Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park, BC

Our family just returned yesterday from one week in the Cathedral Lakes Park, near Keremeos, BC.  It is part of the Cascades Mountain Range which extends from southern BC, through Washington state, Oregon and California, and includes many of the mountains we have visited and loved, including Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood.  The Cathedral Lakes Park is closed to vehicles (other than the transport vehicles used by the private operators of the Lodge and associated cabins), bicycles, and pets.  So it remains rugged wilderness, and a great location for some pretty serious hiking.

Of the 5 full days we were there, the first 3 we hiked 5 or 6 hours per day, typically climbing about 250 meters of elevation, to visit the many lakes and ridges in the area.  Then we rested one day, followed by a 10.5 hour hike, climbing about 500 meters that day.  It was pretty challenging for me, so I was proud of myself for just surviving that journey.  Hopefully my photos will portray some of the beauty of that area, and its flora and fauna.

First, some landscape and hiking spots :
In this hike, we had originally planned to take it easy and hike to Scout Lake, a mere 75 meter elevation above our cabin, which was at about 2000 meter above sea level.  But we accidentally started on a path which was marked in ribbons (not the park's standard wooden signs), and ended up climbing up the side of Scout Mountain, coming out about 200 meters above the lake.  See the patch of snow just below where I am standing for the photo?  Then we hiked down to the lake, and back to our cabin.

These are some more photos from the top of that ridge.  I love the green and black lichen on the rocks up there, and in many of the areas we visited.

There were a total of 6 lakes in the area within reasonable hiking distance which we visited.  This is Glacier Lake.

This is Quiniscoe Lake, which is where the lodge and cabins are located.

The scenery was an  interesting mix of lush green wildflowers and young healthy trees, and large dead trees (apparently wiped out by an infestation of spruce beetle).

Did I mention we were hiking?  I found the long hikes quite challenging, but the scenery was really quite beautiful.

As you see, I may not have had a big backpack, but I was carrying a lot of weight.  :-)

Getting up close with some of the local wildlife - mule deer and mountain goats, was fun.  On this hike past Glacier Lake to the Rim Trail, a family group of mountain goats passed us on the way up....

...and came to rest on a big patch of snow.  We continued to climb the mountain, above them.  (Although I would have preferred to join them on the patch of snow.  I think they had the right idea.)
If that encounter wasn't close enough for us, then passing them on the trail at the camp was even closer.  They seemed quite comfortable to wander about, passing beside our cabin and next to the tents at the nearby campsites.

The mule deer were equally bold, passing very close to us on the trails.

The kids spotted this healthy looking bunny during one of our hikes.

Being the northern (Canadian) part of the Cascades mountains, the wild flowers reminded me a lot of those at Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.

What hiking trip would be complete without wild berries?  I was amused by these huckleberry bushes, which were only a few inches high, but the berries were amazingly sweet (albeit tart).

The grouse seemed to think so, too, and we found a family (mother with 3 chicks) enjoying huckleberries beside the hiking path.

A few more floral scenes :

A black lichen "heart" which made me think of Clytie at Random Hearts.  I had to take a photo of it, for her :

And finally, one of my favorite locations in Cathedral Lake Park - a big granite rock next to our cabin, which was perfect for relaxing in the sun, when not on one of our hikes.

Fall Gold Indeed

My Fall Gold raspberries started ripening just before we left on vacation a week ago.  I'm glad my Mom, who faithfully looked after our house and garden while we were away, had a chance to enjoy some of them this past week.  They are nice raspberries in the summer, with a surprisingly mild flavor.  But during their second crop this time of year, words don't express enough the amazing sweetness of these raspberries - truly gold, in both color and flavor!
PS. The raspberries in the photo are surrounded by some of our Asian pears from our delightful espalier tree, which are also nice and crisp and sweet.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Ceramics Creations - First of Many, I Hope

As my kids are now 14 and 12, and we have enough highly competent people at work that I don't need to feel responsible for everything anymore, I finally decided this summer to do something entirely for myself.  I have been wanting to learn and play with ceramics for years now, and finally signed up for a course.

It was an ideal course for me, since it was for all skill levels, not just beginners.  I find that I learn pretty quickly, so I wanted a challenge.  It was even better than my expectations.  The instructor, Sabrina, was super helpful and patient, and demonstrated and tempted us to try many different techniques.  The other students were an amazing group.  I owe so much to each of them, for their inspiration, and encouragement, and for being so open with their tips and suggestions.  I signed up for a course, but what I discovered was a community of wonderful and talented people.  I am already signed up again for another course in September, and in January also.

This is a record (probably more for me than for anyone else, and includes my glaze notes) of the many (22 !) creations which I brought home earlier this week, after my 4 week ceramics course (which was twice a week for 3 hours followed by a 4 hour workshop).  I am really pleased that I ended up with a few interesting pieces, but more importantly, each one represents a lot of learning - both of what worked and what failed.  All were made from grey stoneware.

