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Playing In The Mud

My summer ceramic studio looks remarkably like my back patio. It’s a covered patio and I don’t get direct sun until very late in the afternoon. I can spend mornings out there and finish up when it starts to get hot.

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I think I finally got mugs figured out. I’ve been told that after making 100 of anything, one then knows how to make that object. It took 10.5 years and a few hundred mugs, but I think I’ve finally gotten it. I made this mug this morning. Yes, I know it has goobers on it. Those get cleaned off tomorrow. Right now, the mug is still under plastic slowly drying.

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I wanted to make some texture stamps. I used a slab 3/8″ thick. After cutting out the stamp blanks and smoothing off the edges, I put the blanks between two boards to dry. I wanted to put handles on the backs, so I needed to do that before the blanks were completely dry. I got warping. I’m thinking it won’t make a whole lot of difference in how the stamp looks, but I can’t figure out how to make them perfectly flat.

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These are the stamps from the front. I haven’t gotten them completely cleaned up. That happens tomorrow.

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The stamp on the right is a stylized pine tree. I’ve been carving it into mugs and I thought it would look nice stamped into a plate or bowl. I wanted two sizes so that I could have a stamp for smaller pieces. When I was doing preliminary cleaning, I had one of the stamps upside down. I took a good look at it, and I like it upside down.

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I’ve been playing with wonky shapes. This also will get cleaned up tomorrow. I put feet on it, pushed, squeezed, and fiddled with it to make indentations and waves. When I cut out the bottom, I drew a shape with no particular shape in mind and that’s what I used. The piece, like the mug, was coil built.

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This is the piece that started the wonkiness. I fired too hot, there’s a huge crack in the bottom, and the glaze is washed out. But… I like the idea so I’ve made a couple more.

 

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It Is Finished

At least I hope it is finished.

PROPOSAL SUBMISSION CONFIRMATION

Proposal 7668798 has been successfully submitted to NSF

May 25 2016 2:16PM EDT

This proposal has now been assigned the following NSF Proposal Number:
1644697

Please make a note of this number, it is the official NSF proposal number.
Your Signature has been recorded

 

If I made any mistakes, I’ll get an e-mail saying my proposal wasn’t really submitted, I just thought it was. That happened last year and I discovered Fastlane has some of the very best tech support I’ve ever encountered.

This year, I found directions for how to prepare a grant proposal using Fastlane. That baby came in real handy. I also found instructions for preparing the proposal for the Artists & Writers Program. If I win, I get to go to Antarctica on the US government’s dime. This is only fair. The US government has commandeered many of my dimes.

Best of all, the deadline for submission isn’t until 5:00 PM June 1, 2016. I’m ahead of schedule. I don’t know, and won’t know for months, if my proposal is a winner. I do know it’s the best I could do right now. I also know that I’m going to keep applying for this grant until I get it.

I submitted most of the controversial art. I left out Fuck You I’m Still Alive – the female sculpture with the bullet holes. I wasn’t comfortable sending a photo of a piece with such a controversial (read dirty word) name and I wasn’t about to change the name. I was also told, by someone I respect, that the piece wasn’t up to my usual standard of work. The two quilts, I Can’t Fake It Anymore and My Body Doesn’t Define Me are in the portfolio.

I’ve learned more about taking decent photos while preparing this proposal. This will come in handy. I think. Hope.

Now, I can go back to being an artist and writer. I can work on the Antarctica quilt. I’ve been playing with the dyed socks to find the right combination of three socks for the building. I started out thinking of using a light, medium and dark value of one color. Now, I’m considering one light color, one medium of another color and one dark of yet another color. I need to figure out what size I want this quilt. The building will have windows and my dreams will be put on the windows. I need big enough windows for this and the buildings in Antarctica have small windows. Heat loss and stuff like that. Besides, how much cold glass do you want around when it’s dark outside for nearly 6 months?

I can play in the mud. I can work out how I want molds made for ceramic pieces. I can sew clothing for myself. I can stop obsessing.

To celebrate, I will now hang laundry on the line and fix myself some lunch.

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Creativity Multitasks

Unlike me. I’m no better at multitasking than my computer.

I need to learn more about my DSLR. Only one way to do that; take lots and lots and lots of photographs. Fortunately, I’m no longer paying for film and developing.

Lately, I’ve been playing with aperture priority so I can have some control over depth of field. IMG_1585IMG_1583

One of these was with  the largest aperture opening and the other with the smallest. I can’t figure out which is which. I think the top one has the largest aperture opening.

