Saturday, November 26, 2022

A List of Many Thanks




Looking around this year, I have a long list of ‘thanks’.  Many to people I’ll never know. Thanks to all the hard-working plumbers, cabinet builders and tilers.  


I now have a sink that works. 



Gorgeous hand built cabinets. 



Tile backsplash. 



More thanks to all the painters and flooring installers. I also have waterproof flooring that looks beautiful. 

 


Freshly painted walls and mantle look amazing. 



Even more thanks to a devoted reconstruction team of project advisers and planners. Last year was very hard and at times the problems seemed endless. But with their help and determination, our flooded house is now a cozy, beautiful home again. 


I know there are many others. Friends and neighbors and family who helped, advised, encouraged and supported me. The unsung hero’s of the reconstruction office. The extra helpers on the job site. The guys who haul in the supplies. And the ones who haul it all out. To the packers and movers. To all who I saw and all who I didn’t. 

Many Many Many Thanks. 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Grateful

 


Looking out the window as the sun sets on this very cold day, I’m very grateful. I’m warm. I’m safe. I’m healthy. I have work to do that I love. My life and path has evolved with the help and guidance and generosity of many people. Some I know and some I don’t. 


I never forget those helpers. And this time of year, I want to let them all know just how grateful I am. 


Teachers


I’ve had great teachers and some not so great. But in each case, I learned lessons that have served me. When I was lost teenager at a new school in a new city, art found me. My art teacher encouraged me to draw and learn calligraphy. An experienced watercolor artist taught me how do soft Payne’s gray skies and gave me one of his paintings to encourage me. It hangs in my new living room. Every time I look at it, I remember his kindness to a scared 16 year old in a class full of 35 year old moms. 



My first clay classes were disasters. Forty years later, I finally found a teacher who turned that around. Literally. She took one look at how I was placing my hands on the wheel and saw the problem. I needed to throw left handed and that meant turning the wheel the opposite way. Instantly, it all felt right. Nothing flew off the wheel or fell on the ground! The clay centered and stayed and grew into a small bowl. I was amazed. 



I was told to say as a child that I was ambidextrous. But this teacher told me that was often said to children who were really left-handed at a time when being left-handed was discouraged. I’m glad I found that out and glad that I can use both hands, too. 


Helpers


I started showing my work in galleries over 20 years ago. But it was the kindness of Graystone Gallery owner, Bill Murray who got it all started and I’ll never forget it. I’d been to his gallery and loved his shows. I had taken art and sculpture classes for years and finally made some pieces out of window screening and paint. I wanted to show them in his annual mask show but I was terrified. I made an appointment, drove to his gallery with my pieces and asked. He said, “Yes”. 



Years later, I met a wonderful couple who bought one of my copper masks at Graystone. They offered me their old kiln and wheel. They weren’t using them and wanted to pass them on. Their generosity helped me learn to throw and glaze and fire all the bowls, cups, vases and figures I now make and show and sell. 




To all my teachers

All my helpers 

All the gallery owners, studio visitors, neighbors, friends and family

Your teaching, help, support, generosity, kindness and love have turned my life into a creative journey I could never have dreamed possible. 


I am grateful. Forever. 


Saturday, October 29, 2022

Empty to Full

 


It always surprises me. My studio shelves were empty a month or so ago and now I have no more room for new pieces. Really, where did all these pieces come from? Is there an elf who sneaks in at night? I’m joking, of course. 


I work in my studio and throw on the wheel. But I don’t produce hundreds of pieces a week or month or even a year. Especially after this year, with the demolition and reconstruction of my home, I had months with no production at all. And after all that time away, I wondered if what I made or didn’t really mattered at all. 


It felt overwhelming. And it took a while to get my clay feet back and my hands moving.  


One chunk of clay at a time.


That’s how it happened. One day at a time, putting my hands in a new chunk of clay and wondering. What could it be? A leaf? A bowl? A penguin? A witch? A vase?



There’s a part of me that always sees more in the world around me than is really there. To me, a tree might look like a person waving in the wind. A big leaf from a tree in the park might look like a lovely serving platter. A toilet paper tube might look like a jar or a vase. 



And throwing is just my way to meditate. That is if I don’t listen to those negative voices that try to force the clay into something it shouldn’t be: taller or wider or bigger or better. 


