Someone cleverly remarked that the Pandemic has reduced us to the same lot as Peasants living in the Middle Ages:
“Bake Bread, Avoid the Plague, Revolt Against Tyranny.”
How true! I laughed.
…but it brought me to think about the inherent connection all of us have with all those humans who have gone before. And specifically for me, my connection with all those craftspeople, sculptors, potters, those whose skill adorned public and religious structures, even those who painted murals on the rock walls of the caves of Altamira and Lascaux.
Every day in the studio pushes me deeper into an understanding of what art is and what it is all about. The Dutch artist Frederick Franck describes it this way,
“Art is neither a luxury nor merchandise, and far from a hobby. Art must arise from regions fathoms deeper from the deepest recesses of the human Spirit. It springs from the maker’s core, as if it is to touch the core and the very truth of the one who confronts it.”
So while I toil away at 242, creating functional sculpture hopefully to bring beauty to individual residences, my real effort is to infuse the core of life into each work. And while I have a prominent piece of wall sculpture for sale in Papillon, it is there with the express purpose that someone will recognize something of their own spirit in that work and allow it to resonate in their home.
Kafka tells us, “Art is a nothing that is everything,”
I think most of us have a sense of that. Art distinctly changes the energy of a place. I tell my clients who commission work that they are “my Medici;” they make it possible for me to create. To commission a piece of art is inherently different from simply purchasing any other object, a pair of shoes, a kitchen appliance. Those may well make life more comfortable, easier, but they do not deal with a matter of ‘soul.’
It was a comfort to remember that while many were doing the “bread baking” thing, there were also…even back then…many others who were engaged in creating art, that “nothing” which is everything.
We are created to create, to leave the familiar, to cross thresholds and give birth to bold new ideas. We are invited to the borderlands of the known, to imagine a new earth healed not scorched, rested not exploited, and regenerated by human ingenuity and innovation. —Tom Gunning
The very day last month that claysongs.com went live and introduced the Porta Caeli to the world, quite unexpectedly I received a small paperback publication that included a series of essays identifying this current time/space moment as “Liminal Space,” in other words, a time in-between or a Portal before we enter the next space.
Now, having spent six months focused on creating just that…a Portal…I was rather blown away. All of those writings presented this as a time/space experience of Threshold…life is not what it was before, but we don’t yet know how it’s going to be.
Creating for me is always a spiritual experience, but never has my work linked so thoroughly and serendipitously to a deeply spiritual moment involving the entire planet. The Porta Caeli, as Nino baptized it, had been in my mind for many years, but only now in 2020 was it able to be brought to life and so become an apt symbol for our experience.
Interestingly in Tibet, there is no word for creativity because for the people of that culture, the very fact of being human is to be creative. And so for the maker, the one who creates, and that is all of us, liminal time is essential. It makes us see things differently; forces us to let go of what was, and hence is crucial to the creative process.
This is undeniably a moment of transition…the very thing a Portal proclaims…a space of demarcation. Anxiety and unsettledness permeate everything; all is mystery. Despite that, Liminal space is a place of power where we learn to let go so that we can genuinely embrace and shape what is to come.
In Liminal Time/Space, we sit on the Threshold and be with the mystery.
The Portal becomes an object that both beckons and protects; it invites us to acknowledge that a transition is taking place and calls us to tarry rather than rush through, to accept our vulnerability and not simply re-clothe ourselves in garments that no longer fit.
This is a time that is not a time A place that is not a place ...between the worlds...
including ideas shared by Tom Gunning, Felicia Murrell, Brandan J. Robertson
Beginning anew amidst a pandemic…honoring the past…embracing the
Creating a new digital face for Earthsongs…a new way to present the studio to the world…was an immense endeavor, one that has taken nearly half a year. First, it required me to review and be thoughtful about what I had done through my ceramic art for the past nearly 30 years, and if I include the work created at an earlier studio Canticles in Clay, the forerunner of Earthsongs, then more than 30.
Then to realistically look ahead to what I hope to achieve going
Collaborating with an insightful webmaster, a true ‘master,’ and
one with whom I have partnered for nearly two decades, I was given tools and
guidance to approach that task…while Kyra, of WhyKyra.com…possessed the digital
skills as well as the innate creative ability to use word and image and color
to create the spirit of what the studio is about and to design something that
would clearly say all of that.
Now this moment is one when the entire world, all of living
humanity, our fleshy beings, have been encouraged for over two months, for our
own health and the good of our neighbors, to pause, to ‘hunker down,’ to draw
in, to center, to quiet ourselves. But
today, even as we long for an end to the quarantine, “Claysongs 3.0” leaps into
being, a sign of hope and newness, allowing the fresh public face of the studio
to travel boldly through the ether and around the world, even as I continue to
create in the cloister of Earthsongs,
My hope is that Claysongs becomes a place you visit often,
beautiful and inviting, a digital destination to which you invite friends; a
place you can peruse together with those you are now ‘sheltering.’ Do stay safe…do remain well.
