The holidays! The season calls out for festive parties and intimate times to talk to friends. Expectations build. Children dream of packages tucked under trees. As adults, we look forward to visiting with Aunt Mary and Granny Ann. During the year we do not stop long enough for this sort of catching up. Now, in front of a crackly fire we reminisce and look ahead, as well.
For many of us this is the time of year when our thoughts alight on those wonderful folk we find stored in our memories. As I look ahead to the upcoming festivities, my mind also visits with the dear ones who have passed on, but remain lively within my heart.
Walter, baby brother. You died just as we were discovering one another. You were eleven years younger than me. I bossed you around, teased you and chased you out of my life. Then I saw your sweet nature, your gift with music, your devotion to family. And we connected as family. I still her your clear voice in the music around me.
Jim, we survived a toxic family in opposite ways. You found a family elsewhere, your friends’ mothers became your mothers. I retreated to my room, established a gentle family of dolls to guide me beyond the chaos in our home. It took thirty years to get to know you as a confidante and fellow survivor. We talked for hours every Sunday, memories punctuated by puns. I share those puns with others now. I tell the stories to myself.
Patty. I found you through your laugh. You laughed so loud, I heard you blocks away from the dogpark. And your laugh was so infectious, I forgot I knew no one, took a wonderful chance with your friendship. You opened my eyes to the beauties around me. You clicked your camera. I found the words behind your exquisite image. Now I must find those words by myself. But they still belong to both of us.
Helen. We called your house Camp Helen. My doxies and I came down to Camp Verde searching adventure. We found it in dead trees riddled with termite holes behind electrified fences, in water-logged branches beside the nearby Verde River. Your magic was contagious. Now I create my own art, each piece with a spark of Helen in it.
And Judie, you gave me the gift of your spirit. How many times I awoke in the middle of the night in panic, and could call you. Your gentle voice, your strong faith, your deep love guided me beyond my nightmares. We knew you were dying. That last year, we spoke by phone daily. You shared your wisdom. I drank it in, hungrily. Now, alone, your wisdom, your devotion is deep within me, gives me the power to grow and live on my own.
And so, as Christmas approaches, as I make plans to celebrate another series of holidays connected only by memory to these five pillars in my life, I grab the music, the humor, the beauty, the magic and the faith I got from you and step forward, a party alive within me! Merry Christmas. Thank you for the lives you shared.
Tonight we live in darkness
Our planet turns
away from the golden promise
of the sun, moves into shadows
we call winter.
Our trees, bared
of the leaves of summer,
Strident threats loom
in the black of night.
We dread an unknowable
blizzard of hatred,
We huddle in this gloom,
forgetting the brightness
of the faces of our friends.
We stumble into this chill,
pray for the miracle
of light’s return.
We have these candles!
We can light them,
one by one. To stave off our fears
we dance in the glow
of their flickering flames.
Within the darkness of this wintry night,
let me look deep into the sparkle
of your eyes. Together we can find
the promise of light’s return.
Let’s light another candle.
Sing a song of peace.
I am excited to invite you to view my ceramic and desert wood assemblages which will be included in the 33rd annual Made in Clarkdale Show between December 6 through December 9 at the Clark Memorial Clubhouse in Clarkdale. I have included a picture of one of the pieces I will include in my showcase. This is Ohhh!
My art is imbued with whimsy and creativity. Many have told me, as they entered my studio, “Wow! I have never seen anything else like these!” I have been doing my ceramics at the Reitz Ranch in Sycamore Canyon and combined this with the desert woods I have been collecting.
Among the variety of sculptural pieces I have created, I have made 32-piece custom chess sets. With these, I began with the question, if there were to be a chess game played here in the Verde Valley, what would the pieces be? Dead tree stumps, coyotes, shamans and beetles. Kings and queens were definitely father sky and mother Earth! Come see what I created. I will be selling both entire sets and individual pieces (called ChessMates).
Made in Clarkdale is one of the premiere art exhibits in this area. Artists work in media including painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics and jewelry. This is an opportunity to view imaginative art, and to do a bit of gift shopping, as well. I am certain you will enjoy this experience.
Here is the URL to preview the show. https://annual-art-showcase.madeinclarkdale.org/2018-made-in-clarkdale-showcase/artists/
You can find the Clark Memorial Clubhouse in downtown Clarkdale. It is tucked into the building complex housing the library and the police station.
I look forward to seeing you this week in Clarkdale.
I want to contribute blessings for you to use as you gather for your Thanksgiving meals, a grace before eating and a short prayer to end your feast.
May you all have wonderful, memory-filled Thanksgiving celebrations. And thank you for following my blog.
We live in a cornucopia
of God’s creations,
an abundance of beauty,
and sculpted rocks and mountains,
molded by wind, rain, volcanoes;
God’s breath blows across
the valley, and it is good.
