Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Art of Ping Pong

Here is a side of this Sedona artist you might not have known. I am learning to play ping pong, also known as table tennis. This picture was taken  recently at the USA National Championship, held in Las Vegas.To enter you must belong to this organization, which I do not. I was there with a friend who loves the sport, and enters different events.
 Open only to citizens of the United States, players compete in different events throughout the week, based on their skills and desire to play with people who cherish the sport as they do. Events are focused on which type of racquet used, as well as the player's rating. I am learning on a sandpaper paddle, shown in my hand. There is also hard bat, and the more popular called sponge.
 Competing in these events earns the player a numerical standing. Events are based on these numbers,as well as the type of racquets played. There are a lot of hot shot kids, and northern California is a center for instruction. Since ping pong is taken very seriously as a sport in China, it isn't surprising there are many very proficient young Chinese Americans in this sport.
It is a different world. I am a novice, but watching the good ones hit is like a ballet. Also, as in the world of art,  everyone is trying their best to win.This doesn't always happen, but how can you know unless you try?  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Scroll Book from Fabric

Here I am making my latest book project, which I show in the picture below. Made of fabric, both cover and pages are rolled up into a scroll form when complete.  Rolled books are a very ancient form of communication. We see examples in ancient tapestries and literature. Back then I am sure the pages were hand sewn. 
Being in  modern times, I used fusible lining and a hot iron. Always this is a learning process. I chose a thick denim, and transferred words of poetry right onto each "page" of material. I can see how this would be a fun vehicle for my original calligraphy. 
 The weight of the fabric made it hard for the denim to  adhere. Using steam  helped with the joining. I may go back and add a few stitches, for security's sake. This is still a work in progress for me.I guess it could hang up on a wall in its open form. There are so many paths to follow in this wonderful world of book arts.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Display of Handmade Books

Here I am in front of a case full of   handmade books. I am pointing at those made by me. This display is currently  at the  Prescott Valley Library until Jan 6, 2015. A wonderful selection of  various styles of hand bound books.Two of my books also have original calligraphy. That was really how I got into making books. Certain alphabets I learned were flourishing before there was even a printing press. So making the  book seemed a natural extension of my art.
The library itself is an architectural innovation, which I liked seeing.Something provocative in the north country.  
The art of made by hand books is alive and well in northern Arizona. A group of us meet every few months and have a workshop to create a specific type of book. The attendees  are all experienced book artists. Each member takes turn being the teacher, and chooses the subject.  Anyone who has ever done this knows how much one learns a  from those we teach. 
So I invite you to go and visit this display  and enter the world of handmade books.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Who am I?

"Who Am I?" is the title of this mixed media piece, currently showing here in   Sedona. This is the theme of the show itself, sponsored by the Sedona Visual Artists Coalition.
I am the artist, and I am the image in the mirror. What a provocative idea. To me, using a mirror reflects the varying  aspects of asking that question. Don't we all change every day of our life? It can be going on inside, our feelings and emotions, as well as the outward reflection.
I have been mixing collage with my calligraphy for a while. I chose to use sepia tones in my photos, ripping the edges as I like to do. Can't have things too orderly. There are pictures of me from long ago both on the edge, and in the compartments on the front.
 I am telling the story of where I came from; what I have done; experiences that  make me the person I am today.There is even a compartment for ideas and comments from the viewer. Interactive art.
Incorporating my skills as a ceramic artist, I  made the letters in various calligraphic styles out of clay. That is a big part of what I am about as well. 
I like that each time I look at this piece, or you do, we will see the current image of "who I am?" right now.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blue is the Color

Blue is the color of these miniature pots. They just recently came out of my kiln. All are less than three inches tall.
This high fire glaze is a shiny one, and the white porcelain clay I use seems to  show off this luster.Often I decorate my small pots with feathers and turquoise. I am an Arizona artist, after all.The warm colors of red and yellow make a nice contrast with the cooler shade of blue.
This photo is a very accurate portrayal of this hue. Cobalt is the main ingredient is making a glaze blue. Other ingredients influence the result, as in this glaze.
I was listening to public radio yesterday. They were discussing all the meanings and descriptions of the color blue. It can be a mood, a type of music,even a slang word. 
The choice and variety of this color are incredible. This particular blue  seems to draw me into the pot. I hope it feels that way to you, as well.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ceramics that Inspire

Imagine. On either side of a grassy lawn are eight ceramics dogs on pedestals, lining each side. You can see their size compared to my own. Made long ago in the far east,they are as fearsome and well preserved today as when created to decorate an emperor's garden.This photo was taken in the place called the Fu Gardens. 
When recently in Illinois, I visited The Allerton Park and Retreat, donated to  the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champain, by Robert Allerton . Built as a private house in 1900 by his father, a  wealthy Chicago businessman, these 1,500 acres and grounds were called "The Farms " in their time. Now the grounds of  the stately Georgian manor, complete with sculpture gardens, are free for the public to wander. 
These  ceramic dogs, with their fierce expressions and brilliant cobalt glaze, intrigued me. Clay is such an ancient form of expression, and functionality. Somehow, in my own way, I feel I am carrying  on these ancient traditions.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jewelry Is Always in Style

