I’m Having a Jewelry Sale!!!

LGWestheimer_BlackyellowdotNecklace142

Was $42.00 now $31.50 until January 30, 2016 To purchase go to: https://www.etsy.com/listing/199676110

Treat yourself to one of my fused glass jewelry items during my 2016 Winter Jewelry Sale!!!!  Enjoy 25% off selected items in my shop.   Browse my jewelry categories and select a nice bauble to drive away the winter blues.  Earrings, pendants, bracelets/earring sets, belt buckles and more!  Shop today while supplies last!

LisaGWCeramicsnGlass

 

 

Paris France, November 8 – November 16 2015

Yes that’s right boys and girls, Bill and I were in Paris during the terrorist attacks.  We went so Bill could attend Paris Photo, going on at Grand Palais from Wednesday November 11 to Sunday November 15.  Or at least that was the plan.  We were able to attend on Wednesday and Thursday, after which Bill felt he had succeeded in what he set out to do:  see what’s out there and who is showing what and where, which left us plenty of days to see the sights, galleries and museums on our bucket list.

Or so we thought.

I will be posting all about what we were able to see before the horrific events that shut all public venues down beginning on the evening of Friday, November 13th. But before I do, I thought I would post an entry from my other blog Notes from a Jersey Girl, just to let you know what it was like to be an American in Paris during the horrific events and the subsequent days.

In the post I refer to something named Fred.  Fred is a taxidermy meerkat we bought at Deyrolle.  You can read about that wonderful place and the experience of purchasing him and why he posed such a travel problem in the Jersey Girl blog.

Paris, France, November 13, 2015: after

IMG_20151113_111207

Notre Dame as seen through the rain from across the street under an awning at Shakespeare and Company

Bill purchased timed tickets for the Picasso Museum for early Saturday morning, so before retiring for the night he set the alarm on his cell phone.  About an hour later it began to go crazy with beeps, dings and buzzes.  What the hell?!  We got up to turn it off, looked at the screen and low and behold there were several texts from friends telling us to stay safe and asking if we were all right.  From our slightly open window I could hear sirens in the distance and a helicopter over head.  Come to think of it, the sirens had been going on for quite some time, beginning after dinner.  Cars with blue lights racing down the streets along the Seine.  We also almost bumped into several people dressed in emergency costume walking over the bridge when we returned from dinner to Ile St Louis.  They didn’t look alarmed so we thought nothing of it.  There was no indication that anything was wrong earlier in the evening.  We took the metro to and from dinner at Boullion Chantier on Blvd Faubourg in Montmartre with friends Nora and Francois, having had a lovely time, with plans to meet up with them after the Picasso museum to go to the Brocante in the Bastille.

Bill fired up the laptop and logged into the NY Times website.  Holy moly terrorist attacks in Paris, right under our noses!  Around the same time we could hear people milling around outside our door and lots of muffled buzzes of cellphones logging messages in vibrate mode outside our room.  120 dead at a concert!  A bomb going off at a soccer stadium?!  Restaurants and cafes attacked?!  OMG!  I lay there in my nice comfy bed staring at the grey sky, listening to the sirens and the helicopter.  No, please God, not again.  I was in lower Manhattan during the September 11 attacks, what now?  We called my mother.  We answered texts.  We frantically texted friends in Paris.  We slept about 2 hours.

“Bon jour, comment va votre famille?” is all I could formulate, right or wrong, reaching into the nether regions of my memory banks to high school French.  I practiced in the shower so I could ask the very nice lady who cleans our rooms and the man who fetches our morning coffee if their families were all accounted for.  They stopped in their tracks, a slight hitch in their steps, a deviation from the morning routine.  Each looked at me and smiled and said everyone was ok, thank you, and for me to be CAREFUL and wished me good day.

