Posted in Travel

Hometown Travel Tips to Galleries & Studios


I found a treasured hand-thrown, fired piece of pottery at the Phoenix Fired Art studio in downtown Joplin, Missouri, my husband’s hometown, when traveling there year before last. I bought it as a souvenir, but it would have made a lovely gift, too. The fluted pottery dish serves as perfect four-person pie plate (it is five inches wide across the bottom); or as a fruit bowl full of cherries or berries.

I enjoy shopping where I can experience the art and artisans. I like this piece particularly because it is pretty, goes in my BestViewOfPiePlatekitchen nicely, and is uniquely useful.

William Morris, textile designer, associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement in the 1800s, offered wise advice on decorations for the home. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

That fits this lovely and practical piece of pottery.


GeoffShowingHisArtFrom the perspective of travel, I think of this as a perfect travel tip how to enjoy it in simple and uncomplicated ways. Explore, shop, view the art, visit the artist, and decide whether to make a purchase. That was the case at the Phoenix Fired Art studio.

Geoffrey Kunkler is both artist and studio manager. He enjoyed showing off his work, pointing out other artists’ work that he sells in the studio, Before&After.IMG_20150516_131652_641and explaining the process of his style versus other potters.

See inside his studio on his Phoenix Fired Art facebook page.

His small pie plate appealed to me because it was a piece that would make a smaller pie for just four
people or two servings each for my husband, Lynn and me.


Joplin, Missouri, could be your hometown or your destination. It may be where you visit grandma or a favorite aunt. Or simply serves as a stop along the way to somewhere else.


The Phoenix Fired Art staff bubble wrapped it for my trip home in the car. It traveled safely, packed easily because it was small and provided a special memento of my 2014 trip to a recovering Joplin after the 2011 tornado.

DutchApplePieThe pottery is a conversation piece, when I serve our company dessert from this tiny pie plate that allows no leftovers.

Last, but not least, the little plate/bowl reminds me of the experience in a working studio and Geoff the artist, who took the time to visit with me.

I have brought home small art postcards or 8×11 artist renderings of a place visited, such as Laguna Beach, California. In every house since we got married we have hung our prized batik prints that Lynn and I bought on our honeymoon by Diane Tunkel. In 2002 while in Durban, South Africa, I found contemporary pillow covers by Karin Gibson that we have hung with the batiks.


Have you found surprise shopping places that also provided an experience, whether in your hometown or while on a trip? Share those travel tips with me and my followers. We would like to learn about them.






Posted in Growing Up, Travel, Travel Writing

What is “agency” in coming-of-age?

I have a thing about “agency,” which I wrote about in my coming-of-age travel memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away. For many of our young women particularly, but also young men, I believe they have difficulty in acquiring a sense of “agency” for themselves in today’s world. “Agency” is not an often used term, but it seems to capture much of what I think is needed for young people to develop as they come of age. (My concern and interest is primarily young women, so I will address them.)

I want to explore this concept for several days in a row on my blog to see if I can bring more clarity about it for myself and for you, my reader. Hopefully we can discover its ingredients to growing up and maturing in our society. Here goes!


When I speak about the agency of a young girl, growing up, maturing and coming of age, what do I mean? Think with me in terms of a “travel agent.” What is the role of a travel agent?

An agent researches and selects a destination; sets up an itinerary of sites to see and things to do; arranges lodging, food, and transportation; develops a budget to generate the cost for you; creates reasons and benefits of why one should go to that location–all to minimize your work in getting ready to travel.

Much like a travel agent, a young woman learns through experience, how to make things happen for herself. Even failure becomes a powerful learning tool. Each young woman  is capable of becoming her own “agent.”

She can determine a destination that appeals to her and check the things she wants to see and do there-decide if it is a worthwhile journey. If still it’s still an attractive destination, then she can determine if she can afford to go. If so, she can schedule transportation, make arrangements, and generate the cash to finance the trip.

Once she is there she makes the most of her research and what she learned from others who have been there before. She will learn what she likes and doesn’t like about the place and the trip. Failure and success will inform her next adventure in life.

Over time, this sense of “agency” becomes more refined and more productive for her. We often call this “growing up.”

What do you think?