Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Art of Aging Well

 The holidays are such a nice time to reconnect with people we know. This is a picture of me with my friend, Ed,  taken at a recent gathering.
Ed is 100 years old. I first met him about twenty five years ago and he didn't look much different then.
He likes making art; his red wine; and connecting with people. Losing his wife was a difficult change." It's hard living alone", he shared. Yet he keeps on and enjoys the beautiful red rock country he calls home.
Is it our surroundings that make us age well? This place I live in has clean air and water and blue skies. It is a great boon to creativity. Human beings are tough. Our genes have an effect. If we manage to outwit all those devious health" challenges", is there a sheer joy of living that makes us go on? 
The month of January is almost upon us. It is a new year for the world, but also when I started my life journey here on this lovely planet called earth. I want to pay special attention to this art of growing older with grace.It is perhaps my ultimate creation.
 Any thoughts to share?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Calligraphy

Here is a piece I did for a Christmas past,and since it is that time of year, I thought it would be a good thought to resurrect. It reads as follows:
 " Somehow, not only at Christmas,but all the long year through, the joy that you give to others, is the joy that comes back to you."
 The poet John Greenleaf Whitttier wrote this poem over one hundred years ago. 
It' is not a new thought. Also known as " you get what you give" is another way I have heard it, or " give unto others..."  I liked the poetry form, and it was a reminder to me to hold onto this belief which certainly makes a lot of sense. I am learning that people do pick up on our feelings, and we can influence their moods by our delivery.  Isn't it nicer to be around people who are happy, rather than expressing negativity? Yes, it is.
Being the traditionalist that I am not, I created a  tie dye cloth background for my holiday cheer. My technique was to write in the Italic style of calligraphy on pieces of paper, which  I  then inserted into the fabric, and glued down. I like the feeling that the words are floating on the canvas.
The original is a rather large piece of about 24 by 36 inches, from which I also created  prints and cards. Perhaps this is just a positive way to reach more people with our art.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Art of Communication

Here I am with a poem I wrote about my two artistic passions, ceramics and calligraphy. I was in a workshop focused on creating a new alphabet, and then using it.  Yes, I know most of the historical styles, but it is fun to invent a new one occasionally.Being able to take my pen and manipulate it with each letter enabled me to create a consistent pattern, which is called an alphabet. I believe that is where many fonts used on your computer came from. A creative artist with pen and ink is playing with a purpose.

I have been combining my two skills lately, using the clay as a canvas on which to letter.Some of my previous blogs have shared this process. 
There is something about the magic of letters, how they are shaped; the medium in which they are created; the ability to have others share our thoughts. I am actually writing about the art of communication, aren't I?
We want, no we need, to share our thoughts, our ideas with others. Art  expands the borders of how we perceive and express our thoughts. The list of " shoulds " can go out the window. Sometimes we are able to connect with our viewer. They are willing to pay the artist  to have this creation in their space, to enjoy this fresh perspective.That is a nice connection for both parties.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Holiday Horsehair" Pot

Here is my latest ceramic creation entitled "  Holiday Horsehair". It is currently in the show at the Sedona Arts Center, where it also adorns the invitation.
It is a rather large pot, measuring about fourteen inches in height. I also made the red beads that I used for adornment. Red berries on a winter landscape came to my mind as I was decorating the tall vessel.
This is a burnished, wheel thrown piece, which is fired in the kiln to make it strong. The surface is smooth, and soft to the touch. It goes back in the kiln, and while it is still very hot, I bring it out and use the individual horse hairs to create the random pattern. There is essentially no glaze, so it is decorative rather than functional. 
The light color is the white porcelain clay with which I throw.That creates the background for the elements of design provided by the sizzle of the horsehair on the hot surface. There is a long tradition of using this technique among  native potters.
I am happy with the results. My desire to create something special for this holiday season is met. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Giving Thanks in Calligraphy, and Life

I have been busy in my studio creating calligraphy cards.This message seems appropriate, since we just completed celebrating  Thanksgiving here in my town of Sedona, Arizona. 
This is a holiday that is celebrated in the US and Canada. A poorly documented history credits its start to a celebration  by the pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1621. However a celebration of the harvest is an old custom in the old world, thus a natural way to give thanks in our country. Remember, we were an agricultural nation for a very long time. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a joint resolution with Congress, setting aside the fourth Thursday of November as the holiday of Thanksgiving.
I was raised to write a note of thanks after receiving a gift, or a kindness from someone. Looking back I want to thank my mother for creating this habit.Now I am lucky enough to make my card from start to finish. 
When I have completed my original artwork, I print them onto card stock. I add the watercolors to enhance my message. There is always a very serendipitous quality to my designs. I have learned that less is more.Watercolor is tricky. Once you make the mark, it is there to stay. As I paint each card, I do think of how grateful I am for all the good things  and people in my life. We live in a complicated world. It is nice to stop and give thanks occasionally.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hawaii as the Artist's Inspiration

I just returned from an inspiring trip to our 50th state of  Hawaii. Here I am on the beach in Oahu, with Diamond Head in the background.
 I was celebrating someone's birthday, but just being there is a celebration of life. I live in a beautiful part of America, but I used to be a California beach girl, and sometimes I miss my ocean. Hawaii is sweet because the water is fairly warm, and there are pretty fishes to look at with my goggles. I do like my animals. They are often part of  my ceramics, as are handmade flowers.
I remember as a young girl when Hawaii became a state in 1959. It seemed so far away and exotic. It was first populated by the Polynesians some 1,550 years ago. Since 1778, when voyager Captain Cook named them the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii has long been a center of trade. The rich volcanic soil and warm climates made it profitable for growing sugar cane and pineapple.
The last reigning  Queen Lili'uokalni, lost her kingdom in 1998, to the United States. The new Territory of Hawaii had  Sanford Dole as the first governor. Pineapple anyone?
Today, agriculture has given way to houses. Honolulu is 
 a big city, with great public transportation as well as numerous homeless people in those lovely parks. Many Japanese and Australian tourists who love the shopping come to Hawaii.There are a few wandering artist types from Sedona as well.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Artist in Her Studio

