Thursday, April 27, 2017

Back to Home Base.

It's been a wonderfully busy month: showing and selling, meeting and greeting. As a solitary studio artist, getting around other artists, art and art lovers brings a whole new energy to my life and, I do think ultimately, to my art as well. I see work that inspires me. I talk to other artists about their process and studio life. I share my process with art show visitors from high school art students to veteran art buyers.

Many people who visit the shows and see wonderful work, never know how much work goes on in the background. And truth be told, before I did shows like this, I didn't have any idea either. I'm not talking about the actually art making but the making of an art show. 

This is show takes two days to set up. Over 100 artists work loading and unloading huge trucks full of equipment, painting pedestals, and setting up complex lighting systems. Teams work to set up each large group area like the group gallery or cashier/check out area. Then individual artists work to set up their own booth or shelves with their own work. The show lasts for 3 days. Then everyone teams up again for take down but instead of days, they have hours to get it all disassembled, packed and cleaned up. 

Fired up to burned out. 

I watched my work go off to new homes. I loaded lighter boxes into my car and drove home feeling a good kind of tired. I'd unpack later, because then I needed food, wine and sleep.

A few days later, it was time to tackle the rest of the job. Back in the quiet of my studio, boxes needed to be unpacked. My inventory needed to be tallied. My shelves refilled. I worked with silence as a cozy companion while I checked off pieces and added up my sales. I made more than my fees and costs, so I'm grateful. I usually leave the math for last, worried that my total will not be enough to balance out all the costs from show fees and commissions to the hours, days and months of work. 

People see the work but not the work that went into it. Even I can't accurately calculate the true sum of materials, time, education, experience and energy that goes into each piece I make. 

The work of the heart is hard to measure in dollars and cents.

As an artist, teacher and mother, I understand and somewhere inside me I accept and embrace it. There's a part of me that wouldn't have it any other way. And, yet, there are forces surrounding us lately that derail even the best intentions. Forces that make it harder for all of us to see, live and work from our hearts when we worry about taxes, health care and education.  

When I see myself distracted by the distress, I want to fix it. Make it right. Solve it. But again and again, I come back to the truth, I can't solve the worlds' problems. I can only do what I know is right in my part of it. 

Time to come back to home base. Create it with strength and heart and kindness and a deep appreciation of the wisdom and forces that were here before me and are beyond me. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Creating Relaxation.

I am a go go, do do, move faster kind of person. The more I have on my 'to do' list, the happier I am, or so I think. But the last few weeks, I've been forced to slow down because a cold and cough just literally took the wind out of me. 

For a few days, watching Netflix, reading and napping was comforting but after three weeks, part of me really rebelled. I wanted to race walk to the park. Get on the wheel and throw. Prune my bushes for spring. I got myself off the couch and back to work and my body rebelled with more coughing and exhaustion. 

How can I relax more?

This question came through my email inbox from well known author, Tara Mohr. As she was stuck in traffic worried about being late for an appointment, she asked herself this question. She found that in many instances where she would normally rush, push and stress, she could find a way to relax.

It made me wonder. Is it really me or is it life long conditioning that keeps me on the move almost 24/7? It's not the first time I've wondered about whether I'm the driver or being driven. Maybe just like Tara, I could stop pushing the pedal to the metal so hard. Certainly my body needed a slower pace. 

Maybe instead of missing something, I might discover some things.

Here's what I found out:  I still got work done. I got my work priced and delivered and set up for two shows. I did get some of my bushes pruned and some of them got pruned by the wind storm. I did have to say no to a few things I wanted to go and do, so my body could get the rest it needed. But as a result, of not pushing and over-doing, I'm slowly starting to feel better. 

Now, when I get temped to go, go, go, I ask myself, "Can I create relaxation, too?"
When I'm driving, I can rest my head against the headrest instead of trying to push the other cars with my neck. When I'm shopping, I can take a breath while waiting in line. Working in the studio, I can look up at the sky in between paint strokes. While unloading my work and setting up my shelves for the show, I can step back, take a breath(because I literally had to) and look at the overall display. Walking doesn't always need to be a race, just because I'm choosing to walk slower doesn't mean I am slow.

