good advice.

so naturally, i’m trying to figure out my new year’s resolutions.  typically there are several.  some are quite specific, others more reflective and life changing.  i’ll be sharing that list on january first when I embark on my resolution to blog something (from photo to review to story) each day this year.  in the mean time i’ll share a sweet little list i came across in my nieces room while visiting for the holidays.  i think it can be applied specifically or and more generally to all things in life, especially art making.

Ava’s Fashion Tips

1. never waste

2. be creative

3. don’t cry over a mess up

4. don’t rush

5. be calm and collected

6. be nice if someone compliments your work

she said it was for a sewing group at school that her and her friends organized (pretty impressive for an 8 year old).

home wherever i go.


photo of a photo, snapped from the facebook of stephanie burns.

i spent the first 18 years of my life in pretty much the same place, most of it in the same house.  but being the child of immigrants, was raised with this idea of other places i might call home.  i think this upbringing really impacted the way i’ve lived the second half of my life, often moving, creating communities everywhere i’ve gone.

tonight i was looking at a friend’s photos on facebook.  (i snapped this with my phone off the computer screen)  she and her partner just took a trip to europe and one of their stops was in florence, italy.  of all her amazing pics, this kind of random street scene, with closed up shops (maybe it’s on the ponte vechhio?  i’ll have to ask her…) really gave me a big shot of nostalgia.

as much as i want to go new places i want SO MUCH to go back to the places i’ve been.  i want to keep recycling my experiences somehow.  learning a new place and then leaving then returning.  returning makes everything feel new AND familiar.

i don’t know– i’ve never been one to go somewhere having done research, practiced the language, or any of that.  i love how the urgency to communicate necessitates learning, wondering around, having to ask for directions, strangers sharing their time and advice.

as much as i loved learning renaissance art history in florence, the things i remember most are…..

…the lady at the train station telling me to stop waiting in line so patiently.  because obviously, you will never get to the front if you wait, you kind of have to push your way forward.

borrowing a stranger’s cell phone to book a spot at a hostel–as the train rolled to a stop in that city’s station—and jumping out of the train on a whim to visit a new city.

…and you know, the fountain story🙂

places, people, languages, food.  i know these things are important to everyone but i want to know if they can fit centrally into my life.

i want the whole world to be my community.

going local.

lancaster, pa skirt steak. one of my first attempts at responsible meat purchasing.

i have really fond memories of going to local farms with my family and picking tons of tomatoes and eggplants.  eating them fresh for weeks and freezing or pickling (pickled eggplant!) what we couldn’t finish.  of course growing up in florida, you can’t really help but eat local, with the mass amounts of oranges, lemons, mangos, avacados and grapefruits literally falling of trees into your hands.  i’ve stopped at a strangers house to ask if i could pick their tangerines, and they grab the grocery sacks, press them into your hands and and say “yes, please, there are too many for us to eat.”  at my parents place i grew up plucking loquats, mulberries, prickly pears and papayas off the plant and sticking them in my mouth  (ok, ok, not the prickly pears.  they require use of a special picking tool and complex cleaning to avoid cactus needles in your face).

despite this, markets are full of seasonless imports and most of us have gotten into the habit of expecting anything anytime, i know i have.

but a few weeks ago i went to a workshop on sustainability and education.  hearing about so many awesome ideas and projects really got me fired up.  my favorite lecture of the day was about economics (a class which i fully slept through in high school and have never revisited) and the local foods movement and it illuminated SO MUCH for me.  all of the attendees got a copy of barbara kingsolver’s “animal, vegetable, miracle” which (like her fiction, which i’m a big fan of) was an amazing and engrossing story.

and now, like so many others (thankfully) i am getting amped to go local.

i think the local foods movement should just be called being awesome!  i mean, you give your money to actual real people in your community who work really hard doing something they love.  and then, you casually get to eat fruits, vegetables and meat that actually taste like fruits, vegetables and meat.

so i’m gradually trying to educate myself on what comes from where here in pennsylvania and starting to research what i can expect to find once i move to gainesville, fl.  incidentally i’ve gotten a renewed sense of excitement about cooking and baking.

being back on familiar ground will be nice, things falling of trees will be nice and getting to know the more agricultural central florida will be awesome.  yay exciting!

happy father’s day.

