Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Today, I started a new blog. Why? Well, when I started this blog almost 5 years ago, the blogs were very different. So, was I.

When I started here, the blog choices were very limited. I had only a few templates to choose from, limited picture space and loading. I wasn't able to get a blog address that matched the blog name. And as my blog grew, I really outgrew the name.

Back then, I wasn't sure what my blog would be about, but knew I wanted to share my art and some of my writing with other people. And I have met some wonderful artists, art lovers and writers! And I want to keep growing with all of you and the new world of blogs.

To do that, I want my blog to cover a wider range of my creative life. I want it to be a place to celebrate my joy, passion and creativity in all aspects of my life including my art, writing, friends, family, my dog, Jilly and maybe even my not so little secret hobby, crochet.

My new blog is named Sculpting a Life because I really feel that my life is a lot like sculpting in many ways. Every day, I carve out my life around time working in my studio, writing in my journals, walking my dog, Jilly, enjoying time with my husband, Michael, children and friends. Whether I'm exploring new materials like acrylic paints on clay, trying new things like crocheting socks, discovering the joys of baking, rediscovering old story ideas, I want to be able to share my passion about creativity with all of the like-minded people out there in one blog space.

So, come by and visit my new blog, Sculpting A Life. Let me know what you think and share how you find joy and passion in your own life.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Tree of Life-"Courageously Taking Root"-Completed!

About 4 months ago, Lisa Smith and Brenda Boylan met with me about doing a copper project for their school auction at Valley Catholic School. Although we talked through many different ideas, including a wreath, Lisa had a tree in mind and showed pictures of iron trees that she'd found on the web, representing the Tree of Life. I suggested the children could put words and textures on the copper leaves. Brenda did a small sketch of a tree with 29 leaves, beads and wire. I explained how I envisioned the tree to be more sculptural by incorporating copper tubing along with the leaves, wire and beads.

The tree sprang to life.

I ordered the copper and cut it down to squares, then Lisa and Brenda cut out the birch shaped leaves. I visited the class and worked with the children to do the repousse work, writing the words into the copper. After they cleaned the copper leaves, I did the patina on each and every leaf. I painted a chemical patina into each of the children's hand written words and colored them with a heat patina. I did heat patina on the textured leaves. Then, with the help of my husband, Michael, we soldered and wired and beaded each of 45 leaves onto the many branches of the copper tree I made in my studio.

Although I had their input and reference materials, the tree took on a life of its own as I worked on it in my studio. I made several sketches of my vision of the tree as I worked out the size of the trunk, limbs and branches. Then I made a working drawing of the tree in the original dimensions of 2x3 feet. The finished tree is almost 4x4 feet.

Once the drawings were done, I went to work constructing the trunk and branches of the tree to be sturdy and beautiful. As I twisted and turned the copper, I realized that the trunk I was making for the tree was, well, a lot like life. Life spirals up and out in many different and unexpected directions. It branches out growing stronger as time goes on, yet even the oldest and strongest branches can sprout new tender shoots and leaves at any time. The three spiral roots link together, just as our bodies, hearts and souls entwine in our lives.

The Tree of Life is an age-old symbol that appears throughout history in many cultures around the world. Different cultures use different types of trees ash, yew, oak trees to magical trees made from dragons. It symbolizes birth, death and knowledge. In some cultures it represents a variety of pagan gods. In Christianity, it is used to represent Jesus Christ.

This tree of life project entitled, ‘Courageously Taking Root’ has birch shaped leaves and, in some cultures, the birch tree is a symbol of rebirth and new life. What a wonderful symbol for young children and a beautiful way to raise money to build a new school. I couldn't think of a better symbol for young children and even some of us who aren't so young anymore. That no matter what your age, you are always able to grow.

Lisa wrote this about the project for the auction catalog, entitled, "COURAGEOUSLY TAKING ROOT". "Nature holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal, and transformation in our lives. This will be portrayed using a birch tree which has symbolic meaning both for our children and for the Valley Catholic community as we move towards building our new school together. The tree of life is approximately 3x4 ft done in copper. It can be hung inside or outside and has a built in hook on the back. The children have chosen words of inspirational and beautifully engraved their words on the leaves. This piece would look amazing inside or out and will have gone through a "patina processing" embellished with various "jewels" that have been added through out the sculpture. Beware and be ready as you will want this for your your home, office or special place."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Now it's Summer!

The Tree of Life is almost done. All the leaves with words and without words are soldered and wired on. The beads are on, although, I may be tempted to add a few more. There's still some patina work to do and a few places to polish up. And I have a few branches to 'prune'. Then it will be ready for delivery.

