nine cool things on a tuesday

1. There’s nothing ho-hum about Oregon-based ceramicist Sara Swink’s work. She creates human and animal figures that tease our thinking and beg interpretation. She takes something familiar and gives it a dreamlike, bizarre, or even humorous twist. Her distinctive pieces definitely compel us to take a second or third look.

Her love of clay began when she was eight, with the encouragement of a neighbor who was a potter. She learned to throw on a potter’s wheel, hand build and mix glazes in high school, even buying her own wheel with money earned cleaning houses.

Some twenty years later, she began taking ceramics classes, then studied art history, printmaking, drawing, and foundry work at several universities while teaching. Studying with Coeleen Kiebert (whose approach is to fuse artmaking with the psychology of the individual) was pivotal in shaping Sara’s work. Sara’s pieces can be seen as expressions of her inner psyche; there is a personal narrative that runs through all her art.

Sara opened Clay Circle Studio when she moved to the Portland area in 2006 and continues to offer workshops. Find out more about her classes at her official website, where you can also view a wonderful archive of available and past pieces.



2. New poetry book alert! You know I’m a big Andrea Potos fan, having featured her poems here several times. Her latest collection, just released last month, is Mothershell (Kelsay Books, 2019):

In this stunning, new collection by Andrea Potos, we find beautiful windows into the life of abiding love—each poem steeped in elegant imagery and story. A simple moment of sharing eggs over-easy with her mother, or witnessing her daughter’s essence igniting in the Italian light, is all we need, to know the deep connection this poet has to others. Potos offers up these poems as prayer and healing. This collection is a love letter to memory, hope, and presence. She brings memories to life so vividly, that we, too, can hear her mother’s voice through glittering veins of stone. Gentle in their touch, these beautifully sculpted poems pay tribute to the quiet strength needed for the loss you know is coming and the spaces left behind.

~ Cristina M. R. Norcross, editor of Blue Heron Review; author of Beauty in the Broken Places, Amnesia and Awakenings, and others

I so enjoyed Arrows of Light, Yaya’s Cloth, and We Lit the Lamps Ourselves, and am looking forward to reading this new one. I like picturing Andrea writing poetry in longhand at a cozy café while eating a giant slice of blueberry or lemon meringue pie. In case you missed it, click here to read my April 2018 poetry chat with Andrea about Arrows of Light, which includes lovely pics of her and her mom.



3. Every once in awhile, a picture book will hit me just the right way, making me a total goner. I receive a fair number of review copies from publishers in the mail, and regularly borrow loads of picture books from the library. Much as I’d love to, I rarely purchase any picture books for myself because I simply do not have any more shelf space.

When I heard about Sergio Ruzzier’s Good Boy on Facebook, it looked adorable, so I borrowed a copy from the library.

And I went wild — giddy with glee, “ahhh-ing” and hugging myself, then levitating like Snuffles the bloodhound in Quick Draw McGraw cartoons. Okay, you’re probably too young to remember Quick Draw McGraw, but trust me, Snuffles REALLY loved dog biscuits and hugged himself so hard it made him float in the air.

Cute and adorable doesn’t begin to describe this book. A heartwarming story of a boy and his dog brilliantly told with the sparest of texts — basically just one word for each spread. But the pictures! There’s just something about that dog. He follows commands and is the best companion. He does things ordinary dogs don’t usually do, like bow, juggle, cook, serve and clean! Then he and his boy have some adventures, sailing the high seas and building their own rocket ship to fly to the moon.

I know there are a lot of boy and his dog stories out there, but as I said, something about these two really got to me. The endearing posturing, facial expressions, the big heart of a child and steadfast loyalty of a dog are all there. The bonding! This is picture book writing and illustrating at its best: the narrative unfolds beautifully with perfect pacing and humor incorporated at just the right places.

