Month: January 2016

release

Here are some comments made this past weekend by my father.

“I think it’s time for me to come back to civilization.”

“I keep thinking I’m in Florida.”

“What town are we in?”

“Who are those people outside?”

“What is my nurse’s name?”

“Where are you living?”

“Where have you been? I’ve been pining for you. Where have you been the past two days?”

“Where are you from?”

“How far away is that?”

“Do you have children? How old are they?”

“Who are those people outside?”

“Who was that man? I know him very well but I can’t remember his name.”

“Have you seen the head woman? What is her name again?”

“I think in my 95th year I’m going to retire.”

 

I think you get the picture. Dad has stepped further along the dementia path. He knew who my sister and I were, but couldn’t really come up with our names or where we were from. His ability to track time and place is gone for the most part. And it seems that life happens in very short spurts for him, then it happens again. And again. And…

It is fascinating what he does remember though. He knew that Saturday was the memorial service for his long time friend, my godfather, Al Sly. And he was thrilled we were there so that we could go together. I am also very glad I was able to sit with him and share a hymnal and prayer book and point out which hymn to sing. As an ex-organist, I was pretty sure he would have no problems singing the hymns. The Lord’s prayer seemed beyond him but it’s possible he couldn’t hear what we were saying.

(I just read an article that said that hearing loss and dementia were linked. Duh. It is harder to be in the world if you can’t hear what is going on. But really, even if he could hear, I think his ability to take in the words, figure out their meaning and come up with a response is mostly beyond him. Although he sometimes can surprise me by coming out with some gem of an answer that shows that, at least at that particular moment, he has grasped exactly what is going on.)

So where does the release come from? It comes from the fact that in some weird way, now that he has progressed so far, I feel absolved of my duty of trying to make him happy, of visiting him, of taking him out to lunch, of playing a game of Scrabble with him. I have done my share of this over the past few years, especially after mom died (which was five years ago this week). I don’t feel the need to check in on him and make sure everything is okay. He has an army of kind, caring people taking care of him, ones whom he recognizes almost more than his children. And I feel for the first time like I can really let go of that part of him that has resided in my brain for my whole life and just focus on ME. Even as I write this I feel the guilt and shame and thoughts of selfishness that over the years have caused me to stop everything in order to help him in some way. I know I am and have been a good daughter but I will always feel like I could have done more…it’s the nature of the beast. So before you start saying that he could still enjoy my visits, I know that. The thing is, I don’t enjoy those visits, and I have done a LOT of things I didn’t enjoy in order to make him (and my mother before she died) happy. Call me ungrateful, but stick a fork in me, I am done.

So what now? Well, I will continue to explore my artistic life. That is the most exciting thing for me. In the past year or so, I have been able to develop, expand, deepen, and redefine my creativity. My plan is to continue this exploration. My experiences with dementia will, no doubt, show up at some point. I have signed up for a trip to Namibia in November, which will bring about a long-time desire to go to Africa. And I plan to spend more time simply being…but that is the start of another blog post. Stay tuned…

I’ll end with one of my favorite photos of the recent 2 1/2 foot snowstorm…Ginger always expresses my sense of tiredness better than I can…

P1110760 (1)
it is too exhausting trying to move around in this snow…but it is easier to get up on the rock!

 

 

 

the past, the present

This past week, the past had to wait for the present. All the pix I downloaded of my polymer clay work were on a computer that was stuck under a piece of plastic while the plasterer repaired our walls. The plaster guy is now gone, and I am typing at the desk in the middle of the room (the painter is due next week, no sense in moving everything more than we need to). So here’s another peek at my pre-welding days.

I always loved pushing the boundaries of polymer clay. It is a relatively new material (developed during WWII I believe) and so many of the things that I did with it were absolutely original. Even then, my interest in basket weaving was apparent, as was my love of color. Polymer clay comes in many vibrant colors and it was always a joy to have the immense range of saturated color at my fingertips. (The polymer clay baskets were all about 10 inches tall.)

