Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Slow Blogging

My blogging is a little slow right now. I am spending a lot of time working on our Dickens of a Christmas promotion that will go throughout the Chistmas Season in our Downtown. Carol Tokarski and I are drawing and painting large cards that will tell the story of a Christmas Carol in windows throughout the Downtown. Read all about it at A Dickens of a Christmas website.

View from the proch

We are excited that we're getting a marina across the street from our house. It's behind the Galley Stores on East Front Street.

We love seeing all the boats on the river and with a marina right here we'll see even more.

On Nov 22, Saturday, we'll see a re-creation of the Chicago Christmas Tree Ship as the Ada Mae SkipJack arrives at the Galley Stores Pier full of NC Fraser firs at 4 pm. The trees will be available at the Galley Stores that day and through the season, as long as they last

The tree sale Benefits the Carolina Coastal Classroom which is used to promote understanding and appreciation of our coastal waters and maritime heritage through hands-on shipboard educational experiences.

ou can pre order your tree by calling Ben Bunn 633-3140 or Carolina Coastal Classroom 633-8246.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fabulous Mirrors

We just got in the most fabulous mirrors!

They are a combination of mirror, wood and ceramic.

About the artist Jan Jacque - I received a BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Craftsmen in 1977. My 31 year career as a full-time potter has been devoted to making beautiful objects for individuals and galleries who appreciate fine craft. I have received many awards for my creations. Four of my pieces are in the permanent collection at the Mint Museum of Craft and Design (Allen Chasanoff Ceramic Collection).

The clay I use is a fine-textured white clay. I use both 'slab' and 'coil' building methods of construction. With 'slab' construction large sheets of clay are rolled out, very much like pie dough, only bigger. The slabs of clay are then draped into curved bisque forms I have made. When the clay is slightly stiff, I put two of the curved pieces together using a coil (snake) of wet clay. The very large pieces I make by 'coiling' large snakes of clay on top of one another and pinching them together and up. This is a very slow process but it allows me the most control to create any shape I want. Once the form is roughed in the branch or sculpted hardwood is added and fit into its place on the form. It must be removed before the clay starts to shrink as it dries. In the final stages of both methods of construction the clay is paddled, scraped and sanded until very smooth.

Ceramic colorants are then airbrushed over the form and bisque fired in an electric kiln. The pieces are fired a second time to attain the smoked finish. My final firing is called Pit Firing. My Pit is actually a large metal box, which I use to contain the combustibles, pots, fire and smoke. I pack the pots in a collection of solid combustibles such as hardwood sawdust, leaves, and straw. After the combustibles have caught fire, I cut the oxygen by placing a lid on the kiln. The fire still burns but makes a very smoky atmosphere in the kiln. The smoke penetrates the clay. The different combustibles leave interesting markings on the pieces called 'flashing'. The smoke and flashings add depth and subtle nature images to the pieces.

The wood must then be refit to the specific clay piece it was made with. This is because the clay shrinks as it dries and is fired. This stage of the process can be very tedious. By slowly sanding and carving the wood is made to fit the clay again. The wood is then finish sanded, stained, and lacquer sealed. The wood is then permanently attached to the clay piece. It is a long complex process, but I think it is worth the end result.

Come in and see her beautiful work or go to our website to order and for more info.

Trolley Tour

My sister in law came to visit and we went on the trolley tour, we've sent probably hundreds of people on it but never went ourselves until now. It was great! Our tour guide was an endless fountain of information and was humorous as well. You know we've lived here 20 years and still learned some things we didn't know.

You can buy your tickets ahead of time to be sure you'll get a seat at their office 333 Middle Street. The phone number is 637-7316. It is 90 minutes long with 3 stops. Their professional guides are outstanding.

The tour runs daily with 2 tours most days, 1 tour on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ike Day 5 from Houston

I have a friend who has 2 galleries in Houston and they live on the 22nd floor of a highrise, in which they have no electricity. We've been through heartbreak like this, fire, hurricane, etc so know how they feel. But I will say I'd rather be in a small town like New Bern and go through it than in a big city. Lets all send them good thoughts and do what we can to help.

News from Houston: day 5 Sept 17, 2008

Thank you for your correspondence! We are moving forward. Our small store (inside a mall) had no damage whatsoever. Our big, beautiful store at Uptown Park had 40 gallons of rainwater come in through 12 new roof leaks. It came down on fixtures and merchandise. No broken windows, miraculously because the Galleria/Uptown area where we are located was particularly hard hit. Our landlord says that of all their 140 properties, we had the most damage. Not counting business-interruption, we are estimating $20 to 30 thousand in lost merchandise. More $ if counting cleanup, repairs to fixtures, drywall, lighting and employees hours to do all this. We have good insurance with $1000 deductable…I will never gripe about how high it is again. Our business interruption insurance has a 72 hour deductable, so that will help in time.

