I have wanted to write this since my Godmother, Gaye Kitchens, passed away about a month ago.  I am not sure even where to start but let’s start with Gaye being my second mother, one of the most important women in my life.  I saw Gaye all the time, her and my mom where best friends.  The story on how they met goes something like this.  My parents had moved to Atlanta from St. Louis, Missouri as the company my dad was working for called Mundet Cork transferred him to Atlanta. They moved into an apartment off DeKalb Avenue in Decatur, Georgia and my mom had a job up the road about 3 miles.  Every morning my mom would stand at the bus stop to take a bus to work.  One day, Gaye and Charles stopped by and said “hello, we noticed you live in the same apartments as we do and that you catch a bus everyday in the same direction we are going.  Where are you going?”  After my mom told them about 3 miles up the road they said “we go that way every day, we could give you a ride if you want.”  The rest ended up being a lifelong friendship and Gaye and Charles became my Godparents and their youngest son Jeff became my parents Godson.  So, it is hard for me not to think of Gaye all the time.  She was at every one of my birthdays growing up. She always gave me a birthday present even when I was older.  She loved me like a son.  She had this incredible kindness about her.  I always remember she had a smile, probably why I smile so much.  I started thinking, I never heard her yell or raise her voice at me, never.  She had this beautiful laugh, not really a chuckle, but a soft laugh that made you want to laugh.  Our families went on vacations together.  My most memorable vacations with them was to Callaway Gardens in South Georgia.  They would rent two cabins next to each other and our families would golf, swim, and eat together.   At one point she worked for my dad as a secretary.  My dad had an office in our home and I saw her many times a day especially during the summer.  When I went out and came home, Gaye would be there.  It is hard to express how much she really meant to me.  Someone who helped mold me into a better person, someone, like my mother, who loved me unconditionally.  I know I didn’t tell her enough how much she meant to me but I do know that her kindness is in me and I share that same kindness now with others.

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Gaye (on the right) and my mom kissing me.  Not sure when this was taken or for what occasion.



Linda handed me this photo and said do you want to keep this? I replied yes. I just scanned it and did some adjustments since the original was faded. It is hard to write about this photo. It is a photo of my best friend from grade school and high school who died 26 years ago at the age of 35 of a brain aneurysm. It still hurts knowing he is not around to talk to. As kids, we did so much together.  Funny how you can become lifelong friends. I first met George in Atlanta near where we lived in a neighborhood called Breckenridge off of Lavista Road near Northlake Mall.  When I was about 11, me and a friend named Steve Tidwell were walking down the street near his home when we ran into George walking down the street.  It turned out he had just moved here from Alaska and lived in the next cul da sac.  Who remembers exactly how it all started but I do remember we called each other “mother fuckers”  and the next thing I knew we were wrestling on the ground fighting.   It ending fairly quickly, no one got hurt, and we went our separate ways.  Before long, not sure when, we started hanging out together and found that we had a lot of fun playing together.  The rest was a long friendship until he died.  This photo shows George in uniform on the North Dekalb Rebel football team.  We both played together on this team; he was the running back and I was the center.  I could go on and on telling stories about our adventures together but that will have to be another time.  When I look at this photo I just can’t seem to keep the tears back.  Love you George.


This summer I went to Rochester, NY to take care of my mom who lives with my brother Fred and his wife Lynn while they took a trip to China for 3 weeks.  Lynn got a teaching gig there in the town of Jinan.   My mom is 91 years old and doing fairly well.  She uses a cane or walker most of the time but can walk on her own although it looks a little scary.   She has difficulty hearing but if you look at her when you talk she is fine.   Since I mostly talk with her on the phone seeing her I felt like she was doing better than I had thought.  Here are a few photos from my time there.


This is mom in front of Lake Ontario.


For Memorial Day we went to honor my dad at the Penfield Township memorial service. The speaker had lived on Iwo Jima where my dad was wounded during World War II.


One morning I drove down to Letchworth State Park which is called the Grand Canyon of the East. The Genesee River flows north to Lake Ontario from the park.


This is a view of the Lower Falls just past the CCC constructed footbridge.  Both are beautiful!


The Lower Falls from up close.


