There are too many good places to eat in Chicago, burgers to try, wine to pair, and bake shops to peruse with a kid in a candy shop fascination, and honestly just not enough meals in the day! To remedy this predicament I find myself day dreaming about occasions far in advance that I can use as an excuse to try every food venue in a ten block radius. Ten blocks? you may be thinking. Isn't that quite a lot of walking? Well, think, you can eat a course, walk a bit, eat, a course, walk a bit, repeat... until you have simultaneously filled a day with food, enjoyment and exercise, the two extremes balancing each other out perfectly. This is a common dream of mine, which so far has not become a reality. Instead, I have combined this list of the top ten places I want to try next. This was pretty difficult so to compromise I will have to follow up with a list of just pizza.
Last year left me worn and tired. So when it came time for me to think and reflect on a New Year word (something I always do, read about it here and here), I was overwhelmed. It did not seem like I was done with 2015 much less ready to start 2016 head on.
I spent my Christmas break in Augusta, GA. It was a much needed reprieve from the fast-paced, crazy city life. Since I was not working or schooling, I had plenty of quiet time for thinking.
But still no light bulb moment.
My three weeks at home were full of rest and self-reflection but still no insight.
But you, Lord, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me. I cry out to the Lord and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down, sleep, and wake up because the Lord helps me.
It was not until I was driving through the desert on the way to the CFB National Championship (Go TIGERS!) did I feel that still calm voice. Ironic, since I was about to enter one of the loudest stadiums I have ever experienced and over all the weekend adventure was quite hectic.
Perhaps it was the mountains calling or a new symptom of clay withdrawal. Either way, with unyielding confidence I knew that this year would be Refresh. The thoughts behind this decision stem from the ceramic studio. One of my favorite qualities of clay is that it can be reused. You can play with it without the pressure of finality. But even clay gets exhausted, the platelets no longer line up, the strength waivers and the consistency clumps. So you take the clay and refresh it. This is just as important and strenuous as throwing or building. You reclaim it, pug it and then wedge it repeatedly until the clay is ready again. In summary, you refresh the clay.
By choosing the word Refresh as my focus and goal, I am recognizing the difficult past couple of years and my exhausted state, but most importantly that I need to work to get back to a ready point. I need to fertilize the field and get ready for rain (Thank you Facing the Giants for never ending metaphoric gems).
Jesus replied, "Now you believe? Look! A time is coming- and is here!- when each of you will be scattered to your own home and you will leave me alone. I'm not really alone for the Father is with me. I've said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world."
Today marks one month since uprooting, leaving everything I knew and moving to the Windy City. What a journey! All I can seem to come up when asked about the city life is "it sure is different!" Are you homesick? Of course, but mainly on Clemson football game days! Go tigers!
The month has flown by so fast that I have not had a moment to take pictures, much less recollect and analyze. Instead, I am going to give you a smorgasbord list of observations- some may seem obvious or a bit trivial. As with any blob, there is no order.
1. Drivers Honk here a lot! I still jump and look for the impending wreck every time. Down South honking is seen as rude, here is is just a normal method of communication.
2. It is always loud, partly due to above but also because the city is always in motion- that can be said for the people and the wind.
3. It is not true that everyone here only wears black but it is very prevalent, especially once the temps started to drop. My Southern style sensibilities have been commented on as a high fashion statement.
4. Chicago is a foodie heaven! From gourmet cupcakes to pizza pies and crazy grilled cheese sandwiches, you can find and eat it all! What pics I have taken have all been of food. (shameless plug: check out my Instagram on the right bar)
5. Lots of walking does not mean practical shoes. The true Chicagonista takes her miles in heels. Bonus: You burn off the above food with so much walking!
6. Diversity is my favorite. Coming from their own societal experiences, the people in my classes argue that there are no defined identity labels anymore. I would not agree in terms of the structure of my home state but in this city, full of people from every conceived background, that could be possible. Diversity makes people-watching exponentially better.
7. Christianity is still at work in this city; Bible Belt, you were wrong! The North's temperature may be cold but the people's hearts are not.
