Thursday, July 29, 2010


My tenants are moving out of the loft we lived in for 3 years. They are leaving 8 months early with 2 weeks notice, so it's been a flurry of activity. In showing the space I noticed that they had painted the upright piano that stays in the apartment. Who paints a piano? More importantly, if you're going to paint a piano why paint it MasterCard yellow?

Color is a touchy subject. I remember when I'd picked the colors for our new place, and one of Tim's architect friends referred to it as "Candyland." I felt ashamed even though I love most of the colors. When I went to London for 3 years, I made a whole new line of light whitish pottery. People were treating me like I was some whore on Jerry Springer because I like hot pink, so I had to see what I could do with pastels. Begrudgingly I'll have to admit that it's my most popular line when it comes to full-set orders. I still don't understand who said, "Food looks TERRIBLE on blue!" If you put a lobster on one of my mom's blue plates, and there's a dish of butter next to it that's a lighter blue, it doesn't look bad, I promise.

The tenants had published a little blurb about their space on a trendy apartment site. They wrote, "One of the biggest problems we had was picking the right colors to paint the non-wood walls. Originally the kitchen was dark royal blue and olive green while the living room and bedrooms were maroon — all of which made the open floor plan feel small and crowded. We wanted to brighten up the space with light, modern colors that would offset our eclectic belongings and help us appreciate the bare 12 foot ceilings." It turns out that "modern" means white. I can't say I ever liked the blue, either, but taking the only thing in the earth-toned apartment that isn't all that nice (I hate drywall) and painting it white? yuck...

It's so great when I meet a fellow color-obsessed person. I had the following e-mail exchange with a genius who was ordering a set of tableware from me:

Think chocolate brown-
Michelle Obama's skin- citrus/acid yellow, marine blue/turquoise accented by black. I saw that in India one time and decided it was one of the greatest color combinations I'd ever seen. Now I've just seen Michelle wearing acid/citrus yellow and Caribbean blue with a black belt. Of course, she looks fabulous. Ergo: may I humbly request at least one dinner plate, salad plate and one bowl in that combination, please? Another combination that always stuns me is when Matisse combines tomato red with olive green. As you know, that invites pink, chocolate brown, Dijon mustard yellow, black accents, dark plum/maroon, possibly scarlet....

to which I responded:

hmmmm......that sounds great. I've stayed away from lemon yellow, and now you want citrus yellow; are those different colors to you? What I've decided to do is make a bunch of bread plates first. I'll photograph them and you can tell me what you like from there. I'm a big red and green fan myself. I have trouble with red..I only like it with green and maybe a harvesty kind of tan...and pink, but that's so flamenco...with black it looks 80's, with yellow it looks McDonald's, with blue it looks patriotic, (Although I do sort of like it with a slate blue in a "New England blue house red door" kind of way.) With purple it makes me feel dirty, orange...nah, brown-same as purple, white-candy cane. Red is Jack Peter's favorite color. It's so weird.

My favorite thing about the exchange is Adrian's writing, "As you know" It sounds as if we're talking about some objective science in which we both have advanced degrees. I also like the fact that he'd been thinking about a color combination he saw in India for 20 years.

(krōˌmĕs-thēˈzhə) n. A condition in which another sensation, such as taste or smell, is stimulated by the perception of color.

I do sense a mild sulfur taste every time I see yellow and brown together. I could never work for UPS. I could have been saved from some very grating dates if I'd known about my chromesthesia..."I'm sorry, we can't go out tonight unless you change. That kelly green shirt is really setting me off." I think some people have chromophobia..a fear of color. Although bright colors have gotten a tacky wrap or a hippy dippy one in certain communities. Maybe it's not so much fear of color as fear of what people might think of you if you choose a bold color.

When I was first moving into places in my 20's. I couldn't BEAR any tacky furniture, bad colors, or heaven forbid, carpeting. I'd haughtily repaint, strip and remove. Things weren't acceptable unless they were trash-picked and re-habbed or antiques. Way-out-of-reach high design might be acceptable, but I could justify not affording it from some sort of hippy green perspective.

It occurred to me in the middle of giving a tour of the loft that 3 out of 4 closets were nowhere to be seen as well as the 2 little chests of drawers. They were all from Ikea. It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing decision to put those in, but it solved the problem of creating some storage in an open plan. The tenants thought they were doing us a favor by getting rid of all of them. I can hear my own 20-something self saying, "Ugh! those are awful! They have to go right now!" How much of the horror was about the stuff itself and how much was from the worry that their hipster posse might think that they'd bought it.

It's not that I like ugly things now. I've just built up a tolerance because kid crap is so hideous, and anything nice gets immediately trashed by kids. I suppose you do have to consider what people are thinking; we are all horrible and judgemental. As the 20-something couple was telling me they were breaking their lease I was unable to focus on their words. I was thinking, "My God, she is so pretty. Why the hell is she wearing those jeans?"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gimpy Philly

I'm starting to feel old and crotchety in the studio. 5 years ago I would wedge clay for 3 hours every morning, throw pots all day and then teach 10-person classes at night. A week ago I had my godson and his sister come into the studio to play on the wheels for an hour or so. I was leaning over to help them out, and I could barely stand afterwards. It's also been 98+ degrees. I'm too cheap for AC. I work in Peugeot coveralls that have polyester in them. I don't normally have breasts, but because I'm still breastfeeding the sweat collects in that fold and dribbles down my belly.

