Posts Tagged ‘Pottery’

Friday night marked the end of an extremely hectic and  stressful work week. How do you know it was stressful?

I just kept throwing the mail in a pile, unopened. I checked for bills and anything of a personal nature – other than that, it would have to wait.

The two small bags of goodies I’d purchased at the annual Tinicum Arts Festival were still sitting in the exact same place they were when I brought them home last Sunday afternoon.

But perhaps most amazing – and a sure sign of excessive busyness – I had ice cream in the freezer from last week’s shopping and forgot all about it! Now that’s really just kind of sad. I mean, how does that even happen?

But let’s go back to Tinicum. The Tinicum Arts Festival is an annual event in PA just on the other side of the river and south about 10 miles or so. The 2 day fair hosts many crafters, artisans, and artists all of whose work is excellent quality. I try and go every year, if not to buy, then just to browse and chat with fellow artists.

This very talented potter has been coming for several years now and I remember her from last year. Above is a sample of her horsehair work, a vase. All her work is just lovely, and truly are pieces of art.

I went to the festival with a few things in mind that I hoped I might find. One, a pair of pierced earrings with silver and black. I have plenty of earrings that I am very fond of and wear often, but when I am wearing black, I really have nothing to go along. This vendor had a great selection of beautifully crafted jewelry using crystals plus a good assortment of earrings at very reasonable prices. I chose this sweet pair of mermaids sitting on a black sphere. And checked off one of the things I was looking for.

I also wanted to find something relatively inexpensive as a surprise for my brother and sister-in-law’s anniversary. I don’t traditionally buy them anything for this occasion, but I felt like sending along something small and unexpected – something that would put a smile on their face.

This petite earthenware plaque was one of many available, all of which had short phrases and quotes on them. Some I might have liked for myself, but didn’t think they would be too crazy about. But how cute is this one? Not to mention perfect for an anniversary. Check!

Now we come to possibly the biggest challenge. One of the first vendors we came upon was a maker of hand-crafted soaps and other toiletries. One of the things I’d had in mind for the anniversary couple was a nice handmade soap. She had so many scents! As with all handcrafted soaps at events such as these, they’re made with high quality oils and other pure ingredients, and are so much more wonderful than the usual array of soaps we come across.

The seller offered a slight discount for three bars, so I bought three – almond, orange coconut, and black raspberry vanilla. Talk about fabulous. The challenge I mentioned? Will I actually be able to part with one or maybe be a little selfish and keep them all for myself? You didn’t hear it, but I just let out a huge sigh there. Of course, I’ll send them one – they’ll love it. But which one?


The black raspberry vanilla was just too heavenly and truly smells like its name. Just look at that delicious swirl!

The Arts Festival really seems to grow every year with more and different vendors and craftspeople than before. A new Bonsai fellow was there with his perfectly manicured living pieces of art and was a delight to chat with, plus many others – makers of pottery and homemade foods, painters,  photographers, stained glass artisans – it’s just always a wonderful event. And at the end of this very busy week, I can finally enjoy all “the little things” I was so lucky to find. Not just my purchases, but a beautiful day, time well-spent with a friend, and the enjoyment of having been around so much creativity.

We need little things – it’s good to be happy.


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Sunday was a miserable day to go anywhere … very hot and super humid. But … that does not stop the intrepid who have an art festival to attend!

Starting out with breakfast at a favorite restaurant in Frenchtown, Lovin’ Oven, (a post for another time), we made a super quick detour – all of 200′ – so I could photograph some outdoor statuary next door at Two Buttons. I wanted to send these fabulous cement bulldogs’ photo to someone who favors the breed, and I wanted to take the gargoyles because … well … they are fabulous and I want one.

The gargoyles come in two finishes – the bronze type patina and the rough, sand-like texture. These are surprisingly lighter than you might imagine, and largely hollow. Unlike the bulldogs, which are solid cement and weigh a ton. Every time I visit Two Buttons, I yearn for the type of property which would afford me a walled garden that someone who knew wayyyyy more than me would plant and maintain. It would have winding walks, stone resting benches where one could stop and read or meditate, and, of course, fabulous statuary. Ahhhh — maybe next lifetime.

