Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An occasional series.

Today, it snowed. My dog, Jilly and I take a walk to the park every morning and today, there were snowflakes coming down all around us. Softly. Quietly. What is it that makes snow covered anything more magical?

The streets are still streets. The trees are still trees. The rocks are still rock solid. Yet, covered with a dusting of snow, they change into something even more beautiful. There seems to be more mystery here.

Is it the soft, fluffiness covering the world’s rough edges? Is it the glitter, glistening of the light bouncing off the white snow? Or is it what you don’t see, that creates the magic and mystery. The mystery of the partially snow covered branches, rocks and leaves, or the contrast of the uncovered dark edges up against the soft, white mounded snow.

There is a contrast to everything that gives a new dimension to life. But there is the part of the world that is now covered by snow. It’s not visible to us in all its color, shape and detail. It’s hidden. That’s the mystery.

Oh, we can all fill in the blanks of what’s really there. But what if we let our imagination create something new there, just for today. We can imagine that underneath the snow, there’s something new. Maybe there’s a flower, a treasure, or a hidden world.

I do know that it changes my walk. My feet sqwoosh on the snow. The snow falls so quietly. Everything seems hushed, even the ducks quack and the birds twitter softer. I see the seagulls standing on the ice in the middle of the lake. I smell the clean, cold brightness and taste the flakes as they fall on my lips.
The world just feels softer, prettier, and calmer. So do I. Why? That’s the mystery. Maybe, that’s the magic, too.

(My dog, Jilly and I take a walk in the park every morning. It’s exercise for my body, but it’s also an exercise for my creativity. Leaves, trees, rocks, water, birds become more than passing objects, they become food for my imagination and a source of on-going inspiration. I’ll be sharing my morning experiences occasionally here on my blog. Let me know what you think.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

(Moon-Susan Gallacher-Turner)

Sculpting a Life:
Studio secret revealed.

I used to have a secret about something I did in the studio everyday that nobody knew about. I did it everyday, the same way. I felt a little guilty about it because it felt so good to do it. So I kept it to myself, my little studio secret. What I didn’t know then was this; this secret was important to my success as an artist, my health, sanity, relationships as well as my productivity.

What is it? It’s hard to put a label on it. So I’ll just go ahead and describe it step by step.

First, I’d make coffee. While that was brewing, I’d light a candle or two and put on a CD, usually instrumental. When the coffee was ready, I’d pour myself a nice, big, mug full and head to my studio. I’d sit down in the wicker chair with my dog at my feet and begin. I closed my eyes, sniffed and sipped my coffee and concentrated on nothing. I did nothing but sit, sip, listen and breathe. Thoughts would rush through my head. Feelings would bubble up from within, sometimes I’d sigh, sometimes I’d cry. But through it all, I’d keep sitting.

I treasured that time and called it my Creative Meditation. I got brave after awhile and put it on my schedule as C.M. I was able to do it after everyone else had left for school or work and I was alone. It felt so luxurious to have that time, alone, all for me – everyday.

Where did it go? Life changed. It’s hard to find the space and time to do it. My kids are college-age, live at home and are here most mornings, so I’m no longer alone. My beloved dog, Heather died and, although, a wonderful new lab has come into my life, she doesn’t always sleep at my feet. I’m also feeling the economic pinch, the need to push myself harder, to make more money, to be more productive. That means more to do and less time to be.

I remember when I started on my road as an artist and I began my creative meditation, I was afraid if I stopped and sat down, I might never get anything done. Of course, that didn’t happen. I’ve gotten a lot done over the years and have the portfolio to prove it.

There’s a lot to do. Right now in the studio, there’s a copper leaf piece on the table, three clay busts on the rolling stand, and a screening sculpture on the easel waiting for another layer of paint. There are new classes to plan and organize. Writing projects for blogs, freelance, interviews, book reviews that all need to be finished. Then there’s the work that goes with living; dishes, laundry floors, cat boxes, garbage, cooking, walking the dog. It seems an endless list that once done needs to be redone. Everyday.