8. Chicago has a great selection of hats. This makes my heart (& head) so happy! Only a true old soul would understand. Basically I have take it upon myself to bring Sunday morning hats back into the foreground of finery.
9. Tall buildings make me feel like I live in a doll house. Or perhaps a movie set. I have no explanation for this but at least I can wear a fun hat to represent my mentality.
10. The only things Chicago needs: Sweet tea, Zaxbys, and buttery biscuits.
Here's to Month Two! May it be full of memories and hopefully accompanying photo documentation!
This Georgia peach has left the tree and moved up to the snowy North. So far it is not snowing, its actually about as hot and sweaty as home. After two days of unpacking and arranging everything into my new (tiny!) loft, I was ready to go exploring and hopefully meet some smiling faces. This morning I visited Urban Village Church-Andersonville, which was a reassuring breath that I can in fact make it. I have also located some local hardware stores and the HUGE historic library! So far everywhere I have visited I have been pegged as a newbie, I am not sure whether my deer-in-head-lights expression or my accent gives it away...
As I mentioned above I have been unpacking and decorating! After months of preparation, planning and packing, my new space is almost complete. I will share pictures of my new home shortly!
But here is the beginning of the madness...
I have two weeks till class so until then I will be exploring the nooks and coffee shops of this new place and nailing down a job.
Oh! and also an Important Announcement: I am on the hunt for pen-pals! If you are interested in applying (no worries, it is not competitive, I will write to anyone and everyone) please email me! Every first (and maybe second...) letter will come with a sketch!
Sorry for the scattered array of this post, but it reflects the inners of my brain right now.
Last week, I explored my soon to be zip code, Chicago, with my lovely parents. On the way there we stopped in Louisville and Indianapolis. Two great cities with inspiring urban design projects. If you are ever road tripping that direction I highly recommend checking out the huge flea market in Louisville and the Mass Ave Arts district in Indianapolis, which boasts a fun array of restraints and bars (deceivingly, not many galleries though).
Once we reached the Chicago, we spent the week apartment hunting, the differences in lifestyle and culture screaming at me at every turn. Change is terrifying but also brings new inspiration and comfort zones to jump out of. Luckily, my parents are not as new to the adult world as I am and helped me find an adorable place!
When not measuring walls to help mental map the layout of the candidate place, we went to some great antiques stores and I located my new favorite Mexican restaurant. I can not remember the name but I know the walk from the winning apartment. I also fulfilled a life long dream of standing in front of a real Frank Lloyd Wright house! The tour of homes is still on the bucket list for next spring.
This road trip is better spoken about through pictures, so here are a few gems.
Little corner Mexican restaurant I will see you and your delicious salsa soon! Also please comment with any suggestion of things to do, see, eat in the Windy City! I will add them to my bucket list.
Whenever I carry around my 35mm film camera, I get many looks, questions and comments. Most recently the common is "oh, aren't you such a hipster." I just laugh it off and keep going because if they knew the perfect sound the shutter makes with each shot, they would not need to ask because they too would own an old camera. To put it out there once and for all, this is what I <3 film:
1. As I already mentioned, the shutter sound. It is this perfect combination of click and scroll. It is the symbol of beauty in the works.
2. Film photography is intentional. Instead of mindlessly taking hundreds of pictures at every event, each roll has a finite number of shots. A film photographer will highly consider the picture, shutter speed and focus before that one moment when he or she presses the shutter.
3. It is definitely about quality over quantity. Film and the developing process is not cheap.
4. Instagram filters has nothing on film. Film photos have a certain coloring and crispness to them that I adore. Instead of just mirroring reality it improves it with a certain contrast and warmth.
5. The dark room. I would choose to edit my photos by hand in the dark room rather than on photoshop any day. Sadly, right now I have to rely on Walgreens because I do not have access to a dark room which is a bit iffy but anyways...
6. The unpredictability. You never know what you are going to get. Today I picked up a disk of some developed film from my recent trip to New Orleans, somehow I unintentionally double-exposed them over some images from the 90's. I had no idea that the film had already been used when I popped it in my camera but man are the results wicked!
