Visiting an Art Show and Learning Something New

We’re trying to get out and do things, like everybody else these days, that are in a health-safe environment and give us a bit of society. On October 10 my husband and I made a visit to the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA, to attend a monthly clay sale held by their Pottery Guild.

I am very familiar with this organization. I’ve taught collage/mixed media classes there in the past, I’ve participated in the street art fair they sponsor each fall, and I know many artists who work out of this location or are affiliated with it. It’s a great place to do art and run by a really nice group of people.

We arrived at the sale. It was held in the center’s grounds. The booths were spaced out well and the crowd suited for the location. Enough people to feel lively, but never too many to feel unsafe, health-wise.

The art center is housed in a former mansion that has been added to over the years. It has really nice studio and classroom spaces combined with a large gallery and clay studios. The grounds are augmented with some relics of the house’s past – this folly:

…and various art installations done by the center’s artists over the years.

I don’t want to leave out the lovely flowers and plants around the perimeter.

I ran into an art acquaintance who was exhibiting and spent some time catching up. She mentioned that they were in the process of doing a wood firing, and did we want to take a look?

Yes, we did, because a wood firing is not something you can see every day.

Let me explain a little. I’m no expert, so if you want to know more, there are plenty of sites on the web that will go into more detail. Essentially, a wood firing takes place in an enclosed structure that holds the wares to be fired. The energy source is wood, of course, and it is fed into the structure over a period of days until the firing is done.

Wood-fired ceramics can have a variety of looks, depending on the way the fire, ash, air currents, and temperatures work in the particular firing. It is full of serendipities. A firing usually contains the work of many artists and hundreds of items – the firing is sold in shares that give each artist a certain amount of cubic space their work can fill.

The art center completed the construction of their wood firing structure earlier this summer. (Here is the fund-raising proposal with details).

Let’s take a look. We walked around the building to the ceramics area. There is an outdoor work area for raku, etc., and right now, they have tents set up for studio work that would usually be done inside – giving more space for distancing.

Here’s how it works. The kiln is under a shed, which also holds the wood for fuel.

It’s built of fire brick and is in the shape of an old-fashioned locomotive (hence the name of its style, train kiln). I was so excited at what I was seeing that I did not get a good photo of the whole thing, I am sorry, but I think you’ll get the idea from the photos. Let me see if I can at least line up the photos in order.

Anyway, we talked to the Guild member who was tending the kiln. The firing is a 24 hour a day operation while it goes on. If you buy a share in a wood firing you also are responsible for a share of the work. As we talked, the woman on duty never stopped adding wood to the fires.

To load the kiln, the work is set inside – people crawl into the interior and arrange things on the shelves through this opening. When the kiln is full, it is closed up.

The fire is lit. Then it’s a matter of getting the entire kiln hot enough to vitrify the clay items.

Here is a side view. Notice the bricks in the tan openings. They can be pulled out. The larger ones are openings through which to insert more wood. The smaller ones can be pulled out to observe the work or to adjust the internal temperature of the kiln, or to add just a little wood. We were able to peek in and see ceramic wares inside, glowing red hot.

I found it very interesting that there is some technology associated with this kiln, that you wouldn’t expect given the ancient nature of the technique. This kiln has three temperature sensors that give information on the temps in different sections of the kiln. You can see the wires coming down from the ceiling attached to probes that go into the kiln through its roof.

There is a digital readout that gives the operators an idea of what is happening inside in each section. This is not something that all wood firings have available – it seems to be a nice feature to me.

Here is a shot of the Guild member adding wood.

Let me tell you, when she opened the door, a wave of heat washed over us. Interesting fact – this is why lots of wood kiln firings occur in the fall and winter.

The kiln was fired up the previous night. It will be in process for 2-3 days. Then it will cool for at least a week before it can be opened. Here’s a link to a short video of the first firing they did this summer, if you want to see more.

So that was our visit to Community Arts Center. I hope I have gotten the wood firing details close to accurate. I’ve heard about these firings, but I have never been present at one. I am glad we were able to observe. Thanks to everyone at the art center for their willingness to share it with us!

Art Drop-Off 3/30/20

And how do you know? Just look at the sign! I left these two tiles in front of the sign for the high school across the street, yesterday morning about 6 AM.

Quick Art Drop-off in a cozy warm library on a very cold day in December

I was at Montgomery County Community College today for Poetry Marathon and I left two tiny clay portraits on the shelves there. These are the last two little faces like these I have left. Time to make some more!

Montco 12-19-19 (5)

Here is one little face near the audio books (excuse the blurriness).

And the other one just a few feet to the left.

All the ones I left here in the summer have moved on. To somewhere. How do I know that? Because I left them in the DVD section and the library has moved that whole collection to the next floor. The shelves are empty. That’s the only way I know – because to be honest, I have lost track of where I left who in this building!

