Thursday, June 23, 2016

Art Making Happens.

I've been busy but not necessarily in the active, creative zone.  Or so I thought.

If you've been reading my blog recently, it's all been about cleaning things out and discovering old work, not making new work.  It's definitely been a trip in many ways, down my writing career memory lane, through the cul-de-sac of my children's childhood, and files from the last 20 years of art classes both taking and teaching as well as gallery shows, open studios and publications.  I'm still not exactly sure why all this closet cleaning was necessary and I'm sure it will all come out in one of these days in another blog.  

But today, I'm through with throwing out stuff and I want to throw. Clay.

I haven't been on my wheel in a while, so I sat down nervously expecting to be disappointed in what I threw.  Why, after all this time, would I expect to be able to just sit down and produce?  I'm not a production potter.  I haven't been throwing for decades.  And I don't do it everyday, lately, not for weeks.  Throwing didn't come easily to me and I let that stop me for a very long time.  Decades.  But I refuse to let it stop me anymore.

Music, clay and water washed my self doubt away.  Thank goodness!

I threw a few mugs, a couple of vases and all was well. Later in the week, I found myself hand building.  Hand building, now that's completely different for me than throwing.  When I roll out a slab, it just seems so easy to make a wine caddie or platter or jar or mask.  This week, I got out my underglaze colors and painted a jar.  
I don't feel I've spent any time at the wheel or in my studio at all for the past month or so.  But amazingly, there's new art in there.  Mugs.  Vases. Wine Caddies.  Plates.  Even a new mask.
I felt like all I'd done was clean closets, organize and recycle.

But I guess I haven't just been getting rid of the old.  I've been creating something new.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Digging Up The Past.

Studio closet 'before'
For the last month or so, I've been in closets, drawers and the attic.  Excavating.  Recycling.  Cleaning, donating and reorganizing.  It all started innocently enough when I opened one drawer and discovered my physical therapy equipment from my broken wrist almost 10 years ago. 

My wrist is strong enough to throw clay now.  It healed and so did I.

Granddaughter wearing one of my daughter's sun rompers

Next came the attic.  Oh, I have dreaded opening it up for years.  Every time I heard a weird sound at night, I'd see squirrels eating my books or making nests in my children's baby clothes.  On dark and rainy nights, I pictured streams of water turning all my photos into mushy piles of mold.  But with the birth of a new granddaughter, it was time to see if the toys I'd so lovingly boxed up could be passed on to a new generation.

Up into the attic, my husband climbed.  My dread turned to delight.

My son's two favorite toys and robot overalls

The boxes were sealed and dry.  Books came down by the dozens and just needed dusting.  Toys, too!  There were boxes of wood blocks, Brio trains, My Little Ponies and the best of all, a wooden bead roller coaster.  Baby clothes were warm and dry and ready to wear.  Ok, they needed to be re-washed and some needed to be donated but both my 'kids' have a nice box of baby to toddler clothes to use for their children.  My husband found some pictures from his first radio job.  But I left my high school yearbooks boxed up for another day.  

Oh that, closet under the stairs.

Ad for Portland Radio Broadcasters

I wrote a whole blog about my closet excavations.  You can read it here.  It was quite a dig but in the end, well worth the effort.  I've since gathered up all my bigger oil, acrylic, watercolor and pastel paintings and put them in the back of the closet behind the Christmas decorations.  It's a great space for them and they are all together for the first time in years.  Now when I open the closet, it feels so fresh and light.  

Space, really is the final frontier, especially in my studio.

The piles of old studio stuff ready for recycling

I shuddered when I confessed to several friends the horror hidden in my studio closet.  It was so bad, that I had to push things inside so I could close the doors.  I've always thought of myself as a no-clutter, organized person, so this was growing into a nightmare in the closet for me.  Yesterday, I thought I would be able to pull some handles, and get the closet cleaned while they dried, then put the handles on the mugs.  Wrong!  

The closet took all day.  And again, it was a trip into my past.

