Saturday, December 27, 2008

Meet Jilly:
The dog who needed a new life and a new home.

It was June 2006. Heather, my golden retriever, was in her golden years. At 16, Heather wasn’t getting around all that well anymore. But I was determined and I walked her twice a day, even if it was only to the mailbox or the corner.

About that time, my husband interviewed the people at Guild Dogs about their adoption program for ‘career change’ guide dogs. I already knew about it. I’d heard that it was a long process to get a puppy and could take years. I’m not a naturally patient person.

This time was different. Heather was aging. She was approaching her 17th birthday and her back leg just wasn’t working like it used to. When Michael got the adoption application, we filled it out, figuring, if it took years, that would be ok.

We got a call the next week. After an extensive phone conversation and interview, they made an appointment to check out our house and yard. We passed inspection and we went out to meet Jilly.

I’ve never had a lab but I’ve always had a soft spot for the yellow ones. When we walked in the door, there she was, a sweet, brown eyed yellow lab with a little black nose. We took her for a walk around the grounds and she did really well. I was impressed with her training. After all, she was raised in the Guide Dog training program. But, she was being ‘career changed’ for a reason.

I soon found out that she had a few issues. She liked to play ‘keep away’ which means that she’d fetch the ball but refuse to bring it back. She didn’t come when you called her and again, if you tried to ‘catch her’ she’d play keep away with you, too.

One night, we opened the front door to let a friend in and she bolted out the door. Gone. We searched for hours. Then we went home and sure enough, bouncing happily down the street came Jilly. She found her way home because it was, after all, dinner time. Labs never miss dinner time. It’s happened a few more times since then including a romp in the park when her collar broke.

Now, it’s 2008 and Jilly’s been part of our lives for 2 ½ years. And I’ve been working with her everyday on her issues.

Now she walks over grates without stopping or pulling me off my feet. If a van door slams, she might twitch but she stays heeling at my side. When the front door opens, she goes to her bed and stays. She loves to play ball and now will drop it at my feet, waiting for me to throw it again. But she’s not perfect.

‘Come’ is a dirty word to her. She will not respond to it at all. So, she and I have learned to play a new game called hide and seek. I hide and call out to her, “Jilly, where am I?” She loves to ‘find’ me. She also comes to me when I whistle three times. We’ve been working on off-leash with a ‘follow me’ command. I hold treats in my left hand and tell her to follow me. She does.

I thought that we’d finally done it. I thought that Jilly had gotten over her fears and found a home at last.

The other day, we’d just come back from a lovely, snowy walk in the park; I stomped on the concrete floor to clear the snow from my shoes and off she went. She ran down the driveway and around the corner so fast, I didn’t have a chance of catching her.

So I didn’t. I was so mad. All those months and years of training and she took off just like that. I felt betrayed. I told my husband to forget it. She could just go. I was done trying. I was done training. I guess maybe she was, too. I didn’t know what else I could do.

So I went inside and changed out of my wet clothes, ready to call it over. I’ve always wondered in my heart if Jilly really wanted to be part of our family, or if we were just another place to be ‘trained’. When we went to take her home that first day, she wouldn’t jump into the back of our car. I had to pick her up and put her in. I didn’t know if we’d bonded, even after all this time. And I didn’t know what else I could do to create a bond, then I realized that I was looking for the wrong dog. I was looking for Heather. Two years after Heather’s death, I was still bonded to her. And maybe I always will be and Jilly knew it.

In my closet, socks half off, I started to cry. Yes, I still missed Heather. But, I wanted my Jilly back. I wanted her here, safe and warm with her sweet, yellow head resting on my feet. I even wanted those begging eyes and drooling muzzle next to me at the dinner table. I put my socks back on. I marched downstairs, grabbed my coat, hat, and gloves. My husband grabbed the car keys.

Once I got in the car, I seemed to know where she’d gone. I told my husband to turn left, then right. I could see her in my mind’s eye, she was at the bottom of the hill playing with other dogs. Suddenly, I yelled, “Stop.”

Yes, there she was at the bottom of the hill playing in the snow. I jumped out of the car, ran over to where a woman was standing and told her not to let Jilly go. The woman assured me she wouldn’t and they were trying to figure out where Jilly lived when we pulled up. A man in a house across the street appeared cheering when he saw us. Apparently, he’d tried to catch Jilly and she ran away from him, too. The woman holding Jilly, said she’d been having a great time playing with their dogs in the snow. Rolling and tumbling and snuffling in the soft white drifts.

I grabbed Jilly’s collar and looked down to find her gazing up into my eyes. In those wonderful soft brown eyes, I saw a mixture of recognition, relief and apology. My husband came over with the lease and led her to the car. This time, she didn’t hesitate, she jumped right in. She knew right where she belonged.

I apologized to the people. I tried to explain, it was the sound that had triggered her to bolt. I told them she was a career change dog and I was working with her training everyday. They reassured me, it was ok. They were just glad she was home.

And, so was I. I found Jilly this time. I knew right where she was, because she’s right where she’ll always be, in my heart.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let it snow,
Let it snow,
Let it snow!!

It’s still snowing and we have up to 8” of fluffy white stuff, here in rainy Portland, Oregon. I can’t believe it. We’re going to have a White Christmas here where Christmas’ are normally grey and rainy. It’s so beautiful to have a winter wonderland right outside my window.

Yesterday, I took my usual walk with Jilly, my yellow lab, and took pictures of the snowy scenes around the lake. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was wet. But it was delightful all the same.

Home again, my husband and I put a beef stew in the oven. While rolling candy dough into balls, we sipped eggnog lattes and watched the classic movie, ‘White Christmas’.

The tree twinkled in the corner. The snow continued to fall softly outside. Since we’ve no place to go, let it snow!

Friday, December 05, 2008


Right now, with all the gloomy news about the economy, job lay-offs, and arts funding being able to give thanks for anything seems like a miracle. Miracles do happen. Believe me.

So right here, right now, I give thanks to Ed and Dorothy Wilbur for their generosity, warmth and kindness. In addition to supporting my work by buying several of my masks, they have gifted me with something I never thought I’d be able to have – a kiln. This is a much loved piece of studio equipment from Ed’s workshop where he did clay work as well as fused glass. I feel honored to have it passed on to me.

I’ve done clay work off and on for years. I’ve had it fired at the good graces of several different friends over the years. And I thank them for their kindness. But I didn’t want to keep on bothering people, so I just decided to quit doing clay and turned my attention to my metal work instead. And I thought I was fine with that until I got the chance to teach a clay mask class at the Museum of Contemporary Craft this summer. Then I realized how much I missed clay but without a kiln, I didn’t see how that was going to happen for me.

Enter Ed and Dorothy. They visited my studio during the Portland Open Studios Tour this year and noticed the clay sculptures on display. They hadn’t seen them at any of my gallery shows and I explained that I didn’t have many because I didn’t have a kiln or access to one. They asked if I wanted a kiln. I nodded. Then they offered me their kiln. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe such generosity.

But arrangements were made. A truck was rented. And I picked up a kiln. What, I asked could I possibly do for them in return? Nothing.

However, Dorothy had admired a wreath I’d made of aluminum oak leaves. I came up with an idea to make one of copper so it could hang outside in their art-filled garden. The day after thanksgiving, I delivered it to them. And they gave me another layer for the kiln and books on glass fusing.

