Thursday, June 17, 2021

Closet Archeology





There are many closet cliches because closets hold so much of our lives. It’s not about the shirts, hats, pants, dresses and coats, it’s about our life. I think we stuff our closets like we stuff our pantry, to feel full and safe. Storing old boxes of books, toys, photos are a way to preserve the past, but it also keeps us from having to let it go and move on. 


Even when we actually move from one place to the next, it’s feels better to move the unopened boxes and old clothes. Because then, we can bring our past with us into our future. The known moves with us into the unknown. 


Digging into the past. 



I spent the last week digging through my children’s childhood. They are grown up and parents now. Yet inside their childhood bedroom closets were boxes and boxes of dolls, trains, books and games. I’ve asked them many times to come and take a look, to take or toss what they wanted. Somehow, they never seemed to have the time. 



With 2 grandchildren, I decided it was time to dig through it all and pass on my children’s childhood memories to them. And keep some here for the next generation to enjoy. 


What a find. 


I found Barbie and baby dolls. Marble works and legos. A stuffed Pooh bear and a wooden carousel that still play lullaby music. A baby book, boxes of photographs. Band uniforms and ball gowns. Legos by the millions and a beloved Brio train set. 




I also found my own Barbie doll and her case with clothes that dated back to my childhood. A Chatty Cathy doll who no longer talks and had one eye missing. And yes, that ever popular Cabbage Patch doll. 


Memory museum. 


I don’t want my house to become a museum to the past. I don’t want to burden my children with things they don’t want. So some of the things got tossed and some were donated. 


But some of the closet artifacts moved back in with my now grown up children. They sent me pictures of them reading cherished books to their children. Sharing memories with their significant others as well as with each other. 



I smiled through happy tears. Seeing my grandchildren joyfully playing with their parent’s toys. Hearing my children cherish the wonders of their own personal museum finds in their long forgotten books, toys, party photos, notes and music. 



And while we avoid cleaning our closets because we don’t want to dig up our past, maybe the lesson of closet archeology is revealing the joy buried under the dust. 



Monday, June 7, 2021

Time to Look Out the Window

 


A few things reappeared this last week, small things, really. So small, I guess that I didn’t even realize they had disappeared into this years covid mist. Let’s face it, life as we knew it vanished into days, weeks and months of the unknown. Life had to be arranged and rearranged around all these changes and, of course, it changed you and me and all of us. 


Is there an old me to reclaim? A new me to find? Or new mixed bag of me?


Time to find out. 


With all the pushing to produce, social media post, shop updates, virtual shows and shipping, I’ve gained a lot of new skills. I’m thankful for all the support of my art. I’m surprised I can, indeed, promote my own work. I’m glad I learned a new skill set. 



But I lost my old studio rhythm. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that clay cannot be rushed. Especially porcelain. I’ve learned to honor and work with it. While I threw and shaped it into bowls and cups, it shaped me, my days, my creative life and my studio schedule. 


Shifting into a new shape. Again. 


Covid definitely re-shaped my studio schedule and I spent many months longing for the old rhythm of my studio days. While I worked hard and got new shelves of new work done, it felt very different. Sometimes it was like driving during rush hour on the freeway, peddle to the metal and then, slamming on the brakes. 


Now post covid as things start to open, my studio feels more open, too. I find myself breathing in and sighing. I seem to be moving more slowly and softly as I feel my way back to my clay.



Sitting here now looking out the window, I realize I’m seeing things again. Things I forgot all about. Things I didn’t even realize I missed until now. 


I see a sweet face in the tree leaves. A bird shape in the clouds. The blue sky shaped around the white cloud edges forms a sleeping animal. Even closing my eyes to rest, I see the violet circle I used to meditate. It’s back.



Maybe that means I’m back too. And all I need to do is open up. Breathe. Let the questions float like the clouds outside the window. 


What wants to be seen? Created? Given shape?

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Merry Making Again



What do I love most, other than my husband and family, of course? I love making. There is just nothing like putting my mind and heart and hands to work creating something new. And I know, I’m very lucky to find and do work that allows me to use a wide range of skills. 


For the last few months, I’ve worked finishing work, glazing, firing, sanding and cleaning. I’ve worked hard rebuilding my online platforms, editing copy, taking pictures, adding hashtags. Then there was marketing on social media, which can be overwhelming to me. Even as I love seeing, reading and even creating posts for others, doing it for myself is hard work. 


