Saturday, April 4, 2020

Acting Up

Yup. That’s my goal for the last two, three, four, or more weeks. I’m trying to see the good things, the positive news, the helpful acts all around me. I want to focus and re-focus on health. I want to act in healthy ways for myself and hopefully model them for others who may be lost in the land of fear. 

While I love staying at home, none of us like being forced to do or not do anything. It makes me mad. And acknowledging the feelings, losses and fear is essential to staying healthy. 

Go ahead and throw something. 

One of my sane acts right now is to throw clay. Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do right now without my precious wheel, wedging board and clay. 

Every week, I throw, trim and hand build. My normal routine is blocking out at least 2 to 3 days a week as studio days. I’ve learned that blocking days is necessary for me to get the concentrated time to really get things done. And clay needs periods of concentrated attention as well as time to sit and dry before the next steps. So, I’ve learned how to work with it and around it. 

Be creative. 

Now more than ever, creative acts can be life savers. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it’s safe and fun. 

Step away from your phone, pad, computer and move. Walk. Do yoga stretches. Dance while no one’s watching. Sing off key, Alexa doesn’t mind. Get out those old crayons, pencils, watercolors, paper and doodle. Or if you have a bigger space, throw a little paint at a canvas. 

If you don’t have clay or art supplies around, create some space in your home. Dust. File those papers on your desk. Do your laundry. Sew that button back on your pants. Make cookies for you or your dog. Weed. Mow. Re-pot your plants. Throw a ball for your dog. 

Acting up helps. 

I’m very grateful to have the space, supplies and creative practices right now. I’m also grateful to have someone close to me in the news business to bring me true facts to balance the fearful headlines. 

My studio routine is my life line right now. Especially with all the show and gallery closures, it takes stubborn determination to keep acting and creating. If I can do it, so can you. Don’t let this get you down, act up instead. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Home: The New Workplace

My dog and I always work from home, so it’s ok by us. Social distancing is part of our normal everyday routine.  But now working from home is the new normal. My husband, a news reporter, is working from home. My daughter and son-in-law both musicians and teachers are working from home. My son, a credit union manager, is working from home. 

I know for many working from home feels odd, uncomfortable and strange.

Working from home and being your own boss. 

I have a few pointers for those new to ‘working from home’. Since I’ve been working at home for several decades, I know it’s important to have a routine. A way to start and end the day. Borders that define the day, week and weekend. 

I start my day with a walk around the lake with my husband and dog, Darby. It’s not just healthy to exercise, it’s my way to have a beginning to my work day. You could go for a run or do an online spin or yoga class. Whatever floats your boat. 

Then I start my ‘work’ day. Throwing. Painting. Slab building. Trimming. Loading the kiln.
I take a break for lunch by going to a different part of the house, looking out the window to the sky and watching something different. Then I go back to work. 

I end my day with another walk through the woods with Darby. 

Try not to micromanage yourself. 

Yup. I’ll admit it, I can be a little too organized at times. I’m very aware of it but still find that many days I overfill my plate. As my own boss, I could be a little more understanding and give myself a pat on the back for what I do get done. 

While that sounds nice, I’ve found the best thing ‘to do’ is to make a list of ‘the dones’. I work on so many different pieces at once, I often lose track of the progress I’ve made. Making a list of what I’ve done during or at the end of the day can make all the difference. I feel and see the accomplishments of that day even though the piece is not finished.  

There are so many small steps required to make something into a functional cup or a vase, bowl, jar. It’s easy for all of us to get too focused on the finish line and lose sight of the fun  in what we do.  

Social distance and caring. 

Solitude is comfortable to me. For me, the hardest thing are the new rules on ‘social distancing’. I’m not real good at judging distances outside or around me, so I’m worried I’m going to violate that 6 feet rule. 

So please be kind. 
Social distancing doesn’t mean we don’t care about each other. I know we do. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

How are you feeling?

I know it’s been a turbulent week all over the world for all of us. It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. In times like these, I want to reach out, help out and do something. But instead we are all being told to stay in, stay away and maintain distance from each other. 

As a born problem solver, I’m totally frustrated because this is a problem I cannot solve. I’ve been diving into denial. Is this real? Is this really true? We’ve had tons and tons of viruses the world over for thousands of years and we’ve never shut down cities, countries or borders like this. What or who does this kind of worldwide panic serve?

I’m pissed. 

Over and under my fear, anger has crackled through me. I flipped off another driver in a parking lot. I got in an argument with my husband who is my love, best friend and supporter in all things. Why? Because I am really scared and I didn’t want to admit it. So I got angry instead. 

Now, I do have some really good reasons to be mad. And sad, too. 

One gallery closed in December. Another new gallery closed until further notice due to the virus. Another gallery show I entered for March/April was cancelled with a notice that it might be rescheduled if/when the crisis is over. Add to all this, my biggest show of the year in May is cancelled, period, for the year.