I love what I do. And whether I’m sculpting, teaching, writing or connecting with new people I’m focused right there. So why can’t I focus on taking this space each day? Why is it so easy to-do and so hard to-be?

Fear. Now I’m afraid that if I stop doing, I’ll be swallowed up by fear. My fear of the unknown and my feelings of powerlessness will bring me to a grinding halt.

But running away from my fears doesn’t make me less afraid, all it does is keep me away from me. And after all, in this world of unknowns if you don’t know yourself, what do you know? I think that one way to get through the unknowns is to get back to what I do know. Me. Everyday.

Today, my to-do is to-be. For 1 cup of coffee, I resolve to let myself have a space everyday to be, to sit, to breathe in and out, to listen whatever pops into my head or heart.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I started the lion sculpture in October as one of my demonstrations for those who came to my studio during the Portland Open Studios Tour. Since then, I finished the sculpting and went onto painting stage. I put up a few pictures in a blog on November 20, 2008 showing the the painting stage in process.

I did take some time off during the holidays to enjoy the homey 'arts' of baking, decorating, wrapping and celebrating with family and friends. But I've been back in the studio the last two weeks working in clay, copper and screening.
I wanted to share this new photo of the lion's progress. I'm happy with how the painting process turned out. What do you think?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Out with the old
And into a new year, thank god.

I’ve been putting off writing my blog for the New Year. Procrastination is not one of my faults, honest, you can ask my friends, family, fellow artists. I make my deadlines.

So why am I dragging my feet, here? I’m not sure, really. But let’s face it, the last year was definitely difficult. I started the year with my wrist in a cast. I couldn’t work in the studio, drive or tie my own shoes. I went through physical therapy which meant more pain as I worked my way through all the exercises. Then there were the job changes. Lay-offs. Fill-in work. Part-time. It meant saying good bye to familiar routines, friends, medical benefits and money.

It was scary. Even though, I know we’re not alone, there was gloom and doom everywhere I looked, it was still hard. What was hardest was not losing faith, in the face of fear.

I tend to be a “Polly Positive’, you know, the person that sees the silver lining in the clouds, the lemonade among the lemons, the openings when doors close. This year, I found myself mired in the pit more than I’d like to admit with tears streaming down my face as I mopped the floor or painted in the studio. I can’t believe I’m writing about this, because at the time, I was so ashamed of myself.

Now, I know that there is no shame in feelings. And that feelings, felt, don’t get in the way of progress. Because although, there were losses last year, there were also gains, too. That was the biggest surprise of all.

In spite of the difficulties and fear throughout the year, I completed more pieces, participated in more shows, sold more work, taught in more places to adults as well as children, did a series of artist interviews, wrote podcasts, artist profiles and book reviews, and met many wonderful new people. And I didn’t realize it all until I sat down to write in my journal on New Year’s Eve.

The year that had started out to look like complete failure was, actually, successful. And not just for me, either. My husband got out of a job that he felt stifled by and into a new place where his talents are valued, used, and being expanded. My daughter has tripled the students she had last year. My son quit one job, found another and has learned a whole set of new skills. Even the dog made progress. Now, she can heel off leash for me, as long as there’s no snow, of course.

We started last year with loss and sadness and ended it with gains and happiness we could never have imagined.

So what do I want to throw out with the old year, then? Dead-end jobs. Duck and cover tactics to try to insure security. Keeping my light low to avoid being seen. Routine and boredom. Fear. Sadness.

Ok, maybe I can’t throw out fear and sadness. They’re feelings that are part of living. What I can keep is the knowledge that feelings of sadness don’t prevent happiness. That fear doesn’t prevent action, in fact, it can inspire it.

Here’s what I’d like to ring in the New Year with – hope in the face of the unknown. Excitement about meeting new challenges leading to growth. Opening up to new people, places and opportunities to be even more thankful for than I could ever imagine.