Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Custom Calligraphy

Custom Calligraphy. What fun . What a process. Recently, a very  nice client  hired me to write out her own poem  in  calligraphy. She had seen  and purchased my calligraphy before, so she knew my capabilities.  I was only given final  dimensions for the finished work, which came to me  via the computer. There was quite a bit of writing.
 There is always that element of surprise in custom work. What is told about the job and what it actually entails are often somewhat different.  Once I saw the poetry,  my mind started imagining  about how best to go about this. Which alphabet would work the best?  Not a lot of room for flourishes. The Uncial style is a good alphabet for a lot of words in a small space, with all the letters in one line.  I had been given free reign on what to do, so that gives excitement, but also a sense of responsibility. Of course I want the client to be happy.
We had originally talked about black and white, but I was thinking  color. Black and white often looks like merely a copy, and I wanted to show off the originality of this work. Being  asked to do reproductions of this work, matted as above,  I liked the idea of color to add depth to the work. Dark blue or green was her request.
I chose a very dark blue watercolor to write out the letters. Due to the very nature of watercolor, there are hues within each stroke. When I first dip my pen, it comes out dark and opaque. As I write on, the color gets  lighter, then dark again as I dip my pen into my palette. I always like to leave plenty of space, so that the words stand out.
I would like to say I nailed it on the first try, but that would be a lie. I had  trial and errors; changes while visualizing and actually writing; and  lot of breaths before this calligrapher  could lay down her pen and say. " It is complete. I am satisfied."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Activist Artist

Here I am in my latest artistic adventure. I am one of the authors in this recently published book entitled "Passing It On, Moving Stories of Activists -1960 to 2000,"  by Bev Jenai Myers. 
I like to write, hence my blog. It was nice being a part of a larger aesthetic  venue. 
You can find me on page 143, under the chapter entitled " Equal Rights". There are eight Sedona writers in this volume. Bev went far and wide for her stories, so authors are from all over.
I lived in Venice, CA. back in the seventies and early eighties. I got involved in politics, kind of by default.  The quote from my chapter reads": I know it made me angry that outsiders could come into my community with nary a thought of the humans they impacted. If my ocean view was going away, then I wanted it to mean something".
 We fought city hall for the developers to  include low cost housing. We lost.
I know it took a lot out of me. When I left the city in 1984, I was looking to take  a breather from politics. I found this small community called Sedona, in northern Arizona. Here I thought I would simply create my ceramics and seek new  new horizons with my calligraphy. Politics in the wilderness? Well, yes. 
The human condition is always with us, isn't it?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Creating the Mountain Mug

Where does a clay vessel start? This is a picture of a mug I threw on the potter's wheel about three days ago. Right now, it is merely dried mud. Hit it with your hand and it will break apart. Put it into water and it will dissolve into particles of porcelain clay at the bottom of the bucket.This is called greenware, as it has not yet been fired in the kiln.
It is really two pieces joined together. There is the body itself. Then comes the handle, which must be attached when it is still damp enough to fuse the two pieces. The glue that binds ceramics together when still wet is called slip. Really it is merely  wet, mushy clay. You scratch and put this mixture  on the opposing  pieces, then join  them together. I always add  a little coil to give some strength. A good idea to cover overnight. Clay doesn't like to be rushed. 
Finally I take my carving tool and carve out my interpretation of  these mountains I see outside of my studio here in Sedona. Artistic allowance is always permitted.I call this my" mountain mug" when complete.
I have to wait now,  make sure it is completely dry, before I put it into the kiln. I can carefully hold it to my cheek to feel if it has  more moisture, which feels cold; when  warm, it is dry. Very scientific, n'est-ce-pas?
So here you have my creative process of making the actual mug. The end result will  take a while. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Art of Halloween

