Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sometimes, it really can be too cold outside

We took a trip over to Seneca Lake today. Figured we would catch the sun as it set across the lake. I didn't really take into account that the temperature was in the single digits (with a wind chill somewhere around -17F). Heck, I didn't even remember to bring a hat.

What originally was planned to be a nice long stay by the water, watching the sun melt into the lake, ended up being a VERY fast photoshoot. Too darned cold even for my furry-self.

Another Happy Camper... well, potter really

But you get the idea.

These pots are from Jan Brown. A local Ithaca potter of over 30 years, Jan was the first potter to convince me that cone 6 held great potential. Ten years later and I wouldn't think of firing anything but cone 6... all because of what I saw in Jan's pots over the years.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

David Kingsbury and Turtle Island Pottery

I finally had time today to put together a quick slideshow of David Kingsbury's pottery.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Learning By Shooting

Sometimes, all the theory in the world wont help you. Read all you want. Absorb every idea and suggestion. But when photons start flying and shutters go click, well... that's when you find out if you understood any of it.

Today was an eye opener.

I have been reading about lighting theory every night now for about a month. Everything from portrait lighting, minimalist lighting (using handheld off-camera flashes), strobe lighting, natural lighting and even just books on the theory of how light moves. All hoping for some grand insight into how to get the effect I want.

Here are today's results.
David Kingsbury's vase, copyright Cold Springs Studio Photography ©2010

This was shot with my usual, overhead lightbox, loaded with three daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs. One white card on the right side and a reflective card on the left. Simple, standard and pretty reliable.

David Kingsbury's vase, copyright Cold Springs Studio Photography ©2010

This was shot with one handheld Nikon SD-600, with a homemade snoot and held above and over the axis of the camera. Damn. I guess now the question is how do I keep that beautiful subtle background when I want it? How do I get a softer fall off in the shadow at the foot of the vase?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The new Photography website is live and seems to be "bug-free"... so if you find anything amiss, please let me know!

Preview of things to come

Over the past few months as my recovery has progressed, I have had more than ample time for navel gazing. (funny thing: I currently have what looks like three navels... thanks to some of the holes that were drilled into my abdomen to remove the sutures a month ago.)

Upon reflection here is what I have found:
  • Even if my recovery continues with no major setbacks, I will never regain the abdominal strength I used to have.
  • Lifting things like boxes of clay or kiln shelves can cause herniation at the ostomy site.
  • Herniation looks to be the bugbear under the bed for ostomates.
  • The only tried-and-true solution to avoid herniation looks to be having a reversal surgery.
  • That means at least two more major surgeries.

Given this scenario, my assumption that I can simply slide back into my life as a potter is simply erroneous. Sure, I can make pots, and in fact, I am trying to make pots everyday. But what used to be my warm-up time is now my total time in the mud for the day. Stamina apparently takes a long time to come back.

I have relied on my self-sufficiency, like all potters, for most of my life. My life has been built around the premise that brute force could surmount adversity. That simply isn't an option at this point. I can't just wrangle kiln shelves into the bottom of my kiln without injuring my ostomy site, never mind the potential for actually blowing a hernia through there as well. I can't lift glaze buckets the way I used to. Even simple things like moving a board full of pots and batts is out of the question. Too much abdominal muscle engagement.

So what to do ? :
  • I may consider trying to bring on another apprentice when Hannah heads down to NC in a few months. Someone with the proverbial strong back/weak mind. I just have seen so little interest or discipline in this area. I'll keep my fingers crossed.
  • Renovate/redo the studio so heavy things don't have to be moved for daily work.
  • Find other aspects of my interests to pursue.
The last one there is the rub.

I have always had many interests that would qualify more as a profession and less as a hobby. I don't really know how to do the hobby thing. If I am interested in something, I dive in with both feet. In the past decade, this has been a rediscovery of my love for photography. After seeing the dearth of good photographers in the central NY area, I am encouraged. Maybe there's room for another aspiring photog. Then again, that was my feeling about setting up a pottery studio. If I have learned nothing else in the last decade, if you don't make work that fits within the stylistic needs/wants of your local clientèle, then you are forced to either ship work out or search high and low for ways to draw new customers in from far away. Neither is simple.

