Friday, September 30, 2016

Curiosity and Control.


This was 'opposite' week for me in the studio.  I spent my time immersed in the glazing process which calls for intense organization and control. Usually, my work is more about curiosity. I used to see curiosity and control as total opposites.  As an artist, I needed to be creative and control got in the way.

What if?

Discovery. Creativity. Innovation.  All of these processes need curiosity.  In order to create something new, you need to be open and wondering.  Discovery and innovation thrive on questions and problems.  What if?  Why not?  Where does that go?  How high?  What color can I make now?  How can I build this?  This is me in my studio on making, building and throwing days.

I love studio days spent trying new ideas.  Throwing a new form.  Rolling a slab and letting it tell me what it wants to be today.  Will it be a vase, jar, plate, platter or mask?  Testing new textures with things I find in the woods or around the house.  Mixing a new color combination or using the underglazes like watercolors and inks.  I can form, paint sculpt or carve, it's my choice and everyday, I'm led by my curiosity.

I love curiosity.  I hate control.

Or do I?  I think I hate control because it's run my life for so long.  Stop.  Go. Stand, kneel, sit, repeat.  But cleaning out my closets has opened up another way to see control.  I've lived quite a nice life so far.  I've worked in interesting places, doing interesting and creative work.  I've raised two healthy, smart and creative humans.  I am still doing work that I love to do because I'm choosing to do it. And I like being in control of my time and my work.

In the studio, glazing requires control.  I start preparing each and every piece by sanding any rough edges, wiping off the dust and waxing where I don't want the glaze. The actual glazing begins much like a day in chemistry class.  Exact measured amounts of water.  Correct combination of chemicals.  Proper dispersement to create a glaze with the correct viscosity.  If the glaze is too thick, my colors will be clouded.  Pits and bubbles can form.  If it's too thin and the piece will not be coated evenly and it won't be food safe. My control at this stage can make or break a piece. Literally.

The curiosity-control dance.

I love questions. I love wondering, what if? It gets me all fired up to head into the studio and dig out my clay, mix up my paints and make something new.  Curiosity leads the way as I throw and sculpt.  It's not just the clay that grounds me, it's the fresh air of wonder and possibilities, that essence of 'curious' floating in the atmosphere. 

After the creativity and curiosity, control steps in to keep track of the details like show contracts, labels, inventory sheets, and supplies. It helps me fill out my firing book where log in what worked and what didn't. This week, as I was glazing in the studio, I realized just how important control really is to my work.  With control in my corner, calculating and mixing my glaze the same each time are simple steps to follow.  Glazing requires slow, methodical, controlled flow.  

Curiosity and Control make a good pair.  

You need two people to do the tango.  The push and pull of the partners stepping back and forth and around echo the flow of curiosity and control. I  see curiosity like the music that feeds the creative process and gets my feet moving.  Yet, to complete a creation, I need control to keep my footing. Step by step.  Just like the tango, my creative life needs the push/pull, turns/twirls of curiosity and control to dance together in balance.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Creative Amnesia. Or things I did that I forgot. Or did I?


I wrote a whole blog about Fall and change and creativity, but it just doesn't feel right, right now.  Because if I'm really honest (and I try very hard to be really honest), I'm avoiding writing about something that I never thought I'd be writing about: creative amnesia.  

Creative what?

I first saw the term in a blog by Jen Louden.  She was talking about it as a process that happens right after creation.  You make, write or create something and when it's done, you forget you did it because you're so busy moving onto creating your next painting, book, or song.  I could definitely see what she was talking about and it struck a chord with me, but I also felt a few notes were missing.  

What I found in my closet.

All that closet cleaning and the article about creative amnesia seemed to come together with a flash of revelation.  I hadn't just forgotten what I'd created over the last 30 years, I'd buried it.  Inside boxes, up on dusty shelves, and under the stairs, I found my life's creative work.  And, although I thought I remembered all of my creations, I did forget some of my creations existed.  I didn't remember the Clio I'd won.  I forgot the pastels I did of my children, a delicate beaded piece and an unfinished painted fiber piece.  It was so overwhelming, I'm just starting to write about it. And like my unfinished pieced imagery project, I can see this will take some time for me figure out and put together.  What I don't want to do is push it all back into the closet, forget it and disown it and myself again.

How Facebook and a friend helped.

It was one of those Facebook things: one artist posts their work for five days and asks another artist to do so for five days.  I see them all the time and usually never do them.  But this time, it felt right.  It seemed like a perfect way to face my creative amnesia, to get my art out of the closet and own my work.  

