There and Back Again: Some Mud and Fire.

Mirthful BannerBWarning! I don’t have a new recipe post for you today. But I hope you’ll stay, indulge me and read on. Yes, this is the answer post to the teaser at the end of the Spinach, Cheese and Phyllo Tart alluding to new adventures. It all started here:

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Many years ago, I decided to take a class in pottery at our local and very wonderful Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. I had taken one clay class in college and didn’t enjoy it, but thought perhaps my perspective might have changed after being out in the real world for a while, so I was willing to give it another go. Little could I have known then how deeply that decision would impact my life. It led to a love and pursuit of clay for 15 years, and the forging some life-long friendships along the way. And then strangely, in some ways it led me back to painting watercolors, then to gardening, then developing even more of an interest in food and cooking, and then to this blog.

I first approached clay because I thought it would be a fun way to provide some much needed physical and creative release from a pretty stressful business. Pounding clay is great therapy, and working sculpturally was a wonderful way to gain perspective on what I did every day in a more two-dimensional world.

Clay is dirt. Mud, in fact. No doubt about it. It’s primeval. It’s grounding. It’s been the material of choice for hand made vessels that have propelled humans from the stone age into the modern world, Vessels for the necessities of life and community, for food, water and storage. We still use it. We feel connected with the Earth and each other every time our hands touch it.

I became addicted to the medium and had the good fortune to be invited to work in the studios of some very talented professional potters who were first my teachers, and later became close friends. After a time, I stopped taking classes and joined some of those same potters in our own studio. During those years, I explored different ways to hand build, multiple firing techniques, and created both decorative and functional pieces. I particularly enjoyed building with coils, and I embraced an exposed coil style of handbuilding that I used for many years. I loved painting with bright commercial glazes and then Raku firing them, smoking the pieces to enhance the contrast between color and darkness, shiny and matte. I showed some work in local festivals and in our own studio shows. I had a blast. And then one day I stopped doing it completely.

Why did I leave it? The answer to that might be a book unto itself, because as we all know, interests and life take natural twists and turns.

Briefly, my sabbatical from clay was a time to explore…things that ended up, at least in my mind, being oddly related to clay in some form or another. Getting my hands into organic gardening and the organic and sustainable food movement, cooking my own food more frequently and creating new recipes, taking some time to paint watercolors, finding that I enjoy writing. But what I firmly do believe about our existence in this world is that we are, inexorably, pulled towards—or back to—the things we are meant to do. And resistance is futile. So now, 10 years later, I’m embracing clay once more. And I’m so excited about it that I wanted to share!

Don’t worry. I’m not changing anything…I’m still a professional graphic designer, I still love cooking and blogging about food, and will still be doing and enjoying those things. But I know now it’s time to return to clay because I love it, too, and I’ve really missed it.

So how on earth does all this talk of clay tie into this food blog? The premise of this blog is: Bits and Breadcrumbs: Where all trails lead to good food. Some of you may remember a post I did year before last. It was the holiday season and I mentioned some fellow artists and showed you their postcards for their holiday shows and sales. I also mentioned my Arty Artichoke Dip that I used to make sometimes for our grand pot luck Raku events at Callanwolde, and also for our studio shows when I was a potter. Those pot lucks and the signature dishes that showed up there were famous—and still are—so you’ll be hearing more about them in the future. See? Trails to more good food via clay. Food and art have always gone together, and every opening I go to seems to also be a big food event as well as a showcase for the art. After all, the term “starving artist” has more than one meaning!

Additionally, some of the comments I received on that same post were requests to see some of my work, but at that time, I didn’t have anything shot in a digital format since I hadn’t been working in clay for so long. In truth, much of my work from those years now resides in other people’s personal collections, and my only reference is still in slide form. But I do happen to have an inventory of the pieces left from my last studio show that I have now shot. So…..drum roll, please. I introduce you to my other persona: Mirthful Mudslinger.

All the images you see here today were hand built by me, and are currently featured items on my new Etsy store. These items are decorative and decoratively functional, and I think you’ll find them interesting. What I really hope is that you’ll stay tuned for the new work, which will be coming very shortly. I have lots of ideas I want to explore, and there will definitely be some food-related and food-safe pieces, too. See that clay-food connection?

