For the first time in two months, I took a day off.
On Thanksgiving day, we went hiking to the northern section of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, around the Greenbush area. The Kettle Moraine has a unique and beautiful rolling topography (moraines) and pitted landscape (kettles).
|trail in the Kettle Moraine|
|Terez, Kristen and me on the hike.|
The plants and tree varieties here are distinctly different from those evergreens of the Pacific Northwest; there is a real sense of fall when hiking in Wisconsin. Another thing that signals fall around here is the deer hunting season. Only after we got out of the car in the forest we realized our huge mistake: did not have blaze orange vests to signal our human presence to the hunters that are undoubtedly out there hiding away and waiting for the bush to move. Hunting is as much part of culture in Wisconsin as concealed guns, motorbikes, cheese, the Greenbay Packers, and game day cupcakes frosted with frightening yellow and green.
|cupcakes and buns in local colors (this pix is from some time ago, still during Brewers baseball season)|
All week, the news is full with efforts to recall the union-busting governor; but Kohler Village is as dormant as the castle of Sleeping Beauty in the fairy tale. When we talk, associates grumble about the work and job security, about cuts to benefits and bargaining rights, about no pay raises for the past many years. There is a general feeling of the workers being taken advantage of due to the recession. Every day, at least half of the associates wear their UAW Local 833 T-shirts emblazoned with Harley-like logo of orange flames to work.
The issue of labor and unions is very complex, historical yet pertinent, and I don't claim to understand it. I listen when they talk to me and I answer the best as I can their questions about our sluggish economy in Washington state. On a funny note: Every time during our conversations, the workers are surprised when I tell them that I teach. In their minds, the artist who come here on a residency come to make money on what they produce. And in their minds, similarly to their industrial production, the more I produce the more money I make. So it makes good economic sense to them that I'm in the studio all the time.
How different reality is!
With a strong will I focus on the blushing plaster fragment project now. I cast all my molds on certain days, the smaller ones twice, which gives me non-stop work of filling molds and then opening, cleaning and reassembling them, taking out casts and fixing the pour-holes on the clay well into the night. The result is about 30-40 casts. Cleaning and glazing that many pieces takes another few days while everything else has to be on hold. This process feels very mechanical, (even to a discipline-queen like I am) and I'm aching to dot this schedule with at least a few side projects that yield to unpredictable results. Doing this casting routine once or twice a week takes so much energy that I always decide to do just a few molds next time, so that I can do other things during the workday. It has gotten so bad this last time with yet another new mold (plus the pedestal and tile molds), that I could not even open some of the molds in time, resulting in casts way too dry by the time I got to them, which cost me more time having to fix cracking around the tougher places.
|Studio on week 10: pedestals, small pedestal mold and more molds. There is barely any floor space or work surface left uncovered with stuff drying, waiting to be glazed or finished.|
I guess, because of the relative monotony of the casting process and also because my time at Kohler is drawing near, I could never not fully give up the interesting side-tracks. Let's admit it: I'm now finding myself looking for distractions. Whether it is digging up boxes full of discarded barcode decals from the trash, or going through the metal cull for interesting shapes to be used for making plaques for the pedestals, or carving pictures of the local weeds into tiles, or plotting a project that honors the individuality of the workers I made friends with; - I welcome the opportunity that arises to do something else interesting while I'm still here. It's too premature to talk about these projects. They are not finished yet, and due to the lack of time to really develop them, none of these would become a full-fletched project for the time being.
On the other hand, I'm getting beautiful results with the glazes. The colors are heart-stopping in a very bodily, and, as it was commented on, "evocative" way.
|Just out of the kiln this week.|
There are 4-5 layers of pinks and reds sprayed on very thin to get the blush and I never know what it will look like until it comes out of the kiln. So is the excitement of ceramics.
This past week possibilities for the title of the project occurred to me just out of the blue. I definitely have the words that would be used to describe what the work is about. I'm still trying them out in various combinations.