The Wheel in the Studio Goes Round and Round

Work coming full circle in the studio this winter

If you’ve been keeping up with my previous posts since November 2016, you’ll know that I’ve been in a bit of a creative funk.  The results of the election knocked the stuffing out of me and it took awhile to find my creative footing.  When I’m stuck like this I find what I need to do is just shut up and make and let the reasons why take care of themselves.  The act of making with my hands seems to plug my brain into some sort of electrical outlet that ignites the spark that jumpstarts the creative juices into flowing.

For those of you who know my work, I’m not much of a thrower.  There are several reasons both ergonomic and creative.  Ergonomically I seem to have freakishly small hands.  Add to that my lower back is always an issue.  I keep toying with teaching a clay class called Throwing with Tiny Hands and a Bad Back.  Creatively, round forms make me very nervous.  They’re just so- circular!  Circles have so many connotations:  they have no beginning or end; they have a sense of completion; and there’s always that pressure of repetition.  I’m not a production potter by any stretch of the imagination.

But this winter I hunkered down in my studio every day and threw.  There was something very soothing about getting up in the morning, making a pot of tea, putting on an audio book, shutting the door and sitting down at the wheel.  Life at the time seemed so out of kilter, and  I needed the structure of repetitive routine.  I craved the calming influence and hypnotic effect of watching the wheel go round while clay squeezed between my hands.  I began to look forward to my days at the wheel like I never have.  I decided to challenge myself and throw plates, platters, bowls and cups to fill the kitchen cabinets in our new vacation home in the mountains of Colorado.  I may be out of creative gas but I could at least trick out my ride so that when the tank refilled I had more power under the hood and bells and whistles on my dashboard  to go more places than ever before.

I decided to stop being a wimp and to finally learn how to throw plates on hump molds and plaster bats and to make cup handles with an extruder.  I also challenged myself to throw series of bowls and forms the same size, and to nest.

Things started happening.  I found myself adding textures and elements making these round static forms more interesting, more mine.

From there I started thinking about colors, glazes, firing ranges and applications.  In the spirit of adventure I decided to revisit some old glaze recipes requiring spray-on application as well as some I’ve never done before, even using commercial glazes in combination with others.  Spraying involved figuring out the correct thickness, even which air compressor to use.

While all this was happening, the creative current began to trickle in.  I had a bag of glass nuggets incompatible for fusing and a glass lidded jar from a defunct terrarium.  All of a sudden the jar was on its side with the bag of nuggets next to it, and every time I walked by I glued one on.  What began as form of wheel avoidance and procrastination became an Ex-Voto urn for the sculpture Good Friends.

It was such a relief to make a glass sculpture by simple cold working.  But then it made me miss fusing.  I found myself getting emboldened.  While I was doing all these new things, and to a certain amount of success and satisfaction, why not finally get around to finishing some sculptures that have been percolating way too long in my noggin?  Time to fuse some glass and make bases for sculptures and lamps, and while I was at it, how bout some coasters and trays for spring!

Before I knew it, I had completed my goals.  That wheel work paid off in spades.  Not only do I have the dishes, bowls, and mugs made, but I seem to have launched myself into a better place creatively.

Being a Light for The Ghostlight Project at The Public Theater

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It takes a long time for me to process momentous issues. I do not leap into action easily, and when I do it’s usually to jump to the wrong conclusions or put my foot where it does not belong. I’m over feeling guilty about not going to Saturday’s Womens March in Washington. I am not a large herd animal. I would be a liability. I would be the one suffering from a panic attack who has to be given oxygen and carried off in an ambulance from getting extreme claustrophobia standing shoulder to shoulder with a million people. I prefer to hide in my studio and throw clay around and pray for the safety and strength of my sisters on the front line doing the dirty work. Yes I am a coward in this regard.

But my small still voice told me to go to The Public Theater to Be A Light and participate in The Ghostlight Project.

