Drawing Bridges at Cherry Street Pier

I went to Cherry Street Pier with the Color Wheels gang last week. It was the first Color Wheels outing I’ve been on for more than a year,

The Color Wheels Van

The art project was drawing the Ben Franklin Bridge which is right next to Cherry Street Pier.

It’s not an easy task to draw a suspension bridge, even with an army of erasers and rulers. But lead artist Maureen Duffy helped a lot of people tackle the project and walk away with drawings. Here are some I got to photograph.

A Walk to the Navy Yard

Mary Schneider draws and paints on pottery, but what she depicts is not always the usual fruit, flowers and leaves you might expect to see. The inspiration for her latest creation came from walks to the Philadelphia Navy Yard that she took with a friend during the winter days of the pandemic lockdown. She plans to trade the plate, with the image of the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy for a pen and ink drawing of the same vessel by her walking companion.

Meet the Von Trayf Family

My workspace at the pottery studio was taken over recently by a family of pigs. Ceramic pigs. It all started innocently enough when I saw a YouTube Video on how to make a piggy bank out of a thrown vase form. I decided to try it for myself but I threw my vases a little small and had to paddle them into shape. I also decided to add more expressive eyes than the ones I saw in the YouTube tutorial (which were just holes albeit more realistic. Pigs are not known for their cute eyes), real piggy trotters and wings because if pigs had wings [fill in the blank].

Where does the name Von Trayf come from? For the uninitiated, trayf means “not Kosher” in Yiddish. Pigs are trayf. So bacon and ham are considered trayf and not eaten by those who keep Kosher. I don’t eat pork because I am not a meat eater generally, and Babe is one of my favorite movies. Baa ram ewe.

I made the Von Trayf family for an assortment of pig and bacon lovers I know. Some of them are vegans, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love pigs. Just not on their plates.

Paddling the vase shape into a pig shape.
Ears added and eyes begun. This pig is in need of an expression!
Much better, and now he has a mouth too. The round hole is his piggy snout that will be stoppered with a cork.
And he gets a slot because he is a bank.
Deciding how to shape his wings
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Positioning the wings
Every good pig deserves trotters.

One Pig Done!
No pig stands alone
And here are the Von Trayfs in their first formal family photo. Each one is named for its intended recipient.
And here is the matriarch: Bubbe Von Trayf

Little Teapots

I don’t drink much tea, but have become intrigued with making wheel-thrown teapots. Teapots are considered one of the most challenging items a potter can make. Mostly, I suppose because so many elements have to work together at the same time. The handle has to fit ascetically and physically. The spout has to pour efficiently and be placed so you can fill the teapot up. And when you do fill the teapot up, it can’t weigh a bloody ton. It has to be east to handle. And the lid needs to fit properly. You need to be able to get it on and off easily and it has to fit whichever way you put it on. And it has to stay on while you pour the tea, either by itself or be capable of being held in place while the tea is being poured.

And that’s just the physical attributes of the teapot. It also has to look good or at least not suck. I heard someone describe a teapot as a jar with a handle and a spout. Why not a mug with a spout and a lid, I thought? A little teapot to hold a nice cup of tea. I started small and here’s what I came up with.

Here’s what I started out with. Two mug-sized pots, lids, and three spouts each. You’re always supposed to make more spouts than what you need because you are sure to screw one up. Good advice.

Here’s one of the first teapots I put together. You might think it looks OK, but it’s all wrong. The lid is clunky and what about that knob? It’s really not good for much. And who could get two fingers through that handle? The body and spout are OK. I decided to trim the top of the lid which had plenty of clay to spare, and replace the handle.

Here’s the teapot with a trimmed lid and a new handle. I trimmed the lid of the other teapot flat too. I didn’t think a knob would work for either teapot.

My solution? A birdy knob for one teapot and a circle for the other. One third of the circle makes the knob and two thirds of the circle makes a nice handle. And they look like they belong on the same teapot.

I’m usually do underglaze decoration for my pottery. I thought I’d fool around with stains this time.

And here are the finished teapots. The handle on the birdy teapot is not optimal, but it is a vast improvement over how I started. More teapots to come!

New Paintings From Arlene Groch

I first met Arlene Groch through the polymer clay world, and I’ve posted her work on this blog as well as on the Philadelphia Guild’s blog after she asked me to post the story of how she covered a fake deer head with a houndstooth check cane at the request of her son. (I couldn’t resist titling that post The Deer Clayer.) I knew that Arlene had dabbled in abstract painting in the past, but during the pandemic, she attacked it with a ferocity that is, well, Arlene.

I’m going to shoot off my big mouth here. Some people purport to take up abstract painting because they can’t paint, and abstract painting gives them a way to cover a canvas without taking responsibility for the final result. Their work is meh. But not so with Arlene. Her paintings draw you in and engage you. It’s no accident that she’s already sold a few and won an award. Her paintings deserve to be seen and enjoyed.

