Join me....

I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Penland Pilgrimage

"She had a point.  A pilgrimage is not about punishment but
about making an intentional decision to look at the world
with fresh awareness and to consider your place in it. 
A pilgrim defines her own pilgrimage; 
maps are guidelines, not prison sentences."

by Jane Christmas

I have been researching pilgrimages lately.  I have the itch to challenge myself in some way that reveals a new aspect of the world I live in.  It's probably a sign of my age or my ceaseless curiosity but the whole idea appeals to me. So imagine my surprise when I recently realized that I had been on a pilgrimage and didn't even recognize it.

 Early morning mist at Penland School of Craft

I enrolled for a week at the Penland School of Craft in western North Carolina with my sister. She is developing a passion for pottery and while I don't "do" clay I thought it would be a fun week together learning new things.  I like to think I truly enjoy the process of exposure as I dabble in something out of my field.  I now know I am my own worst enemy when it comes to "dabbling".

 Penland offers so much: gorgeous scenery, experts and equipment in many fields, 3 meals a day, interesting fellow students, time to immerse yourself in learning...the list goes on to include yoga, late night chats, meditative walks and time to sit.  Somewhere I got hung up on the "subject immersion" part.  Without realizing it I found myself rushing through breakfast to get back to the studio to try, try, try again a technique that was totally foreign to me.  I inadvertently cut short my lunch break because the call of a failed piece was all I could hear.  And I would barely clean up for dinner as I was anxious to produce a credible copy of every demonstration we were privy to watch.

As the week went on I became more and more anxious that neither my quantity nor my quality was "measuring up."  The irony was that no one, except I, was doing any measuring.  The gal across from me took a week to make 3 pieces, the far more experienced potters behind me were crushing as many as they kept and the giggles from my sis as she broke pieces and parts were having no positive affect on my drive.  Head down, in a minute I'll be there I said, only to turn and find myself now alone in a darkened room.  Nose to the grindstone...for what?  In hindsight I have no answer.

Kiln opening is always a big deal: a reason to party and laugh and share the big reveal.  Our night was no exception.  Wine in hand we all prepared for the "really big shoe."

happy hands reach into the treasure trove of cooked pots

always a collective inhale as the lid is raised

 we gather our work and give it a closer look

I laid my treasures out at my work station and the grin slowly slid from my face.  "What in the world?" I wanted to say.  "I spent a week making this crap?"  Only to myself would I admit that 9/10ths of all I had attempted were fit for the garbage pile.  Suddenly I felt very, very tired.  Even the excitement of fellow students and their sincere attempts towards encouragement didn't lift my spirits.  And let me be honest: I was the first to admit that I had no idea what I was doing, just an interest in doing it.  What was I expecting?  And to what end?

I packed up my treasures that had now lost their luster and it was 3 weeks before I had an interest in unpacking them.  With time had come a kinder eye and I could see the things I had learned, the areas that failed and where some fun things had mistakenly happened.  Most did end up in the dumpster but I now called them "practice pieces" not "production pieces."  We had a good laugh.  Still...still...I knew there was more to this; processing takes time, mulling needs distance, analysis means stepping back.

the piece I kept - my pilgrim's token

I realize now that the purpose of my pilgrimage to Penland was not about was about lifting my head up and partaking of all that is around me.  My lesson had very little to do with wet or dry clay slabs and everything to do with slowing down and breathing in the rarefied air that exists in such a place.  I coulda (shoulda, woulda) come home with one decent piece and enjoyed the yoga, taken long walks, lingered over dinner with the writer and visited the studio next door.  This epiphany was mind blowing and, in a funny way, comforting.  It's easy to espouse what we believe but so much harder to live it.  I wanted a quantitative bang for my buck and my time, I came back with a qualitative one.   

I know this doesn't sound much like an ART blog or even a decent PILGRIMAGE story.  But it was both for me.  Have you ever been on a pilgrimage that you didn't recognize as such?  Have you ever had to learn, the hard way, how to really live what you think (or pretend) to believe?  Please tell me I'm not the only one.


Friday, May 13, 2016

A Dog & His Music

I have always wondered how listening
to different kinds of music might affect painting styles?
I'm not sure how you would conduct a conclusive
experiment but I did enjoy "appropriate" tunes while tackling this piece.

I have missed my studio, the smell, the mess, the unfinished paintings all call to me.  I have been on some fantastic adventures for sure, but I also longed for days with paints and canvas.  To ease back into the swing of paint sling I began this 12 x 9 sketch of a musician practicing in his barn.

I liked the sepia tones of this beginning and decided to keep the colors very muted (shocking, I know) for a "quiet feel."  I also began to think that this piece was mostly about the dog, faithful and attentive.  I put on some bluegrass music and settled in to work.

An early viewer mentioned that she liked the lack of facial detail so I kept the guitar picker anonymous for the most part and worked harder on defining the gestures of man and beast.  I have a tendency to get so wrapped up in the flow of painting that I work far longer than I intend to and produce way more detail than is necessary.

