Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Very Curious Year

The word of the year for 2016 has been curiosity. I love that word. To me, it has the aroma of a delicious dish baking in the oven, the sound of a light flute playing, the taste of a cilantro leaf, the pale shimmer of a crescent moon rising.  It's expectation and wonder and the unknown all rolled into one.

This year has been a very curious in many ways.

Artistically, my work evolved in a way I hadn't planned or expected. For the past 6 years, my focus has been on throwing functional work: vases, mugs and bowls. This year, my functional  work is evolved into a 50/50 split between throwing and hand building.  

Where before everything was smooth and carefully thrown; new work now combines textures, colors and patterns in one piece. Edges ruffle. Colors blend like wet into wet watercolor paintings.  Marks are more free form and spontaneous. My hand building pieces are heavily textured with playful color combos, cut out lids or flower shapes and I'm using a staining process to get layers of color. 

Curiously, my work and life is more playful.

Domestically, the family has grown to include a new daughter and granddaughter. After many years of living with adult children, I now have a large toy basket in my great room, a crib, high chair, baby gate and shelves filled with rocket crackers, pb&j bars, fruit snacks, juices and sippy cups. The lower cupboards are re-organized with non breakable, toddler safe items and outlets are plugged. I read board books, play with wooden puzzles and dance to Raffi songs on Pandora.  

Outside my studio, events of the last year are an ongoing curiosity.

I could never have imagined what has happened here in the U.S.  I am shocked and embarrassed and upset. As I watch decades of social progress retreat into playground bullying on the world stage, I can't help but be curious about how this happened in this country. As I work to figure it out for myself, I try to remain open and hopeful that in the end, this will bring us all back together again. 

The question isn't what will happen this year but how will I handle what happens? It's too easy to shut down and close it all out. Curiosity, this year's word, lead me to watch world events with wide eyes and a questioning heart.

A new word of the year?   

Finding my new word of the year is always a personal process but perhaps, this new year, it will be a way to connect inward and outward. As I work to deal with the wild swing of last year's change, I need to dial in my focus of world events, to be local before global, to be see through the eyes of my own truth and my own heart. 

As I look for the light through the dark, I make a wish.  For all of us to find the light on New Year's Eve and bring it with us into the New Year.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Creating Christmas.

I always think I'm going to do all my usual studio work during the holidays.  But the truth is, I don't. My mugs and vases and bowls are all sitting on studio shelves, slowly drying and waiting for me. I used to feel guilty during these non-studio periods and criticize myself for not being more efficient or dedicated to my art. I think I was wrong.

Art is a whole life experience.  

Decorating my home. Baking shortbread and cherry cake. Making ornaments for the tree.  These are more than just holiday activities for me, they are creative, inspiring art projects. I choose colors and work with my hands, just as I do with my studio work. And just as with my art work, the most important part is creating the work with my hands and heart.  

Every year, Christmas needs adjustments.

We redecorated our great room recently with new chairs, new rug and a new sofa.Everything in the room changed for the first time in 20 years. Christmas needed some redecorating, too. It was time to blend past holiday traditions into the present and for that I definitely needed creativity.     

This year, the tree fell down and old, cherished ornaments broke. Glue repaired some of them, but even the ones beyond repair, brought back many happy memories. 

We've added to our family over the years. We now have another son, daughter and granddaughter. Again, creativity and art take center stage as my husband and I add stockings, ornaments and make Santa Cookies for the next generation.

Baking was one of my first creative outlets. Growing up, I was taught to make Scottish scones, shortbread and cherry cake by my Dad's mother.  Although my grandmother was a strict teacher, I'm glad I learned from her skilled hands. And every year when I bake, I remember how her baking was an art in her hands.

No studio time?  No regrets.

My life without art is dull indeed.  But art without life is lifeless.  I really believe, true art is a product of the artists' life experience.  Art that's devoid of connection to the heart of the artists is not art.  It's product.  

My art is where my heart is right now: creating Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Snow Days. Happy Days.

As I sit on my window seat, I see the pale alizarin Crimson sun setting behind deep Payne's Grey hills with blankets of silver white snow draped over the rooftops. There are a few kids playing in the snow below reveling in the last of their 'snow day'.  And my sweet, silly Jilly runs through the yard barking with joy.

I love snow days, too.

I remember the glee in a free day off school. I didn't get many living in Michigan as a child but my Oregon children got quite a few. They loved it and I did, too.  Wrapping them up in layers of sweaters, scarves, hats, coats, gloves and snow boots brought back Michigan memories. I smiled seeing them slide down the hill. I helped them make snowmen and toss snowballs around. Soon they'd troop in dripping snow from their mittens with their friends for hot chocolate and cookies. 