Cosmos 40″ X 40″ $1500
Summer Glory 3′ X 4′ $2500
Spring Fling 2′ X 4″ $2500
Cosmos 3’X4′ Sold. 2021 National AAUW Art Contest National Winner,
Cosmos 5′ 28” square – gallery wrapped; $1500

No Turning Back – 3’x4’ Framed – $6500
Untitled. Sold

Arlene is represented by Nashville North Galleries, in Linwood, NJ. The prices shown are those set at the Gallery unless otherwise noted.  Prints of all of these paintings are also available on archival paper, painted with archival paints for $95 each. They are matted and suitable for framing.

If you like the work but don’t want a painting, Arlene is in the process of having her work printed on high-quality note cards which she will offer for sale. If you are interested in anything here, contact her gallery or let me know and I will pass on the information.

A Visit to Elfreth’s Alley

Years ago, I met a woman who, for a time, owned a house in Philadelphia’s Elfreth’s Alley. She liked the house she lived in but said she never got used to total strangers peering in her front windows and knocking on her door at all hours.

As the nation’s oldest, continuously occupied residential street, Elfreth’s Alley is a tourist attraction. Not a manufactured tourist attraction. Elfreth’s Alley, located in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia is the real deal. The people who live there are not historical reenactors, and the houses are privately owned, not part of the National Park Service. I’ve always wanted to explore Elfreth’s Alley more closely, (I pass by it on the way to The Clay Studio), but I am reluctant to go snapping pictures of people’s houses without an invitation. And then the invitation came. A flea market of antiques and crafts to support the Elfreth’s Alley museum, complete with guided tours.

I was pressed for time that day and didn’t have a lot of time to stick around, but I did manage to take a lot of pictures.

Plenty to do after you’ve been to Elfreth’s Alley

West Philly Porchfest

I ventured out of my Bella Vista neighborhood this week to visit my friend Patty who was participating in an event called West Philly Porchfest. I’d never heard of Porchfest but it seemed like a fun idea and a safe way to enjoy music and festivities after hiding inside all winter because of the coronavirus.

The West Philadelphia neighborhoods of Cedar Park, Spruce Hill, Squirrel Hill and Walnut Hill are filled with large houses dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Unlike my neighborhood of Bella Vista, many of these houses have large, covered front porches which proved to be popular gathering places for musicians to perform. Porchfest started in 2016 as a way to devote one day, the first Saturday in June, to give any group who wanted to perform the opportunity to play a two hour set if they could find someone to volunteer a porch. A West Philly Porchfest Organizing Committee was formed and set up a Porch/Musician connector group on Facebook so interested parties could find one another. Once the match is made, the porch host registers with the Porchfest site, gets put on the schedule, and is included in on-line and paper maps that show where and when the bands will preform. On the big day, the audience grabs maps and trolls the neighborhood to listen to all kinds of music. What could be better?

Dreaming Thomas playing on Patty’s front porch.

You didn’t need a porch to play

All ages and all kinds of music. West Philly Porchfest is already on my calendar for June 4, 2022. With a little luck, we’ll all be back to enjoy it.

Magnetic Clasp for Polymer

Here’s one of my favorite clasps for polymer necklaces. It’s a rare earth magnet, hidden in a side bead. You open the clasp by sliding the bead open. It’s strong and because it’s not located at the back of the neck, it’s not constantly tension and in danger of opening. Who said that necklace clasps had to be on the back of the neck anyway? Put them where they will work. They should be either part of the design or blend in.

All of these beads are hollow except the black ones in the back, so the necklace is very light. It’s also comfortable to wear because the tube in the back rests comfortably against the neck.
And here’s the clasp. It’s not baked into the clay. I used black Apoxie Sculpt to fix it in place. That stuff is strong! I would have to break the bead to get the magnet out.
The clasp bead closed. I would have liked to have had no visible seam on the bead but that proved impossible for me. But I can say that so far, no one has been able to tell that there was a hidden clasp in the bead until I showed them.

for a great selection of rare earth magnets, try K&J Magnetics.

A Walk to Northern Liberties from South Philadelphia

One of the best ways to see Philadelphia is to walk it. Here are some pictures I took on a stroll to Northern Liberties from my own neighborhood in South Philadelphia.

Julia’s Creatures

I’m not sure how Julia Durand ended up in Philadelphia but she hails from France where she enjoyed a cartoon called Les Shadoks as a child. Les Shadoks inspired Julia to make a whole menagerie of creatures that I’d hardly call whimsical, but they certainly full of personality and each one has a different expression. It makes me wonder that they would say if they could talk. And if they did talk, it would probably be in French.

If you’re interested in checking out Les Shadoks yourself, they’re on YouTube with English subtitles.