The holidays have gotten pretty simple around here My son is grown and there are no grandkids. We are very modest with our gift giving. Who needs more stuff? I’ve come to value traditions that don’t involve consumerism.
The one thing I have hung onto over many many years is making my own holiday cards. Sometimes they are color copied, some years they are poems I have written. This I got down to the basics with old-fashioned scissors, glue, scraps of paper, stamps, and sequins. I made most of them with a group of my friends (see my previous post) It’s fun just take time out of life and just be crafty.
I’m skipping the holiday letter this year in favor of putting a very short handwritten note with my signature. My card list is relatively small. If I do a few a night all will be out in the mail in a few days to friends and family.
That’s my little gift to others afar from the non-digital world of paper, glue, pen and a bit of love.
It shouldn’t be that difficult. Most people open their eyes, pop out of bed and voila!- on with their day. For me, making the transition from Dreamtime to wakefulness is a sacred ritual. This can sometimes take up to an hour. Even when I was working full-time I always allowed some time for this.
I have a lot of “wild hamsters” that populate my head and if I don’t get them in line my day seems chaotic. First I brew a cup of tea, heat up my “hotties” for my tight back and then meditate for 12 minutes. Once my “spousal equivalent” feeds our two dogs, Bandit (Red Heeler) and Dougan (Golden Retriever) he lifts them up on the bed which is the favorite part of their morning as well. (Nothing like starting the day with four-legged love). Then he crawls back into bed to read the paper.
I spend a few minutes in my planner thinking about my goals for the day or week. On to my journal where I may write anything that’s been lurking in my mind, a poem, or a sketch for some art.
Notice I don’t start the day reading the news. I fail to see the point of starting the day feeling depressed. I can always listen to NPR as I go about my day to stay informed.
Then I am ready to transition from human being to more of a human doing with a foundation of centeredness that I carry with me throughout my day.
My second piece of prose “Bull’s Eye” was published recently by “Montana Mouthful” a literary magazine out of Missoula Montana. This was in their latest“Haunted” issue on page 15. They also were the publisher of my first prose piece “Looking for Abraham” back in their August Secrets issue on page 29. Both were blind submissions so I guess got lucky! In both cases, having a submission deadline got me focused and finished– even though my inner critic was whispering “not good enough.” I’m so glad I followed Natalie Goldberg’s advice “Let others be the judge of your work”.
I’m still working away trying to hone monotype techniques on my gelatin plate. A monoptype is a one -of-a-kind print. I cheifly use stencils and then sometimes stamps to make my images. Then I go back in with colored pencil to highlight. The following two prints were inspired by my visit to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in May. I closed down the place gawking at all the beautiful seal life.
My nightly delight is Lizzy, our little feral cat who pokes her head up at the door begging for food with her pathetic meow. I can finally pet her and pick up her bony little body. Most likely she has feline leukemia. We feed her all she wants but she never gains any weight. I had to paint a picture of her.
While I was at Ghost Ranch two weeks ago (see my post “Escaping to an Artful Landscape”) I took a 5-day long pit firing workshop. Long before we had electric and gas kilns to fire clay, indigenous people including Native Americans, extracted their clay from local deposits and fired their ceramic ware in pits they dug into the earth. Wood, droppings and other combustible materials were placed around the pots and then
covered with shards, moist clay or more wood. The pit was then lit on fire and tended for hours. This is the oldest known method of firing pottery.
Though pit fired ware is generally not as sturdy as those fired at higher temperatures in modern kilns, they can be quite beautiful- especially if the surface is burnished beforehand. Depending on where the pot is in the pit can affect how the surface responds to flame, smoke, and oxygen. The addition of other salts around the pots can also create colorful patterns. Ceramic artists today are modifying the basic techniques and achieving
stunning results. I’ve been attracted to this method since it is so primitive & close to natural processes. Beautiful useful and decorative items can be created using only the four elements (there is water in the clay).
Due to time constraints and high fire danger at the time, we had to modify our firing methods. Instead of digging pits we had to fire in galvanized tubs and had to fire for shorter amounts of time. Our pieces did not achieve the range of colors that can be possible. Still, I understood the process, had fun, and plan to try this behind my home clay studio.
Below are are some of the pieces I made during the workshop.
The 3 sheep were inspired by the black sheep running loose on the ranch. I identify with black sheep!
Three weeks ago I finished a three piece commission that I labored over for over 2 months. They are three 12 X12 acrylic paintings of the two dogs and one cat of my late Father’s wife, my dear “Ma Penny.” I was pleased with them and so was she.
Completion is a good thing. You’ve put in the time and effort and then you find yourself done! After the initial feeling of euphoria and accomplishment, however, there you are. What now? It can all be a bit disorienting. There is a favorite John Lennon saying I have “It’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive.” What next? Where was I with my own personal trajectory?
Luckily I’ve been in this spot all too many times before. Here is my recipe when you wind up in a “grey zone.”
Don’t panic. Be still.
Write in your journal
Do some cleaning/tidying in the studio.
Look for inspiration from the work of others. Pinterest is my favorite source of visual inspiration.
Do some warm-up exercises- no expectations. Scribble, splash, write lists of words that fascinate. Dedicate them to the gallery of the recycle bin or the collage box.
Eventually, the creative fairies take the bait. Like seagulls when you throw a piece of food to one, another will come until you have a flock of them around you.
I finally came up with the following work (after cleaning out my paper files & filling up my garbage can full of warm-ups…….)
I’m a master of avoidance. Once I’m in my studio I”m ready to roll but getting there past all the distractions and excuses can be tricky business. Really, does laundry need to be folded and put away first? The “Thing” that needs to be manifested from your psyche in words, paint, ink, or whatever medium you work in is the priority. Here is a system that works well for me…
Make an appointment for an assigned studio time. The earlier in the day, the better. Your cell phone is not invited.
Enter studio, close door set timer and say to yourself “for one hour I will focus on nothing else but THIS.”
Do not answer the phone, check email, or do anything not essential to your project on your computer- NO EXCEPTIONS!
Work, work, work for one hour and then STOP. Continuing for more than this often leads to overworked material.
Take a break for at least a half an hour and do something mindless like weeding or doing the dishes. Stretch and get outside for a breath of fresh air. This acts as a reset for the creative part of the brain that’s been working hard.
Repeat steps 1-5 if needed
Most of the time I can get an amazing and satisfying amount of work done in a focused 60 minutes and I’m good for the day. If I have more to do, I find that by taking a break I come back to work reenergized with “fresh eyes”. I also use the timer method for unpleasant tasks around the house in 15 minutes increments (ex. cleaning out the fridge- ugh). You can accomplish great things in a small measured amount of time!