Thursday, July 28, 2016

Firing, Closets(again) and Smiling.

Yesterday, I was nervous.  I always feel this way when I fire up my kiln and it's not about what you might expect.  I'm not nervous about the kiln not functioning or something happening to my studio.  I'm not even really nervous about the outcome, it's only a bisque fire and usually this is an easy firing step.  What makes me nervous is the process of loading the pieces into the kiln.

Dodging, weaving and the dog.

The process goes something like this: load 3-8 pieces on a tray, weave through a hallway, down some steps, and around the dog.  Then unload the trays onto several small tables and start the fetch and carry process again.  All the time, hoping nothing falls off the tray.  Once all the pieces are outside, I arrange them by height, figure out how high I need to build the shelves in the kiln and start loading.  It feels like it takes forever.  It usually takes an hour.

Anxiety and closets, again.

Two more closets got cleaned this last week.  My daughter's bedroom closet had no floor space left and towers of stacked boxes labeled 'stuffed animals'.  She is married, has a master's degree and is pursuing a doctorate.  I don't think she really wants or needs 3 boxes of stuffed animals anymore.  While she was visiting, I got her to go through the boxes. 

A sad and sweet trip down memory lane.

Inside the boxes were her first white stride rite baby shoes, baby books, and very well-loved stuffed kitties, unicorns and pooh bears.  Most of the stuffed animals were recycled or donated but it was her baby books that she treasured.  Books like 'Goodnight Moon', 'Sunshine', 'Moonlight' and 'Lady and the Tramp' but her favorite was a book of goodnight poems that I used to read her so often, we both still remembered the words by heart.  The books and a few stuffed animals were lovingly re-packed into one box, instead of three.  Yes, they went back onto a closet shelf because she's moving to L.A. Soon.

Floor space.  Shelf space.  Even wall space.

Here's what I'm finding about all this closet cleaning.  When I open the doors, I look at the empty shelves first and smile.  There's something about seeing a cleared floor, an empty shelf or two, and labeled boxes that feels so good.  

I can't really explain my closet cleaning drive, yet.  I'm not sure what got me started or whether I'm finally done(I hope and so does my husband) but I will keep my mind open and curious and I'll write about what I find out here on my blog.  

Until then, I'll just open my closets and smile.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

As The Wheel Turns: Summertime.

I've never thought of art as being seasonal.  And I've been known to push the limits of creating regardless of weather or holidays. But as I've found out before, many times, pushing doesn't always lead to success in art or life.  Especially when it comes to working with clay.

Summertime, when the living is easy.  Except for clay.  

Because it's made of earth and water, clay is especially affected by weather.  Days that are too dry or hot make working with clay a challenge at best.  At the worst, things literally fall apart.  Add porcelain's persnickety personality to this equation and kick it up quite a few notches and you can see why a beautiful, dry, sunny day can turn into an ugly studio day.  If I had a temperature controlled, humidified environment in my studio, I could play with clay all the time.  Since I don't, I'm at the whim of Mother Nature.

Nobody messes with Mother Nature.

Oh, I've tried and tried and tried.  I've spritzed and wrapped and closed blinds and doors.  Sometimes, I luck out and my pieces don't break, initially.  I get optimistic only to have these same pieces develop cracks later on in the process.  At first, I thought it was me, my inexperience or a bad batch of clay which can be very good reasons for bad results.  And that kind of thing can still happen even in the best of clay conditions.  But now, I do know and have finally grudgingly acknowledged Mother Nature wins.

Giving in isn't giving up.

I have to trust.  It's a very hard thing for me to do being the year-round worrier that I am but trusting the cycle is the only way.  Sunny, dry days do not make for good clay pieces.  I can, however, paint existing pieces.  I can bisque pieces and glaze and glaze fire.  And luckily, I do have a shelf or two of pieces almost ready for all three stages.  But there's still a lot of waiting to be done and I'm not good at waiting.

Life lessons from porcelain.

I chose to work in porcelain.  I love its luscious, velvety feel and beautiful snowy finish but it is not a clay that likes to be pushed.  Working with porcelain is teaching me not just about its own nature but mine as well.  Pushing does not produce success.  Grace, patience and trust does.  Going with the flow has never been my strong point, but porcelain is showing me the way.     

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Life's an Empty Nest Cyle.

A robin built a beautiful nest on the right side of my patio about two months ago.  I was so excited!  I was going to watch the nest fill with eggs, baby birds hatch and learn to fly from my patio.  I could see it rain or shine from inside or out.

But it didn't work out that way: empty nest.

