge Martyrs pilgrimage and festive Eucharist/celebration this weekend (since that's all I've talked about here lately, these martyrs, I guess no one's surprised), I attended our long-running wonderful co-ed dinner and bookclub for the first time since (ashamedly) maybe the month of May. Or April. It's been a long dang time. In case you're interested, we just read Brideshead Revisited, like everyone else (only I stopped at page 75 because I'm feeling a bit rushed and bored and I stopped too soon they say). Next up is Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You, though, sadly, we're missing AGAIN as we've planned to camp since it's fall break (Aside: April, you could still go if you want, we just won't be there). I'm disappointed, because I love Miranda July. She is brilliant and quirky and I'm going to read anyway.

This week I am teaching every day (I know 'most everyone works full time and has a family and manages to have hobbies. My hat is off to you because I cannot seem to manage 1.5 of the 3). I am running a 5K on Saturday, so hopefully I'll be running every day except Friday. Or maybe Thursday. It's harder for me to skip one day of running and go again on the second day than it is to run every day. Haven't done a real race before (but I used to run for an hour every day when I was in graduate school. I had to stop because I was getting thunder thighs), but I'm not concerned about placing, only finishing. Because lately I've been, ah, slack in the exercise department. I need to bisque fire and try to glaze by Sunday (hah!). I'm prepped for teaching through Tuesday - I go to a different school each day- each 4th grade class in my program gets 2 guided museum visits/activities plus three in-school visits. I work with over 500 Memphis City School 4th graders- the program serves over 1000 students. I know what we're having for supper every night this week, and I have a vague idea about how much more prep work I'll need to do before Friday. So I feel somewhat prepared for the week ahead. And in 5 minutes my face will be washed, jammies on, and I'll be on my way to sleep, much like this bee who was lulled down in his zinnia bed by the cool (thanks, Ike) weather we've had today.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oh, hi

dahlia pitcher
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Did I, ah, forget about blogging this week? I almost blogged yesterday, but I was tired, it was Sept 11, I dropped off the icon, and it finally boiled down to the fact that I just didn't feel like it. And it's gotten all hot and humid again.

I've been teaching this week for the museum, doing a lot of prep for teaching, hammering out schedules, trying to stay on an even keel.

I picked these Dahlias this week- they were so fresh and pretty. In Memphis, it seems like the dahlias do best once the summer is waning. I always forget about them until I find them hiding in the mess that my garden becomes when September rolls around.

Have a happy weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the martyrs of memphis

martyrs icon
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Here, finally, is the 90% completed icon for the Martyrs of Memphis that will go home this weekend with the Sisters of St. Mary's in Sewanee, TN. I finished the gold portions today*, ironically, on the feast day of Constance and her companions.

I've shown you pictures of this and my other version of the Martyrs icon before, but I'm not sure I've explained why I'm so fascinated with this group of mostly women (but including men) featured here.

I attend St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral**, located at the fringes of downtown Memphis, TN. It is in the medical district (appropriately, given its history with the Yellow Fever Epidemic, when over 5,000 Memphians died), bridging bustling downtown, impoverished neighborhoods, three hospitals, and numerous social-service organizations, including several missions for the homeless. During the 1978 Yellow Fever Epidemic, St. Mary's (a mission church of the larger downtown Episcopal church, billed as a "house of prayer for all people" because its parishoners weren't required to buy their pews, attracting members of lower socio-economic status) opened its doors to those orphaned by the fever. The Sisters, led by Constance, ran a school for girls. When the epidemic struck, Constance and Thecla were safely on vacation but returned to nurse the poor (for everyone of means left the city posthaste), sick, and dying. They worked until they, too, were struck with the fever. Charles Parsons was rector of Grace Church in Memphis and served with the sisters. Louis Schuyler came to Memphis from Hoboken, NJ, to serve at St. Mary's and died 10 days after he arrived.

Sunday night I finished Molly Crosby's excellent American Plague, a history of the Yellow Fever, it's multiple epidemics, and the scientists who worked to discover its roots and develop a vaccine. The story was mind-boggling. The sacrifices of the priests, nuns, doctors, and scientists were nothing short of enormous. At the top of the icon, an angel holds a scroll with the verse from John 15:13 "no man has greater love than this, than to lay down his life for his friends."

* I had completely forgotten what the actual date of the Martyrs feast was until I was contacted by Fr. Miguel Zavala Mugica, who requested permission to use the image of one of the icons for his excellent (but written in spanish) blog.
**St. Mary's also played an active role in the 1968 Sanitation Workers' strike and the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis. Dean William Dimmick carried the cathedral's processional cross in an inter-faith march to city hall the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain. It split the church, but many of those who stayed were dedicated to social justice issues, specifically involving the sick, the poor, and the homeless.

just hanging around

entomology training
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
a bit like this grasshopper who showed up in my living room last night. We put him in my sprouter to see what he did. Grasshoppers are the most fastidious little creatures I've ever seen. I was mesmerized last night, watching him groom himself for well over an hour. He went to Pre-K today. We'll let him out this afternoon. Entomology is fascinating to me, and I love most insects, as long as they aren't "eww" bugs. Ladybugs, bees, beetles, wasps, even are fascinating. I love caterpillars, earthworms, crickets, too. Roaches? Eww. That's where I draw the line.

