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.  



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. 



One of the best things about being a parent and grandparent is reliving childhood fun. Getting to kick 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 feel, 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.