WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: RECIPES

I have been lax in posting recipes and I have heard from you….so here are several that I  like all year but thought they would be good for May.  I might serve the Corn Soup with either of the entrees or another dinner, I often do it as a starter to a poached salmon entree.  It is so good that it always gets rave reviews!

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NENA’S CURRIED CREAM OF CORN SOUP

1 17 ounce can cream style corn

1 teaspoon minced onion

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1-2 teaspoons curry powder (I usually do more, do to your taste!)

1 cup half and half

1/3 cup heavy cream

Fresh basil

Whirl in blender all ingredients, except basil, until combined.  Chill and serve with a leaf of basil on top.

Serves 4.

imageShawnee Corn King pottery soup tureen.  Image from Pinterest, credit unknown.

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NENA’S OVEN-FRIED LEMON CHICKEN

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 cardamom seeds crushed (open whole pods and  crush seeds with a mortar and pestle)

2 boned and skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper

Lemon pepper

1/2 carton sour cream

1 cup fine bread crumbs

Lemon slices for garnish

Combine lemon juice, garlic, and cardamom seeds.  Add chicken and marinate a room temperature at least 1 hour, turning frequently.  Preheat oven to 400º.  Remove chicken from marinade.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip each piece in sour cream and coat with bread crumbs. Sprinkle with lemon pepper.  Put on ungreased baking sheet and cover lightly with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and increase temperature to 450º.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until chicken is golden brown and tender.  Serve hot or cold, garnish with lemon slices.

It is delicious either way.  A perfect picnic food.  I served this many years ago at a press luncheon I hosted for Bill Blass and he loved it!  I would now serve with a green salad and, as usual, a lovely white wine…or champagne, always champagne!  If you wanted to continue the lemon theme, finish with the lemon bars I shared with you several weeks ago!

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BARBARA V’S CHICKEN/WILD RICE/GRAPE SALAD

2/3 cup mayonnaise (my mayonnaise is Miracle Whip, just saying!)

1/3 cup whole milk

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon tarragon (you can use fresh or dried, I prefer fresh which would be a bit more than 1/4 teaspoon)

3 cups chopped chicken (she uses all white meat)

3 cups cooked wild rice

1/3 cup finely sliced green onion (white and green parts)

1 8 ounce can water chestnuts drained

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/2 pound seedless green grapes halved

1 cup salted cashews

Blend mayo, milk, lemon juice, and tarragon and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine chicken, wild rice, onion, water chestnuts, stir in mayo mixture until blended.  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Just before serving stir in grapes and cashews.  Serve with a crusty loaf of bread…more white wine or perhaps a lovely rosé!  It is really good and a great buffet party salad.  This recipe serves 4 generously.

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All photos from Pinterest, photo credits unknown.

PROFILE: THE AMAZING UNIVERSE

imageI’m not doing an official “profile” post today because I am in Southern Illinois to see the total eclipse….I am totally beyond excited for this once in a lifetime experience!

I thought you might enjoy the following article from The Guardian from August 15, 2017, we are taking turns reading it aloud (not the driver) in the car on our five hour drive (oh my!)  Be sure to use your special glasses and enjoy the total eclipse of the sun!

“‘Most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life’: US readies for total eclipse

Tyler Nordgren, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Redlands says eclipse watchers should be prepared for a multi-sensory experience

One of Tyler Nordgren’s illustrations of the eclipse. Photograph: Tyler Nordgren

Millions of Americans will look up toward the sky on Monday 21 August and watch stars shine in the afternoon, feel the day’s heat swapped for an evening chill and hear the sounds of confused birds and animals during the first total eclipse seen in the continental US in 38 years.

The spectacular event in six days’ time will cross a strip of the country occupied by 12.2 million people, with millions more expected to travel to the 70-mile-wide eclipse path, aiming to catch a glimpse of a sight that has captured the imaginations of people for millennia.

“I’ve spent my entire life looking at the sky as an astronomer – at the Milky Way, the stars, meteor showers – and this is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life with my own eyes,” Tyler Nordgren, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Redlands, told the Guardian.

Nordgren, who saw the total eclipse in Europe in 1999, said nothing compares to the multisensory experience a solar eclipse offers.

“The shadow of the moon moves over you, day turns to night for half an hour, the stars become visible in the middle of the day, the sun turns black and the most incredible thing – the sun’s corona: that million degree atmosphere that is invisible at all other times – suddenly you see the enormous crown, its rays of pale white spreading outward from the sun,” he said.

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The corona is only visible during an eclipse and will be watched closely by an army of scientists eager to take advantage of the opportunity to study the sun’s energy. Researchers will monitor the eclipse from the ground, air and space, and Nasa has invited casual observers to track temperature and cloud data on their phone to create a citizens’ scientific map of the eclipse.

The rare event is also bringing a torrent of visitors to cities located in the eclipse path. There are 200 million people who live a day’s drive away from prime viewing spots, and the US Federal Highway Administration has warned: “This isn’t your average travel weekend.”

That influx has inspired travel companies to take advantage of the demand on hotels and transport.

The travel company HipMunk found that compared to the same period in 2016, there was a 29% average increase in booking prices at seven cities in the eclipse’s path including Omaha, Nebraska; St Louis, Missouri; and Columbia, South Carolina.

Last week, car rental searches on Kayak.com for Portland, Oregon, which is an hour’s drive from a main eclipse viewing site, showed an “unusually high demand” in the city, with a 1,469% increase in car rental searches and no cars available.

eclipse science

Though solar eclipses are extraordinary and rare, scientists have been able to predict them since ancient times.

Babylonian astrologers recorded eclipses on clay tablets between at least 518 and 465 BCE and were eventually able to predict them.