Views of the Middle Falls and Upper Falls.


One day we drove to Buffalo to go to the Burchfield Penny Art Center.  I have always appreciated Charles Burchfield’s work and felt a kindred spirit with his style.  Here is my mom with a Burchfield esque painted buffalo.


I think this is called Spring Rain.  Look how the rain and sunlight come down from the sky and the dandelions are in full glory.


On my drive back from Letchworth State Park I stopped by Conesus Lake one of the finger lakes in New York.  It is 8 miles long and not quite a mile wide. 


When Fred and Lynn got back from China I stayed an extra day and we went for a walk with mom on the Erie Canal close to their home. 


Walking on the Erie Canal. One thing in the local news was some businesses are starting to use the canal again when they have large items to transport. 


This is a view of Lake Erie.  On my way back to Bluefield I stopped by Irving, New York to visit with one of my ceramic professors and his wife from Athens, Georgia who still spends their summers there.


Ron Meyers on the beach at Lake Erie.  Ron had already started making pots when I got there.  He had only been there about a week.  I believe he is 81. 

Yesterday Linda and I drove up to Ripley, West Virginia to attend the 37th West Virginia Potter’s Gathering where the iconic Cynthia Bringle from Penland, North Carolina was the guest artist.  Cynthia attended Memphis Academy of Art and Alfred University where she engrossed herself in pottery making.  In 1970 she moved to Penland where she built a home and art studio and where she still teaches at the Penland School of Crafts.  She says she makes pottery that is functional.  She wants people to use her work and appreciate the workmanship and utilitarian nature of the piece.  On the potter’s wheel she threw coffee cups, a variety of wine goblets, vases, and a many other creations.  She seemed to be one with the clay. That shouldn’t surprise me as she has had her hand in mud for over 60 years.  She seemed to a perform magic with each piece with the participants often wondering what she was going to make next. She shared many stories about her life and freely gave advice on the best methods of making pots.  Here are some photos of the event.
















Christmas 2016

It is hard to believe that it has been over a year since I have posted on this blog.  2016 has been a good year.  It was back to school for me in January and I had a load of classes since I had been on sabbatical during the fall semester. Linda and I had two art exhibits this year showing new work.  In February we had a show called “Journeys”at the Bea Paine Gallery in downtown Bluefield West Virginia.  In October we had a show called “From Here to There” at the Ellen von Dehsen Elmes Gallery on the Southwest Virginia Community College campus in Richlands Virginia.  We did not do a lot of traveling this year although we did go to Wash D.C. for a few days to pick up some Chinese guests who would be visiting Bluefield College for a month.  I also got to go on a last minute trip during the summer to Yosemite National Park with my friend Joe Kirby.  We just had a wonderful week with Forrest and Laura who were able to come home for Christmas from Malawi.  We all went to the Biltmore House for a one day visit for a treat.  We had not seen them in over a year and yesterday we took them to the airport to fly to Dublin, Ireland to spend 10 days with her family.  Yesterday Michael drove to Virginia Beach to see Chrissy for Christmas so Linda and I are in a new phase of our lives, no children home for Christmas day.  We opened our presents on Dec. 18th.