My biggest challenge right now is stopping. I'm in that 'futzy' phase where I tend to get bogged down with adding and subtracting elements that, in the end, I realize I really don't need. I've loved working on this project and it's hard to see it end. But what I really need to do is face up to the finish line and acknowledge the that the project is done.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

From Winter to Spring in just two days!

Here's the latest photo of the Tree of Life project. All the words that the children pushed into the copper sheeting are up and soldered on. Half of them have beads and wire as well.

There's more to come...more leaves, beads and wire, too! I'll post more photos after my studio session tomorrow.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Leaves are bursting out in my studio.

The Tree of Life grew leaves today. The picture today shows some of the leaves with words attached to the ends of the branches. It's only about 1/2 the leaves with words and then, there are the leaves that are textured and smaller. And then, there are beads and wire to add. And then? I guess I'll know when I get there.

This Tree of Life is a lot like life, of course, a process that requires passion, hope, faith, courage, and love. Look closely and you'll see all those words and more up on those branches now.

Stay tuned. More to come!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A tree grows in my studio.

You can see it here in process. The large copper tree will be adorned with copper leaves and beads.

The project is called, Tree of Life, and just like life, it’s a creative adventure. The trunk has many layers of spiraling copper that twist, turn as they grow upward a symbol of how we all grow in many different directions. The branches are heavy and light reaching outward, again, like life; there is a need for strength and delicacy. The base has three main roots symbolizing the body, heart and soul.

The leaves were given to the children in the class to repousse’ with words and textures. I had a great time working with them and found their word choices fascinating. The most popular words were peace, wisdom, faith and life. In second place were the words, dream strength, courage, joy hope and grace. Five children chose these words; friends, vision, thrive, passion and energy. No one chose the word, love.

So I added my own leaf with the word, love. Because, this tree project is certainly been a labor of love for me. I’ll keep you posted on further progress and pics of the finished piece.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Celebrating Love before and after Valentine's Day.

I'm lucky to do what I and writing and teaching. But it's not always easy. It's very easy to get side tracked, blind sided and disappointed by things that happen in life. So I don't take it for granted when life delivers me a weekend of what I love and sharing in what the people in my life love as well.

I went to congratulate friends on their new gallery shows. My husband did what he loves to do as well. The next day, we had time together walking, napping and watching the Olympics. Then later, we both got to share our daughter's performance doing what she loves to do, singing. And we enjoyed a delicious meal of salmon, salad and bread.

Sunday was restful and relaxing as we took turns cooking up a storm in the kitchen. We both love to cook and cooking together in the kitchen is always a labor of love and a way to connect and create. It was harder when the kids were little, but we still made time to make these heart shaped cookies(in the picture above) that the 'Valentine Fairy' magically hung on their bedroom doors just in time for Valentine's Day.

This weekend, we were childless...something new to us. Caitlin has a home of her own now and Kyle was out of town snowboarding with his friends.

Alone in the house, Michael and I made a puff pancake for breakfast, spinach Parmesan omelet for lunch but we saved the big adventure for dinner. We cooked a live lobster! It isn't as hard as you might think, you just steam that lobster in a big pot for about 20 minutes, crack it open, clean it out and serve. It was delicious with the fresh asparagus and hollandase sauce. We shared one of our heart shaped cookies for dessert.

Love comes in many ways in life and I'm very grateful that this weekend, I got the chance to cook up ways to connect and share it.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Hanging out with art and artists.

What could be better than two days of fun friends and family, great art and tasty food?

I feel honored to be chosen as one of over 100 Oregon artists for the 28th Annual Visual Arts Showcase. What made it even better was celebrating with so many artist friends. I love Joni and Cynthia’s sculptures. Brenda’s pastels are always so beautiful. And Christy, Christine, Tupper, Gretha and Sunny’s paintings were treasures for the eyes and the soul.

The food on Friday was absolutely delicious. Catered by Ava in Beaverton, there was a dazzling selection of cheeses, fruit, focaccia sandwiches, salads and little bite size desserts. Saturday, I enjoyed chocolate covered strawberries, dessert bars and cheeses. Yum!

The exhibit included a wide range of fine art and craft including paintings, pastels, mixed media, photography and sculpture. I enjoyed seeing all the pieces and meeting many new artists.

I had two pieces accepted this year. My ‘Ocean Elements’ triptych and ‘Reflection’ are two very different and yet, very similar pieces. Both are ‘bas’ relief pieces out of metal.

The ‘Reflection’ piece is copper sheeting sculpted using my version of the age old technique of copper repoussé.