Of course I threw caution to the wind:  I simply had to buy my own copy. If you haven’t already seen this book, you must! But don’t take my word for it. Read this excellent review of Good Boy at Librarian’s Quest. Margie writes the BEST reviews, and as a diehard dog lover, she agrees that this is a masterfully created book.



4. Have you ever wondered what toys do at night?  Children’s author and artist Barbara Younger recently finished a series of 16 paintings for the Orange County Historical Museum in Hillsborough, North Carolina, in coordination with their current  “Let’s Play: Children’s Toys and Games” exhibit, which features antique toys and games from local collectors.

Barbara’s series, called “Toys Escaping,” will be on display through October, and the paintings can be purchased at the museum or via Barbara’s website. All proceeds will benefit children’s programming.


“Ms. Bear Moves into the Oval Office”


“Snuggle Bunny Escapes the Nursery”


Each of Barbara’s charming acrylics tells a bit of a story, and are perfect for a child’s room. Of course whimsically-minded adults may very well wish to add one of these delightful pieces to their private collections. 🙂


“Play Dough Flowers in a Play Dough Pot Decorate the Palace of a Real Queen”


“The Marbles Have a Field Day”


Large paintings are $60 (2 for $100), and small are $45 (2 for $70). Barbara will ship for an additional $10. Here’s a nice chance to own some original art while supporting a good cause. Check out the entire series at Barbara’s site.  Best to hurry before these toys get away!

Guess which painting is Mr Cornelius’s favorite? 🙂



5. Yes, yes, it’s time for food. How about some PIE?

Not just any pie, but an awe-inspiring pie by Seattle-based writer, artist and self taught baker Lauren Ko (lokokitchen).

Now, we’ve seen many talented pie artists out there, who create beautiful crust designs using cookie cutter leaves, flowers, hearts, etc. Lauren’s pies are all about mathematical precision. She loves geometric patterns and textiles, creating her intricate designs with lattices and cut fruit.

It all started several years ago, when Lauren, who’s originally from San Diego, moved to Seattle. Unemployed, she had lots of time on her hands and had seen a pretty pie crust on Pinterest, wondering if she could replicate it. She wasn’t an avid baker at the time, just someone who wanted to try something new.

In the Fall of 2017, she posted her first pie photo on Instagram with a punny caption. Within a couple of months, DesignMilk and Buzzfeed had shared her photos and her following exploded by the tens of thousands. She’s since been featured by other national and international media outlets, including Vogue, Oprah Magazine, and the Washington Post, and has done television appearances.

Right now, Lauren doesn’t sell her pies, and she has no aspirations to publish a pie cookbook or open a bakery. She currently has close to 300,000 Instagram followers, who are eating up every single pie design she serves up.

Learn more about what happens “When All Hell Bakes Loose” in this video:


Follow Lauren on Instagram and check out her Official Website.



6. Now for a bit of stunning beauty courtesy of Scotland-based artist Angie Lewin, who creates limited edition linocut, wood engraving, lithograph and screen prints. I had just ordered a copy of Mark Hearld’s The Lumber Room: Unimagined Treasures from St. Jude’s online gallery, when I chanced upon Angie’s linocut print, “The Gardener’s Arms”:

It took my breath away with its gentle colors, delicacy and intricate details and design — so exquisite! The still life composition features a cherished jug Angie received from a friend a few years ago, along with teasels, echinops, and other seedheads gathered from the artist’s own garden. How much do I love that Angie is an avid ceramics collector? 🙂

I had visited the St. Jude’s site several times before because of Mark Hearld’s and Emily Sutton’s work, never realizing that it was Angie and her husband Simon who had founded the gallery back in 2005. If you haven’t already visited St. Jude’s, please do — they feature the very best of British printmaking.

You can learn more about Angie Lewin’s work at her Official Website, and of course purchase her prints at St. Jude’s. Many of her sold out editions are now available as fine art greeting cards, notebooks or postcards from such sites at Art Angels, Blank Card Company, and One Brown Cow.



