June 17, 2008

Westcliffe Weekend

We had a wonderful weekend in Westcliffe. The pottery class was a lot of fun, but no great masterpieces were made this time. We had some trouble with pieces cracking and exploding in the kiln and never did quite figure out why. Could have been the kiln temps were too high, too low, or the clay wasn't dry enough when put in. It's also possible there was a defect in the clay. We were using a homemade, propane-fired kiln without a pyrometer, so it really was quite a guessing game. I ended up sending some of my pieces home with our teacher, Carl, so he could glaze and fire them in his studio in an electric kiln. I'm anxious to see how those turn out.

During this class, all pieces were hand built, no wheel used. I'm very interested in throwing on a wheel, so I think I'll try to find a class that focuses on that technique next. The class was called a fiber pottery class because we applied fiber-be it human hair, dog, cat or alpaca hair- to some of the pieces immediately after they were removed from the kiln. Once the fiber touched the object, it would burn and carbonize onto the piece, making neat, squiggly designs. There really is an art to it because if you put too much fiber on at one time it forms a black blob. The trick is putting on just a few pieces of fiber at a time and turning the object as you go.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the pottery class was held at an alpaca farm, Eyedazzler Alpacas. I was able to get up close and personal with a herd of alpacas and learn more about them. They really are beautiful creatures, but they are not very social with people. I had heard that they don't like being touched on the head, but I learned that they're not fond of being touched anywhere really. They were very curious and would sneak up behind me to get a good look, but as soon as I'd turn around and reach out to them, they backed off. There were a few who would come up and take treats from my hand, but not as many fell for this gesture as I'd expected. They are sheared once a year for their luxurious fiber, which had recently been done, so they were all sporting new hairdos.

One of the highlights of the weekend was being at the farm just 15 minutes after a baby alpaca was born. The babies are called crias and they hit the ground running (so to speak), pretty much like horses and giraffes. I was able to witness the tender interactions between mom and cria, as the new little one wobbled to and fro, curious of the great big world in front of her.

This was the first time I had been to our property without snow on the ground. It was exciting to see all the plant life that lay beneath the now-melted blankets of snow. We spent our evenings sitting outside of the camper, watching the sunset, listening to the birds and taking in the magnificence of the Wet Mountain Valley.

Overall, I would say it was a very soul-nourishing, relaxing weekend.


Cousin Arnetta said...

What a nice birthday weekend!
Happy Birthday !!!
There is something therapeutic about getting your fingers in clay :-)
I did pottery many years ago.

I've been enjoying your blog and your observations of life... and comments about your sweet mom.

Lilla said...

Thanks, Arnetta. It was a nice weekend. I didn't realize you did pottery. I would really like to explore it further and see if I can make anything decent.