A collection of old paintings and pastels

This time, I dug up my journals, sketchbooks, watercolors and acrylics. Some sketchbooks were my 'toys' I played with on weekends or vacations after my day job in advertising.  Others were from my early Mom days, then onward to art school classes and studio ideas which turned into art pieces I've shown in gallery shows.  
"Two Faced" A fiber art piece with embroidered drawing of Katherine Hepburn on one side, abstract on the other.

There were fiber art pieces from my 'Pieced Imagery' class.  Drawing and painting class assignments.  Stacks of old print and watercolor papers. A few masks along with drawings of all my mixed media pieces and copper masks.  Binders of slides of my older gallery work.  A box of masks made by children in my mask classes.  Photos of me in the classroom during my artist in residence. Lots of art materials from pastels, paints and paper to copper, screening and beads. Some were definitely ready for recycling but others were happily rediscovered.

Lost and found projects.
The misfit shelf

One shelf was my land of misfit pieces.  There were quite a few clay busts in there along with some copper work.  It's the first shelf I see when I open the closet and, I realized today, makes me sigh. It's my 'should' shelf.  I should finish them.  Paint them or make bodies for them or get bases for them or...  

Maybe their not lost at all.
Clay sculpture: male and female faces, lion and raven

Taking all my misfits out of the closet, I was forced to touch them and really look at them.  Really, really see them.  And what I saw weren't misfits or unfinished work at all.  I saw finished work, ready to go out into the world with just a few little adjustments.  They were ready.  But I was not.  

It's hard to let go, isn't it?  

Maybe that's why I've been in and out of all those dark closets.  Digging up the past, I've found a lot of dirt and dust and memories but I've uncovered a lot of surprises, too.  Like awards and pretty baby outfits and precious toys, books and, yes, some unfinished projects and some that are ready to go out into the world.
Studio closet 'after' can see the floor!

Maybe, so am I.  It's time to let go of the past and move onward.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Just A Normal Week.

It's been just a normal week.  

Walking in the park. Working in the studio.  Making salad from my garden. Doing yoga.  

It's been very hot and dry here which makes porcelain even more persnickety than usual.  In the past, I've worked regardless of the weather but this week I decided to give up fighting and give in.  I decided to play with the heat instead of against it.  I worked in shorter spurts.  I worked on hand built pieces rather than throwing so I don't have to worry about the accelerated drying timing with handle attachments or trimming.  


My new pieces are multiplying.  Last week, I had three-quarters of one shelf filled.  I added 5 new pieces this week.  Voila! Two filled shelves ready for under glazing!  It always amazes me how my studio work goes from empty to full and back again.  Every time I glaze and finish new work, I fill the display shelves but then, I see the drying shelves are empty.  And it's time to begin again, get out the clay, make new pieces.  

Create.  Finish.  Repeat.

Yep, it's just a normal week.  No big discoveries.  No more closets cleaned.  Yet.  

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Closet Under The Stairs.

It all started with the closet under the stairs.

Once upon a time, I was a writer.  I got paid to write for radio, print, tv and the occasional magazine along with newsletters, direct mail, lobby displays and bus sides.  I worked in advertising as a copywriter.  That was the job title, then.   These days when I say that, and I almost never do, people want to ask me questions about copyright infringement and I have to explain I was a writer not a lawyer.  But, I do believe I did write for ads for lawyers, doctors, dentists, even a political campaign for a judge. Oh, and a 'head' shop called Pype's Palace, which is still in business and even has my radio spots on their website.  (Maybe I should have done more for those lawyers, after all.)  

But that was a long, long time ago in a corporate world far, far away.

And I thought I'd left it all behind in the dust.  And nobody, nowhere would even know. Heck, I'd even forgotten most of it.  Until one morning this week, when I cleaned that closet under the stairs.

The closet was full to the point where I regularly tripped over shoes and boots just to get to my yoga bag.  When, I stuffed the outdoor cushions into the overflowing space, wreaths fell on my head along with old silk flowers, wrapping paper, bags and an old broom.  It was time to clean it out, get rid of the old, dusty flowers, bags and shoes. When I started, I figured it would take no more than an hour.  Boy, was I wrong.