Here I am in my ceramics studio in Sedona, Arizona. This is a lovely raku jar I have just completed.  Really, I am no longer working on it,it is ready to sell.This is both the artist and her studio  cleaned up for the photo.
However, I am in my place of creation, in the chair I always sit on, and the table I have worked at for the past 25 years, using my well worn tools. In the background are my supplies, and  the shelves containing  porcelain green ware that is waiting to be put in the kiln.Green ware refers to clay that is simply dried , and would crumble in a minute if not handled carefully. Once it is bisque fired, there is some strength to it. Then it can receive a glaze, and after the second, higher temperature firing, it is complete. The raku process has only a primitive second firing, so it is more decorative in nature.
This is one of my smallest studios in my creative career, but it is very efficient. I knew I had to fit in my work table, which is about four feet square. I rescued it from the Sedona dump many years ago. I call it my lucky table.In fact that wall in the studio was designed to fit that surface. I guess there are some superstitions in my mind. But remember, I do know the mysterious kiln gods do have power to make a good  firing. 
Hope you enjoyed the  mini tour of my studio!  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Calligraphy in Sedona

It is fall in Sedona. The leaves are falling. The red rocks stand out against the blue sky in all  their hues and shadows. To me these mountains look like a painting with all their variations of light and dark, shadow and brilliance.I like to bring this into my art. 
This is an original watercolor of mine, approximately eight by ten inches. I printed out the calligraphy first, then applied the paint. I like  using  a lot of water with these pigments. The two elements seem to have a mind of their own as they meander over the paper. I turn the paper first in one direction, then another, achieving  a blending of  colors. Watercolor has that element of chance and surprise to it.Rejoice in that quality! Don't go back over your strokes, or try to blend  a lot.Then you get muddy colors  and torn paper.Once the mark is made, leave it alone!
I chose a quote by one of my favorite authors and noted philosophers, Henry David Thoreau. He  passed away a hundred and fifty years ago, yet to me, his writngs ring clear and true.  I find such a relevance to his words. Nature was his inspiration, and always, it is mine.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Art of Halloween

It is Halloween time, and here I am in my costume. Who am I? Well,  some nice  man at a dance called me " lovely gypsy woman", as I held my translucent cloth up to cover my face.  I thought I was simply a woman in the lovely sari my friend brought me from  far away.Since  I was hanging out with my swami that night,  I felt I fit my  role just perfectly. 
Halloween is such an ancient revelry.  How can we not honor the art it evokes in so many ways and customs?
It comes from the contraction of "All Hallows Eve", a Christian holiday designated by a pope way back in the 8th century, to honor the saints and martyrs.  Its roots are older, it is said. Going  back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, with bonfires and costumes to scare off the ghosts.  
It is all over the world in some form. Years ago, I was in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. There the celebration is called the "Dia de Los Muertos", or the Day  of the Dead. Officially on November 2nd, it starts on October 31st with celebrations  honoring those who have passed with candles and incense. I was far out in a small village sitting in  the graveyard, watching the priest lead the procession complete with a life sized Jesus and a three piece band. Did I say we four were the only gringos, and blond at that? 
I was sitting near a grave. I  notices some bones sticking up from the shallow earth covering.  Something new for this American, where we make sure they are at least " six feet under". I was strangely touched.
Later, the Irish immigrants in America popularized the customs from their Celtic heritage,  wearing masks to hide from the ghosts. Eventually another custom, the "Trick or Treat" became a part of our vernacular.
What a great art form, to transform yourself into someone entirely different for just one night.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shalom in Ceramics

 Here is my original calligraphy on a ceramic plaque, entitled Shalom. What a beautiful word. It is Hebrew meaning peace. We know it more as the common idiom used to say hello and goodbye for Jewish people all over the world. I like the sound of this word, the way it rolls off the tongue. For me it has a sense of good will about it. I enjoy using it not only in speech, but in my artwork. Here I am, adapting 
the capitals to the necessities of the clay,while having a bit of artistic fun.It is  a slab  measuring about ten by four inches, with folded edges. I include holes for a yarn hanger, finished with my handmade bead.
The light blue color pays homage to the Israeli flag.  I do take creative license and lighten the color so it stands out from the dark background.
This is quite labor intensive to make. It takes many coats of glaze to get the results I am after. Painting within the lines for sure. The first firing is in a kiln. The second firing is a primitive one, where the flames actually darken the clay and make a bit of a crackle in the glaze.
I like to think that this is hanging next to someone's door as they enter their home. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Happy Birthday in Calligraphy!

I just made a cake, similar to this one, for a neighbor who just turned 100 years old. Well, truth be known, it is really a hand lettered calligraphy card I made. Measuring four by six inches, it is decorated in water colors. I've included a gold gauche to give the candles and card  some sparkle.The metallic colors add a special touch I enjoy adding to my hand designed  cards. 
 I often tell my friends that this might be the only kind of cake I am likely to make for them!
Birthdays, they are such special days; the reason we are here! Growing up, my mother  always made a big deal of them. I got to choose my favorite meal, and felt special that day.Often I wished I had a summer day to celebrate. But I am a winter baby and I hold my day as a lucky one. In my mind, the birthdays of those I care about  are truly holidays, meant to be savored; anticipated; and celebrated, in handmade  calligraphy no less!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Purple Vision: A Miniature Ceramic Mask

