Tag Archives Get out of the house!

Ceramics at CREA

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In the summer of 2018 I took a week long ceramics class at CREA. During that week, I got SO stoked that I decided to go for a 15 week course from February to July 2019. What I like about it so much? It’s tangible. First, there’s just clay. And then you mold it into an object. And with applied ceramics, there’s the added bonus that you can use the thing you’ve just made, like a plate, a bowl or a cup. What I also like, is that the material sometimes “forces” you in a completely different direction than you had in mind. Something about getting out of your comfort zone. But in a safe way.

In the top picture, the works made out of both red and fine clay have been baked, but not yet glased. The picture below shows them post glazing. Glazing is the most exciting part of the ceramics process, as there is no way to know what colour a glaze is from the colour of the powder or the mixture. The only thing you can do, is check the name and number of the glaze, and look at the swatches:

Putting a white emulsion on an object and only finding out after the firing if the colours turned out as expected, is kinda magical:

In the left picture above, you see the jar and the cup with glaze on them, right before they were put in the oven. On the right, the finished product. Fascinating, isn’t it? In the top row of the picture below, you see the same cups. In the picture on the right, the cups that ended up being blue look a bit more pink than the ones that were dipped in green glaze, but IRL there was hardly any difference at all:

When making an object, you have to take into consideration that your object will be baked (at least) twice: one time to harden the clay, and the second time during the glazing process. Your object will shrink a couple of percent each time it’s baked, so your big mugs and cute little tea light holder will end up becoming… slightly smaller mugs and a regular candle holder.

Not only is there coarse, fine, and red clay, there’s also black clay, as seen above. While “wet” (picture left) it looks kinda brown, but after baking it is very dark brown to black; a bit darker than in the picture on the right. The effect of the glaze in combination with the black clay was surprising, mostly because there was no swatch of this glaze on black clay available. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a bigger object out of black clay someday, I am very curious as to what it will look like.

Speaking about bigger objects, in the pictures above you see my pièce de résistance (yes, I googled the direction of the accents) of the summer course: a three-tiered stand. The final assignment was: “Make a three-tiered stand”, so I did. I created the “bowls” by moulding plates of clay around paper cups. I made the “stems” by folding a clay plate into a roll. Putting the whole thing together was… an aventure. I had 15 minutes before the end of class and 1 1/2 hours until the final presentation. Needless to say, I was panicking. Thankfully, my ceramics teacher is a very chill person, and we managed to put it together within 20 minutes (picture on the left). It was then baked (middle picture) and eventually glazed (picture on the right). I am still in awe that it did not explode in the oven.

Last but not least, my final project from the 15 week course: the pumpkin. On the left you see the model and the first clay version. In the middle picture, you see the 6th version of the pumpkin, freshly airbrushed. And finally, on the left: the final product. Whereas everybody else in the class managed to effortlessly replicate a piece of fruit or a vegetable within one class, I spent a whopping 4 (partial) classes to get anywhere. It was an extremely frustrating process, with me yelling that I was going to chuck “that onion” out the window at least three times. Eventually however, I (with help from the teacher of course) managed to turn my onion into a real pumpkin. Like I’ve written before: I, sadly, have no natural talent when it comes to the arts. What I do have is an enormous amount of perseverance. And quite a bit of experience using an air brush machine, because airbrushing it orange helped tremendously in taking it from onion to pumpkin. I never would have guessed that those airbrushing classes in make up school would ever come in handy in a completely different context, but they did!

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Note: Like all my posts in the “Get out of the house!” series, this activity was booked and paid for by me, after which I got stoked and decided to write about it all by myself. #nospon

Cane walking (part two – public transport)

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Travelling by public transport while using a cane is quite an ordeal here in The Netherlands. To get into a tram, bus or train I have to hoist myself into the carriage, as there’s usually steps. More often then not this hoisting is preceded by a jump, as the platform and the carriage do not line up. Arrived at my destination, I then have to find a way to get out of the vehicle. This “getting out of the carriage”-motion can only be described as “ejecting”: I have to throw myself out and hope that I manage to land safely on my “good” leg, at the risk of breaking said leg, my cane and/or landing face forward onto the pavement/bike path/road. Back in my competitive figure skating days, I could have never foreseen that those years of training would ever come in handy in a completely different setting, but they do.

