Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sculpting is Fun. Doing My Own Photography is NOT.

I held my breath as I opened the kiln. Then, I let it out with a smile and a thank you to the clay gods, goddesses and the universe. I’ve been working so hard on this new body of sculptural work. It’s taken months and with some pieces years to get to this point. There is no going back. It’s over for better or worse. 

This time, I am blessed. Every piece came out in one piece, colors bright and the new pearl glaze shimmering nicely. But I wasn’t done, yet. 

It’s time for your close up. 

I am not a professional photographer. I had a wonderful, talented pro who took pictures of my work for years and I admired his excellence and expertise every time. He patiently assessed every piece I’d brought, decided on background, set up and snapped away. He retired. Now I am on my own. 

In this age of cell phone photography, it’s easy to think that shooting pictures is as easy as a click of a button. It’s not. 

Good photography is a complex dance between light and shadow, foreground and background, composition and editing. These days you need a digital camera with double digit megapixels, zoom, computer downloadable and a good editing app or software. Add a tripod, seamless background, table set up and lights. Whew.

Let there be light. 

Lighting is the key to good art photography. My photographer did a wonderful job and I now try to emulate his technique as best I can. I use this set up in my garage which is the only place I can have the kind of complete darkness which is necessary to get good lighting. 

I know it sounds crazy but starting in complete darkness is the key to good lighting. When I first attempted my photos, I had too much light and the background was too light, too flat and dulled the colors in my pieces. This time I really tried to get more contrast between the background and my work. I was aiming for gradation from top to bottom of dark to light in each picture. I think I did better this time. But I know I need to learn more. 

Learning is lifelong. 

Yes it is. It’s not always easy and I’m not the most patient student. Technology overwhelms me sometimes. Playing with lights and camera makes me act a little crazy. I’ll admit, my dog heard a lot of bad words that day. Sorry, pup. 

But all in all, I love learning. Even when I get frustrated, I never want to stop. I truly believe that the key to a long, healthy life is learning. Maybe one of these times taking pictures of my work will become as easy as building with clay on a good day.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

My Saturday: Gallery Sitting and Art Making(and fun)

Photo by Michelle Barnett

I am not a ‘sitter’. By that I mean, I don’t like to sit for long periods of time. Physically, mentally and creatively, I just like to be moving. I walk everyday, do yoga, stand while I hand build and most of my best ideas come to me while I’m moving around or leaning against my favorite tree. 

As an Art On Broadway artist, I staff the gallery once a month. This is called ‘gallery sitting’ and today was my day. Gallery sitting turned into gallery standing, gallery creating, gallery selling and gallery meeting and greeting.

Gallery standing. 

When I arrive in the morning, the first thing I always do is housekeeping. I sweep the floor inside, entry way and sidewalk in front of the gallery. Then I dust the shelves, cubbies, pedestals, glass art, ceramic art, wood pieces. I wipe the finger prints off the door, clean the glass desk and water the plants. 
Photo by Michelle Barnett

Then I look around and see what needs ‘fluffing’. This is a term another artist uses to describe moving things around in a space. We have wonderful art and artists who work to set up displays but as she explained to me, moving even great displays around creates energy. That energy attracts people to look and see and buy the art. So I fluff. 

Gallery creating. 

This week I worked in my studio hand building new vases and jars. I love making. What I don’t love is waiting. Clay is a unique medium that requires you to work quickly and slowly and patiently. Clay has to sit but not too long. 

I made the body of these jars on Thursday, then they sat. Next lids need to be cut, tops and sculptural elements need to be added. Depending on the weather, the sitting time is anywhere from a day to a week. Summertime means the jars needed attention by Saturday at the latest. 

So I packed them up and took them to the gallery with me. 

Gallery selling, meeting and greeting.

I had very few visitors in the morning, but after I set up my workspace and starting working people walked in instead of walking by. They came in and looked all around the gallery. Some were interested in what I was doing. Some were not. But they all had more interested looks on their faces, asked more questions about the art and artists in the gallery. 

Happily, I did sell art. It wasn’t mine, instead it was a piece by one of our newest artists. I made the sale, wrapped it up and found a new piece to hang in the empty space which required a little more fluffing to make it all look good again. 

Standing and working on my jars, fluffing the art and cleaning all sent out good energy. That energy brought people in to look, talk and take home something beautiful. Gallery sitting, standing and art making made for a fun day. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

An Appetite for Creativity. And Fun.

