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pottery

Jul 29 2011

ShareReads: Summer Memories Shared…

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

Today I’m inspired to share some books I found when I perused the New Books shelves at my local library. I chose two books that seem related to me in some obscure, difficult to explain manner. The first is of local interest, From Mud to Jug: The Folk Potters and Pottery of Northeast Georgia by John A. Burrison. Several decades ago I was fortunate enough to take a class from Burrison when he was a new faculty member at Ga State. I can still recall the ardor he had for local, folk items, so this over size paperback illustrated with lots of color photographs grabbed my attention immediately.

This book offers chapters on the history of folk pottery, two clans (Meaders and Hewells) that represent the long tradition of North Georgia potters, the production process and traditional functions of this type of pottery and all you need to know about the relatively new Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in the Sautee Nacoochee Community. This book delighted the eyes, awakened childhood memories of car trips through the northern part of Georgia with my family, and made me want to head north again to visit the new museum and learn more about folk pottery in general. Toward that end, Burrison included lists of potters and of books on Southern folk pottery.

The second book is Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz, a food blogger par excellence who previously made desserts for Chez Panisse in Berkeley after training as a baker in France and Belgium. I’ve only eaten at CP once, on a late summer day, but I swear it is his chocolate cake that stays “tattooed” on my taste buds and calls me back there again. This is a luscious, large format book also full of compelling color photographs adjacent to complicated but not complex “company and holiday” desserts. I’m told the average adult gains a pound a year. I’ve vowed (unsuccessfully) to make it a cookbook a year instead. My theory is that if you read it instead of doing it, you can learn a lot for when a grand dessert is simply unavoidable—and try to limit the weight gain to a half pound.

Imagine spending an hour or more in your favorite reading place, with something you enjoy drinking when your taste buds need to settle down. Open this book and browse through the hints about ingredients and equipment that he puts up front. Then pick your place to dive in from: cakes; pies, tarts and fruit; custards, soufflés and puddings; frozen desserts; cookies and candies; and basics, sauces, and preserves. Wow, so hard to choose, but feeling faint I go from cakes to cookies and candies and then settle down with the basic, sauces and preserves which offers multiple photos of just how various stages should look when you are caramelizing (both wet and dry methods). I can hardly wait to start making holiday gifts of candied cherries, orange peel and ginger. I know many folks search by ingredients or name and pull their recipes offline now. I’m just not that efficient and pragmatic. I love old cookbooks with ample notes and stains, and big, new cookbooks all pristine and seductive. I can almost taste the photos and do, sometimes, to coax myself into waiting. After awhile my brain is awash in many, varied recipes I want to, will to, make … eventually. Now that is a wonderful hour spent in anticipation and few to no calories (depending on the drink).

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Nov 30 2009

The Long Echo

by Patricia D

800px-Pottered_potteryI’m a sometime potter.  There’s something about getting my hands in the mud that satisfies my soul and some days slapping a few pounds of clay around is better therapy than anyone could ever guess.  There are few things that make me happier than when something beautiful and useful spins into being under my hands.  My first piece happened mostly by accident and was astoundingly ugly.  It took a lot of work to get to the point where I could say, “I want to make a bowl” and I would actually make a bowl.  By then I had set the movements required to do that firmly in the muscles of my hands, arms, even my hips because I use them all when I throw a pot.

According to my instructor at the time, the first pot anyone ever makes always looks like a dog food can.  It will be ugly but it is precious.   She was right of course, nearly everyone in that class turned out something similar to a dog food can and we all treated them as if they were Rookwood.  I had no idea how her comment had stuck with me until many years later when I was standing in a ceramics museum in Toronto.  In front of me, encased in glass, protected from the environment and miscreants and no doubt heavily insured, was a pottery dog food can.   I was staggered.  I knew in my heart that I was looking at a young potter’s first piece.  This pot, made 800 years before my visit to a museum, was made almost exactly the same way my own dog food can had been created.  I knew in my muscles how that potter had shaped her piece and this connection to a long dead person left me breathless.  I stared at that little pot so long the guard peeked over my shoulder to see, I suppose, what was keeping my attention.  I doubt he realized it was the dumpy little piece off to one side.

A curator at the Michael C. Carlos Museum told me this is called the long echo–that visceral connection to long ago though an artifact or text.  It’s an astounding experience and I highly recommend it.  If you want to go the mud route check out our collection–we’ve got lots of great titles, not just on making pots but decorating as well.  Take a class at either Spruill or Callenwolde and after you’ve got your own precious dog food can, make a visit to the Carlos ( I am particularly attracted to the Ancient American collection) and see if you too can hear the echo.

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