19 January 2009

Monday Memories - Betty the Artist

grandmama's awardsValerie: Ok, um, we're looking at a picture of Grandama. And she looks like she's at, um, some sort of, uh, ceramics show, and she's got a bunch of different pieces that she's done. She's got two blue ribbons and two white ribbons. And, um, I remember Grandmama always had all these different ceramic pieces all over the house that she had done - with their ribbons that she got awards for. So I was just wondering what you remember about Grandamma and her ceramics and that kind of thing.

Mom: Well, um, Grandmama really enjoyed doing ceramics. And that was somethin' that she started after I was grown. I had, uh, started goin' to ceramics with one of, uh, one of my friends. And I - I didn't go for a long time, but I did a couple of pieces and I really enjoyed doin' it. And then, um, I got Mama to go with me one day, and she really enjoyed it.
And ceramics, you would go into the shop and they would have the different pieces of greenware, where they had poured the molds. And then it had dried and you would decide what you were gonna do with the ceramic pieces. And most of your Grandmama's pieces, she would paint. So you - what you would do is you would take the piece and you would clean all the seams off of it. Because where they put the molds together and poured 'em, there would be little, like, crusty edges or seams that you would clean off. And your Grandmama really, um, took to ceramics. She like to do a lot - a wide range of different, um, crafts and hobbies and so on. And embroidery and she croqueted and she did a lot of different things. So, with her ceramics she was very, um - your Grandmama was very detailed oriented, so she always took a lot of, um, pride in her work. She worked really hard and, uh, when she'd clean her pieces you couldn't even tell where the seams were. And then they would fire 'em, and then she would paint 'em. And she, um, she kept goin' to ceramics long after I quit goin'. I just got to busy with Allen - he was just a baby and I got too busy, um, taking care of him. But your Grandmama kept goin'. And then she started goin' to ceramics with your Aunt Marie, who was my Daddy's sister. And, uh, they would go. And for a long time, Mama went to ceramics and she did a lot of beautiful pieces. And I've got, uh, some of the pieces that she did.
You could also do under-glazing, which you would paint the piece with a special paint and then you would put a glaze over it. And they would fire it and it would be, um, that would give it this look...

Valerie: Like these birds up here?

Mom: The chickens - and hens and biddies. And she also won a ribbon for those too. She did several different kind. And, uh, but she always did really beautiful work.
So the pictures in the ceramics [ceramics in the pictures], um, one of 'em is a book. And it's a biblical ceramic book, with a, uh, one of the three wise men on a camel. And you can see the other two in the background. And she put a lot of detail into all her work. And uh - but she eventually had to give up ceramics, because she developed an allergy to it. And it was, um, it was um, damaging - destroying her finger nails, so she had to give it up. So, she really missed it, but that was one of her hobbies. Um, whenever, um, you girls were - even, even after the girls were growing up, she would do pieces for 'em.

Valere: Um, what about this - the awards show. Did she go to a lot of those, or...

Mom: There were about three or four that she went to. And she always won a ribbon whenever she did that. And she - she would get really excited about it. And they would, um, sometimes the judges would write little notes on things she could improve on. But, she was very, uh, she was very detailed oriented and even finishing the inside seams and the bottoms of her pieces, making sure that they were cleaned really well. And, um, that was one of the things that she would just be so happy when they'd write somethin'. You know, she'd get these little notes, like, "beautiful piece" or "love the detail work." And she would paint her own eyes and, uh, just really studied a lot as far as how to get different techniques.

Valerie: And she did the, um, the women, with the dresses. How would she do that?

Mom: Oh, yeah! When she did the womens with the dresses. Um, my favorite one is the one with the lady and - the um, Southern lady in the black dress. And, uh, what you would do is, you would - she would paint it - the ceramic piece - and then you had fabric stiffener that you would add to the material - or the lace - and then you would add that on top of the ceramic piece. And then she also, um, would croquet little necklaces for chains and put little jewelry. And of the ladies had the little ring that she made, that she's looking at. So, um, those were, um, very beautiful pieces when she did that.
So she was always lookin' for different techniques and styles that she could do with her ceramics.

Valerie: And you said she went out. So she always did this outside of her house? She didn't have, like, supplies at home or anything?

