Thursday, May 13, 2021

Clearing and Opening Up



Creating creates beauty and, sometimes chaos. But always, it creates mess. Not just the daily studio cleanup kind of messes, where brushes need washing, wedging boards need scraping and the floor around the kiln needs sweeping before another firing. 


I’m talking about clearing out the deep mess that gets pushed into the corners and the bottoms of drawers and the back of closet shelves. Not every bag of clay or glaze works. Not every piece created is wonderful, useful or something to sell. And that’s ok. 



It’s all part of the process. 


A year ago, when the pandemic started, I was given a box of free clay. It had been delivered by mistake and the artist offered it for free. I took it gladly. I made a few nice things with it. 


Hungry Caterpillar birthday favors for my grandson’s first birthday. 


And Peace Dove ornaments. 



But in the end, I realized I just didn’t like the smell or texture of clay. I tried to pass it on again but that didn’t work. So I cleared it out and recycled it. Now I have room for new clay and new glaze. 


This clay that I didn’t like, led me to create a few new little things. It led me to a new experiment: little plates.



 I always thought that plates had to be big to be useful. Dinner, dessert, salad plates or platters. I do love design but I also love function. When I made these little plates, I thought they might be good as teabag holders for my teacups.



What a surprise: these little plates can do a lot! They can hold jewelry, keys, charger jacks, paper clips, candies or nuts, a small candle or soap and yes, a teabag. 



Opening up. 


I’ll admit clearing out isn’t fun or colorful or obviously creative. But facing the messes and mishaps help in the end.


Sometimes things need to go to make room and space to create more work. Sometimes it’s a germ of an idea that needs time to sprout into a different form. Sometimes it’s just something to get you to something better.


Most of the time, it’s an opening waiting for you to go through. 



Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Creative Resting



 I’ll admit it, I’m not good at taking time off. I know resting and relaxing are important and healthy but sitting around for hours and hours at a time is just impossible for me. But after spending the last three months getting ready for my first virtual Ceramics Showcase, I know I need a few days off. 

The problem for me is how to take time off and not feel I’m falling behind. Because as a self-employed person, there is always something that needs to be done. Some of the things I love to do and some not. Either way, it’s my job to get it done. 


My lists have lists, if you know what I mean. But maybe I could take a few days and make another kind of list. 


So what is resting, relaxing and re-energizing for me right now?



Arranging flowers is one of my favorite things to do and this year, my yard is just bursting with lilacs. I love how they smell, the shades of purple to pink to white. So I spent some lovely hours clipping, selecting vases and arranging them around my house. 



Walking in the woods is a huge retreat for me. Hearing the geese honking. Watching an egret fly. Leaning against my favorite cedar tree. And marveling at a mischievous otter float around the lake on his back. I wish I managed to get a picture of the playful otter, but he was just out of camera range. I think trying to stay out of the way of the angry mama geese on their nests. 


Staring out the window and seeing faces in the trees. Reading a fun novel. It could be a ‘beach’ read, romance, fantasy or historical novel. Right now, I’ll admit to being sucked into the Bridgerton books from the new TV series. 


New colors, brushes and equipment. Oh my!



I couldn’t help myself. New colors of underglazes looked so pretty. A few new goat hair brushes. And kiln stilts that I just needed to glaze my new butterflies. 



I can’t wait to try them all. I see new little heart magnets in every hue. Newly glazed butterflies shining in the sun in pretty flowerpots. 



As I sit here on the window seat, looking over the hills with the sun shining, I realize I can be creative and rest at the same time. At least for a few hours anyway. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Love and Waiting

 




I love clay. The smoothness, strength, flexibility, shaping, and painting. I love how it takes texture. Whether I throw it or roll it, I love how it feels. It takes textures of all kinds: leaves, twigs, lace, handprints, footprints, words and more. I can paint on it like a canvas or draw on it like paper or scratch out designs. 


And I love holding it in my hands through the entire process bringing it to life. Running my fingers over it time and time again to smooth edges and add handles and trim sweet little feet. 


I don’t love firing.


I have, over time, made my peace with bisque firing. I used to agonize over it. I worried that my green ware would blow up into tiny pieces. Not only would I lose one piece but, perhaps, others might be shattered just by being in close contact. All it takes is an unknown bubble to cause such destruction. 



But I know this necessary step will give me the opportunity to add more color, texture or meaning to the pieces. And I love that part of the process, too. And after many years of bisque firings under my belt, I see opportunity. 


Glazing and waiting. 


