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Posted on 2016.11.08 at 14:43
It is very nerve wracking being a half a day earlier during the election.

Another Kind of Adventure

Posted on 2016.11.01 at 03:54
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My Artist in the Schools Residency has begun. I was a little unsure of how it would go, but now that we are into the swing, it feels pretty good and I hope the kids and teachers feel the same way. I feel a little more comfortable showing these pictures since they involved my Residency.
The signs all over made me feel legit:

Is there anything on earth cuter than a child focused on their art? These pics are of second graders.

ISB has children from around the world although most are Chinese. Classes are taught in English, but many younger kids come to the school with no English at all. These kids have been doing really nice jobs because their powers of observation are how they make their way in this school while learning English:

Around the Great Wall

Posted on 2016.10.29 at 18:35
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It was persimmon season. Persimmon trees drop all their leaves and leave the ripe, neon orange, persimmons hanging. Trees are dotted all over up to the Great Wall. My son said fruit trees were planted for the soldiers manning the wall. So presumably these modern fruits are descended from those.
There are merchants all over selling persimmons and nuts, sometimes ugly plastic toys, everywhere you go. They are persistent, yelling, pestering hucksters. I would probably buy more stuff if I knew the price and didn't have the language barrier. We are very aware that as foreigners we are being charged more than the Native Chinese. But in these cases I don't really care if they get a couple of extra yen, the people have so little to live on.

In this photo, my son was pretty sure we didn't get the pounds of fruit we bought and argued with the merchant a little. She brought out her scale to prove we did. (Such an honest looking scale). I wanted to take a photo of the scale and she thought I was further mistrusting her, but the funkiness of the scale was my intention.

Another beautiful site was this mountain near the mountains of the Great Wall. It must consist of all stone and looks like such an anomaly in the midst of the green mountains:

And because there can never be enough wall space. A lot of people walk here, so a lot of the wall has been repaired, still...those steps:

The Great Wall, or bits of it anyway

Posted on 2016.10.29 at 18:14
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Writing about the Great Wall of China is like writing about the terra cotta Warriors, but moreso. It is so epically, immensely big, that photos can't possibly do it justice. It can be seen going over and a little down the mountainside, sometimes taking great dips down a valley. But we can only see a small portion at a time.

So here are some totally inadequate photos:

My son says that if someone walks the entire length of the great wall they are awarded a gold medal. Some of the areas look quite impassable.

This is the area where I spent the most time, it was close to the road so we were able to park nearby. I wanted to do some drawing in my travel journal, but it was so cold I could only get some preliminary sketches done then finished back at the apartment from my photos. Not what I had hoped.

Beijing Drivers and Xi'ng Museum

Posted on 2016.10.28 at 03:41
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I have spent a couple of days at ISB for my residency. It's enjoyable. They asked me to come in several extra days. The planned residency starts next week. Today I was a volunteer though, a chaperone for Beatrice's class field trip. Beijing drivers don't change just for children. The bus stopped to let the little 4 year olds off and a driver behind us got so mad at the wait she got out of her car and went up to the driver and screamed at him, not speaking Mandarin one supposes it was to move the bus. As well as the bus driver, the gentle soul Pre-school teacher screamed right back at her, even more impressive since Miss Suzanne is American. I guess one catches on to the language. I salute her, she was great.

Since it isn't cool to show photos of school kids, more gratuitous museum pics:
This jar is the favorite pot I have seen so far. You can't see the under shape but it is exquisite. T'ang dynasty of course.

These statues are gold and about 7" tall. I suspect some cross-pollination, the bird/griffin's beaks look Sythian. This section of the Museum was al T'ang dynasty, but maybe not as the labels were all in Chinese.

This is another of my favorites, a porcelain bag-shaped pot. So beautiful.

This fierce guard is about 3feet tall. The care and skill taken to do his face compared to his hand makes me wonder if different craftsmen made different parts.

Chen Lu itself

Posted on 2016.10.25 at 04:09
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This village was picturesque, beautiful every part of it we saw had pottery everywhere.

Wall of pottery, one of many:

This walkway didn't have one of the more intricate designs in the set in pottery. Those were not only lovely, but gave good traction on the clay-y mud paths.

Some of these paths were built on top the cave houses:

Zounds! We find a potter

Posted on 2016.10.25 at 00:33
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While walking befuddled down a Chen Lu street, we walked past a shack and someone stuck his head out and emphatically motioned us to come in. We were hesitant because of the aggressive tourist traps we had walked past in Xi'an. But finally we did and found an honest-to-goodness potter. Or rather he found us.

In his studio he had about 7 low-to-the ground electric wheels. He demonstrated throwing a pot and then (this was all in Mandarin so I missed the conversation) I was scooted over to his wheel and sat down. The way his wheel worked was the on switch was on the wall, it had one speed....1000 miles per hour. The clay was very wet and soft, he used no tools. I had noticed that rather than cutting the top off with a pin tool when it got uneven he folded the clay into itself inward. So I gave that a try, he kept helping. He cut that pot off the hump (another of his techniques) and said, through an interpreter that he wanted me to throw another one because I used my hands differently than he did and wanted to see what I did again. So I threw another pot.