Some of the best things in life are messy.

It was cold and white and sparkly this morning and I couldn't wait to sink into the damp, bright snow. My first wonderful sight was deer tracks leading from the street across my driveway to the huckleberry bushes. The other day, I was going to trim those bushes because they hung out over the driveway, but something made me stop. Now I know why. The deer were going to need some food and I had it right there ripe and ready.
Walking to the park was a wonderful sight.  

I saw the lake surrounded by white. Bridges over the lake and into the forest all shimmering.

My favorite willow tree snow covered.

Snow packed gently into the arches of the stone bridge and along with railings. 

Even crystal flakes made the fading pink roses shine.

Best of all was taking a snow day with my sweet granddaughter, Meyer.  Watching the snow swirling down through her eyes, brought back the wonder and the magic of snow days once again.  


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Oh Christmas Tree: Crash!

A loud crash and breaking glass resounded from below as I rushed down the stairs. What did I see? My 12 foot Christmas tree flat on the floor. Tis the season to be jolly but this really broke the mood.

First things first, I picked up the 12 foot tree, by myself, and proceeded to experiment with physics and gravity.  I twisted and turned and pushed until it stayed put against the banister. The day before there were ribbons and ornaments galore, now many were in pieces on the floor.

Cleaning up was a trip through time.

Picking up the pieces of glass ornaments was more than just a clean up job. Much like closet cleaning, this chore was a journey into Christmas' past.  A wooden bi-plane, ceramic angel, Santa, decorated cookies and candies in pieces on the floor were all pieces of Christmas memories: precious babies, surprised and delighted by all the amazing miracles found in the early morning, especially the ornaments. Because in our family, Santa filled each stocking with a new ornament every year.  

Instead of sadness over the broken ornaments, I feel happy.  

I see that every year, decorating the tree is more than a holiday tradition. It's time travel. Our family history is on that tree. When each of my children left to make their own home, they received a box of ornaments that Santa had brought them each year. They took them to start decorating their own trees.  

What's left is us.

When my husband got home with a new tree stand, we started over decorating the tree.  Lights went back on. The angel was placed at the top. Ribbons were swirled once more from top to bottom. But the best part this time, was taking the time to see and remember each and every ornament.  The collection of Winnie-the-Pooh characters I embroidered in felt one year while my children slept peacefully.  Another collection featuring Nutcracker characters honoring my daughter's many years as part of the Oregon Ballet Theater's Nutcracker chorus.  The dozens of Santas and Angels in fabric, wood, glass and ceramic that 'Santa' brought for my husband and I each Christmas. 

Our life is right there on that tree. I'd forgotten, you see. But the universe reminded me with  a crash. All those years aren't gone and forgotten, they're hanging right in front of me.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

People Are Not For Hurting.

This was and still is my parental mantra. From the time my babies were born, through toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence to adulthood, hitting or hurting with words or hands was not allowed. Ever. I am still passionate about fostering non-violent, peace-loving, resolution oriented living all around me.  

Why? Because I learned first hand about violence and abuse.

I was raised in a climate where bullying was standard behavior. Bullies ruled. Bullies survived. And if you wanted to survive, you were taught to beat up the bully. And so, to become a bully yourself. Yes, I was taught that fighting the bully was the right thing to do.  

Maybe it still is.

I did fight, as my children grew up, to keep them safe. On the school bus. On the playground.  I advocated for a strict no bullying policy. I insisted on a non-violent atmosphere.  I refused to let my children be exposed to violent tv shows, video games, or movies and I monitored their internet use as well. I was the one mom who didn't let my son dress up as a violent cartoon character for Halloween, have a 'toy' gun or play 'war'. I did stand up to the pressure from other parents and society to give in to the pervasive culture of violence.  

Violence is not a game.

It's saddens me to says this, but our society, our culture, our children are surrounded by it each and every day. When I grew up it was war and guns and fist fights on the playground. But now it has mutated and multiplied to invade everyday life.  TV anchors spout expletives. Drivers rage on the way to work. Airline passengers threaten other passengers and flight crews over their political beliefs. And it's not enough to be a bully in person, it's expanded to social media. Kids get bullied on Facebook all the time.  

And soon, there will be a cyber bully in the White House.

Tweeting threats, name calling, posting lies.  
Bragging about abusing women.  
This is classic bully behavior.  

A 'bully' is just another name for a violent, aggressive person who uses intimidation both physical and verbal towards other people. People are afraid of bullies. And bullies use that fear to push other people around, get what they want at all costs. They don't care about anyone or anything but themselves. 


