Thursday, March 28, 2019

Done. Almost.

Firing up the kiln is always exciting and scary and this week was no exception. It’s a bisque load which is only the first firing. This is the firing I use to set the first layers of color and dry out the clay. Hopefully all the pieces will make it through this phase in one piece with no cracks. But this is only the first of two to three more firings. 

Next, depending on the piece, I add more color or a color wash. In most cases, I put the pieces in another bisque firing to set the color before I do the final glaze fire. But other pieces get added color lightly applied, then a special clear coat for the final stage. 

Finishing while Firing. 

While my kiln was doing the first part of the process on these new pieces, I was finishing up on several pieces. Finally.

I admit I hate finishing. I don’t like endings in my work because I love the process of creating. But the other reason is good old fashioned fear of failure. 

Questions and self doubt and past mistakes creep in like fog on a dark night.

What was I thinking? Do I even like this piece? What if it turns out ugly and not even close to what I had in mind? What if I hate it and everyone else does too? Hey, I was asked to leave a gallery because I changed my color palette and they didn’t like it.

Because these two pieces are both sculptural, I get especially nervous. Have you ever had people come into your studio, stop in front of your work, start pointing and talking? Then when you come up to see if you can answer questions they tell you they know all about it. Thank You. Then they leave. Or they say, well it’s not very pretty is it? Or wherever did you get an idea like that? Yeah, maybe I have a reason to be nervous. 

Is it art? It is what it is. 

I love clay and color and texture. I love creating bowls and mugs and vases and plates that are colorful and textural that people can use everyday. I also love letting my hands tell a story or describe a character that I imagine. My only problem is that my hands don’t always manifest my imagined image exactly. 

Things happen on the way from my heart to my hands. Sometimes there is a breath of beauty I could not have thought of before. Sometimes, there is tension and misinterpretation of a language I am always learning to speak. 

When it comes down to the end, what’s done is done. It is what it is. 
And it’s my job at this point to let it go. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Springing Forward

Spring is one my favorite seasons for all the right reasons: new buds and blooms and freshness. It’s always energizing. I find myself taking bigger, deeper breaths clearing out the winter gloom. I feel lighter in my mind, body and spirit. 

With all this new energy buzzing all around me, new ideas and worked seems to be blooming too. My studio shelves are now bursting with work. I’m ready at last to load my kiln and fire it up. I see I’ll need to do 2 bisque loads and, probably, 2 glaze loads! For me, that’s a really significant amount of work in less than 3 months. 

Talking to the Trees. 

I’ve written quite a few essays about my journeys in the woods and my encounters with my wise trees. I know to some this may seem odd or even unbelievable, that’s ok. I get it. We all have our own ways to honor the spirit of creation in this world. And I believe that the more we honor that spirit of love, peace and knowledge around us, the better we will all be. 

Mother Cedar, as I call her, is always a place of energy and wisdom for me. When I lean against her trunk, I immediately feel the energy of connection. It soothes and energizes me. And if I’m lucky that day, I get a message of guidance. 

Today’s was simple: Be kind. I immediately took the words to mean, be kind to others. And then, I got another nudge. While being kind to others is important, the message was closer to home. What did she mean? It was clear. Be kind to myself. This is very hard for me to do, and a good lesson for the season. Spring up with kindness. 

Darling Darby. 

I am so thankful for my beautiful boy puppy. He is full of energy and playfulness. I didn’t realize until he came into my life that I’d forgotten something very essential to life: Play. As he sniffs and romps around the yard, I see the world in a new light. And I feel the lightness and joy through his simple enjoyment of what this day brings. 

Although what I do creating, throwing, painting and sculpting may make it look like I play all the time. The truth is, most of the time, I work hard. I push and pull and, yes, schedule my time. I may not work 9 to 5, but I block out hours and days so my work gets priority. This is an important part of the process.

But it doesn’t always have to be that way. Just like the buds, blooms and bouncy puppies, I can Spring forward. Sniff the freshness. Watch the buds open. Touch the earth, my work and even myself, with true kindness that helps us all bloom and grow. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

What do you do, when you don’t know what to do?

I have so many questions swirling around about our President, our government, our ability to survive together as a country. Then there’s my ability to make a new sculpture, figure how to paint it and what happens? I get stuck. I want answers, yes. But most of all I want to do something, I just don’t know what to do. 