As an artist, these are huge losses. Not just financial but creative as well. I work hard to create and make ceramic work to sell at galleries and shows. Last year, I saw my sales grow as my newest body of work gained more attention from art lovers. As my pieces went from my hands into others hearts and homes, I worked even harder to create more. 

Now it all sits, stacked on shelves with nowhere to go. I, too, feel I have no where to go. 

So, I wonder. I wander.  And I walk.

The park. My park. My trees. The lake and my dog and my husband are keeping me sane right now. The woods have always been my escape from a hectic world. And my oasis from overwork and over worry. 

It’s also my creative inspiration. The texture of the bark. The colors of the leaves. The chatter of the crows. The faces in the clouds. The peaceful floating of the geese and ducks on the softly waving water.

And I come back to my heart and my hands. 

I live to create. All the things I see and love and breathe come out through my hands. My masks are the faces in the trees and clouds. My cups have heart shaped leaves. My bowls and jars have spirals, hearts and words I hear in the trees. My lily vases come from my love of the flowers in my garden. 

Lately, I’ve been throwing tea cups. I’ve always loved china tea cups with their delicate curves, shapely handles and colorful patterns. I never thought about making them until my granddaughter asked to use my china tea cups at our luncheon tea parties. I decided she needed to have her own tea cups. 

Throwing them is easy and relaxing. Trimming them into graceful curves requires complete concentration. I love making each delicate foot and pulling each small curved handle and adding a new little leaf and spiral. 
What I didn’t realize is that I needed my own tea cups, too. Especially now. 

Holding a delicate cup filled with warm, scented tea is just what I need to soothe my soul. 
Making them relaxes my heart. 
The beauty in my hand and in the park gives me hope. 
And these feelings are how I’m getting through the day right now. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Feeling the fear. Acting anyway.

There’s a lot to be fearful about these days. Traveling. Pandemics. Politics. Quarantines. Wacked out President. Even wackier Presidential primaries. Shortage of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. And lack of universal healthcare. 

Whew. How’s that for a list? But I’m sure I’ve left many things out. So what’s on your list? Feel free to write your own or in the comments. 

Why am I writing down all my fears, you might wonder. Isn’t there enough of that on every news feed, internet site and email out there? Yeah. Definitely. I see it every time I turn on my computer and it does make me want to close it down. Shut off the TV. Turn off my phone. 

But what I’ve learned the hard way is burying my head in an internet desert does not keep me from feeling the fear. It’s there anyway and sometimes, pushing it away just makes it push back at me harder. 

So what can I do? 

Ah, yes. Let’s do something. Anything, right? Busy work can and does keep a worried mind at bay. Weeding. Laundry. Cleaning. I did all that and but my mind buzzes along anyway. Nope, my usual escape coping mechanisms are not working. 

But what if I don’t need them. What if I just take a look around and let myself really see. What if I dare to let myself look at what is out there?

Outside my window, the sky is blue. The clouds are still white. And the fresh spring air is waving the tree limbs around. My dog, Darby is napping on his bed. There are daffodils and hyacinth, plum and forsythia blooming. 

Finding the flowers in the dirt. 

Our world is not perfect. Life is a cycle of up and down, good and bad, fear and safety. Facing these facts, I can act. I refuse to wallow or hide in fear. I search instead for signs of life.

Buds on a tree that looked dead. 
Viruses we have survived. Babies who have thrived. 
Air so polluted it was once gray is now clear. 
A blob of mud that becomes a vase filled with flowers.

When I feel fear, I need to act anyway and I can to see that through the dirt grows new life.    

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Healthy Acts

My word of the year, act is shedding light on many areas in my life and the world around me. I usually expect my yearly word to be an inspiration or thought or idea to give me a nudge of encouragement every day. This year, it’s been acting a bit different. 

Act is less head and more body. Less thought and more do. It’s showing me many of the things I do everyday for my own health. I’m not talking about dieting. I think there’s too much talk about that, usually negative. Instead I want to act for my body, mind, and soul in as many healthy ways as I can. 


When my kids were babies, I needed something I could do for me, in my own home, in whatever small amount of free minutes I might have from day to day. One early morning I turned on PBS and there was a woman doing some kind of exercise by herself on the floor. She spoke quietly as she bent and turned and twisted. 

I was instantly intrigued. I’d never seen anything like it. But it looked so easy, so I decided to try a few of the moves. Thankfully I was wearing leggings and a t shirt, my uniform of the time, which made it a little easier. What I found out quickly is what looked easy and felt good was quite a work out. 

I was hooked. I did that short routine as often as I could, it was my little lifesaver. I still do a series of moves every morning before I walk and I’ve taken classes once a week for almost 15 years. 

