Re-post: In the words of Seinfeld’s George Costanza: “Yes. Significant shrinkage!”

11 03 2013

Originally posted 3.09.2011

In early January I suggested to my friend Karen that we take a try-it class at a local clay studio. She agreed and two days later we found ourselves straddling potter’s wheels and giving it a whirl (literally) for just $35 each (including clay, two hours of instruction, firing and glazing). I had attempted the wheel way back in college. I was surprisingly bad at it and very disappointed because I tend to pick up most creative skills very quickly. Throwing pots on a wheel did not come easily to me back then.

Fast forward to January 2011: Jessica, our instructor, showed us how to center ourselves over the wheel and use proper techniques. It made all the difference.

I was quite proud of my first attempt. I surreptitiously added a “foot” to my bowl and silently declared that it could easily be included in any Pottery Barn catalog once it was fired and glazed. Karen’s bowl was lovely too even if she didn’t add a foot. Ah, grasshopper, have patience—you’ll get there.

When we said goodbye to our perfectly-formed creations, they were the size of cereal bowls. Jessica would later fire and glaze them in the studio’s signature blue color. She told us that we could pick them up in about a month.

Six weeks later, I go to pick up our projects. I searched high and low on the shelves for my Pottery Barn-worthy cereal bowl with its lovely perfect foot. Since I didn’t immediately spot my creation, I turned over the pots to see if our names were scribbled into them, courtesy of Jessica. They were. I found my cereal bowl. It had shrunk considerably. I’m fairly certain that Jessica, who was a wonderful instructor, most likely mentioned that the pots would shrink, but I was way too enthralled with clay play to process that very fact. In my head I was dreaming of throwing a plethora of pots, fulfilling orders for organic, artistic inventory for Pottery Barn, even hiring studio assistants to defray the overwhelming workload—making money hand over…wheel!

I suppose I could still use it as a cereal bowl but I’d have to go back three times to get a breakfast’s worth of goods. I included the soup spoon for scale. Yes, it may be tiny, but isn’t it the loveliest shade of blue?

Behold—my first true creation on the potter’s wheel—a $35 hearing aid caddy!

Operators are standing by to take your order. Please add $40.00 for labor, shipping and handling. Please allow two months for delivery. Not available in stores. Call in the next five minutes and we’ll throw in the soup spoon, ab-so-lute-ly free!

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A meeting of creative minds

8 01 2012

On Wednesday morning I drove from San Antonio to Austin to visit my friends Brian and Shirley Loflin. The next day I had the pleasure of lunch at P.F. Chang’s in Austin on Thursday with four fellow creatives.

BRIAN LOFLIN
Brian is my former boss, photography mentor and friend of more than 25 years. He is a freelance photographer and photography instructor in Austin and his career spans more than four decades in the advertising, aviation, bio-medical and publishing industries. Brian is past president of the Minnesota Nature Photographers and founder and current president of the Austin Shutterbug Club. He is a photography instructor in the Informal Classes program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Brian and his wife, Shirley, actively teach and conduct seminars and workshops in many areas of photography. They authored, produced and photographed Grasses of the Texas Hill Country and Texas Cacti, two photographic field guides for Texas A&M University Press and available at most booksellers. They have just completed text and photography for their next book, Texas Wildflower Vistas and Hidden Treasures, also by Texas A&M University Press.

Visit Brian’s natural science photography blog here. You’ll find his commercial work here. In his other business, The Nature Connection, he provides photography and digital imaging services to biologists, professionals, educators and others involved in the natural sciences. He is also available for workshops, seminars and presentations, as well as group and one-on-one training in nature photography, macro/close-up photography, beginning digital photography, field photography and composition and light.

STEVEN SCHWARTZMAN
Austin photographer Steven Schwartzman began his blog, Portraits of Wildflowers, just eight months ago. He commented on my blog many months ago and we formed a sort of mutual admiration society and have kept in touch ever since. His work is beautiful and many times I have said to myself, “I would have shot that one just like he did.” I think that his style, composition and capture of light is so similar to mine.

I e-mailed him when I left Virginia and asked if he would like to get together for lunch when I came up to Austin. It was then that I discovered that he also knew Brian through the Austin Shutterbug Camera Club and the Native Plant Society. He said he was surprised to learn, via my blog posts last March after I visited Brian in Austin for a Joe McNally / Dave Hobby workshop on the Flash Bus Tour, that I had known Brian for more than 20 years!

