Archives for the month of: April, 2007

This is what Jeff came home to, today. I didn’t know about it until I discvered it this afternoon — Tyler had put up the letters, and the kids set up some snacks around his reading chair (an extra pillow on the chair) and set all his turned wood bowls out on the piano for him to feel proud about.

Jeff got an answer today about a job in Virginia he’d been really excited about — and they picked another of the three finalists. He’s really disappointed, and I guess the kids wanted to cheer him up.

At dinner, we took turns listing things we’re happy not to move away from: our friends in town, nearby grandparents, homeschool park day, scout troops, our nice back yard and the climbing tree, my parents’ cottage in the Irish hills, my brother and his new wife/new Tia Jenny.

Now we’re making summer plans: canoe trips, camping trips, building a new treehouse/club house, making a tile mural for the sunroom floor. We’re scheduling back yard baking and gatherings, dinner parties, and some redecoration projects.

We had a good weekend. Friday night Connor had a friend for a sleepover, and Jeff and I fired up my old raku kiln in the back yard with my new weed burner. (The little girl next door had come to play with Molly earlier, and I heard M say, “That thing? That’s my mom’s flame thrower.”)

In the morning, we headed for Wolf Lake (taking Connor’s friend along) to help my folks rake leaves, pick up sticks and put in the docks for the summer. On the drive up, we saw a fox trotting through a field, several lovely hawks, and a glorious rooster pheasant. At the lake, we saw a big raccoon strolling across the beach in broad daylight, after the nestlings or eggs of the red winged blackbirds in the reedy marsh.  A pair of swans are nesting on the lake, and Connor caught a fish.

C started complaining of a headache in the afternoon, and we headed back home.  We stopped to drop off his friend and got out of the car to visit the 11 new lambs born at his farm in the last week or two — I wish I had taken pictures!  There may be something in the world cuter than a wooly new lamb, but I don’t know what it is.

By saturday night, Connor had a temp of 102.5. It lasted all day Sunday, and when I looked in his throat Sunday night it looked like a horror movie. So we headed for the doc today, and the test confirmed strep.

On the bright side, this is the first Monday since last September that I am not scheduled to get in my car and drive to EMU.  We have been so well for so long that I’m feeling like this was pretty good timing.

I rode home from the lake with a wire mesh box in my lap holding three pounds of Italian honeybees. They are all set up in the hive, and finding the gooseberry, currant, crab apple and plum blossoms.

The grass is so green and succulent, this time of year, full of dandelions and tiny flowering weeds. I spent an hour out back in the grass with sickie-boy and his rat, and an hour under the weeping crab with Molly-pie and Tyler’s white guinea pig (who ate clover to her heart’s content.). Spring is a miracle, every time.  I’m trying hard not to miss it.




This is how I staked out my territory in the mfa studio before I left. My only real disadvantage is that there’s “pull up a chair” space (something we tried to eliminate) but it’s behind me when I am on the wheel…

I miss my space but I’m organizing my studio at home, which has some promise as well.

The end of winter is like waking up from a long, wearying, troublesome dream. Suddenly we have neighbors again, chatting over the fence; sheets dance on the clothesline. Car windows are open and people notice each other again, after a long season of being hunched over, clenched and cold, bundled into coats and hoods, sealed into our houses and cars against the cold.

I wake to the sound of birds, neighborhood kids, dogs, squirrels, cars, mowers, more birds. Some little frogs in the drainage creek next door are trilling at night. There are smells, again, now that the forced air heat is off: grass, food, dirt, flowers, wet clay, the neighbor’s dryer-vent and BBQ grill.

It seems an impossible blessing to be able to walk outside barefoot again, to have bouquets of dandelions handed to me by my kids (for which I thank them, and then discreetly feed them to an ecstatic guinea pig.)

I posted more flowers below, as an apology for the gross bruise picture. Off to my last classes for the year.

My dad used to say,

“Spring is sprung,

the grass is riz,

I wonder where the birdies is…”

About 16 years ago when we bought this house, we took out a chain link fence that ran across the front of the yard, and I planted a quince and a red twig dogwood out there. Later we discovered that the old lady who had lived (and died) here had planted red tulips all along that chain link fence. They remember her, and come up every year. Mostly they don’t get to bloom before Jeff mows for the first time, but these girls somehow ended up near the dogwood I planted, and have managed to bloom every year.

