Tag: artist


“Where do you get your inspiration from?”

I was asked this question this past week. It is a question I hear pretty often. My answer is usually “What doesn’t inspire me?” A bit snide perhaps. But honest.

The person who asked the question was a teenager and in some ways I feel like I dropped the ball on the answer. There was a lot going on, I had a group from one of the local high schools visiting the sculpture gardens and studio. We were on our way from one place to another and he quietly asked the question while the others were occupied with the kangaroo. It has been a while since I led a group of teens and I had forgotten how shy and quiet they can be with new experiences. If I had it to do over again, I would have talked about it differently. I might have brought the question up later when we were all gathered, and answered it seriously and at length. Because I think that it is the crux of being an artist.

Here’s what I would have answered:

“I am inspired by everything I take in sensorily. Patterns, rhythms, smells, colors, animals, plants, tastes, weather, books, music, textures, life experiences, feelings, sports, politics, psychology, philosophy, religions, interactions, how things work, how things don’t work, theater, film, dreams…okay, you get the picture. I hope. The fact is that when you are an artist, not a day goes by where nothing happens. Every day, something registers in my brain, either consciously or sub-consciously. Some artists like to take photos of these moments, others like to sketch. Journaling is a very effective way of processing these daily vignettes. I like to simply experience them. Because I know that at some point the experience will come out in my artwork. It could be days, weeks or months later. I might not even be aware of it until after it has appeared. But there will be that moment when I think ‘Oh, I know what this piece is about now.’ So my advice to you is to always look, listen, smell, hear and touch, write, draw, photograph…but most of all…live.”


Getting pieces ready for “Rust Redux” at Buickster Hall this week.

The exhibit at the new gallery in Taneytown, MD starts this week.  I will be exhibiting there along with an amazing photographer, Alyssha Eve Csük. You are invited to join us on this Thursday (the 20th) from 5 to 7 for an opening reception. (Address: 107 E. Baltimore St., Taneytown, MD) I am super excited about it, the guys have been bending over backwards to get the space finished and to accommodate us for this show. It promises to be a wild event! For more info, click here or go to Buickster Gallery on Facebook.

I was able to spend an entire day in the studio today, something that has not happened for a while. Spent some time just playing…and in one day I finished this study with masonry nails. I really like the shadows!


Have a wonderful Easter/Passover/whatever and I hope to see you on Thursday!

rocks…or maybe bread.

Yesterday I spent six hours doing three different installations of the paper-cast rocks that I have been making for the past four months (see previous post). The idea was to take something that I have been working on in my studio and find a venue to place it in so that I could see a) what the reaction was and b) how the objects changed when placed within the context of a public space. There was just so much information that I could ascertain stuck in my studio so I ventured forth to the Horowitz Center at the Howard County Community College in Columbia, MD. (Thanks to Becky Bafford and Janelle Broderick for giving me the opportunity to do this.)

I arrived at the college at around 10 a.m. and started emptying the box of rocks soon after. I really had no idea what I was going to make but I immediately had some very interested people checking the whole thing out. It was quickly apparent that the best moments of the day were going to when I put a “rock” into someone’s hand. The surprise was immediate, their eyes telling them that this object should be heavy and their hand telling them that it was lighter than air. Sometime during the day I started to ask people “Which do you believe, your eyes or your hand?”

I had several wonderful conversations and met some really interesting people. The place I had chosen was one of the major throughways from the parking garage to the rest of the college. Howard Community College has an incredibly diverse student population and I was talking to people of all ethnic backgrounds. I was also intrigued by the amount of older students as well. I was not the oldest person in the building by any means.

Here are pix of the three installations that I worked on during the day.

I learned a lot during this process. Most of it was fascinating to me only, but I will share a few things that really intrigued me.

