It was quite a long time ago that I interviewed Clary Illian, a potter in Ely, for this newspaper. If I’m not mistaken, she hadn’t had her shop in downtown Ely for very long at the time, and when Brian, then editor, sent me off to interview her, I had never heard of her or seen any of her work. I was greatly impressed and wrote a lengthy, glowing article about her impressive array of mugs, bowls, pitchers and platters. In fact, some of what I wrote had to be cut because I had far too much to say for the allotted space in the paper.
I returned to her shop a few times during the next 10 years or so, to buy some of her work for gifts, and just to see what new things she had made since my last visit. As an art education major in college, I had the opportunity to take some ceramics classes and had made a few pieces that I still have, plus several more that I gave to close friends and relatives as gifts a long time ago. I had always expected that, someday, I would have the chance to make more for myself, so didn’t mind parting with most of the better pieces I had made in college. Every time I visit Clary’s shop I wish fervently that I had kept them.
After a rather long interval, I stopped to visit her again a month or so ago, only to discover than she had moved, only two or three blocks north to a house where she has a separate workshop, a sign on her front lawn– and a fine array of new pottery on display. We saw bowls and platters with animal faces on them, whimsical covered boxes shaped like mice, charming candlesticks, and elegant little soap-dishes with drain holes so the soap doesn’t melt away in a puddle– so many new ideas that her talented hands have turned into unique and charming items most of us would never be able to imagine. We also learned that Clary is having a retrospective exhibit of her work at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. The exhibit opened Aug. 25 and will close after Feb. 17, 2013. You still have plenty of time to see it and to marvel at the innovative ways she gives each piece a personality of its own while always remembering its utilitarian purpose.
I have too many ill-fitting screens on my windows and doors. About the only way I can keep the bugs out is to close up tight and depend on the air conditioner. That wasn’t a problem during the wickedly hot weather we dealt with this past summer, but now that we have shifted to these fine, pleasant temperatures and refreshing breezes, I much prefer to have the house open. The bugs seem to prefer it also, and transport themselves right through the screens by some sort of magic. Tired of dealing with a fly buzzing around my head in the night, and determined not to sleep in a cloud of insecticide, I’ve resorted to old-fashioned methods, i.e. fly swatters. Besides eliminating some of the pests, I get a little extra exercise while flitting around the room in pursuit of the elusive insects. All the aggravation inspired this short poem.
When it comes to the fly,
Dear God, why?
I think that Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the national convention has convinced me, more than ever, that I don’t understand politics. The man claimed that he hadn’t planned his speech until just before he delivered it. I entirely believe that. I also think he must have forgotten where he was appearing, and thought he was at one of those celebrity roasts so dearly loved by Hollywood. I hope he has learned that he is not a stand-up comedian– that would be at least one positive thing to come out of the whole experience.
My first real experience with political campaigns occurred when I was in college. My roommate had grown up in Milwaukee and did some volunteer work for Senator Joseph McCarthy at his campaign headquarters. In spite of what turned out to be her rather misguided enthusiasm, and even though I was not yet of voting age, I took her advice and walked the many blocks from Currier Hall, where I was living, to the train depot on the other side of Iowa City, in order to be there when Dwight Eisenhower’s campaign train stopped for one of his many speeches. I have no recollection of what he said that day. But I do remember the sort of awe I felt at seeing this man who, in my eyes, was one of the heroes of World War II. I don’t remember any of those rather old-fashioned whistle-stop campaigns since then. Whoever would have thought that television would replace the railroad.