Saturday, May 18, 2019

As the Wheel Turns: Trying

It’s been over a month since I’ve sat at my wheel, rolled out a slab or painted my clay. This week back at the wheel, painting and loading a small kiln load feels wonderful but there are many parts to what I do that always give me things to wonder about. 

Last month as this time, I was glazing and glazing and firing work for a big show, wishing and hoping it would all come out perfect and many pieces would sell. 

Many pieces did come out very well. And pieces did sell. It wasn’t my best sales year or my worst but I did hope for more. Don’t we all? And is that good or bad? My answer to those questions came from a quote I saved for inspiration.

“There’s only the trying. The rest is not our business.” T.S. Eliot

I did try. I do try. I always try to do my very best to produce quality work. I use quality materials from the clay to the glazes. I work the clay in all the correct ways, wedging, centering, rolling, pinching, sealing and trimming to the best of my ability. And I’m always learning, searching out ways to make my work better. 

And I try even more. I bring my heart and soul into what I make with my hands because I want to bring more heart, soul, love, light and creativity into not just my life but hopefully, all the lives around me. 

“You can’t guarantee the result.” 

Robert Redford said about T.S. Eliot’s quote, “It's one of my favorite phrases. Because you can't guarantee where the trying is going to get you. So, you can't guarantee the result. The only thing there is in its place is the trying. That's where the action is."

My Party Animals, I realize came to life to lighten mine. I had lost my sweet dog Jilly, I was lonely and sad. Then these crazy creatures started appearing on my studio shelves. Not only are they silly sculptures, they are rattles, too. 

I never planned to make rattles or crazy creatures. But I tried anyway. They make me smile. And they make others smile too. Everyday, I watched as many people picked them up, shook them and laughed. I’ve sold a few of them and I’m grateful. 

So I remember those words: “There’s only the trying.” I agree, “That’s where the action is.”

Saturday, May 11, 2019

On Mothering.

I always wanted to be a mom. And I was determined to be a good mom. And I’ll admit, one of the reasons I wanted to become a mom was to be a different kind of mom than the ones I observed as a child and a childcare worker. 

I could go into the pain I observed but we all know it’s out there. Media and magazines shine a light on the difficulties and tragedies. While knowledge and awareness is needed, I worry that surrounding ourselves with all of this may bring us even more pain. And we don’t need more pain in this world. 

We need more love and caring and sharing. 

Mothering and fathering is a lifelong commitment. It’s not easy. You need a strong heart and an even stronger sense of self to be selfless in the moments and years to come. Crying babies grow and their bumps and bruises grow as well. It’s impossible to keep them from every fall and cold and social bruise, though I’ve tried very hard. 

But most important is love. Loving them no matter what, even when you’re upset too. Seeing through the developmental hurdles, tantrums, tears, and rebellion to the heart that needs support. Caring by listening to the words of pain and offering presence, arms to hold them and a soft place to land. Sharing your own failures and stories, if needed, to let them know they are not alone in this difficult world. 

We all need to know failure happens. 

This is hard for me to say, not only for myself, but for my children as well. I want them to be happy, healthy and successful. Whether you deny that reality as I have for so many years or you are wise enough to embrace it. Everyone, even best of us, fall and fail and struggle. 

As a mother, I think that has always been my greatest fear. 

Life has handed me many bumps and bruises along the way to teach me not just to avoid pain, but to grow up and out of it. Some of my more epic failures have become my biggest accomplishments later in life. Yes, I’ve lost jobs and relationships and money and health. 

But I’ve also found new work and love. I’ve figured out that somehow I always have enough. And building health and strength is a life long practice best done with love. 

Near or far. Up or down. The best I can do as a mother is love. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

May Days

So many beautiful days to celebrate in May. The blooming of the earth. The warmth of the sun. I love Spring. 

On our walk: New goslings.  

I’m so excited to see any new baby birds at all this year. In the last several years, our park has hired a goose control company. The goal is to keep the goose population down to a ‘manageable’ level. What that really means is cutting the goose poop down on lake front lawns.  While I understand the problem of overpopulation and survival, I hate that they actually go into the nests and kill the embryos in the eggs. That’s why I’m so excited this year to see a dozen new goslings all in a row. 