I would love to hear from you if you enjoyed any of these.
#1 and #2 - These 2 pieces are among my favorites.  They represent some of the first vases/bowls which I successfully threw on the wheel, to which I attached lily petals.  In the smaller one, I not only attached the petals, but cut out a small section of the rim (as perhaps seen in the bottom right photo).  For both pieces, the lilies were painted with Red underglaze, Clear glaze applied to them by brush, then protected by wax resist (I forgot to add spots with overglaze before doing so, since I intended for my lilies to be freckled), while the remainder of the piece was dipped in glaze.  The large one (5" across) was first filled with Copper Red, then the entire piece dipped in Matt Green, then sprayed with Clear glaze.  I like the effect of the red showing through the green on the inside.  For the smaller one (4" across), it was dipped in Matt Green then sprayed with Clear.

#3 - This little candle holder (it is spherical, with a hole cut in the bottom so that it can sit on top of a tea light) was inspired by some beautiful spherical creations which I discovered in the Czech Republic during our trip last summer, but didn't dare buy any since I couldn't imagine them surviving the trip successfully, so I took a photo to remember them.  I didn't expect to try to create my own, but I am drawn to the spherical shape, so encouraged by Sabrina, I gave it a try.  I am pretty pleased with the result, although my next ones ( :-) ) will be much bigger, since the piece heats up too quickly with a tea light inside.  I dipped it first in Amber Celadon, then in Clear.

#4, 5, 6 and 7 - These were a few little items I made for my 14 year old.  The pony is Fluttershy from My Little Pony, except that I forgot to make her wings.  For the mane & tail, I mixed Red and White underglaze to make pink.  I had inscribed the eye detail when forming the clay, and dabbed Black underglaze into the impression.  The whole piece was sprayed in a matt clear glaze (I didn't quite catch the name, it was something like Grisly Bore), since I wanted it to look like ceramic rather than shiny plastic.  Same with the little skeleton decoration, where Black underglaze was brushed and then wiped away to reveal the etchings.  The little "rat bowls" were decorated in White and Black slip, then dipped in glaze (Bamboo for the small one, and Clear for the bigger one).

#8 - It's funny, I had expected this bowl to be my favorite, but it didn't turn out as stunning as I had expected at the time (nor did I expect to fall under the spell of the wheel so soon thereafter).  It was formed from a flat sheet of clay, cut and folded to form the bowl shape.  I painted the petal edges and outside of the bowl with Red slip.  The center was a mix of Red and Yellow and maybe Brown underglazes, I believe, and then the whole piece was dipped in Clear glaze.  The result would likely have been more vibrant if a thin coat of Clear were sprayed on, since it seems to have muted the colors, and also filled in some of the textures on the inside of the petals.

#9 - This little footed cup was just an early piece thrown on the wheel, and an experiment in glazing.  I dipped the whole piece in Shino.  Then painted Liquid Latex in the 4 card suits, and dripped Matt Green and Deep Blue while held upside down, and then the Latex removed to reveal the pattern.  This is a technique I would like to explore again.

#10 - This small footed bowl is also an early piece in my throwing experience.  As you can see, I am very fond of the spherical shapes.  The wiggly decoration is Blue slip which was applied when the stoneware was already too dry.  However, the glaze helped to secure it, otherwise it was wanting to break away.  The dots are Black underglaze.  I filled/dipped the inside with Deep Blue glaze, then sprayed the whole piece with Clear glaze.

#11 - My second sphere thrown on the wheel.  This one I didn't have time to make into another candle holder, so instead experimented again with glazes.  The inside is filled with Deep Blue.  The outside was dipped in one direction in Ash Yellow, and then in the other (overlapping) with Deep Blue.  I see in my notes that I also applied some dots of #3 overglaze.  I had forgotten, and thought they were just imperfections.  (Good reason to take notes while glazing.)

#12 and 13 - These 2 bowls were the first projects in our course, allowing us to explore a number of techniques, including paper relief (e.g. the word "Love", created by Blue slip applied to a Xerox copy of the backward word, and pressed into the moist clay), direct writing, stamping, paper relief (the little triangles, protecting Black slip while the turquoise was applied overtop).  The Love/Peace/Patience/Joy bowl is inspired by my neighbor Helen.  The other one, an ikebana vase, was textured on the inside corners (as well as rolled with a pattern on the reverse side).  But now I forgot if I applied Black slip and sponged away around it, or applied white slip on top, but the texture was smoothed by the thick coat of Clear glaze resulting from dipping the piece, and only the color left behind.  If sprayed, I suspect it would have retained some of the texture too.