Once I’ve added all my color and my piece is bisque fired, there are only two steps left: glazing and firing. I hate both. 



Mixing and dipping each piece in clear glaze seems really simple. It is and it isn’t. This time around I bought 2 new gallons of clear glaze. It did not look or feel like my old clear glaze even though it was the same brand. It mixed up differently. It covered differently. It dried on the pieces ok, but I am still worried. Why? Because this, is it. 



All I can do now is load my kiln. Turn it on. Turn it up every 2 hours from low to medium to high. 

All the pieces that I’ve loved to throw, roll, trim, shape, paint and texture are in there baking at 2,200 degrees. 


And wait. Until the kiln turns itself off after reaching it’s required temperature. 


And wait. Until the inside kiln temp is as cool as the outside temperature to unload the kiln.


Will the glaze look wonderful? Will my colors and textures and sweet little feet survive?


Will I love each piece? I hope so. But right now, all I can do is wait. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Let the healing begin

 


Today, the sun shines brightly through my very dirty windows and it’s wonderful. The light and warmth reach me anyway. I see red camellia blossoms and purple lilac buds. My peonies reaching through the dirt and up toward the sky. 


So am I. 


Through the darkness of this year of fear, I’m determined to face toward the light. It’s not easy with all the dire warnings and case counts and vaccination fears still making headlines. But I’m going to focus my eyes, face and body like the plants in my yard: toward the sun. 


Light and bright. 


In the studio, I’m getting ready for my first virtual show. In many ways, it’s the same as getting ready for an onsite show. 



I throw. I roll out clay. I paint on color. I bisque fire. I add layers of color or a wash. I glaze and fire again. This week I’m waiting to get more clear glaze so I can do the final firing. Then I’ll have everything ready for my virtual sale. Also, I’ll be  opening my studio for 3 days for a covid safe in person experience, April 30-May 2. And as always, safe studio appointments, pick up and delivery are alway available. 


Off and now, on again.


Ceramic Showcase and the Gathering of the Guilds was cancelled last year and I missed it a lot. Not just because it’s one of my biggest sales venues but because I missed being part of live gathering of artists. I missed seeing friends, art lovers and other clay artists. I still do. 



A new virtual online show is exciting and a little nerve racking. I only get 4 pictures of my work in the online virtual show gallery, so choosing well is important. Because I have so much work that I want people to see and choose from, I have to find different ways to ‘display’ it. 


From packing and pricing to photography and online platforms.


Ceramic Showcase used to mean spending days pricing, packing and doing inventory. Then there was set up day, sales days and at the end, take down day. I drove to and from the convention center, paid for parking and gas and did in person work shifts. 


A virtual Ceramic Showcase is all online. So preparation is completely different. I have to make sure I show my work in its true form in many different online formats. First, I took multiple pictures of as many examples of my work from teacups to vases to bowls to sculptures. Then, I did some ‘rebranding’ so all my sites have a more consistent look and message.



I redid my Etsy page. 



I rebuilt my website, which was not easy due to changes made by the platform I use. I’ll admit this is the first time since I designed it that I had to get tech help. Thank you tech chat person!And I will be updating my blog pages to show the most current work, too. 




It’s a lot of work, yes. But it’s also a lot of love. 

And that’s how I let my healing begin. 





Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Art touches my life and I hope, yours.



 “I think if I could go back in time and give myself a message, 

it would be to reiterate 

that my value as an artist doesn’t come from how much I create.


I think that mindset is yoked to capitalism.


Being an artist is about how and why 

you touch people’s lives, 

even if it’s one person.


Even if that’s yourself, 

in the process of art making.”


Amanda Gorman’s wise and wonderful words strengthen my soul, heart and mind. Tears well up in my eyes as my head nods up and down. Yes. Yes. 


Making my art is my way to be in the world. It is the way I see, hear, touch and live. Making is not just an activity or talent or job. It is in my nature, my essential soul giving me breath and life and light.  


Firing     



Loading and unloading my kiln is not my favorite job. It takes many trips carrying a tray loaded with fragile work from my studio inside to my kiln outside. Then there’s the art of logistics and making the puzzle of fitting my work into the kiln. 


I only have so many shelves and so much space. This time, I had 48 pieces to fit into my kiln. Luckily most of them were horizontal pieces. That means I can put in more shelves vertically, giving me more space. 



I fire starting at night, with one ring only on low. The next morning I get up, go out to the freezing garage and turn up all the dials to low. For the rest of the day, I wait for the timer to tell me to go out and turn up the kiln again and again until the cone bends and it shuts itself off. 


