Thursday, September 13, 2018

Jump.


As I sit here in my comfy chair staring out at a calm sea, I wonder. 

From here, the world could look endless or limited. I see where the sea meets sky in a definite line. I can also see why people before me saw the end of the earth, the edge of life as they knew it. Of course, now we know that the world is round, the ocean rolls on and that horizon isn’t the end but another beginning. 

Our oceans are so deep, we still don’t know everything about them. Storms rise up to threaten us and then just disintegrate and move on. Yesterday, there were dire warnings of Hurricane Olivia. Schools closed. Boats stayed in the harbor. Flood warnings rang out. 

We were encouraged to stay in, shelter in place and wait for it to pass. We did not. 

As Oregonians used to rain, we were unfazed by a few sprinkles turned to drizzle. We put on our shoes and walked 4 miles from one end of the beach to the other. The beach crowded the day before was almost empty. No snorkelers. No boarders. No swimmers. 

But we weren’t alone. There were other brave souls out walking the sandy beach or the boardwalk. After a few hours, more people headed for the beach and water as well. I heard other phones sounding the alarm for flash flooding. We walked on anyway. 

I didn’t see it as brave, just letting myself live life. 

Sitting on the patio overlooking a lush green lawn, I noticed a little lizard. 

This little creature, not more than 3 inches was perched on a the patio cover. This wood arbor portico is made of boards set 4-5 inches apart. Sitting on the edge of one board, she looks out, over, and under her world. I watch as she hesitates at the edge of the 10 foot drop. What will she do? This, from her view, is like the ocean horizon. Is it round or is it flat?

There are choices: go under, go around or jump. 

There is a moment, I can feel the little lizard tugging at all the choices.  There is a small rocking motion in her tiny body and then, she makes up her mind. She jumps. After the first jump succeeds, you’d think she would just hip-pity hop across the patio roof. No. Each time, she sees, evaluates, gauges and decides to jump. 

Life is like that. 

We are all like this little lizard. We look always, from our own horizon. And, as we grow, learn and change, our horizon changes too. And that is where true courage comes in. 


Like the little lizard, you and I must dare to jump without knowing where we’ll land. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

“Stop Second Guessing Yourself”


I was panicking. In the first 3 hours of a group show, I saw other work sell and concluded my work was not good enough to sell, so I should lower my prices.  

My fellow potter, a long-time teacher and artist knew exactly what was going through my head. And that’s when he said, “Stop second guessing yourself.”

Did I listen?

No. I went and lowered my prices on several bowls. In the end, they did sell. And I lost money that I could have made because I didn’t believe in myself. I let my mind talk me into believing that my work was worth less. 

My mind still keeps telling me the same thing, every time I go to price my work. I worry. I fret. I measure and try to use a formula that multiplies inches by dollars. One artist uses $6 an inch for vases. So a 5” vase is $30. That seemed fair to me, especially since my thrown vases were never very tall. But now that my lily vases have reached 14” tall, that makes the price $84. 

Again, the voice. The second guessing. The worry about worth. 

Even though my very first lily vase sold for $75 right out of the kiln. I’ve since sold out of all the lily vases and spent a month making more for new venues coming up this fall. But again, I worry.

I measure. I do the math, multiplying by inches to dollars. If I use the ‘inches times dollar’ method one artist uses, I come up with awkward prices like $38, $42, $79. Another artist uses a ‘by 5’ method which means her prices start at $20 and go up from there. I like the ease and evenness of doing everything by 5’s. It just feels better. But again, I worry: are my new little wine cups worth $20 each or should I price them at $15?
Here’s what I decided today: Math can’t measure creativity or heart. 

I love detail. Texture. Sculptural elements. Color. And every piece I make comes not just from my hands but from my heart. I want design and function, yes. But I want more than that. I want each piece to feel good to the touch, delight the eye, bring whimsy, delight or mystery. 

Even so, it still comes down to value. To you, yes. But maybe, more importantly to me. I need to stop guessing what is a good price or a fair price or a price that will sell. 

And see instead, the value of my work, and of my own worth.  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Gallery Sitting


Today, I’m gallery sitting. Which means, I am the cleaner, curator, sales person for this gallery today. A little before 11 am, I unlock the door, turn off the alarm and turn on the lights.  The street outside is eerily quiet. 

I don’t like sitting still. And it’s very quiet in here, I put in a cd of soft instrumental music. I get up and dust. Kill spiders and other bugs. Clean handprints off the front door. Water the plants. And wait.

Around 11:30 cars and people showed up hurrying past the gallery, down the street to the sub shop to pick up their lunch orders. Some nod through the windows. Some peek at the displays. Some are just too busy looking at their phones. 

I wonder why they don’t come inside? Are they afraid? Do they think if they come in, they’ll have to buy? I prop the door open, to see if that’s more inviting.  

A woman peers in the window, smiles and nudges her husband to take a look, too. It happens to be a little sculpture of mine. Ok. I may be breaking some gallery rule but I get bold and go outside to say hello. Yes, I tell them the piece they are looking at is mine. I tell them I’m glad they like it and there are many more wonderful pieces inside.

