Sunday, May 24, 2020

Thank Goodness for May Flowers

As I sit here on this sunny, Sunday morning, I see orchids, petunias, mini carnations, impatiens, lobelia, and best of all peonies. My hanging baskets are blooming. I have a few roses peeking out behind me but it will be awhile until they’re in full bloom. 

As a city, state, country and world, we are still sitting in a tight pre-bud phase. We can go outside now, we’re told. We can shop at selected places. We can walk, run or jog in certain parks. We can order take out and even dine out. But we have to stay away from each other and/or mask our faces. 

Terrified eyes. 

That’s what I keep seeing. Everywhere I go, all those masked faces concealing the smile or frown reveal so many tired, sad and terrified eyes. 

As I was doing my shopping a few weeks ago, a woman reached for a loaf of bread. She didn’t see me while I waited my 6 feet away for her to make her choice, when she did her eyes got wide as saucers like she was seeing a monster. I remember when people used to smile or nod or say thanks to each other. Now, they stand in line, facing forward, silent, and cringe in fear. 

Flowers open and bloom anyway. 

I sniff my way all around my flower beds, hovering and admiring and snipping. I carefully leave the buds and pick some blooms to bring in the house and leave some for the bees and bugs. In the last few months, I’ve had luscious lilacs, tiny pink crabapple buds, cool calla lilies, purple iris and double ruffled, sweet peonies. 

Gathering blooms is such a peaceful, sweet treat every spring. This year, it’s saving my mind and heart and soul. It’s giving purpose to my art, too.

May Days and artful arrangements. 

May Day enchanted me as a little girl. It was the one day in my strict Catholic school life when we were encouraged to dress brightly, pick flowers, and gather honoring Mother Mary. I still love May Day, especially for the flowers. 

This year in isolation, art and flowers mean even more to me. I’ve always loved decorating my home. So each week, I’ve been combining my love of flowers and decorating with my art.

Inside with my bucket of fresh cut flowers, I line up my wheel-thrown or slab-built porcelain vases filled with water. I rinse the blooms and cut the stems and arrange colors and textures and heights to suit each vase. Then I look around for bowls, plates, cups or birds to complete the arrangements around my home.

My May Days arrangements lightened my heavy heart. So I decided to share them on social media this month hoping they would help bring some beauty and color into the lives of others and lift some fearful faces. 

We all need more beauty in and around us. Especially now. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Wandering, waiting and wondering.

Through the woods, I go. I lean against my two favorite trees. I look out over the water. I count the baby geese. I stare at the sky. My feet move and my mind wanders. 

During these last three months, my wandering helped me, soothed me and befriended me. I even have my best friend wandering with me. And we are not alone in these woods. There are so many joggers and bikers and hikers and dog walkers that sometimes it feels like rush hour. 

But the best sounds we hear are the giggles and shouts and running feet. Children not allowed in school or the park playground have found a new place to play. I remember my summers in the woods near my childhood home and smile with delight. One playground is closed but they have discovered another much bigger and more creative one. And it’s a joyous sound. 


As a self-employed artist, I still work in my studio and at my wheel five days a week. I wedge and roll and paint and glaze. This was a ‘glazing’ week. It’s not my favorite part of the process but it’s necessary.

After sanding, wiping and waxing, each piece needs to sit overnight before glazing begins. The next morning, I need to rearrange my entire studio. I clear table tops, put tools away and take out others, lay newspapers on shelves, towels on the floor and open the windows. 

I stir and dip and wipe and repeat. Then I wait. After a day or two, I load the kiln and start the firing process. Then I wait some more. Hopefully, when I open the kiln everything inside will be bright and shiny and ready to use. 


All this wandering and waiting has me wondering. When will this all end? When it does what will life look like? Will people stop looking at each with such fear? Will I hear people laugh out loud, reach out to lend a hand and a hug? Will my grandchildren think that it’s normal to wear a surgical mask everywhere?

But most important, once we are all back to our lives and going through the motions of living in a world of endless routines, will we remember how to wander? Will we forget how long we had to wait? And will those children forget the joy and the magic of their own playground in the  woods? 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

What can a Mother do?

