Saturday, March 25, 2017

Monday's with Meyer: Life Lessons from a Toddler.

I love Monday's with my sweet granddaughter. Meyer, now at the ripe young age of 18 months, is officially a toddler but not yet into the terrible twos. Most people see this age of tantrums and defiance as terrible but I've never seen it that way at all. In fact, my children were wonderful at two because just like Meyer, they had already graduated from toddlerhood. 

The not so terrible awfully wonderful twos.

Toddlerhood is a huge learning stage. It is the beginning of learning to be human in the most basic and wonderful ways. Meyer, like my own children, is learning to be independent and live in our very complex world. 

Toddlers know what they need and they listen. 

Toddlers are amazing to me because they are the essence of being human. They know what they are hungry for and only want to eat that now, thank you. They may love bananas today and eat them all day and reject them tomorrow. They might want a cheese sandwich for breakfast and cereal for dinner. No matter what the clock says, when they are tired and crabby, they go to sleep, now.   When they need to run, they run. When they need to relax, they curl up in your lap with a book.  

As grown ups, we regularly deny ourselves what our bodies truly want and need. If we need food before the clocks says it's lunch, we don't eat. If we want breakfast for dinner and others don't, we don't speak up. We use caffeine and diet regimes to keep ourselves awake when we need to rest and ignore our true hunger when we need to eat. 

Toddlers play to learn and learn to play.

Watch a toddler put a puzzle together. Stack colored cups by size.  Make marks with a crayon. You may think you are watching her play. You are watching her learn geometry, algebra, writing, and reading. Watch her stir a soup of rocks, pat pancakes out of play dough or push a basket around collecting toys and you are seeing her learn life skills of cooking and shopping. 

As grown ups, we think we know all the answers to life's puzzles. We've given up on playtime thinking that it's a waste of our time. As a result, we stop ourselves from learning and that stops us from solving what's really puzzling us. Our life becomes entrenched in routines of safety keeping us from trying new things that might delight, motivate and help us be happier and healthier.

Grown up doesn't mean stop growing. 

As Meyer learns to grown up, she's teaching me to live a better life as a grown up. Listen. Try. Delight. Eat. Grow. And, above all when I get tired, take a nap. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Creating Space.

I needed more space. My kiln was full. My studio shelves were overflowing onto the countertops and I had no place to work. I was frustrated. I'm comfortable with the flow of my work space. I'm comfortable with the way my studio is organized. But I'm uncomfortable with the lack of shelf space and work space. I'm even more uncomfortable with the mess that is necessary to make my space more functional.

Hello uncomfortable comfort zone.

I don't know about you, but this zone is very familiar to me. I've spent a lot of my life there. Maybe you have, too. But the real difference here is choice. I can leave my space overflowing, crowded with no place to work because it's familiar and comfortable. Or I can add a shelf unit, move my displays and re-organize giving me empty space to fill with new work. 

Ah, empty- a clue.

There's the old saying, "A glass is half full or half empty". I can see now I was looking at my studio the same way. I saw it as full and, even overflowing, with my creative work. And by adding the new space, a part of me was seeing it as a void. Empty. 

Someone once suggested that the reason I didn't sell my work quickly was because I was hanging onto it out of fear. Like a protective parent who feared for the safety of their children going out into the world. I, frankly, thought this idea was a little crazy because I've made my living creating and selling my work whether it was writing ads or making art. But I have to admit, when a piece finds a new home, there are mixed feelings of joy and loss.

Turning the glass around.

Looking at those new, clean, empty shelves in my studio, I have to admit the room feels lighter and fresher and more open. I have a bigger place for my glazes, mixers, funnels and bowls. I have a whole shelf for my forms, banding wheels, bats and work trays. I have 2 extra shelves in my display area for new work. And, yes, I have 5 new shelves completely empty and one that is tall enough now to accommodate bigger, taller pieces. 

Now I see clearly, my glass is not empty at all. It's full of new space for creating.  


Friday, March 10, 2017

Glazing and Hope.

My shelves are full and once again, I'm amazed. I never think I'm ever going to get any new work done, then magically work appears. Maybe it's the clay fairy at work while I sleep? The ghost of a frustrated artist? An angel? Seriously, it astounds me every time.

When I work, all I see is what's right in front of me.

The hand-built treasure jar that needs a knob or heart leaf. The thrown cups patiently waiting for handles with a twist. The plates and platters calling out for color. Sometimes I think I'll never get done. Other times I think I'll never have enough done. And yet, day by day, one by one, things get made and my shelves get too full for me to make anything new.
Time to finish what I started.

After bisque and more detail work, the last phase is glazing. I hate this process. Ok, that may seem a little harsh because I have gotten very efficient at it, finally. I, finally, have a glaze that works well with my under glazes and clay. I have a procedure that coats the pieces evenly. I set up, glaze, clean up all the mess and tools and floors and towels and brushes with confidence. But it's still not my happy place.

Is it beginnings vs endings? 

It could be. One is full of possibilities, wonder, enchantment. The other is over and out. With beginnings, I have no expectations. At the glaze stage, I have a finished piece and I want it to come out of the kiln finished and whole as I imagined it to be. 
Hope. Fear. And magic. 

Yes, there's fear that the piece will blow up or crack and the finish for that piece will be the trash. But it's also the knowledge that I have to let go. Letting go is also scary. I make each piece by hand but it's more than my hand that shapes the pieces. It's my heart and soul. And each piece carries my hope, too, that it will be good, solid, pleasing and whole.

And that is the magic of creation.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Hope Springs Forward.

There's something about the start of March that fills me with hope. I know that the calendar shows March as the month of Lent, the Ides of March and Springing Forward but somehow even against all these unlikable things, I like March. 

Change is in the wind.

Go outside and take a good, long, deep breath. Fill your lungs. Taste and smell that March air. There is something definitely different out there. The snow might still be falling and the wind bites at your neck, but in spite of it all, there's a sparkle in it like bubbles in champagne that haven't burst just yet.

I look around and still see winter's stillness. There are no new buds or leaves on my trees. My garden is filled with very dark, damp dirt and the moss is thick on the ground. But I sense somewhere underneath it all, energy is building and change is happening. 

It's time to get out the primroses. 

Even though I know they won't last until next year, I plant primroses anyway. There's something about their bright pink, yellow and purple colors that lure me every year. I only buy a few to sprinkle around my front door but every time I pass by I feel uplifted and fortified and slightly giddy. I don't know about you, but with all that's happening in our country, I really need the energy of March this year. 

It's March. It's blustery and cold and bright like a promise on the edge of fulfillment.
It's March. It's a hint of the tide of winter changing to spring. 
It's March. It's hope springing forward.