Friday, February 6, 2015

Love and Rejection

An artists view of themselves sometimes tends to rise and fall on the amount of praise or rejection that they get from other people. I've been through my own share of rejection and the pain that comes with it. I have told my husband on more than one occasion that I was going to quit being an artist because I was rejected from a certain show or overheard a stinging remark somewhere about my work.

I've been represented by several galleries but I used to be terrified to approach them for fear that they would not consider my work worthy to hang on their walls. I was cleaning out some files the other day and I came across a number of letters that I had saved from gallery owners in New York and Philadelphia who had rejected my early work. I don't know why I saved them, but I had a whole file called "Correspondence". At the time that I received the letters, I interpreted them as a personal affront, because by rejecting my work, they were rejecting me and all I could see written there was "no".

But I'm glad I saved them, because in reading over them again, I realized that even though they were not able to accept me into their gallery, many of them had taken the time to hand write me a brief note of encouragement, which was a very kind thing for busy people to do and it showed that they cared about artists and knew how we were built.

I've learned since then that if a gallery rejects my work it is not something for me to take personally. More often than not my work is just not a fit for what they already represent in their gallery. It's a business thing.  Belonging to the right gallery is very important.

I know that in reality I have had more praise for my work than rejection but at times the negatives will still ring in my ears and rock my confidence. I have to shove those words away and think of all the wonderful people who appreciate what I do and who spend their hard-earned money to own what I make.

I am truly humbled that there are such people, because without them,  I could not continue to create.

 Several years ago I was a member of a group called the Artist Conference Network which is a coaching community for artists that was one of the best investments I've ever made in myself. I went into it as a very insecure and self deprecating artist who probably would have never taken many of the chances that I have over the years and come out a believer in myself as a creative force in the world.

I think the key for every artist to remember is that every human being is unique and that as a creative person, you bring something very special to the world. Try not to let your perception of the value of what you do rise and fall with the tide of someone else's opinions. There will never be another you in all time to create  the special vision that is all your own.

Thank you to all the lovers and supporters of my work. I cherish you for making it possible for me to do what I do.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My first ladies night out Pottery Party

With the proliferation of social painting nights popping up at wineries and bars all over the place,  I thought that it would be fun to do a ladies night out in the intimacy of my small studio where  a few girls could come to a working artist studio and glaze a piece of pottery made by me on the potters wheel and fired to the bisque stage of 1941 degrees.

I got the studio all set up and marked the premade bowls with a pattern of mine that I thought that the ladies were going to be completing although I had left the option open in my advertising to glaze the bowl with your own design.

To my surprise and delight these ladies came already to go with reference images and ideas for what they wanted to paint on their pottery. There was a slight bit of trepidation as Mary Ellen had not done any art previously. The girls had done some but none had experience with glazing pottery.

They were delightful and easy to work with as I guided them through the steps for drawing onto their pottery and showing them how to work backwards in completing their designs with the Amoco Velvet underglazes, a glaze pen, and wax resist.

 I had allotted three hours for the evening and we ran a little over time but that was okay as one of the girls was very involved in an intricate design on her work.We had a lot of fun chatting while they worked and mom and I sipping a little wine. All in all, it was a great evening.

 The ladies left their bowls for me to coat with a clear glaze and came back to pick them up a week or so later after my next glaze firing.

As you can see, the results were beautiful and I think everyone had a great time. I know I did and I hope to be able to host one at least once a month. My next one will be held on Friday, January 30 from 7-9 pm. You can get more information, register and sign up on my website .

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Poppies, Veterans and Art: Why Together?

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When I was a kid I used to see World War II veterans selling poppies for $1 and I never understood why, until I went to Normandy, France in 2012.  I went on a whirlwind ten-day tour of Paris, Normandy and Brittany with the singer in my husbands band and her student charges. It was definitely the trip of a lifetime and when we visited the Normandy beaches and I saw the thousands of graves- British, Canadian and American, I was moved to tears.

 I hate war like most people, but when I thought about the sacrifice that the men made there and what the world might be like right now if they hadn't, it just took my breath away. Along the way to those beaches and on the road to Mont Saint Michel there were fields upon fields of beautiful poppies.

The wearing of poppies became popular  with this poem written in 1915  by World War I Colonel John McCrae, a surgeon with Canada's First Brigade Artillery.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The poppy has been used as a symbol of remembrance of many wars. It rises from scourged earth, a remembrance of shed blood but also a thing of deep beauty and resilience. It is traditionally worn on Memorial day.

 The poppies invaded my brain ever since that visit and that is why they are showing up in my paintings and on my pottery. They are a happy flower motif, but also the symbol of bravery and sacrifice.
Normandy Cows and Poppies

In honor of those who died in British service, an artist recently installed 888,246  ceramic poppies in the moat around the Tower of London. The installation is called "The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red"  and has raised millions of dollars for British veterans.