Steven’s photography has been published numerous times in Texas Highways magazine. In 2007, his photograph of a basket-flower was one of a hundred finalists in Parade magazine’s photo contest on the theme “Celebrate America’s Beauty.” In 2009 and 2010, he was commissioned to provide all the photographs and text for three laminated wildflower guides for Quick Reference Publishing. He has contributed more than 200 photographs to the native plant database of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. His other interests include natural foods and language. I particularly enjoy his fascination with words in his other blog, Spanish-English Word Connections. He has written an excellent tutorial about his photography techniques on his blog here.

From Steven’s blog:
I grew up on Long Island and went to college at Columbia University, where I majored in French. Upon graduation I spent 1968 and 1969 as a Peace Corps math teacher in Honduras; I learned that I was good not only at math (which I knew) but also at teaching it (which I’d had no reason to suspect). It was also in Honduras that I learned the rudiments of photography and got my first “real” camera, a Pentax Spotmatic. In the late 1970s and early 1980s I did a fair amount of art photography and eventually published three books of 3-D infrared photographs. The combination of 3-D and black-and-white infrared was an unusual one but I was fond of it, at least in part because it was unique. My book
Bodies of Light won an award from the Printing Industries of America in 1981.

I moved to Austin on July 6, 1976, two days after my birthday and the 200th anniversary of American independence. In my early years in Texas I did some landscape photography, still primarily in black and white infrared. I was an early adopter of digital photography: in 1999 I launched into a project to produce a photographic CD documenting the Austin area. In the process, I grew increasingly aware of and captivated by the many species of native plants that grow here; they became and remain my primary photographic subject.

It was such a treat being able to meet Steven in person. He is the first fellow blogger I’ve officially met in person and likewise for him! I’m hoping to be able to do a mini photo field trip with Steven in Austin before I head back to Virginia later this month.

SONYA MENDEKE
Sonya Mendeke, a freelance print and web designer living in Austin, is my former college classmate, one-time roommate and lifelong friend. You can see her design work on her newly-redesigned website here. Her hobbies include painting, sculpting and photography. You can see her graphic design work here. She also created whimsical and colorful paper clay “Bugs with Attitude” as well as birdhouses and plant pots.

During our lunch, I shared one of my favorite memories of Sonya. When we were both in college, I lived with her in a large two-bedroom apartment not far from the university. Both of us made extra spending money by doing odd freelance illustration jobs. At some point Sonya connected with a cattleman who wanted her to do drawings of his prize sire bulls for a catalog he was publishing. She showed him her portfolio and one of her illustrations was done in an illustration method called stippling. Wikipedia identifies stippling as “the creation of a pattern simulating varying degrees of solidity or shading by using small dots. … the dots are made of a pigment of a single colour, applied with a pen or brush; the denser the dots, the darker the apparent shade—or lighter, if the pigment is lighter than the surface.” Folks, we’re talking thousands upon thousands of dots to create one illustration. Thousands.

The cattleman loved the stippling style and asked her to replicate it on at least a dozen or more illustrations. She recalls being offered something like $300 for the project. Since we’re talking early 80s, I’m quite certain it wasn’t $300 per illustration. It was most likely that much for the entire portfolio of drawings. With dollars signs in her twinkling brown eyes, Sonya jumped into the project immediately.

It wasn’t long before I heard sailor-worthy words muttered from her bedroom studio, occasionally drowned out only by the never-ending tap-tap-tap of her trusty India-ink-filled Rapidograph pen. Night after night I would find her, mechanical pen in one hand, cigarette in the other, endless cups of coffee nearby, stippling into the wee hours of the morning—exhausted, hopped up on caffeine and almost losing her (creative) mind. The illustrations were wonderful and she did get paid. Afterward, check in hand, she vowed she would never stipple again, no matter what the compensation. I’m sure that, to this day, she still hears the tap-tap-tap sounds deep in her subconscious. In addition to the stippling method, I doubt that she is so fond of things bovine either.

Two years ago, Sonya was interviewed in a video by Roy Gatling and Austin-Artists.com. You can view that video, Saving the earth, one piece of art at a time, here. Roy Gatling is Senior Manager, Project Management at Dell and the husband of another of my college classmates, Maria Gatling, also an Austin artist. Roy and Maria are the co-founders of Austin-Artists.com and Austin-Architecture.com. Check out Maria’s self-published notebook and workshop titled, Be Inspired—Creative Something Every Day, here and her creativity blog here.

