Sunday, May 17, 2020

Pottery, Digital Divide + Interesting Videos

Two vases - one from 2019 and one from 1997

Thank you so much everyone for the support of my ceramics. On Thursday, I added 32 new pieces of pottery to my website and in a flash they were all sold. I was overwhelmed and definitely encouraged that folks wanted to support me and my work. I got quite a few notes from people saying they wanted to purchase but everything was sold. That is a good problem to have I admit. I wish I could make more and make faster but it's just not possible. I'm a one woman business and my time is split in many ways. My 100 Day Project has really helped to keep me focused on my ceramics. Although I haven't posted 100 Days in a row, I'm keeping it up even if I have to miss a day or two because of other commitments. 

All this said, this brings me to the digital divide in rural America. Ever since people have been working from home (March 24th in Massachusetts), our internet has gotten slower and slower. I can barely stand to write a blog post or newsletter nor look for interesting things to read and share. It makes it so difficult to compete economically and socially with those who live in cities and suburbs where there is fast internet. The phone lines that bring us our internet were installed in the 1940's. These lines bring us the connectivity to the outside world. 

The State of Massachusetts placed some kind of high speed 5G service at the Town Offices so I am back to sitting in my car to work again. In order to get my ceramics on-line (photos take forever to upload at our house) and to ship them via my shipping platform, I've had to go to the Town Offices. Not complaining (really) - just stating the facts. 

Julia, our college student daughter has been finding it very difficult to take on-line classes since her college has gone 100% online because of the Pandemic. She frequently gets bumped off her Zoom meetings due to the slow internet speed. Julia doesn't drive so she is confined to home unless I have the hours to sit with her in the car as there is no place to sit outside at the Town Office Building. Her personality and learning style is not one which melds with on-line learning so I really don't know what she is going to do this summer or fall. I know there are so many people in the same situation. We've just got to be patient and see how everything goes and the Pandemic goes on. 

I have recently enjoyed these two videos about two different designers' homes. 

Robert Kime from House and Garden UK

Johnson Hartig of Libertine's home on Quintessence

Here is one from the UK - cows going out to graze after a winter in the barn. Such joy in seeing them run. It's probably how a lot of folks are going to feel when they are able to start moving around in public again.  

How are you faring these days? What is motivating or frustrating you? I hope you all are well and safe and healthy. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

New Pottery for Sale Thursday May 14 + Thoughts

Big News! Tomorrow, Thursday May 14th, I will be adding about 40 new pieces of pottery to my online webshop. Here is the link to check out my new pieces. The sale goes live at NOON EST on Thursday. 

Here are some of the pieces I will be adding to the shop. I am still making and hope to have Shop Updates more than once a year. 

I've been posting over on Instagram many of the new pieces as they have been decorated. I started doing one of those #100daychallenges which really helps me to keep working and going at it. I am going to continue to decorate and make more pottery as the months go by. 
Honestly though - I must say that I wonder if I am wasting my time making these pieces. So much time goes into each piece - especially with the hand painting of each design. Here are some of the things that go through my head as I paint......
• OMG - is anyone actually going to have any money to purchase this stuff during/after this Pandemic? Will the world go into a financial depression like the early 1900's? Will history repeat itself? 
• How relevant is my art and life considering that people are sick and dying in massive numbers all over the world?
• If people aren't interested in my pottery, what am I going to do to make a living? How am I going to replace that income? 
• Chances are I will not be able to have a Holiday Open House next December. 
• In these days of mass-produced junk, does anyone appreciate the one-off handmade object d'art that costs way more than a $3 mug at Target that is designed by some hip young thing or even Liberty of London. 

As you can see, I have lots of doubts and insecurities about my art. I think most artists do. Do you? I also think that the Pandemic is causing so many folks to reassess their lives and what they want out of them and where they will go next. This is a natural thing to do in times like these. I think back to other difficult times in our history - 9/11/2001, the financial meltdown of 2008. Those times shaped so many people's lives and futures. I worry about the young adults who are graduating college with huge student loan debt. Where will there be jobs? How will they pay back the loans they took out to make a better life? I think about all the small colleges throughout the USA - how are they going to keep their doors open if students don't enroll? Where will all those people find work who have been employed by those institutions? I worry about the different people in the USA and all over the world living in densely populated areas who can't get proper medical care. Oh gee, it all is just so much to take in and process. 

