Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SACRED SHARDS: Documenting Recent Work

Too long I've been making things and selling them or giving them as gifts without taking pictures or making sketches for future work.

Today I set up a make-shift photo booth in a well illuminated part of the house, got out my "good-enough" cheap digital camera, and started documenting my work.

This heart shaped bowl and matching ladle will be a gift for a family member and his bride, getting married this weekend.

I'll be making more in the coming weeks for sale on Etsy, in local shops, at LUNCH shows and in my art show booth.  Wanted to make sure I could remember what these looked like since I won't have them on hand as samples.

Taking and editing these photos was also a useful practice run for the things I need to do for my Etsy online store and for my own website.  They will go into my file of potential work samples to use when approaching retail outlets and and artisan shows.

A bowl made for a baby girl, now a two-year-old and feeding herself.   Took me a while to finish it and photograph it before giving it to her.  Bad Auntie Kay.  Still, it's great for finger foods and reheating little portions. 
A couple of adults have told me they wanted one for themselves--customized with their own name or a special word--so I'll probably be making them in a variety of sizes and colors.
This one is about 5 inches across and 2 inches high.

A similar bowl was made for a baby boy family member, but I didn't take a picture of it before giving.

I also made sketches and took measurements today so the next go around will be easier.  I jotted down notes on glazes, processes, and where the JPGs of these images can be found on my computer.
All this was time consuming, but I'm hopeful that by honoring past effort in this way--by documenting it--the process of making many more will go more smoothly, and perhaps lead to new ideas that otherwise might have been lost.

(c)2009 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

SACRED SHARDS: Completely Glazed Over

Look what the kiln elves did overnight!  Pretty colors!

Some sale-able items for this summer's craft shows.  A few gifts.  Lots of experimental stuff (mugs, etc.).  And a couple of keepers.

Batter bowl (upper right), Peace Dove ornaments, Word Wise bowl with hearts (peeking from under shelf), ... and hiding on the bottom shelf where I can't see them, surprises!

Going now to unload the kiln and see what I've got!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


The little kiln that could.  She's an L&L kiln.  Needs a name.  I'll call her Lana, as in Lana Lang.  Powered by meteor rocks.
Finished glazing and loading this afternoon.  Firing initiated at about 3:45 PM.
Here's what's inside.  There's another layer below the one visible at on the lower right.

And here's what it looked like just a little while ago, glowing amiably in the darkness of the basement.  Alien Power Source at work.
Temperature read-out on its way up, with the glow under the kiln lid showing through.

The glow  under the lid and between the kiln's sections projects onto the basement walls in stripes of yellowish orange, but my camera's shutter speed doesn't go slow enough to capture this.

The picture above was taken over an hour ago.  By now, it's probably reached Cone 5 and is on it's way back down. 

I'll be able to open it tomorrow.  It's always like opening a surprise package.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

SONGWRITING: Awakened by the Muse

I was awakened by the Muse at 5:00 this morning (after getting to sleep past midnight last night.)

Grabbed bedside pencil and paper, diligently wrote down the stanzas in my head. But the Muse insisted I get up and go to the piano.

Now I'm online researching Greek mythology for lyric content at her request.  

Ignore her and she goes away to pout. Don't want that.

UPDATE: 20090615
This was one of those rare songs that essentially wrote itself. Two double verses plus a chorus (AAB AAB form), multiple layers of meaning, literary references, chords and melody, all came together within a very short time.

As soon as I'm able to play this song fluently enough, I'll post a rough recording and put up the lyrics.

I want to shorten the distance between song creation and proliferation, not worrying so much about having "radio ready" recordings before letting songs leave the nest for the first time. Trying to short circuit perfectionism and keep it real. I want to open a window into the process as it happens.

Heed the the Muse!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

BOOKS: Library Sale Re-Re-Revisited

Bibliophile's Bounty: For $5 and a Brown Paper Bag

I'm 'fessin' up.  I've been to the library book sale four times this week.