Then for centuries, solar eclipses were regarded with terror. In May 1716, a London pamphlet warned that a predicted eclipse was “The Black Day, or the prospect of Doomsday”.

That shifted by the 20th century, when a journalist wrote in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant: “Although the frequency with which solar totality occurs, and the scientific knowledge which has robbed it of the mystery and even the terror which formerly accompanied it, great value in astronomical circles is given to its recurrence.”

Nordgren, who wrote a book on the history of eclipses, plans to watch it with his family and friends.

He was a child when the last US total eclipse occurred in 1979, but missed it because he was hiding in his Portland home with the curtains drawn, afraid his eyes would be burned from watching the event. Nordgren said he realized afterwards that he had been “cheated out of a life experience”.

When he saw the eclipse in 1999, he was surrounded by scientists who were attending a conference in Budapest. He said he was excited this year to finally share the experience with his loved ones.

Nordgren said: “My hope is I have not oversold this to my wife.”

 

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Nordgren’s book on the history of solar eclipses…I for one will be getting it!

FASHION FLASHBACK: FASHION AND FRAGRANCE

imageI'm actually doing a flash post today….I found that I need to do more extensive research on this vast subject which, I anticipate, will be several posts on fashion and fragrance.  The history of it, the business of it, the beauty of the packaging, etc. The image above found on Pinterest, photo credit unknown, is of Paul Poiret in a collage of some of his fragrances, who was the first Haute Couture designer to create signature fragrances.  He formed Rosine, named for his daughter, and so the designer fragrance was born.

imagePoiret in his Perfumerie.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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Please look for future posts, beginning, Friday, August 25 for the Fashion and Fragrance series.

COLLECTIONS: ART POTTERY

imagePhoto was taken from the Pottery Boys website.

I have been posting about the Pottery Boys  www.potteryboys.com this week and their open house this Saturday, August 19th.   The piece above is from their vast collection, each piece I feel is extraordinary.  I wanted to share a few more of their pieces, a glimpse into the creativity of David Erpenbach, another skilled artist, and delve into a collection at the Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org

imageOne of the Pottery Boys pieces and an up close photo of the special top. The details look like jewelry.  Both photos were taken by me in their Studio. image

imageAnother from their website.

imageAnother photo I took in the Studio.

imageFrom Tom Mantel and Tom Hawley’s Collection, I featured the grouping of three pieces in another post here is the very large piece close up and then the exquisite detail of the top of the sculpture and the intricate almost lace like work of the body of the piece.

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While I was preparing this post my thoughts wandered back in time to the apartment of a dear friend and colleague at Columbia College Chicago, Dianne Erpenbach and her husband, Jon, and their collection of their son, David’s unique, and wonderful art pottery.  Why don’t ask me, I haven’t thought about it in years.  I contacted Dianne who in turn let David know I was interested in seeing his current work.  I asked him to share his thoughts as well…you know I will do that!

Here are those thoughts and some of his special pieces:

“I use traditional wheel thrown and hand built techniques to begin all of my pieces. My vision is to take traditional pottery forms and make them more unique by cutting, altering and adding several thrown and hand built pieces to create one final form. Some of my pieces may use up to ten or more thrown or hand built pieces to create one piece. I do not use molds so all of my pieces are original and one of a kind. My experience with firing includes High Fire reduction, High and Low Fire oxidation, Soda Fire, Salt Fire, Pit Fire and Raku. I have five years of learning and experimentation during my undergraduate study at Northern Michigan University where I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts with a studio concentration in ceramics.”

imageDavid Erpenbach at his wheel.

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imageMy favorites of David’s work…as you know I am a green girl, but these really drew me into them.  All above photos courtesy of David Erpenbach.

The Midwest is known for its pottery, think Ohio for an example, McCoy, Hall, Shawnee, USA, actually a mark not a brand, (all of which I collect in white, you have seen some of that collection, and some green pieces).  Roseville, Rookwood, and Weller, of course, and all the Arts and Crafts designers and Mid-Century artists.  The subject is huge and I will probably do future posts on it but I wanted to do a short photo essay on Teco which was/is done locally.  “The American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic Company was founded in 1881 in Terra Cotta, Illinois between Crystal Lake and McHenry.  It became the first American manufacturer of architectural terra cotta (I did a post on terra cotta a few weeks ago in my Thursday Collections series). The founder William Day Gates began experimenting with clays and glazes for art pottery which introduced TECO Pottery (TErra COtta) in 1899.  It is known for it’s Teco Green glaze, a smooth, microcrystalline, matte.” (Source Wikipedia).  I like to credit as much as I can to local resources for nenasnotes and I found several pieces housed in our Chicago History Museum Collections www.chicagohistory.org all from around l905.

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imageThe three pieces above are in the Chicago History Museum Decorative Arts Collection.

imageThis piece found on Pinterest photo credit unknown.  I think it is stunning.

imageAn out of print book….if you are interested I would suggest an internet search.

Of course, you will find many, many art pottery pieces to add to or start your collection at the Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27 from 10 to 5.

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: POTTERY BOYS PART 2

imageKeith Herbrand and Glenn Woods in their Studio-Showroom Pinterest photo credit unknown.

I presented the Pottery Boys to you in Monday’s Profile now let’s hear about the actual process from clay to finished product.  Do settle yourself, this will be a very detailed and interesting post, but I’m sure you will agree well worth the read, it is fascinating!  Here in Glenn’s words……

imageClay Pinterest photo credit unknown.

