Sunday, June 12, 2022

“Make some art today. And feel better.”

 


I found that quote on Pinterest last week and I took it as my marching orders: get back in the studio. Now, don’t misunderstand, I love working in clay and I love my studio. 


But for the last 11 months, my energy has been sidetracked into the reconstruction of my home. Building or rebuilding a home takes creativity, of course. Color choices, counter and floor surface decisions and cabinet designs to name a few. But alongside the design ideas are many days, weeks and months of waiting for the supplies and contractors to get the work done.



During all this, I lost access to my studio, kiln and wheel. In fact, my wheel and kiln area are still blocked. But my studio, where I do slab building and underglazing is unpacked and open. 


New clay. Hurrah!


I love clay. I, especially love new, fresh clay. Last week, I went out and bought 50 pounds of new clay, blue underglaze and clear glaze. Wow, that felt good. But what felt the best was cutting off a big square of porcelain clay back in my studio. 


As I wedged it and rolled it, I wondered how I could go 4 months without putting my hands in clay. It really is wonderful. Soft. Squishy. Smooth. 



There was a moment of fear as I got out my tools and forms. I worried I’d screw it up. Forget some important detail. I’ve been away from clay for so long, I felt blocked and scared. But, as I put my hands on the clay, I began to relax and remember. I got out my favorite lace and rolled it over the surface. Then, carefully formed it into one of my favorite things to make: a lily vase. 


Before I knew it, I’d made 2 new lily vases. 



Restored and relieved. 


There is nothing better than making something out of mud. Standing next to my table rolling out clay. Cutting it. Forming it. Feeling its edges and softening them. Pushing charms and hardware into the soft, strong surface. 


After all the fear and sadness and chaos of the last year, I found my way back to myself. Making some art out of clay today, did indeed, make me feel better. 


Anger vanished. 

Fear floated away. 

All that was with me was, me.

And clay. Hurrah!



Sunday, May 22, 2022

Moving Back In



If you’ve been reading here, you’ll have heard the back story. If not, I’ll simplify it here: water damage in July led to mold, demolition, moving out, reconstruction, moving back in. 


This all sounds like a nice, straight line, right? Wrong. It’s been a long, twisting tromp through the woods of insurance adjusters, agents, construction estimators, reconstruction teams, moving teams, hotel rooms and hundreds of boxes to unpack. 


But we’re here. Now. Finally. And it only took 11 months. 



Boxed Up. 


I’ve always moved myself. I’ve packed, labeled, moved and unpacked the boxes. So having a moving company come in and do it seems like heaven, right? Kinda. 


The movers arrived and unloaded the truck starting with the big pieces: couch, tables, chairs, art work. Then came the boxes, oh my.  I did try to get the boxes in the right rooms, but with an open floor plan and over 160 boxes, stacking was the best option. 



We couldn’t see out the nook windows, but we did have space to eat. And I was able to find the coffee maker and toaster almost right away. 


Unboxing days. 


It took 10 days. Slicing open boxes marked: kitchen, dining room or living room to find paper, bubble wrapped things. Sometimes one box had one thing. Sometimes many, many small things. From paper towels and paper clips to china and crystal, we found it all.  Somethings I’d thought I’d lost and some things, I wanted to lose. 



I unpacked and washed and re-organized. With new cabinets, things didn’t fit exactly as they had before which was a good thing. It made me choose: things I wanted and use vs things I’d just had. I didn’t expect unpacking boxes would be a roller coaster ride through my past. Bringing grief and tears as well as happiness and smiles.


Living in my new/old home. 



Because of the water damage, many things needed to be reconstructed. I walked through the process of picking new cabinets, countertops, tile, flooring with many mixed feelings. My husband and I built this house 29 years ago. I carefully chose all the finishes: floors, countertops, tile and paint. Now I had to do it all over again. 



Many people were excited for me to have, they said, “A new kitchen.” But you see, I didn’t want a new kitchen because I loved what I’d chosen all those years ago. I had to face that it was gone and I had to move on. I made my new choices with crossed fingers. And after choosing tile for the kitchen island and moving out of our home, I realized it wouldn’t work. I decided on a quartz top for the island. Not everyone agreed, but now, it’s obvious it was the right choice. 



At home at last. 


