Art, Books, Music

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We had a great time at the Oregon Potters Association show, and its sister show, Gathering of the Guilds. The OPA show was bigger this year, with lots of new faces. We wanted to fill in a couple gaps in our collection; potters we'd looked at for years, but didn't have any pieces from. We were mostly successful, though still ended up with a couple old favorites.

Dorothy Steele

I used to visit Dorothy Steele's old shop down by the Ross Island bridge. She now works from her home. She uses plants for texture, pressing the material into her distinctively-colored pieces. Her work is the type you can look at many times, and always see something new. This view is a bit of a tease, and doesn't truly show the richness of this cup design. I wanted to have at least two of her motifs in the picture, so you get a bit of each.

Chayo Wilson

We already have a Chayo Wilson cup from 2011, but I couldn't resist bringing home another of her leathery, organic pieces. This feels like a day in the high desert to me.

Theresa Smith

We have long been enamored of Theresa Smith's sgraffito work, drawn by her mysterious, woodcut-like crows. It wasn't a crow that finally sold us, though, but this daisy. It's still her signature black-and-white, and very representative of her work, but it has a bright liveliness that is a little different. Like so many of the artists this year, Smith is beginning to experiment with transfers using her original sgraffito work. She showed us a piece in the back. While I'm not automatically a fan of transfers in ceramics, I think this direction will be interesting for her.

Kristy Lombard

Kristy taught me to throw a pot. I haven't thrown in a while, but may get back to it in the future. We have some other pieces of hers, but they are years old, and don't represent her current work. Her pieces are bright and joyous, almost whimsical. This cup is going to make me smile frequently.

Hiroshi Ogawa

I wish everyone could come over and hold this bowl. It has a tremendous richness of texture and surface, and a sense of immense history. It's as if he retrieved it from an archeological dig rather than creating it himself. We love everything we brought home, but this one is definitely our preciousssss.

Kathe Nagy

I couldn't resist nabbing this amazing focal bead from Kathe Nagy. It's about 1-1/2" tall, and filled with a swirling world of floatie things. I'm going to make something out of it, and I'm not going to give it away. Nope, mine.

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I am becoming increasingly fascinated with art dolls. I think it's because even when they aren't supposed to be creepy, there is always something unsettling about a fake human. And when dolls are meant to be creepy, I fall straight in love. The pull to make my own dolls is getting stronger. It required two things I suck hard at: sculpture and sewing. The sculpture I'm desperate to learn, so I can deal with that. The sewing I may find a way to sneak around.

I recently picked up my first copy of Art Doll Quarterly. Nearly every page filled me with inspiration and delight. Below is a gallery of my favorites from the issue, plus a few extras I can't resist including.

 

Fayette, by Sharon Woodward

 

Group of Hags, by Sheila Bentley. I love the vintage elements.

 

185, Karly Perez

 

Anntu, by Beth Robinson of Strangedolls.net

 

Einstein, by Donna of So Dark So Cute

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The Fun Farm is a little bit north of Bend, Oregon, east side of the highway. It's hard to spot, because the town won't allow signs on the highway. Just look for the bowling-ball tree and the field of goats.

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We showed up about 30 minutes before closing, but as we learned at Petersen Rock Gardens, "Bend time" is a relative thing. Apparently someone heard us drive up, as the door was unlocked and we were ushered in before we had a chance to drive away.

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The mouth is an electronic kaleidoscope, using scenes from The Wizard of Oz to create ever-shifting images.

Originally called The Funny Farm, it was founded by partners Gene and Mike, and houses an antique and costume shop in addition to a yard full of outsider art. When you first enter the shop, you are greeted by a large dollhouse, and the sound of The Wizard of Oz. Soon you realize that the movie is playing on a tiny television inside the dollhouse.

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Tin man.

Once vibrant, the Farm has fallen into a genteel decay since the death of Gene's partner, Mike, in 2005. While we were there, work was being done to get the place ready for free wedding day. It's usually in July, but they're running a bit behind, so you'll be able to get married or renew your vows at the Love Pond in August this year.

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Dusty bottles await a purpose.