A love of mud. 


That’s what drew me back, really. The feel. The wonder. The questions and possibilities. Most of all, letting all of that go. Stepping into the realm of here and now.  



One day at a time. 

One chunk of clay at a time.

One bowl or bird or leaf at a time. 

And my shelves went from empty to full.


And so did my soul. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Wheel Keep On Turning

 


It was time. Ok, beyond time actually, still I hesitated. Was it in the right place? What kind of adjustments would be needed? Would it still work? Most important, would I remember how to work on it? 


I used to love throwing, but would I still love it after almost a year away? If you read my blog, you’ll know about the trials over the last year. Let’s just say, it’s hard to create when your home is torn apart, your studio is a storage space and your wheel is covered to protect it from construction debris. 


Thankfully, reconstruction is done. 


Studio time.  


I headed back to my clay with a notebook full of new ideas. Small sculptures. Luminaires. I collected new leaves at the park. Still, it took some time and patience to get the joy of clay back into my life again. 



Slab building was my first clay love and I still love it. Rolling out clay with music playing in the background is wonderful. Trying out new forms and figures was a challenge, too. Sometimes what I draw doesn’t look the same in clay as it does on paper. 



But sometimes, if I don’t fight it, I find my way to something else instead. Something new and unexpectedly joyful. 


Facing the wheel at last. 


My wheel sat silent and still for a year. There was dust, debris and bugs. The clay I had left out in the garage was hard and spotted with mold. I’ll admit, I just had a hard time getting out there. But the boxes were gone. The debris was cleared. My wheel area was set up and clean. 


It was time. I opened a new bag of clay, cut a few chunks and settled at the wheel. Would I remember how to throw? Would I just make a mess? I decided it didn’t matter, if I made anything at all. What mattered was sitting down and putting my hands in the clay. 



Sigh. It was everything I remembered about throwing. Cool clay turning into a warm round mound. Pushing and pulling and smoothing and coaxing the blob into a bowl. Or two. 



But here’s the biggest reasons for my wheel to keep on turning. 


The wheel helps me:

Sit in one place. 

Use my hands instead of my head. 

Center myself from imbalanced to balanced. 

And feel anxiety replaced by peace. 



Friday, September 30, 2022

Making My Own Joy

 


I read an email last week from author, Martha Beck about how to find joy that lasts. I thought, ok, I’m game. How do I do that?


There are many things in my life that bring me joy. Walking along the beach. Gazing at beautiful sunsets and cerulean skies. Movies, concerts, plays and parades. These are all wonderful, good, exciting events. Yes. Do they happen everyday? No. And that’s ok. 



Martha’s point: “Don’t get me wrong. Excitement is a great and necessary thing; without it, life wouldn’t be complete. But happiness-real happiness-is something entirely different, at once calmer and more rewarding. And cultivating it is one of the most important steps we can take toward creating fulfilling lives.”


What can we do to get there? Martha’s two word answer: “make something”. 


I am a ‘life-long’ maker. But not a ‘life-long’ seller. 


Since childhood, I’ve loved making things. Doll cloths. Mud towns. Drawings with a matchstick dipped in ink. Watercolor, acrylic, oil and pastel paintings. Crochet art and garments. Now I make teacups, bowls, sculptures, masks and more in clay. 



But in the last few weeks, I stopped making and started looking at all the things I’ve made. Not everything I make sells. My marketing brain kicked in and started evaluating my ‘products’ sorting them into sold and not. Obviously, my inner marketer saw that I should make more of this and less of that. 


It didn’t take me long to figure out, product production is not my way to happiness. 


The key to making my own joy. 


When I’m creating, I’m calm. I’m totally in the moment. With clay in my hands, I move with what intuitively feels right. Making my leaves feels like a soothing dance between hand and clay. 



Even if I’m trying out new ideas and struggling a little bit, I’m still making my own joy. 


According to Martha Beck, “To get a dopamine "hit," make something that pushes you to the furthest edge of your ability, where you're not only focused but learning and perfecting skills. Creative work causes us to secrete dopamine, a hormone that can make us feel absorbed and fulfilled without feeling erratic. Research indicates that we're most creative when we're happy and relaxed, and conversely, that we can steer our brains into this state by undertaking a creative task.”