Thanks to my friend, Jo Grishman, I did the Facebook posts.  Every day for 5 days, I posted pictures of my work, some of which had never been seen or photographed before.  It was a little scary, I'll admit.  Not just to face my own student work, but to post it on a public site like  Facebook.  I got some nice comments and a few likes to help bolster my nerves.  Best of all, I sold a mask that is a favorite of mine to a friend in another state who had never seen my work before!  
When no cure is a good thing.

I'd like to say I won't ever forget my creations again.  That my creative amnesia is gone without a trace, but I know that can't happen. Why? Because, as an artist, writer and creator, I have to 'forget' my work. I have to let go of my pieces when they've sold.  I have to get my old work out of sight in order to envision new work.
I'm glad I had creative amnesia.  I'm glad I forgot my past work. I'm happy to have found it again, shared it and sold it.  Cleaning out my creative closet was hard but it's the best thing I've done for myself and my creativity in a long, long time.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Day Tripping.


Sun.  Surf.  Waves.

A day trip to the beach today was just perfect.  Hot coffee for the drive up across the mountains and nibbles along the way.  Views of Douglas Fir gave way to craggy, wind swept trees and the sound of the surf.  And the smell of the ocean, ahh, it's the recipe for relaxation.

Walking and walking and walking.

That's one of the things I love most about going to the beach.  Long stretches of sand.  Waves rolling in.  Crisp breezes.  The feeling of endless space and time.  I love to walk and I walk everyday, but walking on the beach with the ocean as my sound track isn't a work out, it's a vacation. 

I guess, sometimes, you just need to get out of town!  Go for a really, really, really long walk on the beach.  And breathe in some new inspirations.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Re-Nesting.




It's seems to be a theme in my life, lately.  The process of nesting signals change on the most basic level throughout the world for animals and humans alike.  It's such a diverse and, yet, shared activity happening constantly that it's become almost invisible to me, and maybe to you, too.  Until recently, I knew there were nests all around me, but I just didn't really notice.

Robins everywhere.  
Late this spring into early summer, nests just seemed to keep appearing. First there was one under my patio cover on the right side.  Mama Robin fixed it all up, sat in it and then, left without laying any eggs.  Next another nest was built under the patio cover on the left side.  This time, Mama Robin stayed and laid eggs and fed chicks and when the chicks flew away, she left.  Yet another time, in a space under the roof near my laundry room window, another Mama Robin made a nest and nurtured her brood until they flew away on their own.  

More nesting.

I didn't see the significance of these nesting events at the time.  It just seemed a happy coincidence to have 3 mamas and 3 nests with babies surrounding my home.  I loved watching the process of mothering and feeding and growth of the little families. I saw the babies fly and leave the nest, never seeing the pattern in my own life or art.  My children left the nest years ago. Or did they?

My daughter graduated college and got married and then, moved to get a master's degree.  In June, she and her husband graduated and moved to California where he's getting a doctorate.  I drove with her from here to California, helped her haul boxes and unpack feelings.  My son graduated college and is working on a master's degree as well as holding down a stressful job and parenting his new baby daughter.  Just last week, he moved as well to his first place as a homeowner.  I drove my car filled with boxes, babysat, bought groceries, made sandwiches and listened while he unloaded as well.  I see, I'm like the Mama Robin, flying back and forth helping my children grow into bigger and better lives.

Re-nesting.

As the robins built their nests and my children moved theirs, I was doing my own version of nesting without realizing it.  For these last 5 months, I've been cleaning out closets all around my house.  I've unpacked and re-packed and cleaned out everything from baby clothes, books and movies to old paintings, fiber art, sculptures and advertising portfolios.  

I've also re-arranged or re-nested my studio, hallway, patio, front entry adding new equipment, wall art, flowers and cushions.  I've added 'baby' shelves to the kitchen and bathroom for my little granddaughter's needs plus portable toy boxes filled with much loved books and toys.  

Just last weekend, I bought a new rug for the great room.  I'm planning to add new chairs, ottomans and a couch soon, replacing the family sectional couch that has been our family nest for 20 years.  My 'babies' have their own nests now.  

And, I guess, it's time for me to move on, too, and find things that fit my life now.  Re-nest!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Moving.



There's been a lot of moving happening in and around my life lately.  My daughter has moved from eastern Washington to southern California.  My son has moved from the city to the suburbs.  Although, I'm physically in the same place on the map, my past and present along with my mind and heart has moved all over the place.  All this illustrates clearly that moving is more that physical or spatial, it's emotional and creative, too.

Moving over mountains.

We all know it doesn't matter whether you're making a move across town or country, it's a lot of physical hard work.  Packing and unpacking.  Lifting and hauling.  This time there was a piano and an organ to move along with the usual beds, dressers, desks, chairs, couch and big screen tv.  Add California or Oregon sunshine and temperatures in the 90's and it's a real work out.  

