Monday, December 30, 2013

The day before the day before.

It’s the day before New Year’s eve.

It seems timely to write about the end of the year or the past year or something like that, but I don’t really have a clue what to write that hasn’t been written before by others and me. Really. There’s all the usual stuff about the past years ups and downs, or the resolutions about the year to come, or the hopes and dreams and goals.

But I don’t want to write about any of that.

And it’s not because of anything bad. It’s been a really good year. All in all everyone’s healthy and happy, abundant and successful, loving and loved. I could yammer on about the details, but they’re not important. Really. What’s important is the overall picture which is, good. Maybe that’s what I’m having a hard time saying: my life is good.

I want to write that my life is good. Why don’t I?

Because I know that not everyone out there is living a good life right now? True as that is, why am I letting my light dim? Guilt? Fear? Ok, maybe all of those things tangled up in the lovely Christmas lights I took down from the tree the other day. Just because I took the lights down from my Christmas tree, does that mean my life has to have less light in it? I have to dim my good bulb so that it doesn’t shine too brightly because someone else is having a bad time?

No. Of course not. I think I’ll pass on the guilt and fear gravy this year. How about you?

Instead, I’ll make up a different plate for a change filled with good feelings covered with a dusting of a warm smiles and empathy. Empathy is acknowledging someone else’s pain not taking it on. The light from my life is supposed to shine not just for me, but for others, too. I remember years when my life was a struggle and fear gradually dimmed my heart and soul. During those times, it was the good from others that lit the path ahead of me. A smile from a stranger was good enough to make a bad day lighter.

So, on this eve of New Year’s Eve, I am lighting the candles in my home and heart with the flame of laughter, love, freedom, abundance and good from my life. I hope you have good in your life, too. But if you don’t, let a little of my light shine into yours blessing it with a dusting of good feelings, warmth and smiles.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Most of the year, I spend my time in the studio. Throwing. Carving. Painting. Glazing. I have a routine and a rhythm to my days and weeks.  Months fly by and then the holidays arrive.  I used to try to do it all: studio work and the holidays all at once. It didn't work too well. Both my art and my family suffered. ​
Time to relax.

Not easy for me, ever. I'm dedicated, organized and hard working.  From decorating and baking to wrapping and standing in line at target, the holidays require all of those skills. A friend said to me one day, just because you can do it, doesn't mean you have to.  Every year, I catch myself racing around and I always have to re-realize that I can't do it all, all of the time.

Time to slow down.

Time to Sit. Savor. Walk and watch.  Laugh. Hug. Sing and dance.

During the holidays, time moves from slow to fast, days disappears into years in the blink of an eye. One Christmas you have toddlers, then teens and suddenly adults with homes of their own. Where did it go? 

Now is the only time to be in because time just disappears so fast. Except, of course, when you're in line at a store and you're in a hurry. Then, time screeches to a halt.

Time to enjoy it anyway.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sites and Insights.

Taking a few days off during the busy holiday season might seem a little crazy.   Maybe, that's exactly the reason, during the season, to fill a few days with less do's and more where to's.

We arrived at our Seattle hotel on the waterfront with no specific places or agenda planned out.  I hoped to see the African masks and sea lions.  Eat some delicious food, taste new wine and local beer.  But even though we had the internet and mobile devices, we explored on our own two feet instead.

We headed down the waterfront, up the lift and over the bridges to Pike's Place market.  A famous local tourist destination, it was a bustling place filled with a mix of locals and visitors.  The craft vendors were packing up for day but the fish market was busy wrapping up dinner for the locals.  We stopped to chat with the man behind the counter and got several suggestions for local seafood restaurants and wine shops.  

The next day, our first stop was the original Starbucks and onto SAM(Seattle Art Museum).  It was a fascinating and enriching morning.  

The African mask exhibit was wonderful and filled with inspiration.  The display of the masks themselves was unique.  Set up on poles, the masks were at different heights, angles and lit to cast shadows onto the wall behind them elevating the pieces artfully and giving an understand of how it would feel to be sitting down, watching the masks being used in dance or storytelling.  The surprise was the Peru exhibit.  An extensive immersion into the rich history and art of this ancient culture. 

