Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Down south again (in the nic of time!)

Our trip up north went by so quickly. We've been back in Asheville for 2 days now and it sounds like we "got the heck outta dodge" (aka Ohio) just in time!! Snow, ice, cold.......................WINTER!! It was nice to see a little of the white stuff, but today as I was walking around outside in my jean jacket enjoying the 52 degree temperature, I wasn't too upset about leaving Ohio when we did.

We had a great time visiting friends and family while we were there. I was so happy to spend some time with our kids and celebrate a late Christmas. It was also entertaining to watch the kids play some new wii games. I never realized how dangerou
s those games can be until Danny somehow managed to punch his own nose while participating in one of the Olympic Events. It was something like a combination of the shot-put and the discus throw and we were watching Danny's little wii-man on the TV, spinning around in circles before throwing his device when I heard a loud "THWACK!" Apparently Danny got a little carried away and somehow his nose got in the way of the wii control! Had to leave a mark. No blood though, thank goodness!! Only DanWray could manage to clean his own clock!

The most fun, though, was getting together with the whole WrayClan (sans Holly) and having our 3rd Annual Cookie Decorating Contest! I am posting the whole array of photos to my Picasa site, but will include a few with this blog entry.

I have to admit that even though I think the winning cookie was well-rendered, I am just a tad bitter about the judging since my cookie was not deemed a winner. As demonstrated last year by Steve's loss, the judges demonstrated a definite lack of knowledgeable appreciation towards those of us who like to add an "extra dimension" to our cookie decor
ating. Some of us just aren't satisfied with the flat, 2-dimensional bla-ness of "painting" icing on the cookie surface. No, we try to "think outside the box" and in essence "raise the bar" of the art of cookie decor. Apparently cookie decorating suffers from the same preconceived prejudices that exist in the arena of "fine art" where artists who work in 3-dimensional surfaces, such as POTTERY, are shunned by the conventional art elitists who only want to see one side of an object!! Apparently Steve was so psychologically wounded by last year's judging that he reverted back to traditional 2-D cookie decor. It has yet to be determined how far-reaching the repercussions of this year's judging will be!

So without further adieu, The 3rd Annual Wray Clan Cookie Decorating Contest..................

The line-up of entries...........

The Winning Entry and its creators...........

My entry.........

c'mon, it's a helicopter.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Headin' up north

The big plan is that we're heading north tomorrow to spend some time in Ohio with the family and celebrate a late Christmas. Hopefully we won't run into too much snow.

We'll drive as far as Lexington tomorrow night after my pottery class and spend the night at Danny's place, then we'll head for Ohio on Wed. We'll probably make a stop in Cincinnati to visit our friends who turned us on to geocaching, the ladies known to geocachers as the Flip/flop girlz.

I'm really looking forward to seeing family and friends. I'm sure it will go quickly 'cos we have visits scheduled for almost everyday! I want to hook up with my pottery buddies and visit Bear's Mill of course, then we want to visit our previous workamper bosses at the Richmond KOA and I hope I get to visit my pseudo-mom/neighbor form West Milton. Too many friends, too little time!

On Sunday we're going to get together with Steve's family for the 3rd Annual Cookie Decorating Contest. It will be our late Christmas celebration. I think it was Christmas 2006 that we somehow got started having a cookie decorating contest.It was originally an excuse to bake cookies for the youngest niece and nephew. Somehow, last Christmas Steve got in on it and designed and "built" a 3-D cookie that looked like a lunar lander. Unfortunately, in the voting process, Steve's lunar lander was not given what he deemed "proper recognition" and the grand champion honors went to our niece, Monica. (In my opinoin, she deserved the win!) However, Steve has been bitterly awaiting the contest this year for a re-match to redeem what he perceives as his stolen title. I can't even imagine what kind of creation he'll come up with, but I'll try to get some pictures to post.

Then, hopefully, we'll all play Peanuts (aka Nertz.) It's a Wray Family Christmas tradition!! It sounds like we might even get some snow! Hopefully we won't have to deal with it on our drive, but if it's bad we'll just have to take our time!

I'm sure looking forward to seeing everyone!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recent pottery pieces

I finally took some photographs of my second batch of work from Suze Lindsay's dlass. Some of the pieces were salt-fired, and others didn't make it into the salt kiln. We ran out of room, so I glazed some with Malcolm's Shino and they were fired in the gas kiln. The results were surprisingly similar to what came out of the salt-firing.

