Saturday, September 29, 2012

Feelings for Fall

Dear Fall,

I don't know what it is about you. How is it that when you roll around I feel that there are new beginnings, possibilities, and opportunities everywhere all the while you are busy quietly putting the world to sleep before winter comes? There is something about your feeling, your scent, your color that has me dreaming of all things domestic and homey. I want to wrap up in sweaters and scarves and make warm things...you are like a hug in that way. You stimulate my senses so wonderfully with your sights, smells, and feelings. You are so complex in your warm colors and cool weather; your lively breezes with swirling leaves and your quiet act of putting nature to sleep. You make such a show of the way you slowly disintegrate into winter. You are a reminder to me to take all things as they come...beauty, aging, loss of beauty, darker days, and lonely chilling temperatures...and accept it, acknowledge its beauty at every stage and let it go. In that way you do prepare us for new beginnings...new possibilities...new opportunities. It's learning to appreciate while simultaneously letting go.

I'm glad you are back.
Love,
Gracie

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pumpkin cake donuts.

If I hadn't gone to Target and happened to see this fancy cake maker on half off clearance...I may never have known that I NEEDED to buy it and make fallish pumpkin cakes. Pretty food is so fun.

Studio days...

Today I got to the studio at 9 am and didn't leave till after 11 pm. I've been pulling a similar schedule most days of the week for the past week. Let me tell you, I'm so worn out! I'm so happy it's Friday! Hurray! I don't typically document my day-to-day at the studio, but I took a few photos today to share and remember here. Last autumn semester...perhaps ever!
Beautiful leaves!
A flying "pigasus" piggy bank for my friend Mandy. She made the unicorn horn for it. It's pretty silly.
We noticed that Sarah and Mandy were definitely coordinating without meaning to today. While in China one day both of my studiomates and I showed up wearing purple...I think when we spend enough time together we all slowly morph into one person. I like the red-orange and grey colors together though.

I am finally catching up to my "prepare for the formal critique" schedule that I imposed upon myself. Now that I'm in serious decorate mode I just can't wait to be done with these pots so I can make something else. I have other ideas that I'm feeling a bit eager to try. I'm mostly eager for this crit to be over so I can take a nice long nap. But once that's over I'm going back into making work mode so I can work on some of these ideas. But I'm hoping these tumblers turn out well. I've never made tumblers and these actually feel nice in my hand while I hold them.

I got an email from a friend today saying "I hope you're not working too hard and are making great pots." Well, I'm definitely feeling a bit ragged, and I really hope all the long days and hard work pay off in the form of great pots. But yeah, lately I feel like all I do is work. Probably because that is all I do. Oh well. I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Decorating.

It sounds funny, but while I like to plan the surface decoration for my pots, the actual decorating is one of my least favorite parts of ceramics. Today I made a bunch of test tiles and glazes tests to start working out my colors for the glazes. I can pull them out of the kiln tomorrow. I have fun colors...like bright yellow and orchid and dove grey.

Platter...with inset underglaze and then silk-screened flowers in slip.
Little flasks and another platter.

I had a meeting with my teacher to make sure I was on track to graduate in May and I am. So unless I mess up terribly I should *finally* have a BFA this spring. He also told me I should apply to some grad schools to see if I get in. He said he thought my work was ready. I almost fell apart crying in his office. I've been so frustrated with my work lately and have felt like quite a failure. Like no matter how hard I work I never get better and will never be a good artist. Art is really rough on your self-esteem. So to have him say something that made me feel like I'm making progress was relieving, but also just enough to push me over the edge. Let us just say that my emotions in the past 6 weeks since school started have been unraveling at quite a rapid rate and I'm beyond ready for a break already. I've said several times in the past week or so "I should have gone to nursing school!" Because now that I'm nearing the end and have to figure out what I'm going to do with myself things are really stressing me out. I'm still grateful I went to art school. I don't want to be a nurse. Would that make more money for me? Yes. Probably. But I wouldn't have had the experience I have had these past 3 years. My whole life would be so different. Also, I really do like working with my hands and I like the way art lets you combine hands-on technique with conceptual ideas.

It's hard to have confidence sometimes. Mine has been shaken. I'm excited to graduate, but I'm stressed out about it too. It's going to be an upheaval. That is never smooth. I'm just trying to remember the verse:
Psalm 37:23-24
"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall for the Lord holds them by the hand."
Things are rough...it's not time to doubt all my decisions or lose faith in God's guiding. I sort of begged Him for art school...and He was gracious enough to give it to me. And He has blessed me throughout it. So now I have to trust that He will do what He wants with it as I graduate and go on to the next thing.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy New Year...