"A Dog & His Music"
12 x 9, oil

Done!  The photograph was difficult to take as the glare did not allow me to capture the differing tones of light colors.  But with the barn wood frame I can almost smell the hay on the ground...and I am certain that this sweet hearted canine is about to break out in song.  And bluegrass was definitely appropriate as background music.  

Muting the Colors,

Friday, May 6, 2016

Jane Peiser's Magical World of Clay

while on campus for a week I made it my mission to 
visit her studio; an unforgettable visit...

I hurried through breakfast so I could hike down the road towards Peisner's home and studio.  It was early morning and the sun was just topping the mountains as I rounded the bend towards her drive.
I slowed as I felt I was about to enter another world; partial proof on the tree stumps serving as pedestals for cracked or misfired art lining the walk, preparing visitors for Peisner's fantasy land.

In the quiet of the morning the rabbit hole beckoned,

revealing a visual advertisement/endorsement of area potters and their wares...

The sign on the door made the instructions clear....

Suddenly I was standing all alone in another world: the clay of Jane Peiser, self taught potter for over 45 years, master of the murrini style of building folk art scenes in colored clay, believer in the human spirit, a generous soul and lover of naturekind.

I carefully looked inside her delicate cups to see that the design, true to the murrini technique, went all the way through the clay.

I examined her tall vases and cups enjoying every bit of fantasy folk imagery and each detail of the carefully constructed clay canes.

I marveled at the range of stories and ideas she was able to convey with her designs and the addition of fun details such as flowers, hands, fingers and faces.

And I came across her most casual way of doing business, trusting that her collectors would respect the rules of sale.

 I was blown away.  I was in Jane's world with no one but her fantasy figures on a sunny mountain morning.  Only the birds saw me enter, it was magical and I realized I was holding my breath.

It was hard to select something for my own collection.  Jane is represented now at only one gallery, Ariel Gallery in Asheville, NC.  Time and age are taking their toll.  She is doing more rug hooking now and less clay construction.  I wanted a piece to remember this by.

 I made my selections, wrapped them up, calculated the tax and left a check next to this note:

I had phoned her the day before looking for a specific piece which she was not sure she had.  A ride back to school?  That's the kind of person she is.  I declined to ring as it was early and I cherished the walk back up the hill to process the world I had entered.  Slowly I closed the door and started my way out.

Would I regret this opportunity to meet a clay legend?  Probably yes.  But as much respect as she had for wanting to give me a lift, I too, had respect for her privacy at this early hour.

And besides, it is sort of within her magic world to leave to the imagination the kind of woman she must be. Some questions are better left unanswered.

And so I huffed my way back up the hill listening to the birds and slowly emerging from a land that only art and imagination can build.  I felt like Alice, leaving Wonderland, knowing my view had shifted slightly just for the visit.

Color Fully Yours,

p.s. Please click on the blue colored words above to be lead to more information regarding Peiser, Penland and the work termed murrini.

Friday, April 29, 2016

For the Love of a Pot

I fell in love
with a pot, a particular pot and
it opened all kinds of new doors and led to an experiment or two!

I wandered next door to the pottery studio of Maggie Black and spied this really cool crock.  Love at first sight.  "So you make sauerkraut?" Maggie inquired casually.  "No," I thought, "But it looks like I am about to!"

I made my purchase and inquired of Maggie about recipes and such and left determined to learn the secrets of the kitchen term "fermentation."  Quite simply, before there was refrigeration there were limited ways to preserve crops when the bounty exceeded the table.  Salting was one way to preserve meats, brining or fermenting was a similar process used on vegetables.  See this link and this one for more details.

I enlisted my husband's help, he has an interest in probiotic foods so was willing to find out if this worked.  He finely cut up a cabbage and placed in the largest bowl we had.

We added the correct amount of the proper salt (do some reading please) and began to massage the kraut.  Some folks let it sit a while, others knead it until the liquids began to gather and the cabbage wilts.

We then packed it down in the crock...pack and pack and smush and crush.  We had some left over so we tried the mason jar method (go on line again), the knob you see in the jar is holding down a leaf to keep cabbage submerged.  My beautiful Maggie-made crock came with correct size weights which did a wonderful job of holding it all under the brine.

We put the lid on and began the hard part: waiting!  This is where tales diverge and everyone offers a slightly different version of "how to."  Some prefer the slow-method of using a dark, cool closet (such as our pioneer brethren had to do), others are tried and true warm-environment-shorter time krauters.  Since fermentation is a very scientific method of bacteria development (and mold avoidance) I highly recommend you experience the pleasure and confusion of reading a lot of the really wonderful web sites dealing with the subject.  I found lots of good advice and some yummy recipes that will interest you, as well as ways to temporarily use a jar while you seek your own beautiful crock.

bisque fired crocks in various sizes
Maggie Black Pottery

I am happy to report that our first attempt was a success!  My husband loved the sauerkraut and ate it every day (for breakfast if you can imagine).  Serve it cold or room temp so as not to destroy all those wonderful bacteria you just spent time growing - heat kills them off.  I had added some seeds for flavoring and you can find a wide range of ways to flavor the final product.  I am anxious to try red cabbage with beets as well as a vegetable medley.  I did garlic carrots and they were fabulous.