I give many, many thanks to Ed and Dorothy. For they are the type of people who make miracles happen. Believe me. I know. Thanks to them, I now have a kiln!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Art in Progress:
Lion Demo moves on.

A month ago, I opened my studio to the public as part of Portland Open Studios Tour. This is a chance for me to show and tell what I do. My demonstration for the two weekends included two different media, copper and aluminum screening.

The demo with the screening didn’t look like much then, just plain silver screening that I was sculpting into a lion. I tried to take a ‘before’ picture then, but the aluminum screening just doesn’t show up well in a photo.

Now, I’ve had time to get into the process of adding the paint. This piece is still in process. It’s not even close to finished. There are many, many layers of paint to go. But I thought I’d take a picture of it at this stage to share with you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008




I started a new blog. Not because I needed another thing to do but because I felt compelled to work for the change I want to see in the world. I wanted to start the ball rolling in a positive direction for a change.

I know. We all know. There's a lot of bad news out there. Gloom and doom seem to be the new mantra. Research and history shows that the Great Depression's momentum was a direct result of a mass mindset of fear. And fear serves no one and hurts everyone.

I want to see us heal. I want to see change in a positive direction. I want to pass on good news. I want to affirm that, in spite of everything you might hear out there that life is good.

So that's where the new blog comes in, and you do, too. I want this to be a place where we can all share stories, poems, songs, tidbits, little life events and big ones, too that are good. Let's start our own upturn in the world, right now.

The new blog is titled: Life Is Good...Pass It On. Come on over and join in. Here's the link

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


On Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, I taught a class called, ‘Create a Sculptural Vessel’ through Portland Community College. I arrived with all the supplies, set up the room to allow for a flow of function and creativity and hoped that the students would be ready for a hands-on, free-flowing, art-making experience.

These great women eagerly dove into the experience. They cut the copper or aluminum screening into pieces. Then they started to play with metal. Bending. Pushing. Folding and rolling. And soon, chatting away as they worked, sculpted vessels began to appear. Moving on to the paint, metal leaf and beads each student/artist added to their vessel making it their own unique piece of sculpture.

Of course, during the creation process there are those times of indecision. Resistance. And fear. What should I do next? Will I make a mistake? How will it turn out?

I was there to help the process in any way I could. Explain or demonstrate a technique. Show an example for the three vessels I brought. Ask a question. Offer a suggestion. Or encourage exploration for inspiration.

We were lucky to have inspiration just steps away inside the Museum of Contemporary Craft. There are two ongoing exhibits, ‘Manufactured, The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects’ and ‘Ceramics of Gertrud and Otto Natzler’. As well as a Community Showcase featuring a beautiful display of unique contemporary and traditional baskets from the Columbia Basketry Guild. Plus there were two artists from the Columbia Basketry Guild doing a demonstration right next to our classroom.

All of these explorations helped to inspire us all as we took in the textures, colors and forms on display around us to push, pull and create more from the sculptural vessels.

I saw a wonderful transformation take place as the women took screening and created truly beautiful, unique sculptures. Some of them seemed a little mystified about how and where the forms came from, but isn’t that the wonder, mystery and fun of creation?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sculpting Show and Tell.

(Doing my copper repousse' during Portland Open Studios. Photo by Lisa Griffin)

For two weekends in a row, I've been part of the Portland Open Studios Tour. That means from 10 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, I open my studio to the public. But it's more than an art show and sale. It's more like art show and tell.

Remember when you were in kindergarten and you brought something to school to share with the rest of the class? Well, this is something like that. As a participating artist, my job is to show people where, what and how I work. It's been an interesting process.

When people come to my studio, I show them how I bend, shape and pinch window screening into sculptures of animals and people as well as push copper sheeting into masks and landscapes. I tell them how color is added and answer questions about where I get my materials. I let them wander through my home looking at my some of my other pieces explaining how the original stories and found objects give the pieces unity. I listen as they tell me about their experiences with art and sometimes, show me some of their artwork.

I must admit, I wasn't sure what this experience would be like. Opening up my studio to strangers seemed a little scary at first. Not to mention, putting many of my sculpture pieces on display in my own home for people to see and touch. Talking to all the people for 7 hours each day was both invigorating and exhausting. It was a lot of work, more than I expected. And it gave me an even greater appreciation of all the work that gallery owners put into every monthly show.

But I'm glad I did it. They learned about my art process and I learned about their art experiences. I told them about how my work evolves with each piece and they told me how they felt about the sculptures. It was a wonderful exchange of appreciation, knowledge, creativity and ideas. And isn't that what show and tell is all about?

Visit my website at

Tuesday, October 14, 2008



Saturday and Sunday, I unlocked my front door and welcomed strangers, friends and neighbors into my home and my studio. It was a little scary, to be honest, to open up my solitary studio space and process to new people. I felt a little uncomfortable letting others see unfinished work especially pieces still in process. But I loved doing the demos, showing children and adults how I do what I do.

That's the mission of Portland Open Studios Tour, to let the public see artists at work. And I believe and support that mission. I feel strongly that the more people see working artists, the more they'll understand and appreciate finished art work.

I've never done anything like this before, so it's all been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Since being juried into this year's tour in March, I've had a lot of new experiences. There were meetings large and small. I was a little intimidated attending the first large group meeting but very quickly felt at ease as everyone introduced themselves and we split up into smaller groups by our volunteer jobs and neighborhood areas. I went to smaller meetings for publicity. I volunteered to write for the group blog. I was a professional writer in a previous 'career' but hadn't used those skills in a while, so this was another new adventure for me.

During the course of the last seven months, I've met many wonderful, fun, creative and supportive artists. At my 'cluster' group get togethers, I met 8 other artists who all live within 5 minutes of my studio. I've demonstrated my copper repousse' work next to printers, stone sculptors, painters and weavers on a beautiful summer day in a park. I've interviewed at least 7 other artists for the group's blog site as well as writing the audio scripts for podcasts.

But most important of all, for me, was meeting all those curious 'tour' visitors. I showed how I form my screening sculptures and copper repousse' to men, women and children of all ages. As they wandered through my studio and home gallery, they asked all sorts of interesting questions, made wonderful observations and showed their appreciation of my work.

There are many people in my own neighborhood who have no idea what I do all day. So it gave me an opportunity to show my work to them. It also gave me a chance to display the pieces in a home setting, as well as explain the concepts and stories that direct and inspire my pieces.

I admit, I was exhausted at the end of the weekend. It was a lot of work. But it was also a very rich and rewarding experience especially when the last visitor of the day said that my studio was the best one yet!

For anyone in the Portland area this next weekend, my studio will be open again both Saturday and Sunday from 10-5. Buy a tour guide at then come on by and visit!!!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

(Top-'Reflection' copper repousse',
Bottom-'Spring', screening sculpture)

It’s been a week of new opportunities and experiences. I was part of a group show at a new gallery, ONDA. And I was interviewed and had an article about me published in a local paper.

The “Celebrating Nature” show at ONDA in Lake Oswego this month is a benefit for the Friends of the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. A local wildlife sanctuary located along the Tualatin River that is home to a wide variety of animals and birds including eagles, great blue herons, egrets and more. At the opening I met many new people including fellow artists and volunteers at the refuge.

