Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Airport Exhibit

Jay's boss flew to Chicago last week and snapped a picture of my pieces at the airport. Here's what you would see.

Friday, March 20, 2009

School frustrations

I hope I don't regret posting about the school system we have here, but I am frustrated and disgusted with my kids' school. This post might get lengthly and a little dogmatic, but I won't be able to concentrate on anything else today until I get this off my chest. I'm nervous about putting this in writing since I have been known to get myself into trouble by writing letters.

For starters, I believe that the single most important thing a parent can do with their child is read, early and often. Exposure to language is key to language development, understanding and learning. We have read to Allison and Ben from the time they were in utero. Jay would read to my belly. I am convinced that they both love to read because of this early exposure and the importance we placed on books and reading. I also believe that kids will learn to love reading if they are allowed to read whatever they want, be it chapter books, comic books or trading cards.

My kids attend a school which places some emphasis on a program called "Accelerated Reader". Students read books and then are are tested on them. They are awarded points based on the difficulty of the book and percentage of questions they get correct. Each student has been tested for their reading level and assigned a point quota for each grading period. Many of the books in the school library are not A/R books, and the children are discouraged from checking these books out if they have not met their point quota for the grading period. Since many students don't meet that quota until near the end of the grading period, they never get the opportunity to read these other titles. I volunteer one afternoon a week in the library and have fielded questions from kids looking for a level x book worth x points. The way the A/R program is being used, it could kill the love of reading in more than one child.

I do believe the teachers work hard and have the children's best interest at heart. Many of them grew up here, and I'm sure they want to better the lives of these kids. That said, I have overheard incorrect English spoken by teachers as well as Southern slang in the classroom. Allison documented the following from her teacher: "The plural of 'deer' is 'deer'. We want to say 'deers' but it don't change." She uses "don't" for "doesn't" consistently. I heard one of the reading tutors refer to her small group of students as "you-ens", which is a popular way of addressing folks up here. This morning I felt compelled to bring to the attention of a teacher that her sign: "When your finished, READ" contained a misspelling. She did not appear embarrassed or apologetic in the slightest. WTF?

The PTO is a good segue to the issue of parent involvement. At the Charter schools my kids attended, volunteerism was compulsory. We had committees and team leaders, and it was astonishingly efficient. Our PTO has met only 3 times this school year. I'm not sure exactly what the PTO has done outside of a couple of fundraisers. I'm not sure the PTO actually knows its function or has clear goals. Attendance is small, and the group appears unorganized. The more parents are around the more they can fill the needs of the school where funding is lacking.

This is especially important in the case of our school where nearly 50% of the students are considered economically disadvantaged. Our school is Title I which entitles us to grants, etc. We are a poor school. It creates a vicious cycle when you throw in NCLB testing (don't even get me started on that). The test scores have to improve so that funding is not in jeopardy, so everyone freaks out about preparing the kids for the tests.

I wish I cared enough about public education to run for the school board and try to change the system. Unfortunately, I care about my own kids' education more. I want it better now. I'm not one to sit around when there is work to be done, but I'm realistic enough to know what I can and cannot have an impact on. While I cannot pass out demerits to teachers who butcher the English language, I can take a more active roll in promoting volunteerism at school. I also know that I am viewed as an outsider and with a certain amount of skepticism so I must proceed cautiously.

Why do I feel I must get involved? I never saw my parents at school unless I was in trouble. What's changed?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back in the Studio!

I am feeling like a new person! 3 consecutive days in the studio and a couple of hours of yoga this week, and I am energized! Day 1 is just throwing cylinders. That is how most of my work starts. Day 2 I start cutting and assembling. It's pretty spontaneous.
After last week's Clay Club crit, I tried to think about my intention with these pots:sculptural or functional. As I started assembling pieces, I realized that function is important, at least with this group of pots, not that I feel it is my place to determine exactly what that function is or should be.
I work in groups of 3 to 4 pots at a time. Any more than that and I can't keep up with how fast they dry, and the seams crack. I piece together the perimeter, occasionally adding darts, reinforcing the seams with small coils. While those are setting up, I cut and play with the handles. These are generally cut from the cylinders as well, but I am thinking about pulling some handles. I really like to see how expressive the curves can get with the handles. Then I either cut and open a cylinder flat or roll out and texturize a slab for the bottom. I attach the bottom before the handles since it is easier to get to the bottom seam without the handles in place.
I finished these 2 on Wednesday and another 2 today. I dry them slowly under plastic to avoid cracking. All said and done, I spent about 9 hours in the studio on these 4 baskets. I'm usually more productive, but I was consciously trying to work through some new ideas. It's time well spent in the long run.
Well how about that: a post about pottery. It feels good to be back in the studio.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All work and no play makes Kari dull and cranky!

