Sunday, February 19, 2012

Comfort in Repetition

Greenware stacking up:
items on slab roller get "trimmed and handled" later this morning.

Tea bowls trimmed, chopped and drying for the next bisque fire later this week.

Kiln loaded to the brim.

Working out ideas with paper and pen trying to problem-solve technicalities. Back to the sketching again today with an updated plan. I think need a carpenter on board. No. I KNOW I need a carpenter on board!!!! Volunteers? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

"Most inner-oriented artists share a common characteristic, a certain quality of obsession."
(Kenneth Coutts-Smith)

Yesterday I began a deep-clean in the downstairs of the house. The floor hasn't looked so good in a long time, waxed and shiny. This kind of spur-of-the-moment, labor-intensive cleaning activity is pretty much ritual when my mind is overloaded and trying to work through ideas for a new project.

I am dragging my feet on a sculpture. This is not to say that it has not been on my mind most every waking moment, most every day, for the past few weeks. Even when I am potting or puttering around with other activities, this project looms in a distant room in my mind. I keep asking "how am I going to make this work?" The concept seems simple enough, the sketches are simple, too, but....there are the hidden technicalities that no one else sees or thinks of that need to be tended to.

I have a back-up plan. I should maybe just go with that. And I might. But, I am still toggling back and forth to find common ground between what is my most ideal scenario (which includes immense amounts of time, expensive resources, and no doubt a multitude of frustrating glitches) versus what would be completely acceptable, still get the idea across, and look great. I mean, no one else would lament the loss of the original idea if only seeing the second, right? No one but me, anyway.

So, even though hours have been spent in the intellectual realm, rather than the physical, lots has been accomplished. Yet, nothing has manifested in the form of the tangible. This is a bit disconcerting since I am working against a deadline. I am trying to remain calm. Traditionally, once I settle on a plan, the physical part of the project starts to roll at a good pace. This project, though, includes well over...well...I don't even want to speculate the number of hours. I know that once the building of it begins, I am in deep, and there is no such thing as "end of the work day". Somehow, things get accomplished, albeit leaving the artist a wee bit bedraggled, insane, and in need of vacation in some far-off exotic and remote location.

This project, like many other sculptures and tapestries that I have created the past few years, will include lots of repetition.

I have been thinking about this repetition. Maybe it comes, in part, from the pottery background. When the ware shelves are empty, I sometimes feel a bit tense, worried about what needs to be done. But when the greenware starts to roll off the wheel and stack up into patterns of bowls, cups, or (in the case of my sculptural work) grenades, I feel a sense of calm. I love seeing multiples line the shelves, tables, floors. I think I have before likened it to the squirrel who stores nuts for winter. There is a calm in knowing that there is some form of security. I guess for some people, they get that feeling with stocks and bonds.'s mounds of aesthetically formed clumps of gooey dirt. To each his own, I suppose.

In the past four weeks, I have created 212 of these formed clumps of gooey dirt called pots with a few handbuilt sculptural pieces tossed into that equation. The more I see stack-up, the more I more calm I feel, and the more I want to do. I guess artists (me anyway!) have just enough obsessive/compulsive behavior to keep the ideas and projects flowing.

Art is addictive. Crazy as that sounds, it is true. There are times I go without creating, but when that craving hits, and you get into that zone, it is hard to pull away from the temptations of the clay, fiber, or paint, or whichever alluring substance is sifting through your fingers at that moment.

Today, the clay is calling. The cave is warming up at this moment. I am trying to pace myself so that I can fit several activities into one day (rather than just ten hours of say, only mugs!!!). I will attach handles to 18 items and call it good, then jump back into sketching. I had a glimpse upon waking this morning, in mind's eye, a possible solution to the the sculpture issues, so after lunch, it's back to the drawing board for me, literally.

Lots of excitement is unfolding. Tune in next week....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bass my Laughing Buddha?

Woke this morning to a snow-covered back yard with Moon nestling-in behind the old walnut tree.

While Moon was drifting off in the west, east was presenting daybreak on a clouded pink palette.

Yes, indeed. More sake bottles.

Yesterday's cup meditation.

This morning while I was swimming on a bridge filled with a fast current of water, a largemouth bass came up alongside me. I was scared at first, but the scaly brute of a carp kept nudging at me with its huge mouth, seemingly laughing. I repeatedly pushed the fish away but it would return to me as though frolicking in a game of tag. Had Buddha come to me in this dream in the form of a big-bellied, playfully aggressive, giggling fish?

I don't recall ever seeing a largemouth bass in "real life" and before assigning identification to this new friend, I did an online image search, first for sturgeon, then for big mouth bass. Indeed, there he was: a massive, swoop-bellied, open-mouthed water dweller. I often dream of animals, but this one was a wee bit out of the ordinary.

I have tried to pull symbolism from the dream. Largemouth Bass is not an entry in my Animal Speaks book, so I thought maybe I would give this an intuitive best guess. From what I can remember, the water-filled bridge had three lanes. In the middle was a heavily-polluted path. I did my best to veer to the side "lane". When I found a clear path within the fast moving current that pulled me more than allowed me to swim, the bass came at me. At first sight, I was fearful of being bit. I soon noticed that there were no teeth and that the fish was, sort of, laughing? We began a game of tag.

