Posts filed under ‘academic’

First Session Complete

I have been procrastinating about taking a ceramics course since we returned from Barcelona. Francesca introduced me to the craft (she’s really good) and I finally got around to enrolling in a class at the Gardiner Museum. I am sorry I didn’t enroll sooner because I absolutely love it. It seems to cover almost everything that keeps my attention. Things like research, problem solving, analysis, planning and above all a constant learning process. I read somewhere that to be interested in ceramics is to become a beginner forever. I like that.

Anyhow, the 10 week course is over and here are the results. I might add here that the course I am taking is hand building with Ian Symons as the instructor. The techniques used to create forms by constructing with your hands, no potters wheel. I didn’t even know they had two different methods so ……

I had no idea what to expect when I went to the first class. I didn’t even know what was expected. I did know that I eventually wanted to make masks but had no clue as to where to begin. Ian, the instructor, showed us a technique called pinching and showed us how to build many shapes using this technique. I had no idea what I was going to make as I built the basic form with this technique. Slowly, the shape began to lead me and I ended up with Mr Potato Head (as Alex named him). I wanted to toss it as it’s part of the road to discovery but Alex insisted I keep him.

I introduce you to Mr Potato Head ………..

I was a little more prepared for the second class and I knew I wanted to try and build my mask. I spoke to Ian about it on the first class and he gave me some ideas on where to get some info and how to approach the project. I managed to get a burlap bag from a friend who has a coffee shop in Kensington Market and spent the entire weekend unravelling the fibres. I had decided to use that burlap for the hair.

This was the result ……….

On the third and fourth classes I was experimenting with block prining on soft clay. I had carved out some Haida designs on linoleum and intended to press the carved images into the clay. It didn’t work so I created the slabs of clay and let them dry to what’s called “leather hardness”. The reason for this was the soft clay was too difficult to carve properly and Ian suggested letting it dry a bit before doing the carving. I experimented a bit with the glaze on these two pieces but I really didn’t learn much about glazing.

Here are the two slabs, the whale was the first one and the bear benefitted from the mistakes I made with the whale………..

The Whale ……….

and the Bear ……

For the next few classes I had decided to try and build a park bench with a figure sitting on them. That was the original idea. I did research on the benches, to photos of them and took them apart on the computer. I discovered two different models of bench and laid out the plans for both. In one the planks lay on top of the end pices and in the other, they go thought the end pieces. I had trouble with the second one but managed to save it. In class, I made the end pieces and the planks needed for the bench. I discovered that I couldn’t build them. The planks were way too soft and would sag as I tried to lay them across the end pieces. Once again, Ian told me to let them dry a bit so they would be able to stay straight. I had all the pieces cut out and started on the man but I couldn’t get the scale right as the benches were not built. I decided to make the man sit on a log and quickly built him up. I did this roughly as all this is still new and I figured these pieces are just part of the learning curve so I wouldn’t be keeping anything. I had looked for pices of wood that had a pronounced grain that I could use to stamp on the park benches and I found just the pieces when Alex and I went for out Sunday tour. I really wanted the benches to look used and beaten.

Here are the three pieces……

First the Log Man ………(his hat shrunk and didn’t fit his head properly)

Next Park Bench 1 ……

and Park Bench 2 …..

The final piece was one Alex asked for. She wanted me to make her a container to hold all her pens and stuff. I wanted to experiment with inlays so I tried to inlay a bit of white clay into the red clay and it came out pretty good. Played with the glaze a bit but it didn’t do what I expected or wanted.

Here is Alex’s container ………

Classes at the Gardiner are done but I’m taking other classes at a place called Clay Design. That will take me into May and then I’ll take the summer off. I intend on going back to the Gardiner with Ian in September. I plan to build a replica viking longboat entirely out of clay. It may be overly ambitious but Ian thinks we can do it. I’ll spend the summer outside and when it’s raining, I’ll research building techniques and draw up plans and templates on the computer.

I love ceramics ……………………………………

March 31, 2009 at 7:54 pm 2 comments

Where Have I Been

I have been neglecting my blog since our move. Partly because of adjusting to a new environment and partly because I was more involved in Flickr. I’m back because I have something to write about.

Alex and I went to Girona. Alex had some research to do there and since there was going to be a talk about “Convivencia of Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Middle Ages” on Thursday we decided this was the time to go. We had planned to do separate things when we were there. In other words, I was going to go exploring while Alex would be in the archives doing her research. Those plans changed when we got there and I was going to become ………


We checked into our 14th century hotel (see Alex’s blog) and headed off to the archives. My role was to take digital photos of the documents Alex needed. This was exciting. I was actually going to be touching books and documents from the 14th century. Notes written in 1386. I found this to be amazing.