Miniature masks, how much fun is that! Something you can hold in the palm of your hand, or put on that very narrow space of wall. This particular mask is entitled "Purple Vision". It measures less than six inches. It is decorated with feathers, yarn, and has its tongue sticking out at those who are looking at it.  
I started putting this aspect on my masks a while ago. I am told that in some warrior cultures,the tongue  was actually used to scare off the enemy. I think I chose to add that feature because it made me smile. Perhaps I had seen something of that ilk in my travels. It is often hard to know how deep in our memory bank an idea is stored, and when it comes into our creative consciousness. I do not always use it, but I find that it makes other people smile also, and I like that. 
Then comes the choice of colors to use. I like purple, and with the white and light  these three colors play well against each other. Also, what is in my yarn box can be an influence.The smokey color comes from the primitive firing I do to finish off my masks. Finally comes the naming.
Someone in a gallery asked me yesterday " How do you choose the name for a piece?"  
" It usually tells me," was my response. That is the great thing about this creative process. Sometimes all I have to do is just start work with the clay, and all is revealed!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Small Turquoise Bowl in Hand

   What is it about something small that makes it so appealing? Here is a very petite bowl I recently made that someone took away with them from the gallery.
I often ask people to hold my bowls in their hands. There is something so intimate about holding a handmade piece in the palm of your hand . Certainly I want them to feel the weight of the piece. I want to make my ceramics look substantial, but feel as light as a feather. As I often say, I am against weaponry in ceramics. I am joking....kind of. The balance is an important element to me as  well.
Perhaps that is the magic of the small items. They can tuck into the palm of our hand; the corner of a shelf; or hold the smallest amount of something within. Everything is perfect, only the scale is less. Perhaps in today's world we can justify just a " little something " to take away with us as we travel through an ever crowded world .

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Turquoise Decoration

I just completed another firing of my turquoise ceramics. This bowl came out of the kiln, and seemed to have a magic all of its own. There is a pattern where the glaze was a bit thicker.Seems like the ocean to me. It is rather large in diameter,measuring  about fourteen inches across by approximately three inches in height.This is food safe,but also can make a statement just as it stands, or should I say, sits.
 I like to embellish the edge of my bowls with additional small coils of the porcelain clay.I think this adds something to catch the eye, and make you realize this is a handmade piece. Another definition of decoration is ornamentation. I felt adding  some actual turquoise stones would give it another texture. Stones on the outside reflecting the color of a semi precious jewel  on the the inside. Now there's turquoise decoration!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Turquoise Vase

I  heard from the gallery that this turquoise colored vase was just  sold. It stands about a foot tall, and is adorned with genuine Arizona turquoise stones. How nice that someone wants to own my vision of this handmade vessel. It has a  clear white interior, which is actually the porcelain clay covered by a high fired clear glaze. Thus it  can hold water. Oblong in shape, it feels modern to me, almost architectural in form. The vertical strips of clay on the front draw the eye up and down. The turquoise pieces add some fun to it!

Perhaps it was appreciated mainly for its style and color, and will be used for decorative purposes. I like to think of it  holding a  colorful bouquet of flowers. As I came down Oak Creek canyon tonight, I saw the bright yellow blossoms of summer's last wild flowers blooming. What a nice vision - colorful blossoms emerging from my vase.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Peccary in the Red Rocks

Last night I was awakened by the sound of hard rain coming down. I also heard the sound of hoof beats on the deck. It was a herd of javalina, technically a collard peccary, that hog like creature that wandered from South America to the cliffs of Sedona. 
They were looking for a place to get out of the rain. I asked them to leave, rather emphatically, and they lumbered off.Then they returned, using the stairs again, no less. I clapped my hands, made noise, turned on the porch lights and finally they departed, again.I saw the silhouette of a very small young one. 
This was not my first sighting, having lived here so many years. I remember how funky they smell close up. I have observed how pointed are the tusks on the dominant male. He has to protect his whole harem of females and young. 
However it was a very dark and stormy night, with the rain coming down in torrents. Awakened as I was from dreamland, this was not my idea of fun. 
We can almost forget for a moment, living in our civilized town, just how close to the wilderness we really are. But in the night, all creatures great and small emerge.It is their land, but we do share it.
Perhaps I will be  drawing  a peccary on an art creation in my future!  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Speak the Truth"

Lettering on clay, I love it! Here is my latest porcelain plaque entitled "Speak the Truth", spoken by a well known Native American,we know as Chief Joseph. 
I write using a  small, natural bristle brush.That seems to have some flexibility on this surface.The white of the clay shows off the blue of the cobalt oxide.Covered in a clear glaze, fired to a high temperature, it can last forever.I even make the bead that decorates the hanger. This is definitely  an original! 
Chief Joseph was the leader of the  Nez Perce tribe. Despite a treaty with Washington,his tribe was force to leave their beloved lands in northeastern Oregon. I admire his writings. I have used his words in my more traditional calligraphy pieces. 
This quote seems so relevant to me.
How often have you noticed how people go on and on when they are avoiding the truth?  Perhaps they assume  you will forget the question as you drown in verbiage?
Lesson to self. Less is more.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Just Give Peace a Chance

 Just give peace a chance. That'a a start.We're all in this together.
These feelings inspired my latest creation in ceramics. The title is " Words of Peace". A fourteen inch plate that hangs on the wall like a canvas, or stands on its foot on the table.I made the letters big and bold. I want the phrase to stand out and grab the viewer's eyes and  heart. 
This is an experimental approach to both ceramics and calligraphy for me,as I use  my own interpretation of the Uncial style  alphabet. Who says letters have to be all in a row? I like engaging  the viewer's attention in what they are seeing. 
After many years as  a pen and ink calligrapher, I am enjoying  the medium of clay on which to write my letters. It adds a dimensional quality to the piece. Using low fire glazes insure that bright, almost poster like quality I am seeking. It's an all new direction. What do you think?         