i guess i’ve always had a special connection with my father.  i grew up with stories of my mother’s and his lives in tunisia and italy (where they each respectively lived until emigrating to the united states when they were teens).  he says “there are two kinds of people in the world, those who are italian and those who want to be italian.” reminding me daily that while we might live in the united states and have american citizenship we were certainly more italian then american.  after living for 3 years in japan, i can understand that sentiment.  no matter how much you may like your adopted country it’s natural, i suppose, to romanticize your country of origin.  anyway, back to those stories of far off places.  for as long as i could remember i wanted to get away and travel.  and my father has been central to some of my favorite travel stories, even though he wasn’t with me physically.  he was a little bird in my ear telling me where to go.  or maybe leaving a trail of breadcrumbs is more accurate.  here are a couple of those favorite stories.

since i moved abroad in 2005 there have been some pretty intense leaps in technology, or at least in the accessability.  now-a-days, even a technophobe like me can look up directions on google maps, or for that matter, take a snippet of information and google my way to an address and phone number.  but in the early 2000’s i didn’t even own a computer and cell phones didn’t have gps on them yet.  so when i decided in the winter of 2001/02 to hitchhike to new york city to see the metropolitan museum of art’s show of works by caravaggio and the father and daughter orazio and artemisia gentileschi it was with the aid of a map, made of paper.  imagine.  i didn’t even own a cell phone yet.  my only other destination was arthur avenue, the “real” little italy, in the bronx.  armed with the crossroads (186th st. and arthur ave.), crytic details (look for a deli with a star of david tile on the sidewalk out front, that’s the best deli in the area) and a list of requests(pepper biscuits, a few pounds of proscuito de parma, etc.) i took a day and headed there with my friend kat who had hitched up with me.  from a friend’s place in washington heights, we took various buses and walked a fair distance, honing in on these crossroads, until finally, we found ourselves in the the little italy of the bronx.  walking through the streets i kept my eyes peeled for the star of david tile in the doorways.  finally i found it, affixed to the sidewalk in front of teitel brother’s deli.  kat was a little amazed that we had found it.  but for some reason i knew all along that we would find it.  of course now the teitel brother’s deli has a website, as does arthur ave which spell out for you exactly which publix transit to take there but who needs internet when you can rely on psychic connection?

fast forward to the following summer.  i have been in school at fau for a year and decided to do the study abroad program in italy for the summer.  basically, i spent a month and a half in florence, italy learning italian and studying rennaicance art history (pretty amazing) but the real amazement came afterwards, when i spent a month traveling alone throughout italy.  there were just a few relatives still in the country that my parents were in touch with, namely my mother’s 2 cousins.  one in san remo and one in partineco (sicily).  i spent a few days in san remo and about a week in partineco.  both were really good visits but stories for another day.  on my dad’s side of the family we weren’t really in touch with anyone.  but again, i had a list from my dad.  names of people and villages (in an email, actually, via my mother).  once i arrived in the tiny, tiny train stop at ponte’ (during siesta, which is no good), stumble into an empty bar and am pointed in the right direction i start walking.  and walking.  and walking…..finally i flag a small car down.  the car’s driver happily takes me to casaldune, the small village outside of which my father grew up.  once there he tells me that the bus in front of us is leaving and it’s the last bus out of casaldune.  it’s not like this place has a hotel!  so i thank him and jump out.  pulling out my camera, i snap a picture in one direction!  turn and snap another, call up to the bus driver to please espeta just a minute while i take another photo.  catching on he yells to me “la fontagna, la fontagna!”.  to my left i see a small set of basins with spigots and snap a picture of it as well, hoping it’s the fountain he’s speaking of and jump on the bus.  the driver takes me back to benevento station (benavento being a proper city with a proper station) and i find out from him when the morning bus runs for future reference.  later that day when i talk to my dad, the first thing he says is “did you see the fountain?!”.   thanks bus driver!