Why am I here at this auspicious moment?  Was it just an accident of time and place or am I here for a reason?  Why am I in the midst of terrorist action yet again?  All I could think of was God must want me here, but why?  Being over 50, and reading that most of the dead, terrorists included, were in their 20’s with the days of their whole lives in front of them spread like jewels, my heart went to the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  No one should ever have to bury a child.  Then I got angry.  Let me tell you, if I had to pick between sadness, depression or anger I’d take anger any day.  Anger gives you energy.  Anger gets you moving.  Anger gives you fuel to put one foot in front of the other.  Depression and sadness make you take to your bed and pull the covers over your head.  That will not do if your life maybe at stake and who knows what the light of day would bring for us?  No way am I curling up in a corner for some terrorist, no way, no how.  If I’m going down I’m going down swinging for the bleachers.

So we got up, showered, dressed, ate breakfast and went out the door.  My first stop was the church about a block away.  On September 11, before heading home, I stopped in the nearest church I could find.  On September 11, 2001, in New York City, the door to every house of worship was flung open.  Men and women of the clergy paced outside.  People of every color, persuasion, ethnicity, religion, non-religion seemed to be inside each one, stopping for a moment to take a breath before continuing on.  I kicked myself this morning for not remembering my rosary beads.  Anyway, I just needed to go to church to regroup.  I get there, and there’s a sign that it’s closed for the entire day!  I snuck inside anyway and was quickly ushered out.  Wow!  So different than at home.  I guess church is just another public placed closed by the government on this day.  I suppose it’s for my safety but to be real, if I’m going to die, the best place for me to die would be in church.  I’d already be in God’s house, I’m sure the tunnel with the white light at the end would be just through a hallway off the nave, right?  A real cultural correction for me!

So we wandered around a bit.  Bill wanted to go to the Bastille.  I thought he was nuts.  Let’s go to a place the French are really patriotic about when there’s a Jihad going on, oh let’s do!  Then we went to the aqueduct now converted to a park on top, stores below.  Bill wanted to walk on top.  Hello- ducks on parade in a shooting gallery! I don’t think so!  We managed to wander back to the hotel, but really, aside from a line of people snaking around the block to give blood at a clinic, and public buildings closed, there was no indication that anything was wrong.  I was surprised.

My friend Marybeth said if people were like fruit, Americans would be peaches:  soft and sweet on the outside but hard on the inside, while the French are like melons:  hard on the outside but soft and sweet in the middle.  Well the French were putting us Americans to shame.  Heels down, chin up, grab mane was the mantra of the day for everyone we passed on the street.  I was impressed.  Rather than run around like hysterical squirrels the way I do in a crisis, they carried on, hard shells intact.

And speaking of hysterical squirrels, how the hell am I going to get Fred on an airplane in his huge white cardboard box during a state of high terrorist alert?!  Lastly, how do I categorize this installment?  I was just thinking yesterday that this was the first trip Bill and I have taken in years that doesn’t qualify as a wife survival test.  But then again….  Is this a diary?  Survival test?  A rant?  Maybe all 3.

Let me close with one of my favorite prayers apropos of the occasion.  It’s to my favorite uber saint, Saint Michael the Archangel.  If you are not familiar with the hierarchy, archangels trump superheros.  They have amazing powers and are not to be trifled with.  As I pray the following words I envision the AK 47 wielding, grenade tossing demons wrecking havoc over the innocent souls in Paris, who did nothing to deserve their fate other than be in the wrong place at the wrong time, being stuffed straight back into hell where they belong, to atone mightily for all eternity:

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..

 

Live and Learn the Hard Way: Social Media and Me

1436374102095-1792837435

Pinocchio, my biggest cheerleader, alas, not so good at social media.

I have been a busy bee for the entire year. I have made a big push to raise my profile as ceramic and glass artist in both the fine art and retail world. In doing so I realize it’s finally time to drag myself into the world of social media. All of the advice I have been given says to take it slow. Learn one platform at a time, master it then create another one.  So for me that meant opening my Etsy shop (a very big learning curve for me) creating my smoke fire and luster videos and selling them on createspace.com, and my not one, but 2 blogs. (I have alot to say.)