You just never know what new paths you will travel when you fall in love with a piece of hand crafted art.  Just having this pot was not enough...I truly enjoyed using it and look forward to many more experiments as I learn more about the benefits of fermentation.

Colorfully Exploring,

Friday, April 22, 2016

Painting Snow, then and now.... mother was my biggest fan as I was learning to paint, I am grateful
not only for her support and encouragement but for the fact
that she kept a few of those early pieces around...

So in tribute to those who were our earliest "enablers" I want to share this experiment I did recently.

This piece is dated 1962 and bears my signature.  I am guessing it is painted in "casein" paint as artists were not commonly using acrylic until a few years later.  I was 10 years old and in Ms Barbara Bassett's art class for children.  We painted from postcards, calendars and the National Geographic Magazine.  I was in awe of her and all that she could teach me.  I also had never seen snow before.

My Mamma was tickled with this piece and paid to have it framed.  The "provenance" of the art is written on the back in Mom's handwritting: loaned to Grandmother Manley, 1966-68; and loaned to Grandmother Horton, 1969-70.  

Somehow I could not part with this piece of my childhood and although I did not have the original scene it was painted from I decided to try painting it again.  This time I would start in acrylic and finish in oils.  And this time, 50 years later, I have seen snow...many times!

I decided to stick with the original composition as I had no other guidelines.  And while today I might not choose to paint a huge tree standing in the middle of a field all alone, I guessed there was something that appealed to me about it as a mere gal of ten.

I know as a child, and even today all grown up, I wondered what was in those barns shut tight against the snow.  There is nary a hint (other than a silo) as to what the farmer and his family produced.

I tried an even smaller version of this scene hoping I could loosen up a bit.  But stark red barns against cold white snow stay pretty harsh in contrast even with an artist's eye, especially in 8x10.  

So it's pretty much as it was...late afternoon sun on a cold field of snow, proud red barns under the guardianship of an old leafless tree.  Kinda makes me want a cup of hot chocolate!

Second Verse, Same as the First,

Friday, April 15, 2016

Felting Frenzy Finds Fun

Taking a break from my canvas and oils recently, I ventured with several friends to the Penland studio of Cynthia and Edwina Bringle to dabble in the craft of "felting."  We were to take dyed wool, unspun, referred to as "roving" and craft a hat.  (Edwina Bringle is a widely respected weaver and textile artist and she was game to be our guide.)

Herewith I will give you the short version of a day that included a lot of new techniques, sprinkled with giggles, amazement, laughter and a sense of wonder.  We were decidedly amateurs which made it all the more interesting.

We dove like madwomen into the tubs of gorgeous wool, so soft you could barely feel it beneath your fingers.  Best laid plans went out the door as we were seduced by color.  This was the "roving."

We measured the ounces needed for our hats and were surprised that so much weighed so little.

Edwina demonstrated how to (and how NOT to) separate our wool into small pieces that would be applied to the form of our soon to be soapy rubber ball.  Believe me, this was much harder than it first appears!

The first layer down becomes the inside of the hat, the next layer is filler and the final layer is color and decor...unless, that is, your second layer creeps forward to show...or you add a fourth layer...or you don't alternate the way you apply the several layers.  It looked like a wig shop for a weird mardi gras.

The next techno tool was panty hose!  Really.  Legs removed.  Each "ball" needed three layers of life sucking panty hose applied (with 4 hands) over a delicate wool covered, possibly rolling ball.

My covered hat, note the roving beside it as well as Edwina's "hat" waiting in the wings to be hosed.

Now Edwina demonstrates the brutal method of beating the ball/hat in a tub of soapy bubbles.  We had practiced earlier how the finger pounding marries the fibers together, binds them would be the more accurate term. taking them from fine wool fibers to a thick felted cloth.  Anyway, we all gasped when she said no less than 5 minutes of pounding was required.  And she timed us!

We peeled off the panty hose and immediately began to tug and fold and slap our hat around...really!  We ran it thru hot water and shocked it in cold water.  We sculpted it and then folded again to shorten or lengthen the shape.  Edwina was our expert guide but then again, she kept saying "well, this is your first attempt, just see what happens."

And so we did:

Ta-da!  Were we proud or what?

And yes, we all want another go at that we sorta know what we are doing.  How incredibly satisfying to make a surprise.  I certainly intend to wear mine.  What a fun day in someone else's sandbox.

Playing in Color,