Weather drama at the Kohler Festival of the Arts

For some odd reason I’d hoped to get through this latest art fair without any dramatic incidents but of course that would not make for a good story!

We rented a trailer again- it’s really easy to load and then we have our own car the whole time.  The drive to Sheboygan was lovely.

This person travels heavy!

When we got there, there was ample space to just pull up and it was shady too.  We unloaded and then ate a picnic lunch right on our spot.  As we prepared to set up they decided they had to do some last minute mowing!

Set up is getting smoother as we become more practised and find short cuts and routines.

We had a really nice spot.  

As soon as we were done, we went right over to the Kohler Arts Center. The exhibits were excellent. Interesting, thought provoking and sophisticated.

Then there were the bathrooms.  Luckily our little group (my family)  had genders of both kinds and so got to give each other the “all clear” sign so we could view ALL the bathrooms (there were 4) Here is the main Men’s note that the mirrors are reflecting the other wall – all of it was AMAZING.

my favorite was this Women’s Bathroom.

And the other Men’s was also great.

it was all about water. Although that paisley pattern has a germy look.

Next we went out to eat at Il Ritorno- OMG!  The best pizza I’ve had in years!  Possibly ever! Also a great salad.  Sated, we went off to our hotel which has an attached water park and we all went on slides and inner tubes etc. until we were exhausted and saturated with chlorine.

The next morning dawned beautiful and sunny but I had a fairly slow day. At some point I left the husband in charge of my booth and walked around.  I was really impressed with all the great pottery. I now own some pieces by Michael Kahn of Greenbush, Mi. and also Ryan Myers (who won an award at this fair) of Mudhead Studio.

As soon as we packed up for the night (all the pots in boxes on the ground) we went over to the(  free)  Artists Buffet and Awards Dinner. This is the 40th anniversary of the Festival.  Chinese food, great salad and beer or wine; very nice.

Another winner was Sarah Chapman a fellow Lill denizen- a jeweller.

Back to the hotel where we had a walk on the beach and the kids did the water park again.  So far incident free, right? Everything going smoothly… BORING but smoothly.

The next morning we got all set up- we had the awnings down overnight because of possible wind- and right after we got all set up it rained on us pretty hard.

Unlike 57th Street, that didn’t scare the customers away for the day- they came out with the sun and I had a slow but steady day.

THEN with 45 mins left to the fair, while a volunteer was shopping in our booth, this HUGE TORNADO SIREN goes off. We were about a half a block from it

it was so loud it obliterated all thought and all my decision making functions in my brain shut down.  Should I take my kids to the nearest basement? Should I try to pack up my pots? Was it a REAL TORNADO?? What if it was just a strong wind? Kids would be okay but the pots could be detroyed…. but what if it was a REAL TORNADO? Then I didn’t care about the pots at all….. finally the sound stopped and my brain unfroze. The jeweller across the way who had already lost a tent that weekend (his wife was in Iowa at a different show and wind destroyed their better  tent) was packing up extremely rapidly – to put it mildly.

It looked to me as though the artists all decided, “okay, the customers are gone, it’s been a fair with lackluster profits* let’s just call it a day”

*let me just reiterate here- the fair itself was really really nice- well run, great art, lovely setting, good treatment, good music. These are just tough economic times.

So we all began to pack up.The sun actually came out again and everyone was pretty relaxed.

Amazingly, some customers did return only to find the things they’d been eying for several hours packed away.

Load out was easy, and we were headed home by 6.

Oh, and by the way, there WAS a tornado- north of us!


Terra Cotta “Fossil” Paver Tutorial

These “Fossil Pavers” are so named because you are inlaying the lighter clay into the larger Terra Cotta paver body. This is a fun and useful project for all ages and can be a lasting decoration for your garden or house (provided you have access to a kiln!)

9 finished paver

I taught this class a few years ago at Lill Street and again recently at the Northern Clay Center.

At Lill we did it as a family workshop and what is great about this project is children as young as 3 or 4 can help lay out the design. You’ll need something round to trace- about 12″ across.

We used 2 kinds of clay. Continental Clay’s Terra Cotta will fire nicely to Cone 1 which is what we did so that the pavers would be essentially non-porous for wintering outside and also extremely dense for the strength needed to be able to step on the pavers.

2 laying out the paver design

Start with your light colored clay (porcelain, light stoneware or raku clay) and make your design. Make it as fine as possible as it will spread out when you flatten the terra cotta over it. When rolling coils, if they are drying and consequently cracking, roll them on a little patch of dampened table- a canvas covered table is ideal. If you are cutting out leaf shapes, make the clay as thin as you reasonably can- that means less than 3/16th of an inch! More like an 8th of an inch or less. The reason for this is so that your paver won’t be lumpy and the white clay not fully integrated into the surface of the paver. These leaves are a little too thick and caused a bit of trouble getting them to fully integrate.2 paver design

Lay out your design on a piece of board or paper! We found it helpful to draw the pattern on a piece of paper and to trace our circles so that we knew the boundaries of the paver and could lay out the design well within it.2a laying out design

***IMPORTANT NOTE!*** Words must be laid out in mirror writing. This may seem really hard but you can lay out the word and then simply flip it over. You can see we have the world “Welcome” backwards here.2b writing backwards

Also important to keep your white clay pattern moist- spritz it before you set it aside and again before you put the terra cotta over it. Make sure it does NOT sit in water! That will make it too soft and it will smear.

And before you throw a slab and shake the table, MOVE your layout! Several layouts were shaken to bits before we caught on!

Next, throw a thick terra cotta slab and then roll it to about a ½ inch thickness. You can do this using two half-inch thick boards on either side of your slab. You will need a long rolling pin though! We needed about 7-8 lbs of clay to make a 12 “ circle.

4 tc slab

Before your lay your finished and smoothed terra cotta slab over your design, wipe the surface with a sponge and spritz your design.

5 dampening slab
Then starting at one edge, lay your slab carefully down over your design and using the flat of your hand pat/smack it down firmly over your design. You can also go over it gently, firmly and evenly with the rolling pin. It’s okay if it gets thinner than ½ an inch- but not too much!

It is important to lay the slab over the design instead of vice versa to give you a very uniform flat surface where the clay pushes down to the level of the light clay’s design.

Now you can flip it over by sandwiching it between 2 boards or simply picking it up and flipping it over.6 before cutting circle

If your design is still sticking up, you can gently go over it from the front with a rolling pin too.8 rolling front

After that, lay your circle pattern over the slab, covering your design and cut around it. 7 tracing circle Go over the edge with an dampened sponge to soften the corner and get rid of sharp chip-able edges.

Let dry thoroughly and fire to Cone 1!1 picture fern paverHere is my fired fern paver example from Lill. I was working very fast to make the example as I had young kids waiting to work! I’ve had it for years now, left outside in the winter many times and it’s still intact!