Friday, December 19, 2014

Flowing all along.

Flow is my word of the year for 2014.  I've done many blogs on it throughout the year but as the end of the year approaches, it feels right to bring it up again.   Especially at this time of year when the flow of my life can get more rapid with perhaps some rough patches like rocks, whirlpools and white water.

I see that I react to the holiday flow in two ways.  Rushing and Resisting.

Some days, I get caught up in the fast and furious flow of holiday busyness.  Making lists.  Running errands.  Dusting and decorating.  Baking and wrapping.  Now, all of this can be wonderful and joyful unless you're like me, rushing too fast to notice it all.  I'm so busy trying to get it all done first, which begs the questions-who waved the start flag and is it supposed to be a race?  The answers- I don't have a clue and no.

Enter resistance. 

I get tired and grumpy and sick of all the rushing.  So, I stop.  I drink tea, put my feet up and veg out on junk tv.  I ignore my studio work while I tell myself that it's the holidays and time for relaxation and rest.  But what I'm really doing is resisting doing what I love which is relaxing and fun to stop myself from rushing around in a grumpy holiday haze.

Flow along with it all, whispers a small voice.

Ah. Ha. The light clicks on.  Flow is, just that, flow.

Flow is all of it.  Picture a stream during a year's worth of weather and seasonal changes.  There are rainstorms and high rushing water.  There's sun and heat and slow, muddy meandering.  There are rocks and resistance.  And sometimes, beaver dams, logs or debris  completely stop the flow and for a while, the stream stops.

So, maybe, it isn't grumpy me or harried holidays or terrible traffic or junk's just life in its own winding way...flowing all along.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Light, Stars and Magic.

There are times in our lives when the stars are aligned and magic happens.  

When it happens, though, we often don't see it.  We're so focused on climbing our mountain of goals that we miss our  own milestones.   We keep on trucking along, seeing our trips and slips and near misses more than we see our endurance and progress.

Do we miss our own movement forward because we don't look back?  

No.  I think we miss it because we do look back, too much.  

All those experiences that left bruises and scars along the way, we carry with us.  We remember those.  But we forget that there's something else that we carry with us in every moment that can bring us further along if we let it: our light.

We are each alight with energy, love and possibility at birth.  Everyone's differences are their own unique light wave that's meant to travel and grow and shine.  But, sometimes, life brings physical, mental, emotional and spiritual storms our way and to protect ourselves we cover our light.  Sometimes, we keep it covered for a very long time.  I've watched this happen to my children, my friends and, yes, myself.  

It's harder to let our light shine than it is to stay low.  But doing so serves no one, really.  We say we don't miss it, but we do and our body and those around us do too.  The world is missing a gorgeous soprano, kick ass designer, creative storyteller, inspiring dancer, artist and chef, amazing gymnast and  pitcher, gifted teacher and healer.  

Be heroic today.  Let your light shine...because when it shines in truth, everyone wins.

The light inside each of us, our own inner star is where the magic truly lies.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Throwing Away the Bah Humbugs.

It's that time of year when the world gets a little crazier.  Some of it's crazy good like twinkling snowflake lights, my Santa collection and my husband's Christmas trains.    And some not so good like all those coulda, woulda, shoulda lists.

The other day, I had a bad case of the Bah Humbugs.

My monkey mind was busy jumping from the past tree to the future tree and back again completely skipping the present, of course.  I didn't hear it or see it at first.  All I saw was the work I had to do and how my knee hurt from climbing up and down the step stool putting up and taking down decorations.  Finally, doing a steady stream of complaining to my husband, I suddenly heard my thoughts out loud and stopped. I usually take the month of December off of studio work.  But I was shocked at how cranky I was, so I knew it was time for a change. 

I decided to throw away my list for the day and throw clay instead.
Two hours later, my mind was quiet.  I felt a soft, bubbling kind of energy.  The biggest surprise of all... my knee had quit hurting entirely.  My bad case of the Bah Humbugs was completely gone.

I will still decorate, make my lists and check them twice but I'm adding one new thing. The wheel.  Because I need to throw clay to keep the Bah Humbugs away!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanks giving everyday.

