Would we, as artists in Cottonwood/Clarkdale benefit from a central space in which to form our own art center?
What does an artist need? I have asked myself this over and over. Creativity streaks through me! I go for a few days without squeezing clay between my fingers, and I can feel my anxiety begin to rise. My temper feels shorter. I think the first need for an artist is the materials needed to create!
But what good are those materials if there is no space in which to create? When I first began to make assemblages, before I found any studio space, I tried working in my garage. The light was wrong. It was cold. There was not adequate space to lay out the materials I needed. And then winter gave way to spring. The Arizona sun beat down on my deck by 9 a.m. Clearly, almost as important as the materials, is the space in which to work. And the dirt I created along with the art? Impossible to work out of my house! Certainly another need for an artist is a studio space.
I found a studio. And I became relatively productive. Now I have a glut of beautiful art, and not enough venues where it might sell.Maybe there will never be enough venues. My dear friend, Susan Zalkind warned me of “artist constipation.” I think of that frequently! My cats have helped by becoming quantity controllers, but I would enjoy it more if my pieces might get re-homed. And for that, an artist needs an area in which to display completed creations.
Finally, interaction with other artists is important. We need a space in which to offer classes, times to look at each others’ art, and discuss this, and times to talk about technique. And about when one’s own technique is not enough.
Another problem facing artists, including those in the Cottonwood/Clarkdale area, is affordability. I have found that as an artist I need significant funds to maintain my passion. I cannot rely on sales to get this. In the Verde Valley more artists are strapped for funds than in places like Sedona. Some of us must work with little more than a Social Security check. Any center we set up must be sensitive to this issue.
There is a space in the building where my gallery is located. I would love to see that become a community space. It is large enough to accommodate a number of artists. The location, on 6th street, a half block off 89A is central to our area. I would love to invite you to join me there!
And this space might be just the first location for us in the area. Hidden away are other empty spaces which might be turned into studio/gallery space.
Staff at the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce are enthused by this plan. They offered a space for us to meet. They have said they will help us further. We will meet there, on Cove Parkway, February 15 at 2 p.m. Come to this meeting to be a part of the beginnings of an exciting Clarkdale/Cottonwood artist community!
Today the Reitz Ranch had another opening of the train kiln. Pots glazed in glowing golden shino, the rich greens and blues of Reitz green, and stripes of black and yellow temuku were pulled one after another out of the kiln. It took over ninety minutes to extract all the treasures from the innards of the massive brick kiln. We formed a line to pass each piece, hand to hand, from the kiln to the waiting tables. Proud potters shared their secrets of success: “I used a wash of b-mix slip.” “This was sprayed with trailings” “I poured shino inside, but its raw clay here on the outside.”
I took a couple of friends out with me. I had run into them the day before at the Sedona Library. They asked about my recent activities and I began my praise-song to The Ranch.
“Never heard of it,” they affirmed.
“Word hasn’t gotten out as much here in Sedona, but this it is becoming the best place around for ceramics. In fact, they are opening the wood-burning kiln tomorrow. Come out and see it in action.”
They came. I showed them the studio space, the glaze room, the kilns. “Members here have access 24-7 to this space,” I informed them. We walked past Don Reitz’ huge porch pots, that line the entrance to the building. They were impressed.
Thirty minutes into the kiln opening they came over to where I stood in the middle of the chain of hands pulling pots out of the kiln. “We are so glad to know about this!” they exclaimed. Nodding to the sparse vegetation across the nearby hills, the cliff down the bank to the Verde River, the potters sharing their pride over the pots emerging from the train kiln, they both agreed, “This is a beautiful place!”
I have only been doing ceramic sculpture for fifteen months. For forty years before that I had been affirming, “I will find a place to make ceramic sculpture, a kiln to fire it in.” I had studied faces of passers-by on New York subways, fans sitting in the bleachers at Indiana University basketball games, imagining how I would sculpt hawk-like noses, the map of wrinkles etched into sagging cheeks, moving my fingers across a wad of imaginary clay. For me, Reitz Ranch is the promised land I always knew I’d find.
Here we are at the end of another year! It feels like the more times I go through the years, the faster they tumble by! So, as the final days of this year whoosh past, I will take a moment to reflect on what 2018 brought me.
My major time, this year, has been spent with Adrift and my art. How far I have come in the past year! I have moved way beyond papier mache attaching rocks and wood. Now I create ceramic vessels at Reitz Ranch, and add (or don’t add) the desert woods with a dab or two of plumbers’ epoxy and a few smudges of acrylic paint to blend in the joint.
I started from scratch with ceramics. Over the year I am learning to listen to the clay, not to overtax its capabilities. I still face dry-cracked pieces from time to time, but those are far fewer now. And when they happen, I can evaluate what I tried, what can work, and learn from there.
Another ceramic challenge this year has been glazes. Reitz Ranch uses cone 10 glazes, and by their nature, (and because of the aesthetics of my work as well) bright yellows and purples are out. I have been stuck, more often than not, on the end of not applying enough glaze to my work. The result has been dull black pieces. Recently, though, the goddesses of glaze have been kinder. I am pulling some gorgeous blue, and even red vessels out of the kiln. I know, within the year to come, the challenge of glazes, though real part of every ceramic piece, will lessen!
