Friday, December 31, 2010

Contemplating My Clay Stuffed Navel

Every year at the end, comes a new year. It happens every time until our end of time.  So here we go again. It is a time to re-evalutate. Did you know what you wanted this year and did you work to get it? Did it happen or are you just passing time and taking that heaven forbid attitude of "Well. It is just meant to be."  Or, all things happen for a reason. Sorry, I just can't buy that way of thinking.

I woke up too early again. Thinking. It is the last day of the year and do I regret this year?  Or was it fantastic? Time to reevaluate. And of course, there will be no New Year's resolutions.  That was a resolution I made years ago.  One day at a time is plenty for me.

A few years ago I went to a new age kind of winter solstice party. It was lovely. We followed an ancient type ritual and filled golden glass Christmas ornaments with herbs and wishes or goals if I remember correctly.  We were supposed to break it at a significant time which I don't remember either.  I got too busy as usual and could not make the next 5 meetings.
    Well, that is only a couple years of missed meetings so I am thinking of popping it open now and see if I came anywhere near those goals.  I have been afraid to open it, I suppose, in case I did not succeed in reaching my goal.  It can be such a reality check when you set a goal and don't reach it in ample time.  I highly suspect that means it wasn't really a goal worth pursuing in the first place.  Maybe a goal you think you should have instead of a goal you should have set from your own heart.

    That horrible idea, "Mission Statement or Artists Statement" comes to mind at this point.  Or heaven forbid the word that makes me run from any meeting "BYLAWS." I know I am not in a trusted and self------room if the word bylaws comes up.  Trust=no bylaws.  And, mission statement=trying to figure out what you want.

So what is in that little gold ball that has been sitting on my bookshelf for 2 1/2 years? Maybe I can pull the note out and keep the ball intact so I can stick it back in and wish harder if I did not make it. So,  I get the ball, I pull the lid off, I tap it.  I tap it harder I thunk it! A little spice comes out. I run and get a flashlight and tweezers. Where have my goals gone?  After all this time watching that Christmas ball every season, sitting on my shelf, glaring at me and singing, "Are you there yet?" I dig in the ball with tweezers. Nothing. Damn. I have to set me goals again or break the ball.
So I grab a brown paper bag and head to the front porch and squeeze the ball down into the bag. Closest object to crush it? Pumpkin, still in tack from Halloween. Whack! Missed Whack. Score. I carry the broken pieces into the house and pour them carefully onto a paper plate. shake shake shake. NOTHING. What no goals? Gone? Was this a trick? Did I wait too long? Where did my goals from 3 years ago go? Or was it 4? Damn it.  Was it the journey? Is it finally the nerve to break the ball even though I was told this is "done in the spring?" I did not like those goals anyway, maybe.

Now I am goal less. Not.

Just as a good olive may depend on the stuffing inside from intense garlic to feta cheese my naval stays stuffed with clay.  Sometimes I wish it was stuffed with paint or writings but for now it is still clay. The olive itself must be fine and oily and well taken care of but it is what is inside that often counts.  Bernard Leach said,"When the inside of a pot is right the outside naturally follows."
Oh damn my goals are gone.

The year? How do we judge our own lives?
Mind body spirit? naa, just a step away from bylaws.

Maybe personal life goals? professional life goals and paths we follow? Well.maybe.

John had a sabbatical this year and I had high hopes. Hooray we could travel and do something cool together. I had had several years of great January months.  Starting with something way out of my world, a cruise.  John calls them cattle calls and would never go with me, let alone pay for one for us to spend some time together.  Whatever. My fun loving Mother and friend treated me to a cruise 3 years ago.  We had a blast. After all, we grew up together because she was a young mom and now we had some quality time together aka no cooking no cleaning just travel.  The next year I was invited to Hawaii for a 6 week event for a young lady I had mentored.  Mixed bag but great opportunity.  My time alone there was well spent working on my book and I enjoyed a lot of the time with my young friend and her boyfriend.  The next year was fabulous! A friend who started a b&b in Costa Rica invited me to come stay, play in clay, and enjoy.  It was a fabulous month.  The sabbatical? Oh dear.  Well, I remember a short trip to Austin TX where we did a little research, John on his book and me on my book and a visit with old friends and his sister.  "Not that there is anything wrong with that" but I had high expectations. History now.

Then doors began to open.  The same day the rich Jewish camp made me the pitiful offer, Rogers State called and wanted me to teach in Upward Bound, a great opportunity.  An hour away but the delight of working with students in clay, at the University, who were first generation college or minorities. Fabulous. I always prefer working with the underdog. I loved it and they loved me.  A room full of self achievers and a bag of clay.
Next, the opportunity to teach at Rogers State appeared.  A clay studio needing TLC and a lot of ambitious students. Perfect. Loved it.  And an opportunity to teach art appreciation in small town,  Oklahoma.  Just Georgia O'Keeffe enough to make me love the idea. Done and successful and a good inspiration as I relearned art history and goosed the class with alternative ideas every now and then.

