Springtime in One Artist’s Life

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If you think my desk is a mess you should see the studio

Ever see The Wizard of OzYou know that scene where Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Toto come upon the Scarecrow after he’d been marauded by the flying monkeys, where he says something like:  “my legs are over there, my arms are over there and my stomach’s over there?”  Well that’s what it’s been like for me since I last wrote.  I’ve been a little busy- too busy to post, sorry.  But it’s all good: a demo here, work in a show over there, a few pieces to drop off and a few to pick up; an annual event to orchestrate, teaching one class, getting ready to teach 2 more, firing away, even sales and a commission thrown in the mix.  These are the times where all the recharging of batteries an artist does by going to museums and galleries and communing with nature for inspiration comes in handy, we need that fuel the same way our bodies need fuel to get us through all this creative activity.

Not in any particular order (though I’ll try) allow me to let you behind the wizard’s curtain:

The Fundraiser:

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Lots of thank you cards to write! Everyone was so generous!!!

For the past several years Bill and I have supported an effort to fund summer camp scholarships at the Montclair Art Museum where I teach.  It means alot to us that as many children from diverse backgrounds are able to attend the camp to ensure a rich mixture of ideas, cultures, energy and creativity.  This year we sent out a call to friends and family for contributions in honor of our 25th (!!!) wedding anniversary and my 55th (gasp!) birthday.  The results exceeded expectations and were quite humbling.  In about a blink of an eye we had enough contributions for 3 full scholarships.  At this point we have enough for 9.  There is still more coming in.  To say we are thrilled is an understatement.

The Priest Project:

Every year since 2008 I orchestrate an event between The Restoration Workshop of Our Lady of Lourdes Church (my parish) and the Archdiocesan Offices of Clergy Personnel in the Archdiocese of Newark.  We call it The Priest Project.  In essence, with the help of clergy we restore and distribute the effects of deceased and retired priests to the candidates for ordination each year.  We obtain biographies of the deceased and retired priests and try to pass along to the candidates as much information as we can.

This event requires acquiring effects, identifying and executing repairs, meetings to figure out who restores what and gives them to whom, compiling spreadsheets, the logistics of going to and from the event, taking pictures, adding subtitles, printing out and compiling records of the event into a book.  Alot of work, but all done joyfully.

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The Demo:

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I had the good fortune of being asked to perform a raku firing demonstration at Peters Valley on May 1 as part of their open studios.  Please read my previous blog post all about that, it was really really fun!

Teaching Glass and Clay:

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Student work in about to go in the kiln

Can I tell you how much I love my students that I teach at the Montclair Art Museum?  I teach them glass primarily.  When I wanted to teach clay they happily all signed on board for that adventure.  So we are having a split spring session:  4 weeks of fused glass, 4 weeks of clay with a raku firing on the last day.  My students are so cheerful and easy going.  They get along well with each other and make my experience pure joy.  I really enjoy firing their glass work.  In a way it’s how I get to collaborate with them- to try to fire their work to the best of it’s ability by me being at the best of my abilities as I load and program the kiln.

Clay class will be a bit like the candy manufacturing scene of The Lucy Show, as 4 once-a-week classes really isn’t alot of time to teach several students who have never worked in clay before to make enough work to then bisque, glaze and raku fire.  But I tell my students the object of the class is to relax, have fun, learn something new and be creative in a supportive environment.  If we follow those tenets we’ll be fine.

Filling the Kiln:

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Not enough for a second load, ack!

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Got to make some of my own to fill up the space…

Firing glass in a clay kiln can be tricky as glass is finicky and a vertical kiln with no elements in the lid means the temperatures within are uneven for that purpose.  I have found that glass does not like to have a lot of open space around it.  If there is not enough work to fill the kiln, that means to stay on schedule I need to add some stuff of my own.  Add one more thing to do to the list.  Also add the finish work, photographing and uploading to the Etsy shop in an attempt to sell it to the work load too.

The Sales:

Throw into this mix the happy delirium involved with packaging up sales on my Etsy shop and finally finishing a commission that took way longer than I would have liked to. Ca-Ching!

Preparing for the Big Workshop:

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“The Peters Valley Pile” keeps growing exponentially

Like the light of an oncoming train, the 3 day Raku Rodeo workshop at Peters Valley is fast approaching.  I’m trying not to think about it too much so I don’t make a run for it.  I just make my lists of things to do to prepare and chip away at it every day.  So far I’ve created all the hand outs, glaze recipes, slide show and am now in the process of gathering materials and creating “the pile” of stuff to pack and bring.  I like to itemize all that stuff onto a spreadsheet to minimize forgetting some key component or leaving something valuable to me behind.

The Shows:

Last Sunday I picked up work from Sacred Spaces Holy Places in Metuchen and prepped and dropped off work for Visions of the Vanguard, a show of work by the faculty of the museum.   The Montclair 10 Returns show will be on the Montclair Gallery Walk tomorrow, so block out time for that.  The show closes that weekend so block out time to pick up the work on Sunday.  There’s my piece Echo Chamber to pack and drop off for the SMI VIewpoints show at Aljira in Newark (they put my piece on their promo, OMG!!!) Oh and look- the opening reception for Visions of the Vanguard is June 2nd as part of their Free First Thursday Nights, on the same day we depart for Peters Valley!  Since it’s in the evening that means I’ll be dropping off and settling in at Peters Valley that morning then driving back here for the evening’s reception then departing again to Peters Valley to hide under that bed until morning when the workshop begins.

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Echo Chamber made the cover of the gallery announcement! So pleased!

Like I said it’s ALL GOOD.  One thing that keeps niggling the back of my mind is that in addition to having enormous gratitude for all these great things happening in my more than full time artistic career, I am extremely grateful that my art career is not my sole source of income.  Those who know me know this is my second career and through my previous career and other good fortunes I can live an amazing life without worry of supporting myself only by teaching and selling art, because I can’t.  I don’t get paid a living wage from either.  Even though I began this pursuit in 2008 I am still what one would charitably refer to as an “emerging artist,” which sometimes feels like a breach birth.  I have no idea when or if indeed I will emerge and emerge into what and where I have no clue.  All I know is that I am an artist, working full time.  For me, creating does not feel like a choice, it’s like a mandate, or a function to sustain life that has to be done, like breathing.  I worry constantly about other artists out there like me who need to make art but unlike me need to make a living at the same time.  Please help these artists survive.  Support your local artists!

4 thoughts on “Springtime in One Artist’s Life

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