With Junebug behind us, life at the studio settles into the gentler rhythm of the summer months. While quite counter-intuitive, I do not offer any classes or workshops, but I reserve the summer for developing new work for autumn and Holiday sales and as a time for recouping and renewing.
Creative activity necessitates a degree of solitude and quiet interiority, and though visitors are always warmly welcome, the whole property becomes a quiet hub of creativity, with new ideas growing: Michelle developing work from earlier molds, Nino doing an amazing re-design this summer of our kitchen, and I developing designs for new commissions and other projects.
As I worked in that environment, I began to reflect on the effect other local artists continue to have on my art, both through their work and their personalities. Full-time professional artists are an interesting lot, and one of the benefits of living in Metuchen has been to get to know a number of them.
All of these are people with BRIGHT SPIRITS! Yes, they have a care and fierce dedication to their art that often calls them to spend lots of time alone in their studios; and still they delight in the creative process. This summer, I realized how much their viewpoints, their “eyes” have helped inform my own way of looking.
But even more, their attitudes continue to be a source of inspiration. The generosity of these artists…each and every one…continues to be a great encouragement to me.
These are people who by their very life and work create an environment of community. I have found them ever willing to assist, share ideas, help solve technical problems, generally lend a hand. They willingly share equipment and enthusiasm.
Several weeks ago I received a flurry of frantic e-mails from Abby Brooks—the daughter of Amy, my partner in the Metuchen Artisans Alliance—asking me to become the subject of her 5th grade “Interview an Artist” assignment. Her first choice had “stood her up”, and her mom suggested, “maybe Linda could do this on short notice.” Abby, with 12-year old directness and the organized clarity she undoubtedly inherited from her mom, sent me a pretty comprehensive set of questions: clearly, this girl wanted lots of answers!
In addition to questions about more personal things: family, background, education, etc…she wanted to know what I considered my “greatest artistic accomplishment”. Hmmmm. There’s one that would take some considering…and while I’ve done “this” and “that”, to name any one of them a “greatest achievement” seemed more than a bit much.
Then, I thought of the Junebug.
Now, one tenant I do hold about art-making is that in the creation of any notable work of art, the artist taps into something deep and primal and through skill and openness midwifes the creation into being. And that, I believe, was very much the case with Metuchen’s ArtFest. And what sets it apart from nearly every other piece of art I have “helped” to create is the level of collaboration, the amount of creative energy, the number of people in so many art forms who are actively engaged in this “work of art”, from planning to presenting to assisting. It is a work that touches hearts, touches emotions, generates palpable electricity and calls the hundreds, maybe thousands involved over the entire month, not only to interact with those for whom their art is their profession and livelihood, but to touch their own creative center.
Yes, I do rate Junebug as definitely “achievement-worthy”, but only when viewed as collaboration…for while there is always room for the solitary and brilliant artist laboring alone in her studio, I believe today more than ever, we need an artistic vision that includes a collaborative process. One that invites others into the making process, one that helps everyone recognize their own spirit of creativity.
Questions make us think. Abby wanted answers.
I’m really glad I got to be the one to whom she asked the questions….Hope you got a good grade, Abby!
This April marks ten years that the fountain with three little birds dancing in the water have reappeared in front of the ceramic Earthsongs sign. Every October, the fountain is put away for the winter; only the stones remain, and the area takes on winter quiet. But come April, amid the tulips and daffodils, the columbine and periwinkle, the area regains its lively spirit…those little birds reappear. And they have a story…
The sign and the fountain were initially installed in August, 2001. My initial plan was to have a small flat ceramic slab over which the water gently bubbled. Nothing more: very unassuming, very unobtrusive., something that would surprise people only if they looked. Nino, of course, made my plan actually work: installed the electricity, designed the hidden water container, found just the right kind of screening to support the ceramic slab, secured the proper flexible piping.
And when all was done, nobody ever noticed because it was just too modest!
The next year, he set it up so that the water shot up higher…more noticeable, but not very elegant.
Friday, September 24, 2001, I had scheduled a “Meet the Artist” at What’s the Scoop, the new ice cream parlor that just opened the previous summer and allowed me to exhibit my work. Out of the events earlier that month, I decided to include an opportunity for all who visited to engage in clay therapy…fashioning their personal response to 9-11 with clay. Mike Patterson, the owner, further agreed to have the “Fountain of Peace” into which I formed all of those responses in the front of the store. I added a clay base to hold water, and three birds of peace as a cap. It gurgled there as a reminder and a sign of hope for an entire year.
When I finally dismantled it, not wanting to destroy any of the parts, they were stored in our garage. During the Spring clean-out the following year, I non-chalantly placed the birds on my clay slab fountain…SATORI! The birds completed it. They were what was needed all along. They were the perfect addition.
Now, with the water playing over them, the birds continue to bring a spirit of tranquility to a very busy street in a very busy area. Children in strollers beg to visit ‘the little birds’…and older children confide how they “loved to see those birds anytime they drove or walked by since they were little”.
Art creates community. We share images. They shape us. And three hopeful little ceramic birds continue to be a source of bonding for those in Metuchen, NJ.