Thursday, August 25, 2016

Back in the Studio Again.

For the past several months, my studio time has taken a backseat to life.  Not that I've been living in the fast lane, but it seems like this summer has flown by and my studio routine has flown out the window right along with it.  I'm not upset about it in the least.  I'm glad. 

Life(and art) is what happens when you're making other plans.

Or, in my case, doing other things.  I've spent the last 5 months taking trips out of town for joyous events in my 'children's' lives.  I've spent many days watching my daughter perform, graduate with a master's and last but not least, be her travel partner on her new life road to L.A.  I've also spent many days watching my granddaughter grow from baby to toddler and helped her learn to walk and talk. 
Studio guilt?  Or fear.

In the past, any change in my studio routine or creative process led to a lot of guilt and fear.  My mind would reel with questions and accusations.  How could I call myself an artist if I wasn't making art, constantly?  How could I have pieces to show and sell, if I wasn't in the studio everyday?  What would happen if I stopped making for any length of time?  Would I never go back to my art?  Would I, (oh no) become a 'hobbyist'?

Fear doesn't create art.  Love does.

And love, also creates life and 'a life'.  And I want it all.  Yes I do.  

And what I've found out by taking time off from the studio is this: work gets done.  Really.  Pieces get made, painted, bisqued, glazed and, yes, miracle of miracles, sold.  Even while I'm on a road trip with my daughter to L.A.  

My art waited for me, patiently.  There on the shelves in my studio were pieces ready to be bisqued again.  There were new pieces ready to be under glazed.  There is a load in the kiln right now, waiting for me to unload it and get it ready for final glazing.  Show labels are made and ready for my next show.  And I know, next week, I'll be back in my studio with my hands in fresh clay again.  

Surprisingly, I'm not feeling either guilt or fear. My life is and always has been about making whether it's making an ad, a family or a new piece of art.  It's not the thing that matters, it's the heart.  And, I truly believe, there is no art(or life) without it. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Study in Contrasts.

This last week, I traveled from Portland to Los Angeles.  Flying home with the sun setting into the ocean, I was captivated by the bird's eye view.  The changes in the landscape below me was an ongoing study in contrasts.

All different.  And all the same.  

Buildings, houses, schools and shopping malls began and ended the flight.  In between, were large expanses of green fields growing food.  There were wide rivers, flowing lakes and forests.  Brown mountains stretched for miles and miles looking like sculpted, brushed copper in the setting sun. Then came greener and greener mounds as I flew closer to Portland.  I was struck by the expanse of the world below me that I only get to see in bits and pieces in my daily life.  

Oregonians vs Californians.    

California and Oregon may share the same ocean but that's probably about all.  Our two states are very different in many ways. And while that's fine, it's sometimes really funny.

Freeway driving speeds:
LA: 75

Freeway turn signals mean:
Portland:  "Hi, there!  I'd like to change lanes, please."  
LA:  "Look out! I'm moving over!!"

Going out to dinner:
Portland:  Let's walk to the local pub.
LA: Take two freeways, 1 hour by car, wait 20 minutes for a table.

Portland = Thank God It's Friday
LA = Thank God I'm Fabulous

What can I say?  I'm who I am and they are who they are.  It's not good or bad.  Now it's time for something completely different. And that contrast is what makes the world the wonderfully creative place for all of us.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Life as an Olympic Sport.

Watching the Summer Olympics, I marvel at the grace, strength and determination of each and every athlete.  Yes, I cheer for the USA.  But I also cheer for the tiny gymnast from China when she makes her vault.  The Australian swimmer who won his first gold.  And the 41-year old woman gymnast at her 7th Olympic Games.  

It's not all about competition.  I see it in each and every face out there.

They started out learning something new.  They grew to love it.  They wanted to do it more and more and more.  And as they did it, they got better and better and better.  They joined groups to learn to be even better from teachers and coaches and others who loved the same thing they did.  They had people who loved and supported what they loved to do.  

Doing what you love is hard work.  And it's doesn't always work out.

They get up and do their work everyday.  Some days are good, some not.  Sometimes they make the jump, sometimes they don't.  They know what they want, how it should feel and when they don't do their best or it doesn't go right, you can see it on their faces.  But even when they're disappointed in their work or themselves, they get up and do it again.

Life and art and the Olympics are the same.  

It's about making and creating.  It's more about completing than competing.  It's about doing what you love everyday whether it works out the way you want it to, or not. 
Watch them.  You'll see it.  And maybe, like me, you'll see it in yourself, too.