It's September 23, 2012! A whole year has passed since September 23, 2011. What significance does this date hold? None for me really, except that the only difference between January 1st and any other day of the year is that January 1st is the one we Americans acknowledge as the beginning of a new year. But when the world was made it's not like we were operating on this calendar so any day marks the beginning of a new time period. A new chance. A reason to celebrate. A reason to make resolutions.

In honor of this new year I am resolving to do...better. To be hopeful. To be positive. To learn to say "no" when I need to. This life is weighing me down so much lately, but I was reminded in church today that Christ said, "my burden is easy, my yoke is light." A few years ago another friend said that Christ doesn't empty us; He fills us up. I'm going to try to focus more on the positive things in my life right now and look hopefully toward the future.

So Happy New Year, everyone.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book lust...

My studio mate brought this AMAZING book back from the library this week. I'm in love. Gorgeous photos, beautiful work from artists and artisans all over the globe. Truly an inspiring book and one I plan to add to my collection of books someday soon!

Happy Autumn Day!

In honor of the first day of fall I drank my first pumpkin spice latte and wore tights for the first time this season! And then spent a lot of my day at the studio trying to work on some projects.

I kind of have to laugh a bit at my dusty shoes and tights. Oh ceramics. You're never fully dressed without some clay dust.

Rituals vs. Ceremonies

This year I don't have class on Fridays! Yay! And for three weeks in a row I have not had to work on Friday either! Yay!

So I've been trying to make it a point to savor Friday mornings. It's my one day to sleep in. Or to get up early and go off doing whatever I need to do. It is also a major catch-up day for housework, homework, etc, but I have been trying to treat myself nicely on Fridays. I think that it is okay to do something nice for myself once a week. Last week I went to a bookstore and got a coffee.

In light of this new practice of taking time off and doing something by myself just for me, I have been thinking about the difference in daily ritual and in ceremony. Most people start their day off with a cup of coffee or tea...it is a ritual. However, slowing down and going out for a coffee is more of a ceremony. It's special. Just a little bit more than what you would usually do. How many more rituals do we have every day? Waking, eating, working, playing, preparing for sleep, etc. How do we change up the mundane tasks of our life into more of a celebration or a special occasion. Do these rituals become more ceremonious when we experience them with others? For example, family dinner rather than a grab-and-go mean. Or is it more special when you have that moment to sit by yourself for once and enjoy quiet without being pulled in all different directions? I'm sure at different times either one will be more preferable.

I'm trying to work more of these little ceremonies into my life. Whether it is by making it a point to sit down for a meal rather than try to eat and do housework at the same time, or take a few minutes in the afternoons to sit outside and enjoy the *perfect* weather we have been having lately, my goal is to acknowledge some part of my day as being special enough to celebrate and give thanks for.

If possible, I would like for my work to make parts of our lives more of a ceremony than ritual. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The prettiest cookie...

I found this lady's videos through Kristin Kieffer's facebook page. Oh the slip trailing possibilities for ceramics!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Motivation! Wherefore art thou?!


Trying so hard to be excited about this stuff. Senioritus is a real disease, folks. Plus my clay is being finicky and tearing very easily which is making me really sad. Here's to hoping that tomorrow I'll be able to get a lot more done.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Adam gets baptized.

video
My little brother got baptized this Sunday. I tried to send this video to my parents, but it's too big to send through email...or facebook. So since they were unable to be here to witness it themselves I am posting it here for them to see.

In progress photo

Some stenciling and screen printing attempts. Geez I love Martha Stewart products.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Failure to Thrive


I feel like a dead flower.
Shriveled up.
Dark and ugly.
So fragile I just might break if I'm not careful.
Will there ever be someone who can revive me?
Will someone remind me that life is bright and colorful and beautiful?
I feel that the soil I have currently been planted in is dry. Empty.
Someone, please plant me in healthy soil where I can blossom and grow.
The cares of this world are choking me.
I feel starved of light and warmth and love.
I wish so much for care and compassion and to know someone loves me.
Because then I will blossom and grow and bring something to the world around me.
I won't feel that I'm living in vain.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Friend.

