I recently switched hosts for my web-site josiejurczenia.com and am switching my blog  to this site…consolidating is a good thing.  Please join me on my new blog site:

https://www.josiejurczenia.com/blog/

 

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I wouldn’t say that being a tech savvy woman is one of my best talents but I recently tackled launching a new web-site on Squarespace. It took  a lot of poking around, numerous customer service chats, some swearing and several time-outs but it is now LIVE!  I am pretty proud…please check it out…..josiejurczenia.com.

The main reason I switched hosts (I was previously on Other Peoples Pixels – which I must say was a very easy site to configure and manage) is because I wanted to set up a small SHOP to sell my Holiday Ornaments.

Every year I make a limited edition collection of holiday ornaments.  Last year ,with the help of  a mention in Diablo Magazine, I  completely sold out of my  2016 Wildlife Collection.  This year I thought I would offer the new collection on-line before my 2017 Hoilday Open Studio begins.  If you are interested please check the Bear & Owl Bells, Blackbirds (sold separately as well as a set of 4), Bounding Bunnies and Black Bears. You can order now while they are  hot out of the kiln.

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Black Poppies in Vases Vase with last wildflowers of the summer

 

Trying to capture the amazing August sunlight in Tahoe I have been working on these Black Poppy Vases.

We are saying good-bye to the mountains this week. It’s been a beautiful summer …there were none of the  bees that plagued us last year, we took some spectacular wildflower hikes and I had lots of quiet studio hours producing a fair amount of work. But despite the heat it’s beginning to smell of Fall in the air and it’s time to return to civilization. I’m READY.

 

 

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Husband John and grandson Marcel in front of our beach house, Guanabo, Cuba

I usually keep the writing in this blog to ceramic topics but today I thought I would share a small travelog from our  recent trip to Cuba.  We have been to this wonderful place 4 times in the past 7 years.  My son in law, Yadir,  is Cuban so we are able to travel there as family and go directly from Miami without a problem. On previous trips we have stayed in and explored the magic of Havana. We have also rented a car and traveled around the island  seeing the *mojotes of Pinal Del Rio, the orchids and waterfalls of Soroa, the colonial music town of Trinadad, the tobacco farms of Vinales and the tourist horror of Varadero.  This year however we were there in August with our twin toddler grandsons and wisely decided to simply stay at the beach. Here is a little glimpse of our adventure…

August in Cuba is sweltering.  We spent 10 days mostly at a sleepy little beach town named Guanabo, 20 mins by taxi from Havana, with our Cuban family.  The beaches in this area were incredible, the town, very sweet and unaffected by any changes that seem to be flooding Havana with American tourists.

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Unloading our horse carriage in front of our house, Guanabo, Cuba

This picture of the horse carriage is actually a town taxi…not a tourist thing.  These horse carriages deliver fresh baked bread, hot sweaty people, and fragrant fruits and vegetables along with  other essentials all day long.  Of course there are also cars…the famous pre-revolution cars and some modern ones too.  But our twin grandsons  loved the caballos. We could be dropped off at the beach in the morning and picked up later in the afternoon and catch whatever breeze there was on the way.

We were able to rent a house through Airbnb.  This was new for us and made life so much easier. In the past we would have to bring enough cash for everything including our lodging. Credit cards or ATM’s still cannot be used by folks from the US but having our rent pre-paid was a help. This house was big enough for our whole family and had a pool.  It was close to a beach but not a perfect white sand beach so we would take the taxi.

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The beautiful, calm, warm water at Santa Maria Playa

The beaches were packed with local people enjoying the warm, calm waters and the white sands. We would go early…9:30 am… and find the place already packed. These were the local beaches, there were no huge resorts (yet). Yadir, explained to me that August is the time that  Cubans head to the beach and that was why they were so crowded. The trick was to rent an umbrella and chairs from a man on the beach.  This is easier said than done.  By 9:30 everything was usually spoken for but with a little persistence  the man would usually find us something and we would set up camp.  We found Cubans generally unwilling to accept bribes (tips are appreciated though ) which was refreshing.  Taking the time to be friendly and patient paid off.  By the end of our trip our  beach guy had our backs!