This particular gargoyle, I was told by one of the owners, is a replica from a cathedral in Germany. Two Buttons is the import business started by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, and her husband Jose that she met and fell in love with in Bali in the last section of her book. It’s a huge warehouse of amazing things, worth a look.

These magnificent beasts photographed, we hopped in the car, over the nearby bridge to Pennsylvania and down the shady and ever-scenic Rt. 32 to Tinicum.

The Tinicum Arts Festival is an annual 2 day event featuring many talented artists and artisans. With rare exception, the vendors have fine quality wares and for this reason, it’s always a pleasure to attend this festival. (except for the absolutely wilting weather, of course.)

It was, in fact, so humid, that I didn’t even take any photos, but for Uncle Sam on stilts! My friend and I were both fading, but did make a few stops and a few purchases each. I may show these off in the future, but I purchased a beautiful pair of green tourmaline and sterling silver earrings, my treat to myself. And while I wavered, feeling somewhat guilty about spending even more on myself, my friend offered to treat me to the object of my desire, a beautifully wrought dragon mug.

There were quite a few very talented potters at Tinicum, and I could have easily purchased something from any of them, but I kept coming back to  Marian Van Buren and her River Otter Pottery. Small world, it turns out her studio is in nearby Flemington! Such a fine eye and such fabulous glazes. And then the dragon on the mug.

Well, it started to rain and we were done anyway, so onward to home. It wasn’t too long before that gorgeous mug was holding coffee. This mug is not on Marian’s web site, though something similar with frogs is. How gorgeous is this! It’s frightening to think how much I could have bought at this event if I really had more money to spend. But spending it with someone who makes art for their living, who brings their heart and soul to their craft … it seems supporting such artists is always money well spent.


The piece de resistance …

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The Joy of Dishes

As I was looking at my newest and most (currently) favorite mug this morning, I felt a desire to write about dishes. What is it about dishes that is so incredibly wonderful? I will admit, I have plenty, and quite a few complete sets. But with rare exception, and this mug is one of them, (available here), I haven’t paid much – or anything at all – for them.

Just to give you an idea of the wonderful dishes that call my table and cabinets their own are the following … a set of Johnson Brothers china, (given me by my college roommate), a complete set of Vernon Ware, which is like a soft-hued Fiesta Ware, (dishes I grew up with),  a 1920’s set of hexagonal amethyst glass dishes, (I paid $15 at the first auction I ever went to with my friend, Jan, in the late 80’s), a Royal Doulton Art Deco tea set missing a sugar bowl, (dirt cheap on London’s Portobello Road in the mid-70’s), hand-thrown bowls, large and small, and serving dishes and casseroles, (all gifts), cobalt crystal tumblers, ( a gift), and …. a lovely assortment of “factory-second” sets from Pfaltzgraff’s factory outlet, ( at $1 and $2 per piece), when they were still open in Flemington. I also have a gorgeous set of hand-thrown stoneware glasses and plates to whose talented creators I happily paid a fair price. And, of course, the hand-thrown mug you see pictured. (In all honesty, there are still more odds and ends in more hand-thrown mugs, pie plates, glasses, serving platters, etc. gathered over the years.)

So what can we conclude from this? That I have tons of company for dinner? Nope, that’s not it. That I am a disaster to only myself when packing to move? Oh, yeah! That many of these dishes have sentimental value? Yup, that’s true, too. But the overriding conclusions are the following … the dishes that I have collected over the years are beautiful, and, in my estimation, a form of art. It’s true. Dishes are a relatively inexpensive – if you know where to shop – form of art.

But wait, there’s another conclusion. Dishes make food look wonderful. Food, one of the true delights in life, can be beautiful on its own when prepared, but placed on the right plate or served in the right bowl or dish, surpasses its own singular appeal. A table set with just the right dishes holding even the simplest of foods can be a form of art. Think of some of the best food magazine photographs – they have you salivating just looking at the food so beautifully presented. And behind every mouthwatering morsel is a carefully selected dish.

So that’s it – there’s joy in dishes because of their beauty as an art form all their own. (And just so you know … I had to actually resist photographing more of my dishes for this post … but maybe another time.)

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