After cleaning out the things I knew were in there, I found a few surprises.  A stack of my old paintings in oil, acrylic and pastels.  Two mystery boxes.  Inside one was my mother's wedding gown, which I'd worn in 1982, now archival packaged up for her.  But she didn't want it back, so I'd shoved into the back of the hall closet.  In another ripped box were 3 artist portfolios, 3 framed awards, a plaque and old audio and video cassettes from my advertising days.  And a very huge spider.

I killed the spider.  Vacuumed.  Dusted.  Loaded my paintings, seasonal wreaths, Christmas decorations, yoga bag, purses, scarves and coats back into their new places.  Hauled out the boxes to go to charity.  Recycled the papers and threw out the trash.  

Then, I took the advertising portfolios to my art studio and unzipped my past.
There on the floor lay ads for companies from seafood, milk, beef and hotels to real estate developers, transportation, health care, finance, tech and energy.  There were print ads, bus sides, billboards, tv and radio spots, brochures, book promotions and invitations. And among the framed awards(Best in the West, New York Art Directors, PAF's) the biggest surprise of all, my CLIO award, which I do not remember ever seeing or receiving for that matter.  How did I forget that? 

Because, you see my work was my baby. That is until I had a baby.

Then, everything in my world and my work changed.  I chose to go from full time writer to full time mom.  I got 8 weeks maternity leave.  There was no tele-commuting then.  No half time or part time or parenting time.  Advertising was a busy, exciting, competitive, stressful business and women weren't the majority of the employees, then.  When I was working in advertising, I was all business.  But when my baby was born, I resigned and she became my biggest creative project. 

I never regretted my choice.  I never looked back.  Until this week.

What did I find? That I was a very good writer(ok, hard to say, 'award winning' writer)  My only hope is that I've been almost as good a mom.

I was only going to clean out the closet under the stairs. I knew it would be very dusty but I had no idea I'd find my past in there.  (And that very, very BIG spider.)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Creativity: Lifting My Soul Up.

"E.B. White said that the role of the writer is to lift people up, not to lower them down, and I believe that’s the role of every journalist and artist and creator of culture."

This quote popped up in my reading this week, from a commencement speech giving by Brain Pickings creator, Maria Popova. It had me hooked immediately, as many of her weekly newsletter articles do, I read on with curiosity.  

"Strive to be uncynical, to be a hope-giving force, to be a steward of substance. Choose to lift people up, not to lower them down — because it is a choice, always, and because in doing so you lift yourself up."

It's so true.  And something I so easily forget.  Why and how could I forget something so simple?So elemental?  Because I was trained in the western world to be an ever busy, productive person where success is measured in amounts of money, stress or popularity.  And now, thanks to the Internet, it's by going viral.  Even if that means you laugh stupidly in your car wearing a Wookie mask.  

Did you get enough likes, retweets, hearts or page views this week? How I ask you does this lift you up?  Is this being a steward of substance and creativity?   

Maria goes on to counsel graduating seniors, "Develop an inner barometer for your own value. Resist pageviews and likes and retweets and all those silly-sounding quantification metrics that will be obsolete within the decade. Don’t hang the stability of your soul on them. They can’t tell you how much your work counts for and to whom. They can’t tell you who you are and what you’re worth."

Bingo.  No social media, no number of hits, and no number of sales can tell me what I'm really worth.  No matter how much I've been taught to measure myself, by height, weight, grade point average, I Q test score, income, home or car or family size.  This is not a one size fits all world.  Especially art, writing and creativity.  

Now, I don't know who or what or how my art lifts up the world. Maybe I'm never supposed to know.  Maybe that's too much of a burden for me to carry.  Maybe that's not the point anyway.  The point is that I do it because it's important to me.  In my heart.  In my soul.

This is an ever expanding, all embracing, never-before imagined world around us.  

And everyday, you and I get to wake up, breathe it in and live in whatever way lifts our souls up.

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.