Friday, August 16, 2013

More "Horses of Courses"

Since I went to the racetrack in my last blog, I thought it would be fun to share my vision of one way  I like to portray my four legged friends in clay. This platter is titled " Horses of Courses". It measures  about ten inches high, by fourteen wide, and is both decorative and also  food safe and functional . 
I love using  brighter colors and having the ability to paint in more detail. I use low fire glazes on most of my masks and folk art pieces, and then fire the kiln to a lower temperature. It takes a long time to paint in the spots on the pinto, and make their  manes and tails fly in the wind as they gallop along to who knows where  off into the wild  blue yonder! 
I think what I like best is the sense that I am using my clay as a canvas, something I have written before. I like the feeling that I am painting an abstraction of my equine friends.Recognizable in form, yet somewhat mysterious.I want my viewer to see their own story when they look at my work. What do you see in this ceramic image?

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Day at the Races

Here I am at the the Del Mar Racetrack, checking out the ponies before the next race begins. 
It is a warm summer day near the ocean in California. I needed a break from our hot Arizona summers. How nice to be near the ocean in such a lovely location, participating in one of the oldest sports there are. Horses are so sleek and beautiful.This is about as close as I  could get to them before the race.You can almost feel  a certain tension in the air.There is money riding on these beauties. The excitement is almost palpable.
I attended with my friend who had never been to a race. Being a former California girl myself , I had gone  to Del Mar, way back when. We about broke even. 
So I always like to bring my art into my blog. Included in my "critter series" is a ceramic platter with horses running, and a bowl, and even a horse box with a mane. I do love the equine silhouette. What a fun day to refresh my appreciation and inspire my next creation. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Red Cat Platter

Since I have been writing about my "critter" art work, as I call it, I thought it was appropriate to show my piece entitled  " Red Cat Platter". Here you have two kitties checking out that little creature in between them. I wonder if they are thinking ," Now there is a catch".  
I have recently become acquainted with some felines. The older cat often lets out a howl of victory as she drags up an object of prey to her master. No matter that it is a wrapper, she is still the huntress. I'm pleased that these animals still have a wildness within their domesticated selves. I remember many years ago seeing a pride of lions in the wild. My main thought was how similar they are to our house cats. 
I like painting  cats with their recognizable silhouette. Dog owners want to see their specific breed. Since this is a low fired ceramic piece, I can use brighter and more unusual  colors.Who says cats can't be purple?
My  platters  are  fairly large, measuring about fourteen inches across. A nice quality here is that not only can you hang it on the wall as  decoration, but it is functional as well. How much fun to get to eat up all the finger food and see these creatures looking at you.
 I enjoy making  art that makes you smile. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"El Pescado " Platter

People often  ask me, "which of your arts do you love more, your ceramics or your calligraphy?" Truthfully, I am equally passionate about both of these media.When I can combine the two, it is the ultimate for me.
Here is a platter entitled    "El Pescado". 
This was an inspiration of the owner of Adelante, a gallery located  in Carefree, AZ. She carries my brightly colored cat plates. There is lots of Mexican folk art there. Speaking some Spanish, I like using  it on my artwork! The literal translation is " the cat wants,or desires, the fish.
This is piece made of porcelain, measures about fourteen inches across, and is functional as well as as decorative. Using a smooth white clay gives me a great surface on which to write.I find a brush to be the best tool when writing on clay. The  style is basically Italic. My tool is a very fine, sable  brush. It is more  flexible than the straight edge of metal  pen, which gives it a softer edge. The  color is  cobalt. It comes out a strong, dark  blue that pleases me, and reminds me of the deeper water when looking far out in the ocean. Where else to  find your pescado?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jerome on Clay

I am  excited about this latest ceramic platter I created. The piece is entitled "Jerome". It  is currently in a  show happening right now in that very same town.
 A large ceramic platter, about fourteen inches in diameter, it can be hung or put on the table, since it does have  a foot to stand on! As you can see, it is not perfectly round. I like the altered shape to make it stand out a bit, not unlike it namesake.
As a calligrapher of many years, it is always fun for me to use my lettering in a new genre. Here is the perfect canvas of clay, brightly decorated in low fire glazes. I chose the bright shiny colors because I wanted to make it  whimsical and fit in with my folk art series.As a kiln fired piece, it will stand the test of time. 
There are always technical difficulties when doing something you have never tried before. Many years ago I remember a  well known calligraphy teacher telling me" Remember, practice creates practice. Do your best every time..." I took those words to heart. I do not usually try a preview piece. I envision in my head where I am going, then let my hands do their work. 
How great when the finished piece  pleases me even more than the image with which I  started.That is my definition of success.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Small Turquoise bowl

Here is a small turquoise bowl that just came out of my  kiln.It fits so perfectly in my hand it almost feels  like a miniature. Yet it  is totally functional. In fact this is the size I start out my day with, containing some yogurt or fruit.
 It started out bigger than this, by almost 18% . There is quite a lot of shrinkage when firing ceramics. The first thing that goes is the moisture  within the clay body itself. I like the smooth white texture and results of  a porcelain clay body. Hopefully it is Very dry when I start the kiln, or it can blow up or crack. That doesn't happen too much to me now, but it can and it has. This hot dry climate of Arizona is a real boon to clay artists. Things dry quickly and well.
 With the first firing there doesn't seem to be such a decrease in volume. The second firing is to a much hotter temperature, and  that is when the size changes. It seems so big when I make it, then it gets down to its true size. It is then very strong with the clay inside and a glaze to make it really waterproof and decorated. 
I guess that is like a lot of things in life. Something starts out very grand, and ends up more in proportion. If it is a good thing , we feel happy. If the story isn't what we anticipated, than it is not so much fun. I have the same thing each time I open my kiln. The art and  surprise  in both life and art.   