Curious, isn't it?  I'll never win a gold medal, of course.  But I never in a million years thought  I had anything in common with an Olympic Athlete, did you?  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Happy Thoughts.

As I sit here on the window seat, a cool, sweet breeze flows past me.  The sky is blue.  The clouds are white and fluffy just perfect for seeing faces and animals and daydreaming about the stories of their lives in the sky.  

Do they know it's summer? Are they bored just floating up there?  Do they ever do anything?

As a child, summer was vacation.  Summer was riding my bike through the woods all day.  Skating up and down all the streets in my neighborhood.  Swimming all day in the neighborhood pool.  Going to the store to buy candy.  Summer was reading on my friend's covered patio from the stack of books I collected weekly from the local library.  Learning to embroider from my friend's mother.  Summer was playing ghost in the graveyard after dinner in the dark.  Or playing the Game of Life.  Little did I know that Summers for the rest of my life would never be the same.

Long, lost summer.

It's a slow process from child to adult and summer gets lost along the way with tricycles and stuffed animals and Nancy Drew mystery books.  We all go through it.  We go to work.  We have children.  We watch them play all summer as we fold the laundry and make sandwiches.  I loved watching my children play make believe in the backyard.  I helped them make pirate ships and castles to sail away to their very own wonderlands in the clouds of imagination.

Now, I want mine back.  But is it even possible?

As I sit on the window seat feeling the fresh, sweet breeze I'm curious.  And I wonder, why can't I have my summer back? Why not be a modern day, female Peter Pan?  Travel the world in my imagination where I am captain of my own ship.  Where is Tinkerbell when you need her?


I am captain of my own ship.  Yes, I am.  I walk in the woods everyday in my own neighborhood.  I still read book after book, usually at night.  Instead of embroidery, I throw and paint clay.  And every night, I sit on the window seat and watch the sun go down eagerly awaiting the time when the sky turns Maxfield Parrish blue with rose silhouetting the hills and trees in the distance.   

Think happy thoughts.

My summer isn't lost after all.  I can sit on the window seat and read and sip ice tea and look at the clouds and dream. Maybe what I need to remember is not my childhood summers but Summer's now.  And how easy it really is to just sit and be.

Happy Thoughts.  That's all it takes, doesn't it? And, maybe a little help from Tinkerbell.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Firing, Closets(again) and Smiling.

Yesterday, I was nervous.  I always feel this way when I fire up my kiln and it's not about what you might expect.  I'm not nervous about the kiln not functioning or something happening to my studio.  I'm not even really nervous about the outcome, it's only a bisque fire and usually this is an easy firing step.  What makes me nervous is the process of loading the pieces into the kiln.

Dodging, weaving and the dog.

The process goes something like this: load 3-8 pieces on a tray, weave through a hallway, down some steps, and around the dog.  Then unload the trays onto several small tables and start the fetch and carry process again.  All the time, hoping nothing falls off the tray.  Once all the pieces are outside, I arrange them by height, figure out how high I need to build the shelves in the kiln and start loading.  It feels like it takes forever.  It usually takes an hour.

Anxiety and closets, again.

Two more closets got cleaned this last week.  My daughter's bedroom closet had no floor space left and towers of stacked boxes labeled 'stuffed animals'.  She is married, has a master's degree and is pursuing a doctorate.  I don't think she really wants or needs 3 boxes of stuffed animals anymore.  While she was visiting, I got her to go through the boxes. 

A sad and sweet trip down memory lane.

Inside the boxes were her first white stride rite baby shoes, baby books, and very well-loved stuffed kitties, unicorns and pooh bears.  Most of the stuffed animals were recycled or donated but it was her baby books that she treasured.  Books like 'Goodnight Moon', 'Sunshine', 'Moonlight' and 'Lady and the Tramp' but her favorite was a book of goodnight poems that I used to read her so often, we both still remembered the words by heart.  The books and a few stuffed animals were lovingly re-packed into one box, instead of three.  Yes, they went back onto a closet shelf because she's moving to L.A. Soon.

Floor space.  Shelf space.  Even wall space.

Here's what I'm finding about all this closet cleaning.  When I open the doors, I look at the empty shelves first and smile.  There's something about seeing a cleared floor, an empty shelf or two, and labeled boxes that feels so good.  

I can't really explain my closet cleaning drive, yet.  I'm not sure what got me started or whether I'm finally done(I hope and so does my husband) but I will keep my mind open and curious and I'll write about what I find out here on my blog.  

Until then, I'll just open my closets and smile.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

As The Wheel Turns: Summertime.

