Category: the studio

starting over again

It seems surreal that i am back here again: being an artist who sells her work.  A week ago yesterday, we had an event here at the studio, after which i  committed to keeping the studio open every Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm for the rest of the year. Last night, i was so excited at the prospect that i barely slept.  Just being out here, making art, opening the door to sales, this is a big deal for me.

Truly, i believe that this is only happening because of the intervention of other artists.  Several provided me with amazing support when i face tasks that were impossible while this body languished in such a diminished state.  They have proven themselves willing to help me out when i have been overwhelmed.  In an act of belief that still boggles my mind, i have been blessed to share my studio space with creatives willing to partner their art with mine at these events.  You can see their work at these etsy shops, if you cannot travel to the coast of Maine:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/nekojindesign
https://www.etsy.com/shop/thecommonshaman
https://www.etsy.com/shop/theperfectcup

i cannot quite process the generosity of spirit that they are displaying.  Between these two and those who unflinchingly had my back over the past few  years, it has helped me create a new perspective when other people comment on my return to the world of art.  Things that would have crushed me when i was still alone, now give testimony to my good fortune.

At the first event we hosted, just over a month ago, people were surprised to see me.  They laughed, “We thought you were dead.”  Scores more told me that they heard i was having problems financially and physically, and that they were shocked i had made it through. i wondered why they talked like this, so comfortable at articulating their surprise at my continued existence, until i remembered that i am an introvert without family and have a learned to suffer alone rather than spill it out onto the shoes of random strangers.  Not to say people haven’t had to clean off the slime of woe after talking to me, but when i am on the edge of survival, i crawl into my hole and to heal.

Thus, when things got really bad for me, i retreated into art and the work that needed to be done to move from one minute to the next. It was all i could do. Overloaded as i was, i could not reach out; rejection would have been that one thing too much to bear.  No one else is responsible for those tendencies in myself, but realizing that they created the environment for those comments to appear was incredibly helpful.

By in large, i found i could eventually laugh at those statements and reassure people: i am alive, i never stopped making art, and here i am back to running a business, albeit part time.  However, it shook me to my core as a reminder that i am truly starting over.  The work i have been doing was invisible to the rest of the world, unless a manuscript wandered into your email’s inbox.   No one else saw that i had never fully surrendered; now, many can witness how reopening with hope and a support network is the greatest blessing possible for one that has been so alone.

Last week, a couple pulled me aside to discuss with great satisfaction what had been the hardest time in my life – when i had to start going backwards, cannibalizing the studio instead of investing in it, when i could not move my arm, when tumors had taken over to the point i could barely bend over without howling in pain, when i first found out that my hips would have to be replaced.  All this time later, they were still so pleased with the buy they got on the equipment i sold them so that i could keep living.  They let me know they had only come by to see if i was still selling off my tools at bargain prices.

While they gushed about the memory, i could not help but hear the echos of my the howling cries that night, realizing that with that sale of a wheel and kiln, i had admitted to myself that i was too broken to work. 

Exchanges like that would have made me feel excruciatingly isolated before, but my situation has changed.  i had people sitting beside me, ready to tell me things would not get that bad again.

My heart started to sing with gratitude over the miracle of human beings willing to roll up their sleeves and help me out, who stayed in touch and kept supporting my compulsive vocation to create.  Having people in your corner is always a blessing, but in this moment, when i realize that i am not hobbling forward by myself any longer, it feels like the sun has come out to shine on my life.

However, there is no room for denial: i am starting over as a business woman. People, quite literally, thought i was dead.  There is no greater indication that i am starting from scratxh than rising from a perceptual grave.  This voyage into business has to be different, too.  i am undertaking this journey hyperaware that my body’s needs cannot be pushed aside. Still, opening myself up be here in the studio, ready to make sales, feeds the best part of me.  This feels like a miracle.  i want to dance with gratitude; if only it didn’t hurt so much to stand.

And that sound you hear?  That is me shouting thanksgivings for the people who love me and are willing to help.

feeling like an artist again

This weekend we had an event at the studio.  My business sign went back up and we compensated for the fact that the studio is still in the chaos of change by putting up a tent and selling our wares from the front yard.  This involved both my art, and the art of my roommates – check out their work at Neko-Jin Designs and The Common Shaman.   (Their work is on the right and I can attest to the quality.  The jewelry is powerfully lovely and those pillows are freaking huggable.)

The experience has left me exhausted and in a lot of pain, but for the first time in ages I feel anchored in what I do – I am a maker to my core.  During the first day, Friday, I was able to make 60 wee watercolors and pen and inks. Although, insomnia did help with that glut of drawings.  Yesterday, I made about five slightly larger pen and inks.  Today, I was a poet.

