Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tall Silent Type

In the dim dark distant days when I was teaching evening classes to help make ends meet when I was a painter, I prowled up and down behind the students who were hard at work at their easels and tried to help them as best I could.

Laura occasionally modeled for me if there was a portrait class, and sometimes, after the class was over, she would say that she could tell when someone was doing really badly, as I would become rather quiet. I admit that I did struggle with what to say. I did not mind a bit if a person was trying hard, and doing their best, and I would move heaven and earth if I could to help them, but it was difficult to find a balance between pointing out where things were disastrously wrong and offering enough hope to encourage them forward to make things better.  What you could say varied from person to person.  I did care about people that I taught, mostly anyway, and there was always so much I had to learn myself to make me a better teacher.

Teaching can be a very tough thing to do, and some cope with it better than others, I know that there are retired teachers who still suffer from occasional nightmares where the stresses of the classroom still come back to bite them.

One benefit of the the teaching that I did was that I have become better at learning. I found this of great help when I started potting about 7 years ago.  In a painting or drawing class, the teacher often has a great advantage over the student, in that they are walking round the class and viewing the pupil's work from a distance.  I always encouraged my students to take a pace or two back from their work and it usually helped them a great deal when they actually followed that simple advice.  In my potting I have learnt the value of "stepping back a little" to try to understand what is really going on.  Sometimes this may actually be a physical step back from the work, other times it might be a mental step.  A pause.  A time to ask "Why?", or "How?".

Laura's comment to me about my becoming quiet, was instructive, and I did my best to improve in that area.  With me though, when there is silence, there is usually trouble!

I have not posted on my blog for about a month, and..., well..., um.... silence!  Maybe silence has been the best thing really.  Some of the time has been difficult and depressing; however, not all was bad, in fact some things were very good indeed.  We had an enjoyable couple of days in Christchurch recently, getting together with Laura's parents, her brother and sister in law.  There was a special occasion that brought us all together...Laura had a birthday to celebrate, and it was lovely that her parents were able to travel down from the North Island as far as Christchurch.

Christchurch has changed a lot from how it was when I visited just over a year ago.  Whilst some areas are largely intact, many buildings have been demolished after the series of earth quakes, and there is plenty of evidence around of buildings with temporary repairs, and lots of work in progress.  Churches seemed to be some of the buildings most seriously damaged, but that may have been simply because they were some of the more visible buildings.  Many of the churches were old stone structures, with towers, stained glass windows, and so on.  It was really all to do with structures, physical structures with physical laws.  You shake some things, or drop some things, and they break.  That is how things are.

There has been a bit of a scramble to demolish old brick buildings and to label them unsafe, in truth some of them are.  Like a plague, this scramble has started to spread further afield than Christchurch, and some buildings in other towns, such as Court Houses and School halls have abruptly been closed, apparently with little thought given as to how the Court or School was supposed to continue its work.

It should be remembered that the greatest loss of life was in the 25 year old 6 story CTV building, and in the 48 year old 5 story Pyne Gould building. The 15 floor Hotel Grand Chancellor, built between 1985 and 1988, developed an alarming lean and seemed on the point of collapse, threatening I think about 400 businesses in the immediate area.  This building is currently being demolished. The 17 or 18 (it varies in the articles that I have read!!) story high Forsyth Barr building had a stairway collapse, trapping many people on upper floors. From an engineering point of view there should be interesting lessons to be learnt, and I hope that they have been.

There are some people that call for Christchurch Cathedral to be restored stone by stone. I hope that a far more modest wooden building is made, and a little memorial park.  It would be nice to think of the heart of a City, where people of many faiths, or non at all, could feel welcome to sit together in peace.

The bus station where we caught our bus home had been made out of a shipping container, in which was a small counter with two staff behind it, and the rest of the container was packed with people and their luggage keeping out of the rain whilst they waited for the bus to arrive.

I am doing some large pots at the moment, as big as I can fit into my electric kiln.  If I make them a nudge over 2 feet tall, they just fit in after they have dried due to the shrinkage of the clay.

I would love a much larger electric kiln!

If you have got this far through this post on my blog you will have noticed several photos of tops of pots.  I have been fascinated with tops of pots for quite some time.  How this part is finished determines a lot of the character of the pot.  Does it lift upwards optimistically?  Is the top closed in protectively?  Does it make you think of a hat, a neck, a pipe or part of a machine?  Does it make the pot look like a flower opening in the sun?

