Thursday, January 31, 2019


While my blog title is “Sculpting a Life”, I don’t usually write about sculpting. I write more blogs about creating, inspiration and my life including food, decorating, kids and dogs. The reason is simple, slowly over the years I’ve moved from sculpting masks and mixed media pieces to making functional clay work. 

Truly, it happened so slowly, I didn’t even notice. And that’s the real curious part about being an artist and the process of making and creating my work. I work on one piece, then another, and another, and each one, at that time is my only focus. I get so focused on each piece, I’m always surprised there are so many pieces on my studio shelves. 

But here’s the really curious part. While I was busy throwing cups, bowls and vases up on a tall shelf, heads and bodies and weird structures were appearing. 

Sculpting snuck in while I wasn’t looking. 

A few years back, before I was making my lily vases, I made a slab-built body. I had some old heads sitting in my studio closet and I remember thinking this might work for one of them. It didn’t. So when it didn’t work, I put it on a tall shelf and forgot about it. 

Last year, in the midst of my Party Animal explosion, a woman’s head appeared. I was playing around with a pinch pot technique which was new to me. I didn’t have any other idea about her at the time and, actually figured she’d blow up in the kiln. She didn’t. But I didn’t have a body for her, so again, I put her on another tall shelf and forgot about her. 

Magical Miracles. 

This week, I decided the pinch pot head really deserved a body. So I got out my clay and went about making her a lovely, lacy body. I had all the right ideas, but it went completely wrong. I ended up with a structure I hated and was glad when it cracked overnight. 

Remember when someone told you that failure was the road to success? Yeah, I never believed them either. But I do believe in magic. And here’s where magic happened: just as I was going to sleep I saw her body and it was already done. I’d made it years ago.

Up on that top shelf, sitting silently and patiently, the body had waited for her. 

Now that’s magic.    

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Throwing and Trimming = Stress Relief.

Life gets crazy sometimes. All around are the pressures to do and do and do some more. In the New Year, there’s the resolutions to be better at doing. Get more exercise. Eat healthier. Drink more water. Again, it’s all about doing. 

But what if doing could be easy? What if being and doing became one? Ok, I realize this sounds crazy. And I am not saying I want to stop, sit and stare into the nothingness 24/7. But maybe there’s a way to feel that way, be that way in everyday life? How can I live and work with less stress? How can I take what I do in yoga class and bring it into my every day?

Yoga and throwing have a lot in common. 

Throwing requires me to be centered. Physically, my hands, feet, legs, and butt, need to be in alignment, in order to pull the clay into any kind of form. Too much pressure from one hand and the clay goes off to one side. Uneven feet or legs easily pull a bowl off center or create a wobbly edge. 

When I trim, I didn’t think I needed to be as centered. But, I was wrong. At this stage of the process, I’m taking my thrown bowl, turning it upside down and working to carve away all the excess clay from the bottom of the pot. It’s important to be centered here too. It helps to the bottom even, add a nice level foot.  

In yoga, I need to be centered, so my body can use my muscles for balance and strength. Yoga breathing is designed to help concentration, to quiet distracting thoughts so I can be present. 

When I throw, I can easily be thrown off by my critical voices or monkey mind. Using my breath and yoga alignment helps me throw and trim more easily. And I thank my wonderful yoga teachers reminding me to use my abs, that training helps me throw without throwing out my back.

Making as meditation. 

I’m not good at meditating. I’ve tried it, really I have.  I know it reduces stress but I just can’t seem to sit still and relax for longer than 10 minutes. It kind of stresses me out. But, maybe I don’t have to. 

There’s another big benefit my work gives me - less stress. Yes, studies show that no matter whether you are a studio artist or not, making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormone, cortisol, in your body. Reducing stress helps you live longer (and enjoy it more, I think). 

“A research study at Drexel University found that 75% of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during their 45 minutes of making art. And while there was some variation in how much cortisol levels lowered, there was no correlation between past art experience and lower levels.”

That means anyone can reduce stress through art. Anytime. 

So get out that coloring book. Cross stitch. Paint. Cut up some cloth or paper. Or hoorah, put your hands in clay. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pet Peeves: A Dog Lovers Lament

I love dogs. Large and small. Happy and sad. I do not love all dog owners. I’ve watched while dogs bark, lunge, snap and bite, I don’t blame them. I blame their people. People who abuse, starve and abandon them. And people who fail to teach them how to be a good four-footed being in this two-footed world. 