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I downloaded my sign, printed it out and pondered what I am and what I fight for. In this regard I am an American Patriot, someone willing to defend their country. I really don’t want to fight. I’d rather work with, but for the purpose of this exercise I decided I’d fight for dialogue and compromise.

The way I see it, we as the great nation of The United States of America have steered off course and are headed for very dangerous waters. We’ve stopped listening to each other. We only surround ourselves with people who agree with us. We have no desire or energy to have a dialogue, find the common ground then work to arrive at it, i.e. compromise. These days we are all or nothing. We are no longer united. The only way we’re going to turn this ship around is to grab the wheel and pull together.

Call me a dreamer. Accuse me of hallucinating, but this is what the small still voice is telling me.

And that’s why I took my little sign and my flashlight and stood on the steps of the Public Theater, and sang a song and wiped my eyes and left my sign pinned to a board along with the hopes and dreams of strangers.

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And sang a song

And listened to a speech

And hung up my sign

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Turn Milestones into Stepping Stones: SEND A KID TO SUMMER ART CAMP!!!

Summer Cover full size

Won’t you enrich the lives of a deserving child by giving them and their families the gift of art and culture?

It has come to my attention that on April 4th I will turn 55.  Even more shocking is the fact that on April 6th, Bill and I will have been married 25 years!  Do you know what this means?  This means something grand must occur to mark these tremendous milestones.  What do two people  whose lives are so full and blessed with an embarrassment of riches beyond our wildest dreams need?

WE NEED TO SEND KIDS TO SUMMER ART CAMP AT THE MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM!!!

In 2012, I taught pre-teens a 2- week clay class at MAM SummerArt Camp.  What I learned is that I am not the best teacher for anyone less than 20 years of age.  I also learned that the camp was in desperate need of economic and cultural diversity within the student body.  Minimalism is a great genre, but not when it comes to filling a class with students.  Creativity begins when cultures, races and others of diverse life experiences collide.

Bill and I have created a scholarship fund to accomplish this mission.  A gift of $900 will send 1 child to camp for 2 weeks.  To make things even more fun for them they will also get a lunch box, a gift certificate to a local art supply store and a 1 year family membership to the museum.

Imagine  if 90 people sent $10-  BINGO, a child’s life is changed!

The folks at MAM have made it really easy to donate.  All you need to do is click on a link:

montclairartmuseum.org/donate

Enter the donation amount on the first page (under the donation amount you can check a box in case you want to make the donation in honor or memory of someone, pretty cool..)  Just after entering your credit card info enter the coupon code SUMMERCAMP at the bottom and it will earmark your donation for the camp.  DON’T FORGET TO ENTER TO COUPON CODE!  Please do not delay, as the selection process for student applications is fast approaching. Please help turn our milestones into stepping stones for a budding artist.  Give them a chance to grow and create in a spectacular, nurturing, fantastic place.  Help add “let’s all go to the museum!” to their list of fun things to do.

Please share this post with as many like minded people you can think of, help SummerArtCamp go viral!

Session II Session I Exploring Pottery

 

Waiting Any Minute for the Big Breakthrough and an Exciting Opening Reception

Every once in awhile I go on a downhill slide in the studio.  I hate to refer to it as a losing streak, but sometimes that’s how it feels.  It’s the time where I’m the studio on a daily basis working away fervently with visions of cranking out lots and lots of great work, but in reality all I have to show for my efforts are clay spattered clothes and a full reclaim bucket.  Sigh.

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After an entire day of throwing, all I got out of the deal was 1 anemic bottle and a meh bowl….Sigh.

Used to be that I’d get really down on myself and discouraged. What the hell is wrong with me?  Why can’t I make great work like everyone else?  I’m a terrible potter, what was I thinking?! And on and on.  Now I just shrug and keep going.  What else am I going to do?  Besides, usually when I hit the creative skids like this, it’s usually before some sort of big breakthrough, either with an ongoing series or a new technique or new depth of range to my artistic voice.  So here I sit, behind the wheel, covered in clay, listening to my audio books (humor to keep my spirits up) like Charlie Brown stepping up to the mound.