The Times, a local community newspaper, called to do a story about me and my participation in this year’s Portland Open Studios Tour. This tour, which is in its 9th year, is an opportunity for people in the community to watch artists at work in their studios. For me, working in my studio is a solitary activity and this is my chance to share my process with the people in my own neighborhood. When the article came out on Thursday, it was amazing to see my picture in the paper. And I felt a little shy, but I was glad to have this wonderful opportunity to be featured in a local paper.

Check out the ONDA show online at
And check out The Times article online (no picture of me or my art, unfortunately) at

Saturday, September 27, 2008

(Left)Bill Murray mingling with art lovers.
(Below)Art lovers and their new dragon mask.



Last night was the opening of the new Metalurges Mask Show. It was a celebration of a new gallery partnership of Susan Levine and Bill Murray, the re-connection of mask artists and collectors from the former Graystone Gallery.

My love of masks and Bill’s mask shows goes back a long way. For many years, I would drive across town just to view Bill’s annual show. This was before I even dreamed of making masks myself, but now I know all those visits inspired me to take art classes, learn to paint and sculpt.

When my screening sculptures were chosen for the Graystone Annual Mask show, I was thrilled. Every year, I looked forward to it and when it closed, I was sad. What I didn’t realize at the time, was how important mask making was to me. My studio work slowed way down. I felt lost.

What kept me going, once again, were masks. This time, mask making re-emerged in my life through workshops and after-school classes at schools around the city. I made a few masks in my studio, but more and more, I was helping others learn the magic of mask making. I love bringing the magic of creation to others. I really believe that creativity is a core need no matter what your age or stage.

When Bill called, with the news of a new mask show opening, I dove into my studio filled with new energy and inspiration. I created 5 new masks for the show, 2 in copper and 3 in screening.

The copper repouss√© dragon was inspired by the wonderful new children’s book based on Peter Yarrow’s song, ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’. I taught a mask makers class at a local elementary school last spring using the book and song all about Puff. So, I knew that one of the masks would definitely be a dragon.

Once again, Bill’s mask show makes magic for everyone involved. Artists get to catch up with each other and share their new masks. Old and new friends get to mix and mingle. Art lovers are treated to a feast of mixed media masks in clay, wood, steel, wire, tile, aluminum and copper.

If you weren’t able to make to the opening night celebration, you can still enjoy the show from now through October 31st. Metalurges Gallery is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday Noon to 5p.m. or by appointment at 3601 S.E. Division Street in Portland, Oregon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Finding yourself is child’s play.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of teaching another mask making workshop. This time it was at New Renaissance Book Store and the class was for adults instead of children.

The class, called ‘Unmask Yourself’ invited grown-ups to take a creative, artistic journey of self discovery by making a multi-layered mask. This was my first experience bringing this kind of art experience to grown-ups and I wasn’t sure how it would go.

It was great. This wonderful group of men and women jumped right into the spirit of discovery through playful art making. They eagerly sorted through a rainbow collection of colored and patterned papers. Cut out shapes from foam and words from magazines. Painted glittery glazes and shiny puff paint. Drew with oil pastels and forks dipped in paint. Twisted wire and added beads. Glued on feathers, sparkle wire or fuzzy yarns. The time flew by and three hours later, their masks were done.

Were they surprised? Were they pleased? Did they learn anything about themselves? Yes. Yes. And Yes.

Several people talked about the importance of taking chances. Some had dreams of winter. Some just enjoyed the art materials and playing with feathers and beads. I think we all learned that making art isn’t just child’s play, it’s a fun way to get back in touch with yourself. And that’s a joy to be enjoyed at any age!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008



This weekend in Portland, Oregon, I went to Art In The Pearl, a Labor Day weekend art festival with music, food and kid’s art activities. It’s a gathering of local and regional artists showing work from ceramics, paintings, sculptures, fused glass and photography to hand-crafted leather goods, jewelry, baskets, felted coats and hats. It’s also a gathering of artist guilds and groups doing demonstrations and giving out information to anyone in the community interested in learning more about art. This year, instead of just watching the demos and admiring the art, I was able to have a small part in the event.

As a new member of the Pacific Northwest Sculptors Guild, I was allowed to hang one of my copper repousse’ pieces in the guild tent. Every year that I’ve gone to Art In The Pearl, I’ve always checked out their tent, admired the art and picked up a brochure telling myself I’d join. Last year, I finally did it. It’s been an eye-opening experience. I’ve met many talented artists. Learned about a wide variety of sculpture media. Gotten some really helpful advice. And participated in group shows and demos all over Portland that I wouldn’t have had access to without the guild.

I’ll admit I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘group’ person. I’ve always been comfortable working on my own but I have to say that joining this group has been a great experience for me. And although, I don’t feel that I’ve done much for the group, yet, just a newsletter article or two and a contact list for the president; I look forward to doing and learning more. All in all, I'm learning much more as part of a group than just a gawker. Try and see for yourself.

Friday, August 22, 2008


A few months back, I received a review copy of ‘Unleash the Poem Within’ and I loved it. I wrote a short blog about it here in July. Then I wrote to the author, Wendy Nyemaster, with questions about her unique book concept as well as her personal journey as a writer/poet. Her answers are below.

As you read, you’ll learn that this was a very personal journey for Wendy as well as the other contributors to her book, the Poetry Posse.

During the last few months, I’ve been going through my own difficulties and I have to say, that Wendy’s book helped me, too. I wrote a few poems and seeing my feelings as words on a page, helped. So the idea came to me that maybe other women out there would like to try their hands at a little poetic self-help. How about you?

Would you describe yourself as a poet or a writer?
Writer because I write a lot of different things other than poetry.

Tell me about your journey as a writer. Where did it start? Where are you now?
It seems like I’ve always been drawn to writing, but I can specifically remember thinking “I want to be a writer” in the third grade. I read A Wrinkle in Time and thought, wow. I have found immense comfort, inspiration, and direction in writing—both my own and that of others—since I can remember thinking. And I’m not sure which one came first for me: reading, writing, or thinking. I’m not sure it was even a conscious choice. I have simply known that write is what I am supposed to do. I have never been as sure of anything else in my life. I’m still finding how I am best heard, but I’ve always known writing was my path to follow. But, for a long time, I tried to pretend I didn’t hear its whisper because I thought what if I fail? What if I’m no good at this thing I want so desperately? To never try was to pretend I still could. When my husband and I separated after ten years of marriage, I had to redefine myself. I had a shock of cold water that forced me to see if I could swim. I also was just mad enough to want to do something big to show him that I could. That’s when I got the idea for Unleash the Poem Within. I started writing it, got an agent, and here it is. After its publication, I didn’t feel relieved or accomplished—instead I was hit with a very heavy now what? feeling. I stopped actively writing on that project in March of 07; it was published in April 08, and I just now, here in August of 08 have an idea of what to work on next. It wasn’t exactly writer’s block, but I just didn’t know where to go. I’ve got another nonfiction idea with my agent now, and while he’s shopping that around, I am working on a novel. But, I still write poetry more often than any other thing. It not only helps me express myself, but it gets my creative juices flowing so that I can work on other things. Where I am now is never stop writing. That is the only way I feel like I am moving forward in my life, no matter how well things are going in different areas. I simply have to write. And most of the time that starts with a poem.

