Friday, November 28, 2008

handmade holidays

felt bird
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I'm jumping back into pottery this weekend, making ornaments, more icons, and some wide, shallow bowls for forcing paperwhites, but before I get all dirty, I wanted to show you this little bird. I can't even tell you how delighted I am with it.

This sweet little pattern has been making the rounds online for quite some time. I came across it this morning while doing some inspiration research for my family's advent calendar. I'm making a whole bevy of these little birds to hang on a special tree (Gary is in charge of making that) each day during December. Before making 24 of any one object, it is sometimes wise to do a test-run. The original pattern is a bit larger than this one- I reduced it to 60 or 70 percent and cut the pieces out of some felted lambswool sweater scraps. Since the bird is so small and the felt is so thick and fuzzy, I simply zig-zagged the seams and left them showing. It's a bit more rustic and tactile that way. The eyes are french knots of chartreuse ribbon and I stuffed it with some cotton quilt batting.

This little guy is resting on a quick-and-dirty ivy topiary I made from a 4" pot I found at the grocery. I took a 14" length of thin (16 gauge?) copper wire, formed it into a circle, and wrapped the tendrils around the form. The bird is hanging from the top. A friend is hosting a tea this weekend, so I'll take this as a hostess gift. Though I admit, I almost hate to part with the fuzzy little bird.

I'll have more pottery to show you next week, I promise. I know it's been a bit of a drought, pottery-wise, but I feel the clay calling me. And I WILL have revised matryoshka ornaments up at etsy by the 8th.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

my family relish

family relish
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I hope that Thanksgiving is warm and bright for all of you. I like to get all of my cooking done the day before, so that I'm more relaxed and not trying to do six things at once. Today's agenda is prepping the turkey, making the pumpkin cheesecake, and cranberry relish. In honor of the day and in thanks for your friendship, I thought I'd share my family's cranberry relish recipe. It is very simple, uncooked, and a bit unexpected. My mother's youngest sister found this recipe some time in the 80s and we've been making it ever since:

cranberry relish
1 bag whole fresh cranberries
1 orange (organic), quartered
1 c pecans
1/2-1 c sugar.

Pulse in the food processor until the orange is in tiny bits and everything is well blended. This is tart, crunchy, and my idea of the perfect combination of sweet (just barely) and savory (lots). It will make your leftover turkey sandwich sing. It will jazz up oatmeal. It is a nice garnish to a very rich dish like pumpkin cheesecake. Whatever we have leftover we pop in the freezer and use for the rest of the winter (because we usually make 3 batches). As you can see, I like to eat it with a spoon.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I'm off to make that pumpkin cheesecake now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

my mondays

monday is my putter day
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Almost every Monday is a day off for me, and I spend it the same way nearly every week. I have a hard time cleaning while the boys are under foot- both big and little will help, but it's hard to run the vacuum or really clean while they're home. I spend some time with my squirt bottle of Dr. Bronner's, making the house smell all minty, and some time with Dr. Dyson, ridding the house of dog hair and dust.

Today I needed to take some flowers to friends who'd been ill, so I also took myself to Davis-Kidd, an exceptional regional chain, to check out the latest from Mason-Dixon Knitting (it's on my Christmas list) and pick up the new Stitch magazine, because I NEED Martha's skirt. I haven't opened it yet, because today is a play-date day and I'm making myself wait until the kiddos are occupied to indulge in magazines and knitting.

There's been so much talk this summer and fall about this bread book. I've been using the Peasant loaf, substituting half of the white flour for whole wheat mixed with a whole-grain hot cereal mix (Bob's I think? I read about it in Cooks Illustrated some time ago). I dump the entire bag of cereal mix into my wheat flour bin- it gives the bread a nice hearty crunch. Tomorrow is little boy's school Thanksgiving Feast- we're bringing the rolls for his class. I made up a batch of dough some time last week (maybe Monday)- it's been sitting for at least 7 days and has developed such a nice sourdough flavor. I put about 2 T of dough in muffin tins and baked them for a bit over 25 minutes at 375. Delicious.

