Month: September 2013

Breathlessness

divorce i wonder how much mortality effects our art. The thought wanders through my mind every single time i find myself breathless during an asthma attack or i experience a day when i can’t move much.

i am keenly aware that i am not immortal. Does  understanding how precious time and energy are keep my feet to the fire? i have a merciless drive for creativity – if i am not writing, then i’m painting, or throwing, or sculpting. Where ever i am, my life might stop in its tracks for art. i sleep with pen and pencil just out of fear that i might wake up lose a great idea.

i’ve been drawing and writing as long as i can remember. As a child, i knew with unhesitating certainty that i would be a writer. And even as i proclaimed it to anyone who would listen, i was doodling and drawing on the back of every paper i could find. This was tolerated as an idle hobby. Over and over again, i was told there was no future in what i was doing. “No one will ever be interested in what’s going on inside your head.”  Once i got to college, i studied other things, believing what i was told: that i had no chance at making a living at what i loved most – and that financial considerations mattered more than my bliss.

i loved what i studied, don’t get me wrong; i value that education incredibly. However it wasn’t what my heart wanted.

It was like an unrequited love for creating; a passion i denied outlet. No matter how much i wanted to pick up a canvas or start composing story, i kept stifling myself and pushing art away. This lasted through undergraduate, the beginning of graduate school, and well into a PhD program. Until i got sick.

When faced with disability, and pain, and so little energy that i had to be incredibly picky about what i did, i focused on paint, words and eventually clay. Where i lacked natural talent, i wound up gaining skills through the combined effect of practice and stubbornness.

No matter how dismal my situation seemed, creating something brought my heart back to life.
Today, i can fortify myself the same way. No matter how I’m feeling physically or emotionally, the fact that i get to do what i love every day gives me hope. i can ground myself in how marvelous and wonderful this blessing is. The engine inside of me that needs to create so much, that finds such joy in it, gets to run full speed every single waking hour.

insomniaWhile it doesn’t get rid of the physical issues, it makes me ignore them or work around them or just beat them into submission.  Art helps, even when it is not effervescent.

If you were to tell me that i would die tomorrow, that i had just few hours to do whatever i wanted, i think i would keep my life just the way that it is. i would call a few friends to say goodbye, i would cuddle my animals, and then i would start writing poems or painting or sculpting…

And that is the best gift that being sick and miserable gave me.

A poem about forgiveness and gratitude

thinking of youMy heart wants to tell him
how delightful this is,
now that i have 
waded
through the howling grief
and walked for a long spell
 in solitude.
My ability to get by 
on my own
continues to shock and amaze.

i would never have known
how resilient i am,
how deeply i could anchor myself
in hope and faith,
how much i am willing
to sacrifice for my dreams,
if he had not thrown me away.

My longing for contact
comes from a grateful place:
he is forgiven.
Honestly, he was a long time ago,
but now my contentment
has put meat on absolution’s bones.
My anger has spent itself utterly;
his betrayal still baffles me,
but preoccupies my mind
much less frequently.

Most of all,
i have come to realize
that his reposession of love
and the things he did and said,
do not define me.
Nor do any one else’s insults
or thundering judgments.
They are not the truth of me,
for in the desert,
i have blossomed and grown.

i still love him,
in a detached, light way,
but i am so grateful
to be free,
whole,
and me.

A Little Forward

light to darkness coverThe forward to my new poetry collection, “light to darkness and back again.”  Each poem is paired with one of my pieces of artwork.  Available soon for kindle – just go to amazon.com.

—A Little Forward—

The poetry found within this collection holds the same relationship to life as a still does to a movie.  It is a polaroid of a moment, but not the absolute wholeness of the ever-changing story.  Even when it has a beginning, middle, and end, it remains a singularity – one spark on a continuum.

Perhaps, if the poet was very lucky, that instant contained a profound truth, something universal or some depth that another soul can cling to, or simply an observation that changed the writer’s relationship with the universe and the self. The lines may contain humor or celebration or mantra or reassurance, or they may give voice to the darkest fears and most troubling sorrows within the spirit’s journey.  No matter what one poem says, though, all is well, because the next snapshot may contain unbridled joy or love or hope that swells the heart to bursting.

If the entire experience of being human stretches out like an endless ocean, then poetry sifts for the richest drops.

Day of movement

blue heron potteryToday was the opposite of the quiet day i wrote about earlier.  From the moment i got to the studio at about 9:30 am until i left at 10 pm, i was moving.  For two hours, with the help of another artist, the bulk of the downstairs got straightened up.

By noon, one of the owners of Blue Heron, a gallery that sells my work, came by to pick up more pieces.  Some of the ones she chose are to the right, bowls and chip and dips – some of the prettiest pieces that i’ve made.

