Friday, October 30, 2015

Closet Crafter Comes Out.

Hi, my name is Susan and I'm a closet crafter.

I crochet. I bead earrings. I have embroidered. I made those quilted sweatshirts that were so popular in the 80's (Ok, I'm ashamed to admit that, but my daughter loved them). And I've sewn valances and pillows and, yes, even a reversible doggy raincoats(for my son's dog).
Yes, I am an artist. Yes, I am a writer. But when art becomes work and I get overwhelmed, overloaded and burned out, crafting is like a vacation.  It's relaxing and silly and fun.

When my children were little, holidays were another excuse to get crafty.

Through the years, I've made many a Halloween costume for my children.  Pirate hats and Princess crowns.  Angel wings and Devil forks.  Somewhere along the line, we started a ghost making tradition.  One year we made our own ghost cookie cutter by bending a crumpet form.  Rolling out a spicy molasses cookie dough, the kids cut out the ghost shapes and after baking, iced them with white icing, added chocolate chip eyes.  Voila' ghosts!

One year, I discovered polymer clay.  That year, we had a crafty Halloween featuring polymer black cats and glow-in-the-dark ghosts.  I even made this pin that I have worn every Halloween since.  

My children are adults now.  But this year, my son wanted to know when we were going to bake ghost cookies.  Then, a local writer said she was looking for easy, fun, quick Halloween projects that a family could make on Halloween day. 

Before I knew it, I was at the craft store looking for the fixings of a Halloween project.  I got black spray paint, grapevine wreath, orange glow lights and, of course, glow-in-the-dark polymer clay.  At another store, I lucked out and found a chalkboard ghost on sale!

Putting it all together was easy. Hang the glow-in-the-dark ghostly wreath on your door with or without the orange lights.  Here's the link to the article in The Oregonian Homes & Gardens with all the details.

It just shows, that it doesn't take much to get a closet crafter out of the closet once more.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Blog About Blogging.

Blogging started out as people creating online journals.  And as such, it was seen as the ultimate in vanity publishing where you get to write about you and publish it yourself.  Because of that fact, blogs were looked down upon by those in publishing including authors and journalists who were, many times, writing about their own personal experiences or following stories that they, personally, found compelling.  

I'm all for it.  Get personal.  Tell your story or tell the story from your personal perspective.  It's important for us all to hear and read about the world around us from inside someone else's mind and viewpoint.  That's why interviews and memoirs are so compelling.  We're curious about what goes on in someone else's life, relationships and head because it makes us feel less alone.

It creates connection.  And we all need to connect especially now when we never gather around campfires, rarely see our neighbors or even chat around the water-coolers to listen and tell our stories.

I am a writer.  And I am an artist.  So I started my first blog almost 10 years ago to try to bring these two areas of my life together, to put myself out there in the newer online world hoping to connect with other like-minded people by telling my own stories of life along my creative road. 

I don't know if I've succeeded.  I know I have readers out there but blog comments have been blown to the side of the internet highway by the continuing growth of social media outlets.  It's so much easier to 'like' or 'heart' or 'favorite' on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  And, as I've written about here before, I'm just as distracted by that as anyone else. 

But I still blog.  And I think I'd still blog even if there were no readers out there.  Why?

Because I love to write.  I've written since I could hold a pencil, even if it was scribbles all over my brother's notebook.  And maybe, I'm still doing the same thing.  Scribbling.  Just for the joy of moving my hands over a keyboard and seeing words appear on a page.  

It's like magic.   And like magic, it creates a spell around us all.  The spell of stories.

I love stories.  I read and listen and watch stories everyday.  And I especially love to read and listen and write stories about other artists.  I love to find out how they got started, what inspires them, where they create and who helped them along the way to becoming creators.

I've been interviewing artists and creative people for awhile now.  Artists who live and create in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, authors from around the country and business people who have created their own unique products.  

I learn so much about courage and determination and inspiration, and mostly, about love.  Because, I think creating, art or stories or cakes or a garden, is really a story about love.   