I hope your afternoon is going as pleasantly as mine is, and your week is a good one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


fetching set
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
This is what I've been doing instead of pottery. Knitting for Christmas. Here is a set that I made for my grandmother, and yes, indeed, I'd love to keep it for myself, but my version will come after the holidays. Knitting and teaching and rocket birthday parties (and thank you notes) have been filling most of my time lately. I am still working on matryoshka doll ornaments and a few other things, but in the evenings, when it's cold and supper is over and the boy is in or headed to bed, I've been knitting. And time is really flying.

I hope to get back to the wheel and kiln next week during the Thanksgiving hooplah- since we're not hosting this year, only bringing the turkey and pumpkin cheesecake. I've got several pottery ideas in my head that need fleshing out, and while I'm excited about them, they're just living on paper or in the quiet farthest recesses of my brain. Usually I wouldn't be ok with this, but right now I am. Maybe because I'm not spending much money these days and I assume that no one else is, either, maybe because the year's been nuts (but good, too) and I'm ready to put it to bed and look towards tomorrow after I've had more rest. I think this may be the first time in my adult life (or since I was 12) that I haven't felt driven to create, do, be. Whatever it is, let it be.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
I was revisiting some of my pottery earlier today for a shop update and dug out this sea urchin. I really, really love it. It is so far from perfect that it may be the closest to art of anything that I've made. I left bumpy clay, handprints, and tool marks on the surface, which I usually try not to do. 2/3 of the spines fell off before and during its first firing, but I liked the random design that was left so I glazed it anyway.

As I look at it now, I realize that I've changed a lot this year, because last year this piece, with its rough areas and complete disregard for machine-like perfection would have landed it in the trash. Now I feel an almost maternal affection for it. I hesitated to list it with my other work because it is SO marked by my hands, but I'm letting go of my drive for perfect and waiting to see what happens. If it's gone by the end of the week, it will probably be because I took it off and put it somewhere in the house to reflect on more.

I've never been easy on myself- demanding more and more - good grades, good works, good meals, better-quality products for my customers, faster and more and more. This summer it all came to a screeching halt. And it was hard to deal with not being able to do it all. It is still hard to deal with not being able to do it all. My responsibility to my family - my husband and my child, parents and inlaws- means letting go of my self-imposed ideas of perfection. I think that this may be why this little urchin speaks to me. Imperfect is better than just ok. It can be beautiful.

Onward. onward.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rocket day

My son's birthday party was a rushed deal this year. It's #5, which is a bit of a milestone, and we were excited to do it, but nearly every aspect of was an ordeal. Little boy knew he wanted a rocket party and a moonbounce. That worked, thematically, but we had a hard time getting one! Finally, the day before we left for the mountains, we reserved one, but we weren't able to make the invitations until the day we got back. Passed out the invites on Tuesday and started looking for rocket/space decorations and treats. Looking instead of making because I knew we were creeping toward the "last minute."

Did you know there are NO space-related little toys or paper goods? Everything is character-themed. I felt lucky to find the star candles. On Friday I broke down and started crafting. I kept a big bag of water color- spattered paper from the last time I taught an art summer camp. These came in handy. I made 24+ rocket, saturns, and shooting stars for the cupcake toppers on Friday afternoon. I also made a rocket pinata, per little boy's request.

Then I started baking. My cupcake recipe failed. Tasty, good texture, but 18 out of 24 cupcakes were concave. Later I realized they could have been "crater" cupcakes, but I'd long since pitched them. I made more. And more.

Saturday morning we woke to great excitement and cold grey skies. Five years ago, average daily temps were in the high 60s. Last year, mid 60s. Yesterday- 40. And windy. Not even the fire pit or spiced cider helped the freezing parents who braved our backyard. The kids were fine, but they were bouncing.

Have I mentioned that I set my bathroom curtain on fire? With a candle with a too-tall wick one hour before all of our friends arrived? Yeah, wonderful way to set the tone for a celebration. And while Gary was setting up a brick base for the fire pit he maybe broke his pinkie? Maybe sprained, maybe broken. We both got to a certain point when we gave up and just let the rest of the day progress.

