Friday, July 27, 2018

No Idea

After looking over my posts from the last few months, I wondered why am I writing all these blogs? How could writing about my thoughts, creative process, garden, kids, grandkid, and dog, mistakes and all, be at all interesting to anyone but me? 

And if it is, interesting that is, what would be new and interesting to write about this week? I had no idea.

Then, I realized. That’s it. That is exactly why I started writing my blog. And why I’ve kept writing it for over a decade.

Notes from the road. 

As a writer, I have a kind of compulsive need to put my thoughts and ideas down somewhere. I used to doodle on the side of my notebooks in school.  Then the scribble in my teenage diary which led to a lifetime of journaling. It was a way to go from lost in the world to found. 

When I started making art, I just transferred some of my writing into pastels, watercolors, oil paintings, clay animals, and window-screening masks. My story boxes really started out with the characters popping to life on my studio shelves where they told me their stories. 

I had no idea what I was going to do with my first blog, Susan’s Art & Words. First, I let my story boxes tell their stories and it evolved from there.

Sharing thoughts from my art, turned into sharing my life. 

Creating isn’t really that mysterious. It’s just life. You get up, look around and try to figure it all out. I had jobs where coming up with ideas was what I got paid for, so the idea of having no idea was terrifying. So I made a lot of stuff up. Turned out I was good at it, at least others thought so, and I kept my job. 

Making art wasn’t what I started out to do. I started out just making and learning and trying and failing. Sometimes something would turn out nice. Or I’d hate it and put it in my studio closet, which by the way, is where there are shelves of abandoned pieces. Poor things. Because, once again, I had no idea what to do with them. 

Then I realized that life is all about living with no idea.

I liked lilies, no idea why. And over the years, I’ve made many lilies. In copper, in window screening and now in clay. 

Faces seem to appear to me. They pop up on the linoleum floor, trees, clouds, and the sides of cliffs at the beach. No, I’m not stoned. (Ok, sorry about the pun) They’ve turned into masks, sculptures, paintings and now ‘Party Animals’. No idea why. 

So why, is having no idea a problem? Because our society wants us to be able to explain, discuss, outline our reasons with logic and have a marketing strategy. 

Well, I want to laugh. Smell. Taste. See all the faces in the clouds. And dance in the cool grass until I get dizzy. Want to join me?

Why? No idea.
Let’s dance anyway.   


Friday, July 20, 2018

I Spy.

Remember the game, I Spy? I loved playing it as a child and was so happy to be able to play it again when my children were small. It’s just a game. But inside that game might just be the key to happiness. 

Crazy, you say? Maybe. 

Here’s a refresher on the how to play the game. First rule, keep your eyes open. Second rule, look around you to find something to share. Third rule, call out to the other players what you see. It can be anything: a car, bus, house, plant, bird, bee, flower, tree, plane, building. It can be anything and everything that you see out your window. 

I want to make a special note of the words, ‘outside your window’.  Because we all have our own windows on the world. What we see, if we bother to even look, can give us a whole new view of the world inside and out. Because no matter what’s out there to see, we still filter it all through our very own set of windows, our eyes and our minds. 

What’s outside my own set of windows?
I spy pink and purple hygrangeas.

And I spy a copper moon.

I spy a garden with lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini and a tiny pepper. 

I spy water trickling into overflowing flowers. 

I spy a big, bright blue sky, bees feasting on hibiscus flowers and red berries growing. 

I could go on and on and on about the beauty in the world around me. And that’s the point, actually. There are many, many, many things to see and  and call out to others, if I just keep my eyes open.   

Answering the age old question, what is happy. 

Sadly, I’ve spent many hours, days and months with my eyes closed to what’s really around me. Missing my dog. Missing my kids. And since turning a certain decade, I’ve been too busy worrying about death and endings and being sad that I’ve forgotten what happy really is. 

So, of course, I went searching on the internet. But guess what? Happiness isn’t there, no matter what book, or class, or infomercial they want to sell. The reason you can’t buy happiness as the saying goes, is because you don’t need to. It’s free. 

