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.

StudioFrame
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.

MoonOverStudio
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 …

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

WT.Greenery

Life, Photographs

West Texas Adventures

WestTexasTrip
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

Creativity

Representation and Expression

English painter Harold Speed described the goal of the artist as developing command over both representation and expression, in order to create something worthy. This resonates with me. Take for example, this lovely basket by studio potter and artist Joy Tanner: JoyTannerBasket

Joy clearly has command over both representation (we know it’s a basket) and expression, which is what makes me exclaim, “How lovely!” when I look at it. It is her particular expression of the form (basket) that draws me. Though, obviously, in order to create the artistic expression, she also had to have command over creating the form itself.

Though Speed was primarily a painter, he also wrote instructional materials for developing artists. In 1913, he wrote “The Practice and Science of Drawing,” now available in the public domain. In the text, he beautifully describes those invisible things surrounding good art. Like this: “The strength of appeal in artistic work will depend much on the power the artist possesses of expressing himself through representations that arrest everyone by their truth and naturalness.” Right?? So right! Here’s another basket by a different artist, Adrina Richard:

Basket by Adrina Richard

Adrina also has command of representation of form, and a very different expression of creativity than Joy. Same representative form–a basket; two artistic expressions, both of which are highly appealing in their truth and naturalness.

Speed also encouraged the artist to look for the “hidden rhythm” and “emotional significance” in the appearance of any object. By doing so, the artist can capture what moves her (or him) and then express it with their own creative passion. Both Joy and Adrina have clearly done so with their baskets.

So let’s challenge ourselves to look this week for hidden rhythms and for emotional significance as we notice nature, our surroundings, or whatever it is we are looking at. Let’s study form and think about how that form we are admiring might transform into a work of art with our particular creative expression.

Throwing Basics

Who’s Throwing Those Pots at You?

My mistake was in trying to make sense of a phrase by assuming it has always meant the same thing throughout history – Angus would say I had been applying a form of presentism when wondering about “throwing pottery.”

Is it called throwing because you slam the clay down onto the wheel head to secure it? Or because as a beginner you end up throwing away more pots than you keep? Or because the frustration of not producing a good pot on the wheel can cause you to throw the malformed objects across the studio?

Turn (Throw) the Wheel by Hand ...
Turn (Throw) the Wheel by Hand …

Nope. Not any of those. I finally decided to look up the origins of “throw” in the dictionary, and lo and behold, my presentism was revealed. While our current definition and usage of the word does involve flinging and hurling objects in a sudden forward motion, the original definition (according to Dictionary.com) and usage of the Old English word thrawen means “to twist or turn.” This, of course, makes perfect sense! The potter’s wheel turns!

Or Turned (Thrown) by Foot
Or Turn (Throw)        by Foot

 

This exercise is a good reminder not to attach our current viewpoints onto events or objects of the past, especially the distant past–because we tend to Make Stuff Up.

I’ve discovered some research material published by The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago on ancient pottery found around Mesopotamia dating to 3000 B.C. How big of a weirdo am I that this is exciting to me because I can now add pottery to my Textile Timeline for Ancient History?

A Potter's Journey, Creativity, Life

Endless Curiosity

I have inherited the investigative gene in my family, and while mostly just useful, it can sometimes get out of hand. Basically it means that when I find myself interested in a subject, I am like a dog with a bone, and can’t let it go until I am satisfied that I understand it. Right now, I have an endless curiosity about the natural world and its ability to provide for and sustain humanity—specifically, in two areas–with fiber spun into yarn and made into fabrics, and clay formed into vessels for use.

Cups and a water jug
Cups and a water jug still wet from the wheel

So I thought I’d just take you along with me as I try to satisfy this curiosity in my clay journey, just in case you were wondering about it, too.

This all started with my own increasing amazement of our natural resources. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I deeply appreciate clean water, available food, antibiotics and other advances that have freed us—at least some of us, looking at the world in its entirety—from ills that have plagued humanity through the ages. But, I am fascinated by the dual nature of the natural world. I say “the dual nature” because the natural world is both beautiful in its simplicity to provide, and amazingly complex within that provision.

Take fibers, for example. Linen, flax, wool, cotton, silk—all of these various fibers grow and reproduce, and did so and would do so without any intervention from us. Because of their natural properties—the way a fiber is constructed so that when it is spun, because of its natural design, the fibers interlock, become stronger, and can be made into the myriads of articles we need.

Clay is much the same—abundant in nature, and of such a specific construction in its nature that it is the perfect material for creating vessels—pots, dishes, water jugs, insulators, and even panels on the space shuttle. Clay is another natural material with astonishing properties.

Creativity, Life

Something Else that Spins!

I started this blog 4 years ago to chronicle a journey though the spinning universe … my first post said this:

“Everything in our universe spins, from the tiniest of atoms to the mightiest of planets. Everything spins. Is this why there is so much peace to be found in spinning wool into yarn? In the act of spinning, are we emulating the Almighty’s act of creating and sustaining?”

I suppose, having had those intense feelings about spinning yarn, it is no surprise that I have now found even more peace and contentment in another act of spinning … making pots from clay on a potter’s wheel.

Potter's Wheel
My Potter’s Wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay is yet another natural substance, like wool, that demonstrates the glory and grandeur of our Creator. It’s very nature and molecular structure (more about that later) makes it the perfect raw material for constructing pots and vessels–just like wool contains within its structure the perfect characteristics for making yarn and fabrics.

First pots are much like first yarns —  uneven and somewhat wobbly, with lots of room for improvement! Arabella’s sage advice about spinning wool — “Good, you understand the basics. Now all you need is time at the wheel. Nothing else can teach you what you need” — also holds true for the potter’s wheel. The only thing that improves first pots is the continuous act of making second pots, third pots, fourth pots and so on.

The journey continues!

 

 

Creativity, Life

More Thoughts on Gains and Losses

I often think and sometimes write about gains and losses. In my life, globally, as God’s people, and even across the breadth of human history. Maybe especially across the breadth of human history, and specifically post-Industrial Revolution, when oh so many things have radically changed.

I suppose, as one who engages in centuries-old handcrafts, it’s only natural to compare the ancient and the modern. In any case, I just spent a wonderful weekend of creativity and learning at Mary Berry’s Fiber Retreat, and the whole experience brought me once again to these thoughts of gains and losses.

While I am quite glad that spinning wool for yarn and thread is my hobby and not a daily necessity (gain!), the weekend reminded me of the need to purposefully seek out groups that nurture us and foster excitement to learn and create. We can be so isolated in our lives (loss!), and the handcrafts that used to be so very necessary for survival and function are all automated now. Come to think of it, not just handcrafts, but so many other vocations have all been industrialized–from barrel-making to horse-shoeing to iron forging to silver smithing …the list could go on and on.

It’s the slow leaching out of daily creative efforts and the benefits we lose when that happens that gets me. And I do mean slow–such that we might not even notice. The progression has a frightening end, as we are now witness to and a part of — the elimination of the arts from school curriculum and the resulting general neglect of creativity and artistic expression. Which reminds me. Go see The Monuments Men, the WWII movie about the art scholars/architects who became soldiers and went to Europe to protect and restore stolen art. During the last year of the war, they recovered and then returned over 5 million pieces of art that had been stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. This movie will remind you how important art is to the world and to each of us.