Lunch was a great local pub and brewery.  Then a waterfront walk seeing sea lions outside the aquarium, watching the ferry and Ferris wheel, passing the touristy peer.  Taking our own tour of the outdoor sculpture at the Olympic Sculpture Park.  

Public art always amazes me.  The scale itself is daunting but the materials, subjects and concepts span from the beautiful and amusing to the ridiculously awful.  Seattle's outdoor park devoted to sculpture is no exception.  

I loved, laughed and hated it.

I laughed at the fun, funny and functional eyes scattered along the path allowing visitors to sit on and see art as well as the waterfront sunset.  

The silly gigantic eraser sited on a freeway exit.  

The 'Calder-esque' orange metal sculpture, so predictable and iconic to almost any city now.   

I hated the ridiculous 'concept' piece that was sold as a homage to the shipping industry but in reality is three old wooden piers strung up by chains attached to a steel tripod.  Sad to see a crucifiction labeled as art.  Shook my head at the grouping of various steel generic geometric modern pieces.   

Then, at last, a great piece, that to me, shows what good public art can experience for all your senses.   I loved it!

These huge rusted iron structures envelope you in the majesty of huge seagoing vessels.  The sides curve in and around each other and stand as one ship and many ships all at once.  The gravel crunches underfoot as you walk between these pieces giving you a feeling of both land and sea.  Up next to them, you feel insignificant.  Far away, you feel awed by the power and movement of sea vessels in the ocean.

Back through Belltown's condo blocks, we headed for Pike Place to gather food for our own indoor picnic dinner.   Some of the very best food was from La Panier...baguette with brie, croissants with almonds and chocolate, blanc de noel and, an elegant latte.

From the artistry in the foam of my latte to the massive iron sculpture, the sites of Seattle gave me food for body, mind and soul.  Delicious fresh foods.  Masks and sculptures to challenge my imagination.  And a glimpse into the past lives of a vibrant soulful society.  

Yes, I had been busy here, too but seeing new sites lead me to many new insights.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Seasonal Affected Disorganization: Or life, art and the holidays.

My blog didn't get written last week. I'm not sure what happened to my week, it just seemed to disappear. The to do's to do today grew from one day to the next. I was out and about running errands, in and around doing chores and decorating and still trying to get my studio work done.

Do I sound busy and productive? Or do I sound scattered and disorganized? I'm not sure.

Here's what I feel: breathless and pressured, tired and sleepless with a craving for hot tea and sugar cookies, a good book or movie and an easy crochet project. Here's what I need to do: paint greenware pieces, make a copper angel, write my blog, answer email, bake cookies, buy presents, decorate for the holidays. ​

I usually balance my studio work, family work and business work.  I make a list and schedule my time and get it done.  Then why does it seem so complicated?

I get it: ​Seasonal Affected Disorganization.

The solution: Mindfully Attentive Moments.

It did work, when I gave myself over to a day of decorating...only. (I really do love decorating. I even love shopping for new decorative elements, just not the crowds.) I mindfully spent an hour in the studio. 

I gave an hour to tree cutting, a rest for tea, a spot in the studio, tea, tree decorating. I picked up some new yarn, put my feet up and crocheted away while watching a favorite non-holiday program. I also learned something from my dear husband:  walk slowly through the noise and bustle. Do not rush because everyone else is rushing around you. Take your time, sit and savor the eggnog latte and walk at your own pace.

The house is decorated. The tree is up. The studio is clean and silent, work has sold and new work waits for its moment. My job isn't to do or organize but be attentive to the moments. Yes, MAM!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Today, I am grateful.

Today, I am grateful for:


The smell of fresh coffee.

Cold crispy air and frost sparkling on the creeping thyme.

Watching the geese land on the icy lake. (Ok, it's funny to watch them land and slide )

Clay in my hands...being able to create, throw and sculpt.

The talented surgeon that repaired my broken wrist so I can do the work I do.

