Posted in Features


Forty Ceramic Artists featured at Rural Studio Tour – September 23-24

The first annual ceramic studio tour – The Cracked Pot Clay Studio Tour — presents twelve area potteries that have opened their studios and invited additional Michigan ceramic artists to join them in showing and demonstrating their work. Over 40 artists are participating in the tour. The public is invited to experience the studios, observe potters in action, and watch multiple live demonstrations.

The Cracked Pot Clay Studio Tour will be held on
Saturday, September 23 from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm and
Sunday, September 24 from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Admission is free.

This is your chance to meet and talk to the artists in their studios, take in the peaceful surroundings that inspire them, enjoy a backroads autumn tour, and watch first-hand the creation of ceramic art. The rural ceramic artist studios and potteries surrounding the Williamston, Bath and Mason area are local gems that have been creating beautiful art for decades. Don’t miss this chance to explore the serenity and artistry that make up Michigan’s local pottery community.

The tour follows a rustic path, visiting architecturally diverse studios, starting in Bath at Pamela Timmons’ Studio, which overlooks natural wetlands. The tour continues at two studios that border on the Rose Lake Nature Area: Paul Thornton’s Studio Gallery, featuring his whimsical face pots, and Bill Selanders’ Fox Knoll Pottery, with well-crafted functional ware. As you wind your way toward the Williamston area, visit the Ned Krouse Pottery Studio, which specializes in Raku, and Welded Creations Plus, where Nancy and Lee Kronenberg combine their talents of crafting metal and clay. Be sure to visit two new studios in Williamston, Mary Fritz’s Red Cedar Studio overlooking the Red Cedar River, and Ruth Zimmerman’s Red Barn Pottery, a ceramic art center. Stop also at the Mark Chatterley Sculpture Studio to view amazing sculptures set in the natural landscape. As you meander toward Mason, check out two bucolic historic farms, Virginia Cassaday Pottery and Blake Williams at Blue Barn Studio. The tour concludes in Mason, where visitors can experience the DeLind Studio, which features the work of the talented DeLind family, and the Jon Whitney Pottery Studio, specializing in masterfully-thrown functional pottery.

The clay artists in the tour range from the internationally and nationally known to the locally loved. They will present their functional and sculptural work for viewing and purchase. Mary Fritz of Red Cedar Studio, the tour’s coordinator, says “This is the first time Mid-Michigan’s vibrant ceramic community has come together to share their work in the settings that inspired them!”

See and visit The Cracked Pot Clay Studio on Facebook for a map and art preview. Pick up a brochure from area businesses to begin the tour. All participating studios have maps and brochures to be distributed. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind opportunity to take a trip through the local art community and bring a piece home with you.

Now and Then – Michigan Iron Industry Museum

by Jean Martin

About once every month or six weeks the St. Johns Independent has been receiving press releases from an entity called the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee. What, we wondered, were we to make of that?

Then a week or so ago we found ourselves at loose ends in the Upper Peninsula town of Marquette. Well, why not visit this place?

The Museum is located just west of Marquette and overlooks the Carp River, the site of the first iron forge in the Lake Superior region. Admission is free, but they encourage donations. Oddly enough, they do charge for their very fine video presentation on local mining history.

Visitors might want to take note. Do not trust the GPS app on your smartphone for directions. You will get there eventually, but you will be doing it the hard way. Instead we suggest that you simply follow US-41 west out of Marquette. On the left you will see a State Police Post. Do not turn there; that way madness lies. Continue west a short way, and you will see the Museum entrance on the left. It will require a Michigan left to get over there, but we believe you will find it well worth the trouble.

A Look Back – Waiting for the bus

by Barry Clark Bauer

The kids are back to school starting this week. Waiting for the bus that seems to take forever, especially in the cold weather.

The big difference is this photo, it was taken in 1974 which was 43 years ago and these kids are now in their fifties. Wonder what happened to them.

The kids are unidentified.

Benny and Jessie’s Pet Info – Is Your Dog Bored?

Whether the kids have gone back to school, the adults are away all day at work, or the daily routine of walks and play-time have just lost their appeal, finding new ways to occupy your dog is essential. Dogs need both physical and mental stimulation to help keep them healthy and happy. And it’s no secret that bored dogs tend to get themselves into trouble.

“My philosophy is a tired dog is a good dog,” says Caren Malgesini, a vet assistant at PAWS, an animal rescue organization in Lynnwood, Wash., and the owner of Caren’s Canine Counseling dog training business in Everett, Wash.

But entertaining your dog doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on doggie day care, a dog walker, or pricey toys. With a little creativity and insight into your dog’s personality, you can find, or even make, the right toys to make playtime more fun for both of you, or to keep your dog entertained and busy on his or her own.

Malgesini says it’s also important to take your dog’s breed or breed mix and age into consideration as well. Breeds like the Doberman Pinscher, Golden Retriever, and Australian Cattle Dog, all bred to be working dogs, need more exercise and mental stimulation than more easy-going breeds like the Basset Hound or Bull Dog, which prefer less challenging playtimes, she notes.

PAWS recommends two types of entertaining dog toys:

– Interactive toys that require your participation, like balls and Frisbees to fetch, and rope toys for playing tug-of-war
– Distraction toys that keep your dog busy when you don’t have time or aren’t around to play, such as toys that hide food treats, chew toys, and puzzle toys filled with treats

Interactive Toys for Dogs

Dogs, even non-working dogs, were bred to interact with humans. So spend any time with your dog that you can, because playing together strengthens your bond, advises Malgesini. Lack of interaction with people can result in needy, mopey dogs, she notes.

