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.