This morning, I walked down the stairs, turned the corner and for the first time, I wasn’t shocked. It all felt right. I knew where everything was: coffee maker, plates, cups, silverware. And I had everything Michael needed to make his wonderful pancakes, a Sunday favorite. 





It’s been 16 days now. 

All the boxes are unpacked.

We’ve moved everything back in. 

But most important, our house is, now home. 

Finally.  




Sunday, May 1, 2022

May Day

 




Today is May Day, an ancient celebration that marks the start of summer. Celebrated in many cultures around the world in many different ways. Dancing around a maypole. Gathering wild flowers to make crowns and garlands. Setting up bonfires. 


My cultural heritage the celebration was called Beltane. The Celtic traditions included lighting bonfires or candles. And making offerings to the aos si, or fairies to stay in their good favor. 


How do I make my own May Day?


With my home still under construction, I’m having a hard time celebrating this year. There is dust covering every surface downstairs. I made my best effort to clean the upstairs and get ready to move back in last week but, sadly, that didn’t happen. 



Floors are still not complete. Moldings not finished. Plumbing is not connected to our sink, dishwasher or refrigerator. In fact, our refrigerator is still in the garage. Our furniture, pillows, pictures, chairs, dining table, dishes, glasses, cookware and laundry are still packed away in a secure storage facility. Somewhere. 


So it’s a little hard to celebrate Beltane right now. 


May Day…May Day. 


I’ve always been proud to be independent, self-sufficient and strong. I hate to ask anyone, family, friend or neighbor for help. I don’t want to impose. But it’s become clear to me that I can’t do all of this myself. 



Many, many people had to be called in to clear out, repair, install and reconstruct my home. I’ve seen so many skilled hands at work: crafting cabinets, setting countertops, putting in tile, installing the oven, cooktop, microwave and sink. I’m very grateful for all the craftsmanship that went into re-making my home. 


Seeing the light. 



So today, I’m going to celebrate Beltane anyway. 

I’m going to gather some flowers and put them in vases. 

I’m going to light a candle or two.  


I’m going to make offerings in honor of all the helpers:

Friends, family, craftsmen and even, a fairy or two. 


 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Rise and Shine



I’ve heard these words all my life. Sometimes it was an order or a song or a hope. This week, it feels like things around me are starting to rise and shine. 


The kitchen countertops arrived. Finally the cabinets and island are topped with the black quartz I picked out months ago. While, right now, they are still covered with blue protective plastic, I can see a working kitchen rising. 



A place to roll out biscuits. Cut out cookies. Make muffins and omelets and soups. When the cooktop and oven is finally in, I can’t wait to make mac and cheese from scratch. Bake scones and brownies and spinach pie. 


Oh my, tile too. 


Also this week, the tile was installed between the counter tops and the cupboards. I’ve always had a tile backsplash, which I loved. And I wondered and worried what this new tile would look like with the countertops. 


Would I like it just as much as my original tile? I wasn’t sure. As an artist, (ok, I have trouble using that word on myself), I do have the ability to visualize. Especially for others, it’s very easy for me to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s harder be so sure in my own home, especially this time, when the choice to change wasn’t mine. 



So I was surprised when it all came together. It’s not exactly what I envisioned but it works. 


Rising takes time. 


As I’ve said many times, I’m not a patient person. But what life continues to teach me is things take time. The water damage in July has taken a long time to fix. Our move in date has moved back another week, but tomorrow new floors are going in. 



So things are rising out of the damage. 

New cabinets. New countertops. New sink. New tile.  

And once all the dust gets cleaned up.

It will shine. Again.   

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Spring Hope

 



I always look forward to Easter time. To me, it’s the ultimate celebration of spring. 


The colored eggs.  And bright tulips flowering. 



And, of course, the chocolate bunnies. 



Hoping for home. 


This year, I don’t get to celebrate in my own home. Because of the water damage from a failed water valve, it’s still in the process of reconstruction. I’ve had weeks of progress with new cabinets and painting. 



But this week, the progress slowed. The only thing done was the template for the countertops. While I’m excited to see them installed, I will have to wait. And hope it will be soon. 


Creating anyway. 


While I wait, I’ve been working on a new website. I’ve designed and re-designed my Wordpress website several times. And while I like the look of the platform, I want a website that is faster, easier and more customer friendly. I want a combination of the ease of Etsy with the design features of a website. 



