Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sun Scared.



There are sun worshippers, sun lovers and sun bathers but I am sun scared.  When the sun comes out, I wear hats, sunglasses and stay in the shade.  Why? Because I had melanoma. 

I survived. Thanks to a very determined dermatologist who insisted I get a very small mole checked when I was 6 months pregnant.  It was caught early, in situ, and removed.  I did not have to undergo chemo or radiation and risk the life of my unborn son.

But over the last few weeks, it's been my daughter's life that was at risk for melanoma.  Five months ago, I noticed a freckle on her lip.  Three weeks ago, that freckle had turned black and she developed 5 more on her upper and lower lips.  She had to get checked for cancer.  

When she was a baby, I slathered on the sunscreen.  I made my little kids where long sleeves and hats on the beach.  They wiggled and complained and begged me to let them go out in the sun for hours without that greasy, sticky, icky stuff.

I did not let them.  Not even once.  

But they grew up and decided tanning was cool.  They went out in the sun and found out that the sun burns the hard way.  I preached the importance of sunscreen, but they kept going out without it anyway.  My daughter just moved to a place with a higher elevation and sunny climate.  She did wear some sunscreen but forgot to cover her lips and she got black spots on her lips from sun exposure.

She had a biopsy and she's ok.  But it's been a very scary few weeks waiting for the test results.  

There was no such thing as sunscreen when I was a kid.  I burned and peeled and was miserable with my fair skin.  And I got melanoma.   I survived.  And my daughter is cancer free, thank god.

Please spare yourself the scare.   Use a sunscreen.  Cover your lips, too! 

It's easy as applying a spf chapstick, lip balm or lipstick.  Spray on the sunscreen.  Wear a hat.  Better yet, stay in the shade, be cool and cancer free!






 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Back in the Studio. Again.


It's been an exciting, memorable, fun and nerve-racking month.  It started out with deadlines looming and fast paced finishing.  The show went smoother than I anticipated and I sold work.  The dust barely settled when it was time take off to see my daughter perform a lead role in an opera, rush home to catch up on gardening, help on a local art show jury, have relatives visit, family birthdays and take a tour on a classic railroad train.

Now, it's time to get back to working on my art. 

It's been almost 5 weeks since I've slapped a wedge of clay on my wheel or rolled a slab.  When  I'm in my studio groove, I have a routine.  It gives a rhythm to my work and life.  Any maybe my art, too.

I feel a bit out of sync this week.  

My throwing was not easy and smooth.  The clay seemed hard and filled with weird bubbles.  I struggled and fought with the porcelain instead of relaxing into the silky, smoothness.  Slab work went a bit easier but I found myself questioning every addition and experimentation.

My usual, old routine just isn't slipping neatly into place.  My mind wanders back and forth between then and now.  What pieces sold and what didn't.  I'm thinking about what I've made and what I need to make.  

I see that it isn't just the routine that's slipping here.  It's my mind.  Comparing and contrasting. This with that.  Today and yesterday.  Me and them.  But most importantly, I'm wondering.  

What do I want to make? Where is my heart and my art going? 

These are the true questions. The answers come in their own way.  So I put my hands in the clay.  I place my faith in the process even when it brings more twists and turns.  And I keep working back in the studio, again. And again.  And again.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Sounds of My Daughter's Music.


I've been listening to my daughter sing since she was a toddler.  But last weekend, I got to hear her soar.  

My daughter sang the lead role of Susanna in the opera production of "Marriage of Figarro".  She was saucy and sweet as the not so innocent maid to the Countess.  She sang out her love and anger at her lover and fiancee.  She soared with her high notes and came back to earth with her acting.  

I am so proud.  Not just because I'm her mother and I love her but because I know how long and how hard she has wished and worked to be on the stage singing and acting and dancing.  And showing her true self to the world.  

But it's not been easy for her.  

As a parent, it's my job to be my child's chief supporter, cheerleader, guidance councilor and talent scout.  But as a parent, it's also part of the job to see your child fall, get hurt, disappointed and rejected. It's a lovely and difficult and heart warming and heart wrenching job.  I've loved every wonderfully difficult moment.

The musical sound of my daughter singing is one of the most magical and inspiring sounds in all the world.  Ever.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Staring at the Sky.


This week couldn't be more different from last week.  Last week, I was working alongside many people setting up a major show, greeting hundreds of visitors, explaining a non-profit project, talking about my work and horsehair raku.  This week, I've run errands, paid bills, folded laundry, cleaned my house including my studio, watched TV and stared at the sky.

And I love that.  The contrast of fast and slow, loud and quiet, crowded and solitary.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not a change junkie.  I don't want a roller coaster life at all.  I like my life, my work, and my routines.  But I also know that routines can easily become ruts.  Having a completely different week in a different place with different people is as nourishing as a well balanced diet.

With that in mind, I'm embracing this week's diet of mindlessness.

