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Erev Pesach

The first night of Passover.

Passover is a celebration of being released from slavery. The Passover story is about Jews escaping from slavery in Egypt. Something that happened 5000 or so years ago seems far away from life today.

We’re no longer stuck in one country ruled by people different from ourselves. Unless you consider the 99% different from Congress. Unless you consider employers whose only concern is money and who view employees as replaceable as the rolls of toilet paper in the rest rooms. Unless you consider those working in jobs they hate hoping they can last long enough to vest for their pension. Unless you consider the innocent who have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned. Unless you consider those living with constant pain that isn’t eased by pain killers. Unless you consider women and children trapped in violent homes. Unless you consider those whose curable illness isn’t curable because they cannot afford medical care.

What is freedom?

The ability to chose my own religious beliefs.

The ability to chose where I will live.

The ability to chose what kind of employment I will have.

The ability to chose my own education.

The ability to be treated with dignity and respect.

The ability to overcome obstacles.

I am a Jew. I always was a Jew, but I didn’t know it until I started working on a family history and until I studied German in college which enabled me to know that my grandmother’s German was definitely not Hoch Duetsch. It was Yiddish. When the Jews came to the Red Sea, the waters parted and they passed over on dry land. When my great-great-grandparents came to the Atlantic Ocean, they passed over in the hold of a ship. Not the best way to travel, especially with an infant, but they reached a freedom they had never known and couldn’t fully grasp. Each generation was taught to never do anything that would make others think we were Jewish. My grandmother was horrified when I told her I ate a bagel in a restaurant. I eat what I want, where I want, and proudly wear my Star of David necklace.

I was born in Buffalo, NY and I now live in Las Cruces, NM. I chose to make that move. I chose to go to law school. I chose to practice criminal defense. I chose to only represent indigent people.

I am bipolar. I will always be bipolar and I will always need psych meds in order to function. I chose to turn what others view as a disadvantage into an advantage. Because I do not hide my mental illness, I was able to help mentally ill clients in ways the mentally healthy could not. I know what it’s like to be on psych meds and I know what it’s like to be unmedicated. I know what it’s like when the psych meds stop working – and that will happen no matter what med one is taking. I know what med adjustment is like. I know what withdrawal is like – it’s both worse than and easier than you think.

I have the financial independence to live on my own. We are approaching our 44th wedding anniversary. I stay because I love my husband and we have a good, imperfect marriage.

Those are the freedoms I will celebrate during Passover.

May your Passover be joyous and enlightening.

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Kiln Surprises

I fired the kiln yesterday and we unloaded this evening. I was pretty sure I overshot ^6. After seeing the glaze results and the cracks, I know I overshot ^6 and I might have overshot ^7.

I had some trouble a couple firings ago. Cracking sounds when we started the kiln and it was obvious some of my work shattered. I lowered the gas and proceeded s-l-o-w-l-y. That solved the shattering problem. But… I’m finding the cones melting faster than I expect. I know that the cones melt at a lower temperature if the firing is slow. It’s the heat over time thing – like that plug that pops out of the turkey when it’s finished cooking.

For my next firing, I want to try checking the kiln every 15 minutes after the temp gets up to about 1000 F. I’ve always checked every half hour, but that’s not working so well now.


IMG_1318I made a few ornaments. Fun little things to make, but they get boring after a while. There is only so many times I can make one thing before I get bored.

I have air plants which need air plant pots. So I made lots of little pinch pots and did glaze experiments on them. The one I like the best is the yellow and brown pot – first large photo on the right. I like how the yellow dripped into the brown.


I used a pink glaze on the dish, but the color burnt out. I like what happened better than what I planned. Clay is like that. Full of surprises and not for the anal retentive.


I was playing around with tiny cookie cutters and soap dishes magically appeared. I prefer the one with the cactus and bunny. While these are cute they are not easy to glaze. There were lots of little spaces where glaze needs to go.

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What If?

I had some time before my writing class one morning so I spent quality time playing in my sketchbook.

I started with a gingko leaf. After drawing the leaf, I began to think about what I would do with the design. I could make an art quilt. I could make a stencil so I could use it for underglaze on a ceramic piece. I could take the design and carve free hand into moist clay.

Or I could get out my tablet and use the sketch app. The sketch app. comes with the ability to draw mirror images. Could I take this design and turn it into Art Deco or Art Nouveau. If I make a mirror image, what do I put between the two designs? The fast sketches are annotated:

Rock is better. See matte shinos @ NM Clay. Albany slip? Carve in layers. Matte shino – more realistic. Albany slip for gingko? Celadon for remainder? Desert Yellow? Or use matte teal or turquoise? Teal better.

Three pages of sketches and notes all made within a half hour.  One of the parts of creativity that fascinates me is how an idea starts and grows. What I had in mind when I started was nothing like what I had on paper when I finished.

What if….. I played with the surface of a pot? I had made a box that I wasn’t sure I liked. The lid cracked in the bisque firing. I was going to toss the entire piece until I looked at it again. The bottom part of the box was an interesting vessel. I had poked my finger into the soft clay making an assortment of belly buttons.

I fired the kiln today and while firing, I made pots. What if….. I coil built a three sided vessel, a loose triangle with soft corners. When I got it built, I poked my finger from the inside of the pot to make outie belly buttons. Then I poked my finger from the outside of the pot to make innie belly buttons. Eventually, it will get glazed. I want to play with some glaze combinations and see how the glazes run over the humps and impressions. I plan on making a few more experimental belly button pots. What if….. I put texture on the outside then pressed belly buttons on the inside and outside? What would the glaze do?