Taking a studio retreat. 



This week, I went back to work in the studio. I opened a new bag of clay and rolled out huge slabs. I wedged and slapped and rolled some more. I cut out new shapes. Stamped new words and hearts and spirals and suns. 


I even made a tile for my grandson, Cieran. When he comes over this week, I’ll help him put his little handprints into the soft clay to make a belated Mother’s Day present for his mom. Like the one I did with his cousin, Meyer, for my son.




Grateful. I’m so grateful. 


All of my loved ones are vaccinated. All of us are well. All of us are stepping our way back out into this covid world. I’d say “post-covid” but we all know, covid is always going to be part of our world now.


I’ve worked very hard to be strong and fight it but it’s time for acceptance. To feel the tears and maybe even, the fears we’ve held back to be strong for others. I’ve felt it all flowing through me this week. I’ve noticed my shoulders lowering and my jaw loosening. 


And I’m so grateful for the love and support of my family, friends and my art customers, in person and virtual on Etsy or Ceramics Showcase. 



Making always makes me better. 


I’ll admit, I felt a little off my studio game at first. And I was surprised when I realized it’s been a few months since I’ve put my hands in new clay. So much of this year is a blur, isn’t it?


So I’ll ask a question: what can you make to make you feel better? 


Because it’s time for us all, to begin again. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Celebrate Health, Sunshine and Blooming

 


This week, I took my daughter to get her second covid shot at the convention center. I feel like a pro since I’ve been there 4 times now for myself and family members. And, really it’s amazing, so well organized from the parking to the waiting area. Everyone is friendly, helpful and supportive. I had to laugh though, when my daughter compared it to her many visits to Disneyland in California. 


I agree. There are bright color coded signs everywhere. Parking lot staff with lighted wands. Color coded roped off walkways, maze like waiting lines. Smiling, colorfully uniformed people directing you to your next stop to get your vaccine. Even after your shot, there are smiling people to give you bottles of water, a chair and a countdown clock to time your after-shot wait.


On Tuesday, we were there when cheers went up to celebrate the 500,000th covid vaccination. Wow, 1/2 million people are protected. Now something healthy to celebrate!



Sunshine in my heart and soul. 


Oregon isn’t known for its sunshine. So when I see it, my heart lifts and I get busy. It’s time to clean the patio. Scrub the furniture and grill. Empty out the old soil, fill the pots with plants and hang new flowering baskets. 



This weekend, it’s time to plant the veggies and replant some strawberry plants. Get out the bird netting to keep the jays from eating all the blueberries. And turn on the lily fountain to give the hummingbirds water to drink.  



Art, adhesives, butterflies and bubble wrap. 


This week in the studio, it was time to finish the butterflies. I made metal antennas for all of them and added copper tubes to the bigger ones. Glue is not my favorite ‘art’ medium but it is a necessary one. And there are so many different kinds of glues for so many different surface treatments. I’m lucky I have an in-house ‘glue guru’, my husband to help me figure out the best adhesive for the job. 




I have a new job: shipping clerk. Yup, never saw this coming, right? But with online site sales and virtual shows, I’m now a website builder, online marketer, virtual sales cashier and in-house shipping clerk. I never trained for any of these jobs, but thanks to other artists, friends and family, I’m learning it all. 



And I’m grateful. After a year of living under a covid cloud, finally, I feel the sun coming out. Just like butterflies bursting from their cocoons, it’s time to spread my wings. 


Inside and outside life is blooming. 


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Clearing and Opening Up



Creating creates beauty and, sometimes chaos. But always, it creates mess. Not just the daily studio cleanup kind of messes, where brushes need washing, wedging boards need scraping and the floor around the kiln needs sweeping before another firing. 


I’m talking about clearing out the deep mess that gets pushed into the corners and the bottoms of drawers and the back of closet shelves. Not every bag of clay or glaze works. Not every piece created is wonderful, useful or something to sell. And that’s ok. 



It’s all part of the process. 


A year ago, when the pandemic started, I was given a box of free clay. It had been delivered by mistake and the artist offered it for free. I took it gladly. I made a few nice things with it. 


Hungry Caterpillar birthday favors for my grandson’s first birthday. 


And Peace Dove ornaments. 



But in the end, I realized I just didn’t like the smell or texture of clay. I tried to pass it on again but that didn’t work. So I cleared it out and recycled it. Now I have room for new clay and new glaze. 