Here I am at looking at pieces from jewelry of long ago. As a ceramic artist, I create porcelain clay beads, from which I make necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. I like jewelry. I make it. I wear it. I know I am not alone. Here is proof.
 These beads date back to 3800 BC.Over five thousand years ago, and people were adorning themselves with jewels. Making beads from shells and clay. We have come a long way, yet not very far at all from our sense of style.  
While travelling recently in Chicago, I visited the Oriental Institute, part of the University of Chicago. It houses a collection of antiquities from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. These lands were called the " Orient" at the turn of the last century, when university archaeologists began unearthing artifacts.Hence the name.
I just couldn't believe how lovely these items were, how contemporary in look, and yet how ancient.The continuity of people, with our need to be decorated and individual. That is why I know that jewelry will always be in style. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Artisan Bread is Art

Here I am slicing up the artisan bread I just spent five hours creating, with the help of a creative friend.  Every time I go into my studio to create a ceramic or calligraphy  piece, it seems to take much longer and be more involved than I originally thought.This art seems to be the same. 
I like the thought that what I eat is healthy and fresh. I must confess I grew up on wonder bread. As a kid, I never had spaghetti that didn't come out of a can. Pepper was an exotic spice that I started using when I was on my own. So you can see, this is more foreign than loading my kiln or teaching students how to hold their pen.
The term artisan refers to a handmade loaf that has an original shape.Often it is round or oblong, with lots of crust. This one is full of nuts and seeds and organic wheat flour. Before it goes in the oven, the chef scores the loaf with a sharp knife. It's like a signature on your work.
While playing with the sticky dough, shaping it with my hands until the consistency was just right, it felt a bit like wedging my clay. Each step must be done in a precise order to get desired results. There has to be time to let the yeast rise. In ceramics, if you rush it, there is a chance of breakage. It is all about the final result.
I don't think it is a mistake that the word "art "appears in artisan bread. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Selling Your Art

 Selling your art is a challenging proposition. Sometimes the artist can talk with a potential customer and make a difference. Often, the customer has definite preferences and nothing will affect their buying decision.
 I just sold a piece in this style today. It is part of my Abstraction series named Dimensions II. 
 It measures about 14" across. Displayed on a wall, it has a foot, and thus can stand on a table.The buyer indicated she will use it. That's fine.  All my glazes are lead free and food safe.
I do enjoy creating in an abstract style, using the clay as my canvas. This piece connected to something inside the viewer. They wanted to own it, enjoy it, and look at it every day. Artistically, we are on the same page.My vision connected with theirs.This is the best part of selling your art.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Poet Laureate

Here I am with Arizona's first Poet Laureate, Alberto Rios. He came to Sedona to give a poetry reading, and I made sure to be there.He was kind enough to pose with me. A nice man, as well as a talented writer.  
 Poetry has been a passion of mine, seems like forever. I started writing it as a kid. I especially like to hear it read  aloud. One can visualize along with the voice. 
With all the talented poets in our state history, it was not until 2012 that the governor signed Senate bill 1348 into law, establishing this Poet Laureate  position. 
Rios was raised in the border town of Nogales, next to Mexico. His poetry reflects the influences and events of his Hispanic family, and their lifestyle. He is a college professorr, and talked about words.The same word from a different culture, has a different cadence. Speaking Spanish, I like the sensual quality of that language. I was transported. Taking your listener on a voyage. That is good writing.
 I'm glad Arizona chose this poet as our first Poet Laureate. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bluegrass Music in the Tall Pines

I recently attended the outdoor Bluegrass music festival up in the tall pines of Flagstaff. It is a town devoted to traditional music. This concert is three days of music, workshops, and dancing. My kind of fun.
Here I am in front of the banjo booth. Banjo is one of the main instruments in this music.The others are fiddle, guitar, mandolin and upright bass. I started appreciating this style when I began to contra dance, but I enjoy listening to it on its own. The mandolin really speaks to me.
Its roots are deep in America. The English, Irish, Scotch and Welsh brought their ballads and dancing reels when they settled in Appalachia in the 18th century. Contra dance, the partnered folk dance, came also.
Many musicians at the festival made mention of Bill Monroe. His group, the Blue Grass Boys Band, is credited with giving the music its name. He used to just call it hillbilly music. The more recent, progressive style will use electric instruments. This festival sponsors the  traditional  acoustic style. Music in the tall pines. What could be better.          

