Thursday, May 19, 2016

Love. Life. Art.

It's been a wild and wonderful week with a merry mix of everything I love in my life and my art. 
Watching my children grow and being there to help in whatever way I can is always a labor of love.  This week gave me many things to celebrate.

Love all around.  

My daughter, Caitlin and son-in-law, Colin both performed their Master's music recitals.  Caitlin is graduating with a Vocal Performance/Pedagogy degree.  For her vocal recital, she sang with an orchestra and solo pieces from Strauss, Stravinsky and Mozart.  She was amazing!  She and Colin have grown so much over just the last two years.  Colin's degree is in Conducting and Composing and his recital included several classical compositions but the best was his own composition.  I was awed by their talents and stage presence.

My son, Kyle celebrated his birthday with us, Sarah and their sweet little baby, Meyer.  We went out to dinner one night and had a barbecue another.  So I got to see my son and granddaughter twice in one week.  It's a joy to watch my son gently cuddle and feed his daughter.  And it's such a miracle to experience the tremendous growth of a baby's first year. It's so fascinating to watch her learning to crawl and talk and pull herself up.  And I love that I get to be around her enough that she knows me, smiles and reaches up to be hugged.
Cleaning up the old, adding new life and new art.

My husband and I set to work weeding and trimming and planting and cleaning.  All our labor paid off with new flowers, hanging baskets and mounds of lettuce.  We can sit on our clean patio and enjoy our outdoor room that now supports a new home, too.  Over the weekend, a robin built a nest under the patio cover. She's spent the last few days proudly sitting in it.  I can't wait to hear those new little chirps.

My art was a mix of work and fun, too.  I unloaded the kiln, sanded and wiped and put the finished pieces on my studio display shelves. I got out fresh clay and formed new vases inspired by the blooming lilies in my backyard. I have a few pieces that are dry enough now for under glazing but I haven't gotten to them yet.  I will, but, well life's been a bit busy lately.  

My art, like my life, was a mix bag of beginnings and endings this week.  And I love it.

That's what Sculpting A Life is truly all about(though maybe not all in one week, all the time.)  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Beauty and Inspiration.

This time of year, I stumble over beauty.  Everywhere.

It pops up in my delicious peonies.  Each and everyone is a delight.  The smell is sweet and spicy and tangy.  I sniff and smile and melt into each fresh flower.  The double pinkness overflows onto the grass because the blossoms are so heavy, so heady and so abundant that they can not hold themselves up. Ah, I'm forced to trim them so they don't break and bring their sweetness inside where the fragrance fills my rooms.  

My favorite rose bush is blooming too.  It's a red and white swirl of softness with just a slight scent that's more peppery than sweet.  Quite a contrast to the peonies.  And if that's not enough deliciousness, the calla lilies are blooming, honeysuckle is out in full force marching across my fence and my small strawberry plants have delicate pink flowers.

And that's a surprise, because usually it's peonies, roses, calla lilies and then, honeysuckle.  But this year, it's all of them at the same time.   

It's abundance.  It's fragrant.  It's beauty.  It inspires me even when I don't realize it.

This week in the studio, I was playing with shapes that I realize, now,  came from my backyard.  The little figures were inspired by the lemon balm and the fern fronds bending upwards.   The vases furled and undulated like my beautiful calla lilies.

My hands worked away, my mind unaware of beauty's inspiration all around.  

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cleaning Out My Social Media Closet Isn't So Easy.

Writing about social media started with a shock. I couldn't believe just how many social media sites I'd accumulated over the last 10 years.  And the list kept piling up.  Since then, I've been looking at social media in a different way.  I'm trying to make it less about following the herd and more about following my heart.  

Some sites just pile up like bags of old clothes.

Having a wonderful conversation with a new friend, Jo, I compared old, used social media site accumulation to boxes in my closet.  Some are used to store things I will use again, others need to go.  I've been doing both over the last year.  Some sites like LinkedIn are gone for good.  Others like Twitter and Pinterest, I've stopped using but stopped short of tossing out completely.   

Twitter is a site my husband and son use constantly but I don't.  I don't even remember my log in or password. I don't even have it on my phone or pad anymore.  I always wonder if I will use it and if so, should I keep it open?  So it's like those old clothes that you keep, because you think someday you'll feel like wearing them again.  

Some sites are like a box of old pictures.

I like the idea of Pinterest, but I've just lost interest.  I've made some fun Pinterest boards, including my own art.  I've left it open and I still get notices that others have re-pinned my images.  That's nice to know, but not enough to make me want to go back.  Kind of like that box of high school yearbooks in the attic sitting there gathering dust.   

