Sunday, January 29, 2012

Been a while

(a few mugs I made in December)

Hello world!

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything here. There has been a lot happening in my life and here is a wee update.

Last year I started selling some pottery on facebook. I did pretty well and had quite a few orders for Christmas gifts (thanks everyone!). I also got a job at the local UPS store, which has turned into a full time gig (thanks!). My wife is 34 weeks pregnant with our second child!!! Woohoo!

So, all that equates to being very busy with minimal time for pottery. I bought a Brent wheel and sold my Thomas Stuart wheel all in the same week. For now pottery is more or less on hold. I am still hoping to throw and fire but also realize this season may not be a pottery season for me. I am so excited to be a papa again and be reminded of how wonderful it is to shape the clay of a newborn's soul!


Lately I have been reading The Prophets by Abraham Joshua Heschel. In one chapter he discusses man's obsession and worship of might. This stimulated some thoughts which I wrote in my journal. I hope they stimulate some thoughts in you.

"We are drawn to and blinded by power. We long to be powerful and recognized by others who are less powerful. All this to try to feel valued, needed and accepted. All this to numb the pain of being a weak, lonely orphan.
God's plan is so foreign to us. He, the most powerful, became nothing in order to save us, raise us up and give us true authority as his sons. He showed us the Way of absorbing violence rather than welding it on others. He taught us the Truth of humility as the greatest power. He lived the Life of true love that lays down one's life so that others can truly live."


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wood Kiln firing

Lately I have been throwing with a CA-2 clay body made by Laguna Clay Co. This is one of the two clay bodies that they make specifically for wood kiln firings. I met a local potter named Frank Gray and he invited me to be part of the next firing. We are hoping to do this firing the first or second weekend of November. The pictures are of some of the pieces for the firing. I took about an hour on Monday to sand them all and get them ready. Above is the best butterbell or french butter dish I have thrown yet. Below are my first attempt at this style of mug.

I have never been involved with a wood kiln firing before but have been desiring to do so for a while. The kiln was built as part of a Concrete Couch project. Concrete Couch is a non-profit art organization that does all sorts of community art projects. The kiln is located on the south west side of Woodland Park. They allow people to pay a small fee for a full or half share and then ask everyone to help split wood and keep the fire going.

I pushed myself a little bit and threw some of the biggest pieces I have thrown so far. I am happy with them and also happy with some of the mugs and tumblers I threw. As of today all the pieces are sanded and ready to be bisqued fired. Frank is able to bisque fire my pieces right here in town and also has community glazes available for the wood firing.

In other news, I threw around 50 pieces with a Redstone cone 6 clay body, also made by Laguna, and those should be being glaze fired this week. They would have been ready last week but my friend's kiln needed to be repaired. Between these two firings I should have around 50-60 pieces that will be available for sale or barter.

I have been really encouraged with the results of my throwing lately. These last few months have been awesome and these pieces are the best I have thrown yet (for the most part). I do not know if I have reached the 1000 pieces thrown mark yet but I do feel like a real (amateur) potter.

Stay tuned for pictures of the pieces from the electric firing as well as updates on the wood kiln firing. If the wood kiln firing actually happens I plan on taking lots of pictures and posting them so you all can see the process. I am not sure how much pottery I will be doing this winter for two reasons: 1) I do not have a heated studio space and 2) I have a job!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pottery Ponderings

Recently I have been posting about hikes and other things rather than pottery. In the past month I have been reunited with pottery and love it! I purchased a used electric wheel and set up a make shift studio in a storage room at the house we are renting. The space is small but wonderful. I leave the door open so I get fresh air, sunshine and can look out at the pine, cedar and aspen trees in our yard. My soul is happy and feeling very restored.

The first few weeks I threw many random things and tried throwing with larger amounts of clay. My wrists have been feeling so much better and this has been a great encouragement. Some folks at a fellowship we visit prayed for my wrists a few times and they are truly being healed! In the past few days I have been working on some really fun mugs. I have nailed down a few mug shapes I really like and am having a blast creating beards and mustaches to put on the mugs. I will post pictures of the first step (pre-Bisque firing) so you can see these beauties.