Which leaves me with massive questions about pursuing photography as a potentiality. Much in the same way that most of what I learned in grad school was learned AFTER leaving. There was so much that couldn't be taught in the classroom. That makes me wonder how do I begin the dive into photography so I don't make all the same mistakes and gaffes I made establishing my pottery studio? Ideas? Suggestions?

If anyone wants to check out my beginner's attempt at setting out my shingle, so to speak... check out our new website: Cold Springs Studio Photograhy

Ideas, critiques, etc., are always appreciated.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Three generations of Sollas

Three months ago, I woke up from a month-long chemically induced coma. During the time I was out, my mother came up from Florida twice. I can't imagine being in her shoes... the parent watching their offspring tied to a gurney so as to not pull out all the various tubes and hoses and wires keeping me alive.

My mother spent Christmas afternoon and evening in a panic, waiting for my sister to fly in from England. Only problem was that she was held up in Detroit because of the Holiday Terrorist. Apparently the plane that arrived just before hers made it so that they had to wait on the tarmac for over three hours. Luckily, they eventually released the planes and passengers and Mag made her way to Florida.

As sort of a post-Christmas gift surprise, my mom and sister came up to visit before New Year's. I don't think there has ever been a time when my house has ever held three generations of Solla women. Listening to Aurora cackling like a turkey, totally bowled over laughing, I realized that she, my mother and my sister all have the same laugh. And here it was; all this laughter in my house.

My mother and sister hadn't seen me walk out of the hospital. They hadn't been there when I made any of my "firsts" in PT. More than anything else, they just wanted to see that I was alive, intact and functional. Nevermind that I had already told them this via phone, email and through the blog. They needed to see it.

I am starting to understand now.

Today, I can say with a smile of pride (as though I had something to do with it... not really)...
that all of the horrendous holes that the surgeon drilled into me before Christmas are finally HEALED! I have no more holes in my abdomen!!! Nancy and I celebrated last night by NOT doing a wound change before bedtime. This means so much to me. Most of all, it means I can have my normal routine again. Showering first thing in the morning has always been my way of waking up... since I was a pre-teen. Now I can not only do that, I can manage the post-wound care needs on my own. And best of all... it doesn't hurt.

So what does all of this mean? It means I can begin to work out harder at the gym at PT. It means I can stretch out my walks farther each day. It means that when the winter passes I can start getting out on my bike again. It means I lived.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Time in the Studio

More than half a dozen times today, I walked through the snow to get to the studio. Two months ago I still hadn't even ventured out to the studio yet. Each time I came and went from the studio, I felt stronger and more at peace today. The rhythm is starting to begin again.

Potters understand this... we make pots not because we suddenly feel an urge, but because that is what you do. Everyday there is something in the studio that demands your attention. It might be something as simple as cleaning boards and batts, or mopping the floor. It might be a day of trimming and decorating. Some days those days stretch out into nights.

Tonight was the first night in four months I had to go back out to the studio after dinner to deal with pots I had thrown earlier in the day. I still can't throw with the same stamina I had before surgery... but I CAN throw. Sure, it is uncomfortable and awkward, but each teabowl that has passed through my hands these past few days, has felt magical.

One of my best friends is putting together a fund raiser for my family. Having always been on the giving side of a fund raiser, this is a new feeling. I am uncertain how to react. At this point, all I know is that it makes me cry. Knowing that people out there care about my family's well being and want to ensure that they are okay... that just wracks me. So when Mary Ellen Salmon offered to organize this fund raiser to be held at the Rongovian Embassy here in Trumansburg, I was (and am) shocked. So far Mary Ellen has had contributions from many of the artists who are represented in her gallery or from the Ithaca Art Trail. My hope is to be able to donate a few pots to the auction. The first pots of a new year, of a new life.