I sculpted the ‘Ocean Elements’ piece using my fingers, hands and arms, then painted the aluminum mesh with many, many layers of acrylic paints. It’s the biggest piece I’ve ever attempted in aluminum mesh. After it was done, it hung on my studio walls for quite a while. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, actually. I knew I wanted to frame or mount it somehow, but, the question was…how? I know I didn’t want the edges tucked or matted. My husband made the frames and we figured out a way to ‘float’ the mesh pieces inside the frame.

It’s always a little nerve-racking wondering how your art will be displayed. The triptych was hung at the entrance to the show on the brick wall and it really worked against the red brick.

I was so happy to see it there in the show and to spend the weekend hanging out with friends, family and art…well, life doesn’t get much better than that.

Friday, January 29, 2010

(Wolf and Bear masks enjoyed by their new owners)

Question: Why do I do what I do?
Answer: Love.

I make masks out of window screening and copper. I’ve made all kinds of animals and mythical creatures in metal…cats and dogs, lions, bears and birds including a frog, donkey, tarantula, cheetah, macaw, owl, phoenix, dragon and a thunderbird just to name a few. I’ve made a series of fairies faces and masks that look like leaves.

A decade or so ago, I’d have thought I’d be done with all these masks by now, but I just keep on making them. Not only that, I keep coming up with ideas and creatures that I just need to make.

So there’s that question again…why? And the answer, so simple and clear…love.

I love imagining the animals and mythical creatures. I love shaping them out of aluminum and copper. I love painting them even though the process requires many, many, many patient layers of paint plus carefully detailed painting and repousse’ to get the richly detailed feathers, fur and scales. I love the fact that the depth of color defies the lightness and transparency of the completed mask.

Most of all, I love that people are so thrilled when they see them, feel them and put them on. They are transformed from boy or girl, woman or man into a wolf, bear, frog, lion, dragon or phoenix. I love to see the wonder on their faces when they look in the mirror and see their new masked persona. I love it when they realize that I can’t see them as they were but only as they are with the mask on.

I love that no matter what the person’s age or stage, the mask brings out the clear, true spirit of imagination that we usually only see in very small children. I love being part of that link and transformation.

Yes, it takes a lot of time, effort and skill to make each and every mask but when I’m working on the masks, my life becomes timeless.

Why do I do what I do? Love. Pure and simple.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

(Above: new bisque fired clay pieces awaiting inspiration)

Inspired in a basement.

On Friday, I got the chance to visit Gina’s clay studio.

I met Gina last year during the opening for Beaverton Art Showcase. I really enjoyed meeting her and interviewing her about the mural project in our suburban downtown area. So I was really looking forward to visiting her clay studio.

Gina is a well known local painter and for the last few years, she’s been working in clay, too. I’ve worked in clay off and on, but this year I’m doing more thanks to a gift of a kiln. Having my own kiln gives me many new opportunities, but there’s also a lot for me to learn.

Gina generously offered to share her knowledge and techniques with me. Down in her basement, I was surrounded by clay bowls and vessels big and small. The shelves were filled with rows of work waiting to be fired, glazed and finished. Three tables were topped with even more work in process.

Gina showed me how she paints different colored slips on different colored clays to create a rich textured surface. She showed me the glazes she uses and how the colors look on the pieces after firing. She generously shared her knowledge and I learned a lot, of course.

We shared our thoughts, our process and our fears about adventuring into a media that was new to us. And we laughed a lot, too.

I enjoyed getting to know Gina better. I was inspired by her whimsical bird houses, her vessels and bowls, the deep colors and textures, and the amount of work that surrounds the space. And even though she may not be aware of it, I can see how Gina’s painting techniques coming through her work in clay.

Seeing all the different ways to use one glaze, touching the different colored clays, talking about art and sharing laughs, I felt energized. I couldn’t wait to get home, get out my clay catalog and make a list of new supplies. I felt new ideas dancing in my head. I started to crave the touch of soft, new clay.

But the most important thing I found in the basement was a my inspiration. I didn’t realize that it was buried, until I ventured down into Gina’s clay studio.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Share your creativity rituals and help light the way for others in the new year.

For years alone in the studio, I began my day with a ritual I called ‘CM’ or creative meditation time. I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, turned on my favorite music, lit a scented candle and sat down in my chair. Closing my eyes, I attempted to bring my thoughts from the world of everyday activity to the world of creativity.

Doesn’t this sound restful and wonderful? Then why does it take so much work to get my butt in that chair? Why do I find myself at the computer, answering email or dust mopping my floors instead of sitting, focusing and creating in my studio?

I can say I’m too busy but after a few weeks, I get tired, cranky and resentful. Yes, it’s easy to put the needs of others before mine. Yes, it’s easy to find other jobs more productive. And again, yes, it’s easy to blame myself or others for my lack of ‘CM’ time.

