Friday, July 31, 2009

Crown Jewel's secret

After putting up the post about Crown Jewel (below) and really thinking about him, opening my mind to the past and all of it's hidden meanings, something came to me tonight. Something important. Something so quiet that I couldn't hear it, so wispy that I couldn't see it. But now I do.

Threads. Tangled ones, looped and twined in chaos. The ends are hidden, the middle is messy, no where to start, no where to end. You see only parts of the whole. Pull here, and it tugs there, Pull there, and it tightens here. The past is like that.

Maureen, and Laurilyn, were the people who inspired me to start in ceramics. Maureen didn't talk much, she just... did. She gave you ten words, but a book full of gestures, movements, knowledge. Only if you listened with more than your ears. You had to listen with your heart, and your hands, and your head. You had to *observe* what she did. She couldn't explain it... she *was* it.

What I finally understood tonight is that she isn't finished teaching me. I had to get far enough, so that I could hear what else she had to say. I had to learn fifteen year's worth of ceramics, to catch up to the lessons that she left behind. That last lesson has been sitting in my case, quietly, like an unopened book. I didn't see the book before, couldn't read it, only looked at the cover and moved away. Now, it's time to wipe off the dust, open to the first chapter, and read that book.

I won't sell Crown Jewel, not until he teaches me what Maureen wanted me to learn. Not until I can paint like she did. Not until I have teased the messy threads, found the ends, untangled the knots, pulled them straight and made them right again. After all these years, I look at Crown Jewel and I don't know how she made him look so real. I have a few guesses, a glimpse here and there, an idea to try... but until I can duplicate his finish at will, until I can make a horse as glorious as he is, then I haven't learned all that she had to teach. That is the piece of the puzzle still missing. Maureen did what no one else could do, she did it in her own primitive kiln, without electronic controls or fancy equipment. Just her, the clay, the pigments, and the quiet dust motes dancing in the sun streaming through the window pane.

Fifteen Years, Fifteen Gifts Contest

Here they are, the hidden prizes! Entries are POURING in (pardon the pun!) Tomorrow morning, I will pull the first name, and reveal the first prize.

Yes, I am giving away fifteen things... fifteen pieces of PH history. But you gals have given me even more... you've given me a career, a passion, a life full of interesting people, and priceless memories.

My heart is very full today.

8/1/09: The first prize given is an old Saucy, and the winner is Cindy Dilks.

8/2/09: The second prize given is a black bat Christmas ornament, and the winner is Sandy Tomezik

8/3/09: The third prize is a double-test saffron Nomad, and the winner is Marge Para

8/4/09: Bobby's 21st birthday, and Jeanene Bernardin wins the first firing swirly Hadrian

8/5/09: Liz Strauss wins a useful Tig Mug!

8/06/09: Mel Hinkle wins a Suspiro Marble Head!

Crown Jewel

The past is a funny thing. It isn't linear, really. Connections between the past, the present, and the future are a tangled skein that cannot be unraveled. Who we are, what we think, what we love and hate, the songs we sing, the whole of our identity is tied up with parts of our past.

I'll never forget, standing in a funny little gift store in Encinitas, California, and talking to the lady about Maureen Love. The little gift store was selling some of Maureen's birds... I was shocked and excited. It was called "The Third Bird" and it specialized in beach themes... appropriate for a gift store in the charming, funky, hippy town that whose entire western border was wetted by the Pacific Ocean. I was probably babbling, which I do when I get nervous. She said something like, "Would you like to meet Maureen Love?" (what a silly question) and when I nodded yes, she said "There she is, right behind you". My knees went weak. Seriously, My stomach fluttered. I turned to look a an older woman, who was tanned and slim, with a slight widow's hunch. Her eyes were sharp and bright, and her manner was shy.

The rest of that day is a fog, I can't remember a thing about it. But it was a turning point for me, bringing her into my little bubble of reality. Until then, she was an artificial construct... she existed in some sort of higher plane. Meeting her made her into a living being, even grander for being shy and kind.

Over the years, as we proceeded to write the book. ("The Hagen-Renaker Handbook"), we visited Maureen many times. I could take my kids over to her house, talk to her for a while, see her chickens and her goldfish ponds. She would teach us about her native plants, show us her sculptures, and just chat. There are too many memories, this pitiful medium of a blog can't possibly hold them all. But the point today is to show you something that I still have of hers. The most valuable horse I ever owned.

Crown Jewel is his name, and he is an HR Standing Arab/Abdullah. Maureen painted him herself. She used to do that, take castings (probably from the mold shop, where the master molds were made) and finish them. Crown Jewel has the most incredible detail you will ever see... it was Maureen in her highest form, and shows us just how much detail she really did sculpt into the pieces. He has lip wrinkles, leg chestnuts, everything. He's amazing. His color is sublime. His markings are so natural. His eyes... I keep looking at them, to see if I can figure out how to paint eyes like she did...they are just alive.