 

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I tried with a flash. So much for that idea.

We get half a zoo’s worth of critters here in the desert and every one of those critters just loves eating plants. That’s why either the garden has to be up in the air or fenced well.

Here’s the rest of the gardens.

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I’ve never figured out why this is, but I can water like crazy and nothing happens. Let it rain a bit, and plants jump out of the ground. The flowers by the container are chocolate flowers. They bloom like crazy each morning and smell like chocolate. The flowers last one day. The plants are kill proof. IMG_1578IMG_1576

I’ve got a fenced in garden with multi-headed sunflowers, a few beets, a few carrots (we think a bird is feasting on the sprouts) and potatoes.

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Oddly, here in the desert crops have to be partially shaded. I’m used to full sun gardens. The multi-headed sunflowers are, in theory, going to provide the needed shade from the late afternoon sun.

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This is the herb garden. My portfolio for the grant proposal is filled with brown ceramic pieces. I had no idea I was making so many brown pieces. I’m considering taking the tall herb planter in the bottom photo, putting it in the light box, and adding it to the portfolio. In the grant proposal, I write about making both functional and decorative art. Nothing like an herb growing planter to show functional. And it’s not brown.

Meanwhile…….

I’m working out a design for a quilt about Antarctica. The quilt will show perspective and light. I’m going to use the idea behind the traditional tumbling blocks quilt pattern. IMG_1574

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Here’s where flash helped. In the bottom photo, you get to see the gray heels and the colors. I dyed the socks in quart jars so there’s mottling.

Jim had lots of white, cotton socks. I needed to audition dyes. Now, Jim has lots of colored socks none of which match.

I need to figure out if I want to use a light, medium and dark of one color. The building I’m basing this on is blue. But what if I want to make it, say, purple? It’s my quilt – I can do what I want. Another option: use three different colors, dark A, medium B, light C.

I also need to figure out what to do with the snow. I’m from Buffalo, NY. I know snow. I know I want to show light and shadow. Do I: use pieces of gray against a white background? Use extra padding in certain places? Use thread painting to show shadow? Use both heavy and light quilting to show areas of texture? Bang my head on the cutting table? Lots of choices. I’m leaning towards doing all of them.

And yes, this does mean the depression has passed. Like everyone else, I have good days and not so good days. Today is a good day. I’ve no idea why. I’ll enjoy it anyway.

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Let’s Talk About Bipolar Disorder

My life is a collection of extremes. I have moods that have nothing to do with what is going on in my life. I may feel calm, but when Jim asks me something, I snap at him. He knows to wait for my meds to kick in.

Today, I’m dancing on the depressed end. I’ve been having flashbacks, crappy memories, and a deeper realization of the evil someone had aimed at me. I wrote a bit about the flashbacks and my response to them. I’m not sure if anyone will ever see what I’ve written, but I needed to get the words out of me and onto my laptop. Mostly, I’m pissed about all the crap that has been flung at me. Why do I have to have in my life people who lie awake at night thinking up new ways to hurt me? I know life isn’t easy. Why does it always have to be hard? That’s a bit of how it feels at the moment.

I’d medicate myself out of this, but that’s not a good idea. I’m supposed to take Wellbutrin twice a day. I only take it once a day. Taking it twice a day, or even taking one and a half pills a day, causes hallucinations. There’s a trick to hallucinations. If I just let the hallucinations happen and sit back to enjoy them, it’s a whole lot easier on my psyche. If I have a choice, I’d rather have hallucinations than withdrawal. That’s part of bipolar disorder. Put two of us together and we discuss our meds, how well or how poorly our meds are working, the most recent withdrawal, what to do with flashbacks. Humor: You had a rash when you went off (med)? I only had hallucinations and had to throw up. Humor: The difference between psych meds and heroin is that with psych meds, you only puke once. Devoid of humor: When the flashback arrives, look at it, acknowledge that what happened was crappy and should never have happened. Then the memory will go back down on its own. No need to stuff that sucker under a pile of denial. Devoid of humor: All my feelings are like frozen peas stuck way back in the freezer and I’ve no idea how to let the peas out. Mostly, I don’t want to let the peas out. Peas suck. Which is pretty strange because I like eating peas.