Last year I made some pots and fired them and decided I didn't like them. So I threw them away. One day I came downstairs to the studio and one of my friends who was a grad student told me that he had something to show me that he was really excited about. So a little while later he came out from where the kilns are located carrying this pot that he had just taken from a kiln. It was one of the ones I had thrown away. He added color and the gold luster to it and wrote this little note on the bottom. It kind of made my day. I still think the cup was not good, but his positive and encouraging attitude meant a lot. And it made me remember to have fun with this career path. I got into ceramics because I loved it and could not imagine not knowing more about it, not because I was ever great at it. Making art is so personal because you put yourself into it. Even if you don't know what you're making, you put something of yourself into it...your ideas, your skills, and it makes you vulnerable. So although critiques are necessary and helpful (and usually hugely inspiring) sometimes you will have a critique that makes you feel terribly low and like you are a failure. It is tough. It is different from anything else I have studied.

In the past three weeks I got some less-than-encouraging feedback from my professors that made me feel so upset about the quality of work I was making and really insecure in my abilities and career decisions. Even though I have tried really hard it just seems like I am not where I want to be or need to be in this process and the fact that graduation is one academic year away makes me really worried. It shakes my confidence and makes me feel like although I gave so much of myself to my schooling these past years it just was never enough and I feel like I did something wrong. I found this little cup while I was cleaning out my cabinet today and it encouraged me a bit. My work is not garbage. My ideas are not garbage. I don't need to be ashamed of the work I make as long as I am trying. I am learning and I keep making progress. Learning can and will continue once I finish school. I am trying to ease off on the pressure and it is difficult, but little reminders like this help me relax and try to keep enjoying what I do.

I'm thankful for the friend who took time out of his day to be an encouragement. Not only in this situation, but in many. I would say that he taught me more about making art and enjoying what you do than any teacher I have had. Art is hard. It makes you vulnerable. It brings you pretty low. But there is a lot of fun and joy in making work. And you have to own what you make and learn to like it while you are on your way to becoming the artist you want to be. I'm trying to recapture that enthusiasm and passion for playing with clay that I had when I first started. And I want to be the kind of person who helps and encourages others along the way.

So thank you, friend. For your help, advice, encouragement, and example.

John 6:67-69

"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
 
 Sometimes you doubt. Or at least sometimes I do. But when I doubt my faith this verse comes to mind. Where else do I turn? Who else do I go to? If God isn't real and Jesus isn't God, then there is nothing else. I know He has the words of eternal life and I know He is God. So He keeps me. I don't stay by my strength; God keeps me by His. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I love this print...





                                                                      Source: brilliantlights.tumblr.com via Wun Ling on Pinterest

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just some works in progress

Ugh...I am so wiped out. I have a huge bruise on my right arm from where I rubbed my arm while it was cramping. There is now a knot in the bruise. Weird. It's because I've been working on new stuff...like these pots. It's also because I had a 3 month summer break from ceramics and this type of labor so now my body doesn't like 12 hour school days anymore. I need to give myself a pep talk and tell myself to buckle down and prepare for hard labor. I also need to take a tylenol for my super sore muscles and go to bed. :)

Lately I've been thinking about why I love to use handmade items. Why would I prefer a handmade object to a manufactured item? Well, as far as I can tell, I think a few reasons are:
a) they are imperfect, unique and individual...just like us.
b) they have a story. they tell us something about their maker and they tell us something about us. it creates a shared connection between aesthetics and styles and perhaps emotions evoked by an object between makers and consumers. the added idea that another person thoughtfully handcrafted it makes it more personal. it becomes a shared experience and makes us feel like we are part of a community.
c) i personally find that using handmade items turns daily life into more of a ceremony than a routine. using a dish made by a friend or cuddling up with a blanket made by your mom or grandma brings about more memories or daily reflections than streamlined manufactured products. looking around to see items with memories or meanings makes me feel a bit like i'm living more consciously or intentionally.

Those are some reasons I like handmade objects. I realize these are inanimate objects and ultimately they exist to serve a purpose...to be used. As long as they work they are all essentially equal. When I was younger I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder and the idea of traveling in a covered wagon. If I had to put all my belongings in a wagon and pick between handmade quilts and dishes or store bought quilts and dishes then I am almost certain I would pick the handmade objects. Because of the nostalgia, personal connection to the maker, and the feeling of home that they more readily evoke. So while in the end a cup is just a cup, there is still something special about handmade objects that draws many people in and makes them want to share in whatever makes them special.

Does anyone else feel that way or have a certain object (handmade or factory manufactured) that they prefer to any other?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A prayer


Tea and Sympathy

Tea and chocolate...the ultimate comfort food/drink. Even on the stickiest, most humid of days (like today) there is nothing quite like a cup of tea and a quiet moment to chill out. And any or every time of the day is the perfect time for chocolate, in my opinion.