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Throwing on the Wheel

                                               Well, I am at it again, throwing on the wheel.I set myself a goal of a certain amount of items to make, and I am not going to make it.Why?  I am running out of clay for one thing. The second reason is  my body energy  is crying out for a break. 
There is such a thing as a " production potter". They sit at the wheel and throw an item in a few  pulls, as rapidly as possible,  and it is finished. Often paid by the unit, motion is money. Alas, I am not one of those creatures. I do like to be succinct in my motions.However, for me, it is about the details and  the nuances. The lip of vessel is an example. How does it relate to the vessel as a whole? Can it be simpler, or more dramatic? 
 I have been working on mugs again. Here is a picture of some finished creations, with a little bit of Sedona red rocks in the background. My studio is here among the red rocks. However when I throw, I keep my back to the beauty and my vision on the wheel.
There is a lot of the physical action in using the potter's wheel. It is actually the body that keeps the arms and hands centered. You push forward with all of you. This is why beginners find their hands wobbling and unable to  center the clay. The  forward motion comes from the core, not just the hands.
The other important factor is the spirit. Am I centered when I sit  at the wheel? I can do it now matter what my mood due to  years of experience. However, when the body and spirit are in harmony, now there is my joy 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Creating Beauty

This is the finished creation  using my alphabet named  Victory. There was a focus in the workshop.We were to   use  our  made up letters to write our own epitaph, our last words. My came out in poem form. The words are as follows:
                                              Creating beauty                                
                         Clay moving in my hands,
                                ceramics emerging.
                         Letters written in ancient patterns -
                          Paid to practice,
                                 following my inner muse.
                          Loving many, loved by you.
I loved  using the patterns of the black ink on the white page. Why make an opening line go straight? I like a bit of wave in my life. I guess I am assuming that those who read my epitaph are dear to me, and perhaps I to them.
 It is interesting to me what we all do leave behind. Certainly my creations, both in pen and ink as well as ceramics, will long outlast the mortal me. I like it that I can invent art forms that often  seem very beautiful to me and  others. I makes me feel, well, happy!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Inventing an Alphabet

Yesterday I attended a workshop taught by a lovely artist and calligrapher from New York, Jeanne Poland. The theme was to write out your own epithet using an alphabet you created.
 That wasn't a problem for me. A while ago, I had invented this alphabet you see.  I called  it Victory.There it was, nestled on a page in my portfolio, just waiting for me to use. This really made me analyze just what is involved when starting from scratch.
 In calligraphy, the capital letters are called the Upper case. A decision must be made as to  whether there will be  ascenders, the parts of the letters going above the line, or descenders, those strokes below the lines. This Victory alphabet  has only capitals. This is not historically unique. Look at the Uncial style from the 3rd century. It has that Celtic look you would recognize .
I set about to use  my own invention. I chose  a large, automatic pen with its  flexible nib. This  is really  a manipulated hand. I start out on the full edge, and then twist and come off onto the side edge  of my pen. This gives  that variation I want. I am actually using  the same strokes in different sequences, depending on the perimeters of each letter. An alphabet is really about patterns and rhythms. I think the Victory will always have a certain individuality. 
More to come... 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Words of Siddhartha on Clay

                                                                           Here is my latest creation   uniting  my dual arts of  ceramics and  calligraphy. I love to use the clean white porcelain as the " canvas" to my cobalt blue brush lettering. It is entitled "The Mind", and these are words that speak to me.What goes on in our heads can be  a powerful force in our lives.What we dwell on does often take on a life of its own. I like reading inspirational words that make me look inward. I hope other people might find a connection to my presentation. 
This quote is  attributed to a famous spiritual leader, Siddhartha Gautama,who lived a very long time ago in Nepal. Raised in wealth as the son of a king, he left that world to become a monk. Sitting under the bohdi tree, he was  searching for the answers to the problem of suffering to come.Finally came understanding and he became the Buddha, which means " he who is awake." 
What you think is important. What you see can start this process. Comments? 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Magic of the Kiln

                                                            There are two exciting times for me in the wonderful world of ceramics.The first is the actual creative process, where I am  taking raw clay and creating the shape I desire. The second comes here, as I am unloading the shelves in my kiln. This is one of my large porcelain bowls. The turquoise glaze  turned out just as I had hoped, which is success for me. 
 There is always that element of surprise when playing with clay. First of all is the actual clay itself. I use porcelain, which can be temperamental. Is there a hidden crack that I failed to see? Did the glaze run because I applied it  too thick? Is there a  bare spot because it was too thin? You would think after all these years I would know what to expect, but it is always with baited breath I crack the lid and peer in. Then there are the Kiln Gods to contend with. Don't laugh. We don't see them. We can't touch them, but they can change your firing depending on their moods. Fortunately, they were happy and smiled down on me today.
 You can see here I fire with electricity rather than gas.  
 I love my kiln. It is old, fires manually with cones rather than a computer, and I wouldn't change it for anything. I recently had to replace all these elements you see on the sides.That was a challenge taking them out,  putting in the new ones in and connecting them correctly. Fortunately, I had help from a fellow craftsman.
 I fire a lot and to a high temperature to achieve these colors. That is 1360 centigrade, for my European readers, which translates to  2480 for we Americans.So there is the technical side to all of this. There is also the magic.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Ceramic Mug