Amidst all that, I have created new work both fine art and functional, had some commissions, taught students and took workshops. This has all brought me to one place and one place only: a lonely life in front of the computer with a studio full of inventory.

attachment-5

attachment-4

attachment-7

Anyone want to buy any pottery? Glass? Jewelry???? Please?!

attachment-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did this occur? It is clear to me in hindsight that my choices of social media platforms are backwards. I should have started with Facebook and Twitter, maybe Pintarest then once launched into successful orbit in cyberspace created the shop and blogs, but another bit of information I swallowed from the social media lectures was to be true to myself and do what makes me happy first, the rest will follow.

I LOVE to write. I LOVE to plan and strategize. I LOVE to create. I’m not much of a herd animal. I tend to get overly competitive. I also have an addictive personality and know that I would spend every waking moment watching my nieces feed their babies and commenting on funny cat videos if I had a Facebook account. I also have a thing about internet privacy, infringement and piracy, so while people around me were getting hacked, having their identities stolen and getting targeted filtered information from algorithms exclusive of other opinions, I sat back and watched. In fact, I have a little running competition with myself to see how long I can go without being on Facebook.

As a little aside, here are 2 works I created as my response to how algorithms have stifled open minded thinking, compromise, and project skewed images of topics:

Extreme Right/Extreme Left

Extreme Right/Extreme Left When algorithms feed you only information you agree with your brain gets encased in its own wonderful ideas and can’t think beyond its own barriers For more info, go to: http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/memento-mori/view/34

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Echo Chamber This is what happens when you only surround yourself with people who agree with you; trapped inside a beautiful echo chamber of your own creation. For more info on this piece go to: http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/memento-mori/view/346

Echo Chamber
This is what happens when you only surround yourself with people who agree with you; trapped inside a beautiful echo chamber of your own creation.
For more info on this piece go to:
http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/memento-mori/view/346

I am the sort of person who learns from mistakes and will only learn something that requires sitting in front of a computer if I see a need for it in my daily operations. (Making those videos finally taught me how to use my DVD player and remote control, big progress!!!) Well I think that moment has arrived for me and social media. I’m feeling alittle left behind. But I also am feeling anxious about balancing all the time and energy it requires to manage all of this or the cost of hiring someone to manage it for me if I don’t yet have a steady income stream.

attachment-1

Now which one turns the damn thing on?

I can make myself crazy over all this, so it’s a good thing I have my studio to run and hide in.

One painful event that makes it clear where social media could have helped was the fact that my clay class at the museum got cancelled yesterday for lack of interest. Only 2 people signed up. If I had used Twitter, Pintarest or Facebook to promote it rather than just sending e mails to my class address book do you think it would have filled? Yes, probably. My e mail replies were regrets with thank you’s and glowing praise for my class and my teaching abilities, but alas these people were too busy this time around. Had I cast a much wider net I would have been successful, I’m sure. Oh well, live and learn, swallow the pride and move on.

On the bright side of this I now have more time to devote to creating, and increasing my profile. Where a door closes a window opens, right? It’s hard not to show my age at a time like this. I’m not so good at crawling through windows anymore but that’s where assistants come in. They are very agile and sometimes hold the ladder steady and push my butt through to the other side.

Lin Pernille, trusty assistant, charged with the un-eviable task of dragging me into the world of social medial

Lin Pernille, trusty assistant, charged with the unenviable task of dragging me into the world of social medial

Good-bye Summer, Hello Fall!

_MG_2564
I just returned from a truly fabulous and restorative vacation in Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I got to jog, bike, ride horses, sleep, eat alot of fish, drink some fancy drinks and best of all, think.  Something about being in nature, especially in the woods and by the sea causes my mind to relax and wander and wonder.  It sets me up for the long stretches of work, both physical and creative, in the months to come.

There’s nothing like a climb up a long hill to help set goals.  I’m not a climber.  My body is stocky, meant for rocketing downward, taking advantage of gravity.  It takes me way longer than I’d like and uses much more energy than I think an average mortal needs to expend to jog or ride a bike uphill.  When my lungs feel taxed and my muscles start to complain my mind gets desperate for distraction.  These times are great ways to problem solve, strategize and plan.

What percolated from these sessions was this idea:  I hope to have a regular posting series entitled “studio tours” to let you know what’s happening (or not) in my studio on a regular basis.  I’ll let you behind the scenes to see that not everything that goes on in that place results in a finished product, but that the journey is what’s most important.