After today’s post, I may occasionally interrupt this cooking broadcast to update you with new work I think you might like to see, directing you to my Etsy gallery which you can find right now by clicking here: Mirthful Mudslinger I’d also really, really love it if you’d take a moment to “Like” Mirthful Mudslinger on Facebook by clicking here and then the “like” button on the page, which will provide you with a quicker way to see the new work as soon as it’s uploaded to the store, if you follow Facebook.

And that’s my new adventure, folks! Thanks for reading this long post. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s little foray into another direction, and look for me to be back to our regular programming on the next post! Hopefully by then I will have made my new Spring header, too. Meanwhile, may you have a truly Mirthful day!

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Note: If you live in the Atlanta metro area there are 3 wonderful resources in which to explore the world of clay on a community level. Check out Callanwolde Fine Arts Center-my alma mater, so to speak, and where I know the fine clay studio director and a good many of the equally fine current instructors, with classes in handbuilding and throwing, assistantships, and many firing options including electric, gas, salt, soda and Raku; Abernathy Arts Center-great instructors, handbuilding and throwing classes with multiple firing methods available including Raku; MudFire-an open clay studio facility by membership with a gallery, also has many firing options including electric, gas and Raku.

If you are interested in purchasing any items seen here and reside in the U.S., please go to the Etsy store at the link above. If you live outside the U.S. and are interested in purchasing an item shown here or on Etsy, please contact me directly. I am currently not shipping outside the U.S. via Etsy.

CATS

Terracotta Tabby Cat Raku Mask

Terracotta Tabby Cat

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Blue Tabby Cat

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Dogs

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Small Puppy Dog No. 1

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Big Blue Dog No. 2

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Pigs

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Pink Piggy No. 1

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Spotted Trotter

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Pink Piggy No. 2

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Fish

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Big Tuna

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Tile Trivets

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Teal and Sand Trivet

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Pink and Terracotta Trivet Pair

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Pink and Sand Raku Trivet

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Seafoam and Sand Trivet Pair

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33 thoughts on “There and Back Again: Some Mud and Fire.

  1. You’re so creative so it’s a great thing you’re getting back into pottery. I love the tuna fish. I’ve given you a like on FB and will look forward to seeing more of your work xx

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  2. I used to love working with clay when I was little, and I always wanted to get into pottery but I had to choose between my other activities and pottery didn’t make it for me. But your pottery is absolutely wonderful. The colors you’re using as well is amazing.

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    • Thank you Kay! It is really hard to make time for all the things you want to do in life. As I grow older, I realize there is no time like the present to “work” these things in. Hopefully I will have a long time to work in clay this stint, but you never know what tomorrow holds, so I’m glad to be doing it today. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much, Norma. What a lovely compliment! I think this is one of those things where success is in the expression, and I certainly plan to have some fun this go around expressing myself! 🙂 Really, I do so appreciate your supportive comment.

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  3. Betsy, your work is beautiful. I adore your fish and your tiles and it is so nice to see some of your artistic talent shine through. You should start bringing some of these works into your dishes you make or at least as a backdrop for your photography. You actually make me long for some very dear times in my life in Japan. For only about a year I learned how to make under a Japanese pottery sensei and I learned so much and I have such a love for littles bowls, dishes, tea pots and sake containers. I find these items very dear to me as well. I hope you get back into this and enjoy your real passions. 15 years… wow I bet you have pottery everywhere in your home.

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    • Thank you Bobbi, you’re so kind to say that! And that’s a great idea to integrate the work into the dishes I make. I’m just beginning to explore food-functional work, and since I’m a handbuilder and do not throw, it takes some time. I’m having a blast so far, though. So did you throw when you were in Japan? How wonderful to have had some time studying there! I used to make very decorative teapots and have some ideas now for more functional ones. And yes, we do have a lot of pottery in this house, both my own and the work of others, which is why I opened the Etsy store to hopefully sell some and make way for the new! 🙂

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story with mud and fire Betsy. I love hearing passionate people like yourself talk about the things they love.
    Looking at your art work put a huge smile on my face. You are really talented and I can’t wai to see more of your beautiful creations.

