Sniff sniff, this morning I broke my very favourite breakfast tea mug, it was a sweetie salt glaze one of Toff Milway’s that was just perfect and I’ve been using it for the last almost 4 years that we have lived here. Very sad but it has been very well used.
Anyway back to the reminiscing, I have been doing lots of that over the last couple of weeks, still sorting things out in my head,but tonight’s post is a recap of the second stage of the tour, that in the company of the charming and funny and again wonderful host (they all were wonderful) that is Dan Finnegan. Dan appeared on Cape Cod during the afternoon of the second day of the demo there to a warm welcome from lots of people that already had had the pleasure of meeting him. He then set to delivering us across the country to his home in Virginia. It’s a long way, about 650 miles I think it was, took a long long time but I must say I was absolutly shattered and spent most of the ride asleep in the back while Dan kept on trucking and he and Ang seem to have wound their way out of a wrong turn or two during the day.
We took a diversion on the trip so as to pop in on Guy Wolfe, a potter in Connecticut, what a visit! Guy and Doug have been communicating for a while and both were eager to meet each other. It was one heck of a whirlwind visit there, I think everyone was excited to meet each other and Guy seemed to have been looking forward to our visit. He had worked at Wetheriggs Pottery in Penrith, not too far from me here really, a slipware pottery with a long history and so our slipware credentials were of interest. Guy welcomed us with open arms and gave us a tour of the workshop, threw a 25lb planter- just like that – showed us his collection of historic pots, guided us through his book collection, we were watered by Guy’s wife and then treated to a performance of his musical accomplishments on the whistle and then the banjo and the guitar, we saw the lovely illustrations by his daughter and were given gifts of gravity flow trailers and whistles (with which if we had been so inclined we could have annoyed the driver and the co-pilot for the rest of the 8 hour trip but I think we were quite restrained even if we somehow did earn the nickname of being called “the kids in the back”) and pots of course.
After Guy’s came the finding of Doug’s new woman aka Miss Piggy who he grew quickly very attached to. At the same venue was the incident previously mention with the big chap (gets bigger and more threatening looking with each telling of the story) who approached us while we were minding our own business taking tea and cake, with his grappling hook. He didn’t murder any of us thankfully though Ang I still have no idea how long you thought I’d be able to fend him off for when you hid behind me. I might have lasted oh a good 2 seconds! He was however innocently trying to rescue a frisbee from the river next to where we had parked (first mention of frisbees in this post, hang on in there the second one is weirder still!)
After that I can’t remember very much, I nodded in and out of consciousness and the singing of ridiculous songs much to the frustration of the other passengers probably. I was however awake when we were driving through Manhatton and had the lovely lady offering directions experience (see the previous Virginia post in April).
We arrived in the calm deliciousness of the farm somewhere in deepest Virginia outside of Fredericksburg at some ungodly hour of around 3am and fell out of the car in sticky muggy air to somewhere that felt lovely but in the dark we couldn’t see just how lovely.
We awoke on the tuesday morning to a heavenly place. Dan has his workshop on this farm and the owners of the farm house had let him take it over entirely for his visiting potters for the week. Corr blimey what a place. I quite quickly took to sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, drinking tea, watching the birds and the cat and the darling little girl that is Ellie, Ellie any time you want to come and live in Scotland you will be more than welcome!
Dan’s workshop itself is a short walk through the woods from the farm house and is full of birds which will shortly be migrating into his kiln.
In Fredericksburg itself we sampled the culinary delights of many of the eating houses though the milk shakes at Carls were possibly the best in the world. We had the greatest intentions of trying all that the place had to offer throughout the course of the stay but didn’t have quite long enough for that.
This mural is on the back of Dan’s old workshop and you’ve probably seen it before in other blogs. The Liberty Town Arts Centre is an incredible place. What a vision and what a big heart the sort of person must have who can imagine and infect others with his enthusiasm for and passion for and belief in making a project of that scale come off the ground and open it and see it grow and flourish. It is home to somewhere in the region of 45 artists. I kept intending to take pictures of the place but in actual fact every time I walked around I was just too busy looking at things to be able to take photos so you’ll just have to visit to see what I mean. When Dan stopped outside the building though and we saw this poster the pair of us were tempted to run for the hills, a bit scary to see our jugs that big and plastered across a wall (no rude comments please). Wow though! It’s a fab fab poster, thanks Dan, it’s a smasher!
The jugs poster has appeared all over the place, the picture below shows it in the coffee shop in the town too and I heard that it has been see all over the States. In that same coffee shop (were I was laughed at for drinking tea) we met John, who we were to meet again in a frisbee related incident.