The first book of poetry is finished.  i went over it again today checking for typos. After i put in the changes for that work, i began to edit a few chapters of a novel i’ve been writing.  For good measure, i wrote four new poems, that will some day be incorporated into another collection at some point.  All but one.  That one was just a whine.IMG_0753

About three, i started throwing.  By the time i left the studio, i had transformed 25 pounds of clay into pumpkins and pumpkin-themed dishes. However, i only had the strength to do about half at a time.  By five i took a break for dinner.

For a couple of hours afterward, i worked on one of my paintings, one that has been hovering about in my mind and the studio for probably six months.  During the last meditation group, the painting kept rising up in my mind. Each time i have begun it before, i managed to get partway through before something changed and the focus of the painting fell apart.  Today she became a river-woman, poem incorporated into her.  In a few days, i’ll go back to it and finish out the lines and forms.

Then, back to the throwing.  i had the second half of the pottery to finish. And now, at 11 pm, i’m blogging.

This is how i work best: bouncing from task to task until i start to get sore or distracted or just get sparked for something else.  These days leave me weary in a good way.  i want to get to sleep so i can wake up – instead of being concerned with my dreams, i am enthusiastic for morning.

(Truth in blogging: this was written last Sunday, but got bumped by other blogs until today)

Doing good

When i started my business, one of the primary goals i had was to do good whenever i could.  i teach, and i try as hard as i can to help and promote other artists, but i run into emptybowls5some difficulties when thinking about the world at emptybowls9large.  i read the news, interact with my community and care deeply; a staggering number of groups can use assistance with their work.   But actually helping can be hard when you’re an artist emptybowls2–  we are not known for having emptybowls7an abundance of cash, or time, or even sunny, shining dispositions for volunteering that we can throw at causes we want to support. Well, i say we, but i’m really talking about myself.

So, what i have is my art.  i can give it away or sell it at cost for other groups to emptybowls11use.  The latter is what’s emptybowls1happening on Friday.  There will be a Soup and Bread Supper at the Sandy Point Community Hall (not the one in Australia, if you look it up on facebook, the one in Stockton Springs, Maine) and i’ve handed emptybowls3over 82 bowls.  emptybowls12

They will be sold for $12, with half going to the Searsport Food Cupboard. To be clear, you don’t have to buy a bowl to attend the event – the bread and soup is a suggested donation of $6.  Still, for another $12, you get one of the bowls in the pictures with this post, which makes it a steal.  They usually go for $30 in my showroom or in the galleries with which i work.

emptybowls14  This has been too hard of a year to do a straight donation – which kills me slightly, because in 2011 i gave 138 bowls to a similar event without any compensation – but if all the bowls sell,  a minimum of $492 will go to the food cupboard.  The remainder goes to pay for the clay and glaze that i used.  All the firings and my time are donated.  Also, all the bowls are – like the rest of my pottery – food safe, microwave safe, and dishwasher safe.emptybowls13

i tend to dream big, so i often have to remind myself: giving doesn’t have to be on a huge scale or martyr the artist. It can be through the skilled use of creativity and effort.

This is the time when i feel the need to be of help most.  Life gets harder in the winter, and the chill in the air reminds me of how vulnerable we all are.  Very emptybowls10few people i know are in a position of safety – one illness, one injury, a lost job and too many will be needing help themselves.emptybowls6

So, if you are local and see bowls in these pictures you might like – or even if you just want a meal in community with good, homemaemptybowls4de food –  help the Food Cupboard and come to the event at the Sandy Point Community Hall.  There are two emptybowls8seatings – one at 5 and one at 5:45.  The Community Hall is at 648 US Route 1 in Stockton Springs, ME.  It’s about 4 miles south of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, as you crest the hill, across from the Legion Hall.

i hope to see you there.

Here is their flyer:

flyer for soup and bread supper

poetry paused and restarted

no wordsPoetry is my life-blood.  It drips out of me every day, sometimes in more concentrated efforts than others, but still, it escapes.  For all the other forms of creativity that i embrace, writing – particularly poems, but prose too – is the one i could not live without.  Twice as much time is spent dancing with the written word as it is with images or clay.  As good as my imagination can be, it fails utterly when it tries to imagine a life that is not centered around words.

That said, i think it was also the form of creativity that i took the most for granted.  i feel vaguely ashamed to admit it, but for the longest time, i simply expected these poems to keep pushing themselves out through my fingertips.  My heart beats to their rhythm.  Most mornings, after i finally manage to drag myself out of bed, i create nonsense rhymes for my animals, just to rev up my brain.  As i do the chores of life, words play in my head, waiting for pen to meet paper.i am burning  Their cessation seemed like an impossibility; i was experiencing a glut of poetry.