Sitting in the sun with nothing to do other than create and sell art was a joy.

A lot of locals came by, pleased that I am not either dead or moved out of the area.  It let me know how far I have hunkered down during this past two years.  Oh, but the change in my circumstances brings up such optimism.  Life has gotten better.

This time in 2015, I could not move my left arm much at all, I could not throw, I lost nearly all my income for the full year. Surgery on the shoulder in October 2015, then a hysterectomy in February 2016.  But by June of that year, things began to change.

Even now, I am still struggling – my hips need to be replaced, I am in a cauldron of pain – and yet, I am still making art.  Somehow, I have survived all of the crap that came my way.  Even heartbroken, I made art.  Even when I can barely walk,  I am making and selling art.  I am working as hard as I can to keep my house and have been grounding myself in faith that I can do it.  There have been days that I had to dig deeper within for strength than I thought I went, but it worked!

I continue forward with both my regular job and the art that is my vocation.   The first has not dented my passion for the second.

I am so grateful for the friends who saw me through this weekend.  Perhaps I have been whining too much in these blogs, because what I should be shouting from the rooftops is how wonderful life can be when you have friends that have your back.  To be able to rely on people and know that they will be there for me, that is a priceless, beautiful thing.  They set up the tent, set up the products and then tore them down in the evening, three days in a row, all with out a stitch of help from me because I could not move any of those things. What a blessing it is to have people who do not just share your dreams but are willing to put their shoulders into fulfilling them.  This is a case of actions speaking so loudly, all words were drowned out.  Without their kindness, none of this could have been done.

Basically, this is a blog of thanks.  I am grounded in what I do again, which will help all things – the physical struggle, this financial difficulty, my regular job, my art.  If you were here, you would be able to see my smile, hear my loud, outrageous laugh and listen to me sing to my cats about the glories of life.

I have “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well” tattooed on my arm. Too often, I need the reminder. But, today, I did not read it.  Indeed, I did not even glance at it.  The next few months are going to be very hard, financially and physically, but good friends are teaching me that I can trust in the universe enough to reach out.  I am asking for help and receiving kindness.

This is the miracle of my life.

Because, I am talking about asking for help, I am compelled to say: you can make me $3 closer to being able to sustain myself while I am recuperating from surgery. My end of that deal will be to keep making art, even when I am flat on my ass in bed.

But for now, let not think of what could go wrong.  Instead, let’s sing songs of joy and thanksgiving!

a month

13411862_10208363446235263_2117676587360267764_oIt has been a just over four weeks since everything changed.

Honestly the transformation started nearly eighteen months ago, sped up considerably this time last year, but the past four weeks have accelerated the process to the speed of light.

As i write, i have a job, one that requires 40 hours a week and will pay me regularly, and for that i am on my knees with gratitude. The stress of trying to make it solely through art, alone, with my health suffering for so long, was intolerable. i was breaking down.  It made my art – especially my writing – suffer.

For most of this job search, i was afraid on so many different levels.  i am an artist, an acquired taste, a round ball of strange.  To find a place that can tolerate all that – and the terrible staggering awkwardness that my body often adopts instead of graceful movement – is fantastic.

But this is a blog about the business of art.  And, thankfully, that business continues.  In one month, i have written (and typed in) a notebook full of poetry, done more drawings that i can remember, finished writing a novel, and begun working on a short story that amuses me more than i can express.  i have never written from the POV of a planet before.

Today, as i gallery sit in Southwest Harbor, i feel more centered in my calling than i have since Darwin the dog died.  Going into my studio has been hard, and something for which i have had very little time.  13483087_10208363947087784_3077929633202552197_oAs soon as i could throw again after surgery, my kiln died, so the pottery side of everything has been stalled rather horribly.  i await a paycheck or art sales to get new elements and relays, and then, i will be back up and running after this year and a half long stream of catastrophe.

i imagine i will release a deep sigh as that first kiln begins to click and heat up.  This will be the physical proof of my breaking out of this confining suffering and into a new, (glorious!) stage of life.

Indeed, it gets even better: sometime in early August, i will be teaming up with another artist and potter. He is phenomenally gifted and i am truly honored he wants to work with me. This is an endless source of personal delight, but will alter the flow of my life (and creativity) again.  This change could not be more welcome; it will be wonderful to have the studio being used more frequently. i cannot wait to see what art pours out of its doors.