This was just one of many books we handled. Here are some others.

Most of the books had very plain covers and Alex told me that they used older documents to bind the newer ones. Here’s one with a notarial document dating from 1314 and used to bind documents from 1391.

As we looked for the particular entries that Alex was interested in we came across little pieces of paper (from the same period) with writing on them. They were little reminder notes and, in some instances, drafts of the documents. I found that to be amazing, 700 year old reminder notes.

It wasn’t all work and no play. Although the light was way to flat for photos (the old town is very monochromatic and even in the best of light, it’s hard to get good photos) I managed to get some good ones of the stairways in the archive buildings.

and …..

While wandering around the city we found another Subirach dedicated to the Cathedral of Girona.

The interesting thing about his work are the little details you discover. They are found on his other works too. Do you recognize this one from a previous post ? For more on Subirachs go here.

Alex had found some great places to eat (as only Alex can) and you’ll have to visit her blog for more details. Suffice to say that they were great, especially Mimolet.

After eating lunch, we walked the walls of the old city. Parts of the wall are from Roman times and they are in very good condition. There are ruins covering many centuries and it’s quite a feeling to wander through and around them. At the end of the wall, we walked over to the other side of the river. Alex wanted to find where the talk would be held. After we found it, I went back to our hotel and she went to the talk. We met up after for dinner.

To see more photos of Girona, go here in my blog.

We left Girona on Friday and got home around 5:00. At 9:00 we went out to Francisca’s for a Chilean dinner. I’m really sorry I didn’t bring my camera because Laura and Carmen danced some traditional Spanish dances. Laura also gave a demonstration of castanets. Really cool stuff and we had a great evening.

We left there around 1:30 and beleive me, I was tired. All in all, a great few days.

March 17, 2007 at 12:06 pm 2 comments

Josep María Subirachs

I’ve never been accused of rapidly clicking into something. Alex knew this trait of mine for a long time and always waits for my “eureka” to come. In truth, she’s already suggested it months ago. Anyhow, this post is about Josep María Subirachs, a catalan artist born in Barcelona 11 March 1927. To read more about his interesting life and see other works go here.

About a month ago, Alex and I went to Mercé, a fiesta here in Barcelona. We were down in Placa de Sant Jaume in Bari Gotic and found that the public were permitted to tour the Generalitat, a governement building facing the square. It’s actually Palau de Generalitat and was built in 1596 so we were really interested in touring. Once inside, I came across this wall with an impression embedded in the wall.

Jump ahead a few months to Nov 25. That’s the day we went hiking in Montserrat. When we were walking from the cathedral to the cafeteria, Sebastian pointed out another sculpture. It had the same style as the photo above.

Here’s a close up of the face. It’s as if someone imprinted their face in the rock. To view it is really amazing, it changes with the light.

As if this discovery wasn’t fateful enough, Alex and I were walking home last night and passed Banc Sabadell building on the Passeig de Gràcia. This is what we saw ……….

Actually, these last pieces were what sparked my interest. Here’s some detail of this piece which is part of dual works. The face will turn as your viewing perspective changes.

The labirynth on top of the pedestal. I have no idea as to the meaning of the items in the relief.

And here’s the right side of the piece.

and a detail of this piece ………

Much to my surprise, I found out that this other piece, which is right around the corner from our apartment, was also created by him.

It’s amonument to Narcís Monturiol. who is the real inventor of the submarine. It was created in 1963 of concrete and copper and is approx 420 cm. high.

I think this is pointing the way to a project. The artist has many pieces here in Barcelona and around Spain. I should try to find as many as I can before I go back to Canada,

November 30, 2006 at 5:28 pm 3 comments

Vallfogona and Roca Guinart

It’s amazing the way we thread our way through various interests. Where one thing leads to another and another and another……… until we find ourselves in a place that has no common links to where we started from. In this sense, this post is probably an intermediate step.

Yesterday I posted some Catalan poetry I had picked from a booklet given to us on September 11 to celebrate a Catalan holiday. I understood the context of one of the poems but didn’t know the first one. Antoni, a phtographer from Sant Pol de Mar explained that the poem was about a famous Catalan bandit, Roca Guinart. Of course I had to look into this. It’s difficult to research because I do not speak Catalan and almost all of the references were in Catalan, after all he is part of Catalan folklore.