                                                 Well, in the last blog I was siting at the potters wheel. These two photos  are examples of what I created out of that basic cylinder form.The top shot is the rounded, carved out mountain mug. The shot below shows the actual indentations of my fingers in the basic shape. I think I do like it that the marks of my fingers are so apparent in the finished product. "Made by hand" has a whole new definition and feeling to me. 
 A long time ago I made a lot of mugs. They were a sure seller, albeit not so exciting to me as  a  sculpture. I stopped making them for a while, not wanting  to follow that path any more. Then I changed my mind. An artist friend tells me that any functional object we create deserves to be  as excellent as we can possible achieve. I agree.
 I started refining my shapes; the designs; adding a lighter glaze interior.The turquoise outer glaze always works best on  porcelain.Using that clay is a lot like playing with butter, easier on toast I assure you.However, the end results seem worth it to me. The vibrant colors and the smooth texture. 
When I am in the gallery, I have encountered people from all over who collect handmade mugs. Used for coffee, tea, or just to feel the handmade drinking vessel, no matter what it contains. Often it is a memory of where they visited. I like that . It is my desire to take the functional, and make it beautiful and joyful for the hand holding it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Art of the Potter's Wheel

Here I am at my pottery wheel. It has been a while since I have sat down to throw. That is what you call it, throwing the clay. 
Starting with a lump of clay, as the wheel turns, my fingers pull the clay up from inside. I balance with my other hand on the outside. I am always pulling upward. Not quite as simple as it sounds. It is usual to start with the cylinder shape, as in this photo. Then I can use my hand or a tool inside to flare it out.This will be one of my mugs. 
They are  a challenge. My mugs are very labor intensive, including  the handle, hand carving, and dual glazing.   However people like them, and it is good  to sell.
I am known for making  ceramic bowls, masks, and sculpture by hand, using the smooth, white, porcelain clay I favor. However I like to throw when I am centered, and the clay and I are one.
 This week, it was time to pull out my Shimpo wheel. Except for replacing the bearings a long time ago, this wheel is so well made that it just "keeps on keeping on".
 I bought it second hand  back in the late 1970's, when I lived in Venice California. It cost a lot for  me at the time, but it certainly has been my friend. I like to buy the very best in art equipment and tools that I can afford.Clean and repair is my motto, and my preference. 
For certain symmetrical shapes, there is nothing like using the potter's wheel. It all starts here, with the basic cylinder. From there comes the rest of the art. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mask Magic

I think there is some nice mask magic surrounding me.
Recently, I hadn't been selling very much.That can send me  into my head, where I tell myself stories without happy endings. Often a gallery will call or email about a sale in order for me to  replace the item. Ceramic masks, decorated with yarn,feathers, or  fur. 
 I came home to find a phone message.My large mask sold in  Tlaquepaque, an intriguing gallery  area here in Sedona. Could I bring in some replacements? Delicious to sell  what I  am proud of!  Fortunately I had just finished two new,  large clay pieces,  each measuring about 14 " with  lots of tall feathers. I was covered! I always like to have something already made to replace a sold item. Fill the space and avoid that panic feeling.
 When  I went to my computer a message appeared about a sale of, you guessed it, a mask. Wow, this was  a nice way to start a Monday. On Tuesday afternoon came a call from Jerome about the sale of another miniature mask.I created this small piece, entitled " Fur Mask", to have for a replacement, just in case.
Three masks, three days. What are the odds? Mere coincidence? All I can figure is that it is  some sort of swirling energy. I choose to call it magic.
Now I get to return to my clay studio and create, well of course, new ceramic masks!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Long Stitch Book

Here I am back in the wonderful world of handmade books . This long stitch book was used by clerics and travelers alike as early as the 14th century.
I chose to use leather for my cover, but paper or cloth also work well. The  soft outside  allows the book to open flat, making the signatures inside easy to write or sketch upon. A signature is a gathering of pages sewn together and then bound in some form to the spine. Historically,it was one page folded in four, or its multiples, and then bound together.That was for printing purposes. A book buyer would then have to cut those folded pages.
Today we choose how may pages to include. 
I chose three sheets, folded in half, nestled one inside the other, thus creating creating six pages. This book has six signatures, i. e. thirty six pages. I had to measure and hand punch each hole in the leather in order to get my linen thread through.Each grouping then connects to the next, making it a solid book.
I chose a handmade button and cut a long strip out of the leather to create a thong to hold it together. I have seen historical examples like this. Along the spine, I added three beads for ornamentation and a bit of color.
This style feels good to me. I want to create another long stitch book.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Writing Poetry on Paste Paper

                                                              My last blog was all about creating with paste paper.On the left is one of my pages. I like the filmy watercolor look it has.Here is  my own version of  a haiku  poem about the experience. 
       Gliding over wet paper
       Colors float in fluid paste
       Slowly art emerging.

       Next step: create the book.    

The large sheet of paper is folded, torn into four sections with deckle edges, those lovely,ragged borders on handmade paper. Fold and score the paper, then tear it over a hard edge.The book can be horizontal, or vertical in shape, depending on the artist's vision. I chose the taller size to fit my own verse.
Essentially one paper, painted on both sides, folds and becomes four pages. There is a good reason to pick the same colors and  painting style for some sense of continuity. However, expect the unexpected! I included some plain sheets and rice paper for contrast and a different  writing surface. 
This open page I am showing is all written in the uncial style of calligraphy.I liked its linear quality for this poem. I  wrote with watercolors  that echoed  those of the paste paper page. I cut out  windows to showcase words; added  designs to decorate; things to make me smile. Finally, the sheets were sewn together into a book of sixteen pages, plus cover.
 Every page is a surprise when using paste paper and poetry.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Paste Paper Creation.

