Month: August 2016


I just finished a piece that has been percolating for a while. When I finally began to make it, it appeared in three days. I love projects that take such little manufacturing but mean so much to me personally.

The impetus for this piece was seeing pictures of war torn cities and villages around the world. It doesn’t really matter what century, what country or what religion you choose, the destruction looks remarkably similar.Mankind can build some awesome stuff and then in moments, it can be transformed into a pile of rubble and lost lives.

I am also intrigued by the similar destruction caused by natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes…the instantaneous metamorphosis is mind-blowing. A town that I used to live near and work in recently suffered a flash flood of biblical proportions. Watching the videos of the flood by people trapped on upper floors of the town stunned me into stillness, punctuated by an intermittent Oh. My. God. and Holy S*%t. I then was swamped with sadness for the owners, renters and families that were immediately homeless for an unknown amount of time.

Along with all of these thoughts (and forgive me if this seems like a downer of a post) were the empathic thoughts of knowing what it feels like to have the bottom drop out of your life. To wake up and go to school and by the time you get home, your mother is in the hospital in a coma after having suffered a severe stroke. Or to answer the phone to hear that your best friend died in a bicycle accident. Or to go through a life-changing bout with mental illness. Life has this way of literally crumbling so fast that your head is still spinning days and months later.

So when I began to play with handmade paper, rust and the forming of three-dimensional shapes, the following piece appeared. I call it “When the Bottom Dropped Out”. It is about my feelings of shock and helplessness when either personal or community/world events have changed my life in an instant. The size of it is somewhat misleading in these pictures, the “buildings” are only two to three inches high and the whole thing is 25″ wide. It was made from steel, handmade paper, pages from an art history book, rust and Japanese ink.

on being successful

I have always been attracted to fairytales, magic and metaphor. I relate much better to Jung than Freud, Joseph Campbell is my hero and I prefer to see myself as a greek goddess than a child of one God. I am trying to get over being a product of the 80’s and 90’s psychological mantra that says that the subconscious (and by extension and relation, the conscious) drives all the bad things that happen to you. Self sabotage, unconscious desires of failure and sickness ruled my view on life, even when I was given proof that it was a false supposition. I used it daily to castigate myself, to remind myself that even if I consciously thought I could succeed, there was a part of me that would take care of that and lead me to failure or worse. If something went wrong, I could say that I had subconsciously willed it. In a way it meant I didn’t have to take responsibility for my actions. In a weird way it meant that all negative stuff happened to me because deep down I wanted it to.

I am slowly letting go of this philosophy. I now work harder on my conscious thoughts, my conscious actions and conscious relationships with people. Ironically, this requires much more introspection and identification than I am used to. In order to succeed it is imperative to know what your limitations are and to ask for help when you need it. Not so easy for the stoic person who was taught (by my amazing mother) that showing your vulnerabilities and your weaknesses opens you up to a plethora of possible negative encounters. Hide it, take care of it yourself and you will become stronger. Make it look like you know what you are doing, don’t ask questions, learn by observing…those were my mantras. You can probably see how this led to a series of failures on my part, not to mention huge anxieties and panic attacks when I thought someone would see through my veneer. Now I can see that these thoughts, and not my subconscious, were responsible for my lack of success.

One thing I have learned from this personal transformation is that magic doesn’t work by itself. Magic works with a degree of collusion from the audience. You can only make someone believe you are better, talented, successful if they want to believe it. It is easy to create the smoke and mirrors that can make something look amazing. Ask anyone in theater about that. All you need is the set, the costumes and the lighting to transform a person into a character in a story. But if the audience member is not willing to go along with the magic, they will understand that the set is one sided, the costumes are put together with tape and stitches and the lighting is ephemeral. I grew up in the theater and was trained in how to put on the face of a happy, successful person. But I always knew better.

Now, funnily enough, I can say I am successful. I am able define my abilities, limitations and goals in a different light. I can say that, while my definition of success is much different than the traditional American one, I am successful. I am mastering the ability to create form, emotion and story using steel, fibers and (sometimes) polymer clay. I have found a way to share my talents and my stories with my community in a way that brings me pleasure. Of course I still have my mother’s voice in my head saying “tooting your own horn is vulgar” to which I would respond (if she were still here) “Tooting my own horn is a part of claiming myself as a person, a woman and an artist.”

So here I am, a middle aged woman who is finally coming into her own. It’s been painfully hard work sometimes but surprising, exhilarating and rewarding in the end. I think how different my life could have been if I had known how to stand up for myself, how to admit my lack of knowledge and how to ask for help when I was younger. But those years are over and I am grateful that I am learning these things now. I still have a ways to go, old lessons die a difficult death, but I am still young, I have time to perfect myself.

Besides, I just helped my dad celebrate his 95th birthday. That gives me 40 more years to figure out how the hell to play this game of life. And if this selfie is right, the lesson is that it is more important to be excited about chocolate cake that got put in front of you than it is to smile at the camera…


random thoughts

I have had thoughts floating through my brain this week. Thoughts on everything from my dad to politics to what is going on in the studio. Here’s a sample.

  • My dad turns 95 on the 17th of this month. That is really old. He’s been old ever since I can remember (he was 41 when I was born) but now he’s REALLY old. And he is so excited about his birthday. He is planning a little party for lunch. I will be there with my brother. Some times in the last few years I have grumbled and complained about my dad and having to deal with him. But for this moment, I am grateful that I will have one more fun memory of him.
  • Speaking of my dad, (not to totally take away the good feelings of the previous thought) but a certain presidential candidate reminds me of him a bit. My dad would have made a terrible president.
  • Speaking of a presidential candidate, it may be true that he has a personality disorder. But mental illness is NOT a reason for not being president. Look at Lincoln. I will leave it up to you to determine what the differences are between them.
  • Why do I feel the need to dress up and look my best when I go buy a car today?
  • Making paper is fun, messy and time consuming.
  • Rust and hand made paper…an interesting combination. The jury is still out as to whether I will continue this interesting idea or put it aside for the moment. Stay tuned.
  • Curving a 15 foot 1 1/2″ diameter pipe into a circle requires two people. Thank you husband-o’-mine…
  • Previously mentioned pipe is the start of a new piece. If all goes according to plan (and I don’t expect that it will) there will be a very large bowl on the property in the future.
  • I am feeling really sad about the devastation of a local town here in Maryland due to a flash flood. I spent seven years working and playing in Historic Ellicott City. It breaks my heart to see how many buildings and lives were ruined in the course of a short amount of time. Disasters like this happen everyday but it is different when you know some of the main players.
  • Young, male car salesmen should not tell middle-aged women “You’ll get used to it” when explaining the new safety technology of a car.
  • And finally, I think I will not start autumn squashes indoors next year. This year I will be harvesting pumpkins in August. Guess I will have to buy pumpkins at Halloween. Sigh.IMG_2414