We gather today to count blessings,
friends, food, family, dwellings;
and we find divine order
seated at our table.
We take time to stop,
Thank the One
for all that we have received
and to consecrate ourselves
for the bounty yet to come.
And let us say, Amen.
Thanksgiving’s Essence--Birkat Hamazon
many magic fingers
chop dice stir.
we all sit
Thank You God,
amen we say
The kiln opens. About once a week the newly completed glazed pieces are laid out on the table. We artists see the magical transformation that has, or, sometimes in my case, has not, taken place. Some of the my pieces lining the table were worked months ago. I had been eagerly awaiting them for such a long time. Others, the small ones, might have been unformed clay only a week or two before.
From the moment I use the wire to cut off a hunk of clay I form a relationship with it. With smaller pieces I squish smaller shapes between my fingers and form the raven, the chess piece or the Buddha relatively quickly. I put the piece aside, and move on to the next. I wait until the clay dries a bit to put finishing touches on a piece, the final shape of a cheek or lip, the definition of fingers or wing feathers.
Each piece is then set aside to dry. It is wrapped in plastic to prevent it drying too quickly. If the process goes too quickly the piece could crack. I form pretty close relationships with my art, so I feel twinge of sadness when I walk in and discover the fatal condition of the piece. It takes only a few days for small pieces to dry. Bigger ones can take several weeks to go through the process. I need to gradually remove some of the plastic to enable the process.
Next each piece is bisqued, fired in a kiln for the first time. It moves from being extremely fragile “green” to becoming a hard piece of ceramics. Pieces look totally different than they had when they were soft clay, Many of the artists at the ranch throw pots.
The next step is to glaze the piece. This for me, is the scariest. By now I have a relationship with the work, and a vision of how I want it to come out. I select a glaze, and hope it will magically transform what used to be a lump of clay into a beautiful piece of ceramic art. It often does not work that way for me. I have struggled with the amount of glaze to put into a piece. The glaze gets on too thickly, and it ends up looking like it was dunked unto a creamy frosting. For me, though, I have the opposite problem. A piece I expected to look blue will come out thinly glazed, black and nondescript. It is the process of glazing which will be the most important in determining how the sculpture will look in the end. Poorly glazed, no color. After having put in so much work to get it to this point, I sometimes go away frustrated by what I have.
But, fortunately, this is not the last step in my creating my art. I bring the pieces back to my studio and match them each up with a piece of wood. My art happens when the right piece of wood is attached to the sculpture. This process redeems some of my inability to glaze.
I made a planter with a head on it. When I glazed it, only the head was glazed to its true color. Beneath that some of it was mildly transformed. Most artists would throw this away, calling it a “failure.” For me, however, those pieces can be very exciting. While not what I expected, the final result looks almost stone-like, and when it is attached to a piece of driftwood, it looks almost natural. The blue-green head on a yellow-red clay-body takes on a life of its own.
To find the right piece of wood to finish an object becomes a dating game. I might pull up as many as fifteen different scraps of wood to see which looks best. When the right two pieces are matched, there is a narrative connection between, a story hinted to explain their placement together. “That now looks led a bird on a branch.” “That poor guy now drags a burden behind him!
So, fortunately, seeing the glazed piece for the first time is not an end, in itself, but a step towards its final presentation. This process is my favorite part of the entire creation. And having an entire pile of wood from which to select the proper mate, means sometimes it take three or four pairings and leaving the piece alone for a day or two before I know the process has worked.
Once definite matches are found, I move onto my final step, that of using plumber’s epoxy to connect the wood and ceramic This is a tube of gritty white putty with grittier grey putty inside. I mash the two together until they form a solid grey and begin to feel hot. At that point I connect the wood and clay. I work relatively quickly so it does not harden before the connection is made. I sculpt the putty so it becomes a part of the piece, not just a connective lump. Then I use three or four different latex paints I had purchased at Ace Hardware to cover the gray putty. Like all my art, this process is improving as I move through it over and over.
Spirit of Life,
You swirl among us,
hover over us
and move through us
with the rhythm of our breath.
Your name, formed by our lips,
echoed in the chambers of our hearts
and magnified by our voices;
May the greatness of Your name
be praised forever and ever,
and let us say Amen.
Spirit of Life,
You rustle through grasses,
weave through vines
and toss tree limbs in ecstatic dance
with the exhalation of winds.
Your name, sung by grasses,
whispered among vines
and clapped by branches;
May the beauty of your name
be praised forever and ever,
and let us say Amen.
Spirit of life,
You bring brothers to embrace,
unite communities with single purpose
spread Your tents of Shalom
over Israel and across all lands.
Your name, proclaimed by your peoples,
affirmed across communities,
spoken in Peace across the earth
May the glory of Your name
be praised forever and ever,
and let us say, Amen.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"