Too often, i fill composition books full of poems that languish in draft form for weeks or months before i type them in and begin the editing process.  i have hundreds of poems from the 90s that remain handwritten – although i can say that their subject matter had become somewhat repetitive.

For the longest time, i was caught in acute dissonance: i had to write because it kept me sane and made me whole but i assumed that my writing was less vital than the pottery because the latter was an easier sell.  So i wrote obsessively and then neglected the end product.

feline poetryThat changed this spring.  i went through a bad spell physically, beginning with a fall around Christmas that injured my back terribly.  About the time i started hobbling around a bit better and the season started to turn, i began to have difficulty writing.  Honestly, cognitive difficulties of many flavors cropped up, all of which were frustrating but not overly disturbing, except for my trouble writing. After the first couple of weeks during which i found myself staring at blank pages numbly for the first time in my life, it started to fill me with a dread.  One novel stopped dead in its tracks; i lacked the mental nimbleness to carry characters and plot forward.  Even poetry slowed and became more difficult to write.  Most of it became this inarticulate wail of grief and fear.  What would i be without my writing?  When i could drag them out, the words came all turned around, like a breach birth. The poems i wrote then, re-read now, sound good.  But i viscerally remember the effort of bringing them into being.

WebThankfully, the spell passed after couple of months, but it changed things irrevocably.  i could not take poems for granted any more.  Ever single time one word came after another and it made some kind of sense – if it held any amount of grace – i found myself awash in gratitude.  i have a hundred poems that talk about how thankful i am for the stories that come through me, but suddenly the emotion burned with unbelievable intensity.

This spring’s difficulties lead to a summer where poetry stopped being taken for granted.  i have gathered three collections into being.  The first, “light to darkness and back again,” ought to be available on amazon.com by the time this blog goes out.

creativityi have made a conscious choice to throw myself into writing with even more determination and passion than i did before – for this is a gift beyond measure as long as i have it – and to be fearless in releasing my words into the world.  i refuse to let other obligations and cowardice continue to cobble me.

Poetry is my life-blood.  May it drip out of me as long as i am alive.

lonely artist

The reason for these spasms of loneliness has always eluded me. Most of the time i am content with my solitude. Frankly, given the amount of stories and art that fill my hours, i usually don’t feel that alone even when I have not spoken to another human in days. Given how awkward i feel in many social situations, I typically see my solitary time as comfortable and safe.

Every once in awhile, though, i lose myself to aching loneliness. The only way i can describe it would be like a fleeting, focused madness. i start to think about people who treated me badly, those that transgressed horribly, yearning for contact even though i know the well is poisoned. For some perverse reason, i perceive a great distance between my treasured network of friends and myself, which keeps my attention on the lost ones. My mind begins to weave fanciful, ridiculous scenarios about how they have changed and what our conversation might be like. This is where having a good imagination can be inconvenient. No matter how abusive, demeaning or destructive someone is, there always exists a good side too. i think about the music we both liked or how the same book riveted us, or how good touch felt before it turned to pain, and the temptation to reconnect feels nearly irresistible. For a moment, loneliness acts like a delusion: the insults and cruelty can shrink to specks, even though they were the vast majority of the relationship. The tiny shards of goodness shine like fool’s gold.

Out of all the challenges in my life, these visceral fits of need trouble me the most. Every other problem balloons to a crisis because i have no chance for help. The world can seem terribly cold and cruel when i am in this psychological space. The love of my animals does not soothe me since i long for my own kind. And the loneliness makes me feel like such a failure, how can i ever be a worthy companion to these furry blessings anyway? The intensity of my loneliness makes it seem chaotically tangiblepleading antimatter surrounding me. It is so tempting to slide into the belief that i am unloved and nothing about me – even my creations – matters. Art seems irrelevant in a vacuum. No matter how well i live by myself the rest of the time, the compulsion to connect with other people, particularly with someone whom i love (and many of those who have treated me worst still have a huge claim on my heart, even though self protection mandates separation), leads me to the stupidest mistakes.

And i have only found one pathway out of dangerous isolation that does not imperil me further: i throw myself into words or color or form. A thousand poems about loneliness have flown from my pen, countless ugly paintings and drawings cry out in yearning, and i write stories about love to prove to myself it can exist. Through this labor, I survive the storm.

Gallery days

my display at Southwest Harbor's Harbor Artisansi participate in three artist’s cooperatives, two in the real world and one online.  This means, on lovely days like today, i am in a gallery which gives me a wonderful opportunity for me to chat with my customers, see what they like and what leaves them cold.  Also, it allows me to do something that i adore: talking up other artists and showing off their work.  There are some amazing artists here and promoting their creations gives me warm fuzzies.  (See links below.)