Another factor in this creative trough is that sadly, we said good-bye to my most beloved studio assistant, Petey Pie Westheimer, who died of cancer at home last Wednesday.  Good bye my sweet clay dog!

Petey in his final week in the studio. God speed my dear sweet boy!

Petey in his final week in the studio. God speed my dear sweet boy!

But then I attend an opening reception of my work and all is forgiven.  In this regard, the opening reception of Sacred Spaces Holy Places at the Nails in the Wall Gallery in Metuchen, NJ did not disappoint.  Nails in the Wall is a bit of second home to me and my artwork.  The gallery is a very good fit for my work as their themes slant towards the sacred with components of social justice.  Linda Vonderschmidt-LaStella, who runs the gallery is an amazing soul.  She is a huge supporter of every artist she takes under her wing and a big booster of the art scene in the town of Metuchen.  She creates a lovely vibe for the receptions with wonderful food, music and talks by the artists, even some via Skype or video.  The gallery is located on the campus of the church of St Lukes, so there is lots of foot traffic.  I particularly enjoy that many of the people who come into the gallery do not consider themselves art collectors or art appreciators.  Interacting with these folks allows me to see my work and the work in the show with fresh eyes.  I love answering questions and explaining the motivation of my work to them.

Posing with "Holy Innocents" a the opening reception

Posing with my 3 sculptures a the opening reception. L-R: “Holy Innocents,” “Hotei Hideaway,” and “Hotei Hideout.”

I had the good fortune of having 3 of my works in the show, Holy Innocents*, a multi fired stoneware sculpture with 14K gold, Murano glass and acrylic inclusions, Hotei Hideaway**, a raku fired stoneware sculpture with resin inclusions, and Hotei Hideout,**, a wood fired stoneware sculpture on a carved cherry wood base with glass and resin inclusions.  I enjoyed spending the afternoon at the reception, catching up with Linda, her wonderful husband Nino and the other artists in the show, many of whom I have been in shows with previously.

*statement for Holy Innocents

**statement for Hotei Hideaway and Hotei Hideout

Studio coming and goings, January 2016

7 blank canvases screaming for decoration.

7 blank canvases screaming for decoration.

Being away from my studio for long periods of time feels like holding my breath underwater for way too long, only instead of my lungs, I feel like my soul is going to burst.  Life has had me out and about, selling at holiday craft fairs and on line, spending time with friends and family for the Christmas and New Years holidays, resuming my teaching gig in glass fusing at the museum, and doing the big time suck known as working on the computer.  I finally got to throw some clay around last week.

Usually even though I’m away from clay, projects are fermenting in my brain.  I’ve been trying to work out another sculpture for my Ex-Voto series in my head, with not alot of luck.  So I just went into the clay bin and got busy on the wheel.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to get unstuck.  I took a workshop over the summer and was so impressed by everyone else’s prowess at the wheel that I resolved to hone my skills a bit, so my first exercise was bottles using 3 to 5 pounds of clay.  It was fun and I got 7 out of 8 balls for my troubles, not bad for a long drought.

I put them in the wet box and let them keep to ponder the next step.  I have some new raku glazes that I think would look great on a bottle, but, these were just too plain, like blank canvases begging to be painted!  So I saved a couple and decided to spice up the rest.  I’ve got a glaze pallet of really wild runny glazes that break and change color depending on where they run and pool, so I broke out my texture tools, made some slip and went alittle wild.

The barnacle fairy visited the studio yesterday.

The barnacle fairy visited the studio yesterday.