7. Every time you develop a roll it is like Christmas!
If this list does not make you consider this time worn medium more highly, go try out a film camera for yourself. I am not wrong.
Here are some of the crazy pictures from today's development.
Yesterday, in need of inspiration and quiet repose, I adventured over the state lines to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. I go pretty often yet the trip never ceases to satisfy. The museum is having some pretty great exhibits right now that may get overlooked since they are not big names.
Greeting you outside in the pavilion is Los Trompos, a colorful assortment of interactive spinning tops. It has become the children' favorite but also an Instagram star. I loved watching the school kids race out of the stuffy Early American section to the "play ground" on their lunch breaks. The littlest ones and even the "to-cool-for-school" high schoolers ran around and interacted with these tactile spinners. This is a great exhibit to get anyone and everyone excited about art. So if you are anywhere near hot-lanta you should go and enjoy the sunny day for atleast a bit of time.
Los Trompos is a great community project because it brings its a place for people to gather together. It provides a venue that can be experienced and enjoyed b all, bringing everyone to the same level, high art connoisseurs to the youngest children. It is all about joy and beauty, easily understood feelings but still necessary and emotions that people want to experience. There is nothing trivial or silly about Play!
The High also is showing to young, Atlanta-based artists in their large special exhibition place. Imagining New Worlds: Jose Parla and Fahamu Pecou was not what I had expected, not that I had preconceived expectations because I had never heard of the artists nor had any idea the exhibit was on view until I was there. I was most interested in Pecou's work, which encompasses drawings, paintings, sound and sculptural installation to make an active environment, hopping with reflection and inspiration. Pecou talks about race and the African American culture. He elevates it through his paintings, depicting Young African American men in what may be preconcieved/ misconceived as "gangster" apparel on magazine covers or leafed in gold. He has interactive sound boxes and head phones where viewers can live in and experience a part of Black culture by making and listening to their own music beats. Viewers can create their own beat by taking clips of rap bass, African poetry and other parts of the culture. The installation was an interesting juxtaposition of graffiti and small voodoo like objects in a sancturary-like place. The viewers were overwhelmed by the size and all encompassing colors just this made one hone in on the small details of votive candles and little plastic toys. It was really a great piece on present day race and culture relations.
Lastly, the High is having an exhibit to celebrate the anniversary of Coca Cola by looking at the design of the iconic Coke bottle. When I heard about this show I will not lie, I was not excited, but it was a bit surprising because it was very well done. I can se that it is a good exhibit to teach people the history and art behind the dish and then how that design was used in art like Warhal and the pop art movement. I was just a bit bored until I came to the last piece, an installation of coils of recycled material that are in fact abstracted coke bottles. So I shall leave you with this beaut!
Until the next adventure of whimsy and time,
Though I sadly do not have enough hours in the day to write about each lecture I was able to attend, I do want to summarize some my favorite parts and my overall feelings at and post the NCECA conference.
The first lecture I went to was about the subversive nature of ornamentation given by an undergraduate student, Djnnaya Stroud. Ornamentation has evolved over many periods from the ancient to the contemporary ceramics, it has been used for propaganda, religious narrative and now social issues. In the most basic sense ornamentation makes a pot "pretty" and so appeals to and attracts viewers. Stroud specifically looked at the works of Grayson Perry. Perry points out how our, societies, tastes are given to us by the "default man". Minimal taste is no longer revolutionary because it is the typical upper middle class surroundings. Ceramics is rooted in every day life so by adding ornamentation to the functional, the issue becomes approachable.
Chris Staley is a loved, soon to be retired, professor at Penn State. His circle of love and support after the lecture was overwhelming. He spoke about teaching clay and how it involved three factors: clay, student and teacher. Clay is physical and tactile. It is collaboration. Teacher and student must trust each other for the classroom to work.
Then comes the list of advice that scribbly covers my sketchbook.
