Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week Off from Blog World

The commitments have stacked-up and there are more than I can accomplish in one week, so I need to begin culling things from the list. Unfortunately, this means no blog. Please check back next week for updates on my art adventures.

In the meantime, have a safe, magical, and fun-filled Halloween.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Super-Feel-Good Week Adjusting to New Roles

Incendiary Grenade Sculpture

Small bowls waiting to be trimmed

Spinning coming along

Final bounty of the season

I had a great week. I confess that some (many) days the past couple months have been utlra-challenging. I've tried to focus on the positive and keep moving forward. So, in comparison, this past week felt like things were really starting to flow and make sense again. I am beginning adjust to my new routines and assignments; for a while there, it felt like total upheaval. So, this week I celebrate!

I have, in the past, been someone who would take a project and focus on it for hours on end. I like that intensity. But now, the shake-ups in my life have me moving in several different directions on any one given day, both at work and home. Yesterday I tried the new "way of doing things" in my studio - and to my surprise- it worked!

I began the day with a three-hour wheel-throwing session. Afterward, I spent four hours on a project for a client, then two hours on a tapestry, one hour spinning fibers, and an hour reading a book for a class assignment. I feel like I got quite a bit done and will try that same sort of routine today after I blog.

Other interesting highlights this past week included a technology workshop. My former profession before switching careers to art education was technology-based (both design and a quick stint teaching at college level before moving back to Maine) and I had thought that that part of my life was behind me. But it is funny how those things come back around. I am excited about the possibilities for our local students with the interactive equipment that will allow them to take their education beyond the walls of our school, to far-off places like the Smithsonian or even classrooms in other countries.

Another role that I play at school this year is that I am filling-in for the music position until a permanent teacher is hired. I never thought that I would be teaching music, but here I am. Who'da thunk it. Now that I am moving beyond the stress of being a "first year teacher" again, I am really enjoying it. It might just be hard to give up that position when the time comes!!! My history with music does go way back, from watching my mom's balalaika orchestra performances to my college job in a music store where I was exposed to all types of music and met many performers, to my time playing and performing with an awesome African drum ensemble when I was in my late twenties. This week, supply orders finally arrived at school. It felt like Christmas opening all those boxes. I think my favorite item that arrived was a Steel Drum. The kids love it too. I can imagine a steel drum band starting at our school. We'll see.

Spinning fibers is not as easy as it looks, but I think I just might be starting to get the hang of it. This week I will ply my first batch of yarn. Hopefully it will be usable for a tapestry, albeit a bit unruly, funky, and inconsistent. I have been working on two different tapestry projects; one for a client and one for a class assignment. I have come up with a an idea for a tapestry series and can't wait to see it unfold. It has sculptural elements and is definitely in the beginning experimental stage. I think that if I can structurally make it work, that this will only be the beginning of what is possible with that medium for me. I worked out the structural element while on a walk last summer. Crossing my fingers it all comes together!!!

Another awesome event this past week is that I finally finished the wet work for the "incendiary grenade". It is part of a clay sculpture series that I am working on and it draws in elements of both new work and a series that I began in 2007. Right now the sculpture is in two pieces but will eventually be permanently attached. I enjoyed the process with this piece, working large scale, combining wheel and slab work, and making those little faux bolts. Ultimately, the piece will incorporate light.

And just when this week couldn't get any better....Northern Tides launched their new website! It's a beautiful, professional site and I am pleased to be a part of their list of artists. Check it out. Deb and Jerry have been instrumental in changing the face of Lubec - or maybe better stated - in the "facelift" of Lubec. The downtown is starting to perk-up and is looking great!

Let's see, have I left anything out? Yes, lots of things, but I will blog about those later on. Today I am itching to get back into the studio. On a final note, I will share with you a video clip of the song "Steal My Kisses from You" by Ben Harper. When I hear this song, I can't help but smile. The toes start tapping, then the legs moving, the volume knob gets just puts me in such a good mood. Enjoy!

source: youtube

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Life Without Art?

