Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City

Columbia Restaurant Tile Staircase Ybor Tampa

One of the things that struck me in Florida was the potential of ceramic wall art. I mean, sure, tiles have been kind of hovering in the background for years. I know they exist, and I know you can make beautiful things with them, but I’d never been somewhere so insistently decorated with them. The Columbia Restaurant up there was the most glorious example[1][2], but there were cool paving stones and neat little tricks with brickwork and moulded cement and mosaics all over the place. St. John’s may be known for colour, but it’s not known for patterns or textures. We look just plain boring compared to some of the neighbourhoods down there.

Anyways. I’m not to the point yet of room-wrapping mosaic pieces[3], but I would like to try my hand at some flat things to put on walls. Probably some small pieces, to start… they can be my new product at this year’s Fresh Fish. We shall see how it goes.

[1] Best. Mojitos. Ever. The pitcher came with sugar cane pieces stuck in it!

[2] Actually, that whole building is a work of art. Not just for the tiles, but for the stained glass, the woodwork, the archways, the balconies, the metalwork… Anything that could be carved was carved, and everything that couldn’t be carved was tiled or textured or painted something bright.

[3] Although if I get one excuse to do a staircase like the one above…

A Culinary Summary of Florida

Eggplant and parmesan pizza
Red curry with scallops
Tapas Tuesday, with crema catalana in a dark chocolate shell for dessert
Fried banananana and peanut butter and appricot jam sandwich
More pizza
Alligator taco from Mema’s Alaskan Taco Stand
Moussaka (the potatoes were sooo creamy… couldn’t tell where they stopped and the bechamel sauce began…)
Beef burrito, from the Taco Bus
More pizza
Roast duck with dried cherry and chianti sauce, with goat cheese mashed potatoes and broccoli and a salad the size of my head. (For only slightly more than I’d pay for a feed of A&W, no less.)
cardamom ice cream (also, coconut, passion fruit, and brown sugar. But the cardamom was the tastiest.)
frozen yoghurt with honey
Something gloriously tasty from the Columbia restaurant which I can’t quite currently recall. Possibly on account of the mojitos.

I need to get me into more conferences.

Winding Down

Haven’t blogged the last few days. Haven’t had the time! The talks were great, the demos were great, the exhibits were great, and I am already planning to go to next year’s conference.

It was non-stop ceramics until Sunday noonish, when the closing ceremonies[1] wrapped up. And then more ceramics, as we hadn’t seen all the shows and wanted to take them in while we could.

Yesterday me and Jason headed off to St. Petersburg to see or re-see another few spots. Along the way we picked up the pottery we’d bought from the Craftsman House show, ate at the Taco Bus, and lazed on the beach. There were more brightly-coloured little seashells than I can count, and an anonymous wading bird that we both wished Roz were around to identify, and a pod of dolphins, and a feeding pelican. The pelican glided over the water, dipping down two or three times to snatch up some poor fish in its big clackety beak. Then it landed in the water to eat, and did a happy little butt wiggle.

And today was the last full day in Tampa. I went to the state aquarium and fed a blueberry to the otters. I also finally found out what a grouper fish is like[3], and apologized to the alligators for eating one of their buddies in a taco the other night. They blinked at me. I’m pretty sure that’s alligator for “No worries. We’d eat you too if we had the chance.”

[1] Presided over by Robin Hopper, and starting and ending with sing-alongs. The first was a filk of Sympathy for the Devil[2], and the second was Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. And the speech in between was pretty fun, too.

[2] “Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of clay and glaze…”

[3] Bigger than me, that’s what a grouper fish is like. Sweet wiggling pelicans!

NCECA, Day the Second

Day Two was spent getting registered, and then poking around the trade show floor. I got a few new tools (including a giffin grip extender! Yayyyyy! It’ll make trimming super-wide bowls much easier), and an armload of postcards, posters, and brochures. I’m still debating picking up some Mason stains… have to find out of the ones I want contain cadmium. If they do, I’ll pass on them.

I also picked up a bunch of books for the library, which was a lot of fun. I love books, and ceramics ones are obviously high up in my eyes, and being able to acquire a nice wide selection that I will have access to but which I don’t have to pay for is pretty much my idea of heaven.

