Friday, October 20, 2017

A Good Firing.

Firing is not my favorite part of my art-making process. I know it's because I have to give up and give in to the kiln. It's scary because even if I've done everything right: wedging, throwing, rolling, underglazing, bisque and final glazing, everything can go wrong. 

Maybe there's another reason I don't like firing. I'm officially done. It's over. The piece is out the studio, out of my hands and on its own. My studio shelves look a little empty.

When the kiln lid closes and firing starts, I'm finished whether I like it or not.

I like to finish projects. I love the feeling of accomplishment. But I struggle with that part of myself that doesn't like to let go. I always see possibilities: more color or texture or lines to add. But even though my pieces go through 2 or more kiln firings before the final glaze firing, I still put it off just in case. Oh, I know I'm procrastinating and finally, I can't stand it anymore. 
I turn on the kiln, set my timer and wait. I have an old manual kiln that was gifted to me by a very generous man. I thank him every time I load, fire and unload it. But it is getting older and will soon need new coils and some bricks fixed, which is very costly, and that adds another layer to my kiln-sitting stress. Will this be the time the kiln decides to quit on me?

I don't peek for four days. Honest. 

Why? Because I use porcelain and I've learned that opening the kiln up before my pieces have totally cooled to the surrounding temperature both in my garage and in my studio causes cracks. There is nothing sadder than putting all my heart and soul into my work only to hear the awful sounds of popping and cracking because I lacked patience. And I do lack patience most of the time, but not when it comes to kiln cooling. I keep my cool. 

This time, lifting the lid was joyful. 

I tried some new ideas in this group of bowls. I wanted a landscape feel that reminded me of the watercolors and oils I used to paint. I added more texture inside and out. The spirals and trees in the middle of the bowl feel like the drawing I used to do. I used the under glazes like watercolors creating a sky surrounding the tree landscape. 

As I opened the lid, I saw the colors were even better than I'd hoped. As I took each piece out, I examined it inside and out for cracks, glaze slips or bubbles. It looked good. Whew. 

Now, there's always a piece or two that I know have some kind of issue going in. It might be a weird bump or a slight crack, so I don't expect those pieces to be perfect. I hope for the best and sometimes, I'm happily surprised. Sometimes, not. This time, one bowl made it out better than I thought it would but it's not up to my standards, so it will go on my 'seconds' shelf.  

I'm still happy, though. Because 22 out of 23 pieces came out whole. 

It was a good firing and that's a very good thing. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thoughts of the Week.

I don't know what to write about this week. Is it that after 10 plus years of writing blogs, I've run out of things to write about? Is it that everything I think of to write about sounds too boring? Is it that somethings are either too close to home or too far out of my field. Since I can't come up with a theme or idea, here's a few thoughts.


My home isn't just a place, it's my sacred space. It's where I imagine, dream and create. It's where I've watched and guided my son and daughter from mastering Legos to master's degrees. It's where my 5 four-footed companions have lived and died. It's full of memories and dusty stuffed animals and stacks of paintings, masks, mugs and, now, toddler toys for my granddaughter. It's scuffed and worn around the edges in places, but that's because it's well loved. 


I sometimes take this for granted. I know I shouldn't. And it seems when I do, the universe gives me a reason to be very grateful for my health and those I love. I am so grateful my yellow lab, Jilly, is healthier now. She's gained weight and strength and is walking all the way to the park!  I am so grateful my daughter, sons, and granddaughter are strong in spite of the stress and strains that life has thrown their way this year. I am also so grateful, that my dear husband and best friend got an unanticipated full physical this week and was told, that we should all be that healthy.  


I have rarely written about politics. Not because I don't have opinions and beliefs about what's right and wrong in our country but because I didn't want to bring more controversy into people's lives. Instead, I want to bring more creativity and hope into the world. But, the ongoing embarrassment from Washington is so awful, I can't ignore it. All this ugliness and greed and hate spewing from not just our embarrassing President but all who surround him, is disgusting. Our founding fathers crafted our freedoms carefully to allow us to live better lives. It seems all our leaders want to do is make not just our lives worse but threaten to kill life on our planet as well. It's got to stop. 


As I sit on my window seat looking out at the autumn colors changing with the sunset, I wonder and wish. I wonder at the blue sky that arrived minutes after hail, rain and wind. I wonder at the marvel of gravity, allowing us to walk this gorgeous globe as it spins. I wonder at time ticking by second by second, air breathing in and out, days beginning and ending on opposite ends of the world, it's still wonderful. 