Mom robin flew in and out of the nest for a day or two, but never seemed to settle.  Finally after a few days, momma quit showing up at all. I waited and waited.  I watched everyday.  But she never came back.  I worried my dog scared her away or a predator killed her.  I gave up waiting for her to come back to the now, empty nest.

Surprise: Another nest!
One morning, my granddaughter looked up to the patio cover and giggled.  I looked amazed, too.  Because there under the opposite corner of my patio cover was a new robin's nest!  And inside sat a happy mama robin.  When the eggs hatched, she and dad began feeding two little chicks until they disappeared one morning from the nest.

Empty nest, again.

I googled 'robins' and asked on Facebook.  Here's what I found out: Robins build nests and leave them until they're ready to lay eggs. But if something disturbs the robins before the eggs are laid, they will build another nest.  Then mama comes back, lays the eggs and sits on the nest only leaving to eat for 14 days.  When the eggs hatch, mama and daddy robin take turns feeding the chicks again for about two weeks.  Then the baby birds 'fledge' and leave the nest.  Mom and Dad still keep feeding and protecting the chicks until they can fly, again about 2 weeks.  

What's that outside my utility window?  Another nest.

My son-in-law discovered it this week while helping to mow the lawn.  I thought the robins were gone for the season, but again, I was wrong.  Robins have 2-3 broods in each breeding season from April to July.  Once one brood has learned to fly, they start a new nest.  

Nesting isn't just for robins.  I can see my life in their cycle too.  

There's the obvious cycle in parenting.  I had a full nest with two children.  I fed, nurtured and watched them grow up from babies to fly off into lives of their own.  And, then, my nest was empty.  Or so I thought.  Then my daughter and son moved home filling the nest and moving out again, emptying it.  My granddaughter spends days with me and my daughter and her husband came to stay for a month, filling and emptying the nest once again.  

Creating follows the same empty nest cycle too.

We all nest and sit and create and our creations move out into the world and we begin again.  
I have an idea that incubates.  It hatches into a painting, mask, cup, vase or bowl.  I feed it with the energy and spirit that comes from my hands and brush and heart.  Then, it makes its way out into the world through a show or studio sale and the cycle begins again.  So, even as I sit in the quiet of my empty nest that was filled just yesterday with my children, cats, dogs and babies, I know a new brood of ideas will be hatching soon.

Who knew Mama Robin and I had so much in common? Curious, isn't it?


Thursday, July 7, 2016


I'm a go, go, go girl.  I walk and throw and trim and paint and run and do yoga.  I rarely sit. Still.  
But after a week at the Blues Festival setting up, selling art, arranging and re-arranging in the sunny, hot, dusty, loud party atmosphere, I found myself in an opposite world.

Dark.  Cool.  Clean.  Silent and still.  

I didn't create it or do it with any kind of planning or thought.  I found myself in my room with the blinds closed, fan on, feet up with a lavender-vanilla candle scenting the air and my eyes closed.  After a while of sitting there, still, awareness dawned: I needed to stop.

Stopping scares me, I think.

I know it's past conditioning at work; pushing and producing equals value and security.  And I also know after years of personal work that creating takes soul and heart and that all comes in its own time and at its own pace.  Although I've succeeded at pushing out the birth of ideas, slogans, ads, writing, and, even art, it's not sustainable.  

Going with the flow.

My normal flow is like a burbling stream.  But this week, my go-go is gone and my flow is more like a small, circular pool in the middle of a stream.  I'm trying to float there, trusting that in time, I will move into the flow again, burbling happily.        

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Art, Music, Family and the Fourth.

Take 6 pallets of pottery, 12 artists unpacking and filling shelves add 4 music stages with bands playing the blues, 50 thousand festival shoppers, mix in dust and you've got a recipe for a fun and busy 4th of July.

For the past four years, I've worked at Oregon Potter's Empty Bowls booth at the Waterfront Blues Festival selling ceramics and glass to benefit the Oregon Food Bank.  I'm always amazed at the boxes and boxes and boxes of beautiful pottery and glass that goes on display.  And equally amazed at how we pull it all together into a creative and intriguing display that brings smiles to festival buyers and food on the plates of needy people in our community.

I love the 4th.

Many, many happy memories of dancing with sparklers, cheering the fireworks, eating  barbecue and marching in the neighborhood parade.  Now that my children are grown up, it's usually much more quiet.  But this year, there's a lovely family 'crowd' with grown up 'children', their spouses and a precious granddaughter.  

And, yes, music plus fireworks to dance around in the cool, dark night.