Saturday, August 29, 2009

home again home again jiggety jig

Back in the states and hard at work again, but that doesn't mean that I can't show you some more photographs. The last days of our trip were spent at the Gladstone Pottery Museum and at Chatsworth (the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire) in the Peak District. The first is a preserved and restored historic pottery manufactory in the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Bottle ovens, so named for their distinctive shape, filled the 19th-century Staffordshire skies with belches of black smoke while, ironically, producing sparkling white bone china and decorated earthenware. You can see several in the photograph at left. Most of the manufacturers that remained in Stoke pulled down their bottle ovens in the first half of the twentieth century. While the skies are now much cleaner, I must admit to a small desire to see Staffordshire as it once was. Historic films can get you close....and a walk through Gladstone can put you right inside an oven or a startlingly noisy slip-making room, which may be as good as it gets. I loved this place with abandon and shot a ridiculous number of photographs. Above is the color mixing room in the decorating shop, with the bottle ovens in the courtyard just visible through the window. Below is a slip-casting mold for jug handles. It beguiled me.
Such images were for research and future teaching, of course! I also threw a pot..on a modern wheel, but in the same room where pots had been thrown for more than 100 years. It actually made it home with me, the poor ugly little thing. I can't fire it because I haven't a kiln, but it squats on my desk and murmurs to me of all thinks kaolin. A hollow imp. An inclaybus....ok, I'll stop now.
Saturday, which dawned rainy and cool but quickly became gloriously sunny, found us taking a series of buses and trains from Stoke up to the Peak District. We began at Buxton, where we were so early I actually managed to take photographs of architecture without mobs of people in the way. Witness: The Buxton Opera House. I have never seen anything to approximate the brilliant emerald of English fields. American grass and sunlight just can't achieve the same glory as a jewel-bright meadow encrusted with pearly sheep set in a granite bezel and nestled into the hill's bosom. There I have waxed poetic and it has removed the worst of my writerly stubble. What a lovely image. Moving right along....Once we arrived in yet another impossibly perfect small town, Chatsworth was only about a 20 minute walk from the bus stop. In some ways the journey proved more satisfying than the destination, as this stately matron of an English home was aswarm with rather shockingly rude tourists who threw themselves down staircases, into sacred spaces and across historic architecture in search of the perfect vacation snap. It infuriated me. This was someone's home! But once we moved outside into the soothing grounds I relaxed a bit. And managed to get the second sunburn of my trip. Quite a feat in England, or so I am told. The pond below was in the rock garden up the hill and to the right of the famous waterfall gravity-fed fountain.
The GF and I could not decide if we liked the modern silver balls that made up an installation sculpture floating in the pond. We thought the ducks weren't sure either. We shall not speak of our "last" day in the country, as it entailed much drama, tears, a bit of hair-pulling and unexpectedly large quantities of cash in order to make it on a plane home. But I'm here, I have Rowan yarn purchased in England, and I'm knitting something from Jane Sowerby...just for the symmetry of the thing. Next week my life changes as I begin the new fellowship and my dissertation becomes my job for the next nine months. While I'm sure I will be knitting on the train to and from Philly, that will be the extent of it for awhile, so my production will probably decrease rather sharply. But stay tuned, as I have the finished Aquila shawl to unveil (I finished her in England but need to block properly for her photoshoot);I'm hard at work on a pair of Pomatomus, and the aforementioned Sowerby in kidsilk haze. Tasty.

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