Some of us express ourselves with painting, sculpture, journal writing, or fiber art, would you say that poetry was your way to self-expression?
Absolutely poetry is my way to self-expression—as well as self-exploration. I’m not sure I know how I think about something or what I think of it until I try to write a poem about it. It also helps me be creative in all other writing areas. I find that writing poetry opens up the valves for all kinds of wonderful writing to rush out.

You say that you wrote sonnets before you knew what they were, what got you started writing poetry?
I honestly don’t know! My mom says she always remembers me adding little groups of words, little “poems” with every picture I drew from about six on. When I was in high school, I wrote the most ridiculous “sonnets,” meaning rhymed groups of stanzas. My friends and I would exchange them. Since then, it’s not even a conscious thing. Sometimes my words come out in verse. As I explore poetry more, especially since I was blessed enough to write the book, I experiment with different forms. And that to me is not only great fun but also amazingly revealing.

How did it help you?
Poetry specifically helped me get through my separation. Before that, it helped me get over a post-partum depression I didn’t have a name for. I believe in God. That’s my belief. And I believe that God gave me poetry to get me through the tough stuff. That’s why I say it’s not even conscious sometimes. I think its God’s gift to me. That’s not to say I claim to be terribly gifted at it, it is to say God has given me this outlet to see me to the other side. Now, additionally, poetry helps me keep writing. As I said, it clears the way for so much additional writing to come through.

Poetry as self-help is a unique approach, what gave you the idea to write a book about it?
Because it has helped me personally through some pretty big, tough stuff, as I mentioned—my separation after ten years of marriage, post-partum depression—as well as the everyday struggles that come up. I thought if it’s been this helpful to me, perhaps it might be helpful to others. I knew I couldn’t write a book, especially my first, about something I didn’t believe in. Poetry as self-help seemed the perfect subject.

You describe different kinds of poems in your book as being helpful with different types of personal situations…can you give me a few examples?
The sonnet has a natural affinity for helping with emotional situations. This tradition goes back as far as the sonnet goes back. It helped both myself and another Posse member with marital difficulties. My world was obliterated when my marriage was unraveling, it felt like I couldn’t grab a string connected to anything. Sitting down and going through all my emotions—anger, betrayal, loss, etc—and finding the ones that fit my poem meant I felt like I fit. I simply didn’t feel so overwhelmed and lost. I felt like I had more control since I could identify and sort though what I was feeling. And when I knew what I was feeling, I knew better what I wanted to see happen. I felt like when I could write it in a poem, I could name it and wrap that string around it. The other Posse member who wrote her poem anonymously, the only way she could be true to what she needed to say, too was experiencing difficulties in her marriage. It helped her to give words to a vague, looming heaviness. When she had the words, the heaviness lifted. So, the sonnet, in my experience, is great for emotional situations.

Lori, one of the Posse, was having some issues with money—too much debt to be specific. When she chose that as her subject for the list poem, she was challenging herself to delve into it. The list poem is a form that is very unrestrictive as far as “rules” go, but is still a poem, so there’s a process to it. Dissecting the issue into lines helped Lori grasp some of the emotions behind the problem. This was really inspiring to me, to choose something we don’t really like to talk about, something that admits personal weakness. She knew it was a problem and was really courageous to put it out there. The list poem is easy to write and great for these everyday, not-very-poetic issues that can hold us back.

The letter poem is a great way to let something go that might be holding you down—like guilt. Nikki dealt with the guilt she felt at her Aunt Arla’s passing. You can choose a form to help with your letter, or use free verse. This process is incredibly cathartic. When I was writing the book, I would divide the Posse up into groups, working on two chapters at a time. So, half of the Posse didn’t see half of the book. When Lori read it in its entirety, she came across Nikki’s poem, one she hadn’t seen or read before. As it turns out, the exact same thing happened to her! Lori and Nikki come from two totally different backgrounds and are at completely different places in their lives, yet share this common experience. Lori’s aunt died of ovarian cancer, caught too late, just like Nikki’s Aunt Arla. She had the same overwhelming guilt as Nikki. Lori said she was very emotional reading Nikki’s poem. And even though it wasn’t her own, she could let some of her own guilt go through Nikki. She said it was like reading her own poem.

In each chapter, you include a different form of poetry, examples from famous poets, your ‘poetry posse’ as well as music suggestions, why the music tracks?
As I say in the book, to me music and poetry are so similar. Perhaps music is poetry with instruments, and perhaps poetry is music without instruments. Music inspires me all the time to write a poem. So again, it’s a mode of inspiration that works for me, and I thought it might for others as well.

Tell me about your ‘poetry posse’.
The Posse is a group of ordinary women, some who had dabbled in poetry here and there and some who had never written a poem—ever. But it was important to me to get my point across to show that poetry really can help. And to do that, I had to gather a group of women to prove it. I could have pulled examples from famous poets, but this was different. This was a way to use poetry in every day life with every day problems. So I needed every day women. Some of the Posse are my friends (one going back to middle school!), some my family, and some I have never even met, as they came into the group through my friends or family. I made the conscious decision to make it as diverse a group as I could. They are all so brave for taking this journey with me. Can you imagine asking someone to write a poem, who has never written poetry before, and oh, by the way, it’s going to be published? But gamely, each and every one of them put themselves out there and learned a lot as a result.

I’d love to have you work with me and a few other women to discover more about ourselves and our lives through poetry. How about it?
Yes! I would absolutely adore the opportunity to do that.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sculpting a Life:

One day at a time.
('Sunrise' new copper repousse')

A few weeks ago, an artist and mom-to-be asked me how I managed my studio time. It’s a good question. And one that I wished someone had answered for me when I started out, so I gave it some thought. I wanted to give her something that no one had really given me back then, the truth rather than the myth.

Here’s the myth. That all artists work in their lofty studio spaces alone at least 8-10 hours a day struggling to make their work meet their highest standards of excellence.

Here’s the truth. My work has been done in a variety of settings over the years. I started out with a drafting table in the corner of my bedroom because it was above the reach of my pre-school son. Later, when we moved to a larger house, I put the drafting table in the corner of the den. And gradually the den moved out and my studio moved in. As far as hours a day, I don’t count them. Oh, I spent some time whipping myself into a frenzy trying to uphold the myth of long studio hours, but I kept getting interrupted by life. My life.

Here’s another truth. I work best in 45 minute segments, about the length of one of my favorite CD’s. If I work on one piece any longer than that, I start undoing my own good work. I call it ‘fuzting’. It’s very frustrating. So, what I’ve found works for me is to have about 3 pieces going at once which I work on for 45 minutes each about five days a week. Some days I work longer. Some days I work less. Some days I write. Some days I go out and have fun. Well, ok, I’ll admit, I have a hard time getting myself out for fun, but I’m working on that.

The point is, small segments of time add up to finished work. Think of it this way, Michelangelo carved his masterpieces one chip at a time. So can you. Studio time can work with you, around your life, your kids and walking your dog. It may not happen in one month or one year, but in time, you will have a portfolio of work to show for it and, if you’re lucky, a couple of healthy kids and loving relationships, too.

Just one more thing…don’t forget to play. Go out and have some fun on a regular basis. It feeds the soul. Speaking of which, I’ll talk to you later, I’m going to a movie.