PHIL CHARLTON
Phil is a friend of Brian’s and a professional photographer in Austin. He specializes in architectural interiors, but shoots beautiful landscapes and fine art images as well. I especially love his images of Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (at left). The chapel looks very much like Garvan Woodland Gardens’ Anthony Chapel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which I photographed a few years ago on a road trip with my friend Sue.

From Phil’s zenfolio site
(www.philcharlton.zenfolio.com):
I am a native Oklahoman with a Cherokee heritage. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1966 with a double major in math and physics, I moved to Texas where I entered the space industry at NASA. During my 17 years at NASA I worked in the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs designing and testing many systems essential to space exploration.

I left NASA for a second career in the computer business. I held positions at Compaq and Dell before taking early retirement. It was during my NASA years that a friend influenced me to buy a professional quality camera and that led to my current interest as a professional photographer.

My wife Amanda and I have lived in the Austin area for the past 18 years. We enjoy traveling the world and have visited many exotic locales such as Belize, South and Eastern Africa, United Kingdom, Peru, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and Canada. The beautiful sites of these distant lands are inspirational to my photography.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





A Vibrant Morning Wake by Daniel Scott, Jr.

28 07 2011

A few months ago, Daniel (who is a graphic designer in Ft. Worth) contacted me and asked for permission to use a photo I shot of a cluster of Spiderworts blooming at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in March. My college roommate, graphic designer/artist/Austinite and dear friend Sonya who creates whimsical paper clay sculptures and “Bugs with Attitude.” Check out her website here. She took me there for an afternoon of shooting (it was my first visit there).

Daniel gave me a link to his mosaic work and I was duly impressed, so I gave him permission and anxiously awaited the final result. It is nothing short of gorgeous! I’ll be interviewing Daniel for this blog in the not-too-distant future, but wanted to share his inspirational piece now.

From Daniel’s blog, Recycled Consumer Mosaics:
I create artwork entirely from candy wrappers, drink labels, gum wrappers, sugar packets, tea packaging, etc. to utilize marketing brand awareness and color recognition from the marketplace. My swatch palette takes shape as marketing strategies change their client’s image. As each mosaic is made, more layers and techniques are worked through for the best results. That’s what makes this process fresh and unique with each blank slate, ready to be transformed into a work of art.

Below is Daniel’s beautiful mosaic along with the photo that inspired him. Stay tuned for my interview with him!





Interview with William Biggers—The Evolution of an Artist

21 05 2011

A few years ago, Bill Biggers contacted me through my blog, requesting permission to use a floral photograph as inspiration for a painting. After visiting his art websites, I wrote back and told him that I would be honored for him to paint from one of my photos. We kept in touch via e-mail and two years ago we met in person in Greenville, S.C. I was visiting my friend Carmen, who had moved to nearby Greer a few years earlier. Carmen and I met him at his home, where he gave us a tour of his studio and work, followed by a leisurely lunch in downtown Greenville.

Bill is truly a Renaissance man—skilled in so many artistic disciplines. While he is a very talented illustrator, painter, and stained glass artist, I especially liked his pottery. I collect Raku and he had some lovely pieces in his home, all created during his incarnation as a professional potter in his studio, Mountain Pond Pottery, at Lake Lanier and Lake Nottley. I felt an immediate kinship with him because like me, he loves acquiring and applying new creative skills. Graphic design, painting, drawing, printmaking, marketing, writing, pottery, stained glass painting—he does them all and he does them well.

Born in Atlanta, GA, Bill now lives in Greenville, S.C., where he creates portrait paintings and drawings on commission. I found his diverse career fascinating and he graciously agreed to be interviewed and share his career and works with my readers.

When did you first discover your creative talents?
I began drawing and painting immediately after eye surgery at age three. I could see individual leaves on trees, birds, distance and most important—single, not double images. That progressed to an impromptu crayon and paint mural on the lengthy hallway to my bedroom. Needless to say, at first Mom was upset but fell into gales of laughter.

Where did you study art?
I continued drawing and painting through high school. I had no formal training until my first classes at Georgia State University, where I majored in visual arts. I studied under the remarkable and late Jim Sitton. Additionally, I took painting courses under the late Joseph Perrin, printmaking under Jim McLean (Editor’s note: McLean retired in 1994 and has since illustrated 11 books, most of them with well-known language guru and punmeister, Richard Lederer), and pottery under a man named Potter.

