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Road Trip – Havana

My sister and I just got back from a cruise, the highlight was Havana. It was overcast while we were there so my photos aren’t as bright as I would like them to be.

We learned a lot about the country, the people were very friendly and caring.  And like us, they don’t always agree with the priorities of their government.

I would have liked to get outside of the city – next time.

The American cars were great! Most of them are used as taxis, there are other cars and newer cars they just aren’t American cars, a lot of the newer cars are Russian.


cuba15We heard that the economic situation for the people is somewhat better since Americans have been going – one reason is that Americans tip while Europeans generally don’t, and the people we encountered all spoke English, and it was very obvious that most of the population is poor. They do have a good education system (98 percent literacy rate) and healthcare. We were shocked to hear that their infant mortality is lower than in the US.

The city must have been stunning before the revolution, now a lot of it is in ruins, the government is slowly renovating buildings, the government buildings first, then the historic buildings, then last the family homes, and very few of them have been done and  the citizenry just doesn’t have the money to do it themselves.





The guide said people own their homes, they have been passed down generation to generation, and usually 3 or 4 generations are living together, and generally a working person might make 20-30 dollars US a month.


Part of Havana is a UNESCO site and receives help to restore buildings. There is a section of Old Havana that has been restored. The section contains churches and historical sites.




I saw this factory that was open to the street.


Under Raul Castro people are able to own certain businesses, the taxes paid to the government on their earnings are high (we heard many times – the government always wins) like here. So for some people things have improved.







The building in the background was built to resemble our capital, once renovations are completed it will once again hold Cubas general assembly.



















Next trip, Florida Panhandle and Key West!

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More custom Celebration Pottery pieces

One day (years ago) a customer asked me to put names on a platter for a wedding, that was just the start!

Since them I’ve done hundreds of churches with names and dates on tiles and platters…






baby sets…

new bern scenes on things…pot2




special pieces given to visiting dignitaries….


back splash….
and lots more!

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How a piece comes together

I’m often asked to do commemorative pieces to be given as gifts for retirements, birthdays, weddings, etc. The piece I’m showing here was for someone whose career lasted over 30 years and she was involved in many of the projects that have shaped the way our downtown looks today.

First we started with a list of the projects…

…I took reference photos…

…I built this pot using slabs of clay…

…bisque fired it to 1950 degrees…
…did rough sketches of the places that were to be included on the pot…

…figured out how they could work together on the piece…
…sketched them on the pot – btw the pencil lines burn out in the kiln…
…using underglazes painted the image then outlined the image with black line…

…covered the entire pot with a clear glaze…
…fired it again, this time to 1911 degrees…
…and it’s done!


A one of a kind, special gift.
If you have an idea for a special gift for someone let me know! In my next post I’ll show some other pieces I’ve done for people that aren’t quite so elaborate!

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First Christmas out of New Bern in 20+ Years!

For my first Christmas of retirement I went to DC with a friend and spent it with her family. It was a lot of fun! We’ve never gone home (Michigan) for Christmas since Michael and I were married in 1989.

Fortunately we only saw a few snowflakes but the temperature was in the teens, something we are not used to. In fact it was very cold for them as well.

We rode the Metro and the Circulator so it was very easy to get around even though there were thousands of tourists.


Our first designation was the National Gallery. This is a shot straight up on the corner of one of their buildings.



I’ve been struggling to get a cleaner style in my oil paintings, in fact I really have no style at all there. I do in my clay, watercolors and ink drawings but with every oil painting I start it’s like I’ve never done one before. I could be that I did them so seldom when I had Carolina Creations it was just a matter of not practicing.


Our favorite areas of the museum were the Impressionists and the contemporary art. I really haven’t studied art history or early painters since college, I just developed my own style. Now I see I should go back and study their oil painting techniques. I never paid attention to the fact that Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and many others used so much line in their work.

It’s something that I’m going to study and see if I can incorporate into my work, it suits me just fine since I use line in all the other mediums I work in.
Sometimes it takes a long time to notice something like this that is so obvious.



Went to the Vietnam Memorial to honor Michaels and other people we know that served our country.



So glad this is all the snow we saw!

We took a freezing cold but fun trip to Mount Vernon.


Of course the house is the same as I’d seen before but the rest has changed A LOT! There is a beautiful and informative museum that taught us all a lot we didn’t know about him and his life.

And they had an amazing gift shop.

There was very little in it that didn’t have a direct connection to the site. I’m always disappointed when I go to a gift shop of an historic site and see things that have nothing to do with it and you can get in any run of the mill gift shop.

I always think – if this was my shop there are so many things I could produce or have produced for it! While I no longer have a shop I am still creating work for Carolina Creations and others.