Art Drop-off 11-26-19

I stopped by the Pennypack rail trail on November 26 for a quick exercise session and to drop off these little guys.

I had made these two tiny odd creatures some time back but held off setting them out somewhere because they were so…small. And I worried they would be lost. Then I decided to put them together with this small dish.

You recognize the location – the same train control box I have been using a lot recently.

I put them in place on my way down the trail. As I passed it coming back, I thought the little guys had been moved. I checked the photo I had take about 40 minutes earlier. Yes, I was right, someone had already looked at them – their positions had changed.

As a footnote, I was at the trail the next day. Yes, all three were gone. Fantastic!

Art Drop-Offs – Late September and Early October

I’ve got a few art drop-offs to show you from the past week or so. Let’s go!

On September 28, I was in the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, running along Creek Road (as it calls itself – originally a road, it is now a trail with a variety of surfaces. Lovely to run along in all ways).

I set this tile along the trail.

Now, I wonder how long before anyone finds her. I’ve made a mental note to myself of the location (not far from the beaver pond) and I’ll look next time I am in the area.

art drop off 9-28-19 (1)

On September 30, I was back on the Pennypack Rail Trail. I set this tile on one of the many birdhouses along the trail. I have to be careful when I attempt one of these locations – the ground drops off very steeply right off the trail and it’s easy to forget that, what with those lush weeds flourishing as they do.

Today, October 4, I was at the rail trail again, retracing some ground from the earlier drop-off and also going into a different section. I can report that the tile on the birdhouse is gone.

I left this odd 3D face item at an old control box right by the parking lot at Moredon Road.

Clay art drop off 10-4-193

What is it? I had made a clay animal figurine that I fired and was very unhappy with, so I broke it up and threw it away before glazing. I did like the head, though, and it broke apart in such a way that I could salvage this odd piece. I glazed it and fired it and now…it’s here, sitting in the middle of the shelf.

All right, that is it for now! I’m all caught up with reporting on drop-offs.

Art Drop-Off and a Glimpse of a Fairy Tale

I walked along the Pennypack Trail on August 14 very early in the morning. I’ll show you three things that happened along this way.

First happening, art drop off. I set a very tiny figurine inside one of the train control boxes. I’ve used this site many times before.

 

And here you see it in perspective with its surroundings. You can’t hear it, but a low steady rumble of thunder was going on in the background, the kind that leads to nothing but does lend a certain atmosphere to a walk…

Pennypack trail 8-14-19 #1a3

Happening number 2: I walked down into the picnic grounds and swung by the ranger cabin. No one was inside at the time, so I could take a good look. It’s such a perfect little camp building, very typical of a certain style of park architecture of the past:

Ranger cabin Lorimer #2 8-192

 

I pressed the camera against the glass of the door and got a pretty good shot of the inside:

 

Ranger cabin Lorimer #1 8-191

 

Now, happening number 3. This one is almost a fairy tale come to life. Pictures first:

 

Yes, a white deer!

In the spring, I think, one of the rangers pointed this deer out to me – I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Since then I have not seen him, and he has changed – now he has his antlers. He was also with a brown deer when I saw him the first time, but I do not know if this is the same one.

This sliver of wilderness along the Pennypack Creek has many surprises; I’ve seen a bald eagle, turtles, heard the songs of frogs, and of course, you know about the beaver pond about 2 miles away. A white deer, though, I think that is a fairy tale story waiting to be told.

I’ve made a little slideshow of the above photos to mimic the way I saw it.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Art Drop-Off and a Trip Down Memory Lane

Sometimes you get a craving for some nostalgia. Or maybe you’re just curious about what has happened at a site very familiar to you in the past since you left. Anyway, that feeling came to me last weekend.

For my college education, I went to Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, PA, graduating almost 40 years ago. I lived nearby for some time and then moved to the area where I now am, about 40 minutes or so from the campus. Not much of a distance, but I live in the suburbs of a big city. Everything I need is located very close to me and I don’t stray out of my orbit unless I have a specific idea, since my daily needs are taken care of near home.

My husband has a new job, however, and the office is near the college. I’ve returned to the “old neighborhood” with him a couple of times and we decided to take a walk on the campus this past weekend, August 11. I would say it has been about 4-5 years since I was last there.

So off we went on a beautiful day. The campus was deserted and we had plenty of time and solitude to look around.

Bryn Mawr College has been in existence since the 1880’s and is now and has always been devoted to women’s education. I credit the college with setting the course of my adult life and of course I have many memories of my years there.

From the exterior things look much the same as when I was in attendance. Many renovations have been done to interiors, as you would think for a school with many buildings 100+ years old.

I took along a small clay animal to leave on campus.

Clay Animal 8-1912

I set him on a low wall just inside Pembroke Arch. The library is in the background.