Did you inherit your artistic talents from your parents?
Short answer—maybe. Late in life my mother surprised us all with a seemingly sudden and remarkable interest and talent in multiple-layer painting and firing on porcelain, which shares some characteristics with stained glass painting. Her work was beautiful.

My father, Bill Sr., was head of the Meteorology Department for Eastern Airlines, and in WWII he taught American and British pilots weather and navigation. After his retirement, photography became his hobby and lasted until he lost vision. My sister, Sydney, is a highly creative interior designer and her daughter, Lea, is a gifted jewelry designer.

What other creative mediums have you worked in?
First and foremost—drawing and painting in all painting mediums—from watercolor to oil, acrylic to tempera. That’s the most consistent media—especially watercolor—which is the most ancient and long-lasting medium. I’ve enjoyed printmaking—especially old techniques of etching and woodblock printing. I’m still an enthusiastic stained glass fan, but had to close my shop due to illness. The physicality was too demanding and I couldn’t do any work for over two years. Now I occasionally work primarily in watercolor.

Tell us about the evolution of your career.
I worked in the graphic design field for 17 years, specializing in visual tools to aid in teaching, illustration, printing, promotional and marketing materials, writing and heading an award-winning design team of artists and photographers. During my GSU tenure, I completely designed the then new Educational Media facility from the ground up with the universities chief architect. The facility design included plans for HAVAC, electrical, space usage, and a complete layout for departments of Graphics/Photography, Film/Video, Distribution, Audio and supportive staff.

I left GSU to develop award-winning consumer catalogs for an importer. Concurrently and five years prior, I developed Mountain Pond Pottery, creating one-of-a-kind and limited edition raku and stoneware. I liked raku because it’s an art with such an exciting process. (The creative process of Raku as practiced today has evolved from methods developed in Japan in the sixteenth century. A Korean tile maker’s hand-pinched tea ceremony bowls so impressed the Japanese emperor that he named the tile maker, Raku, meaning pleasure. The Raku family practices pottery to this day. Westerners have built on that simple and elegant approach by making a wide variety of forms and formulating more distinctive color glazes. After forming, bisque firing then glazing, the piece is thrust into a preheated red-hot kiln at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At the time of glaze maturity, when the piece is close to transparent red, the piece is lifted out of the kiln with tongs and/or gloves, then plunged into a container of sawdust, straw, or a combustible material like oil rags. The piece is tightly covered and sealed to allow carbons released from the combustibles to penetrate the glaze and clay body which produces the characteristic black clay body and individual and surprisingly unpredictable glaze results now characteristic of Raku—each finished piece is scrubbed when cooled to remove soot, and bears the distinctive marks of tongs or gloves adding character to the form.)

After working with the importer, I was Resident Potter at the John C. Campbell Folk School, while also heading the marketing department there. I also taught and authored a history of the Brass Town Carvers, a then 60+ year old program at JCCS patterned after Winter Work in carving by Danish farmers.

After JC Campbell I traveled west to California to work at the former Pocket Ranch Institute and the Star Foundation. High in the mountains above the vineyards surrounding Geyserville, I produced marketing materials and a motivational video. I was also on the management team for the large 2,000 acre retreat and psychotherapeutic facility.

After several years I returned to the southeast and soon worked as Operations Director and Music Personnel Manager for the Greenville Symphony, in Greenville, S.C. Four years later I had to get back into art and left the Symphony. I took some time off and subsequently returned to my first love—the visual arts. I took a short drive to Tryon, N.C. and came upon a glass studio—Tryon Decorative Glass—owned by stained glass artist Michael Kitchen. We hit it off discussing art and art glass. I was amazed with his work.

Under Kitchen’s instruction, I learned the art of glass painting with multiple layers—painting with ground glass mixed with bonding agents, which remain on the painted glass surface long enough to place in kiln. This assured the ground glass would stay on the painted glass through handling and firing; the pieces were then fired in special glass kilns. I also learned window design and fabrication with Kitchen. At that time he was contracted to create windows for many United House Of Prayer cathedrals and small churches throughout the East and Midwest. These projects were more than inspiring. Kitchen now works with Glass Works Stained Glass Studio in Charlotte, N.C.

