Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Time to Act Like an Artist

What does it mean, to act like an artist? I’ll admit I’m not sure there is an exact definition or description because just like all people, artists are individual and unique. But that said, we all know there are many words, labels, and stereotypes out there. 

We all get labeled from birth. You’re a boy. You’re a girl. You’re white or black or yellow or pink or green(ok, maybe not green unless you’re Kermit, the frog). You’re a lady or a gentleman. You’re smart or strong or talented. Later, maybe you’re an athlete, an actor, a writer, scientist, lawyer, banker, singer, musician, teacher, reporter, doctor, legislator, chef or computer coder. And there are so many more I’m sure I’ve missed. 

But what is an artist?

There are as many artist labels as there are artists. You’ve heard or even embraced them. Painter. Sculptor. Writer. Potter. Jeweler. Quilter. Designer. Again, these are just a few of the labels we might all know. And that’s the point, no label can really define me or you. 

Because it’s the essence of who, why, what and how we live, do, and be that is truly our art. We are all the artists of our own lives. We all create everyday in what we choose to do, say, make, dress, read, think and love. 

Acting like an artist can mean many things to many artists. 

To act like an artist, I need to make something. 

A day in the life of this artist is sitting down at the wheel in front of a fresh ball of soft clay. Or cutting a chunk of clay off a block and slamming it down on a canvas covered table until it’s flat enough to roll out. Or pulling handles. Or shaping beaks. Or rolling clay into jars. Or stamping, drawing, imprinting letters, laces, hardware or charms into clay. Or painting colored underglazes. Loading or unloading the kiln. 

After the holiday joys and rush, I was tired and cranky. I felt a little lost. Then, I remembered my word of the year: act. And I knew how to solve my malaise. 

Act like an artist. 

Get out my clay and get into my studio. I threw a few bowls. Rolled a few jars. Experimented with new bird sculptures. And filled my kiln firing the first bisque on new pieces. As I sit here by the window waiting to turn the kiln up to the next level, I realize that of all the labels I’ve had in my life, this is the one that truly fits. 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Cleaning and Dreaming

The first week of January was spent cleaning and clearing. Away went the Christmas tree, decorations and dust. Lots of dust. 

While not a very exciting or entertaining activity, it’s an important step into the new year. Dusting and cleaning all the surfaces in my home, helps me de-clutter my mind and body too. As I wipe each fingerprint, I remember Christmases past and present. I think on how much everyone has grown from my babies to new parents. And how much my life has changed as well. 

With the memories comes new insights as I see the past informing the future. I see the past, even the painful parts, as necessary stepping stones to this new year. 

10 years of growth. 

It’s important to see and know and grow from the past. And as I clear the surfaces of my home, I see the changes of the last decade all around me. 

Two children living at home moved through college graduations, master’s degrees and doctorates. They decorated and set up their own places. They had their own children. 

My husband moved into a new job he loves and so did I. From difficulty, success emerged for both us. We are healthy and happy and grateful people, parents and grandparents. Very grateful. 

Wishes and Dreams for the new year. 

I see that 10 years ago, my New Year’s wish was to take clay classes. I wanted to learn to throw my own cups, bowls and vases. I wanted to use my kiln and wheel in my own studio and, hopefully, produce some new work to use and sell. 

I took those classes, made that work and sold it too. I’ve been in open studio tours, shows and galleries. Some surprisingly good experiences and some not. But that’s what life is really, a series of experiences that help you savor all the flavors sweet, spicy and sour. 

As I redecorate and refresh for the New Year with white pillows, candles and art, I wish and hope and dream. 

May this year bring new opportunities for growth in life and work and family. 
May this year bring new ideas, creative projects and opportunities. 

May this year’s word, ‘act’, help me to reach beyond my past into a better future.  

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2020 Word of the Year: Act

Three simple letters. A small word but one with, perhaps, the biggest potential of all. This simple, small word is my 2019 word of the year. I’ll admit I’m a bit intimidated by it. And for that simple, small reason it may be the most important word of the year I’ve ever had. 

As a writer, I love words. I love the way they move me when I read and when I write. The biggest reason I write this blog is because I love sharing words and thoughts and inspirations with others. 

 As an artist, I use words to describe my art, its origins, intentions and features to art galleries, art shows, art buyers and art sites online. I love the creativity of communication whether through color, texture, sculpture or words. Maybe that’s why in the last few years my words have literally been part of the design of my bowls, vases and masks. 

Simply: I love how words create pictures in our minds. And pictures create words.

Act: to do something.

The example from the dictionary: “they urged Washington to act”

Well, isn’t that a timely and interesting definition. If there is one thing I definitely want to see it’s our elected officials to act to impeach Trump. There is plenty of evidence of wrong doing, abuse of power and danger to our country here. 