I spent the weekend in the wonderful world of decorating my own paper. Paste paper to be specific. My transformed pages became the basis of a book, filled  with my own poetry. I was inspired by both where I was, and what I was doing. My verse was all done in calligraphy.  
I  started out  with  lovely blank sheets of good quality paper, Arches text wove was the choice. Next comes the fun of choosing colors. Liquid acrylic paint works the  best. Three or four colors are enough to make a finished book. I chose a blue, green, and magenta red.  Plus a  purple evolves when the red and blue overlap. I found a glitter white I added to the mix. Always good to soften the colors,and what joy to have a hint of sparkle.
Using  good quality paint is worth it for blending and consistency. You do get what you pay for. The liquid form is easiest to mix. Next comes the mixing of the paint and the paste. Formerly I have used a home made paste of  flour blended with the paint in a certain ratio. Nowadays, there is a prepared mixture to blend. It saves on  the fuss and mess, but I kind of miss the purity of starting from scratch.
Then the fun begins. The paper gets moistened, and  the paint applied. Paint brushes are good tools, so are cut up sponges. There are those that liken it to finger painting.It is good to loosen up. I found it fun to use like watercolor. As I manipulated  the paper, paint would run and give a dripped quality that appealed to me at that moment. It is also intriguing  to use stencils, or draw designs in the wet paint.
 I did four sheets. Keeping them all in the same hues created  an automatic harmony and cohesiveness from page to page.Very important for the next step. Stay tuned....

Friday, April 12, 2013

Springtime in Sedona

It is springtime in Sedona. The cold front came with the wind and rain. Then it moved on, and the sun started shining.  Outside of my studio are blooming the luscious,  purple, bearded Iris shown in this  picture.
 In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow, attendant of Zeus and Hera. When you look inside of the flower, there are different layers of  purples, the light and dark,the whites, and the yellows. That is often the case with  colors, certainly  in my own arts of ceramics and calligraphy with watercolor. 
  Your first view often sees the one dominant hue. When you get up closer to the paint, or the  glazed surface, often there are layers inside that reveal themselves to the viewer. That is one of the fascinations of the creative process. And no one does it better than Mother Nature.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Two Ravens

 It is a beautiful day with blue skies  and birds flying over head. Not just any birds, but specifically the Corvus Corax, which we know as the Common Raven.This platter I created is called " Two Ravens". It is ten by fourteen inches in size. A nice size platter.  There is a crackle in the blue glaze caused by the primitive, low fire technique I like to  use when creating
my" Critter folk art". It is  a  functional plate, but quite decorative as well. I am  drawn to the magic of this handsome and intelligent bird.
 Many of the Native peoples in the northwest carve them onto  on their totem poles, out of respect. I  saw a lot of that when I was travelling in Alaska. They normally travel in pairs, or small groups.We are familiar with their deep croaking call, although that is not the only sound they make. They are often seen here in northern Arizona. 
 Once, years ago, I looked out my window and saw Ravens flying together over Cathedral Rock. More and more of them kept appearing, until I counted fifty of them swirling and soaring in the winds.I cannot explain this nor have I ever seen it since, but it was an awesome sight. Perhaps Raven is a special bird for me. Certainly I like to make them appear on my ceramic art.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Birdhouse for Springtime

 It is springtime.The  earth is waking up.The birds are singing.  It is a time of rebirth, of looking to nest and create. Tomorrow is Easter.
This is a picture of my ceramic birdhouse which I actually created for a show with just that theme. It is rather large, standing eleven inches high and about eight inches wide and deep. I made it from clay slabs joined together. Always a risk of bending or cracking with this size. I added a nice stick to use as a focal point and an entrance. I chose  a  metallic glaze for the roof and a celadon, or light green,for the  walls. It is actually a low fired piece. I achieved the crackle from my second and final outdoor primitive firing. I wanted a certain earthiness.  I wished to bring the outdoors inside.  
The fence outside is my western touch, and also to amuse. I like to have a piece of whimsy in my folk art. I even created a ceramic bird that likes to hang out nearby. This house has never been outside a showroom. I can't tell if it is a functional item for some creature, or simply  a creative birdhouse. I guess that would be the choice of the buyer, and their possible feathered friends !  

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Beauty of Tango

Well I do not seem to be able to quite leave the beautiful world of tango just yet. Here is a shot taken by Greg while I was on the dance floor.You can see that I am in what is called the "close embrace" with my partner.This is always used in the milonga  style of dance, but also in other melodies. The man will choose his style of  holding you as the music starts. Sometimes the hold is too much, not very comfortable, and we try to sort of back off. My observation is that while your body is in dance posture, the nicest leaders give you room to move and be creative also. 
I guess the real beauty of this dance is when two people are moving in total harmony, as if they are one.Since you are often with a complete stranger, you must be centered in your own self, while at the same time following the steps and moves of your leader This appears to be  true in any form of partnership, whether on the dance floor, in our romance, or just going through life. I think we like to be around people who make it easy for us, and bring out the best in us. I know I do.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The International Art of Tango

Tango. Argentine tango is one of the most international dances around right now. What was once a forbidden dance in its own country has becomes a world wide art form that is enjoyed in many places world wide.
Here I am practicing in a class at the Tucson Tango Festival, from which I just returned. There were teachers from countries  such as  Russia, Colombia, Argentina, and the United States. People came from many states to this festival. I  had  fun dancing with a Russian who now lives in Las Vegas.Only in America! 
Dances are divided into blocks of three or four tunes, called a tanda. You dance with one partner for these songs. Then comes a break and it is off to a new partner. Proper etiquette requires the gentleman to ask the lady to dance. It is a dance that is Latin based, so that is their culture.Is that difficult?  It  can feel so if you aren't dancing.  Regardless, it truly looks and feels like art when it is well done. That is a feeling shared by those  of us who dance, no matter where we come from, or where are feet are moving!  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The creative Process

I have been glazing this week. Taking the plain white porcelain clay I have bisquie fired, and adding the glazes that will make it look like this, I hope.What I do has so many stages to it. I love best creating from  raw clay, and then doing  the final high fire in the kiln that creates the finished piece.This is a small "Porcelain Pueblo" piece, that has a lot of steps before I get to what you see.
 I guess that exists in every creative process, actually in so many things we do in life. First we get the idea,and that in itself can be a long, even painful process. Then we start to implement it. There can be  many steps in between. For me it involves a lot of clean up. I make the clay item and then I have to let it dry to what is called " leather hard". It still has moisture, but is firm enough to clean up with a sponge. Somehow, there are always small lumps or flaws I want to smooth out.
 Maybe a corollary to  interactions among  people? Often things aren't  as smooth or clear as desired. We want  to make sure our point of view is clearly heard by  that person.Often I find it helps me to  go back and check in with them to see what they actually heard me say. That can be a surprise.At least it gives me a chance to smooth out those little bits of misunderstanding that cling, like the unwanted bits of clay. It is all a creative process.   