I've never thought of art as being seasonal.  And I've been known to push the limits of creating regardless of weather or holidays. But as I've found out before, many times, pushing doesn't always lead to success in art or life.  Especially when it comes to working with clay.

Summertime, when the living is easy.  Except for clay.  

Because it's made of earth and water, clay is especially affected by weather.  Days that are too dry or hot make working with clay a challenge at best.  At the worst, things literally fall apart.  Add porcelain's persnickety personality to this equation and kick it up quite a few notches and you can see why a beautiful, dry, sunny day can turn into an ugly studio day.  If I had a temperature controlled, humidified environment in my studio, I could play with clay all the time.  Since I don't, I'm at the whim of Mother Nature.

Nobody messes with Mother Nature.

Oh, I've tried and tried and tried.  I've spritzed and wrapped and closed blinds and doors.  Sometimes, I luck out and my pieces don't break, initially.  I get optimistic only to have these same pieces develop cracks later on in the process.  At first, I thought it was me, my inexperience or a bad batch of clay which can be very good reasons for bad results.  And that kind of thing can still happen even in the best of clay conditions.  But now, I do know and have finally grudgingly acknowledged Mother Nature wins.

Giving in isn't giving up.

I have to trust.  It's a very hard thing for me to do being the year-round worrier that I am but trusting the cycle is the only way.  Sunny, dry days do not make for good clay pieces.  I can, however, paint existing pieces.  I can bisque pieces and glaze and glaze fire.  And luckily, I do have a shelf or two of pieces almost ready for all three stages.  But there's still a lot of waiting to be done and I'm not good at waiting.

Life lessons from porcelain.

I chose to work in porcelain.  I love its luscious, velvety feel and beautiful snowy finish but it is not a clay that likes to be pushed.  Working with porcelain is teaching me not just about its own nature but mine as well.  Pushing does not produce success.  Grace, patience and trust does.  Going with the flow has never been my strong point, but porcelain is showing me the way.     

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Life's an Empty Nest Cyle.

A robin built a beautiful nest on the right side of my patio about two months ago.  I was so excited!  I was going to watch the nest fill with eggs, baby birds hatch and learn to fly from my patio.  I could see it rain or shine from inside or out.

But it didn't work out that way: empty nest.

Mom robin flew in and out of the nest for a day or two, but never seemed to settle.  Finally after a few days, momma quit showing up at all. I waited and waited.  I watched everyday.  But she never came back.  I worried my dog scared her away or a predator killed her.  I gave up waiting for her to come back to the now, empty nest.

Surprise: Another nest!
One morning, my granddaughter looked up to the patio cover and giggled.  I looked amazed, too.  Because there under the opposite corner of my patio cover was a new robin's nest!  And inside sat a happy mama robin.  When the eggs hatched, she and dad began feeding two little chicks until they disappeared one morning from the nest.

Empty nest, again.

I googled 'robins' and asked on Facebook.  Here's what I found out: Robins build nests and leave them until they're ready to lay eggs. But if something disturbs the robins before the eggs are laid, they will build another nest.  Then mama comes back, lays the eggs and sits on the nest only leaving to eat for 14 days.  When the eggs hatch, mama and daddy robin take turns feeding the chicks again for about two weeks.  Then the baby birds 'fledge' and leave the nest.  Mom and Dad still keep feeding and protecting the chicks until they can fly, again about 2 weeks.  

What's that outside my utility window?  Another nest.

My son-in-law discovered it this week while helping to mow the lawn.  I thought the robins were gone for the season, but again, I was wrong.  Robins have 2-3 broods in each breeding season from April to July.  Once one brood has learned to fly, they start a new nest.  

Nesting isn't just for robins.  I can see my life in their cycle too.  

There's the obvious cycle in parenting.  I had a full nest with two children.  I fed, nurtured and watched them grow up from babies to fly off into lives of their own.  And, then, my nest was empty.  Or so I thought.  Then my daughter and son moved home filling the nest and moving out again, emptying it.  My granddaughter spends days with me and my daughter and her husband came to stay for a month, filling and emptying the nest once again.  

Creating follows the same empty nest cycle too.

We all nest and sit and create and our creations move out into the world and we begin again.  
I have an idea that incubates.  It hatches into a painting, mask, cup, vase or bowl.  I feed it with the energy and spirit that comes from my hands and brush and heart.  Then, it makes its way out into the world through a show or studio sale and the cycle begins again.  So, even as I sit in the quiet of my empty nest that was filled just yesterday with my children, cats, dogs and babies, I know a new brood of ideas will be hatching soon.

Who knew Mama Robin and I had so much in common? Curious, isn't it?