Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bitter Sweet and the Signs of Summer

I fired the kiln over the weekend and the mugs I was desperately trying to finish in time are all done and all perfect, except for one with a tiny surface S crack. I made one extra anyway, so now that one is mine. The overall firing however was a mixed bag. I had a few pots to re fire from the last kiln load that did not reach temp.
There were a few tall jars, a vase, 2 large plates, a large bowl and various tea bowls that I thought could all use a few extra degrees, so I put as many as I could in this firing.. The little tea bowls all came out better than when they went in, but the large and tall refired things all bloated, ran, or both.. The weird thing is that although I know the bloating is a cone 5 Bmix issue, I don’t usually have an issue with it, but it only happened on the tall pieces, and the big bowl. Now they look revolting. The little cups are all perfect (pics to come tonight maybe). The ones I am happiest with (other than the mugs) were my shellacked bowl and the square plates with the terra sig / shellac combo. I glazed them all in the translucent amber glaze and the black slip just works so perfectly with it. So I am about 70% happy with the results, but there were definitely some issues with this one.

That’s it for the Bitter, now for the Sweet: I am free for the summer. As of this last weekend, I will not be working on Saturdays during July and August. This will leave lots of extra time to play in the clay and perhaps experiment with glazes(?). I always say that I will devote more time to glaze tinkering over the summer, but I never really do. I try 1 or 2, get fed up and quit. We will be fooling around with cone 6 crystalline glazes in July, so there will be a fair amount of “experimenting” going on regardless.

I had visual confirmation this weekend that summer is officially here. The “campground” by the Stampede grounds is full of RV’s and trailers now. They sprang up like mushrooms over night. I am assuming that it is for the people that are actually in the Rodeo. I couldn’t imagine that anyone else would want to stay there. 1) It’s way too close to the grounds (therefore very noisy) 2) No Trees or grass, just hot blacktop 3) your neighbor can tell what you are eating for breakfast just by looking out his window into yours.

I have mixed feelings about the Stampede. I know that it is one of the big tourist attractions for our city and the money it brings in each year is appreciated by many businesses. However, I live about 2 blocks away from the grounds in the neighborhood of Mission. I can hear the fireworks every night, I know who is playing on the open air stages because I can clearly hear them and the screaming from the midway rides is actually quite deafening any time of the day or night. This year is going to be even better (the sarcasm is actually dripping it is so thick). It is the Stampede’s 100th anniversary this year and I hear tell of extra special fire works displays, among other celebratory hoo ha. This means that they will probably start earlier, go on much, much longer and will be extra loud.

I was at the stampede last year for the first time in about 10 years and it pretty much reinforced my dislike for the whole event. It was work related, so that was one good thing about it. as I did not have to sit in the office and slave away. I got there a bit early and wandered around the Midway while I waited for the rodeo to start (nothing like sitting in the hot sun wearing dark denim). After the rodeo, we all went down to the infield to mingle with the clients that the office had invited. I got my free beer ticket (I would never BUY beer there). It was Bud Lite, all the time, no other options and for someone who pretty much sticks to really dark ales and stouts, this was like drinking warm sugar syrup. I choked half of it down when one of the project managers “kindly” gave me another to drink. I’m sure she thought she was being nice, but the headache that quickly ensued caused me to leave early. On my way out of the grounds, I thought I would relive my childhood and get some cotton candy and a candy apple to take home (I’m a grown up now, I can get both at the same time if I want to). While standing in line I watched a rather dysfunctional family order their “food”. The mom had about a zillion holes in her face from the multiple piercings (not that there is anything wrong with body adornment, but it just adds to the visual here), the dad was a very meek and mild kind of person, and the kids, well, I just felt sorry for them. The mom got 2 candy apples and some floss for them and put the apples on the narrow little ledge of the “food” cart in order to open up their pack and stow them away. However, one of the kids decided he wanted his apple now, reached for it, but because his little arms were too short, he could not reach it and it tumbled to the ground, shattering the candy coating. The mother let loose the bluest streak I have ever heard, called him names, and made the kid cry. The husband went all beet red from embarrassment, but did not do anything to calm the raging beast-mom, or comfort/protect his projeny from her wrath. It’s only an apple for crying out loud (albeit an $8 apple).
By the time I got home, I was pretty ill. 1.5 Bud Lite + too much sun + too much denim = raging head ache. As you can probably tell by now, I am really looking forward to this year’s Stampede. It starts in 11 days, July 6th, yee haw :(
If you have never been to the Stampede, give it a go, you might like it (just don't forget your wallet). But if you do, please remember that Calgary is not all about Rodeos and red necks. We do have some culture, you just have to dig down past the cow patties to get to it.

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