Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sometimes We Get What We Need. And It's a Kick in the Butt.

My goal for this blog is to talk about the joy of living a creative life. But life, especially lately, is not at all joyful in this country. The majority of people did not vote for the man taking the office of president. This individual, whom I can't call a man because a true man would never belittle or bully anyone regardless of age, sex, race or religion. Especially not a president. 

But the bandaid has been ripped off and it stings.

This is a politician. A member of the 1%. An entitled, white man born into wealth who believes himself to be better than anyone. He lies. He cheats. He thinks he can run the country like he runs his business empire. And he is, sadly, not alone. Members of the Senate and Congress sit in their cozy offices with their salaries, pensions and health plans also thinking they can run the country the way they want, too.

But they forget. They were voted into office. They can be voted out.

And we have forgotten, too.  We put them there.

I have spent my life, living as best I could. Working. Taking care of my family. Creating a home that nurtured body, mind and soul. And all the while, I trusted these politicians to have my back, to take care of education, health and safety. Instead, they were busy taking care of themselves and covering their own butts while they made millions of dollars from corporations interested in taking even more money from me. And you.

I am not getting what I want from these elected officials. But perhaps, I am getting what I need.

A kick in the butt. 

I was too young in the 60's to demonstrate against the war or racism. I grew up believing we'd stopped the war and started living together in peace. I was so focused on living my own life step by step that I didn't see how out of step we'd all become. And I didn't see how the greed and corruption had eaten away so much of my country. 

I see it now. I'm mad. I'm marching. I'm writing. I'm liking and standing by the people whose hearts are in the right place. I'm continuing to love my children and grandchild and husband and friends because now more than ever, we need love. And I'm creating with love and as much joy as I can shine into this darkness so we can all see the true light.

We can all get what we truly want:  education, health, safety and freedom for all. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Speeding Up and Slowing Down.

It's been an opposite week. Last week was slow, contemplative, relaxing and almost boring. From the very start on Monday, it's been fast, furious and fun. Emotions have run the gamut from post-holiday blues as I un-deck the halls to giggles as I played hide and seek with my granddaughter. My studio work did progress, in and around sippy cups, crayons and snowy walks in the park.

Life is such an ever-changing adventure.

I had my week all planned out, you see: one day of granny daycare, an outing with friends, errand running on another and two concentrated studio days. I penciled in a lovely, balanced week but, that is not how it turned out  I don't know about you, but my life never turns out quite the way I plan. And yet, somehow in life's wisdom, I get so much more than I could ever plan or foresee. 

It's not always sunshine and giggles. I've had my share of down times, too and I can be just as pissed off as anyone else. I could go into all those past events, but I'd rather stay in the present. Right now, I'm just as scared and shocked about the state of our union in this country as many of you. And yet, when I look out my windows at the drifts of snow shining in the sun, I remind myself to savor the moment. This moment. 

Right here. Right now. I'm safe, warm, loved and full of love.

My granddaughter is fed, changed, and tucked in for her nap. 

My yellow lab, Jilly played in the snow and is now snoozing in the sun. 

Outside, the snow covers the world in a shimmering blanket.

Inside, my studio awaits.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 Word of the Year.

This year's word has not been a clear choice. Truth be told, it's been a struggle to find one word that feels right to me. The struggle led me to question many things. How does the word fit into my creative life? What do I want from it? Why is this such a struggle this year in particular? Why do I need a word at all?

The answer is I'm searching for a life line. And one word may not be enough.

With the political climate drastically changed, I find myself flooded with feelings I did not ever expect to feel about my life, my country and even my neighbors. I fear my basic rights as a woman are now in question.  I'm angry to see a blatant racist misogynist elected into one of our country's most visible worldly positions.  I am sad to know women actually voted this person into this office causing me to look at my neighbors with different eyes.

I don't like what I see. I've struggled to find a word to hold onto, to calm me, to lift me up.

Truth. Hope. Humor. These three words rose to the surface of the muck pulling me down on a daily basis. How to pick one? As a writer and an artist, my first instinct is to research by pulling out the Merriam Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus. Here are condensed definitions of all three words.