With the encouragement of a dear friend I also attempted to get in a first class show Vision Makers and hot damn! Accepted.  And they only chose 3 clay artists out of 185 or something like that.  Re established that I can make show pots. Thank you dear friend for making me step up to the plate and try.  Score.

And then the Governor visits festival of trees and I am told goes directly to my pots and stares and soaks them in and then buys 2.  Score. 15 more minutes of fame and recognition feed the ego.

So what was in that gold ball?  I don't think it was this specific.

Next, personal goals.  Life was getting a little dull. An element of surprise hit and now I feel alive again.  We must be careful not to bore ourselves to death.  I fill invigorated with a new sense of who I can be and what I am.  I will spare the gory details which are much too common.  Just let me say, I feel fine. I feel alive and sensuous and ready for this last trimester or whatever of my life.  I don't feel old and I am full of energy and ideas. I look to Beatrice Woods again. Give me some jewelry and a lot of inspiration and I will show you a good time.

Yes, this is the clay in my naval for the time being.  I'm watching it on fire.  I connect with the universe one day at time. Screw goals just do a good thing everyday and have a bit of a plan.

Echoes of Memory, my favorite poem

My favorite poem of 2010. Thank you Martin O'Neill for this discovery

Echoes of Memory

by John O'Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chapter 1, Creating a New Pottery Exhibit, The Journey of Creative Energy

Ian Coward at 6 months old sitting on my lap at the potter's wheel "helping" me make a plate.  From the Bristol Herald Courier Sept  28th, 1983
An invitation to have another exhibit, a big blank room and a lump of clay. What could be finer? My son Ian and I will exhibit together.  As you can see above he got an early start.

I was delighted when a friend asked me a few months ago if I would like to have my own exhibit at the Equality Center in Tulsa.  Finally, after years of showing and selling in so many different directions I am returning to creating for quality shows. Some of which, are just for me.  Maybe I have finally paid my dues and can return to some original goals, producing quality pots and sculpture made from my heart and soul and exhibiting off the street.

 I was once a starry eyed grad student.  You know the kind.  I know the kind.  They feel they have paid their dues already and the art world is just waiting for their fantastic work and to make them famous.  I had several shows in museums in East Tennessee and Virginia.  It was nearly 40 years ago and to tell you the truth, I have to think hard to even remember when and where they were.  I suppose, over the years, the light dimmed on these events as I raised a family and tried to survive creating and selling literally thousands of pots.

My first museum show was at the McClung Museum at the end of my grad program at the University of Tennessee.  I loved the process and the learning experience. Arranging museum walls, designing a large poster for the event, planning the opening, all the things that go into making a good show happen.
Reality hit when I had to choose the number of pedestals for the show.  And, I had not made the pots for the show.  Oh My God or OMG or panic time!  There were 30 blank pedestals waiting for 30 show pots.  30 show pots.  Not 30 pots.  30 show pots, with lights blaring on everyone, showing every detail good and bad.
I recovered from the pressure of such a major exhibit by simply creating each pot, one at a time, just making a good pot in a theme.  Looking at the big picture and all the attention on the show could make me panic. I had to go back to the basics, ground myself literally, in the clay, and focus on creating significant thought and ideas through clay. Did it.

Until I had that show, I was only a potter's potter.  People who understood the real beauty of clay knew what I was doing.  A person off the street might wonder why I was making non-utilitarian pottery using primitive methods. What? Firing in sawdust? Not water proof? An opening on the top not even large enough to stick a plant in?  Black and white pottery?
I was amazed. On my opening night for the first time in my life, I sold over $1000 at my first museum show. I became a starry eyed grad student.
And there were more shows in museums. A two person show with my friend Pat Herzog  "perfect Pat."  Our exhibit was a ying/yang kind of show. She created elegant porcelain with tight forms. I reached back to our primitive roots using ancient techniques from Mexico, Africa and Native Americans.  It was a lovely and successful show.
There were more shows. More museum shows in Emory, Virginia.  I was in familiar territory, established and on my way to the top of my little pottery world.

I started my first gallery.  My husband had tried to give me a reality check. "You will never find a place you can afford to rent."  Three days later, I had a place. $50 a month and I got a job at a pizza place to make sure I could pay the utilities as well and buy a few things to get started.  I also taught college part time to stay in the art world as well.  My grandfather had sent me $1000 out of blue and I was determined to make it happen. It was a wonderful 4 years and I had created my first business, Meadowview Pottery Workshop.  It is now a green local produce and restaurant owned and operated by the famous author, Barbara Kingsolver, who I later got to meet.) I wonder if they still put bright red geraniums in the window every year like I did.

