Thursday, February 25, 2016

May The Odds Be Ever In Jilly's Favor.

I was scared.  It all started on a very normal Monday morning but by the next day nothing felt normal anymore. 

Jilly woke up a year ago and just didn't seem to be her usual tail-wagging self.  As we started out on our walk, she lagged and I knew something was bothering her.  I just didn't know what.  So I walked her carefully back home and called the vet.

After three visits, X-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, we got the 'bad' news call.  The vet told us Jilly had cancer on her spleen and she only had a few months to live.  If we did emergency surgery and then chemo, she might live another 6 months.  That is, if she lived through the surgery which is a big risk for the animal bleeding out and dying on the table.

We said no to surgery and chemo.  And we said yes to Jilly living out her life joyfully doing all her favorite things even if it was only for a few more months.  

Jilly went to the beach on vacation.  

She barked and barked and barked at us to play ball.  We hesitated. Why? Because the vet warned us that too much activity could kill her.

But, you see, Jilly knew differently.

Jilly woke me up every morning with tail wagging and kisses, then went back to her bed and waited for me to do her morning belly and ear rubs.  She had breakfast, a walk, more treats and a nap.  She ran up to all her favorite people at the park tail wagging.  She bounced at the ducks and geese.  She insisted on all her favorite treats: peanut butter cookies, chicken liver purée, eggs, waffles, yogurt, cheese, apples and oranges.  I even let her 'steal' tomatoes and strawberries from the garden.

I've learned a lot from Jilly throughout our relationship.  Her training.  Her difficulties.  But mostly,  I learned a lot about faith and fun and, yes, life.  

Every morning, I used to wake up worried that today would be her last day.
Now, I wake up smiling because every day that my hand gets covered with sloppy Jilly kisses is the best kind of day. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Social Media Curiosity.

About 8 months ago, I did a blog about my dilemmas with social media. I've been exploring not just what sites I use and how I use them but, more importantly, whether or not they are really useful to me.  My quest has led me to dis-engage from LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.

As an artist, I work from my heart.  I'm curious, then, how to market my art from my heart, too.

I started out showing my art in a local gallery that I loved.  They had a yearly mask show.  I loved making masks.  When I'd developed a body of work that I loved, I found a place in that gallery show.  It all fit together.  I've been happy to find many shows and galleries where my heart and my art fit together.

Finding a place on the Internet, a social media site that fits my heart and art is tricky.

I started my internet marketing adventure with a website.  Over the last 15 years, as my art changed, so did my website.  I started out small, then expanded with more work, more tabs, more photos and now I have a nice, cozy, much simpler website. I feel it reflects my art and my heart with a low-key, well-designed website featuring samples of my work in functional, sculptural ceramics and mixed media masks.  It's not everything I've every shown or made, and some of what's on there right now has sold, but that 's fine.  It gives the visitor a feel for the kind of art I make.

But what about social media?  

My first social media site was a blog on Blogger. I started out with "Susan's Art & Words" and all I wanted was a place to put my writing from my mixed media pieces.  It quickly became much more than that.  I expanded to a blog with my husband, "Voices of Living Creatively" where we both used our creative voices interviewing people around us who were living creatively from the heart.  And then, in 2010, I started this blog, "Sculpting A Life" as a place to share more of my creative life from home and hearth to art and writing.  

My blogs have been a place for me to share my life and art from my heart. Sometimes, it's been scary to put myself and my soul out there. I was curious this year with my new perspective on social media, marketing, art and heart if my blog would still be a good fit.

I can't say my blog has brought me more art sales.  I do know my art pages get quite a few views.  My blog viewers have grown, too.  This is not the bottom line for me, however.

What was my goal for social media again?  Connecting and marketing my art from my heart.  

Yes.  My blog fits perfectly.  I see over time, this blog has become more than a social media marketing site.  It's become an extension of my studio, my home and place for me to see and  share how I am, sculpting a life.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

When life gets frantic: Throw.

Too many emails.  Too many problems. Too many voices with too many demands and conflict.  What do you do?  Run? Eat chocolate? Drink a bottle of Chardonnay?

I throw.  

I know it doesn't sound like throwing a five pound ball of clay on a wheel and wrestling it into a bowl would be the thing to do under difficult circumstances, but it is.  I've thrown mad and sad and tired. And every time, even with every feeling, I come away calmer, happier and refreshed.  Now that doesn't mean it's all rainbows and unicorns, either.  Believe me, when I'm in a difficult state, the clay knows it.  I slam it down.  I push it around and, even, wrestle it into submission.  

But somewhere between the throwing and the shaping, I shape up.

I don't see it in the moment.  There is just a lump of clay spinning on the wheel.  All I feel is the bumps and lumps that need to be smoothed, the wobbles that need to be held and centered and sides that need to be pulled up evenly.  I stop watching the wheel go round and round and close my eyes or focus on the spots on the floor of my garage.  And somewhere, somehow during this process, I look down and there's a vase or a bowl on my wheel.

It's a mystery.  Just like my favorite quote from the movie, 'Shakespeare in Love', "It all turns out well in the end. How? I don't know, it's a mystery."       

When the world get crazy, I throw. 

You can call me crazy.  It's ok.  I can take it.  Just don't take away my wheel.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cold Finishing.

I've worked in clay for decades but I didn't know I was using 'cold finishing' on my work.  Call it  marketing or more 'art speak', cold finishing is really very simple.  It's using paint to add color and texture to the bisqued clay body giving it a finished surface beyond the bare clay.

Even though porcelain pieces right out of the bisque kiln are beautifully white, they're still slightly rough to the touch.  They're still porous, too, so dust, oil and other debris can stain and damage the clay.  That's why functional pieces are always glazed.

Sculptural pieces don't need this kind of functional protection.  But they do need some finishing to give the clay some protection as well as a richer surface.  

When I first started making clay masks, I just painted them with acrylic paints.  Then I learned to do metal leafing in gold, copper and silver.  Adding this kind of metal surface to the clay and then adding thin layers of oil paint creates such a deep, beautiful surface.

I made several new porcelain pieces shaped around large leaves I found on my morning walks in the park.  Deep in my studio closet were two clay busts I'd called 'leaf ladies' which I'd abandoned in my quest to learn new skills in functional work.  Somehow, the porcelain leaf bowls and older clay busts seemed to be a perfect match.  My old pieces had been 'cold finished', so this week I began to re-learn this technique in order to finish these new sculptures.

In the last few years, my easel had moved from center stage to the edges of my studio and my collection of paints had shoved into the closet.  I remember thinking recently that it was time, maybe, to throw those old paints away since I wasn't using them.  

I'm glad I didn't.  I thought I was finished with cold finishing.  But what I see now, is art isn't about being finished with anything, it's always about beginning.