Monday, November 16, 2009

This Week in Art and Gardens

This week was an interesting one in both art and gardens- really, art and kitchen/gardens but that is even more of a mouthful.
5 years ago I was part of a group that built a clay bread oven at the Catskill Native Nursery. It took 12 of us stalwart souls- or 24 soles as you will see- to build the oven over an exhausting 2 days of work. The expert who ran the workshop built the base out of stone and gravel but it was up to us to construct the beehive oven out of native clay, straw, plus blood, sweat and tears with a large side-order of advil. The clay was very, very stiff, not like the clay you might use for throwing pots or making sculpture, so mixing in the straw binder was quite difficult. We ended up putting a mound of clay and straw on a tarpaulin and attacking it with our bare feet. We pounded and stomped until the mound was reduced to a pancake. We then rolled the pancake back into the center by lifting and pulling the tarp. It usually took us 5 rounds of this to get the consistency we needed. Then we took fist-sized gobs of the mixture and working in rows, slowly built up the dome of the oven. That was the first layer. the next day we got to do it all over again to build the walls to the correct thickness (8") At the end of the weekend, I would have gladly agreed to have my shins removed, I hobbled around for about a week before the muscles recovered.
Why describe this process? Well, Diane- one of my bosses at CNN- has tried to do a pizza-making session every year since then but it has inevitably rained out. (the oven still does not have a roof over it so it can only be used in fair weather) She has cooked in the oven several times for herself and her partner, Francis, but not yet with a group of people. This past Sunday was our day. I helped tend the fire to heat the oven up. This can take 3 hours to do properly. Unfortunately, we jumped the gun a bit in our enthusiam and the oven was not quite as hot as it should have been so the pizzas did not bake in the proper 1 minute's exposure to the 700 degree heat. But it was still good.
The dough I made was overworked and therefore just too darn springy- it just would not hold a proper pizza thinness. But even so, I enjoyed it immensely and hope we can try again next season. Then it was back to work putting the nursery to bed for the winter. A nice respite from the usually quiet work of cutting back, sorting and binning.

On the art side, I mentioned below that I had done a piece for the recent "Small Works" show at the WAAM but had neglected to photograph it before running out the door to submit it. Well, I won't get the chance now to take the picture. I got a call on Saturday from the gallery saying that a Dutch couple wanted to buy the piece and they were going to take it with them- Sunday was the last day for the show anyway, and they were heading back to The Netherlands. So I wish it:
"Vaarwel, weinig werken van kunst. Ga naar een goede thuis."
(Farewell, little art work. Go to a good home.)
I also picked up my piece "Prosthesis" and dropped off a small piece for the annual Holiday Show & Sale. The Holidays?... egad