Sunday, January 31, 2010

Posts from a Spanish Diary: #7 A Cathedral

The castle town of Morella, only about a 40 minute drive from Masia Albadas (my home away from home in Spain), took my breath away. It is a gorgeous little town trickling down a hill with a combination of sandy colored stone structures towering at the top. There is a castle, a cathedral and a convent. The cathedral is still in use, the castle is being renovated and is frequented by tourists, and the convent is no longer active but also in renovations.

We begin here with the Cathedral in town. This catholic church, nestled below a castle of Muslim origin, has the typical Spanish blue dome and incredible doors. To give you a better idea of the setting, I found this picture (through Google!).
Though you may barely be able to see it, the blue dome of the cathedral is below the large rock plateau to the right. Look closely, it is there! The church is an amazing example of Gothic architecture, built in the 13th and 14th Centuries. It is dedicated to Saint Mary or, if you want the authentic name, "Iglesia Arciprestal de Santa MarĂ­a la Mayor." Seth took me to see some sights every once and a while, saying that it would be a shame if he didn't, and Morella was one of the first.
This is a view above the Cathedral, from the castle, looking down on the blue dome and the bell tower.
Seth and I happily realized that we happened upon a full Catholic wedding taking place! The whole church was lit, which I learned was quite the treat, seeing that a tourist might put one Euro in a 'vending machine' of sorts to see the inside with the lights on for a minute or so. The bride and groom were at the altar receiving their blessings and we were able to sit in on the service. Note the spiral staircase with ornate carving on the left. This leads to a choir loft, dating to the 15th Century, which is isolated and elevated, apparently one of the few examples in the world.
Sculptures dotted the ornate stone work along the elevated choir loft.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Posts from a Spanish Diary: #6 Doorways

I can't help but do an entire post devoted to doorways. In Spain I had to hold myself back from taking a photo of every doorway I saw. The wood was gorgeous, the carving ornate, the metal pounding was impressive, the shapes, the colors ... oh, it was endless. It was inspiring and some pretty cool prints may come out of my love for the Spanish doorway. Enjoy!

A Knight's Templar structure in Albocasser where Seth played in the band.

A local sitting in his wooden doorway in Morella, a local castle town.

The entryway to the National Ceramics Museum in Valencia. Jennie and I were in awe.

A small door to somewhere in the Cathedral of a town about 30 minutes away. I went to a local dancing "expo" there and took some time to wander the town.


Ok, a little different but still great! In Valencia, the doorways or grates covering stalls and stores were often painted. I love this one.

A tiny door on a hill in Villa Fames.

An incredibly old door in a local town.

A cathedral's back door in Valencia.

Oh just a town home/apartment entryway in Valencia.

A doorway in a local town.

Seth's entry to the courtyard. That is his Morris 8.

A newer doorway with matching window.


Note the stairs ... sideways so as to avoid being clipped by the cars on the narrow street.


One of many entry gates to the castle of Morella.


Seth in front of a local Cathedral's ornate doorway. Many were made like this, wood with bolts in patterns/pictures with thin metal pounded over it.

And of course, my balcony double doors! Oh how I miss them!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Diligence

At a stupid hour to be awake, running out of time and money, I decided to make some important decisions in my life. Never a good idea but its done. And it all worked out just as I "planned".

I am now working for a local, high class, high expectations, high stress restaurant chain. My whole working life I have avoided the restaurant biz. Now, as I think about it, I'm not exactly sure why. I love people, I love action, I love food. Seems like a good fit. But the whims and particularities of people and their comforts (ie. food) seemed like a tall order for me, a person who wants to ensure that everyone is pleased as pie. There were always a few too many variables in that picture for it to be a happy one for me.

Yet here I am, getting shirts professionally dry cleaned, buying "spec" shoes and skirts, memorizing ingredients, learning how to answer a phone and put people on a wait, maintaining a smile, always a smile.

I cannot help but say that I am disappointed. I love, absolutely love, this restaurant. I would not work for another restaurant. But here I am, 26 and working in a restaurant (not even able to be a waiter yet since I have no prior experience), struggling to find the time and energy to devote to art and struggling to make ends meet. I am stressed learning the details and spending more money than I've made so far. I would be lying if I didn't say that at this point, I'm loosing sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

These are the moments that I think I should throw in the towel and walk away. But that's just it. When I think of walking away, what is it that I'm walking away from? Dreams. Now, that word has become so cliched it almost makes me roll my eyes to say it. But really, that is what I would be walking away from: a dream. "A strongly desired goal or purpose", something to consider as a possibility. I was talking to a friend about some of this and he had the best response, "I know it is overwhelming and stressful at times, and if that is the case, you need to march your butt downstairs and throw some clay around. That will get your mind off of things and calm you down a bit."

