Creativity, Life

Grateful for Small Encouragements

I am discovering that the Texas Hill Country is rife with amazing artistic talent. And those talented artists like to get together! In the last few days, I have attended a local lecture on Old Masters and egg tempera paint at the Hill Country Arts Foundation. I also learned that they have a full studio of wheels, kilns and eager and talented potters who gather there–even those who have their own studios at home often work there for the community. So of course I joined right away. I am taking my own lumps of clay up there tomorrow for the first time.

I also attended a fabulous presentation at the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, another arts center that hosts events and has gallery space for all manner of exhibits. The Guadalupe Water Color Group held its bimonthly meeting, and Austin-based watercolorist Jan Heaton gave a demonstration of some of her personal techniques. Jan’s work is stunningly gorgeous in its simplicity, with a focus on form and color. You can see her work at an upcoming show “The Market,” held in San Antonio at the Hunt Gallery September 29 through October 22, 2016. These images are from Jan’s website, and I cannot wait to see them in person.

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Newest work from Austin-based watercolorist Jan Heaton

The artistic ambience in Kerrville, Texas is simply wonderful. And I have yet to explore nearby Fredericksburg, which has at least 13 galleries and many amazing artists as well.

I was greatly encouraged during Jan’s presentation when she told us that she became a full-time artist (and is amazingly well-represented across the entire country) after a 25-year career in Advertising. Ahhh! Reinvention! This is my path, and it was wonderful to hear her story.

Do you have a reinvention story to tell?

 

Creativity, Life, Studio Space

The Time that Passes

Everyone should keep a blog just to be hit over the head with TIME and its refusal to slow down, much less stop and wait for us to catch up. Since my last post, my universe has dramatically changed. I know that’s a true statement for many people … after all, it’s been 18 months. Many things can change in the time it takes a baby elephant to be knit in the womb.

The culmination of nearly all of my changes have been wonderful, though the end was definitely not in sight most of that time. In that 18 months, I closed up my very small, one quarter of a garage pottery studio and put it all in storage as we moved into a small apartment to weather a layoff and a long job search. Among other (and more pressing) questions concerning our future, I wondered whether I would have another place to call “studio.” Uncertainty is taxing.

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The studio framework

It’s during these seasons–the difficult seasons–that I have been grateful for the stubbornness of time. It moves at its own inflexible pace, single-mindedly advancing minute by minute. During that relentless progress it takes me along, depositing me somewhere else further down the path whether I want to go or not. That’s the part I am most grateful for. I am moved along.

So I find myself here, 18 months passing since my last post, in the bend of this particular path as it turns to a new direction. Only a couple of weeks away (if the rain will stop)  from being reunited with wheel, kiln and magnificent clay, as Angus finishes the gorgeous studio he’s building me out back. A new job, a new town, a new season.

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Lying on the studio floor watching the moon

And new questions, too. Actually, maybe just the most basic question of all … who am I, now? Now that the kids are grown, now that my dear husband has given me the most precious gift of time (as in no 9-5 desk job), now that I can pursue artistic work freely? And, close on top of that one, What if …. I am no good?

But I fiercely believe and hold onto the benevolence and providence of God, and His active work in my small, daily life. So I take my steps forward …

A Potter's Journey, Ceramics

Unfired Clay vs. Fired Clay

This picture shows the comparison of the same pot — unfired Cinco Rojo clay dipped in porcelain slip, and then glazed with a clear glaze and fired at cone 6 (which is 2269 degrees F). There is quite a difference in the color of the clay from unfired to fired–rich, deep red to a chocolate brown. The clear glaze actually seems to accentuate the speckling in the stoneware.

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Next time I fire this clay, I think I will take it only up to cone 5 (which is 2205 degrees F — a difference of only 64 degrees.) BigCeramicStore.com has this very useful chart that shows the correlation of temperature to cone number, and also which type of clay “matures” at what temperature. According to this chart, firing this red clay that additional 64 degrees took it beyond its melting point, which could account for the change in color. Not that it isn’t lovely as a chocolate speckled stoneware. It’s just not what I wanted to see.

Creativity, Life

Home Sweet Home!

