The Holidays celebrated at this time of year find nearly everyone tapping into her/ his inner artist. No matter the tradition, creativity flows:
But I have seen the creative spirit alive many-fold this year in efforts to compensate for our quarantine. The ever-fun, “Ugly-Christmas-Sweater”party to raise funds for a good cause was replaced in one instance with cookies decorated to rival Ugly-Christmas-Sweaters.
Some families have revived the age-old craft of cutting paper snowflakes. It seems there are multiple places to visit online to get you started. Someone suggested this to be an especially good one.
I personally delight in being part of the creative swirl as soon as the Calendar flips to December. Much of what the Studio presents at this time of year is very different from my usual focus and allows my work to add to the treasured traditions for many families.
Which is why I found it so wonderful that Papillion was willing to host Earthsongs’ Winter Market Faire, my annual Open Studio. To be able to actively participate in the season in a safe way was a real stroke of luck for which I continue to be grateful…a new, creative solution!
So while I miss terribly all of the many gatherings, performances, and events that have come to mark this season for us, I invite all to join me in this festive time of heightened creativity to apply that creative spirit in a new way to the season’s celebrations during this very unique ‘time out of time’ year.
In the garden Autumn is a season of removing, of taking away. On the farm, it is a time of harvest; for the gardener, it means a cutting back so flowering plants can consolidate and renew themselves through the colder season. For the farmer, it means gathering up the produce and grain, so they can be used to nourish.
It seems most appropriate then that this month I brought to conclusion my time as a teacher, ending 25+ years in a formal classroom, teaching levels from pre-K through college (So amusing to have been called ‘Professor’) followed by 25+ years giving workshops, teaching in the studio and in varieties of informal spaces and leading arts organizations. My hope is that this new phase will produce both a harvest of renewed creative energy, even as I now give consolidated focus to what my mind and hands do directly with the the clay, to the sculpture I create.
My studio practice is now all.
While I found all that has gone before exciting and so very appealing…I loved engaging with ‘human clay’ as much as the earthy stuff…I do look forward to this new moment with great eagerness.
Earthsongs lives in the midst of a ‘handkerchief garden,’ a small plot, front back and side, that Nino and I tend with great care. So, I understand the season from the gardeners’ point of view: all quiet, just the structure, the ‘good bones’ of the space making themselves known, as well as all the physical labor it takes to bring it to this point of quiet.
With my Dad hailing from a farm in the Heartland, I claim something of the farmer in my genes as well. And so I look at this time as one that will produce a ‘harvest of fruition,’ a time that will allow me to create in new and exciting ways, that will be nourishment to not only myself, but all who will encounter my work.
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.