This year has taken a turn no one saw coming and yet, we’re here. Stay at home orders. Mandatory mask wearing. Lining up six feet apart just to go to Trader Joe’s. I find it all frustrating and exhausting. And I worry. A lot. 

Having my children and grandchildren huddling under this cloud of virus fear, makes me worry even more. Are they healthy? Thank goodness, yes. Are they safe? Maybe. 

When they were little, I could always tell when they were sick before anyone else. They smelled funny or looked different. Or I just knew something was off. My husband didn’t usually get it but he learned time after time, I was right. So he trusted Dr. Mom. 

Now, Dr. Mom is also Dr. Gram. 

I have more sweeties to love and cherish and keep healthy. I love that. I am so grateful I get to do ‘daycare’ for my granddaughter every week. I do FaceTime chats and watch sweet videos of my new grandson in LA. He is getting so big and strong. He’s got teeth. He sits up. He’s even starting to talk. 

But neither Dr. Mom nor Dr. Gram can kiss and make this virus situation go away. 

Where have all hugs and smiles gone?

I miss hugging my daughter and son and son-in-law and granddaughter and grandson. I miss the smiles from the people in my neighborhood, fellow walkers and even my Trader Joe’s. 

I will not miss this situation we are in right now. I will not miss the paranoia that has everyone spinning out of control and the finger pointing of face mask wearers vs non mask wearers. 

It all somehow reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, ‘The Sneetches’. It was combined in 1961 into a book with other stories. While it may not be one of his most famous books, it has a deep message. 

Here’s a synopsis from Wikipedia:

The story tells of a group of yellow bird-like creatures called the Sneetches, some of whom have a green star on their bellies. At the beginning of the story, Sneetches with stars discriminate against and shun those without. An entrepreneur named Sylvester McMonkey McBean (calling himself the Fix-It-Up Chappie) appears and offers the Sneetches without stars the chance to get them with his Star-On machine, for three dollars. The treatment is instantly popular, but this upsets the original star-bellied Sneetches, as they are in danger of losing their special status. McBean then tells them about his Star-Off machine, costing ten dollars, and the Sneetches who originally had stars happily pay the money to have them removed in order to remain special. However, McBean does not share the prejudices of the Sneetches and allows the recently starred Sneetches through this machine as well. Ultimately this escalates, with the Sneetches running from one machine to the next...”until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one ...or that one was this one...or which one was what one...or what one was who."
This continues until the Sneetches are penniless and McBean departs as a rich man, amused by their folly. Despite his assertion that "you can't teach a Sneetch", the Sneetches learn from this experience that neither plain-belly nor star-belly Sneetches are superior, and they are able to get along and become friends. "The Sneetches" was intended by Seuss as a satire discrimination between races and cultures. 

Dear Dr. Seuss, tell me what can I do?
When we are all pointing, you!
NO it’s You! 

I know we all want to be safe now. So can we learn from with wisdom of Dr. Seuss? And find our own way - masked or unmasked -  to get along.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Selling Art in a Stay at Home World

I’m an artist not a sales person. I’ve never worked in retail so my skills at pushing today’s special are lacking. Add to that my deeply honest soul which makes it very hard for me to do or say anything that feels false. 

With many shows cancelled and galleries closed, the way I usually show and sell my work is gone. Many artists are amping up their online sales with email campaigns, newsletters, online sale venues and social media promotions. I feel the push to get out there too.

Push and pull and respect. 

How can I call myself a working artist if I’m not out there promoting myself and my work in every possible venue? There are plenty of artists and articles and websites and online sales sites eager to get me started and sell me services. It’s so easy they say. Get started today.

But, while the pull to get my work out there is strong, I also am very aware of the worry, distress and difficulties surrounding me. Some people are out of work. Kids are out of school and missing out on graduations, scholarships, and work/study programs. Jobs are gone or changed for almost everyone.

It’s a scary time. I feel it and so do you. I want to respect and honor those feelings for you and me. I’ve written many blogs about my life and art during this crazy time. 

Selling seems frivolous.