No wonder there's more violence in cities and on our streets. People are very afraid and for a very good reason. He bullied his way through his campaign, firing and threatening his staff. He bullied his way through the debates, harassing a female candidate. He bullied the media when facts were reported against his wishes. He bullied people protesting against his election threatening to put them in jail. He is a bully. Plain and simple. But soon, he could become a very dangerous bully. All our lives, our children, our grandchildren are at stake here.  We have everything to lose and he has everything to gain. He is not here to help you. He is here to take as much as he can for himself. As Americans, we have a right and an obligation to stand up against corruption and violence.  

Don't let yourself be bullied.  Stand up.  Now.

People. Are. Not. For. Hurting.

We have to stop. Now. We have to look each other in the eye and see our reflection. See our fears and our dreams and our hopes in each other. Look for the truth, the real truth and value it above all else. See our wishes for freedom and safety and comfort and love.

It's so easy to get sidetracked by fear into greed and violence.
Especially by the bully soon to be President of the United States.

But we the people. You. And Me. We all want the right to pursue happiness. And we can all do it. One by one. Side by side. Working together. United. Standing up for the rights for all.

Next time you see or hear bullying in any shape or form,
Remember the mantra:  People are not for hurting.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Being Thankful: Food for the soul.

Here's what I know: gratitude works.   On a day when my cat dies, the clay cracks, car battery refuses to start and all seems lost, finding gratitude rescues me.  I know it seems too simple to really work, but when life gets complicated, simple is the real solution.  Hear me out.

The day my cat died, I cried.  A lot.  But as I wrapped her in her favorite blanket and buried her under piles of catnip, I sighed with gratefulness that she was no longer in pain.  She didn't have to struggle to move or breathe or eat.  I miss her everyday.  I still look over to where she slept in the sun in her basket.  But she is at peace, at last.  

Through the sorrow, I am grateful.

When the clay cracks, it's a message.  Respect the process.  Working with clay, is not just working with an art medium, it's working with the earth.  Working with the season, the  temperature, the humidity, even the time of day.  As much as I want to be in charge of life, I have to understand, I'm just one part, one piece of the process.  

For the process and the reminder of the process, I am thankful.

Ok, nobody is ever thankful for a car that won't start.  Not me.  Especially when it was forgetfulness on my part.  I was cleaning my car.  I forgot to turn off the map light.  I went to go to the store and my battery was dead.  But the good news, it was 'only resting'. I called triple A and within 45 minutes, my car worked and I was on my way.   

My car works.  I am very grateful.

In the last few weeks, to many people all seems lost.  Our values, our voices, our beliefs have been trampled by what may be a corrupted system.  Again.  We are mad, sad and scared that our beloved country has lost its way.  I have to hang on now.  In the midst of protests and vandalism and fear in the name of righteousness, I sigh and steer myself into the path of belief.  I believe that all of us really want the same things: love, warmth, food, opportunity, freedom and safety.  Our wise forefathers believed in our country and understood the need to foster freedoms that were so lacking in their homelands.  As immigrants, they saw the need to create 3 branches of government, an electoral college and a bill of rights in addition to the constitution to insure a fair and more equitable place for all.  

For our forefathers, I am thankful.  

They filled their plates on thanksgiving day with the only food that was available to fill their bodies and lift their souls. And right now, I think we could all use a plate full of soul food.

Breathe in the air.  Look up at the sky.  Kiss someone you love.  Hug your cat or dog.  Put your hands in the earth.  Turn on your car and listen to the engine designed by engineers and made by skilled hands.  

Be thankful. Today and everyday.  It's food for the soul.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Creating Courage.

When the going gets tough, I throw.  Slap.  Roll.  Or paint clay.  This is not just a way to process feelings, it's my way to really live.  With clay in my hands, I connect the earth in my hands to the earth under my feet creating a flow of energy that sustains me.  You may not feel the same way about clay and that's fine.  Because my way to live is only one way, we all have to find our own way in this world. 

The way isn't always easy.  Especially lately with so much anger and sadness surrounding me.

Creating is my retreat.  I do it, not to hide from the world but to see the world in a clearer light.  Wedging clay helps ground my turbulent feelings.  Rolling out a slab disperses distressing thoughts and brings a different clarity.  I can hear my true voice and feel my real strength through my fingers. 
Courage takes many forms.

In my studio, as the music plays, the clay works with me.  Together with the earth, I work through the outside pressures bringing me closer not just to my heart but the heart of the earth.  I know this may sound far fetched to some.  That's ok.  I just ask this one question: when you stand before a piece of art work, how do you feel?  If you don't feel any kind of connection, it might not just be you,  It could be the art.  Art that is true, and I'm not talking beauty or technique or media.  I'm talking about the energy from which the art was created.  I've always felt that true art comes from true hearts.    