A chill visit to Ellicott City was short and sweet.

Next trip – a cruise, coming soon.

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I love my town – New Bern, NC

I’m loving retirement (retired from the retail business but not from creating art)! So today have time to walk around and take some photos of our Downtown. I don’t usually have time to do this until Christmas Day!

Our Downtown has really gotten into the season the past few years. We are finally getting some recognition for our efforts. Here is a link to a web post about a North Carolina tour of the best Christmas towns.



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Tammy Leigh a sculptor I admire

People are always asking me what inspires my work, a lot of the time it is seeing what other people do. Sometimes it’s just in awe of what they are doing and how they are doing it. It encourages me to go out on a limb and try something I’m not sure I can do, not copying their work, just pushing my own to another level.

I met such a person a couple months ago, Tammy Leigh.

The sculptures she does of birds are astounding!

Tammy is a potter from Hickory. After taking a pottery class at the Hickory Msueum of Art she quit her telecommunications job of 16 years and became a full time potter.

Knowing how fragile unfired clay is I don’t see how she can sculpt it without knocking pieces off as she works, then more importantly gets it into the kiln once dry.

One thing we have in common is our ability to promote our work. What good is it to do a lot of artwork and have it pile up in a corner? The joy for us is in the creating, once it is done it is exciting to see someone else that has to have it in their home.


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Garden Sculpture in the works part 2

So instead of just finishing the sculpture I decided to also do a bird bath, so got the bowl for the top built and now letting it dry. Actually its not unusual to have many pieces going at once, since I’m building for out doors the pieces have to be somewhat robust (thick) so take a long time to dry. Even when I think they are dry – room temperature to the touch, the piece is cool to the touch if there is still moisture – I put them in the kiln and heat it to about 150 degrees and shut it off. I’ll do this a couple times until I put my head in and my glasses don’t steam up!

For the totem I decided to make 2 tops for now, a simple round topper and a bird. Both are in the drying stage.

My glaze samples all turned out – very unusual! These are Potters Choice glazes.

My favorites are

I think earthtones are more appropriate for outdoor sculptures so am going looking for a few more greens/yellows/browns. Of course I could always just fire this clay to vitrification with no glaze or just a clear glaze.

The neat, well one of the neat things about Steve’s technique is that I can add or take away components depending on how tall I want it to be (or how much money the customer wants to spend!).




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Garden Sculpture in the Works Part 1

Garden totem in the works!  Quite a few years ago shortly after I met Steve Fabrico I went to his studio and took a weekend workshop with him on his handbuilding technique.

I’ve done a couple of these sculptures with the techniques he taught and am pleased I’ve got time to do this type of work again.


The pieces are super soft at this stage and since they are quite thick I’ve put them back in their molds (except the roundish one) so the pieces would keep their shape until dry. I had to shorten the tall mold or it would not have fit into my kiln. I’ve made a top and a bottom of each piece and put them together.

My next issue, how am I going to get the base piece into the kiln without damaging it? I think I’ve got that figured out too. Wrap in paper, put back into mold, put it on a small kiln shelf that I can leave underneath the piece while it’s being fired.

Most of the pottery I do is low fire earthenware but if a piece is going to be out in the weather it needs to be stoneware. What’s the difference?

From “The Basics of Pottery Clay” by Beth Peterson….

What is clay? Is it simply dirt? Well, yes and no. “Dirt” covers a lot of ground, so to speak. We can break dirt into several sections: topsoil, clay, inelastic earth, and rock. Topsoil contains a lot of organic material, which makes it good for growing plants. Clays and inelastic earths are the results of decomposing rocks, in which the particle size is extremely small. Rocks include bedrock and boulders all the way down to fine sand. Most clays contain several different types of clay minerals with different amounts of metal oxides and organic matter, this is what sets the different types apart. 

Clay differs from the inelastic earths and fine sand because of its ability, when wet with the proper amount of water, to form a cohesive mass and to retain its shape when molded. This quality is known as clay’s plasticity. When heated to high temperatures, clay also partially melts, resulting in the tight, hard rock-like substance 

Classes of Clay

There are many different types of clay bodies you can work with.  Clay can be divided into several classes, based on characteristics and at what temperature the clay must be fired to in order for it to become mature, or reach its optimum hardness and durability.

The three most commonly used clay bodies are earthenware clay bodies, mid-fire stoneware clay bodies, and high-fire stoneware clay bodies. 

