J’adore Paris

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Oh Paris, how I love thee.  I’ve been planning a Paris travel guide for some time, but it always seems daunting to distill my favorite city into a single post, as I could wax poetic for hours.  I’ve been several times now, and with every return trip it feels more and more like my heart-home.  This guide is far from comprehensive, but here are a few of my very favorite places to eat and visit in the City of Light.

Visit

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Beginner-ings

As you might guess, my drive for perfection makes it difficult to be a beginner.  Recently I started taking ceramics classes, though — and when you start something new, you have no choice but to start at the beginning.  Time for beginner-ing.  Ooof.

I’ve wanted to learn to throw pottery for ages.  Something about the instant gratification that comes with a guided touch on clay, the graceful turning of forms and hands on a wheel, and the wabi-sabi imperfections that make up a particularly stunning glaze — all of these things have beckoned me for quite some time.  Rather than wait until I had some time, I finally decided to make some time this month to make it happen, and I am so glad I did.

The wheel and the clay both have their own learning curve, I have realized.  Gravity and centrifugal force have their own demands as well.  There is a sweet spot to be found between clay that is wet enough to become what you envision, and too wet to maintain the form you’ve shaped.  There is a strange satisfaction in trimming a piece, leathery clay spinning in ribbons off the wheel as you uncover the shape you’re imagining.  And there is a magical alchemy to glazes — the way minerals and heat combine to transform into something unexpected and beautiful.  That minty-green goop you just dunked a bowl into?  Of course it is going to be cobalt blue when fired.  Fascinating, yes?

Beginner’s mind is a challenge to get into as an adult.  Our society demands knowledge, know-how, swagger, confidence, momentum.  Being a beginner requires curiosity, surrender, awe, wonder, and acknowledgement of another’s superior skills.  It requires you to be open, vulnerable, and even silly.  It requires resilience.  A beautiful bowl can become a lopsided twist of clay in a heartbeat, and all you can do is laugh, smush and knead, and begin again.  I’m working on squishing down my irritation along with my misshapen clay, working on laughing and shrugging my shoulders, working on going with the flow, working on embracing a “flawed” piece as one I can learn from and experiment with.  And you know what?  It’s fun.  It’s hard and messy and fun.  And I am learning.

I have yet to fully complete a piece yet, so this is all about the journey so far.  Considering how results-driven I can sometimes be, I am surprised how much I am relishing it.  Each step is new and different and hard and exciting.  I’m eager to see how my work will turn out once it’s been fired, of course, but (shockingly) I’m even more excited to keep learning and creating — because there is so much to enjoy along the way.

Women creatives

Happy International Women’s Day!  In celebration of women, the work we do, and the world that we shape, here is a round-up of artwork and ceramics by women makers that I’ve been loving lately.

There is something feminine and strong about these paintings by Bernadette Marie Pascua.  She is a multi-disciplinary artist based in New York City.

Humble Ceramics, created by by Belgian-born artist Delphine, offers artisan pottery made with mindfulness and intention in South Los Angeles, one small batch at a time.  I love their Alder tumblers.

On Society6 you can find art prints by Tracie Andrews, an abstract artist based in the UK.  The considered colors and shapes make me smile.

Bobby Clark is a Scottish artist and photographer who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.  Her latest artworks “explore the symmetry and balance of shapes, creating minimal studies of shape composition,” which I find both meditative and inspiring.

I covet this small half mesa bowl from OATMEAL.  Elise Birnbaum is a maker and founder of OATMEAL, where objects are designed and made with care in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — ethically and with respect for the material and the people they are making for.

Support women, support artists.  Happy International Women’s Day.

 

Thankful

Pieces
Kristina Akers, Pieces

On this odd in-between day between Thanksgiving with friends and Thanksgiving with family, I am simply grateful.  Grateful for good friends and warm hearts, for my loving family and sweet furry companions, and for my own little spark of optimism that helps me get through the days that seem too hard.  In my heart, I am taking a moment to be still and give thanks.

conditional retraction

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‘Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up’ by Egon Schiele (Narodni Galeri)

 

(for now) there is stillness amidst

what was once her maelstrom

whirling slowed into a lilting-soft song/dance

less frightened, more eager

no longer slamming her body against the walls

of an invisible cage

(for now) she is perhaps not sated, but quiescent

he has soothed the beast within

brought her light

velveted the darkness

into an appealing purple twilight

she has sheathed her claws

(for now) they do not reflect the cold moonlight

instead (for now) she allows his warmth

to thaw her edges

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

 

Modern Art Desserts

After admiring the cover and peeking inside virtually every time I visit Blue Bottle Coffee Co., I finally picked up a copy of Caitlin Freeman’s Modern Art Desserts.  I am so glad I did!  Freeman’s book is a gem.  Formerly of Miette, Freeman clearly knows her way around amazing desserts — backwards, forwards, and sideways, in fact.  What made this cookbook stand out for me was the fact that is not only full of stunning recipes, but also it serves as both a personal memoir and a mini-guide to some of the works at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  While Freeman and her beautiful desserts are no longer at SFMOMA, the cookbook that resulted from her tenure there is a pleasure for the pastry enthusiast and art lover alike.

Each dessert is presented with a photograph of the pastry, an image of the artwork it was inspired by, information about the work and the artist, and Freeman’s own experiences creating the dish.  Then follows the recipe, with clear, clean instructions.  Many of the recipes are quite aspirational — the complex Mondrian cake, for example, takes a whopping two days.  However, specialized supplies and ingredients are sourced in the book, out-of-the-ordinary equipment is highlighted and explained, and a section early on gives a great rundown of both the ingredients and cooking tools you’ll likely need throughout.  Freeman somehow manages to make incredibly complex recipes seem both aspirational and accessible.  Mixed in with culinary feats like the Mondrian cake are slightly lower key options like trifle, sodas, popcicles, and even a savory snack or two, so there are certainly options for those who prefer to measure their recipe timing in minutes or hours rather than days.

Overall I was surprised and delighted by Modern Art Desserts.  It is a diverting read above and beyond being a good cookbook.  If you’re a modern art fan, give this one a whirl.  Freeman has given us candy for the eyes and the taste buds in equal measure.