Meds make my life easier and nicer. Meds don’t solve the bipolar problem. Meds tone down the bipolar problem. I’m not screaming, but I still feel like a hockey  puck sometimes. Slap! Depression. Slap! Manic. If there are triggers for either end, I haven’t found them. Unmedicated, even I can’t stand to be around me and I have no way to get away from me.

I have a collection of things I can do to moderate the extremes. Working in my sketchbook always helps. It calms me down and lifts me up. This morning, I sketched out some ideas for working with patterns made from colored clay. Later, I played in the mud. I made two soap dishes, made a mug (okay, the handle gets made tomorrow), and put white terra sig on the insides of bowls and a mug made from chocolate colored clay. I’m going to be playing with glazes on the insides of the bowls and the mug. I did some dye experiments. I had worked out an Antarctica quilt and I’m dyeing Jim’s white  cotton socks so I can audition colors for the quilt. I’ve got 21 colors done and I’ve got 9 more to go. I can only fit 12 canning jars into the big pan I’ve got. Salt, soda ash and very warm water goes in the jars. Then Jim gets to carry the pan outside where I add dye and a sock to each jar. I’m going to  be working with perspective and light on this quilt. I need to see what light, medium and dark value of whatever color I pick looks like when placed side by side.

I have relaxation music and I listened to it.

All of that helped.

I ate ice cream. That didn’t help.

There’s a notion that being bipolar helps one to be an artist. Bullshit. The mood swings don’t cause me to make art. Something inside of me gets spiritually constipated when I don’t create art. The mood swings allow me to make emotional art.

I don’t mind being bipolar. I get to have an understanding of mental illness that mentally healthy people can never have. It’s just that sometimes, bipolar disorder gets to be tiresome. Bipolar disorder requires an enormous amount of energy. I’m always looking at my responses. Is this the response a “normal” person would make? Am I over the top again? Do I need to break out the emergency psych meds? I’m snapping at Jim, so I have to grit my teeth and make sure I’m nice to people around me. I’m in manic mode and I have to ensure I don’t buy culinary accoutrements that I don’t need. I don’t spend lots of money…. I work damned hard to control those spending urges. I try to find just enough spending to satisfy the manic moment but well below the amount of spending that would cause financial difficulties. I wouldn’t make for entertaining reality TV. Mostly, reality isn’t all that entertaining.

Tomorrow, I start over again. Maybe I’ll be less depressed. Maybe I’ll be near center. Maybe I’ll bounce off the boards, hit the goal post then bounce off someone’s skate and get stuck behind the net. Bipolar disorder is never dull.

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Still Working on Photos

I started photography with the last fully manual camera Cannon made in 1980. I had control over everything. Now, I have a Cannon Rebel and it’s fully automatic. I’d like to have more control. I love not having to develop film. I love being able to take 500 photos and it doesn’t cost me any more than taking 1 photo.

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This was a great photo until I realized I cut off the side of the quilt. Good thing I’m not paying for film.

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The photo of the other quilt came out better. But….. I didn’t use the laser level and the edges are wonky. Somehow, I don’t think the reviewers will be impressed if I tell them the wonky edges are a design element. Actually… now that I write it, that’s not a bad idea. This quilt was inspired by a fossil. Fossils rarely are found on perfectly flat, nicely edged surfaces. I gotta think about that a little more.

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It’s possible to photograph a light colored box against a white background. This is a surprise. I thought the box would disappear into the background.  I see the glaze from the inside peeked out a tad. Adds to the mystery. I made this box several years ago, and it’s still one of my favorites. The galley sucks, though. It took me a few more years to figure out how to hand build a good galley.

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A friend suggested using three little pots in a photo rather than one little pot per photo. Yes, I need to get out the gorilla tripod. The full size tripod isn’t going to be helpful with this setup. I need to adjust the depth of field and that’s going to take a really slow shutter.

I worked on the writing part of the grant proposal today. I spent about 10 years as a reporter. I was working on the part where I have to justify and explain what I propose to do. I buried the lead. The second worst thing a reporter can do. The first worst thing is to reveal the name of a source who wants to remain anonymous.

This grant proposal is starting to be more taxing than taking another bar exam.

 

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Controversial Art

I’m still working on the grant proposal. Now, I’m wondering about the wisdom, or stupidity, of submitting photos of controversial art along with non-controversial art in the digital portfolio.