“Making pottery is a multi-step process: Making and trimming the piece; altering/piercing/beading the piece; bisque firing; glazing and firing; post glaze finishing
Making and trimming the piece
Each piece starts out as a simple lump of clay – we generally start with 2 to 8 pounds of clay depending on the project. Our pieces tend to be more on the small to medium sized so 2 to 4 pounds usually does the trick. We first center the clay on the potter’s wheel – open the mound of clay to make it hollow and then thin the walls to make the walls taller and uniform in thickness. Once we have established a nice cylinder, we begin pushing the cylinder into shape. We make bottles, vases, mugs, bowls, plates, and other more decorative forms.
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Altering/piercing/beading
After arriving at a pleasing shape, the piece is allowed to dry to the point where it holds its shape and can easily be handled to trim away excess clay – this stage is called “leather hard”. It is also at this stage where I will begin altering the shape – pushing the form out of round, creating grooves, creases, folds, or spiral patterns. I also begin to carve the piece at this point. Some of the pieces are given flower-like imagery on rims of plates, the body of a pot, or the neck of a vase. I also use a squeeze bottle filled with clay the consistency of frosting (called slip) to place beads on the surface – usually in conjunction with altering and/or carving to enhance the design.
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imageFrom the blank to the piece ready for firing.  Photos taken by Nena in the workshop, last photo taken by Glenn.
Bisque Firing
Once the altered/pierced/beaded piece is finished it is allowed to air dry for a couple of days, making sure it does not dry out too quickly – rapid drying may lead to cracking or structural problems. After completely dry, we place the piece in a kiln and bisque fire to drive out all the chemically bound water – this renders the piece to a stable stage, no longer able to reclaim into soft pliable clay. After cool from the bisque firing, we sand the piece and wash it to remove any dust or unwanted texture.
Glazing and Firing
We sketch each bisque piece ready to be glazed, I indicate on the drawings what glazes are going to be used and in what order. I like to layer my glazes so there may be as few as 2 layers but as many as 8 layers of contrasting colored glazes. These crystalline glazes are very fluid during the firing and require a pedestal and glaze catcher – the glazed piece is mounted on a riser and then placed in the glaze catcher, which catches the glaze that flows off the piece and over the pedestal.
We firing the piece to 2350 degrees Fahrenheit to fully melt the glaze. This temperature is called “cone 10” in potters terms. Once peak temperature is reached, we quickly lower the temperature to 2000 degrees and begin a very slow cooling process to grow the crystals – this cooling cycle can take upwards of 8 hours or more. Once the crystalline growth cycle is done, the kiln is allowed to cool naturally to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit and unloading the kiln begins.
Post firing finishing
Once the pieces reach room temperature, we are able to remove the pedestal – removal of this piece leaves the bottom dangerously sharp and much care needs to be taken to remove the razor sharp edge. We use a diamond disc to grind the bottoms smooth and give a slight bevel to the outside edge of the piece. At this point, the piece is finished. However, we have been using a few specialty techniques to enhance the color and visual quality of the crystals. One such technique is referred to as “Acid Etching”. Soaking the finished piece in an acid bath (muriatic acid or sodium bisulphate) for increments of 15 minutes – washing and drying the piece after each 15-minute soak to see what has happened to the piece. We do this in 15-minute increments because you can go too far and once acid etched, the only way to reverse the effect is to refire the piece.
The other technique we use to alter color is called “post fire reduction”. We place the finished piece in a reduction chamber (basically an old kiln we use to heat the pieces up in) We use propane to heat up the reduction chamber to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit with a propane burner. Once we reach 1500 degrees, we choke off the oxygen supply to the burner, the propane needs oxygen to burn so it depletes the oxygen from the kiln chamber, once that has been depleted, it begins taking oxygen from the glaze layer, turning the titanium creams and tans to purples and pinks. It also will turn copper green glazes into copper red glazes. This color shift is permanent and can only be reversed by re-glazing and firing again.
That is the process in a nutshell.” Nena’s note, some nutshell!!!!
imageA finished piece photo taken by Nena with iPhone 7 on site.
imageA close up of a finished piece.  Photo by Nena on site.
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imageA finished piece in the Mid-century home of Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel with a close up of the detail.  Photo taken by Nena.
More on pottery tomorrow in Collectiions.
I hope you can come to the demonstration and Open House to see all these gloroous pieces in person.  In the meantime go to the Pottery Boys website www.potteryboys.com
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Nena’s Weekly Recipe
Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil from the New York Times/Melissa Clark
(If you don’t have the New York Times Cooking App, I suggest you get it immediately, not only are there amazing recipes but you can save yours to the site as well…it is fabulous!)

Ingredients

  • Fine sea salt
  • 12 ounces dry orecchiette or farfalle  (we did orecchiette)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (keep the whites and greens separate)
  • 2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (2 cups kernels)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, more to taste (we did more, actually much more!)
  • cup torn basil or mint, more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Fresh lemon juice, as needed

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat; add scallion whites and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and all but 1/4 cup corn; simmer until corn is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, transfer to a blender, and purée mixture until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a thick but pourable texture.
  3. Heat the same skillet over high heat. Add butter and let melt. Add reserved 1/4 cup corn and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. (It’s O.K. if the butter browns; that deepens the flavor.) Add the corn purée and cook for 30 seconds to heat and combine the flavors.
  4. Reduce heat to medium. Add pasta and half the reserved pasta cooking water, tossing to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add a little more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in 1/4 cup of the scallion greens, the Parmesan, the herbs, the red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to taste. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and garnish with more scallions, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper.

