Liz Zlot Summerfield Workshop

It's been a long summer with lots going on! One of my favorite treats this summer was a workshop, courtesy of my wonderful husband (birthday present), with Liz Zlot Summerfield at the MudFire Gallery in Dekalb County.

What a great instructor! She has the perfect balance of personality and teaching ability (plus a great artistic talent) to handle a widely-diverse group of students.

All backgrounds and all levels of knowledge converged the first weekend in August to learn what we could at the workshop. Here are two sets of photos from the workshop. The first shows Liz teaching and highlights how she makes some of her outstanding pottery. The second shows the students, some of Liz's completed works in the MudFire Gallery and photos of some of the student's work. - Janet McGregor Dunn

Community News You Can Use


Chair-ity Event

The Fayette Front Page has teamed up with the Hollingsworth House and others to bring a new "Chair-ity" event to Fayette County! The event will be held in early December and will benefit Christian City's new children's village. Artists around the area will paint or decorate chairs which will be displayed around the county, then auctioned off at the Hollingsworth House event. I'll be keeping you posted on this nifty new way to raise money for a great cause! I'll be doing a chair myself (check out my work at www.Hummingbird-Hollow.com... and yes, I know I need to update my site, but the Fayette Front Page and the Georgia Front Page are keeping me plenty busy!).

- Janet McGregor Dunn


Easier to write when the weather stinks...

The weather has generally been wonderful recently and I've had a difficult time writing. I'll have to admit that when the weather isn't quite so hot, but not nasty, I tend to run to the studio to squeeze in a bit of time with my clay.

I've excited about a new direction I'm veering into! My pots are usually rather earthy and mimic the tones of the outdoors. After seeing Peter Max a few months back I've been leaning toward the stunning colors he favors. However, the red clay I have been using doesn't allow for the brights reds, yellows and other colors without a white underglaze or similar. Too much work.

So... I just picked up a bunch of buff, white and stoneware clays.

Well, in looking out the windows I can see a storm brewing. Any minute I'm going to lose my sunshine and will have to shut off the computer. Crazy weather!

I just got back from Lowes, my SUV is loaded with dirt, plants, herbs, fertilizer and things for the garden. I guess I'd better at least get the plants out so they'll benefit from the rain.

More on my new adventures in clay later!


Gotta love the clay

So many analogies, so little time. I'd rather play in the clay than write, but writing (as poorly as I may do it) is in the top ten things I like to do after playing in the clay!

As I walked in to the computer room to do a bit of work it struck me how similar pottery is to life in general.

I had just finished a short article about keeping your mind in tune. According to the data in the article, doing things outside the norm, breaking your routine and learning keeps brain cells in tune and increases brain power. As we get older our minds may slow a bit, but we can actually add brain cells by discovering new things, getting outside our comfort zone (as in, break that boring routine you're in!).

Working with clay is perfect for stretching the mind and adding those new cells. If you started today with the idea you were going to never, ever do the same thing twice with clay you could easily succeed.

Each clay body reacts differently. They fire at different temperatures, are any number of colors and they all have differing properties. Some are great for hand building, some for raku, some for sculpting. Some are perfect for outdoor use, some are so delicate they need to be kept in a glass container for protection.

A person could spend a lifetime just learning the properties of the various clays. If you happened to tire of the available colors of clay you could jump over and start learning how to add components to marble, colorize or otherwise change the clay.

Then there are glazes. Again, another entire lifetime of learning if you had the mind for it.

Those are the basics. When you toss in some imagination it's a wild day any time you're in the studio!

Playing in the clay is a great way to stretch the mind and keep those brain cells growing! The article suggested little things like holding your toothbrush with the hand you don't normally use, or going shopping in a new grocery store. Can't knock the suggestions, but it seems to me that attempting something new with a block of clay is so much more fun. I'd bet an MRI of a clay playing babe's brain would show much higher brain cell creation than a toothbrush hand switching babe (or dude ;-).


Is your hut on fire?

I'm not a big fan of the emails that tell you the horrible things that will befall you if you don't forward that particular email to a million friends in under 3 minutes. Usually you get some sappy message first, or something that pulls your faith strings, then they hit you with the whammy.

So, most of the time I just delete them and move on. The following email came from my daughter-in-law and, happily, did not have the hex at the end! It's just a good message, so I thought I'd share with the world.

The message is much broader than pottery, it's a life lesson. But as I'm heading out to the studio in a few minutes I easily thought of a pottery analogy, one I've experienced myself. I'll share with you AFTER the "Is your hut on fire?" email:

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him. Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. He felt the worst had happened, and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. He cried out, "God! How could you do this to me?" Early the next day, he was awakened by the so und of a ship approaching the island! It had come to rescue him! "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

The Moral of This Story:
It's easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of our pain and suffering. Remember that the next time your little hut seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons the Grace of God.

OK, now for my poor pottery analogy:

Ruined pots. You put so much into a piece of pottery - it's amazing how much time can go into one creation. Sometimes that pot doesn't come out of the kiln in one piece, or it's cracked, it flops, it doesn't look right, there are any number of problems that can occur in the firing process.

Rather than lament the loss, put it aside and, in a few days or weeks, come back and look at it again. Can it be broken up to make a mosaic? Could you separate the pieces and glue to another pot to give it depth?

I have one pot that I hated, it cracked, it didn't look quite like I intended and I was just generally unhappy with it. I left it sitting out on the shelf in the studio for ages. A visitor stopped in and went right to it. Loved it. Hmmm... It wasn't glazed so she couldn't buy it.

It sat for a few months longer, unglazed.

Another friend, another beeline to that stinking pot. Geez.

Finally, I got up off my duff and realized my mistake. It was in looking at the pot as a failure rather than looking at it as a new direction.

I learned to look at things a bit differently. My tastes aren't always the be-all, know-all, what's gonna sell-all.

Granted, I'm not on a desert island and it's not life or death. But it is a life philosophy that I ignored when making my pots. The Hut story is about the grace of God in everything. You can take that message and translate it down to the smallest of small things in your life. If you're not inclined to want "God" in the message, you can still take the philosophy of seeing good in everything.

Sometimes your worst days turn out to be some of the best in retrospect.

Have a great day, even if it's not!