Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cuba -2014-The Times they Are a Changing

We have just returned from 2 weeks adventuring in Cuba.  My youngest daughter, Susannah, is married to a Cuban artist, Yadir. Yadir's mom, Ada, lives in Alamar, a suburb of Havana. Because we have relatives there we qualify to  go legally through Miami.  We have been 3 times in the last 4 years. This year we learned more, saw more, experienced more than we ever have before.  It's a fascinating, beautiful, BRAVE big island and it is changing so quickly.  If you have even the slightest interest in going there to see it before it turns from what feels like the 1950's  to the 21st century, GO NOW.

 our ride into Havana

We spent 1 week at the beach 20 minutes from Havana - Playa del Este.  What can I say about ...the see through clear water, the laid back vibe, the closeness to Havana (easy taxi ride - Alomdrinos ), the lack of tons of tourists, the sounds provided by strolling musicians, the sensational 1959 3 bedroom beach house with it's own pool ($145 a night -don't believe the bad reviews!) was HEAVENLY.  Our house had a kitchen so we went shopping at the big central produce market in Havana and bought all sorts of exotic fruits and vegetables, stopped at the funky meat store off Parque Central and bought chicken, pork and fish. I had previously always wondered where one went to buy food in Cuba.  There are no big supermarkets and I was only familiar with the  corner stores that sell mainly great rum, and street carts that sell limited amounts of seasonal vegetables. Also previously buying food with the CUC (currency for non Cubans) as opposed to the peso was difficult.  This is no longer the case. Now I know that there is plenty of beautiful, organic, Monsanto-free, seasonal produce right in the middle of Havana.
beautiful Playa Del Este                                                        

 the family outside our beach house
  produce market

happy vegetables

  meat market

After a week of beach bliss we rented a car and the 5 of us drove into Pinal Del Rio.  First stop Soroa, a beautiful country  town with a famous waterfall and Orchidarium.  After being turned away at the only hotel we stayed at one of the sweet casa particular that dot the main road. Ours was owned by Rey and his family.  Rey was a world class cook (best lobster ever) and from our little perch on the hill, after our great dinner and much rum, we listened to the chickens, horses, pigs and dogs sing us to was quite a lullaby.
afternoon beer at our casa particular

our hosts in Soroa...note blue sign that signals a casa paticular

  fabulous breakfast from the garden

Next stop the beautiful Vinales home of the magote, caves and tobacco farms. We pulled off the side of the road one afternoon and entered a little thatched hut and were given a spontaneous tour by the tobacco farmer, Angel Cruz.  His father had farmed this plot for 70 years before him and you could feel the pride and love he had for his work as he spoke.  John was able to buy cigars from Angel. He swears they are the best he has ever smoked. Again we stayed in a casa particular and this one had the best bedspread.  There are over 150 casa particulars in Venales. When in Cuba I would recommend staying in will eat the best food ever here and will get to experience Cuban realness.  They are regulated by the government and the ones we stayed in were impeccably clean.  The only draw back can be an occasional lumpy bed.  We also stayed in the government owned hotels.  They are also very clean, have better beds BUT have buffets where the food is usually pretty bad. Though Cubans can stay here (another change from a few years ago) chances are the only folks you will meet are other tourists.

love inspired bed spread at casa paticular

 view from the street of the beautiful colonial buildings

 Angel Cruz and John enjoy a smoke

 Angel Cruz's tobacco hut

After our 4 days of country living I had the bright idea to go to a "swank" resort in the famous beach of Varadero.   There is NOTHING Cuban about  a swank resort on Varadero.  The beach is beautiful yes but the scene to me was awful.  The place we stayed  was like being on a cruise ship.  Ada said it best..."There is nothing Cuban here...Cuban's couldn't even dream of this."  I can add that if they did it would be more of a nightmare of endless buffets, floor shows, fat tourists and bad coffee.
advise to anybody wanting to go to a beach in Cuba...skip this one.

varadero life guards

Our last 2 days we stayed in Havana.  What a's a crumbling ruin that functions... somehow and fills you up with it's beauty.  We ate the greatest food in PRIVATE cafes, paladars, and bars..a huge change.  We also found a small boutique that sold Cuban made home decor products.  This little shop on a street in Habana Vieja looked like it would be at home on Berkeley's 4th St.  These owner operated businesses were the biggest change we experienced in Cuba.  Raul Castro has opened up the possibility of private business and these are great examples of entrepreneurs running with this
opportunity...It makes me excited about Cuba's future.

 lunch at ChanChllero in Alamar - so good

 menu and magic fingers

   Old Habana column

Friday, February 28, 2014

Morocco Inspiried

I wondered how my Oct trip to Fez and Marrakesh was going to affect my work.....