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This is part of a self-portrait series. Yes, those are gunshot wounds. I meant to put the shots in non-lethal spots, but my knowledge of anatomy is limited and at least three of the five shots are kill shots. It’s called: Fuck You, I’m Still Alive. If I submit photos of this piece (photos will be done in a light box), I may change the name slightly. Or not. The piece accurately reflects how I felt when I made it.

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My Body Doesn’t Define Me.

People who have viewed this piece have told me that I’m sick, that the piece is disgusting, and a few more insults I have forgotten. Personally, I think this piece done as a king-size quilt would be …. something else.

Having spent 10 years representing children in court, I can say with authority that there are a whole lot of people who have no business having children and some people shouldn’t be allowed within 500′ of a child.

I chose not to have children. Because I didn’t want kids. Because I knew I’d be a terrible mother. Because I could not do to someone else what was done to me and I knew no other way.

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I Can’t Fake It Anymore

I made this piece at a time when I was under attack from insecure bullies, unmedicated, and undiagnosed. The week before I made this, I had done a sentencing for a client who had dodged the death penalty, but ended up sentenced to about 65 years. After the sentencing, we all gathered in the jury room. Just me, co-counsel, my client, the DA, a couple ADA’s the family of the woman my client murdered and a half dozen deputies. The purpose was for my client to apologize to the family. Questions were asked. Some answers given.  The family asked that the contents of the discussion remain private. I can say that these types of meetings are better held by people who know what they are doing than held by attorneys like me who are pulling it out of their asses as I was.

Would you put controversial art like this into a portfolio?

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Playing In The Mud

I’ve been feeling down lately. I understand some of the down feeling, the rest is probably bipolar acting up. Playing in the mud helps – better than and faster than meds. Plus, the cheapskates at the HMO can’t stop me from playing in the mud, can’t raise the cost of playing in the mud, and can’t limit the amount of mud in which I play. (insert Bronx cheer here)

I’ve been working on a different mug design.

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Yes, I have to clean the goobers off. I also have to put terra sig on the bottoms. The clay I’m using has some sand in it and I don’t want the mug to tear up the countertop. A few coats of terra sig on the bottom makes for a smooth bottom.

I’m thinking of putting one glaze into the carved out parts and then glazing the entire mug with another glaze. I’m thinking that I can get some nice flow and bleed through that way. Or, I could just use a celadon…. but I want the trees to pop.

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I’m working on a set of nesting bowls made from a clay called Chocolate. It’s made by New Mexico Clay. I made the bowls so the tops should all come out even when nested. Smaller one is the shortest, largest one is the tallest. I plan on using 1/4″ quilters tape around the inside edge, then putting white terra sig on the inside. I want to be able to layer glazes and have them show up. Then, I’ll mask off the outside leaving 1/4″ at the top. Those two 1/4″ bits plus the rim will be glazed with clear glossy. The rest of the outside of the pot will be naked clay. I really like the look of this clay when it’s fired naked.

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I’ve been playing around with pinch pots. I liked how the little air plant pots came out, and I’m trying the same idea with a larger bowl. I’ll do glaze layering on the inside and one glaze on the outside. I liked how the glaze ran on the inside of the air plant pots and I want the same thing on the pinch bowls.

I may have just about enough work now to fill the kiln for a bisque firing.

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Learning To Take Decent Photos

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Deb’s Greatest Hits. That’s what I have to put into a digital portfolio for a grant proposal I’m writing. After taking one set of photos, I discovered how to fix white balance. Tungsten lights, without any white balance adjustment, gives everything a yellow cast. I found the place in the manual that explained how to adjust the white balance. I marked the page. Then I couldn’t find the manual. I have that CRS thing going on. Can’t Remember Stuff. It’s the bifocals. Haven’t been able to remember well since I got bifocals. There must be a correlation.

The above photo is one of my favorite mugs. It’s not brown. When I assembled my greatest hits, I realized most of my work is brown. How can a color junkie like me make all that brown work?

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This is a soap dish I particularly like. It doesn’t photograph well. It was over fired so the color came out way different from what I expected. I like the result although I’m not about to deliberately overtire my work again to attempt to get a similar result.

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Another favorite mug. It took a few shots, but I got the pink flowers to come out pink. I still see the white areas where the glaze didn’t go. Like all my work, this mug isn’t perfect. IMG_1503

I really like this soap dish except for the little part about it being brown. I don’t get it. I have green glazes. I have pink glazes. I have purple glazes. I have blue glazes. I have yellow glazes. I have red glazes. I have brown glazes that break nicely over texture.