We all made it and I have to say, it made me realize how important my daily walks and yoga classes are to my overall strength and endurance.  I'd been taking that for granted,  but I'm not anymore! I love my walks and yoga and I love how it makes me feel: strong and healthy.  

A moving experience.

Moving brings up many feelings for me.  It's sad to leave the old, exciting to greet the new and frustrating, tiring, inspiring and, ultimately, a relief.  I've designed homes and lived in rentals along the way and each time, I find a certain satisfaction in creating a new living space in a new place that fits my life and my family.

It's always been hard for me when my 'kids' moved away.  It didn't matter if it was 5 minutes, 20 minutes or 4 hours away, it felt like they were on another planet. I missed hearing them rustle around in the morning.  I missed seeing them come home at night.  I wondered and worried.  I felt a deep space kind of loss. Now they are their own planets spinning in their own orbits with their own share of storms coming their way.  All I can do is listen and help out a little and hope there are no black holes in their path.

New moves.

In my creative life, I've moved around a lot, too. As unpacked my own boxes and cleaned out my closets, one thing became really clear to me: I am and always have been creative.  I was born that way. From writer to artist, words to paint to metal to clay, my media has definitely changed over the years. Removing  the dust from my closets revealed an amazing amount of work I've done over the years that I'd completely forgotten.  

What I'm beginning to see is that some of my new creative moves aren't really that new at all.  They're just different lines or colors or textures layered onto my evolving creative life.  And that, I think is what moving and living is really all about.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Back in the Studio Again.


For the past several months, my studio time has taken a backseat to life.  Not that I've been living in the fast lane, but it seems like this summer has flown by and my studio routine has flown out the window right along with it.  I'm not upset about it in the least.  I'm glad. 

Life(and art) is what happens when you're making other plans.

Or, in my case, doing other things.  I've spent the last 5 months taking trips out of town for joyous events in my 'children's' lives.  I've spent many days watching my daughter perform, graduate with a master's and last but not least, be her travel partner on her new life road to L.A.  I've also spent many days watching my granddaughter grow from baby to toddler and helped her learn to walk and talk. 
Studio guilt?  Or fear.

In the past, any change in my studio routine or creative process led to a lot of guilt and fear.  My mind would reel with questions and accusations.  How could I call myself an artist if I wasn't making art, constantly?  How could I have pieces to show and sell, if I wasn't in the studio everyday?  What would happen if I stopped making for any length of time?  Would I never go back to my art?  Would I, (oh no) become a 'hobbyist'?

Fear doesn't create art.  Love does.

And love, also creates life and 'a life'.  And I want it all.  Yes I do.  

And what I've found out by taking time off from the studio is this: work gets done.  Really.  Pieces get made, painted, bisqued, glazed and, yes, miracle of miracles, sold.  Even while I'm on a road trip with my daughter to L.A.  

My art waited for me, patiently.  There on the shelves in my studio were pieces ready to be bisqued again.  There were new pieces ready to be under glazed.  There is a load in the kiln right now, waiting for me to unload it and get it ready for final glazing.  Show labels are made and ready for my next show.  And I know, next week, I'll be back in my studio with my hands in fresh clay again.  

Surprisingly, I'm not feeling either guilt or fear. My life is and always has been about making whether it's making an ad, a family or a new piece of art.  It's not the thing that matters, it's the heart.  And, I truly believe, there is no art(or life) without it. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Study in Contrasts.


This last week, I traveled from Portland to Los Angeles.  Flying home with the sun setting into the ocean, I was captivated by the bird's eye view.  The changes in the landscape below me was an ongoing study in contrasts.

All different.  And all the same.  

Buildings, houses, schools and shopping malls began and ended the flight.  In between, were large expanses of green fields growing food.  There were wide rivers, flowing lakes and forests.  Brown mountains stretched for miles and miles looking like sculpted, brushed copper in the setting sun. Then came greener and greener mounds as I flew closer to Portland.  I was struck by the expanse of the world below me that I only get to see in bits and pieces in my daily life.  

Oregonians vs Californians.    

California and Oregon may share the same ocean but that's probably about all.  Our two states are very different in many ways. And while that's fine, it's sometimes really funny.

Freeway driving speeds:
Portland:55
LA: 75

Freeway turn signals mean:
Portland:  "Hi, there!  I'd like to change lanes, please."  
LA:  "Look out! I'm moving over!!"

Going out to dinner:
Portland:  Let's walk to the local pub.
LA: Take two freeways, 1 hour by car, wait 20 minutes for a table.

TGIF:
Portland = Thank God It's Friday
LA = Thank God I'm Fabulous

What can I say?  I'm who I am and they are who they are.  It's not good or bad.  Now it's time for something completely different. And that contrast is what makes the world the wonderfully creative place for all of us.