Now that I’m home there are different hills to climb:  teaching, sculpting, writing, promoting my Etsy shop, learning new social media platforms, selling work and trying to juggle them all and balance them with life in general.   I look at this last sentence and I feel  like I am at the bottom of a very steep hill with just me, my trusty bike and my thunder thighs.     Wish me luck, here goes nothing!  Happy Fall everyone!

Enjoy this little video as metaphor for the state I’m in.

Living in the Lull

Since my last post I spent a week out west and am gearing up to go to Cape Cod for two weeks.  Each day requires me to be out of the studio.  It’s an odd state of affairs, especially since the days leading up to last week’s trip involved so many studio deadlines.  I wish I could tell you that last week’s trip to Colorado and New Mexico was educational, inspirational and productive, but it wasn’t.  It was relaxing, adventurous, raucous and extravagant.  I browsed ceramics shops in Old Littleton, Colorado and Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico.  There’s lots of impressive stuff out there.  What struck me was the pricing of ware that is similar to mine- almost half the price, retail.  How is this possible?  I guess their cost of living must be alot less than mine, those lucky ducks.  I can’t afford to sell my work at those prices, not with my taxes, the cost of my chemicals and utilities.  Depressing.  I saw some really really nice raku and crystalline ware though, and I drooled over the work in the back room at Santa Fe Clay.

I managed to pick up some nice pink stain at Santa Fe Clay.  I can’t seem to find just the right shade I’m looking for to make slip.  I wonder why that is- is it the chemical composition making it prohibitive, or is Steve Jaskowak (the studio manager at MAM) correct in his uber male logic:  no one wants to use the color pink?  Maybe a little of both?

I picked up a new “kiln saint” for my studio.  Every potter has a kiln god protecting his/her firings.  I’m Catholic.  I have kiln saints.  Don’t want to get in trouble with the Man Upstairs by worshipping false idols or anything.  This is Saint Michael the Arch Angel.  I got him in a church gift shop in Taos.  This version is pretty cool, I was especially attracted to his foot stepping on the devil’s head.  For those of you not familiar with him, St Michael is one of the highest ranking saints.  He stands next to the throne of God ready to go to battle.    He has a big sword and carries a shield and wears armor.  He is the quintessential uber action hero. The prayer to him starts, “Saint Michael the Arch Angel defend us in battle…” and goes on to ask him to protect us from the fires of hell and to send the demons back down below, cool stuff like that.   If he can’t protect a firing, no one can.

StMichael (1)

An interesting side trip was to the Stations of the Cross in San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado.  We walked up the side of a big hill along a path that had statues representing each station.  At the top of the hill was an awesome church, and just as wonderful, a bathroom.  I typically don’t take pictures in churches unless they are really irresistible.  I’m too busy praying and being awestruck.  Behind the church was a wooden cross where pilgrims draped rosary beads.  I find expressions of faith like this very powerful.  Why did these people feel the need to do this?  Was it an act of thanksgiving or desperation?  These token gestures drive alot of my sacred art work.  They remind me of one of the Stations:  Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus, when Veronica wants to help Jesus in his agony.  She can’t save him or do anything tangible other than to wipe his face with her veil.  A simple act of charity and love by an average woman with not alot of resources.  It reminds me that sometimes the simplest things can make a huge difference in someone’s life and to never turn away from someone in need just because the obvious solution is not at hand.

attachment-6

On the way back to Colorado from New Mexico we stopped at a cafe for breakfast and a bathroom break.  The bathroom was festooned with art, alot of it bad.  This sign was hanging next to the toilet.  I am of two minds about art theft.  On the one hand it really ticks me off as it’s hard enough to survive and scrape by living on the proceeds of one’s art, but hey, if someone liked it enough to steal it, it is kind of a complement.  Kind of.

attachment-2

Deadlines and Last Minute Scrambles

Ok, glass fused jewelry making workshop- done. Firing for same- done. Delivery- made. Email notifications- sent. Phew.