Family photo at Biltmore House December 2016

Visit to Penn State

A couple of weeks ago, as part of my sabbatical, I was able to visit with two of my ceramic professors from Penn State University, David Dontigny and James Stephenson. I had not seen them in about 22 years and it was great visiting with these two graduate school mentors. Dave and his wife Lorna let me stay with them which was nice. They both are so kind, I remember when I first met them they let Linda and I store all of our belongings on their screen porch for a few weeks while we were waiting to move into our apartment on campus. They are wonderful giving people and would give you the shirt off their backs. Last year Dave had by-pass surgery and he looked like he was doing well. They recently moved to a condo in State College where they don’t have to do any yard work. Dave has a studio in the basement where he continues to make pots using red clay, slips, and glazes. He gave me several small pots that he had made along with some of his Cone 10 glazes. He also gave me a bunch of his handmade wooden molds that he used to make trays and platters with.
The first morning I was there Jim came over and along with Dave gave me a tour of the campus showing me some of the changes that have happened since I have been away. We stopped by Jim’s studio in town where he showed me his recent work. He has stopped doing ceramics and is now working on wall sculptures using sticks and branches. With some he leaves the natural wood and others he is painting with bright colors. Some are shaped like a buffalo skull that he had in his studio that was from Montana. Afterwards we went to his house where his wife Linda had lunch prepared for us. Jim had several of his wood sculptures on the walls and many old decorative ceramic tiles. While in college at PSU, Linda and I had gone to his home and seen his tile collection. This inspired us to collect many tiles over the years. Later that night, we all went out to dinner in Boalsburg at an Italian place near Jim and Linda’s home.
Dave and Jim are both from Montana and went to the University of Montana and studied with Rudy Audio getting their MFA in Art (Ceramics) from there. Dave came to Penn State first in the late 60’s and Jim came several years later. They helped built a great ceramics program at PSU and Dave later had the vision to do the Supermud conferences at Penn State. After I graduated in 1983 Jim became Chair of the Visual Arts Department at PSU for 11 years.

One of things I noticed about them on this trip was how kind they were. Dave seems to always have a positive outlook on life and gives others the benefit of the doubt. He laughs a lot which shows his humble kind disposition. Jim seemed to always be concerned about others often talking about one of their friends who was sick. He kept telling Dave that they needed to go weekly and visit a person in the hospital. I don’t think I ever saw this side of Jim. He was always pushing me to see his vision and we sometimes would butt heads. We were both stubborn back then. I remember once we had a long dragged out discussion in my studio. After that night I thought we both left with an appreciation of each other. Here are few photos I took of their work.


Last week I had the privilege to spend a few days with one of my mentors Ron Meyers from the University of Georgia. I first met Ron in 1974 when I took his beginning pottery class at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. I was an 18 year old freshman having just started college that summer. I don’t remember any specific revelations about his class but I knew I loved working in clay even though my major at the time was Forestry. In Ron’s class I remember we made a coil piece, a slab piece, and that we had to make a piece that had to tell a story. I remember one critique Ron was giving constructive criticism about my work and that I was surprised later that I had made a C on the assignment. I remember I was upset but at the same time it made me want to work harder, improve, and listen more closely during critiques. A year and half later I changed my major from Forestry to Ceramics and Ron became my advisor. What a wise man he was then and what a wise man he is today. I remember he treated you with respect and kindness. He made college fun where we used to have pot luck get-togethers getting to know Ron better and the other ceramic majors. I remember once going to his house and I was looking at some of his work and I saw a covered jar and I told him I liked it. He said, “You can have it.” I was shocked that he would just give me something he had made. I have since tried to have this same giving attitude with my students by giving them pots I have made. Another thing Ron did was when Linda and I got married he gave his a large platter with our names on it for a wedding present. I have done the same for many of my students.
On this recent visit I was able to spend three days with him and his wife of many years Hester. Hester, like Ron, is a kind soul. I told Ron I just wanted to hang out and gain some wisdom. He said that he wasn’t sure if I could get that in three days. I think I did. Ron let me stay at his home. He has a beautiful space where he has an extra bed above his art studio. There is something about sleeping above his studio that is special. He has finished pots everywhere. I counted fifty pots just in the sleeping area. He must have had another 200 in his studio from coffee cups, to large and small platter’s, bottles, and covered jars. Outside his studio was shelving filled with another 50 pots. He even built a little building close-by called the Museum of Hester where he has many more of his pots and pots from others he has collected over the years. Looking at his richly decorated pots for these three days was inspiring. I saw rats, birds, rabbits, naked women, fish, owls, frogs, etc on richly colored backgrounds staring back at me. They were all drawn and painted with energy and expression. He calls them his “suspicious characters” kind of like from a story in a children’s book. They all have unique facial expressions. For two days Ron made me a breakfast consisting of a piece of bacon and an egg put in a torn out hole of a piece of rye bread. He calls them “Toad in a hole.” I told him it was like a gourmet chef had made it. He first made Linda and I one of these on our honeymoon when we stopped by to see him at his summer home in Irving, NY. You see that is Ron, come by and visit us on your honeymoon. I can’t thank him enough for being a great mentor and treating me like one of his family.