I've posted pictures of all the work on my picasa site. I've also uploaded pictures of the instructor, Terry Gess, doing demonstrations.

I came up with a pretty nifty method of utilizing some naturally diffused light for my photo shoot. We have a skylight over our bed, so I put the pottery on a large white piece of poster board under the skylight and shot the picturese without a flash. I think they look fairly decent. At least there's no distracting background.

Here are a few examples:

These are 3 faceted pieces I did that were inspired by Davie Reneau, a woman I wood-fired with over the summer....

This is an altered, oval vase that was thrown in to sections, then pieced together, inspired by Suze Lindsay...

These are "Noodle Bowls" that are designed to hold a set of chopsticks.....

I'm looking forward to firing the pots from the second session I'm taking with Terry Gess. I'm hoping to refine my brush working skills and also to develop some forms and throwing methods that are more representative of my own personal style.

I'm beginning to feel more confident about my abilities at the wheel and I'm beginning to recognize particular forms and methods that I enjoy utilizing. Even though I know that every aspect of my work has been influenced by potters I've watched or pieces I've admired, I feel as though I'm beginning to be able to incorporate the various influences into a body of work that I can call my own.

I'm feeling very enthusiastic about the next batch of pots that will be fired in the upcoming weeks!! I feel like I'm on a creative roll right now and whenever I leave the studio, I feel extremely........ satisfied. There is so much inspiration down here, it's wonderful!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cloudy Day in Georgia

Today we decided to take a little road trip and put one more state under our geocaching belt. The cache we found today in Georgia means we have cached in 7 states since we began this hobby this past summer: OH, IN, KY, TN, NC, SC, and now GA.

The northern most tip of the state is only a 2 hour drive from here. It was a very scenic drive; unfortunately for our dog with a weak stomach, it was also an extremely curvy drive. Shelby tossed her kibbles in the back seat, much to our dismay. We came home a different route, on the Smoky Mtn Parkway. Still curvy, but not bad enough to upset anyone's stomach. I have to admit, I was feeling a little queasy myself and couldn't much blame her for getting sick to her stomach.

The area we drove through was picturesque, even for this time of year, and would have been even more impressive if the day hadn't been so dreary. It's interesting how the mountains look different depending on the area that you're visiting. The mountains we saw today seemed to have more evergreen trees than the ones in the Asheville area, so they didn't look as brown. T
hey also seemed a little "pointier." I'll include a photo I snapped at a scenic overlook, which is also where we found our geocache.

We were in Rabun County.. According to Wikipedia, it's the rainiest county in GA and one of the rainiest counties east of the Mississippi. (No wonder it was so dreary.) They average 70 inches of rain a year! Sha-ZAM!

Wikipedia goes on to say, "
The high elevation along the divide gives Rabun County the most snow of any in Georgia. This also gives it mild weather throughout the warmer months of the year, leading to the county's slogan, Where Spring Spends the Summer.
" (Ah, that's a pretty catchy slogan!)

"Mountains dominate the topography of Rabun County. The Eastern Continental Divide provides Rabun County with the second and third highest peaks in Georgia: Rabun Bald at 4,696 feet and Dick's Knob at 4,620 feet. The county has eight peaks that are higher than 4,000 feet and over 60 pea
ks that are between 3,000 and 4,000 feet."

The area also appeared to be fairly affluent. There were cabins and huge houses perched up high on the mountains and many swanky housing developments, golf courses, resorts, campgrounds, and lots of touristy, artsy shops. I think that many of the homes were probably second residences. From what I've gathered from my online research so far, the area is a summer resort community. This time of year, on a Sunday, most of the shops looked like they were closed.

We did stop at a road-side stand to buy some boiled peanuts. Our friend, Matt, here at the campground LOVES boiled peanuts so we got him a bag. He says that the first time someone introduced him to them, he thought there were offering him "bald" peanuts. Must've been a local!!

I tried a few. They were pretty good, but not what I expected. They're boiled in the shell, which of course you have to peel off. The ones we got were still hot, pretty soggy and very salty. The nut itself is soft, the texture makes you think of a bean, and the peanut-y flavor is much more mild than when they're dry-roasted. Apparently they're a popular road-side cuisine down here. I'll probably find myself craving them when we're back up north even though they did have a distintive, somewhat unpleasant odor.