Then, we moved. My husband had to get his PhD to continue college teaching on the tenure track and we moved to Austin Texas.  I was a new girl on the block again and had a little baby and needed to help support the family while my husband got his degree.  New place, new baby, new life.

In reality what good was a degree in ceramics in a new town, a big new artistic town?  I did not know anyone.  I could not think of food service because I  thought I could never remember who wanted the iced tea. I applied at the mall knowing that worked while in grad school.

  Then, still on my way home, I stopped at a pottery shop, Feats of Clay, poked around, talked to the owner about pots and life and left with a job offer to become a self-employed potter in her established pottery. I called the other offers back and took the job at the pottery shop where I learned how to make a living with clay.

Making a living with clay will cure a starry eyed grad student quickly.  More more more.  Got to make it faster and learn more techniques quickly.  ""Oh look! Someone wanted my plate and my cup."  And then the life question appears, the question all potters ask themselves on a daily basis unless they have a trust fund or a rich spouse, "Do I make what I want to make or do I make what I know people will buy? Do I make sculpture or do I make utilitarian pots?"  And, we answer it all the time.  "You do not have to choose.  Make Both." Repeat.

A few years later, after grad school, we moved to Norman OK.  The baby was getting bigger, I had a nice big attached garage to work from, re-established my pottery career teaching at the Fire House, and had a profitable kiosk in the local mall with two other potters for a season.  Then we wanted to grow our family, had another baby, and moved to Tulsa.

The starry eyed grad student was on another life path.  "Doing it all. Finding a way to do it.  Just trying to make a living and prove myself a worthy potter from somewhere else."

It was what I had to do to survive.

"The Audience," 1983. A theme that continued to Garden People and Wind People many years later. Taken from an old feature story about me and my work in Bristol Tennessee at my first gallery/studio, Meadowview Pottery Workshop.
Yes, I will get there and back to the subject about the latest show I will be creating in Tulsa. Just having fun writing about getting there.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Come join me for Pottery Class at the Philbrook and make some cool Holiday Gifts!

We need just a few more students for this class to happen at the Philbrook.  

Should be a lot of fun!  If you are interested call the Philbrook Education Dept asap!

Elegant Clay Constructions

Starts: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Ends: Thursday, November 18, 2010
Times: 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$136/member, $170/not yet member

Artist: Linda Coward

Learn a variety of hand-building techniques while creating beautiful clay constructions, vessels and ornaments. After firing, the pieces can be glazed with an array of colorful glazes to create exceptional works of art.
The holidays are right around the corner and everyone can agree there’s nothing better than a handmade gift.  In this six week class, you’ll learn a variety of hand-building and glazing techniques for a clay creation to give… or keep for yourself. All skill levels are encouraged so sign up today by calling 748.5379.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Finding Their Way with Clay, Tulsa Girl Scouts Earn Pottery Badge

It is always fun to share the art world with younger people like scouts and birthday party people and get togethers.  Had a beautiful fall day, doors flung open sharing my knowledge in clay. Take a peek at the girls having fun, working in clay.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Festival of Trees 2010 ideas for the Philbrook

trees imbeded in side of pot

cut out trees to add to pottery surface

a variety of size and shapes to play with landscape idea

makes for fast Christmas decorating!

my collector trees making new variations every year

working on small affordable versions of my landscape pots for Christmas giving

landscape as patchwork collage feel in clay, another festival idea

So here is what I've been working on this week getting ready to add a few new pieces to the Philbook show.  I think I have done this show for about 16 years. Time flies I suppose. So here are some ideas in the works.  These pieces are raw clay and will later have deep bright colors on the surface. It is a continuation and variation of my landscape series. I want trees in the project but not really Christmas trees.  Who wants to put a nice pot away for a year? So here are the ideas in the works.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

When an Object Becomes More than an Object.

Beatrice Wood Pot, low fire with luster
Stuff, things, crap, treasures, icons.

There I laid soaking in a hot steamy deep bathtub trying to figure out the importance of objects again. A beautiful cool day, sun is beaming through the bathroom window and the vision of Beatrice Wood's golden goblet and tea bowl with her Dada figures dancing around the edge kept coming to mind.

Spiritual. Sunday morning. The golden work of Beatrice is the most spiritual object I can imagine.  It radiates golden light. I also remember the lighthearted figures dancing around another bowl creating the lighthearted free spirit feeling I have deep in my soul.

I remember as a child in a very conservative Lutheran Church in southern Indiana overhearing conversations about those threatening Catholics who worshiped idols.  There was the Mary thing and the statues, and crosses and rosaries, they felt were just so wrong in their opinions.  This was being said below their gold and white statue of the German looking Jesus with his open palms.
My hand, copied on a machine and made into a stamp with the journey symbol on my palm.