Honestly, i have begun to realize that this recent journey through the darkness has given me wonderful gifts.  Somewhere underneath all the poetry and daydreams, there lies a core of tempered steel.  It can flex and move without breaking. As long as i remember that this resilience resides inside my core, especially during moments of overwhelm and despair, i think i will be able to survive.13490800_10208368963573193_3510292570587586590_o

Also, i needed to prove to myself, and maybe to the source from which my art flows, that i can actually do the hard work of life.  i have been scared and anxious for so long – to have fate force me up into a standing position, to demand such sacrifice from me, was deeply uncomfortable. Yet, i am standing.  i am slowly, haltingly, moving forward as an artist and as a woman.

Running this business for so long, alone, had left my confidence gutted.  i did not have all the skills that i needed to be successful.  This is not a whine, this is simple truth. i have grown too tired of self-recrimination to give myself a hard time over this anymore.  We all have our abilities, our talents, and i cannot keep hating the fact that there are aspects to running a business – especially finances and marketing – to which i am not equal.

Also, perhaps, i have grown a bit wiser – not many people can survive flawlessly alone.  Why would i think that i am any different?  The condition of lonely solitude had gone on for so long, i forgot that i could reach out and ask for help.  Now, i know i can.  There will be hands to catch me.

So, today, i am simply grateful. i had a wonderful dog, i have had all these years where i was married to making art.  My body is tired but functioning; my mind, likewise.  And here i am, once more, handing poetry and art to you in my open hands.

 

 

Things must change

I am writing this during my last day sitting in an artisans’ cooperative this year; Christmas Eve, 2015.

This marks an end of an era for me. A huge amount of the galleries in which i began this year are either moving, closing (or already closed) and a few others have had sales bad enough i have to make disappointing decisions. Most of my plans for the next twelve months remain purely in the realm of the  hypothetical. What i know i will do is make pen and inks, finish at least one novel, write as many poems as i can coax through me.  Soon, i will have another surgery, and afterward i have to dedicate myself to healing and transcending whatever comes.

Never before has it been so glaringly obvious and desperate: i have to reconceive how i move through my days, even as i acknowledge that my heart beats out art as much as blood. The question remains how to do this.  How do i walk that fine line between financial need and spiritual/sanity needs? As i wrote in a poem posted fairly recently, and the haiku below that i put on twitter, art is a fickle mistress.

Art is a lover
who keeps me chained up tightly
and would let me starve.

Starving is not a viable option for an irrepressible sensualist like myself. Giving up on art, which so many have told me is the most sensible option, also seems to be impossible. Yet, i fight against incredible anxiety and fears. As much art as i create, as much as i deepen my abilities in different mediums, i have been hoxed by this relentless worry. This cannot continue. One or the other has to surrender itself – either i continue making art and become relatively fearless in its dissemination, or i surrender to my fears and live a life painfully diminished.  i do not think i could survive the latter.

So, i have to find a way. There is no other option, really, this long succession of freelance and piecemeal jobs can be the stop gap, the way to keep going, until i find a way to make art consistently pay for bread and butter.  But i must keep my focus on that far off mountain top, where the work that gives me the deepest bliss and aligns my energy with the world so well actually maintains me.

One of the miracles in my life is that this past year has brought a slew of people who believe in me enough to help me get through some terribly difficult times. When i thought i might never throw again, my friends listened to my grief; they celebrated with me when i got back to the wheel.  Gifts of food, money, time, compassion and kindness kept me afloat. As i wrote earlier, this was the year of friendship. Perhaps that is how i can find my courage – to remember that there are people who don’t just want me to succeed but see it as something that will happen, with enough patience, stubbornness and resilience.

So, this blog is a bit of a shout out to the universe at large, steeped with both prayer and intent: help me change things. Help me find a way to make this work with the blessings and limitations i have. i cannot change the basic DNA of my being, so i have to find a path that lets me keep making art AND eat.

Things will change.

Things must change.

i am apparently too stubborn to surrender, so i must find a way to be courageous and maybe even a bit wise.

The whole engine of my heart and imagination manifests this transformation.

i wish you all the best for your coming year – may all people find greater peace, kindness and love in our worlds.

glue the leaves back on

sunflowersThe miniseries Story of Film presents a clip from an early silent film (i can’t remember the title, but the miniseries is great, so find out from them!) in which a child overhears that her sister will die before the trees are bare of leaves, so she goes outside to tie the leaves to the branches, to prevent the inevitable from happening (that might be a direct quote, i can’t remember.)  As i drove through Maine this week, i begged the trees to hang on to their greens. i felt nothing but fear for the coming winter.  Stay on a bit longer, please, or i will start having to take stronger action.