Here are links to my older blogs:
Susan's Art & Words
Voices of Living Creatively

I've also written on these blogs:  
Eric Maisel's Creativity Central
Portland Open Studios Blog
Artist Studio Tours of Washington County

Friday, October 16, 2015

Opening Up More Than My Studio.

I work alone in my studio and I'm fine with that.  Truth be told, working alone, writing alone and creating alone is really my comfort zone.  But this week, it's been a totally different.

Out and about.

I had an artist reception in a gallery across town.  It was a nice event filled with people I'd never met in a place I'd never been to before.  There were many people interested in my horsehair raku pieces and mask.  They asked lots of questions and appreciated all the work that went into the creation and production of the pieces.  

Along with two other artists, I did a demo of my clay work in sgraffito at local art event.  It was a rainy Saturday but for 3 hours, crowds of people stopped by to see what I was doing.  They asked questions, got answers and took catalogs for the open studio tour we were promoting.  

Today, I got up at 4 am and drove to another artist's studio.  Three artists from the open studio tour, Linda Gerrard, Peg Silloway and myself were going to be on live tv during morning drive demonstrating what we do alone in our studios all day.  I've never been on TV before.  And I've never been on TV LIVE before.  And, although I've done many demos of various techniques in a variety of media and taught classes, I've never taught a local TV reporter how to do sgraffito on live TV.  

It was scary.  Enriching.  And exciting.  All of it.

But wait, there's more.  Tomorrow and Sunday, I'll be opening my studio doors to the public to come on in.  They'll see where I work, what I work with and how I make art.  And I'm glad to be able to show them around.  

It's amazing to me how the universe works.  The cycles of up and down, in and out that move through my life.  I could never have dreamed all the things that have happened to me...good and bad.  But I know in my heart, even when I'm nervous or scared, that opening up my studio and myself to the world is a very good thing.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Doing PR for my Art Group & A Peek into my Process.

My Demo at Beaverton Art Mix for Washington County Open Studios

I got my degree in communications.  My first job was at two local radio stations doing copywriting for station advertisers and my career extended into advertising agencies doing campaign concepts and writing for a variety of big local business including energy, transportation, hi-tech companies to name a few.  I worked my butt off and I loved it.  Until my first child was born, when I left to devote my time and heart to being a SAHM, which was a term that didn't exist, then.

Since then, I've done a lot of writing and art and in addition, I've worked to promote several artist groups.  Right now, I do the public relations, media and social media for Washington County Open Studios, a free tour of over 40 artists' studios in my own neck of the woods.

As a writer, I know the power of words and stories.  As an artist, I know the power of creation.
Here, I re-publish one of many blogs I've written and edited on the Artist Studio Tours of Washington County blog.

Here goes:

How do artists make art?  The answer is as unique as the art and artist.  And on the Washington County Open Studios tour October 17th and 18th, you get a peek behind the scenes into the art making process.  Every artist is opening up their studio to you, showing you their materials, inspirations and demonstrating what they do and how they create art.
Doing slab work in my studio.

Here’s a quick peek into one of our 41 artists on this year’s tour.

Wheel throwing in my garage.(Thing 1)

Susan, when you begin your work, what inspires you and/or gets you going?

“I love the feel of porcelain clay in my hands.  When I put my hands around a ball on the wheel, I close my eyes and relax.  The more I center myself, the easier it is to center the clay.  I don’t always plan what I’m going to make and, actually, the less I plan whether it’s a bowl, cup or vase, the better the piece turns out.
I walk everyday around a lake and through the woods.  This always inspiring and my work reflects my love of buds, blossoms and fallen leaves in the handles on my mugs, stamps on my vases and vines on my masks.”

Horsehair Raku Porcelain Mask

How did you find your way to art, Susan, in spite of any obstacles in your path?

“I’ve taken many art classes along the way from college level to artist’s studios, to community education, so I’ve had lots of teachers who have inspired me.  I think everyone needs encouragement along their path in life, especially in the arts.
After failing many times at throwing clay, one special teacher noticed that I was trying to throw right handed and I was really left handed.  Once she turned the wheel the right way, it all just felt right.  I use both hands when I throw now and, thanks to this teacher, it works really well for me. 