A true heart is a courageous heart.  Listen.

We all have our own truth.  Some of us know what that is, others blindly follow others truth.  In a world where shouting is heard above whispers, I think it's important to listen.  Turn off the TV.  Close your computer.  Turn down your phone.  


Listen in the quiet to the earth, to the rain, to the leaves fall.  
Listen to yourself, to your stories, to your own work, to what you know you know.
Listen to your heart.  

When you listen and work and create from your own heart, you don't need courage from anywhere else.  Your creativity is your courage and your bravery and your value and no one's shouting can ever take that away.   

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Peace and Curiosity.

It's been a long week in America.  Much has changed and I am one of many reeling with feelings long held captive in my soul.  Feelings so deep, words fail to describe them as they surface in waves.  Thoughts whirlpool.  What? How? Why? 


As I calm my children in their panic and fear.  As I shake my head in disbelief.  As I try to assure my children and their children and myself that somehow good will prevail. 

Breathe deeper.

There is a fog over the lake today.  It a lies thick over the water and deadens the sounds of the ducks and geese.  But just as I let the fog shroud me, too, I turn the corner and there 4 feet away, close to the edge of the lake is a great, blue heron.  Majestic and still in the cold water, waiting with patience undisturbed by my presence, the heron is focused on what is most important in this moment.  Only.  

Breathe again.

The fog hovers still over the water but up above, there is a halo forming in the sky.  The gray shroud is shimmering as the sun gently and pushes its way through.  A light.  A beacon.  Hope.


I wonder as I wander through the woods.  It is the trees rooted below the fallen and decaying leaves that give me strength.  Below the decay of this year's leaves is fertile soil bringing life to the roots of the tree.  I know that no matter who or how or what winds blow through these woods, my tree is safe and strong and growing.

Have you ever noticed that even on a shrouded, foggy day, there is gold?  The yellow, golden leaves that have refused to fall, shine forth.  Anyway. 

Breathe anyway.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

To Terra, the Terrible.

She was sweet
At first
Cuddling in hoodie pockets
Purring on pillows

But then, she grew

To do great feats
in plain sight 
Atop a 10 foot armoire

Even to those she knew

Her meet and greet
Could be a hiss 
Or bite
Or spit 

Across space she flew

She was not neat
Sculptures, drapes broken and torn
Couches slashed
Plants toppled

And time, in time, took its payment due

Age and injury meet
Slowing days  
And sleeping in the sun
purring on pillows

At last

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Two Steps Forward. One Step Back.

This is the dance of life.  I read these words years ago and, obviously, never forgot them because they struck home.  This simple thought goes right to the heart of the problem of living on this planet.  Caught up in societies march of success, I had spent many years pushing myself to move faster and work harder only to find myself slowly losing my way.  

I didn't know how to dance.

So I tried it.  I started on one side of the room and made myself take two steps forward and one step back.  Again and again and again.  I made it across the room.  And that proved progress is possible without running faster or working harder.  

Now and then, I still forget to dance.  

But this week, when the peaceful, quiet house got drowned out by my fears, I remembered.  Two steps forward and one step back.  I smile and look up at the sky.  I look around my studio and see beaded art treasures from long ago got framed. 

New bowls were thrown.  Vases and platters were made and stamped with leaves and lace.  

Small delicate porcelain lilies got mounted into a new black frame.

All while I was dancing...two steps forward and one step back.  My art and my heart moved forward together.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

This Week is a Walk in the Park.

Last week was a whirlwind of activity getting ready for my open studio.  I made new work and got two demos ready for visitors.  I cleaned my studio from top to bottom, arranged the shelves neatly while my daughter staged some of my work around my home.  It was a wonderful weekend.  I met wonderful people full of curiosity and great questions about how I do what I do.  And I watched my work find new homes.  

It's hard for me to take it easy without feeling lazy and unproductive.  But after a weekend of meeting and greeting and show and tell, I need a little walk in nature.  

Nature nurtures my spirit.

I walk everyday.  Rain or shine.  And where I live, it rains more than it shines.  But I actually like walking in the rain.  The ripples in the lake.  The drips on the leaves.  The soft sound as the rain lands on the hood of my coat.  I drink it into my body but even more deeply into my soul.

One thing I've noticed again and again.  There aren't many people walking in the park in the rain.  I think that's a shame, because they're really missing so much.  Although, I like having this wonderland all to myself, I want and need to share the wonder.  

Wonders from my walk: Spider webs with bejeweled rain drops, a birch tree figure, the eyes of birch bark close up, a garland of spider webs on the bridge.