Tapestry in progress

Rack of greenware drying VERY slowly

Four bases of a sculpture that is in progress

I'm not huge Sci-fi fan by any stretch, nor am I a fan of action-packed cinema with gun-wielding outcasts and zooming car chases, but I did see such a movie a few years back that has had a long and lasting impression on me.

Equilibrium is a futuristic movie where a post third-world-war society has deemed that human emotions are the root cause of conflict and members of society are mandated to take an emotion-quelling drug. In the movie, art is viewed as dangerous and as a result is banned in all forms: poetry, music, painting, etc. The protagonist is a cleric and government official who misses his daily injection and begins to experience emotion and question his own morality. He eventually partners with the underground to overthrow his own government.

(see Trailer for this movie)

What struck me most about this movie was the cold feeling of a society without art. People all looked the same, acted the same, hum drum, emotionless, monotone. Imagination and color, joy, and individuality were completely stripped.

Is this how life would look without art?

I start to go through the things in my mind that are influenced by artists. The list is long. Imagine if you will, everything we experience in our daily routines that had the touch of a creative person, and then take those things away from existence.

- The clock, lamp, small table beside my bed that holds the alarm clock, and my favorite chair (furniture designer)
-The clothes we wear, wedding dress, work uniform (fashion designer)
-The house we live in, buildings we work in, skyscrapers in cities (architects)
- Music (musicians, singers, sound engineers, instrument designers)
- The automobile that gets me to work (automotive designer)
-Television, cinema, live theater (performing artists (actresses/actors), screenwriters, camera technicians, directors, set designers, commercial writers)
- Food (packaging designer)
-Billboards, calendars, posters, wedding photos, advertisement (photographers)
-Museums, galleries (artists of all types)
-Toys (designers)
-Computer games (artists, musicians)
-Restaurants (culinary arts)
-Dance shows, ballet, the macarena, music videos etc. (choreographers, dancers, musicians)

The list goes on and on. I look all around me and it is near impossible to identify anything that is not influenced by an artist or creative person of some sort. Even nature, with her own beauty and design is often landscaped by a visionary.

Imagine, if you will, the above list of items removed from your life, and then you might have an idea of what life would look and feel like without the influence of artists.

I feel fortunate to be able to live in a world where color and imagination are part of our everyday existence. I love that I can visit a museum and see works of great artists who lived before my time, or that I can turn on the radio and listen to works by musicians that inspire me to create my own works in fiber and clay. I love that I can walk into a store and feel the texture of different fabrics and pick out clothing ensembles that fit my personality. I love that I can attend live theater and watch a story unfold with incredible choreography, moving music, and a fantastic light show.

And most importantly, I love that I have the freedom to be an artist.

I am grateful that everyday of my existence is somehow influenced by the arts and creativity, whether I am reading my husband's poetry, teaching, creating my own work, or viewing/listening to the work of another artist. I am grateful that I am surrounded by people who appreciate the arts, who understand their importance in our lives, and who have consistently and enthusiastically supported the endeavors of myself and my husband as we live lives as artists.

Art brings a deeper meaning and purpose to all of our lives. It helps us to design our own individuality with the choices that we make in the music we listen to, the paintings we hang on our walls, the furniture we pick for our home, the clothes we wear to various functions, and the way we plate our edibles when hosting guests for dinner.

We are each like a palette with several colors of paint waiting to be created into our own unique artwork based on how much we use of each color, the type of brush stroke, and where it is applied on the canvas.

We all begin with the same ingredients, but each possess a different way of expressing and that is what makes us interesting, passionate, unique individuals creating our own life masterpiece.

Praise to ART!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Arts Hone Creative Problem-Solving Skills

Friend Barbara Fox so kindly figured out those complex technical directions to get the spinning wheel up and running, and I received my first spinning lesson!

The tapestry on the right, "Jade Moon Night Swim", is now hanging in a fiber arts show at the Lubec Memorial Library. The show is up for two months.

Interior view of current sculpture base, prior to adding supports.

