Thursday, January 30, 2014

Loving the Useless

I found this while browsing on the Musing about Mud blog, and thought I'd share.

Click on the pic for a great talk about art and our perceptions and expectations of it...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

28 Years Later

 Blog buddy Michael Cathcart (The Skull and Pumpkin blog) and I were Facebooking back and forth about being in school the day of the Challenger disaster. How quiet it was in my school, because of the tragedy, yes, but also because one of our teachers had been an alternate for teacher Christa McAuliffe. He told me how many people were crying at his school, and that the school just sent everyone home.

In spite of terrible, terrible accidents such as these, there are people out there brave enough to continue to look outwards, into space, and to continue to fight ignorance and budget cuts in order to reach for other worlds. I'm deeply grateful to them for their sacrifices and their vision.

I may not see humans on Mars in my lifetime, but wouldn't it be wonderful?

Click here for Challenger news today.

Friday, January 24, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different: Taiji Edition

The capture pens in Taiji.
Photo via Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Facebook Page
Within the pages of this blog, I really do try to keep politics and my personal causes to myself, with varying degrees of success. Today's post represents an epic fail to keep that policy! :) This post may ramble a little here and there; my apologies in advance.

I'm one of those "greenie tree-huggers," for the most part. Sorry if this offends some of you, but that's the truth. I'm deeply concerned with the environment and what we're doing to destroy it, in addition to the direct damage we're doing to other species. But first, a little background:

My husband is an environmental consultant, has his masters in zoology and was about halfway through his PhD when life kicked his butt and he had to leave his PhD program. He specializes in aquatic ecology and fisheries biology. In short, he's what I call "wicked smaht!" (What he's doing with me is a mystery!) I've been lucky enough to pick up some peripheral knowledge of our ecosystems through chit-chatting with him at the end of the work day.

That's not to say that I'm an expert, by any means, but I do have the privilege of having the "why" of some of our environmental concerns explained to me by a knowledgeable person. I'm deeply alarmed by the idea that we're removing entire links of the chain which sustains life on our planet, bit by careless bit, and dumping toxins into the environment. (I mean, when your cities are so polluted that you have to televise the sunrise because it can no longer be seen, there's a serious problem!)

O.K. Get to the point, already! Sheesh!

The point is, I'm really, really upset about what's going on in Taiji, Japan, as well as in the Southern Ocean. (With respect to the folks who are my friends on Facebook and have been enduring  my rants about this situation!)

Right now, the annual hunting of dolphins is going on in Taiji. This is a process of selecting dolphins to be shipped to hotels and theme parks worldwide, as well as unchecked slaughter of the ones not lucky enough to be selected. This "season" lasts for six months, from September to March. (If you've never heard about this or don't care, please take time to see the award-winning movie "The Cove." Don't watch it with small children in the room; it's far too graphic and upsetting for little kids! Educate yourself on what's happening and why it's of paramount importance for this "traditional practice" to stop.)

The ones slated for death (i.e., the ones that aren't "pretty enough," due to the wounds inflicted during harvest time) have a steel spike driven into their spines and are left to bleed out, a process which can take as long as forty minutes. (Can you imagine what a stink we'd have in this country if our cattle took forty minutes to die?) Since there are now outside witnesses, they do this under cover of canvas and tarps. 
Capture boat, with blood from injuries inflicted on the dolphins during the capture process.
Photo via Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians.
Our Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, has expressed her concern about this practice to the Japanese government, along with Nickelback, Yoko Ono Lennon, and numerous other public figures.

Why then, do they continue the slaughter in spite of the negative attention they're receiving? Money. They say it's a main staple of their economy, and it's obvious that's the truth, as I noticed a couple of sports cars and a Mercedes in a picture that was taken of their parking lot. (Yes, that was snide, but I couldn't help myself.) 

Even though they defend their actions with cries of "tradition," "It's no different than eating cattle" (blatantly untrue, as we enforce our regulations which provide protection for our domesticated livestock, and clearly there are no regulations being enforced in Taiji) and "we have to make a living!", the fact is that the animals sold as food are chock full of dangerous levels of mercury because of the industrial waste dumped into their oceans in the past, and shouldn't be sold for human consumption. (Heck, the U.S. has similar problems!) It's appalling that any government (ours included) would sanction the sale of poisoned meat to its people in the name of tradition and profit. 