Any fool should be able to see that merely because a dream is not realized at this particular moment does not mean that any towels should be thrown in any direction but over your shoulder for more work to be done. The key word there is "should", any fool should be able to see. But my sorry excuse for patience and hard work blurs that sight completely and I am struggling to wipe my eyes clear. While I'd like to be present, be aware and active in the now, I need to keep that strong desire, that purpose, that goal in mind.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Think on these things: Plato

"Beauty of style

and harmony

and grace

and good rhythm

depend on simplicity -


I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and

nobly ordered mind and character,

not that other simplicity

which is only a euphemism for folly.

-- Plato's Republic (Book 3)

Monday, January 18, 2010

FREE Sugarloaf Craft Festival Tickets

Ok, the time is here ... I am giving away FREE Sugarloaf Craft Festival tickets! January 29-31st. But first, you have to answer a question to get them.

1. A long, long time ago I posted about my favorite shape to make. What was that shape?

Email the answer to sjcoffin@gmail.com.

The first 3 people to answer correctly will get 2 FREE tickets to the Sugarloaf Craft Festival!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Posts from a Spanish Diary: #5 La Comida

I am often asked, with wide eyes and drool already welling, what sorts of things I ate while in Spain. Video montages of a food tour through Europe are playing before the inquirer's eyes before I've gotten a chance to answer.

The rural Spanish, like many rural dwellers around the globe, are still closely tied to their land. This being so, one country's cultural outpourings will have wide variances depending on the specific regions' own natural bounties. Sheep, goat, olives, rice, almonds, oranges, tiger nuts, chickens, squid, and pigs abounded in my region of Spain. I love to say "my region" as if I own some of the spirit of it. I do feel a little like a fraud but I have grown attached to that land. The fresh, local farmers markets had wonderful produce to choose from and the few local home-made Spanish meals I had were adventures in new tastes and sights and smells.

But take a second and think about the typical countries that come to mind when you think of cuisine. At least for me, Italy and France are immediate. Spain wouldn't necessarily have jumped in there with those giants of food perfection. The preparation, the presentation, the almost haute-couture idea of food is associated with, well, other countries. Spain, Spain just seems to slip through with winners every now and again. Now, I have to say, I love this about Spain. When they do whip out the winners, they are strong enough to contend with any. But, in keeping with the Spanish attitude, they are content to be casual in most things, including their food. There are three phrases I think all Spanish have as mantras, "whats the rush?", "tomorrow!", and "siesta!" I met very few Spaniards who seemed overly concerned, anxious, or competitive. If put to the test, sure they could blow you away, but they know that and so on a normal day, why the fuss? Why not just a damn fine bocadillo?

Our casual dining experiences were not varied. No matter where we went, there were the same variations on the theme. The bars, or we would call them cafes, all served a few tapas behind a glass. Most had squid, a variation on egg salad (that one took me a while to figure out), sausages in a liquid of some sort, blanched almonds, olives (of course), and maybe some clams or another variation on a liquidy/mayo salad with unidentifiable lumps. Frittatas are another choice, made with egg and plenty of potato. This, of course, you would get with bread and beer. Keep in mind that none had labels, let alone labels in English, unless I was closer to a city. There, the bars would usually have something in English. My favorite was one touting "Home-made cooking, regional especialites, varied dishes, especial menu for pilgrims". Not that English menus were really that great ... to not even try didn't seem to fit with the spirit of travel and sometimes they were more mysterious than the Spanish ...


Bocadillos were a staple. Manolo's Bar, about 10 minutes from Seth's, served some of the best. Bocadillos are sandwiches or paninis. They are served with anything you want inside but don't over do it. The bread is the best part. "Un bocadillo con pollo, queso, tomatae, y lechuga, por favor," I would rattle off, trying to sound casual as I listed more ingredients than others usually do. Type of cheese or chicken or seasoning? Don't worry, you won't have to make that many choices, plus they wouldn't have stuck around to listen regardless. Bread, toast, french fries, beer, and any other high carb menu item are found a plenty.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Inspiration


If you love letters, typography, prints, alphabets, or keeping things simple and clean (or awesome young people who are making a go of things like this!), check out these two sites:

Keep Calm Gallery

and

Alphabet Bags

Same couple, same great layout, and great ideas. They have a variety of artists but also design a bunch of the items themselves. Good work you two! Cheers!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

National Geographic: Always Cool

You may have already noticed the link on the right hand column of my blog for other sites. I want to draw your attention to one, a National Geographic site called Novica, from the Latin "novus" meaning "new". In true National Geographic style, it is a global endeavor and it is really cool. National Geographic has such a aura about it ... of mystery and adventure, maps and plane tickets, cultures and people so different than me. Novica brings much of that right into your living room!