Clearly I'm destined to be a hunched-over gimp. Tim describes Philly as the City of Gimps, so I'll have company. There certainly are an inordinate number of handicapped parking spaces here. My sa-nanny-ty's boyfriend, James, walks with a cane. The kids adore him, so a cane is a glamorous accessory in their minds. As observant as they are, handicaps escape them. We were out last night and I had to sprint to the bathroom with both big kids. They do everything together, and they are about the same size and weight. Precise little machines that they are, they need to poop at the exact same instant. I was terrified to see the "out of order" sign on the second stall, but Steel waited patiently. While they're on the toilet, they have me captive, poised with a wad of toilet paper in my hand. They enjoy it, so they prolong things. A little line was forming. Undaunted, they include everyone in their conversation as they sit there, knickers and pants on the floor. I felt bad enough that they each took 20 minutes...who sent in the patient, but obviously uncomfortable, 1-legged woman in short shorts on crutches? Neither of them noticed.

Tim's 1-armed friend, Mike was visiting a while ago. He brings groups of architecture students to Philly from Canada. I was making breakfast and forbade Steel to go in and wake him up because they tend to go out at night. I got distracted and she disappeared. She returned saying, "Mike has no eyes!" Her little head had been 3 inches away from him staring at his sleeping face for the past 10 minutes. I said without thinking, "He has eyes; he's missing an arm, and you shouldn't have been in there!" When I first met Mike I was setting up a show. He kept offering to help, and finally I had to say, "MIKE! the boxes are 16x16x16, and YOU ONLY HAVE ONE ARM!" One night he returned late and uncharacteristically exploded into a tirade..."Do you know how hard it is to deal with cling wrap when you only have one arm????" I sent him one of those boxes of Saran Wrap that has the little zip cutter. It made me so happy.

Babies are fabulous gimps. Toby's starting to get frustrated about her inability to walk. We appease her with bones. Now that I live in Philly I forget that vegans even exist. I brought lamb chops to a play date the other day because the kids are always sprinting around and not eating; it's good 'on the run' food. Heather had to do some fancy PR work to get her kids to try them: "It's steak on a stick!" she said jubilantly. Ciela, in a tinkerbell dress was the first to scream hysterically, "I want steak on a stick!" Toby gets the half-finished chops. She gnaws on them for hours, eyes wide with a harrowing look of intensity, grease shining on her fat forearms and hands. It keeps her from wobbling around, losing balance and banging her head on the floor, and I get to chat and drink too much wine.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Taking pictures of myself with my phone and handing it back for the kids to see made 20 minutes of a 7-hour car ride bearable...until they started screaming at each other about who had the phone longer. We resorted to playing Earth Wind & Fire really loud for the next 2 hours.

My parents had a hideous divorce in 1996. My mom went back to her high school sweetheart, my dad refused to work for 5 years prior to the divorce to whittle down his assets. It got ugly, but that was almost 15 years ago. This year my brother's posse and mine all went to my mom's in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA for the 4th of July to the house in which we grew up. I was feeling bad about not calling my dad who lives 2.5 hours away, but 9 of us going to meet him at the Cracker Barrel 1.25 hours away just didn't seem feasible. On the morning of the 4th my mom sent Dick, the sweetheart, out to get the paper at 7:45 am. He came back with Peter, my Dad. Peter bellowed as he sauntered into the kitchen, "SUSIE! I'M BACK!!!" We had a civilized day. Dick served breakfast. Peter murmured something about how great the service was and how he needed to come up with a tip. Dick retorted, "Don't worry about it; I'm getting your car towed off of the lawn as we speak." The only acknowledgment of the historical ill will was in jest. I was proud of all 3 of them.

Meanwhile, the spouse of my best friend next door was accused of being an alcoholic by his in laws because he had a beer at lunch. I told him to respond next time, "I know, but it's really helping with my heroin problem!" Another friend who has an at-home flower business was talking about a new client, and her childhood friend said to her, "Which relative has hired you now?" The "friend" went on to discuss how stay-at-home moms are robbing their children of the opportunity to see a strong, happy, successful mother. What does a "trying to stay at home as much as she can" mom say to that? "Yeah, you're right and the woman you're paying to raise your kids is probably doing a much better job than you would..."

What is wrong with people?

People can be nice. I hear constantly, "How do you do it? You have a pottery business, AND 3 kids..." It's nice to hear, but I can't really pat myself on the back too hard. The women I've found to pay to raise my kids have been amazing. Our first nanny was Alissa. She became Sass. I would say objectifying things like, "Everyone needs a Sass!" Sass abandoned us for Texas although she's still part of the family. Our new one is Julie. A Julie just isn't as fun to say, so when I go to objectify her I've come up with, "Julie is my sa-nanny-ty."

We had 13 house guests last weekend. On Monday morning 2 out of 3 kids had wet their beds, (Steel told me it rained in her bed) and I hadn't coped with it. I admitted this to Julie as she walked in; she said, "GREAT! I was planning on stripping their beds today because I knew I'd be doing a lot of laundry to get the house back together!" On top of taking on my houseguest laundry...who responds to having to change 2 urine-soaked beds with GREAT!? She's a lot like me, so she'd probably done some quick mental algorithm about the statistics of both kids' wetting the bed on bed linen laundry day, and it was like winning the stingy New England housewife lotto. (I'm way too lazy/cheap to launder bed linens until something vile has happened) Julie was raised by Mormons in Utah; she refers to herself as a U-tard. Maybe Mormons are the lost tribe of New England.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I feel lucky that my family and people who aren't even my family have my back. When I look around it seems rare. Although next time my dad or my aunt berates me for trying to have 4 kids, I think I'll happily chirp, "You wouldn't believe the money I'm saving on tampons!"