Well, I found reference to the author, Francesc Vicent Garcia (Rector of Vallfogona) and the town Vallfogona.

Vallfogona de Riucorb is a pueblo of 130 people. It’s roots go back before 1038 with the Queralt and Cervallo families (they have a history all to themselves) and it was known as Vallis Alfedi or Vall d’Aleu until the 12th century.

In 1193 the Knights Templar established a Templar castle there and, after the order was dissolved in 1312 it was taken over by the Hospitalers. In 1416 the castle was restored and in 1811 became the house of Vallfogona de Comalats. The town was surrounded by a fortress with towers and had a hospital that cared for pilgrims and the sick. There are still ruins from the chapel of Sant Pere dels Bigats dating back to the 13th century.

As I mentioned, one of the towns citizens was Francesc Garcia Torres ( Tortosa 1582-Vallfogona 1623,) and also known as Rector of Vallfogona. He studied in Lleida and Vic and, in 1607, he came to Vallfogona where he befriended Rocaguinarda and wrote the poem. In 1951, the town erected a monument in his memory.

The famous “bandoler” Perot Rocaguinarda (Roca Guinart) was born in December 18th 1582 in Oristà, Catalunya. He is also refered to as the gentleman bandit Roque Guinart in Don Quixote. The Castilian writer Miguel de Cervantes imagined the Catalans as being fearsome natives. He writes: “More than forty highwaymen suddenly surrounded them and told them in Catalan to stop and do not move until the captain had arrived.” The captain was Perot Rocaguinarda, and Don Quijote and his attendant spent three days and three nights with that Catalan highwayman, hiding themselves together through the woods around Barcelona. Just as a point of interest he was one of a a very few highwaymen who escaped the gallows. His house of birth can still be seen (at least the ruins) inOristà.

September 14, 2006 at 12:19 pm 2 comments

Some Catalan Poetry

I had mentioned in my last post that we were given a book on Catalan poetry. I was browsing through the book and realized that the poems were written over many centuries and by people from all levels of Catalan society. One poem written in the 16th century seems to be about a man named Roca and was written by Francesc Vicent Garcia who was the rector of Vallfogona. It was a random selection as I can only understand a little.


Quan baixes de muntanya, valent Roca,
com si una roca de Montseny baixara,
mostres al mon la fortalesa rara,
que per a tu sa furia tota es poca.
Ninguna de tes bales lo cap toca
de qui no et veja, si no fuig la cara,
que ton valor insigne no s’empara
tras falsa mata ni traidora soca.
Tot aquest Principat fas que badalle,
Que et persegueix de sou i persegueixes
Ab mortal i funebre parasisme.
Qui tinga el tal judici mire I calle,
O diga’t senyoria, que ho mereixes
Per lo millor pillard del cristianisme.

This next poem written Anonim (anonymously) is about the war of 1812 against France. It stood out because of our visit to Montserrat and the destruction caused by Napoleon’s armies there (not to mention the theft of history).

De la Guerra Del Frances
Es una meravella
De veure els sometents;
Com mes els aturmenten,
Sempre son mes valents.
Francesos valerosos,
direu a vostre rei
que dintre Catalunya
mai hi fara la llei.
La primera vegada
que al Bruc vareu anar,
molt contents i alegres
hi vareu arribar.
Amb els canons de fusta
els llevarem la pell.
Es van posar a correr
fins a Molins de Rei.
A la guerra, a la guerra,
contra Napoleon,
per defensar Fernando,
la Patria y Religion.

Hope you enjoy and if any reader would care to comment on the content of the first poem, it would be very much appreciated.

September 13, 2006 at 8:57 am 1 comment

Montserrat, Some Background

Just a note before you read this post. Much of the material was copied from many different sites and slightly modified to flow. I do not claim authorship to any of it. The Benedictines have a very informative website here. Enjoy………..

Montserrat has an interesting beginning that reaches back to Paleolithic times. The most important prehistory vestiges in Montserrat have been found in the “Cova Gran” and the “Cova Freda.” Pottery dating back to early Neolithic times was found for the first time in Catalonia in these caves. This pottery was often decorated with patterns made with shells. This Montserrat pottery is known as “Cardial” Pottery.

Somewhere around 880 AD, some shepherd children had a vision of the Virgin Mary. The visions occurred over the next few weeks in the same location, near a cave on Montserrat Mountain. The village priest and others witnessed them. When the religious elders of the community explored this cave they found an image of the Virgin Mary.

