Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sometimes life needs a little redecorating.

​Once again, my home is being redecorated.  As most of us know, home improvement is an ongoing process, a little like life, actually.

There's the better homes and gardens kind of redecorating of your home, rooms or yard. And there's the spiritual retreat kind of redecorating of thoughts, feelings or past events. Maybe one leads to the other. 

My son moved in and out again.  I'm happy to see him moving out into his own adult life.  I'm glad to be able to help him and give him shelter whenever he needs it but I miss him, too. Last time, I packed up his childhood toys.
This time, I'm packing away his teenage drum sticks and college graduation robe. Last time, we made it through the re-paint and re-carpet phase only.   This time, we have redecorated and created a new room in our home.  

Here's what it looked after the re-paint and re-carpet.

 Here are a few pictures of the before and during process this time around.

Here's what it looks like now.  It's still a guy room, but now it's my husband, not my son, who plays his computer games and watches his golf shows in there.

Now, the next room re-do is my daughter's room.  I redecorated it when she moved out the first time and packed away her childhood.  Then, she moved back in.  When she moved out again and got married, I did the re-paint and re-carpet but nothing else really changed much.  

This time, after seeing the re-creation of my son's room for my husband, I think, maybe my daughter's old room needs a little re-creation, too.  Especially, since my married daughter and her husband are now moving out of town into an exciting new phase of their lives but will be needing a room for two here at home to use over holidays.  So, the childhood twin bed made into a daybed last time, is going this time along with the small flip top desk, wicker table and chest of drawers.  

What will the room look like this time?  I'm not sure.  But I do know it's time for a change. 

Sometimes life needs a little redecorating.  Sometimes it needs a lot.  It can be an inside job or an outside one.  Sometimes it's both. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Flow: In and out and in and out.

As an artist, I'm used to working inside, alone, in my studio.  Sometimes, though, my work takes me outside, in crowds, with other artists.  

Last week was one of those weeks.  It was great to help the local food bank, chat with visitors and artists, and enjoy the festival atmosphere.  

This week, I'm back in my studio.  Working at the wheel or doing sgraffito with only the sound of birds and snoring dogs, I'm enjoying the quiet and slower atmosphere.

My word of the year is FLOW.  Defined as "the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully emersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity."  
I can't think of a better description of these two weeks.  Whether outside selling bowls or inside making bowls, I was full emersed, focused, involved and enjoying the activities.  There is the ying/yang, black/white, and contrast in each setting and activity, of course.  But that's not a bad thing.

I used to think, or maybe I was taught, that consistency was key to a good life.  That having a smooth road, good weather, even progress, and a well-planned routine added up to an even flow.  And so, I see that throughout my life, I've worked very hard to chart a consistent course.  Of course, that hasn't always worked so well.  In, fact it hasn't worked at all.  I either pushed and pushed to get down the road faster or cut off anything that got in the way of a smooth routine. 

Now I know this is not flow.  And while it may be a life, it's not really living.  Flow is not about controling, pushing or hiding.  Flow is emersing myself in life, with all it's noise and quiet, crowds and solitude, selling work and making it with energy, focus and most of all in joy.

My new mantra: In.  Out.  In.  Out.  Repeat.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Empty Bowls Fill With Happiness.

It's another ​4th of July and another 4 days of helping in the Empty Bowls booth for me.  It's a busy, noisy, dusty and happy 4 days for me, too.
This annual event by the Oregon Potters Association raises money for The Oregon Food Bank.  Last year, OPA raised over $20,000.  Add that to an event that's been happening at The Waterfront Blues Festival for over 10 years and the total raised is almost $300,000!  All going to put food on the tables of local people in need.

Yes, it's hard work.  Yet every year,  an incredible team from OPA dedicates their time to make this all happen.  
They organize throw-a-thons where OPA members, local students and clay companies create clay pieces that will all be donated to the Empty Bowls event.  The Glass Guild and OPA members also donate beautiful ceramic work. I'm glad to be one, making my small contribution.
Boxes and boxes and boxes are delivered bundled on huge palettes at the booth down by the waterfront.  Dozens of OPA volunteers arrive to unload the shelves, set up the lights, unpack the boxes, price the work and get it out to sell.  And the unpacking, pricing, shelving and selling continue for the next 4 days.

And more volunteers show up to do all in 3 hour shifts filling 12 hour days for 4 days.  And some of the unsung heroes are the committee members who put in days at the booth and weeks  before and after as well!

