Control Freak, Cynthia Cusick; [detail] Comfort in Discomfort, Crimson Duvall; All Is Not Lost, Lyndsey Fryman
My co-conspirator, friend and colleague, Crimson Duvall, graduated a few years before me from the EKU program and then went on to receive her MFA from UK. She, Lyndsey Fryman (whom I'll be featuring a bit later) and I collaborate on group shows, selling work and mostly keeping ourselves focused on our careers. We have become a little coven of three, meeting and plotting our next moves, exchanging information and generally, keeping each other on track. One of the big roadblocks to a successful art career, however you choose to measure it, is that without that supportive network that a school atmosphere readily provides, it's very easy to let the whole thing drop by the way side and watch your artistic vision wither on the vine. Classes create discipline and structure and also provide opportunities for intense feedback in critiques. Once you're out, there is this vacuum of external context and you, yourself, have to make up the difference by motivating yourself, critiquing yourself, raising the expectations on yourself. It's hard to make that switch, often because the biggest failing of art schools and art programs is the total lack of practical professional preparation they provide. No information is given about tax issues, how to approach galleries, how to market your work or even the importance of marketing your work. No discussion is held about losing direction and motivation once you graduate. Often, the only viable career option discussed regularly as you work your way through college classes, is not to produce art but to teach art. Get your MFA! There's an opening for an adjunct professor at ________! And so on.
There is certainly nothing wrong with the option of teaching art, in fact, I think in today's culture in the US, more art, and particularly, art appreciation, needs to be taught, not less. However, for every one who goes on to become an art professor, there are those of us, Crimson, Lyndsey, myself, who need to become an artist, to make art, to pursue it as a career choice, to inspire others, simply by doing the work every day, watching us produce, think, execute, fail, and get up again. And let's not box art in by insisting that it must be college educated. There are many, many, many self-taught artists making extraordinary work. Suddenly finding meaning in a piece that initially intrigued and moved you simply because you found out the artist holds an MFA from a university that you think is prestigious means, to me, that you didn't really understand what you felt in the first place. But that's another posting....
As I have a blog, my friend, Crimson launched her blog. I suggest you check it out. Understanding the artist sometimes fleshes out our understanding of the work.
Today was one of those days that started out blue and bright and brilliant. The morning was luscious with smells, the roses, the honeysuckle, the cut grass. When the mornings are humid like today, those juicy odors hang in the air like a heavy blanket and I become drunk on the smell. The phrase "Stop and smell the roses" becomes a mantra then and I try to slow myself down and breathe. I think it's really important to use all the senses and complete the daily picture. Coming from the NYC area, smell is important and inspiring. Unfortunately, in NYC, the smells are not as pleasant on a regular basis as they are in rural Estill County.
This time of the year, with luck, my rose vines at the end of the sidewalk have blooms. Some years I've only gotten one. This year, for whatever reason, I have over 16 blooms that keep opening, one after another. The blooms are, of course, pretty and rich in color but the fragrance! I wish the internet had the capability to capture the intensity of the perfume. So, without fail, as I walk to the studio, I stop and smell my roses and pause, breathing in as deeply as I can, close my eyes. It's so rich, I swear, it seems like you can eat and digest the perfume just by inhaling.
When I think of where inspiration comes from, the obvious, for those of us with sight, is often the things we see, with good reason since sight is a dominant sense. But whenever I stop and smell my roses, I cant help thinking that the overload in my brain from the rose perfume sets my wheels spinning.
I admit I am way too sensitive to the weather and it greatly affects how motivated I am to work. If I feel cold, I don't want to work, I practically have to make myself work. Having said that, today's high of 50° in Lexington set a new record for the lowest high in the month of May. Plus it's been rainy and drizzly all day. It's awful. I have long johns on again. I'm under a blanket. I fired up the kerosene heater in the studio. Copious amounts of tea and coffee were drunk. Nevertheless, I did get out there and wedge, throw and carve.
Currently, I'm working in porcelain, all reclaim that I've acquired over my BFA career. I'm pretty sure it's porcelain. Pretty sure. Anyway, I'm trying not to think about it because I find if I get hung up in "I'm working on porcelain," my work goes to shit. It's like the energy from my hands freaks out and my forms freak out. Because I was so organized and marked all my reclaim buckets with the cone temperature [NOT], I'm firing all my reclaim that is not positively identified to cone 6 in my electric kiln. Some of the clay is only cone 6 and some is ^6-10 but no sense chancing it. I do have some cone 10 clay for some wood fire cups but I'll segregate that. In the mean time, I'm trying out some ideas and shapes to fill my kiln and plenty and plenty of test tiles.
But please, can I just get a little sunshine while I'm working???
Well, the electric was completed and we turned the kiln ON, just to see if it worked. The light lit, the panel buzzed on and off, heat was felt briefly and I shut it off. What I really need to do now is get cones, kiln wash and other essentials to do a test bisque fire. I figure I'd also better get on a boat load of test tiles and items before I commit the teapots and other things I've been working on. So hurrah for that accomplishment!
This little dude was featured in Jennifer Macmillan's, GrayHareArtsCrafts, Etsy Treasury, Coffee and Cream, today. I am grateful to her for the mention. There are some great finds on Etsy (and other hand-made sites). I'm so impressed by the depth of creativity by us regular human beings! And although at the end of this year, no doubt, there will be many gifts appropriate for people that can be store bought, I think I'll be looking in earnest to see if I can't get something hand-made for the people on my Christmas list. I think it's just a little more special that way.
Well, she's getting better...slowly. Thanks to wonderful friends, family and total strangers, I've raised a little less than half of her surgery bill which is fabulous. I hope the longer term pay-off will be increasing sales.
But back to Diva. She's gotten verrrry comfortable being indoors. In fact, I think she's beginning to prefer it. Food is brought to her, she's shuttled on and off the porch, she sleeps at the edge of our bed. How will I be certain that after 8 weeks, she won't be faking an injury just to stay inside? The biggest problem we have now, aside from her weight which is killing my back, is that she pants incessantly in the evening at times. I'm guessing it's either pain from healing or she's hot since she's still got a lot of her winter coat and it's suddenly become summer in Kentucky this week. Sometimes, it's also just needing to go outside. Regardless, it's loud enough to wake the dead. But other than that she's doing well and gets lots of hugs and pats and love in general.
I take her back for a check up in about a week. In the mean time, I must make more pots so this week is filled with the unglamorous task of spreading out wet clay to reclaim and wedge into workable balls of clay for the wheel. At least the kiln is finally hooked up. Now, if I could only figure out how this old model works...
Update on the dog situation. Diva is recovering but my back is killing me. Lifting 70 lbs up and down the porch steps so she can pee is making my lower back unhappy. I know, I know, use your legs, not your back! But trust me, even with the deep knee bend technique, it's still a strain for me.
As for Diva, herself, she's laying low now because last week, only a little over a week since she broke her leg, she over did it and not only jumped off the porch before I could stop her and lift her off, she came running to see me at one point during the day, bounding down the sidewalk, hop, hop, step, hop, hop, step, tail wagging, butt wiggling... it made me wince. And the next day she lay still panting heavily because we went through all the pain killer so stupid dog, stop running and jumping!
In the mean time, I'm making sales on Etsy and will be listing more items in the near future to replace the ones sold. I am humbled and grateful, as always, for the purchases, as they will go a long way towards paying the bill for Diva's surgery. I should also be able to squeeze out some funds for additional investment into the studio. We are working on getting the kiln hooked up this week so testing will begin shortly. Woo! I'll try to get a picture of the limping fool up shortly.