You won’t like it, i pleaded with the forest, if i start stapling those leaves onto your bark.  Or duct tape them down.  This is what hot glue guns are for, isn’t it?

However, time marches on no matter what i want.  This weekend i have to do a ton of paperwork to see where my financial future will lie.  Today, i was able to sell a kiln and a wheel, so i can finally buy fuel oil for the house – something that has been plaguing my mind as we barrel into winter.  It felt like i was cannibalizing my future.  Nevertheless, as sorrowful as it was to see these empty spaces in my studio and to recognize that in the long run it will make production slower, the relief of neither freezing nor starving while i’m incapacitated overshadows all grief. Hopefully, i will sell enough tomorrow that i can start making inroads on my debts.

Wednesday, my shoulder will be fixed. When i look back to see how much this injury has cost me in time and ability, it boggles my mind a bit. Given my precarious health, it can be so easy for me to tip over into wretchedness. i focus so hard on the day to day, keeping myself moving as best i can, that i often fail to realize that i am actually being hoxed by something other than anxiety and pain.  Still, i have every hope that i will come out of this with my arm fully functional. The rehab period will be a challenge, but the thought of not having to deal with pain after i heal gets me a little excited. The thought of being able to use both arms effectively makes me swoon. Even if i have to stand on one leg and do a backflip, i am working to see the bright side of each leaf that falls.

thisismylife_smThe reality is that time keeps marching on, no matter what i want.  My house is for sale, although things are not happening as quickly as i want on that score.  It could be my fault.  Unintentionally, i flashed a woman a couple of weeks ago when she was inspecting my front window in the early morning.  Unsurprisingly, she did not make an offer. i cannot blame her.

From my possessions to my mind, everything has been unsettled.  i don’t want winter to come, yet i long for Spirit to clear a path for me to move forward. This endless waiting on the edge wears me down.  Push-pull.  Hurry up then wait.  Work and then crash. My days move between extremes of wanting change and dreading it.

Still, i see signs that make me smile.  The other night, a moon-bow encircled the nearly full moon and i fantasized that it was a promise of transformation.  Recently, my daydreams have directed themselves into words, and more of them meander onto paper, a hopeful sign that i will get some decent work done while i am physically sidelined.  i have three novels and a collection of poetry to edit while i am one handed. Plus i have work for clients and friends. i have made plans.

Honestly, i am so exhausted that three weeks more or less inert sounds almost delightful – except for what i am sure will be intense pain with my arm strapped to my chest.

Despite myself, and with great caution – because i know that my heart and existence are still in such a precarious place – i continue to build up my reserves of hope.  Maybe it is because i seem to be surviving the changes that have already come. On some level, i have lost so many dreams and hopes that i have gotten practice at reconfiguring my life.  Certainly, the construction of my self-perception has shifted, losing all permanence and intensity.  Perhaps, i am sliding back into magical thinking.  Either way, i’ll take the respite from depression and worry.

IMG_1803So, today, what i focus on is that even though the leaves are turning against my will, i have been able to unpack some sweaters.  Even though i have half the number of kilns and 1/3 fewer wheels, i can still make art in so many ways.  Despite my financial woes, i will soon be stronger, with two functioning arms, and better able to work.

This must mean that my personal seasons are changing, moving from endless days of blues to days of golds and reds.

 

If this blog felt repetitive, i apologize.  Perhaps it is a product of this moving backward and forward, this eagerness and fear.  i race through ground only to be thrown back, so i have to cover it again.  At any rate, by way of apology here is a lovely picture of a cat.

 

the ugly stage

small_4small_7Today is my only day here, in the studio, dedicated to making art, for at least ten days.  i had grand plans – i would throw a huge commission, work with the slab roller to have some small sculptures to fill in the spaces between plates when they are fired, and none of that came true.  Instead, i spent the morning writing – a nebulous bit of prose that i will probably blog fairly soon – and then decided to be kind to my body again. small_6 This is becoming a theme.  Unfortunately, my shoulder (torn rotator cuff) is not getting better without my taking it very easy on that arm, and when i break the rules and do things like throw, or load the car with heavy objects, or try to scrub something, i wind up with days of intense distress and numb fingers.

So, i broke out the next messiest form of art: pastels.  Before i leave for the night, i will be loading a kiln and firing some lovely little garlic plates.

i have not totally wasted the day, no matter how it feels. small_2Still, i am frustrated with my level of productivity.  i don’t seem to be doing anything enough or well.

