Romance and Reality

I know that pollution from the coal fires of the Potteries in the Six Towns of nineteenth and early twentieth century England sickened workers and residents, blackened the sky, and left an ugly residue on windowsills. I understand that children – 4,500 under the age of 13 in 1861 – worked long hours exposed to clay dust and lead. I realize that this bustling hive of Industrial Revolution factories replaced rural country potters and their wares.

Yet I can’t help but get dreamy when I see images of the Potteries in their heyday. Oh, the teams of women in their long dresses pouring slip into molds for teapots and plates, the children putting handles on cups, the men stoking the coal fires and throwing at belt-driven wheels. The cobble streets and brick warehouses and deep marl holes! The energy and enterprise! I especially love photos of the “forests” of bottle kilns towering over the potbanks and residences. Yes, I like the “ovens” best.

David Sekers gives us a good overview in The Potteries. He includes numerous old photos and etchings of the work processes, interiors and exteriors of the buildings, and of the wares themselves plus maps and diagrams. He clearly loves the bottle kilns too, but does not romanticize. “A partly seasonal, rural craft based skill such as pottery making became a notoriously unhealthy occupation only as industrialization progressed.” Tasks were now divided and mechanized. Productivity was measured. Fortunes were made and lost by the factory owners.

I don’t particularly like the work that was produced. To me it seems cold and overly decorated. I like the strongly thrown country pottery it replaced. But it intrigues me that so many people dedicated their lives to pot making at Spode, Wedgewood, Staffordshire and all the other factories of the Potteries. The innovations that were developed in them are an important piece of ceramic history some of which are still used today. It is also interesting that so many women (and children) did this work, as women had not been potting in Europe for centuries.

So, thank you David Sekers for transporting me back in time for a little while to the Potteries of the Six Towns. And  a special thanks for all the pictures of bottle kilns.

Pots for the Taxman

Imagine having to send pots to the government as tribute. And imagine that these pots are used in festivals, banquets, and ceremonies hosted by the royal court and government offices. But there is a problem. The good people of your land steal the pots! So you are required to inscribe the name and seat of the office that takes your wares in tribute on each pot that you send. Vases, bowls, jars – everything! It would be like putting your governor’s name and city on each of your pieces. Horrors!

This was exactly the case with Korean Buncheong ceramics. Often 80% would go missing after a banquet until officials came up with the idea of having potters label the pieces. Today, looking at the lovely Korean Buncheong ceramics, you would not immediately guess that the writing – stamped, engraved, brushed with iron oxide – was anything other than decorative. It is a fun bit of history to think about as we try to get our tributes (taxes) to the IRS before the looming deadline Monday. Actually, I would not mind sending the governor a few bowls with his name written in iron oxide around the rim, if I didn’t have to send money.

Soyoung Lee, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Jeon Seun-chang, Chief Curator, Leeum, Samsun Museum of Art in Seoul share this story and more in Korean Buncheong Ceramics. They discuss Buncheong wares, which were made during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Korea, both aesthetically and historically.

The wares were thrown on the wheel and fired in efficient mud kilns to stoneware temperatures. Often slipped by dipping or by brushing and covered with sgrafitto peonies, leaves or vines, the pots are, as Lee and Seun-chang point out, startlingly modernist in appearance. “ One sees and feels the potter’s touch,” they write, “…[the pots are] defined by [the] extensive use of white slip…Buncheong design is characterized by its unconstrained, experimental spirit and minimalist look… these ceramics are fascinating because they defy simple dichotomies such as utilitarian object vs. creative art; low-tech and individualist handicraft vs. highly finished commercial product; rustic and naïve decoration vs. what a twenty-first century viewer might consider contemporary, even avant-garde…”

Wealthy Japanese of the Edo period fell in love with Korean pottery including and perhaps especially, Buncheong pottery. They imported Korean wares for use in the tea ceremony. Indeed, they were so enamored of Korean works that the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi captured Korean potters during the infamous “pottery war” and brought them to Japan to work. In time, Japanese potters were making their own Buncheong inspired works.

This is the kind of book that will bring you a feeling of calmness as you sit and slowly turn the pages and look at the photos. After you have done this two or three times and let the images seep into you, you will be ready to focus and read the erudite text.

Moon Balls and Secret Poems

In the sixties, while trimming the top of one of her closed forms, Toshiko Takaezu accidentally dropped a piece of clay into the interior. She could not retrieve it. After the pot was fired, she discovered that this errant bit of clay added the dimension of sound to her vessel. She liked this and was inspired to wrap small wads of clay in paper and purposely enclose them within the inner space of her works, thus making sound an important part of each piece.

