Houston Day Seven


Last day of the conference! That’s my loot, up there. Some tools, a free bottle of underglaze, a container of grey stain (I have Tolkien-related plans…), and the ceramics. You can’t really make it out, but the box in the corner of the beet plate says, “Beets in a box! Made from 20% real beets–better than beets”. 

We took in the emerging artist talks and the closing speech, picked up our things from the La Mesa exhibit, and moseyed on to another wing of the convention centre, where the Houston Public Library was having a book sale. Picked up a Julie E. Czerneda novel,  a book on cat training, a book on lace patterns, and another book on crewelwork embroidery.

After all the exhibits and talks and info, it was nice to have a lower-key day. I even had an afternoon nap. Later on tonight, I’m going to a Mother Falcon concert, because they seem amazing. Tomorrow the plan is to take a swing through the museum district to check out the Natural History Museum, and early Monday morning, it’s back on a plane.

Houston Day Six

Today was cup sale day! Squee! Got up at 6:30 this morning to get there bright and early… usually, I’m much more laid back about the sale, and show up after breakfast (and still have to wait in line for half an hour because of all the keeners who showed up before me and are agonizing over the pots), but this year there were cups I reeeeeeally wanted.

The line was still halfway down the hallway when we got there. 

The cup I wanted, a polka-dot-scribbles one by Audrey Rosulek, was in the hands of someone who was lamenting they weren’t going to get the straight-lines-scribbles cup by Audrey Rosulek (aka the backup cup of my dreams), because it was gone already. Oh poo. I kept an eye on her until she got in line at the cash, on the off chance she’d change her mind and put it down. Nope. And some other guy was carrying around my third back-up cup.

The cup sale is a very different experience when you’re content to leave with whatever cool thing you find, rather than when you have a specific one in mind and are not able to have it.

I wandered around a little mopily, but picked out a cup and saucer for the sake of supporting the scholarship fund, and got in line. Halfway through the line for the credit card payments, I spied a treasure. I’d noticed it on my rounds yesterday, but hadn’t seen it this morning, and thought it had sold before I even got in the room. It’s a soda-fired tumbler with mishima underglazes and a hint of flashing slip, with a fun house and a ferris wheel on it. I gave up the cup and saucer, and dove for the carnival cup. It was more expensive than the ones I’d had my eye on, but also spectacular, and hey, it’s the cup sale. What if the artist is a student? Do you know how few art students keep making art after their degrees? I might never see this person’s work again.[1] So I splurged on it.

After the cup sale, there was breakfast, and another full day of convention-centre-things. I sat in on more demos than lectures today, and it was fabulous. 

Favourite observation of the day: Bede Clarke, the guy doing one of the main stage demos, talked about style. And developing style. And how sometimes ceramicists (and potters especially) are expected to do one thing and one thing only. And how that’s a bit silly. Look at musicians–the same person can be in an instrumental group, in a jazz band, and in a folk group. It doesn’t make them a bad musician to express themselves in different styles. As long as they’re obsessed with sound, they’re good musicians. In clay, he argues, the equivalent of sound is form. And we have to keep playing with that.

And then there was a block party, organized by 18 Hands Gallery. A bunch of bands out in the street, a dozen or two shops and galleries open late, and ceramic exhibits in a bunch of them. Also, free beer and cookies. What an awesome way to end the conference. 



[1] Although it turns out I have seen her work previously. I got her name from the sale organizers, and looked her up just now. Her name is Nicole Paulina, and according to her unfortunately out-of-date blog, she was just finishing up her residency at St. Pete’s Clay the year NCECA was in Florida. There are pictures of some flasks I drooled over, but never acquired. So I’m even happier to have a cup.

Houston Day Five

So many topics, so little time… demos by Kristin Kieffer and Bede Clarke, then intro to digital photography[1], a panel on bringing cone 10 glazes down to cone 6, a demo on building forms from pieces of other forms, a lecture on traditional marbled wares from Provence, some more time wandering the gallery expo, a lecture on marketing, a quick poke around the cup sale[2], then a very timely lecture on electric kiln maintenance.

And that was my day. Met up with Jason, and made up for all the cruddy lunches by finding myself in a delightful grocery store. Found where the Texans have been hoarding all the cheese. Bought some, plus sausages and olives and bread and lebne and figs. Lunch for the rest of the trip, basically. Take that, waffle fries!


[1] I need a new camera. I need to start taking better (or, in most cases, ANY) photos of my work, and the camera I currently have is a wee Fujifilm that was bought from Shopper’s Drug Mart on points. I cannot adjust ISO, let alone mess with light balance and aperture speed. Let’s not even get into lighting gear.

[2] Every year, there’s a fundraiser. People donate cups, they’re admired for a few days, and at 8 am the second last day of the conference, they’re go up for sale. The line-ups are looooooooong, and the crowd is so big only a dozen or so people get to go in at a time. They’re all gone before noon. There are two in there by Audrey Rosulek, and I want one sooooooooooooooooooooooo bad.

Houston Day Three

Got up, breakfasted with Jason and Alexis again. We had a few hours to kill until noon (when we had to get to the convention centre and pick up our registration packages), so we split a cab out to the very-worth-it-but-also-really-really-really-far-away[1] Shino Extravaganza exhibit at Lone Star College. While there, checked out a few other awesome exhibits, plus got to poke around their fine arts program’s clay studio[2]. Took cab back, picked up conference gear, had a disappointing burger for lunch[3], then headed off for more exhibits, this time only a cheap rail ride away. Saw a little over half a dozen.

