Sunday, February 28, 2021

Cookies & Crayons

 



Remember when all you wanted was a cookie fresh from the oven? Opening a new box of crayons? Smooshing play dough in your hands? When the joy of smells, colors and textures made your day, or maybe just the moment because you quickly moved on to another toy or taste or texture?


Your world was full of mystery and magic and motion that you probably don’t even remember now. Although that’s all part of the process of growing up and becoming, I know there’s a part of me that misses those simple joys. 


Playtime. 



It’s of the best things about being a parent and grandparent. Kicking a ball across the room. Scribbling on a big roll of brown paper. Smelling fresh play dough and tempera paints. 



Yes, as an artist, I do get to create in my studio. But too often, the joy of play gets smothered by sales expectations, product perfectionism and business management. Questions like: Do I need a new website? How can I take better photos of my work? What more can I do to increase sales and visibility on my Etsy shop? What new items can I make and add?


Time for a cookie. Or crayon. Or both. 


Days with Cieran and Meyer not only bring back good childhood memories, they make me stop. Take time to not just taste the cookies, but lick the spoon, my fingers and the chocolate on the edge of my mouth.


Let myself smell the waxy scent of a new box of crayons and marvel at all the colors tucked in rows like a choir singing. I get to watch and remember dipping a paintbrush into the thick tempera paint and smearing it down the paper. Being just as happy with the paint on the paper as the water turning different colors washing the brush. The more muddy the water, the better. 



We say, it’s just child’s play but it isn’t. Watch a child play. Really watch. What do you see? It’s not just paint on paper. It’s the smell, the hand, the brush, the smoothness, thickness, color, in that paper world. Look and see that little person being in the moment. 


Spending time playing with little ones is pure joy.

But it’s also a reminder of the power of pure creativity. 

The power of pure Being. Here and Now. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Breaking Through

 


Ice and snow covered my world for the last week. There’s nothing I love more than snow. But walking around the snowy park and frozen lake near my home, I didn’t really see it in the same way this time. 


Instead, I was afraid of yet another disaster to add to mounting COVID list. And many, many people were without light and heat. Working from home doesn’t work without internet. Do virtual schools give kids a snow day?


Creative ice. 


I’ve pushed myself through this whole year to create as much as possible not just to keep my work out there, but to keep myself going. If you read my last blog, you’ll know I finally hit the wall. Making turned into a slog instead of a joy. Creative ideas seemed to stop flowing and pushing myself just made it worse. 



I spent a few days watching the ice coat my trees and the snow fall. It was too cold in my garage to throw or trim on my wheel, so I found myself in my studio puttering around. I wrote in my journal, moved a few pieces around and rummaged through my closet. 


Next thing I knew I’d rearranged my studio. Again.



I took everything off my two big black work carts and flipped them from left to right. I pushed one cart shelf up five inches to create a taller space. I rearranged the lower shelves with bisque molds all on one side and clay on the other. I got rid of dirty old plastic that I’ve been using for the last 10 years which I’m sure isn’t healthy. I cleaned, dusted and mopped. 



Drip by drip. 


Next thing I knew, it was thawing outside my window. The sheets of ice were breaking up. The snow had melted on the sidewalk. 


Inside, I’d created a new area dedicated to photography. In the past, anytime I needed photos of my work, I’d go to a professional. When he retired, I had to go it alone. At first that involved carting a stand, tabletop, lights, tripod and cameras out to my garage. I moved inside, but still every time I needed photos, I had to rearrange my entire studio. 



Now, I’ve got a photo area all set up and ready to go. All I have to do is put my piece on the shelf, my phone/camera in the tripod and shoot! Here are some of my first experiments with my new set up. 




Melting happens. 


After all the cleaning, I spent the next day throwing. When I went to put the bowls in the studio to dry, I saw a total of seven new bowls drying on the shelves. 


What happened to my COVID wall? Last time I looked my shelves were empty and inside I felt frozen. But somehow, in spite of all the snow and ice, moving and mopping, something inside of me melted. 


The cold inside me started to thaw and slowly, drip by drip, my creative spirit broke through.  


And some of the beauty that fell outside, had somehow fallen softly on my soul. 



Thursday, February 4, 2021

Hitting the COVID wall





Closings. Openings with strict limits. Online and virtual shows. Through it all, I’ve worked and made work. While I’ve always been good at promoting other people, companies and arts organizations, I’ve never been comfortable promoting myself. 


But I knew that had to change. So I posted. Blogged. Jumped back on Etsy and Pinterest.  Reorganized my website and blog. And even in the New Year, I keep looking to redo, redesign or refigure all my online efforts to find a way, a better way, or maybe any way to survive in this crazy covid world.


I kept my fingers crossed. I told myself it would all be over soon. 


Yeah. Right?


It started so softly, I didn’t notice at first. A restless night. Crankiness. Then came the WTF attitude that is so not the me I know. After the holidays, it’s normal to hit a slump but this was more like a slide down a muddy hill into gooey, sticky mud. 


And I didn’t even try to fight my way out of the mud. I just sat down in it. And stared at nothing. 