I went the first time last Saturday, on the initial day of the sale and came home with an armload of books.  Then again on Monday because I thought everything was half-off, but it wasn't.  And again yesterday, Friday, because everything really was half-off.

Finally, I stopped in today for the final day $5 fill-a-paper-grocery-bag-full-of-books sale.

I fit all of the following (plus some books to give not listed here) inside the brown paper grocery bag I was given a the door.  In no particular order:

MISC Non-Fiction and Reference
Not bad for $5.

The books I bought half-price yesterday will mostly end up as gifts for other people, but for my studio library I found "American Folk Songs for Children," by Ruth Crawford Seeger 1948.  It's The original hardcover edition, filled with traditional songs and accompanying activities.  I sat at the piano yesterday evening for quite a while playing and singing my way through it.

Thanks to my four trips to the book sale this week the "Friends of the Mystic & Noank Library" are about $50 richer.  With cutbacks to the CT State budget funding for libraries this year, I'm sure it will be put to good use.

And I have a wealth of reading material, some 60 or more new-to-me volumes to savour and share.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

PREPARATION: Clearing Clutter

Clearing away clutter provides the physical and mental space to spark the next creative explosion.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

BOOKS: Library Sale Revisited

Thinking that everything was half price all week at the library's used book sale, I went again yesterday and loaded my arms with an interesting assortment of volumes.

When I reached the front table to pay and discovered that the 50% off prices wouldn't kick in until Thursday and Friday, I didn't have the strength to return my selections to the jumbled piles where I might never see them again.  Once in my arms I couldn't release them.

"It's for a good cause," the volunteer at the check-out table assured me, smiling.

So here's what followed me home yesterday:
Not saying how much I spend.  It was less than $20, but still I'm a little embarrassed.

I suppose I shouldn't be--it was far less even than if I'd purchased them used on Amazon.  I stayed within the budget I'd set for myself in anticipation of this annual opportunity to stock up on reading material.

I'll admit it.  I'm a book addict.  I'll probably go back for the $5 bag-full-o-books sale on Saturday.

In the meantime I've got to find space on our shelves.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

BREAD: Project Sourdough Day 4~Garlic Oregano Breadsticks

The house smells like an Italian bakery today.

But I'm beginning to feel a little like Seymour Krelborn in "Little Shop of Horrors."

Every day I give the sourdough starter a little water to drink and a little flour to eat ...

... and it grows.  

Because I decided four days ago not to throw away the surplus every time I feed the starter, our kitchen is now being overrun by baked goods.

First eight large sandwich rolls.  Then two loaves of cinnamon bread.  Now a dozen 14-inch garlic oregano breadsticks.

Or is that Bread Schticks!

Tomorrow I'm forming the extra into a ball and putting it in a bowl in the refrigerator for 24 hours to rise very, very slowly.  I need a break!

I'm beginning to remember why I got stir crazy the last time I worked to wake the sleeping the sourdough starter.

Here's what I added to the basic sponge today:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
2 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and pressed

The  starter seems to be taking over the leavening process.  Tomorrow's loaves will be made without any added powdered yeast.

I have no energy for a detailed explanation of the process this time.

Just: mix it, knead it, put it in a greased bowl, let it rise, punch it down, let it rest, cut it into 12ths, roll these into logs then twist and stretch, place them on two baking sheets  sprinkled with cornmeal, let them rise, bake at 400F for about 15 minutes switching top and bottom sheets midway through, cool on a rack.  Eat!

This turned out really well.  As have the other improvised bread recipes.

Tomorrow I'll post about the book, "Ratio," that's provided the knowledge and therefore the courage to become an experimental baker.

Monday, June 01, 2009

BREAD: Project Sourdough Day 3~Cinnamon Loaves

I inhale deeply.  The house smells of cinnamon and bread.