I'm sitting here on the window seat watching the sky.  I see brilliant cobalt blue peeking out of the puffy white clouds.  I watch the white clouds turn gray and darken and crowd out the blue.  I hear the rain and hail clatter against the window as my cat slinks under the futon.  I'm eating clementines and drinking water and listening to my sweet dog, Jilly, snore.

After working for months getting ready for the show and then, working a week at it, I need a weekend.  I don't want to go out or throw or glaze or fire anything.  Not yet anyway.  

I just need a few days staring at the trees bending in the wind against the spring sky.

 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Great Expectations.


I've been getting ready for the Ceramics Showcase for weeks, well maybe, for years actually.  

Lately, I've been throwing and glazing and horsehair raku-ing and waxing.  This week, I've been packing and pricing and hauling and unpacking and setting up.  Driving across town in rush hour   traffic to set up booths and lights and an installation to make money for a non-profit that helps needy families grow their own food.

I spend half my time selling plates to benefit a non-profit and half my time selling my own work.  I'm much more comfortable talking to people about the plates and the non-profit than I am talking about my own work.  

But I do have expectations.  I try, as I said to another artist, not to expect a lot so I won't be disappointed.  But that's old programming.  Is it greedy and selfish to want to sell my work and make money?  Don't we all want to use our skills and work to make money?  Why is it that artists seem to be so skittish about money?

Art is work.  Work that requires time and skill and dedication.  So, I'm changing my mind set.  Now.  

I'm going to lift my head up, talk to people about my work and expect them to buy it.  And when I slip down the rabbit hole of fear, I'm going to shake it off and make my self see that expectations are, indeed, great.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

As The Wheel Turns: Step by Step.



As a big show deadline looms ahead, I'm tossing and turning.   The wheels in my head are going full speed ahead and beyond the deadline, while my pottery wheel is at a complete stop.  

My thoughts are full of to do lists.  Unload the kiln.  Tidy up the new pieces.  Label the sculpture.  Price my work and make an inventory list.  Finish waxing my late friends raku pieces.  Pack it all up.  Then the questions pop out like ghosts on Halloween.  Will everything in the kiln make it in one piece? Do I price my raku pieces differently than my glazed pieces?  How am I going to pack, haul, deliver and set up all the pieces at the show? Can I lift and carry it all myself?  What kind of parking will be available?  How am I going to get my car into the new loading area?  

No wonder I'm waking up at 5 am.  I need to stop the wheels in my head before I crash.

How? 

Breathe.  Now.  

Choose one thing I can do right now.  Do it.  Choose the next thing.  Do that.  

Saturday, I did my horsehair raku firing.  Check.

Monday, I glazed my new bisque ware.  Tuesday I loaded and fired my last glaze load for the show.  Check and check.

Wednesday, I waxed my horsehair raku pieces.  Check.

Today, I glued the hangers on my raku mask.  Put on the hanging wire.  Check.

Am I ready, yet?  The answer: No.

Will I be ready?  The truth is yes.  I will be ready because I'm doing all the things that need to be done, one by one.  And here's that word of the year again, faith, revealing itself.  I have faith somewhere deep inside that it will all work out.  

I can't stop my fears creeping up on me, but I can keep the faith and keep moving along.  
Step by step.


 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Experimenting.

(Gingko jar)

I love experimenting.  Asking myself the question: What if?  Taking out a material I've never tried and trying it.  Combining an old technique with a new to me process.  Catching a whiff of an idea and following it.  

It's thrilling.  And scary.  

The thrill of unloading a kiln full of new porcelain pieces is something, 5 years ago, I'd never dreamed I could do.  I'd had a bad clay experience in my past and I was afraid of more failure.  I went back to school and learned more but I was still scared.  Until one day, while folding wash, I saw I had a choice.  Choose fear and fold up my dreams or feel the thrill of throwing clay anyway.  I put the clothes down and picked up my clay.  

I'm still throwing and I love it.  Yes, I've had my share of cracked pots alongside beautiful bowls.
(Happy dotty bowls)

I love drinking coffee in my own mugs and putting candy in my own porcelain bowls.  But I'm not an expert or a production potter, and frankly, that's ok with me.  Because while my hands are busy throwing or hand building, my imagination begins to spin.  Questions come up and ideas peek out waving at me.  

What if?  How about trying this? Or why is that?

So I throw a bottom and hand build a top and it's a vase.
(Thrown and hand built vases...the tops remind me of tuxedo shirts.)

I take my favorite leaf form and try out a sculpture idea.
(Leaf Fairies)

I challenge myself to learn how to make a long, narrow neck vase.  And then I cut it off and make different shape.
(Long necked sgraffito vases)

I've got many experiments that may never come out of my studio closet.  But that's ok, too.  Because this isn't about success or failure, this is about the thrill of following an idea wherever it leads me.  Some might call that fickleness or folly but I call it fun.  
(Inside my studio closet...the pieces that haven't made it out yet.)

And the biggest surprise?  Is that years later, the experiments in that closet turn out to be just the right solution to a new problem.