This clay that I didn’t like, led me to create a few new little things. It led me to a new experiment: little plates.



 I always thought that plates had to be big to be useful. Dinner, dessert, salad plates or platters. I do love design but I also love function. When I made these little plates, I thought they might be good as teabag holders for my teacups.



What a surprise: these little plates can do a lot! They can hold jewelry, keys, charger jacks, paper clips, candies or nuts, a small candle or soap and yes, a teabag. 



Opening up. 


I’ll admit clearing out isn’t fun or colorful or obviously creative. But facing the messes and mishaps help in the end.


Sometimes things need to go to make room and space to create more work. Sometimes it’s a germ of an idea that needs time to sprout into a different form. Sometimes it’s just something to get you to something better.


Most of the time, it’s an opening waiting for you to go through. 



Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Creative Resting



 I’ll admit it, I’m not good at taking time off. I know resting and relaxing are important and healthy but sitting around for hours and hours at a time is just impossible for me. But after spending the last three months getting ready for my first virtual Ceramics Showcase, I know I need a few days off. 

The problem for me is how to take time off and not feel I’m falling behind. Because as a self-employed person, there is always something that needs to be done. Some of the things I love to do and some not. Either way, it’s my job to get it done. 


My lists have lists, if you know what I mean. But maybe I could take a few days and make another kind of list. 


So what is resting, relaxing and re-energizing for me right now?



Arranging flowers is one of my favorite things to do and this year, my yard is just bursting with lilacs. I love how they smell, the shades of purple to pink to white. So I spent some lovely hours clipping, selecting vases and arranging them around my house. 



Walking in the woods is a huge retreat for me. Hearing the geese honking. Watching an egret fly. Leaning against my favorite cedar tree. And marveling at a mischievous otter float around the lake on his back. I wish I managed to get a picture of the playful otter, but he was just out of camera range. I think trying to stay out of the way of the angry mama geese on their nests. 


Staring out the window and seeing faces in the trees. Reading a fun novel. It could be a ‘beach’ read, romance, fantasy or historical novel. Right now, I’ll admit to being sucked into the Bridgerton books from the new TV series. 


New colors, brushes and equipment. Oh my!



I couldn’t help myself. New colors of underglazes looked so pretty. A few new goat hair brushes. And kiln stilts that I just needed to glaze my new butterflies. 



I can’t wait to try them all. I see new little heart magnets in every hue. Newly glazed butterflies shining in the sun in pretty flowerpots. 



As I sit here on the window seat, looking over the hills with the sun shining, I realize I can be creative and rest at the same time. At least for a few hours anyway. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Love and Waiting

 




I love clay. The smoothness, strength, flexibility, shaping, and painting. I love how it takes texture. Whether I throw it or roll it, I love how it feels. It takes textures of all kinds: leaves, twigs, lace, handprints, footprints, words and more. I can paint on it like a canvas or draw on it like paper or scratch out designs. 


And I love holding it in my hands through the entire process bringing it to life. Running my fingers over it time and time again to smooth edges and add handles and trim sweet little feet. 


I don’t love firing.


I have, over time, made my peace with bisque firing. I used to agonize over it. I worried that my green ware would blow up into tiny pieces. Not only would I lose one piece but, perhaps, others might be shattered just by being in close contact. All it takes is an unknown bubble to cause such destruction. 



But I know this necessary step will give me the opportunity to add more color, texture or meaning to the pieces. And I love that part of the process, too. And after many years of bisque firings under my belt, I see opportunity. 


Glazing and waiting. 


Once I’ve added all my color and my piece is bisque fired, there are only two steps left: glazing and firing. I hate both. 



Mixing and dipping each piece in clear glaze seems really simple. It is and it isn’t. This time around I bought 2 new gallons of clear glaze. It did not look or feel like my old clear glaze even though it was the same brand. It mixed up differently. It covered differently. It dried on the pieces ok, but I am still worried. Why? Because this, is it. 



All I can do now is load my kiln. Turn it on. Turn it up every 2 hours from low to medium to high. 

All the pieces that I’ve loved to throw, roll, trim, shape, paint and texture are in there baking at 2,200 degrees. 


And wait. Until the kiln turns itself off after reaching it’s required temperature. 


And wait. Until the inside kiln temp is as cool as the outside temperature to unload the kiln.


Will the glaze look wonderful? Will my colors and textures and sweet little feet survive?