Friday, March 8, 2013

The International Arts

I guess I am not quite ready to leave the world of film I was so engrossed in. Here I am with the dancers from China. Can you imagine? These woman came from half way around the world to perform in our small town for their movie. The world of film, or any art, is quite international. When I go to my dictionary to define that word,it reads " of or pertaining to the relations between nations". The old expression " art transcends all boundaries" seems to be a true one.  
People come to Sedona from all over the world. This week it was to attend the magical world of films.Others want to visit a gallery and take home with them a bit of the magic  of the southwest. It feels  so nice to me when it is something that  I have created. I like to think about a ceramic piece sitting on a shelf, or hanging on the wall,in a country far away.
 Will people pick it up and say to themselves, I wonder who this artist is and what other creations they make? How did they do it? Or perhaps they just look up and smile because it gives them  pleasure, and reminds them where they bought it.
Anyone out there want to share their feeling about this?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Art of Film

I have been away from my blog for over a week, a long hiatus for me. But there is a reason. Here I am at my hometown Sedona film festival, going to movies all day long, from dawn until late night. All right , so  my eyes eventually start glazing over. My derriere is spreading, both from constant sitting and indulging in those delicious chocolate bars which are an integral part of being at  the cinema. However, I really like the immersion philosophy. The definition of immerse is "to deeply involve or to plunge...so as to cover completely."  I would say I was awash in the magic of film this week.
There were some really thought provoking topics and social issues brought up in these flics. How can a  documentary about global warming, social protest,or discrimination not seem to be a bit serious by its very nature? But as I absorb the content, I am looking at how it was presented, how well constructed, and simply how enchanted I became with the finished product. 
 That seems true in all  creative processes, be it clay or  calligraphy,which are my tools of expression, to any other medium. During the creative process, an artist  cannot help but be totally awash in the  creative function. Our  payback comes in the appreciation that it brings to the viewer, and ourselves. It seems to me that all the arts are inter related,  just using different formats.This was my week of fun, enjoying  the art of film.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

White Bowl

The snow is falling.The color of this winter day is white. It covers the pathways around my studio. It weighs down the branches of the trees and the rose buds peeking out from their stems. It reminds me of this recent bowl I created in the picture below.
It is rather large, measuring twelve inches across and three deep.On the corners are the petals of white flowers. The outside is the brown stain from an oxide, like a stem. I like the color white.It shows off what is in a bowl so definitively. A red apple stands out so clearly. A green salad is a visual delight. 
What  I am actually doing is using  a clear glaze over  the porcelain clay body. What you see is the color below. Like many things I guess. We see a reflection and assume that is the truth. It can be in art; relationships; many facets of our lives. Sometimes it is more than we expect. Occasionally  it is less.This bowl pleases me. So that is my final criteria.
The snow outside is just another  reflection.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Lessons of Teaching

Despite a snowstorm, the class in pocket bookbinding went on as scheduled this past Saturday. Here is  a picture of Sid and myself,   working on one of the projects. I am the one on the left wearing  my well worn studio apron, and layered for the winter weather!
This class was  different from what I am  used to teaching. It was an informal group of fellow bookbinders, all with some knowledge of this art form. As I often do when writing, I went  to my dictionary to read  their definitions of teaching. " To import knowledge by lessons; to give instruction in; communicate the knowledge of."
 I think I like the last one the best.To communicate what I have figured out through study, practice, trial and error. There was often some of the latter experience. I wanted my presentation to be easy to follow, so everyone left with a finished project. One of my goals was to help them avoid making all the mistakes that took up my time and energy.
What I found was that everyone invents their own, original deviations. During my preparation, and there was a lot of it, my mistakes could  upset me, discourage me, and take a lot of time to resolve. As the instructor, I was  expected to have the answers, since this is something new to the others. So I put on my teacher apron; dug  deep into my past experiences; and helped work through the dilemmas that came up for others. I must say, I was impressed at my cool under fire. Maybe that was part of my lesson, to know I could do it. 
I guess it came down to figuring out how to translate whatever happened,the good and the not so great, into a new and better art form.  Not to forget another lesson. It was fun!

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Pages of Time

Well, here is a picture of the pocket calendar book I will be teaching tomorrow. As I run around trying to get everything done in a timely manner,it realize I am looking at the pages of this month, this year, this lifetime, as they unfold.  
In most parts of the world, it is the Gregorian calendar now in general use. It was first prescribed in 1592 by Pope Gregory XIII to correct the old Julian system to the astrological year. Of course we always have that little old leap year to make up for that  extra day. Not in this year of 2013,however. Just 28 days in February. 
I spend my time making things by hand. It is what I love to do. It can be frustrating as the glue sticks to me rather than the cloth; when I make a major error and have to start over. Yet it is the path I have chosen willingly. 
This bookbinding skill is tied to my calligraphy. All books and writing were done by hand originally. Here, there is an actual  formed pocket,into which you slide the removable calendar.It is  made of the same book cloth that binds both sides of this little book together. Since a year will be over in 365 days, it is possible to slide in another calendar when this one is finished. Seems to me a metaphor of how life seems to slide from one year into the next.Do we make the most of those precious pages of time?
 As I take the time to cut, measure, and  glue,I hope I remember to be grateful for each of these tiny moments of knowledge and even growth as an artist I am experiencing. These are the pages of my life.