Thursday, May 28, 2009

A wonderful class:
Creating Muse Wands.

Creating is a magical process. It’s even more magical when I get to share the process. Last Saturday, on a sunny afternoon, I taught a class through Portland Community College called, ‘Muse Wands’.

After introductions all around, I set out the supplies and did a short demonstration of how to do copper repouss√©. Then the students dove into designing and creating their own personal ‘Muse Wands’.

These remarkable women created unique pieces: a copper angel with healing stones, a sun/moon face with blue, green and white beads, a butterfly covered in leaves and a homage to earth, water, air and fire. I’m so glad that one of the students sent me these pictures of her finished ‘Muse Wand’.

What a magical, creative afternoon!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Puppy Love

A soft, fluffy, furry, warm nosed puppy snuffling up to your neck is one of my ideas of heaven on earth. There’s just nothing like the sweet smell of puppy breath and little wet kisses to make you feel loved. I guess they don’t call it puppy love for nothing.

I’ve helped with my friends with several litters of puppies over the years, but this time, I just get to be a puppy love visitor. Whether I get to pat, cuddle or just admire their cute little faces, it’s warm and wonderful and refreshing, just to be around these cute bundles of romping energy.

These five adorable puppies are in the loving hands of two dedicated foster care volunteers for the Oregon Humane Society. The Mommy was taken from a farm near Burns, Oregon along with over 120 other dogs. When she came to their home, she was matted, underweight and pregnant. But her eyes were soft, sweet and hopeful.

Soon, she gave birth to five healthy puppies obviously from several different fathers. There are two black and white and a tan that look like mom, one lab-like black one and one black, white and tan pup that looks like Burmese mountain dog. Whatever their parentage, they are healthy bundles of energy.

Next week, they get spayed and neutered and then, they’ll be ready for adoption. At eight weeks, they’re the perfect age to add to your family. Take a look at these pictures and see if there’s a place in your heart and home for a little puppy love.

Mom will be looking for a new home, too. But she needs a little puppy recovery time, gaining some weight and getting spayed before she’s ready for a new home. I have to say, she’s come a long way from a shy, worried girl to warm, curious and sweet dog. I know she’ll be a wonderful friend and companion, too.

If you’re interested in one of these cute pups or lovely mama dog, you can check out the Oregon Humane Society website at

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Life & The Art of Collaboration.

If you’d asked me last week if I did much collaborating, I’d say no. As a studio artist, I work alone in my studio and I wouldn’t call the clay, metal or paint collaborators. As a writer, I write alone on my laptop and even though I do interviews and articles, I would say it was more like collecting information than collaborating. As a teacher, although I’m working with students, I wouldn’t have called it collaborating. But I’d be wrong.

This week, I went to the Oregon Arts Summit, a gathering of businesses, artists, educators and arts organizations. The theme of the meeting was, ‘The Art of Collaboration’.

After the summit, I realize I collaborate all the time. I just didn’t know it. I can see that I had a very narrow view of collaborating. In my view, collaborating would involve two or more people sitting down and working on a single project.

According to jazz saxophone player and speaker, Mike Phillips, “Collaboration begins with a relationship between you and your gift.”

Although my studio work looks like a solitary activity, I realize now, that isn’t true. When I sit outside, watch the birds fly, see faces in the leaves on the trees and use the spirit of nature in my copper repousse’, clay or metal mesh, I’ve collaborated from within myself and with my environment.

Of course, teaching a group of students is, indeed, an act of collaboration. I may come in with a basic idea for the class, but the way the class flows and grows is all about getting over fear, learning to trust and working toward an art piece together.

My writing is, also, a collaboration. In an interview situation, especially, the person and I have to trust each other enough to share information. I may be asking the questions, but the depth of the answers depend on the person’s willingness to open up about their life, work and process.

According to writer, Barry Lopez, “We gave up community in order to get the individual. We need to rediscover what it means to be community oriented.”

For many years, I longed to belong to a community of artists. Joining Portland Open Studios has given me that opportunity. But collaborating can be tricky. A few weeks ago, another artist asked me to collaborate with her and although I could see the benefit for both of us, I was concerned. I worried that she just wanted to find out my process, so she could use it to her advantage. So I tiptoed around it and she stopped asking. I can see, now, I was wrong.

Because life is all about collaborating, from the air we breathe, food we eat, work we do and, yes, the art we make. Of course, there’s fear. Especially right now, with the state of the economy but maybe that focus needs to change.