Yesterday, i did a huge amount of pen and inks while i was at a gallery enjoying the slowness of the day.  Given that i got my first positive response to a job application yesterday, after sending out God knows how many, i found myself drawing with a renewed fervor. i could feel the gun to my head cocking.

i have written about the long goodbye before.  Without doubt, this must be one of the most excruciating devolutions that i’ve ever experienced.  i am going down a steep hill at speed, shedding things as i travel: mysmall_3 house, my studio, my credit rating, my belongings, my sense of self.  For so many years, i have been wildly blessed with the profound knowledge that art is what i’m meant to do – it pours out of me like nothing else – and to have that last illusion stripped from me has been excruciating.  Instead of ripping it off like a band-aid, fate has been slowly twisting it away, molecule by molecule, a closed gallery here, a solitary day in the studio there, a long spell where i could not write because my mind was too chaotic, punctuated with crushing online sales reports. i have moved from a woman confident in her identity as an artist to someone desperately trying not to drown. The blessing of having no attachments, no delusions of self holding me back, does not yet diminish the agony of loss.

small_1When i lost my health, back when i was 28, i saw that as a profound death of self.  Forests were ravaged for the paper needed to work out that loss.  However, in its own way, it was brutal in its speed and efficiency.  My entire life changed on a dime, and kept changing, until i moved up here to Maine and my life began to transform for the better.  Helping, softening the blow, was the fact that marriage gave me some safety.  i had someone who could help pick up the slack, who could keep two people aloft financially.

small_5At the time, i wrote a hundred poems of love and gratitude, knowing what a gift that was.

Now, though the story is different.  There is no one to help around the house.  By the time i am done with a day of work, be it here or sitting in a gallery, i am too exhausted to do anything.  If you read these blogs, you’ll know that they have decreased incredibly in their frequency.  If you paid attention to my artistic output, you would know i have barely fired the kiln in months, and that is not just the shoulder prohibiting me from throwing.  The house i have on the market gives testimony to suffering, obvious to anyone who enters; the kitchen is in danger of becoming an EPA superfund site. Nearly every day, someone gives me advice – many to quit art, but many to pursue this gallery or that store.  Only, I am hoxed by exhaustion, able to follow up on a fraction of those leads.

None of my work, including the art, is getting a quarter of the focus it should because i am constantly struggling to keep my head above water. small_8 This is the heart of the problem when there is not enough strength or energy to meet every obligation: it causes increasing failure.  Like cash, energy is a limited currency – spending it on one thing means it will not be spent on another.  Harsh choices have to be made.  i devolve from someone who thought of herself as an artist, driven by the need to make art, to something different.  The art is still there, struggling, fighting its way out, but i am no longer what i thought i was.  The certainty and sense of purpose has dissolved.

Where there should be confidence and self-reliance, i am flooded with anxiety and depression.  This is a terrible little vortex.  The worse my art sales are, the worse my financial situation gets, the more insecure i feel, the less empowered i am to change things, the more the burdens of health and pain drive me further into despair.  Each part augments the next.  This is not intended as a whine so much as an expression of my current reality.  Moreover, i know deeply that this is my fault.  While i cannot control who buys art, i have made the wrong choices, trusted thsmall_9e wrong people and been generally unwise.

Responsibility falls on my shoulders.  And, whatever solutions there are to be had, will come from me as well. i keep praying, with such wild desperation that i’m sure the Divine is laughing at the melodrama by now, for art to save me. Tremendous and marvelous help has come my way, for which i have written another hundred poems of gratitude, but any lasting fixes will have to be through my own labor – if not through art, then through some other way.

So, i look about me, at this space i will have to leave, at the countless pieces of art i have made, at the words flowing from me and i know this configuration of my life is ending.  It is a goodbye, no matter where i end up or what joys may await me.  i am being taught not to cling to things – especially not how i perceive myself.  This is a lesson which i faced with such resistance, the universe had to treat me like a remedial student.

And, today, all i could feel was gratitude for everything.  These blessings i have experienced were beyond measure.  How many get to enjoy that singular sense of purpose and joy?  I was given this chance to throw myself into creating, day after day, for years on end.  Living in this community has been a wild and amazing blessing.  Finding the quiet and stillness that i have here in Maine transformed me.  So, that is what came out in my pastels – all of the blues became gratitude and dancing.

This thanksgiving is just as tangible and fierce as the drowning.  It keeps me aloft.  Gratitudes have become my own little floaties in the sea of life.  My life might be in the ugly stage, but i know from my art ugliness can lead to great beauty.

 

hard decisions

the studio 1
a view of the gallery part of my studio

i am selling my house.1523100_10205442122563997_4889260902811902224_o

There, i said it.  The words tumbled out of my fingertips, and hopefully the honesty of my hands can make my mind stop protesting and my heart stop aching.