I know how fortunate I am to be able to walk out my door without a mask on.... to gather eggs from my chickens and eat one for breakfast, lunch and dinner.... to be able to stack wood for a fire that will keep us warm next winter..... to have a space to plant a garden to reap food and flowers and beauty from. How fortunate am I to be living in quarantine with two people I love and enjoy their company? How lucky I am that no one in our extended family has fallen ill yet?  

Through all of the thoughts, somehow, I keep making and painting the pots. Although it is not the road to riches, it is where I am now in my creativity and design life. I can spend hours lost in the colors and the patterns and the shapes and the object. I think about pots to come, patterns to come, ideas to try. It's easy for me to think about those things - it is how my brain works. It isn't as easy to think about how I am going to sell the output though.

So those are my thoughts for today. Check to see more pots tomorrow over on my website. As always, I appreciate your support of my work and life - whether financially or spiritually through your comments and through your reading. 

I hope you all are well and safe and enjoying the new spring color. 

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Hello There!

I wrote this a week or so ago and forgot to post it!

...... So today it is close to the end of April 2020. I have only posted once this month. When the whole coronavirus thing started happening, I thought I would post a whole bunch. But then something happened. Nothing bad. Noone in my family is ill - thank goodnes. But something shifted in my inner self. I wasn't aware of it until now when I sat down to write this post. All the fear of the unknown and the illness spreading got to me. I hunkered down with my little family and watched the world around us. I was obsessed with the news and that took up a lot of energy. I decided not to write on this blog and turned a bit inward. I think a lot of folks may be having the same experience. I've baked a little bit but I have been all about the cooking and taking care of the family with generous meals. Lots and lots of soups, a nice leg of lamb for Easter, and lots of eggs and comfort food. My chickens are laying like crazy and there have been popovers a couple times. I need to make a Dutch Baby - I will admit - I never have. 

I feel so fortunate that I have a little family to spend the quarantine with. And lovely cats, dogs, chickens and sheep. Here's Daisy in front of the fire I built one afternoon. 

The weather started to change a little and spring began coming on. It has been a very chilly April. The daffodils have been blooming and lasting a very long time with the very cold nights and some rainy days. We've had a couple fires in the giant fireplace and the cats love that. We have a bunch of wood that is starting to go punky and it's either burn it or let it rot in the woods. The furnace has still been running. 

The grass is slow to start growing. My Farmer has been fencing areas for the sheep to move into. It's a huge job and slow going but he is getting it done. He's doing so much better than the past few years - he's able to move around without pain and is even able to do some chainsaw work which he hasn't been up to for quite some time. For the past 3 weeks, we have been moving sheep out onto the pastures. It's nice to see some life in the fields outside our farmhouse. 

The ewes that are moving from the barn to the fields are those who lambed back in January and February. Their lambs are 90 to 120 days old so they will keep growing without the milk from their mamas. We still have many ewes that need to stay with their lambs because they aren't old enough. In time, they too will be moved onto fields and the lambs will be weaned. 

The rest of the time that has passed this month, I've spent keeping in touch with family and friends. I think at times like this - not that there has ever been a time like this in my lifetime - it's normal to start thinking about old friends and family. We have figured out Zoom and have been having Sunday afternoon chats to catch up. It's not the same as being in person but it is helping us keep connected. My Mom is sequestered and is safe and healthy but she is going stir crazy not being able to see anyone. I wish she had more digital skills because that would be a good distraction for her but she doesn't and no matter how many times we show her, she doesn't get it. 

I've been obsessed with my ceramics and been painting up a storm. I had a lot of leftover thrown and slab pieces that I made last year that I didn't have a chance to decorate. It has been a perfect way to spend a quarantine lost in my patterns and colors. My kiln is firing a bisque load right now and I'm hoping to get everything glazed this week and to photograph and load the pieces onto my website to sell. I'm wondering if there will be any market for my handmade pottery as so many people have lost their jobs. Is it all for naught? I don't know but it is keeping me sane so I keep painting. 

The whole coronavirus thing is such a crisis for people's health and for their livelihoods. I wonder what the world and society will be like when we come out the other side. Will it be like 9/11 when so many people fled cities and changed their lives? Will the virus keep going round and round? How will people feed themselves? What will cities and small towns be like? I worry and think a lot about people I do not know who have lost their loved ones. It's all a whole bunch to take in and digest and I think we will be doing it for years. 

In the evenings I sit and make crochet hexagon after crochet hexagon. It is soothing and mindless and therapeutic. I had better start sewing them together because the pile is getting enormous. I think I have enough for another large afghan. I'll call it the Corona Afghan. Maybe you have made a Corona Afghan too. 