Happiness is:

Happiness is when you receive a phone call to say that the candidate you had just a day earlier given a telephone referral about, had been hired.

Happiness is knowing that landing this job opens doors.

Happiness is that back of the head smile and glow, knowing I had a little something to do with it.

Congratulations Dana! Now go out there and kick some library butt!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Doing More Each Day

For the past few days, my time in the studio has been growing steadily. Not always necessarily in mud up to my elbows... but there's always something needing doing. The last of the orders from 2009 have finally shipped. We are halfway to loading up the first big bisque firing of the year.

I think what is most exciting so far this year is the realization that we are participating in more exhibitions than we usually find ourselves in. I am sure part of the reason is my desire to move away from craft shows which has freed up time (in my mind, if not in reality) to make better pots (and hopefully save more of them this year!). The show that I am very excited about is Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story. This comes at an interesting time in my life. Between nearly dying in surgery, living through a coma and rehabilitation and now finally trying to get back into the studio, there has been a lot of grist for the blog mill. For more info on this upcoming show, please check out Meredith Heywood's site. And Meredith, THANK YOU... for pulling together all these potter/bloggers and being willing to organize this show. Kudos!

Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story
Opening reception will be held at the Campbell House in Moore county from 6-8 pm
October 1st, 2010
Exhibition comes down on November 1st, 2010

On top of all of that, a wonderful local potter, Renata Wadsworth asked me to shoot images for her. Mind you, she asked back in December. At that point, I could only stand up for about 40 minutes at a time. January has always been my set-aside time for shooting new work. This time of year, everyone wants to get new images ready to send out for show applications and website revisions. Renata's aesthetic draws on the Japanese tradition of Shino glazing and brushwork decoration. The accent colors of copper red and Oribe green bring out the richness in her pots. You can find more images on her webpage and on the Ithaca Art Trail website. What follows are a few examples of her best work for the new year.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Call Me Squid-Boy

I think there may be a prize for having "the most weird procedures done to one's body in a month"... and if so, it had better be a really good prize. Like a lifetime supply of Ghiradelli chocolate or a month long stay in a villa in Tuscany. Instead, I get to be Squid-Boy. So far this week I have seen my cardiologist almost everyday. In addition, I have gone to physical therapy twice (and will go again to both PT and the cardiologist tomorrow). Today they hooked up a Holter monitor to my chest in hopes of figuring out the root cause of the ventricular tachycardia I experienced in the ICU (for six seconds). With all of these wires all over I feel like I have been assimilated into the Borg collective. Either that or I am on the fast track for squid research.

An aside: according to Aurora, the only thing she fear in the ocean is the Humboldt squid. A squid with spikes on its tentacles. A squid which can flash different colors as signals to other squid. A squid that will cannibalize fellow Humboldt squid. A squid that has been known to attack divers. Imagine my surprise when hundreds of them washed up on the shores as far north as Vancouver! Apparently, the El Nino current had pushed them north of Oregon when the water suddenly turned cold and they were too far north. So.... maybe migration wasn't part of their holiday plan this year?

Now, for those of you who didn't resort to eye bleach after seeing that image of me first thing... did you notice how much of my body they shaved this week? I feel like a dog with mange. I had only just started re-growing that part of my pelt which had been so frequently shaved in the ICU and in rehab. It's simply unfair.

Good news: The part of my abdomen edited from the picture above (to save those with squeamish stomachs) would show that most of my surgical wounds are nearly healed. The small holes left after the surgeon went diving for his polyline in my intra-abdomen are completely sealed over. The major wound left from the last major surgery in the ICU has reached a point now where we can finally start guessing when this nightly wound changing will end. My bet is on next Tuesday. We shall see!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back in the Studio

I feel like I should hang a Welcome Home sign across the studio. I have been wandering in and out of the studio for two months now, feeling like a stranger in my own home. Today I took five pounds of clay, measured out my lumps of mud for making mugs, and made pots. Never before, in the twenty one years I have been making pots, have I ever missed more than a few weeks of making pots. This time it was a little longer. Four months, almost to the day. Tons of muscle atrophy. Monstrous amounts of physical therapy. And the end result today was that I was able to throw my footed mugs again.