The Warhaus gallery stood out especially. It has some amazing creepy-cute sculpture right now by Tomoko Nakazato, whose website I very strongly urge you to poke through. 

Aaaaaand then we tried to find one last place, Inman Gallery, before they closed, but we didn’t make it, so we consoled ourselves with supper at a “Southern Comfort Food” type place. I had coffee creme brulee for dessert. Yum. Also, tried more grits; this time, fried up, like fish cakes.

The Gallery Expo space back at the convention centre opened tonight, so we headed back for that. I’ve never been on opening night… there’s always been other shows to see, or things to plan. But this evening we had spare time, so we went. I picked up a Julia Galloway shot glass, because I have been drooling over her stuff for years but have never been able to bring myself to spend so much of my budget on a single piece, and it’s probably the cheapest item of hers I will ever come across. And it fit nicely in my hand, and I love the glazes, and also, my ceramics collection is not going to grow much this trip (I have only small amounts of space left in my cupboard, and I want to spend most of my money on resources and tools this year), so I may as well get the good stuff. 

There is also a wee bottle by Jessica Faulk[4], upon which is a dinosaur saying “RAWR”. I have not yet made up my mind on that one, but am sorely tempted.


[1] Houston is the fourth largest city in the US in population, and the biggest in actual acreage. Not seeing much evidence of urban containment here.

[2] Visiting  clay studios in warm places always makes me envious. They tend to have outdoor areas for atmospheric firings like raku, soda, and gas. Plenty of fresh air to come into the kiln, and no ventilation system needed. Just a sheet metal roof to keep the rain off whoever’s conducting the firing, and maybe a short wall to cut the wind. Plus, if you’ve got a metal support system for your roof, you can use it to hang some pulleys and your raku kiln, so lifting it off becomes easier and safer for all involved.

[3] When your cheese options are identified only as “American or Swiss”, be aware. You may be about to order processed cheese slices. Yes, even if you opt for the Swiss.

[4] At my first NCECA, I bought a cup of hers at the 18 Hands[5] booth. It’s green, with a raccoon and some bright red tulips on it. I’ve been going back to the booth every year to check out her work. It’s always delightful.

[5] Which is a gallery based IN HOUSTON!!!! They’re having a block party and series of ceramics mini-sales on Friday night. So stupidly excited.

Houston, Day Two

Got up, joined Alexis and her friend Beverly[1] for breakfast. Tasted grits for the first time. Still not sure what they are, and not sure they tasted of anything apart from butter.

I like grits.

Beverly very kindly gave us a drive down to Galveston, where we checked out exhibits that were open on Monday. Some of it disappointingly ho hum, but some, of course, great. An entire show of amaaaaaazing architecture-inspired work at the old custom house, plus a kick-ass quilt show. Had gumbo at the Gumbo Bar. Enjoyed it less than the gumbo from that street vendor in Tampa, but still delicious, and it involved plenty of shrimp. 

Saw some pelicans.

Drove back to Houston, got dropped off by another exhibit by the lovely Beverly, and we carried on looking at stuff. I am finding myself very, very appreciative of the fact both Alexis and Jason have mobile devices with maps. It’s very easy to sort of trail along with them while they navigate an unfamiliar city. If I were on my own, I’d have to pick up an awful lot more maps and transit guides, and possibly even ask occasional passers-by for directions.

Stopped for an iced coffee at a coffee shop/bar called Double Trouble. Checked out the vintage store next door (did not buy cowboy boots). Carried on back to the particular stretch of Dallas Street I have started to think of as Home Base; checked out some cool shows in various buildings known as Allen Centre 1, Allen Centre 2, etc. Ate supper at same Mexican restaurant; this time I had some sort of chicken and spinach and cheese confection stuffed in a pepper, with more tomatillo salsa[2].

Group broke up for the evening. Our assignment: go over list of exhibitions, pick out highlights and figure out where the heck they all are and which ones to see tomorrow. there’s a shino show that’s a universal must, but other than that, our tastes are pretty diverse… we’ll see where we overlap.

Have been fantasizing about breakfasting on grits for past three hours. May need to have more tomorrow.


[1] Beverly is a transplanted Newfoundlander who Alexis knew from her early Girl Guides days. 


[2] I think I really, really like tomatillo salsa.

Houston, Day 1

Couldn’t sleep. Too excited. Alarm went off at 3:00 ay em. Moussa cat looked at me blearily, wondering what in the name of little crunchy kibbles I was doing up and about and making noise and oh hey you’re giving me breakfast yay. (Eliu cat was gleefully awake and full of enthusiasm for very early morning life… Damn youngster and his energy.)

Got to airport, got on plane, almost didn’t make connecting flight due to security airport changes taking time to navigate. Arrived in Houston after knitting most of a mitten.

Taxi ride, hotel, oh god need food haven’t eaten since breakfast which was almost twelve hours ago. Found food (Guadalajara restaurant on the way to the convention centre; enchiladas with tomatillo salsa for me, chicken mole for Travel Buddy. Delicious. Also, huge portions. And free chips and salsa.) Wandered around; watched some volleyball in our soon-to-be-devoted-to-ceramics conference centre, checked out a park, managed not to collapse of sunstroke. Made our way back to hotel; slept for over twelve hours. So awesome.