Supports have been added.

The top form for the sculpture in progress, supported by two gigantic cans of olive oil, which just happened to be on sale at the IGA this week for only $9.99 a can (phenomenal deal!) Limit two cans per customer, which is exactly what I needed to support the clay form! (Coincidence? Or divine intervention?)

Adding interior supports for the form.

The top form shape is complete except for carving the final design.

Turkey crossing temporarily held up traffic on route 1.

Its been a long but productive week between teaching days and managing classwork, the business, appointments, lessons and other artistic projects on nights and weekends. Monday and Tuesday evenings I divided my time between the pottery cave and the main studio futon. I spent a bulk of time trimming pots from the previous weekend, did a bit of time on a sculpture, and also reworked my short artist bio for a fiber arts show that just opened this weekend. It took me a while to decide which piece I was willing to let go of for two months, but finally the decision was made and Chris delivered the piece to the library on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening our friend Barbara came over to help get the spinning wheel in working condition. I looked at those technical directions, and well, it was all just a jumble of confusing pictures and words to me. She instantly knew what to do, which part went where, and just how much to tighten this or that. Soon I was sitting at the wheel making a mess of the wool fibers, but oh what a fun mess it was! It is going to take some time, lots of practice, to get anything decent spun. I imagine it is like when I began to throw on the wheel, or ride a bike for that matter. It's awkward at first, but once you feel the "rightness" you don't easily forget.

Thursday Chris went for an overnight hike and camp which left the house to myself. I had a meeting afterschool which took a bit longer than expected, and once that was done, I was back into the cave for more trimming and signing. I finally finished the pots on Friday night so that the weekend would be free and clear for new projects. I went to the wheel at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday expecting to throw for only a couple hours, but I got into a groove and kept it up until well after noon time. I eventually took a late shower and opened the shop, then switched gears into weaving. I have a new series that I am starting and have been anxious to begin.

Today was a real workout for the noggin. The current sculpture has structural complexities that are not at first evident to the viewer, or may never be evident for that matter. Even when not directly working on the piece, my mind has been thinking about the next step and how to create supports, or build a 3-D form from slabs with varied angles. Today, I was not only an artist, but a mathematician and an engineer.

The base shape was formed around builder's tubing. (I posted pics of that part of the process last week.) Clay shrinks as it dries, and as I suspected, the form became too tight around the tube for easy removal. Chris and I worked together trying to coax the tube out of the malleable clay shape. No luck. Plus, we looked pretty silly jumping up and down with a five foot high tube with a heavy chunk of clay attached at the bottom while the other person sat on the floor, arms wrapped around the earthy mud shape, pulling, grunting, and tugging. Then we grabbed a hand saw. No dice. Out came the Leatherman tool and its various contraptions that sawed and cut. Still no progress. We even tried tearing the tube inward at an angle. Finally, I gave-in and cut a deep, long vertical line down the outside edge of the sculpture, releasing it from the tube.

Today the base form seemed hardened enough to add the top slab. Again, it was a comedy routine as Chris and I together turned the heavy sculpture upside-down so that I could add interior supports to prevent collapse. That part was, though awkward, relatively easy in comparison to the next part. Creating the top form for the sculpture involved many angles and supports that will never be seen by the viewer, but that are crucial to the structure, providing strength and hopefully prevention of major warping. I expect some to occur, but hopefully I have done enough to end up with a decent piece that will endure the firing process.

The task of creating the top structure took nearly seven hours, leaving me quite exhausted, but feeling like I accomplished what needed to be done. As I worked through various solutions on the sculpture I thought of my students and how important the arts are to their education. One of the Maine State Learning Results' Guiding Principles is to be a "creative and practical problem solver". The arts are a perfect venue for building those skills, and those skills can be applied in all parts of life and work. In fact, I recently read that the number one characteristic that employers desire in an employee is the ability to think creatively.

Maybe next time someone suggests that the arts are not important in school, that just the basics such as reading, writing and math are necessary, I think I will refer them this blog entry.