The Virginia weather was a lot lot warmer than it’s Cape Cod version, spring was there and felt like it was almost through and heading for summer. The trees were full of leaves and the place was green and just completely alive. From what I’ve heard of it I wouldn’t enjoy a Virginian summer much though, I’m red haired and pale freckly skinned and me and heat don’t mix all that well.
A day trip to Washington was part of Dan’s plan for us. We took tea in the park there before spending a few great hours devouring art in the Native American Museum, the Freer Gallery (Peacock Room, oh incredible!) and more tea in the park. What a city! Clean, not chaotically crowded, you can drive in and park in it without sitting for 3 hours in traffic, not the sort of city experience I have ever had before.
Here are the bloggers blogging, this was just before I headed off for a wonderful massage as I was struggling somewhat. I think it was the combination of stress and so much traveling and tension and it set my neck to being really quite yuck for a while but the massage sure helped me out on that front. Hot rocks, never had them before but they were great.
Hey – slips for Hannah, beautifully sieved and prepared, the people at each workshop spent so much time sorting all these out for me, thank you again to you all. In Virginia the slip technician was Jason, Dan’s helper.
The workshop that we gave here started on the friday evening with a reception where we showed our films of home and then people enjoyed wine and nattering and much buying of pots. I was stunned at the speed that things were snapped up in. Huge thanks to all those who bought pots. Many of the people there were booked in for the whole weekend so it was great already knowing some of them before we started demonstrating, it made it much less daunting to start with. Finally met Anna Branner and Nancy Gallagher both of whom I’ve been in contact with for a while so that was great.
It felt good giving that workshop, we were both more relaxed than we had been the week before and were feeling much more comfortable about what we were doing, and so much more able to gently tease each other incessantly about the way we worked. Doug still found hilarity in the gas burner and wielding that around much to the delight / concern of the audience and again the contrast in the way we both work seemed to create a lot of interest in itself.
At the end of the sunday, we all grouped outside to have a photo taken and then Dan dragged us away from the arts centre to take us to a “very special event”. He had been talking about the frisbee all week and now we were heading off to the park to see the spectacle for ourselves. Frisbee golf and freestyle frisbee were still going on when we arrived. In many ways it was like walking into the middle of one of the many little festivals that take part around Galloway every summer, apart from the frisbee element and the accents. Dan says I am to feel free to tell it as it really was and not to mince my words. I keep trying to explain this evening to people but every time I try I feel I am failing in a big way to put across the sheer bizarreness and surreality that we experienced.
The photo here shows me and Doug toasting with moonshine (mine was cherry flavour and absolutely lethal!) the fact that we had just become owners of shares in “Lazlo’s Weenie World”. That came after the compulsory wearing of the tricorne hat and the wielding of the sword, while a group of folk musicians played away behind us and we stood rather bemused and completely bewildered about the whole proceedings. I have had many conversations with Doug about it since and we are still none the wiser but blimey whoever brewed that stuff it was potent, knocked my socks off for sure.
I can’t honestly explain it to you any better, it was like being in a strange film where someone was walking around inside some crazy world all encased within my head. I did feel as we left later on, (who knows how many hours later it actually was) that if I turned around to look out of the back window of the car that there would be nothing to see but an empty field with the grass gently blowing in the breeze. It did feel like it had been put on purely for the entertaining of two English potters and that it would have been magically put away into a box as soon as we looked the other way.
Again that probably goes no way towards telling you how odd the whole thing was but Dan thank you so much for taking us, that was something not to be missed!
This tree was out the front of the farm house, it’s a stunningly beautiful. In the moonlight on the last night it just shimmered. We sat down by the lake for a while late on on that last night just chatting and listening to the bull frogs and watching Dan slowly empty the contents of his pockets accidentally into the lake. Those times where we just sat quietly talking with our wonderful friends are some of the best memories. They are so special and (oh dear I’m feeling rather teary just thinking about it again) there were times with each of the three pottery/bloggery/hosting friends that were like this and each were wonderful. Oh help pass me the tissues. I’m getting to the sad bit again…
The sad bit was driving from Fredericksburg towards the Blue Ridge Mountains to Kevin Crowe’s pottery. The pottery itself and Kevin himself were not at all sad. Another truly spectacular place set in trees and looking heavenly. Kevin’s pots are beautiful, I couldn’t not bring one home and sweetly he wanted to swap pots so he now has a wee tri-footed jug of mine and I have a gorgeous jug of his. He had made lunch for us all and had his apprentices there helping him to pack his three chambered kiln. We met Ron there who was to take us on for the last leg of the tour.
The sad bit was leaving Dan, oh dear, I think in this picture I am certainly if not in tears already then on the verge of them and many flowed in that time. It’s so hard leaving these friends after having such a wonderful time with them. I know if we’d stayed any longer Dan we’d probably have ended up driving you to distraction though! You are wonderful, your hospitality was wonderful and damn I miss you.