The kids all had a great time, the moon bounce arrived and stayed inflated, fifteen kids bounced their heads off, all the cupcakes got eaten, and this time next year I'll have forgotten about the trials and just remember the fun. And the dozens of books that the kids brought for patients at LeBonheur Children's Medical Center. Little boy decided to ask for books for less fortunate children (ON HIS OWN!! I am so proud!) instead of toys from his friends.

It was a good day. It was a funny day. I am glad that today is Sunday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

thistle farms

thistle farms
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Last night I had the pleasure to meet Becca Stevens and two of the women of Thistle Farms, a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene in Nashville, TN. Magdalene is a residential treatment and recovery home for women who have survived life on the streets - survived prostitution, addiction, violence.

I am rarely at a loss for words, but the realities of these women's lives- fleeing the worst of all possible realities and living into new beginnings- leave me both dumbfounded and completely inspired. I bought several of the all-natural, high-quality, 100% handmade bath, body, and home products for myself before their presentation because I could not resist the beautiful lavender and refreshing tea tree-mint fragrances. Today, I'm going back to buy more as holiday gifts for my family. All sales proceeds go back to support the residence of Magdalene. I rarely feel the need to endorse products, but I hope that if beautiful, natural bath and body items are on your holiday list, you'll check out Thistle Farmsand support these women.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

golden weekend

golden maple
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
We spent this past weekend in a tiny little stone cabin in Sewanee, Tn. No TV, no phone, no computers or internet. Just my little family in a one-room cabin with a wonderful woodstove, a glorious view, some knitting, and each other.

Sewanee is home to the University of the South, a couple of cute gift shops and restaurants, and a very active (and activist) little community. The cabin we stayed in was located on the grounds of an Episcopal retreat center that also houses a convent and lays claim to one of the prettiest views in the entire state. I am so in love with this little town I was almost scheming on how to move up there. We'll definitely go back.

On the way home we stopped to see family in Nashville and made a visit to the new Trader Joe's in town. I filled my cooler with wild-caught fish, hormone-free and organic cheeses, a new supply of my favorite conditioner- all at nearly give-away prices. I was so excited to hear that Memphis should be getting one in the next year or so. Some women get excited about new shoes. Me? New food and the potential that a well-stocked pantry and freezer bring.

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, November 7, 2008

pottery is always experimental

matryoshka experiment
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
Good morning! We're headed out of town this morning for a mini-vacation after a busy, crazy, joyful, exhausting week. A long weekend in the mountains of east Tennessee- fall color should be at its peak, temps in the 60s- all about 4 hours from home.

I'm leaving you with these little matryoshkas that I experimented with. I was so disappointed when I pulled them out of the kiln. The yellow and blue glazes were so gloppy- the yellow because I didn't mix enough, and the blue because I used a new dry formula and it was simply too thick- that I lost the faces. I love the red and white one, and the green one is acceptable, but I'll be making another small test batch of these ladies. I think I've figured out a fix, though. I love the color pooling in the stamped design in the bellies, so those will stay. I'm planning to leave the rest white with colored accents for the faces and dots, just like the red one. I was so inspired by Maya (of my internet connection is doing bizarre things this morning, so I'm having a hard time posting, much less linking, so my apologies if you have to google to find Maya), who did these wonderful matryoshka stencils on linen. I couldn't get her little seasonally-decorated ladies out of my head until I sat down to make my own version. I hope to have a batch of these to go on packages and Christmas trees soon.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I'll see you back next week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

november 4

back door
Originally uploaded by Bridgman Pottery
It's a big day today. I woke up with a gnawing in my stomach, aware of the possibility and potential for bitter disappointment that awaits. Instead, I'm focusing on the flaming display of crepe myrtles outside my back door, the full glazed kiln that awaits, the beautiful, blue-skied, 75 degree day (hello, November in Memphis), the zinnias that are still blooming their heads off in my little garden, and the new friends I'm going to meet tonight to share our craft.

And I'm going to focus on things I can control, like re-mounting my whirligig that I didn't notice had fallen off the garden post (see lower right corner) until I loaded this photo.

I'm taking a deep breath and turning off the news now.