Here I am ready for a favorite holiday, Halloween. I love this time of year, the fall, and the excitement and fun of seeing how others invent themselves for this most ancient of occasions.                                                                This is not a new holiday. Some say it really hearkens back to the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain. Carried forward to the he Christian observance  of All Hollowtide,which  starts on October 31st, with a three day observance dedicated to remembering the dead. This includes the saints, or hallows, martyrs, and the faithfully departed. In the 16th century, there was the custom of   going house to house in costume. The crved pumpkin would represent the souls of the dead This was brought to the new world by the Irish and Scottish immigrants.                                                                            I love the style of the Mexican observance, Dia de Muertas. I have been in Mexico at this time before and  found it to be very ancient in feeling. Everyone goes out to the graveyards in a  processions led by the priest. There was a even a really awful band . I remember in one very small pueblo, I was next the a grave and saw some bones sticking out. Death is not so very far away.                                                                My face is my canvas this year. First came the white face paint; then the black; then the color.  I am grateful for Adrienne's help in show me the path in this new media. I took this experience back  and was able to draw on my friend's face for the evening .As I looked around the room, I felt my canvas was one of the better, and I was immortalized by wandering photographers. But they never knew who I was, did they? Masks hide all.                                 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Autumn Inspiration

Here I am on the San Francisco peaks. I  took the chair lift  up with all the other tourists, looking down on the golden aspens. I actually expected to see even more color, but mother nature showed  a lovely canvas.
I like fall. The air gets cooler, as  do we. It is a change, which is not a bad thing. Nature beckons. I  gain insights and inspiration living in this incredible environment. The holiday seasons are approaching, all of them. As artists, we can no longer put off that final productive surge, and those due dates exist. Christmas will not be postponed, simply because we are not quite ready!
A fellow craftsman welcomes what he calls this " creative tension", as he starts a new project, or tackles a problem in a new design. I try to keep this thought in mind, even as I sit down to write this blog.
 Soon I will go into my calligraphy studio. It's time for   some serious thinking on this idea that has been floating around in my head for a while.  That is the first step in my creative process.
It is time to get into my autumn inspiration.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rainy Day Creativity

It's a rainy day in Sedona. Again. I had plans to go up Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. Places to go; things to do; people to see. I started out in the morning. The rain got heavier. There were rivers of water rushing down the road. I know  rocks fall from the walls above the road I was traveling. Did I really want to do this?
It is usually a joyful ride up the canyon, always something new to see. I have traversed this path often, but people unknowing of this journey could make it dangerous. My inner voice kept saying" you don't want to do this. Your life is important to you, Victoria.Do not go."
So I didn't. I turned around and came back from whence I started. Cancelled everything via the phone.Since I gave up this plan I would be creative, by golly. I joyfully entered  my clay studio and rolled out a very large slab of clay. There, I was committed to making something very large, or more smaller creations. I chose the latter.
 I had been selling my porcelain pueblos, so it seemed to make sense to continue with what the public wanted. I always think I will make too much stock and then have lots of back up. Somehow, it does  sell,  and then I am a bit panicked. 
Creation is only the first step with clay. Next comes clean up, and then more. Continuing with the first  firing, then clean up, then more. Afterwards glazing,  then.... you get the picture.The longest journey always begins with but the first step, and I was taking that road this rainy day. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Art of Bluegrass 2015

Hearing live  bluegrass music in the sunshine, set among the tall pines in Flagstaff Arizona. What could be better? 
Here I am volunteering at    " Pickin' in the Pines" Bluegrass and Acoustic music festival this past weekend.  What fun  hearing such a fantastic group of musical artists. It lasts three days,and seven or eight bands each day. Early til late, and I was there for it all!
The headliner, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, was top notch. I also liked hearing  music of the other musicians.  Fiddle; mandolin; guitar; and base are present in most of the groups. Lots of these sounds have a long history in our country. 
Who can forget the energy of the Hogslop Stringband out of Nashville? Or not remember such an artistic handle ? Laurie Lewis and the Righthands have been around a while, but were new to me. The young musicians of  Mountain Heart had every one movin'. So many others with whom I connected musically.
This year was my first as a volunteer, although I have attended for the past eight years. This whole shebang is a volunteer effort of FFOTM, Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music. I am a member. I started out at the contra dances they sponsor.
It was a pleasure to help in  their booth, selling raffle tickets and memberships. Bonnie and Terry Alan from the Flagstaff School of Music did a huge amount of work, as did so many others in the organization. 
I am happy I was a part of this musical adventure, listening to art of bluegrass, 2015 style!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Wall of Masks Behind Me