There's no doubt that the animals sold to hotels and theme parks worldwide are what bring in the lion's share of income for these people. It's estimated that rare dolphins, such as the little albino calf captured earlier this week has likely brought in a mid- to high-six figure price. What a shame its mother didn't survive.
A rare, albino dolphin baby was captured with its mother. Pic via 
Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians page

She's not the only one to die this week, either. A small pod of Pantropical Spotted dolphins was just destroyed this morning. Calves were taken from their mothers, a few adults were chosen, and the rest were slaughtered. This kind of thing has gone on since September, every single day.

O.K., I'll stop now. You get the point.

Before I get hater comments that I'm a racist and hate the Japanese, I want you to know that as a potter, I have a deep respect for the culture which created the art by which I'm inspired to continue my own work. I don't hate the Japanese. I am saddened by the callousness and cruelty I have been forced to accept as part of a culture I previously viewed as the embodiment of peace and elegance. I hate the actions of these "fishermen" and the government of Japan, not the people of Japan.

So here's what I'm asking of you. Please feel free to have a polite discussion here in the comments section. I'd love to have your feedback. Do some research on your own, and then take some time out of your busy schedule to sit down and write a polite letter to the Prime Minister of Japan and as many people on the list I provided below, written by Sea Shepherd. Suggest an alternative to killing these animals, such as ecotourism, which is by far the more sustainable solution to this inhumane mess. Write to any hotel chain (or any park) that you know has a dolphin tank or "swim with the dolphins" attraction, and tell them how you feel about the way they get their dolphins and small cetaceans. Above all, don't patronize these "attractions."

And please, blog about this. Tweet about it. Facebook it. Spread the word! After all, there's no reason Justin Bieber's arrest should get more airtime than this!

Nothing will change if you do nothing.

Links to this topic:

YouTube video by Autonymousness. *WARNING! THIS IS VERY GRAPHIC AND SHOWS FOOTAGE OF HOW THE DOLPHINS ARE KILLED!* Seriously, don't watch this in front of your kids or at work, or at all if it's going to upset you too much. (I don't support their methods, nor do I encourage anyone to support them, either.)
Dr. Drew on CNN. (Not particularly fond of a couple of these reporters, but they make some good points.)
ABC News report with Caroline Kennedy.
Sea Shepherd article chronicling Sea World's partnership with dolphin harvesters. This is the mechanics of how things get done and this crime continues.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Herp Nation

One of editor Sam Bacchini's babies during its hatch
I wanted to give my friend, Sam Bacchini, editor of Herp Nation, a quick shout out today. 

Sam's been a friend of Mr. ShellHawk's and mine for years, now. Mr. ShellHawk met him through work, which is environmental consulting. When you're in that line of work, you run across all sorts of neat scientist types, such as fisheries ecologists, botanists, entomologists and herpetologists. Sam is a herpetologist, and as such, studies amphibians and reptiles. He also is licensed to breed them, but that's another story!
Right side foreground: Hosmer's Skink, photo taken by "speedy" in Australia
 I thought I'd share this with folks here in the event they're amphibian fans. Mr. ShellHawk brought home a copy of Herp Nation the other day, and even though I'm more of a dog person, I really appreciated how well put together this magazine is! The photos are absolutely gorgeous and the article are as informative as you'd expect from this kind of journal. I went to the website and found out they even have a podcast for those who can't get enough of their passion for herps.

Good job, Sam! Keep up the good work!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bats in Utero

Rearrange the wings and it could be "Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil."

More critters in utero here. Image via Viral Nova.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Liking Mistakes

Click on the pic for a thoughtful video by Chris Staley, Penn State Laureate.

It's a neat view of the joys of handmade things...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rough Week

I got a call on Sunday morning from my dad, one I'd been expecting for several years, now. My grandmother passed away on Sunday morning, at the ripe old age of 104 1/2.
While I'm sorry she's gone and I'll miss her forever, the flip side is that I was so lucky to have her for so long. She was the true embodiment of unconditional love in my life, and that's something that most people don't to get to have as part of their family life.

My dad, Oma and Opa (Grandmother and Grandfather) in Venice, 1938 or so.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Lost Town of Red Bank

While the rest of the country is freezing its collective tail off, my part of the country has seen some of the mildest weather in a long time. You might think this is a good thing, to have seventy degree weather in the middle of winter, and yes, sometimes it is. But not when you haven't had rain in months during what is supposed to be the rainy season.

