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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Scotland 2008


I finally got a stamp in my passport! I finally got a passport! As a wedding guest a second time in one week, I flew off to Edinburgh, Scotland with some dear friends and my daughter, her husband and my little grandbaby girl. I went as a sort of "au pair", but after meeting the parents of the bride and groom, was invited to a most beautiful and fun 6 hour wedding, I joined in the festivities. It was wonderful to meet these folks from Scotland, they were so warm and friendly and took us on tours of castles and places of interest. We saw the Rosslyn Chapel, had tea and scones at a lovely inn, fish, chips and warm beer at a pub by the bay. The brides dad warmly met us at the airport and drove us to our flat in an old renovated church less than a mile from Edinburgh castle. The grooms dad gave me tips on finding out about early Scottish pottery. As an interior designer, he shared my enthusiam for restoring old building and appreciating true craftmenship. The grooms mom made us a dinner in their lovely old stone cottage... a gourmet meal with great conversation couldn't be beat! The brides mom gave me a place at the wedding feast and another meal that couldn't be beat. I went to my first "Ceilidh", pronouced Kailey, a sort of square dance... only with very fast Scottish music, lots of swinging and stomping and whooping. And lots of banging into each other and falling down.. which just added to the fun.

And it was nice to meet the bride and groom. A lovely and interesting couple, I am glad I got a chance to talk to them and learn about them. God bless Fraser and Denise.

I also found the mysterious pottery shard beach at Bo'ness. I had found this on a web site. A beach where pottery shards and kiln furniture were dumped. There were about 8 potteries in Bo'ness in the 1700s-1800s. They are all gone and it seems most people have forgotten them. It took awhile to find the spot. I wonder if the Scottish take sport in giving tourists misinformation. The maps of the area were wrong, sometimes it was hard to understand their accent and there was an odd communications barrier. But perhaps that was my interpretation. I did find the beach, I found lots of shards that would not interest most people. Except a potter or historian. The clays they used were I think white paste porcelain that I later learned was shipped up from England. I found they started using red clays from this area. The white shards were decorated with colored brushwork and a lot of cut sponge designs. Some pots were unglazed probably broken before they could be finished. The kiln stilts were interesting, I found hand rolled clay used for supports and blobs of clay used to separate pots. Lots of red brick.

A couple days later, I set off in Edinburgh to find the Huntly House. This was suggested for me by the Scottish Pottery Society beforehand. The Huntly House in not in all the tourist books. And I cound not find it on the Royal Mile till I found the street number. 142 Cannongate. There is no sign for the Huntly house, it is called the Museum of Edinburgh. The guide inside told me I had found the Huntly house. It was very interesting. Lot of maps of the early days of Edinburgh. As the grooms father had told me, most of the 1500 buildings are still here. The guide was kind enough to give me a private tour of the 3rd floor pottery room. Here is where I needed to stay longer. A variety of beautiful glazes and styles of pottery are on display. I left Scotland without finding out where the yellow clays were from... silly to most but I need to find out where their clay mines were, what color clays were where, where they mined out.

There was too much to see and do and not enough time. Now, for my next trip... romantic Hamburg NYS! Well, to camping out in a field at a fairgrounds and demonstrating pottery in the historical reenactment section! That will be fun too. Life is an adventure.

Mural for a Wedding

I finished two walls of murals for my friends wedding. They are in an old house built in 1786. The house has been in the same family for all these years. That is quite rare. My friend, the owner of the house, gave me suggestions on what she wanted on her walls. But when one starts to paint, things just come out of your hand... ideas pop into your head and you paint them down... so I hope she is happy with it. It seems kind of bright for an old house. There was a famous painter, Rufus Porter, that did murals in the 1800s. His murals were a style all his own, whispy trees, block houses, folk style animals. One of the problems in recreating "reproduction murals" and many other reproductions like pottery, tin, painted furniture... is that the colors were bright when they were painted years ago. The people back then wanted to brighten up their belongings and surroundings. Now, 100 years or more later, the colors have faded and we modern people like that old faded look.

So what does an artist do? Do we use faded worn colors so our walls, furniture and pottery look old, or do we use bright colors with our new paints?

I am hoping my new mural will fade a little. The family will put fingerprints on the walls, Fenway the dog will shake mud on the walls, someone will scratch the paint when moving a table around. It will wear and blend in with the rest of the house eventually.
Someone asked me at the wedding what it was like living in an old house. I find it comforting. In my friends house and mine we know the names of all the people who lived here before us. We can imagine all the babies born in the house before hospitals and also all the people who died in the house. We can imagine conversations around the kitchen table, dogs sitting by the hearth. In my house, my grandparents were married by the mantel in the livingroom, and years later my grandfather died in that same room late one nite in his sleep. Twins were born in my bedroom. One died and one was cripped but lived to old age on Cape Cod. His sister wrote to me and told me how the house looked when she lived there.

My house was built by a family who had three girls. One girl died at age 19 of "consumption of the brain". My grandfather bought the house from her niece in 1927. There were another set of twins, Randolph and Winthrop Davis that rented the house for a few years around 1910. I have photos of them with their sheep "Peter Tumbledown". One photo showed the family purposely wearing silly hats holding buckets of blueberries they just picked. I like that, that the people here had a sense of family and humor. Our old houses are filled with sounds of the past as we continue to imprint ourselves into the house by painting murals, remodeling, restoring and living.
So anyway, the mural on the wall will continue soon, I have the stair wall, the big tree and a hall way upstairs to do too!