I have struggled for years to try to make silk screen transfer printing work.  Workshops with Forrest Leash-Middelton and Leslie Baker  were intriguing but I tried and tried what I was taught  and couldn't get a good image.  I don't know what happened...maybe it is just patience but images transfered and visions of my wonderful trip came to life in my pottery.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Now if I could only find my Xacto Knife.......

Happy 2014...I like the sound of this year.

After the wonderful  BLITZ of the holidays I am enjoying the quietness that falls on my studio during January.  It always feels to me like a time to explore new diections without the looming deadlines that come later in the year. It's also a time to re-order my space which gets "cleaned-up" for our holiday party and open studios.  I have to spend many hours finding stuff in order to get back to work.  Maybe it's my old age brain that can't remember but WHERE DID I PUT that xacto knife, cutting wire, green scrubbie ???

I heard an inspiring talk by Ben Carter of Tales of a Red Clay Rambler fame last weekend about the importance of social media. I was inspired to update  my web-page and Pinterest site....crusin  into 2014 in style.

Pictured are some of a group of Triangle Bottles that were inspired by a starched gauze bottle cover I found in France last fall at Merci.  These are porcelain, made using 30 lb roofing paper patterns, stamped with some of the textile blocks I have collected over the years and finished in white gold luster.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Santa's Workshop

 White Birch Teapot with Red Bird and matching tea tumbler

It's that time of year...Santa's Workshop at the studio.  I've been firing and re-firing, facing a kiln failure, cups cracking and joyous elation when something comes out beyond expectation.  I've re-opened my long on vacation Etsy Shop with some new pieces.  Please check it out.

fourth & clay is hosting 25 artists for a show of winter white work.  The pieces that are coming in are looking very beautiful (come see for yourself - the show opens Thurs Dec 5- open 12 - 5 but the big holiday party is Dec 12, 7-11pm).  Today we are painting the walls a deep charcoal grey and tomorrow is the installation.  It's very fun and exciting to be in the studio humming with so much activity.  I don't even mind the constant Christmas carols that my studiomates love to crank up.I am thankful that the Spotify Christmas music channel has only played my very least favorite tune in the whole world - I'll be Home for Christmas (it's just so darn sad)- once.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

John Kohler Art Center

I am honored to be one of 30 artists invited to show work in the
One and Only Show (showing now through Jan 5)
at the John Kohler Art Center.
This pitcher is one of the pieces included in
the exhibit.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Magical, Mystery Tour

John and I just returned from a magical Fall adventure.

We started in Paris.  Walking my favorite city's streets, eating amazing pastries from du Pain des Idees, experiencing Nuit Blanche (where John did a gorilla video piece on the walls of rue Dieu) , having the most amazing dinner at Bones with daughter Susannah and son-in-law Yadir, exploring Marche d' Aligre with Wendy Lyn, seeing great shows at Les Arts Decoratifs, watching Bill Cunningham work Paris Fashion week and eating oysters and drinking tons of wine with good friends.
After 2 1/2 weeks I thought I was going to explode...both physically ( all those pain choclate, delicious cheese, huge lunches and late dinners) and mentally ( maybe a bit too much of a good thing?).


 Next stop - Morocco.  We had never been before .  What a wonderful, magical, mysterious country this is.  We fell in LOVE with the place and the people. We arrived in Marrakech and immediately went off to the desert (Zagora) where we rode camels deep into the Sahara  night, slept in a Berber tent and rode out to watch the sun rise over the dunes.  We experienced Eid al-Agha at the home of a wonderful family, watched the ritual slaughter of a huge ram on the roof top of their tiny home, stayed in this elegant hotel, experienced shopping the souke by day  and the square Jemma al Fna at night. We took the train to Fez and were overwhelmed (in a good way) by the medieval  mazes..."How are we ever going to find our way around"? ...but we did with the help of our wonderful guide Mohammed.  We stayed in an ancient riad - riad 9- owned by an American art director, that was so beautiful it made us never want to leave, listened to the call to prayer every evening on the roof top, ate the absolutely delicious  food ( especially loved the traditional tomato salads and dinner at Dar Roumana ), fell in love with the carved plaster and zillij, visited potteries, tanneries, weavers and SHOPPED til we dropped.

We are now back home filled  with dazzling images and sweet memories.
Time now to get back to work in my  studio and get ready for the Holidays.  It will be interesting to see how the images from this adventure work their way into my work.
Somehow I know they will.