It’s not very glamorous, but I am very thankful for my 1/4th of the garage, all my own, which I call my studio. Small, yes, but it has everything I need: work space, wheel, kiln. I look forward to the day I have a larger room and windows, but for now, we just throw open the garage door, turn on the heater (or sometimes the kiln, depending on how cold it is!) and get to work.

Angus also has part of the garage for his motorcycle transformations and furniture building. This is where we spend our weekends and evenings after work! TrimmingwBat

Cycle

Creativity

The Unexpected Dresser

“… and besides, he had a box of tools and a pair of intelligent hands.”  from the short story “The Sea of Lost Time” by Gabriel García Márquez 

My multi-talented husband is a corporate man by day, working in e-commerce and marketing, but his real talents are in his hands, and his box of tools, and his brilliant imagination. He builds furniture and turns crusty motorcycles into rowdy works of art. These pictures are of his latest creation. I call it the Unexpected Dresser, because it has many hidden surprises.

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Creativity, Life

Inspiration is for Amateurs

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” –Chuck Close

Chuck Close (born July 5, 1940) is a painter and photographer who continued to work after becoming paralyzed in 1988 from a spinal artery collapse. He mainly utilizes a technique referred to as “hyperrealism” which means he creates paintings that are so detailed they really look like high-resolution photographs. That’s hard!!

CBS This Morning has a segment they call “Note to Self,” where artists and others read a letter to their younger selves, full of the wisdom of years. You can watch Chuck Close read the entire letter he wrote to his 14 year-old self, while he is still painting from his wheelchair, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=milXH-433vs

Though I do think we can be inspired by various things, what he means here is that if we WAIT to be inspired, we are not truly professional artists. The habit of working regardless of whether or not one feels inspired to do that work is what ultimately produces good, and sometimes, excellent work.

Close goes on to say, “Every great idea I’ve ever had grew out of work itself.” Meaning that the doing of the work is actually the inspiration for more and better work. Here’s more of his wise advice: “SIGN ON to a process and see where it takes you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today you will do what you did yesterday and tomorrow you will do what you did today. Eventually you will get somewhere.”

This is so true! Even if one has talent, one must have an appetite for work. With an appetite for work, plus curiosity, plus some passion and heart, one can create. Who knows where that journey will go!

A Potter's Journey, Ceramics, Creativity

Linda Fahey on Being Self-Taught

Potter Ben Carter produces a wonderful podcast series titled “Tales of a Red Clay Rambler,” where he produces thoughtful and interesting interviews with potters and other RedClayRambler.LindaFaheyartists. This past week, he interviewed Linda Fahey, whose work is wonderful and imaginative. Linda is a self-taught potter living and working in the Bay Area, where she also runs a a fabulous shop called Yonder. The shop is located in Pacifica, about 15 minutes south of San Francisco (find it online at Yondershop.com).

YonderShop.com

In the interview, Linda talks about her journey of becoming a potter and full-time artist–and her new role now as shop-owner of Yonder. (The tag line of her store is “discover beautiful things every day.” Indeed!) The whole interview is great, but I was particularly struck by her words about being self-taught. I am also on a self-taught journey, so I find her words (and work) very inspiring:

34: 54  I’m not confident enough to think I’ve arrived, ever. it is what fuels me to get better. We talked earlier on going through an academic program and what that entails, versus someone like myself, who is essentially self-taught, worked under people, but self-taught. There are gaps there that you have to find and then you have to figure out how to make it better. The academic environment is designed for you to not have a lot of blank spots. You are going to come out of that program and be pretty tight, right?… So this over here, me, working in the dark sort of, I mean I’ve gone to a million workshops and I have a very curious mind so I’m out there trying to find the information, but I don’t know what I don’t know. I still have a long way to go. 

Though Linda may feel that to be true (that she still has a long way to go), it’s clear by her body of work that she is quite accomplished at making the world a more beautiful place:

Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com

 

Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com
Linda Fahey, Yondershop.com

 

In Ben Carter’s podcast, she also talks about what she’s learned from working with Anthropologie, being a store owner, incorporating her environment into her work, and her future goals. Play her interview while you are in the studio–it’s wonderful inspiration. You can read her blog and see her new work here.