We added sliced grilled chicken to it.  It is truly delicious….make it you won’t be sorry!  Served with my usual simple green salad and vingerette and, of course, lots of rosé or white wine!  We did my Strawberries Romanoff for dessert.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN

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I must admit I was drawn to The Forbidden Garden by its cover, I am a sucker for a floral book jacket and the garden in the title intrigued me and since this week’s posts are dealing with earth, particularly clay, why not do a book about a garden as my book review.  I have not read The Sparrow Sisters, which probably would have been a good idea since the Sparrow Sisters history is often referred to in this book. But not to worry you can get the idea of the first book and read it in the future if you enjoy this one, which by the way I did!

The story is multi layered but primarily concentrates on the history of an English garden that is in total shambles, actually, it has been dead for years, and a young gardener from the States who has been hired, because of her reputation, to bring it back to life with her unusual skills.  Sorrel Sparrow and her sisters have almost magical powers when it comes to gardens and making them extraordinary.  Sorrel is met at the airport by the brother of the Lady of the Manor, Andrew, and we really know from the onset that this will be a romance, how much of one I will let you read for yourself.  Andrew has been put in charge of taking Sorrel around London before they drive to the Estate, this, of course, includes some of London’s magnificent gardens.  I must say this and actually, most of the book made me very “homesick” for England, I truly love the UK, but by now you, my readers, know that!  The story is quite layered just like the garden and holds many hidden and forbidden stories.  They, of course, all come together for the climax.  We have hidden rooms, secrets held for decades, families almost destroyed by the past but the main story is of a living entity, the garden and how love can make it and the people around it come back to life.  To some extent, it did remind me of A Secret Garden, which we have all read, just a more “grown up version”. It seems the decayed, once magnificent, garden doesn’t wish to come back to life until Sorrel works her magic but does it spring back into bloom….perhaps!  Through the years the Kirkwood women have become ill after being in the space and what does this have to do with the hideous family tapestries, one of which is missing, does the missing piece solve this puzzle, perhaps!  The original garden was based on a Shakespeare Garden. I love the one I have often visited in Stratford, Canada, when I go to the Stratford Festival, and have had guided tours of the garden, not only is the layout of the garden described but each plant has meaning and is discussed.  This is done in great detail in the book and Sorrel keeps a diary of each planting and does a sketch of her plans which is charmingly featured at the beginning of the book.

Did I enjoy the book, yes, very much, who won’t find a romance of a space and people delightful, would I read another Sorrel Sparrow story, absolutely.  The author, Ellen Herrick, writes well, makes us like the characters, has thoroughly done her research and takes us on a most interesting journey.  Please leave your comments when you have read the book, (I would highly recommend it for your book club) or have you already read it!?

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From the book jacket:

“When Sorrel Sparrow is hired to restore the walled Shakespeare Garden at Kirkwood Hall—the ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife, Stella—she finds desolation and shadows. According to family lore, generations have tried to return the garden to its former glory, but every attempt has failed. Determined, Sorrel vows to save the garden as only a Sparrow Sister can.

But as soon as Sorrel enters the garden, she feels a sense of heartbreak, betrayal . . . and perhaps even a dark enchantment. Intrigued by Kirkwood Hall’s history—and also by the haunting tapestries that tell its story—Sorrel, increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, sets to work. She slowly unravels the ancient garden’s secrets, only to learn that its destiny is irrevocably entwined with her own.”

For more on the author, Ellen Herrick go to her website www.ellenherrick.com

 

 

PROFILE: THE POTTERY BOYS

imageI had the great pleasure of seeing the Pottery Boys in action this week and I wanted to share their story with you.  I will be doing so in several posts this week and invite you to their pottery demonstration and open house on Saturday, August 19th in Blue Island, Illinois (see the bottom of this post for all the deets!)

How you might ask, did I hear about this talented duo…my dear friends (family), Tom Mantel and Tom Hawley have been collecting their pieces for several years and I have admired their pieces in their Mid-Century home (a post in the future!).

imageThree pieces from The Toms collection…aren’t they stunners!  The detail and shading are amazing let alone the size of the center piece.  I do love them against the brick wall in the living room, modern pottery coming from the earth against brick also coming from the earth and tracing Blue Island’s roots as the “Brick Capital of the World”!

Over the years I have admired the pieces and have said I wanted to meet Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand, I had that opportunity this week and was totally enamored with the process.  It was quite the experience to see Glenn in action and learn more about the art of potting (I’ll share that story later this week).

imageWhat Glenn was working on when I arrived at the workshop.

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Finishing the piece in very short order! Ready for decorating and then firing.

imageOne of the three kilns.

imageA portion of my workroom tour.

imageA selection of leaves waiting for their color to be applied.

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Heart shaped leaves (I will think they are inspired by my beloved redbud trees see the glorious weeping redbud, below, in The Toms garden!).

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As is usual I ask my “Profiles” to answer a questionnaire…this one has been tailored especially for The Pottery Boys and Glenn graciously answered my questions, you will read much more on his technique later in the week, and Keith gave me a tour of some of the finished product.

imageSome of the finished pieces.

imagePieces of Keith’s creativity.

When did you start doing your art and why pottery?  (I am the daughter of an artist so perhaps I view art differently, I hope so!) 
I have always loved making things and as a child would sew dresses for my friend’s dolls, or style their hair, or crochet something – I also had a learning disability – reading and grasping abstract concepts was difficult for me so I would often seek art as a way to feel productive. I was in special education from 3rd grade to 6th grade and I remember hearing that if you couldn’t do math, science, or read well, they would put you in art class – Thank God for art classes, that is where I found myself and was able to grow.
It was my high school teacher – Judy Wenig (who I am still friends with today) who introduced me to clay as well as a host of other art mediums but I fell in love with clay the moment I sat down at the potters wheel. My first piece was dated 1974 – I still remember that piece and how it gave me hope for my future as a potter.
 Has your aesthetic changed over the years, if so how? Has it just evolved or has your style changed completely?
I tell people all the time that my style has changed dramatically over the years – and it has. However, recently I met up with a college friend who was also an art major – he found me at an art fair in Indianapolis. My work has gone through so many changes as I explore different techniques and ceramic materials, so I was excited to show him my new work – but he said “I recognized your work instantly” I was shocked. At first I took it as a disappointing suggestion that I have not grown at all but the more I think about it, I guess it is a complement. No matter how many changes and transformations my work takes, there is still something there, a common thread that is evident despite the changes – to an artist this is a great compliment.
 
Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces?
I sketch a lot – I dream a lot – I admire other artists’ work a lot. You can see influence from nature in most of my work – some people see suggestions of gourd shapes, flowers, twisting branches, and even patterns found in snowflakes. The truth is, I never look at a flower and say – “I am going to incorporate that in my work” it just seems to surface as a desire to design, decorate, or create patterns. The general public tend to find the influence by asking if I was influenced by something specific – wow, I can see your influence from Asian potters, or lotus blooms, or . . . I often discover my influence through other peoples observations.
 
Do you do commissions?  How do they affect your creativity?
I will do commissions but only on rare occasions – when I feel the commision will take me down a path I would like to explore, I go for it. However, I NEVER take a deposit and I ALWAYS say, I will give it a shot and then move on from there. I do not like to spend time chasing after another person’s dream – If I can’t capture what they are looking for in the first series, I suggest they find an artist whose style is more closely aligned with what they are looking for. I work in small series – 6 to 10 pieces, if they cannot find one piece in that series that meets their needs, we both go our own way and I have a few new pieces to show. Chasing after commissions tends to disrupt the creative process.
 
I understand that you spend your winters in Florida how does that inspire you?
I became a full time potter in 2001 and moved from Evanston, IL to Palm Harbor, FL because Florida has so many outside art fairs, an artist has shows to pick from year ’round. I have never liked the heat and I am not into beach life so the influence one might think I would get from living in Florida is very limited. The greatest change to my work is color – when we lived in the midwest, my colors tended to be more neutral – browns, tans, rust, deep blue, and dark greens. These colors do not do well in Florida so we now use lots of lighter colors, teals, emerald greens, deep blues – very water borne colors. I am color blind – not totally but I never know what color I can’t see until we are talking color variations and then I am in big trouble – in mixing glazes, my thought process is more focused on the chemistry rather than the value or depth of color – when glazing I am looking for a color blend from light to dark to create weight and a sense of depth so it is less about color and more about how the colors interact, blend, and work to create that sense of depth – even if you were viewing the piece in black and white.
 
Why do you create in Blue Island?
I often say, Blue Island found us, we did not seek out Blue Island intentionally. After moving to Florida, we decided to establish a home base back here in the midwest – especially after deciding to participate in summer art fairs for 4 months out of the year – traveling back and forth was not an effective way for us to live and we needed a place to work and live for the summer months while participating in the art fairs (without relying on staying with family or friends). We met Bridget Scales at the Bucktown Art Fair – she told us of a building in Blue Island that might just fit our needs – a year later, we moved in and love the building, the town, and especially the Blue Islanders – Blue Island has a rich history and those who live here love it’s history and work hard to keep the city alive.
 
What would you do if you weren’t artists?
I would be a philanthropist or a counselor/psychologist – I have always wanted to help people – especially where people feel tormented by the contrast of who they are and who society wants them to be. Growing up gay in a small farming community where my best friends were Amish kind of set the tone for my life. Needless to say, I was surrounded by very conservative people whose thoughts and advice was not real supportive – not only of my sexual identity but also my desire to create. I remember my mom telling me “little boys DO NOT sew dresses” or crochet or play with hair. She caught me sewing in my bedroom one day – the others were outside playing. She was so appalled at what i was doing, she wrapped a towel around me and paraded me around the others while singing here she is, Miss America. It was great fun for her but I was totally humiliated (too much information, I know but artists do struggle to find ways to express themselves that are socially acceptable, a lesson I learned at an early age)
 
What are your passions outside of your talent?
I am a total clay geek, so I do not have many interests outside of my clay work – I do like to write – especially about my work in clay. I recently have had 5 articles published in “Pottery Making Illustrated” I also have a passion for helping people, looking for ways to build self worth. While I enjoy music, theater, I would not say I am passionate about those things. I love to invent, I love to talk to total strangers, I love to express my love and gratitude, I also can’t contain my distaste for something – like a political figure that seems to be misguided (in my own opinion, of course).
Informaion on the Pottery Demonstratons from noon to 5 and the Open House from 6 to 9

Saturday, August 19 – noon to 9pm
13201 Olde Western Ave. / Blue Island, IL 60406  /  727-504-6200

Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand will be hosting an open house in their Blue Island Gallery on Saturday, August 19th. Glenn will be conducting pottery demonstrations from noon to 5pm while Keith tends to the gallery. The formal Open House will be from 6pm to 9pm with light snacks and refreshments. Several local artists will also be participating offering: Original Paintings; Mosaics; Jewelry; Ceramic Arts; and Pottery.

The gallery is located in Blue Island on the north side of the Cal-sag Canal, just under the Western bridge.

Glenn and Keith are full time potters who reside in Palm Harbor, Florida but have been summer residents of Blue Island since 2004. They have a formal open house once each summer due to their hectic summer art fair schedule. You can see their work at many local art fairs including: Chicago’s Old Town Art Fair; Chicago’s 57th Street Art Fair; Downtown Geneva Art Fair; Lake Forest’s Art Fair on the Square; Naperville’s Riverwalk Art Fair; Park Forest’s Tall Grass Art Fair. If you are unable to make it to those art fairs, this is a great opportunity to see their work AND to watch Glenn as he creates pottery on the potters’ wheel from noon to 5pm.