I've looked over and over and over at the image of the coronavirus. I'm a bit captivated by the spikes and the colors and the orbs. 

I've been selling a lot of my crewel wool and embroidery supplies.  It seems people are like me and finding solace in stitching. I need to start another crewel project. Our governor has just extended the Massachusetts shutdown until May 18th. That gives me some more time to get more done. 

The Farmers Market that we do has not opened and it doesn't look like it will for a while. Measures are being taken to make sure everyone is safe - both vendors and customers. On the other hand, we have been selling a whole lot of our farm-raised lamb. People have been coming by appointment to the farm and I do the mask and glove thing. We are almost out of lamb but there is more coming very soon. I keep wondering how long this interest in farm-raised meat will last. 

I hope you and yours are safe and healthy. Thinking of you all. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Life, IGTV and Back at My Pottery

We are getting into the swing of isolation here at the farm. To tell you the truth, for The Farmer and me, it isn't a lot different than normal. We don't see many people during the day - maybe a wave hello to a neighbor or the UPS guy but we normally don't see or talk to many folks. Julia on the other hand is missing her friends at the community college she goes to. She's trying to keep in touch with them via FB and texting which seems to be a full-time job for her. I don't miss doing the drive to the school one bit and am finding I have much more time in my day. 

I've been FaceTiming with Mom who is in her mid-80's. I've been calling her from the barn when I'm done helping out and she has loved seeing the sheep and the new babies and learning about what goes on. It went so easy with her that I decided to try an Instagram TV video. It's 4 minutes long or so and YOU CAN WATCH IT HERE if you are interested. I may try to do another one of these. You can follow me on Instagram HERE. I love this platform and I think it is a real help in these times. Lots of bloggers from the old days are starting to do Instagram TV videos so check them out if you are trying to distract yourself from the news. Here are a couple folks I have enjoyed videos from:

Food Blogger David Lebovitz has been making cocktails
Block Printer Molly Mahon has been demoing potato printing
Melissa Weiss has a making pottery series

These links go to their Instagram pages. If you are looking at a computer, you will find a small little logo above above their feed which takes you to their IGTV channel. Or you can see in their feed the same logo on each little box which will let you watch the video. 

If you find any IGTV channels you think I might like, let me know. 

I'm back at my ceramics. Just before the State of Massachusetts closed down, I ordered 750 pounds of clay thinking that the supplier would be closed down and I wouldn't get it til who knows when. Surprise! The supplier also has a medical supply biz so my clay arrived in 2 days which meant I had to move 750 pounds of clay TWICE - to my car and then into the living room. I was wonder if I could do it because that's a lot of weight for me to move but I did it. Now to get my throwing muscles back again!

Here are some photos of the recent decorating I have done on pieces that were already thrown. I have a lot more pieces thrown that I need to get painted. 

Stacking it up on my bookcase:

Today's platter project. Each color needs to be painted three times to get nice bright colors.

The start of a big bowl decoration...... I used to just wing it and paint. Back in December, I decided to try to pre-plan each piece by sketching out what I was going to paint. The pencil lines will disappear when the piece is fired in the kiln. 

Here is is finished:

Stay safe everyone. Stay home. Stay healthy. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Kittens and Cats and Girls

Our litter of beautiful kittens has all moved on to their new homes. In this difficult and unpredictable time we are living in, these kittens are a welcome diversion and loving addition to the four families that have brought them into their homes and lives. Here is a photo of our neighbor Debbie who adopted one of the kittens to be a sister to her cat Hamish (who came from a litter last summer). Her name is Greta and I saw her today outside watching Debbie rake and Hamish chase leaves. So nice we will be able to see her frequently. Greta is filling a void in Debbie's family's life as their old dog Blue just passed away. So glad we could help.

I must admit, I was not much of a cat lover as a kid. My family always had a dog and it had primo status in the eyes of the family. Mostly I think this was the case because neither my Mom or Dad had grown up with cats. We did have a cat that my sister Lynn brought home one day and after many days of begging, my parents let the cat -- which we named Tabby -- stay. I was always a little fearful of Tabby because of her claws. (What did I know?) Tabby lived to be 23. When she passed away, the mice moved into our house and they have been there ever since. 

I never fully understood the psyche or beauty of cats until we adopted our first cat when we moved into our first house. Her name was Sophie and she was a beautiful brownish grey tortoiseshell cat. 