  1. This was less about an installation than about a performance art piece. The finished product was great but my interactions with the public were more important to me as an artist. Especially when I was able to start a deeper, more philosophical conversation.
  2. It is very difficult to create and record at the same time. In the future, I will look into finding someone to visually record the experience. (It also helps to have someone to go get lunch and give me time to eat it.)
  3. This experience was very different than a gallery show or a craft show. It was not about me only, but about my interactions with the surrounding environment. Because I was not looking to sell the piece, I was able to concentrate on talking to people in a more relaxed way.
  4. Some people didn’t see rocks they saw shells or even bread. This last one threw me a bit as I didn’t see that at all. But I went with it anyway. One man’s rock is another’s bread roll. Of course it meant I better understood the gentleman who thought the last installation reminded him of Hansel and Gretel. Mmmmmm…food for thought???
  5. Daylight, time of day, placement of objects is of the utmost importance. I was located in a very well,travelled corridor, although enough out of the way that no one tried to walk on them. The light changed drastically throughout the day which then changed the success of taking pictures. I need to take this into consideration.
  6. It’s better to do this when I am in good gardening shape. I hurt today.

I am sure there will be more of these experiences, I just have to figure out when and where. But with so much else going on, I don’t know when that will be.

Update on the Great Blue Heron…I was featured on the front page of the local rag…there is something to be said for social media…

Click here to read the article and watch the video…

good stuff

Yippeeeeeee!!! The Maryland State Arts Council has approved a grant given to the Carroll County Arts Council (thank you Sandy Oxx!) and the Carroll County Recreation and Parks Department to commission a sculpture from…wait for it…ME!!! I will be spending the next year making a Great Blue Heron to be installed at Piney Run Park, which is literally five miles from my house. I am so honored that all of the above people thought well enough of my work to trust me with this project. If you were looking for a reason to support the NEA, look no further. This is the trickle down effect of the federal office for the arts.

Here is what I included in my part of the grant proposal…


I have to put the heron aside momentarily because I have a fun event happening next week that I have to prepare for. I will be experimenting with an installation of paper cast rocks at the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College. I have made dozens and dozens of these rocks over the past few months. They are super cool. I begin with rust stained paper towels. Each  has been molded around a rock while wet. After drying, the rock is taken out. The resulting form resembles a river rock, but is surprisingly light and fragile feeling.

I am hoping that during my time of installing the project, I will get some good dialogue going with the students, faculty and staff of HCC. The Horowitz Center is the college’s arts center so there is a lot of traffic that flows through each day. At the end of the day, I will pack the rocks back into a box, clean up and go home.

Here are pictures of the rock-making process:

Paper towels are sprayed with vinegar and rubbed in steel dust
An hour later the dust oxidizes and the towels dry
I line them with a clean paper towel for strength then cut each sheet into four sections
Adding water I wrap the sheets around a river rock
I lay the rocks on a grid to air dry
After peeling the paper off the rock, it is added to the ever-growing pile

I think this is going to be soon much fun and I can’t wait to see how it all comes out.

in retrospect…by the numbers

The open studio is over and life has returned to its normal peaceful, ordered state. I spent the day recovering from being super hostess and will resume being an artist tomorrow. For right now, I am content reliving the weekend in all its glory.

As I ponder the weekend, I am struck by how much we as a society are stuck on numbers to qualify our happiness and success. How many home runs did someone get in a season, how many people voted in an election, what score did your child get on the test, what is your IQ. The list is endless as to how we measure ourselves. Endless, but limited. For we don’t always measure the stuff that is really important. How many people dropped popcorn while they cheered for those home runs because they were so excited? How many people were affected by the policies put into place by the elected official? How many times was your child polite to other people? And how many times did you smile today? Perhaps those are the questions we should be finding the answers to.

I am not immune to the numbers game. Throughout my career as an artist, I have avidly counted things. Dollars I made at a craft show, new names on my mailing list, visitors to my gallery, lizards sold…it all added up over the years. But quite honestly, I can’t say that any of it was really important. I continued to make stuff, people continued to buy it and I wasn’t any more or less happy after I had figured out the bottom line. Or if I was, it was fleeting because I always thought the numbers should be higher.

