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Back Home and Transitioning Again….

Snow on our day of leaving – a bookend for our arrival

It was difficult saying goodbye yet again to our colleagues at ICS, but Debra’s lovely husband Terry (T-Bones) met us at YVR to take us home. As always, it is good to be back recognizing we had spent 5 weeks without TV and deliberately not following the news – almost a reverie! It takes time to integrate back to ‘normal’ life and recover from jet lag.

I realized mid-way while away that my blog was not being sent as I thought it was. I had hoped to keep you up to date on what I was doing and am sending the series from the last five weeks to you in one notice – my webmaster Mia of Kits Media has been able to readily fix it! I should have thought to ask her while away in Hungary.

sorting out for my studio

I had intended on immersing myself in my work using what I had learned right away, but I have been persuaded to completely revamp my studio (which was really needed) but it is a huge job. The upside is it will give me a fresh start, and if you are interested, I’ll keep you posted.

If you would rather not receive these blog emails, please let me know and I’ll take your name off the list.

Shelving for a fresh start – very exciting for me!

Unloading the Kiln and Leaving Again…

Jakob has loaded the large gas kiln with some of his large pieces on top along with Debra’s Kecskemeti goats – my tiles and tests are along the base of the kiln.

Klari, ever positive, unloading the kiln and examining the glazes… she says I need to return to obtain the formula for a luscious black glaze on one of my tiles – see below!

The black glaze recipe with the cobalt breaking on the edges… Herend porcelain fired to 1320 c.

A very successful baby on the roof tile by Debra – her donation to the collection – a wonderful gift.

Our night walk on the way to our dinner at ‘Spaletta’ a wonderful restaurant near by – every meal we have had there has been delicious!


We are packed, boarding passes downloaded, and are ready to go early morning.  It has been a wonderful few weeks here at this very different time of year for us. It remains cold with few residents, but everyone has been helpful as always and we are  made to feel so welcome.  I’ve learned so much and have ideas to work with for a long while.  Debra and I have spent our time well working together for our last five weeks – I feel very blessed an privileged to have such a strong professional and personal friendship with her.

Off to Frankfurt tomorrow and Vancouver on Thursday. I’m looking forward to home and loved ones but there is a tug at my heart at leaving here.

Finishing and loading our glaze firing…

We spent much of Friday and Saturday decorating and glazing our work – doing most of it outside in the -2 degree weather, but it was sunny!  Klari had mixed the glazes she recalled we liked and Jakob came to load the bisque with her on Thursday and then he came in again on Saturday and Sunday, his days off,  to load a large kiln and and to begin firing on Sunday!  We had to call him in on Saturday because the heat in our rooms had a ‘malfunction’ through the night and it can become cold very rapidly when it is -5!  We were most grateful to him and for our liaison Steve Mattison for getting in touch with him so quickly!

As always, I am feeling conflicted at our time ending here – it is such a refuge in so many ways from modern life – and it is such a privilege to work here, but more on that later…


‘Fragola’, a pastry at Vincent’s’ to satisfy a sweet tooth along with a beautifully brewed pot of tea!

The local Calvanist school off the main square – beautiful acoustics for concerts heard other years…

The Cifrapalota – Debra was in an exhibit here and this is what compelled us to visit in 2008 and apply for residencies in 2010, 2013 and 2017.

Debra in the spray booth

chimes at the Leskowsky Musical Instrument Collection entrance – where hundresd of classical, folk and experiment instruments are on display and where visitors can try them out. Simply wonderful place!

our studio with the lights on…

Jakob working on loading the large gas kiln on Sunday!

Long Rewarding Days…



My room – toasty warm with everything I need – shower not in this view, but it is there, and needed after a day of sanding and filing plaster…

assorted glassware for casting

triangular cast filled with slip

The plaster workshop with the beautiful table used on other visits, but as the temperature is quite frigid now, I have been relocated to a cozy room.

Week Three

Debra and I have just returned from our restaurant around the corner from ICS – Kiskubaci Etterem.  The waitress recognizes us from 2010, 2013 and from a few short visits by Debra and Terry in the interim.  She is happy to look after us, serve the favoured goulash and cabbage salad with a sauerkraut flavour, and of course two large flutes of Hungarian beer.  They seem to be one of the few places that does not cater to the German custom of steins and we like this.   There is always enough for us to ‘pack’ and add to our soup or hot lunches which we enjoy this time of year.

We continue to work hard in the studio, Debra in particular and we both recognize this as a privilege.  Last evening, we were treated by Gabi Kuzsel, who took us through the cellars of the ICS to look at the collection that has been amassed by ICS residents and guest artists for the last fourty years and, we are included in it as past residents.  It is awe inspiring, but we regret that there doesn’t seem to be the funding to catalogue, document, photograph and all of those things necessary for preserving the historical background of the artists and these pieces.  Gabi  curates exhibits in Budapest at regular intervals, but as this is such an exciting, historical collection, Debra and I wish for more.  But of course, we wish for this in Vancouver and Canada as well.

my ‘square pillow’ tile – the angles at the corners are causing challenges for casting… it is 19x18x43/4 cm and is fired to 1220 centigrade, cool for Hungarian firing and it will shrink close to 20%.

