Tag Archives: art

artists’ trading cards and letting go of self doubt

When A.’s parents visited in late February, I had one full, glorious free day to myself. Nonni and grandpa boarded the Rail Runner train to Santa Fe with my two boys at 9:30 a.m. and I had till close to 6 p.m. to do whatever I liked (with CM’s school conference smack dab in the middle of it, but no matter). I decided I would write a bit at a coffee shop, throw some pots and get exercise in no particular order.

While at the coffee shop, I researched things to do in Albuquerque and surroundings. And that’s when I stumbled on the Women and Creativity conference. I missed most of the events, but it looked like I could still be involved in the poet’s post trading cards project. It involved me beautifying 10 cards and sending them back to the organizer, and then I would get 10 back in the mail from 10 different artists.

I donated $10 to the cause and signed up. When the blank cards arrived several weeks later, I felt like a fraud. Real visual artists were filling these cards out — my arts are clay and writing. But I pulled out some water colors and painted, and man did it feel good to let go of any self doubts (I had no stake in this) and ego and take a paintbrush to these tiny cards.

IMG_7190Last week, I received the 10 in the mail, and I opened them up like a joyful little kid. (I also had my joyful little 4 year old next to me, who was excited as I was.) The cards are spectacular. And every one is completely different. They’re mostly from New Mexico, but one is from New Jersey, one from California and one from Pennsylvania.

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I haven’t decided what to do with them — I might take my favorite few and frame them if I can find something suitable at Michael’s. But the point isn’t (and wasn’t) the end product. It was the process — it was more fun than I expected. It gave me a bit of perspective to calm down and change gears and relax creatively. And that’s what I need often when I’m throwing pots or writing a story. Perspective.

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a new batch of pottery (and relief that i can throw again)

A few days before I pick up my next batch of pottery, I have that burst of excitement I used to feel as a kid the night before Christmas. I push the feeling away so that it doesn’t consume me, but I really love seeing how the glazed pieces transform into usable dishes. They shrink so much that they’re often unrecognizable — I have to check the bottom for my initials to be sure they’re mine.

Earlier this year, I was feeling out of sorts and frustrated on the wheel because I had a newborn and was getting zero sleep and I felt like I forgot how to throw. I couldn’t make a mug, and I felt so frustrated, I wanted to crush the wet clay and slop it into the recycle bucket. This session, I finally felt better. In general, I feel more like myself: I’m getting (a little more) sleep; I’m editing confidently; I have my body back (mostly). I’m still tired — but it feels good to be (almost) back.

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antsy to create

Two weekends ago, about 30 artists in town — painters, wood-workers, potters — opened their studios to the public. It was to raise money for the local museum, and for the artists to show off their creations. Lois, my pottery teacher, invited three of her students to throw pots in her studio while she sold hers. She opened the floor-to-ceiling garage door so we could see the mountains on a gorgeous October weekend, and we threw pots from 9:30-5 both Saturday and Sunday. We chatted with the crowd, ate taquitos and meatballs and chips, wiped clay all over our pants and helped Lois wrap her sales.

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My butt muscles hurt at the end of the day, but I learned how to throw plates and I honed my skills to throw big bowls and mugs. I threw 16 pieces, which I’ll go back to glaze in the next few weeks. And again, I walked out invigorated, like I do every time I spend my days on the wheel, chatting with wonderful women.

I said to A. that Sunday evening, on our one-year anniversary, while we gazed at the Milky Way from Robbers Roost, about 20 minutes out of town: “I could do it all day every day.” And he said, “Wow, have we found your next profession?”

I confess that I have looked into fellowships, and the closest community kiln where I could fire should I buy a wheel. I’m still not ready to pull the trigger, especially with baby no. 2 arriving in four months. Chances are, we’ll move to a bigger town after living here — with a university where I can take classes. But I do think I’ve found a hobby that I truly love.

Since then — knowing I have to wait a few months till the next class — I have an insatiable urge to create. One thing that mildly tempers it is crocheting. I made my first full-sized blanket and some baby booties, and I’m thinking of what I can do next. I’m antsy — and I’m exploring this crazy feeling and how to satisfy it.

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a homemade easel and a ghost town

I’ve decided to take up painting. Hey, why not? I love new projects and my next pottery class doesn’t start until May. And it would be nice to work in the garage or on the back patio where C. can entertain himself. (Earlier this week he said “cat” 400 times and chased a calico cat around our backyard while I sat with my mom in the shade.)

Painting requires an easel. Or so, A. and I thought, silly us.

So A. made me an easel (one friend in D.C. said in loving jest, “Oh my god, I just barfed in my hands.”)

“What do you want your easel to look like?” A. asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t even figured out where to start. Oil? Acrylic? Watercolor?”

A. didn’t care how I use it — he wanted to make an easel. So off he went to his sketchpad and then into the garage where he assembled it in a few days and painted it white. He’s proud because the joints are made out of oak instead of metal. (What a nerd.)

Two weekends ago, we took a trip to Randsburg, Calif., a living ghost town that boomed during the gold rush in the late 1800s. It’s straight out of a movie set — a main drag with a saloon, a shuttered post office and a general store with excellent milk shakes.

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And among these Old West storefronts is an art gallery. That’s where we met Cheryl McDonald. She was cleaning up her studio filled with photographs and watercolor paintings while her tiny white dog ran around and wagged her tail. We found out Cheryl lives in Ridgecrest and teaches watercolor. And she’s giving free sessions at the Desert Wildflower Festival in mid-April.

Perfect! I thought. Watercolor is cheaper, you do it on paper, and so I can practice and not spend a bundle. I’ll take some lessons, figure out what I need, and then I can start using the easel.

Then I talked with S., who went to art school back in the day. And she said, “Yeah, watercolor is a good medium to start in, but you don’t use an easel for that. The color would run.”

Right. Of course. I love having a new easel, but it may have to sit in the garage or display other art while I figure out how to watercolor first. I’ll be sure to wipe the cobwebs from it regularly till I’m ready to put my mastery on canvas.

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