Yesterday, we sat around the table with full plates of delicious food and gave thanks.  We each shared the blessings in our lives.  Love.  Abundance.  Health.  Personal and professional growth.  It was a warm and wonderful day of sharing.

But, now I know one day is of thanks is not enough.

A few years ago, my life took a turn from bad to good.  I was so grateful and full of my blessings and I wanted to remember each and every one.  So I started gratitude journal.   

Every night before I go to sleep, I open my journal and write a list of things I'm grateful for that day.  The list can be simple and silly or serious and sweet.  Sometimes it's a long list, other times short.  It really doesn't have any rules or requirements, all you need is a pen and paper. I start every page with the header below and just let the words flow.

Today, I am grateful for...

Walking in the park with my daughter and son-in-law...A big pot of turkey stock cooling in the fridge...a warm, cozy coat...watching the downtown Christmas tree light up...turkey leftovers...a kiss on the head from my daughter...a sleeping puppy at my feet. 

1,460 days plus 1.

Now, it's your turn.  Today, what are you grateful for...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bathroom Redo Goes From Simple to Complicated.

Or in other words, that's life!  

Three weeks ago, my husband and I started a simple bathroom make over.  It was going to be very basic: new paint job, new toilet paper holder, towel holder, light fixture and wall hung cabinet.  

A one weekend job.  Easy, right?  Wrong.

Week one:  The case of sticky, icky paint.

The burgundy color turned out to be harder to cover with the bright race car red paint than either of us anticipated.  We've covered a lot of walls over the years; teal to gold, deep blue to light grey, red to turquoise and it's always gone smoothly in one coat.  Not this time.  We used a new paint which was supposed to be a primer and paint in one and did an enamel finish over a matte. Perhaps it was one of these changes or both combined, I don't know.  Here's what I do know: next time don't buy that paint!  Do what we did before and buy a high hiding primer and add the color you want.  Believe me, it really, really works!

Week two:  Bad fixtures, difficult cabinets and mystery faucets.

The light fixture had to be special ordered.  It arrived and the glass had chips all around the edge.  The light is up but I'm still waiting for the replacement glass.  The cabinet fit nicely and had all parts intact.  I was excited because I thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  Nope.  That was just me staring into the glaring bare light bulbs too long.  The cabinet was super heavy and required two of us, wood blocks and much patience to get it securely on the wall.  After searching 4 home improvement stores, searching online, we finally special ordered our faucet from a local plumbing showroom paying way more than I anticipated.  It also meant waiting for the new faucet which added another week to complete the bathroom.

Week three:  Bent faucets, drains and that sinking feeling...

The special order faucet arrived.  The day came to install it.  It was bent in several places, which at first seemed just mildly disappointing, until we turned the water back on.  It leaked!    Off it came, went back to the store where another one was special ordered.  My wonderful husband worked super hard to take the original plumbing out of the pedestal sink so the new plumbing could be installed.  This was no easy task!  It required laying on his back on the floor curled between the toilet and sink base.  The drain in a pedestal sink is not easily accessible like a regular sink.  Most often, the plumbing is put into the sink before the sink is installed in the bathroom.  Since we thought we were keeping the old pedestal sink, this was the only way to get it done.  When he got the drain out of the sink, we found it was corroded and a good sized chunk of the porcelain sink drain area was broken.  It probably had always been broken and that explains corrosion of the drain pipe area.  This meant that we needed to replace the pedestal sink.    Off we went to the home improvement store again...

Week four:  New faucet, new sink, new feelings...

The new special order faucet has arrived, again.  It appears to be in good condition this time.  The new pedestal is unloaded and sitting in the bathroom waiting for the plumbing install.  Once that's done, it will be screwed to the wall and caulked to the floor.  The cabinet is up.  The mirror is up.  The towel and toilet paper holders are hung.  Art and accessories are making an appearance.  Perhaps, this is the weekend when it will be done!

It only took us four weeks to get a one weekend project completed!

Oh, wait. I still haven't received the light fixture glass replacements.  

Okay.  Four weeks and counting...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Giving Thanks. Again and again and again...