Covid 19 depression is real. Since the quarantines and social distancing, depression rates have gone up. Post holidays, it’s only gotten worse. New research shows Americans in 2020 are sadder than they’ve been in most years over the past decade, with more than a quarter, 27%, reporting they experienced a lot of sadness the previous day, the Gallup 2020 Global Emotions Report found.


So if you’re feeling it, like I am, know you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. 


Now What?


That’s what I asked myself as I leaned against my Mother Cedar tree. She quickly answered, “Stop fighting it and lean in.” 


How do I do that? What could I do? Well, the obvious answer is: nothing. 



What I discovered this week is that doing nothing can mean a lot of things, actually. It can mean sitting quietly and sighing. Looking out at the trees. Sipping a cool glass of water or hot tea. Letting music fill my mind instead of negative thoughts, allowing tears to flow and sitting still. 


Throwing therapy also helps. Especially when I decide it’s just that and not a production goal. So this week, I took out the last clay out of an old bag. I wedged it by slamming it against the board. I slapped it onto my wheel and leaned in. What did I expect: nothing. What did I get: two small bowls. 



Will they survive firing? I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t care.  

Because it was the act of throwing that helped me survive this, one more covid, week. 


What would help you?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Creatively Stir Crazy





It started with just one small bag of old clay. Over the next few days, everything in my studio got moved, cleaned, recycled or tossed. Yes, even a few finished bowls and vases were thrown into the trash can outside. They landed with such a satisfying crash.

I know it sounds a little crazy. And maybe it is, or I am. But there’s just something about January that brings out the need to clear the decks. And especially after this last year, ok the last four years, it felt like a mission that had to be carried out. With gusto. 


Making room. 



I didn’t think it would ever happen. I have over two dozen shelves in my studio which gives me plenty of room to make, dry, underglaze, fire and finish new work as well as display pieces for sale. But all of my shelves were full. 


Bags of clay, bats, tubes, trays, foam, forms and more take up several shelves. Finished, saved and displayed work for sale take up more and more shelves. Some work in progress did sit, waiting for me to catch up to it after the holiday. And ok, I’ll admit, some of it got tossed as well. 


But it was definitely time to make room to make new work. And how could I be motivated to make new work, more work, when all I could see were crowded shelves. 


The forgotten.  



On the bottom of my studio display shelves, behind the rolling cart filled with underglazes, glazes and brushes, are stacks of finished pieces. There are vases, platters, mugs, raku pieces, and bowls sitting and waiting dusty and forgotten. 


There’s nothing wrong with these pieces. They’ve been to shows and galleries. Ok, they haven’t sold. But I admit, I still like them, so I can’t seem to let them go. They sit. And wait. 


This week, I made a decision: move them, throw them or let them go. I went through each and every piece. Some I dusted. Some I tossed. Some I  prepared to be boxed away in the garage where I’m afraid they’ll be forgotten for good. Then, I had an idea. 


Garage Sale. 


I know there’s still a pandemic and a need for care, social distance and masks. I know it isn’t the season for garage sales. And I know that selling art at a garage sale may seem crass or bad or just ‘not done’. Maybe I’m just a little creatively stir crazy. 


But these forgotten pieces seem to need some new homes. And I need to make some space in my studio by giving them a chance to make someone smile instead of gathering dust.


And maybe it’s not crazy, but a way of clearing and cleaning not just my studio but my mind, heart and soul. Making way for healing, happy days and hugs.



Sunday, January 17, 2021

Turtle Steps



I made lists. I had plans. Then, last year happened. And maybe like you, all those lists and plans and goals fell apart. So with this new year, I decided to start out slow. 

Last week, I repaired sculptures that were broken in last year’s final months. I faced the overwhelming task by taking only one piece down at a time. Fixing that one piece. Then and only then, moving on to the next. Even though I went slowly, one at a time, it surprised me how quickly they were all fixed. 



Think tiny. 


I didn’t come up with the idea. One of my favorite writers, Martha Beck did. What is it? She says, “A turtle step, as I define it, is a step that takes you toward your ultimate goal, but is so tiny you could do it easily on your worst day.” 


And in addition to suggesting this as a new goal for the new year, she shared that it was the only way she was able to write her books. Her goal everyday was one paragraph. That’s all. But, of course what she learned was that a paragraph a day(or maybe 1 more on a good day) does become a book. 


After reading this, I took a long look at my big ideas from last year. And my lack of big ideas for this year. And I sighed with relief. 



One snap at a time. 


This week, I needed to revamp my Etsy shop. Although I’ve had an Etsy shop for years, I really never got the hang of it. Last year, I decided it was time for me to take it more seriously. And it worked. My work sold on Etsy. 


With Valentine’s Day approaching, it was time to re-stock my shop with new ceramic pieces. As I started to get overwhelmed, I remembered ‘turtle steps’. One day, I just chose the pieces.



 The next day, I set up my photo booth. 