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  5. I’m so excited for you! We had such a great time in the good ole days!!! Can’t wait to see the fruits of this current journey…as you know, I am lucky to live with your work every day! I highly recommend it!

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    • Oh, thank you dear one! I have to say that I am seriously missing you and Denise at Callanwolde. So strange to walk into that place and not have you, especially, there. Hope all is going well with you, Tim, doggies and the shows! 🙂

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  6. My life has taken turns much like yours. I feel so happy for you that you’ve gotten back into your pottery.. for I’ve quite cello, quite suddenly for a year and I’m terrified I’ll never go back.. and I don’t know why I’ve quite either?? Anyway.. back to you.. I’m so excited.. I’m going to etsy and I hope your trivets are still for sale, I’d love one!! I always think once someone is creative.. they can move from one creative pursuit to another quite easily, maybe it’s the courage gained from being successful in one area? xx Smidge

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    • Hi Barb, and first, thank you so very much for your wonderful words and good wishes. I think you are right in that when one is creative, you can move between things. I’ve been in business for myself for 24 years, and during that span have periodically reviewed, rebelled, adapted, renewed and rebooted in many iterations…and that was just graphic design and illustration. As time goes on, I find that it takes me a bit longer to get to that point of “going for it”, because of more responsibilities (and I don’t even have kids!), or perhaps it’s because I’m more fully realizing the potential of where my focus currently is or needs to be…waiting for balance. It’s all good. I never intended to go longer than 2-3 years without pottery, and look what happened! But I always knew I’d come back to it, and last year, dealing with health issues of those close to me, reminded me that you really do just have to go for it when you feel gathered, and, as my first pottery teacher always said: “Live with passion!” You’re so creative…the cello will be there for you when you’re ready! And meanwhile, I’m amazed at all you do so very well. 🙂

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        • I do enjoy graphic design, and especially love it when I’m in the midst of concepting a project and solving the marketing problem via the design. I do logos/brands, all kinds of printed collateral materials, illustration and some web work. The computer has changed the business so drastically from when I first started, that it really is a whole new world out there for graphic designers. You can see my work here if you want a better idea: http://graphitiinc.com/ I would recommend to anyone wanting to pursue it that you get a degree and learn the history and core principles of effective design, then the technology.

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  7. How exciting! I’m so happy for you Betsey. I too have been considering another artistic outlet, I just haven’t figured it out yet. Your pieces are beautiful, you must be so pleased to have it turn out so well; and how fortunate to be able to combine your two passions so beautifully. Congratulations.

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    • Hi Eva and I do so appreciate your kind words of encouragement and about my work. I’ve had many artistic outlets…some lead to others, but this one really has stuck with me. The pieces you see here were the result of quite a few years of working with clay. And now, though I haven’t forgotten how to do it, there is some catching up to do with the techniques. But the new ideas I have excite me, and give me lots of energy for all things creative in my life. So I highly encourage you to look to your community level of art education and just try some things. You absolutely never know where it will take you! 🙂

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  8. Wow Betsy, how cool are those? I used to love working with clay when I was a kid, in arts and crafts class. I really like the blue tabby especially, and those trivets are seriously nice. I’m so jealous of you for getting up and doing the work – all my life I’ve wanted to make a pot. Well… to try to at least… to mould it on one of those cool wheels, to bake it, glaze it… I really want to! One day I will… it’s just a question of finding the time and place where I can do it!

    Love the name by the way… mirthful mudslinger… haha!

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    • Hi Charles! I hope you do get to work in clay again some day. Yes, finding a place to do it is the key. We’re lucky to have so many options here, and I don’t have my own kiln because our old house wouldn’t like that at all, so I do have to fire at other places now that I no longer have a studio. As to making the time, that really is hard. In fact, this week has been so busy that I’ve only had one day to work on new pieces, but it will come. I realize now that you have to just make the time to do what you can and not worry too much about it. And of course, I don’t have kids! 😉 Thank you so much for your compliments on my work…and the name, I’m so glad you like it! 🙂

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