At a time when i cannot do huge shows any more, this is a wonderful way to interface with the world at large and my customers in specific.  Not to mention, today i am in Southwest Harbor, which has an abundance of awesome restaurants, and i’ll get an even more delicious food this evening in Bar Harbor.IMG_0730_sm

IMG_0741_smAdd to that how brightly the sun is shining and the day is magnificent!

YAY!

Here is a virtual tour of Harbor Artisans:

IMG_0731 IMG_0735 IMG_0739 IMG_0738 IMG_0737 IMG_0736

IMG_0729_sm(By the way, i am running about four days behind publishing these: this was actually written on IMG_0734_smSeptember 19th.  No racing to Southwest Harbor to see my smiling IMG_0733_smface – just race their IMG_0732_smto see the lovely artwork.)

Other artists at Southwest Harbor with websites, order determined by how quickly i found their business cards:

Lara Max – metal IMG_0744_smbells, jewelery, clothes, paintings and more i’m sure i’m forgetting

Lori Davis – a most excellent photographer

Barbara Fleming – jewelry

Maine Woods Yarn and Fiber

 

overwhelm

a poem about writingi love making art.  However, the rest of this business that i run can turn on me quickly.  Sometimes even progress feels terrifying.

While i am ecstatic that the poetry collection is finally edited, the thought of publishing it can make my bones tremble.  Likewise, making more money than i ever have at a gallery for a four week period fills me with elation – until i realize i have to throw even more to continue making progress at the same pace. For any of this to work in the long run, i have goals i need to meet and no way to guarantee that my work continues selling. Granted the increased sales mean that i have money for clay and glaze, but throwing and glazing can take a lot out of me.

Many people give me wonderful advice, and if you are an artist, i am sure you have heard similar things. Frankly, you have probably been inundated with similar suggestions no matter what type of business you run: leads to follow up on, places to advertise, the kinds of products you should make instead of the ones you do.  Much of what i have been told was wise and wonderful; if i could do it all i would.  Only, it’s not often possible for me to do ten thousand things in one day.  The work load that i create for myself making my art and running the business surrounding it leaves me constantly overextended.  As long as my health holds out, although that for me is always a relative concept, i can manage.  Adding something new and huge can destabilize the whole system. Last year my entire life got shifted by lightening striking a kiln.  Recuperating from that took nearly nine months.a poem about hope

This week has been one for profound back pain.  Standing, much less throwing or painting, has been a challenge.  Walking to bring in the “Pottery and Art Ahead” signs (200 yards or so both North and South of the Pottery, Art and Writing Studio + Showroom entrance) made me want to cry a little.

Episodes like this always add to the sense of panic. Pain on its own can be daunting.  Also, i suspect being a moody artist makes the whole situation a little more intense. It takes a lot of discipline to keep my heart from failing. i have to go through the list of things that have been done rather than obsessing on my endless to-do list. From that perspective, i have had a good week. Book-keeping and advertisements have been finished.  i have managed to fire three kilns, i have glazed a lot of pottery with more to come Friday.  Much poetry has flowed from my pen and i am excited about my novels – newborn, in progress and finished – in a way i wasn’t a few weeks ago when pottery dominated all of my existence.  Perhaps it is the gift of fall: the recognition that i will soon have more time for writing.  Still the things i need to do and the things i want to do loom over me.

As a result, i spent a lot of time today perched on the edge of overwhelm.  i tried to work through it, but no matter what i got done, i didn’t feel like it was enough.  Except, right before i left the studio, i unloaded the kiln and took out these bowls…

blue, black and white bowls… and now everything seems possible again.  It’s amazing what a few bits of good art can do for the soul.

The quiet day

20130916-223511.jpg
Some days i can move mountains, and others it’s all i can do to draw the pen across the paper. The trick is to be thrilled with what i can make on the days that i’m active and not to tear myself down on the days when i am suffering.

Within the past month, i made the set of dishes above. It was Herculean effort, done in a day. They fill me with joy every time I look at them. They are a perfect example of what I can do when I’ve got strength and energy.

Today, i wrote all day because i hurt too badly to do anything else. My muscles trembled with weakness and my back refused to let me stand for very long. Even music felt like too much, so i hid in the upstairs of the studio and released all of my anxiety into words.gratitude flower

The quiet days used to kill me, i felt so useless irredeemable.

Thankfully, i know better now. Without these pauses to heal and dream, i would burnout or get very sick indeed.

With any luck, in a month or two, i’ll find a poem i wrote today and feel the same glorious satisfaction as i do over those dishes.