That was the update. The following paragraphs are my most recent pottery ponderings from the wheel.

Yesterday as I was centering some clay Jesus spoke to me very clearly. This clay was a little difficult to center and I knew there was an air pocket somewhere. When this happens, for those of you who don't know, you have to push the clay down with a lot of pressure. If the clay is in a cone or cylinder shape you have to flatten it out. This forces the air pocket to 'surface' so you can poke it with the needle tool and 'pop' it. As I was pressing the clay down and looking for the air pocket Jesus spoke to me about how he uses circumstances, trials, seasons in life to press me so that he can address the 'pockets' that are keeping my life from being truly centered. Let me expound on that a little.....

We often wrestle with the reality of God's goodness in the midst of the reality of the hardships of life. Most of us go one of two ways in our thinking and living. Some of us fall for a theology that says God is an angry judge sitting 'upstairs' waiting for us to screw up so he can punish us. This is terrible theology. Those who do not think and live with that theology usually have to compromise the absolute goodness of God. This results in a fatalistic theology and leads to skeptism and cynism. Neither of these are good or true theologies.

The reality is that God is truly absolutely good. In all he does and in all he allows. My life experience has shown that, much like when I am centering clay, God works through pressure to bring to surface aspects of my life that are keeping me from being centered in him. An air pocket can cause a noticable wobble in the clay which will show up as I pull up the wall, trim the piece and in the end will look terrible in the finished product. In the same way there are places of our heart, mind and soul that cause a wobble in our journey of life and in the end, if not addressed by God's love and mercy, will result in an imperfect piece of art. So, when you are faced with trials, stresses or just gloomy days, first thank God for his absolute goodness, then come before him with your prayers-earnest and honest prayers.

Paul wrote to the church in Phillipi. "Always be joyful, then in the Lord; I repeat, be joyful. Let your good sense be obvious to everyone. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything; but tell God all your desires of every kind in prayer and petition shot through with gratitude, and the peace of God which is beyond our understanding will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7.

May this be an encouragement to each of us. God is truly good and is in control of everything all the time. Our response needs to be one of thankfulness and our prayers need to be "shot through with gratitude." After thanking him we can then tell him honestly what our desires are. A quick example: my wrists have been affected by carpal tunnel syndrome over the last year. I am just now realizing how God has used this as a 'pressure' on my heart to address deep issues keeping me from being centered such as trusting his goodness. The times I respond in anger, asking God 'why' result only in my heart growing bitter. Over the last month, by his grace, I have been able to respond with gratitude first and then saying, 'Father, I want my wrists to be healed. I trust your goodness.' My heart remains humble and thankful and I still ask for healing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hike in solitude

Today I went on a hike by myself at Mueller State Park. Despite the quietness and rest this season has for me at home I was still in need of some geniune solitude. A trail named, 'Elk Meadow' caught my attention and I decided to explore that one. It is listed as just over 2.2 miles and I thought that would be a good distance since I have only been in Colorado for 3 weeks.

I parked near the trailhead and gathered a few things in a backpack. There were no other cars in the lot so I was pretty excited for a quiet hike. I took a quick peak at the more detailed map and started down the trail. I brought a book entitled, Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies, with me in case I wanted to identify some plants. There were a few along the way that I attempted to identify but am not certain if I am correct. I think I saw: Canadian Buffaloberry, Pineapple Weed, Rabitbush and Angelicas.

I did not pay close enough attention to the map and ended up hiking 4.8 miles. On the way out I went nice and slow and tried to use all my senses to experience my surroundings. The scents of cedar, pine and juniper were very strong as well as the scent of horse manure (the trail was open for horse riding as well.) I stopped a top a hill that looked directly at Pike's Peak. There was a bench in the shade of a tree that looked very welcoming. I munched on some granola bar and banana chips while reading Psalm 36 which says, "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness stretches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep." It was a nice moment of contemplation as I viewed the mighty mountains and beautiful skies.

