Christine Lafuente: Subtones in Springtime

My husband and I dropped by the Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia a little while ago to see a show by painter Christine Lafuente. We knew Chris when she lived in Philadelphia before she made the move to Brooklyn. One of her paintings, a portrait, graces our living room. It was great to see her again!

Subtones in Springtime featured Chris’s latest work, still lifes and landscapes. Her work is characterized by bold, unfussy brush work and a rich, expressive color palette.

I took lots of pictures of her paintings, but I am not posting them here because I think her work is better represented on the web sites that I have listed at the end of this post.

I found this video online when I was doing research for this post. It must have been made on the day we saw the exhibit, because there’s a clear shot of the back of my head!

To learn more about Christine Lafuente and her work, go to her website. See more of her work here. Read an interview with her here.

The Girls

I was commissioned to make a plate festooned with a picture of The Girls by the same guys I made these hats for. The Girls, in case you couldn’t tell, are guinea pigs.

I made drawings in Procreate from some pictures the boys sent me and transferred them to the plates.

I’m working on terracotta with slips and underglazes.

The pigs in outline.

I was really getting into it before I remembered that I know bupkis about painting fur, much less Guinea Pig fur. Still, I persisted.

I have a backup plate in case the first one doesn’t survive the glaze firing. We’ll see!

Jim Brossy at Third Street Gallery

My husband and I took in some art gallery shows this past weekend. The first one was to see Jim Brossy’s paintings at the Third Street Gallery in Philadelphia.

The Third Street Gallery is across the street from O’Neil’s Pub, a hangout of mine in another life.

It’s a cooperative gallery that was founded in 1978, and it’s run by members and volunteers. For a partial list of members, press here.

I’ve written about Jim Brossy before. He refers to his work as “Crackpot Realism. ” He integrates materials such as “tar, cement, wax, latex, steel, objects and other ‘non-art’ materials” with traditional art media. The object is to “eliminate boundaries [between the work and the viewer] creating new form.”

And so the works do not have traditional margins or borders. They continue off the canvas, or bubble and wrinkle over the canvas, adding texture and dimension.

Some of the works spill onto the floor. Others make you do a double take. That which seems painted is a “non-art” material.

Other parts which seem to be “non-art” materials are actually painted.

For more about Jim Brossy and his work, go to his website.

The show runs to May 25. More information here.


I am still experimenting with surface treatments on pottery. This week, I found inspiration in my own backyard. Philadelphia is a city of rowhouses, from multi-million dollar mansions on Delancey Place to more modest homes in the Northeast. I live in a rowhouse in South Philadelphia.

Here’s a plate in progress, with houses, trees, and a sidewalk.

Here’s the top of yet another butter dish. This one’s majolica and it took me forever to draw the houses on all four sides.

Another view. The handle is meant to be clouds. I hope this comes out of the firing without too many flaws. Majolica glaze can be finicky.

The bottom part is meant to be the sidewalk.

Rowhouses are cozy and fuel efficient. You are living close to your neighbors, so you learn to get along. If you want to learn more about row houses, check out the Philadelphia Rowhouse Manual.


I had to volunteer for Toddlerpalooza if only because I loved the name. Sponsored by the Barnes Foundation, Toddlerpalooza was an event for young children to try their hand at making art. I was there with ColorWheels community art program run by Fleisher Art Memorial.

Our project involved gluing pieces of colored paper to pre-cut shapes.

We brought plenty of paper and glue sticks,

Making a painter’s palette seemed appropriate.

Giant Lego looked like fun.

Daniel Tiger made an appearance.

As did The Clay Studio. Who doesn’t like to play in mud?

There was also a balloon artist. I got this mouse for Boris.


I’ve been busy making butter dishes lately, much like my foray into teapots a few years ago.  I decided to try upping my game with Majolica glaze. Majolica pottery, for the uninitiated, is traditionally made from a white, tin-based white glaze used on terra cotta clay, and decorated with glazes over the white glaze.

Here’s a picture of a butter dish that I made from terracotta using the tar paper technique. I show the process here.

Here are a couple of butter dishes after bisque firing. The third butter dish isn’t Majolica; it’s white earthenware with low fire glazes.

Majolica is also a low fire glaze. We fire at cone 06. The above picture is the butter dish top dipped into the Majolica glaze. You are supposed to dip the entire piece in one fell swoop and let it dry without trying to touch up any wet runs or drips. After the glaze is dry, you can smooth out imperfections with your finger, but it’s best not to have them at all. The glaze will not run in firing and hide any goofs. You will see every imperfection which is why you want to make sure the glaze surface is as close to perfect as possible.

The fact that Majolica glaze does not move in firing might seem like a curse, but it is also a blessing. The overglazes you use to decorate stay where you put them. You have a lot more control over the finished product if you know what you’re doing. Something I don’t claim to know.

Here’s a finished butter dish. I have some little pinholes in my finished glaze. I think that’s because I didn’t have a thick enough coat of the Majolica glaze.

So, I’m still a bit of a butterfingers when it comes to Majolica glazing. But I’m learning!

Spring Colors in the Market

The Italian Market near my home (although it now more of an international market) is an inspirational feast of shape and color. See for yourself.

Cherry blossoms near the 9th Street market, South Philadelphia.

Baby Bananas


Nice melons!

How often do you see fresh chick peas?

Chayote Pears

Cranberry Beans

The burning question!

Spring is Here

I know spring has come to my neck of the city when the Cherry Blossoms start blooming.

There’s a lot of action in my neighbor Bob’s urban garden too.

Turtle is waking up from a long winter’s nap, and the koi fish are swimming around in the sidewalk pond trying to avoid getting eaten. Hey, turtles get hungry! Let’s hope Philadelphia’s water emergency is resolved before it’s time to clean and refill the the tank.

Butter Dishes

I’ve paused making mugs in order to tackle making butter dishes.

First, I made a template out of tar paper for the top of the dish.

The tar paper technique lets you build with slabs while they are still malleable. You can build lots of interesting shapes rather quickly.

I made the bottom from a wet slab using a board and foam. Here’s a video showing the technique. Then I added a handle.

Then I decorated the top with some underglaze transfers I screen printed onto newsprint paper.

Here is the decorated butter dish ready for bisque firing.

Tell Me When I’m Finished

They say that knowing how to end an artistic work is more an act of surrender than the conviction that you are done. They say that DaVinci only completed 20 paintings for certain and that he left a large number of works unfinished. Technically, this includes the Mona Lisa, which he worked on from 1503 until he died in 1519. I am sure that most artists feel for DaVinci who, despite his massive talent, apparently found ways to make himself crazy over projects he was working on just as much as a weekend painter. Or maybe I am projecting.

My cat Boris is no Mona Lisa, that’s for sure, although he is about as mysterious and intractable. (Except at meal time. Then he has no trouble telling me exactly what’s on his mind.) He deigned to pose for me for a photograph which I attempted to turn into a color drawing for a class I am taking at Fleisher Art Memorial.

I normally draw in pencil, but decided to try some color.

Here’s how the drawing took shape after adding a bit of watercolor pencil.

And a little more. . .

And a little more. Maybe I’ve gone beyond the point of no return here, or maybe there’s still a more detail to add. A lot? A little? Am I finished?