Truth (search popularity 20%): sincerity in action, character, and utterance; facts
Hope (search popularity 1%): to expect with confidence; trust
Humor (search popularity 40%): a sense of the ludicrous, absurd, comical or amusing; laugh

The Thesaurus led me to an insight: the feelings I didn't want to feel were, in fact, the exact opposite of this year's choices.  

Antonym of Fear: Hopeful, Calm, Courage 
Antonym of Anger: Delight, Humor, Joy, Peace
Antonym of Sadness: Hopeful, Honest/True, Humor/Joy

Ah ha.  My key feeling has been sadness and the antidote, I see is all three. But I only pick one word for the year. I use it as a touch stone, a mantra, a light to guide me on my daily path and this year, I truly needed a strong word to hang onto, to lift me up and out, feel true and give me a sense of possibility.


This year, let it be the small flame in the darkness.  The glimmer of truth.  A knowing laugh that this too, shall pass.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Very Curious Year

The word of the year for 2016 has been curiosity. I love that word. To me, it has the aroma of a delicious dish baking in the oven, the sound of a light flute playing, the taste of a cilantro leaf, the pale shimmer of a crescent moon rising.  It's expectation and wonder and the unknown all rolled into one.

This year has been a very curious in many ways.

Artistically, my work evolved in a way I hadn't planned or expected. For the past 6 years, my focus has been on throwing functional work: vases, mugs and bowls. This year, my functional  work is evolved into a 50/50 split between throwing and hand building.  

Where before everything was smooth and carefully thrown; new work now combines textures, colors and patterns in one piece. Edges ruffle. Colors blend like wet into wet watercolor paintings.  Marks are more free form and spontaneous. My hand building pieces are heavily textured with playful color combos, cut out lids or flower shapes and I'm using a staining process to get layers of color. 

Curiously, my work and life is more playful.

Domestically, the family has grown to include a new daughter and granddaughter. After many years of living with adult children, I now have a large toy basket in my great room, a crib, high chair, baby gate and shelves filled with rocket crackers, pb&j bars, fruit snacks, juices and sippy cups. The lower cupboards are re-organized with non breakable, toddler safe items and outlets are plugged. I read board books, play with wooden puzzles and dance to Raffi songs on Pandora.  

Outside my studio, events of the last year are an ongoing curiosity.

I could never have imagined what has happened here in the U.S.  I am shocked and embarrassed and upset. As I watch decades of social progress retreat into playground bullying on the world stage, I can't help but be curious about how this happened in this country. As I work to figure it out for myself, I try to remain open and hopeful that in the end, this will bring us all back together again. 

The question isn't what will happen this year but how will I handle what happens? It's too easy to shut down and close it all out. Curiosity, this year's word, lead me to watch world events with wide eyes and a questioning heart.

A new word of the year?   

Finding my new word of the year is always a personal process but perhaps, this new year, it will be a way to connect inward and outward. As I work to deal with the wild swing of last year's change, I need to dial in my focus of world events, to be local before global, to be see through the eyes of my own truth and my own heart. 

As I look for the light through the dark, I make a wish.  For all of us to find the light on New Year's Eve and bring it with us into the New Year.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Creating Christmas.

I always think I'm going to do all my usual studio work during the holidays.  But the truth is, I don't. My mugs and vases and bowls are all sitting on studio shelves, slowly drying and waiting for me. I used to feel guilty during these non-studio periods and criticize myself for not being more efficient or dedicated to my art. I think I was wrong.

Art is a whole life experience.  

Decorating my home. Baking shortbread and cherry cake. Making ornaments for the tree.  These are more than just holiday activities for me, they are creative, inspiring art projects. I choose colors and work with my hands, just as I do with my studio work. And just as with my art work, the most important part is creating the work with my hands and heart.  

Every year, Christmas needs adjustments.

We redecorated our great room recently with new chairs, new rug and a new sofa.Everything in the room changed for the first time in 20 years. Christmas needed some redecorating, too. It was time to blend past holiday traditions into the present and for that I definitely needed creativity.     

This year, the tree fell down and old, cherished ornaments broke. Glue repaired some of them, but even the ones beyond repair, brought back many happy memories. 