It's an amazing sight to see: a booth filled with clay work and a continuous line of happy people arms loaded with pots at the cash register.  
What could be a better way to celebrate the 4th of July but to fill the empty bowls of people who live in my town.   Now that's a great way to help everyone in their pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Welcome Zucchini and Summertime!

You know it's really summer when there is zucchini in the garden.  Inspired by my daughter's question about what to do with too much grated zucchini, I created this dinner.  I've been asked for the recipe, so here it is.
But first, a confession: I've done a lot of things in my life (and plan to do much more, hopefully) and one of those is foods and nutrition training.  That involved learning about the chemistry of foods and test kitchen-like lab training.  When I want to make something I haven't made before, I figure out the basic method.  In this case it's a pancake with savory components.  Then research related recipes, hone in on what I have at hand or want to use, and make my own recipe version.

Hope you like it!!
Zucchini and Shrimp Fritters
Three small zucchini grated
1/4 red onion chopped fine
1-1/2 cups frozen pre-cooked large shrimp thawed and chopped 
2 eggs beaten 
3/4 cup flour
1/2-1 cup quarto frommiagio cheese (ok, it was about a handful)
Dill weed(two to three shakes of the spice jar, maybe 2 tsp)

Place zucchini and onion in colander, toss with 2 tsp salt and let sit to drain. 
Thaw shrimp in small colander under warm water. Then chop.
Press excess water out of zucchini.  Place in bowl, add shrimp, egg, salt, pepper, dill and mix.  Add flour and gently mix with fork. Add cheese, mix.  Chill for about an hour.
Heat non stick skillet with 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Drop spoonfuls of fritter mix to pan.  Fry each side about 5 minutes or until golden brown.  I had about 4 in pan at once. Took them out and put in another batch.  Makes about 8 3" fritters.
Serve on bed of spinach with drizzle of sour cream or whole cream yogurt. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

As The Wheel Turns- Good clay days.

Like a burbling stream on a sunny, summer day, sometimes studio work just flows along. 
I started out the week joining another potter at her studio to do raku.  I love raku pieces but the process I liked best in my clay classes was doing horsehair raku.  My friend Karen French loves it too, has her own raku kiln, a bunch of horsehair and the generosity of spirit to invite me over so we could raku together.  
The raku process can be tricky.  Bisqueware has to be reheated up to a specific temperature. Special glazes can be used to create copper or crackle effects, then the pieces are lifted out of the kiln and into a trash can filled with newspapers and left to smoke the pots.  In our case, the heated pots were taken out and horsehair was laid in and on them creating the look of etched black doodles.

During the process, it rained, hailed and thundered.  Outside, we pulled the kiln under the eves and did the horsehair inside Karen's studio.  Our pieces turned out well but most important, it was a fun afternoon!  
Tuesday was throwing day.  It was still raining but working in my garage with the mixed sounds of instrumental piano music and raindrops was peacefull and productive.  Even the bowl that stuck to wheel head turned into an interesting fluted star-shaped bowl.  I'll see how that ends up...maybe raku??

Today, wound up to be a combo day.  Mugs had to be taken off bats, cleaned up and set aside to dry a little before underglazing. A sculpture started last Friday was ready for the next steps; cutting the base down, attaching the top part, making roots and leaves and attaching them to the base. My raku cup and bowl needed finishing with paste wax.  My bowls from yesterday aren't ready for trimming yet.
There's still more to do, of course.  It's always an ongoing process creating ceramic work and it's easy, way to easy to feel alone, bogged down and like nothing ever gets done.  Thanks to sharing time with Karen in her studio balanced with my own studio time, this week was filled with good clay days.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

East vs West- Rain and Flow.

​It's raining today.  It was raining last week on our last day in New York City. But, it's just rain, or is it?

When we woke up last Thursday in the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan, the streets were wet.  We had planned to go on a cruise to the Statue of Liberty, but without rain gear, treking 40 blocks to the dock and huddling with masses in a small covered area to click a few far away shots of the statue didn't feel like a good time.  Changing our plans, we headed out toward MoMA to see Van Gogh, Matisse and Monet instead.  Our maid warned us about the terrible weather and to make sure we picked up an umbrella at the front desk.  

We smiled and shrugged.  We are from the west coast, after all.