This post was also published in the Joy of Living Creatively at I post there every other Friday and I have several other posts there you can check out. As well as my myspace page at

Friday, August 08, 2008



Last night was one of those wonderful mid-summer nights, just right for a stroll through one of Portland's local art districts. There were crowds of people everywhere, taking in the scene with art in the alley, music on the corners and gallery openings. Delights for senses were everywhere.

I was lucky to be part of a group show put together by the Pacific Northwest Sculptors Guild at the PosterGarden. Crowds flowed in and out for 3 hours to the beat of Samba Soleil taking in the paintings, jewelry and handcrafted items in the showroom downstairs as well as the diverse collection of sculpture from the guild and incredible treats from Fete by Myriam upstairs.

I had a great time chatting with friends, art lovers and fellow artists on such a beautiful summer night!

Monday, July 28, 2008


I never went to camp as a kid, but last week, I got the chance to have some fun at a camp here in Portland. I was a guest artist at the Museum of Contemporary Craft's School's Out, Art's In summer camp for children.

What better way to spend a summer's day than playing with clay and making masks. I was there bright and early Monday morning along with Kate, Shir and Jessica to set up for the 'campers'. They set up tables and chairs while I cut and stacked blocks of nice, red clay. When the children arrived, we went on a private tour of the museum's exhibit, "Generations, Ken Shores" led by Kate. This exhibit was filled with wonderful ceramic pieces both functional and non-functional, glazed and painted, as well as mirrored architectural pieces. Looking at the colorful, textural sculptural pieces, we explored the many ways that clay can be used in artwork.

With all this inspiration, we got to work in the studio/lab area. I did a quick demo of slab mask making and talked about shape and form. Then the children went to work rolling out their own slabs of clay and shaping their own masks. Pushing into the clay. Pulling it out. Attaching pieces. Carving lines and forms into it. Or punching holes in it, so that later they could add wire, beads or feathers. Some were inspired by the human face, others by animals. Some worked from photo reference materials, others from their imaginations. Whatever their inspiration, they worked all morning and afternoon building their own unique clay masks. At the end of the day, the masks were taken to be bisque fired and returned to the children for another day of art adventure.

On Friday, I came back to find all the masks had made a beautiful transition through the kiln. Each mask was bisque fired and ready for the next step: Color. We spent the day talking about and experimenting with color. How do certain colors make you feel? What are the primary, secondary and tertiary colors? How can you blend, layer and texture with colors? Then after everyone had painted their masks, we added extra elements. Feathers. Wire. Beads. Ribbons. Yarn. Just like each mask maker, each and every mask was individual and unique.

The week of art ended with a gallery show of all the artwork created by the children, papermaking, woodworking, wire beading and clay mask making. It was a fun, energetic, exciting and inspiring week. And I think we all had a great time at camp!

Friday, July 18, 2008



About six months ago, I answered a call for blog correspondents from around the world to contribute bi-weekly articles on living creatively for Eric Maisel's new blog: Creativity Central. The idea was to have many people 'reporting' from their different parts of the world sharing what was new, creative and artful in their lives and locals. I sent in my proposal and waited for the technical bits and pieces to get put together.

At long last, the site is up and running. I wrote my first article as a new 'blog correspondent'. My life has had some unexpected twists and turns this year and when I wrote the initial idea up, I really had no idea where I would find myself when blog publishing time came. I was to write about 'sculpting a life' and at the time my life was falling apart. But what amazed me last week, as I wrote my first piece for the blog was how far I've actually come in the last few months. What I thought at the time was the end, I see now was really a new beginning. My life wasn't really falling apart but re-forming itself.

To read more, visit my blog on Eric Maisel's Creativity Central at

Tuesday, July 15, 2008



AT CRAFT PDX: A Block Party

The sun was shining. The music was playing. And artists were sculpting stone, metal and clay. Painting. Making prints. Weaving. Carving wood. Basket making. Drawing on eggs. And crocheting with wire. It was all part of the second annual Craft PDX block party put on by the Museum of Contemporary Crafts.

I was there doing my copper repousse' along with many other talented artists featured in this year's Portland Open Studios Tour. There was so much to see and do. In addition to the Portland Open Studios tent, there were many wonderful demonstrations from the city's local art guilds. You could even make your own art. Whether you were a grown-up or still growing, you could make your own raku pot or play with clay.

It was a wonderful day. If you weren't there, here are some pictures I took for you to enjoy. If you see some art that you want to know more about, mark your calendars for October 11, 12, 18 & 19 for the Portland Open Studios Tour. And come watch artists at work. You can buy the Tour Guide from participating artist, Art Media, New Seasons or the website

Thursday, July 10, 2008



I've never really thought about poetry as the ticket to self-help or self-health. But I have to admit to writing some small poems along the way. Were they helpful? I don't know, but it felt good at the time to write them. Were they good poems? Probably not. But according to author, Wendy Nyemaster, that doesn't matter.

"The idea", according to Wendy, "is to use poetry as a means to a more creative, expressive and authentic life." It can help you let go, be more grateful, explore your creativity in a whole new way. And it's helpful for sorting out some of life's sticky situations, as well. Say, for example, you have a relationship issue? Then write a sonnet. You want to stay in present moment? Try a haiku. Feeling a little lost? Let a villanelle help you find your own voice again.
In addition to chapters covering different types of poetry forms, Wendy gathered a few women and formed a 'poetry posse'. This group worked their way through all the chapters and contributed many of the poetry examples used in the book. Each chapter also includes a list of music the posse felt captured the feeling of the poetic form. I found the music suggestions interesting, some definitely not to my taste, but the poems written by 'real' women helped me get over my fear of poetry as perfection.

I must admit, this book intrigued me. I read Wendy's conversational, breezy introduction and I was hooked. I had to try this out for myself. Yes. I wrote a poem. Probably a very bad poem, but it did feel good to write it and it helped me see something a little clearer than before.
So, if you're looking for a new way to help yourself, you could pick up a copy of "Unleash the poem within" and try your hand at writing a poem or two.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


If you're in, out or around Portland, Oregon during the month of July, stroll by the Justice Center windows on S.W. 2nd and Madison, downtown. You'll see some a wonderfully diverse display of sculpture from bronze, airated cement, fiber, metal and clay from some of the members of the Pacific Northwest Sculptors Guild.

I have four new pieces in the display, two new wall-hung copper repousse' figurative landscapes entitled, 'Rebirth' and 'Reflection' as well as two new aluminum screening sculptures entitled, 'Spring' and 'Summer'.

Friday, June 27, 2008



As I stepped out of the car, it was obvious right away that a stone sculptor lived here. In the front courtyard was a pumice sculpture of a mother and child that radiated a loving connection mixed with free-spirited playfulness. This was one of two outdoor sculptures adorning Joni Mitchell’s home but there was much more in her backyard studio which she and her husband built themselves.

Through the double doors, this simple white studio held an amazing array of power tools, a kiln, and a hose connected to the air compressor housed in the garage. And it’s the tools that powered Joni’s interest in stone carving, without them Joni would have given up on stone. “In my first class, I only had a hammer and a very small chisel and I swore that I would never touch marble again, because it was too hard,” said Joni. But when Marlyhurst teacher, M.J. Anderson, a well-known stone sculptor, introduced Joni to power and air tools, Joni said, “Then I really loved it.”