Are there times when you feel restless? Like there’s something there and if you just put your hand out, you’d catch it. But you don’t know what it is? Instead there’s a space like that feeling you get before you know you’re hungry. But you don’t want food for your body, you want food for your spirit. 

Creating feeds my spirit in many satisfying ways. It’s play. It’s work. It’s problem solving and it’s mystery. Even as I complete something new, I find a new sound, smell, color, shape, texture to puzzle and entice me. I wonder if I’ll ever really be finished?

Then an answer popped up my inbox:

“You created something amazing, and now you get to do it again.
And you get to do it again and again and again and again your whole life long. It is natural to feel a creative hunger for the next thing when we have completed the arc of creating the thing before. It is healthy. It is for the good. In fact, it is how life keeps us in the flow of life. We need to give ourselves permission around this. Permission for creative appetite.” Author, Tara Mohr

Completion and beginning again. 

Two sculptures I’ve been working on are ready for the last phase: glazing. Instead of feeling that satisfied feeling, I got restless. Instead of glazing these two sculptures, I started looking at two different sculptures on my top shelf. 

I took them down, held them in my hands and wondered. What to do? What colors did these pieces want? How to reveal the textures? Where was the story? 

I knew I needed to finish the other pieces and yet, I yearned to work these two, too. Instead of forcing myself to completion, I let them show me their colors as I painted. I let my creative appetite lead me. 

The result? Now instead of 2 sculptures glazed and fired, I’ll have 4. 

Fun in the sun.  

It was hot, hot, hot here. Although Darby came to us from California, he was hot too. Instead of hiding out with my R2D2 room air conditioner, I decided Darby and I needed to do something different. Like a Dr. Seuss book: it was too hot to play and too cold to stay, so Darby and I decided to go out and play. 

He was not sure what to do with this plastic pond. He sniffed it. He circled it. He ran around it. When I threw his ball in it, he delicately put one foot in to reach his ball. Finally, I used his favorite thing, the hose and got him in the pool. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Adventure. Progress. Fun.

I wouldn’t say I’m an adventurer. I think of myself as a home body. But when I look around at where I am and where I’ve been, I clearly see the risks I’ve taken in my life. And that to me is the definition of adventure. 

Have you ever had someone tell you, “Well, you can’t do that. You really think you can just apply for that and get it?”  I applied anyway. Quite a few times in my life, someone actually said that what I wanted to do was not possible. (Because I was young, and a woman?) That it was not easy. (So what.) That it took time and talent. (So I’m out of time and talent?) That it was, well a good idea years ago, maybe. (Because I’m too old and a woman?)

I did it all anyway. Was I always successful? No. But most of the time, I not only surprised the naysayers, I surprised myself.

Take this week for example: Tuesday, I sat down to throw a few cups and vases which I usually do with no problem. But that day, I wound up with mush and one small bowl. Frustrated and determined, I sat down at my wheel the next day with a few more chunks of clay. I threw a cup, a bowl and played around with a new tool making a small cactus planter. Better, but definitely not great. 

Later, I walked into my studio and saw not just 4 small clay pieces but 4 shelves filled with a dozen thrown clay pieces all done in the last 3 weeks. So this week I surprised the biggest naysayer of all, me. 

Progress is not a straight line. 

I know I was taught to get from one place to another, you had to move forward. But the reality is progress is made in fits and starts. Two steps forward and one step back still moves you ahead. 

These sculptures sat on my studio shelves in pieces for months and years. I didn’t have a head for one of them and the other was a vase that didn’t want to be a vase. Now both are in the kiln again this week with another layer of color. If all goes well, they will get a final glaze and be finished at last. 

A summer of fun. 

That’s what I set as my goal for the next three months. I could hear myself saying loud and clear, “Well, that’s setting yourself up for failure, now isn’t it.” But being the stubborn adventurer that I am, I’m giving it a shot. 

The first week, my fun was going to the beach and running through the waves with my new pup, Darby. Sipping a Heff with lemon and munching on a big piece of fresh baked delicious pizza. 

This week, it was strawberries. There is nothing that says summer to me more than eating fresh just picked berries, especially if I don’t do the picking. I also love to cook. I have fun coming up with new ideas and making delicious new dishes. One day it was apple bacon strawberry waffles. Another day it was pork tenderloin and strawberry salad. Yet another day a strawberry galette. Fun and delicious. 

Here’s what I learned this week. Adventurers aren’t all mountain climbers, some are living among us making progress one small risk at a time and hopefully, learning to have fun a long the way.