Friday, July 31, 2009

A sequence of events

I'm one of those "everything happens for a reason" types. Not that I believe that life is predetermined... more that new directions can be discovered by events that unfold. Maybe it's part of the positive mindset - that I can see where something came from and where it will lead and I'm always putting a positive spin on things (I acknowledge that some people find these traits to be annoying, but–it is what it is...). I'm happy to say that recently, events have unfolded which have taken me in some very productive directions.

This week I've been busy testing enamels on COPPRclay again. The results have been very good. I've tested the clay in various ways (including enamel) since the end of December. At first it was frustrating because the enamel wasn't behaving as it expected. A few of us have been trying to get consistent results and the more we test, the more we're figuring out. Pam East and I talked today - she's been having lots of success lately too. It's interesting because we're doing some things differently. This is good. We like options. We had lots to share and compare. It's exciting stuff. For those of you who may try enamel on COPPRclay at some point, we hope that our discoveries will save you time and materials–get you right to the fun part.

I might not have gotten so completely caught up in the enamel testing this week if I hadn't visited Thompson Enamel last weekend. And I wouldn't have visited Thompson, where I worked with copper/fired copper clay, and with Woodrow Carpenter, who shared his experienced point of view and the suggestion that became a starting point for my tests, if I hadn't had to drive teens to volunteer at a camp in southern Kentucky. That adventure came about due to a (somewhat last minute) change in transportation plans. I'll admit that initially I saw the 18 hour round trip as a drag, but I wanted to help the cause.
I decided that since I was driving (practically) right past Thompson, I should see if I could stop and play on my way back. It's the old lemonade out of lemons thing. Now, I look back after my testing and see the reason... having to drive those kids was the catalyst for the testing this week that yielded these positive results. If the driving plans hadn't changed, I doubt I would have spent the last 4 days intensively testing enamels and getting these results (they're just tests - not works of art:).

Sometimes it's interesting to think back about twists and turns that have lead us to new places or new discoveries. And when a situation presents as less than positive, try to look for the silver lining. It's usually there... not to minimize the few truly bad situations we may encounter... but remember that sometimes, even in those, we can experience growth.

I'm in the process of organizing and documenting my test results so I can share them. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Showing up and playing...

The other day I was at Trader Joe's, with my bags in hand as I was checking out. The cashier asked if I wanted to enter the drawing to win a gift card - a "reward" for bringing my own bags (as if saving our planet isn't reward enough, but that's another post). I almost said no, because I fill out a ticket every time–and haven't won yet. But then I thought about the saying "you can't win if you don't play," which I often use to encourage people who ask about entering a show or submitting work to a book or event. So I filled out the ticket–again.

This lead me to thinking about entering, submitting, and the whole jury process for artists. It seemed like a natural topic to follow validation. Woody Allen is quoted as saying "80% of success is showing up." I think that goes hand in hand with "you can't win if you don't play." Many people don't even try to submit work because they don't think their work will be accepted , or they fear rejection.But in order to have any chance of being accepted, you have to show up and play.

I've been on both sides of the jury process over the years and know that there are always going to be people whose work is accepted and rejected. Recently I acted as a juror again, and as expected, had to "reject" some of what was entered. There are always more entries that spaces. As a part of a team, I knew there was also a subjective factor. It's human nature to rank things a bit differently, despite certain criteria. With space constraints, the pieces that received the highest overall rankings were ultimately accepted. The others faced rejection.

I always think about those whose works are rejected-especially when they are new to the experience. It's tough to face it the first time. But never let that rejection shut you down. We know that there are many reasons for rejection and it doesn't necessarily mean that the work doesn't have merit. Depending on the show, event, or book there could be any number of reasons for the outcome. For a show, it may have to do with what the jurors envision. Or it may be that you "just missed" the cut, space-wise (too many jewelers applied, for example). Maybe it was the quality of the image submitted. Look at what was accepted and see how your entry might differ.

Once I had the same pieces rejected from a show that had been previously chosen to appear in a book. When I later viewed the show, I understood that what I submitted didn't fit with the jurors vision of the show–which probably became clear as they viewed the entries and how they might relate to one another to create a cohesive show.