I don't think I have to come to a full stop which is what I fear most. I realize I can just hit the pause button, take a breath and create a little relaxation in that one moment. Creating relaxation while in motion makes everything flow a little smoother. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Another Wonderful Silly Jilly Year!

Today is my sweet, Jilly's 12th birthday! It's a special celebration of life because according to her vets, 3 years ago, she was supposed to be dead. But they were so wrong.

Jilly is here. She's alive. She's wagging and barking and sniffing and walking in the park. 

Jilly is a wonderful in many ways and she is also a bit of a handful. She is a Guide Dog Career Changer which means, at 14 months, they decided she was not Guide Dog material. They had good reasons, but that doesn't mean she isn't a very good dog. She just had her own mind, her own desires and her own talents that made her more unique. It also made her more of a challenge to train.  

When Jilly came to us, she was sweet and lovable but she was also strong-willed and smart. She would not come when called. When approached, she ran away. She jumped when a van door slammed or someone approached from the back or there was a grate in the sidewalk. It took a lot of time, patience and stubbornness on my part to work our way around and through her obstacles. But we made it. Together.

Jilly is my studio partner, side-kick and friend. 

Wherever I go, whatever I do, Jilly is right there. When I throw out in the cold garage, Jilly is right there on her dog bed. If I'm glazing inside the studio, Jilly is right outside the door watching. If I go outside, she follows. If I go upstairs, she climbs up right after me. 

Lately, Jilly's been very upset because I've been sick with a bad cold and cough. Every time I cough, she jumps up to check on me and pants until I start breathing better. It's been hard on both of us because I realize I've been worried about her, too. You see those dire predictions from the vets all those years ago, have hovered over me like a dark cloud. Until today.

Today, Jilly is twelve years strong. She is my sweetness and light. Now, as always, Jilly, is her strong, exuberant, stubborn self and I wouldn't want her any other way.  

Here's to her and her favorite treat: special birthday waffles to celebrate!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Picking up the Pieces of Joy.

As I made this small treasure jar, I imagined it sitting sweetly waiting to hold little bits of joy. But as you can see, this jar is broken. And, worse yet, I broke it. Unloading the kiln load, I picked it up off the tray, the lid slipped out of my hand and crashed to the hard floor. 

Picking up the pieces of joy.

As I searched the floor for the pieces, hoping I'd find one big chunk, all I found were clay crumbs. Nothing big enough to fill the gap in the lid appeared, yet I couldn't throw the jar away. So I put the jar with it's broken lid on the shelf above my work area thinking that I'd find a way to put it all back together.

What if? I came up with ideas to save it. What if I never glazed it but just kept it at bisque stage, made a piece to fit, glued it in and painted it to match? What if I only glazed the inside of the jar, then, after the final firing, I could make a faux piece out of epoxy and paint it to match. 

I heard myself say, "Let the joy jar go."

But there it sat on the shelf. Still. I kept working on new pieces, more and more treasure jars appeared on my shelves, but noting like the little joy jar. I kept on working figuring that somehow it wouldn't matter so much anymore.  I'd have other jars that were better and taller. Unbroken.  Perfect.

Or, I could just make another joy jar. Somehow, it just didn't happen. I didn't make another one. When it came time to glaze my other pieces and do a final firing, I did glaze the inside of the joy jar. It did go into the kiln broken lid and all. 

It came out perfectly imperfect. 

And every time I see it, I smile. And my heart glows just a little bit, knowing that joy doesn't need to be perfect to be joyful.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Spring Fever.

As I look out my window at the distance fog and hear the rain patter down while sipping a cup of hot tea, I wonder where is Spring? I see a sprinkling of blossoms on the horizon but sunshine and warmth feels very far away. I keep trying to bring it closer.

I bought daffodils by the dozens and sprinkled them around my house.

I clipped the few blooming hyacinths in my yard and brought them inside. 

I got out the bunnies and eggs and springtime colors. 