Full disclosure: I had a career writing award-winning advertising. So I know about marketing a product. I know overexposure is bad and timing is everything. Yet, everyday my inbox is filled with retailers trying to sell me products. Some I like. Some I don’t. 

And I have a product: my art. And I have promoted and sold it for years at shows and galleries. I use all the art sales tools: a portfolio, artist statement, business cards and website. While I didn’t start my blog, facebook or instagram accounts to directly promote my work, I do put posts up with pictures of my work or upcoming shows.

But as the honest person I am, I don’t push, hawk or self promote. I just can’t especially right now. And so, I have no sales right now. I’d like to say I’m ok with that, but it’s just another layer of scary for me. 

A new question. 

What is appropriate right now? Do people still want and need gifts for their mothers, fathers, friends and children? And how can my art help them now?

I do know my work has always been about meaning because that’s who I am. Words that inspire. Colors that cheer and calm. Shapes and faces and forms that bring hope and healing. I use my own art in my own life and home on a daily basis. It brings me hope, cheer and inspiration. 

I also know that giving to my loved ones is still important to me. And I know giving a gift with meaning is even more important now.

An idea bubbles up. 

So how can I help? How can I let others know I’m here with dignity and respect? I have been struggling with all of this for years but even more so now. I want to find a way to lift us all up, to lighten our days. 

Watching the sourdough starter bubble and kneading my bread a new idea rose softly. I didn’t even see it as I arranged fresh lilacs and tulips in my vases for May Day. I just knew I needed sweet smells, spring colors and nourishment. 

I think everyone needs it right now. My clay pieces helped me. And, hopefully, this is how I can help you right now. So let me know what would brighten your day, hold your flowers, serve your bread or make a loved one feel more loved. I can help. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Keep on. Keeping on.

When will this all end? It seems no one from government officials to health leaders want to even venture a guess. My husband and I are fortunate. We are well and walking and working. Even the weather has graced us with sunshine, unusual for this time of year. 

Unusual. That just seems to be a fitting word for me right now. Add to it, sad, crazy, scary, confusing and maddening. While so many suffer around the world, the world keeps turning. Night to day. Winter to Spring or Spring to Winter. Trees bud and leaf, flowers bloom and the birds sing on. 

Dirt is a good thing. 

With all the hand washing and sterilizing and face masking all around me, I feel the need to get dirty. Like a kid who got scolded for playing ball in her Easter dress, maybe I just have to rebel. I don’t know. 

What I do know is dirt makes me feel better. So this week, my husband and I planted our yearly garden a little early. Although the trip to get plants was not the happy experience it usually is, planting was wonderful. There’s nothing like digging a row in good dirt and putting new little spinach, lettuce, zucchini and cucumber plants in a row. The bright tomato cages over the new little plants give me hope. 

Even though it’s way to early here to set up the patio, I couldn’t help buying a some new flowers. Planting dahlias in pots and a jasmine inside my Winter screening sculpture puts a smile on my face. 

Fire on. 

I had a few minor accidents this week injuring my fingers which kept me from my normal clay work routine. By week’s end, I was able to do a bit of painting and hand building, thank goodness. And luckily I had a bisque load ready to fire in the kiln. 

Just a few days without my hands in clay really showed me how important this ‘work’ is for my body and mind and spirit. Once again, I see what works for me. 

But what works for you? I hope through all of this difficulty and stress and mess and pain, you can do something that works for you. Something that lightens your spirit, strengthens your mind and eases your body. So we can all keep on keeping on. Together. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Working through the Downtime

Yes, I’m still working from home but as I joked with a friend who does the same, not much has really changed except now I have another work at home buddy, my husband. And we are lucky we are both doing jobs we love and making a living as well as a life. Together. 

Now we walk. We work. We walk some more. And we work some more. He has his office/studio upstairs and mine is downstairs and out in the garage. I wear ear buds or turn down my studio music because he might be recording upstairs. It’s all working out. 

Throwing and rearranging. 

I had a great time at the wheel this week. I just threw a few new vases and a bowl. Yup, just 3 pieces because right now, I don’t have to worry about inventory. I’ve had finished work stacked on a shelf with nowhere to go for months now. 