I used to show him, he went around the show circuit for years. Oh, I was so daring! Nerves of steel! Now, I hesitate to take him out of the china cabinet. But in those heady, early days, I even showed him in performance. He has a custom made Arab western saddle by Carol Williams. He has a Governess Cart by Duncan MacPherson, and harness by Carol Howard. An English saddle, sidesaddle, etc. also by Carol Howard. Top of the line, all of it. Nothing was too good for him. He was almost unbeatable.

He's been retired now, for may years. My life is different now... I don't show, I hardly go to model horse events at all. I make them, I don't show them any more, and my passions revolve around moldmaking and glazing. He sits, quietly, in his safe corner of the china cabinet, a hidden jewel in a much diminished collection. In the days when my hubby was unemployed, when money was nonexistant and I would have sold an organ if I knew how to go about it, and I was selling most of my beloved collection just to put food on the table... he was never going to be sold. It would be like selling one of the children. Unthinkable.

Now I am pondering, considering, skirting around the edges of selling him. I hardly look at him any more. It is not right to hide him here. It isn't right to hoard him, when he could be delighting someone else as he has delighted me all of these years. He and I, we have fallen into comfortable middle age, and we hardly see each other any more. He needs a new home.

He's the most valuable horse that I have ever owned, or ever will. He's not only a unique piece of Hagen-Renaker and Maureen Love history, he is part of model horse history and my own history as well.

Still thinking about it. He'd be priced very high. But it isn't the money, not any more. It's the guilt. I don't love him fiercely any more. I'd miss him, but only gently, like missing a pet that passed away years ago.

Maybe at some point he will go up for sale.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spots, spots, spots!

Here's a Brownie that I just finished for a customer, and he's just bursting with spotty cuteness! He was done freehand with the airbrush, then rubbed, then back in with the airbrush, etc. Then his little hoofies were sprayed/rubbed/sprayed/rubbed, and finally sprayed again. His lower legs are slightly off white, because he has been playing in the mud. Now to think of a name for him....

"What is you looking at me spotty face for?"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Simon's Cat

This is too adorable...

Tobiano Dafydd

Just for fun, here are the photos of the bay tobiano Dafydd, who will be going up on MHSP in less than an hour. I wanted to show him here because I've been playing around with the way to paint to get softer contrast, using a typewriter eraser on the raw underglazes.

Instead of clean, strong lines demarking the white and the black on his mane and tail, he has softer, blended lines. That is from using the typewriter eraser to remove the raw paint on the high spots, then hitting it again and removing some more. You can see it in the tail image below.

His hooves also had some erasing and rehitting, so the grey stripe is soft, shows some detail, and blends beautifully with the shell color.


Friday, July 10, 2009

1938, a year for weddings

My grandparents married in 1938, Grandad was 19 and Gram was 18. They posed in front of their new car, a whole life ahead of them and their faces shining with love and expectation. Times were still lean, but whether there is prosperity or hardship, people still fall in love and start a life together.

Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for The Life of Emile Zole, Judy Garland was singing "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart", Disney's Snow White debuted. Irving Berlin releases the song "God Bless America", and the echoes of Kristallnacht were an early prelude to the booming cannons of the war to come.

These dolls were also made in 1938 (except for the Flower Girl, she is a couple of years younger) Their round, sweet, almost Kewpie like faces were the style of the time. Little chins tucked in, big soulful eyes, their expressions were born of the Depression and the national yearning for innocence.

The Nancy Ann dolls that were made in the 1930's were priced very inexpensively, and were meant for little girls to collect. Unusual, because they were not made to dress and play with, they came in a signature polka dot box. Using good quality fabric and trim, they were meant to be displayed and admired.

(Little Bo Peep, an early Nancy Ann, was one of the most popular of the nursery rhyme series)

Nancy Ann Abbott, the founder of the company, was also a costume designer for Hollywood, so she brought a deep understanding of fashion to her creations. She explored, through her fashions, several themes. Little girls could go "Around the World"...






Explore stories and fairy tales...


(Red Riding Hood)

Or history....

(Western Miss)

At the peak of it's popularity, the Nancy Ann Storybook Doll factory was producing one million dolls a year.

All of these dolls shown above were made before the start of World War II.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Secret Collection

I started collecting model horses when I was about seven years old... back in 1968 or so. By 1974, I had Hagen-Renakers, and visited the HR factory, where the gal who offered a tour was probably surprised to find a 13 year old who was an avid collector. I collected horses, on and off, for the next thirty plus years, and only recently stopped buying any new horses (except for those that I make or trade with other artists)

But collecting, like dandruff, doesn't go away that easily. No doubt we all collect something else... old phonograph albums, or frogs, or matchbooks. Postcards. Kentucky Derby glasses, otters, Victorian hair ornaments. There is something for everyone in the world... except for non-collectors. You know, those folks who have clutter free homes. Folks who can walk through a whole swap meet or antique store without finding one single thing that they want. Weird folks. Anyway....

I'm not much of a foofy gal. I currently own three decent pairs of pants, and four pairs of shoes. In total. Seriously. Haven't had a "hair cut" by a professional since my wedding. Just not into that sort of thing... but... I collect dolls.

No, really.


As in, little dressed mannekins of sweetness and light.

Can you believe it?

Only one kind, though. Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls.