I wish for an awakening for all of us. I wish for rising from the political and social muck to a fertile new day. I wish for true sight so we can all see the connections that bring us closer together. I wish for my thoughts and yours to go beyond  home, health and country to enfold the universe.  

Friday, October 6, 2017

Mondays with Meyer: "I no like that."

This is my granddaughter's favorite phrase right now and I can't think of anything that typifies the two-year old better. It's a time for challenge and discovery and daring-do's. It's watching a human being emerge from it's chrysalis baby stage into a beautiful, caring, bold, adventurous little person. 

You can call me crazy, but I find two-year olds amazing. 

Yes, even when Meyer says no. Even when she climbs my furniture. Throws my throw pillows. Pokes my paintings. Picks my flowers and digs in the dirt. Ok, maybe I get a little scared when she grabs for the lamps or other breakable objects. So I 'toddler proof' my home when she is over to keep her safe. I plug outlets, gate stairs, lock cabinets and drawers. 

But I say yes to as much as possible, even when it makes a mess. Why? Because the job of a toddler is to learn about her world with her own bare hands. Whether it's smooshing play dough or stirring a pot of cold cereal, picking tomatoes, examining a leaf or making bubble pie with abandon. That goes for grown-up things, too. When she wants to touch something, as long as it's not dangerous, I say yes. She's touched bushes we pass on our walks, roses and orchids, sculptures, ceramics, paintings and masks. She loves to smell the different soaps and herbs, too.  

Everything is done with energy and zest for living.

Eating, walking, talking, running and, yes, even napping is done by diving in. That does make life a challenge for both of us. She wants to take risks and I want her to stretch her wings but she needs my protection. I am always there for her.

But sometimes, I have to let her go. I, quite literally, have to put her down, give her a kiss and say, go play. And sometimes, she looks at me and says, "I no like that."

She waits for me then, to get mad, to push, to prod, to bargain with her. I don't. Because I know she is not being bad or trying to make me mad, she's learning about the power of attention, intention and limits. So sometimes, she will try something wild. Or she will scream or cry or throw a tantrum. 

And many times, I have to keep myself from laughing. 

I have to remember, she wants limits to feel safe but she has to push limits to grow. I have to let her know I love her even when she's mad or sad or tired or dirty or makes a mistake. I have to let her try out her world and be ready to catch her before she falls. 

Or when she does fall down, I kiss it and make it better knowing that is when, "I no like that."

Friday, September 29, 2017

Creating Time.

Sometimes, we've all just got to get out of the everyday blur and into the minute by minute. Behind me I hear the tick, tick, tick of the clock reminding me that life is moving whether or not I am on the move.  

Speeding through life doesn't make more minutes.

It just seems that way to me. As I whiz through my usual life, checking off my list, I feel energized by my productivity. I'm getting things done: food purchased, weeds pulled, dust dusted, steps counted. But it's an illusion. And although I know it in real time, the speed and motion keep it in the background.

Like my step app, life moves forward whether I click on it or not. 

Taking a vacation slows it all down. I sit and sip and watch the squirrels scurry up and down the trees. I see the sun shift and the grass move. I wonder and wander through the pathways outside the condo and inside my mind.

I slowly, very slowly let go of routine and begin to explore. 

What? Where? How? Why? It's all turned over and examined. I'll admit, I am always trying to learn from the past whether it's my own history or the evolution of the world around me. There are always connections to be made, causes and effects, lessons to learn that can launch new thoughts, understandings and bring revelations into the present.

Seeing from the past to the present gives me hope for the future. I explore new paths while holding onto the old. Will my life or work or love change? Probably. But I can't and don't need to see all that now. 

I only have to be aware. 

Hearing the tick, tick, tick of time and move with its beat trying as best as I can to create in tune with my heart.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rain, rain, don't go away. Again.

I live in Oregon. It rains a lot here or so people think.  But actually, rain totals here used to be about as much as the Midwest city I grew up in. The big difference is that there it really only rained in the spring and here it drizzles and sprinkles and rains almost all year round.  

Except for this year.  We've just had 90 plus days of dry, hot summer. It's not my Oregon. 

So when the rain began to fall, I could feel my body drinking it all in, washing away dust from the sidewalks and my soul. I watch the drops hit the window and slide down catching the light. The crisp, clear smell mixes with the soft patter to create a peaceful resting place. Sleeping as the rain falls is so blissfully cozy and I realize how much I need the relaxing rain. 

Now, I can get out my new clay and play. 