What we can’t account for (from Rita, Allison and 911 experiences) is when the customers will decide they need a feel-good item or birthday gift and come back into the store. I know we will do business the day after the election and on to the end of the year, possibly even very good business because the customers finally want to feel good about something, but between now and then it’s going to be rough. The majority of Houston (1.7 mil people) is still without power and this is day 5. Three-quarters of our personnel are still without power and some without water. They are desperate for air-conditioning (both of our stores have that now) and their paychecks, so we have plenty of hands to clean up the mess. Our customers are still worried about when schools can open, where to find a hot meal, how long to wait in the gas lines, how to keep clean, and when their lives can get back to normal. Many of our customers have second homes in the Texas hill country, so they vacated and aren’t coming back until they have electricity. At least we’re not hearing anything about the election!!! That’s the only nice reprieve. In fact, we are not hearing or seeing much of anything…you are getting much more news about this than we are able to get.

If I could get any word out to the craft movement about this or any disaster, it is that even though it is not fresh news to the rest of the world since it happened almost a week ago, it has impacted our local economy for weeks (maybe months) to come.

The craft movement has been very supportive with offers to help anyway they can: with offers of special terms at least until the end of the year, with offers to do follow-up calls for us, and any number of other offers. I almost cried when my last phone call asked if any of her work was damaged, for she would replace it free of charge. Now that is real charity. I had hundreds of emails, when we finally got power, asking about our status and wishing us well. Ninety percent of them want to know exactly what they could do to help. Several artists have called and offered a consignment basis until the end of the year. Now this is what “helping your neighbor out in a crisis” is all about. We are slowly answering all these well wishers as we have power and can take the time out of cleaning up. We thank them all.

I have not heard any horror stories involving artists here in Houston. They are probably trying to survive and get power, food, water and gas like the rest of us. They might not have internet, land lines or even working cell phones.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Font Size

Sometimes when I look at this blog it seems that the font size is very small. Did you know that if you hit control + it will make the size larger?

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Bern Ornament

Just in! Our New Bern Ornament 2008 has just arrived. I started doing a new ornament each year starting in 1985.
Below shows how I go about designing my ornaments. If I don't have an idea myself I often ask our customers for suggestions. This year they said how about the Trent River Bridge.

I looked through my photos and found this one. Then I start to doodle and do rough sketches. I like to have the ornament very "open" with a lot of the metal cut away.

I keep drawing it over and over until I get it "just right".
Then I send it to some friends in New England that make a die and stamp them out. Totally made in the USA!

To purchase and to see all the ornamanets go to our website by clicking here!

Again, Where does the time go!

I really don't get much time to go kayaking but I seem to write about it a lot. I guess I love it when I get to go.

I just ran across these photos of a kayaking trip I took to Merchants Millpond last summer.

This is an amazing place near the North Carolina - Virginia border, about 2 hours north of New Bern.

It is a huge pond full of cypress trees. There are marked trails throughout the pond. It is totally silent except the sound of birds or turtles splashing into the water.

One really great thing about it is there are no mosquitoes, too much tannin in the water I'm told.

They rent canoes there, very reasonably priced, I think we only paid $11 for 1/2 a day.

If you ever get the chance this is a must see.

In the early 1700s, Hunters Millpond was built at the head of Bennetts Creek to provide a means of processing and marketing regional produce. Highway construction destroyed this millpond in 1922. But further downstream, Norfleets Millpond, which was built in 1811, thrived. Gristmills, a sawmill, a farm supply store and other enterprises made the area the center of trade in Gates County. Thus, the pond became known as Merchants Millpond.

Shortly before World War II operations around the millpond came to a halt and millers sold the land to developers. In the 1960s, A.B. Coleman of Moyock purchased the property and later donated 919 acres, including the millpond, to the state. His generous donation led to the establishment of Merchants Millpond State Park in 1973. In the same year, the Nature Conservancy contributed an additional 925 acres of woodlands to the park that now encompasses more than 3,250 acres.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

New Bern - Boats from all over the country & world

This evening we went on a short kayaking trip, it was a little choppy to start but by the time we started back it had calmed down somewhat.