This post was written originally in 2008 on my old blog, Susan's Art & Words.  I wanted to share this story again because I never forget the generosity of this lovely couple and how it changed a bad time in my life into something so good.  I felt supported, encourages and uplifted at a time when in other ways, my life was in a down swing.  

In addition to gifting me with his kiln, Ed insisted I take his pottery wheel and chair, too.  I didn't know how to throw and told him that I had failed wheel throwing in ceramics  class but he wouldn't take no for an answer.  I loaded the wheel in the truck and when my life turned for the better several years later, I signed up for wheel throwing classes. 
Now, I throw functional porcelain pieces in addition to my handbuilding and sculptural work.  

Ed has passed from this earth, now.  But his spirit, generosity and kindness live on. Every time I turn on the wheel or kiln, I remember him and bless him.


Right now, with all the gloomy news about the economy, job lay-offs, and arts funding cuts, being able to give thanks for anything seems like a miracle. 

Miracles do happen. Believe me.

So right here, right now, I give thanks to Ed and Dorothy Wilbur for their generosity, warmth and kindness. In addition to supporting my work by buying several of my masks, they have gifted me with something I never thought I’d be able to have – a kiln. This is a much loved piece of studio equipment from Ed’s workshop where he did clay work as well as fused glass. I feel honored to have it passed on to me.

I’ve done clay work off and on for years. I’ve had it fired at the good graces of several different friends over the years. And I thank them for their kindness. But I didn’t want to keep on bothering people, so I just decided to quit doing clay and turned my attention to my metal work instead. And I thought I was fine with that until I got the chance to teach a clay mask class at the Museum of Contemporary Craft this summer. Then I realized how much I missed clay but without a kiln, I didn’t see how that was going to happen for me.

Enter Ed and Dorothy. 

They visited my studio during the Portland Open Studios Tour this year(2008) and noticed the clay sculptures on display. They hadn’t seen them at any of my gallery shows and I explained that I didn’t have many because I didn’t have a kiln or access to one. They asked if I wanted a kiln. I nodded. Then they offered me their kiln. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe such generosity.

But arrangements were made. A truck was rented. And I picked up a kiln. What, I asked could I possibly do for them in return? Their answer:  Nothing.

However, Dorothy had admired a wreath I’d made of aluminum oak leaves. I came up with an idea to make one of copper so it could hang outside in their art-filled garden. The day after thanksgiving, I delivered it to them. And they gave me another layer for the kiln and books on glass fusing.

I give many, many thanks to Ed and Dorothy. For they are the type of people who make miracles happen. Believe me. I know. 

Thanks to them, I now have a kiln!

Thanks again and again: I now throw, sculpt, glaze, show and sell my ceramic work.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Low Flow.

The last two months have been full, fulfilling and fun.  Work done.  Goals met.  New adventures with new people, places and art.  In other words, the flow of my life has been like riding river rapids.  

Now it's time for a change of pace.  

But it's not easy for me to slow down.  I walk everyday.  Throw.  Paint.  Write.  Do yoga and jazzercise and all the rest of the necessary work of living a creative and healthy life.  

For me, throwing on the wheel is a calming almost meditative practice.   I didn't have time to throw much for the last few weeks, so spending a few days throwing is a nice way to slow down.

I also love reading and writing and watching good movies.  I'm reading Diana Gabaldon's latest book in the Outlander series, "My Own Heart's Blood".  I wrote in my journal and watched, "Practical Magic" which definitely got me in the mood for Halloween and pumpkin carving.

This week, I also spent time painting with under glazes and doing sgraffito.  But the most important thing I did was experiment with some new handbuillt shapes including plates.  This is stepping outside my comfort zone, yes, but when I do it without deadlines or performance pressures, it feels more like play.  

used to struggle against slow flow.  But I realize taking the time to take things slowly is a good way to refresh and revive body and mind.   I see it opens me up to playfully experiment with a new lightness and softer energy.

Flow is my word for this year.  As I become much more aware of how it moves through my life and that awareness is teaching me to accept the changes of pace with, hopefully, more grace and less fear.