Monday, September 8, 2014

Creating a Ceramic Mask

 Here is one of my newest masks. Entitled " Spirit Messenger ", it is currently in a show at the Sedona Arts Center for this month of September, 2014. 
People always ask me where I get  inspiration for my creations. As I say in my biography, in every country and culture where I have traveled, there  are masks, in some form and material. 
I know all these images are somewhere i n my mind as I enter my studio.Then there is something called imagination, which start to play when I do!
I do have some thoughts of form and shape by the time I am starting to work with the clay.This round shape is an entirely new one for me. I have technical difficulties to overcome. Cracks are always a possibility. It takes a long time to dry. Will it survive two firings, I worry. Yes it did. Victory! 
There is also the choices of color and decoration.I found these wonderful coconut beads in my art stash. I knew this was the organic look I wanted. Adding one yellow feather connects the whole piece. Here is the final result of my creative process.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Art in Another Country.

Here I am in Tijuana, across the border in Mexico. Staying  in San Diego, it seemed enticing to enter  the country where I've spent many happy visits. 
 Using my Spanish  is important to me. As I tell people, study in your favorite classroom. For me it is shopping; discussing everything in their language; trying to get a good price.  I had a desire to buy some leather goods. That made it a quest. Even better! 
  My partner and I had to take a taxi to get  the main street with the stores. It was morning. Not every place was open. I saw this  metal door, with stairs leading down. Intrigued,and  following the way down, I came into this cavernous room filled with metal creations. I have done some welding. I like the ability to work in a grand size , and the freedom you get to always add on to the preceding piece. 
The owner took us out to the back, where several men were welding gates and other items. Anything you can think of made from metal was in that building. All made in the alley outside. Lots of it shipped to our country. 
What an adventure to see  artists in another country creating. We are all different. We are all similar. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Different can be good.

What can I say. I am vacationing in north San Diego. Even artists living in gorgeous Sedona need a change of scenery sometimes. 
Since my studio is at my home, sometimes it feels like I never leave work. There is always a project to work on; a show coming up; the studio needing cleaning. That is the dilemma  of the working artist. 
I used to live at the beach, Venice to be specific. To get away I would go to the desert. Now that I live in high desert, I crave the cool ocean breeze and cold water adventure. That's life. Different can be good.
I will fill you in with an update when I get back.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Creating a Star Book

Here I am with my recently handmade star books.Created in an open format, you can see how nicely these books fold into a star pattern, hence their name.
I am a calligrapher. I have years of training on writing many of the old alphabets out by hand. Since all older books were made by hand, before the printing press, it seemed a natural step for me to get into making books by hand also.Now it a separate art form known as book arts. 
I chose maps as the covers for the front book. There are actually 3 pages in each fold. This gives it strength, and adds to the design element.Yet it folds up and becomes an ordinary looking book. 
The book behind is called a star tunnel book. Like the other, it starts out as a basic concertina book. That term refers to the specific manner of folding one  page so as to create many. Once again there are three pages, but on the inside layer, I have added pictures that fold out. Kind of a pop out style.I took small prints of tarot cards for my designs. Then comes the blue middle layer. I had to make a window for the tarot pictures to pop out of each fold, or page. The final, white page has an even bigger cut out, which creates a type of shadow effect.
All this looks easy, but I assure you, it is not. An exercise for the mind, as well as the hands. But what fun in the finished creations!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Creating With Mixed Media

Here is a mixed media piece  entitled Why Not. It is  currently  in the       Born to Be Wild show at the Sedona Arts Center. 
I love to work with letters.They can be painted on or cut out. I also like working with clay, and metal. This piece started with that  circle of found metal. I wanted a rustic, outdoor feeling to represent the theme. What better canvas than wood? This is old barn wood, cut down, and fastened carefully on the other side.Strong wire using four eye hooks  insures it will hang well.
People ask where I get my materials. I can't always remember. As an artist, collecting can be a valuable asset. Who wants to go to a store when the creative urge is working? Sometimes the materials themselves inspire a direction in art. All I know is that these beautiful pieces of copper I got at the junk yard, seemed to envision themselves as letters. Ah, the beauty of tin snips.
The clay letters had to be created, fired, and attached. I used a bronze, low fire glaze for the color,adding some copper acrylic paint to emphasize the metallic hue. There is also a small ceramic face in the upper right, resting on metal, surveying all below. 
I am often asked what is the significance of the wording.  Perhaps it is the universal who, what, when , and for me, why, we are told to include in any writing.
Usually, when the inspiration comes, I just follow. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Peace for Everyone

I love making letters. I often use pen and ink, or watercolor on paper. Recently I have expanded  into writing on clay. It is not only the joy of lettering that inspires me, I choose a word, or phrase that means something to me.
   With this  ceramic plaque,  I  carved out the letters in a clay slab,  to which I added a decorative border. I like a feeling of dimension. Painting  on four coats of  low fire white glaze, the piece then goes  into the kiln. Next comes a primitive firing to give that smokey look. Finally I use yarn , decorate with my ceramic bead, and it is  ready to hang. 
Why this particular message today? When I checked on my blog site, there was an audience from the Ukraine and Russia. How incredible that the internet goes so far. We are all connected on this earth.  Thank you for reading my blog written in far away Sedona, AZ.
 My wish is for peace for everyone.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Animals as our Artistic Inspiration