The other day, I met an artist friend for coffee. After talking to her for a while, I realized that although I feel all alone in my struggles, I’m not. Almost every creative person finds themselves fighting the foes of fear, procrastination and time.

It’s a new year. And this year, instead of guilt and fear, I want to embrace the feelings of freedom, lightness and joy. I know that getting back to my ‘CM’ time is a big step in the right direction. But maybe in the New Year, my old ‘CM’ ritual needs some renewal, too.

So I’m asking for your suggestions. What steps do you want to take this New Year? Do you have a ritual that gets your creativity going everyday?

Share it here. I’d love to hear some new ideas. What sparks your creativity can light the way for all of us.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Decking the halls for the New Year.

It all started the year my daughter cried when we took down the Christmas tree. I had to admit, taking down all those colorful, shiny decorations, festive plants and wreaths always felt sad to me, too. So, I told her that I wasn’t taking down the decorations for an entire year, I was ‘redecking’ the halls for the New Year.

Since then, as the Christmas holiday décor comes down, the New Year décor goes up. A white, gold and silver theme replaces the reds and greens. On the table, I put a white tablecloth with metallic threads, a gold metallic runner and a centerpiece with a hurricane, white pillar candle and festive beads complete with brass bells to ‘ring’ in the New Year. The mantle gets a snowy theme with little flocked trees and lighted white wreath. The hutch which holds the Christmas china gets redone with crystal champagne glasses and a silver champagne bucket. One year, I made a New Year’s wreath. You can see it pictured above…I cut oak leaves out of aluminum sheeting adding veins and details in repousse’.

It doesn’t take long to add these festive touches but it goes a long way to brighten up everyone’s mood after Christmas is over. My daughter has carried the ‘tradition’ to her own apartment this year as she ‘redecked’ her halls for the New Year, too.

I think what I love the most is the process itself. I renew my home for the New Year. I honor the past year’s good times with the gold touches. I welcome the abundance for the new year with the silver oak leaves. And I open up to new beginnings with all of the white touches; the candles, flowers, table cloth, trees and lights.

What started as a way to make my daughter happy has become a tradition that makes us all happier in the New Year.

Friday, January 01, 2010

(photos bottom to top: before, during and after)
Flames and fireworks:
Burning the past and lighting the future.

For many years, my husband and I have spent New Years Eve at home either hosting sleepovers for our children and their friends or monitoring their party plans and hoping for their safe return. Saying goodbye to 2009 meant saying goodbye to old patterns and hello to what I hope is a new end of the year tradition: celebrating with friends and fireworks and a ritual burning of a sculpture made by Patrick Gracewood.

Patrick has created and burned a special year end sculpture for the past 30 years. His first sculptures were stuffed with fireworks and ignited on the beach in California. After moving here, Patrick continued the tradition despite the rainy Portland weather. For two days before the end of the year, Patrick gathers found objects, cardboard boxes, mailing tubes, wood shavings, leaves and seeds. Then with paint, glue, string and fireworks, Patrick creates a sculpture to burn.

Every year, the sculpture is different. Last year, it was a Nutcracker King with rats for the Chinese New Year. This year, with the second full moon for December on New Years Eve, Patrick’s sculpture had a ‘blue moon’ face, arms like the goddess Shiva and two large tigers because 2010 is the year of the tiger.

Everyone gathered, talked, ate and enjoyed the warm peaceful space of Patrick’s studio. When the time got close to midnight, people began writing their goodbyes to 2009 and what they’d like to say hello to in the New Year. The folded, rolled papers were placed in a basket decorated with white flowers in front of the blue moon goddess. Close to midnight the sculpture was carried outside. Michael and I proceeded with the storytelling sticks, others carried fireworks, sparklers and baskets of seeds which were saved originally for Y2K. Remember, it was supposed to be the ‘end’ of the world? We were all glad that almost a decade later, we could let go of those old fears, too.

Miraculously, the rain stopped just in time to set the sculpture on fire. Sparklers sizzled. Colors exploded. The darkness of the past and future were lit up. The flames warmed the cold, damp night. And as we all stood around the funeral for the past and the birth of the future, we shared a collective sigh. Some talked of letting go of the many mistakes from the last year and keeping the lessons learned. Someone else saw meaning in the fire ritual, how as it burned the creation to ash, its flames allow us to see the light of possibilities in a year of unknowns. Others shared hopes for the New Year: new beginnings, health and happiness.

As the flames died down burning the past and lighting the future, we exchanged wishes and hugs for the New Year with new friends and old. Then we left quietly into the early hours of the new morning of 2010.