Sophie wasn't particularly loving and she had a real mind of her own. She frequently stayed out all night hunting and I had to get over the fact that I couldn't control her like I could do with our dogs. Once I got used to having a cat, I wanted another who might be more friendly and sweet. One of my co-workers had a litter of kittens with double paws. Willie was a funny guy but he loved his cats more than life. I asked if I could adopt one of his kittens and he said okay. Madeline was a beautiful tuxedo cat who was actually a Mister so we called him Mr. Madeline. He was a real love and sweetheart of a big boy.  

The Farmer was always a cat lover and his tales of Stubby the cat who had her own stool at the family's table was one of the things that endeared him to me in the beginning. How couldn't you like a family who let the cat sit next to them at dinner? 

Since we have lived at this farm, we have had many cats. Ours are indoor outdoor cats who we count on to help with the vermin. All of them have their own personalities and quirks. 

As a little thing, Julia was always attracted to our cats. I think because of her early motor delays, cats were easier for her to hold and not nearly as jumpy as a Border Collie who could knock her down so easily. There she is with one of her kittens Zoe Sophia. 

Our first Mama Cat was Vera (shown in the painting I did of her above). She was the Mama of Charlie who just passed away last year at 18. That's Charlie and Julia in the photo (by Rikki Snyder) below. 

The Farmer came home one day many years ago and told me that one of our neighbors had a litter of kittens and there was a beautiful medium haired calico. Me, being a color person, I had always wanted a colorful tri-color cat. He knew that. We went to see the kitten but she was spoken for. I put my name on the list if there were ever any more like her. Marilyn called us a couple months later and told us the home had fallen through and if we wanted her, we could have her. She had named her Lily Pons after the opera singer because the kitten was very vocal and loud. 

Lily Pons was a wild one with super intelligent cat instincts. She was a great hunter and would disappear for weeks at a time and I would worry. She would eventually come home and all would be fine. She was a great mama and raised many beautiful kittens. We still have two of her kittens - Tommy and Mittens - who are quite old now. Rosie who is the mama of the current litter is the great grand daughter of Lily Pons. Obviously cat genealogy is a thing here. 

With this latest litter, I thought it would be fun to photograph each of the adoptive families with their kittens. I got as far as two families and then the virus interrupted and I forgot about the task at hand. 

Our friends from Northampton have had their names on the kitten list for several months. The two little girls were so excited when Julia told them their kittens had been born. They came one day - the whole family in kitten headbands. Each girl picked out her own kitten when they were very small. There was such anticipation in their household for their new kitties. They visited once more to see the kittens in a new growth stage. The weeks went by. I think the girls thought the day would never come. 

The two girls had hand drawn kitten count-down calendars in their rooms and sent us photos as the days were X-ed off. They named them Sparky and Jade. As the days counted down, I got more pictures. Here is the series. Can you see the anticipation and excitement building? 

THE DAY FINALLY ARRIVED as you can see in the picture above. I love children's art and was so happy when Laz gifted me with her pictures. 

Here's a photo of Julia with two of our current cats Daisy and Charlotte and Laz and Simone with their new kittens. Precious, aren't they all? Kitten girls for life. Hopefully we will get to see the kittens as they grow up. We know they will all be loved in their 4 new homes. Thanks everyone for putting up with the cat stories. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Paul's Moroccan Fedora

Melissa is a longtime friend of mine from New Jersey. She now lives in Maine with her husband Paul. They are both musicians. Melissa's Mom Peggy (now in her late 80's) is a dear friend of mine. For years, she knit many samples for the different leaflets and books. Here's a photo of Julia, Mom and Peggy taken here at our farm back in 2006 when this blog was rather newish.  

Not many years ago, Paul taught himself to knit and he is really killing it these days. He is a pianist and I'm thinking those talented fingers were just itching to learn to knit. He sent me photos of his granddaughter wearing one of the hats he made from my Moroccan Fedora pattern. He kindly has let me share them here on the blog. 

Isn't she the cutest? The yarn Paul used is Malabrigo and he said it was the worsted weight. Here is the top of the hat. 

Now he is working on another project from the World Knits Collection. Can't wait to see how that turns out. Well done Paul! 

If you have made any projects from the World Knits Collection, I would love to see what you have done. You can send them to me via email or facebook. 