Here I am in front of the wall of masks that I have created. I am a featured guest artist in the "Movin On" Gallery  for the month of September.This is located here in my very own Sedona, AZ.,  for those of you from far away. 
That is an interesting aspect of writing a blog. There are many readers out in the world that connect to my words and images. Some know me; some probably stumbled into sedonaartist.blogspot.com by accident; others might be  drawn in by an appreciation of masks. My focus is on the art that I create, or the art of my life, perhaps.
 I like making masks.I love that you buy one to look at. It is not functional art, except to the eye  and the soul.  People often ask me how I get the idea for creating a certain image. I say  the mask itself often dictates which  direction I take.
I  usually create a series in a certain style  mask. It takes a while to work out  technical challenges, with both clay,  glaze, and presentation. People  are looking  for an identifiable style within an artist's body of work. If something sells well, then one is encouraged to continue in that direction.
Every mask is made individually. There is a feel to the wall behind me, but they are each unique, as they will always be.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A New Mask is Created

Here is my latest ceramic innovation, named the " Scarlet Spirit" . I  am continuing  on my path of creating smaller masks, something  you can hold in your palm or hang in a small space. 
I do not have very big hands. This measures about six inches from top to bottom.
September 4th, 2015, is First Friday here in Sedona, AZ., where I live and exhibit. Galleries stay open later, from 5 until 8 pm; artists are present, and they serve refreshments. It is a great way to participate in the art scene here in Sedona. The  Moving On Gallery, located in the Hillside shopping area, invited me to participate as a guest artist in their mask exhibition, along with Pat Priola, an owner, and artist Patty Miller.
I like shows, they give me an impetus to create something entirely original  for that event. I have made some bigger masks in this round style, adorned with their horsehair halos. They are gone; sold. Time to look through the looking glass and shrink their size.
Smaller is Not necessarily easier, I might add.I must take a long time to dry these items or they will crack. I like to make my ceramics light in both material, and feeling. Glazed, they are fired once in my kiln to be hardened. Then a second, primitive firing creates that smoky look. Each mask is carefully constructed with copper wire , covered in yarn, so very secure to hang. I am  creating not only for the present, but to last into the future. 
Stop on by this coming Friday night and say hello if you are in Sedona.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Seeing Where You Hang

Here I am in front of my sculpture that just sold, in the place where it now lives. How great is it when an artist can actually see where the art will be after it is sold!
I recently had my solo show called "Reflections" in Jerome. A collector saw this piece and thought his partner would like it. Of course, all good shows have to end and mine just had. I  then invited them both to see the piece at my studio. They liked it so much they bought it. The gallery handled the sale, since that is where it was first seen.  
Often the artist has no idea where their work finally hangs. This time I was fortunate enough to see exactly where it would be placed, since I delivered it, here in Sedona.
Most  often it is shipped away, and we are the anonymous creators. It was my good fortune to see what a fine home it had, nestled among other first class creations. Would that we artists could always know where our art finds its home. Seeing where we hang gives a completion to our creative process.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Back into tableTennis

Here I am back in the wonderful world of ping pong, or table tennis as it is also called. An art of a different form.
I went with my friend who entered the US Open Tournament, held in Las Vegas, Nevada in July. It is called the Open because people come from all over the world to attend. There is even prize money, but mostly it is trophies in the different competitions. Players get rated depending on cumulative victories, and events are based on these categories. Ratings go over 2000, which means a seriously good player. I am a beginner, but like any sport, it is beautiful when done correctly.
I met and practiced with students from China, who are here attending top US universities. The Chinese hold ping pong in high regard, and a top player in their country is like a rock star here.  
All of this held in the background of one of the most surreal cities in the world, Las Vegas. I often wondered  which venue was the most unusual, and in its own way, artistic. 
Was it the grace and motion of the players, or the people I  viewed in that city?  Will it turn up as a piece of art form in my future? How can we know what will stir our creative muse.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Creating a "Wee Book"

Here I am with my latest creation of a "Wee Book". Measuring about 3 inches square, it certainly deserves its title. Inside are some fifteen images, relating the the theme of winter.
It is essentially one long page folded like an accordion, hence the name      " accordion fold". This book was a study in printing out text and assembling the images with words in a consecutive format.There were also lessons on using cutouts for design purposes, as in the cover you see.
I am a calligrapher, so using words from the computer is harder for me than just writing on a page. This is what is happening  today. I am trying to get into the twenty first century, even though I am more comfortable using  techniques from years gone by, when it was all was done by hand
My bookmaking often happens with a group of fellow artists in the book arts.  At the given workshop, we are all students, with one taking the turn of being the instructor. The level of competency is high with this group. It is inspiring and helpful to learn with others. Makes one feel less the idiot, seeing others in your same sense of confusion. 
Being a visual artist, I learn more by seeing things happen, rather than just reading instructions.That was one of my joys teaching classes in calligraphy, the kindred spirit of everyone learning.
So that is the story of creating this wee book.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Raku Jar