Lopez says, “It’s not about the money. It’s about love. It can be done and the money will turn up.”

If I can do it, so can you. Yes, it takes trust, patience and heart to live a good life in an artful collaboration. But isn’t that what it’s all about?

I think Barry Lopez said it best when he ended the day with this, “Let’s make something beautiful. Whatever you do, try to make it helpful. Show us what we fear and give us the reason to believe we do not need to be afraid.”

Saturday, May 09, 2009

(Trimmed area) (Untrimmed area)

(Heron in Lake)

A Walk in the Park:
An occasional series.

After days and days of drenching rain, wind and hail, the sun came out. The park sparkles. Like a freshly polished jewel, the bright yellow green leaves shined in the sun, small white cherry blossoms sprinkled the ground and little ducklings floated behind their mom in the lake.

As Jilly, my yellow lab, and I walked around the lake, I spied a small blue heron fishing by the small island. We stopped and stared at this beautiful bird with its long, graceful neck, curvaceous body and stilt-like legs. Carefully, my husband made his way closer to take these pictures. Why were we being so careful? Because, we haven’t seen herons for awhile at the park. And that’s strange, because we’re used to seeing herons around our lake on a daily basis.

So why the change? Well, I’m not an expert, but I noticed that when the park workers began their forest trimming program to eradicate invasive plants, I stopped seeing the herons.

Take a look at the other pictures, here. Notice the beautiful naturally lush forest? That’s an area that hasn’t been trimmed, yet. Then, see the barren, flat area with the dead branches? That’s just one of the areas that have been cut down by large trimmers and mowers.

Now, they’ve started spraying. Yes. The other day, walking in the park, there was a small sign stating that herbicides were being sprayed on invasive plants, and a warning to stay from any foliage covered with blue dye.

The invasive plants they’re spraying are blackberries. Many a day, I’ve happily picked and enjoyed these plump, juicy berries while walking through the park. What’s nicer than a stroll through the woods, than one where you get free snacks, courtesy of Mother Nature? With nature now covered with herbicides, I won’t be snacking there anymore.

But what’s really bothering me is what they’re doing to the bird’s nesting places. First, trimming the bushes in the forest eliminates nesting for some small birds, snakes and rabbits. Now, they’re cutting down the bushes on the island where the geese and ducks nest. And right now, it’s the middle of nesting season.

Last week, I saw the first set of new goslings. Three sets of protective parents surrounded 12 little goslings as they foraged in the grass. I admire the goose community every year. They work as a tightly knit group parenting their goslings. Together, they protect, nest, birth, feed and teach their goslings. When goose flight school starts, it’s an amazing thing to watch how well organized they are at teaching their goslings to fly.

But how can these parents protect their goslings now? Where are they going to go when their nests are destroyed? How will they know to stay away from the blue-dyed plants covered with herbicides?

Next week, I’m calling the park department. I’m going to give them a piece of my mind. I want my park to be a safe place for everyone, moms and dads with kids, goslings, ducklings and herons, too.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Happy Beltane!

Happy May Day!

Gather ‘round the maypole and dance with me! Let’s celebrate the ancient festival of Beltane.

Beltane is one of four fire festivals in the ancient Celtic calendar. These fire festivals, Samhain, Brigantia, Lugnassadh and Beltane were three day religious festivals marking the changing of the seasons. The party started the day before the festival and lasted until the day after.

Then, Beltane celebrated the start of the ‘light’ half of the year, the blossoming of flowers and budding trees. And in ancient times, men and women coupled beneath the trees in the forest to celebrate the earth’s new flowering.

Here, it’s May Day. A day to dance around the maypole, crown a May Queen and collect flowers to give out to friends. As a child, the day was celebrated in the Catholic church with a special mass. At the end, the eldest girls, wearing fresh flower wreaths in their hair, led everyone outside to place bouquets of flowers beneath the statue of Mary.

I loved it. I was allowed to wear a colored dress instead of my dull navy and green uniform. There were flowers everywhere and, except for Christmas, the only time the church looked beautiful to me.

I still love it. My backyard is full of bright tulips and the heady, sweet fragrance of lilacs. Yesterday, I saw the first group of new little ducklings and goslings in the park. I gathered bouquets of lilacs and crabapple blossoms for the dining table, my bedroom and studio. Here are some blossoms to share with you, pictures from my yard and the park where I walk my dog, Jilly.

I hope you're enjoying spring wherever you are!