So this week, I took her advice. 

I made some new clay figures.  

I made more clay leaf plates and platters. 

But what I really made was joy. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Hello Fall!




Cool air flows through my window. Clouds fill the blue gray sky. Yellow, gold and red color peeps in between the green leaves in the distant hills. Fall is here. Finally. 


I’ll admit, I haven’t always been a fan of Fall. It felt sad to see Summer go and see my kids go back to school. I love summer’s roses and lavender. The taste of fresh, warm garden tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers. But this year, I’m breathing a sigh of relief that those 90-100 degree days are behind me. 


Fall leaves fresh from the kiln. 


It was a delight to fire up my kiln with a load full of new porcelain leaves. I collect the actual leaves from my nearby park so I’m never sure what I’ll find. This year was a great year. I found many lovely leaves in several sizes to use in my studio. 



I roll out slabs of porcelain clay and carefully push the leaves into the soft surface. Once they set up, I cut all the edge details and decide which ones I’ll use as bowl shapes or plates. After slow, careful drying, I bisque fire clay and the actual leaves burn away. Then I add a wash of color. Finally, the leaves are glazed and fired. 


Pinecones and pumpkins.



Changing up for the fall season around my house means adding the delicious smells of vanilla, pumpkin and cinnamon. I love making arrangements of pine cones, acorns from the park and mini white pumpkins. 



As the color slowly changes outside, I always add some color changes inside. 


Ceramic leaves in crimson and black. 



Teal and crimson birds, vases of late blooming hydrangeas. 



Seasonal inspiration. 


In the studio, I’m playing with new ideas. After being forced out of my studio last year, I found creative comfort in playing with an old friend, watercolor painting. I took watercolor classes with a local artist when I was sixteen. I loved how the colors flowed and melded using the wet into wet technique. It was my comfort then and now. 



So I thought I might try taking my love of watercolor painting and combining it with clay. This is my first attempt and I’m  not sure if I like how it turned out.  


But I’ve decided to let fall changes inspire me to make some changes, too. 



Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Showing. Selling. Shipping. Oh my.

 


It’s been a busy few weeks. Since I love to be busy, I’m happy. There’s a lot to do, as an artist, to get ready to show and sell my work. If you’re an artist, you know what it’s like. If you’re not, let me give you a little peek behind the curtain. 


Before I started showing my work over 20 years ago, I had no idea who, what, where and how to get my work out there. I just knew I had to make things. I painted, sculpted, carved and pounded. I went to galleries to see what ‘real’ artists did and what a gallery show looked like.

But it didn’t show me everything. 


Showing. 


My first gallery shows involved sending out packets to galleries around town. The mailed packet included: a letter of interest, a resume and slides of my work. Things have changed a lot since then, obviously. 


Social media and websites now provide all of the above and include a way for anyone to fill their cart with your art. I’m continually learning how to use these tools better to show and sell my art. 



But the one type of art sales I’ve never done is an outdoor art fair. Why? I admit, it’s intimidating.  Like Oz behind the curtain, galleries and online give me a way to be there without always being there. But outdoor art fairs put me and my work front and center, while people stroll by. Some just keep walking. And, luckily, some stop and talk and buy. 


Selling.


Putting together my work for my first outdoor fair was overwhelming. I needed a table, chairs, display cloth, shelves and a sign. I had to figure out how to display my work, inventory it, pack it up, unpack it at the show. Then, I had to sit behind the table and hope people would show up and hopefully, buy my work. 



Luckily, it all worked out great. My table didn’t fall over. My work looked nice. People did stop and look and buy. I got comfortable explaining how each piece was made. 


Shipping. 


Another unknown for me was how to wrap, box, label and ship my work that sold online. It made me very nervous. What if it broke? What if it went to the wrong place? What if I screwed up the address?


Really, the biggest shipping issue is the price. Especially now, with inflation and rising gas prices, shipping costs have skyrocketed. Even if the online store I use calculates shipping for me, I’ve lost money. Which is why I don’t do free shipping. Ceramics are heavy, require a lot of protective packaging which takes time and costs money. 



I love the work I do. 

I love it when other people love it too. 

I give thanks I get to do it everyday.