For two years i have known that i needed to say those words, and mean them, but i have not had the will.  The thought wounds me.  i love this house, the studio that comes with it, the community in which i live, the friends that fill my life here in Maine.

11156367_10205457395985823_7308591026478660484_nThe first time i ever walked into this building, i felt like i had come home.

studio1It was a profound feeling – washing over me with sublime intensity. The house was by no means mine at that point.  The previous owners still lived there, their things covered all the surfaces, their music filled the air.

However, i was home.  This would be my home.  i knew it deep in my soul.

Most glorious of all for me was that it came with a studio, an extra building with two stories, where i could make my art.  In the beginning, it did not look much.  There were no walls, no floor upstairs, the stairs themselves were not really bolted down so they shimmied terrifyingly as you ascended.  It took nearly five years to get the space to where it was a truly functional studio and gallery space.  But, even during those years of transition, i made so much art.

The glory of that, i cannot begin to describe. All i have to do is walk through the front door of the studio, and a smile comes over my face.  In the mornings, i thank it for being there; in the evenings, i lovingly say goodnight and tell the echoing space when i will return. Over and over, people have walked into my gallery – random strangers from all across the country – and they have said the energy of the space is delightful.  It is the energy of the art that has poured out of me like a waterfall.

My animals have found their home here, too.  Darwin, in particular, seems asIMG_1223 comfortably rooted in the space as i am. IMG_0729 copy Both of my marvelous, timid cats have discovered all the best hiding places.  Not to mention, their Very Important Job is to hold down the bed.  Who knows if they will have such tremendous job satisfaction in a new space?  For them, this entire house is familiar and wondrous.

Even though all of us have gone through terrible times within those four walls, sorrow and divorce and struggle, it has done nothing to dent our affection for this environment.

Only, i have reached one of those junctures where being an adult really sucks.  i cannot pretend that everything is alright and that i’ll be able to keep stumbling forward, magically making just enough money to keep things going for another week. i cannot look to another to save me.  While it would be so nice for my default personality to change, so that having to deal with tenants and having to fiercely promote my art wouldn’t be so wildly difficult, i seem to be stuck with who i am. The time has come to accept it and try to work with my strengths rather than keep fumbling, trying to rewire my brain’s faults.  One of my neighbors, remarking on my obsession with art at the expense of important chores like yard maintenance, suggested that some people are not meant to be home owners – and that i was firmly in that group.  When i have the courage to look unflinchingly at myself, i do not think she was wrong.

studio1_8162014Also, there is a practical consideration: this space was designed for a family, for me and my then husband to finally start a family of our own.  To be the habitat of one woman, even though i can fill the walls of both buildings with art, is a waste of this glorious space.  And, as i dissolve the pottery side of the studio over the course of the next ten months, my art will become more portable.  Paintings, pen and inks, poems and fiction can come into being no matter where i end up or what i am doing.studio5

So, now, the big adventure will be finding out what happens next.  i have no clue where i am going or what i will be doing – other than i will be making art.  The more i became convinced over the past couple of months that i had to give up my art to other obligations, like a real job, the more suicidal and depressed i became.  Letters were written; plans made.  Then, Sunday before last, someone else’s anger kicked me out of my despondency like cold water to the face.  The axis of my world shifted until i began making plans on how to live, even without this home i love so much and the full, wonderful life that i have created in Maine.  It is possible… i just have to find a way.  For now, all i really know is that one of the steps, however heavy-hearted it makes me, is to find a new home.

studio_008_02232011This said, until the house sells and i have to face the massive transformations in my life that will cause, i will keep on as i have been.  Running my business, making art at this furious pace like each day at the wheel or easel is my last, looking for freelancing work to keep the utilities on, will continue to form the pattern of my life.  I will keep staggering from week to week, day to day, minute to minute, trying to tread water rather than drown.

Darkness and warmth

roxi
Don’t blame me for your high heating oil bills, human slave.

For the past several years, the cats have defeated all attempts at weatherproofing the house with plastic.  Plastic over windows, like catnip, is completely irresistible.  Since they don’t pay the power bills, they don’t care.  Also, they wear fuzzy fur coats all the time, and their jobs are to hold the bed down (Roxi) and hug all the blankets (Martin) for at least twenty hour a day, so an argument to be made that they stay warmer than their hairless ape.

So, Saturday, i went to my friend Lara Max’s house and used one of her marvelous, vintage Singer sewing machines (getting a severe case of sewing machine envy in the process. i forgot how much i liked it) and made heavy curtains out of fabric – taping them down like i do the plastic – to stop the precious heat from seeping out the house.  Yesterday, i put them all up, took some advil for my aching back and stared at my work with pride.