Seeing that getting in and out of carriages is a nightmare, changing vehicles or modes of transportation is pure hell. After ejecting myself out of the bus/tram/train, I need to first fight my way through the people blocking the exit. For the non-Dutch: this is a Dutch thing. The people who want to get on the vehicle, all huddle together right in front of the exit, despite it being obvious that there’s people who need to get out first. I know, it makes no sense, but they almost all do it. I’ll make a short documentary about it one day. So yeah, after fighting my way through the huddle, I have to barge through a herd of people who are in a hurry to catch their connection. In the mean time, I have to hope/furiously check if the vehicle I need to change to hasn’t changed platforms. Having found my new tram/bus/train, I again have to hoist myself inside, and hope there’s a place where I can sit. On the train, the designated seats for the elderly/handicapped are wonderful, but on the bus they’re often really high up, forcing me to hoist and jump again. The person who designed these allocated seats has clearly never thought about the physical state of the people who need them.

Another reason why changing vehicles is hell, is that I often miss my connection. I am unable to eject myself from one train, then limp my way from platform 20 to platform 3 and then hoist myself into another train in 6 minutes. Which means that I have to leave home earlier and that my journey takes longer. A lot longer: where cane-less I usually get from a particular A to a particular B in 50 minutes, with my cane it takes me 1 1/2 hours. Times two, this amounts to 3 hours of travel instead of my usual 1 hour and 40 minutes. It’s exhausting. And this is when all goes well. I haven’t counted the times I had to cripple myself up and down stairs while crying in pain because of elevators that were “Out of order”, making me then miss yet another connection, making my journey even longer.

On the other hand, I must admit that most people were very friendly and helpful as soon as they saw that I was using a cane. In the entire period there was only 1 asshole who almost body checked me off the escalator with her bag. Everybody else was super nice: people gave up their seat, asked the bus driver to wait for me, carried my bag or held the door for me. Also, the cane proved a great conversation starter: I have never had so many interactions with strangers in public. Some people just said “Great cane!”, others cautiously inquired about “the leg”. One lady told me her sister had the exact same cane, and a gentleman of around my age told me the story of his paralysed arm.

Despite my aversion to the whole “Suffering is a learning experience!” way of thinking, I must admit that this experience has given me insights that I didn’t have before. Sure, I knew that walking around in this world is a lot harder when you have mobility issues and that there’s still a lot that can and should be done to make this easier, but I had severely underestimated the extend of it. The fact that I, with what in the grand scheme of things is a temporary, minor injury, have had SO MUCH TROUBLE getting from A to B, means that there is a truly HUGE group of people who are currently shut off from (travelling by themselves by) public transport, which is effectively shutting them off from a part of society. And that is, again, most definitely Not Ok.

Here are some links to Dutch organisations who are working hard to change this:

Cane walking (part one)

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In an attempt to accelerate the recovery of my achilles tendon injury, I underwent two Shockwave treatments; one in November and one in January. After each of those treatments, I was not allowed to walk for two days. For the 12 days after that, I was advised to “walk as little as possible, and as slowly as possible”. Knowing myself, I knew I had to find an external tool to keep myself from disregarding all pain and barge up and down the large Jan Schaefferbridge at the end of my street, to then do an aerobics video in my living room. File under: how I acquired this particular injury.

Inspired by a Hannah Witton video, I decided to buy a foldable walking stick that fit inside my purse. On a side note: there must be a difference between a cane and a walking stick, but I haven’t been able to figure it out and will therefore use both words when referring to the same thing. Anyway, this walking stick would both be supporting me and making sure I couldn’t walk faster than I should, but it would also signal to the outside world “I have difficulty walking, please don’t rush me”. Because The Netherlands in general and Amsterdam in particular is a stressed out mess.

Having lived here for the majority of my life, I am well aware of this fact, but I must say that every time I (due to illness or injury) am not able to keep up with the pace, it’s a shock. Amsterdam’s public space in particular is completely unsuited for anyone who has even a small mobility issue, let alone a large one. There’s bikes everywhere, curbs are often ridiculously high, elevators and escalators are regularly either broken or blocked by (you guessed it!) bikes, the traffic situation is often completely unclear. On top of that, most if not all Amsterdam pavements are wonky and far from smooth. I have been told that this is due to ground water level shifts and not because we are bad at laying pavements.

What also doesn’t help, are the almost constant renovations and works in various areas of the city. And of course the fact that after all this, a huge amount of tourists and a huge amount of people actually living here who are trying to get to work are thrown into the mix.

The resulting situation can only be described as “a complete mess”. Amsterdam has clearly become a city for young, healthy people, and I’m quite sure that I don’t have to explain to you why this is Not Ok.