Joni took me through her process step by step. First, she begins each piece by going through the stone for obvious flaws, carving off at least 1 inch of the stone surface to get rid of marks and imperfections. Then she uses her power tools to cut lines 1 inch apart, and uses her hammer and chisel to knock out the rough shape. After marking out the form with chalk, Joni puts on her safety gear including ear plugs, safety glasses, gloves, mask and hat and carves away using smaller power tools. From then on, the process becomes more about responding to the emerging shapes.

Joni described it as feeling her way through the stone, “It’s very tactile. I have to stop and use my hands to feel my way, using the small air chisel, I start carving the features in.” Joni changed to smaller and smaller diamond tip grinders and carved out the baby’s nose and lips. Joni said, “I do a lot of feeling and hand work.” She used a series of small stones in different textures to smooth out bumpy areas by hand. Then a variety of wet/dry sandpapers and compounds are used to polish the marble ending with a stone sealer to protect the stone.

It was easy to see the beauty of the marble when viewing any of Joni’s finished pieces. But how does Joni choose her stone? She said, “I usually go buy a piece of stone, sometimes for color or shape or posture, then I look at it for a while. With this piece of pink marble, I had it for a couple of years until I was ready to carve it. I could see the posture, very feminine and very fleshy and perfect for the mother and child and the relationship.”

Images of mothers and children abound in Joni’s work. As a mother of two, it was her loving memories of the special joy and connection with her young children that inspired Joni. Joni explained, “A lot of times what inspires me to make a piece is a moment in life that has really touched my heart. That’s why I work.” “I love the mother and child. I would do just babies, if I could.” About the inspiration behind the pink marble piece in process, Joni said, “It’s the way that the mother and child are physically connected.”

And it was that physical connection to the art making process that kept Joni working during a very difficult time. After losing both her brother and her son in a little over one year, it was the studio, the stone and a choice to be positive that helped her heal. “Art has really helped me a lot through some very hard things and that’s why I do it. I hope that when people look at my art it helps them, gives them a feeling of hope, feeling that things are ok,” said Joni.

Joni’s journey into art started with a correspondence course and ended with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marylhurst University. In the process, she has worked in watercolor, acrylics and charcoal. But it was a clay sculpture class that fired her love of the three dimensional form and led her finally to stone. Joni said, “With sculpture, I just knew what to do, it might be anatomy training for the radiology work that I do, helped, but I loved it and I couldn’t stop doing it. I’ve always loved stone. I grew up as a child collecting pretty rocks. And I love the permanence of it when it’s done. I like the fact that I work on my pieces for months before they’re done.”

Marble sculpting was a process that took patience, focus and perseverance. And for Joni, it was a way to find answers to personal questions and a choice to see the beauty in life. Joni said, “It’s a very spiritual thing to me. I’ve always been that person to see the beauty and the beautiful things in life. In my heart I always wanted to sculpt something positive and beautiful.”

Joni has shown her work in the Beaverton Arts Commission show and the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts. Currently her work is being shown at the Kingstad Gallery.

You can visit her this fall during the Portland Open Studios Tour October 11-12, 2008. Portland Open Studios is a self-directed tour of 98 artists workplaces located throughout the Portland Metro area. Tour Guides will be available at Art Media and New Seasons Market.

To see more of Joni Mitchell’s work visit her website at

Monday, June 02, 2008



What started out as an online art statement has blossomed into a mixed media exhibit at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Anna, California. Opening June 7th, in a show entitled, "Enclosed, Encased, Enrobed", will be an installation of mixed media nipples.

Some will be in a wall installation with nipples sewn onto individual bras, a section guilded with pink for submissions related to breast cancer, and some on objects that represent some of the most common slang terms for breasts. Cans. Hooters. Melons. Boulders. All with nipples attached, of course. This truely unique and quirky project gets a fitting exhibit.

How did the nipple project get started? Well, a few years ago, Victoria's Secret introduced the IPEX bra designed to provide 'maximum nipple coverage'. Jennifer Baylis and Andrea Domingnez felt that this was just one more way to eradicate and androgenize an important female body part. Which at the same time, ironically, is a body part most emphasized in fashion and the media. As the project evolved, the organizers realized that they had started something that went even deeper. They received nipples from breast cancer survivers and those who had lost friends and family to breast cancer expressing their grief and respect. As well as new mothers expressing the joys of nursing.

I heard about the project and totally agreed with Jennifer and Andrea. As a women and the mother of two children, I felt that nipples needed to be honored and appreciated for being such wonderful multi-taskers. I created six nipples for the project.

Three are made of brass metal screening and decorated with copperwire and beads. I see these as the 'goddess' nipples using symbols of precious metals and beads to honor their role in creation and nuturing. The other three are made of aluminium screening that I painted in a variety of amusing, colorful and fun ways to appreciate the wonderful, playful quality that nipples also represent.

I sent them off wrapped appropriately in Victoria's Secret tissue paper. It just seemed to me to be the 'perfect fit'.

Friday, May 23, 2008



For the last 7 weeks, I've had fun teaching an afterschool class at Llewellyn Elementary School called 'Mask Makers'. Inspired by the release this fall of a children's book based around the popular song, "Puff, the Magic Dragon", my mask makers have been busily creating dragon masks.

I read them them the book on the very first day and by the middle of the book, they were singing away as I flipped through the pages. Then, we listened to the CD included in the book. When the CD was over, they asked me to start it all over again. Humming along, they worked on their magical masks. Each week, we added a new element. First it was noses. Then, fanciful dragon ears as well as layers and layers of texture and color with different papers and paints.

In addition to the masks made by my mask makers, we made set elements for the drama class who will be performing the song and dance on the school stage. My creative class made an ocean backdrop with Puff's cave textured out of paper, a pirate ship, billowed sails and colorful dolphin fish, butterflies and birds.

Throughout the class, the song played in the background inspiring us all with it's magical melody helping us to create these wonderful, magical dragon masks.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008



(Artwork: Elements-Fire)
In the last week, I've learned about a new bill in Congress and the Senate called the Orphan Works Bill. This bill would take away all the copyright laws that now protect art from being used without the permission and compensation. Put all work in the public domain that is not pre-registered through as yet unnamed agencies at artist's expense as yet to be determined.

This means that any writing, concepts, sketches, artwork, photography of artwork could be copied, distributed and used by anyone at anytime without my knowledge, permission or compensation. That's stealing. And that's wrong.

I received two emails about this bill this week. One from my local art group, the Pacific Northwest Sculptors Guild and from Robert Genn in his weekly artist newletter. I had no idea that such a terrible bill existed. I was shocked. And angry. And I wanted to do something about it right away. But what? To whom and how?

Here's who and how. Register for this email list at Then click on the website at You will go to a page of pre-written letters opposing the bill. Click on one and fill out the info and it will be emailed to your local congress and senate representatives.

It's easy. Fast. Join me and do it now. The more of us who let our shock and anger be known, the less likely this bill will be passed. The Orphan Works Bill is stealing. And it's wrong. Let's stop it. Now.