I’m excited for the next step and my wheels are already turning for more forms and styles.  I hope to raku or luster strike fire as much as I can, because I’ll be teaching a raku workshop at Peters Valley the first weekend in June and I want to practice.  It’s so nice to be in the clay again, I feel like my soul can breathe again, phew!

Like I said, I’m teaching glass fusing again at the Montclair Art Museum Yard School of Art.  I have a wonderful group of students this winter, a mixture of returning students, advanced, intermediate and beginners.  It’s a thrill to see what they do with the glass and I try so hard to fire everything with care.  I have a gremlin that lives in my kiln that loves to play tricks on my firings, from sprinkling kiln wash on the glass ware while it’s molten to over or under firing very reliable firing schedules.  I’m happy to report that rather than ruin my student work, the little scamp only ruined 2 of my own trays.  I swear I could hear him giggling behind the kiln when I lifted the lid.

The kiln gremlin attacked my cheese trays- blisters and bubbles where sparkles should be, little scamp!

The kiln gremlin attacked my cheese trays- blisters and bubbles where sparkles should be, little scamp!

Finished student work, at least they escaped the mischief of the kiln gremlin!

Finished student work, at least they escaped the mischief of the kiln gremlin!

Student work about to be slumped into dishes and trays.

Student work about to be slumped into dishes and trays.

Oh it’s great to be back in the studio, it’s going to be a wonderful new creative year!

 

Exhibition announcement: Sacred Spaces Holy Places, opening reception rescheduled for January 30, 2016

Due to the impending snow storm the opening reception has been rescheduled. See you on the 30th!
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I am pleased to report that I have 3 sculptures in the upcoming show, Sacred Spaces Holy Places at the Nails in the Wall Gallery in Metuchen, New Jersey. These sculptures are dear to me and I’m honored to have them included in such a fine venue in the company of phenomenal works by very talented artists. I would love to see you at the opening reception and would love to hear your comments about my work.

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Hotei Hideout, 2008 For more images and statement go to: http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/buddha-and-hotei/statement and http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/buddha-and-hotei/view/340 and

Detail, Hotei Hideout, 2008
For more images and statement go to:
http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/buddha-and-hotei/statement
and
http://lisagw.com/sacred-art-/buddha-and-hotei/view/340
and

Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature, November 2015

No cheating! Can you tell which one is the human in this picture?

No cheating! Can you tell which one is the human in this picture?

 

Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature

One of the things that is a curse and a blessing regarding not speaking a language well, let’s say, moi une belle fille Americane who is not all that fluent in French, who finds herself in Paris, is when I visit a place of interest and have no information in my native tongue, I can 1) miss the whole point of the place; and 2) make up all sorts of stories much more interesting than the text provided.

Such is the case of my visit to Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature at 62, Rue des Archives. For those of you who don’t know me, I am the sort who can burrow into my studio or in front of my computer or wander off into the woods for days on end, emerging only to eat, use to the bathroom or have my husband Bill drag me somewhere. I’m very glad to have Bill in my life. He rescued me from a life as a hermit, recluse, and creature of habit. He is my activity director and usually never disappoints. With him I am never bored.  Bill takes his job seriously and makes it a point to seek out places and things that satisfy my sense of curiosity that slants towards the bizarre, unusual and more than dips into the grotesque. Well, our foray to Musee di la Chasse et de la Nature did not disappoint on all counts!

I loved this place. I could live in it. I could decorate my house with every single item in it. It has my number, it is my best friend, I was at home! I knew I was in for a treat the moment we stepped into the very unimposing building, in fact, we weren’t even sure we had arrived. Beyond the street door was a courtyard straight ahead with 3 enormous beehive type structures that were later determined were ovens relating to one of the exhibits. Given they had a striking resemblance to kilns, I immediately broke into a trot. To the right and left in this square little vestibule were doors with very little markings. We went right and found ourselves in a small, bare lobby. Assuring us we were in the right place we were told to go through some double doors and down a hallway, past a set of open stairs with amazing iron worked handrails and chandeliers.