Sure, it hurt. Yep, it was wicked uncomfortable to have to work around this ostomy... BUT I could throw again!

Ask a hundred potters the hardest thing about being a potter, they'll all say being away from the clay. Mud is such an addictive material. I have been very patient and tried hard not to push too hard, but every day the studio has seemed less and less like my home. Today I felt welcomed home.

And with that, I welcome back all of our longtime patrons and friends. We are planning something VERY fun for the Spring. Get ready for some new fun pots! I still have a ways to go, but things are going to be fun!


Monday morning I head to the cardiologist for a stress test. From the sound of things, they'll put me on a treadmill, run me till my heart rate peaks, then pump some radioactive compound through my heart and take pictures. Hmmm. Needless to say, I am sleepless tonight. The idea of stressing out my heart doesn't exactly fill me with calm, collected thoughts. As a result, sleeptime slides away and my anxiety runs chasing after it. Not how I planned on spending my new year.

When I went in for my original surgery, I genuinely felt that it would go just as all my other surgeries had gone previously. I would wake up, groggy but aware, in pain but manageable. It had happened through my back surgeries, my sinus surgery... why not this one? When I woke up a month later unable to speak or move, all I knew was that all bets were off. When all I could do to tell Nancy I was in there was to cry hot tears, I knew things weren't okay. Talking was off the menu. Moving was impossible. I did my laughable best to try to write. Yeah, I couldnt lift my own hand, but I was sure I could write. Four weeks later I could barely fill out a form without becoming exhausted.

Here I sit, staring another sleepless night in the face. Marveling at the surreality of it all. I nearly died. It's very difficult for me to rationalize, because very few people I know have come close to death and not been irrevocably changed. My little brother Martin came out of his coma with permanent damage to his motor cortex resulting in some minor short term memory issues. When he and I compared coma time during his visit this fall, we found that our experiences were totally different. He got on his motorbike, felt/saw the impact and the next thing he remembers is waking up from the coma. No dreams.

At least I got to have the dreamtime. Since awaking from the coma, I have shared a few of the dreams with interested folks, a clergyman, my family (and once, in this blog). I realized this evening that my brain would not slow down as I tried to sleep. I don't know if this sleeplessness is caused by the lack of meds in my system (in prep for the stress test tomorrow) or if it is really a manifestation of the anxiety I am dealing with. Either way, the last four hours in bed were noteable for the total lack of imagery. It was as though my brain was left on hold and forced to listen to muzak.

Is it strange to miss being in the coma dreamtime? Sure, some of the dreams were hideous and difficult. But some of that time was wonderful, quiet, gentle even. I doubt I will ever forget the smell from the door of the roadside diner as I walked out into the snow covered parking lot. The surrounding spruces just smelled sweet and blue. In the darkness, blue smells differently than it looks. Over my shoulder the diner's amber light winked out, leaving me with the sharp snow in my nose and hope in my heart that a ride might come my way, saving me from a frigid walk home.

Even now, I feel like that scene is part of my history. It didn't happen in my past. It happened just the other day. I had given serious thought to putting all these dreams in a box (via EMDR) but I am not so sure anymore. Some nights they are good places to go and visit. The only downside is that now, it is just visiting. I don't live there anymore. And that feels surreal.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Physical Therapy - Happy New Year

As a surprise, my sister and mom decided to come up and visit us for the New Year. I hadn't expected to see my mom till February. Bear in mind, I go to physical therapy no less than two times each week. While they were here, they REALLY wanted to go to PT with me so they could see what I was working on. Both Aurora and Maggie were kind enough to catch me in various states of frustration, awkwardness and pain. The upshot is that it reveals that I am improving.

Happy New Year everyone. Two Thousand Ten is gonna be a very different year for this family... and we're starting it off right!