We went over to check out the bridge, it's coming along nicely. Heard from Danny Meadows the other night that it is right on schedule, in fact it might be a little ahead of schedule but that being said Danny said it would be finished in November 2009 as promised. We went on to check out SkySail and saw a couple sitting on a balcony, it's good to see people are moving in.

Some of the home ports we saw on the boats included many cities in North Carolina, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Washington State, Nova Scotia and the furthest away Australia!

When we came to New Bern in 1989 we lived on a boat for 3 years at the BridgePointe Marina. It was fun. We met a lot of interesting people. Some of whom we are still good friends with.

We met a couple from British Columbia that had sailed through the Panama Canal to New Bern, they were here for a couple of years then sailed up to Nova Scotia then back here. Then to Bermuda, the Azores then into the Mediterranean. This was in a 29 foot boat!!! They sailed the canals and rivers of Europe for 4 or 5 years then 3 years ago they had her brought back here on a ship then had it trucked back to British Columbia. What an adventure! I'll have to say I loved Bermuda, and would love to see the Azores, and of course would love to sail around Europe but I would have said I'll meet you there.

Another couple sailed in to see his doctor. It seems that they had been working in England and decided to retire. They bought a boat and sailed it to Bermuda and then to the US with their kids. Every year they would travel from their home in NY to Florida and then to the Carribbean and stop here on the way. They've been to South America and all the Islands between here and there. One favorite story of mine from them was when they were in the San Blas Islands. They got stuck on a sand bar as they were getting ready to leave. All these natives (Kuna Indians) came out in their canoes and climbed on the boat. Of course our friends couldn't speak the language so they just stood back and watched. The Indians rocked the boat until it finally came off the sandbar and started sailing away. But the Indians weren't getting off. My friend ran down below and came back with cookies for all. They still didn't get off. Finally after quite a ways they started jumping off one by one and swimming back to their canoes.

The last story I'll tell is another couple we met on Cinco De Mayo, 2000, we were standing on the Trent River Bridge watching boats race through the Bridge. They had been living on their boat for 6 or 7 years at that time. He worked for a large construction company and lived on their boat. They'd sail it as close to the job as possible and live on it. Or they would leave the boat here and go off to a job a year or two at a time. One time they did a circumnavigation of the Eastern US. They went up the Hudson, through the Erie Canal, Great Lakes, Down the Chicago River, down the Mississippi, then the TennTom (Tennessee River - Tom Bigbee Canal) to Mobile, around Florida, through the Ockachobie up the Intra Coastal and back to New Bern, I think they took 2 years to do that. Their newest adventure which they are on right now is up the Hudson to Lake Ontario, they are currently going up the Trent Severn Canal in Ontario, there are 44 locks on this canal. Their kids are in Chicago and they plan to spent next winter there with them. Don't know what their plans are after that.

Makes our story sound pretty boring.

I took the photo out my front window this morning. Pretty awesome.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Readers Choice

Thank you so much for voting us the Best Place to Buy Art & Sculpture in New Bern (6th year in a row) and Simply the Best Gift/Specialty Store (5th year).

We don't take these awards lightly and really appreciate your support!

We work very hard to offer a continually evolving selection of art, crafts and gifts, 98% made in North America by people we know.

We are always trying to find ways to improve. If you have ideas of things you would like us to try to find or ways we could do things better we would love to hear about it, please email me.

Starting in September we are giving a birthday gift to our customers that receive our email newsletter. To sign up for our email newsletter just go to our website at www.carolinacreations.com and follow the link at the bottom of the home page.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Our House

We've heard, and continue to hear, lots of comments about our house from "I love it" to "I hate it" and everything in between. "It's too tall" "It's too square" "It's too yellow".

Well we love it, our views are amazing and we finally have enough space to create our art.

There has been a lot of discussion about other new buildings downtown as far as height, and people asking for variances to the rules.

Our house was built totally within the guidelines for building within the historic district.

It's about 5 feet shorter than the Sparrow House across the street that was buit in 1843. (Too tall?)

The design is like the side porch houses that you see in Charleston and not unlike examples of Federal architecture you see here in New Bern. (Too square?)

The yellow brick is similar in color to City Hall, our gallery Carolina Creations, and the Elks Building. (Too Yellow?)

And on top of that on a map of 1906 it shows a 3 story brick structure on the lot, right where we built.

I was pleased to be at a meeting when a member of our planning department was talking about our rules that protect buildings from being torn down, and we heard her say "In 100 years the Francoeur House will be a contributing structure."

We've been in a year now, hard to believe!