The way could not be clearer. It is time to act. 

Act: a pretense.

Dictionary example: “she was putting on an act and laughing a lot”

I know and you know, we have all put on an act in our lives. Especially as a women, I was taught to put on an act. Act like a lady. Act like a good girl. Act pretty. Act happy. Act like your mother or father or employer or teacher expects you to act. 

And I’ll admit I’ve always had trouble and gotten into trouble because my ‘acting’ isn’t good enough. It’s always been hard for me to act happy when I’m sad. Fine when I’m mad. Or act like I like someone who is despicable, mean, dishonest or egotistic. 

So this year, maybe it’s time to uncloak myself from all those acting directions. Maybe it’s time I acted, well, like me. In the moment. No shame. No game. 

Act: a thing done, a deed. 

Dictionary example: “a criminal act” or maybe, “a creative act”

We all know and see and hear a constant stream of criminal acts all around us everyday. But I want to act towards change. I want to see more worth, help, honor and safety in this world. 

I’ve always picked words or rather, had them pick me, as a way to lighten and inspire me. This year’s word is definitely much stronger. While it feels heavier, I still see it as a way to enlighten my path. Inspire me forward. And create more work.

I want my creative acts inside the studio and out to lift up someone’s day. Inspire better thoughts. Bring more love and peace and light into daily life. 

In this new year and new decade: it’s time for me to act. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Goodbye Believe

Every year, I look for a word to guide me through the coming 12 months. Last year, the word of the year that appeared to me was ‘believe’. I saw it as a hopeful, helpful mantra to move me forward from a nationally chaotic year to a new faith in our democratic system. 

This year, it’s been hard to keep believing when faced with such unbelievable events around the country. More school shootings. Domestic terrorism on the rise. Leaders who turn not just a blind eye to these events but to justice and the very core of our nations constitution. 

Hope and understanding. 

Since the 2016, I can see my words have revolved around the events in our nation’s capitol. Starting with election fraud, illegal use of campaign funds, and an attack by Russia on our election system. 

So in 2017, my word was hope. I hoped for justice, reason and integrity. I didn’t get it. In 2018, I tried understanding. I tried to find a way to understand the downward spiral in the hope of shining some light into the darkening trail of events.  Again, it only got worse. 

It’s time for something more. 

Again, I don’t want to sink into the abyss of doom. Yes, I feel all the anger, fear, frustration and embarrassment these last 3-4 years have brought to our national doorstep. 

I refuse to sit and hope. I refuse to try to understand. I can no longer believe in those people with the robes, gavels, votes and power. Yes, they swore on a bible that they would uphold the constitution. Yes, they promised to help the people who voted for them. Yes, they have a legal duty to follow the letter of the law. 

But I refuse to give up on US. 

I refuse to give up on you. Or me. 

No matter what happens, I am going to move forward anyway. I am going to make my art. Love my family. Help my neighbors. And bring as much good into the world around me as I can. 

What will my word of the new decade be? I believe it needs to be stronger than the last few years because I feel I need to be stronger. I hope we will all understand that now more than ever we need to pull together, to move forward, to make ourselves, our towns and our nation stronger than ever before.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Solstice: The light returns

Today, on my side of the world, it’s the slow tilting of the globe from shorter to longer days. Everyday from now on brings more daylight and less darkness. Many cultures around the world celebrate the solstice so it’s no coincidence that Christmas also falls around this time. 

I’m always interested in how different cultures celebrated the winter solstice around the world before the arrival of Christianity. Since my ethnic background is Celtic, I did a quick internet search for some specifics of their traditional celebrations.

Druids, Celtic shamans, cut mistletoe, a symbol of life from the sacred oak trees, to give as blessings. The Yule log was also a Druid custom to light the darkest 12 days in winter, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the new year. Bright colored objects would be hung on pine trees to symbolize the sun, moon and stars as well as the souls of friends and relatives who had died.

As I found many of our current holiday decorations, traditions, foods and celebrations began with our ‘pagan’ ancestors. It just shows how important it is to our bodies, minds and souls to connect with the world that holds us and the universe that surrounds us. 

Let the light in. 

How hard life was then. Yet even with all our technology, innovations and inventions, we still struggle with darkness. Night falls. Seasons change. Life is a cycle of birth, growth and death. 

Our ancestors around the globe were wise. They survived and thrived by honoring the importance of light from the sun and the soul. 

How do we find a way through it all? By letting light in. Even if it’s just a pinprick of sun, a candle flame, a twinkle of a light through a window. 

Most important is finding the light inside our souls. 
It’s synchronistic. 
We receive light from our planet.  We contain light. And we can give light. 

