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.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween. Happy Samhain. Happy Celtic New Year.

Many people celebrate Halloween today.  Tricks.  Treats.  Costumes and parties abound.  But what they may not realize is that they are re-enacting ancient, seasonal celebration.  

Today is the Celtic New Year's Eve.  Tomorrow is New Year's Day.

The Celts, an ancient civilization that lived across Europe with groups living in what we now call Germany, Spain, France and the British Isles.  This was a huge culture that shaped centuries of European customs which were then wiped away or re-shaped by the overthrow of  Rome and Catholicism.  I won't go into the hows, whys and horrors of the cultural genocide brought on by the Catholic church.  Let's just say that in order to take over, the Catholic priests found many ways to take what were considered 'pagan' rituals and re-invent them as 'religious' holidays.  Halloween, Christmas and Easter are just a few examples.

Samhain, pronounced Sow-when, was the Celtic festival marking the end of the harvest with a celebration of bounty and abundance.  As the end of the growing year, it also marked a time to remember those who died and honor their lives and spirits.  

Children went door to door giving and receiving food.  Candles and fires brought light to the darker days and served to remember and honor the dead.  The Day of the Dead celebration is another outgrowth of Samhain, as well.

I love Halloween.  And I love seeing how this holiday still honors the ancient intentions of Samhain.  Happy New Year's Eve!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Successful Failures.

My open studio was just two days last weekend.  I opened my front door to anyone curious about what, how and why I make art.  For 6 hours a day, I did show and tell.  

I showed my clay, wheel and kiln.  I showed examples of my thrown vs hand built pieces before they are fired.  I showed my underglazes and how I apply them to one of my masks.  I let them play with clay, too.

I told them about my own art journey.  It all started with a rebellion against more math and a basic high school art class where I learned a little of everything from calligraphy and watercolor to drawing and clay.  

I also showed and told them about my failures.  Then and now.

Why would I do that?  

Because I don't want anyone to let failure stop them or think they're all alone.  

When I started throwing clay, I failed at wheel throwing and threw in the towel on art.  

I moved onto writing for my profession while dabbling in watercolor and ink on the weekends.  Many years later, I took a series of very small steps back to art.  Craft classes led to college level drawing, painting, fiber art and sculpting classes.  A small drafting table with watercolors in my bedroom led to a whole room and now two separate studio spaces in my home.  I worked in copper and window screening making sculptures and masks and mixed media pieces which I showed in gallery shows for many years.

I'd left clay behind until a generous man who came to my open studio 5 years ago, gave me his kiln and pottery wheel.  When I admitted my failure at wheel throwing, he still insisted I take it.  You can read more about this story here and here.

It was the first time I'd admitted my failure out loud.  And my failure didn't bother him, or stop him from appreciating my art and seeing my possibilities.  

So, yes, I opened my studio.  I showed my work and my process.  I told about my successes and my failures.  And if I can help one person try again, then my failure has turned into success.  For both of us.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Horsehair, Crows, Porcelain and PR: It's Open Studio Time Again.

I love doing an open studio tour.  I meet some of the most warm, fascinating people.  I get to show and tell what I do behind the usually closed doors of my studio.  And I always learn something new.

This year has been a little different.  And that's a good thing.

As an artist on the Washington County Open Studios tour, I've made many new friends.  And this year, my new artist friends have been teachers and inspirations.  
Terry Grant's fiber crow on the right.

Terry Howard Grant is a fiber artist who helped me with the group's new blog.  She wrote a great blog about her amazing studio here, which I admit, I wish I had a studio like hers.  I wanted one of her cool, fiber crows and we traded...her crow for my porcelain mug and bowl.  She even put a picture of my mug filled with her morning coffee on her blog.  She did several blogs on using her iPad to do digital drawing and with her help, I learned how to do it, too. 
Karen French showing her raku kiln and our finished pieces.

Karen French is a potter who helped me with the group's event listings and online calendars as part of the public relations job I'm doing for the group.  She is excellent at excell.  She is also a wonderful potter who generously shared her raku kiln with me.  Twice now, we have hauled out the kiln, fired up our pots and draped them with horsehair which we finish with paste wax.  Her studio in back of her house is spacious enough for a wheel area on one side and two kilns on the other.  Ok, I have studio envy here, too.

My newly inspired raku pieces and crows.

I've learned about digital drawing and iPad apps from Terry.  I've learned about new clays and tools from Karen.  Terry's digital drawings and crows inspired me to make my own digital drawings and crows in porcelain.  Karen's horsehair raku vases inspired me to try horsehair raku on my masks and crows.  

Karen demonstrating raku on Good Day Oregon TV show.

Both of them inspired my approach to public relations this year.  Terry's studio by a bubbling creek was featured in a local Homes & Gardens article.  Karen's horsehair raku and studio set up was featured live on a local TV and radio morning news shows.
Terry Grant's cozy studio.

I've been a writer for decades, personally and professionally.  And, maybe, I've been an artist for that long too, but didn't know it.  The last 15 years, I've concentrated on my artist side, sidelining my writing to just my blog.  But this year, I've been able to combine them both. I'm doing my own art and using my writing to promote art and artists right in my own neighborhood.

I'm happy to do it and can't wait to open my own studio doors, too.  After I get off the computer and get it cleaned up, that is!  By the way, the Washington County Open Studio tour is this weekend from 11am-5pm, a free map is online at  

If you're in the area, come on by! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

As The Wheel Turns: Dizzy busy week.

was going to write about sunsets and inspiration but I'm writing about perspiration instead.
The good, old, honest hard working kind of sweat and the kind that comes with excitement.  

Yup, it's been that kind of week.  And while I might feel the strain and pain a bit, I'm happy.  

always feel best when I'm doing something creative and that could be a wide range of things.  It could be picking out new light fixtures or painting a room.  Throwing clay, glazing or making a mask.  Making my own pizza for dinner.  Loading the kiln.  Writing blogs, press releases, pitches, emails to media, setting up interviews to promote my local open studios tour.  Or even, figuring out how to pill my cat twice a day without a struggle.   
I've done it all this week.  

Which is why I'm a day late posting this blog on my own personal blog.  But that's life, isn't it?  If there's one thing I've learned along this winding road of life, it's the bends that make it interesting.  Balance is not a single straight beam that you walk through life on with pious poise.  It's a see saw.   There's up and down and busy and slow.  

I lloved the see saw as a kid, maybe, I still do.

Hard work is far better than hardly working, in my opinion.  I always feel better when I'm doing something. But there are going to be those slower days, too.  Ah...the see saw of life!