May 31st, 2012


Book 71: Ceramics for Gardens and Landscapes

Ceramics for Gardens & Landscapes
by Karin Hessenberg

Did you ever look at the lowliest garden pot, pretty garden sculpture, or largest ceramic artwork outside somewhere and think, "I would love to do that but... how can I make it not crack in the weather? How can I keep it secure against theft, vandalism, or just accidents? How can I make it look like that, but still be able to grow things in it?"

THIS is the BEST book I have ever read, about creating ceramic art (or functional pottery) that is intended to be outside.

I am really quite amazed, honestly, at how MUCH this book packs into such a compact space!

I've got to get a copy myself, it's just that awesome- it has answers to the practical (how DO you throw a pot that starts out with 125 lbs of clay? How can you even get it into a kiln? What about a sculpture of 500 lbs of clay? eek!) and the not-so-practical angle as well, of the topic of ART- what different styles are out there, intended for gardens... from pots, to sculpture, to those things we call 'art' in a lofty tone... if it stays outside, it's just plain different than other ceramics!

I loved this book!

Book 72: The Last Dragon (graphic novel)

The Last Dragon
by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay

There is something aetherial about Rebecca Guay's artwork that just keeps me coming back for more... a certain realism tinged with the sweeping flourishes that tell our eyes we are reading a fairy tale...

The story, written by Jane Yolen, is really quite pleasing, as fairy tales go. We have a strong female as the lead, and her encounters with the world that leave a moral of 'go out and see for yourself'! I would really feel this would be a great choice for a child's library or personal collection, if only because the story is fantastical, but it also makes logical sense.

Sure, there's no REAL dragons, right? Right?

But the world can be a funny place... and sometimes you need bravery AND your mind, to win out in a fight for your life and those you love!

Book 73: Our Gods Wear Spandex

Our Gods Wear Spandex
by Christopher Knowles

It's kind of strange to call this "non fiction" and yet here we are...

A LOT of my friends are into superheros. In fact, although I don't read superhero comics, I DO adore the movie adaptations of them... and so my friends often chat with me about the characters in more depth... and that is what made me pick up this book at the library, and read it.

The author does an amusingly good job of taking apart our 'gods' the superheros, and pointing out how it is that they have become such prominant figures in our world. Which authors have started trends, and why was it likely that they became SO popular, compared to so many others who create this kind of thing?

Each character or author they discuss, each world or situation... it has connections. Did you ever notice the connections between certain superheroes or stories about them, that parallel the concept of 'secret mysteries' of religons? Or how about the more obvious topic of sexuality and gender roles? Or of being human and non-human?

This book amused and pleased me with the way it broke some of these topics down, in short chunks, so one could further ponder them. Well done, even if it is short, shallow, and more speculation than fact... it's an interesting read.

Book 74: Anya's Ghost (graphic novel - NOT a comic!)

Anya's Ghost
by Vera Brosgol

Oh my goodness, what a DELIGHTFUL and spooky little tale. Perfect for youngsters who might otherwise be too tender for the REALLY scary things- and perfect for those of us who just enjoy a creepy tale of ghosts and people who come into contact with them.

For me, the best part about this story, is that it begins with a girl... and it ENDS with a girl.

This is to say, our heroine is the focus of our ghost story, not the ghost itself!

I know, I know, no one can say enough about Neil Gaiman when he slaps his name on anything, but Vera Brosgol has done an AMAZING job of capturing what it is like to grow up an immigrant... and a teenager... and just feeling 'different'. Her story is set before us, and we eat it up page by page, with our own hopes for the characters within it.

I was delighted!

Good stuff, there!

Book 76: Ceramics: Mastering the Craft

Ceramics: Mastering the Craft
by Richard Zakin

Yep, another Ceramics 'how to' book... but this one was a pretty good read, actually. In fact, I would classify this one as good enough to add to my own very small selection of books on making Ceramics, and I'm going to be picky about the size of the library for my own Studio!

It covers a lot of ground, and while it does include a lot of eye-candy pictures, it doesn't do so without reason. It shows different techniques and styles which can be taken to new formats, or to wider extremes.

There's a lot of good basic info there too, like some clay recipes that are really quite well done. Some scientific data that some folks use and some won't, isn't a bad inclusion- some of us like to tinker, and having this information at hand is a good thing!

There is even some information and examples of very non-traditional firing kilns, built by hand, by the artists who use them.

Overall, this is a pretty good book to have around!
book and cup

#57 The Crowded Street - Winifred Holtby (1924)

The Crowded Street was Winifred Holtby’s second novel published when the author was 26. In it Winifred Holtby examines closely the lot of young women, expected to marry, and watched endlessly by society. At the centre of the novel is Muriel Hammond the eldest of two daughters, her mother’s one ambition for her is that she marries. Muriel firmly believes that
“Men do as they like” while women “wait to see what they will do” The rather sad figure of her unmarried Aunt Beatrice is a warning of what awaits her should she not manage to achieve the ultimate prize of a husband.

When we first meet Muriel she is 11 – attending her first party with almost breathless anticipation – where she must fill her dance card and behave beautifully in front of the watching eyes of Marshington’s mothers.

“All the way to Kingsport, dangling her legs from the box seat of the brougham – she always rode outside with Turner, because to ride inside made her sick – Muriel had watched the thin slip of a moon ride with her above the dark rim of the wolds, and she had sung softly to herself and to the moon and to Victoria, the old carriage horse, “I’m going to the Party, the Party, the Party.” And here she was.”

Unfortunately Muriel’s first taste of Marshington society is not a success – and the poor girl goes home in disgrace. This disastrous beginning sets the tone for the next 20 years. Muriel is shy, lacking confidence she worries too much what society thinks of her. At the start of the first world war Muriel falls for local god Godfrey Neale – but he seems to remain forever just out of reach. Meanwhile Muriel’s younger sister Connie strains to break free of the ties that bind her to the suffocating atmosphere of home and Marshington by taking a job as a land girl on a farm. It is here however that Connie’s attempt to make a life for herself brings potential scandal to the Hammond’s door and leads ultimately to disaster.

Winifred Holtby’s story of Muriel Hammond in Yorkshire at the beginning of the twentieth century – is not dealt with in the conventional way. Like Connie – although in a different way – Muriel is allowed to be master of her own destiny. Her fate is different to that of her aunt and sister, but not what her mother has spent years dreaming of. Writing in the 1920’s Winfred Holtby believed that women should have their own work, be allowed to strike out and create lives for themselves.
Winifred Holtby’s great friend Vera Brittain’s work Testament of Youth is said to have been great inspiration for The Crowded Street. I’ve not read Testament of Youth – one day I must. I love Winifred Holtby – and although I had read this one once before – a long time ago – I remembered little of it, except for poor Muriel’s first party. This is a wonderful novel and I found Muriel an engaging and sympathetic character.