If you face rejection, ask some questions. Was this my best work? Was it truly unique? Did I pay attention to detail, craftsmanship, design? Did I photograph the best possible view? Should I have opted for a professional photograph? And for more input, or if you experience repeated rejection, try to get some suggestions from a teacher or professional artist. Know that the more you enter, the easier it gets to separate yourself from that risk of rejection. Of course, acceptance gives us a great sense of validation, but we can learn from rejection. It's part of the balance. And when you're accepted, be thankful, and remember that someone else probably wasn't–it really keeps things in perspective.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Wow. This blog thing has really taken off. I had no inkling of the response it would generate. Thank you! So many wonderful people have commented, emailed or contacted me in some way. It's real validation. Catherine Witherell (whose HappyDayArt! blog is a great read), was so kind... she asked her readers to welcome me and put a great review of my book on her blog... and several of her readers contacted me–all truly appreciated!
"You are awesome!"
We can all use a little validation. There's a wonderful short film on YouTube called "Validation" that really makes me smile (granted, those of you who know me realize it doesn't take much). But this film makes most everyone smile. In case you are not one of the more than two million people who have already seen it, click the link (film title) and watch. Know that you need to relax and enjoy. It's well worth the 16 minutes of your time to watch this entire short... after all, there isn't one person on Earth who couldn't use a smile, and this will make you smile.

Recently, I had an experience that reminded me of this film... We have a UPS store in our neighborhood where I had to drop some packages for pick-up. I hadn't been to this store in a while, but the man who took my packages was just brimming with happiness. He said kind things about me for no reason and with no prompting. It wasn't odd or uncomfortable–just nice... very genuine. He talked about his wife and daughter and was really proud of them. And I didn't mind listening either... I didn't feel like rushing out of there. I got the feeling he must do this all day long. I left with a smile on my face. Maybe he saw this film, maybe not. Truthfully, I suspect he's just like that. But when I need to drop off another package, guess where I'm gonna go... ;-)

Enjoy the film, then go spread some smiles-say something encouraging... "validate" someone... and imagine a world where everyone does this... it's not world peace, but it's a start...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mandalas and meditation

Have you ever been captivated by the symmetry of a flower? Appreciated a Celtic knot or cross design? Wowed by a kaleidoscope image? Looked at the spiral formed by a snail's shell? Seen or walked a labyrinth? If so, you have encountered a Mandala.

Mandalas are many things. The loose translation from Sanskrit is "circle." They are as simple as a flower or as complex as the Milky Way Galaxy. They can be decorative, highly organized, symmetrical patterns formed within a circle and used for focus in meditation. The Mandala is found in both Eastern and Western religious traditions, Native American and secular cultures. The Labyrinth is a kind of Mandala which is used as a tool for prayer, meditation and centering. To find out more about Mandalas, visit the Mandala Project. There are many books about Mandalas available and images online for you to color. Just the process of coloring a Mandala can be mind clearing and meditative, not to mention fun =)

I love to walk the Labyrinth and do it whenever I can. I don't pretend to meditate regularly, but I do it with some frequency. It works for me like an adjustment, a centering. It brings new thoughts and new perspectives. Meditation is good for creative renewal. It relaxes you and allows the creative process to flow. It can have healing effects on the mind and body. Many forms of meditation work, from a silent walk in the woods, to listening to the ocean, to some quiet time focused on a Mandala.

My work has been filled with spirals for as long as I can remember because I am totally captivated by the design. Doodles in my high school notebooks had spiral and labyrinth-like qualities. I find it a strong, positive, life-affirming symbol that appears across many cultures since the dawn of time. Even when I consciously try not to include a spiral, they still seem to appear. And I really like to work inside circles. Do you find symbols or patterns or shapes repeating in your work?

Here we go...

OK. I’m convinced. I set this up 6 months ago and I’m finally putting words on the page. I’m not sure where this will lead, but more and more I am discovering things I’d like to share. Read it often if you like, ignore what you want, comment if you feel inspired… I love to write, but have never thought of myself as a writer. After many years, I am able to call myself an artist, but truthfully, that’s not the whole picture. I think of myself more as a creative-problem-solver sort of person. I believe art-making is not just about the finished product; it's about the journey and the whole creative process. As a part of that, I'm into teaching and learning, the power of positive thinking, and LOTS of other stuff…

What to expect:

“About art” seems pretty straightforward. I hope to share some thoughts, techniques and inspirations about how I make my jewelry and introduce you to the work of others (known and unknown). I hope this can be a resource for students and anyone else who might be interested. The plan is to offer all sorts of interesting tidbits to get our collective creative juices flowing. Over time, we'll explore inspiration, design, resources, ideas, and much more.

As for the “other stuff…” I didn't want to have to stick with only talking about art (I don’t think I know enough to keep that going very long =). I want to have some fun, spread some joy, and go wherever the journey leads…. So I guess it could be anything– we’ll just have to see what materializes.