A healthy body with the ability to enjoy life.

Love in my life...husband, daughter, son, friends and family, dogs and cats.

Beauty, warmth and shelter that surrounds me.

This wide and wonderful planet that I live on.

Eating Apple Maple Bacon Coffee Cake.

Drinking Eggnog Lattes.

And watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with my family!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

As the wheel turns: New twists and turns.

It's back to work as usual for me, this week. Throwing. Trimming. Sculpting.  Making mugs has been my goal for the last few months with a few bowls here and there. But, life has a way of evolving in ways I never anticipated and goals need to change. Even small goals like making mugs.

I made dozens of mugs for my open studio anticipating lots of mug sales like last year. I sold 3 mugs. But I had the best open studio ever, so I'm not upset at all.

Not only did I meet some wonderful new people, caught up with neighbors and old friends but I sold more pieces and had more people than any open studio event I've ever had.  I saw a wide variety of my work find new homes from sculptures to nesting bowls, art masks to vases.  I saw both my functional and sculptural work in the arms of new art lovers but best of all was watching the curiousity turn to happy smiles.

​​I have about half the amount of work than I did before. The big question isn't whether to work, but what to work on? More mugs? Sgraffito bowls? Wavy edged nesting bowls? Masks? Last year, I sold lots of mugs. This year, big and small bowls, decorative pieces and masks sold more.

My mind twists around upcoming shows and production goals plus predictions of what might be this year's sought after pieces. All while I sit throwing big and small bowls, plain ones and silly ones, swearing at my mistakes.  Then watch as the mistake magically turns into a lid for a jar that I throw next.  I didn't plan to make a jar when I sat down at the wheel but it happened anyway.

Maybe that's the real twist here: No plans, no goals, just creating as the wheel turns.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not art. Not craft. Just comfort.

I spent my morning making something. Normally, it's art or craft or art and craft. Not today.

Today, I made something practical. It's also something I used to see and cringe at. I make no apologies for my attitude. It was a product of honest ignorance. I just had no experience. I didn't know or understand.

Until Apple, the tiny terrier/chihuahua  joined our household, I didn't have much experience with small dogs. I'd met a few that were friendly and many who were not. I'd petted the nice ones and actively avoided the snarly ones. Even to the extreme of having to removed one from biting my much bigger and sweeter dog. I'd see them walking around the park in their fancy sweaters, polar fleece or raincoats and cringe. I'd shake my head at the doggy attire as silly, fanciful, doll clothes put on a poor unsuspecting dog.

Here's what I didn't know.

Many small dogs have little or no body fat. Their body temperatures are much more reactive to changes in the climate. Some, like Apple, have very short, sparse coats which provide almost no protection against cold or wet weather. Why? Because their country of origin was warm or moderate in climate, so they didn't need thick, water-proof fur.

Here's what I understand now.

Apple now lives in a cold, wet and rainy place. So when we walk through the park on a typical fall morning in the cold rain, she shivers. No matter how fast we walk, and she likes to go fast, she's still cold. She wants to go for her walk but I don't want her to suffer.

So I spent the morning making her a dog coat.  One side is red polar fleece to keep her warm.  The other side is black waterproof material to keep her dry.   I didn't make art.  I didn't make anything crafty.   I made something practical that, hopefully will make Apple's life a little more comfortable.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kiln Sitting.

I'm kiln sitting today. It's a little different than dog or cat sitting although they've got a lot in common.

There's always prep work to be done. Organizing. Cleaning. Lifting and carrying. Walking.

First, I organize all the pieces by size.  Dust off the kiln shelves.  I carry trays of mugs, vases, bowls, masks and sculptures walking from the studio to the kiln in the garage.  I lift each piece into the kiln, shifting it into place.

​Like dog or cat sitting, there's a need for loving attention, gentle touching and yes, even saying the right words. I'd like to say that there's no talking involved, but I'd be lying. Even though the clay can't hear me, I still use my voice to puzzle over proper placement on the shelves and try to cajole a little more space here and there.