The return journey was exhausting and I was definitely less aware of my surroundings as my tired body just wanted to get back to the car. At one point, however, I noticed a lovely little violet flower that I had not seen on the way out. I stopped and studied it for a while and enjoyed another moment of slowing down. I also noticed a deer track in some mud on the way back.

Elk meadow
is a lovely place
to study a flower petal
and for a fellow
to rest in solitude.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Colorado Wildness

I have been in Colorado for just over two weeks now. I am adjusting to the difference in culture, schedule, home, relationships...well, pretty much everything. My soul is already feeling refreshed and restored as much of the buzz and adrenaline of the city is gone. I have spent so many years sleeping with noise-air conditioner, people yelling on the street, sirens, etc.-that I find my mind and body a bit restless most nights here.

Last Saturday we (yes, I am aware that I just switched from 1st person singular to plural. sorry grammar folks.) drove to Mueller State Park in Divide, CO, and enjoyed a beautiful hike through a forest of pine, cedar and aspens down into a gorgeous valley with a wee pond. We then made the trek back up the hill into the forest to circle around to the trailhead. It was very peaceful and quiet. Besides birds, trees and plants we did not see anyone else on the hike. We are still adjusting to the altitude and dryness so the 1.3 mile hike was enough for us.

Today we drove into Pike National Forest in search of a hike. We stopped at a little gravel parking lot along the Platte River. We got out and looked around, put Shiloh in the Ergo carrier and did some tight rope walking across the river on a fallen tree. We hiked up a little ways but stopped as it was steep with lots of loose rocks. No need to tumble down the hill with our little guy helplessly attached to mama's back. After our descent we let Shiloh out and he played with rocks. I was telling Dana about a book I am reading called, Last Child in the Woods, which talks about the desparate need to get children to experience nature, when I realized I was just standing on the river bed. So, I decided to experience nature with Shiloh by wading in the river. At this point Shiloh was standing in the river, walking around and throwing rocks. When he saw what I was doing he started taking Dana's shoes off.

For the next thirty minutes we all waded in the water, threw rocks and looked at what appeared to be gold flakes in the bottom of the shallow river. Shiloh sat down in the water a few times when he lost his balance but did not seem to mind too much. He had a plastic braclet which we threw upstream and he caught as it floated by him. I saw some tracks on the other side of the river and went to investigate. I am not sure what they were from but as I looked around I suddenly noticed wild rasperry bushes along the riverbed. I told Dana, 'Look! There are tons of wild raspberries.' However, we had seen a sign in the parking lot that the area was treated with lots of herbicides and decided not to eat the raspberries. In our little outing I was able to identify the following plants: thistle, wild sage, wild raspberry, red clover and yarrow. There were so many others but I am happy to start small.

This new relationship with the land called Colorado is pretty exciting. We are looking forward to getting to know more of the land and the people here. Ah, it feels good to write again......

Oh yes, and yesterday I went to Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs and glazed all of my pottery pieces. They should be ready to be picked up on Tuesday. I am very excited to see how they turn out especially because I experimented with some color combinations that Jennifer (the potter whose studio and kiln I am using) had not done before. I hope to post pictures and such next week.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A recent homily

Scriptures: Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23 and Luke 24:13-35

As we continue the celebration of the risen Christ into the celebration of Pentecost, we can reflect how these two gifts-the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit-are the mainstays of our faith. This faith was made possible not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the imperishable loving sacrifice of Christ.

We read of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, how their hearts burned within them at his words and their recognition of the risen Christ while breaking bread. Then we read of Pentecost and the receiving of the promised Holy Spirit. They are intertwined. The Holy Spirit illumins our eyes to perceive the risen Christ, who is our source of life, joy, peace and love.

Brennan Manning, in his book, 'Abba's Child,' uses the term 'present risenness.' The risen Christ is present in us and with us just as he was with the two on their way to Emmaus. Manning says our awareness of this present risenness changes everything and allows us to cope with anything. Today, in sharing the Word, songs and communion, let us be aware of Jesus' present risenness among us.