 I often tell people how similar the Verde Valley is to the savannas of east Africa, without the baobab trees.This photo was taken in the  theme park named
" Out of Africa", not far from my home here in Sedona, Arizona.
 I spent six months  travelling by bus and by thumb around east Africa back when.It was always my dream to see the animals that were usually in zoos, in their real habitat.
I did take two " official"  safaris, one in  Kenya and the other in Tanzania. There I was able to  photograph the animals in close proximity. For me, it felt like coming home. While that was years ago, I don't think the wild animals have changed their life style too much, except to accommodate we humans. 
Here I am with a 17 foot python, which is actually from South America. Still, it is a wild animal. The audience  gets to touch the snake. I think that fear of  animals may be  an acquired trait. It is not that we do not have to protect ourselves, but we are all part of the planet.Besides, they are so beautiful.
I have been drawing snakes in the abstract on my ceramic platters,and I always put at least one of those creatures on each porcelain pueblo. I also like "critters", as I call them, such as cats, birds, and horses on my clay work.
 I like our connection with animals. I believe they inspire us to be creative as we include them, not only as symbols, but as our fellow creatures on this precious planet we all call home. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nature as My Inspiration

Here I am hiking with Charlie, a friend of mine, in the San Francisco peaks of Flagstaff, AZ. Her owner was taking the picture. Thanks, Laura.
I had forgotten how high it gets up there in the San Francisco Peaks. I am at 
8,000 feet here, and I was feeling it as I climbed ever upward on this lovely Saturday morning. 
In my artist bio, I always say that nature is the inspiration for my artwork. I choose to live in the lower altitude of Sedona, AZ.  I love the red rocks, the dry heat, and not having to drive  in snow. But this part of Arizona is seductive in summer. I am entranced by  the smells; the soft breezes which make the branches of the evergreens talk to me; the vastness. It is so humbling when we get out into nature. 
All I can do it to let it come out in a feeling or an image in my clay or calligraphy. At the very least, I take these sensations back to my studio. Somehow, nature will inspire me when I am creating. And you? 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The 5th of July

Happy 5th of July. Here is a shot of the fireworks I saw in our neighboring town of Cottonwood, AZ. last night.  They always have a great show, and I love fireworks.
It reminds me of who I am and where I come from.
 A bit of history here. On July 2nd, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a Resolution of Independence, declaring the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain. Two days later,on July 4th, Congress approved this measure. So this is the day we celebrate. But I have fond memories of another 5th of July celebration.
Many years ago, while travelling in Morocco in my Volkswagon van, we were camped outside of the small beach town of Essaouira. We met up with some fellow travelers from America. " Hey, it's the 4th of July ,we should celebrate", I remember someone saying. And so we did. It gave me a good feeling to remember where I came from. We all enjoyed ourselves and told stories of that place thousands of miles away from where we were.
 Then we each continued on our own path. Calendars and cellphones were not as ubiquitous back then. Later I found out we had our dates wrong. What a grand celebration of the 5th of July. I guess that just shows that spirit is where and when you find it!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Creative Tension

I am just unloading the kiln . Wow. Magic. Here I am at the very last shelf. This is the second and most important firing. The high temperature  melts the glaze, and voila,  the finished product! The turquoise color is just what I wanted. No obvious cracks or runs. It is a good firing. 
I never quite know how things are going to turn out. Did I mix the glaze to the proper consistency? Are there any weak spots that are going to crack? Is the atmosphere in the kiln going to give me that certain glow in the color I am aiming for? Will the kiln gods smile down on me that day?
You would think after all these years I could be sure of the outcome. However, there are so many variables in high fire ceramics. It is never a sure thing, until  the shelves are emptied. Two months of  my hard work, and I do not know the outcome until the last unveiling. 
An artist friend often speaks about the tension involved in the creative process. That tightness in your stomach as you attempt to reach whatever mountain top of creativity you are climbing. The uncertainty of outcomes, as you spend so many hours working. 
It is just that part of what we go through, striving to do our very best. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Using my Handmade Dishes

  I have written about my handmade mugs and bowls. Did you know I also make plates here in my Sedona studio? They can be large dinner size, depending on the client's needs. Or...I like to throw quite small ones,with room  enough for one egg, bread, or pie. Put them all together and they make a dinner set.
Here is a picture of dinner at my friend's house where he is using my ceramic dishes.The salad bowl is already in the sink, but I liked the fact that there was food on his plates, and water in the mug. These are ceramics that are used on an everyday basis.
This is a unique color scheme for this particular set of dishes. I like putting food on a light background. However, the turquoise glaze was the desired theme. So I made a lip on the plates, then used a clear white glaze in the center, which sets off the color on the edge. This is how I make my mugs now. Light to see what you are eating or drinking, with the darker color on the outside or edge.
The clay I use is a white porcelain,which shrinks at least 15%. That has to be considered when creating. Truthfully, it still surprises me when I open the kiln and think," What happened to those Huge plates I threw on the wheel? "I can guarantee that each piece I make will be totally unique, but a set will all be in the same creative family.
There is one other statement I always tell  people."Your food will taste better on my handmade ceramic dishes".This I know to be true.