Check out the amazing ireon work on the light fixtures, scones and bannisters in the stair hall.

Check out the amazing iron work on the light fixtures, scones and banisters in the stair hall.

At the end of the hall we found ourselves in a darkened room being watched over by a very nice man who looked official and smart in a uniform that I realized wasn’t a uniform, just smart French apparel. He handed us a card in English that didn’t seem to refer to anything. I just barged in. What lay beyond this door were rooms filled with curiosities, taxidermy, artworks both old and contemporary, and all sorts of bric-a- brac related to flora, fauna and hunting. O.M.G!

This museum is the best representation of the intersection of art and nature that I have ever seen. Some rooms were decorated with comfy sofas and furniture that upon first glance seemed to be “don’t you dare touch” armoires, but in reality were cleverly and expertly crafted please touch cabinets of curiosity with compartments and drawers each containing artifacts, moving images, paw prints and other paraphernalia pertaining to a specific animal, like a wolf in one, a moose in the other.

One of the amazing cabinets of curiosity of the Grey Wolf. Those 2 circles under the words are for you to look through and see a really cool video of a wolf strolling through a make believe forest.

One of the amazing cabinets of curiosity of the Grey Wolf. Those 2 circles under the words are for you to look through and see a really cool video of a wolf strolling through a make believe forest.

Another room was filled with all sorts of bizarre specimens in glass jars, yet another a room of taxidermied baboons playing cards. Presentation of specimens is elegant, grotesque, whimsical, tongue in cheek, a surprise at every turn. What I found especially attractive was that intermingled among the artifacts were contemporary artworks made to mimic the collection.

These are all tureens. Care for some soup?

These are all tureens. Care for some soup?

I took this picture because the dog on the right looks like Petey, especially when he's in the process of trying to take my arm off.

I took this picture because the dog on the right looks like Petey, especially when he’s in the process of trying to take my arm off.

I know this is all pretty gruesome and heartbreaking but at the same time it's completely fascinating, sort of like a train wreck.

I know this is all pretty gruesome and heartbreaking but at the same time it’s completely fascinating, sort of like a train wreck.

Check out the painted ceiling. Is that a gnu over the window??

Check out the painted ceiling. Is that a gnu over the window??

I know, I'd rather see him moving around in a zoo (I'm too chicken to see one this close in the wild)

I know, I’d rather see him moving around in a zoo (I’m too chicken to see one this close in the wild)

What do you think they're trying to catch with this????

What do you think they’re trying to catch with this????

Pretty cool contemporary sculpture in the collection.

Pretty cool contemporary sculpture in the collection.

Clever way to display your Aunt Bessie's jewelry...

Clever way to display your Aunt Bessie’s jewelry…

Very cool very large porcelain sculpture!

Very cool very large porcelain sculpture!

So please do visit this wonderful museum. I have made up all sorts of stories about it. There was a room at the end of the exhibit that explained who founded the collection and created the museum. I could only gather with my 3rd grade elementary school level of French comprehension that the items were collected by a man who held a high level position in whatever the French equivalent is to the US Department of Interior, and created the museum and donated the items after his tenure, for the enjoyment and education regarding what the glorious natural world has to offer us.  The elegance and placement of these objects side by side with exquisite artworks, to me, reflect how precious our natural environment is and in a way, how sad it is that it is housed in a museum where it is safe from human destruction unlike what is going on outside its walls all over the world.

Without the help of electronic translators, I think this says that Francois Sommer and his wife Jacqueline created the Foundation of the Hunt and Nature to promote hunting that is respectful of and in harmony with nature.

Without the help of electronic translators, I think this says that Francois Sommer and his wife Jacqueline created the Foundation of the Hunt and Nature to promote hunting that is respectful of and in harmony with nature.

Ok, how close did I get to the real meaning and purpose of the place???

 

 

I’m Having a Jewelry Sale!!!

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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