There will be several local and regional artists represented – all will be present to chat a bit about their work.

Crystalline Glazed Pottery – Glenn’s pottery is made out of fine porcelain and glazed with a specialty glaze called Crystalline Glaze. These glazes are noted for their ability to grow crystals in the glaze layer during a complex cooling process during the glaze firing. By altering the firing temperatures and the duration of the firing, special effects and wonderful visual texture can be achieved.

We are inviting you to come out for the day or evening to see our work, meet the artists and enjoy the company of art lovers. You can come out for the demonstrations – visit one of the many wonderful local restaurants in Blue Island, Midlothian, or Crestwood and then come back for the Opening to wrap up the day.

All photos were taken on site by Nena.

PROFILE MODEL MONDAY: MAUREEN MUELLER

imageMaureen’s comp when she was modeling in Chicago.

Here we go again with one of my outstanding models….why would I highlight anyone else….Maureen was another of my models with a unique look, a cross between an all American girl and a femme fatale!  She was always playing a part (that is what makes a model a success, in my opinion!) and did that perfectly so much so she has gone on to a successful career in television.  She has defied the years and looks spectacular to this day…I really must know what my models are drinking to keep the years away, I want what they are having!!!  Seriously!  Let’s see what Maureen has to say, in her own words.

“I was a singer based out of Denver when I was approached to be a model.  I was introduced to an agent from Paris Planning soon after and a year or so later, I hung up my singing career, (I was no Shelley MacArthur), and moved to Paris.  I had always wanted to live in Europe and modeling made it possible.  I worked almost every day and spent all my money on restaurants and traveling. Heaven for a girl from a working class background.
One of my favorite behind the scenes stories came when standing around waiting for my first job, the Valentino haute couture show to begin. everyone was racing around and acting very nervous.  I couldn’t understand this because it wasn’t like they had to sing or perform or anything.  They just had to make it to the end of the runway and then come back. I spotted a beautiful woman on the other side of the room who looked calm and she immediately looked familiar to me.  I was convinced we went to high school together but I couldn’t think of her name.  I asked the guy standing next to me if he knew who she was. He said, Do you mean Beverly Johnson?  I wish I could say that this was the last time that has happened to me but I’ve made a career out sticking my feet in my mouth. I also signed with Ford in New York but wasn’t happy there.  This was 1980 so it was still a bit dangerous and loud and dirty and everything that Paris was not. So back I went.  Still playing hooky.
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All this time, I knew I should be trying to find a way to be an actor.  I heard that Chicago had a thriving theatre scene and I figured I would be able to support myself with modeling while I tried to find a way into the business. But Chicago was not buying what I was selling.  Not for quite awhile. The first woman I met, (who shall remain nameless), didn’t believe that I had done the shows in Paris.  I was dumbfounded that she would think I would lie about such a thing.  She said she had been at the Valentino show and she didn’t see me in it.  She carried a lot of weight in town and I was on her Absolutely NOT list.  Once I finally started working, she would still pop up to torture me.  Sometime later, someone hired me for a show and she said, “I have no idea who that is”.  When she was reminded that I was a regular at the Apparel Center and Saks, etc, she said, “Oh yes, that’s the one that never brushes her hair”. Whatever. I learned a valuable lesson from her.  Some people just aren’t going to like you. So just keep moving in the direction you want to go and try not to take things personally.  Easier said than done, but I still try to practice that.
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I had the opposite experience when I met Nena. There was no interrogation. She sized me up, expected professionalism and left me alone.  I always loved a SAKS booking because Nena ran such a well-oiled machine. She expected you to bring your A game and you didn’t want to disappoint her.  It was no easy task, however, standing next to D’arry or Jeanouche.  Still two of the funniest women I’ve ever met.  Through Nena, we met every big designer in the world. I always loved when Pauline Trigere came to town, (such a character).  Also loved Jacqueline de Ribes and Donna Karan.  But my favorite designer, by far, was Mark Heister!  I adored his clothes.  Such attention to detail and so glamorous.  And the man himself was so lovely.  A gentleman full of humility and grace. He is a world class talent.
imageOn the catwalk.
Looking back, I can’t believe how lucky I was to get to make a living playing “how fast can you change clothes and then walk around for a bit”.  And get to live in one of the great cities of America on top of it.  I had the time of my life in Chicago. I met and befriended some of my favorite people on the planet there.  I’ll never forget driving out of town headed to Los Angeles to start a new chapter.  I looked in the rearview and thought it was raining.  But it was tears.  Buckets of them.  I miss it still.
imageMaureen today, always a stunner!
Since then, I’ve pursued acting in earnest.  I was lucky to be able to get some work in LA. When I got older, (back then it was illegal to get beyond a certain age), I moved to New York.  Just because I always wanted to live there.  I had no idea if I would get any acting work but the gods were with me, at least enough to support myself.  A few years later, I met my future husband.  He puts up with me and I adore him. 
I still work now and then and hope springs eternal.  I’m still ready for my big break.  I feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful life so far, full of great memories.  The best is yet to come.
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Thank you, Nena, for being such a big part of my time in our beloved Chicago.  Carry on.”
Thanks Maureen for sharing some of your journey with us. Let’s all watch for Maureen’s next TV stint, she is always worth watching, what a thrill to see one of our Chicago runway stars become a star in our homes! Love it! 
 
All photos from Maureen Mueller.