I had to slow down and come to a complete creative stop in August.  The hot, dry weather is not a good climate for porcelain clay. It drys too fast. It cracks. It's frustrating. I did manage to get bisque firing done on the one cooler day but again, those pieces are still sitting on the shelves, waiting. My kiln is outside, but with temperatures in the 90's, it's still too hot to do a glaze fire.

Inside my studio, I'm unpacking from a show, setting up my shelves and moving onward, hopefully. I've bought some new clay and I actually have a few new pieces drying. Another reason, I'm so grateful for the weather change. Slow, slow drying time means happy, healthy new pieces.  

Now I know the season is changing. 

I always have mixed feelings about fall. Change itself is never easy but this year as the water rains down, thunder booms and even, lightening sizzles, I am embracing this lovely shift into a new season. 

Suddenly, I can't wait to put up the leaf wreath. Trim back my lavender for drying. And cook up the last of the tomatoes. I'm sitting here sipping a chai tea and watching the last of the rain drops burst through the screen as the sky slowly shifts and lightens. 

Rain. Rain. Please, oh please, don't go away!  Not today. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Creating Calm.

Two hundred year old trees burned to the ground. Black sooty ash blew on the hot, humid wind dusting the garden, window sills, table tops inside and out. The sun turned orange and the air thickened with smoke. Across the country, hurricanes and tropical storms and earthquakes have devastated lives, homes and whole cities. 

The President promised help some people but refused to help others and hundreds of people were forced from their homes and fire fighters risked their lives battling the flames in my own state. 

Even if, like me, your home is safe, you feel the fear too. 

We are all connected on this planet. We feel the pain of the trees and animals and the people. Unlike our President, I don't deny or blame or hide from that fact. I try to breathe, embrace and help in whatever small way I can. 

I realize I can't do much. I can't stop it or fix it or wish it away. But I can, in my own small corner of the world create some calm. I can sit with that calm, letting it flow through me, around me and like a soft, sweet, clear breeze sweeping past me out into the world. 

Carrying with it my hope, my love, my heartbeat in a rhythm of a meandering, babbling droplets of water that pool, then trickle softly and spurt hopefully reviving us all.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Life is a Roller Coaster.

This week has flown by. It's been a roller coaster ride of events and emotions, bad and good. 

We had a scare 3 years ago, when the vet told us Jilly, our sweet yellow Lab, had 3 months to live. Last week, at this time, I thought Jilly was dying. Now she's curled up at my feet snoozing in her normal, easy rhythm. Once again, my Jilly proved to me that miracles are possible. 


When I watched Jilly's labored breathing and weakness, all I could think of was death and loss and sadness. I worked to get her to drink water and broth and eat a little rice. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Mostly, she slept and I watched and worried. 

In almost utter despair, I took a walk to my woods, to my favorite tree seeking solace. As I leaned into this old, giant cedar, I immediately felt energy tingle my spine but what I didn't expect was the forceful push from the ground, up through my feet. It was almost hot and so abrupt that I almost moved away, yet I knew better. My cedar was sending me a strong message: don't give up. The life force being literally forced up through my body was not for me. The message was clear: Jilly's life force was strong whether or not she stayed with me in the here and now. 

I felt lifted, calmer and tired as I walked home. I didn't expect improvement but I felt now, I could handle whatever was ahead. 


When I walked into the house, Jilly lifted her head and looked straight at me. Her eyes were aware, awake, almost normal. Her breathing was calmer. Her energy had shifted. 

My husband and I helped her up and outside using a towel under her belly for support. But on the way back in, she jumped up the step on her own. We were surprised and glad, but cautious. She was still weak and not eating. We didn't expect much. 

Over the next two days, she began to eat handfuls of dog cookies. She drank more water. She got up and outside on her own. She was breathing more normally. And she was moving around to her usual spots for naps. Monday night, after my husband had gone downstairs and let her out for the night, he turned around and found her on the upstairs landing waiting to go bed as usual.

Encouraged, I made her a batch of homemade dog food and pureed chicken livers. She laid on the kitchen carpet watching my every move. When I was done, I put a cup in her bowl. She gobbled it up. I fed her 2 more times that day. She gobbled up more. 

Everyday since, she's gotten better and stronger. She's alert, wagging, barking and her usual sweet self. She's drooling for her Sunday bacon waffle. Yes, Jilly is my miracle dog, once again. 

No, I don't like roller coasters but seeing my sweet snoozing, living, breathing Jilly at my feet makes it all worth it. 

Again and again, I learn how much I don't know. How much I assume. How much I fear. How much I love and how much I refuse to let go. And now, how much I need to see and breathe and appreciate all the little things that make up the everyday living of life.

Even the dog hair all over my floor is a beautiful thing.