This shiny "Green Raku Jar" is a piece in my  "Reflections " show, currently exhibited  at the Jerome Coop. Standing  tall, about 14 inches with its lid, it is a wheel thrown pot. Slabs of clay are joined together in an abstract pattern for the handle to the top.The inside is glazed.
I like using this modern design form in one of the oldest and most traditional forms of ceramics.
 Raku was first used by by Japanese potters back in the 1500s to make their ceremonial tea bowls.  Firing the piece to about 1000 degrees, the  pot was taken out of the kiln while red hot. It was allowed to cool in the air, or in a closed container with combustible materials, such as straw, paper or natural materials.Called reduction, this atmosphere will influence the final results of the glaze,often  creating lovely metallic colors.In the old days lots of lead was used.  We can't use that now, but oh did produce some lovely effects. 
Not much has changed in this process. I still bundle up with care, covering my face, hair, arms, legs, and eyes.  I  reach into a immensely hot kiln with tongs to  take out my piece. Then I thrust it into a covered trash can containing materials that catch fire, slam on the lid  and hope I don't hear any popping sounds that means it has broken.That is  success!  
The wonderful thing about raku is the serendipitous quality of the results. I can do everything right, yet there is  often that element of surprise with the results. I am pleased with this piece. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Calligraphy with a Connection

This print,  entitled " Apache Wedding Blessing", is currently displayed in my  Jerome show, "Reflections", which I wrote about in my last blog. Also , I show this at the Sedona Arts Center.
I choose to write out poetry or sayings that mean something to me. Having a connection with what I  write encourages my creativity. It's not that I can't be creative when I get a commission with which I  am not familiar.That happens often. It just seems to  flow easier when I like the words that flow from my calligraphy pen. 
This saying was brought to me by a client. It expresses the connection when a couple are joined together.Is it still used in native ceremonies? I do not know. Do people love it? Yes. It speaks to something inside of them. It states the coming together of a couple in poetic flow of words, that reach out to the reader on many levels.
That's a real joy for me, when people love what they see. It is a connection of the eyes,the mind, and really, the heart. Calligraphy with a connection.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

My Exposition

Here I am at the opening of my show," Reflections", by V. Norton . I am wearing my porcelain bead jewelry, and standing in front of a wall showing my ceramic artwork.
This is a solo show of my ceramics; calligraphy, and book arts. Currently displayed at the Jerome Artists Cooperative in Jerome AZ., it runs  until July 1st, 2015. I will once again be at the gallery  from 5 until 8 pm, on First Saturday, June 6th,  to meet with people.
Mounting an exhibit, or as the French say, une exposition, is a large undertaking.(I am working on my French again, and I like the way this word this rolls off my tongue.) Primarily, there is creating the work.With a theme in mind, that helps with a direction. "Reflections" is really about my past, present, and perhaps future work, if I can get back into my studio soon! 
There are many logistics to a show. How much to make? One can't underestimate the publicity factor. If people don't know it is happening, they can't come. There are photos to be taken. Then comes creating invitations on my computer, a challenge to one who has no fear of a fourth century calligraphic alphabet, but gets stage fright with electronics. 
Never forget the importance of hanging the show. That includes painting walls, more than once; hanging shelves; artwork; creating cards and prints; displaying the handmade books. Deciding what to include and  arranging items is significant. Many thanks to those who did help me, but the word solo does make the point.
The next time you go to some one's art show, applaud the artist for their work, both in front of you, and all that went on behind it. 
I invite you to visit my "exposition" when in Jerome.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Art of Hand Made Dishes