I remember  having a critique of my painting in Italy by a famous super realist.  He described me as an icon maker/artist.  And my feeling was "Of course, I make icons every day.  I am a potter and sculptor. What do you expect and what is wrong with that idea?  Choose an idea and make it sacred or at least special."

A beautiful teapot I spotted in a thrift store. Paid $18, worth $1600. Why? Famous maker.
My cash register only goes up to $1.90 and sometimes that is all I need.
Then there is the stuff dilemma. What about all this crap I have accumulated over 40 years.  Gee I really wanted it all at the time and now I have to separate through it just to see it.  Perhaps if I had my walls of my house completely loaded with adjustable shelving I could see it all.  Spread it out and stand back and look. When I lose something, which happens a lot,  I am amazed at what I find when I start digging in my house.  I am afraid a lot of my stuff owns me.  It holds me down.

But how to separate from my treasure and pass it on.  I don't think of myself as a very materialistic person.  Maybe it is a time thing.  Boring people have clean sparse houses. They do nothing but clean and watch TV and there you have it. The perfect unlived in looking house.  There must be balance in there somewhere. I usually don't have or want to make the time to sort.

Stuff. When is it important?  When does it become valuable?  How long will people hold on the beanie babies, even the defective ones thinking they are so special?  The craze was proof how everyone wants to find or own something that is valuable and special.  They tried to make that one happen.  Yes, somewhere we have a few beany babies in the basement.  I hope we bought them because my daughter liked them.  But, we still have them and she doesn't want them any more.
Pots I made for a wedding.  Now they are more than just vases.

A few months ago I went to two different lectures where objects were discussed. Ying Yang.  No Impact Man was all about the green philosophy to the extreme. Give it all up and see what you think to the extreme.   And then about a week later I heard a talk about Objects and Memory which discussed  the importance of things we own and our memories. I stood and asked a question at the end of the lecture expressing my confusion of the importance of objects.  What counts?  What is an important object?

One of the most debatable art objects I have seen. Who calls this art? A museum so it must be true?
Objects become important to me when I feel a deeper meaning associated with the object.  It may reflect another culture, or help me remember great travel experiences.  Good objects are usually well designed to do what they need to do.  Some of it is simple sentiment.  The family Bible my Mother gave me when I was little.  I wrote in it, "I will keep this always too."  There it is, in print, in heaven forbid, a Bible.  It is full of little treasures, clips, ribbons from my Brownie days some 50 years ago.  Crap to someone else, meaningful in some odd way to me.  And of course my first note from a boyfriend is in there as well. He could not spell.

My son tried to do me an unasked for favor recently. Bad idea.  He did not like the crowded office in my shop and decided to clean it for me even though I specifically asked him not to as I left town.  I came back to a mixed blessing.  Where is my little painted table for my phone?  Where are my two coffee pots I use for hot drinks at openings? My rolling rubber made cart I bought in a yard sale? What?  He had the nerve to write free on them and put them in a parking lot of a nearby restaurant. Not a good idea.  It was my stuff. A simple phone call and a what do I do with this would have made our relationship better.  Don't mess with other peoples objects.  You cannot tell which objects are important. 

Thousands of penny pieces of green candy made into art in a contemporary art museum in Fort Worth.

 Form follows function, the saying surfaces so often.  What is the function of all this stuff?  Does everything around me have to have a function? Boring!  How much is enough? Does the form meet the needs of the function?

It is part of our culture.  If you have ever traveled to another country or exotic place with a group, you know how we spend our time. Shopping and eating.  Mostly shopping.  Enough said.

 So there it is. Objects. Things. I'll keep thinking about it and hopefully will find the time to figure out what really is important sooner or later.  And there is always the "rotate it" idea.  That is my advice to customers who come in my shop and want something and have not more space or cannot justify it.   Meanwhile I will keep making stuff and hope somebody wants it.  I feel the urge to use lusters again to make it all glow.  I will leave behind literally thousands of pots.  What a big pile that would be if they were all in the back yard. It takes thousands of years for pottery to turn back to raw clay.  It will be a while before I "leave no footprint."

Undoubtedly a fine art object and a source of inspiration.  A friend owns this lovely Adelaide Robinaeux pot. I created many pots inspired by this one in my friend's studio.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

There is a Very Moody Chair Sitting in my Garden.

moody blues
life is precious
age and wisdom
positive thinking
inner light
I looked out my bedroom window and this is what I saw.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Landscape Pots to be Shown at Rogers State University Gallery Faculty Show

It is all about using the clay like a canvas for me and the New Mexico Landscape. I always think I want to paint but I cannot leave the clay behind.  Interpreting earth shapes form and color in clay makes so much sense to me. So here are the latest vessels averaging about 15 inches in height. I apologize for the snapshot like photography. Want to get these on my blog and not wait for the perfect photo.