 

FASHION FLASHBACK: JUDITH LEIBER AND MORE FANS…

imageI had the pleasure of working with Judith Leiber on several occasions, each visit was a total joy.  In addition, she always invited me to visit her showroom/workrooms when I was in New York.  They were like a museum truly something to behold.  The pride level of the talented craftsmen quite frankly was something I have only seen duplicated in the Ateliers of Paris Haute Couture.  I think everyone only thinks of her beaded bags, which are exquisite works of art, but she also did skin bags, leathers and suede as well as fabric bags for day in addition to her overwhelmingly prolific collection of minaudière.  She would open a cabinet in her showroom that revealed a wondrous collection of very special pieces and always say, “choose whatever you like!”  If only, it was totally against store policy (Saks Fifth Avenue) to accept gifts from designers or vendors.  Unless the designer asked me to wear something from the collection we were featuring at a show (I was a sample size in those long ago days!!!), I bought what I wore at all times. I do own several Judith Leiber bags both day and evening and treasure each of them.

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Two bags from her fan collection (I included these at the end of yesterday’s post as a teaser, did you guess who I would be featuring today, of course, you did!) Each season there were animal bags, a themed collection, and her classics, always something extraordinary to add to your collection or start a new one.  She would also do special orders, perhaps just a color change.  You will see her bags on every red carpet as well as in the hands of royalty and our own First Ladies.  She was a major star with no star ego, a true icon in the industry.

image Judith Leiber in her workrooms in the early years.  The following is an excerpt from the Museum of Arts and Design and the Leiber exhibition that is closing this weekend.

“Judith Leiber spent sixty-five years in the handbag industry, from an apprentice in Budapest to the owner of an internationally renowned handbag company based in New York City. As the only female pattern-maker, and with the unusual ability to make a handbag from start to finish, Leiber brought a distinctly European training and skill set to the United States, where handbags were made with assembly-line skill division. This allowed her not only to succeed as a designer but also to revolutionize the meaning of handbag craftsmanship for the American consumer.

Leiber’s handbags run the gamut from finely crafted leather pieces and textile-based bags to the fantastical Swarovski crystal–encrusted creations for which she is most well known. Inspired by a life-long admiration of art, travel, and opera, Leiber’s bags include Art Deco–influenced hardware; materials such as Lucite and seashells; references to the artwork of Piet Mondrian, Georges Braque, and Sonia Delaunay; and collaboration with Faith Ringgold on a collection of handbags inspired by her quilts.

As Leiber’s reputation flourished, designers and suppliers sought her out, offering interesting materials, particularly textiles. Thus, many of her handbags are constructed with obis from Japan, Parsi ribbons from India, and fabrics from Iran and Africa. From the earliest days of her company, Leiber pushed the boundaries of handbag design—innovation that is epitomized by her famed sparkling minaudières, a technique that began as a solution to a damaged metal frame, and was then catalyzed by the design of her imaginative animal and food clutches to become fashion staples for First Ladies and celebrities alike.”

imageI love this photo of Mrs. Leiber surrounded by a few of her creations.  On one of her visits she was invited to attend a dinner in her honor at the home of one of our very good clients who collected Leiber bags…did I just say the Leiber showroom was like a museum, well I stand corrected, this client’s home was Leiber everywhere in specially designed museum quality cases, it was something out a movie and by the way quite tasteful.  Mrs. Leiber was overwhelmed.  The client, I might add, supplemented her collection, after that dinner, with Mrs. Leiber’s guidance.

imageAnother book to add to your fashion library, lucky me, mine is autographed by the wonderful creator herself!

 

One of my favorite designer stories came from James Galanos.  We were discussing selling many pieces to a single client and he told me that one of the California boutiques that sold his garments, actually bought most of the Collection each season, and that is saying something, had a client who had purchased multiple gowns that particular season and also ordered a Judith Leiber bag to go with each.  He was aghast at the expense.  My comment was “was the client involved with charities” answer, yes, very much so.  “did the client employ staff at her many homes, entertain there, have flowers, chefs, etc.” again, the answer, yes. “did the couple travel”…yes, yes, yes!  My answer to Mr. Galanos “the client is supporting the economy, we are just a small portion of that”.  His answer, “I never thought of it that way, but Nena, you are right!”  Wow, coming from one of the major fashion icons, oh my…  In other words, the people who can afford expensive items, clothes, cars, property, etc. make our economy, I guess that is what capitalism is all about.  Needless to say, I’m not in that category (one can live in hope) but I was lucky to be surrounded by beautiful things in my years in retail and can appreciate quality.

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Gerson and Judith Leiber in front of the wonderfully talented Gerson’s  paintings.

Information on the Leiber Museum….www.leibermuseum.org

“In 2005, Gerson and Judith Leiber built a gallery to house their works of art and to chronicle their careers, offering an unparalleled retrospective of their creations over the past many decades.

The Leiber Collection, a magnificent Renaissance styled Palladian edifice, sits majestically in a sublime sculpture garden that borders six additional gardens, each designed by Gerson Leiber, in a style befitting the local geography. Considered by many to be the best-kept secret of the Hamptons, you are in for a real treat as you peruse the exquisite jewel of a museum and explore the charming gardens.

Come visit us on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 – 4 pm”.

A YouTube video one of several, this a very dramatic life story of a major influencer and unique talent. Mrs. Leiber retired in 1998 having designed over 3,500 handbags!  The company’s current creative director and co-owner is Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger.