Sourdough Cinnamon Loaves were today's use for the surplus flour/water/yeast mixture produced as I continue to reactivate my long-dormant Idaho sourdough starter.

This time I used the ingredients from a recipe for basic sweetbread dough, though in slightly different proportions.  I cut all of the additions by about half from the original recipe.  I don't like a cinnamon bread that's too sweet or too buttery because I can't eat as much of it at one sitting.

All this week I've got a schedule that looks like Swiss cheese.  I can't work on anything that requires focus for many hours at a stretch.  I can't get covered with dirt in my garden or clay in the pottery studio because I'd soon have to get cleaned up for some obligation where I have to be presentable.

Baking bread as a creative activity works well around such a schedule.  Hands on time comes in small increments of 15-20 minutes and rising time can be controlled somewhat by placing the dough in a comparatively warmer or cooler environment.

I know a busy mom from an Italian family who mixes up a ball of dough first thing in the morning each day, places it in the refrigerator to rise very slowly all day, takes it out when she gets home and makes it into pizzas, or plain Italian loaves, or bread sticks, or herbed rolls.  Quicker than a trip to the grocery store.

So here was the process for today.

After reserving a cup of starter for the next cycle, I added the following to the remainder with a whisk:

1 cup Milk
2 1/4 tsp Rapid Rise yeast
4 Tbs Melted Butter
1/2 c sugar
1 Egg

To this batter, I gradually mixed in approximately 5 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour.  I didn't realize that I'd have to add so much more flour than I had yesterday (only 3 1/2 cups) to compensate for the extra liquid from eggs and milk.

The first two cups of flour were mixed in by hand with a whisk, one cup at a time until no lumps remained, working air into the batter.  The next cup and a half was mixed in first with a wooden spoon, then kneading by hand in the bowl.  Transfered to a floured wooden board for kneading about 10 minutes, where addition flour was worked in.  The dough was very soft and sticky.

The ball of dough was placed in a large greased bowl, turning to coat, then allowed to rise until doubled.

I had a lot going on today, so I purposely left the dough to rise in a cool place to slow it down.  It went into the bowl at about 8:00  this morning and wasn't ready to punch down and form into loaves until about 2:00 this afternoon.  Even then it hadn't quite doubled.  In a warm (80-105F) place this would have taken probably 2 hours or less, instead of 6, though the low percentage of yeast to flour probably slowed things farther.

[If I'd really wanted to delay the rise, I could have put the bowl in the refrigerator, as I did when I had to go out on Sunday with the sandwich rolls formed and sitting on a baking sheet.  They went into the fridge covered with a damp dishcloth until I got home, then they were taken out to finish rising.]

At that point, I divided the dough into four equal portions, pressed each out by hand into 8x12 inch rectangles.  Laid two of these next to each other on the kneading board and sprinkled them generously with cinnamon-sugar mixture, then placed the other two on top of the first two, sprinkled again.   The two separate stacks were rolled up into 8 inch oval loaves and placed in 5x9 inch greased loaf pans.  Tops were sliced with a knife about 1/2 inch deep and more cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on top.  

I warmed the oven slightly then turned it off and placed the pans inside for a quicker rise before baking.  After doubling (about 2 hours later while I taught lessons), I baked the cinnamon bread for about 25 minutes at 400F, covering the tops loosely with foil part way through to prevent over browning.

Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.  Probably should have greased the pans more thoroughly.  The sugar in the loaves caused the to stick in places.

INSIGHTS about the sourdough starter:
  • Tap water contains chlorine.
  • Chlorine kills micro-organisms (including bacteria, fungi, single celled organisms, etc).
  • Yeast is a kind of micro-organism (a fungi).
  • Sourdough starter is a symbiotic relationship between yeast and bacteria
  • Using tap water in my sourdough starter may kill off some of the yeast and bacteria, making it harder to activate.
SOLUTION: use filtered water or water that's been left out uncovered for several hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate.