Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving thanks. Everyday.

I’m thankful for all the many blogs talking about turkey, pilgrims and thanksgiving because I’m not going to do that here. Because, for the last 1, 095 days, I’ve been filling a journal with thanks.

Every night, before I go to sleep, I list all the things I’m grateful for that day. What I’ve realized after doing this for three years, is that it’s all the small stuff that makes my life worth living. I hope that after reading my list for today, you’ll be inspired to get a notebook and start your own list of everyday thanks.
Today and yesterday, I am grateful for:

Looking out the window and seeing blue sky and no hail or rain for the moment.
A self-cleaning oven that didn’t set off the smoke detector this time.
Getting to all three grocery stores, everything on my list and home before noon.
Arranging flowers around the house in my own handmade porcelain vases.
Talking to my daughter about everyday kinda stuff.
Waterproof jacket, pants and boots.
Leftover homemade tortilla soup and seafood chowder to reheat and eat tonight.
A thrown clay sculpture form that finally came off the bat.
My husband’s joke about buffalos.
My silly Jilly dog who loves to have her belly rubbed.
No leaks in even with torrential rain and hail.
Baking pumpkin custards.
Stash Vanilla Chai Decaf Tea to sip as the hail hits the windows. Again.
Warm cinnamon buns.
Eggnog lattes.
Macy’s parade.
And as always, my loving family and friends!!

So when the day has dark clouds and hail, there’s one way I can always find a silver lining. Open my journal and give thanks.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Passed the test. Failed to use it.

About 25 years ago, I took a test and found out I was a VKA. That stands for Visual, Kinesthetic, and Audio. It’s a learning style. Mine. And although I thought it was interesting, I didn’t see the point for me because I was ‘done’ with school, right? Wrong.

It went something like this: I took the test as part of a volunteer orientation at the local Children’s Museum. They wanted to show volunteers the importance of learning styles and how they used that in their exhibits. It was fascinating, especially since my original college major was early childhood development. At the time, I had one pre-school daughter and another boy on the way. I couldn’t wait to test them, find out their learning styles and use it to help them learn and grow.

After I was tested as VKA, I was told that I would be very good working with my hands. Creating art, especially, functional art because my test showed that I was good at seeing not just form but function and putting the two together would be natural for me. The tester, a woman with great insight, asked me, “So, do you love to work in clay?” I nodded because I had worked in clay in high school and college and I did like it. She went on, “You’re a potter, aren’t you?” I shook my head because using the wheel in ceramics class had been an embarrassing nightmare.

Here’s where I failed: Not using the information for myself. Because I thought I was done with school.

Surprise, a few years later, I went back to school. I took art classes in everything but clay. Why? Fear. My fear of failure with clay was so great because my love of clay was so great. I made clay masks and small sculptures but they became parts of my bigger mixed media pieces or sat unfinished in my closet. I switched to working in copper and window screening giving up on clay, once again. Until one day a generous man came to my studio, saw my clay work and gave me his kiln and wheel. I got the kiln up and running, but the wheel gathered dust for several years. Fear, again.

Another surprise, I went back to class again. This time, I took wheel throwing. I struggled, not just with the wheel, but with my fear. One day as I was folding laundry, I’d had enough. I had two choices- never use the wheel again and live with my fear of failure or get out there and conquer it.
I threw down the towels, went outside, pulled the wheel out of the dusty corner and slapped a ball of clay on the wheel head. I sat down. Somehow, magically, a bowl appeared on the wheel. Then I made another and another and another.
Today, in my studio, I have two 6 foot shelves filled with bowls, mugs, vases and more stashed in my kitchen. I made so many this year, I donated bowls to support the local food bank. And, the biggest surprise of all? People actually want to buy my bowls, cups and vases. For the first time, my kids ask if they can have some of my pieces.
I passed the learning styles test alright. But I failed to see what it was trying to show me. If I’d listened 25 years ago, who knows how many more bowls I’d have made by now?

So, here’s my word of wisdom to you. Take the test here. Figure out what learning style you are. Then, take a look at your life and see if there’s a way to put it to work for you. Now.

Oh, and give the test to your partner, kids, grandkids, best friends. Why? Because it might help them see themselves in a much clearer light. And it might help you see why they are the way they are.

And to the woman in charge of the Children’s Museum in Portland, Oregon 25 years ago: THANKS!

Because of the seed you planted all those years ago, today, I’m proud to say, that yes, I am a ceramic artist creating functional and sculptural work in clay!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Art & Life: Rearranged.

My studio has been completely rearranged. I’m surprised and delighted and a little overwhelmed at the moment. I didn’t plan to totally rearrange my studio space. But then, I didn’t plan for clay to take over my life, either.

This is the way my studio looked a year or so ago.
My painting easel is by the window. There is a metal mesh mask on the easel waiting to be painted. My rolling cart is nearby filled with palettes and paints in oil, acrylic and watercolor.
On the other side of my studio is a countertop where I did repousse work in copper sheeting. The drawers below were filled with metal scraps, tools and wire.

This is the way my studio looks today. My table is covered with a canvas board rolling out clay and there’s a vinyl tablecloth to cover that when I’m glazing. My rolling cart is nearby filled with palettes and under glazes, finish glazes, mixing bowls and measuring cups, spatulas and brushes. The shelves along the wall are filled with a mixture of finished work and pieces in process.

On the other side of the studio is a countertop where I now hand build or set newly thrown wheel work to dry for a few days.

Where is my easel? It’s in the corner. My clay aprons hang on the sides and underneath are plastic bins filled with paints. On the front hangs the finished metal mesh mask.

Here it is a year ago.

Here it is done. Finally.
Why did it take me so long? Because I’ve been busy working in clay. Throwing it. Sculpting it. Building with it. Doing sgraffito. Painting and glazing it.

Now, my clay tables and supplies have moved from the back of my studio to the front. My easel has moved to the back. My studio space, my art and my life has been rearranged. And that’s a good thing.