If I were more persnickety I might have rooted them out, as it’s absurd to bloom in the middle of a bush, but I just send out a good thought to the lady who planted them, and let them be.

I’m packing this morning for my last trip to EMU for the school year. I need to finish printing and make mats for the etchings due tomorrow afternoon (my last final). I’m taking a bucket of cleaning supplies to help tidy up Prof. Diana’s house, which Patrick and I have been using all winter while she has been in Florida and Italy. I’ll do some mopping at the studio, where most of the pots not worth further study have already been packed up and hauled home. I suppose I will bring my plants home, because although I will make a few trips down this summer to help with firings, and take bisque to load my shelves, I won’t be there enough to keep a plant watered.

Patrick’s dad is flying down from Tennessee and helping him drive home, on the 28th. It’s going to seem really weird not to see him all summer, after 9 months of having him as a studio-mate and once a week roomie. We rearranged our shelves and wheels in the MFA studio, to adapt to new changes: Reem from Libya (who has a baby girl, Salma) will switch to U of M next fall, so she is moving out; Nancy Sly was an MFA who broke her arm and is just now getting back into the game, so she’s moved in, and there are rumors of a new MFA coming next fall.

We’ve arranged our stuff so as to define (and claim!) our spaces, allow for interaction with others, but make it difficult for chatters to pull up a chair and turn our limited work time into a social occasion. Prof. Lee had suggested last fall that we hang curtains or put up partitions, and we thought he was nuts because we all got along well, and had no concerns about “stealing ideas” with such a diverse body of work. But as we get more serious about producing the bulk of next spring’s MFA shows, and we juggle the responsibilities of kilns, firings and GA duties, we’ve come to see the importance of protecting our time — in this case, by defining our space and turning our wheels to the wall/backs to the room.

I am still cranking out ewers and pouring vessels at home, I can’t seem to get tired of them. I have almost 100 in my bisque kiln right now, waiting to be fired. None are the same but they seem to be forming themselves into “families”. There’s a group based on an ovaled cylinder, pinched straing across at the top, that have a “chickenish” look, beak/spout and fill/tail. Another group of tripod bottomed ones with funnel spouts have an aardvarkish shape. I could see categorizing them in some pseudo-Linnean system, with Latin names.

My plan for summer is to choose one type to produce as a pair, as vinegar and oil cruets on a tray, maybe with a fill-funnel incorporated somehow… to evolve something into a cream and sugar… to make one perfect for olive oil, one for soy, one for sake with cups. Something like a sauce or gravy boat. Maybe some small lidded jars/boxes using the same ideas. I will need to use them at my own table to solve problems: is it easy to fill? Does it pour too little or too much of whatever it holds? Does the hand want to grip it by the sides instead of the handle? Picture the Savino dinner table covered with ewers, while I plan meals requiring dribbles of this or that!

OK, well, my folks are back from Florida and my mom picked up the kids today to deliver Mobile Meals, go to lunch, see a movie and sleep over — so I need to hit the shower, pack my bags and go to school. Tomorrow morning is their last homeschool science class at the Lake Erie Research Center with their dad.. and Mom’s last day of college until September. My blog is likely to shift to details of baking in the wood oven, garden projects, weekends at the lake and camping trips. I think I’ll adapt ;0)

This is my pretty elbow from where I wonked it Wednesday, breaking wood at the kiln site.  Gross, eh? My first thought when I hurt it was, “Wow, I think I’m gonna pass out” — my second thought was “Diana is going to kill me if this is broken!”.

Hopefully it will be better before I goto a wedding next weekend… but I think I’ll need a long sleeved dress.

OK, this entry will bring me up to date and then I’m walking away from this computer for a while.  I was up too late putting up the salt fire  pix and the crit results, and I’m cleaning my studio today to get ready for summer productivity.