Folsom, the town where I live, is under drought conditions, and there's been talk of putting the town under emergency drought restrictions. One of the results of this drought has been that Folsom Lake, the primary water source for the town, is down.

Way, way, down.

It's not all bad, though. Yes, not having water is a pretty scary thing. The silver lining, though, is the wonderful archaeological site which has been revealed by the receding waters of Folsom Lake.
Click on the pic for an aerial tour of Red Bank.
As the waters have continued to recede, the old town of Red Bank has come into view. (It's been called Mormon Island by some of the media, but it technically isn't.) The editor of the local paper has been conducting tours of the site-along with a bit of a history lesson- for those who are interested in seeing this rare sight.

It's interesting to see how the outside media has spun the story. The first thing they seem to blame for the water level is the release of the water for the Chinook and Steelhead salmon to be able to breed. (Damn fish! Who cares if they die out, anyway? :P) 

While this is part of the water usage of Folsom Lake, what the media often fails to note is that about 80% of the water release goes to industrial, agricultural, and municipal sources. This week, they reduced the release of water from the lake in order to store it.

Well, anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. It gives a great perspective on the old settlement!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Awareness

A spooky little movie...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WTF Happened to Movie Posters?

I ran across this today, and have to say I agree with this guy. The dynamic art of the movie poster seems to have completely gone the way of the Dodo bird, and what a shame!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Wax Harryhausen

Wax sculpture by the talented Mike Hill. Photo by Don Waller.

Thanks, Don, for this great picture! What a wonderful piece!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year, New Experiences!

It's been an interesting New Year, so far. Four days in, and good things are happening, even though they may not seem that way at first blush.

I got my stitches out on Thursday. Hooray! Unfortunately, I have to go back next week for the cast I was supposed to get that day because the doctor had an emergency and wasn't in. So I get a new full cast next Wednesday, which will stay on until it's time to get the screw in my foot out. Another surgery to get the screw out, and six more weeks of recovery and I'm better than new!

Predictably, I'm a terrible patient. Mr. ShellHawk is constantly reminding me to not overdo. Lying around on the couch while I'm home and there are things I could be doing in the studio really rankles. Oh, well only another nine or so weeks of this to go!

On another note, one of the things I've determined to do this year is to be more positive and complain less. After I made this determination, I happened to see this video:
I love this idea! I'm writing things down on scraps of paper and throwing them in a mason jar for now. I'm trying to drag Mr. ShellHawk into it, too, but we'll see if that happens.

Of course, when you make up your mind to change, the Universe throws something at you to test your resolve. Have you experienced this? Looking back at my life, I can tell you it's true. Take Thursday night, for instance.

Grateful thing from
 yesterday: Mr.
ShellHawk at the
coffee place with
me while I was
to be laid off.
I got a text from my boss, of the "meet me and bring your computer," variety. I had gotten this same request about six days after my surgery, and told him flat out I couldn't drive so no, I couldn't meet him. This time, I decided to get it over with. Mr. ShellHawk was available to be my ride, so we went.

Anyway, long story short, he laid me off yesterday, saying there was no money and maybe they'd hire me back when there was, if I wasn't working somewhere else by then. I seriously doubt it, but he was making an effort to be nice and keep things classy, so I let it go while staying classy, myself. In all honesty, it wasn't the best fit, so I'm more relieved than anything! It'll also give me the opportunity to heal without sweating how I'm going to drive to and from work with my left foot instead of my right!

The positive thing is I made enough to pay off my business credit card (I now owe $1.38!) and put away enough money to get my kiln. I'll start looking for another job next week, hopefully much closer to home and with a similar flexibility in hours. I'm sure no one is going to want to hire me right now, since I'm all gimped up and looking at another surgery, but we'll see.

I was lucky to get two grateful things yesterday. First was Mr. ShellHawk being so cool and supportive in the face of my losing my job. I can't help but think of this old song when I look at the picture I posted to the left. He's my rock.

The second was this picture:
It was from a customer. Here's the note she posted on my ShellHawk's Nest Page on Facebook:
I ordered a JOL ornament from you and got it on Christmas Eve - it's awesome! I will treasure it always!
(it's a lot bigger than I expected, so it is hanging near the tree instead of on it)
What a neat thing to see, huh? This is exactly the reason I keep at my ceramics, so I can be part of people's lives and family traditions.

