Thursday
Mar102016

The Mad Potter (of Biloxi)

And Toshiko Too!

George Ohr, a potter, a showman, and a veritable huckster, is finally getting the recognition that is his due. And he saw it coming, prepared for it coming, and even had Frank Gehry build the ark. And the flood called Katrina almost sunk the ship, landing a floating casino right in the front yard of the museum complex. Fortunately, no pots were lost.

Phew!

George Ohr, "the greatest art potter who ever lived", archived his lifes work with the instructions that it not be sold until 50 years after his death. When the 6000 pieces of his artwork were finally "re-discovered" in the 1970's (his family HAD mothballed them!) it was obvious to collectors that for the period he working, he was absolutedly NOT mad, but incredibly gifted instead.

The museum is nestled in a sweet live oak grove, and Gehry created pods to showcase the pots that "dance with the trees. It was really a special environment to be standing in.

A word about the sponsor...the O'Keefe family, who made their fortunes burying the dead, set aside the financial resources for the museum, with a lot of help more recently by the casino industry.

At the time of our visit, there was also a pretty incredible display of the pottery forms by Toshiko Takaezu. I knew a potter who knew a potter who knew her. Or my teacher was her student sort of thing. I have to confess that I had failed to appreciate her talent, her time, her pots, but both Howard and I were captivated with them at the O'Keefe, and that has everything to do with how they were displayed...which was in groups, and outside of the glass cases.

So, if you find yourself down Biloxi way, and do not gamble, there are other ways there to spend your time. Plenty of fresh seafood to go around.

Saturday
Jan162016

Tam Tam of "A Certain Age"

When I was a young woman, living in Middlebury Vermont, two very generous women gave me a badly needed job. One was Dorothy Walsh, who owned and operated the quilt store on Main Street, and the other was Janet Higby who ran the leather goods/wool shop next to the Alibi. You remember the Alibi, right?? Long before Middlebury became so gentrified!

Working part time between my studio on Frog Alley, I ran between there, the Alibi, and Main Street. My apartment was up the hill, and for four wonderful years, this was my little world. Me, my bike, and I.

During my hours at Carob Creek Wools and the Otter Creek Quilt Shop, I would knit samples for the store. And thanks to the wonderful Vermont Book Store just up the street, I was able to bone up on knitting history, beccoming especially fond of the English and European traditional techniques of stick knotting. This included Latvian mittens, English Guernseys, Fair Isle vests and sweaters, and Aran twists and turns. My favorites were the Fair Isles.

The knitting store turned out to be a haven for young mothers who needed a few hours to get out of the house while the kids were at school, and I recall them coming in to knit under the pretext of needing a mini lesson to get onto the next set of directions. But two women came in month or so, to restock their wool stashes, and neither of them needed one bit of help from me! They both worked at the book store, and one we all called "Mrs. Potter" and the other was Janet, whose last name I can not remember.

Mrs. Potter's specialty was hand made Swedish mittens, in the pole design, which she made for everyone who worked there. I thought sometime, when I go older, I would learn how to make them.

Another very dear Vermont knitter made these for me, thank you Jan-0...aka Jan Lyons who also knits for the Folk Life Center in Middlebury! For those of you who want to learn how to knit these beauties all by themselves, you will find the most delighful patterns in this book!

But it was Janet's Tams that were the envy of all of us. I am pretty sure she sold them, but they would have been out of my price range at the time, so I bought the book on how to make them, by Mary Rowe instead, thinking, "Some day, when I am older, and have more time on my hands, I will tackle TAMS."

That older time came, much to my surprise, in the village of Mahone Bay, in Nova Scotia, this summer. I took my mom and sister up on a rug hooking journey, and came home with Jamisons Shetland Wool instead. The yarn store is called "Have a Yarn" and we knitters know that what makes a knit shop wonderful is the SAMPLES that they have made from the yarns they are selling. "Have a Yarn" is one of those places.

And on the side wall of the shop, there the sample was. The tam. The tam tam. And a whole wonderful wall of Jamisons Shetland Wool in every color under the sun to make it in. But why bother choosing? The tam on display was just the one I wanted to make. Ha! I even bought the sample book of Jamisons to order the wool to make a million more!

The Mary Rowe books are both quite good if you want to experiment on making your own color plans and pattern designs. Mary thinks Heptagrams are the best as they appear to be most circular, but the pattern I purchased to make my first few from has 8 points.

One for me, one for Howard. We are now of course, at that certain age.

Saturday
Jan022016

Rose of Sharon Wedding Rug 

For the last twenty years that I have been hooking rugs, my three sons have made fun of me for my interest in this traditional craft. They felt it was "Old Ladies Work", and thought that I was way too young to be sitting on my butt doing this work. They have even gone through the house to COUNT the rugs that I have put on the floor.

Well, one of them came crawling back this fall, or rather he sent his gal pal ANNA to ask me if they might have a rug or two for their new home together. Funny how hand hook rugs are so desired when that nesting instinct kicks in! Must be the cozy texture, the adaptive motifs, (whether geometric, floral, or scape), that these love birds are so attracted to, because THEN I was asked by both of them to make a rug for their living room...to match their couch! Ha!

And what better pattern (after much debate and negotiation) than The Rose of Sharon, as the two aformentioned lovebirds, Asa and Anna, are getting married! Hurrah for love.

The Rose of Sharon first appears in the old testement, and actually refers to a wild tulip that even today grows on the plains of Sharon in Palestine. When the Bible was translated into English, the word "rose" was used.

The Rose of Sharon pattern occurs in many permutations in quilting blocks, and is usually made for as a wedding quilt, as the pattern came to represent romantic love and the sacrament of marriage. Here is a sweet quilt pulled off the internet, done in an "applique style", each block a variation on the Rose of Sharon theme.

The rug pattern I chose, however, plays with the layout to form an eight pointed star, which has an Islamic influence in the layout.....

.....which can be seen clearly here in this Islamic tiling! Isn't art history great!

The lovebirds chose a black background, and a tetradic color scheme with rust and turquoise being dominant colors. These two colors dictated the yellow green and pinchy splash of ochid in the radial buds. I did have to use the color wheel to confirm this addition of orchid, as the color plan was looking a bit flat.

I may have to remove the yellow from the large rose, but it will take me a while before I am forced to resolve it!

And that incentive, of having to unhook, create new soloutions to color planning, is what keeps pushing me along on this rather large rug (4' x 6'). It is an 8 cut, which allows for a good bit of color play, and I and having fun with the radial buds, and with the diamond lozenges between the Rose tiling. Anna and Asa may not like the jelly bean quality of them as is, but I will wait to see them so that they can have some input.

The rug will be my winter's work, and as it is a pattern I have hankered to do for many years, that makes the outcome satisfying. I do love floral geometrics!