But a fog remains. Inside and out. I find myself looking once again, longingly, out the window. Searching for that light and warmth that promises new beginnings have begun. 

Until then, I sit and sip my tea, plant my own ceramic lily inside and hope.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Monday's with Meyer: Life Lessons from a Toddler.

I love Monday's with my sweet granddaughter. Meyer, now at the ripe young age of 18 months, is officially a toddler but not yet into the terrible twos. Most people see this age of tantrums and defiance as terrible but I've never seen it that way at all. In fact, my children were wonderful at two because just like Meyer, they had already graduated from toddlerhood. 

The not so terrible awfully wonderful twos.

Toddlerhood is a huge learning stage. It is the beginning of learning to be human in the most basic and wonderful ways. Meyer, like my own children, is learning to be independent and live in our very complex world. 

Toddlers know what they need and they listen. 

Toddlers are amazing to me because they are the essence of being human. They know what they are hungry for and only want to eat that now, thank you. They may love bananas today and eat them all day and reject them tomorrow. They might want a cheese sandwich for breakfast and cereal for dinner. No matter what the clock says, when they are tired and crabby, they go to sleep, now.   When they need to run, they run. When they need to relax, they curl up in your lap with a book.  

As grown ups, we regularly deny ourselves what our bodies truly want and need. If we need food before the clocks says it's lunch, we don't eat. If we want breakfast for dinner and others don't, we don't speak up. We use caffeine and diet regimes to keep ourselves awake when we need to rest and ignore our true hunger when we need to eat. 

Toddlers play to learn and learn to play.

Watch a toddler put a puzzle together. Stack colored cups by size.  Make marks with a crayon. You may think you are watching her play. You are watching her learn geometry, algebra, writing, and reading. Watch her stir a soup of rocks, pat pancakes out of play dough or push a basket around collecting toys and you are seeing her learn life skills of cooking and shopping. 

As grown ups, we think we know all the answers to life's puzzles. We've given up on playtime thinking that it's a waste of our time. As a result, we stop ourselves from learning and that stops us from solving what's really puzzling us. Our life becomes entrenched in routines of safety keeping us from trying new things that might delight, motivate and help us be happier and healthier.

Grown up doesn't mean stop growing. 

As Meyer learns to grown up, she's teaching me to live a better life as a grown up. Listen. Try. Delight. Eat. Grow. And, above all when I get tired, take a nap. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Creating Space.

I needed more space. My kiln was full. My studio shelves were overflowing onto the countertops and I had no place to work. I was frustrated. I'm comfortable with the flow of my work space. I'm comfortable with the way my studio is organized. But I'm uncomfortable with the lack of shelf space and work space. I'm even more uncomfortable with the mess that is necessary to make my space more functional.

Hello uncomfortable comfort zone.

I don't know about you, but this zone is very familiar to me. I've spent a lot of my life there. Maybe you have, too. But the real difference here is choice. I can leave my space overflowing, crowded with no place to work because it's familiar and comfortable. Or I can add a shelf unit, move my displays and re-organize giving me empty space to fill with new work. 

Ah, empty- a clue.

There's the old saying, "A glass is half full or half empty". I can see now I was looking at my studio the same way. I saw it as full and, even overflowing, with my creative work. And by adding the new space, a part of me was seeing it as a void. Empty. 

Someone once suggested that the reason I didn't sell my work quickly was because I was hanging onto it out of fear. Like a protective parent who feared for the safety of their children going out into the world. I, frankly, thought this idea was a little crazy because I've made my living creating and selling my work whether it was writing ads or making art. But I have to admit, when a piece finds a new home, there are mixed feelings of joy and loss.

Turning the glass around.

Looking at those new, clean, empty shelves in my studio, I have to admit the room feels lighter and fresher and more open. I have a bigger place for my glazes, mixers, funnels and bowls. I have a whole shelf for my forms, banding wheels, bats and work trays. I have 2 extra shelves in my display area for new work. And, yes, I have 5 new shelves completely empty and one that is tall enough now to accommodate bigger, taller pieces. 

Now I see clearly, my glass is not empty at all. It's full of new space for creating.