East coast calls it rain.
East coast New Yorkers all carry umbrellas and use them at the slightest drop of rain.  They avoid puddles in a like ducklings in a line afraid of dissolving in water.  This behavior causes more crowding and fast-paced dodging at crosswalks as they all try to hurry along without getting their feet wet.  They have umbrella stands inside every door of every building and they are full to the brim with folded up, wet umbrellas.

West coast calls it mist.

West coast Portlanders never carry umbrellas unless it's a torrential downpour and we're dressed up for an event.  We walk through puddles like the ducks, talking away and smiling at each other.  There are very few umbrella stands around and in the event of umbrella usage, we just put them under our seats, in our backpacks or carry them, if necessary. 

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was packed to the brim because of the wet streets.

East coast museum viewers stand in front of everyone.

They were rushing from room to room, footsteps echoeing through the building, crowding around the paintings unwilling to let anyone else in closer.  The natives just walked right in front of the crowds viewing the paintings, stopping briefly to see the work.  They push their faces within inches of the paintings.

West coast museum viewers wait their turns.

We move calmly from room to room, no hard heels clicking the floors and only the sounds of hushed voices.  We walk around each other, allowing everyone to get a view.  We stand back from the paintings. If we go in for a closer look, we look around first to make sure we're not blocking anyone else's view.

I'm not critizing.  I'm not advocating one way of being vs another.  I'm not doing the East vs West coast thing.  I'm just observing that the energy and attitudes are completely different.

The differences in rain reactions here and in New York City as as different as the culture.  As I look outside, I see the flow of rain as a great illustration of the flow of life on two coasts, east and west, fast and slow, harried and relaxed.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Biting into the Big Apple.

I've never been to the Big Apple, but I've heard about New York City and Manhattan, Central Park alll of my life.  My mother was born and grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  And I think part of her never left.

As a child, I learned the importance of walking with a purpose, as fast as you can, keeping your eyes ahead of you, and not smiling or saying anything to anyone on the street.  I was taught it was rude to walk 3 'abreast'.  Walking in 2's was only acceptable when there was room for people around you and if needed, you were to slide back into single file.  

(Empire State building from Herald Square &34th)

As I grew up, people commented on my fast paced walking style.  Some thought I was unfriendly or rude as I charged down sidewalks looking only ahead of me.  I didn't understand, you see, I'd been taught by my mother that this was the proper behavior.  The problem was that we lived in the suburbs of Michigan, Ohio and Oregon where people stroll, hike, greet each other with nods and smiles.  

I was trained by a native New Yorker.  When we hit the streets in Mid-town Manhattan, I fell right into the flow.
(Central Park entrance, 89th)
It was easy to get around.  We walked everywhere and, yes, we even jay walked like the natives.  There was a lot see and do...from Central Park, Metropolitan Museum, Times Square, Empire State Building, The Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Center, Broadway to Herald Square, MoMa, New York Public Library and Bryant Park.  
(Waldorf Astoria elevators Lexington side)
We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria.  Filled with marble statues, deco adorned elevators, mosiac inlaid tile entries and a huge gold clock in the lobby. 

We saw Wicked on Broadway.  We ate at delis, a small Italian cafe, got take out from Grand Central Station market and ate at Bryant Park. 
(Bryant Park)
This park, located behind the NY Public Library, is a big space surrounded by skyscrapers with a large patio restaurant, a carousell and kid space, another bar/restaurant where they were playing bingo, food carts, a reading area with books from the library and a big lawn area circled by hundreds of bistro tables and chairs filled with people eating and chatting. 

(Van Gogh Starry Night at MoMa)

We went to museums filled with ancient art and modern masters.  Floors filled with pieces from Ancient Rome, Colonial and  Victorian eras to Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, O'Keefe, Monet, Pre-Raphelite masters, Warhol and much more.  
(View of Times Square from Top of the Rock)

The views from the Empire State and Top of the Rock were amazing.
(St. Patrick's)
St. Patrick's Catherdral was undergoing a huge rennovation but so was most of the city.  Scaffolding was everywhere and walked through and around by all the natives with no notice.
(Central Park sailboat pond)
Central Park was a beautiful oasis in the midst of skyscrapers.  And the only place we noticed the natives walking in groups, slowly, sitting on benches talking and eating and walking dogs. Although, it was obvious the people with the dogs were dog walkers, not dog owners.
(Lobby clock in Waldorf Astoria lobby)

All in all it was a fast and fun four days.  For years, I've been out of step in the suburbs, but thanks to my mom, I fell right into step on the streets of Manhattan.