We really haven't been working on the basement all that long, but it's been weeks since I have been in the studio except to move in boxes that do not belong there! I'm afraid my wheel is going to ask for ID before I can sit down. And the camera batteries are dead so I can't add any new pictures. So I'm just going to use these few moments to bitch a little.

Did I mention that the weeds are growing at least an inch a day in the perrenial garden. These pictures were taken in May. It was such a jungle last year. It scares me to even think about how to manage it. The bottom photo is the smallest section. It took almost an entire day to weed that one section out.

Okay, I'm putting those fears into a pink balloon and saying good-bye. There. I feel much better.

On the pottery front, I got really good constructive criticism at the Clay Club meeting last week, and I don't want to squander that by doing something stupid like forgetting everything everyone said. So, I am going to find my apron, wedge a few balls of clay and throw for a bit. Just what the doctor ordered.

Or was that a lime in the coconut?

Friday, March 13, 2009

New website link!

I just joined a website called America Creates. One of the founders found me on Facebook. I was intrigued by what I saw on the site, sent in an application and was approved this week to exhibit and sell. The link to my online gallery is

I've only put 2 items on so far. I've got much to do before I head to Asheville for the Opening Reception this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Here's to the town of Spruce Pine

Most of our friends cannot believe we actually settled into a dry county, not just any dry county, but a dry county next to another dry county. Well, thanks to the voters in Mitchell county we are all going to hell with a beer in our hands! They voted yesterday to approve alcohol sales. Beer and wine can be sold in stores and Spruce Pine will get an ABC store. Think of how much more beer I can buy with all the gas money I'll save!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Art in the Airport

Although I have exhibited in the past few years, this is the first juried show I've been in since 1997. Does this mean I'm a professional now? You mean I can't run away and join the circus or apply for my dream job at a nursery?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New wheels

As most of you know, I am married to a fix-it guy. When I wrecked and presumably totalled my van last fall, he fixed it. When we discovered we had no leach field, he fixed it. And you've seen the posts about the basement. I know at times he is weary of fixing things, especially our vehicles.

Last Friday his Trooper overheated on the way home. This is the truck he bought 5 years ago for $2000 expecting it to last a couple of years. I believe his exact plan was to set aside $20 a month so he could buy another in 2 years time. But he was seduced by the ease of replacing parts and changing the oil. He almost succumbed when he blew the oil sending unit hence dumping all the engine oil onto the road, until he realized that he could replace it faster than Ralphie's Dad could change a tire. "Time me!"

Then came last Friday. After nearly scalding himself by removing the radiator cap a bit too soon, he managed to get the truck home. 2 (or was it 3) trips to the auto parts store later, he is replacing the water pump: an awkward balancing act requiring the removal of only 10 bolts then strapping the parts to a 2x4. Only 2 more bolts and you can change the timing belt! Sunday afternoon he's got it all buttoned up and ready for the test drive. The truck limped and loped for 3 miles before starting to overheat once again. Jay returned to the house with his head hung low.

So, as is his nature, he had already been looking for a pick up truck. We could really use one up here for hauling garbage, demolition materials and my personal favorite: mulch. I do not believe in coincidences so when he tells me he coincidentally has found a truck that looks good and that we can afford, I know he is going to buy this truck. In fact, he test drove it on his way home from the auto parts store trip #2.

So we brave the icy roads, in my 2wd van no less, and get to the bank and meet this guy and buy a truck. Now our fleet consists of the following in order of acquisition: 98 Chrysler minivan with 2-tone salvage lot hood, 91 Isuzu Trooper no longer road worthy, 2005 Kawasaki KLR650, and 1995 Ford F-150.

An embarrassment of riches.