Though my motivation to produce isn’t there, the emotional need to make is even stronger now. With three shelves filling up with greenware and bisque, I needed to move the finished pieces to make more room. So I spent a whole day, cleaning shelves, pricing new work and re-staging my studio sale shelves. I’m lucky to have the support of local art lovers who buy my work.

Good thoughts for the week from another writer. 

This poem popped into my inbox this week from writer and coach, Tara Mohr. I loved it. I felt uplifted and calmed and grounded. I want to share it with the hope that it helps you as much as it helped me. 

Downtime Poem

In any creative feat
(by which I mean your work, your art, your life)
there will be downtimes.

Or so it seems.
Just as the earth is busy before the harvest
and a baby grows before its birth,
there is no silence in you.
There is no time of nothingness.

What if,
during the quiet times, when the idea flow is hushed and hard to find
you trusted (and yes I mean trusted)
that the well was filling, the waters moving?

What if you trusted
that for the rest of eternity,
without prodding, without self-discipline,
without getting over being yourself,
you would be gifted every ounce of productivity you need?
What would leave you? What would open?

And what if during the quiet times you ate great meals
and leaned back to smile at the stars,
and saw them there, as they always are,
nourishing you?

There are seasons and harvest is only a fraction of one of them.
We forget this.

There is the rhythm that made everything.
The next time you stand in the kitchen, leaning,
the next time a moment of silence catches you there,
hear it, that rhythm, and let it place a stone in your spine.
Let it bring you some place beautiful.
By Tara Mohr

My hope as I throw and paint and dust is that we can all find a way to work through the downtime right now. And remember in Tara Mohr’s wise words, “during the quiet times you ate great meals and leaned back to smile at the stars.”

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Making it through: Rediscovery, Recreating and Relaxing.

It’s week 3 going on 4 and I can see changes happening all around me. Social distancing results in social isolation which brings out more fear and anger. There’s a sadness in the eyes above those  paper masks. I see the light fading in people’s eyes and I want to make it brighter. Better. 

And it is better than we think. There is a truth here we are too scared to see and that above all, frightens me because facts don’t always support this massive fear. Yes, there is a virus around us. Yes, it can cause some sickness and some deaths. But right now, right here, millions and billions are surviving. 

For my own health and sanity, I have to focus on living, breathing and relaxing. 

No yeast? Start your own. 

It’s been a week long science experiment at my house. Not being able to find yeast, my husband and I decided to make sourdough starter. For years, we used to make our own bread with our own starter. Why? 

We enjoyed it. We did it together. And when my daughter was born and seemed to have a wheat allergy, we could make special bread for her. There were no wheat alternatives on the market then but thankfully, we lived near the original Bob’s Red Mill where I could get other types of milled flour. We experimented. I wrote the recipes down in our own cookbook. 

This week, that old cookbook and another beloved Sunset Magazine cookbook were there to help us. Sourdough takes time, luckily this week we had plenty of that on hand. We picked some fresh rosemary from our garden and kneaded it into the bread dough. It turned out delicious. 

But the biggest success was the rediscovery of the joy of baking bread and eating it fresh. 

Letting my freak bird fly. 

Again and again, I come back to my studio. My clay. My paint. And my experiments. I know it seems obvious but I forget this all the time. As galleries and shows and sales stopped, I found myself in a dangerous downward spiral. WTF! Where did all these tea cups come from and why did I make them? Who is going to use them? Why are there birds on my shelves?

After my freak out, I knew. I needed the teacups and birds. Why? Because there is nothing more comforting for me than a hot cup of tea. A tea cup in my hand is comfort. It’s love. It reminds me of my Gram and Grandmother Gallacher who were big on the importance of having tea. 

The birds are freedom. They are out there flying all around me and you and us. They are not scared. They are not quarantined. They are not sick. They are drinking nectar and eating bugs and making nests and having babies. 

Recreating something I’ve done before in a new way, I find my way again. I needed my birds and my cups of comfort and love. Maybe someday, down the line, you will too.