This first basket was inspired by Kari Lonning and her bird nest baskets.

polkadotbasket
red and purple

These next three baskets were the beginnings of my conceptual period although I didn’t really know it at the time. With each one I have started a story and encourage the viewer to finish it in their own way.

alltheworld'sastage
All the World’s a Stage
cliffdweller
cliff dweller
starcatcher
Magic

By showing these, I’m hoping you can see the workings of my mind that led me to create these sculptures out of steel and natural fibers 15 years later…

Tree House
red and purple
_1060501
red and purple
Forest Floor
red and purple

flashback

I am in the process of doing some deep cleaning in my office because we are getting plaster repair and painting done in the next couple of weeks. One of the things I am going through is the plethora of CD’s that have been sitting on my desk for years. Last night I looked through one that was a photo backup from 2006. On it I found a bunch of pictures of my polymer clay life. (This was the life that occurred before my welding life when my studio/gallery was called Winter Moon Designs.) I have not posted too many of these pix, simply because I don’t have them hanging out on my computer. So I thought I would start to share them with you and in the process have fun looking at them again myself.

This group of pix is of the small furniture that I would make out of polymer clay. I spent hours in Barnes and Noble poring over contemporary furniture magazines and books. I “borrowed” catalogs from different furniture stores. To me, a chair or sofa is not just an object but a vignette of my life. To this day I have several reading chairs and ottomans around the house, usually draped with lap blankets. I love ending the day with a good book (or two or three). Of course when I made these I didn’t need reading glasses, but now…they are a necessary accessory.

The furniture started with a tin foil armature covered in leftover ground up clay. I would work this clay into the shape I wanted then carefully cover it with the “fabric” trying to keep the air bubbles to a minimum. Books, pillows, mugs, trim and blankets were added then the piece was baked. Wire glasses were added afterwards.

Dimensions are variable but to give you an idea, the longest (green striped) sofa is probably about 7″ long.

How did I get here?

For the record, I am feeling better. The last post seemed to have gotten a couple of people concerned about my welfare…with good reason. However, the end of the holidays began a much needed shift in mental/emotional/spiritual health and I am happy to report that, today at least, I seem to be a fully functioning human being.

I decided to celebrate this renewal by answering THE MOST OFTEN ASKED QUESTION at my open studio last month:

“How did you get into welding sculptures?”

Sometimes I forget how unusual it is for most people to meet a woman who can weld. I have several women friends who are artistic welders, not to mention the fact that there is a great fb page on women welders that regularly posts pictures of young women rockin’ the MIG’s, TIG’s and stick welders. So before I tell my story, let me say that I am not alone by any means…Rosie the Riveter might have just died but there are many generations of women who are carrying on her legacy.

Now…my story. I realized that I have not written about how I got interested in metal fabrication on this blog. At least I don’t think I have. If you have read this before, I give you permission to skip to the end. I also give you points for having a better memory than I do…which is not too difficult, to be sure.

The year was 2003. I had been working with polymer clay (Fimo, Sculpey, Premo) for 13 years and was getting a little burnt out. I had done the retail and wholesale show thing and really wanted to spend more time creating and less time doing production work. I knew I wanted to work in three dimensions but not with clay, which left wood, stone and metal. One day I looked at the continuing studies catalog at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) and saw that they were having a metal fabrication class.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought, perhaps, I would be learning how to bolt things together, rivet a few things…my mind couldn’t handle what the possibilities were. So when I showed up the first day and my teacher lit up the oxy-acetylene torch I was petrified. Shit, I thought, we are working with real fire here.

I didn’t really relax until we started learning how to MIG weld. Once I began to “glue with lightning” I realized that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up. MIG welding (Metal Inert Gas) is one of the easier ways to connect two pieces of metal. Everything you need is contained in one place, you just have to press the trigger. The gas, the steel wire and the electricity all work together to create a welding bead. I was in heaven.

After another month, I found out I was actually pretty good at this welding thing. I graduated from a 6″ X 6″ X 6″ box to a full sized red-tailed hawk during that semester.

"Therapy"
“Therapy”…My first attempt at welding
hawk and planter 002
“Wingspan”…the third metal sculpture I made.

I took the class again the following semester and made “Shash”, the life-sized grizzly bear.

bearandme (1)
The start of “Shash”

By the end of the term I had closed my studio/gallery and found a welding studio to make large-scale sculptures in. That was where the lion and the giraffe were born.

100_0411
Me and what turned out to be “Hungry”
lionheadslide
Lioness and Cub detail

Fourteen years later and I am still in heaven. I love welding, it is such a power trip. It doesn’t seem odd to be a woman doing this, it seems odd that more women aren’t. Here’s my message to all women:

If you have ever thought of taking a welding class…do it. It is not difficult, it is not scary and you will feel so powerful after you have accomplished it. And tell your daughters to learn as well! 

Of course if feeling powerful and accomplished is not your cup of tea…then don’t bother. But (and this is trite but utterly true) if I can do it, you can too. Any questions?