7. Have you seen the movie or broadway musical, “Waitress”? I haven’t seen the musical but I LOVED the movie (my introduction to Nathan Fillion). 🙂

On my Wish List is Sugar, Butter, Flour: The Waitress Pie Book (Pam Krauss/Avery, 2017). These recipes were created by Sheri Castle and inspired by main character Jenna Hunterson.

The official tie-in to Broadway’s hit musical Waitress, featuring the recipes for 3 dozen of the show’s most evocative and delicious pies.
In the cult classic movie-turned-Broadway production, the eternally optimistic protagonist of Waitress expresses her hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations through the whimsically named pies she bakes each morning. Sugar, Butter, Flour celebrates this art of baking from the heart, with foolproof and flavorful pies for seduction, pies for mending a broken heart, pies for celebrating new beginnings and pies for all the little milestones that come afterwards. Taking its inspiration from the iconic mile-high pies of the diner case, Sugar, Butter, Flour offers an array of showstopping pies, each with a twist that puts it over the top; from rum-spiked cookie crusts to hidden layers of passion fruit preserves, these are familiar favorites with hidden depths. The ideal gift for anyone who has ever eaten her feelings or baked away the blues, Sugar, Butter, Flour proves there’s a perfect pie for every occasion – and that everything looks better with pie.

It’s so much fun hearing the names of some of the pies:

Big Guy Strawberry Pie, The Apple of My Eye Rum Raisin Hand Pies, Sweet Victory Pie, I Wanna Play Doctor with My Gynecologist Chocolate Mousse Pie, Getting Out of the Mud Frozen Mud Pie, Life’s Just Peachy-Keen Polka-Dot Peach Pie.

I’ll take a big slice of each, please. Mmmmmmm, pie!



8. New Book Alert! Look what’s coming out a week from today: Paper Mice by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Phoebe Wahl (Paula Wiseman Books/ S&S, 2019)!!

It’s the middle of the night, and two paper mice find adventure—and each other—as they explore their new home in this beautifully written, stunningly illustrated story of friendship.

With a snip and a clip, two paper mice are made. They are given names: Della and Ralph. Each alone, they explore their new house in the dark. Della dashes up the stairs; Ralph skitters through the dining room. There is so much to see and so much to discover!

But a big, dark house can be scary for those so small, until they find…each other.

Beautiful, cut-paper illustrations bring to life this lyrical story of adventure and friendship.

I can’t say I’m familiar with Megan’s other picture books, but I am a huge Phoebe Wahl fan, so I’m excited about seeing this new one. Loved Phoebe’s debut, Sonya’s Chickens, as well as her recent Backyard Fairies. Can’t wait!



9. My, my, my, look what’s coming to Netflix on June 12: “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story” by Martin Scorsese!!

Billed as “part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream,” the film captures the troubled spirit of America in 1975, and will include remarks from the man himself, along with other performers on the tour, including Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (also special guests Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, and Patti Smith).

If you’re a Dylan fan, you’re probably familiar with Scorsese’s previous Dylan documentary, “No Direction Home,” (2005). What I liked best about it was the rare footage of Dylan speaking on camera (probably the most I’ve ever heard him discuss the early days of his career). Just to hear Dylan say anything at all is pretty remarkable, since he’s notoriously interview adverse.

And there’s more: a new 14-CD box set,Bob Dylan — The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings,” a companion piece to the Netflix film, will be released on June 7 (available now for pre-order). 

A comprehensive anthology of music from the mythic first leg of Bob Dylan’s groundbreaking Rolling Thunder Revue, this 14CD box set includes all five of Dylan’s full sets from that tour that were professionally recorded. The collection also provides the listener with an intimate insider’s seat for recently unearthed rehearsals at New York’s S.I.R. studios and the Seacrest Motel in Falmouth, MA plus a bonus disc showcasing one-of-a-kind performances from the tour.

The collection features 148 tracks in all, with more than 100 of those never previously released. Included in the box set is a 52-page booklet featuring rare and never-before-seen Rolling Thunder Revue photos and a revelatory essay by novelist/musician Wesley Stace.