Some sites are like garage sales but a lot more work.

Etsy is another social media site that isn't a social media site, officially.  It's officially an online artisan marketplace.  A place to buy and sell handmade products for a small fee.  It sounds great, doesn't it? You put pictures of your work in your 'shop'.  Then wait for the sales to roll in.
Or not.

I spent hours putting together all the pieces for my Etsy shop.  Posting pictures of my studio and pieces. Writing my shop 'story' and policies and shipping statements.  I paid my fee per image.  I re-arranged and re-ordered and renewed it all for over a year.  Nothing.  Not one sale.  Not a good feeling at all.  

Then I started asking other artists about Etsy.  Some had the same experience I had.  Others did sell work.  But, the ones who sold, spent a lot of time on the site.  They 'liked' other shops, posted a new image a day for weeks, commented, tagged and re-tagged their pieces. Just posting their pieces got them nowhere.  It would be like having a garage sale and in addition to  putting up posters, you knocked on everyone's door in your city for days and weeks ahead.  I have a good work ethic, but that's just way over the top.

I like the idea of Etsy just not the actual truth of Etsy.  Especially now, when it's evolved from handmade art from artists to imported goods sold by import companies.   I haven't renewed my Etsy images.  I figured my shop would disappear and that would be the end of that but to my surprise, it's still there.  Kind of like all those stacks of empty bags and boxes I carefully fold away for 'someday'. 

Maybe it's time to let go of someday and recycle for today.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Art Shows from the Inside and Out.

                                      (My booth in last year's show)

There's a lot that goes into any artist show.  Much more than most people would think.  I know, because before I was an artist, before I had any kind of show, I went to art shows.  Decades and decades of art shows. As an art show viewer and buyer, I went and looked and, sometimes, bought.  I was on the outside side of the experience. 

Now that I've been an artist showing in exhibits, galleries and open studios, I am on inside of the experience.  I work and work and work to make art for a show.  Sometimes this work takes days, weeks and, yes, even years.  Because everything I've ever learned or drawn or painted or sculpted or thrown or sewn or beaded all feeds whatever I'm creating and showing now.  
                                     (My sculpture, "Leaf Fairy #1", in this year's gallery show)

Being an outsider and, now, an insider gives me a unique perspective.

From the outside, I see the show as an overall experience.  Is it overwhelming?  Is it too loud? Too crowded? Do I immediately see art that intrigues me?  Do I feel a sense of curiosity?  Do I want to explore more or get in and get out?  If I have found treasures before, I look forward to more.  Some shows feel warm, cozy and inviting.  Others feel cold, competitive and uncomfortable.

From the inside, I see the show as a personal experience.  Is it fun?  Is it friendly?  Is there enough work for the visitors?  Will they see something they love?  Will I answer their questions?  Will I help them connect to art with their hearts and their budgets?  Will I be able to connect with other artists with support and community? If I've sold before, I look forward to selling well again.  Some shows feel good and fun and easy.  Others feel difficult, stressful and tiring.

At my shows, I feel a bit torn.  As an insider, I wish for connections and appreciation and, yes, sales.  As an outsider, I wish for an open, warm and inviting experience.  
                                   (My leaf plate on sale this year in the gallery)

This weekend, as one artist in Portland's Ceramic Showcase, a large, local ceramics show, I hope for both.  

Will it happen?  I don't know.   


Thursday, April 21, 2016


Life is such a curious thing, really.  When I really think about all the miracles that surround my life, even the very act of living, I'm overwhelmed, awed and, yes, curious.

I watched my granddaughter, Meyer, push and pull herself across 3 feet of floor. I clapped and smiled at one of her first successful movements across the earth by herself.  She looked up and smiled and grabbed for the object of her desire: my son's cell phone.  This new technology is already changing her little life in so many ways.  Her naps and feedings and changing all are on an app that we all use to keep up with her.  Her pictures all over social media.  And the other day, she pushed the button to post her own Instagram selfie.  

I love all the baby pictures, but I'm curious, will she in 10 or 15 years? 

I also watched my daughter try on gowns for her masters graduate recital this week.  I loved watching her twirl in the gown she loved.  She's a beautiful woman.  An experienced soprano who sings everything from opera to jazz, yet, I still saw the sweet little girl bouncing in her dress up clothes singing to Beauty and the Beast.  We had a wonderful weekend, walking and shopping and eating out and talking.  Then, she went back to her home and I went back to mine.  She'll be moving farther away soon, so I treasure the moments we had together last weekend.  
Curious isn't it, how we grow and change so much in another 10 or 15 years?  