But some of the obstacles just made me stronger and more determined to find my own artistic voice. 

One teacher refused to let me make masks in a ‘fine art’ class, it just made me more determined to do the mask making I now love to do. 
I gave up on clay many years ago because I didn’t have a kiln or kiln access to fire my pieces.  But one generous man came to my studio, saw my old clay sculptures and gave me his kiln. He included his wheel against my louds protests. And thanks to him, I now have the pleasure of throwing with porcelain!”

'Bird Dreams' Porcelain mask with Screening Mask.

Susan, do you use any weird, different material or technique?

“I love mixing media.  Over the years, I’ve worked in watercolor, acrylic, oils, pastel, copper sheeting, window screening, beads, fabric and now, porcelain.  I always think I’m done with a media and have moved on only to have it creep back into my work. 
Right now, I use leaves in my clay and add wire and window screening to my masks.”

When people come to your studio, Susan, what part of your process will you share?

“This year, I’ll be doing sgraffito on porcelain.  It’s a wonderful technique that lets me play with color and lines and texture all in one piece!”

Working in my inside studio.(Thing 2)

Susan can you describe what is unique and inspiring about your studio set up? 

“I loving call my current studios, “Thing 1 and Thing 2”. I’ve worked in many spaces in and around my home over the last 20 years.  My first studio was in a corner of the master bedroom on a tall drafting table where I could paint out of reach of my toddler and preschooler. 

Since then, my art and art space has changed with my life and my media. My current work, in porcelain clay, requires several different kinds of spaces depending on whether I’m throwing, hand-building or sculpting. 

Throwing (Thing 1)

Thing 1 is my garage where I throw.  Throwing is messy and out there, I don’t worry about clay drips and splashes.  I get the water, my clay, turn up the music and throw away while my sweet, yellow lab, Jilly snores on her doggy bed. 

Thing 2 is inside my home where I hand-build and sculpt.  Working on masks, figures or jars inside helps keep the clay evenly moist and temperature controlled, so there’s less cracking.  I do glazing and under glazing inside, too. 

My kilns are outside in the garage.  I have an electric kiln for bisque and glaze firing and a propane kiln for horsehair raku. 

Jilly watching me patiently in Thing 1.
But no matter whether I’m working in Thing 1 or Thing 2, Jilly is there curled up on her bed keeping me company.”

See Susan making art and get inspired during the 2015 Washington County Open Studios tour October 17 and 18 from 11am to 5pm.  Get a FREE tour map and information online at

Saturday, October 3, 2015

As The Wheel Turns: Firing, Fear and Faith.

Lately, I've been full of excuses.  It's too hot to work.  The kiln will make the house too hot.  The pieces need to cool off or dry out.  I'm too busy doing pr work for my open studios group.  My husband's on vacation.  I have to tidy up the kitchen or the garden or the garage.  Ok, that was the real tip off here because I hate cleaning the garage.

Procrastination.  Plain and simple.  I'm putting off the next phase of my work: glaze firing.  

Why am I putting it off? Let me count the's messy.  It takes a lot of set up to just get to mixing the glaze; getting out all the buckets and bowls and mixers and tongs and brushes and newspapers and towels.  Lots and lots of towels.  The glaze has to be just the right thickness and once that's achieved, there's the constant mixing while glazing to keep all the chemicals mixed.  If anything sinks to the bottom and you don't stir, the glaze doesn't cover nicely.

Then, there's the chemicals and fear.  After using heavy metal paints and pastels and metal patinas, I'm afraid of the chemicals in my glazes.  I know it doesn't make sense, but I get worried about contamination in my home environment because my studio is in my home.  So I wear long sleeves, long pants, an apron, gloves and shroud my areas with newspapers and towels.

Finally, after all the angst, procrastination and paranoid preparations, I did get my pieces glazed and loaded into the kiln.  Now, comes another not too fun part, waiting with fingers crossed that nothing cracked or blew up. 

Here's what I do know: it was not too hot and the house stayed cool. Now, I need to stay cool, too and have a little faith in my clay, my process and, me.  Ah, faith...that word of the year again.