Friday, June 13, 2014

!0,000 Blog Readers

Over 10,000 people have read my blog. Wow. That has been a personal goal of mine for a long while. It slipped in quietly, almost unobtrusively. Here I am sitting here in front of my computer, looking up my "audience", as they call it on blogspot. I am amazed at how worldwide this form of communication really is. People from all over the world, countries I can only dream about, are reading my words. I wonder who they are. Are they curious about me as well? Please,I would welcome your comments on what led you to finding my blog.
I think  my consistency has been a large help.I keep on writing, just about every week. This is often inspired by a photo, or excitement about what I have recently created. Sometimes I just want to share something out of the ordinary that happened in my life. But it isn't always easy to be creative on schedule.
Then I start to write, and rewrite. Often it is the technical  that stumps me more than the inventive side. Why does the print size or color change in the middle of the column? How can I fix it, or must I start over? Whatever it takes. So, thank you, every one who ever read my words, and all of you out there in this beautiful and creative world we live in.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Art of the Opening

Here I am at my opening night as the June featured artist here in Sedona. It is the at the Andrea Smith Gallery in Tlaquepaque where I sell my ceramic masks. 
There is an art to these openings, and also a lot of behind the scenes work. 
First comes creating the work by the artist. I always like to make new items for a show. The masks at the top with the horsehair are my latest creations. I am condensing this into a few lines. Translation, months of hard work!
Then the gallery has the job of displaying your work in a inviting presentation. Ana did a great job. They have refreshments for the evening , because gallery going is hard work!
Not to be left out is the importance of the publicity. I worked online with the gallery's publicist, until we got a flyer that was representative of my work. Dawn was a real pleasure to work with and she listened to my  input.That matters to the artist. Next is getting the information into the papers and online. 
 I once had a newspaper man tell me that articles are used just because they fill a space requirement on the page. A bit of the luck there. Anyway, my name made the Gallery openings, and they spelled it right.
This is just a bit of all that goes into the art  of the opening. 
Finally, here I am all smiles and ready to meet and answer any questions about my work to the visitors .  

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Canvas to the Imagaination

The world is our canvas. How do we fill it? With our thoughts; our fantasies; our imagination.These words of Henry David Thoreau, who lived and wrote in the first half of the 19th century, caught my attention. I valued this quote enough to use it on my  calligraphy bookmark. Loving books  myself, I enjoy making  something this practical with a bit of magic for the reader.  
 I like to experiment with handmade papers, seeing the natural borders that come with tearing, rather than cutting the edges. I almost let the paper dictate where I am going with these small canvases. That creates the background for the black Italic lettering on a white paper for emphasis. 
Since it is handled, put in and out of a book, I encase it in a clear plastic covering. Sticky fingers cannot mar this wee marker of where we left off in our reading. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Patience as a Goal

I saw this quote and said to myself :" I think I have been there before." This is worthy of creating a collage for one of my card series. A miniature five by seven , that can be reproduced in a fine quality, and therefore possible to sell affordably. It is part of my " ripped torn" series, where using handmade paper, I purposely leave the edges rough. I wanted bright colors to catch the eye, and red certainly jumps out.Then comes the white strips with the words in calligraphy.Finally, touches of gold watercolor to tie it all together. 
I love doing calligraphy.Perhaps I thought by writing the letters in my finest Italic style, it would bring home the irony of the message to me,as well as fellow readers. 
It is hard for me to wait. Yet here I have chosen a career where rushing the process, such as not letting the ink dry before going on, can be a disaster. Life, now that is a different field of play. 
Patience is a goal of mine. Often, time brings a better solution than forcing an issue. But there is that tiny bit anxiety to know the outcome that stays with me. Being able to check something off as " finished" gives me comfort. Alas, when  dealing with others, there are whole other peoples time frames that can really change an outcome. So wait we must.  I still say patience is a goal for me, but this card always makes me smile. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Summer Calligaraphy

I choose the words to  use in my calligraphy from their impact on  many facets of my being. This came to me on the front of a card and I cherished it, because it is so much what I think a real vacation embodies. This is worthy of putting in a permanent form.Cobalt blue  letters, brushed onto the white porcelain clay plaque seemto make it real. Ready to hang on a wall, to inspire and smile.
I so rarely  do nothing, unless I take myself away from my lovely studio here in Sedona. 
I know. We all move here thinking it will be hikes in the red rocks , and drinks with friends in the cafe. Doesn't often work that way I notice. Creating and running a business means there is always some affair to handle. Always a new project to complete, or even the mundane, like cleaning the studio.But I can look at this summer calligraphy, which  now hangs in a gallery in town, and dream about those lovely days of doing nothing. I think I have to rest now.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Heading North in California