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Expert butchery, Guanabo, Cuba

Our family is full of excellent cooks (I am NOT one of them) and so they cooked most of our meals.  We bought the freshest produce from a little hut on the corner of our street – everything brought in that day. The word local and organic are laughable here as EVERYTHING is grown near by without pesticides.  Cuba has the most delicious bananas. I have never had one as good in the states.  They are small,sweet and kind of lemony not starchy like our US variety.  We bought pork off the main street from a table where the butcher  expertly cut paper thin filets from a loin. There was a whole carcass hanging in the shade.  Ada, Yadir’s mom, made a yummy bistec that evening, marinating the meat in lime juice and frying it with garlic and other deliciousness.

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The obligatory old car photo from Havana

We spent our last 2 days in Havana.  It was filled with Americans fresh off a big cruise ship parked in site of our hotel.  The streets were full of music, food and heat.  There is a delicious food scene going on in Havana.  We ate at 304 O’Reily and had  outrageously good daiquiris made from fresh mangos and guavas. Havana is a beautiful, intriguing, historic, cultural city.  The restored section is cleaned up and perfect for visitors but in the heat of August I would take the beach any day. I have to admit that for most of our 2 days in Havana we stayed in our air-conditioned funky room at the Ambros Mundos Hotel (I don’t recommend this hotel…there are much better places to stay).  After our peaceful beach adventure I found the vibrancy of the area around our hotel (and the hords of tourists) too much and way too hot.

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John with mango and guava daiquiris from 304 O’Reily

I hear all the time that you must go NOW to experience Cuba before it changes. Perhaps this is true because with our current, insane administration who knows what barriers might be put up limiting travel there.  In the big city areas we have seen change in the years we have been there…little businesses starting up, a vibrant food scene, way more Americans.  One huge change was that we could get internet on our phones. In the parks they have free wi-fi. Using our phones was  prohibitively expensive so we turned them off. We were spared the ugly news coming from our country for 10 days…it was blissful. If you venture out of the city into the countryside, however, I think you can still experience life as it has been for the past 50 years. Ours was a wonderful truly Cuban experience.

*You can see 2 films about our previous adventures in Cuba made by my husband John Schnick here…Cuba VA!(2010) and Cuban Spring (2014)

 

 

 

 

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Ghost Bunny Urn – side 1

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a workshop from the wonderful Kevin Snipes (who was joined by the delightful Amy Smith) at Sierra Nevada College.  Sometimes a workshop can come at just the right time for me and supply answers to problems that I have been wrestling with… this was the case with this one.

Cracking is my nemesis.  I have changed clay bodies, dried pieces at a turtle’s pace, compressed, rolled in multiple directions, made slabs thicker, then thinner, tried every trick I could think of and still the bloody cracks would appear.  Cracks… not usually at the joins but showing up  in the middle of the piece… causing my grey hair to turn even greyer.

I thought I was just stressing the clay too much by asking it to form the shapes of my work BUT after seeing the complex forms  Kevin accomplishes with porcelain I knew he would have some answers for my problem. He did not disappoint! I am feeling optimistic that perhaps my days of massive crack attacks are over.

Here are a few of his practices that might help anybody who is experiencing hand building cracking problems:

  1. Cut 25 lb bag of clay in 1/3 pieces lengthwise. Slap each piece on floor (to wake it up) before rolling  out 3/8″ think slabs. Store these slabs, covered tightly in plastic for long periods of time…the longer the better.  Aging seems to settle the clay. Before rolling out the slabs make sure to square up the edges so you have a nice even slab to eventually cut your patterns from.
  2. When ready to use the slabs re-roll with rolling pin to about 1/4″ ( he uses small round dowels as guides). Cut off the ragged edges and compress with yellow mud tools rib before cutting your pieces.
  3. He uses a skinny needle tool with a ball at the end to cut around his pattern pieces (which he cuts from file card stock) not an exacto knife as he feels it makes cutting the curves easier.
  4. Compress with your finger the edges of each pattern piece before assembling.
  5. He doesn’t cut 45 degree angles for his joins. He compresses these angles with his fingers and uses a serrated rib to score and further make the angle for the join.
  6. Get the joining pieces together loosely then, when they’ve set up for awhile, clean the joins up by compressing with ribs.  Be sure to place a support coil at seam joins.

Additionally Kevin woke me up to the joy of narrative pot making.  The pot pictured is an homage to the many  pet bunnies that we managed to kill when my daughter was young.  They died untimely deaths due to many different reasons…dogs, intestinal blockages, climate changes, fumigation….I know …I was A REALLY BAD bunny mom.  Finally the pet store refused to sell us another bunny until we read a book on bunny raising.  It’s bizarre what comes into your mind when you’re drawing on pots.