This week I start museum-teaching, so I've been doing a lot of prep-work for my classes. Dear Gary has arranged to pick up little boy from his accelerated pre-K program (it lets out at lunchtime) so that I can keep Tuesday and Thursday as dedicated pottery days while I'm teaching. I'm really gearing up for holiday production. And to finally meet my summer obligations that fell by the wayside.

It's a rainy cool Tuesday here- a pot of soup is on the stove, after-school muffins in the oven, and more prep and pottery fills my brain. Onward!

Friday, September 5, 2008

mud bowls

WOW. This clay was still really really wet (probably too wet to through, really). And really, really messy. I didn't want to wedge the clay (which would have dried it out a bit more) on my canvas boards because my usual clay body is white and I didn't want to risk staining the boards or future projects. My ususal is also really fine-grained; it feels a bit like handling cream cheese (people also describe porcelain clay as feeling this way). This raw clay has a lot of sand incorporated in, so throwing with it felt really different. I thew thickly and slowly- but my first few attempts collapsed when I pushed the clay too far. My fingernails got shredded (they were a bit too long for throwing anyway), but thankfully my skin didn't.

These two bowls are maybe 8" in diameter and 3" tall. I checked them this morning and they were too wet to trim (but it's been rainy all week, so everything is drying more slowly). I've never used clay this dark- I've used terra cotta before (that is REALLY rough on your skin) and we all know how terra cotta pots look when fired, but I have no idea what will happen with these. I don't know if the color will fire out (most clays change color when fired), or if the clay will even go up to cone 6 (+/-2200 degrees), because some low fire (1800 degrees, not as durable, prone to chipping/flaking) clays will melt at that temperature. I have several more pounds of the clay, so I think I'm going to make several smaller pieces to test with clear glazes at low and high ranges so that I don't inadvertently destroy these two larger pieces.

I tell you, I haven't felt this excited about pottery in quite a while. I love what I do, I love my functional pieces and the style I've developed with them, but it is fun to experiment with something that is unpredictable.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

mississippi mud

mississippi mud
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
today I am working with this: black clay dug from just beneath the sand bars* of the Mississippi River, just north of Memphis. Janie, the eldest daughter of my friends who camped with us, discovered it a mere half-inch underneath the sand. She called me over to ask if it was clay, and if it was, was it clay that I could make pottery out of. Why not?

The day before I'd noticed pebbles in the river that smooshed between your fingers when you pressed hard, or that cracked in two when they were dry, washed up on the sand. I remember thinking, "huh. must be clay," but not going beyond that. We all started digging up hunks of clay (a little sandy) to take back home with us. We found a plastic bag (washed up? left by some fishermen?) to cart it home in, and it has been sitting on the stairs to my studio since Monday afternoon.

I'm going to go upstairs and try to work with it- since it's black and my usual clay body is white, I'll have a lot of cleanup work to do, but I'm excited to work with it, see how it will fire, and if it will take a glaze. It may or may not- a big experiment. I'll show you what I come up with.

*sand plays an important role in Memphians' day to day lives. While most of our soil is clay-based, 350-1000 ft underneath the humus and clay layers are large, white-sand aquifers that purify our drinking water. We have wonderful tap water- clean, clear, good tasting. Thanks, Memphis sand!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

family camping

Oh what fun we had on the family camp. It was busy, crazy, loud, quiet, peaceful, and nerve-wrecking all at once. Saturday night and Sunday was Bridgman solo camp- setting up, exploring a bit, hiking a little, knitting, reading, finding out that those candles I brought solely for atmosphere would actually be needed since our lantern failed to charge itself before we left town (ahem). When I camp, my goal is to live well- we always have steaks on the first night, a bottle of nice wine, something dessert-y (this time it was vanilla-soaked grilled peaches and pears over my mother's pound cake). We had baba ganoogh, a caprese salad with grape tomatoes and pearl-sized balls of fresh mozzarella, grilled corn, - YUM.

Pancake breakfast, hiking, river-exploring, more quiet reading/knitting/playing/napping time filled the day until we ran out of mosquito spray (and, ah, ice cream)and made a run to the old-fashioned general store near the campsite. That evening joined by some dear friends and their two girls. This was their first family-camping experience, so we were invested in making sure it was a good one. There was lots of mayhem in tent set-up, exploring our little site, dogs getting adjusted to each other, and mud-pie making in the "sink" around the water spigot. We had fabulous chicken and pepper fajitas with "rock-and-mole", smores, and crying exhausted kids. Monday started off with percolator coffee and "raft potatoes" which I should have taken a picture of (pan-fried potatoes and onions, scramble in some eggs and cheddar, even better with diced bacon).
We were off to the river by 9. We spent all day exploring the sand bars of the Mississippi River, finding beautiful opalescent muscle shells, rocks, driftwood, and swimming in the little pools that formed between the sand bars. Dogs swam, kids swam, mamas swam, daddies stayed in their chairs bonding over movies and rock-n-roll. The best part of all this? It all happened 20 minutes from my front door. Beautiful towering oaks and cottonwoods, temperatures hovering in the low 80s, absolutely no cell phone reception, so close to home. It was a perfect holiday weekend.