According to legend, the image was carved by St. Luke and brought to Spain by St. Peter. During the Moorish occupation, the image was hidden in a cave near Montserrat and was rediscovered by the elders. From that moment on the cave became a holy sanctuary for the Virgin of Montserrat and one of the most popular religious sites in Spain.

Religious activity increased significantly and by the end of the 9th century, four chapels had been built in the mountain: St. Mary’s, St. Acisclo’s, St. Peter’s and St. Martin’s. Nowadays, only St. Acisclo’s remains and it is situated in the garden of the Monastery. Legend has it that the mountain, also called Monsalvat, was also thought to have been the site of the castle of the Holy Grail.

In 1125, Oliba, Abbot of Ripoll and Bishop of Vic, founded the Montserrat Monastery next to St. Mary’s chapel, which was to soon become a Romanic style sanctuary. The Benedictine monastery has become one of the greatest religious shrines of Spain. Through songs, Alfonso X, popularized the appearances of the Virgin and numerous pilgrims begin to arrive. The followers of the Virgin of Montserrat, popularly known as “La Moreneta” because of the dark material of which she is sculpted, is the most popular following in Catalunya. Towards the end of the century a new image of the Holy Mother of God was sculpted: it is one of the jewels of Catalan Romanic and is visited by thousands. In addition, Bernat Boïl, a former Montserrat hermit, went with Christopher Columbus to America marking the start of the cult of the Virgin of Montserrat in America.

The abbey has also become world famous for its boy’s choir and school of music and hails back to 1223 making the school the oldest in Europe.

In 1522, Saint Ignatius of Loyola offered his knight’s sword to the image of the Virgin of Montserrat, gave up his militaristic life and dressed in sackcloth like any other pilgrim.

The present church of Montserrat was consecrated in 1592 by the Bishop of Vic, Pedro Jaime, on the 2nd of February, in the presence of the Bishops of Urgell, Girona and Elna.

Napoleon’s army destroyed Montserrat in 1811. The monks hid the image of the Virgin, saving it from being destroyed.

Montserrat is also a very powerful symbol for the Catalan people and was notorious during the Franco regime for being a stronghold of Catalan culture and language. In direct defiance of Franco’s anti-Catalan laws, the monks of Montserrat continued celebrating marriages and baptisms in Catalan after the Civil War. The monastery became a refuge for the many Catalan nationalists that remained underground until Franco’s death in 1975.

The abbey can be reached by road, by cable car, or by the Montserrat Rack Railway from Monistrol in the valley below, which in turn can be reached by Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya train from Barcelona’s Plaça d’Espanya station. From the abbey a funicular railway goes up to the top of the mountain, where there are various abandoned hovels in the cliff faces that were previously the abodes of reclusive monks.

September 10, 2006 at 3:17 pm Leave a comment

Ramblings and Confusion

Alex and I had dinner out on our balcony and had an interesting talk. It was about discussions and the way people would interject statements that cut the discussion dead. It all started when we were talking about children. Alex had put on her blog 10 things she wanted to accomplish before she died. One of the items (since changed) was adopting a child. I asked her if she would prefer to adopt rather than have her own. I won’t repeat her answer but the conversation threaded its way to the way some people perceive childless couples. One response to such couples is that they are selfish. This response seems to terminate any further talk about the subject and places the childless couple in a negative situation. It reminded me of another discussion a few years ago where I had simply mentioned that I thought parents were too overprotective today. One woman who was present simply mentioned that she prefered her children alive than dead. This woman redefined the concept of being overprotective but that single statement brought the discussion to an end. Maybe I lack the wit or spontaneity to respond. This summer, in Spanish class, we were discussing President Bush. There is valid criticism in his policies and the way American liberties are being eroded but the response from an american terminated that discussion. All he said was that we were anti-american and that ended it. Why do these statements end further discussion?

How does one counter these statements ? I sure wish I could be quick enough to come back with an answer that would make the person think beyond her/his own perception of things. I’m sure Ester could bounce back an answer. (See Ester’s blog for some interesting comments)
Anyhow, I’m out on our balcony in Barcelona, sipping Licor de Hierbas. I love this liquor and have it after dinner almost every night. I sure hope we can get it in Canada.

Have a great week everyone and please leave some comments and advice on this one.

September 7, 2006 at 7:08 pm 5 comments

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