I am still not making many utilitarian pieces. My mindfulness vessels now hold water, and can be vases. I am making pieces which hopefully, with the help of friends, can become fountains. But a set of dinnerware remains doubtful!
With the challenge of dull colors, and the added non-useful nature of my work, my sales are not yet where I want them. Everyone who sees my work proclaim its beauty! Within days the Sedona Monthly Magazine will list me as their artist of the month. Certainly by the end of 2019, I will have established more of a record of sales.
While my health held up well last year, I was able to turn my potentially worst health crisis into a boon. A mis-diagnosis put me on a medication which caused depression and fatigue. For a month or so I could barely hold a conversation. But, during that time I turned out seven moving pieces in reaction to my own nightmares of abandonment and exploitation. Those pieces have now become the impetus for an art show and silent auction to benefit the Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Hopefully, over those two days, January 12 and 13, many people will see my art, and will donate money to end a horrific nightmare. I was able to move beyond a month or two on a bad med.
My writing has returned! I have to work a bit harder with word retrieval, but in the end the poems I have written have continued to make me proud. I taught a memory-writing class in Camp Verde, and thoroughly enjoyed everyone there, and their memories. I will do a follow-up session there, and do another class at the library in Clarkdale soon.
In 2018 I visited my beautiful grandsons. We enjoyed several field trips, some stories and a lot of play. If only I lived closer to them.
I look out my dining room window as I finish this. Mingus Mountain is covered with a filmy cloud, and beneath that I can see snow. I am so happy to be living in this gorgeous part of the world where something, each day, takes my breath away with its beauty. My mischievous doxies await their morning walk. They bring me daily love and pleasure. My shop-cats guard my studio, ready for every petting hand that enters. And, they patrol all corners of my shelves. They dance a graceful ballet around all my ceramics, never breaking anything. What fun!
To all my friends who choose to celebrate within this season of sharing faith and joy:
May you find beneath your tree and around your table the sustaining power of devotion to one another
And to those of you who choose not to mark this season:
May you celebrate the beauty and quiet within and around you.
To Restore our Dreams
Last summer, inundated by fears, triggered by all the news of mistreated children, the horrendous fate of migrants across the world, and the conflicting views everyone had as to what brought on this international conflagration, I went into a depression. I could not express myself. Words, always my comfort and friend, were unavailable to me. Generally, one who sneaks by on minimal sleep, I needed daily naps, faded and got into bed before seven each evening.
I turned to the one outlet available to me, clay. I went out to Reitz Ranch daily. I stayed, rarely speaking to anyone, for hours, forming faces and heads, primarily of women. I was not intentionally sculpting these images. It felt like my fingers took on a life of their own. The faces of the people I created were contorted by pain. It felt as if my own disbelief of the world around me was transferred into these pieces.
This period lasted for about six weeks. Three or four sculptures crumbled in the drying process, seven survived. My days were a blur as I molded the clay, carved out their contorted features. Not until I was ready to travel East to visit my son in September did I really look at what I created. I, who rarely cry, burst into tears, moved by the images of pain, disbelief and horror I created.
Deeply believing these pieces moved through me, I knew I had to share them with others. It has taken them three or four months to move them through the firing process. Only this week have I completed the final two masks in the set. The first time I laid them all out together, I, again, was moved to tears.
The power of the seemingly senseless pain depicted in these sculptures feels too deep for me to be able lay them out, invite people to see them and provide a bit of music. I needed to find an outlet for their discomfort, a way to at least begin to address the issue. I turned to The Coalition to End Human Trafficking. This chapter, based in Northern Arizona, raises funds to provide education and awareness of human trafficking to a variety of community groups.
My show will be a fund-raiser for the Coalition to End Human Trafficking, scheduled on January 12, from 2 to 5 p.m. In addition to asking for donations for this group, I will give them twenty percent of all proceeds from the sales of my art. We will serve snacks. Dave Rentz will play music.
I do not believe in coincidences. It turns out January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Northern Arizona chapter had already lined up Nick Lembo, a highly regarded speaker, to speak to two religious affiliated groups the following day. We can work together on January 12 and 13 to raise awareness of human trafficking. Maybe this can be an initial step in restoring dreams to more than 100,000 exploited Americans, and too many more around the world.
See you at Adrift (423 S. 5th St. in Cottonwood) on January 12 between 2 and 5. To Restore Our Dreams.
To Restore their Dreams
I cannot keep silent.
Around me I see deception harnessing
the backs of hapless wanderers.
I watch greed overtaking their confusion
and their pain.
My mouth cannot form words,
My tongue lies frozen.
I turn to my fingers,
set them free in a ball of clay.
In dirt I can sculpt this hell,
I display my sorrow
voice my outrage.
My anger speaks from contorted mouths.
My fear emerges from their grief-creased eyes,
My angry fingers touch their anguished
ones, bring them into light
Caught up in this muted vision
I reach out to you.
Can we reshape
this twisted human nightmare,
transform it to a dignity-filled urn?
Let us replace despair,
join hands, together
restore these broken dreams.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"