Two years later, in January 1998, I ventured out on my own to create Biggers Glass Painting & Stained Glass Design, with glass studio customers throughout the U.S. Throughout my career incarnations, I continued to create portraits, drawings, and products for communications, business, crafts and the arts—my specialty and passion remains portraits. (View Bill’s stained glass painting and design portfolio here.)

Do you draw every day? What is your favorite medium? 
Yes, if you include doodling. Usually it is just a couple of minutes of sketching per day because my stamina is greatly reduced. When I feel capable, I do full drawings and paintings in acrylics and primarily watercolor.

My favorite medium is watercolor—the oldest painting medium. Chemically, watercolors are pigments made from ground minerals and dyed inert powder, held together generally with gum arabic made from the acacia tree. Watercolors capture luminosity and offer a range equal to and often exceeding that of other mediums. I’ve devoted a page to the history of watercolor here on my website.

On average, how long does it take to complete a work?
The time to create a work varies enormously. Paintings take longer than drawings. Other major factors include the amount of detail and style, number of subjects and size. The time is quite variable, especially since I can only paint for short durations.

Can you explain the process on a portrait commission from start to finish? Which commissions do you enjoy the most?
It can vary by medium—oils and acrylic paintings take longer—yet a watercolor can easily be as time-consuming. First comes the initial contact and commission. I ask many questions of my client to get as much verbal information as possible to determine their needs and hopes. A portrait is special to people and I like to give them that opportunity to co-create in the beginning. Ideally I like to work on a thumbnail sketch and feature detail of a live model, and take photographs of the desired position, and from all angles. From there, I take photos of the subject and retire to my studio to begin working. For out-of-town commissions, I rely entirely on photos—requesting not only the preferred sitting, but also as many photos as possible of the subject to get a more complete feeling for the portrait.

It is hard to distinguish which commissions I like most as “I’ve never met a commission I didn’t like!” I like portraits of men, women, children and pets… the rare and occasional landscape or still life… and respect for the nuances of watercolor seem to outweigh any other medium.

How would you describe your illustration/painting style?
I “play” in every style I’m aware of, but for commissions I generally lean heavily toward “new realism,” with intense detail—at least as much detail as I can muster.

What are your influences? What artists inspire you?
Truthfully, that is the most difficult question. As a child I was amazed by artists like Norman Rockwell, Leger, Wyatt—the work of 1950s realists that I saw in magazines and in museums and galleries. As I matured, the love for these artists continued, but a mountain of other artists flooded in—from Expressionists to Impressionists, late 19th century realists to cubists, Fauves—almost every style and within those styles, many artists. 

My likes increased exponentially—I am a great lover of Monet, Manet and Van Gogh. My tastes jump back to the great 15th century European painters and sculptors. Later came appreciation for watercolor’s resurgence in the 2oth century and on to artists like Dali and other surrealists, and Picasso to Braque. Additionally, Motherwell, Frankenthaler, Pollock and just about every major artist known on the Abstract Expressionist scene—their creativity exploded into my artistic consciousness. Then there are conceptual artists like Christo and Oldenburg. A few of my favorites are the minimalists.

I have to mention the giants in stained glass design and painting from the 13th century to the 20th century—the late, great national treasure, Dick Millard. He was a friend, mentor and wild man spirit who died in March of this year. He is missed by his wife, Vicki, and literally thousands of fans worldwide.

My paintings don’t seem to reflect these many appreciations and love for visual diversity. However, I do think that these various movements expanded awareness and somehow enriched my experience as an artist. Additionally, living and working in California, Arizona, and the southeast has really influenced my work. (Above: Bill created this stained glass painting, “Prayer for Nation & The World,” to honor the 9/11 victims.)

How do you keep your work fresh and how did you come to formulate your style? Does it progress naturally? What is your creative motivation?
In a word—I try, but sometimes fail. I work at seeing things as they are in the moment. As to style, it seems to have matured to some extent. Opening my eyes each morning and scanning the room, I’m motivated and inspired by everything that surrounds me—shape, form, details and color—as much as my awareness can conceive. That wasn’t always a good characteristic—I was often described as a daydreamer in my primary school days. Catching up was swift and exciting at the college level.

What are you working on at present?
I’ve spent several months sketching and thinking about a personal project—something challenging—a young lady, hand draped over the back of a wooden chair, heavily lit from one side, only slight bounce of light on deeply shadowed part of face and form.