I think we missed a lot when we were there. I've seen several pictures online of things we didn't see. I felt as if I were intruding on something private, rather than visiting a tourist spot. Part of that feeling came from being there so close to closing--I always feel funky about that--but a larger part came from the quiet, the disarray, the decay. Nonetheless, I'd like to visit again next year. Next time I'll go in the early afternoon, and I'll follow the map to make sure I don't miss anything. What I did see, you can check out in my flickr set.

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The king of the garden surveys his domain.

There are a few things I love more than letterboxing. Which is why, when we recently went to Central Oregon for a letterboxing event, I spent some time touring the local outsider art.

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Petersen's version of Independence Hall

Rasmus Petersen immigrated from Denmark, and built the Garden in the last 17 years of his life, from 1935 to 1952. It was his tribute to his new homeland. He collected local rocks from the mineral-rich, volcanic landscape surrounding his home. Obsidian for a shiny facing, shells for an accent, and the occasional delight of a thunder egg.

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Plaque (out of frame): "Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think."

Peacocks, cats, and chickens roam the grounds. We wished we'd brought along the grapes from our hotel room. Peacocks love them some grapes. The day was bright, and two other families roamed the garden with their children. I had hoped to visit the museum, and though it was scheduled to be open, the doors were locked. I hear there is a display of fluorescent rocks inside. Ah well, maybe next trip.

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No trolls under the bridge--just tadpoles

I was charmed by every bit of the place, even the decay, that allowed us to see the metal barrels supporting the masses of glued and cemented rocks that made up a tiny building. We plan on going back to the area next year, and I'd like to visit when the museum is open, and perhaps get some better pictures. Here's the rest of the set on flickr.

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Light calligraphy by Kalaam

Design Boom brings us light painting taken a step further in the artistry of Kalaam. I have always admired Arabic calligraphy. Calligraphy seems too unassuming a word for such elevated artistry. Kalaam's alphabet is Anglo, but it is heavily steeped in Arabic tradition. The photos are not altered or retouched. Kalaam drills the movements for the painting over and over before finally committing them to film. I love how the paintings work with the environment. The photographs would be lovely even without the painting. It is a magical melding.

Via Mein Welt comes something that I'm sure has existed on the web before, but I never looked for it. Will Kemp explains basic concepts clearly in his online Art School. I really want to take time to sift through all this--it looks great. And because you know I love a process video:

I think I still have those shoes.

I haven't had decent stats on this site in years. I had logfiles, but I never checked them until recently, only to discover that they're gone. *shrugs* I have lifetime hosting from a guy who I'm not sure even runs a hosting business anymore, so I can't complain. So I installed a little sitemeter thingie since I got interested again, and I've been finding the oddest referrals. Like one from a eight-year-old Metatalk thread. My link is at the very end. I followed it, of course, but got a 404, as it's from my old MT archives. Turns out what it should point to is this. What a blast from the past! That guy in the middle in the white t-shirt is JD Roth before he became all webfamous.

Gossamer

It's hard to believe, I'm in heaven.

So I was all ready to finish my carve tonight, but for some reason my wrist is acting up.  Stupid wrist, be less hurtier. Still, this morning I had a special crafty treat of another variety.

I buy most of my felting wool off Etsy. Sometimes I'll find a lovely batch in an out-of-the-way shop I'll never visit again. I finally decided it was time to find a local source. Altportland had a nice list, and I decided Gossamer would be my first visit. I'm not sure I need to visit anyplace else, ever. Wow. I've never seen so much roving in one place. In the pic, there's more wool to the right, and more felt to the left. That little pile on the table is the stuff I came home with. Ultra soft, ultra white merino top for Christmas tree owls, colors and high-quality felt for some other projects. So excited!

Stupid wrist.

 

 

Went to the Oregon Potters Association Ceramic Showcase tonight and, as usual, spent a little too much.  But not much too much.  It's become an annual ritual we not only enjoy while we're there, but continue to appreciate as we gloat over our treasures.  Below is this year's loot.  Where possible, the photo links to the artist's site.