I  can’t recommend a workshop with Kevin Snipes enough.  If you have the opportunity and inclination …Go FOR It!

Ghost Bunny Urn – sides 2 & 3

 

 

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I am taking a break this year from the  ACGA Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival.  I am in the mountains enjoying the insane wildflower season, working on wholesale orders and creating new work for my Holiday Open Studio (yes…ALREADY…) and shows that I have been invited to participate in. Then I’m off to Cuba for a few weeks.  Summer is GREAT!

At this moment, if I was there, I would be wrestling with setting up my tent, fretting over my display and dreaming of a gin and tonic!  Even though I am sitting on my deck having one … I will miss doing this great show . Seeing and reconnecting with  loyal and new customers is always the BEST. The weather for this outdoor event is usually great and of course the work available from approx 150 of the best clay and glass artists in California  is just brilliant.  I am wishing all you ACGA exhibiting members a terrific  show.

 

 

 

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 Sunny Poppy Cup with Stripe Handle

This year I will not be participating in the ACGA Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival due to all sorts of fun family events. I will miss setting up my big white tent and seeing all the  friendly faces  at this wonderful show.  BUT if you would like to buy a piece from me you still can. How about a sunshine yellow poppy cup with striped handle to brighten up your morning coffee or a quirky little harlequin vase with a silver luster top  to hold a sweet summer bouquet. These and a few other of my pieces, as well as fabulous work from other ACGA artists, are available at Bloom an on-line ACGA sale happening now. Please check it out.

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Harlequin Vase with Silver Luster Top

 

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Folded Wildlife Bowls and Cups hot out of the kiln and ready to ship.

I am making massive amounts of Wildlife Cups and Folded Bowls for a wholesale order going to my favorite shop in Truckee, CA…Bespoke.   I would never classify myself as a production potter and thus don’t do a lot of wholesale orders. I lack the discipline and patience.  Hand building each of my pieces takes so much blood, sweat and tears…not to mention the loss of  all the work that for some reason decides to crack, usually after it is full formed and decorated…URUGH!  In the end selling pieces for wholesale prices just doesn’t work for me… BUT  there are always exceptions to my self imposed rules.

I love this shop so much. We live near by Truckee in the summer and  I often visit Bespoke just to wander through and admire their beautifully curated selection of  handmade things. I almost always end up buying something special and I  REALLY wanted my work in there. When the owner contacted me  and placed an order I was  thrilled. This was last summer and I have been supplying them with my pieces ever since.

If you are looking for a Wildlife Cup or Folded Bowl to add to your collection don’t hesitate to contact the great folks at Bespoke (info@bespoketruckee.com). If you are in the Tahoe area, make it a point to stop by and see this wonderful shop.

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Spring Open Studio copy

I didn’t know if I would be able to do the Spring Open Studio (and seconds sale) this year.  I had a new hip installed 2 weeks ago. I had no idea how I’d be feeling but… hot damn… it’s been  pretty easy.

I will be open for one weekend May 6 & 7, 11 -5.  I will have a fairly limited amount of work available … some new experiments, some familiar, well loved  styles and some seconds. Come early for best selection.

Happy Spring.

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Wonderful wall pieces by Maura Wright @ Archie Bray Show at Lewis and Clark College

How do I describe my 2017 experience in Portland?

A three ring circus filled with too much to see and do.

Socially I always feel pretty awkward at NCECA. It reminds a little of a high school experience.  It’s a gathering of obsessed clay people,some who have become elevated to rock star status.  I consider these my people but I always feel  a bit in awe.  There were 6,008 clay nerds attending.  I think I personally ran into  about 10 that I knew!

I went on a bus tour that made me feel really good about what I’m doing.  I went to some beautiful shows that filled my eyes with wonder and inspired me.  I heard lectures about folks who have greatly influenced my life.  I sat through a key note speech that made me laugh and think. I bought $100 worth of diamond grinders. I ate delicious corn dogs, ramen and drank lots of famous Portland beer. I walked/limped 15,000 steps one day.

I look at other people’s pictures of what they saw and did and wonder …How did I miss THAT ???? But I know I was running to see all I did see and couldn’t have squeezed in a moment more.  NCECA doesn’t disappoint.  I couldn’t do it every year but when it comes close again I’ll be there with my track shoes on. Maybe next time I’ll get off my butt and apply to be in a couple of shows.

This incredibly detailed birch bowl by Heesoo Lee at Lewis and Clark College was mind blowingly beautiful.