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What's Next? Then What? What's New?



 What's Next ? Then What? What's New?

Always thinking about the "What is Next", and consider that ones creative meander involves periodic reviews of that which has been of interest, but not yet fully explored. Aged now 61, and counting down.

This last season permission to "get on" with next came from unexpected rejection. Having applied again to several regional shows that have always been accepted my majolica work, the work this year was not invited. Most rejection notes are pretty standard (many qualitied artists, so few booths, etc.), but one of the shows offered the opportunity to read the jurors comments. I braved it.

Juror numer one remarked that "they wished that they were more in love with my patterns", and that the majolica work "looked like one could buy if from a department store". Ah, those were the days, weren't they, when Fioriware sold at the major department stores...Bloomingdales, Barney's, and Saks. I think however that this juror was thinking that the work looked like it was from Target, or perhaps Hobby Lobby. And they were right of course, as the Majolica technique of over glaze decoration widely available in those stores. But that work is made in China!

Another juror remarked, "You have been making the same work for over thirty years" (actually 35, but who is counting my decades of proficiency and mastery of this technique?) and that they "were expecting new work from me". This was an interesting comment, as it revealed that the jury member had been reading my Newsletter, and was aware that I had been working on "the new." No blind jury here! But it also brings to question the value of a body of work that is still useful, charming, made with purpose, and well made. But, in case you read this before Labor Day,  The Upper Arlington Craft Fair is a sweet little one day show, and even though I will not be there Howard will be with his basket work!

The positive reaction to this rejection was that I now had more time to devote to that which I had been squeezing in and around the redware production. I got to work on the new! Other than finishing my special orders for the summer months, I was able to enjoy the indulgent pleasure of exploring the unfinished, the uncovered, and the not yet discovered. What can I say, I have had a great spring and summer making new pots and tile!

First things first, a short circle back to when I was 22 years old and had the priveledge of finishing up my Undergrad degree at the University of Illinois, in Champaign-Urbana. One of the graduate students was Beth Starbuck. She and her husband Steven Goldner introduced our class to the "The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works", located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

I was able to complete an apprenticship program at the Mercer Pottery Tile Works a few years later and I am grateful that the experiencet is a gift that keeps on giving. A window into a world of mosaics and repeat tile patterns opened and is still bringing me inspiration decades later. In the insuing years my interest in tile has brought me to the Medieval Abbey's of England, Antonio Gaudi's Barcelona, and tile communities in Spain, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Mexico, India, the Netherlands and ZANESVILLE OHIO! Tiles have taken me half way around the world, and bring me back home to Souteastern Ohio. 

In May, on a trip east, I revisited Henry Mercers installation at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa, which was one of his first commissions. His charming folk art translations of early Pennsylvania life in tile are a testiment to his committment to the craft and to his execution of the motifs. The capitol is just off of turnpike, and is worth a visit.

Rooster Mosaic, Harrisburgh Capitol

I also visited the three National Historic Sites that Henry built in Doylestown; Fonthill, his home (floor to ceiling tiles),Fonthill

Fonthill Interior

.....the Mercer Musem, which houses his collection of Early American tools of the trade,...The "Tool" Museum

Mercer Musem Interior

...and the Tile Works, (sadly the behive coal kilns no longer being fired).

The Tile Works

I had a fabulous time. Have I mentioned that I named my youngest son "Henry"?

Henry Henry Henry

Then.....I went home, and got busy making my own tile. I developed a new line of polychomes and stoneware glazes, and after some considerate trial and error, achieved some very satisfactory results. I also rcognized that the carving of the tile was mimicking my winter's work...leftist block prints in pink!

Piggy TileHouse Tile

What then.......oh! Summer Art Camp! Four weeks of fiber, clay, paper, printing, and book binding with a dozen or more kids in my community. A pleasure as well to mentor the talented and cheerful Jennifer Crane who played the role of assistant.

What next? Great Open House here beginning of July. Eli did a Farm to Table lunch, friends, neighbors and family all pitched in, everybody went home with the new tiles and pots, and a number of HP's baskets as well. It was a lovely day.


On to Vermont, near and dear to my heart, where family, friends, and the mountain, rocks and river are. The tile images merged into patterns that I have been wanting to hook for two years; smalls, fat with wool "worms" (the leftover woolen stips for all the other hooked projects). 35 years into this, full circle.

Best Day Ever

Piggy RugNats House

I volunteered at Zeno Mountain Farm while I was there, an extraordinary residential camp. We made Ocarina's and printed the Playbill for the permance of "Television or Something". Loved hanging out there and participating with the community.


Nat and Jenissa

Thanks to the talented Liz Saslow and York Hill Pottery for firing the whistles and taking these two wonderful photographs. Nice to connect with you after all these years, Liz!

Then...Next. Scotland and England. Workation. That was August, and is another story, for Howard's blog! Looking forward to the fall output of tile, rugs, and baskets. The Upper Arlington girls will have to come here to see the "What's New"! Open House, November 4th.

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