Weekly glass class final session- done. Yowza those girls were glass factories! Grinding and firing (several) for same – done. Delivery- made. E mail notifications- sent. Ahhh.

The 2 commissioned dog funerary urns- done. OMG thank you Lord they came out great. Delivered yesterday- crossed off the list. Bing.

It’s been a wild couple of weeks and a big crunch (not a good word in a ceramics/glass studio) to finish everything and prepare to go away for a week. Plus I had to create, merge and update (by hand because I didn’t trust the computer and laptop to cooperate with each other) my e mail address books so that on the plane to Denver, either on the way or on the way back, I can write the text for the launch of my videos, and the official launch of this blog. (yey!)

Tonight I just have to view Horsehair BBQ on my DVR to make sure it works. Once that happens we can upload it, get approval, announce the launch and I’m in business. People can either buy a hard copy (in a very attractive case) to receive by mail or download for streaming (is that correct? I’m a dummy, I’m not sure, but to download to view on a phone or device.)

I’m tired, but happy, and feeling a little behind the eight ball because I still have to edit, add text and print out the photos from the Priest Project 2015 (more on that when I get farther on it don’t rush me) and get the videos done.

Plus there’s other minor details like getting the house ready for pet and house sitters, doing laundry, packing, you know that minor stuff you need to do before boarding planes. All I know is I will be happy once the plane takes off.

Hope to post some stuff on vacation, Bye

I’m a bit of a control freak in case you haven’t noticed.  This is what I send to my students regarding pick up of their work.  I show them exactly where it is (this time in the studio lobby.)  It helps the studio manager and other teachers.  The students know exactly where to go and don’t have to interrupt a class or find the manager, and the manager knows what’s happening.

20150505_120233 copy20150505_120210 copy20150505_120223 copy

Delivery of the Lola Urns

So yesterday I carefully wrapped up the 2 urns and drove to Bedminster to deliver them to my client Ann.  She is the dream client.  She not only told me the golden words, “take your time,” she also added the unthinkable, “have fun.”  I really wanted to do a good job for her.  When I create funerary pet urns I want to see a picture of the animal, I want to know its name, and I want to hear stories about it.  Ann sent me a picture of a beautiful dog with a big grin on her face, looking up.  Ann told me Lola was a show dog, had a great sense of humor, and that Lola taught her to laugh and have fun.  I could tell she really really missed her.

Handling the ashes of beloved animals to create the glaze always makes me wistful.  I feel a reverence about them, and I fully realize the import of what I’m holding in my hands, how loved these animals were and how bereaved their owners are.  I try not to waste a molecule of it, and I sift it to only use the finest grains (otherwise it’s a bear to sieve.)  I always return the leftovers to the client and don’t put the ashes in the urns myself, I let them do it.

I drove to meet Ann at her job at a store called The Coach Stop in Bedminster, which is my favorite store on the planet.  (High on my list are hardware stores, ships chandlery, chocolate shops, ice cream parlors,  saddlery/tack shops and sporting good stores.)  The shop is owned and run by Tierney Sullivan.  It is more than a store and she is much more than a shop keeper.  It is an epicenter for the equestrian world, a clearing house for animal shelters and not for profits, and the nerve center of the community.  Tierney, just meeting me once, agreed to take all my horsehair work on consignment.  Bless her sweet soul.  In the few times I’ve been there she has taken my used dog beds, old but very nice boxes and given me really really great advice about my horse.  The NJ equine world is very small and it seems we know so many people in common.

Anyway, I unwrapped the urns and handed them over.  Ann seemed to really like them.  She seemed so in control of things.  I would have been a puddle.  She didn’t even blink when I handed over the left over ashes.  I told her to look at the bottoms of the urn where on each I embossed a message.  It just struck me at the last minute to add “Annie loves Lola 2015” on the foot of each.  She took a look and burst out crying, which set me off, then set off Tierney.  A poor slob of a guy had the misfortune of coming in at that moment to buy something.  The estrogen was palpable in the air.

I didn’t take any formal pictures of the urns (no time) and in no way would it have been appropriate to take images during the delivery.  I asked Ann to send me images if she wanted to and will show you if she does.