What made the Rolling Thunder Revue so unique? Read on:

Launched in the fall of 1975, Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue flouted the touring conventions of the time by featuring an eclectic cast of characters and playing small and unusual venues with little advance notice. The shows would often stretch to more than four hours long, generating some of the artist’s most dramatic and dynamic on-stage performances ever. Dylan debuted the new songs he’d written for his forthcoming Desire album (which became one of the most acclaimed and popular in his canon) with a fire and intensity that Dylan had reached ten years earlier with his incendiary tours with musicians who became The Band. He also took wild, interpretative rides through his back catalog and broke out some unexpected covers.

Sounds like a cool film and an epic box set (also on my Wish List).

Bob Dylan will turn 78 on May 24.




❤️ Favorite artist/illustrator Emily Sutton has a brand new website and it’s a beauty! Now all her picture books, editorial/commercial illustration projects, paintings, prints, and product designs are all showcased in one place. And there’s even a SHOP where you can purchase her prints!

Give yourself a treat and have a good look around (don’t miss her paintings section with gorgeous views of Venice, Rome, France, Suffolk, and Yorkshire + transferware). It will make you happy to know that despite the darkness and hate we keep hearing about on the news, there are artists truly dedicated to making the world a more beautiful place. Internalize some of that beauty, positivity, and love as you go about your day and pass it on however you can.



Finally, since it’s Bob Dylan’s birthday on the 24th, it’s only fitting that we feature one of his compositions as our BLUE SONG this month.

Even’t if it wasn’t a “blue song,” I would count “Tangled Up in Blue” as one of my all time favorite Dylan tunes. He has famously said it took him “ten years to live and two years to write.” It’s considered “one of the clearest examples of Dylan’s attempts to write multi-dimensional songs which defied a fixed notion of time and space.”

In a 1978 interview, Dylan explained this style of songwriting: “What’s different about it is that there’s a code in the lyrics, and there’s also no sense of time. There’s no respect for it. You’ve got yesterday, today, and tomorrow all in the same room, and there’s very little you can’t imagine not happening.”

He was influenced by his study of Cubist painters, and he told one reporter that he wrote “Tangled Up in Blue” after spending a weekend immersed in Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album. This song appeared on Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album (1975), and this particular performance was part of his Rolling Thunder Revue tour.


















P.S. I’ve now had a chance to get a good look at you, and I’ve decided you’re a COOL THING too. 🙂

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** Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

20 thoughts on “nine cool things on a tuesday

  1. So many beautiful things, Jama. The picture books are on their way from my library. And, to let you know that I finished The President’s Kitchen Cabinet by Adrian Miller & loved it. Also, a friend from the bookstore has had a meal with him & he went to the same high school my daughter & son went to. Small world! I loved the two pie shares, too, and see that one appears to be a key lime pie, my favorite! Thanks for each part, all terrific!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, you’re a speedy reader — I haven’t seen Miller’s book yet and you’ve already finished it. And how fun too about your friend, son and daughter — indeed a small world.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for featuring my escaping toys. I’m honored to be included with so many other cool things. The museum director is delighted and will feature the post on their website tomorrow. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How wonderful to see Paper Mice here, Jama!! I am a friend of Megan’s, and you’ll love her other picture books: Finding Wild, Fort Building Time (both illustrated by Abigail Halpin) & Building Books (Brianne Farley). She’s also a local VA author, and she has a graphic novel coming out too called Allergic (in 2021 I think)!!

    Those pies are mind-boggling! She must have a steady hand to be so precise, and the mind of an engineer! Cool!

    And I LOVE the ceramics, especially that cute teapot. Thanks for all the cool stuff this Tuesday :)!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thrilled to have my new book of poems on your gorgeous blog Jama! You truly are an inspiration to all creators!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, there is a staggering amount of goodness in this post. I need three or four days just to immerse myself in all of it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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