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Aging gracefully (mostly)

This is the girl that claimed aging would not matter to her. Easy for her! (The picture was taken by a friend twenty years ago because my “new boyfriend” Alan asked for a picture and I didn’t have any. The lipstick was a rarity then; it simply doesn’t happen now!)

I was encouraged by my friend Joan’s post about aging a few days ago. It is always comforting to know that you aren’t alone.

I always told myself I would accept aging gracefully. This seemed like an easy enough claim to make, since I’ve never cared much about looks. My approach to personal appearance would be more accurately described as “try remember there is a line between being low maintenance and being a slob.” Like my friend Sarah, paint- and mud-covered studio clothes and flip flops are my normal attire.

Obviously this meant that when I started graying, I would simply be gray. Of course it helped that my image of “gray” was formed by the way my mother’s lovely true-black hair turned a cold-toned salt-and-pepper. What I didn’t bargain for was a white streak appearing right at the natural part in my hair. Despite the young people in my life insisting that this was trendy and cool, all my mental images of dark hair with a white stripe are distinctly negative. I would have been okay looking older… looking old even. But I wasn’t cool with looking like I should be kidnapping some nice young couple’s Dalmation puppies. So like Joan, I found a talented colorist.

That may have been a blow to theory about aging, but the really difficult part has been accepting the increasing loss of my sight. I have always been near-sighted, of course. It was pretty moderate when I was younger, so I only occasionally wore glasses. As my husband used to say, we wore glasses when we really needed to see, and didn’t when we need to be seen. (I should note that he does have some personal vanity.) Over time that changed to “not seeing much without them” and then to “needs glasses not to trip over things”. Still, through it all my near vision was fine, which was for me all that really mattered.

In recent years, the near vision has started to go, too. When this changed Joan’s ability to work on small-scale horses a few years back, my husband (an optical physicist) helpfully explained why it was inevitable. I chose to disbelieve him.

But working on Vixen and especially Imp, I know my days doing really small horses are numbered. Ott lights and lenses for close-up work are working for now, but I know that consistently working small is probably not in my future. Even now I can only work on them for a while before my eyes simply stop focusing that close. I don’t plan to stop releasing mini-scale pieces. (I’m still dying to produce Sarah’s upcoming stock horse stallion!) It is still my favorite scale, and I will keep working on small horses for as long as I can. But it is likely that the upcoming Elsie and Oliver will mark a turning point at the studio, with a greater number of larger-scale pieces being released.

If only reversing aging eyes was as easy as changing hair color!

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Wrapping up and moving on

I was able to reach my goal of wrapping up the “Inspire” project before the start of the new (work) year. With luck they might even reach their destination before January 6, which is the twelfth day of Christmas. Each year I cut it closer and closer, which makes me think I need to give in and just say I send Valentine’s gifts!

I did learn quite a bit, which is one of the benefits of doing these kinds of projects. This was, for instance, the first time I had used a spray gun to apply an art glaze. That was one of the benefits of having the new spray booth. It certainly is faster than using sponges, which was how they were done before. What I didn’t count on was the waste involved due to overspray. I had mixed a teal glaze (to the left in the picture above) that I wanted to use for all 25 tiles, only to run out half way through. I didn’t want to delay things with a wait for more glaze, so I did the other half in a true green. Next time I’ll know to mix a much larger batch for this kind of application.

I still have more plans for “Inspire”, including the original purpose as a trading card. But working on those will be more like working on regular horses, since the materials are the same. After weeks of looking at teal and green, I’m ready to return to the world of silver dapple leopards and chestnut roan sabinos.

That meant cleaning up the studio, which had slowly been trashed by each step in the process of making the tiles. It reminded me that I wanted to do a more serious reorganization of my work space later this spring. Ten years of ceramic work is starting to show in the accumulation of mostly-worn molds, not-really-moist-anymore clays and glazes of questionable attractiveness.

I look at these shelves and remember telling Joan, back when I started, that I had no real interest in making my own molds.

These are the other things I’ve accumulated. The bottle to the right holds all my spent #11 blades. I started tossing them in the glass bottle thinking that it was a good way to dispose of them once it was full. I have no idea how many blades are in there, but it is 2.5 lbs worth of Xactos. Two and a half pounds of scritching! I guess it’s safe to say I’m not inclined to developing carpal tunnel.

The second container holds all the used bars from my kiln. Each on represents a separate firing. It stopped being representative of all the firings done in the studio when I added the smaller test kiln, since it uses a Bartlett controller instead of cones. That’s the kiln I use for most of my bisque firings, so it gets a lot more use than the big one. Still it’s a fun reminder of how much use the kilns have gotten since I set up the ceramic shop. I have always thought that once it was full, I’d hold a guessing jar contest. That might be a ways off, though, since I’ve only managed to get it 3/4 full in ten years.

But massive studio reorganizations will have to wait until spring. For now I am just happy to have my countertops back.

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