First Ventures

It feels like a new era has begun. After seemingly endless months of masks and staying at home, life is beginning to open up again. In April we drove to Brooklyn to return a granddaughter who had spent five weeks with us in order to participate in EMU’s production of Shrek, A Musical. It was wonderful to be with family again. There were hugs and shared meals and a Sunday morning walk in Greenwood cemetery, a place nearly as big as Prospect Park. One could explore forever, looking for famous people buried there, permanent residents as one list named them—Leonard Bernstein, Horace Greeley, Henry Ward Beecher, but a scarcity of famous women. It would have takes a day of searching to find specific markers, so we mostly noted the spring trees, interesting or unusual names, and the varying styles of tombstones.

Wayne waited behind to snap this picture.

Then we ventured to Northern Virginia for a long-delayed pottery-glazing trip. Over the past several years I had gathered a collection of pieces that I got bisque-fired here, but I wanted to have them gas-fired for the glaze firing because I like the buttery-smooth, low gloss finish that creates. So far, I haven’t found anyone willing to gas fire for me here. When the pandemic came, bringing a shutdown to travel, my pots waited, gathering dust. Not only that, I made more, so by this spring I had a large collection (for a sporadic potter).

Finally, it felt safe enough to schedule a time with Jennifer to glaze the pots. I gathered my pieces into boxes, after deciding how I wanted to glaze each one and grouping them by glaze. I knew I would have a full day’s worth of work and wanted to make it as streamlined as possible. Glaze decision-making can take a long time for me, and if I haven’t figured out ahead of time how I want to glaze each one, I end up getting out a glaze, stirring it well, dipping a piece or two in it, and putting it away, only to find myself getting it out again later and going through the process all over again. That makes the process even longer.

A small part of my stash waiting for a wax resist to keep glaze off the bottoms. Otherwise, they would get glazed to the kiln shelves and have to be chiseled off, probably getting broken in the process.

We drove to Northern Virginia on a Sunday evening, staying overnight with well-vaccinated friends, so we could get an early start Monday morning. Since Wayne helped me with the process, we don’t have any pictures of us working. Glazing can be a messy process, not conducive to cameras, especially if I am doing the glazing, and I ended up with glaze splatters all over my pants from accidentally dropping a piece into the glaze, not once but twice! We made many trips out the shed where it is housed, to deposit trays of glazed pots to wait for loading. (Jennifer loads the kiln.)

Finally, my task completed, we returned to our friends, cleaned up and spent the kind of evening I have dreamed of for months—good wine and cheese and a wonderful Italian meal with dear friends. We decided it was too cool to try for an outdoor meal in old town Alexandria, but my friend’s garden made an even more perfect view from the warmth of their glassed-in porch, than any city street would have looked.

Just a small part of our garden view.

On our way home we stopped by Manassas to pick up pottery supplies for a friend. We drove by our old house. I was pleased to see that portions of my old gardens are still doing well, even though I needed to sneak pictures from a distance. I always wonder at the wisdom of having left when I see the place that was home for more than thirty years, but there are enough changes there that I know there is no going back, even if we could.

I planted almost all the things on this picture They are spreading out more widely, and the trees have really grown.

Once my friend gets her kiln repaired and fires my pots, we will be back to Northern Virginia again to pick them up and to visit Manassas friends. I’m hoping for beautifully-fired pots! If so more pictures may be coming.

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  1. Joan Berge on May 26, 2021 at 10:41 am

    What an interesting blog, and beautiful pictures! So you’re not only a writer but a potter as well! You’re certainly making good use of your retirement years, with lots to show for them. Quite a horticultural legacy you have left in Manassas.

    Your account of relatively  unrestricted visits made me long for the time we can freely connect with friends and family. My second shot is scheduled for June 28, so at least that should give me some greater liberty. My one nephew and one grand niece have had Covid but are now healed. Another nephew and his partner think they must have had it about a year and a half ago before it was widely recognized. They live in Quebec which was rampant with it for a while, but have a much better handle on it now than Ontario. Toronto is still keeping our numbers up.

    Maybe you’ll be able to travel to Ontario again.  It would be great to see you.

    Any word on how Dwayne is doing? I don’t hear from them anymore.

    All the best to you.


    • kathiekurtz on May 26, 2021 at 11:28 am

      Yes, I know we have a bit more freedom than you in Canada have, but we are still using caution. I wear a mask if I go to a store or public place, and we are starting to socialize more with caution. We still meet people outdoors if at all possible. It will be a little while yet till we are able to come to Ontario. I’ll let you know when we do.

  2. Eunice Wenger on May 26, 2021 at 10:53 am

    Thanks Kathie. Nice to hear you are getting our and about. Did you get the email I sent yesterday?

  3. kathiekurtz on May 26, 2021 at 11:29 am

    Yes, I did get your email and responded. If you haven’t gotten my response let me know. We are looking forward to seeing you.

  4. WenLo Maust on May 26, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks, Kathy!! I always enjoy your writings!! Surely agree–that getting out with friends feels SO good now!! I also continue to wear a mask while shopping! Will you kindly send us a photo later of your finished glazed pots?? Thanks!

  5. kathiekurtz on May 26, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    Thanks, Lois. You are one of the people I’d love to see sometime soon. That is a sense of being a kid in a candy store, but I’m trying not to rush things too much. I still have other things to do in addition to being with friends, although right now I could fill my days with that!

  6. Donna Burkhart on May 26, 2021 at 2:40 pm

    Some of my favorite pottery pieces are imperfectly glazed, even broken. I feel like I’m just emerging from the kiln.

  7. Elaine Dunaway on May 26, 2021 at 5:54 pm

    Fun to read Kathie! We want to get together with you all sometime soon!

    • kathiekurtz on May 26, 2021 at 7:17 pm

      Yes! You are on our short list. Hope to see you soon!

  8. kathiekurtz on May 26, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    Yes, mine too! I just have to disengage from my intentions and expectations to see the beauty sometimes. Is there a larger life lesson here? I suspect so. One of my favorite mugs from Botswana was one that was misfired, but I loved the uneven finish, due I know now from the kiln not getting hot enough. I was most unhappy when it finally broke.

  9. willowoak520 on May 29, 2021 at 11:44 am

    Lovely photos and fun times! I wish birds would hold still like gardens, and I would be posting all the ones we saw when we went camping a few days ago!

  10. kathiekurtz on May 29, 2021 at 1:39 pm

    Yes, bird pictures take much more patience and time, but maybe it all equals out. It takes hours and hours of work to create and maintain gardens, and only instants to take pictures of them. It takes instants to see birds, but hours of sitting quietly waiting for them and snapping furiously to get one good bird picture.

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