Then one by one, I took pictures. Next I wrote descriptions, prices, sizes, colors and tags. Another day, I uploaded them onto Etsy





At first, it all seemed overwhelming but doing it little by little, day by day, it was a snap. 


So, if you’re feeling you just can’t face this new year: try turtle steps.

Today, one step. Tomorrow take another. Then day after day, one more.


Maybe we all need to remember the old story of the tortoise and the hare. 

Slow and steady wins.   



One by one. Day by day. Vaccinations can happen. People get well. Smiles return.  


Sunday, January 10, 2021

2021 Word of the Year

 


What a week. I listened in shock at the chaos, damage and injury happening in our nation’s capitol. After 911 and 2020, I thought I’d seen the worst. I was so wrong. 

Living through such a crazy, scary, turbulent year, I feel so many feelings. Sad. Mad. Confused. Afraid. Alone. Frustrated. Isolated and silenced behind a mask. Watching and waiting for it to all be over, only to see more difficulty and damage all around me. 


New Year. New Word.


Many things seem to have broken this year. I had several pieces broken while on display outside my studio. Some were minor. But some were major damage and so overwhelmed me, I had to put them on a shelf, on their sides, where they lay ‘dead’ for many weeks. I didn’t know if I’d be able to repair them and sell them. Or if they’d always be scarred and damaged. 



I was feeling the same, so I looked to find a way, a word to help me move step by step into a new year. I know I can’t fix a pandemic, the violence and destruction in my city’s downtown or our nation’s capitol. I didn’t even think I could fix my own damaged art pieces. 


I searched for the opposite of all the words that described this year: damaged, broken, sad, isolated. From those came one word: Heal. 


Working to heal. 


So this week, I walked in my studio and faced my broken birds and leaf. I let myself breathe out  my anger and fear. Then I gently took down one piece, looked at the damage and got out some tools. 




One by one, I looked and touched and sighed. I assessed the damage. I sanded and cleaned gently. I glued what I could and waited. When there was nothing left to glue, I gently sanded some more. I mixed paint to match each chipped and broken bird and dabbed and wiped and waited some more. If the color held, I glazed and waited overnight. 



In the light, after days of work, I saw no cracks. Beaks had slightly new angles. Wings chipped were now smooth. One leaf stem was gone and would never be the same, but my work had formed a piece that was whole in a new way.  



Broken and reformed. 


When I look around this last year at all that’s broken and all that we’ve endured, I see that we have also adapted. Of course we are changed by everything that’s happened to us and around us. So many things we could have never imagined fell apart. 


The definition of the word Heal(verb): to make free from injury; to make sound or whole; to make well again; to cause (an undesirable condition) to be overcome; to patch up or correct; to restore to original purity or integrity. 



In the words of William Powell, “The troubles...have not been forgotten, but they had been healed.”


So this year, I will work to mend, recover, rally, overcome and reform.  

And find ways to help us all come back together to heal our hearts and our souls. 


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Goodbye Act. Hello ?

 


Every year, I pick a word of the year. I look at it as a light, a guide, a mantra, maybe even a marching order. The word for 2020 was ‘act’. Yeah. 

A year ago, there was no pandemic. No stay-at-home orders. No masks. No social distancing. No one knew what COVID was. No one was afraid, out of work, hospitalized or dying. Children were playing in playgrounds, going to school and running around with their friends. Shops and restaurants and galleries were open. People were working and shopping and looking forward. 


Acting on my word. 



Even with everything closed down, I worked. I threw and trimmed and painted and glazed. I was determined to keep creating. And I knew that creating, for me, was the best way to stay healthy. When I work with my hands, my mind relaxes. Throwing works my muscles and helps me stay strong. 


When everything else seemed to stop, my best act was to keep going in my studio. I made teacups for the first time. Trimming those delicate little feet took a lot of concentration that stopped my spinning thoughts. 


Act started to appear in my bowls giving me new thoughts. 


Act Brave.



Act Kind.



Act True. 


Acting in my own behalf. 



This phrase kept appearing in my journaling. I was a bit surprised because I always thought I did a good job of taking care of myself. But looking deeper, I realized, I did a much better job of acting on behalf of others like my husband, my children and even, my dog than I did on myself. 


Many, many times in my life, I’ve kept my mouth shut. Put up with abuse. Waited and waited to be asked, recognized, heard and seen. I kept my ideas, opinions and feelings to myself. I realized that many, many times, I did not act when I could or should have. 


Act helped me this year. Even with the pandemic fears, I acted. I worked. I created. I showed my ceramics. Instead of always depending on some organization or somewhere else, I learned to sell my art myself. I put my art on Etsy. I did social media promotions. 



I did act. In spite of all the closures and cancellations and quarantines, I acted. I acted brave by promoting my own art. I acted kind by going out safely with mask, sanitizer and social distancing. I acted with love by taking care of myself, my husband, my children and grandchildren. I acted true by voting with my mind and heart. 


What will be the word for 2021?


After this year, I have no idea what 2021 will bring. I don’t know what word could possibly help us move beyond this year into a better one. 


And the only act I want to take right now, on this New Year’s Eve, is say goodbye 2020!