She is also rumored to have left poems inside her enclosed forms, poems that cannot be read until the pot is broken. It almost doesn’t matter if she actually did this or not, the notion of it, the mystery, intrigues. I can’t imagine purposely breaking one of her pieces for a poem, but I can imagine, if you own one of these works, always having in the back of your mind that one day you might. The pot is thus imbued with possibility, yet another dimension. And should a disastrous accident happen turning a treasured piece into shards, there, at least, is a poem-gift as compensation for the loss.

The Art of Toshiko Takaezu: In the Language of Silence edited by Peter Held, Curator of Ceramics at the Arizona State University Art Museum’s Ceramics Research Center is a celebration of Takaezu’s work. Takaezu is widely known for her big forms, especially her moon balls, large, organic orbs, often shown in clusters in a field of grass. There is something both child-like and profoundly confident about these orbs. Upon seeing them, anyone who has made two small pinch pots and put them together (and who has not, even amongst people who do not work in clay?) will immediately imagine herself making giant ones. But of course, it is not quite that simple.

The Art of Toshiko Takaezu offers thoughtful essays, wonderful photos, many of them full page, a chronology, and a tribute. We discover the outlines of her life: growing up in Hawaii, moving to the mainland and studying with Maija Grotell, leading to her exhibitions and teaching years at Princeton. We learn that she also wove; worked with bronze: and created evocative paintings on canvas. And we are repeatedly told how quiet she was, how private. Perhaps it is for this reason that there are few photos of her in the studio, and almost no information about her working methods, her glaze making, or her kilns. “Usually with glazing, I like to be alone,” she says, “Glazing is a personal thing.”

The book comes from the University of North Caroline Press, which also gave us the lovely A Chosen Path: The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes last September. Takaezu died March 8th of this year.

The Truth About Punch Bowls

If you are a certain age, you remember when punch bowls, with their attendant ladles and cups, thrown on the wheel, were a popular potter’s project, a de rigueur test of skill. The ladle had to pour. The cups had to match. Each piece had to look and work well together. Thinking about it now though, I wonder how many households actually used the punch bowls we made. And really, is anything more absurd than a ceramic ladle? Rather like a glass slipper, don’t you think? But ladles are fun to make, pretty to look at, and customers do like them.

I learned to make punch in high school home economics. At the time, I thought it was a sophisticated concoction. I loved the way the sherbet in our ninth grade recipe floated on top and the colors gradually melted into one another and though it wasn’t said out loud by our teacher, we girls knew that real punch required alcohol. In the case of the sherbet punch, vodka. Punch, we understood, was an economical way to serve guests at baby and wedding showers (and stretch that unmentioned vodka).

Some years later, in the bookstore, we served guests at author events a punch made of half ginger ale and half apple juice. For a fancy event, we sliced oranges or strawberries to float on top. There was no question of vodka, because much of our customer base was underage and we did not have the necessary permits. It was surprising then, how many people at our events demurred after a second glass, saying they had to drive or were feeling a bit tipsy. It did not occur to them that the punch was not spiked.

Nevertheless, though associated with alcohol, punch was, and still is, considered a rather tame beverage. After all, the vodka or champagne or gin is diluted. That’s why it is a shower drink. But after reading David Wondrich’s Punch: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl, An Anecdotal History of the Original Monarch of Mixed Drinks with More Than Forty Historic Recipes, Fully Annotated and A Complete Course in the Lost Art of Compounding Punch I discovered that early punch was the beverage of sailors and prostitutes and other rowdy folks. It was very potent. And, or course, it required a bowl. A big pottery bowl.

Here’s a recipe that Wondrich translated from the German Bowls and Punches for the Use of the German Army in the Field and on Maneuvers:

In a large earthenware pot heat ten liters light, red country wine and five liters Arrack, stirring constantly. While it is simmering, stir in a pound of sugar and four Seville oranges or regular oranges, and also two or three lemons, in slices. Having taken special care to ensure that the slices are free of seeds, simmer them in the mixture for five minutes and then pour it into a bowl flaming. A further dilution through the addition of more light, red country-wine will not obstruct its effectiveness.

Wow! That’s a lot of wine. And notice that the whole thing is set on fire before serving!

