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.

OUTRAGE: Artists Respond to Trump

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GO AWAY

 

In 2012 I began making ex-voto tokens.  Little hearts with messages on both sides.  The front had the title of the category of the message, the back, the individual message.  Each message is a prayer for something I wanted or something I got and was grateful for.  Mainly, the prayers covered issues that weighed heavily on my heart that were too big for me to solve.  In creating them and their containers, I hoped to take their burden off me and kiss them up to God.

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One very unexpected category that came up almost on its own was GO AWAY.  The tokens practically made themselves.  I figured, what or who is on Earth right now, that if they only went away, the world would be a much better place?  I banged out the messages then set out to envision the urn to put them in.  Unfortunately that urn took an awful lot of time to execute.  I had to figure out the design, the engineering, the science and the lighting.  It took 2 years.  I made the urn in 2014.  I thought that by then those issues going into that urn would be stale and irrelevant and even better resolved by that time.

Little did I know!  Inside the GO AWAY URN, from 2012 are:

Newt Gingrich, Election campaign super pacs, Church in politics politics in church, Obama Birthers, Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Julian Asange, Dominique Strauss Kahn, Anonymous Hackers, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Suicide Bombers, Christian Conservatives, Ultra Liberals, Violent Video Games, Facebook as a replacement for social interaction, Peta, Israeli Palestinian conflict, E.L.F., Tea Partiers, N.R.A., Political obstructionists, Radical Muslim Extremists, Health insurance companies, Snooki and Religious Extremists

Aside from Snooki, not much has gone away, and not only are not much in the jar are resolved, those in bold are not only still around but about to run our country.  Sigh.

That same year (2014,) I decided to comment on how social media was influencing people, especially politicians, especially the governor of my fair state, Chris Christie.  I made ECHO CHAMBER.

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This piece is an illustration of how certain politicians can surround themselves only with people who agree with them.  They hold “town hall meetings” where the audience is hand picked in advance, and if anyone else attends and expresses an alternate point of view they are rudely heckled and shouted down, if allowed to stay and speak at all.  It also is a reflection of how social media has put us into gorgeous little boxes of our own points of view; where algorithms hand pick what we see and digest as “news.”  All of our values are constantly reverberated back at us.  That was disturbing to me back then and now that hacking and fake news has been revealed as influencing this last election it is more relevant than ever.

I have had the extreme privilege of having these 2 pieces included in an on-line show, OUTRAGE: Artists Respond to Trump, curated by artist/activist Patricia Dahlman.  When I reviewed the works in the show I wondered how mine wound up among such amazing and provocative artwork by such incredible artists.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks my style is a little out of place, bordering on the side of elegance.  But like writer Flannery O’Conner, I try to bring weighty and distateful subjects to my viewer gently through beauty or humor.  Once they approach my work I then clobber them with the message.

Please take a look a the works in the show.  They truly are amazing.  They express my every anger and every fear.  I am astounded and beyond impressed that these artists were able to turn out this phenomenal work in such a short time.  Me?  I’m still processing my feelings, unable to express most of them.  I’m abashed, grateful and very dismayed that my 2 pieces, made years ago are relevant to this tragic turn of events in our collective history.