Thursday, June 27, 2013

As the wheel turns: Crack Ups.

It starts out as a good day at the wheel.  The clay centers, the walls go up and out and a piece emerges.  The bowl, plate or mug looks good.  No obvious warping or wobbling.  I sigh with satisfaction and carry the bats in to dry in the studio covered in plastic. 
A day or two passes as the clay pieces dry to leather hard and ready for handles or trimming.  That’s when good can go bad quickly.  I find a bubble in the bottom when I’m trimming and instead of a nice even bottom, there’s a chink.  Pulling the handle goes well, but attaching it turns into a wrestling match.  And, of course, just as I’m about to get it all set, the dogs need to go out.  I finally get all the handles and leaves on.  But the next day, find multiple cracks and I know I have to start over. 

“Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.”  The poker saying applies to clay and life. 

I’ve had handles and hands and heads and feet all fall off.  Only to decide that it’s going go back on no matter what.  Then I get out my slip and vinegar and start patching and pasting away.  Again.  And again.  And again.  Most of the time, I get it all to work, all the way through to final glazing.  Sometimes, it works for the bisque process and falls apart in the end. 

One thing I know for sure, crack ups happen.   Could be me, the clay, the weather, the kiln.  The reason doesn’t really matter.  What matters is how to handle it.

There’s stubborn determination and there’s trusting your gut.  Which do you choose?

Good question. 

One I’m always asking myself.  Maybe one day, I’ll know the answer.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


This weekend, I am showing my functional and sculptural work in the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts open show.   What I love about this show is that it’s open to everyone.  Anyone from high school art students to professional artists to grandparents can enter the show just by showing up with their art. You fill out your forms, write your check and stand in line to get checked in.  As long as your work has appropriate picture hanging hardware and you have a check, you’re in.

I love it. 

Even though, I’ve shown my work across the northwest for over a decade, I always look forward to this show.  As I walk through the tent, I see over 2,000 big and small works of art created right in my own ‘home’ town.    

I’m inspired.  

A long time ago, I was one of those art visitors walking through this show admiring art that I didn’t ever think I could make.  Then, as a high school student at Lake Oswego High School, I rebelled and took an art class.  I drew and painted and practiced calligraphy and make a mug.  That mug,  not only made it into the student show at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts.  It won an award.

I’m grateful.

This show was a major turning point for me.  I discovered that I could do more than math and science.  I discovered a lifelong love: art.   And every year, I get to pack up my art and come home.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Life: lost and found.

Life is full of losses big and small.  But, luckily, living means finding, too. 

I’ve lost socks, umbrellas, earrings and watches.  These are small losses in the grand scheme of life.  But at the time, I got very upset.  I retraced my steps.  I had others look for me.  I ranted and raved and chastised myself for being irresponsible.  I blamed myself and worst of all, told myself I was a loser.

That’s just not true.  For me or you.  Ever.

Yes, I lost socks and umbrellas and earrings.   Recently, I lost a beautiful watch that my husband gave me for Mother’s Day on Mother’s Day.   When he gave it to me, he said, “You’re worth it.”  When I lost it, I wondered if it was a sign that I wasn’t meant to have it.  I, once again, blamed myself and wondered if I wasn’t worth it.  Then, something amazing happened.   When the manager heard my story, she special ordered another one for me and gave it to me with all the special beads attached at no charge.   

The universe in its wisdom, wanted to teach me a lesson here.  I am worth it and so are you.  Losing doesn’t mean any of us are losers. 

Life hands us many challenges.  Every day.  Our biggest challenge isn’t winning or losing.  It’s facing our fears.  And finding ourselves.

I faced a big fear this week.  At dinner with friends, I looked over to find my husband leaning back in his chair eyes closed and pale.  When I nudged him, he did not respond.  Within the next 15 minutes the paramedics were on the scene checking him out for heart attack or stroke while I stood on the sidelines in shock.  I listened to paramedics questions and heard my husband answer.   Watched as they hooked him up to machines in the ambulance and took pictures of his heart.  I heard them talk to the hospital.  Finally, they talked to me.  He fainted.  No heart or stroke indications at all.  We could go home.  But they recommended we go onto the hospital to make sure everything was all right.  We took their recommendation and spent the next 2 hours in the ER. All the tests came back normal.   

We drove home holding hands realizing that we had both faced our biggest fear: losing our life with each other.  Instead, we found we’d never lost it.  The body that breathes, smells, tastes, touches and watches beauty.  The mind that understands chooses and changes.  The heart that fears, cries, sighs and loves   The smile that you thought you’d lost, finds you again. 

I thought I’d lost myself in the terror of that moment.  What I found was a solid, silent core.  the hospidil for additional chel was well.  heart or stroke indications at all.  We could go home or go onto the hospital for a

Thursday, June 6, 2013

As the wheel turns: Challenges and choices.

Throwing a 5 pound ball of clay on the wheel was too much for me.  After breaking my wrist a few years ago, I didn’t have the strength to do it.  It's so easy to stay in the past, even when it's not where you want to be.  Last week, I decided to present myself with a challenge.

I cut up three 5 pound balls.  Got out the bats and threw.

I had no idea what I was going to throw, actually.  I didn’t plan ahead.  I just threw the clay on the bat and let it take me for a spin.  The first ball came out as a platter over 14” in diameter.  I was amazed.  I’ve never thrown a platter and my plates have only made it to 8".  Encouraged, I threw on the next 5 pound ball.  This time, it shaped up into a bowl.  I’ve done many bowls in this shape, but, again, not quite this big.   I felt I could’ve pushed this one to be a little wider, but I got nervous and stopped.  I threw on the last ball.  I felt more relaxed now and stared at the ball a while trying to figure out what to make it.  Another bowl or platter?  A vase?  As I pulled it up, it became a wide, curved pot and I saw I was making a container for one of my Angel Wing Begonias or African violets. 

Suddenly, I realized the challenge was over.  I won in more ways than one.

I learned I’m stronger than I think I am.  And what was really holding me back wasn’t my wrist but my fears.  The fear of injury and the fear of failure.  I faced up to the fear of re-injuring my wrist and found out I was ok.  I faced up to my fear of not knowing what I was going to make and found three beautiful forms that I love to throw. 

Most important of all, I see that the challenge in life is always about choice.