Here’s the deal: When you become a dog owner, you have a big responsibility to your dog. Your responsibility goes beyond food, exercise and love. You are responsible for helping your dog understand and navigate the world around them. That means your dog needs to be taught some basic rules. And you need to understand what your dog really wants and needs. 

Sit. Stay. Listen. 

These are life saving commands. Have you ever seen a dog get hit by a car? I have. Terrible as it is, what hurts me most is knowing that, in most cases, it could have been prevented. 

Basic training is not easy. It takes time, patience, determination and lots of treats. I know because I’ve trained all my beloved dogs.  And, I also know, that it’s not impossible, however it might seem at the time. Right now, I’m working with a super sweet 18 month old lab who is a combo of Scooby Doo and Tigger. He’s smart which makes my job of teaching him both easy and hard. 

I love him. So I teach him. 

We work many times a day inside and out. We are making great progress, but we still have much to learn together. Now he moves only his head toward other dogs, kids and squirrels, instead of lunging away from me. He sits and waits near the door better. He still wants to rush up to everyone, so we ‘pass’ others and then, walk back to chat at shorter and shorter distances. He knows how to go to his ‘place’ and hang out calmly. And he did amazing this week while I threw on the wheel! 

There’s more to teach him and more for me to learn, too. This is a loving, life-long relationship. I laugh at his antics and cherish his sweet, tiggerishness, knowing that our playful training sessions are creating a strong loving bond.

Dogs do not belong in a grocery cart at Home Depot on a Saturday. 

Your dog does not want to be at Home Depot, Macy’s, or Fred Meyer. Trust me. I can feel it. Your dog is feeling confused, overwhelmed and scared. 

I watched 3 small white dogs barking for release from the trap of a moving shopping cart. I worried as an old terrier tried to navigate the slippery tile floor at Macy’s. I saw a lab mix barking uncontrollably in the hardware aisle at Home Depot because he was terrified of all the people walking all around him while his owner bent and shopped completely oblivious to him. I heard repeated pages in Fred Meyer for an owner to please, please, please come and claim their loose German Shepard mix from the front cashier. And yesterday, I saw a pet owner leash their sweet young puppy to an  outside table, then go into New Seasons to shop. 

It pains me to see untrained dogs in all the wrong places. If your dog is not an official service dog, do not take them shopping with you. Do not leave them locked in your car in the parking lot. Do not leash them to a table and leave. Do not let them run ‘free’ anywhere but in a secure, fenced area. Dogs can drown. Dogs can get hit. Dogs can get lost and stolen. 

Teaching your dog to sit and stay can save his life. 

It’s that simple.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2019 Word of the Year

The first week of this year opens with a spotlight on greed. Our president and his minions give themselves more money while denying thousands of people their basic paychecks. With the latest national debacle hitting the fan, I really feel it’s even more important to shine some light into this darkness. 

You know I tried hope in 2017 and understanding in 2018 but I really think this year needs something more. Stronger words popped up: anger, fear, frustration, embarrassment, doubt, and a huge lack of faith in our election process, officials, government, judicial system. But I don’t want to sink into the abyss of doom. 

I can’t let myself go down that rabbit hole and give up.

I know I might sound like a Pollyanna. I know there are deep, deep problems here in this country that existed before the current person took up residence in the White House. I accept that racism, sexism and elitism all exist here. I know now that even with another person as president, all these problems would still be problems. 

There is one good thing that has come out of this muck: we all see the muck now. We see its depth, darkness and depravity. It’s clear we are being attacked by foreign governments. Our legislative and judicial systems are broken. We know we need people in office and behind the bench who are there to help us and not themselves. We are paying the price of corporate greed with our very lives. 

But, still, I believe. 

I see my neighbors coming together to help each other. I watch a woman pack a huge box at the shipping store with clothes, toys, and shoes to send to her adopted child. I know people who save lives through acts of kindness, generosity and skill every day. I hear fair and just people speak out, reach in and lift up others all around me. 

And, really and truly, I know the hard-working investigators will not only reveal but right the wrongs. The media will report it fairly. Judges will make the right decisions. Our newly elected representatives will bring about a sea of changes for our health and safety. 

In you and I, I believe. 

In these people, I believe. 

As hard as it may be now, I believe. 

We’ve had many, many dark times in our lives, our country and our world. But we have climbed up, out and above it all. I know we will, now, too. Because without the darkness, there cannot be light. Trump and all the others are where they are to help us rise out of the fog of false security into a new day of cooperation, appreciation and empowerment for all. 

Believe with me, please.  

Believe in 2019.