In the last couple of months I have worked on two caricature pieces for a niece—one for a mud run benefit that eventually was transferred to their team’s T-shirts. Another project was a caricature of her friend and co-worker’s Bon Voyage party. An occasional simple piece for a family member or friend keeps the cobwebs away. My niece suggested I render the Markley Chapel at Greenville’s 200-year-old Christ Church (right). The original artwork was sold at a silent auction to benefit the church’s school. Additionally, I made a few Giclée prints from the image, as well as notecard packages.

I noticed you have wide range of artwork on the walls in your home. Whose works do you admire and collect?
First, Jim Sitton, who was one of my university professors. He was a master of giant drawings with details, scratches and usually indistinguishable tiny forms of near microscopic size covering an entire piece. I also have a photolithograph by Jim McLean, one of the printing instructors at GSU. I was fortunate to visit China in late 1994 and acquired two contemporary Chinese paintings, one of the “Venice Of China” (an intaglio print), and a colorful primitive interior with several people. Both are outstanding and unfortunately, I do not know the artists. The three week+ trip expanded awareness and amazement of my favorite subject—other people. Photo © Bill Biggers

There are other works—photography by friends, a large print from another. My favorite pieces, which I would love to possess, are Dick Millard’s glass paintings and panels.

Tell me about your work with the Greenville Symphony.
After three interviews over three months, I was awarded the position of both Music Personnel Director and Operations Director. I managed the Symphony’s budget, attended all rehearsals and performances, contracted musicians and coordinated blind auditions. I supervised the Symphony’s music librarian and was responsible to the Music Director-conductor, David Pollitt. I suppose I enjoyed the rehearsals the most—seeing a piece be interpreted, then evolve into a performance. I also contracted numerous guest artist performers until the last few months there. In late 1994 Maestro Pollitt was offered a cultural conducting exchange with the conductor of the Shanghai Symphony. Three people were going and a benefactor paid to have me included. In all, I worked no more than three partial days followed by at least 10 days of travel. We first explored Shanghai, then Beijing, then went north to the emperor’s tombs and the Great Wall. Initially, we landed in Hong Kong, but didn’t explore until our last two days in China. A strong memory was the enormous bird market, spanning alley after alley, with species of birds I’ve never seen before nor since. I also enjoyed the Jade Market in Hong Kong. Outside the tents were old Chinese men with cloths covering the ground and many ancient jade pieces. The harbor in Shanghai was incredibly scenic and beautiful. The Chinese food was remarkable, with little similarity to Chinese food in the U.S.

How does the word passion relate to an artist?
First, I think any work, field or endeavor should done with some passion and not always with the major goal of producing income. If you are good at something, you can be a success in many ways. The key is to find that thing—or things—that jets your juices and stirs your passion enough to make each day an adventure.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
That’s easy—a writer and a psychologist.

Describe yourself in three words.
Curious, listener, friend

My Favorite…
Words: Peace & tranquility
Colors: Yellow & blue
Foods: Fish & pizza
Music: Mozart, Lennon, Tyler
Authors: Michener & Dickens, plus a few contemporary authors
Actors: Anthony Hopkins & Javier Bardem
Movies: To Kill A Mockingbird & Schindler’s List

No interview would be complete without the requisite “you’re stranded on a deserted island” question—what five things must you have with you?
Books, music, My Spiritual Path writings, nail clippers, and several pairs of reading and distance glasses (two pair of bifocals)

(Editor’s note: Interesting—he didn’t even mention art supplies! My answer was always something like: cheese, chocolate (never mind how they’re going to be kept fresh), a horde of fine black sharpie markers, a stack of sketchpads, and a guitar for entertainment (I could finally teach myself to play—something I’ve wanted to do for years). Then the obvious question is—why do we not say, “a boat,” so we won’t be stranded any longer!?)

I will never forget: Any slight inkling, step or expansion of awareness, and those whom I’ve loved

I wish I could: No wishes—I like to be surprised.

What is one thing you most want people to remember about you?
I guess, “He lived for a time.”

To see more of Bill’s portrait work, visit www.PortraitsByBiggers.com.

To see more of his glass painting, visit www.BiggersGlassPainting.com.

Both websites were designed by Windy Airey of Windy’s Design Studio.

Bill can be reached at Bill@PortraitsByBiggers.com or WilliamBiggers@gmail.com.