Monday, April 28, 2008




Last weekend, I did a demo with my screening sculptures alongside two men who worked in stone and clay. This weekend, I did a demo showing my copper repousse' technique alongside two women working in steel and mixed metal sculpture. All at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon.

It was an interesting and educational experience for me in many ways.

Bonnie Meltzer (, a metal and fiber artist uses electrical wire as yarn and crochets sculptures that include aluminum cable, telephone wires and various parts of recycled electronics including computers and telephones. I love to crochet with yarn, but I've never thought of buying spools of electrical wire. It was inspiring to watch Bonnie crochet this thin, shiny, red and green metallic wire in and around aluminum cable. The resulting spiral took on an undulating, organic shape that looked almost Seussical to me.

I showed various copper repousse' pieces including my oak leaf mask, animal angels and fantasy landscapes. I told interested museum goers about the history of repousse' and showed them how I created the landscape in the copper from the backside using a variety of tools that I've collected from around my home. As well as explaining how I 'paint' the piece using chemicals and heat to create the colors and textures.

Alisa Looney,, a steel sculptor, had a wonderful collection of amazing macques of her large scale pieces. To demonstrate her technique, she had a book of photo illustrations showing her process step by step from cutting the steel into her unique figurative shapes to welding it all together.

It was inspiring and educational for me to learn more about these other artists and their techniques. And I learned from the museum goers, who were generous in sharing their art experiences and techniques, too.

We were representing the Pacific Northwest Sculptors Guild, a wonderful organization that includes many talented artist. To learn more visit the website at

Monday, April 21, 2008



On Saturday, I worked alongside two other sculptors from the Pacific Northwest Sculptors Guild at Portland's Museum of Contemporary Craft. The three of us took our solitary studio work and process out to the public. I wasn't sure how it would go or whether I would enjoy this experience of demonstrating my sculpting technique in metal screening. Or how it would be to work in the same space as two artists I did not know who worked in completely different media.

It went very well. It was refreshing and invorgating to have the company of two experienced and professional artists.

Joseph Highfill, a figurative clay/bronze artist, was working on a 4 foot high sculpture of a man in plasteline clay. He showed other plaster faces and busts that he does as portrait commissions. His work is graceful, precise and beautiful. Jonas Blant, a stone sculptor, worked on soapstone. He showed other stone sculptures of cats. His stone pieces were smooth and glowing. I worked on aluminum mesh sculpting a male woodland fairy and a female fairy face. I showed other finished mesh sculptures including a macaw, cheetah and an old wise woman.

It was an interesting three hours working side by side Joseph and Jonas while answering questions about our work and chatting with curious museum goers. My conclusion: I liked having the comradier of coworkers for a change. I was even able to problem solve with them on a project I was working on and although I didn't come up with my exact solution then and there, the conversation and sharing led me to an idea that I hadn't even thought about before.

Friday, April 11, 2008


This week, I got a letter of congratulations. I was selected to participate in Portland Open Studios 2008 tour. That means I'll be opening my studio, my process and my work to people in my community.

I've participated in the tour before as a visitor, not an artist. I've known other artists who've participated in years past. I've always wanted to do this but was a little shy about opening up my art space to others. I guess I've grown since then, because I'm excited to share what I do and how I do it. The tour dates are in the fall, so check back here and I'll keep you posted.


Friday, April 04, 2008


"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you'll find, you get what you need." (The Rolling Stones)

Let's face it, rejection hurts. It's hard, upsetting and ego-blasting. All the little whispers that I keep so tightly locked into their little closets start shouting out loud. And I don't like what I hear, things like 'your work's not good enough, you should work harder, better, or stop altogether'. I feel like a failure. I feel sad. I feel like hiding away. I feel alone.

But I know I'm not alone. This week on one of my artist groups, a member shared her story of rejection. Tapestry crochet artist, Carol Ventura ( sent out her art packet and got a rejection letter. Because she's a well known fiber artist with years of experience, she took it in stride. Oh, she wasn't happy but as she pointed out it's part of the process. Sometimes you get accepted and sometimes you get rejected. One feels good, the other doesn't.

As another fiber artist, Bonnie Meltzer ( put it, no one likes to get a rejection letter. It's hard. It hurts. But the important thing is to get back up on that horse again and keep moving. Because the only way to get your work out there is, well, to keep putting your work out there.

Another artist, Julie Goodenough ( wrote in to say that she's going to be teaching a course in how to get your work into juried shows. The funny thing is, both she and her teaching partner had been recently rejected from not one but three separate shows. They wondered if they were qualified to teach this class. And, of course, they are. They have experience with acceptance and rejection. They can pass along the fact that as an artist, you do the best possible presentation you can and then, you wait. Sometimes you get accepted and sometimes you get rejected. The biggest lesson they can teach is that you are not the only one. You are not alone.

Sometimes I can't get into the show that I wanted. But I got back on the horse, stayed open to new opportunities and what'd you know? Yes, just like the song quoted above, I tried and sometimes I find I get what I need.

How has it worked out for you?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A four-footed perspective:

Life's way too short.

So wag your much as you can.

This week several of my friends have had their four-footed companions pass on or develop terminal diseases. It brings life into sharper focus. And what jumps out at me and them is how the animals who live alongside us not only share our everyday lives but our past.

Here's what I mean...when Heather, my golden retriever came into my life as a pup, my son was 2 years old, my daughter was 5. When Heather left our lives last year, my son was 19 and my daughter 22. My friend just said goodbye to her calico cat after 18 years. When her cat joined their family, their son was four. Her cat, Cleo, died this week. Her son is now 22, her daughter is in her 30's, married and living in Spain. What's brought into sharp focus here? The years may seem to drag when you're living them day by day, but when someone part of your daily life is gone, you realize that life flys by. One year you have a puppy, a toddler and a kindergartener and another year down the line, you have a teenager, a college graduate and an elderly dog.

My other friend found out her 4 year old dog, Duke, has a terminal heart condition. He may live 6 weeks or 6 months, no one knows. The sharp is short, way too short. So if all he wants to eat is butter and eggs, so be it. If he wants an extra cookie, blanket or walk in the park? He gets it.

So what's really important? Quality of life. His and hers. Yours and ours. Everyones.

Brings me back to my New Years Resolution: I Quit. Remember? I quit rushing. Multitasking and stressing. And fearfully listening to the latest health scare. Instead I'm breathing, eating and living everyday with as much joy as I can. Sounds easy. But I can tell you with life's little changes that have come my way this year, it's been tough.

I have a new four-footed canine friend, Jilly. Although she's not a pup anymore, she's still got lessons to learn even after two years, we're still working on 'come' and 'sit'. But, as I watch Jilly, get excited to go for her daily walk or jump after a ball, I realize she's got a lesson or two to teach me, too. One of the big ones: Jump. Jump for joy. Why? Because life is here, enjoy it while you can.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I couldn't believe my eyes. As I rounded the lake in my small suburban park, perched in a birch tree by the lake was a bald eagle. I stopped and stared, eyes wide and unbelieving. My husband took out the camera and moved down the grassy embankment to take pictures.

You've got to understand, my husband and I walk to this park and around the lake twice a day. Everyday. Rain or shine. All year round for over 10 years. We've seen the usual parade of park life: ducks, geese, nutrias, squirrels, jays, crows, sparrows, robins, cormorants and seagulls on occasion.