Woodrich believes that punch was the first mixed drink and that English colonists or seaman in a warm place such as India created it and spread it around the Empire and beyond. Early punch contained wine and distilled spirits such as Aqua vitae or Arrack. Distilled spirits do not go bad and often get better with age whereas beer and wine rations inevitably spoiled on long voyages. Early punches also included citrus fruit, which acted as a hedge against scurvy, the sailors’ curse.

The book includes a wealth of old recipes and history. Wondrich writes about Philadelphia Fish-House Punch (with rum, brandy and Madeira), a classic Champagne Punch from 18th century Paris and Daniel Webster’s secret recipe, given out only when he was close to death.

No, I will be making any of the recipes in Punch to serve my guests. We will sip our wine straight thank you, without floating lemons or Aqua vitae. However, the enormous earthenware bowls that were used intrigue me. And I have to admit, the flaming part sounds fun. I wonder if  Wondrich wants to commission something?

A Dragon on the Roof

After watching the video last week on unfired mud houses, my thoughts turned to fired architectural features. We all know that fired clay is everywhere in the house; toilets, floors, fireplaces and brick walls, but I was thinking particularly about roofs, or, as Hans van Lemmen calls it in his fun little book from Shire, Ceramic Roofware.

Tile roofs have been used throughout the world for millennia. Lemmen focuses his attention on Britain (Shire publishes hundreds of small, inexpensive books on British history, many of which are of interest to potters). The Romans brought tile roofs to Britain (the word tile is from the Latin tegula). Sadly, like most of the innovations the Romans introduced to the inhabitants of the British Isles, all was forgotten once the Empire broke apart and the Romans left. During the Dark Ages, roofs were made of thatch and wooden shingles.

But thatch and wooden shingles are dangerously flammable. A whole row of houses could quickly go up in flames with just one stray spark from a cooking fire. Gradually, tiles came back into use, first for prestigious buildings and then in urban areas for safety’s sake.

There are good directions for making your own medieval style English roof tiles in The Potter’s Alternative by Harry Davis. Early English tiles were flat and rectangular with a nail hole at the top for attaching. Some were made with a heel at the top so that they could be hung rather than nailed (or often both). Like all roofing materials, they overlapped to prevent rain from coming in. These early tiles were hand made by local potters and were fire resistant and waterproof and, unlike thatch, they did not attract mice and other critters. We could, if we wanted, or needed to, make them today ourselves in our studios and they would serve our homes well. Davis gives detailed instruction for not only flat English tiles but for the more often seen pantiles. “It is an ignominious experience indeed,” he writes, “ to be in the position of wanting to make pots in some remote place, wanting also to show the local inhabitants how to do so with the materials they have around them, and yet not knowing how to put a roof on some shed in which to do this. To succumb to using corrugated iron, or some other manufactured roof material made 10,000 miles away, is humiliating as well.”

Ok, when I grow up I want to be Harry Davis, or at least have his skill, or maybe Michael Cardew, not for his fame, but for his extraordinary self-sufficient abilities in addition to his art. If a potter put only two books on the shelf, Pioneer Pottery and A Potter’s Alternative are the two that I would suggest. Even if your studio is in suburbia or a city and you use an electric kiln, it is worth knowing this stuff.

Pantiles, the curved roof tiles, were brought to the UK from the Low Countries. As demand increased and the industrial revolution got underway, tile making was mechanized and roof tiles became prevalent and affordable.

Van Lemmen is interested in much more than roof tiles however. He goes on to discuss chimneys, chimney pots and decorations with enthusiasm. Chimney pots came into fashion during the Georgian era when coal burning replaced wood, necessitating the stronger chimney draft that the pots created. Like tiles, chimney pots were initially handmade; thrown on the wheel. They were traditionally two feet tall, or the length of a potter’s arm. By the middle of the twentieth century, electricity and gas had replaced coal, and chimney pots were no longer needed. Many were destroyed but because they were often so decorative, they were salvaged as garden ornaments and today there is a robust international business in antique chimney pots and reproductions.

It’s the ridge finials in Ceramic Roofware that really make me smile. Here we see the potters’ imaginations gone wild, surely inspired by distant Chinese roof decorations and closer to home,  magnificent cathedral gargoyles. They made winged dragons, kingly lions, enormous birds and purely ornamental shapes as ridge finials. Imposing. Playful. I think if I could sculpt (and alas I cannot). I might make a frog finial for our roof, perhaps sitting cross-legged reading a book.  I know, it would look a bit out of place in rural Connecticut, but as more and more of us put solar panels on our roofs, roof dragons might be just the thing. I notice there’s a roof dragon website in Britain.