This place also had furniture for sale that looks rustic, part of it;s made with tree branches. I commented about it to the lady who was running the place and she said, "It's Amish furniture.....made in Ohio!" They also had a bunch of canned preserves made, guess where? IN OHIO!!! What are the odds, we drive all the way to Georgia and find products made in Ohio!! Who was it who said, "No matter where ya go, there ya are." Hmmmm, I guess that doesn't really apply to this situation. Who was it who said, "Loretta, you're an idiot?" Probably everyone reading this post!!

Anyways, it was an enjoyable Sunday road trip.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunny Day in Tennessee

Today started out foggy and rainy, but soon became warm and sunny. The temperature "soared" up into the high 50s/low 60s so we decided to take a little road trip "up north." We have been wanting to pick up a geocache in Tennessee so we could add that state to our repertoire and decided that today was the perfect day to do it!! Tennesse is only about 20 miles north of here.

We took the dogs along even though Shelby usually gets a little carsick when we're on the curvy back roads. She didn't get sick this time, but spent most of the trip with her face next to ours, licking her lips and swallowin
g non-stop!! Ah, the sweet smell of dog breath! Twiggy, as usual, fell asleep.

I took my camera along, but the sun goes down behind
the mountains so early this time of year that the lighting was never really good enough to warrant a picture so I never even got it out of the case. You'll just have to take my word for it, the scenery was beautiful! Even with the leaves off of the trees, the mountains are still majestic. The silvery trunks of the trees stand out in contrast to the darker branches and every so often patches of towering pines added a hint of green to the gray, reddish-browns of the hillsides. Most of the roads we chose traveled right along beside wide, rocky creek beds with cascading waterfalls and always on the banks were the deep green leaves and twisting trunks of the native azaleas. I am looking forward to traveling these roads in the spring when the flowers come into full bloom. Then I will definitely take pictures!!

We had a great New Year's Eve and Day down here. We spent the evening in one of the cabins with new friends: our boss, Ande, the maintenance man, Matt, and a couple who camp here frequently, Bob and Karen.
We had take-out chinese food, which was delicious!

Then, on New Year's Day, we spent the afternoon at a piece of property in Weaverville, north of here, that Bob and Karen own and are planning to build a house on someday soon. It's a lovely hillside property with a beautiful creek running through it. I did take my camera along and took some pictures of our visit.

We also visited with their neighbor, who they had bought the property from. He happens to be the half brother of the man who owns our campgrounds!! He and his wife had us in their home and were extremely gracious hosts! We enjoyed seeing Janice's Christmas decor
ations, and the guys certainly enjoyed taking a peek at Dave's replica Shelby Cobra kit car. It was a little 2-seater convertable stick shift and looked like it would be a blast to drive on the wind-y roads down here!!!

When we got back to the camper, I fixed pork chops, sauerkraut and smashed potatoes for Steve and I. It was very tasty!

Here's a picture I took of our little party keeping warm beside the campfire on Bob & Karen's property. Ande's on the left, then Karen, Bob and Steve.

Next is a shot of their creek with the little shed they've built up on the hill. They put a covered porch and a swing overlooking the creek. It's very relaxing to hear the sound of the creek babbling over the rocks!

This is a picture of the neighboring farmer's barn that I thought looked old and interesting....

Yesterday was my birthday and after doing a little cleaning in the morning, we took the dogs for a hike at the Arboretum. I think everyone in Asheville who owns a dog or a bike had the same idea!! People around here LOVE the outdoors and never miss an opportunity to enjoy it! The weather started out fairly nice, but we did walk through a little sprinkle the last 2 miles back to the parking lot. We were thankful that it never rained hard because we weren't prepared for it!

For my birthday dinner we went to an old historic place downtown called the Charlotte Street Grill and Pub. I thought it sounded rather interesting and it was. We had good food and good service!! It was a great place for a birthday dinner and we'll probably go back before we leave this area.

So far, 2009 has started out to be a pretty good year! Steve's fortune cookie on New Year's Eve said, "Any day above ground is a good day!" I'd have to agree!