They walk away. 

Surprise! A few minutes later, they come back and buy the piece! I’m so glad because they love it and it made them both smile. As I pack up their purchase, I tell them about all the new art coming in September including my new Party Animals.

Then another couple strolls by, the woman admires a painting in the window. She comes in. As we walk around the gallery, I point out the art by the painter that attracted her attention in the window as well as another artist that caught her eye. 

Many times over the years, I’ve talked more about an event, other artists or other work.  And I did that today, too. I showed the work of the other artists in the gallery because I genuinely love the work in here. As the people oohed at the glass, paintings, wood, jewelry or pastels, I did too.

But to approach people I don’t know, to step up, say hello and talk about my work, and show pictures of my new work is different. I answered their questions about how I got started in art, why clay and how I go about making my work which is, honestly, still a mystery to me.

I admit, I thought gallery sitting would be boring. It was exactly the opposite. 

It was enriching and enlightening. It gave me a chance to ‘come out’ as an artist and share a  little of my solitary studio self with others. 


But most important, it made me happy that what I do makes other people happy, too. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Mondays with Meyer: Wonders, a Tantrum and a Nap.


For many people, Mondays mean a slog back to the work-a-day week. But I look forward to Monday. It’s the day when my world is enlightened by the view of life through a two-year old’s eyes.

It’s a life full of wonder. As we walk through the park, she runs to the curly slide. Climbs the shape wall. Jumps from one circle to the next. Then, she decides to walk instead of ride around the lake looking for geese, ducks and heron. When walking gets too tiring, she rides up the hill sipping on juice and nibbling on snacks. 

It’s also a life with large learning curves. 

Walking on her own through the park is a new, energizing freedom for her. But when she slides into a mud puddle and falls, it’s a nasty surprise. Climbing stairs are much easier now, but sometimes, trips happen. Toys fall over. Juice spills. A puzzle piece just won’t fit into place. 

“Ah,” I say, “I hear the sound of frustration.”

I let her know that we all feel angry and frustrated at times. No one likes to trip, fall or hurt themselves. Things break and spill. It’s ok. Messes happen all the time. So do tantrums.

So what can you or I do? Right now, I can pick her up, kiss it and try to make it better. I can wipe her tears and put a bandaid on her knee. Together, we can clean up the mess.  Sew a new nose on Kanga Mom. Work to figure out the puzzle and get those pieces to fit as best we can.

After a big morning of learning the hard way, it’s time for a nap. 

We have our ‘reading and rest time’. We don’t call it a nap, because she’s NOT sleepy. Sound familiar? It should. Because our society pushes us to work, run, produce, more and more everyday. So it’s understandable that we all forget the importance of rest time. 

I cherish our quiet time in the afternoon. I love sitting with her curled up on the blankets reading The Very Busy Year, Benjamin Bunny, The Little Mermaid and Winnie the Pooh. Lately, Winnie is  her favorite because she gets to be surrounded by the stuffed characters my now-grown children played with; Pooh, Eyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and little Roo. 

A little exercise, learning moments and a rest. 

Mondays with Meyer aren’t just a chance for me to teach her, they are teaching moments for me as well. Every week, I see the wonder around me and learn new things. And yes, life is full of drama, stress and mess. Sometimes, we all get cranky, too.  

And, as she will find out soon enough, isn’t always so easy to fix. 

But it’s not always the end of the world. And that’s the beginning of understanding. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

America: Anti isn’t Working



Over the years, there have been some great marching mantras: Pro Choice, Gay Pride, Freedom March, Equal Rights, Make Love not War. With what’s going on in this country right now, we need a new, positive, energizing saying, slogan, chant, mantra. 

It can’t and shouldn’t be ANTI anything. Now I agree I don’t want our country to be racist or fascist. I don’t want one religion or one political or economic group or one ethnicity to bully any one into submission. I don’t want our country to be anti-anything. And lately, that’s all I’m hearing is anti-this and anti-that. Exclude that. Keep them out. 

This is NOT America. We need to use our words to unite us. We need to be Pro US. 

America is for Freedom for All. For living the life you want while respecting that someone else is going to live the life they want. And they won’t be the same. America is about individuality, creativity, ability and cooperation. America is about living together while making our own way in life the best way we can.

But most of all, it’s about appreciating what each and everyone of us contributes every day to make this country into the richly textured, innovative, growing land we all share.

We all belong here. Whether we agree or not because here we value variety. We welcome diversity. Not divisiveness. We agree to disagree. And we have laws and judges to help us stay on the right path. We all long to belong.

So what do we want to say? And how do we want to say it? Really.

In the dictionary, the opposite of fascism is democracy. The list of  synonyms for democracy, goes on and on. Here are a few: freedom, commonwealth, liberation, nation. Under these words: liberty, people, free market, deliver, rescue, release, union, together and many more. 

Freedom for everyone. Kindness to all men and women and children. A government by the people and for all the people. Our diversity is really our strength. Our multi-cultural heritage brings more ideas, deeper understanding and a richer life to all of us. But finding the right words isn’t easy. 

Help me. Help us all. 