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My favorite air plant pot. It’s maybe 2-2.5″ across. Why do I love it? Because the brown did cool stuff on the inside of the pot.

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Another air plant pot. The inside is purple with black celedon around the edge. The outside is…. red that looks like brown. This one is 2-2.5″ across.

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Yet another air plant pot. Red that looks like brown on the outside, pink with black celadon on the inside.

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The fossil dish in ….. brown. Three of the brown glazes I have do wonderful things over texture. The fourth does fun stuff when I layer it over or under another glaze.

IMG_1466.JPGQuiche plate, white balance way off. Brown as well. I love this quiche plate.

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Top photo white balance adjusted for tungsten lights, bottom photo adjusted. It’s one of my single cell plant pieces. It’s not brown. It goes into the portfolio by default – I need not brown work.

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Oh, look! Another brown pot which highlights my refusal to use wax to coat the bottoms of my pieces thereby giving me a not at all straight edge. That’s the problem with having to put together a digital portfolio. All I see are the mistakes.

I keep setting up the light box, getting out the tripod, adjusting the camera (Cannon Rebel DSLR), taking photos, not being satisfied. From time to time, Tinker helps me by jumping into the light box and leaving handfuls of black cat hair all over my nice, white background. I get photos taken. I put them into the computer. I do a little editing. I’m not satisfied. This has to be a world-class portfolio.

If you photograph your work, I’d like to read your thoughts about my photos. I need all the help I can get. Thanks.

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Once Upon an Idea

Yesterday, I was going to only work on the one ceramic piece I had wrapped in plastic. It’s the pot part of a flower pot. I did finish up that piece. Smoothed out the bottom rim. Cut holes in the bottom of the pot. Carved a fossil-inspired fern on the pot.

Then, I spied the porcelain and decided I’d make a pinch pot. Just a medium size pot. Just one. The bag of porcelain is now empty and I’ve got three pinch pots wrapped in plastic.

The pinch pots started with tiny pinch pots I made for holding my air plants. I played with shape. I played with glaze. I decided I needed to make bowls inspired by those tiny pots. The tiny pots have undulating walls and rims. I undulated my current batch of pinch pots. Sides puffed out. Sides rippled. Rim undulated. Eventually, I will be layering glazes on the inside of the big – as opposed to air plant size – pots to see how the colors swirl and mix. IMG_1332IMG_1331IMG_1338

Art does that. It starts as a sketch, is born in mud, and then grows into unexpected pieces. Life is like that. Do you know anyone whose life went according to the original plan? Mine sure didn’t. I’ve done things I never planned I would do.

I’m working on a written piece which equates science with art. Science starts with a question. Question leads to research. Research leads to more questions. Eventually, an answer or two is found. In college, I took the biology classes for the pure joy of learning. Like the mountain, biology was there. Existing is value enough. Until a scientist wants grant money. Then existing is of no value. Results, answers, applications – that’s where the value is.

Art starts with a sketch. Sketch leads to questions: How to build this? What materials to use? Is engineering necessary to keep the piece from collapsing? Questions lead to research: Find a Youtube video that shows how to do what I want to do. Find an image that will help me to make the project. What type of clay? What type of fiber? What color? What texture? Questions lead to finished project. Art, like the mountain is there. Existing is value enough…. unless there’s money involved. Then the piece is about money. Is there an audience for this piece? Will someone buy this piece? What will this piece teach others? Does this piece explain the Meaning of Life?

The Meaning of Life is to look around. To see color. To see form. To see contrast. To recreate what’s seen into art. To take what’s in my head and make it come out of my hands. There’s enormous value in a simple piece of art. That value is intrinsic and independent of any price point.

Science is the same. Do we have a justifiable need to know how the universe came into being? Do we have a justifiable need to know what kind of rock over which one just tripped? Do we have a justifiable need to know what things too small to see unaided look like? No. But we work to know how the universe came into being, to know what kind of rock over which I just tripped, to know what image a scanning electron microscope will show.

Curiosity has intrinsic value. Absent curiosity, there is no technology. There is no medicine. There is no cure for disease.

Look. Think. Scratch your tush. Think some more. Look some more. Create something. Curiosity. What will these glazes look like if I layer them? What will this garment look like if I add batting, fancy threads, fancy stitches and glitter? Will I be giving the message I want to give?

Intrinsic value is sufficient.