I have recently had a little operation on my ears to make it possible to do some air travel, some of you may remember that I had to abandon a trip to the USA just over a year ago due to both my ears suffering an internal hemorrhage on my flight from Dunedin to Auckland.  The operation is really only a temporary fix and there have been a few set backs health wise after the operation, but I think we are getting on top of things now, which is in part why I feel like writing again!  It would be so nice to be able to jump on a plane and just be able to fly up to Auckland again and see friends and galleries there, and ... of course I would love to be arrange things to actually manage a trip overseas, it was very sad to have missed out on America last year.  We will take a careful step at a time, and see how we go.

As usual Christmas has caught us out, and no cards sent anywhere as yet.  It is hardwired into me somewhere that Christmas should be in the middle of winter, the summer Christmas season leave me bewildered!  I have got some tomatoes planted though!


cookingwithgas said...

those finished rims are lovely.
I am quite fond of the flat wide one----- it is yummy and has that finished feel for me.
I know it must be heartbreaking to see these buildings go. What a blow to your county.
Get better Peter and come see us.

Judy Shreve said...

I love your tall pots and each different opening/finish does change the look. I like them all - but my favorites are the ones with the long necks.

I agree that Christmas in warm weather just feels weird - we used to be bothered by it when we lived in Florida where the winters are so warm. Though having fresh tomatoes in January would be wonderful!

I'm sorry to hear of the destruction in Christchurch - I hope that the engineers do learn from it - but how sad to lose those historic buildings.

Hope you are getting your health back. This has been a difficult year for you -- and as Meredith said ' get better and come see us."

Happy birthday to Laura!

Melissa Rohrer said...

Speaking of teaching- One benefit of following blogs is what I sometimes learn, and I've appreciated the tips I've gotten from your's.

Hannah said...

Good to hear from you again. I know what you mean about going quiet meaning trouble, that's my tendancy too I think.
Good to hear about the op, we may yet see you over here then.

Peter said...

Hi Meredith,
Lovely to hear from you. Ahh, rims... at last!!, as midnight got close and I was finishing my blog post, I could only think of pots as having "tops" and the word "rims" just would not surface when I needed it most!! Thanks for your input on them too. I have been looking at a book on Hans Coper recently, and am really intrigued by what he did with such things, some of them as wide as a broad rimmed hat on the pot, and simple and flat. Haven't tried anything as extreme as them yet..., that I have kept anyway, but I am keeping on trying things.

I do so hope that we will be able to see you all one day. The little op on the ears is a definite step in that direction.

Hi Judy,
Good to hear from you. I had forgotten that Florida Christmas would be warm. It is strange isn't it! Over here there have been lots of New Zealand Christmas Carols written that celebrate the sunshine and out of doors, matter how good they are, I still think Christmas dinner, candle light, carol singing in the snow, the short daylight hours, and the long night trying to stay awake for Father Christmas... We nearly caught him once I do believe!!

The destruction in Christchurch has and the many aftershocks that people have had to endure has been so hard for many people there and in the smaller towns that were also affected. It is such a long process getting back to "normal" again, what ever that is, no matter how hard people work at demolishing, repairing or rebuilding.

I'll pass on the Happy Birthday to Laura, bless her, and dream about future travels!

Hi Melissa,
Good to hear from you and welcome to my site. I'm glad that you have found something of use here, it is lovely to be able share pottery tips, I've found so much of value myself on other people's sites, and it is really nice to be able to give something back.

Hello Hannah,
So you're a wee silent type when things are not so good! :) We would love to drop in on you one day, it would be just lovely to catch up. I want to look at that wood fired kiln of yours too, it looks nice in the photos. I'm actually starting to think seriously about firing mine again soon... it has been a ridiculously long time since the last firing (blame it on nearly 2 years of crystalline glaze obsession), and I am staring to really miss it again!

Angie said...

I love the shapes of the pots here ...I hope you get the right feel for each as they are decorated ...but I actually love the natural white look.

I find it hard to believe it is over a year since you had all the ear problems ...where does time go ...I hope your op finally sorts things out and its not too temporary a fix. Xmas has snuck up on me and I am so behind ...not helped by some health issues that have reared their head ...I am sure it will all be sorted ...once the doc can work out what is actually wrong. lol

I wish you a Happy Christmas ...with lots of great food ... in cat proof containers lol ... and time spent with family and friends
Loads of love from Angie and Family and our 19 cats xx

Peter said...