This question from an email blog by author, Tara Mohr, felt more like a solution than a question. Tara got her inspiration from another author, John Holt, who said, “The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do, but how do we behave when we don’t know what to do.”

There have been many, many times in my life when what I knew wasn’t enough. I had a problem to solve, a yearning to do and no clear idea of what to do to get there. The biggest question is what did I do next?

Get mad?

Yes, frustration is a hard place to be for everyone. Just ask my three-year old granddaughter and she’ll tell you straight out, “I don’t like it!” Yes, I tell her, it’s frustrating when the puzzle pieces don’t fit together, the paint spills or the pencil gets lost under the couch. 

But throwing the puzzle pieces around only makes it worse, right? I don’t tell her I’ve had my own times of literally throwing clay in frustration. We’ve all been there, but staying there solves nothing. And it still leaves us in the land of don’t know. 


That’s what I tell myself and now, what I tell my little granddaughter. Faced with not knowing what to do, I face it by breathing. I let myself off the hook of being all-knowing. I revisit all those times in my life when I was lost and hiding my own ignorance. Or so overwhelmed that all I wanted to do was run away. 

Even though, sometimes I did run away, and still do, in the form of busyness. I know that’s just a way to channel my loose and frustrated energy. And it’s a good tool for me as long as I don’t overuse it. 

Other tools I use are obvious to most of us. I sought out books, classes and teachers. I journaled. Walked in the woods. Sat in silence listening for guidance. I stared out the window and took solace in the wide open sky that somewhere out there a solution lived and maybe I just needed to live a little longer to find it. 

True problem solving isn’t like algebra. 

And I loved algebra in school. But as comforting as a linear equation is on paper, life as we all know, is not like that at all. Life requires that we learn as much as we can. But it also requires us to understand no matter how much we know, we will all have times when we don’t know what to do. 

But that’s the essence of truth, of creativity, of truly living. Embracing the questions. Letting yourself not know everything. Feeling the growing pains of frustration and fear. And breathe knowing it will lead to growth.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Life Changing Quotes

Quote: “What do you choose to believe?”

Quotes seem to pop up around me like flowers in Spring. And this one popped up in my inbox. At first, I shrugged and moved on but the second sentence grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. 

“Whether you believe it’s possible or whether you believe it’s impossible, you’re right.”

I’ve had many times in my life where I didn’t believe in possible. I know I’m not alone. Our lives are full of impossible situations, things we cannot change and events beyond our control. You know what I mean: death, disease, war, and poverty. But there are others that while they seem impossible at the moment, may lead us into a new light of possibility. 

What can change possible from impossible? Choosing to believe. I know it sounds too simple but I also know it’s proven true for me. I didn’t believe I could ever learn to throw clay into bowls and cups, yet, here they are on my studio shelves.

I didn’t believe when my sweet, Labrador Jilly died so suddenly that I would be able to love another puppy again. Yet, when my new baby boy, Darby came into my life my heart opened up bigger. 

Quote: “If you don’t want to do it and you don’t have to do it. Don’t do it.”

This is a game changer for me. I was brought up to do everything for everyone and to do it well. Dirty cup sitting on a table that’s not mine, pick it up and wash it. Join the committee and do not just my best job, but more than is required. Be Vice President of my sorority, President of Women In Communications. Win awards. Work overtime. Read all the parenting books, go to seminars and do all the laundry, too. 

Always, my motivation was to help. Everyone. What I realize now, is that’s not always helpful  for them or me. Because too much helping them, left me tired and burned out. And guess what? It didn’t help them either. 

This quote is now my way to help myself by asking what do I really want to do? When I’m tempted to jump in somewhere and give it all I’ve got, I read it. Then I take a breath in and out. 

Quote: “Remember when you wanted what you currently have.”

Popping up on my Facebook feed, I thank many of my friends there for providing wisdom like this along with inspiration and laughs. 

This quote struck a particular chord. About 10 years ago, things were not going so well for my family and I. We had to weather the emotional, physical and financial storms of lay-offs, broken bones with no health insurance and college tuitions. 

I remember wanting it to all end well. New and better jobs. College graduations. Bones healed. And, particularly for me, a chance to take ceramics classes, learn to throw and maybe be able to sell a few pieces. 

Surprise! What I wanted, we all currently have!