But never, ever an eagle. And we wouldn't expect one due to the closeness of the homes surrounding the little lake. And, by the way, I'm from Michigan originally, and what they call a lake here would be considered a pond there. So you see what I mean, seeing an eagle perching in a birch tree was an amazing and wonderful surprise. Another coincidence was having a camera with us. We just happened to be carrying a camera that day because there's a tree in the woods I'd been wanting to photograph for studio reference for one of my copper repousse' pieces.

I had to see this as a sign. And so on arriving home, I looked up the significance and symbolism of the eagle. Here's what I found in "The secret language of signs" by Denise Linn.

"This is a sign of great significance. To native people around the world, the eagle was a symbol of the Creator. The eagle connects you to the Great Spirit above. In ancient Egypt, the eagle was the symbol of the day and the full light of the sun, and was therefore considered emblematic of illumination. In ancient northern Europe, the eagle was associated with the gods of strength, power, and war. In many ancient cultures, the eagle was considered a messenger from the heavens. On Roman coins it was the emblem of imperial power. Listen carefully when this sign appears for you; it can signal a time of power and strength in your life of soaring freedom, of seeing life from new heights."

Right now, in our lives, both my husband and I are challenging ourselves, taking new risks, exploring new territory. The eagle landing in our lives that morning on our routine walk through the park was definitely more that coincidence. It was a sign and a very good sign for both of us.

Monday, March 03, 2008



Sometimes art can become separate from life. Put on a pedestal. Something to be viewed at a museum. Something from the past. But it doesn't have to be that way and this last weekend's SE Artwalk was proof that art is about life, everyday life and everybody can enjoy it.

The 5th Annual S.E. Area ARTwalk included the work of over 90 artists in 52 different locations in Southeast Portland between Hawthorne Street and Powell Boulevard. Giving Portlanders a wide range of businesses and studios to walk, bike, eat, and explore art. The K & F Coffee served great espresso and tea as well as the wonderful felted creations of Bonita Davis and architectural glass of Donald Leedy. Cadenza Academy featured the abstract figurative works of Joel Barber. Annie Meyer's studio showed ceramic tile paintings and monotype prints. Palio Dessert and Espresso featured the work of Abernethy Elementary School students. New Horizons Hair Design showed the art clay silver pieces of Cheryl Cook. And Metalurges featured three sculptural artists, Susan Levine, Robert McWilliams and Rabun Thompson. Just to name a few of the many art stops along the route.

The largest art gathering was at Fire and Earth featuring over 30 sculptors. Members of Pacific northwest Sculptors Guild held a group show that stimulated the imagination and tickled the creative tastebuds of artwalkers of all ages. On display were crayon-colored sculpted fish, penguins and geese. Graceful abstract steel figures. Beautiful bronze figures. Kinetic clocks. Mosiac pillows. Clay figures and reliefs. Carved wood pieces. Copper repousse'. Bronze animals, dragons, and fish.

In addition to the art, the artists were on hand to answer questions about the techniques and process that goes into to creating the works of art. And there were artists doing demos that included clay figures and a large sand sculpture to the delight of all the artwalkers.

So much to see and two whole days to take it all in. And take it in, many Portlanders did. Despite rain, hail and sunshine, the artwalkers just kept streaming into the PNWS exhibit. After all, what's a little rain in portland, the liquid sunshine city anyway? Sun or not, what really shined was the art.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"THE VAN GOGH BLUES, The Creative Person's Path through Depression"


Today I'm so pleased to talk to Eric Maisel, author, creativity coach and psychotherapist whose books, newsletters and podcasts have helped so many creative people succeed. I know his books have offered me advice, inspiration and guidance along the sometimes long and winding creative road. And this book comes from one creator to another. Eric Maisel, a writer himself, knows first-hand the struggle creative people experience and in this book, he address the problems and seeks to lead all of us out of the blues.

Why do creators experience depression? According to Eric Maisel, "Creators are not necessarily afflicted with some biological disease or psychological disorder that causes them to experience depression at the alarming rates that we see. They experience depression simply because they are caught up in a struggle to make life seem meaningful to them. People for whom meaning is no problem are less likely to experience depression. But for creators, losses of meaning and doubts about life's meaningfulness are presistent problems-even the root causes of their depression." Eric calls this a 'meaning crisis'.

Question: Eric, how do I restore meaning during a meaning crisis?

Eric: First, you need to have the kind of vocabulary of meaning in place that allows you to accurately name your current difficulty as a meaning crisis. Then, having correctly identified it, you need to remind yourself forcefully that you make the meaning in your life and so it is on your shoulders to either reinvest meaning where it just got lost or make a meaning investment in another direction. That is, you must decide if your current novel, which suddenly feels meaningless to write, is still worth your attention, in which case, you reinvest meaning in it, or whether your must abandon it and start another project. You restore meaning by actively and consciously either reinvesting meaning or make a new meaning investment.

Q: Facing that novel on the computer screen, a blank canvas or a lump of clay, how can I move through my fear or meaning crisis and keep creating?

Eric: The first step is to notice that fear or anxiety is at play, rather than mislabeling the situation (for instance, by suddenly deciding that you have no talent or that your paintings will never be wanted). The second step is to embrace this anxiety, rather than trying to fend it off. Anxiety is natural and, at modest levels, no particular problem - the problem is fighting like heck to avoid the experience of it. So you embrace it and say, "Gee, I am feeling a little anxious." Just saying that will help. Next, you use some anxiety management technique to reduce your experience of anxiety: just taking a few deep breaths can work wonders. Label it correctly, normalize it, and then reduce it.

Q: So I've recognized my anxiety and taken a few deep breaths, but I'm still not getting my studio work done. I say, I'm too busy or too tired. Or I'd love to sculpt a new clay figure but I don't have a kiln to fire it in. Am I sabotaging my own efforts? And why would I do that to myself?

Eric: Because creating is difficult, and because we want to keep that truth out of conscious awareness, we act as if we want to create but then find ways of avoiding it. The most characteristic ways we avoid it nowadays is to say to ourselves, "I'm too busy" and "I'm too tired, " both of which work to keep us from our art because they have enough of a grain of truth to them that we can comfortably buy them. The most classic way to avoid the hard work of creating is to use some 'yes, but' construction, which translates as, see, I really wanted to do it(sculpt), but, darn it all, something monumental is in the way(no kiln). If you point out that there is a kiln thirty miles away, what will you get in reply? - a new 'yes, but.'

Q: Working daily at my art, how do I measure success and feel more successful?

Eric: The typical way that a creative person measures success is according to how well his creation is received by the world. If he finds a publisher for his novel, he designates that a maker of success. If the novel sells well, he considers that another . But what marker will he use during the 600 days he is writing his first novel? It can't be publication or sales: it must be that he is showing up and honorably working. If he does not consider markers like those and if he doesn't celebrate those sorts of successes on the days that he shows up and works, he is likely to feel too little rewarded and too unsuccessful and give up on creating. We must decide to feel successful as we proceed, because external validation is not going to come often enough to meet the need we have to feel successful.

Thank you, Eric. And that's gets me right back to the core of creativity. I create because it is meaningful to me and important to me to do it. And by doing my creative work everyday, whether it's sculpting, writing or painting, I feel successful. I am a meaning maker.
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