Saturday, January 26, 2013

As The Wheel Turns...

After the holidays, it’s time to get back to work in the studio. It might be rainy, cold and gray outside, but I head out to my wheel in the garage anyway. I pile on the polar fleece, pull up my sleeves and throw that clay on the bats. Hint: Hot water in my throwing bucket is like manna from heaven on days like these.

I’ve written a lot about my clay learning curve. (You can read most of those blogs by clicking the sidebar under clay.) I’m happy to say my throwing skills are improving and getting good pieces is getting easier. I’m getting consistent with the clay and that’s a very good thing. Oh, I still have my bad bowl days, but they are getting fewer. When it happens, I figure the universe is trying to remind me I’m not perfect, so neither is my work. I try my best, each and every time. Most of the time it works, sometimes not. I move on anyway.

I didn’t let it stop me from learning what I wanted to learn. I don’t let it stop me now. Life’s too short to give up. Ever.

Sometimes, what seems like a total flop at the wheel can turn into a cute pot later.

My latest challenge is throwing plates. I’ve had several total disasters. Again, I didn’t let it stop me. I just kept trying. And I’ve managed to throw a few good ones lately. Not perfect, of course. But, bigger, better and no S cracks.

I’m also becoming much more comfortable using a rib. I actually prefer using the sponge when I throw and even after I rib out all the lines to perfect smoothness, I find myself picking up the sponge and putting lines back in. Sometimes, I do it before I realize I’ve gone and undone what I’ve just done. If that sounds crazy, it might be. But I think that maybe there’s a part of me that just doesn’t want perfectly smooth. I think deep inside there is a little soul of imperfection just determined to make its mark on my art.

Here’s a little piece of advice for you, if you’d like some. If you’re just starting out, google wheel throwing on YouTube, you’ll find some great, and not so great, throwing videos out there. I’ve watched many. Some just don’t click with me, so I click to another one. Some seem fine until I try it out and realize it just doesn’t work for me. Now, I know that even the best videos, books, classes and instructors can only show you their way of wheel throwing. Your way is going to be uniquely your way. Just as mine is uniquely mine.

I center my clay right handed, switch to left to smooth. Switch back to right to do a few pulls, switch to left to shape. Then finish right handed to cut and trim the bottom.

I had to figure out my own way, in my own time, but that’s how life and the wheel turns.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cooking away the gray.

I’m an Oregonian. After green, gray is our other (unofficial) state color. A few days ago, it snizzled. Yup. That’s not a typo. That’s a new weather designation that can only happen in Oregon. It’s a snow + drizzle = snizzle.

Here, we walk in the rain without umbrellas. We wear gray to match the weather. And I throw at my wheel no matter how cold it gets in the garage. So, you can imagine, that if yesterday was too cold and gray and dismal for studio work, it was bad. Really bad.
What did I do? Cooked and Baked. I guess if I can’t play with clay, I play with food. I used what I had on hand and left over (just like in the studio) to make Lamb Rice Soup and Banana Chocolate Chip Coconut Cake.

For the soup: Slices of red onion, garlic and carrots were sautéed in olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and basil and beef broth added and left to simmer. Leftover cooked lamb was cut into cubes and put in about an hour later along with the cooked left over rice. I served the soup with topped with spinach leaves and feta cheese and Rosemary bread toasted.

For the cake: 1 ¾ cups of whole wheat pastry flour, 1 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1 teaspoon baking soda, a pinch of salt, Saigon cinnamon and nutmeg were put in the mixer then ½ cup melted butter, 1 egg, 2 medium over ripe bananas smashed were added and mixed together. Then, add 1 cup chocolate chips and ½ cup flaked coconut. Pour into a greased round cake pan and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

It was a delicious dinner. But best of all, it warmed us all up inside and out on a very gray day.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Fire of Life.

The New Year rings in with celebrations. Mine rang in early to the sound of fireworks and bursting flames. My friend, Patrick Gracewood, puts together a sculpture every year meant to burn in the New Year and this year’s sculpture was especially spectacular. This nest built of wood branches on a tree-like trunk was as beautiful as nature’s own works of art. The symbolism of a nest was such a wonderful illustration of what I believe is the heart of the New Year.
But, I know that for some the New Year has lost its heart. In my last post, I talked about my decision to ring in the New Year with no baggage from the past or future. I am not alone.
Since I wrote my blog last week on New Year’s Eve, I’ve read at least a half dozen blogs from many well-known self-help authors proposing changes to the standard resolution and goal setting that they usually suggest. Some are asking you to ask yourself questions. Some are suggesting that you give yourself a word or phrase to be a theme for the new year. Some suggest that you visualize what you desire to have in your life.
I see a problem here.

All of these ideas focus on making your life better. What’s the problem with a better life, you ask? That’s exactly the problem. By coming up with ideas for a better life, you are seeing your life as not good enough. By asking yourself questions, you’re assuming you need answers. By focusing on a word or phrase as your theme for the New Year, you’re looking toward the future.
Today, you are here.
You are breathing, seeing, smelling, touching and tasting.
You are alive.
You are loving and laughing and crying and shouting and silent.
You are enough.
Whether you are creating a garden, a story, a dinner, a mug or bowl, a surprise to put a smile on the face of someone you love, or a sculpture to burn to ash, you are already making life better. Yours. Mine. All of ours.

Just by being here. On this planet. Today.
You don’t have to make a list or ask a question or come up with a better idea. See that the fire of life is in you and let it shine.
You don’t even have to make a sculpture to burn, but I’m glad Patrick did it. It was beautiful and magical and spectacular and joyful and fun!
Now that’s celebrating the fire of life!