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.