Walking the dog. 

I’ve always loved the woods. There’s just something about walking that soothes and calms me. So almost everyday, sometimes twice, I’m out there walking to the park, around the lake and through the woods. 

I used to push strollers and trikes along the paths, but now I get to take my newest darling dog, Darby. We walk along greeting our favorite 2 and 4 legged friends. He sniffs while I watch the geese nesting and look for otters, eagles and blue herons. He’s even patient while I lean against my favorite cedar tree, maybe because he knows he’ll get a treat if he’s good(which he always is). 

Good. Feeling good. I was always taught that good people had to suffer to be good. But I know now, that is totally wrong. Doing things not just because they’re good for me but because they feel good for me is good. 

It’s the healthy way to act. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Cooking. Baking. Glazing. It’s All Art.

Way back when I started this blog, I was in the ‘in-between’. Oh, I didn’t know it then. All I saw then was yet another in a long line of changes in and around me. I was relieved, happy, exhausted and lost all at the same time. And I dealt with it in the only ways I knew how: walk, learn and create. 

I’ve learned a lot since then. I’m grateful and happy and, sometimes a little lost. But that’s ok because I can see the pattern. I know that this is how life, my life happens. Up. Down. And around. Rinse and repeat. 

One way to cope: cook. 

Ever since my grandmother taught me to make shortbread, I’ve cooked. I made cookies as a kid and went on to college level foods classes where I not only learned the chemistry of cooking but the value of good, healthy food.  

Today, as I wait for the newest kiln load to ‘cook’ to the glaze stage, I’m busy cooking in the kitchen. I’ve got a Moroccan Stew in the slow cooker and a Chocolate Chip Banana Cake ready for the oven. 

Baking clay. 

A big part of creating finished ceramics is firing. Whether you throw it or slap it or roll it out, clay has to be dried and baked and glazed to its finished form. 

Once the colored underglazes are added to clay, it’s baked. After bisque firing, I add more to my clay and bake it again. Then clear or more colored glazes are dipped, brushed or poured on and it’s baked again. 

While baking food requires similar skills, clay needs a lot more time. So when it does make it into the heat, I usually sweat it out.  Worrying and wondering and hoping it will make it out in one piece.

I never worry about my cake because even if it cracks a little or crumbles, it’s still delicious. 


Mixing, straining and dipping my clay pieces in clay is not my favorite part of my art. The actual process of covering the pieces goes fast but the set up and clean up is tedious.  With cooking, clean up is not my favorite part either.

But whether it’s clay or food, it’s the process of working with my hands to form, cook, bake or glaze that’s important.  

It’s hunger and desire in action. 

And in the end, whether your work produces the perfect bowl of stew, a cake or cup, it’s your art.  And it feeds you body and soul. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Hopeful Acts

Where is my America? After this week, I truly don’t know. I see the acts of the Senate and that man in the White House degrade our country, our protected lands, our rights, our hearts and our souls. They take millions of our tax dollars to play golf while refusing to use the funds we pay for our healthcare, education and welfare.

What’s worse is seeing the Medal of Honor given to a racist, hate-monger while the brave soldier coming home from Afghanistan gets only a hug from his wife and children. I’m angry the very obvious criminal acts by our elected leader are not only being ignored but encouraged.

I’m mad and determined to do what I can to make all of US better. Part of that, for me, means not giving in or giving up. 

Art is my best act. 

With everything that’s going on, it’s easy for me to get mired in the muck. My best way out is to throw a little dirt or clay. Believe me, wedging clay can be a real good way to get out my anger. 

Slicing into a fresh, new block of clay is always wonderful. But slapping it down, picking it up and slapping it down again and again and again is well, wonderful therapy. Rolling it out, slapping it down again and taking the rolling pin to it is soul clearing. The best part is knowing that in the end a new piece will emerge. 

My lily vases make wonderful vessels for flowers of all kinds. A beautiful sculpture to sit on a shelf or table at anytime. But the thing I love most is how they stand tall, beautiful and strong in full bloom all year round. No matter what happens around them. 

Love acts. 

Inside my bowls, words emerge. Believe, last year’s word of the year, became a big part of my bowls. Love followed close behind. I was a little worried about using red and blue on white right now. But this piece is for a friend of many years to brighten up her newly remodeled kitchen. 

This year’s word act is making its way into my work, of course. But finding a way for it to fit well into other words is proving tricky. Why? Because something as simple as Love and Act can easily get simplified and twisted. I don’t want to be seen as promoting perversion or assault.  I want Love and Act to be seen as the blessed form of communication that it truly is. 

What are Love Acts? Kindness. Listening. Accepting. Helping. Being there. Being aware. Being a place of safety for every one and every being on this planet. 

This is how I cope using my clay to send out messages of hope and encouraging acts of love.