The joy of unloading. 


A few days later, when everything has come to an even temperature inside and out, I open my kiln. Unloading is scary and wonderful. 



Many things can happen inside the fiery darkness. Pieces can crack, discolor or blow up. I’ve had all those things happen, so I never assume all will be well until I unload and examine each and every piece. 



This was a load of joyful pieces. New colors bloomed. Butterflies flew out brightly. Healing bowls came out strong, smooth and whole. 


Amanda Gorman is so wonderfully right. 

“Being an artist is about how and why 

you touch people’s lives, 

even if it’s one person.


Even if that’s yourself, 

in the process of art making.”




Making my art not only touches my heart and soul, it makes me feel whole.

So maybe, if my work can bloom, be bright, strong and whole, so can I.  

And maybe so can you. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021



Things are springing up all around. Plum blossoms. Daffodils. Tulips. With all the blooming comes wind and rain, but I am ready to embrace it all. This time of year, I’m reminded of a poem I just love by e.e. Cummings.


Here’s a small excerpt:


 in just-

spring   when the world is mud-


luscious 

and the little lame balloonman


whistles far    and wee     


and  eddieandbill come

running from marbles and

piracies and it’s 


spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful




One thing I don’t look forward to is the time change that happens in my state. Turning the clocks ahead one hour takes me weeks of adjustment. I have a hard time falling asleep and waking up and worst of all is trying NOT to fall asleep during the day. 


Thank goodness for tea. 


I don’t know how I’d be right now without teatime in the afternoon. Oh, wait I do know. I’d be falling asleep. I’m lucky to have someone in the family who brings home luscious teas from Barnes and Noble. 



Making a fragrant cup of Earl Grey or Tower of London has become a daily ritual that really makes my day. Holding my hands around a cup of hot tea calms me. And inspires me to make more colorful and joyful teacups and mugs. 


Flowering. 


All around me, the world is bursting with new life. The geese at the park are building nests. My peonies are peeking up from the ground. Pussy willows are popping out. Playgrounds are filling with the happy sounds of little ones. 



I don’t know about you, but I need spring desperately this year. With all the fear, anger and sadness, I need some comfort, light and happiness. And I do see glimmers: virus numbers are down. Vaccinations are happening faster and faster each week. 


Spring brings not just blossoms but a glimpse of the fruits of summer. So even on a rainy, mud luscious day like today, I look out my window and see the changing light. And hope. 



It’s spring. 

Here comes the sun. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Virtual Shows: The New Normal



It’s the COVID Anniversary. Cue the single finger salute, please. Right? Let’s all take a blissful step back in time to pre-COVID. Remember that time?


A year ago, I went out to lunch with a friend at an indoor restaurant. Shopped for a new pair of slippers(who knew they would become my primary footwear for the next year). Went to a large group meeting where I talked, smiled, laughed, hugged friends and got information about the upcoming big group show. 


Ghosts of the past?


Will big group shows and open studio tours and gallery art walks ever come back? There is an energy in being part of a large group of people with a creative focus. Setting up the show’s group booth and gallery was such a satisfying task. 



As an artist working alone in my own studio, I love my quiet creative space. But throughout the year, I looked forward to working alongside other artists, setting up displays, helping with stocking, working the cash register and wrapping. Did I get tired and overwhelmed at times? Sure. Did I want to do the event again? You bet. But COVID stopped it all. 


Virtual art sales.  


I’ve always had an online presence with a professional website and I’ve been using social media for years. But COVID has changed and intensified the whole online landscape.



While I used to spend time pricing and packing my work for a gallery or show, now I upload my work for my Etsy shop or an upcoming Virtual Show. It might seem the same, but it’s not. Yes, I built my own website on WordPress and updated it from time to time. I’ve got an Etsy shop. While online marketing used to be in addition to shows, it’s now THE show. 


This week, a large part of my studio time was spent shopping the best online options for my work: domain, web hosting and template costs. Should I give up Etsy and go to Big Cartel? Should I stay with Go Daddy and WordPress or go to Squarespace? Can I get the changes made in time for the Virtual Show?



Whew. One step at a time. I took new photos for the Virtual Show.  I found a new website platform. But best of all, I found time to get my hands dirty doing my most favorite thing pre and post COVID: throw and build some clay cups, bowls and little plates. 



Let me add hope. That the new normal can mix with the old normal. That virtual can mix and mingle and thrive with the actual.