Having grown up in Minnesota, I know there’s one thing Northerners obsess about: the weather. Well, maybe two things: the weather and what to do in it. Minnesotans have trouble sitting idle for the entire winter season, which can last up to six months. The instinct to bundle up and go outside—no matter the temperature or amount of snow—is genetic, I imagine, and part of every Minnesotan’s Viking roots. Outdoor winter activities are a way of survival, and creativity with snow and ice is certainly something Northerners embrace. As kids we attempted everything: turning the backyard into a mini putt-putt course; building elaborate snow forts with tunnels; clearing snow from sections of frozen ponds to recreate the Ice Capades; and sledding down hills in everything from garbage-can lids to laundry baskets. Those were the days.
One of my favorite winter memories is of ice-skating parties at the local ball-field-turned-ice rink every year. Friends gathered and we skated for hours inventing theatrical ice-skating performances and recreating great Olympic moments on ice. We laughed a lot and we fell a lot, stopping only to pour mugs of hot cocoa and warm up by the fire. We clinked mugs in a thousand toasts to our marvelous skills. While I loved the skating dramatics, I think I loved the toasting more. Pretending to be sophisticated adults with glamorous beverages never got old, even in 10°F weather.
As an adult, I opt for more subdued outdoor entertainment, with less opportunities to break my neck. Now, I gather with friends on my backyard patio, where a cozy fire is surrounded by chairs draped in wool blankets, strings of lights and lanterns create a winter wonderland, and hot toddies are served in my favorite ceramic mugs.
I do miss the days of running wild with abandon where neither time nor temperature seemed to matter. Although we may not be as sophisticated as I once imagined we would grow up to be, the clinking of ceramic mugs made by friends and colleagues and filled with a frothy Tom and Jerry is just as exciting and a great way to toast the winter season—and a lack of bruises.
As we move through the winter months and head toward the annual NCECA ceramic conference, being held this March in Richmond, Virginia, Pottery Making Illustrated has gathered local Virginia potters to highlight the region’s best ceramic functional ware. Hona Leigh Knudsen demos how to make a thrown and altered vase form; Josh Manning spices things up with his square-lidded spice jars; Seth Guzovsky teaches us how to make pouring jars with cap-style lids; Andrea Denniston re-envisions the flower brick in her towering tulipiere forms; Chatham Monk and Justin Rice show us how they decorate with sgraffito mark-making techniques; and finally from Virginia we have Wendy Wrenn Werstlein who offers her version of an oil cruet along with a recipe for roasted carrot and quinoa salad. We also have craft foam-decorated mugs, crisp-edged geometric butter dishes, ingenious glazing tips, and clever pot paws. If you’re planning to go to the conference, be sure to stop by the Pottery Making Illustrated booth in the NCECA exhibitor’s hall to say hello and introduce yourself. We love to meet readers and hear your ideas for future articles.
In the meantime, hurry up and head outside to soak up the crisp winter air. Make a stove-top pot of hot cocoa, pour it into your favorite ceramic mug, and head outside. Even if you don’t like the cold, the cocoa will warm you up and the mug will make you smile.