I tried Wix. But it just didn’t work even with my new IPad Pro. Many other ceramic artists use Squarespace, so I’m giving it a try. So far, it’s touch and go. What I’m finding out is that no matter what web platform you use, there’s a learning curve. Add to that being in a situation with slow Wi-Fi, it’s an even steeper climb uphill.


So just like walking uphill, the only thing I can do is take it one step at a time. One page of my website designed. One product uploaded. One section of my house reconstructed. 



And that’s all I can do right now. 

And I feel hope spring forward with every small step. 

And thanks to my daughter, I still got to dye colored eggs!

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The Power of Paint

 


Early Tuesday morning, the call came announcing the painters had arrived! I jumped up, grabbed my paint chips and headed for the house. It’s not the first time the house has been painted, of course. But it’s the first time, since we built the house, that my husband and I weren’t doing it ourselves. Exciting and nerve racking. 


So making sure that the right colors got onto the right walls was very important. I had picked out three shades of gray (not 50, lol) to go on different walls in the three rooms of our open concept living space.


I also had the wood mantle redone in a satin black to tie into the black gas insert. And had the vaults painted in Polar Bear(the lightest gray/white) in the great room and up the stairs. I’m so glad my husband was not the one balancing a ladder on the stairs!


Uplifting change. 



Being greeted by the smell of fresh paint was wonderful. Looking up at the vaulted ceiling felt like looking at a white cloud filled sky. But the very best was seeing the change on the fireplace wall. Removing my once beloved red and repainting a gray was a big change that lightened the room. It also made the natural brick fireplace an interesting new focal point. 



The change in the dining nook area is very subtle. At first, I questioned by choice, but it grew on me. I realize that once the table, chairs and rug are back in place it will be a cozy nook. Where I can now use a variety of colors as accents.  


Inspiration to paint. 


While the house painters were hard at work, I picked up my own paint brushes. Since I can’t throw clay to ease my stress, I pulled out my old watercolors and paper. I had no idea or concept or landscape to render. My only goal: play. 


When I pulled out my brushes, I was greeted by old friends. My wash brush! I got this brush in my very first painting class with Charles Mulvey. I was only 16 years old(and the youngest in his class) but I loved it from the first. 



Painting a white watercolor paper with water, adding color and watching it flow still seems like magic. Splatting red and yellow from my brush is so fun. Adding salt and seeing it create all of those wonderful new spaces from pools of color is delight. 


Later, I added the black tree and bird. 

Pictured there on the paper were all my feelings: chaos, love, excitement, change. 

The tree with no roots: Me right now, floating in a sea of change trying to remain steady. 


But there is bright paint on my ceilings, like the bright colors on the watercolor sky.   

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Glimmers of Light



I cried. But this week, they were happy tears. I walked into my demolished kitchen and saw a wall of newly built and installed solid wood cabinets. They looked so beautiful. I am amazed by and grateful to the wonderful local cabinet builders. 


When we helped design and build this house, we knew what we wanted, solid oak cabinets. We’d worked with a local builder and cabinet maker to design and build red oak cabinets, desk and island. Yes, we paid more but it was worth it. 



So after all the water damage, we fought to make sure we had the same local cabinet makers and quality wood cabinets again. It was a difficult fight. But it was worth it. 


Natural beauty. 


As an artist, nature and earth elements are a big part of my creative work. But I realize even before I started working in clay, which comes directly from the earth, nature was my inspiration. Coastal landscapes. Rocks. Trees. Clouds and skies. 



My first painting class was from a local landscape painter, Charles Mulvey. His work focused on coastal scenes that I knew and loved. But what I loved best was his ability to work wet into wet creating beautiful soft skies and balance it with trees and rocks. 


When I look at wood, whether it’s trees, floors or cabinet doors, I see shapes and images in the grain. The flow of the color and texture inspires me. 


Light after the fight. 


I don’t like fighting. As a child, I was surrounded by it and I hated it. I tried to find quiet and peace burying myself in books, making mud villages in the yard, riding my bike to the woods. The woods were my safe space. 



That’s why having real wood cabinets and floors in my home is so important to me. I can see now, why I got so mad when the insurance company refused to give us the money to replace our real oak cabinets.


I had to fight. And the fight was worth it. Finally, over 8 months after all the water damage, mold and demolition, I see the light. My home is being rebuilt. 



My woods are back. And I get to see them everyday.