Monday, April 29, 2013

3. Jon Schneckloth Pottery

Jon Schneckloth is an Iowa artist who focuses on creating Raku pottery. Jon explained that, "The meaning of Raku may be lost in history as there is no single word in the English language that adequately defines it. The terms 'simplicity,' 'austerity,' 'aesthetics,' 'tranquility,' 'enjoyment,' 'pleasure,' 'comfort,' 'happiness' and 'contentment' try to encompass its meaning. It basically originated in Japan in the 16th Century and ware produced in this technique was utilized in the Japanese tea ceremony, which was a part of their Zen Buddhist religion. Tea bowls and cups made through Raku were sought after as perfect compliments for the ceremonial drinking of tea. Their pottery defined their culture, much as the English Delft ware, German salt firings and American Indian pit firings defined theirs."

Raku pottery is several centuries old and has evolved with various cultures.

Jon explains, "The Japanese made several hand-formed pots that were placed in an indoor kiln, brought up to temperature in a short time and the pots then removed with tongs to allow them to cool in the open air. It came to the United States in about the mid 1940’s and though it is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition, we now use contemporary manners in which to work. Forming methods and firing techniques have been manipulated in a variety of ways by succeeding artists to allow for more modifications. As with most things, the Raku process has been arguably changed for the different likes and desires of the artist and public. However, we still fire the ware quickly and remove it from the hot kiln, in comparison to other pottery types. And it is significant since it is one of the few pottery techniques where the artist can still alter the surface even after the actual firing is completed."

Jon started his art in high school and continued to pursue it at the University of Northern Iowa. He deeply appreciates how art can provide multiple solutions to one question or problem: "I think it was because so many other areas required only one right answer/ one right procedure/ one correct method to solve a problem and in art, I found there could be more than one. I liked the idea of working with the elements of art and seeing more than one successful solution. Everyone saw the same model, had the same tools and yet all of us produced a different drawing. Art was unique."

Jon finds inspiration in, "the tactile qualities of clay; squishy, malleable, firm, delicate, hard, smooth, rough, warm." He is also inspired by the challenge, "of a new day, a clean slate, a chance to make something better or more pleasing, a lasting impression."

Jon has lived in Iowa all his life and finds joy in his family and home. One of his favorite part of being an artist in Iowa is the enthusiasm and support he finds in his peers: "I think the advantage of being an artist in Iowa is that the people I deal with, from artists, to gallery owners to the public, are some of the nicest people in the world. They are fair, honest, solid in their beliefs, helpful …. and some of them even like my work. The climate is never boring and the opportunities are boundless."

He understands the importance of the fine arts to Iowa communities. "Art, whether visual or performance, keeps reminding us that there is more to life than working a job. It forces some people in some communities to be more open minded to possibilities. It makes us look beyond our self-perceived borders. It is a reflection of a community’s culture. It is a statement of who we are," he told me. I couldn't agree more!

Jon offers some solid advice to other aspiring and working artists: "Be perceptive to your environment. Ask yourself many questions. Make time for your art and work hard at it, and never pass up a cookie."

If you wish to contact Jon for commissions or to purchase his work you can find him here:

Schneckloth Pottery
Hidden Valley
Charles City, Iowa, 50616

Thursday, April 25, 2013

2. SoHo Sushi Bar and Deli

This weekend someone and I ate at a local deli--Soho Deli and Sushi Bar in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

SoHo is decked out with artwork from local artist, Paco Rosic. The interior is trendy and warm at the same time.

I ordered their tomato bisque soup and half of their Mediterranean Panini.

My dinner partner ordered a plate of California rolls (8 pieces of sushi for just $4!!!).

The presentation of the food was really professional, and it tasted great too. The soup was creamy and the basil really popped with the creamy tomato. The sandwich was also flavorful with dark green lettuce, feta cheese, cucumber, sun dried tomato, onion and a delicious sauce.

My dinner partner said his sushi was "awesome!" We ate our whole meal. Here are our plates at the half-way mark:

We topped off our meal with a toffee buttercream cupcake. Delicious!!

The verdict: The next time you are in Cedar Falls, skip Applebee's or any other chain restaurant and check out Soho Deli and Sushi Bar on Main Street!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

1. Welcome and a Fresh Start

Welcome to Living in Iowa, the home base of yours truly, J. d’Artagnan Love. Some of you are previous readers and may notice I killed my previous blog. I’m starting fresh with a more focused approach to blogging.

As many of you may remember, back in September of 2012 I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I was then consumed by research, doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, bouts of random illnesses and other stressors that took me out of the writing game for quite a while. I’ve had to find what many people dealing with chronic illness call my “new normal.” I have new limitations, new healthy habits to develop, new medications, and new ways of understanding my own needs. This takes up a lot of a person’s head-space and in the previous few months, I’ve been unable to clear room for blogging here.

I’ve learned so much in the past few months about what I am dealing with concerning my health, and it isn’t pretty. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a genetic disorder. It turns out that the lupus was a misdiagnosis but not too terribly far off as EDS and lupus are both autoimmune and share similar symptoms. EDS is a disorder in which my collagen and connective tissue is faulty and causes chronic pain, easy injuries, chronic fatigue, higher than normal susceptibility to illness and skin conditions. My new normal requires a lot of attention on staying healthy and balanced. As a result I’ve had to do some soul searching as to where I wanted to go with Living in Iowa.

I’ve decided that I most likely will not be able to post daily and that I want the focus to be less personal and more informative than the blog previously was. As a result, my focus areas will be:

Iowa Fine Arts and Culture: This was a huge part of Living in Iowa (LII) originally and will remain the largest focus of my writing here. I will complete interviews with artists, musicians, writers and more across the state of Iowa. I will also cover great travel spots, sports teams, interesting businesses and restaurants. I don’t want you to lose out on the wonderful interviews already completed so I will be re-posting articles from the previous version of LII. There will be a mix of old and new until all the previous posts are re-posted.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: Now that I know what I’m dealing with, research will be an important part of my journey. It feels unethical to do research on this disorder and not share it as there are many others suffering and looking for answers.

Cooking: Oh, Lord, do I love to cook. EDS often creates problems with the gastrointestinal system and pain levels are also strongly affected by diet. So, I’ll continue posting recipes some of which will be connected to my "new normal" and some of which are just freakin’ delicious.

Photography: I’ve started working as a professional photographer on the side and while this probably won’t take up too much room on this blog, I might post occasionally on the subject.

Psychology: I’m about finished with my second master’s degree. The first was in English and this degree is in psychology. I love the work I do in this program and find it pertinent to share interesting information with you about staying healthy mentally and emotionally. I am focusing specifically on trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in my thesis work and will likely focus on this in my posts. My goal is to create empirically sound, safe, free help for those suffering from PTSD.

Travel: I love to travel and always will but new health and financial restrictions have limited my ability to do much of it. I will still cover every trip I take but they won’t be as frequent as they once were.   

Other areas of interest: These areas most likely won’t take up much room, but will visit occasionally and include the following topics: human rights, feminism, freelance writing, freelance editing and proofreading, education, book reviews, arts and crafts, fashion and design, money saving and financial tips, pets, and gardening.

I hope you stick around for another go at this. Thanks for all your support in this process! If you have questions, comments or concerns, you can reach me at j(dot)dartagnan(dot)love(@)gmail(dot)com


(Photo (c) Keri Brecht Photography)