How crawling three feet turns into the feat of driving thousands of miles in one day?  How phones used to ring on the wall and now they ding in our pockets wherever we are?  How naps and feedings and baby pictures were something either forgotten or packed away in an attic and now they're on the Internet for everyone to see?  How playing dress up evolves into stage performances in beautiful ball gowns?

To my little granddaughter, crawling across the floor seems like forever.  To my darling daughter, graduating from her masters program seems like years.  To me, watching them, it all seems like a blink of an eye.

Everyday, we wake up and live life.  We never know what's going to happen or how long something's going to take us.  But we do it anyway.  How?  One breath at a time. 

How curious.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Jilly, the Miracle Dog.

Today is Jilly's eleventh birthday!  It's amazing and joyful and, yes, a miracle.  Because 14 months ago, the vets gave Jilly only 3 months to live.  But true to her beautiful soul and stubborn nature, she's here next to me playing with her new Kong toy.

She is my sweetness and light.

She walks to the park and back with me every morning.  Most of the regulars, both dogs and humans, know her by name.  Some give her treats and others pet her but everyone she meets leaves with a smile on their face.  

She is also strong.  

She is very stubborn and willful and has a very keen sense of right and wrong.  When I do something wrong, like being late with her dinner, she lets me know loud and clear.  If she wants to play ball, well, we play ball.   If she doesn't want to come in from her sunny spot on the lawn, forget trying to get her to move.  And when I'm busy and she really wants my attention, she picks up a bamboo stick and runs away with it.

She may not have graduated to be a guide dog, but I know she is my dog and my guide.  I've learned a lot from Jilly over the years about how to stand your ground, be true to yourself and make time to play.  The most important lesson of all: don't take what doctors say to be true or  absolutely right.  

I'm so very thankful they were so very wrong.

They told me she would die in 3 months.  She didn't.  They told me not to play ball with her or she'd get worse.  She didn't.  They told me she had to have her spleen removed but even that wouldn't save her from death.  She didn't have her spleen removed and she lived.  

This morning, she woke up, walked over to my side of the bed and kissed my hand.  Ok, slobbered it, really.  I reached out, patted her and said, "Good morning, sweetness and light."

She's given me so much: love, silliness, faith, hope and lots of sloppy kisses.

Happy Birthday, Jilly, my sweet, miracle dog!  Here's hoping for much more love and silliness every morning for a long, long time.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

As The Wheel Turns: Sometimes Things Blow Up.

It was a real surprise opening the kiln this week.  Most of my pieces came through the bisque firing just fine.  Even my little experiment with a new low-fire, clear glaze looked even better than I expected.  But maybe that's the real problem, here, expectations.

I had high hopes and well, maybe, a little too much self confidence.  I expected good results.

So seeing anything blown to pieces feels bad, but even worse, I kinda loved this sculpture. First, I haven't done a full figure piece in years.  Second, creating it was just spur of the moment, unplanned creative flow.  The best kind of creative experience in my opinion are the ones that just 'come together' seemingly on their own. 

I didn't set out to create her.  I was just letting myself play with clay.  Rolling it out.  Pressing different tools and textures into it.  I made a big ball of clay and started pinching it and pulling it and smooshing it around, when all of a sudden, there was a face.  A young woman stared back at me smiling.  I picked up the slab of clay on my board, pressed it together in the front, let it drape in back and, there was her gown.  I put the smiling woman atop the gown and added a whimsical hat with a button.  
Voila.  A lady appeared.  And I just loved her.

After I slipped and scored and pressed all the pieces into place, I wrapped her up carefully and set her aside to dry.  It's been over six months since she appeared.  In that time, she's been very, very, very slowly drying in my studio.  I checked the piece for cracks.  I didn't find any, anywhere.  But I still waited.  With clay and sculpture, I've learned the importance of patience and waiting for the clay to dry on its own.  So, I thought I was safe.  I thought she was safe.    
I thought it was time.

Now, I ask myself - why?  What happened.  How did it happen?

I did use porcelain for this figure, a clay I use primarily for functional pieces now.  But I've successfully made masks with it.  So I thought the worse that would happen were a few cracks which I could repair.  But there were no cracks.  Was it the clay?  Was it too dry?  Was there a bubble somewhere inside the head?

 The answers to my questions - I do not know.  

I've made many, many pieces, sculptural and functional, successfully.  I've had my share of cracking and warping and bloating.  But I haven't had a blow up in a long time.  So I guess it was time.  Too bad though, I really, really loved this sweet lady.  I'm going to miss her presence in my studio.