1. Ask quality questions that lead to bigger questions
2. Everything you, or your students produce is a metaphor. When you make something, ask what that metaphor is?
3. As a teacher, share how much you see so the students can see more.
4. It is ok not to know. The idea of wonder is the essence of learning.
Michael McCarthy is also a ceramics teacher but in a completely different setting. McCarthy leads the ceramics studio at the Austin Riggs residential psychiatric center, a place where the studio and the hospital overlap. He talked about the basics of the studio: it was not a privilege so was not taken away from patients, it was always available to them for expression and exploration. McCarthy tries to combat the idea of "failure" and pushes the idea of "students" (not patients) learning.
Then there were the many emerging artists lectures on Saturday. Each were unique and invigorating for technical, conceptual and social reasons. Roberto Lugo was by far the most moving and instead of me summing it up I recommend you just see for yourself.
As I read over my notes and recollect from the past weeks adventure I notice one thing in common- The potential of clay for social change! So many artists and teachers are doing so many great things and then so so so many more artists and students are excited about the potential and sitting in lectures to learn, grow and then do. Clay is play but also academic. Clay is approachable and accessible. Clay is a material, and object and a process. Clay can be used to teach views in a museum, or used to help overcome an illness in a residential museum. I believe in Social Clay and I am pumped to be in this world with so many "mad potters"!
This weekend was basically every ceramic enthusiast's dream, I was able to take a break from studio and go to Providence, Rhode Island for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts annual conference. First off Providence is beautiful, it is stuffed full of history and quirk as if each brick has a history and story to tell. I was able to ignore the dreary weather by taking many coffee breaks, yet never walking into a chain or repeating coffee shops. It is now on the list of cities I could see myself moving to someday. It was love.
It was Mud.
I guess I'll explain for non-ceramics people what a national ceramics convention looks like. It looks like thousands of artists, teachers and students, vibrant with personality and passion coming together to share ideas, listen to lectures, watch demonstrations by world-renowned artists and shop for the latest tool or program of study. My favorite part of the weekend was the lectures, I went to as many as I could fit into the hectic schedule. I am going to write up a summary and my own thoughts of each this week, so stay posted! I just knew I could not tackle them all in this one post.
When not in lectures or coffee shops, we went to exhibits associated with the conference. NCECA has a Biannual and a National Student Juried Show each year, which are the best of the best.
While you wait for me to wrap my brain around everything I heard this weekend and write a post with a bit more meat, here are some pics of beauties I saw along the way.
My birthday is coming up in exactly one week, which is both exciting and terrifying because it seems like my first really adult birthday. I will be turning 22, which yes is in a T-Swift song so couldn't be that adult, but it is also past the last exciting teenage milestone of legally drinking.
Back before I turned twenty I made a bucket list of places I wanted to go and decided that I should try to go before I turned thirty. So ten years to go to thirty places, Woo! So far I am doing pretty good but I definitely have a far way to go (literally). Feel free to start a "Help Becca travel the world in 10 years" fund. X means I have checked it off my list!
X 1. Venice (April 2013)
2. Paris- I dream of roaming the hall of the use D' Orsay and I guess I will go to the Louvre while I am there.
3. Barcelona- especially to see the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batillo by Gaudi
4. Redwood Forest
5. Grand Canyon
X 6. New York City (November 2014, read about it here)
X 7. Chicago (Checked off this past weekend!)
8. Cinqui Terre, Italy- I am not sure how I let myself get out of Italy without being this beautiful place last time...
X 9. Rome, Italy (February 2013, read about it here)
13. Go on a Frank Lloyd Wright Tour
14. New Orleans
15. Falling Water
X 16. Washington DC (October 2013)
17. Australia- basically I want to see all of the marsupials in their actual home
19. Boulder, Colorado
20. Portland, Oregon
21. San Fransisco
22. Go to the Venice Bienalle- I missed it by a month back in 2013
23. Go to NCECA (which I will be checking off my list in one month and two weeks!)
24. Attend a class at Penland or be a resident
25. Go on a hot air balloon ride- You may be scratching your head that this is not a place, but I disagree, the place is the sky, the vessel is the balloon.
26. Machu Picchu, Peru- that engineering and architecture is incredible!
29. South Africa
30. Egypt- this one may be a long shot until the political and religious tension lets up a tad