The Joy of Mud Houses

With a good roof and a good foundation, a mud house can last for many centuries. But if it is no longer needed, it can be allowed to “return to the earth,” leaving little or no trace. Because clay is ubiquitous, mud houses are made with local materials, usually from the actual site itself, and often, though not always, by the inhabitants. Half the world’s population lives or works in mud buildings.

First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture, a DVD by David Sheen celebrates and extols the virtues of mud building. Sheen looks particularly at the astonishing ten-story skyscrapers in Yemen, the lovely antique cob houses of the UK, and the cob movement in the northwestern US. This is not a how-to video; it is an attempt to convince the fifty percent of the population that does not live or work in mud buildings to do so.

I live in a small wooden cape but do not need any convincing regarding the beauty or desirability of building with clay. I dream of one day making a little cob structure myself, mixing some of the red clay from the hill we live on with some of my trimming scraps, some manure from my daughter-in-law’s horses, and of course some nice clean chopped straw. It’s building a good stone foundation that gives me pause and that is probably beyond my skills. However, watching Sheen’s DVD and seeing all the inviting dwellings made me start planning again.

I wish he hadn’t opened the video with the sculpted mud houses in the US because they give an “old hippie” feel to the project. Not that I haven’t been accused of being an old hippie myself, and not that these houses aren’t aesthetically pleasing, but in truth, building with the earth is a very conservative, widespread and ancient method of construction, and that’s what skeptics and building inspectors need to understand first in order to be convinced. There is nothing la la about it.

Sheen is emphatic about the environmental benefits. Mud buildings are easier to warm in winter than other buildings, and they are cooler in summer. The materials do not require fossil fuels to transport or process. They are light on the earth.

He also points out that living in a mud house has nothing to do with one’s socioeconomic status. Yes, there are many impoverished people who live in simple one or two room affairs, but there are also high-end mud mansions. The segment on the UK features some lovely old cob houses and barns and the strictly governed restoration work that is being done to preserve them for another few centuries. There are, Sheen points out, over 40,000 cob houses in Devon alone. He shows us cozy rooms with red or blue walls, built in bookcases, pretty lamps and overstuffed sofas.

Because mud walls are thick and easily sculpted they lend themselves to the creation of niches, window seats, and built-ins. This is true in the mud houses of India and Pakistan (oddly not mentioned in the DVD), the thatched cottages in England, and the adobes of the American Southwest. Windowsills and doorjambs are invitingly wide. These houses are quiet.

First Earth includes the video plus interviews, slide shows, and printable high-res photographs. A nice package. In addition to this DVD, there are some excellent books on the topic, both instructional and appreciative, which I will reread and likely discuss in a future post before mixing up any batches of cob myself. Meanwhile, if you would like a bibliography, drop me an email.

A Fresh Look at Chinese Ceramic History

Two years ago scientists examined fragments of coarse gray pinch pots found by archaeologists in Yuchanyan, China and discovered that they dated back to at least 12000 BCE; the Paleolithic Era. This startling finding made headlines around the world. Along with the pots, there were rice hulls at the site. So we now know that pots were made and used for food and that some form agriculture was practiced at an earlier date than was previously believed. Potters in China, blessed with good clays, have continued to make ceramics up to the present.

Fourteen thousand years of pottery making! Without interruption!

There have been enough books and papers written on Chinese ceramics in English, French, Chinese, German and other languages, that the plethora of volumes could fill the shelves of a good-sized library. Do we really need one more? Have we not all read about the enormous dragon kilns? About porcelains and luminous celadons? You know, I am a history nut and can always read a bit more on the topic, but after picking up Chinese Ceramics: From the Paleolithic Period to the Qing Dynasty, I say, emphatically, yes, anyone interested in ceramics needs this addition to the reading table.

Chinese Ceramics is a joint project of the China International Publishing Group and Yale University Press and brings together the top scholars from both countries.

This is a very big book. It is meant to be read sitting up in a chair, maybe with some paper for notes, or ribbons to mark pages, but please, clean hands and no clay on your jeans. There are lots of drawings and photos with a deliberate attempt to include lesser-known works along with images of the most famous pieces we are all at least vicariously familiar with. So, yes, there are three-color Tang Dynasty horses and (my favorite) camels, but also works you have likely not seen. I had to chuckle at the “earliest known example of advertising on ceramics,” a lovely white porcelain vase (also from the Tang Dynasty) with a “foliate mouth” and the inscription, “Vases made by Ding Daogang are superb.” Well, if this vase is a representative example, I agree, vases by Ding Daogang are indeed superb. Inspired (which is what this book does to you, it inspires), I might try a foliate mouth myself but doubt mine will come out quite so nice and plump.