Log Jam in the Studio!

Every now and then I have so many projects, commitments and ideas that I run around my studio touching everything and not a damn thing gets done.  It’s shaping up to be one of those days.  So many things to do, so little time!!!!  I’m 3 weeks into teaching and firing work for a 4 week glass class, preparing for a fused glass jewelry making workshop this Sunday, I have a commission to make 2 urns and want to throw a bunch of my own stuff to fill up the kiln around them AND let’s not forget all that needs to be done to launch the videos.

I keep telling myself to stop panicking, and just do one thing, finish it, then go onto the next.  All the while there are ringing phones, e mail notifications and those videos.  All this makes me run around waving my hands in the air.  When I get like this I want to dive under the bed and it’s hard to even set foot across the studio threshold.  I have learned 2 handy tricks to get myself in there and stay there for a productive quantity of time, I’ll call “Plan A” and “Plan B.”

Plan A are audio books.  I love them.  Right now I’m on a Lisa Scottoline binge.  Doesn’t matter if I’ve read one of her books already, I’ll listen.  She’s the kind of girl who “gets” me.  We have the same first name.  We’re about the same age.  She’s got a pony named Buddy and my horse is named Buddy and we both have very colorful characters as family members.  Right now, Lady Killer is getting me through this latest studio log jam, thank you Lisa!

Plan B is more drastic.  It is a last resort measure.  I try not to deploy this trick very often.  It can have hazardous results. Plan B is a box of salted chocolate covered caramels placed in the farthest corner of the studio, preferably only reachable by standing on a chair.  Must be milk chocolate, dark will not work.  My favorite are from Bromilow’s, which thankfully has not one but 2 locations, both of which are not really nearby, just far enough away to make an effort to go get them.  Li-lac in Greenwich Village are divine too, but they are too small and go down way too easy.  The one’s from Bromilow’s are of jaw breaker size and require alot of chewing so one usually does the trick, unless I’m working on a very complicated series and even 3 don’t seem to be enough.

Plan B is a tricky strategy because if I eat too many I get sluggish and they slow me down.  Plan A sometimes can backfire when it gets to a really juicy part and I need to leave the room momentarily to get something or use the drill press or do something outside and want to hear how ends.  But either one or the other work.  I never allow myself to do both, way too decadent.

Right now I’m at a crossroad.  I’m almost done listening to Lady Killer but it’s at a really tense point and I’m tense enough as it is, especially since I’ve been guzzling green tea all day.  I don’t have any Bromilow’s and I’m on a diet which is making me really jones for them and it’s a mixed blessing not to have any.  The glass kiln is loaded, I punched out little glass circles with the drill press (which made the wet sponge explode all over me and my nice clean shirt) so it’s either work on the dreaded videos or go get some clay ready to throw around.

But I really want the caramels, oh woe is me!

Anyway, like the glass plates that came out of the kiln the other day?  They’re on Etsy, attractively priced.  I just uploaded them, my aren’t I productive! 😉GreenSwirlTray_04BlueSwirlTray_04

(View on Etsy here: green swirl tray and purple & blue swirl tray)

My very first Blog Post!

Hi!  Allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Lisa.  I’m an artist.  I mainly work in ceramics and glass.  I’m a mad scientist.  I love to experiment, test, push envelops and take equipment and materials to extremes, “just to see what happens.”  I also am a de-mystifyer (if that is a word, spell check says no.)  Once I figure out how to do something I try to simplify and de-mystify it so that it is approachable and possible for almost anyone, particularly people who feel that their whole lives thus far have been taken up taking care of other people and doing things other people’s way.  You know who you are.  I’m talking to you.

I  raku fire in between loads of laundry, luster fire before breakfast, and fire pottery in a BBQ grill, leaving no trace of my pyrotechnics (except for beautiful creations) the next day.

I also love to write.  So far I’ve lived a pretty amazing and quirky life, snippets of which I hope to share with you.  So far my art making has been quite the adventure, and I hope you will join me on this journey

.MAM_SmokeFire_11_11_2014_098