Whether, it's dog, cat or kiln sitting, there are things you can't predict, changes in what's needed or wanted that requires taking the time to get it right. 

The biggest thing all these types of sitting takes is patience. I guess I figured that over time, kiln sitting even dog or cat sitting would be a predictable, easy routine. It's not. But, I have to admit, I like the challenge.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Samhain!

Today isn't just about tricks, treats, costumes or pumpkins. It's an ancient festival that celebrates the abundance of the harvest. It's also about endings and beginnings.

In the ancient Celtic calendar, the end of October marks the end of the summer season and the end of the year. A time to look back on all that's happened both good and bad, births and deaths. It was their New Year's Eve. So, feasting, dressing up, visiting neighbors and honoring those who had died was part of the festival.

And we continue it today with treats, costumes and parties as well as displaying ghosts, headstones or          spirit creatures in and around our homes.

Even the pumpkins we carve have their origin in the Celtic festival of Samhain. They hollowed out gords and squashes put candles inside to use as lanterns to light the way as they went out to visit their neighbors.

This ancient fire festival is in my blood and yours. That's why it's still around today. I'm glad to greet my neighbors, share my abundance and honor all the people who have come and gone leaving their wisdom and love for me.

No tricks, just treats! Happy Samhain, everyone!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Peaceful Coexistence.

Dogs and cats live together all the time, some peacefully, some not.

Let's face it, when a new roommate moves in everyone has to adjust. Doesn't matter whether it's a two footer or a four footer, adding a new member to the mix is going to chance things. When Apple, a Chihuahua Boston Terrier mix moved in, everyone coped with change in their own way.

Jilly, my yellow lab, had to make room for another dog in her pack. She is a sweet, easy going dog who was used to her space and routine. She heaved some heavy sighs at first as Apple curled up on her bed, played with her toys, stole her treats and jumped for attention.

Terra, my mixed tabby cat, was not as patient. She didn't appreciate Apple's curiosity and energetic attention. To protect her and give her space, I closed doors and put up gates. After a few months, Terra wanted her freedom back to roam the house and told me so by jumping the gates, injuring herself in the process.

Apple, at 2 years, did not understand the ways of the world. When she came to live with all of us, she had some behavior issues and bad habits. She had some big things to learn and it took all of us working together to teach her how to be a better pup. You can read more about it here .

Jilly set her boundaries as pack leader. Now, she and Apple play chase, take walks and forage for plums together in the backyard. They sleep on their own beds and sometimes curl up together, too. The gates are down and Terra prowls the house whenever she wants, ignoring the still curious pup. Apple is calming down, getting used to the cat, the routine and her place in the mixed pack that is now her home.

It's taken six months but peaceful coexistence is here, hopefully, to stay.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Resting up.

Chatting about art. Letting others see my art in the making. Sharing art and heart stories. Laughing. Hugging. And waving goodbye to my sculptures, mugs, masks, bowls and vases going out from my studio into new homes.

It was exciting, energizing, heart warming and wonderful. My open studio was a truly great experience. 
From beginning to end, I said hello to neighbors, dear friends and met new friends. 

I demonstrated sgraffito on a plate. I showed the beginning stages of making a clay mask. I led some out to my cold garage where I throw, explained how a pottery wheel works and llet them peer into a partially loaded kiln which I'd never seen until I had to start using one myself.

People I'd never met wandered through my home, looking at my work on tables and shelves. Some even went outside to see my garden screening sculptures and outdoor masks. Children from the neighborhood made clay ghosts and pumpkins. ​My daughter baked ginger snaps and pumpkin bread while my husband served coffee and apple cider.

It was fun.

It was also a lot of hard work.

I moved furniture and dusted. Organized mugs, vases and bowls. Hung masks and broke one in the process. I made displays and swept and mopped dried clay off my garage floor and filled the kiln.

It was one of the most amazing art experiences. I loved it even when it got crazy busy!

That's why today, I'm not in the studio. I'm sitting on the window seat. Soaking in the sunshine streaming through my newly washed windows. Drinking tea. Snacking on pumpkin bread and writing. 