a few weeks later, literally 36 hours before my departure, while making my way from sicily to milan, i decide i have to try again.  this time i start out at benevento station, but the earliest i can get there and get the bus (same bus driver) has me arrive just as siesta is beginning.  sheesh!  i haven’t written down the names my father had given me but i assume that i will call them from a payphone using an international calling card once i arrive.  (the funny part was assuming there would be a pay phone!).  i walked into a tiny grocery store and ask in my rough italian “where’s a pay phone?”  I am introduced to this analog machine that will definitely not be taking a calling card.  someone asks me, what are you doing here?  when i try to explain (to the entire store, all of whom are listening now) that i am searching for my father’s long lost relatives someone gets a brilliant idea, runs off and returns with a woman who speaks proper british english.  she, at the urging of everyone in the store, asks me a series of questions.  what’s my father’s name?  his father’s name?  what village did they live in? and on and on.  eventually everyone disappears, and the owners of the grocery store make me a mortadella sandwich (which they refuse to let me pay for) and things settle down for siesta.  i wonder around, take photos and eploring casaldune.  eventually the chief of police shows up and in his broken aussie english (everyone seems to have spent their youth being educated by the commonwealth) explains to me that we are going to the house my father grew up in.  crazy!  i can’t remember everyone’s name now, but i met a couple of people who knew my father’s family before they left.  i get to see the house he grew up in (now a small shed really, with a giant modern house attached, with tons of drying garlic and a huge pot of sauce brewing inside), the house he lived in the year before leaving, slightly closer to town and eventually, through these people we learn that my great uncle still lives near by so we pop in on my uncle rocco and his wife.  they are totally delightful, we have a quick chat and they ask me in for coffee.  unfortunately well into siesta, the police chief’s wife is calling him on his cell, insisting he come home and there is no way for me to stay with out missing my flight out of milan.  so we say an equally quick good bye, but i snap photos of each of them and write down their phone number for my dad before i go.  the police chief takes me back to benevento and i head north to milan and eventually home feeling like i have had a pretty fantastic adventure.

since then my parents stayed in touch with uncle rocco and a couple of years following my trip, they returned to italy for the first time since their teens and visited.  i never saw uncle rocco again and this spring he passed away.  in a way, though, he was my favorite relative because we shared such a special story together.

i think i got my sense of adventure and exploration from my parents, inspired by their stories and lives.  i’ll always kind of blindly trust those lists of names, places and cryptic clues and know i’ll find my way to another great adventure, even without gps.

here’s a pic of uncle rocco taken by my sister a couple of years ago when my parents, sister and brother all went to italy.  my photos of my trip are all film and paper and stored in florida right now but jackie was nice enough to send this one to me.


when i move i purge.  but it’s hard for me to let go of work sometimes, even if it’s suffered some damage and can’t be shown again or sold.  sometimes pieces are transitional work which will lead to something else, and sometimes, it’s JUST too soon.  these works go to the boneyard of art which is my parents beautiful overgrown gardens.  they both love to garden and grow fruits and vegetables and succulents.  here are some snaps of work i left behind before heading up here to PHILADELPHIA!

satellite studio

i spent the holiday weekend at my parent’s house.  in addition to delicious food i also got to make some work.  on their lanai, after all this time, sits my first work bench.  way back when i was 18 and moved out for the first time my place had a nice screened in porch, perfect to do art on.  i mentioned needing a work bench and my roommate’s boyfriend (who was doing construction and had access to lots of scrap wood) built it right up.

soda firing with fireworks.

friday.  my day was made complex by the fact that the minivan had a minor melt down on thursday.  conking out on 22nd st. literally in front of a automotive shop which burned down about three months ago was funny, having n- from the clay co behind me at the light was lucky. she was kind enough to lend me her aaa service and found a car shop.  s- came by and helped us move the car out of traffic.  we had some fun mosquito infested converstaion while we waited by the  burned out auto shop for the tow truck to arrive.  i had to commute the next day to sarasota so my parents came and got me and i so i could drive their car to work the next day.  my luck seemed to continue because the problem was minimal, fixed on friday and i was able to get out of work early to go and pick it up.  definitely best case scenario.  with a little help from friends and family what could have been a real mess was made bearable.

friday night loading with j- ended up taking a little longer than originally planned.  when we finished up at 2:30 am we decided NOT to start at 6 am.  first turn up was at 9 am.  s- and r-sensei were firing rudy inside.  they had started at  6.  we had taken good notes during the last firing and this time everything seemed to stay on a similiar schedule.  around 6 pm s- and r- headed out.  it started to get dark.  i knew that we were looking at an estimated soda time of 1 am and though i was looking forward to the fireworks we would see after the sun went down i was starting to feel a little clausterphobic.  i’ve never been a big fan of dusk.  day is great, night is awesome.  dusk is clasuterphobic.  but once the sun fell i started to get my second wind.