It always there. In the midst of a very sad moment, leaning against my cedar tree, I heard the answer to my question. Happy is right where you’re standing. I thought, sure, that’s easy. But that’s the point, it is. 

I spy a living, breathing body. I spy sunlight shimmering on the lake. I spy a duck paddling. I spy a home. 

I spy happy. And it is as easy as child’s play, I just forgot the game was to play. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Flops Flipped

Life, as they say, sometimes hands you lemons. And as the saying goes, you’re supposed to make lemonade. I used to hate that saying because it felt like I was supposed to feel good about the bad things in life. I even got rather stubborn about it. I didn’t want anyone to trivialize my pain and, therefore, belittle the challenges in my life. 

I think I missed the point. 

The point, I believe now, is to view bad things not as good but as transformative.

Lumps, bumps and losses happen throughout life. From babyhood to adulthood, we have to leave part of our life behind to grow forward. Moving through those changes, quite literally, changes us. And we wouldn’t be living our life if it didn’t. 

I moved away from a career in early childhood development into advertising but that education made me a better mom. I might have failed throwing clay in high school, but it was failure that got me to go back to art class. 

As an artist, I flop all the time.

I throw bowls all the time, some crack and some don’t. I have researched and googled and tried new clays, new trimming ideas, new tools and still I, sometimes, get lumps and bumps and cracks. I’ve had black underglazes turn blue and brown. 

I’ve done big pinch pot sculptures that dried for months and then, blew up in the kiln. Lately, the small pinch pot sculptures I made, looked fine before firing and then shrunk and got all lumpy. 

But sometimes, my flops flip into something else. 

One of my recent flops became this scalloped edged bowl. Now it’s far from perfect, but it started me thinking about other ways I could change the shape of a bowl. I mean, why does every bowl have to be perfectly round? Flop flipped. 

Another flop was the pinch pot sculpture idea. After a few years, I gave it a try again. Fooling around one day, I created this little creature. Not a complete flop, but not exactly what I wanted. 

I kept going. I tried different clays. I tried different ways to make it. All of a sudden there was a  whole menagerie of them on my studio shelves. 

Most of them looked good, but one flopped. It cracked in several places and I was ready to throw it away. But throwing caution, to the kiln in this case, I slapped on some clear glaze and put it in a bisque fire load. Much to my surprise, he came out in one piece!  I even like the glossy glaze instead of the matte look I’d planned. 


Life, this time, did turn a lemon into lemonade. This cracked and disfigured little creature transformed into a happy go lucky Party Animal.  

Now, I’m not saying my life is going to transform into one big party. But I think this little fellow and his buddies are going to make it a lot more fun. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

America, the Beautiful.

On the anniversary of our Independence Day, it’s hard to see the beauty out there. I know. I’ll be the first to admit these Trump years have been a new kind of hell here for so many people. If you read my blog, you know I’ve aired my fair share of angry complaints about it all. 

But this week, I want to try to search out the good, the beautiful, the love that lives right here.

Think with me for a minute. Turn off your devices. Close your eyes and breathe in the fresh air. Listen to the birds and bees and squirrels and all the life around you. As a country, we’ve worked hard to keep our air and water clean. We’ve succeeded in many ways. And in many ways, we have much more to do. 

But that’s good.  Most of us share the dream of an even better country and world.

Think of how you help others. Think of the others who’ve helped you. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures, sometimes the smallest kindness makes the biggest change. A little gentleness. A smile. Another driver who lets you in front of them. Someone who picks up something you’ve dropped in the grocery store. 

You are a good person and you’re one of many here. People who care about women and children. People who help the sick, feed the hungry and teach children to be kind and fair.  

In the deepest darkness, we all need light. 

Be that light. Show your kindness. Be understanding. See the fear around you and move on anyway. Lead by example with understanding, perseverance, strength and gentleness. 

Be true to the heart of America’s dream: a place for all to live, learn and love. Embrace the best for you and us all. 

No we can’t change the past. Yes, these last few years have been hard. But we can move forward together. America can be a beautiful place of shared wealth, health and values with safety and security for all.