 

Sarah Chenoweth

 

Leslie Green

 

Linda Klaus

 

Carol Lebreton

 

Chayo Wilson

 

James DeRosso

 

Michael Fromme

 

2 Bears

Now, I don't mean to say that an artist shouldn't make any damned thing they please.  Really, go on, do as you like.  Just don't expect me to think you aren't full of shit.

Caveat: I've had the flu for more than a month, so it's possible I'm just cranky.  Gonna rant anyway.

I look at a lot of art on the web.  This qualifies me for absolutely nothing, except knowing what I like.  That said, here are a few things I've become (mostly, I hedge) tired of:

Artistic appropriation of pop culture. Your stormtrooper collage no longer moves me.  Your serious examination of the pathos of Alfred E. Neuman, presented in a series of room-sized oils, neither thrills nor informs me.  Rather, it says you were late on an assignment in art class because you were busy reading MAD magazine.  I know, that's not fair.  What I'm criticizing is often serious work.  I have merely ceased to take it seriously.

Vulgarization of innocence. I admit this video of Miss Piggy singing "Fuck The Pain Away" is well-edited.  I even liked it for five minutes. But it's still low-hanging fruit. It's a small attempt to shock, maybe a try at humor through contrast. It doesn't work for me anymore.  Cynicism needn't stain every sincere thing. The teletubbies don't need to swear.  Leave it.

Finally, the one I'm sick to death of: Altering of classic works. Every time I see an altered Mona Lisa, The Scream, or American Gothic, my eyes roll up so far into my head that I'm afraid I'll be blinded for life.  Perhaps that would be a mercy.  There are a few dozen works that have become language on their own, and are re-used over and over again in our culture as expressive shortcuts.   For example, Warhol's use of repetition is often used as a shortcut for the idea of mass-production.  Grant Wood's American Gothic is altered for commentary on anything American. Neither use is inappropriate, merely lazy. Often, the artwork is altered, well, just because, with no real understanding of its use as a symbol. Oh, how my poor teeth grind.

I do realize that the artifacts of our culture are language.  There can be perfectly good reasons, other than the burning desire to be sued, to slip iconic mouse ears into a painting. Occasionally, appropriation is accomplished so well that it transcends imitation or homage, and becomes original.

Usually, it's just crap.

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Yes, Author, I realize you don't like it when people give low stars on Amazon for Kindle formatting issues. I know you want to be reviewed on your literary merits, or at least those things within your control. Problem is, to a reader, formatting matters. I want to see that information in a review. I also want formatting errors fixed, and low-star reviews get attention. No, I haven't done this myself, but I don't like to see authors barging in on legitimate reviews to complain that formatting errors aren't what the review system is about. I know the review hurts, but please put yourself in the reader's shoes, here.

These review comments for Judi Fennell's Catch of a Lifetime are what prompted this rant.

When I look at reviews for a DVD, there are often comments about picture quality, or if the DVD is a bootleg.  These have nothing to do with the artistic merits of the film, but they're very important for someone purchasing the product.

On a review site, or in print, reviews should certainly be about the art alone.  I read these reviews to answer the question: will I enjoy this story?  On a retail site, reviews must encompass everything that cannot be determined without buying the product.  Here, I'm asking the question: do I want to buy this particular product? Errors in formatting profoundly affect this decision.  Rants about pricing are not on, because not only is pricing variable from day to day, it's something anyone can see up front.  Kindle formatting doesn't change until fixes are uploaded, and you can't tell--often not even in the sample--if there will be problems.

Finally, yes, the system works.  I recently browsed reviews for a book I just read, to find one that mentioned a high amount of typos in the book.  The version I read, while it had other editing problems (was the girlfriend's name Nancy or Sugar?  Did she dump him or didn't she?), it didn't have typos.  It was an indie book, and the author had re-edited and re-uploaded to fix the errors.  I don't know what mainstream authors can do to correct Kindle errors, but I would hope they could at least contact their publisher and attempt to get the book fixed and re-uploaded.

So, please, beloved authors, whom I love with all my readerly heart, think about what Amazon is for, and what a buyer needs to get out of reviews, and leave an honest reviewer to it.