I won't go into the history here, but I can tell you that the early dolls were porcelain, and the best of them were made in the 30's and 40's. Then they switched to plastic and the dolls didn't have the same appeal. And I do collect the old ones, some of which are worth hundreds of dollars, a very few worth over a thousand dollars. But currently, I collect the new ones. You see, a couple of sisters, who were collectors of the old ones, came across a listing of the FACTORY for sale. Seriously. It's like you or I coming across the HR factory for sale, on Craigslist or something. So, they did what any red-blooded collector would do... they bought it.

And made their own versions of the old dolls.

I collect those. And now I have them ALL!! Twenty-six dolls, some of which are very rare. One of them is from an edition of 20. It took several years to gather the 26 dolls, and the last one came just two days ago. It took detective work, and a lot of asking, and offering serious money. (Well, serious money compared to what the dolls generally go for, but model horse people would hardly flinch at the highest price)

Here are a few of my favorites:
(click on the images for larger versions)

"Nancy Ann Goes to the Circus", made for the San Joaquin Valley Doll Club, 2007, Edition of 80

"Queen of Hearts", made for the West Coast Gathering 2007, Edition of 20, all of the dresses hand sewn by the designer

"Goes to Mexico" set made for the Modern Doll Collectors Convention 2007, the blonde girl was the last doll that I needed, she was an edition of 26 and was made as the centerpiece for the luncheon tables.

Finally, here is one that I really love, she is in a garden that was made as the centerpiece for a doll convention. A group of doll collectors made these gardens, with their tiny potting benches and tools, the little butterflies and flowers and things. She is "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" and the garden has "Silver Bells and Cockle shells and pretty maids in a row"

Maybe I have a little, tiny, foofy corner in my soul after all.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Here are the prizes for Breakables at Breyerfest!! These will be for the Pour Horse classes, and I'm very pleased to be able to supply awards for this fantastic show.
The tile sculpt was done by Lynn Fraley in 2000, as a gift when she and Barry were coming down to visit. I have always sort of hoarded these...! Less than a dozen have ever been made. They are fairly large, about 6 1/2 incbes square. The detail is just beautiful! I love the Celtic Knot motif, the leaping horse, and the painstakingly and perfectly executed lettering. So, having kept them mostly to myself (I have five hanging in the barn, and have only parted with a couple as awards) I consider them to be very, very special and important.

The glazes are Mayco Elements, and they are quite a bit richer and more subtle in person. I am sure that the people who win them will enjoy them. So, they are off to Maggie today, along with my best wishes for the show, the participants, and Maggie!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

We led the neighborhood parade this year with Mom's Model A! My brother and hubby pulled it out of the garage, pulled off the old quilts and blankets that it lives under, polished it up and started it. Nice to see it again! It's absolutely perfect, just as it was when my Dad finished it. Took him decades to do, he started with just and old frame. We live in the greatest neighborhood... the parade stretched around the block! Everyone... with their dogs, bikes, cars, big wheels... even a canoe on a wagon...blowing noise makers, blowing bubbles, waving and hooping ahd hollering, everyone participates or sits on their lawns and whoops and hollers and claps right back! Now everyone goes back to their yards, and some of the neighborhood folks have open invitation picnics, and we wait for the fireworks at Legoland. Tonight we will be able to see them... the sky is clear and blue, just perfect! Not too hot, just a little breeze... a Chamber of Commerce day.

Happy Fourth Everyone!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fifteen Years, Fifteen fun gifts

This year, Pour Horse celebrates fifteen years in business. I started the company in 1994, and we went into the ceramic business in 1995. So, just for fun, I am going to give away fifteen Pour Horse 'blast from the past' items from August 1st through August 15th. Some will be small, like resin pins from the Renaissance Faire days, and some will be big, like maybe a horse or two. Or a platter that Kristina drew on.... it will be fun to poke through the old stuff and pull out some treasures. And they may not be perfect, since anything perfect generally was sold. But I guarantee that they will be 'vintage Pour Horse'. LOL

Here's what we are going to do:

Anyone who wishes to enter can send an email to me at mold40(at)roadrunner(dot)com, talking about their favorite Pour Horse, or some humorous or interesting story connected to Pour Horse. Or you can just send a photo of a Pour Horse you own. But you have to send something. And please include your name.

Between now and August 1st, I will put up fifteen blank doors on the blog, numbered one through fifteen. The doors will hide fifteen pictures, one for each giveaway item.

Starting August 1st, I will draw one name each day from the entries. Or I might draw a number, having numbered the entries. Or something like that. Maybe I'll put the names on random pieces of paper and wrap each one around a dog biscuit and let the dogs draw them... well, anyway, somehow I will pull a random winner. Then, I will 'open the curtain', announce the name, and send that item to the winner.

I may or may not publish the emails and photos on the blog, but I will enjoy reading what everyone writes.

After fifteen years, there's a whole lotta stuff around here that would make someone happy, instead of just gathering dust. So, start thinking about what you might write, or take pictures. The entries won't be judged (the drawing will be random) but please do have fun with them...


Three years ago today, Yasha and Bear came home.

I love you, Yasha and Bear.