Earthenware Clays

Earthenware is the most commonly found type of found clay. Earthenware clays were some of the earliest clays used by potters, and it is the most common type of clay found. These clays are highly plastic (easily worked) and can be sticky. Earthenware clays contain iron and other mineral impurities which cause the clay to reach its optimum hardness at between 1745°F and 2012°F (950°C and 1100°C).   – Unless totally covered with glaze it will remain somewhat porous.

Stoneware is fired at very high temepratures. 

Stoneware clays are plastic and are often grey when moist. Their fired colors range through light grey and buff, to medium grey and brown. Fired colors are greatly affected by the type of firing.

Mid-Fire Stoneware Clay Bodies are formulated to fire to maturity between 2150°F and 2260°F (1160°C and 1225°C).

High-Fire Stoneware Clay Bodies   fire to their mature hardness between 2200°F and 2336°F (1200°C and 1300°C).

When fired to maturity some of the clay particles melt and the clay turns to stone, making it impervious to water.

I hope I’ll have time over the next year to do a lot of sculpture!

Phase two – bisque fire the individual pieces.

Next post – figuring out my glazes and sculpting the top.

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Road Trip Savannah – Post 2 also where I’ve been artwise and where I’m going

Savannah is not the city it was when I first visited in the early 70s. So glad! It seems since SCAD opened in Savannah in 1978 the cities treasured buildings have taken on a new life. Every time I go it gets better and better – at least the historic district and the restoration of buildings. To date SCAD (Savannah School of Art and Design) has restored over 65 buildings, many around the famous squares. Which has encouraged others to restore even more buildings.

When I visited in the early 70s the bones were beautiful but it seemed like the city was rotting away.

What a transformation!

What I love – those of you who know my work know this already – is architecture, gardens, and birds. So that is what I’m usually taking photos of, hoping some day to have time to paint some of the things I see, either on clay, canvas, or paper.

If you ever see a photo on my blog and say to yourself, “I’d LOVE a painting of that” just let me know by commenting on this blog post at the bottom of the page.

Leaving Savannah I took a leisurely drive up Hwy 17 which leads directly to my home in New Bern.

Along the way I stopped in Charleston and Beaufort to take a few photos.

In Charleston a couple places I always like to stop are Charleston Cooks, while I don’t like to cook I love a kitchen shop, it’s all the gadgets I guess. Well much to my dismay I saw their building was empty, I thought they had moved, no, they closed last year. Bummer!

So on to my next favorite place. Art by Laura DiNello 

She does these interesting “paintings” that look like a mosaic but are really pieces of canvas cut up. I’m thinking when I get ready to do the mosaic in my pottery I’ll first do my image on canvas using her technique to work out the design. I’ll keep you posted on that project. I know I won’t have time to even start on it until after Christmas.

This is one of her pieces. Most are very large, like I said look like mosaic but are canvas so very light weight!

My 3rd favorite place is a little shop called Indigo.

Always has a nice mixture of hand crafted and not, cute, whimsey, well done.

I have been an artist my entire adult life, most of the time I was employed at a “real” job I was involved in the arts, doing my fine art on the side.

I started my career working with senior citizens and teaching art classes to them, then the regional commission on aging where I wrote produced and printed a newsletter going out to over 10,000 people (among other duties), which was my intro into the printing industry, then I moved to the art department of a commercial printer which taught me so much and has served me well as I pursued my life as a fine artist, then to Aspen Colorado Arts Council, the art department of the Aspen Times, and finally starting and working at Carolina Creations in New Bern for 27 years.

I feel like during all this time I’ve never been as creative as I am right now. It’s all because of time. I now have the time to experiment and not always worry about having to make a living. I feel blessed!

If you are interested in reading about what and who have influenced me through the years you could read my old blog and my 31 Days of Thanks posts, here is a link if you are so inclined.

Back to the trip!

This is not a good photo but something I would like to paint. Most of my photography is for that purpose, not as as finished product but something I might paint.

As many times as I’ve been to Charleston I’ve never seen the shell house. It is on the campus of Ashley Hall, and was originally built as an on campus aviary for exotic birds.

Still blooming in November!

A fun unplanned trip! I thought I took photos in Beaufort, SC but guess not! It was beautiful driving through, I forgot how beautiful!

Next planned road trip DC.

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First Presbyterian Church New Bern Christmas Card

Every year since 1990 I’ve created a New Bern Christmas card. This years card features First Presbyterian Church to celebrate their 200th anniversary.

2017 marks the bicentennial celebration year of First Presbyterian Church of New Bern. The formal organization took place on January 7, 1817, at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Minor. The Reverend John Knox Witherspoon established the church with 13 founding members. Construction began in 1819, and the sanctuary was dedicated on January 6, 1822. Painting and copyright – Janet Francoeur. (Original is sold.)



8 cards and envelopes for $10.50