So I picked up a pen and paper and started writing things down. I like using United States or U.S. as meaning all of US. I know there are better ideas out there. Your words and ideas will help get more positive thoughts, words and ideas out there right now. 

Here are some ideas, please add your own in the comments:

Build a better U.S.
Build U.S. Up
Unite U.S.
Free U.S.
Let U.S. live free. 
Home. Heart. US.    
All of U.S. together
Move US Forward
For US all 
Move with US





Friday, August 3, 2018

Turning it on and Turning it off.


I’m firing today. And while others use a digital programmable controls on their kilns, I use my own digits. I turn it to Low and click a timer for 2 hours. When the timer goes off, I go down, turn it to Medium and set the time for another 2 hours. Finally, I turn it to High and check to make sure it clicks off in maybe an hour or two. 

Does it bug me that I am essentially trapped for a day with my sole job being a kiln operator? No. While it might not be the most creative or interesting job in the world, it is satisfying knowing my work is on its way to the finish line. 

Do I cross my fingers and hope? You bet. 

Because of the nature of ceramics, there is always risk. While there are many things I can control, including turning up the kiln. There are many things I can not. Unexpected bumps, holes, bubbles can happen to even the most experienced artist. Being a fairly newbie in the art of ceramics, I worry. I also blame myself for a lot of problems that are just part of the process. 

But I’m learning to embrace the process and let go of blame. And as I’ve said before, I see that the process is teaching me much about life. 
One lesson is how to turn it down. 

Letting go is not my strong suit. Leisure seems to me to be something other people do. And when, what and how they do it is a mystery to me. But, again, thanks to having to sit and wait for my kiln to fire my work, I am learning. 

For the first two hours, I took care of the domestic world. I watered plants, loaded the washing machine, made my studio notes. I always do a chart of what clay, underglazes and glazes are used on each piece. After the firing, I’ll make notes of the results. Yup, just like chemistry class. 

For the second two hours, I took care of me. Hair, makeup, a little perfume.  A healthy, delicious lunch of fresh peaches and yogurt. Yup, a little Netflix. 

But the most important and one thing I always resist: meditation. It seems so easy and a great waste of time, right? Yet I know it’s the exact opposite. It’s hard to spend even 15-20 minutes quietly on the floor. It takes discipline mixed with letting go to keep my mind open to nothing but breathing. 

When I do it even part way, the result is always worth it. 

Just like with my kiln sitting, my meditation sitting goes through stages. As the time and heat increase, many things bubble up. There are sticky, bumpy areas. And some of the feelings smooth and melt away. 

Being my own digital kiln controller, is perhaps, a blessing from a wise universe. A way to teach me about control and even more about letting it go. 

Turning on my kiln, makes me take the time to turn off my mind, leaving me with a clearer cup in which to hold my life. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

No Idea


After looking over my posts from the last few months, I wondered why am I writing all these blogs? How could writing about my thoughts, creative process, garden, kids, grandkid, and dog, mistakes and all, be at all interesting to anyone but me? 

And if it is, interesting that is, what would be new and interesting to write about this week? I had no idea.

Then, I realized. That’s it. That is exactly why I started writing my blog. And why I’ve kept writing it for over a decade.

Notes from the road. 

As a writer, I have a kind of compulsive need to put my thoughts and ideas down somewhere. I used to doodle on the side of my notebooks in school.  Then the scribble in my teenage diary which led to a lifetime of journaling. It was a way to go from lost in the world to found. 

When I started making art, I just transferred some of my writing into pastels, watercolors, oil paintings, clay animals, and window-screening masks. My story boxes really started out with the characters popping to life on my studio shelves where they told me their stories. 

I had no idea what I was going to do with my first blog, Susan’s Art & Words. First, I let my story boxes tell their stories and it evolved from there.

Sharing thoughts from my art, turned into sharing my life. 

Creating isn’t really that mysterious. It’s just life. You get up, look around and try to figure it all out. I had jobs where coming up with ideas was what I got paid for, so the idea of having no idea was terrifying. So I made a lot of stuff up. Turned out I was good at it, at least others thought so, and I kept my job. 

Making art wasn’t what I started out to do. I started out just making and learning and trying and failing. Sometimes something would turn out nice. Or I’d hate it and put it in my studio closet, which by the way, is where there are shelves of abandoned pieces. Poor things. Because, once again, I had no idea what to do with them. 

Then I realized that life is all about living with no idea.

I liked lilies, no idea why. And over the years, I’ve made many lilies. In copper, in window screening and now in clay. 

Faces seem to appear to me. They pop up on the linoleum floor, trees, clouds, and the sides of cliffs at the beach. No, I’m not stoned. (Ok, sorry about the pun) They’ve turned into masks, sculptures, paintings and now ‘Party Animals’. No idea why. 

So why, is having no idea a problem? Because our society wants us to be able to explain, discuss, outline our reasons with logic and have a marketing strategy. 

Well, I want to laugh. Smell. Taste. See all the faces in the clouds. And dance in the cool grass until I get dizzy. Want to join me?

Why? No idea.
Let’s dance anyway.