And yet I continue to do it. I carefully count the names on the sign in sheet for the open studio trying to figure out how many people came. But as I do so, I wonder exactly what is the magic number? What is the number that means that the weekend was a success? That I can use to tell other people so that they will be impressed? And then I think maybe I need to come up with some different numbers.

So here they are:

Number of people who smiled when they were here: All of them.

Number of people who thanked me for opening up my property to the public: I lost count.

Number of people I thanked for coming out to see my work during the weekend of solid rain: Everyone I talked to. (At least I tried, if I missed anyone, consider yourself thanked).

Number of people who told me my work was amazing/phenomenal/fill in any number of adjectives: I lost count.

Number of kids who rode the rocking llama: over 30.

Number of adults who rode the rocking llama: Probably around 20 but I don’t know for sure, I think there were some who did it when no one was looking.

Number of chocolate chip cookies eaten: 7 dozen.

Number of people reached by my facebook post of the article in the Carroll County Times: 1,770. (This last number is quite ridiculous. It is my first encounter with the power of social media. And it doesn’t count the people who saw the article in the myriad of other places that it was posted or shared. It also reminds me of the still strong power of the press. The newspaper may be a dinosaur, but don’t count it out, especially in the smaller communities.)

Number of kids who stuck their tongues out at the kangaroo: Only one was caught on film, Others may have as well. I will never tell.

Number of tire ruts in our lawn: doesn’t matter.

Number of happy, successful artists living here: One.

Thank you.




I want

Technology these days is fascinating. New advances every minute, and all marketed to look like it’s the next thing since sliced bread. And yet, in my mind, most of it is based on male fantasies born from sic-fi movies and James Bond. A watch you can use as a phone and will tell you how many steps you’ve walked? A chance to change your reality by wearing a pair of boxy glasses? A car that tells you when to turn, when to stop and how far until the next McDonald’s, all shown in the windshield? (Mind you, I really would like to have the ability to teleport. Having tea with my sister in Seattle and being home by dinnertime sounds quite lovely.)

Some of these things are practical and do make life easier. I love the idea of GPS, my anxieties about getting lost in a strange city have diminished enormously. And, since my eye sight is going, I don’t have to try to read the teeny tiny words on the Rand McNally street map anymore…while I am driving. I also love that I can put things into my calendar on my computer and they magically appear on my phone. So do the books I download. And I can’t do without the ability to find out any information I need simply by pressing a few buttons. Encyclopedia Britannica has nothing on Google. Don’t even talk to me about giving up my digital camera (or phone).

So what is it that I want? I want technological ideas to be selected by 50 + year old women. That’s when you will get super practical ideas on how technology can help with real life. Here are some suggestions.

1 . Envision this: You are sitting in the dentist’s office waiting to be seen. The dentist comes out to the reception area, sees you, smiles and says “Hey Virginia, how are you doing today?” You smile in response and freeze a little bit because for the life of you, you can’t come up with his name. The man who has been intimate with your mouth (so to speak) for 10 years and your brain draws a blank. So you say “I’m well, how are you?” and wonder if he notices that you didn’t call him by name.

What if you were wearing a pair of glasses that flashed his name on the screen in front of your eyes as your dentist walked up to you? Or what if it flashed the word that you all of a sudden can’t remember right in the middle of a sentence during a VIS (very important speech). What if it reminded you of your granddaughter’s boyfriend’s favorite band when you see him? Yup, I thought so. Forget virtual reality, I want virtual memory glasses.

2.  Envision this: you know you are losing your hearing but you don’t want to wear hearing aides. They make you look like you are deaf AND they don’t always help you to hear what you want to because they make everything louder. It’s fine when you are sitting with one person, but when you are in a crowd, then it is super confusing.

What if you had an invisible hearing aide that automatically understood what you wanted to hear and could block out the rest, or at least tone it down? Anyone who has ever been in a recording studio knows that it is possible to do this on recordings. Now we just need to have the technology that does this in real time.