May the Solstice bring even more light to your soul. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sage Advice from another Sagitarrian

It’s not just a month for holidays but birthdays as well. For most of my life I shared my birthday with my Dad. This was special and difficult in many ways. He got to pick the dinner, usually pork. I got to pick the dessert, usually chocolate cake. He wasn’t a fan of cake and I wasn’t a fan of pork. But we shared our special Sagittarius bond. 

Now that he’s passed, birthdays carry memories both happy and sad. I guess that’s why I always look backwards and forwards, past to future. Growing up also means growing older which as we know on our side of the globe is not seen as a good thing. 

I’ve written about aging and ageist thinking before. But I wanted to share what showed up this week. 

Birthday advice from a superstar.

“My greatest asset is that I am constantly changing," says Sagittarian actress and activist Jane Fonda. 

I’m not one to take advice from actresses, even a superstar like Jane. But I think she’s totally right. The best thing I feel I can do and have done in my life is change. Now I’m not saying I welcomed, liked or expected it at the time. In fact, I remember many times I was dragged into change kicking and screaming. 

But looking back, I can see changing, rearranging myself and my life is the essence of true creativity. I actually can’t even imagine life without change. 

“One part of wisdom is knowing what you don’t need anymore and letting it go.”

So true, Jane. Letting go is a life long task and it’s not an easy one. But you can’t move forward without letting go. School graduations, weddings, births, deaths, job changes, moving all require us to let go of the known in order to move into the unknown, until it becomes the known, of course. 

I don’t always love the process, but I can look back and see it was worth it. 

“It is never too late to master your weakness.” 

Ah. Yes. So wise is yoda, Jane. And this is an even harder challenge, isn’t it? For me, it’s always easier to admit my weaknesses than it is to move onto mastering them. 

This for me is a very important advice. The emphasis on mastering not wallowing. 

“If you allow yourself, you can become stronger in the very places that you've been broken."

Jane, I really agree. Literally. I broke my wrist over 10 years ago and I was devastated. It was a painful recovery physically, emotionally and creatively. 

But here I am throwing clay, with the hand that was broken. When I need to open a tough jar lid, it’s my ‘recovered’ hand that does the job. My other hand is now not as strong as the one that was once broken. 

“The challenge is not to be perfect. It’s to be whole.”

Jane nails it again. And nails my biggest weakness: expecting perfection not just in myself but in the world around me. Of course this means I am constantly disappointed and not just with people in Washington. 

I’m not sure what it means to be whole. But I do want to let go of perfection. I want to accept myself. I want to see and respect the world around me. I want to welcome change and brokenness and weakness that lives alongside strength, change and love. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Whispers Through the Trees

It’s December, a month that means many things to many people. Holidays abound bringing with them many moments and memories both happy and sad. It’s also, the last month of this year and the beginning of a new decade. 

I always get into soul searching mode this time of year. What worked. What didn’t. What I could have done better. What I need to learn more about. As I walk through the woods, I listen for words of wisdom. 

“Be surprised.”

I’ve been in many galleries over the years. Some were good experiences, some not. When I signed on with Art On Broadway in Beaverton, I was very unsure. Would I sell anything at all? Would gallery sitting be weird?

I was wonderfully surprised. I sold. I met wonderful people. I shared my process with fellow artists and art lovers. I learned more about how other artists do their work. I chatted with gallery visitors. And biggest surprise of all, I enjoyed gallery sitting.

“Look but don’t search.”

I don’t know about you but I spend a lot of time searching on my computer. I search for information about supplements to fix my dog’s itching problem. I search for answers to my daughter’s new mom questions. I search for clothes, decorating ideas, health information, art supplies. I search sometimes for absolutely no reason. 

I realize the internet is a wonderful, wacky and wasteful place. I know there’s as much  disinformation as good information. It’s hard to know the difference. And there’s the problem of too much information which sometimes can cause more harm and stress.

The words that came to me, ‘look but don’t search’ bring a more important message. Maybe there’s another way that’s better than searching my mind and soul.

Look up. Look around. Look where you are. Just look. Be aware but not worried. Be alive. Be open to what you see, feel and know when you just look. 

“Open with wide eyes to delight.”

Tis the season, right. All around are bright lights illuminating the darkest time of year. Colors and music and bright, shiny things abound to lighten not just our pocketbooks but our senses and our souls. 

Instead of getting down on all the commercialism surrounding me, what if I just let myself open up to what delights me? Instead of planning and searching and organizing, what if I just let myself look at what is before me? Instead of list making, what if I just let each day present itself as a delightful gift in and of itself?


I grew up wearing uniforms and being told to cover up, bow my head and play it safe. Now, I’m all for being aware and proactive as I walk through life. You know the song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” I’ve sung that song to my children and now my grandchildren. 

Maybe now, it’s time to sing it to myself.