I was turned on to Novica by a friend (thanks, H!). In short, they find artists from around the world and sell their wares to us through the internet. Its like traveling to tiny villages, markets, and stalls in other countries without the airfare. And without the adventure of the travel, unfortunately, but still great to be able to experience in a tactile way. Imagine all that we get to experience in small bits that we would have never known! And all thanks to the internet and people who are willing to share.

Novica's mission is short and sweet, so I will let you read it in their own words:

We want to give artists and artisans around the world a global platform to express their true artistic talents and to spur their creativity. And we want to provide you with access to unique, hard-to-find items at great values that only the Internet infrastructure can allow.

At the deepest essence of our philosophy, we want to create a bridge between you and the many talented artisans across the globe.

We want you to know about who you're buying from. We want you to feel that attachment to the product and to the hands that created it.

In the spirit of the Internet, let us bring you together.


I recently received a robe from Novica and could not be more thrilled with it. It is a gorgeous batik robe (You've heard that word before, right? But what IS batik, you ask? It is a wax resist dye technique used on silks and other fabrics. Pronounced "bah-teek"). The colors are vibrant, the fabric is flowing and soft, and the artist's story comes with it. So, I, a little potter in Northern Virginia, am now sporting a robe from Bali and feeling fabulous.

Check out their household items, jewelry, clothing ... I'm addicted.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sugarloaf Craft Festival

Local event with artists from around the nation!

The festival takes place January 29-31 at the Dulles Expo Center and features more than 250 artists from all over the country. Visitors to the Festival will see thousands of contemporary crafts in all mediums, in addition to live demonstrations, gourmet food, and family entertainment.

See the official website for the show for more information and how to buy tickets.

But, hey loyal readers, I'm going to be giving away free tickets for the event (normally an $8 cover charge), so check back here for those!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Final Product

I blogged about four design options of delphiniums for a friend's wedding last summer. If you click on that link you will be taken to the blog post showing all four options (at the end of the post) and the one that she chose. She is computer savvy and took my drawing and turned it into her printed invitation and wedding program. I, unfortunately, had to miss her wedding but was able to see the finished product when I returned from Spain. I've included the program and invitation below (covering their details with attractive post-its). Take a look:



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Posts from a Spanish Diary: #4 My Large Pot...

Remember my large pot I threw in Spain? Well, it made it successfully through both firings! Unfortunately it was too large to throw over my shoulder and lug through the airport and so it is enjoying time with Uncle Seth now.

I wanted that pot to really be symbolic of my time in Spain and I had a few different ideas of what to paint on it. As the time for the firing and my departure grew closer, I realized that there was no way I would be able to bring that pot home with me. I had no money to pay for it to be shipped either. So, I resigned it to the corner and tried to detach myself. As Helen and I loaded the kiln, Seth says, "Sarah, what about your large pot? Aren't you going to glaze that?" I told him my reasoning and he very gently told me that it would be good practice.

So off I went to paint my big pot. The pot was made in three sections so I thought it would be interesting to mimic that with three scenes. I decided on three scenes from the process of pottery with the pot itself as the finished product, rather like a fourth scene. As I sat outside in the sun painting my pot Seth walked by and noted, "Oh yes, rather vigorous decoration there darling, very nice." Complements indeed, coming from Seth!! That certainly inspired me to continue.

I've included images below (rather poorly lit). At the very end I've included a video of the pot with my explanation. (If you watch it twice, the second time around notice the unbelievable sunset happening out the door in the background!) As I said, this poor pot was left behind but I like to think that it's enjoying Spain for me while I'm not there!

[To see the earlier post about it, click here; to see more photos of the making of the large pot as well as more photos of the pottery in Spain, click here]


The first is a potter at the wheel with his clay, all of his attention on the lump that will be his pot.


The second is an expressive hand with a brush, ready to paint the pot.


The third is a very active figure, stoking the flames of a wood kiln.


The fourth is the pot itself, the finished product of all of those processes.

video

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sarah Coffin Pottery: Now on Facebook!

Become a Fan on Facebook!

Come check it out and become a fan to see regular pictures, updates, and other information.

See you there!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A review

Our show before Christmas was a wonderful success. Thank you to all of you who made it out on one (or more!) of the weekends. It is always wonderful to see everyone and to share my work. Below I've included a slide show of some of the pieces as well as some of the space we create for the show. A lot goes into preparing for this and I would love to hear any and all feed back on any aspect. You should be able to click on a picture and be taken to Picasa web albums to see a larger picture. Enjoy!