You can purchase the Moroccan Fedora Pattern here on Ravelry or on my website here. Thanks so much Paul for sharing. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Spring Snow and Beau

It's officially spring and Monday afternoon into the evening, we got a good 7 inches of spring snow. It is supposed to warm up some this week so I am hoping it will melt. We haven't had much snow this past winter and the moisture is much needed. Good thing those frogs didn't lay their eggs because the little pond is frozen again. Here are some pretty photos from the day after the storm. 

Here's Beau - one of our two Great Pyrenees Guard Dogs. Isn't he a handsome boy? He and his sister Sadie are quite camera shy but I got this nice photo of him in the snow. Both of them sleep outdoors and they have the thickest, long coats now. When it got warm for a few days, they were really minding the heat. I get them sheared usually in April or May because they really hate the heat. Hopefully I will be able to get an appointment for them. When their coats are removed, they look like Yellow Labs. 

If you haven't seen this, check it out. Pluto (a Schnauzer from Canada) has a YouTube channel HERE and it sure is a good diversion. 

Hope you are all surviving and are well. Thinking of you all. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Farmer + Sheep + Lamb

Here's my Farmer working hard feeding hay to the sheep and lambs in the pole barn. This is a never ending job two to three times a day. It's good he doesn't mind repetition because this is a daily physical grind. 

Here are some more lamb and sheep photos from the barn. Lambs in all sizes!

I put up a second post earlier today with more process photos of my Knitted Farm Project from my World Knits PDF Collection's Ethnic Gift Collection. Check it out if you are interested in watching the progress. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Knitted Farm Progress

Last week, I shared the progress on my knitted Farmer and then told you about how he disappeared. After then re-knitting another farmer, the first knitted Farmer miraculously reappeared this week. So now there are two knitted Farmers. 

I've been knitting the animals for the Knitted Farm from the Ethnic Gift Collection PDF Pattern. Here are some process shots. In each photo, you can see all the pieces that need to be knit. The projects are done on double pointed needles. Once you get the hang of them, they are actually quite fun to work with. 

I used a worsted weight yarn but it doesn't matter what weight you use. The heavier the yarn, the bigger your Farm.

Here is the pig. 

Here is the sheep. It is the same as the pig but it is turned inside out part way through so the purl bumps simulate the texture of wool. 

Here is the cow. It is about twice as big as the sheep and pig. 

I spent an evening stuffing and sewing them together. Here's how the whole set looks right now. 

If you want to give these a try, you can purchase the pattern on my website HERE or on Ravelry HERE. It also includes a Christmas Stocking, Teddy Bear Sweater and a dog sweater. 

LIfe Goes On - Lambs Still Coming

It's a very foggy day here in western Massachusetts but it is supposed to be a nice sunny weekend. The geraniums I overwintered in my studio are starting to look more lively and beginning to put out blooms. I took a walk down into our pastures to check on the grass growth (nothing yet - still rather brown) and what life is there. The dogs loved it. My big takeaway was the lack of moisture in the fields. Usually I have to avoid certain places when I don't have boots on but not yesterday. Must be the lack of heavy snow this year. 

One of the things I look forward to so much in the spring is discovering the frog's eggs in the little ponds that the sheep drink out of during the summer. Each time I walk in the field, I wonder if they have been laid yet. Julia thinks I am nuts and has no interest in looking for frog spawn so I do it by myself. No spawn yet.

Yesterday I joined two conference calls with CISA, our local agriculture support organization which supports local food and farming. It was good to hear other voices and listen to how other farmers in our area are dealing with the Covid-19 situation. It's all a little overwhelming and there is so much uncertainty in every community throughout the world. The farming community is creative and good at boot strapping. Today, we are writing our legislators to let our voices be heard because honestly, our farm and family needs the farmers markets to open this year - once it is safe for customers and vendors. It's all very early and we will see how it will play out. Every day, I think of another way this crisis is effecting our country and world. I try not to think too much about it but I can't help it. 

Yesterday, I got back in my pottery studio and did some pottery decoration. I have a lot of already made pots to decorate and need to get busy with it. I turn on NEPR and listen to classical music all day long. If you like classical music, you can stream it here. They just started doing news updates at 10, noon, and 2. Before that, I didn't have to listen to what was going on in the world which was a bit of a respite to the news. 

Here are some photos of the sheep and lambs for you all. Enjoy. I'll be back with another update tomorrow.  Isn't this the sweetest brand new lamb?

Pottery, Digital Divide + Interesting Videos

Two vases - one from 2019 and one from 1997 Thank you so much everyone for the support of my ceramics. On Thursday, I added 32 new piece...