When I got the belly button pot done, I worked on pinch pots. What if….. I do weird things when I make a pinch pot. I pinch – as one expects. I smooth out the way I smooth out a coil built  pot. I pull up the short areas, something like throwing a pot, to make a more or less even rim. I like the pinch pots I made today.

What if….. I named the experimental pot a belly button pot? Would that pot be attractive to people?  Would people buy a belly button pot?

Art is comprised of What if…..  What if I use this paint and this brush? What if I draw with a pen rather than a pencil? What if I put this piece of fabric with that fabric? What if I do some hand quilting along with machine quilting? How can one create without experimentation?

All of life is a risk. What if I marry this person? What if I never marry? What if I move to the other side of town? What if I move to the other side of the country? What if I don’t accept this job offer? What if I quit this job? The answers only come after taking the risk.

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It Isn’t Always Pretty

I decided to make some fabric boxes to help organize the sewing room. It should have been easy. It wasn’t. The first box, I didn’t like the way I had the corners attached. Fold excess fabric, and serge around the top. The second box, I cut out the excess fabric, turned the box inside out, and zigzagged the corners together then serged around the top. The third box, I did the same way. I played with some of my fancy threads. Changing threads in the upper and/or lower looper requires unthreading the machine – all four thread cones – and rethreading. I’m getting better at threading.


A bit more organization. First box is in  the rear, second on the left and third on the right.


It was a bit more square before Tinker decided to lay down on it.


Serger parts and accessories.


A few of the fancy threads in the first box.

I also worked on the other two fossil series quilts. IMG_1313IMG_1314

This one is based on a fern fossil. It’s okay. I do like using the serger to take care of the raw edges. I wasn’t in the mood to make bias binding. If I were to make another, I’d fuse the leaves to the top and either leave no room for quilting between the leaves or put the leaves farther apart.


This one is based on a leaf fossil from around 100 million years ago. The fossil is interesting, but I don’t like how this quilt came out. I should have used a less busy piece of fabric for the leaf and used Razzle Dazzle thread for all of the veins.


The Razzle Dazzle veins are too far apart, so I tried to fix the problem with hand quilting. I used Wonder Under to fuse the top, batting and backing together. I’m not sure what happened, but there was no way to quilt this by making more than one stitch at a time. This was pretty stiff. I had used white glue to keep the leaf from moving while I zigzagged the edge. The glue left incredibly hard spots that I couldn’t see but sure found a lot of with a needle. Very difficult to hand stitch.


Because the quilt sandwich was so stiff, the quilting didn’t make the spots between the quilt lines puff up.

So… what have I learned and what do I do next with fossils? I’ve learned that if the fabrics don’t look wonderful when I’m auditioning them, they aren’t going to look wonderful when I get the piece done.

I think these designs work better in clay than in fiber.


This is a bowl based on the same leaf fossil as the pink, blue and purple quilt. Much more recognizable in ceramic form.

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Trying To Like My Art

I decided to make some quilted wall hangings and base the designs on fossils from Antarctica. I’m not sure if I like what I made although I am now sure I vividly remember why I no longer quilt by hand. What a PITA. One of the wall hangings is finished except for the sleeve on the back.


I’m not sure if I like portrait or landscape orientation best. I glued the leaves and stem onto the background fabric – a leftover piece of hand dye. Then I used some of my new fancy thread to sew down the leaves and stem. I hand quilted around the leaves and stem and machine quilted the background.

The other is in progress.


The background fabric on this one is another of my hand dyes. The color washed out on the close up of the leaf.

I’ve learned from these pieces. I like the appliqué and the beads. I like how fancy thread stands out. White glue is not something I like using to hold the layers of a quilt sandwich together. Once dry, even watered down, it’s hard to get a needle to go through it. On the one wallhanging, the glue held the layers together. On the other, the glue refuses to hold the top layer to the batting. I’ve ordered some Misty Fuse on the recommendation of other quilters.

I learned that I am approaching the digital portfolio wrong. I had been using photos found on the internet for inspiration. If I can find inspiration on the internet, there’s no reason to send me to Antarctica.  There is reason, but not one that will give me an advantage over the others applying for the grant. A photo will only show me so much. Any subtle texture in the fossil is lost in the photo. Size is lost in a photo. If I could actually see the rock, I could quilt the rock texture into the piece. I’d also like to be able to know what species I’m looking at and what time period it’s from. It’s been a while since Antarctica was a warm place.

Now, I’m back to searching photos of my art to find Deb’s Greatest Hits.

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Pots and going a little crazy

I’m applying for a grant and I discovered that I will need to submit a digital portfolio. Suddenly, every piece of artwork I’ve ever made looks like crap. I decided to make ceramic pieces specifically for this portfolio. I like the ideas I have, I’m not sure I like how I glazed them. I am sure I’m not happy with the cracks that appeared. I’ve switched from a ^6 porcelain to ^6 white stoneware. That should solve most of the problems. I hope.


We tried an experiment when loading the kiln. Jim alternated how the space between the shelves were oriented. The splits you see in the bottom of the herb pots is because I neglected to remember that melted wax will come up through the drainage holes. I melted wax in an electric frying pan and dipped my pieces so I could have a nice, even line where the glaze stops. For my next even line adventure, I’m considering using 1/4″ wide quilter’s tape. I’ve used that as a resist on other pieces and it worked quite well. The critical part is removing the tape before firing the piece. If the tape isn’t removed, any glaze drips that are on the tape end up on the surface of the pot.


Antarctica fossil bowl. I like the design. I don’t like the crack. I think I would like this design better if I used a glaze that was more pastel. Something to think about for the next round of bowls.  Below is another Antarctica fossil bowl.