Mom: Well she had all her own supplies, because she, she had her supplies. She had her paints and everything. And she would work on-at 'em at home, but I think they had like a regular night, it was prob'ly a tuesday night, that they would go to ceramics together.

Valerie: 'Cause I know whenever we were cleaning up - like in this picture, you've got this shelf back here, so... I remember when we were sorta cleaning out the house, that there was just a lot of pieces left over.

Mom: Yeah, they were. And, uh, your Aunt June took those and, um, we.... Because I don't do ceramics now. So we, uh, the pieces that, uh, the greenware and stuff was old and so it really couldn't be used. But there were some pieces that had been fired and, uh, those we put in a garage sale. But she's prob'ly got - still got some pieces over - and 'cause a lot of the stuff went over to your Aunt June's. And, uh, of course we could go over there at any time we wanted to and use it.
So, it was really hard for me to - for me when we lost your Grandmama and it was hard for me to go through her stuff. So a lot of the stuff just got moved over to your Aunt June's.
So, but I've got some pieces that she would give me. Um...

Valerie: Daddy said she made that box over there for 'im.

Mom: Yeah, there's a little ceramic box with a lid on it that has a piece - uh, uh winter scene with a deer on it. She also made, um, the steins that year. The Eagle stein that we have, your Grandmama made that. And it's probably, what, about 12 inches tall? It has an American Bald Eagle on it and - on the lid it's an eagle. And, uh, the handle is made out of - it made to look like drift wood.
And, uh, that was another, um, technique that she would do. And um, because in ceramics you paint, but you could also stain and you could do, um, dry brushing. Which is, you get your paint on your brush, but it's really dry, uh, it's almost dry. You just have a little bit on there and you just brush it over the highlights and the texture in the ceramics and it picks up the paints. And you can build layers of colors, so she was really good at that.
And then, um, she's also added some gold, that you fire on there, so there's like this liquid gold that you could paint on there. And then, and then it would be fired and then you would do your painting. So all the painting are really acrylic, um, paints and - they call 'em stains but they're really acrylic paints. But when you fire your ceramics if you're gonna stain it or paint it you fire it at a lower temperature than you do if you're going to glaze it. So it's, it um, so that the paint'll soak into the ceramics more, but it seals it.

Valerie: Did she deal directly with the firing or was that a service she had done?

Mom: That was a service she had done. She had talked about getting a kiln, she wanted to get a kiln, um, and she had actually bought a couple of molds, but she never got that far into it before it started hurtin' her hands.
Yeah, and ceramics was one of your Grandmama's many hobbies. She was just really good at a lot of different things. Whenever, when Allen was a baby, she was crocheting a lot. In the winter time she would croquet afghans - and we've all got our afghans that, um, she made. But she would, that was what she would do in the winter time. Um, but after a while, the arthritis made it hard for her to crochet.
Um she's - I remember, um, some of the projects she did when, um, I was a little girl. She sewed some pillows for the house and she made all these beautiful pillows. And she would get the patterns and, uh, but there was some where you could do smocking. Which is - it's where you make little pleats of material and sew 'em together in pieces so you can make a pattern out of it. And she had some pillows that she made that way, and she round pillows and square pillows and oblong pillows. And one time she re-apolstered a couch. Um, and uh, it looked just like somthin' you buy in the stores. She did an excellent job. Um, she um, embroideried and did some beautiful pieces with embroidery. Uh, she... She was just - you know, anything that um - she liked to do detailed stuff, things that you put a lot of detail into. And she really enjoyed doing different things. Um, just, um... created

Valerie: Where did she learn - where did she learn that stuff from?

Mom: She taught herself.

Valerie: All of it? The crochet and the sewing and everything?

Mom: Mm-hm, the uh... You know it's just like, even at ceramics, you go to ceramics and they get you started. You know, like they'll tell you, "This is what you do." But your Grandmama, um, when she started a new hobby, she would get - she would just get - she loved to read. And um, she would get all these instruction books and everything. And she taught herself.
Your Grandmama, she always felt like she wasn't very smart because she didn't graduate from High School, but your grandmother was just so intelligent. And, uh, she was very well read. Uh, she loved to read. Um, she loved to learn new things, um, and she was a great inspiration.

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