 

 

 

Throwing Basics

Throwing Basics: Wall Consistency

It can be difficult to make good progress in any skill when you are self-taught. Going it alone does not provide opportunity for constructive criticism from other, more experienced potters. DVDs, books, YouTube videos and the occasional class have all been very helpful, but can’t really replace the rigor that exists in a program, or provide the oversight of an apprenticeship. What to do??

My chief concern is that I might be developing some bad habits in throwing that are only getting reinforced by more practice, and with no one present to tell me otherwise, I might actually be getting good a throwing badly. But a colleague of mine who also throws and actually did take ceramics classes at university told me about a practice of his professor that I’ve adopted.

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Cut everything in half.

It’s a great practice for a new potter for a multitude of reasons. First, you don’t get too attached to work that has emotional significance (look what I made!!) but little design or skill value. Second, it gives you tremendous insight into the part of the process you can’t see while throwing — what’s happening on the inside!

You simply can’t miss the giant chunk of clay that you aren’t moving up the form’s wall. You can’t miss the unevenness of the sides, or the too-narrow neck.claylumpskinny

And third, watching yourself improve with practice is very empowering and inspires more practice. Remember, it takes hours and hours of effort to throw effortlessly.

Potter Hsinchuen Lin has a fabulous YouTube channel with very good instructional videos. I have learned quite a bit from watching them! In this one, he walks you through the process of lifting the clay into the walls of the pot. Watch this video, and then cut some of your pots in half to compare.

Creativity, Life, Peace, Photographs

God’s Glory in West Texas

bloomingpersimmonGetting out of the suburbs and into the beauty of the created world is inspiring and refreshing! We saw many marvelous sights on our West Texas Journey, including an expanse of the heavens in Marfa with no city lights obscuring the incredible starry skies, beautiful and wild blooms, and the gorgeous granite batholith called Enchanted Rock between Llano and Fredericksburg, Texas.

Jeremiah 51:15 says, “He made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.”

enchantedrockStanding at the top of Enchanted Rock and looking out across the rough beauty of the Texas Hill Country makes me feel the truth of this verse in my bones. And it awakens a hunger for knowing God more personally and intimately.

So when I read this invitation, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3), I am both exhilarated and terrified! cactus1

We get so excited to meet our favorite artists–whether they are musicians, actors or other creatives–how much more exciting to get to hang out with the creator of the entire universe? It’s stunning, really. And a bit scary! persimmons.drybrushyellowbloom

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Life, Photographs

West Texas Adventures

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Texas is BIG!

Texas is BIG! We drove over 1400 miles, spent 22 hours in the car, and stayed mostly in the south western quadrant of the state! The landscape varied from flat and ugly to mountainous and gorgeous to dry and dusty to wet and luscious. We made it all the way to Marfa, Texas, anxious to see the famous Marfa Lights, that curious and unexplained phenomena in the night sky. We did in fact, see the Marfa lights … while the man behind us on the platform was explaining to the people next to him that he and his buddies have met up in Marfa every year for the past seven, a reunion of friends. And every year, they come to the platform and hope to see the lights. As the four of us were pointing and exclaiming to each other, “There! See them? There!” this man behind us continued to recount his sad story to the others … “Seven years, and we’ve never seen them. I guess this is another year …” I was flabbergasted! We were looking right at them!! Three twinkling lights that would appear in the distance, a few feet above the horizon, dancing and moving, seemingly advancing towards us, and then retreating, then disappearing, only to appear again a few minutes later. We soon heard the reunion of friends packing up to leave the platform, another year gone by, while we had been entertained by the very lights they sought and missed.

It made me wonder how often I am guilty of the very same thing … completely missing what I’ve sought, and what it right in front of me, because I’d been distracted by myself and my own need to be the center of attention, or otherwise remain unaware. O Lord! Let that not happen! Let me not go through life missing the very thing I am seeking to find.

We also came across the abandoned movie set used in the 1960 film “The Alamo” starring John Wayne. One part of the set was old San Antonio. Here’s the church and general store, and of course, the famous mission entry:alamoset.church.drybrushalamosetbuilding.drybrushalamoset.alamo.drybrush