This month I am marking three years since I moved into my studio in Jerome High School, signed on as an artist. For three months I had tried to contain my burgeoning passion in my garage. I crowded in a card table where I sat for hours each night under a dimming light bulb using my Dremel on the beautiful sticks I had picked up during daily forays onto riverbanks, and up arid hillsides.
I mixed glue on my stove, then carried the warm pot out into the garage before adding shreds of the weekly shopper I had picked up in front of Ace. I used the mixture as a blobby connector between two sticks, or between a rock base and the wood.
During the day I went out to my deck to pursue my new passion. That was little better than the garage. As days lengthened the time I had out there without the glare of intense sun diminished. The light at night out there was even dimmer than in the garage. And, the more I sanded down, prepared my sticks to become art, the more dirt I found everywhere in my house.
I felt invigorated, inspired by this new passion, but realized that if I wished to pursue it, I needed to find a better space in which to work. My artist friends could paint in their living rooms, or fashion jewelry in their bedrooms. Cleaning and shaping sticks was not a household hobby!
I discovered Jerome High School. On the second floor was a three-room studio. I did a bit of math. If I were to forego the cruises I had saved for before I retired, funneled most of my available money into the studio, and its costs, I could afford it. I felt so self-important. I, just like every other tenant, I was an artist! I took my work out to local establishments. Twelve pieces were taken into Firefly, a nearby gift shop and gallery. They were crammed into a lower shelf where their awkward lines jagged together. Nothing sold. I joined a co-op which required hours of work. Nothing sold there either.
I stayed in Jerome for 18 months. The steep stairs up to my space got to me. The community felt less and less friendly. Within a few days I found a studio space/gallery down in Cottonwood, and discovered the Reitz Ranch for ceramics seven miles away. This combination has carried me on ever since.
I had done one adult ed class in sculpture forty years before. I had held onto the dream of ceramic sculpture for the intervening years. For the past eighteen months I have gone through a courtship with clay. Sometimes a piece came together. The clay listened to me, did not sag, nor crack. The glaze miraculously worked. Other times my work was frustrating. Finally, now, I am beginning to understand the steps in clay’s waltz. The glazing, or lack of it, is beginning to enhance my art, not detract from it.
I am confident I have the rest of my life to really know ceramic sculpture. My pieces come out nicely more often than not now. And I am vaguely aware of how much more I can learn.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"