In Memory–Aleta

A dear ceramics class friend died this week, and a large group of teachers and students at the Visual Arts Center of NJ are devastated. In a year of compromised health, Aleta contracted Covid-19. Amazingly she recovered and, at a recent ceramics class social distance picnic, she declared herself, “The luckiest girl in the world!” We were beyond thrilled she had beaten the virus. Was her heart attack related to the illness? Research shows it may have been.

Aleta was incredibly smart, becoming a lawyer and professor of law at time when women were just making inroads into those professions. She was funny, curious, creative, talented, encouraging, kind, and a joy to be around. When I tell friends that I love my ceramics class because of the people in it, and because I can make a thimble and it’s still celebrated, I think of Aleta showering us all with, “It’s beautiful! Just beautiful!”

She loved her dog Gracie, had a thing for owls, always wore a Mets baseball hat, was ecstatic about the recent purchase of a dream vacation home, asked for and received an anniversary gift of a home pottery studio, loved to travel and, after a trip to Amsterdam, created hand-built tilting houses. She dispensed jokes and funny stories, shared family lore, talked politics and policies, and always expressed how much she loved her family. Her openness to learning, studying, and practicing was an inspiration. There will be an imprint in the atmosphere surrounding her favorite wheel.

I will always remember Aleta’s smile, laugh, and how she called all of us, “Honey.” My heart is heavy and my mind swirls with memories.

Sources: The Harvard Gazette, Oregon State University’s Jack Dymond

Play-Doh for Grown-Ups

At the Visual Arts Center, I finally got a chance to try the Extruder mounted on the wall of the Ceramics Studio! My classmates threw a bunch of different colored clay into the metal body and our teacher (shout out to Melissa) worked it like a giant Play-Doh toy, squishing the clay down through the metal tube. We “caught” the clay as it came out in interesting tubular shapes.

I added bottoms, holes for design interest, and sanded before swirling a glaze color called “Dark Stormy Night” inside the vases. Glazing with clear on the outside highlighted the marble effect of combining different colors of clay. So cool!

Extruder Vases.


I also made my first small wheel-thrown jars (shout out to Jessica for the demos), adding objects to the top of two of the jars while the third has a built-in knob. Guess what I used to secure the glass bead and petrified wood knobs? According to Melissa, it’s “astronaut glue!” Those knobs may outlast the jars!

Playing With Fire, Raku 2015

Ceramic vase and tea box.
Ceramic vase and tea box.

Playing With Clay

This summer, I took a Raku class taught by master ceramicist, excellent teacher, and all-around wonderful guy, Peter SyakNot only did the hours fly by, the women I took the class with were great company. I was inspired by them, and by the talented students I take ceramics class with year-round. We learn from each other.

Pottery has given me a way to turn off stress, even if it’s just for a few hours a week.  And I don’t mind getting my hands dirty.

Since I took this class last summer and know how beautiful the glazes are, this spring I threw a bunch of clay pots with Raku clay at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Do you know what we potters call ourselves? ADDICTED!  I’m pretty sure someone in our class wears a T-shirt that reads, “I’m a POT-head.”

To find out more about the Raku process, click on these links:

Red Hot Raku (Part 1)

Raku Reaction (Part 2)

Cool Results From Hot Pots (Part 3)

Hon, what do you do to turn off stress?

Raku Kiln. Our pieces were fired at about 1,750 degrees F.
Raku Kiln. Our pieces were fired at about 1,750 degrees F.
Lace-patterned ceramic vase.
Lace-patterned ceramic vase.
Shallow bowl and darted dish.
Shallow bowl and darted dish.







Small wiggle-wire dishes.
Wiggle-wire dishes.
Small bowls with appliques and a tea light vessel.
Small bowls with appliques and a tea light vessel.








Three different pots.
Three different pots.

“Summer” Art Exhibit

shells at Sandpiper Bay, Florida



“Summer” is the second piece down in the third column.

What:  my mixed media piece titled “Summer”:  photograph of shells taken in Sandpiper Bay, Florida and handmade paper with embossed shells (from my shell collection)

Where:  Visual Arts Center of New Jersey Members Show and Sale 2012

When:  July 20 – August 26