Okay, we're a few days into January, so I suppose it's time to talk about my favorite books of 2010. First, a few words about how the heck I can possibly sort all this out.

I read 510 books last year. A lot of them were novellas--about 50k words. I read at least a full-length novel per day. I'm actually hoping that number goes down in 2011! My cat, on the other hand, is rooting for 600.

I have a favorite spot on the end of the couch where I do most of my reading. On the table beside the couch, along with a box of tissues and a coaster for my diet pop, is a little paper notebook. When I finish a book, I jot down the title, author, series, 1-5 rating, date finished, and a few notes. I've tried plenty of online solutions like LibraryThing, but ultimately, they never work for me.  Paper works.  When I fill a notebook, I transfer the information to a Google spreadsheet.  Thus, I have glorious data to share with youse.

When I get really excited about a book, I'll rate it a 6 on my scale of 1-5.  Insert "goes to 11" joke here.  Conversely, really horrible books get a 0.  So there.  Having compiled this list, I actually see a lot missing.  Fives that, in retrospect, should have been sixes, but I didn't want to overuse my OMG rating.  That'll teach me.  Also, these are all well-established authors I've been following for a while.  So stay tuned--there will be another post following this, with some new authors, and more great stuff.

Here are my sixes:

Rough Canvas
by Joey W. Hill
Genre: Erotica/MM/BDSM
Series: Nature of Desire

"When his father dies, Thomas is forced to abandon a burgeoning art career in New York. As difficult as it was to give up his lifelong dream, it's nothing next to walking away from the man he loves. Marcus taught him to embrace who he is, a sexual submissive who responds to the touch of only one Master. But why would the sophisticated Marcus need some farm kid from the South?

Then Marcus shows up and offers him a way to continue his art career and help his family. There's only one hitch-he asks Thomas to spend a week with him in the Berkshires. Thomas knows he should refuse. But he's never been able to say no to his Master."

While I don't read a lot of male/male erotica, I was familiar with Thomas and Marcus from reading the other books in the series, so it was great to finally read their story.  As usual, Hill's work is deeply emotional.  She does a wonderful job of getting under the characters' skins, not to mention the reader's.   Please be aware that even if you read erotica, even if you read the occasional BDSM or D/s book, Hill's work can be extreme, especially in the Vampire Queen books.  You've been warned.  Rough Canvas is fine as a stand-alone, and doesn't really depend upon the other books in the series.  They are:

Holding The Cards
Natural Law (a fave--I've read this one twice)
The Ice Queen
Mirror of My Soul
Mistress of Redemption
Rough Canvas
Branded Sanctuary--another 2010 favorite

Joey W. Hill is one of my favorite authors, because she's just plain good.  Her books are an auto-buy for me.  She writes four series, and while they are all written in the same world, the overlap is very subtle.  If you decide you like her style, I recommend going to her site for series orders, and reading the Vampire Queen and Daughters of Arianne books (yes, I know it's angels and mermaids.  They're great, I swear!), so you get the occasional references in the other books.

Lover Mine
by JR Ward
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood

"Darius, a fallen Brother, has returned to the fold with a new identity and a very different destiny. Now, John Matthew, plunged into the heart of war, must face off against evil incarnate-and rescue his one true love."

First off, don't even try to read this without the rest of the books.  Ward has built an interesting and complicated world, and you need to be there with her, or you'll get lost.   The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, or BDB, is an addictive soap-opera with colorful characters, lots of sex, and cringe-worthy slang.  In our house, we call these books the "Add an H" series for the silly names, like Rhage and Tohrment.  She does this with nouns, too.  And the slang--ahh!  And yet, I keep crawling back for another rock.  In order:

Dark Lover
Lover Eternal
Lover Awakened
Lover Revealed
Lover Unbound
Lover Enshrined
Lover Avenged
Lover Mine

Magic Bleeds
by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels

"Kate Daniels cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to deal with-especially if they involve Atlanta's shapeshifting community.

And now there's a new player in town-a foe that may be too much for even Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family."