Hello Angie,
Lovely to hear from you, and I am feeling quite drawn to the "natural white look" too, I'm getting tempted to do some that are white, or possibly given a firing in my wood fired kiln (I'm starting to get the urge to do some more wood firing again). Sorry that you have been having your own struggles with health, I suggested to my really lovely ENT Specialist that she put me in a perspex box and used me as a medical curiosity (but I,m not quite sure if she saw the funny side... I have to be careful with my sense of humour!).
Wishing you lots of love and a very merry Christmas to you and your Family and 19 cats. P L NS & G xx

gz said...

The top and the foot of a pot are so important, even if plain, need to be *right* !!

It is still messy weather here, rain and some snow, five days to the year's turn now

srgb said...

Hi Peter
Thanks for the comment on my blog, yes I still tick along if not a little slower these days I have decided there is no rush, its good to know you are making efforts to fix the ears it will all be worth it in the end, I seem to have spent the last 6 months having my head cut up, docs had 3 attempts at cutting out a Basel cell in my forehead then I had a septoplasty and turboplasty (nose jobs) and appart from the settling down process its all good now.

The pots are looking good, I was a little concerned about you not having posted for 4 weeks so its good to know all is well with you.

smartcat said...

It seems extremities are always what need the most attention. But then they define edges so it makes sense. I've always thought your rimes and feet are elegant.

Glad you are back to posting...hope all goes well with the ears.

Peter said...

Hi Gwynneth,
I often pose the question to myself, "what is right?" Thus, I will make things at times which I am told might be "wrong", in order to understand things more. Certain forms do cut through layers of time and fashion and become very definitely "right".
It is all very interesting. As to the weather..., here it remains grey, mildish, with hardly a hint of the sun for the last few days...,but we are fortunate as they recently had bad flooding further up the country.

Hi Bob,
Good to hear from you, all be it.. that there is "less" of you now that before, you poor thing! I do so hope that all does remain good for you now. I wonder if the medical profession have enough on their "plasty" list to make up new names for the months of the year! "'Ere we be again in Septoplasty, and the mangleworsles are growing well... A bad season last Turboplasty though, and all the turnips got the wilt!"

Hi Suzi (smartcat),
In all my "101" years, I think you are the first person that has ever told me that my feet are "elegant", bless you! Anyway, nice of you to say so, and I do think the feet of a pot are probably just as important as the rim. Amazing how just a little undercut under the foot of a bowl, for instance, can cast just a hint of a shadow that will define it and "lift" the bowl and give it feeling of life; so many subtleties to play with here.

Armelle said...

Hi Peter, I am back from Thaïlande, and I am fine to know that your ears are better now. I did have some troubles at my ears too, but not so much. It was a beautiful journey.
Your pots are realy nice, I love the 4th one. Here the weahter is cold, no snow yet for Christmas !!!
Best wishes to all and Merry Christmas

Peter said...

Bonjour Armelle,
How lovely to hear from you, and you are back home again from your travels just in time for Christmas!
Merry Christmas to you and your family from P. L. NS. and Ginger xx

Linda Starr said...

Happy birthday to Laura. I have so appreciated all your thoughtful posts and have learned much, ill health can be debilitating and then the destruction of the buildings so very sad, things are changing in so many places and I find it difficult to see and hear so I blog and make pottery to keep busy and sane. I do hope you get well and get to come for a visit one of these days. Gary had a friend long ago who ran a tugboat business and he was able to travel by that method across the ocean, but the stories he told seemed quite foolhardy and I doubt I'd travel that way myself, too bad ocean liners are so expensive to travel in, they seem the best way to cross such a long distance. I'm kind of bah humbug on the holidays myself and am looking forward to the new year, some lovely rims you have there and amazingly tall pots.

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
I'll pass on the birthday greetings to Laura. Good to hear from you, I'm just imagining travelling the world by by tug boat. Of course the mental image that I have is of a cute, chubby little boat that would almost fit in a bath tub, but I suspect that Gary's friend would have traveled on something vastly bigger! To be honest, I'm not sure if big oceans and smallish boats are quite my thing (but I haven't tried as yet so you never know!!). Travelling as a pottery teacher on an ocean liner might have possibilities though!

Anyway, a very merry and peaceful Christmas to you and Gary. P, L, NS & G xx