For about five minutes.

Then i had to make myself feel useful.  Since i was waiting for responses for a website job, the next logical thing was to attack something on the monstrous to-do list, squatting on Stickies (the app, not actual pieces of paper) on my computer.  Of course, i wanted to choose the most fun thing…Print

So, i started working on my presentation for PKBucksport – our local Pecha Kucha event happening February 5.

Sometimes, i think i develop short-term creatively-based OCD.  i didn’t have to finish the project last night.  i already had all the slides together – getting the text done was gravy.  But try as i might, i could not stop.  i knew what i needed to say in a way that might have disappeared if i waited until morning.

i finally fell asleep at 4 am – having finished the job.  After some more advil kicked in, i slept like a baby until nine-thirty when Roo, my new tenant’s dog, woke me up with her angst (the poem she inspired will post tomorrow.)

Once i straggled into wakefulness, i found myself dealing with websites and moving furniture and stealing time to walk the dog for a half an hour on the Bucksport boardwalk while the weather was good … not doing what i wanted to do all day.  My house feels like a womb now, as though i have sealed the rest of the world out.  The light of day was muted through these brand new heavy curtains.  There is the perception of warmth, if not the reality of it.  For whatever reason, with the view of the outer world cut off, it is making the inner one light up.  It feels like words are filling this space, bouncing off the walls, floating up to the ceiling (like the bed would if it were not for Roxi’s diligent efforts.)

Transitioning my work to the house has been slow.  Except for painting and my new standing desk (yay!), everything is thrown into place, not organized and sorted.  Other labor demands several hours out of each day, and thank God for it, but i still find myself craving stillness and quiet and the chance to pluck those words out of the air and put them down onto paper.  i have written so many poems in the past week, stealing time from one task or another.  The PK writing felt like theft too – as though i was stealing something from the universe that felt indecently good – and happily will be able to give it back on the fifth.

The house is filled darkness and warmth.  i stole time to write this from the dishes, but i don’t actually repent …  the dishes are patient.

The Blessings in New Year’s Day

studio5I love my studio.  It was part of the reason I chose this house in the first place, after working in a tiny studio in Virginia or in my condo’s small living-room.  Two floors, the upper that could be private, a sanctum sanctorum for art, and the other for teaching and messy, muddy work.  The big door to bring in canvases and (as it turned out) kilns, wheels and tables. It felt decadent.  I had space for kilns and wheels and slab rollers and tables.  I could teach and make art on a level that I had not previously conceived.

Today, Lara Max was kind enough to watch the pop up after we drew for the raffle today (we only have one more full day – given the weather coming in Sunday, we’re going to let artists start collecting their work at 2 pm Saturday) and during those lovely empty hours of the afternoon my friend Melisenda Ellis helped me with a project I had been stressing over and avoiding:  moving my wheel into the house so that I can keep making pottery this winter.  There was a huge part of me that resisted this change, even though it was unavoidable.

Heating two buildings last winter was crippling financially – I just cannot do it again.  Now, there will be times I can work in the studio – just after a kiln has fired while it is heated by red-hot pottery wrapped up inside fire-brick – but to get the bulk of whatever sculpting and throwing I want to do this winter done would require my wheel and tools to be here in the house. Praying for a miracle windfall of cash has not been as effective as making do with the resources I have: a spare room in the warm house.  By Halloween, I had moved the glazes (and the shelves required for them) to the house (again, thanks Mel).  However, the wheel had been too much for that dayDSCN5425, both physically and psychologically.

Today, even though it was cold, we had no ice, no snow and (thanks to Mel’s kindness) two strong women to muscle the equipment over.  The wheel now sits on hard plastic in my spare bedroom.  While we worked, I had an epiphany on how to protect the walls and floor from clay splatter and how to set up my tools for easy access.

A lot of them sit in the kitchen, waiting to be washed so I can start my work for the winter with that last box of porcelain.

tovanquishthesefears
to vanquish these fears – i force my arms to open – i begin to dance (one of the prizes in today’s raffle)

After Mel left and I sat here on the couch being exhausted, listening to my back mumble curses at me, I realized this was one of the best New Year’s blessings I could have gotten: two good friends willing to help me out.  Lara made phone calls for me – something that is a greater kindness than she could know.  Mel’s willingness to lend her strength and stamina to push my dreams a little further has consistently left me grateful.  A chance to continue making art – vanquishing my worries about the change of venue – is a blessing beyond compare.  If I am honest, I will tell you: I already miss the studio.  This solution is not perfect.  I will have to be quite vigilant about clay dust and mess (and curious cats) in the house.  The rhythm of my work will change, without doubt.  However, the important part is that the work will continue. New ideas and challenges already bubble up in my imagination. I already know what my first post-firing project will be – how to best use the slab roller and the work table when I can be in the studio, exploiting a brief gust of heat.