I was kind of background-nervous about my mid program review, increasingly so in the last week.  So much of what I have been making this year was either assigned, or designed to address my weaknesses, or both — so while the process was important, it mostly produced fodder for the slop bucket and the occasional fired milestone for my progress. Lined up in chronological order on the big tables P. covered with white paper, they looked decidedly clunky at the last-september end.

I decided to make rowns of things marching toward the more recent work — all the teapots following each other like little ducks in a row, spouts pointed toward the future.  Bowls, lidded things, the row of anatolian jugs. It was reassuring to observe how they got lighter in the course of the year, both visually and in weight.

Fortunately, when Paddy and I unloaded the salt kiln with gloves just hours before the review, I ended up with a big box of not half bad ewers. P. had brought me a pedestal from the gallery where he’s a half time GA, so at the “new work” end of the table I arranged a flock of ewers like little penguins on an ice floe, looking in every direction. They were still warm ;0)

The bad part was having no idea what to expect from the process. Patrick had his review first, and wisely provided coffee and a collection of his own very tactile coffee mugs for the 7 profs to hold during discussion of his work.  I had taken off to buy bread at the co-op, since bread was mentioned in my artist’s statement — got lost in depot town (p. is usually my copilot) and by the time I got back, his review had already started.

When I passed the door, I saw 7 stern looking profs (ok, one smiley one) all facing down Patrick, who stood by his table  of carefully placed, loosely thrown, lively ash crusted or shino-gleaming lidded jars, mugs and tall pieces. 

I paced around the MFA space, waiting for my turn.

When Patrick was done, we passed each other in the hall.  He looked a little rattled. “Be ready for them to ask you questions you can’t answer”. he said. “That was pretty tough.”

I was tempted to flee, at that point.

I think what saved me was my nervous tendency to blather on. I was invited to make a short introductory statement before the questions began, and well, it was not so short. By the time the coordinator flagged me down to start the questions, most of the allotted time was taken… and of course my answers were windy and detailed as well. Before we knew it, time was up, and I was invited to leave the room so they could discuss and vote.

I wish I had known how reviews work. I went into the wheel room and cleaned off my shelves, half overhearing just enough discussion about me to make me nuts because I couldn’t make out the words.

Eventually the coordinator came in to get me, told me I had passed, and asked me to come back for final comments and questions.

The jewelry prof had kind of a crit and admonishment for me about my (not her words, but accurate) “ADD” approach to my work. She cautioned me to stay with problematic pieces and work through it, rather than jumping to another project and another. I said that I would, and that it’s really one of my goals in coming back to school — becaus ein my own studio I only pursued what was fun for me, and ended up with gaps in my skill.

I had given each prof a folder with my artist’s statement (also windy) and a copy of my clay times column called “why we need teachers” whick kind of spelled out the batttle between my ego and my studies.

The coordinator pointed out, as they left, two ewers that were his favorites that he would be willing to buy if they ever went up for sale: one with a vertical roulette pattern, and one with the little faces that used to grace almost everything I made before I went back to school.

After some grad students came by later that evening (I had signed up for the grad student gallery walk, since my stuff was already going to be set up) Professor Lee took us all out to dinner at Real Seafood in Ann Arbor. We were both relieved to be done and have passed, and a little freaked out still about the nerve-wracking process.

Next I need to pick my MFA committee for next year.

It’s really weird that this year is just going to be OVER, in a few weeks. Patrick is driving back to Tennessee, and I’ll miss him terribly. 

I need to go clean my studio. If I can keep up the kind of momentum that has carried me through these last three months, I should be able to come up with some work to sell this summer.

Next week is the last week of class… then finals. This year has gone fast. At the same time, I can barely remember life before school.


The new salt fired pots are at

and results of the vote/crit please page (unfired porcelain ewers) are written up under each photo at

Thanks to all who send votes and comments. It’s really useful! I won’t wear out my welcome by asking for more and more critiques, but please feel free to comment about any of your likes and dislikes w/ my new salt pots, or anything I post. You can’t hurt my feeling, I promise. Specific “whys” are the most useful!

I’m going to go put a whole page from this kiln on my website.

Whaddya think? (click on “comment” below if you like!)