Lilacs and crabapple blossoms. 

I love my lilacs. The scent is amazing and I can’t help but cut bunches, put them in vases all over the house. Lilacs are the essence of spring. 

But my sweet, pink crabapple has a special place in my heart. Those trailing little light pink petals are so delicate and beautiful. 

New plants settled into my patio. 

I had some mini-carnations show up from last year, I filled in the spaces with a few white impatiens and red salvia. 

Spring is blooming. People are out and about smiling. The light and sun nurtures us all.    

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Perfect Doesn’t Live Here

I am getting ready for a ceramics show. Actually, I’ve been working towards this show for the last six months. Right after the holidays, I got busy throwing bowls and cups and hand building lily vases and jars. I love that part of the process and it goes pretty smoothly.

Drying doesn’t. The porcelain clay I work with does not like to be rushed. It likes to sit, nicely covered for weeks and weeks and weeks. After some time has passed, I can paint the first layer of color. Then, I wait some more.

Patience doesn’t mean perfect. 

I have worked on patience for years and I have gotten much better because, if I push porcelain to the next phase before it’s ready, it cracks. Or worse, it blows up. 

So I waited. I made more pieces. I waited some more. Finally, it was time to do the first bisque fire. I put on another layer of color, and did the second bisque fire. Everything came through looking pretty good. 

But not perfect. I’d love to say that my handmade work is perfectly done. I’d love to say that my technique is flawless. I’d love to say that I have the perfect clay and glaze combination that works consistently every time. Yeah, right. 

Snap. Crackle. Pop. 

The last time I did mugs using my favorite black glaze on the handle, it literally came out of the kiln and flaked off. I’ve never had that happen before and I’ve been using that same glaze for 5 years. 

This time, I eliminated the black handle and put the red or turquoise color on the inside, leaf and side decoration only. I left the handles in the clay body and clear glazed them instead. Well, this handle not only snapped on this mug, it decided to sculpt itself into an entirely different shape. Unusable. 

I had one wine cup that went in perfect and came out with a small pinhole crack in the bottom. It leaks. Unusable. I had two bowls come out with small cracks on the bottom but the inside is perfect. Usable. But not perfect. 

On one mug the red color, again a long time favorite, popped off in a very small area. The clay is vitrified and the area is tiny, so it is still usable. But not perfect. 

So here I am. I do have many nice pieces ready to go to the show. And I’d like to say all my work is perfect but as you can see, perfect doesn’t live here. Not in my studio anyway.   

All I can say is I am an artist, working in the clay that I love and doing the very best that I can.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Darling Darby

I’m smitten. He’s just so adorable and smart and funny. I could say I’ve never loved like this before, but I’d be lying. I’ve loved and lost like this many times in my life. And while the losing part sucks big time, the love is so wonderful, the memories so sweet, it is worth it all. 

He greets me every morning. Even before I’m really awake, he gets up and sits by my bed and waits for my hand to reach out from underneath the covers. I reach out and pet his ears and head and he twirls around happy to greet me and another day. 

Walks in the park. Playtime. And Treats.  

We walk around the lake near our home everyday, sometimes twice a day. Darby loves it. And he’s learned so much in 5 months about good walking behavior. He heels by my side without lunging or pulling. Ok, he still rubber-necks at oncoming dogs but we’re working on it. 

I’ve had frisbee dogs and stick chasers but Darby’s is a catcher. He loves it best when I throw his holee roller up high in the air, so he can jump up, catch it and run with it. He will bring it back if I call him but he doesn’t always want to drop it. It’s his toy and he wants to keep it or play tug or keep away. We’re working on ‘give’ and ‘drop’ which he will do more now, but he still has that puppy play mentality. And I have to admit, it makes me laugh. 

Treats are a given. Believe me, I know the protocol on working for a treat, watching his calorie intake and avoiding begging behaviors. But when he sits there, on his ‘place’ so nicely with those sweet, brown eyes staring me, I fold. Almost every time. But I use part of his daily food intake for those moments so I don’t feel too guilty. 

My new Lab assistant. 