I'll be honest, both the little vases I made were embarrassingly weak shapes. If I had some time to practice I think I could have done fine, but it would have taken me some practice to get up to speed. As it was he said I was the best tourist he had ever had and I was Middle Class. What we think this meant was that I could be an apprentice.

So that's something...right?

He was another very friendly person. So many in this village were:

The Dragon Kiln

Posted on 2016.10.24 at 18:24
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We did get to see (by accident) sections of an old dragon kiln. We were just walking down the street. The bricks look like they are still in decent condition. Never have I wanted to break down a fence more than I wanted to break down the flimsy fence that kept us from walking in and through this kiln:

The arches are in excellent shape:

It was another happy accident to see another kiln chamber of the kiln with most of the chimney stack. This was about a block away from the chamber we saw a street above it. It must have been a gigantic kiln in its day:

A close up of the top of the chamber. Those bricks look like they are ready to fire another load:

More terra cotta warriors

Posted on 2016.10.23 at 22:21
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It looks like the heads were set into the bodies:

So many face variations:

Still quite a few that have not been reassembled (my archaeologist friends are drooling):

Someday this will be funny

Posted on 2016.10.23 at 18:57
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We contacted a tour company and arranged to have a tour guide and driver take us to Chen Lu, an ancient pottery village which is not a common tourist destination. We were told our tour guide had knowledge of ancient ceramics, the village, history, everything we wanted to know. The village was on top of a mountain and the road up the hill was windy and slick with clay. We saw terraced hillsides everywhere where corn and wheat was grown for how many eons?

On the way up, I spotted what looked like an outcropping of purple clay that may have been like the Yxing clay, my son spotted what looked to be a kiln built into the hillside. We asked to stop to take photos, but the guide said we would soon see hundreds of them. I clapped my hands in trusting anticipation.

The village itself was so picturesque it was beautiful. It had been carved into the hillside, as terraced as the gardens. All the walls were either completely made of ceramic jars, or a combination of jars and bricks. The streets were vertical and had set-in ceramics. The houses were all cave houses, carved into the hills. (I will post photos of those next time). Although we had emphasized handmade pottery, the first place he stopped was a porcelain factory, where he boasted about it all being machine made. He wanted us to go inside, I refused, which wasn't hard to do since the factory looked like it had been mothballed for 10 years. We stayed there standing in front of it for a heck of a long time, we didn't know why.

Then he directed us to what he said was a completely handmade pottery shop, he even demonstrated using his hands. We walked inside to find it was an old lady's home. After a bit of us being bewildered and she being bewildered by our entrance, she graciously invited us into her home. We kept looking around for the pottery the tour guide told us was there. None. The Lady served tea and her even older Auntie came over to as she said (through some interpretation) she had never talked to foreigners before. They really were very kind to us after we burst into their home so we felt we had to stay and be sociable for awhile.

When we finally left, my son saw a sign for "The Kiln God Museum". The guide said it was up a steep path, which I didn't think I could climb, but Deva was quite interested so the guide led him. It was to another person's home. After our first experience he knew this wasn't going to get any better so he left sooner than we managed to previously.

Guide also tried to get us to go down a steep path where he said there were potteries everywhere, but looking over a fence to the spot, we could see that there were none. Just more homes to barge into.

At this point the tour guide confessed that he had read many books and had a lot of knowledge about the pottery in this area, but had forgotten it all.

The next stop was when he dropped us off at a Mall intended for locals, not tourists. I wondered into a Chinese pharmacy and got scowled at. Then a floor covering store which sold mostly contact paper. Then we couldn't find the tour guide, so we called his main office.

We did have some clay experiences. (which I will write about later), but it was as much a surprise to the guide as it was to us. And we found them because I knew a little of what to look for.

Driving back home, we were tired, disappointed, and feeling like we had been cheated, when the Tour Guide turned to us and began to tell us that he supported Donald Trump. His support was shown by pumping his fists and shouting that name.By this time I had no patience and snapped at him, which he ignored. Deva tried engaging in a reasonable discussion, which he also ignored. He would not stop. I wish China had the equivalence of Yelp, but it does not. I can kind of see the humor in this, it was a bit like a sitcom. However, on the positive side, we got to meet two wonderful old ladies, and see streets and walls that were memorable.

This is the Lady's cave house cooking area and bed. The two metal lids are where she cooks over coals, when the cooking is completed the coals are used to heat the bed. She was certain I didn't have a warm enough jacket on so insisted I sit on the coal-warmed bed to warm up. I could tell where the coals were under the hard surface.

This is a shot of the Lady's pillow. The ceramic rectangular, glazed piece on the bed. I had seen pictures of Chinese ceramic pillows from ancient times in books, but it was a surprise to see they are still used daily.

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