Lulu & Kato

5 04 2011

Lulu (left) and her brother Kato are five months old and live with their humans, Brian and Shirley, in Austin, Texas. I flew into Austin on Thursday, March 24. Brian and I attended Joe McNally and David “Strobist” Hobby’s Flash Bus Tour 2011 on Friday (recap and photos to come—it was one fantastic day-long workshop!). I stayed with Brian and Shirley and had an event-filled, fun and informative weekend. Every night Lulu and Kato slept at the foot of my bed and made me feel quite welcome—and they were quite photogenic, to boot!

My week+ away was full and I’ll cover several events in future postings, including a recap of the energetic Flash Bus Tour 2011 workshop on Friday with Joe McNally and David “Strobist” Hobby (read Joe’s recap of the Austin workshop here); a wonderful sneak preview at the University of Texas campus of Dinomorphosis, the upcoming National Geographic film by filmmaker Jenny Kubo, followed by Dinosaurs in Living Color, a lecture by Dr. Julia Clarke, Associate Professor, Jackson School of Geosciences, UT-Austin; visiting the wonderful Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin to view the first photograph ever taken (1826)—by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce on his country estate near Chalon-sur-Saone, France (awe-inspiring for this photographer!) and see The Gutenberg Bible, one of only five complete examples in the U.S.; a grand tour of Austin the morning of Sunday, March 27 with Sonya, my dear friend/fellow graphic designer-artist/former college roommate (check out her adorable Bugs with Attitude in her etsy store here), followed by an afternoon photo excursion with her to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (my first visit there); then on to San Antonio to visit my family for the rest of the week (which included a fun wire crochet/beaded necklace class with my sister this past Friday—the process is actually easier than it looks and I’ll share our results in a future post—yeah, as if I needed another hobby).

From the “It’s a small world after all” department: Sonya and I reconnected as a result of this blog! She was looking for photographs of goats to use as reference in a clay sculpture project when her web search led her straight to my blog. I had just posted a photograph of cute goats in Nova Scotia. She saw my blog name and thought, “could this be my Cindy Dyer?” Indeed, it was! And the rest is history…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





In the words of Seinfeld’s George Costanza: “Yes. Significant shrinkage!”

9 03 2011

In early January I suggested to my friend Karen that we take a try-it class at a local clay studio. She agreed and two days later we found ourselves straddling potter’s wheels and giving it a whirl (literally) for just $35 each (including clay, two hours of instruction, firing and glazing). I had attempted the wheel way back in college. I was surprisingly bad at it and very disappointed because I tend to pick up most creative skills very quickly. Throwing pots on a wheel did not come easily to me back then.

Fast forward to January 2011: Jessica, our instructor, showed us how to center ourselves over the wheel and use proper techniques. It made all the difference.

I was quite proud of my first attempt. I surreptitiously added a “foot” to my bowl and silently declared that it could easily be included in any Pottery Barn catalog once it was fired and glazed. Karen’s bowl was lovely too even if she didn’t add a foot. Ah, grasshopper, have patience—you’ll get there.

When we said goodbye to our perfectly-formed creations, they were the size of cereal bowls. Jessica would later fire and glaze them in the studio’s signature blue color. She told us that we could pick them up in about a month.

Six weeks later, I go to pick up our projects. I searched high and low on the shelves for my Pottery Barn-worthy cereal bowl with its lovely perfect foot. Since I didn’t immediately spot my creation, I turned over the pots to see if our names were scribbled into them, courtesy of Jessica. They were. I found my cereal bowl. It had shrunk considerably. I’m fairly certain that Jessica, who was a wonderful instructor, most likely mentioned that the pots would shrink, but I was way too enthralled with clay play to process that very fact. In my head I was dreaming of throwing a plethora of pots, fulfilling orders for organic, artistic inventory for Pottery Barn, even hiring studio assistants to defray the overwhelming workload—making money hand over…wheel!

I suppose I could still use it as a cereal bowl but I’d have to go back three times to get a breakfast’s worth of goods. I included the soup spoon for scale. Yes, it may be tiny, but isn’t it the loveliest shade of blue?

Behold—my first true creation on the potter’s wheel—a $35 hearing aid caddy!

Operators are standing by to take your order. Please add $40.00 for labor, shipping and handling. Please allow two months for delivery. Not available in stores. Call in the next five minutes and we’ll throw in the soup spoon, ab-so-lute-ly free!