Will I love each piece? I hope so. But right now, all I can do is wait. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Let the healing begin

 


Today, the sun shines brightly through my very dirty windows and it’s wonderful. The light and warmth reach me anyway. I see red camellia blossoms and purple lilac buds. My peonies reaching through the dirt and up toward the sky. 


So am I. 


Through the darkness of this year of fear, I’m determined to face toward the light. It’s not easy with all the dire warnings and case counts and vaccination fears still making headlines. But I’m going to focus my eyes, face and body like the plants in my yard: toward the sun. 


Light and bright. 


In the studio, I’m getting ready for my first virtual show. In many ways, it’s the same as getting ready for an onsite show. 



I throw. I roll out clay. I paint on color. I bisque fire. I add layers of color or a wash. I glaze and fire again. This week I’m waiting to get more clear glaze so I can do the final firing. Then I’ll have everything ready for my virtual sale. Also, I’ll be  opening my studio for 3 days for a covid safe in person experience, April 30-May 2. And as always, safe studio appointments, pick up and delivery are alway available. 


Off and now, on again.


Ceramic Showcase and the Gathering of the Guilds was cancelled last year and I missed it a lot. Not just because it’s one of my biggest sales venues but because I missed being part of live gathering of artists. I missed seeing friends, art lovers and other clay artists. I still do. 



A new virtual online show is exciting and a little nerve racking. I only get 4 pictures of my work in the online virtual show gallery, so choosing well is important. Because I have so much work that I want people to see and choose from, I have to find different ways to ‘display’ it. 


From packing and pricing to photography and online platforms.


Ceramic Showcase used to mean spending days pricing, packing and doing inventory. Then there was set up day, sales days and at the end, take down day. I drove to and from the convention center, paid for parking and gas and did in person work shifts. 


A virtual Ceramic Showcase is all online. So preparation is completely different. I have to make sure I show my work in its true form in many different online formats. First, I took multiple pictures of as many examples of my work from teacups to vases to bowls to sculptures. Then, I did some ‘rebranding’ so all my sites have a more consistent look and message.



I redid my Etsy page. 



I rebuilt my website, which was not easy due to changes made by the platform I use. I’ll admit this is the first time since I designed it that I had to get tech help. Thank you tech chat person!And I will be updating my blog pages to show the most current work, too. 




It’s a lot of work, yes. But it’s also a lot of love. 

And that’s how I let my healing begin. 





Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Art touches my life and I hope, yours.



 “I think if I could go back in time and give myself a message, 

it would be to reiterate 

that my value as an artist doesn’t come from how much I create.


I think that mindset is yoked to capitalism.


Being an artist is about how and why 

you touch people’s lives, 

even if it’s one person.


Even if that’s yourself, 

in the process of art making.”


Amanda Gorman’s wise and wonderful words strengthen my soul, heart and mind. Tears well up in my eyes as my head nods up and down. Yes. Yes. 


Making my art is my way to be in the world. It is the way I see, hear, touch and live. Making is not just an activity or talent or job. It is in my nature, my essential soul giving me breath and life and light.  


Firing     



Loading and unloading my kiln is not my favorite job. It takes many trips carrying a tray loaded with fragile work from my studio inside to my kiln outside. Then there’s the art of logistics and making the puzzle of fitting my work into the kiln. 


I only have so many shelves and so much space. This time, I had 48 pieces to fit into my kiln. Luckily most of them were horizontal pieces. That means I can put in more shelves vertically, giving me more space. 



I fire starting at night, with one ring only on low. The next morning I get up, go out to the freezing garage and turn up all the dials to low. For the rest of the day, I wait for the timer to tell me to go out and turn up the kiln again and again until the cone bends and it shuts itself off. 


The joy of unloading. 


A few days later, when everything has come to an even temperature inside and out, I open my kiln. Unloading is scary and wonderful. 



Many things can happen inside the fiery darkness. Pieces can crack, discolor or blow up. I’ve had all those things happen, so I never assume all will be well until I unload and examine each and every piece. 



This was a load of joyful pieces. New colors bloomed. Butterflies flew out brightly. Healing bowls came out strong, smooth and whole. 


Amanda Gorman is so wonderfully right. 

“Being an artist is about how and why 

you touch people’s lives, 

even if it’s one person.


Even if that’s yourself, 

in the process of art making.”




Making my art not only touches my heart and soul, it makes me feel whole.

So maybe, if my work can bloom, be bright, strong and whole, so can I.  

And maybe so can you.