In my waking life, I have been preparing myself for the upcoming "fast lane". Yesterday I spent time mapping out commitments for the next few months. It is easy to become overwhelmed or get stuck in that muddled "middle lane" while fast currents swoop by on either side. I had to remind myself to stay calm and deal with each event as it occurs. Normally I would be feeling a heavy stress and obsessing far too much, but at the moment, I feel content to be moving along as fate directs, accepting and appreciating the gifts and flirting with ideas that I have not dared to mingle with in the past. Change can be scary. We often fight it to the bitter end, but when it occurs, there is an opportunity for new growth. Sometimes if we just give into it, we can ride the currents and discover the unexpected. Perhaps the new "current of change" will be a more natural and graceful travel.

About three or four weeks ago I had an out-of-the-blue feeling of joy and excitement overcome me. It was one of those moments when your belly does a little flip and a smile so big surfaces that you think that your lips are going to eat your ears. I know that life is a mix of bitter and sweet, and I don't assume that all will be easy sailing, but I just had this feeling that I am on the right path and that all will fall into place as it should.

After waking from this morning's dream, I sauntered downstairs to discover a most beautiful winterscape. Dawn just starting to break, snow snuggled the earth as the moon began her descent behind the old walnut limbs to the west. Then I walked to the front side of the house, overlooking field, to find morning presenting her smattering of grey clouds and pink burstings over the bay. Snowshoe hare had been through already, pathing her long-pawed prints around the barn.

These are things that I have come to expect - powerful moons, intensely colored skies, and critters that seem to have found safe haven living amongst us two-leggeds.

Despite the strict production and sculpture schedule that has been set of late, I found time to play with friends this past week. I feel fortunate to have met so many incredible beings in my years here in Lubec. In this geographically-remarkable, faraway plot on the map, there are equally remarkable souls who have found their way here. For their friendship I am grateful.

At this moment, all feels right and good.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sake, Sushi, and Curious Kitty

A clay form inspired by "saffron". While studying the spice I discovered that it takes 150 crocus plants to get one ounce of dried saffron. Gathering of the saffron threads is a meticulous task. No wonder it is the world's most expensive spice!!!

Below is a photo shoot sequence of one of my stoneware sake sets. Bouli decided that this set, in the Northern Lights glaze motif, was her favorite.
(This set has already sold and shipped to the west coast, but if interested, I have at least one more set available in this glaze motif.)

"I wonder what's behind this flap."

"Hey! Look! A breakable object!"

"Is that Sake? All I need now is a plate of sushi."

"Guess I'll take a load off while I wait for my server."

"What?! No sushi today? I'm outta here!"

Greenware sake bottles, thrown yesterday.

This is NOT what winter looks like this year.

Last year at this time I was aching from all the shoveling, one storm bringing nearly two feet of snow in less than 24 hours time. I have to admit, while the lack of plowing has been light on the wallet, I am missing the while stuff. It is February 7th, and it looks and feels like spring is about to bust wide open.

It was a fairly uneventful week for me here in Lubec. A few days of bed rest last week while I recouped from what was, in my best estimation, a flu of some sort, set me a bit behind and left me feeling quite lethargic. My mind wanted to go about all the usual routines but my body denied any such occurrence. It's been quite a while since I have had anything flu-like and it took me off guard. I'm not used to sleeping thirteen hours in one stretch! I'm lucky, on a normal night, to eek out six or seven hours of shut-eye.

Needless to say, I was quite happy to have regained most of my energy by early weekend, just in time to drive nearly three hours to Bangor to pick Chris up from the airport. (Lubec doesn't have traffic lights or chain-stores, let alone an official airport.) Chris's flight had been delayed 24 hours due to "mechanical malfunction" (yikes!). That extra 24 hours was a blessing in disguise, for me anyway, giving me an extra day to recoup. For Chris, it was another story, perhaps. We were all happy by weekend's end though, having enjoyed a brief visit with my aunt and some very yummy sushi at Green Tea.

We are all settled-in back in Lubec. The cats are happy to have their play-buddy home and routines resumed. I am full steam ahead on studio and MFA work and Chris has his writing and teaching schedule rolling along. Mid week I pretty much devote my energy to teaching (this week I will spend extra hours working on next year's supply order) and of course, it is tax season. A lot of prep work has been done for our appointment later this week. It's always good to get that out of the way. Numbers. Too many numbers boggle the mind!

The pottery cave is starting to look like it was never cleaned at the turn of the year. I thought for sure that this time it would stay nice and neat. No such luck. Once projects take off, it's a whirlwind of (messy) activity. I've been playing around with some simple mold-making techniques and each time I turn around I see potential for another form. I should exercise some restraint so that I can begin work on an in-depth project that needs to be completed this spring for a show in Lubec. I'm incorporating local history and have been engrossed in vintage Lubec photos on the Maine Memory Network. It's an amazing site that has all sorts of history about Maine towns/cities.

The calendar has been filling steadily with business and pleasure appointments. Chris and I were reminiscing that when we first moved to Lubec in 2001, we had lots of time on our hands. Things sure have changed! Partly due to the town's revitalization and a myriad of cultural offerings - partly due to the fact that we know more people and are more involved with community. The expansion of my pottery business has demanded extra attention, too. Life in Lubec isn't dull, that's for sure!

I'm looking forward to the coming weekend in the studio and meetings with friends. For the time being, though, there is paperwork to be done.

I best sharpen my pencil and get to it.