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.

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

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

Another day another firing

Today was a marathon.  Taught in the morning, raku’d in the afternoon.  It was the last day of teaching my glass class.  Usually, we have a party and do no work, but this time it was only a 4-week course so I put out all the glass and let them rip.  They were like glass factories, I could hardly carry everything they assembled to my studio to fire.  I have a feeling I’m looking at about 4 or 5 loads.  By next Tuesday?  OMG, I hope so.  The good news is that the spoils from Sunday’s glass workshop have been fired, ground and delivered.  One item to tick off the list.

Meanwhile, I raku’d a Lola urn.  Lola was a very beautiful dog owned by Ann, who really really loved her.  She hired me to make an urn to contain her ashes, using some of them as bone ash to a glaze recipe, which just so happens to be Steve’s Blue Raku Patina, and that means, raku.  Ann gave me carte blanche to create an urn.  She sent me a picture of Lola and she told me to have fun because that was what Lola was all about.  I made an urn that was pretty representative of her head, but Ann wanted to go with one of my more classic wheel thrown urn shapes, so I did, so in this case she’s getting two.

I dragged trusty Beato outside and set her up and turned her on before I left for school, then come 4:45 it was ready to pull.  Beato is great because I can do just one urn and a lid and be done and cleaned up by dinner time.  Everything went really well except the lid touched the urn body in the reduction can and they stuck together.  THANK GOD I was able to separate them without any breakage.  PHEW.  Oh and did I mention it was forecast to storm the same time I was supposed to pull?  But all went very well!

I dragged Beato back in the minute she was cool enough  and now she’s got the “head” urn inside for a fast cone 06 commercial glaze fire. What a wonderful little work horse. May the force be with us!  Tomorrow is a glass day in Elmo, the Skutt  1027  and probably the next, and the next and the next…)  such is life as a kiln wrangler in the kiln rodeo!  I’m really really tired, a tad sore and a bit smelly, but whenever it got hard I remembered that when I was tearing my hair out at my desk job in NYC or on the table having surgery or getting radiation treatments when I had cancer, what kept me going was that someday I’d have days like this.  FABULOUS!

LolaFiring5_2015003

The human kiln sitter

LolaFiring5_2015dancingdevil008

Doing the devil dance

LolaFiring5_2015015

Target temperature, ready to pull

LolaFiring5_2015018

Into the reduction can

LolaFiring5_2015020

Don’t drop the lid!

LolaFiring5_2015023

Adding paper

LolaFiring5_2015027

First “burp”

LolaFiring5_2015038

Second “burp”

LolaFiring5_2015048

Lid and urn fused together in the reduction can

LolaFiring5_2015049

Carefully separating them while still hot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LolaFiring5_2015056

Spraying with water to bring out the colors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LolaFiring5_2015064

Ready to be dunked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LolaFiring5_2015090

Cooling in the water bucket

 

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)