#14 - This is the piece which got the most attention from my classmates.  After only a short time on the wheel, I managed to throw this large container (8" across and more than 6" high).  I seem to remember I threw the bottom 2/3 first into a curved bowl, and then learned that I could throw on top of that, so continued the curve and wide rim.  I was not quite content with the shape, which was on one hand almost too perfect, yet not perfect enough for me.  So my fellow student Darlene mentioned some technique she had seen on video, where slip / soft clay was applied randomly to create texture.  I dug into the sludge bucket and created my own colored slip/slop, which I enthusiastically slapped on, and I really like the result.  The inside was dipped/filled with Matt Green.  When some of it dripped, I sponged more Matt Green on the outside to hide the drip.  The whole piece was then sprayed in Clear.  I really like the result.

$15 - This little piece I made early in the course, from rolled sections of clay, and handmade flowers.  The flowers were colored with Red underglaze.  The blue leaves were supposed to be green, from a mixture of Blue and Yellow underglaze.  The whole piece was dipped in Clear glaze, which went on a bit too thick.  If I had known, I would have sprayed it on.  The nail hole has filled in with glaze, so I don't know if I will be able to drill that out successfully?  I think I'll need to read up on that before I attempt anything.

#16 - This footed bowl was my first bowl thrown on the wheel.  It looked too ordinary so I tried fluting the edges.  I fought with cracking several times as it dried, but managed to keep the piece intact.  The rings of pink and blue were from a failed attempt at feathering (see bowl further down).  The clay was already fairly dry, so once I added rings of Red and Blue slip, they dried too quickly to do anything with them.  So instead I added some radial lines in blue slip, but then the whole thing looked too geometric, clashing with the casual shape.  So I sponged red and blue and black slip all over the surface.  I liked the effect, which I sprayed with Clear glaze.  But during the firing, it looks like that sponge pattern disappeared.  The back was dipped and brushed with Tenmoku glaze.  Pretty funky coloration there.

#17 - I really don't have any affection for this piece, but I learned a lot from my mistakes on this one.  The main pattern was created in Black slip.  Which of course didn't look black at the time, so when I squeezed on the leaf pattern in Black underglaze, I didn't realize I had picked a color which wouldn't show up.  The black areas were covered with wax resist, and the body of the pot eroded with wet sponge, to create the 3D effect.  Except I broke through the clay (bottom left photo) and needed to patch the pot from inside.  When glazing, I covered the black areas with wax again (so they are unglazed), and dipped the outside in Matt Green then sprayed Clear.  The inside was filled/dipped in Tenmoku, which came out as a rich coffee bean color.

#18 - This cylinder turned out okay.  It started with a simple rolled slab, attached to a flat base.  I covered the whole piece in & out with Turquoise slip, added the dots in Red slip, and imprinted them with the rose pattern (from a button).  The whole piece was sprayed in Clear.  I like the result, and it was quite simple to achieve.

#19 - This was the piece which was successfully feathered, but adding rings of Turquoise, Blue and White slip on the inside while the clay was still quite moist.  Then the pattern was created by pulling a small stem from the center outward.  The inside walls were Blue slip, and the outside walls are Black slip.  The whole piece was sprayed in Clear glaze.
#20 - This candleholders was one of my early mistakes on the wheel, prior to receiving any instruction.  I had started to form a bowl, when the whole thing collapsed.  The effect was kind of cool, and with some additional pinching, ended up being a bit rose-like.  I added a small piece in the center to hold a candle.  The piece was dipped in Copper Red glaze twice (since I didn't dip it completely the first time, so I tried again).  I like how the glaze pulls away from the edges, giving it a weathered look.  But it's not a beautiful piece, I don't think.

#21 - This one is a bit too wide to be a goblet, but is a wonderful little footed container.  If I understand my notes correctly, the inside was filled with Matt Green.  Then I realized I wanted the inside blue, so the whole piece was dipped in Deep Blue (I love that color!).  Then I turned it upside down, and dipped just the top in Matt Green.  So a bit of the blue is showing through.

#22 - I may be listing this tiny bowl last, but this is what was left over from my earliest attempts at the wheel, before receiving instruction.  I decided to let it dry anyhow, and after shrinking during bisque and glaze firings, it is pretty tiny indeed.  But it let me play with some more glazes.  I think it was drops of Black slip or underglaze on the rim.  It was dipped in Celadon completely, then the bottom part dipped in Amber Celadon.
For anyone who actually read down this far, you are either very interested in ceramics, are a very good friend to me, or ??? (fill in the blanks).  But thanks for reading, and please drop me a note or comment on which, if any, of these pieces you enjoyed most.
P.S. 5 Oct 2013 - I have just created a new blog devoted to my ceramics journey, if you have enjoyed my photos, I hope you will join me.  It is called "Ceramics : It's Just Dirt".
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