As a studio artist, I work at home. I have one part of my studio inside and one part out in the garage. Outside or inside, Darby is there to assist me in anyway he can. 

Do I need him to bring serenity and calmness to my space? He assists by laying and sleeping silently on his bed. Do I need him to watch the garage while I set up to throw? He’s on it. Do I need him to stay in one place while I carry trays of work to the kiln? He’s got this. 

When I was glazing this past week using a new set up, I had to reposition my space to make it all work. Darby gently went to his new position and sat at attention. Once I was settled and working, he settled in keeping a close eye on me at all times in case he was needed. 

What can you say to that face? Really. It’s darling. And I’m so blessed that he’s here with me. My Darling Darby. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Believe in US

After reading Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper last week, I always believed my job as a parent was to protect my children. What might look fun, thrilling and courageous might actually be careless, scary and dangerous. It was my job to see through to the truth and do my best to pass that truth onto my children. 

While I could do a great job protecting them as babies, as they grew the challenge was to teach them to protect themselves. I taught them to trust their gut instinct, to see past the pressure to be cool and, instead, be true and believe in themselves.  

Believing isn’t easy. 

There are many shiny things and slick promises that seem so wonderful. We want to believe. And conversely, there are the shocking, scary, awful events that seem truly unbelievable. It’s hard to reconcile it all and much easier to refuse to see it. 

But we can’t shield ourselves or our children from many of these hard realities. Because that’s the opposite of protecting them and ultimately ourselves from tyranny, corruption and violence. I didn’t want to believe in evil, but I have to face that it exists. Admitting it exists doesn’t mean accepting or allowing it and that’s where protection comes in for all of us. 

Believe. Now more than ever. 

It’s way to easy right now to get caught up in the bad and go beyond mad to being overwhelmed. That’s the road to denial, escapism and cynicism. I fight those feelings everyday because I know that road leads nowhere. I have to believe. 

In the face of the bad that surrounds us everyday, we are the good. We are the force that can see the truth through the lies, the good beyond the bad, and work to make the changes we need all around us to protect us all. 

Mother to mother. Grandmother to grandmother. Mother to Father. Mother to daughter and son. It’s even more important that we all pull together for you, for me, for US all. 

I believe in you and me. I believe that together we can protect our children, ourselves and our country. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Done. Almost.

Firing up the kiln is always exciting and scary and this week was no exception. It’s a bisque load which is only the first firing. This is the firing I use to set the first layers of color and dry out the clay. Hopefully all the pieces will make it through this phase in one piece with no cracks. But this is only the first of two to three more firings. 

Next, depending on the piece, I add more color or a color wash. In most cases, I put the pieces in another bisque firing to set the color before I do the final glaze fire. But other pieces get added color lightly applied, then a special clear coat for the final stage. 

Finishing while Firing. 

While my kiln was doing the first part of the process on these new pieces, I was finishing up on several pieces. Finally.

I admit I hate finishing. I don’t like endings in my work because I love the process of creating. But the other reason is good old fashioned fear of failure. 

Questions and self doubt and past mistakes creep in like fog on a dark night.

What was I thinking? Do I even like this piece? What if it turns out ugly and not even close to what I had in mind? What if I hate it and everyone else does too? Hey, I was asked to leave a gallery because I changed my color palette and they didn’t like it.

Because these two pieces are both sculptural, I get especially nervous. Have you ever had people come into your studio, stop in front of your work, start pointing and talking? Then when you come up to see if you can answer questions they tell you they know all about it. Thank You. Then they leave. Or they say, well it’s not very pretty is it? Or wherever did you get an idea like that? Yeah, maybe I have a reason to be nervous. 

Is it art? It is what it is. 

I love clay and color and texture. I love creating bowls and mugs and vases and plates that are colorful and textural that people can use everyday. I also love letting my hands tell a story or describe a character that I imagine. My only problem is that my hands don’t always manifest my imagined image exactly. 

Things happen on the way from my heart to my hands. Sometimes there is a breath of beauty I could not have thought of before. Sometimes, there is tension and misinterpretation of a language I am always learning to speak. 

When it comes down to the end, what’s done is done. It is what it is. 
And it’s my job at this point to let it go.