“We don’t give them enough to do, so they get into trouble,” adds Jen Gabbard, a Detroit-based blogger who offers a wealth of low-cost or free ways to keep your dog entertained on her blog Puppy Leaks ( Gabbard’s easy interactive dog toys include:

Tug toys

Tug-of-war is a great way to tire your dog (and yourself) out. And you don’t have to buy a tug toy, you can easily make your own from old t-shirts, towels, or other soft materials.

Fetch toys

Many dogs love chasing balls, Frisbees, or soft toys. Some rubber toys are oddly shaped so that they bounce erratically and make the game more fun, notes Gabbard. Tennis balls are always a hit with dogs.

Distraction Toys for Dogs

“There are so many dogs that are left alone all day,” says Malgesini. “But anything can be a game to your dog if you make it fun.”

However, it’s important to initially supervise your dog with a new toy before leaving him or her alone with it. Younger dogs tend to be more destructive and may ingest part of the toy, which can lead to intestinal blockages. “Watch them to see what they do with it,” Malgesini advises.

Gabbard has a few ideas to help keep your dog occupied if he or she is home alone for hours at a time:

Stuffed Kong

Give your dog a Kong toy filled with treats, frozen peanut butter, or other food. Gabbard is such a fan of Kongs that she feeds her own dog all of her meals in a Kong. “It’s partly because she scarfs down her food quickly, but mostly to keep her mind engaged,” says Gabbard.

Frozen treats

A free equivalent to a Kong, these treats are made by freezing dog treats in ice or by making ice cubes out of a meat- or vegetable-based broth. It’s amazing how long ice treats can keep your dog occupied, says Gabbard.

Digging box

If your dog loves to dig, channel that love by building a digging box, similar to a small sand box, in your yard and burying toys in it for your dog to find.

Change It Up to Keep Your Dog Engaged

Play time is best when it incorporates both mental and physical exercise, which can be equally tiring, says Gabbard. “Don’t underestimate the importance of play.”

Other ways of mentally and physically challenging your dog don’t require toys at all. Gabbard suggests that dog owners:

Change your walk routine

Dogs like to do new things, so take a different route or visit a new park.

Teach your dog new tricks

You can train your dog to help around the house. Gabbard has trained her dog to help pick up her toys and to carry sticks and small logs to the wood pile. It’s fun and helpful at the same time and can be especially welcome for working breeds.

Arrange a play date with a friend’s dog

Just be sure the two dogs get along well before leaving them to play unsupervised.

Maralyn’s Pet Corner – Signs of Pyometra in Cats

How do you know if your cat has pyometra? Sometimes the symptoms are straightforward, but at other times the disease can be tricky to diagnose. Knowing the signs of pyometra can, quite literally, save your cat’s life.

What is Pyometra?

Pyometra is defined as an accumulation of pus within the uterus, which can develop because of the hormonal, anatomical, and physiological changes that occur after a cat has gone through a heat cycle but does not become pregnant. Bacteria then take advantage of the situation, resulting in a potentially fatal infection.

What are the Symptoms of Pyometra in Cats?

Some cats with pyometra show no signs, or may show vague clinical signs like lethargy, fever, dehydration, and poor appetite, even if they are suffering from very advanced disease.

Vomiting may also be present. Because the signs of pyometra can be mild and/or ambiguous, abdominal imaging (x-rays and/or ultrasound) is sometimes the only way to definitively diagnose or rule out cases of pyometra in cats.

If a cat with pyometra has an open cervix, pus (often tinged with blood) will drain from the cat’s vagina, but fastidious feline groomers often clean it away before owners can observe it. Because the pus has a way to get out of the body, these cats may not show many signs of systemic illness.

In comparison, when a cat with pyometra has a closed cervix, the pus will accumulate within and distend the uterus, leading to pain, abdominal enlargement, and more obvious signs of illness. The uterus may eventually rupture, leading to peritonitis—infection of the abdominal cavity—which is fatal without aggressive treatment.

While increased thirst and urination are classic symptoms of pyometra in dogs, these clinical signs are rarely observed in cats.

What Puts a Cat at Risk for Pyometra?

The probability of a cat developing pyometra increases with age, and affected cats have often gone through a heat cycle roughly a month before falling ill.

Intact females are at highest risk for developing pyometra, but the condition can be diagnosed in spayed female cats, as well. Here’s how:

When a cat is spayed in a traditional manner most of the uterus is removed, but a small portion attached to the cervix is left within the abdomen. This is called the uterine “stump.” An alternate form of spaying is becoming more popular in which the entire uterus remains in the body and only the ovaries are removed. Pyometras are extremely unlikely with either of these two surgical procedures, as long as the cat is no longer under the influence of reproductive hormones. Unfortunately, this can occur under certain circumstances.

Sometimes, ovarian tissue has been left behind within the cat’s abdomen. The tissue may be microscopic and therefore invisible to the surgeon’s eye, or a mistake may have been made and a larger piece of ovary remains.

Some spayed female cats also develop pyometras after coming into contact with their owner’s estrogen-containing topical products or after being treated with progestins for skin problems, a practice which is no longer in wide-spread use.

Treating and Preventing Pyometra in Cats

The best way to treat a cat with pyometra is to spay her as soon as her condition has been stabilized. The ovaries, entire uterus, and cervix are removed as one unit to minimize the chance of pus leaking into the abdomen.

When a spayed cat develops pyometra, the uterine stump is removed (or the whole uterus if only the ovaries were previously taken out) and any remaining ovarian tissue must be identified and excised. If an owner plans to breed the cat in the future, medical treatment is available that may eliminate the need for surgery that inevitably leads to infertility.

Spaying a female cat when she is young and healthy is the best way to prevent pyometra. The spay procedure is much more risky once the disease has damaged her uterine tissues and weakened her ability to withstand surgery and anesthesia.