One of the best feelings in the world is when you anticipate the next book in a series, when you hope and wait and bouncebouncebounce, and then the book arrives and it totally kicks ass.  Again, gotta read the series, and it's worth it.  Kate Daniels is one of the premier heroines of UF, and for good reason.  Andrews (actually the writing team of Ilona and Gordon Andrews, who recently moved here to Portland!) has created a well-rounded, fascinating character, teamed her up with interesting creatures, and plunked them all in a post-apocalyptic world, where waves of magic mean your truck might run now, but you'd better have a donkey for backup.  I can't recommend this one highly enough.  The Spousal Unit and I both love everything Andrews has written, and I'm pretty sure you will, too.

Magic Bites
Magic Burns
Magic Strikes
Magic Bleeds

Tales of the Otherworld
by Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Otherworld

"New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong has bewitched audiences with her Otherworld series of supernatural thrillers. Now, in this new collection of shorter fiction, some of Armstrong’s most tantalizing lead characters appear alongside her unforgettable supporting players, who step out of the shadows and into the light."

This was a big ol' tasty treat for fans of the Otherworld series.  Armstrong is a superb writer, and has created a character-rich series.  In fact, I don't think there's another series like it.  She doesn't just tell a character's story then abandon them--her main characters are revisited many times, and not just as asides in other stories.  Also, her characters are not static.  They grow, get married, have kids, and those kids even grow up and get books of their own.  Some Otherworld books stand alone better than others, but in any case, I don't recommend reading this one first.  If you've never read Armstrong, start at the beginning:

Bitten
Stolen
Dime Store Magic
Industrial Magic
Haunted
Broken
No Humans Involved
Personal Demon
Living with The Dead
Frostbitten
Waking the Witch

Shiver
by Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Series: Wolves of Mercy Falls

"Grace, 17, loves the peace and tranquility of the woods behind her home. It is here during the cold winter months that she gets to see her wolf—the one with the yellow eyes. Grace is sure that he saved her from an attack by other wolves when she was nine. Over the ensuing years he has returned each season, watching her with those haunting eyes as if longing for something to happen."

Shiver is a beautiful, haunting book.  Stiefvater has created one of my favorite things: a supernatural curse that is actually a curse.  It's hard to feel sorry for a super-powerful vampire or werewolf.  Poor thing, doomed to live forever and be really strong and healthy and good looking!  Ah, go cry, emo bloodsucker.  On the other hand, being a werewolf in Shiver, well, sucks.  Wolf in the winter, human in the summer, you have no control, and normal life is forever out of reach.  This is another book I recommend to absolutely everyone reading this.  Don't be put off by the YA designation.  This is a lovely, mature work, that is deservedly on the favorites list of many readers.  I came to this a little late.  Shiver is the  first book in the series, and the second is already out:

Shiver
Linger

Blameless
by Gail Carriger
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Steampunk
Series: Parasol Protectorate

"Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.

Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.

While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires -- and they're armed with pesto."

As you can probably tell from the summary, these books are a hoot.  Sharply written, Carriger deftly executes an alternate world full of airships, werewolves, vampires, and astonishing mechanical devices.  Don't be put off if you're not a steampunk fan--neither am I, despite two books on this list.  Carriger's could opine on patent numbers and still be entertaining.  Alexia is one of my favorite UF characters, and her gruff werewolf love is delightful.  This is another must-read-in-order, but there are only three:

Soulless
Changeless
Blameless

The Iron Duke
by Meljean Brook
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/Steampunk
Series: Iron Seas

"After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power — and fear — of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession."

Okay, this is it.  This was my favorite book of 2010. When I think of Meljean Brook, the phrase that first comes to mind is "master world-builder." Her steampunk London is not pretty.  Its population recently freed from slavery, it is a world full of poverty, prejudice, and horrors--as well as imaginative wonders and fantastical characters.  Mina is a superb heroine--smartly written and fully realized, prickly and likable, and the Duke is, well, hot as hell.  While this is the first book in the series, if you like it, you can get a little more in the Anthology Burning Up, which includes an Iron Seas novella.  Yes, the novella is worth the price of the whole book.