once the fireworks started going we climbed out a second story window to the roof where i could see fireworks going off for 360 degrees.  the best show in my line of sight was coming from down town st. petersburg.  seeing fireworks definitely makes me nostalgic for tokyo.  there’s no fourth there of course, fireworks are a summer long thing with different areas hosting shows.  most are free, some you can pay a fee for good seating (ash and debris falling on your head good) and some you have to brave psychotic crowds to see.  in the event listings each event has a number next to it, so and so thousand for example.  knowing that the sumida river event was the biggest of the year i incorrectly thought that the number was the amount of folks in attendence.  i felt very silly when i finally realized the number was the amount of fireworks being fired off.  sumida river, the last time i went boasted 20,000 fireworks.  crazy.  regardless of the numbers thoug there is something about all that sparkly light in the night sky.  it’s breath taking.  j- said she’d considered becoming a pyrotechnician.  that would have been awesome.  just like judy chicago.

around 12:30 am we got everything ready to soda.  shot in some soda/sawdust chalupas, sprayed and then added some wood for good measure, let it burn and then shut her down.  i finally made it home around 2.

just as the exhaustion threatens to settle in, it’s time to soda and just as you think you’re going to drop from the heat, and dehydration you’re done and it’s time to start wondering what’s going to come out.

christmas or halloween??


can you see the cones?  rough, since it was taken with my cell phone.

can you see the cones? rough, since it was taken with my cell phone.

work for sale at st. pete clay.

the garden and flower sale was a success.  everything ran smoothly and i even sold some of my work.  today was great as plenty of friendly faces came out to support the cause.  it’s so awesome to see people buying handmade (and hand grown) products.  with the economy continuing to tank i think it is our responsibility to keep buying handmade objects.  walmart may be able to sell everything under the sun cheaper than a bag of clay, but when walmart tanks too, where will we be?  let’s keep supporting each other, bartering and doing it ourselves!

planters with succulents (separated and rooted by my mom from her own collection of succulents) still available at st. pete clay for a limited time.  anyone interested in some free plants or trees for their yard should plan a visit to the gugliotti’s house in sarasota county.  my dad loves to share his plants.

flower pots 030

flower pots 033flower pots 027

planters in progress.

everything is done.  as soon as they dry they go in the bisque (after a little clean up with the green scrubby).  i’m using highwater’s low fire white clay, which has a really nice putty white color when bisqued, no pink hue at all.  i’m actually going to bring the raw clay up to cone 1 so the body is a little tighter and then place the soil and succulents right in.  i’ve always been in love with the raw bisque color of this earthenware, so i’m excited to make some work where it gets to shine.

here’ s a little sneak peak at the planters, check back to see them with the plants inside…..

pile of planters

pile of planters

slidey spikes

slidey spikes

sansai planter

sansai planter

pots 004

special thanks to my mom and dad for providing the plants for these pots and to mom for separating out and rooting the baby plants for me.

summer time in the studio.

our a.i.r. studios are burning up about now.  st. pete clay is housed in a big red brick train station from the 1920’s.  up front where the member studios, retail galleries and highwater clay are housed is air conditioned but walking back through the building, once you hit the kiln room, it’s nothing but toasty. i spent most of the day at the studio today but after an hour or so i had to run out for beverages.  using my sweet rolling sculpture stands i moved everything up front.  when sabo left to go back to alaska his space transitioned into a small work area for classes or overheated a.i.r.s so that’s where i set up.  went and got some vitamin water and um, regular water and got back to work.

it was great to spend the whole day working in the studio.  right now is kind of a transitional time.  during this residency i have worked really hard to “be around” as much as possible and not take this time or space for granted.  i had a really good job situation, working part time with benefits at my main job and part time at creative clay but recently, due to the crazy economy, i had to go full time to keep my benifits.  not that i’m complaining.  i am definitely thankful that there was a position for me to transition into.  now i have the task ahead of me to continue to be around and continue learning with less time.  i know this summer will be tough, and i’ll struggle to keep my nose to the grindstone.  so far though, being at work more has made me feel more motivated to get into the studio in the time i do have.

i’m preparing for my end of residency show.  it’s not officially scheduled yet but will be in early fall, september or so.  hard to believe i’ve been at this 9 monthes.  i have learned so much, made a lot of work and done a few shows.  by the time i put that solo show up, fill up a whole gallery with shit i made, i think i will be pretty satisfied with my experience.

i’m also putting together some little guys for the annual flower and garden sale next next weekend.  my  parents are obsessed with gardening so they separated out some baby succulent plants for me to make some pots for.  i’m not much of a vessel maker but hopefully they’ll be sweet.

drawing for new sculptures

drawing for new sculptures

first one

first one

succulent planters-before:


stay tuned for the after….