Here I am on the beach in San Francisco. I know, the sun never shines in that city, but it did last week when I was there. A heat wave. The sand was actually hot as I ran toward the cool Pacific. I brought all my warm clothes, but pulled those out earlier that week, while staying  around Santa Barbara,where the cold winds were blowing.
The sun was shining  while driving up Route One, along the Ocean. Past Esalen, where I loved  to sit in the hot tubs overlooking the crashing waves at night. Stopping at the formerly quaint restaurant, Nepenthe. Very upscale now, not like when I used to have breakfast along with all the flower children in the van heading up to San Francisco to hear music, and hang out.
Things don't stay the same, but how glorious are my memories of California back in the sixties and seventies.
I am grateful for those days. I know somewhere seeds of creativity got lodged within me, to bloom later.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Challenge of Creating New Art

I  have been working on a new style of mask. I am remembering  how difficult this creative  process can be. First is the visualizing, building a vague idea of what I think I can invent. Then comes planning, and actually  figuring out how to make it happen. Shows are often the impetus to try a new direction, and I do have one coming up in June.
Anything new and different is incredibly challenging, mentally, physically, and yes, emotionally. Here I am starting out with a fuzzy concept that I want to make into a reality. As the vision gets stronger, it gives me a clearer road to follow.
 But let's be real. I am dealing with materials that also have a mind of their own. Often the clay, the horsehair, or any of the numerous elements I am putting together will not always do what I want them to. The nerve of them!
 Days have passed as I assemble; undo; go to a store to buy a missing product; reassemble. This morning I found I had messed up the way it hangs, so I had to start over and correct my mistake. It has to be right.
Finally there is the time to just stop. Completion. 
Now please, let there someone out there who thinks they must own this new creation of mine!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Making My Own Ceramic Jewelry

This is the jewelry I wore  in the gallery today. It is made of high fire porcelain beads that I make individually.This color I call Moss Green. I also make these styles in  Denim Blue and a brown hue I call
 Earth Brown .Since it is spring, I put on my green pants and top, and of course, my matching jewelry. I like to wear shades of one color. Less confusing. Today seemed like a good green day.
Being a clay artist, I like the thought of making  my own adornment.
People often ask me, what is it made of? Bone, they will sometimes think. Wearing it shows off my line and can often help the client envision what it looks like on themselves. Plus it  pleases my own sense of style. 
Each one is made from the white porcelain, impressed with a design. The clay must be rolled out very thin. A heavy or rough surface doesn't fit my skin or my aesthetic sensibility.Cleaning each one with a sponge is necessary.
I began by  selling wholesale to beads shop. I didn't get very much. I started having ideas about how I would create with them. I like a long necklace and dangling earrings. The pieces of cut crystal give a light and translucent feeling.  The decorative stones add  color and texture. So began my adventure of making my own ceramic jewelry.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Inspiration of Sedona

It is a beautiful day here in Sedona. I peer between the evergreen branches at the awesome red rock vista ahead of me. I have lived here a long time, but I never cease to feel a sense of awe at my natural surroundings. 
For me, where I am is important to my sense of creativity. Nature is my truest mentor . Being here  seems  like living  in a national park.  It never gets boring.
 Certainly people produce great art in gritty surroundings. Essentially, we must look inside our own sense of imagination for the creative process. It just seems easier here, more inspiring.
I lived near the ocean before I landed in this small Arizona town, some  thirty years ago. I resided in an area full of people doing creative things, along with the bizarre. That was OK. I think Sedona has an element of the unusual in some of its residents. And why not? Sometimes going far out brings us closer to our inventive side.
 But always, there is the humbling reality of those beautiful mountain vistas all around us. It shows up in my ceramics, my calligraphy, my sense of being.
 Inspiration is all around us here in Sedona, Arizona.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Springtime in Sedona

It is springtime again. The Iris are blooming. Here in Sedona, we wait all year for these few weeks where the display of purples, and  other exotic hues, finally wake up. This is appropriate, for in Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow, attendant to Zeus and Hera. It is a time when my desire to create something new and different emerges.
I planted these bulbs many years ago. Like old friends, they go away in the heat, but wake up when the last breath of wintertime is emerging  into a new season.
 A few days ago was the equinox, on March 21st. This is the time when the sun's center crosses the equator and day and night are equal. From now on the days will start to be longer. There is a restlessness in nature, and in the human nature, I think.
 I am going  back to my studio now. Just wanted to share my pleasure in nature's mysteries. How does springtime affect your creative mood? Would you share with me in your comments?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tango is Like Art