It will be another few days before the spare bedroom is ready for me to be actively throwing and by that time my back will stop complaining about today’s lifting (and it could have been so much worse – Mel moved the clay for me!)

But, today was a new beginning – like every day, every moment.  This particular beginning was proof that I am not alone in this world – that I still have good friends and my art.

Really, what more could I have asked for?

 

 

changes in the studio

A wonderful friend taught me a vivid expression this past spring: I am up to my eyeballs in alligators. Right now, they have gone far past the eyeballs. The pesky gators are actually dragging me by my hair toward the river.

I had thought I wouldn’t be writing this blog for another month, but events have conspired against me.  Thank God, I have a website design job, but that will be taking a huge chunk of my time in September.  Indeed, I am closing mytimchin_may2014_0009 gallery/studio next Monday and all of the week of September 15th so that I can do the work for which I have been hired.

In addition, the gallery/studio will be closed this coming Saturday so that I can do a demo at the Penobscot Marine Museum – dragging my treadle wheel and some finished pottery those crucial six miles up the road.  I believe I will be making mugs.

A week later, I will be closing the studio on Saturday for the Garlic Festival.  This is the only outdoor show I’ll be doing in 2014, which should tell you how much I enjoy it.  Please, come if you can.  The food is incredible, the music always good and the entire event helps Kids Peace.

At any rate, I have known for the past couple of weeks that I will be closing the studio completely – for lessons and events – in the dead of winter this year. Unless there is a fiscal miracle, I will not have an orifice from which I can pull the money to heat the studio and the house January through April.  Heating the house will be challenging enough.  In a fit of madness, I am reorganizing my living-room and spare bedroom downstairs so I can keep making art in the house.

At first, I was terribly resentful of all the the time and effort I am having to put into the other work – not just web-design, computer lessons, social media lessons but also the bookkeeping, advertising and other chores necessary to run a business.  The engine of art that runs within me is greedy for my time.  I descend into every greater weirdness if I do not write every day, much less work with visual arts.  Thankfully, I have had an epiphany this summer.  I have spent so many days barely functional as a human being, and yet I have still been writing, drawing with pen and ink, organizing my life as much as I can to facilitate the creative process.  As despondent as I have gotten, I have continued to get up every morning and make art.  Words have flowed from me even when I didn’t have the cognitive ability to handle work on my books.

I am no longer afraid that if I divert my attention for a time that I will somehow stop being an artist.  Working in the studio is glorious and wonderful, but if I work from the house that will not make me less of an artist.  This is who I am.  Whether the studio is open or closed for customers, I am still going to make art.

When I made that decision, I knew that the time in the fall, before everything freezes, will become a spasm of frantic transition.  Since I am not actually suicidal, I have to close the normal hours of the studio and be open by appointment or chance.  As much as I would like to think I am able to do everything with grace and splendor, I’m not. To get ready for winter, make the pots I need to before weather kicks me out of that space, and get the new web-design work done, I have to give myself a more flexible schedule. If I am there, I will open up the studio, but you will need to check ahead if you are traveling specifically for me.

While I expected these changes, I did not expect is that this would start immediately after Labor Day.  Yet here I am, on September 4th, writing this blog.

As of this moment: the studio/gallery will be open by appointment or chance.  Tuesday’s Clayful Evening will occur next week, not the week after (the 16th) and from the 30th on it will be completely dependent upon the temperature.  Please, I beg you, call ahead or check my twitter/facebook/google+ feeds.  After December 1st, the Clayful Evenings will cease until April.

timchin_may2014_0039Both Monday and Tuesday’s deals – Multiple Mondays (20% off if you buy more than one item) and Triple Tuesday (30% off if you buy 3 or more) will continue, if I am open.  Check my twitter feed, google+ page and  facebook page (like the pages, too, why don’t you!) to see if I am in the studio/gallery on a given day – I will post in my status if I am opening the studio – or contact me directly if you want to make an appointment.

Meanwhile, check my website for the other places where you can buy my art – I have a full list.  I will be updating it today after posting this blog! I am adding more possibilities for online buying this week – those will get their own blog entries, though.

Thank you for your patience and patronage as I make these changes.  I have never been more grateful for those who buy my art and encourage my madness.