The editors, Li Zhiyan, Virginia A. Bowers, and He Li, have organized the book chronologically, ending with the early twentieth century. The various contributors focus on six themes; “continuity, national or ethnic character, geography, periodization, synthesis and dissemination.” There is also a look at authenticity (oh the forgeries, some of them antiquities themselves). They incorporate the latest research and findings; cargo from the Belitung and the Sinan shipwrecks; the discovery of the Ming Imperial Kiln; and hitherto little known collections. They seek to understand the ceramic industry and the culture in which it thrived, especially how the wares were made and how they were used. Chinese pottery was shipped vast distances and influenced ceramics wherever it was sold. And Chinese potters absorbed ideas from elsewhere and made them their own. At almost seven hundred pages, there is a lot here.

The contributors have spent ten years on Chinese Ceramics. We readers and potters are the beneficiaries. So I thank them. This is one book I expect to turn to again and again over the years.

And now, I will try that foliated mouth.

Biographies in American Ceramic Art

It’s the art, we are told, not the artist that matters. We should turn our attention to the genius of Ezra Pound’s poems, not his politics. It is not important that Shoji Hamada made the unsigned bottle with the exquisite green brush stroke that we admire; it is the bottle itself we should be contemplating.

Yes, yes this is all true, but really, aren’t most of us a bit nosey?  We want to know about the artist too.  We care a lot that Hamada made a particular piece and we are fascinated with the details of his life.

Certainly I am nosey. I like the studio visits in Ceramics Monthly. I like to read what potters have to say about their work and about their lives. It fascinates me that through history there have been groups of writers or artists or musicians who interact with and inspire one another, often so entangled that they fall in and out of love, argue, and collaborate. I am thinking of Black Mountain College, Bloomsbury, or Greenwich Village. It is not that the work is inseparable from the lives, but the lives do inform the work.

Still, when I first opened Biographies in American Ceramic Art 1870-1970 by Ken Foster, I was startled to find no images except on the cover. Here, it is the outlines of a life in ceramics that is emphasized, not the work itself.

The book is organized alphabetically, with brief entries that include such details as birth and death, education, prizes and employment. Thus we read that Laura Ann Fry, the “daughter of renowned woodcarver/teacher Henry B. Fry [was] proficient in drawing, design/decoration, modeling, and woodcarving, also a teacher,” followed by a list of places she studied, worked or taught. She was at the Cincinnati School of Design. She was at Rookwood. She invented and patented an atomizer for applying glaze. We can see that she began her studies in art at the age of 16 and died at the age of 86. Foster sums up Fry’s long and very rich life in ceramics with a few sentences.

Of course, many of the artists listed are well known, but there also many that I at least, had never heard of and that makes the book very interesting. I was not familiar with Isaac Scott Hathaway who designed coins in addition to his work in ceramics. He was “recruited (by Booker T. Washington, on recommendation of George Washington Carver) to join the faculty of Tuskegee Institute … and establish a ceramics department.” Now I want to know more about him and see his work.

There are gaps. M.C. Richards is not included. How can that be? The entry for George Ohr is astonishingly brief, and because the entries are listings of events such as expositions, there is no indication of the wild nature of his work or glaze experiments.

Nevertheless, the book is fun to browse. I found myself running to my bookshelves and the Internet to learn more about individuals and, if possible, to see their work. Foster wrote Biographies for collectors, but it is a good resource for potters interested in the past or who want to discover lesser-known predecessors. An illustrated version would have been better, but this is worth a read.

Vases and Winter Flowers

We’ve finally had the January thaw, albeit one month late, with daytime temperatures zooming unexpectedly up to the fifties. Friday night they plunged again to single digits, arriving with wind gusts to seventy miles an hour and multiple bolts of lightning ripping the night sky. A lot of the snow melted during the thaw, but there are still several feet covering the ground. We may have had illusions that spring was here, but today there is no mistaking that we are deep in winter.

