Yesterday walking the galleries in El Centro, Puerto Vallarta I came across these sculptures by Oaxacan artist, Agustin Cruz Tinoco. Absolutely delightful and beautifully executed. He and his sons carve the pieces, his wife and daughters paint the surfaces with acrylics. It is beginning to look like Christmas!
In 1983 my husband and I bought a warehouse/butcher shop on South 2nd Street in Philadelphia: a building two properties wide and the vacant lot next door. Originally built in 1890 for Delaware Ship Supply it is located two blocks from the Delaware River which flows between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. What better place for an artist’s studio? The first floor had one wall filled with bins and shelves so with a couple of islands added, that became the kitchen.
In one corner of the big front room stood a solid oak meat locker which was the bedroom for us vegetarians. And there was a heavy metal meat scale with weights hanging from the ceiling which the kids used as monkey bars.
Up stairs the top two floors had been a rooming house so we spent 2 years gutting it and removing lathe and plaster from the walls to expose rich, red brick. The second floor became my studio.
And the loft above was space for three kids.
The kilns were in the basement which was spacious with stone walls, brick pillars and huge wooden beams.
In the lot next door we made a garden. A door was cut through the south wall and we planted the placenta of my daughter (who was born in the meat locker) under a Japanese Weeping Cherry tree. Local artist Issiah Zagar created a mural on the garden wall.
Most of these photos were taken a couple years ago when I sold the old place. It was seldom so spacious and empty as it appears, the shelves so barren or the floors so clean and shiny. I spent January and February sentimentally discovering treasures and waxing floors then put it on the market and the first couple who saw it, bought it for the asking price.
Many good memories in that home and studio! A good place for creating art and raising children. The last supper of Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup with red wine for the family at home is below.
Feeling sentimental about my previous life in San Francisco and Philadelphia as a potter. I worked for 35 years in my own private studio, traveling to craft shows every other month around the northeast: Boston, Washington, D.C., NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, as far as Virginia (just once).
My studio in Philly was in my huge warehouse home with east facing windows allowing light to shine in over my shoulders as I worked.
All my pots were hand built although I originally did learn to use the potters wheel and taught university classes for several years. Hours and hours of rolling coils of clay on a canvas covered table then pinching layer after layer together using a hand powered turn table and leaving the texture of my thumb inside over and over again. I could build about 1 1/2 inches (4 or 5 coils) then the pot needed to rest so I went on to the next one. By the time I had finished the 6th or 7th piece, the first one was ready for more coils. It was a time of meditation. I would forget to eat. And if I had not had 3 hungry children I could have worked all night.
One series in 2004 was all black and white, just tiny bits of color every once in a while.
After drying until almost leather hard handles could be attached, coils or spikes added to the top edges. Then a few more days to dry and I would paint them with underglazes (liquid clay with oxide colors added). Some took days to paint. Working women became the theme of this series. Ladies with objects above their heads designating their jobs: butcher, baker, pottery maker, chef, knife sharpener, seamstress and many more. All wore sneakers.
I think I must have been a painter at heart. Many, many plates were created with coils wrapped around large slabs of flat clay. Nothing was functional. Plates were all fixed with hangers.
My hands are paying for my compulsive behavior now. Wrists and thumbs are incredibly tender after yoga classes with too many downward facing dogs. But this was my passion.
After the pieces were totally dry I carried them down two flights of stairs to the basement where my electric kilns lived. Sometimes with very large pieces I needed to sit on the step and lower myself down a step at a time with the pot on my lap. After bisque firing the clay turned from gray to white but colors were still very pastel. Up to the studio the work went where details were often added with black underglaze pencil and then covered with clear glaze and fired again.
It was always a treat to open a slightly warm kiln to find the bright colors and rich blacks shining up at me. Then I would carry them all upstairs to the main floor of my warehouse living space which had two huge store front windows. There I would arrange the new creations on display for passers by. Often I would look up from doing the dishes and see someone with their nose to the window admiring the pots. Eventually they would all be wrapped in bubble wrap and carried to the next show.
I do miss the challenges I faced and the feel of clay between my fingers.