 Tucson tango festival is where I just spent a glorious few days taking lessons and dancing with perfect strangers.This photo was taken there.  
 I am always struck by what an art form this particular dance is. All the subtle nuances; movement techniques; the refinement of  one's existing style. I have been a dancer my whole life, but this one is humbling. Something resembling " the more you learn, the more there is to learn" syndrome.
 That is a lot like the creative process in art, I believe. I remember how much I thought I knew when I was first starting out. Perhaps our confidence is needed to get over the obstacles and keep on creating, especially  at first if we are not selling too much. "Ignorance is bliss " may have some real advantages.
Now, years later, I realize all there still is ahead of me: to learn; to grow, and to refine  what I am currently making . I think art is essentially  a solitary path. The person we want to please first is ourselves, and hope to find the appreciators of our creations. Tango is done with a partner, but ultimately we are the masters of our own style. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Abstraction in Clay

This ceramic piece, entitled "Half Moon Abstraction" hangs on the wall like a canvas, some fourteen inches long . It does have a foot to stand on as well.
Taking the basic round shape of many clay creations, my decision was to consider another dimension, or perspective I could construct from this  basic shape. Carving away part of the round form  would add yet another facet of abstraction.  
Looking up the word  abstraction in the dictionary, I read this definition: ..." a concrete object or organic figure which is transformed by the artist  into a nonrepresentational design, with recognizable elements, irregular curved lines, graded tones etc.." Boldly, I set forth to add the elements of design to this surface. 
I like angles; sharp lines; non representational forms.It is harder to sell here in the southwest, so I do it to feed my creative soul, and hope some kindred spirit identifies. 
I have to carve out each shape. I want to play off the straight lines and the curves; the triangles and the circles. Then comes the hard work , as I go  back and fill in the colors. I must paint within the lines!
I use low fire  glazes to get the red,the metallic bronze, and the celadon green of the plate. It takes many coats to get the depth of color I desire. First firing to make it strong. Second, primitive firing, to add the crackle and patina I desired. Always the element of risk in ceramics; art; life...
Behold, it came out just the way I  envisioned. That is the real success for me. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Spirit of the Artist

I just sold this porcelain bowl, which is  decorated with real bits of Arizona turquoise. I like the color of the glaze next to the stones, creating a bit of interest and dimension.Grateful for a sale, non the less, I have to say good bye to my little friend.
 I believe there is a bit of the artists' spirit in each  individual creation that comes forth from our hands; our minds; the invisible influence of "who knows where?"  I think of clay as a living entity. Mostly it is playful and cooperative.Sometimes it is not going to follow my intention. Clay will crack, or the glaze will misbehave, even if I am doing things as always.
 Is it my spirit or these elements which are not cooperating that day? Who can say? I do feel that if you own a piece that I have created, my spirit is within.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Art of Film

It is that time of year again, the Sedona Film Festival happening in my hometown. Here I am in my  shirt  from years past.
This is their 20th anniversary.
 I have been here all those years. I used to volunteer dating back to the days when we only got to preview the movies at 8 am. Now that is true love of film and a limited budget! I kind of miss the good old days when I worked together with all my buddies.Things change. Now I pay my money and stand in line with all the other film aficionados.I have seen four performances thus far. Only Le Weekend impressed me. Film as an interpretation of life, or why do people hurt the ones they love? Sadly, I see that often enough around me.
Film is such an interesting art. I dabbled in theater at Northwestern. I graduated from  UCLA, located in the land of film. Living in Venice Beach for many years, I always saw stars, or lived next door to them. But we were cool, so we ignored them. Much as I take a lump of clay and transform it into my piece of fantasy, so can these actors take us with them to another place. Film, yet another creative art form.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gems and Minerals and Jewelry

Here I am at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show last week. I create and sell jewelry  myself. Making my own beads from porcelain clay, I then stain them in a blue, green, or brown oxide.When high fired they are strong and durable. I string them with chips  of crystal, and some type of Arizona bead for spacers. Long necklaces and short; bracelets; and earrings make up my  line I call "Jewels". That gives me a good reason to head down to the fantasy world of the Tucson Gem Show in February. People come to buy and sell from all over the world. 
I remember back in the 1970's when I first visited. Then it was all focused in the Convention Center. Now the whole town has venues. To get inside the tents takes a resale license. Other outdoor booths will take anyone's funds. It is a rush to find those good deals that will make my jewelry glow. Of course, buying a bauble or two for myself is to be expected. Temptation abounds! This picture below really shows off the richness and sparkle that were present at this show.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Unloading the kiln

Here it is! The magic is revealed as I unload the kiln. The end result of a month or more of hard work. This is a photo of the second shelf down. The posts  you see with the holes are called the furniture, on which the shelves rest.
My heart always beats faster at this moment. Will there be success? Are the colors what I wanted? Are there any flaws that will make it not refined enough to sell in the gallery?  I do everything my experience teaches me  to insure the best results. I like what I see here.
 However, there is always the element of chance in high fire ceramics. The clay is a large factor. Is there a hidden weakness that will result in a crack? Then there is the application of glaze. Did I put on the right consistency? Did I rub too hard at a drip and leave that spot bare? An important  question is whether or not the kiln gods are smiling that day. Yes, we  clay artists are superstitious folk.  I did have an unexpected crack. I can live with that. It is a good firing.