For further reading here is a link to the incredible Judith Leiber story in Harper’s Bazaar.

http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a17293/judith-leiber-from-holocaust-to-handbag-icon/

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There are other Judith Leiber fragrances, I chose to feature this one because of its name, love it!imageKarl Lagerfeld with his ever present fan with his then friend Yves Saint Laurent (whose 81st birthday we would have celebrated this week)

imageAnother photo of Karl Lagerfeld with his fan

imageSo much a part of his aesthetic that his fragrance bottle is fan shaped.

imageimageTwo looks from a John Galliano Dior Haute Couture collection.  As you can see fans are every where in every culture and in every era.

All photos from Pinterest credits unknown.

COLLECTIONS: FANS

imageToday’s post on fans was suggested by my BFF, Stephanie Lake, those of you who have followed nenasnotes from the beginning remember the week long postings I did on Stephanie and I call upon her when I am doing my Thursday Collection posts to see if she has anything to contribute, this time she turned the tables on me and got my juices flowing and my post on FANS was born.  In the photo above you see a portion of her collection.  Let’s look at a couple more from her collection with her words talking about fans…

“What else is at once as practical and as extravagant as a fan?    

I keep favorites on my vanity and I am never without one, nor is Odette, who has her own collection and is extremely proud that she can operate folded fan.”

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imageTwo from Stephanie Lake’s collection.

imageStephanie holding her patriotic fan….

“My interest in fans started with my graduate work; one of my first research papers was titled “Fashions In Flirtation: Fans in Eighteenth-Century Europe.”   In it, I examined fans as “the most mercurial of accessories,” reaching their provocative apogee as a paralanguage of gestures developed during that century.  Manuals for the meaning of each gesture were sold together with the most expensive fans.  Among my favorite quotes is from Art dans la parure et le vetement: “whatever the heat of the climate may be, the fan is above all things . . . a means or motive of gracious movements, under the pretext of agitating the air for the sake of coolness.” 

When curatorial work brought me to Tokyo and Kyoto I was gifted a number of fans of the type associated with Geisha fan dances, which I use the most frequently.   I also inherited a number from Bonnie Cashin, including one on which a beau wrote a love poem and drew a little portrait, including the lines: “Well her second name is Cashin / nd she really is a dashin’ / for her I have a passion / leading to mashin’ / but that is so old fashion.”  The Romance of the fan lives on!”

imageBonnie Cashin’s fan.

imageA bit of flirtation from Stephanie and her adorable daughter, Odette.  Love them!  Thanks so much Stephanie for sharing some of your collection for nenasnotes.  You can find Stephanie at https://www.stephanielakedesign.com/ and her magnificent monograph on Bonnie Cashin, Chic is Where You Find It here:           https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Cashin-Chic-Where-Find/dp/0847848051re

This post is going to be all over the place so please forgive me (but quite franking most of my posts do ramble don’t they!!!!!).  Fans have been a part of many cultures, the subject of Haute Couture collections, Japanese dance and art, Impressionists paintings and on and on….let’s look at some of my favorites with a couple from my tiny collection.  I collected fans as a child and they, along with other items were stolen from our Evanston home many, many years ago.  I’m sure they weren’t valuable to anyone but me but no matter, they are long gone.  The two below (I can’t find the fan that was on all the chairs at the 2006 Fall Christian Lacroix Haute Couture collection when the temperature in Paris was in the high 90’s for the two weeks I was there!)

imageThe lace trimmed one I got in New Orleans while attending a Costume Society of America Symposium several years ago, I fell in love with NOLA and treated myself to several souvenirs, I am especially fond of this one.  The black ostrich fan was a gift. Nena’s photo.

Speaking of ostrich feather fans, the first thing that should pop into our minds would be Sally Rand and her infamous fans and her dance at the Century of Progress Fair in Chicago, which, by the way, my parents worked.  Daddy did artwork for some of the Fair’s posters.  Sally’s dance was quite a scandal and the notorious fans are now housed at The Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org and were featured in an exhibition several years ago entitled What George Wore and Sally Didn’t.

imageSally and her fans.

imageDita Von Teese with her exotic plumage.

imageThe cover of the exhibition catalog from The Met’s Dangerous Liaisons 2004 exhibition mounted in the Wrightsman Galleries of 18th-century furniture, it was an extraordinary exhibit, small but mighty in its drama.  As I recall it was the first of the costume exhibitions that have been mounted in spaces throughout the Museum, www.metmuseum.org brilliant as we now know!!!!

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imageA rather plain fan against an opulent gown.

imageA Japanese print. Check out similiar prints at The Art Institute of Chicago www.artic.edu

imageFan being used in Japanese theater.

A few of the many examples of painting of women with fans…I chose a few of my favorites.imageLa Japonaise by Claude Monet 1876,  Museum of Fine Arts Boston Collection.

imageGirl With Fan 1881 Pierre-Auguste Renoir,  Hermitage Museum.  I saw this when I was in St. Petersberg.  The Impressionists paintings had just started to be exhibited, after decades in storage, and the colors were extraordinary.

imageGustav Klimt Woman with a Fan 1917-1918

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Some of the fans I liked on Pinterest…photo credits unknown.

imageMy most favorite of all, isn’t it a stunner!

imageFrom Kevin Gorsch’s collection the fan was signed to him by Faye Dunaway when he styled her for an event in Chicago early 2000’s  You get a bonus with Kevin’s silhouette in the photo….you can visit Kevin (you can follow him on Instagram at redleopardcrocodilevintage) and his extraordinary handbag and accessories collection, The Red Leopard Crocodile, in the Ballroom at the monthly Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com

imageYou know it is superb if it is by Valerie Steele!  One to add to your “fashion” book collection!

imageA preview of Friday’s Fashon Flashback post….can you guess who I will be featuring?  I will also continue the fan theme a little bit, so much interesting material.

All photos, unless otherwise noted, are from Pinterest photo credits unknown.