The art of hand made dishes has been coming up in my creative life recently. I like making them. I always tell people the food tastes better on my handmade dinnerware. The coffee or tea is spicier, and the food is more appealing on a pretty plate.Very important is that  you Know the ingredients in my glazes are totally safe.Since it is all high fire, these dishes can go in the oven , even the microwave, and the dishwasher. Convenience matters in our every day life.
This is a set I had done a while ago, and recently sold .Not even sure this is a glaze batch I can reproduce, but I have other colors I use now. I always tell people when you order a set from me, rest assured, each piece will be unique. The colors will match, but the size and glazing style will be slightly different on each piece.You know you are getting handmade dishes. People seem to like this one of a kind styling they get from me. The dish as an art form.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I love butterflies. Here I am at the butterfly farm on the  faraway island of St Martin, in the Caribbean. It took a while, but I finally got this trip for my Birthday present. 
 I had to sit very still until one decided I might be a nice place to light. I have noticed with most creatures, if you are still, they may seek you out from curiosity.
I guess that my be my lesson in "life imitating art". When you are still, ideas often come. I was recently  looking at a series of ceramic wall pieces I have had for a while. They are unfinished.The more I stared, the more ideas came to me. I had to go to my boxes of goodies and see which colors and decorations would capture the vision .  No, I haven't done them yet, but it will become clearer as I start to work. Much like the butterfly which undergoes its metamorphoses.
 After mating the female butterfly lays her eggs on the host plant. When it hatches, the caterpiller eats that plant. Shedding its skin often, it suspends itself by silken threads and sheds one final time to reveal the chrysalis, from which eventually, a new butterfly will emerge.
 So it seems with art. It often has to go through phases of creative hatching. Finally it will emerge, like the butterfly. There are over 17,000 species spreading their unique beauty throughout the world. Like artists.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Creating for a Long Distance Job

Here was my latest calligraphy job, creating name tags for a family dinner. Of course I had to fly 3,000 mile , carrying supplies, not having seen the tag itself. 
My sister said red, so I packed up minimal supplies, hoping I had chosen correctly. I chose 2 small  tubes of watercolor, hoping one hue would do the trick. The brighter red worked. The calligraphy pen had a 3.5 nib, another word for the point, which is a good size for small writing. I took a small cheap paintbrush to mix it. For a palette, I threw in a plastic  yogurt  top, knowing it would be left behind.
 I  like to write on a slant board. Better perspective on the letters, as well as easier on the neck. A couple of books under a Masonite and I was set.My preference is to write on a  light box, with  lines, to make sure I am accurate. Without those options, I was writing free form. Of course, 4o years of doing this, gives one a bit to fall back on.
The reality is, we can bring our skills to whatever life presents us, whether far or near. 
My sister was happy; I observed some guests taking their name home with them; and I thought they turned out well myself. 
Our creativity is always with us.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Art of the Cake

 My sister surprised me with this lovely gift you see on the table before me. My family had gathered together for an event, which happened to be  on my birthday weekend.
 I was asked to come over to the table to see what was inside this lovely wrapping. I wished I had been the artist to have created this out of clay. Alas no, it was an entirely edible and delicious cake! Turquoise icing with a big white sugar ribbon.There was chocolate and raspberry, and white cake in layers. Boy did it taste good.
Art comes in many forms, and the mighty baker who made this had certainly taken the art of making a cake to a new level. Birthday cakes have been around a long time.This is the new cake. Alas, I had to get on a plane, and leave a bit of it with those who stayed behind. That's O.K. Art needs to be shared.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Blue Bowls

Just unloaded the last firing of the year, and out came these two small, blue bowls.
I love the look of this  glaze. It is a warm blue, a shiny glaze, which the porcelain clay I use shows off at its best. This is different from the turquoise mat surface that I most often make. I feel I can fall into the mirrored surface of these bowls. 
They are smallish is size, about six inches wide and three inches tall. I always like to add some distinctive decorative touches. Here are coils on the outside, and  circles to add some distinction to the rounded edge. There is also the contrast of the rough iron oxide stain compared to the smooth, sensual inside. Everything here is totally lead free. As I always say about my ceramics , " it makes the food taste better".
My sister once said to me" you have a style, you always like to add something to your pots." I guess she is right.  There is my blank slate just waiting for just a small intimate touch to make it mine.
The bowl is a lovely use of clay to my way of thinking. It is an ancient form. It can be a container and have a function, or simply the graceful circular form we can relate to.  My goal has always been to take something we think we know all about, and make it special.