Monday, February 3, 2014

High Fire in my Kiln

Today is an exciting day. This is what my kiln looks like when  still red hot. It is full of glazed pots that have been firing for many hours. My kiln is an older model, electric, not a computerized model like is currently used.I am in charge of how I choose to fire. 
I  use a high fire porcelain clay body, which has a smooth surface after glazing with my choice of turquoise, blue, or clear glaze. This is my second, and final, firing.
The  first firing, called the bisque, makes it dry and hard enough, or vitrified, to apply the colorant.Some shrinkage occurs.There is still some porosity, hence it can absorb the glaze.Once it is in that form, I can dip each pot into the liquid glaze, containing various chemicals and oxides.Their melting point is a temperature of 2236 F. At that point, there is a small triangle, called a cone, resting on a sensor rod.When it melts, the lever falls, the kiln shuts itself off. The results will result from my skills, and the luck of the kiln gods.
I will leave it alone overnight. Slowly I will pull out the white peeps in front, crack the lid, and bring it to room temperature. Finally, I will see my results... 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

White Magic Sculpture

This is a sculpture with a vase like quality I made a while ago. I was experimenting with using the potter's wheel to give me some different possibilities in size and shape.
 It is a large piece, about 14' tall by 8" wide. The round shape is a complete unit that sits on its pedestal. One could put something inside if desired. I chose a white crackle glaze,with stones of real Arizona turquoise to add a bit of "magic "to this monochromatic sculpture.
It is actually a low fired piece, which makes it more decorative than functional. To get the crackle from this glaze, I put the entire piece into a primitive fire and the shock of it made the glaze go crazy. Yes, we ceramic people like to go to the outer limits whenever  possible. Isn't that part of the magic? 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Glass Book

Here is my latest creation, "The Glass Book." The covers started out as drinking glasses. They were fired in a kiln to a high enough temperature  until they  melted flat. They measure approximately four by six inches. Although my decorative lace hides it, the bottom section is heavier, because the base is thicker and rounded.  
     This was a real technical challenge, having never done this before.I chose lace for the outer covers, because of its transparency . Choosing to put a pastel blue paper gave a dimension to this creation.A lace piece floating on the inside served as a  decorative front page. I used the long stitch style of sewing the pages right to the lace, and then gluing that right to the glass itself. Herein lay the problem.The weight of the glass  made the book move when turning the pages. This was not what I wanted. 
So I had to do what  all artists do. Take the challenge to invent a solution that looks like part of the design. I realized I had to strengthen the support system. Since my theme was white and lacy, I used additional ribbon, both thin and more decorative, to create hinges, and make a tie closure. More cut out flowered pieces made the symmetry of the front and back more pleasing.
I am happy to say it worked. Below is the finished open book. Lots of lessons when undertaking something never tried before. I am pleased with my glass book.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Art of the Birthday Cake

 What is a birthday without a cake? Here is the scrumptious start of my birthday celebration in the form of this gorgeous, homemade carrot cake. The  handmade card made it even more special. 
Birthday cakes are an old tradition, possibly dating back to the Romans and Greeks. Tradition has it that   Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt and the moon, would be honored by a cake with candles. Smoke was a means to get your wishes to the gods. Perhaps that led to the honored custom of making a wish and blowing out the candles to make it come true.  
Modern western tradition is attributed to the Germans, back in the 19th century. They had celebrations for the kinder, or children, and traditions of one candle for each year of the celebrant's life. The English and other Europeans adopted these habits, which made their way to the new world.
I was touched by the  efforts on my behalf. I loved the white of the icing against the chocolate of the writing. Calligraphy on cake. All of it combining to be a truly elegant presentation. Alas, it is all gone now. Only the art lives on!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Art of Reinvention

This ceramic piece is entitled " Feathered Fantasy". A rather tall, sculptural piece, it is my recent example of the art of reinvention.
Currently in show entitled " Second Chance",the premise is to reenter art that  had been formerly exhibited, but obviously not sold. I took it a step further, and changed its appearance. 
 I was pleased when I created it. I liked its aspects of  shape, form and color. I used hand building; wheel throwing; celadon green crackle glaze  in a primitive firing to create these effects.  
But, it did not sell. It resided in its tall, brown cardboard storage box , making me kind of sad that my vision had not connected with  a collector. Time to reinvent. 
I like to add adornment to my clay creations. Another dimension to the wonderful world of clay. I often  use feathers, and stones . Elements of the sky and the earth. While rifling though my large , rather messy bag with feathers, and boxes with beads in all shapes and colors, slowly, the new new form emerges.  Invention, yet another time.