And that's the blessing of my layoff. I'll have time to get the mundane things taken care of, such as getting taxes together and finished, plus getting some of my Charmed Pot segments done ahead of time, as well as getting in some studio time so I can start submitting to different competitions for the fine art aspect of my work.

What a great start to 2014! Full speed ahead!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hauntcast 55 "Dead G/Host Walking" is Up!

So the countdown begins! (Only five episodes left!)  Hauntcast 55, Dead G/Host Walking is up and available for download for Hauntcast subscribers! In this ridiculous episode of college humor and occasional intelligence (from me, Revenant and Johnny Thunder, that is...):
Chris clowns around with John Cowan of the Carnival of Screams Haunt in Daphne, AL
Hauntcast gets Juggy with it as the Bloody Jug Band crashes the dungeon
Robert Santos pimps Necrotic Creation’s new product line
JT pours you a tall glass of horror and reviews putrid prints, terror vision shows and silver scream flicks 13/13/13 and Bad MiloTHE MARKETING MORGUE:
The Dark Lord schools you on the ABC’s of Marketing and Advertising
Revenant is more long winded than usual as he gives you an exhaustive overview of 2014′s haunting tradeshows and conventions
The Mistress of Mayhem helps you spend your Christmas money on Halloween goodies.
Denny foams at the mouth for Smooth On’s “Foam It”TERROR TURNPIKE:
Vysther road trips it to Wilmington Haunted Hollow RideMAD PROPS FOR PROPS:
Chris spews praise all over Halloween Bert for his Exorcist propPLUS!
This month we’re giving away a Vampire Skull Plaque from Necrotic Creations, two $25 gift cards from Master Fog and a Hauntcast long sleeve t-shirt.
Congratulations to our winners this month:
Sean Cowart – Vampire Skull Plaque
Jim Slanker & Sean Overton – Master Fog Gift Card
Alison Whitney – Hauntcast Long Sleeve Tee
Enjoy the show and Stay Scary!
To my clay followers: this is my alter-ego, whom you may not have encountered as of yet. All I can say is, it's Hallowe'en 365 here... ;)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Oh, and Happy New Year's!

Not Really Resolutions...

Slipware by the master, Bernard Leach.
Image via Antique Marks.
Just a bunch of contemplation for the coming year, of the "What do I want to do when I grow up?" variety. Let me explain what I mean by that.

I'm easily distracted by shiny things. Like most artists, I read up on my field and check out the work of other artists to keep up on techniques and get inspiration. The more I read, the more techniques I want to try.

Take slipware, for instance. You take your clay and make your piece, find a contrasting slip to paint on it when the piece is leather-hard, then immediately carve designs in it to reveal the color of the clay below. You fire it, glaze it with a clear glaze and fire it again. The results can be beautiful, and I have a boatload of great ideas for this technique, once I got the technical aspects down to a system.
Image via Ceramic Arts Daily. Artist: Doug Peltzman.
Then there's working with slip inlay and wax resist. This technique adds so much depth to surface decoration!

And there's majolica, and the Turkish people have some pretty amazing decorating techniques, too. 

And then there's Raku. And glaze formulation. And there's studio clean-up and maintenance time. And...

And each technique has a multitude of variations...

You can see my problem, right?

A couple of years ago, my teacher gently suggested I focus on one technique and learn as much about it as I can. So this year, I'm considering his words carefully.
My Haunted House punch bowl with two of the ten coordinating cups.
Hand-carved porcelain and celadon glaze.
I'm thinking about focusing on my porcelain carving this year, especially since it looks like I may have hit my dollar amount for the new kiln and I'll have better results with my cone 6 firings. (I make these by waiting for the piece to be bone-dry before I start carving.) I also have an eye to making more sculpture this year, as my sum total of sculpture made last year was two.
Of course, since I need to pay bills, etc, there will be the Hallowe'en creations, and the stoneware mugs, bowls and plates, but even then, I have an eye to making these more interesting. I mean, Gary Jackson has the coolest stamps that he's made for his ware, and that makes the piece better and gives the glazes some great places to flow and break. And his soda-fired ware? Yummy!

I'll have to come to a decision here pretty soon, so I can get things organized in the studio for producing whatever it is I'm going to produce. I have a few bone-dry porcelain pieces leftover from last year, because I ran out of time to work on them, so at least I have a start if I decide to go for the porcelain-carving thing...

So much to learn, so little time!

What's on your creative schedule for the year?