BMC 8-10-19 #1111

And some more shots for a wider view:

One more shot from inside the campus looking out through the Arch:

BMC 8-10-19 #3a3

We had a nice visit, checking out campus sights, and in particular we spent a good bit of time talking to a current student who was working at the desk in the (deserted) library. I enjoyed comparing notes with her. We found many things are the same now as forty years ago. A nice sense of continuity for me.

Art Drop-Off August and a Poem-Inspiring Experience

All right. More art along the Pennypack Trail.

On August 8, I walked on the trail, and as always I pass through the intersection of Fetters Mill Road and the trail at the Bryn Athyn Post Office. Remember, the trail used to be a rail line and the post office is a former train station. So this little intersection was a tiny crossroads back in the past.

Now the traffic consists mostly of trail-goers. Especially now, since the small bridge over the Pennypack Creek is closed for (future) repairs or replacement.

bridge at PP 8-19 view across17

I don’t know when the work will begin but I hear there is a plan and a budget. All right. Until then, it makes the area a little more peaceful not to have any cars passing through.

On this day I decided to walk across the bridge. I left the trail, turned left, and started along.

As you can see, the deck of the bridge is open metal mesh.

PO 8-8-19 bridge 24

Oh, I don’t like walking on such a surface. I have to look down to keep my balance and seeing the reflections of the water below – not something I like.

The view of the creek is lovely, though.

view from bridge PP trail 8-1918

At the other end of the bridge are a few houses and a sharp curve. If you drive on this road, you are taking your time and watching out so as not to hit a house or stone wall.

view far side of bridge PP trail 8-1916

I decided to leave the little cat figurine on the barrier on this end of the bridge.

I stepped back for a longer view of the scene.

PP trail bridge tiny landscape site #3 8-194

Then back I went.

view across bridge looking at PP trail 8-1915

Now you may be wondering about the poetry aspect of this trip. Well, if you follow my poetry blog you know I spend a designated time each week writing (as well as when I feel like it, but I have made an appointment with myself each week for writing, also).

In my most recent session I reflected on the experience of walking on this bridge. Here’s the initial version of this poem – waiting for editing, yes, but I think you will get the feel for what I meant when I said I didn’t like walking on the mesh deck.


I shiver
halfway across the bridge
open metal lattice for a deck
the shiny water reflecting up
from below. I see trees
wavering in the current
I feel the flicker of them
in my stomach.
I slide my feet along on top of the trees
the knobbly grate
grabbing the soles of my shoes and
I know I know
I will fall through
any one of these four-inch grid sections
that cares to take me each one
a vortex pulling down hard

It’s too much. I veer to the rail
sweep my hand along the scabby metal
sharp rust flakes line up in my palm
in time with my steps and
I don’t care as long as
if only
I can get across this bridge


There you have it, the whole thing, words, art, and photos. Thank you for going along with me.

Beaver Pond and a Little Not Traveling Man

This story began some time ago when beavers created a pond in the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust – a place where I go to walk or run.

First, how about a few photos of the pond. You’ll enjoy seeing the scenery change and yet remain the same. Here’s one from April, 2019.

Pennypack eco preserve 4-19-19 (4)

From Creek Road, April 2019

This group of shots were all taken from about the same place on the intersecting trail to Creek Road – so this is around the corner from the first shot above.

I set a little figurine on the signpost at Creek Road on June 22.

He was still there on August 7.

art drop off beaver pond 8-7-19 #11

Normally I’d be sad that no one had picked him up. But just look at this little guy. He’s nothing but cheerful, isn’t he? He looks just about as happy as a figurine can be and I’d say he is someone who has found a place he really likes. He hasn’t gone away yet because he doesn’t want to.

I smiled right back at him. He made my day and I can’t really tell you why. I guess it is the idea of contentment.

I wish him well in his little environment on top of the post next to the pond. When I come by here and he is gone,  I will know it is because he was ready to take that smile to a new place.

Story of a Little Traveling Man

Here’s an art drop-off story with several chapters.

Let’s start. On July 31, I chose these two little guys to go with me to the Pennypack Trail.

Small clay tube creatures

 

I set them on a bench at about the 3.0 mile marker.

 

A couple of days later, on August 1, I came by. They had changed positions, meaning someone had picked them up to look at them but had not taken them along. And, you may notice, they had spent a night out in the rain.

Art drop off 8-1-19 #25

The next day, August 2, I stopped by and the yellow man had gone but the blue guy was still waiting.

Art drop off 8-2 #14

 

The bench he’d been occupying is set in a dark shady section of the trail and since the figurine was dark in color,  he didn’t stand out as the yellow fellow had. I picked him up, put him in my belt pack, and decided to transport him to a more visible spot.

Took me a few days but I set him on another bench just up the trail, near the intersection with the road near the post office, the Little Free Library, and the food truck that parks in a lot across the street. Sunny, and lots of people come by here, I thought.

Here he is on August 7.

All right. I admit to being in the area on August 8, but I forgot to check on him. So the final chapter of his journeys is still open. I’ll let you know what happens.

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