We've added to our family over the years. We now have another son, daughter and granddaughter. Again, creativity and art take center stage as my husband and I add stockings, ornaments and make Santa Cookies for the next generation.

Baking was one of my first creative outlets. Growing up, I was taught to make Scottish scones, shortbread and cherry cake by my Dad's mother.  Although my grandmother was a strict teacher, I'm glad I learned from her skilled hands. And every year when I bake, I remember how her baking was an art in her hands.

No studio time?  No regrets.

My life without art is dull indeed.  But art without life is lifeless.  I really believe, true art is a product of the artists' life experience.  Art that's devoid of connection to the heart of the artists is not art.  It's product.  

My art is where my heart is right now: creating Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Snow Days. Happy Days.

As I sit on my window seat, I see the pale alizarin Crimson sun setting behind deep Payne's Grey hills with blankets of silver white snow draped over the rooftops. There are a few kids playing in the snow below reveling in the last of their 'snow day'.  And my sweet, silly Jilly runs through the yard barking with joy.

I love snow days, too.

I remember the glee in a free day off school. I didn't get many living in Michigan as a child but my Oregon children got quite a few. They loved it and I did, too.  Wrapping them up in layers of sweaters, scarves, hats, coats, gloves and snow boots brought back Michigan memories. I smiled seeing them slide down the hill. I helped them make snowmen and toss snowballs around. Soon they'd troop in dripping snow from their mittens with their friends for hot chocolate and cookies. 

Some of the best things in life are messy.

It was cold and white and sparkly this morning and I couldn't wait to sink into the damp, bright snow. My first wonderful sight was deer tracks leading from the street across my driveway to the huckleberry bushes. The other day, I was going to trim those bushes because they hung out over the driveway, but something made me stop. Now I know why. The deer were going to need some food and I had it right there ripe and ready.
Walking to the park was a wonderful sight.  

I saw the lake surrounded by white. Bridges over the lake and into the forest all shimmering.

My favorite willow tree snow covered.

Snow packed gently into the arches of the stone bridge and along with railings. 

Even crystal flakes made the fading pink roses shine.

Best of all was taking a snow day with my sweet granddaughter, Meyer.  Watching the snow swirling down through her eyes, brought back the wonder and the magic of snow days once again.  


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Oh Christmas Tree: Crash!

A loud crash and breaking glass resounded from below as I rushed down the stairs. What did I see? My 12 foot Christmas tree flat on the floor. Tis the season to be jolly but this really broke the mood.

First things first, I picked up the 12 foot tree, by myself, and proceeded to experiment with physics and gravity.  I twisted and turned and pushed until it stayed put against the banister. The day before there were ribbons and ornaments galore, now many were in pieces on the floor.

Cleaning up was a trip through time.

Picking up the pieces of glass ornaments was more than just a clean up job. Much like closet cleaning, this chore was a journey into Christmas' past.  A wooden bi-plane, ceramic angel, Santa, decorated cookies and candies in pieces on the floor were all pieces of Christmas memories: precious babies, surprised and delighted by all the amazing miracles found in the early morning, especially the ornaments. Because in our family, Santa filled each stocking with a new ornament every year.  

Instead of sadness over the broken ornaments, I feel happy.  

I see that every year, decorating the tree is more than a holiday tradition. It's time travel. Our family history is on that tree. When each of my children left to make their own home, they received a box of ornaments that Santa had brought them each year. They took them to start decorating their own trees.  

What's left is us.

When my husband got home with a new tree stand, we started over decorating the tree.  Lights went back on. The angel was placed at the top. Ribbons were swirled once more from top to bottom. But the best part this time, was taking the time to see and remember each and every ornament.  The collection of Winnie-the-Pooh characters I embroidered in felt one year while my children slept peacefully.  Another collection featuring Nutcracker characters honoring my daughter's many years as part of the Oregon Ballet Theater's Nutcracker chorus.  The dozens of Santas and Angels in fabric, wood, glass and ceramic that 'Santa' brought for my husband and I each Christmas. 

Our life is right there on that tree. I'd forgotten, you see. But the universe reminded me with  a crash. All those years aren't gone and forgotten, they're hanging right in front of me.