Sunday, January 24, 2021

Creatively Stir Crazy

It started with just one small bag of old clay. Over the next few days, everything in my studio got moved, cleaned, recycled or tossed. Yes, even a few finished bowls and vases were thrown into the trash can outside. They landed with such a satisfying crash.

I know it sounds a little crazy. And maybe it is, or I am. But there’s just something about January that brings out the need to clear the decks. And especially after this last year, ok the last four years, it felt like a mission that had to be carried out. With gusto. 

Making room. 

I didn’t think it would ever happen. I have over two dozen shelves in my studio which gives me plenty of room to make, dry, underglaze, fire and finish new work as well as display pieces for sale. But all of my shelves were full. 

Bags of clay, bats, tubes, trays, foam, forms and more take up several shelves. Finished, saved and displayed work for sale take up more and more shelves. Some work in progress did sit, waiting for me to catch up to it after the holiday. And ok, I’ll admit, some of it got tossed as well. 

But it was definitely time to make room to make new work. And how could I be motivated to make new work, more work, when all I could see were crowded shelves. 

The forgotten.  

On the bottom of my studio display shelves, behind the rolling cart filled with underglazes, glazes and brushes, are stacks of finished pieces. There are vases, platters, mugs, raku pieces, and bowls sitting and waiting dusty and forgotten. 

There’s nothing wrong with these pieces. They’ve been to shows and galleries. Ok, they haven’t sold. But I admit, I still like them, so I can’t seem to let them go. They sit. And wait. 

This week, I made a decision: move them, throw them or let them go. I went through each and every piece. Some I dusted. Some I tossed. Some I  prepared to be boxed away in the garage where I’m afraid they’ll be forgotten for good. Then, I had an idea. 

Garage Sale. 

I know there’s still a pandemic and a need for care, social distance and masks. I know it isn’t the season for garage sales. And I know that selling art at a garage sale may seem crass or bad or just ‘not done’. Maybe I’m just a little creatively stir crazy. 

But these forgotten pieces seem to need some new homes. And I need to make some space in my studio by giving them a chance to make someone smile instead of gathering dust.

And maybe it’s not crazy, but a way of clearing and cleaning not just my studio but my mind, heart and soul. Making way for healing, happy days and hugs.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Turtle Steps

I made lists. I had plans. Then, last year happened. And maybe like you, all those lists and plans and goals fell apart. So with this new year, I decided to start out slow. 

Last week, I repaired sculptures that were broken in last year’s final months. I faced the overwhelming task by taking only one piece down at a time. Fixing that one piece. Then and only then, moving on to the next. Even though I went slowly, one at a time, it surprised me how quickly they were all fixed. 

Think tiny. 

I didn’t come up with the idea. One of my favorite writers, Martha Beck did. What is it? She says, “A turtle step, as I define it, is a step that takes you toward your ultimate goal, but is so tiny you could do it easily on your worst day.” 

And in addition to suggesting this as a new goal for the new year, she shared that it was the only way she was able to write her books. Her goal everyday was one paragraph. That’s all. But, of course what she learned was that a paragraph a day(or maybe 1 more on a good day) does become a book. 

After reading this, I took a long look at my big ideas from last year. And my lack of big ideas for this year. And I sighed with relief. 

One snap at a time. 

This week, I needed to revamp my Etsy shop. Although I’ve had an Etsy shop for years, I really never got the hang of it. Last year, I decided it was time for me to take it more seriously. And it worked. My work sold on Etsy. 

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it was time to re-stock my shop with new ceramic pieces. As I started to get overwhelmed, I remembered ‘turtle steps’. One day, I just chose the pieces.

 The next day, I set up my photo booth. 

Then one by one, I took pictures. Next I wrote descriptions, prices, sizes, colors and tags. Another day, I uploaded them onto Etsy

At first, it all seemed overwhelming but doing it little by little, day by day, it was a snap. 

So, if you’re feeling you just can’t face this new year: try turtle steps.

Today, one step. Tomorrow take another. Then day after day, one more.

Maybe we all need to remember the old story of the tortoise and the hare. 

Slow and steady wins.   

One by one. Day by day. Vaccinations can happen. People get well. Smiles return.  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

2021 Word of the Year


What a week. I listened in shock at the chaos, damage and injury happening in our nation’s capitol. After 911 and 2020, I thought I’d seen the worst. I was so wrong. 

Living through such a crazy, scary, turbulent year, I feel so many feelings. Sad. Mad. Confused. Afraid. Alone. Frustrated. Isolated and silenced behind a mask. Watching and waiting for it to all be over, only to see more difficulty and damage all around me. 

New Year. New Word.

Many things seem to have broken this year. I had several pieces broken while on display outside my studio. Some were minor. But some were major damage and so overwhelmed me, I had to put them on a shelf, on their sides, where they lay ‘dead’ for many weeks. I didn’t know if I’d be able to repair them and sell them. Or if they’d always be scarred and damaged. 

I was feeling the same, so I looked to find a way, a word to help me move step by step into a new year. I know I can’t fix a pandemic, the violence and destruction in my city’s downtown or our nation’s capitol. I didn’t even think I could fix my own damaged art pieces. 

I searched for the opposite of all the words that described this year: damaged, broken, sad, isolated. From those came one word: Heal. 

Working to heal. 

So this week, I walked in my studio and faced my broken birds and leaf. I let myself breathe out  my anger and fear. Then I gently took down one piece, looked at the damage and got out some tools. 

One by one, I looked and touched and sighed. I assessed the damage. I sanded and cleaned gently. I glued what I could and waited. When there was nothing left to glue, I gently sanded some more. I mixed paint to match each chipped and broken bird and dabbed and wiped and waited some more. If the color held, I glazed and waited overnight. 

In the light, after days of work, I saw no cracks. Beaks had slightly new angles. Wings chipped were now smooth. One leaf stem was gone and would never be the same, but my work had formed a piece that was whole in a new way.  

Broken and reformed. 

When I look around this last year at all that’s broken and all that we’ve endured, I see that we have also adapted. Of course we are changed by everything that’s happened to us and around us. So many things we could have never imagined fell apart. 

The definition of the word Heal(verb): to make free from injury; to make sound or whole; to make well again; to cause (an undesirable condition) to be overcome; to patch up or correct; to restore to original purity or integrity. 

In the words of William Powell, “The troubles...have not been forgotten, but they had been healed.”

So this year, I will work to mend, recover, rally, overcome and reform.  

And find ways to help us all come back together to heal our hearts and our souls.