My chilled mind dreams of flowers. The only plants blooming in the solarium are the parlor maple (Abutilon), its papery blossoms a cheerful orange/red, and the three crowns of thorns  (Euphorbia milii) that are showing off their tiny pink and pale yellow blooms. I enjoy these flowers but hunger for more, especially with snow expected tonight and tomorrow. So, indulgently, I buy myself a bouquet of white tulips, snitch a vase from the studio (it’s supposed to be for sale), and set the simple arrangement on the kitchen table. Happiness.

Potters have been making vases for thousands of years. From the Latin vas for container or vessel, it is traditionally taller than it is wide, often adhering to the Golden Mean. Filled with flowers, whether casually or carefully arranged, or holding a single stem, vases of flowers enhance dining tables, hotel lobbies, guest rooms, religious ceremonies and celebrations everywhere. Over the years, the form has come to be used solo as a decoration, sometimes status symbol, and often holds pride of place in an interior. As much and perhaps more than the teapot, vase making is a right of passage for potters.

Julia Galloway who juried 500 Vases: Contemporary Explorations of a Timeless Form writes in her introduction, “A vase is typically thought of as an object that enhances something – a tulip or a dinner setting. Yet the best vases transcend service and stand on their own as art. Creating a vase that can speak for itself take hard work and definite vision, and that’s part of what makes the form challenging and exciting.”

Like all the books in Lark’s 500 series, 500 Vases is a pleasure. Galloway has chosen a wide range of interpretations of the form: Christine Schiff’s “Ancient Vessels Grouping,” stamped with feldspar chunks; Hayne Bayless’ extruded flower bricks, perfect for massing single stems of daffodils or tulips; Simon Levin’s anagama fired vessels, generously thrown (I have one of his pitchers, perhaps it’s time to acquire a vase?); and Heidi Fahrenbacher’s humorous Flower Bed. The vases are plain and fancy, carved, stamped, glazed, unglazed, and created using all the methods available to potters.

I do not know if people who are not makers look at volumes like this. I think even if you are not a potter it would be a delightful wish book, a shopper’s delight. But for those of us who do make, it is a stimulating opportunity to see what others are doing, to be inspired, and to contemplate. And though there are not many words, not much to actually read, it is a book to spend considerable time with, studying the images, and returning to it periodically.

Storm Damage

I had never heard of ice dams until this winter when suddenly everyone started talking about them. Sure enough, we have ice dams ourselves, massive ones.

It’s been a tough season, with nearly 80 inches of snow falling in a short period of time. The weight of all this snow thickly blanketing our roofs turns out to be a big problem, leading to many building collapses. Over three hundred farm buildings have been crushed by roof snow here in Connecticut, including greenhouses and barns.  We’ve lost a bakery, factories, and some houses. So far our house, the kiln shed, and other outbuildings have not threatened to come down. Fingers crossed.

The kiln shed, which at first I was very concerned about is probably ok as long as I don’t fire. Right now, it is cold inside the shed and cold outside. I won’t fire until we get the snow off the roof.

The dams are another story. They form when all that roof snow starts to melt from underneath and then refreezes at the edges of the roof, forming what looks like a mound of glass. This damages the roof and water often ends up inside. The dam that formed across the front of the house was worrisome, but the dams across the back, especially on the upper roof, were downright frightening.

We started with a stain over the dining table that spread, amoeba like, across the ceiling. Then another stain. And another, in amazing shades of orange and black.  And then the drips. Water was coming in from the upper roof, through the walls and into the ceiling and then into the rooms.

I grabbed buckets and plastic from the studio. Luckily I have lots of both. My huge concern was (and still is) the books. To say I was freaking out would be an understatement. Much of my ceramic library is irreplaceable.  My horticultural collection was nearer the drips and in more danger. Many of these books are also irreplaceable. The bedroom, which is also lined with bookshelves, started leaking too. We used so much plastic, there was nothing left to wrap a pot in.

We hired a crew of roofers to clear a three foot swath from the dams, which is recommended. They would not touch the ice dams though. No one will. One idea is to put calcium chloride on the on them, but since our lower roof is metal, we cannot do that. Salt eats metal.

The temperatures are rising. The dams are melting a bit. We hold our breaths. What we want is a melt but not a fast melt. What we do NOT want is rain. For now, the leaks have stopped.

Meanwhile, the cats think it is all a frolic. Jake never met a bowl he didn’t want to curl up in. Despite the drips, he hopped into my glaze basin. Misty hovered near by. She doesn’t even like Jake, but she loves water. We’ve spent considerable time shooing them away, as of course it is not good for them.