Even though the poppy is traditionally worn on Memorial Day, I thought it would be nice to honor those who served with the symbol of the poppy this Veteran's Day.

 I invite you to post a tribute to our American service both people living and dead by posting a poppy of your own to my Facebook page. 

Draw it, paint it, collage it, make it from clay, words, whatever. Let your creativity shine and show some love for the people who serve and have given us so much! (No stock photos please, but if you would like to attach the name of a soldier you would like to honor please do). 

Please post by Veteran's day Nov. 11, 2014
Poppy Yarn Bowl

Here's where to post:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Penland Part 2

My one week course covered a great deal in a short period of time. It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time as I felt that I always wanted to be working, both because I had paid a tidy sum to be there and because I couldn't  wait to try out what I was learning. One of the really cool things that Brian demonstrated for us was how he made what he calls, "butter houses" by throwing a cylinder on the wheel and altering it by flattening, cutting and shaping the sides.

We also learned how to use a shur form tool (which I had never heard of before) to shape and thin a clay body. We learned a nifty way to work with slabs, how to finish a cut piece with a coiled rope of clay, how to make and attach handles with out having to pull them (yeah!!), how to use white slip over a red clay body to draw or paint on it to add interest, make spouts for pitchers, construct complex multifunctional pieces and decorate with terra sigilata.

Our studio assistants were a couple of crazy talented guys named Brooks Oliver and Don Reynolds whom Brian kept referring to as Brooks & Dunn, which became the running joke. These guys are both very accomplished artists who were always willing to help, were full of knowledge and just lots of fun to be with. If you want to get into the heads of two very interesting people, read Don's biography and Brooks's artist statement. 

Brooks Oliver

Don Reynolds

For my next installment: the people I met including artists and their studios around Penland

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Creative Paradise at Penland

The week of August 23 I had the great pleasure of going to Penland School of Crafts in Bakersville, North Carolina. Nestled into the side of a mountain, I approached the school with excitement, zig zagging up the steep road that would lead to my lodging.

I was expecting my digs to be something like camping but was pleasantly surpsied at how nice and clean and modern my double room was. I arrived just in time for dinner on Saturday and stood in line waiting to go through the buffet. My awkward feelings lasted about a nano second. A nice younf guy sporting dreads behind me started a conversation  and as we traded information about our chosen courses of study, I quickly felt at ease. The food at Penland all week was delicious. Every meal was buffet and homemade. They have their own gardens and served up lots and lots of fresh fruits and veggies along with some gourmet type dishes that left me dreading getting on the Weight Watchers scale when I got home since I had lost 37 lbs and just made lifetime membership. (Incredibly, I managed to LOSE.2 lbs when I was afraid that I had probably gained 5!)

The class that I signed up for was on throwing and altering forms on the pottery wheel, creating slump and drop molds and using slip and terra sigillata for surface decoration. I was unsure how I would feel about doing a lot of handbuilding since it hasn't generally been my favorite thing but I was eager to learn new techniques that were easily repeatable in my small studio. Well, I did not come away empty handed. In fact, I left Penland with a wealth of knowledgde and inspiration that I couldn't wait to get home and work on. My instructor Brian R. Jones was a heady and intellectual sort of guy from the west coast. Brian is a skillful professional with high standards for the work he creates, a virtue passed on to his students by way of his lengthy demonstrations.

Before signing up for the class, I googled his name to see his work and see if we were kindred spirits in any kind of way. His work is much, much headier than mine and he  is very intellectual in his approach to form. Where we did meet is in a love of  bright color and crisp white background.

Brian's work

My work

I loved the first excercise that we did with him and that was to drwa the shadow of an object (mine was a teapot) onto some roofing paper and cut it out. From there, we were to take the unknown form and trace it onto a piece of thick styrofoam and cut it out.

Before I knew it, I had created my first drop mold! Many students including myself were somewhat confused by Brians explanation of the process and due to the lack of a "thing" showing what the end product would be, several people were more than overwhelmed. I welcomed the excercise and I thought the lack of information was perhaps by design, orchestrated to get us out of the thinking "now I am going to make an xyz" enabling the process to unfold and letting the shadow and the clay dictate what the "thing" will be. For me it was exciting. I wanted to break out and get back to thinking like an artist and not just a maker of things. Taking it a step further, we laid an extra slab of clay into the drop mold and left a nice size margin around the shape and fired it. My first slump mold was born!

What resulted from the drop mold was a hideous chip and dip. Younger students in the class who could still think art school thoughts created some very interesting scultptural pieces resembling nothing but something born from coils of clay and imagination. In my slump mold, I saw a kitty cat. I decided that's ok, it's who I am…

Abrupt break......In reading over this post, I see that it is awfully long and this just covers my first couple of days at Penland, so in order not to tax your reading time, my dear friends, I think I shall ask you to stay tuned for Part 2 of Creative Paradise at Penland…keep making stuff!