3. Envision this: You are lying in bed all snuggly and warm when you start to feel a tingly feeling. “Shit” you think, “here it comes again”. The next thing you know, you have flung the covers off, thrown your nightgown as far across the room and started fanning yourself. Yup, it’s the dreaded hotflash. Then, a few minutes later, just as you are starting to feel comfortable, the heat dissipates and you are left shivering in the middle of the bed.

What if you had a sensor that knows when you are about to experience this and adjusts the climate control in your house? So, five minutes before a hot flash, the air-conditioning comes on and blows cool air in the room so that when the internal toaster oven turns on your room is nice and cool. Then it knows when to turn off the AC and turn the heat back on so that you son’t have to spend 10 minutes trying to find your nightgown and pulling the covers back on. This is much better than being able to change your climate control when you aren’t even home.

I’m sure I can come up with many more ideas…just give me some time. If you have your own suggestions I’d love to hear them!

From the studio:

In case you were wanting to know what’s happening in the studio, I am almost done with a sculpture, I have figured out what my next animal is (not telling) and I attended an opening reception of the National Juried Show at the Delaplaine in Frederick MD on Saturday. My piece, “BOUND”, was nicely placed for optimal viewing and got some really lovely comments.

Next up on the schedule, the open studio on the 21st and 22nd of May.

Tatay, part one

This is the first in a three part series, a series of snapshots of a man that has been an influence in my life. A magical man, someone I have been honored to call Tatay. In the Philippines, Tatay means grandfather and is a title of honor, of love. I met him when he came to visit, and later live with, my neighbor Fé, his daughter. He was already in his late eighties when he came here.

Snapshot #1

“Come with me to the Howard County Arts Guild meeting on Thursday night.”

I inwardly sighed and bowed to the inevitable. It’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with Tatay, it’s just that I was (am) an art snob. I knew that the Guild was filled with retired people who were happily finding their inner artist. I was in my thirties, and working as an artist/craftsperson full time, reaching for the higher echelons of the craft world.

“Okay, Tatay, come over and I will drive us.”

At the time, Tatay hadn’t quite turned 90. He had come from the Philippines to live with his daughter, my neighbor, a couple of years before. He was still painting with oils, still playing the violin in the “Goldenaires”, a band of retired and aging amateur musicians. He was frustrated by not being able to drive, by being alone all day, by being old in a country that despised the old.

Except he wasn’t old. Not really. All I had to do was look at my parents to see old. And they were 10/15 years younger than he was. Tatay’s inner spirit kept him young. I had a lot to learn from this man.

At the appropriate time, Tatay walked over to my house and we got in my car and drove to the Arts Center. My memory of the meeting is a little fuzzy, I think there was a talk given by one of the members, there may have been a show of works and then it was time to sign up for a membership. Quite frankly, I am not a joiner, I don’t often become a member of organizations.

But Tatay had other plans.

“I will pay for your membership for the year”.

I felt humbled and awkward. I couldn’t say no, it would hurt his feelings. And looking back, I realized that Tatay wanted to reach out to me, to him I was a fellow artist, to him I was family. There was no agenda (beyond the fact that he would have a ride to the meetings, but that’s another story), he was merely doing what he would have done for anyone in his family. And I was honored and embarrassed and I accepted.

I honestly don’t remember the details of the meetings we went to. I got very little out of them. But I watched him with the other artists, it was obvious that I was not the only person who admired him, who fell under his spell. Everyone wanted to say hello to him, and he thrived on the attention.

I don’t think about this time very much, but when I do, I see him walking across the divider between the two houses right on time, happy to see me and happy to be going off to be with his friends. And I know that while my driving him to the monthly meetings was a gift, it was by no means a one way street.


Epilogue to Part One.

A year later, Tatay gave me a Christmas present. This was our house during the snow the previous winter. He had gone out and taken a photo one day and painted this from the photo. Normally, his paintings are bright with saturated colors, the colors of the Philippines. But he toned down his palette a bit in order to capture the “gloaming” of the winter evening.



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.