While I was poking around, I ran into Alexis. We made lunch plans for this Cafe Hey place, which had a show of espresso cups and small teacups along their walls. We broke off again, did some more of our own poking. Then I ran into Florence Donaway, who used to work out of the clay studio (she has her own set-up at home now), and all four Newfoundland NCECA attendees—myself, Jason, Alexis, and Florence—decamped for lunch and an afternoon of exhibit-hopping.

As a side note, my new favourite sandwich is almond butter-banana-jam. Fried. In cinnamon.

After we’d meandered back to the convention centre, we split off again on our own quests. I went off to see the NCECA Gallery Expo, which was amazing. I got a cup with a raccoon on it, and an awesome soda-fired teacup.[1] I also got to fawn over Kristin Kieffer’s work, and some more of Jennifer Allen’s. There was also La Mesa, which is a group show of table settings. Diana Fayt had work there, and Molly Hatch. And someone whose name I can’t quite remember had wolf-and-little-pig themed dinnerware, which delighted me thoroughly.

In the evening, there were the opening ceremonies, which were boring, but did (finally!) give me a few hours to sit still and read the NCECA schedule, and the detailed descriptions of all the talks and panels, so at least I got to plan the next few days. Then it was off to Ybor City, which seems to be Tampa’s equivalent of downtown (full of art and bars and shops and historic architecture), where me and Jason found lots of places to come back to when they’re open. (It was past nine at this point.) Then we found food at last, and went back to the hotel to polish up grant reports and library reports and project reports. Which all got faxed off this morning, so I get to spend the rest of the week without paperwork hanging over my head. Yay!

[1] I’m not often one for brown pottery, but sometimes soda firing tugs at me. I think it’s the variation you can get in the glaze surface, and that particular sort of opalescent glossiness that comes out sometimes.

Leeeeeeeeaving oon a jet plaaane

But I do know when I’ll be back again.

Will be at airport at ohGawd o’clock tomorrow morning for the first leg of the journey to NCECA. Here to Toronto, then Toronto to Tampa. Have books, and knitting, and even saved the nice thick weekend edition of the newspaper to read on the way[1]. I’m bringing the husband’s netbook, too, so I’ll be able to fire off updates from Florida.

[1] I buy about one newspaper a month, and often do not have the time to finish it. I am quite looking forward to a long day of sitting in a seat with absolutely nothing to do.


There’s this thing, in the States, called the National Conference for Education in the Ceramic Arts. It’s big. It’s flashy. It is to potters what Comic Con is to geeks[2]. It is a mecca of panels, workshops, presentations, gear, materials and demos. Six thousand potters showed up to last year’s. Six thousand! That’s not even counting the vendors, the gallery reps, the academics, or even the sculptors and conceptual art crowd. And I’ve been dying to go ever since I found out it existed.

This year I said, “Yeah, sure. If I get a grant, I’ll go.”

The grant-getting has been a long and frustrating process, mainly because of having to chase down documents. I don’t know yet if I’ll get any money or not. Even if I do get approved, the event is split over two fiscal years, and I’ll only get a grant for whatever expenses I can incur before March 31st. Any grant monies for the other half will be handed over (if I get approved for that) when the program funding comes in (if it gets approved) sometime around August or September. I have spent a lot of time waiting for documents to come together, and will spend more waiting to hear whether or not the grant-granting gods are friendly to me.

Yesterday, I snapped. I decided, fuck this waiting around. I want to go, and I’m going. If I get a grant, great, but I’m not missing out this year. I’ve got a travel buddy to share costs with, I’ve got some orders due to be paid this month, and I’ve got more orders coming for the summer. I will be able to afford this somehow.

Besides, it’s in Florida this year. I’ve never been to Florida.[1] And do you know how desperate I’ll be to escape winter by the end of March?

[1] I’ve never even been to the States, except for a quick drive-through detour to Maine on the way from New Brunswick to Quebec one year, and Maine is just New Brunswick with more guns and less French. It’s not exactly exotic. The only other times I’ve been out of the country it’s been for university courses. It was great, but travel just isn’t as much fun when there’s an exam at the end.

[2] If you are not a geek and/or do not know what Comic Con is, you may substitute “Woodstock for hippies[3]” or “some big important thing for some group that thinks it’s important”.

[3] … if Woodstock had involved more people and air conditioning and better food and probably less drugs and sex and also happened more often.”