In silence.

I sit here with only the lazily ticking clock and the soft snores of two doggies and one kitty in the background.  While I unplug out there and plug in here to recharge and rest up.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Opening Up.

work alone. I'm not complaining. As a studio artist, that's just the nature of my work. But next weekend, that's all going to change.

On Saturday and Sunday, I'll be putting signs in front of my house with arrows pointing to my studio. The door will be open. As part of the Washington County Artists Open Studios, my studio will be open for free tours.  And people will be walking in to see what I do all day.   

I'm excited.

I'll be making masks, doing scraffito and maybe under glazing.  And encouraging visitors to get their hands in clay, too. I've taught classes, done demos and shown my work in many different places over the years, schools, galleries, museums, art fairs. So, I'm comfortable with show and tell. ​

And a little nervous, to be honest.

Because I love what I do, it's scary to put it out there for people to see. It's a lot like holding your baby up for all to see, hoping everyone will love them as much as you do. Some will love it. Some won't.

Either way, it's out there. My work is out there, and now, even the neighbors know what it is that I do all day. The curtain has been pulled back and the Great Oz(the magic of art) is revealed. When people come, they'll see what Dorothy saw in Oz, just a man with a microphone. Or in this case, just a woman, a wheel and some clay.

Here's my hope...that everyone big and small who touches clay, lifts a cup, sees art in the making let's it touch them, lift their heart and see the art in themselves. Because no matter what you do all day, it's there, always. All you have to do, is open up.

If you happen to live in or around Portland, Oregon, come and visit Saturday, October 19 or Sunday, October 20th from 11am to 5 pm.  Tour map and info for the Washington County Artists Open Studio is available at  And it's FREE!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sunshine and Pumpkins

When the sun shines on an October day, I just have to sit up and take it in. Yes, there are chores to be done and errands to run. But this is one of those rare days to sit and savor.

In the spirit of fine fall sunshine, here are a few of my shimmering finds.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

As the wheel turns: Throwing the day away.

I haven't had my hands in clay for a few weeks. For me, now, clay is as necessary as sleep.

So while everyone needs time away from work, I get itchy to get back. It hasn't always been this way. 

I've done many types of creative work in my life from watercolor painting, pastels, fiber art to copper repousse', sculpting window screening and mixed media work. And I've had vacations and sabbaticals from all of them, some by choice, some by life changes. Some of these breaks helped me realize that it was time to move on.
Fiber is where I started in art. I loved making doll clothes and doing embroidery as a child. When I got older, I became fascinated with quilting. After taking fiber arts and pieced imagery, I created several projects using my own hand painted fabrics and drawing portraits on the sewing machine. The product was satisfying but the process was not. I found that sitting over a sewing machine was too loud and stressful for me.
It was a sculpture class that headed me into another direction. I had to work in clay in the class, but at home I experimented with other media. Combining fabric, window screening and eventually copper sheeting. While I loved the magic of pressing into copper and creating a landscape and figurative image, the palette of patina colors felt too restricting.

Clay is like an old friend that keeps comming back to visit. I did clay in high school, college and even in my later classes. Without a kiln, it couldn't go anywhere. When the universe delivered a kiln and wheel to me a few years ago, clay moved in permanently.

Porcelain is soft, sumptuous and beautiful. Throwing with it is relaxing and challenging. Hand building and sculptural work is an ongoing process of creative discovery. It's white base makes a beautiful canvas. For me, porcelain clay combines the lusciousness of cold press watercolor paper where I can play with colorful washes of oxides or under glazes. I can draw into the surface with a variety of instruments to create different lines and textures. I can paint the surface with opaque glazes creating a shiny surface like an acrylic painting.

Hand building and sculptural work is an ongoing process of creative discovery. I can make masks and figures. I can combine hand built with wheel thrown. I can combine clay with screening, too!!

And, of course, there's the sheer delight of throwing, glazing, firing and, then sipping out of a mug I made myself. So at the end of a throwing day, I can have my clay and eat off it too.