Morning coffee in the library – a favourite spot for me. All is quiet, surrounded by books and morning light.

One of the outside corridors with the low light at the end of the day… very romantic and soft…

We are getting ready for a bisque firing tomorrow and are looking forward to the results from the Laser kiln glaze firing to try to determine how we are going to proceed with the glazing after the weekend.  I am looking forward to seeing how my geometric forms bisque and specifically high fire.  Gabi thinks my pillow forms may have a bit of a collapse because of the angled corners. They have been a challenge to cast, but I am determined to  find a way to make the form work as I am so fond of it.


The upper floor library – a constant place of repose…

Last week it was freezing rain, now….

Boots were the rule of the day and night! Good for 20 below which we didn’t quite need, but almost.

Las week we could’t venture out because of freezing rain- scrambled eggs in. Debra took this photo outside our front door where cars were slipping and sliding – see the ice ruts below.

Treacherous for walking and driving


The cold and ice were last week.  This weekend we saw all the ice and snow melt and we were able to go out in t-shirts and vests in the sun, but more snow is due on Tuesday.

A gift of orange palinka from Klari and Jacob surrounded by my master moulds with casts in the background.

some casts and lattice-work, texture and trying the new form out

Debra working on a roof tile with a baby

Stopping in Budapest …

The grand Budapest Market Hall

Interior of the market, early in the morning with lights of the season

Green Bridge with the Gellert in the distance

Deb drawfed by a candelabra at the Hungarian National Museum

Ice moving on the Danube as the day warms


Debra and I spent a couple of days in Budapest where we were welcomed by our favourite sights, one of them being the market.  We were there early Monday morning where people were just setting up – lots of lovely fresh produce, huge amounts of pork, beef and chicken on the ground floor, and items for locals and tourists on the second floor.





Walking over the Green Bridge takes 10 minutes at most, but we need to stop, look, take photos, watch people, etc.  It doesn’t seem to matter how often we do this walk, we always find something to admire.






First time visit at the Muzeum Korut  – a museum about the history of Budapest and Hungary.  We spent about two hours here – there was some English translation as our Hungarian is no better than it was when we were here last time – such a challenging language!)  Lots to learn and the more I do, the less I know about most things.





Ice on the Danube held a great deal of fascination as we viewed it swirling and moving from the Green Bridge.  Needless to say, it was cold and the hot baths at the Gellert were very welcome after we were out and about!

Debra had a special birthday while stopping in Budapest and T and all four children and their mates Skyped her at an early hour to wish her the best.  She was very happy they took the time to gather to acknowledge the day.


Back at the International Ceramics Studio (ICS)

The Courtyard at ICS – in Spring, this tree shades with cherry blossoms – hard to imagine in the current -11 degrees.

Debra in front of the doors of ICS – note the hoar frost on the overhanging boughs.

Inner courtyard view from my room – lots of snow and ice!

the walk into the town centre.


As this is my third residency here, it almost feels like a second home.  We are welcomed by the staff who are pleased to see us as we are them, and made to feel a part of the ceramics community.   Our work during the last 10 days has been rewarding and productive, working long days, breaking for lunch, back to work, breaking for a beer and perhaps some palinka about 6 and then go out for a late dinner at one of the local restaurants.

We took the train from Vienna to Stentgotthard.   Our host and Director of the International Ceramics Studio  (ICS), Steve Mattison, met us and took us to the local pub/fishing lodge to settle in to stay the week. Debra and I had made arrangements to do a workshop at Steve’s and Gabi Kuzsel’s studio in Oriszentpeter, directly across the road from our accommodation. Gabi is one of the world’s finest plaster casters and we knew were in good hands and up for long days and work.

approaching Steve and Gabi’s studio workshop

Debra and Gabi working on Debra’s mould

Mary’s master triangle moulds – trying to find the right angle

Our pub/fishing lodge accommodation – very comfortable!

ordering eggs or ‘lost in translation’

reviewing my geometry to get the casting form

feeling pretty happy with the result!

Gabi and guide at the beautiful Velemnri Szentharomsag Templom – beautiful frescos.


On our way to Hungary, we stop in Vienna

My friend Debra Sloan and I decided to recover from jet-lag in Vienna before settling in to our week long plaster casting workshop on the  Hungary/Austrian border,   I had visited Vienna last in 1970  and it is hard for me to say, let alone imagine 46 years ago!  We stayed in the historic part of the city, where it seemed almost without traffic while cars buzzed around us on the ring road.   We  walked easily everywhere even though snow, wind and sleet were the rule of the day and salt and gravel covered most streets.  We found the Viennese people somewhat reserved yet very relaxed as they went about their business.  For three days we meandered about and went through the Kunsthistorich Museum mesmerized by the Breugels, Rembrandts and Vermeer and somewhat bemused by the curation of an exhibit by Edmund de Waal.  We were lucky enough to get a seat the wildly popular state opera house and see La Sonnambula where we were nothing short of amazed watching the Viennese give a seemingly endless standing ovation.  The state opera has wait lists of years for season opera tickets  both through the week and on the weekends and they have sell out seasons year round!  And of course, the practice of the Lipizaner’s gave us a suitable morning just sitting and looking at these beauties trot about – little energy from us but to take it in before we caught our train for Hungary.

A popular way to get around