Words cannot describe how good it feels to sit on my front porch on this rainy Saturday. Clarice the cat and I have been listening to the mourning dove and other birds. I did a little bit of yardwork before it began to rain. New plants, new planters, new opportunities. I can't wait for the hibiscus to bloom.
My office/workspace is in desperate need of cleaning, so I thought I'd write about it. I have had this workspace for about two months, and already it looks like a hoarder's warehouse. But, what about that? I've written about hoarding before. It was mostly about a friend of mine who took it to the level of art, but now I'm looking at my reflection in the glass of those prints I had made and wondering...
I suppose for a moment I could toss aside the much-used word, 'hoard'. Perhaps what I'm looking at is just a mess. Perhaps I'm not a hoarder, just a slob. I'm relatively certain that there is space to store all of this neatly; I simply haven't done it. That was my plan today, except that it got derailed by my desire to take pictures of it and write about it. (This really isn't ONLY a way to avoid cleaning.)
And then there's the harsh word, 'slob'. I am fond of it since hearing Kory Stamper (author of one of the books in this picture) use it in a Merriam Webster Ask the Editor video on the plural of Octopus. (Fun fact; Kory wrote on Twitter that in doing the audiobook of Word by Word she discovered that she cannot pronounce "some slob".) Maybe I'm not a slob after all. Maybe this is how creative minds work. I explored that idea before, and I'm here to defend it again. But, this time it's personal.
The way I see it, there are two main reactions to the pictures I've posted. Some people could have a mixture of both, but most people I know would probably have a very strong reaction in the direction or the other.
First reaction: Horror. Disgust. Urge to clean. Make it go away. Stop.
There is a lot to be said for keeping things tidy. It helps the mind be calm, it makes you feel comfortable. It brings peace. My friend, Tamara, is the queen of this. "There is a place for everything, and just keep everything in its place. Then you're done." It's true. When I visit her home it's calming, it's beautiful, it's peaceful and she seems happy. So, she'd probably want my workspace to be cleaned immediately, before doing anything else. With good reason. I could be much more productive if I could find the countertop, rather than forever shifting stuff this way and that.
Second reaction: Wonder. Wow. Curiosity. Intrigue. Creative spark.
This describes me more than the first, but mostly when it comes to other people's spaces. So, let me break this into two parts: My Mess and Other People's Messes. I will say, though, that the idea behind this one is not the mess, per se, but the collection of stuff – the tendency to hoard pretty things.
Other people's hoarding: This is magic. This is me when I was very young – before-school young – and we lived in a house that had a shack on it, a shack full of trinkets and knickknacks. I'd sneak in there and look in wonder at the things on the shelves, and think about what else could be in the boxes. It was stolen time; I wasn't supposed to go in there, which made it that much more intriguing. More recently we helped my dear friend, Richella, clean her studio because she was too sick to do it herself. We had very little time to do it in, and so much to clean, but everywhere around me were antique door knobs and gemstones, lamps and bottles. Picture frames were put in one area (some of them with pictures still in them) in case she finally got around to taking up painting. She surrounded herself with pretty, fun things and this (in my humble opinion) kept her creativity flowing. When I go to an estate sale there is STUFF. Everywhere there is stuff and I have to look at all of it. The more cluttered the better. This has led to problems in my own home.
My mess: When I walk in and see this I'm mildly disappointed in myself. I know how to keep things clean. I try to live by the adage, "A place for everything and everything in its place." Other people I know tend more toward the "Out of sight, out of mind" method of cleaning, but it makes me crazy if I can't find what I'm looking for when I know where it's supposed to be. Still, I enjoy seeing the tiles that I've been working on. I see the foam backing and I am reminded of the project that I acquired those for. Creativity does begin to kick in, even if it is just my own humdrum things that I've already seen.
There is also the question of what specifically it is I'm seeing. If I'm looking at a workspace full of trash that needs to be taken to the dumpster, but it's been raining for a week and the dumpster is full and I don't have shoes on and I just don't want to do it, that's one thing. But, if I see tiles that I've worked on, and blank tiles next to them – that sparks creativity. Paint and paint brushes pull me in, as does paper. Books are happy to look at anywhere. I will grant you that I still believe these things should be in their proper place, but seeing this sort of mess is different than just seeing dirty clothes, dishes or other such horrors.
I love to see other people's artwork. In these pictures I have small plates by an incredibly talented ceramic artist named Kym Owens and a galaxy pendant by Eric Mort. These should have places to be displayed, and they will eventually. But, when I see them in this clutter, there is a spark of happy inside my reaction.
One thing about all of this stuff is the effect it has on a person's state of mind. When I walk into my bedroom I see the things I'm looking for – the dresser, the bed, the sofa. I tune out the cloths on the floor, the books stacked on the dresser, the things stuck into the visible nook of the antique armoir. All of that tuning out takes work and after a while it can wear you down. How much nicer to walk into a neat room with everything dusted and orderly. How much more peaceful that is. It's probably the key thing to making a space into a home. I've just never been terribly good at it.
In my life I think there is a healthy tension between the need to be tidy and the creative wonder of things. At work I tend to be more orderly, mostly because there are others around who see it and I want to make an impression. At home the struggle is real and constant. Like Richella, if I had 10,000 square feet, I would have a 10,000 square foot mess given 6 months. So, now I shall clean. I just wanted to take a moment and put down – again – the benefits of seeing stuff. This has been interesting, but my mind is tired of seeing all of it. I need an orderly desk and workspace.
Thank you for reading.
Another Art Festival has come and gone. I love going with Barry to these things, and I have seen them change in the short time that I've been going with him. I've been going since around 2005; he's been doing it for thirty years. We talked with other artists, talked with his customers – new and established. We had wine and water, food and candy while we talked about art, techniques and life.
What I've always loved about these festivals is the family that has sprung up between the artists. They would run into each other around the country on the circuit of festivals, and after a few years some very strong friendships emerged. People ask after each other. This weekend I heard people talking about an artist that they hadn't seen in a while; all trying to figure out if everything is okay and telling stories about that person. They talked about people that they had seen recently. They talked about health and how much longer they can continue and who is thinking about retiring to the Carolinas.
And, of course, I love the art. I am partial to ceramics, but there is a special place in my heart for painting. There weren't actual paintings this weekend. Liz Conces Spencer is a painter, but the work she was showing was glass. She kind of painted with glass and it's beautiful.
There was a time when people came to these shows with the intention of decorating their homes. Some still do, but the concept seems to have declined in popularity. I think that the possibility isn't even in younger people's minds any more – the idea of decorating a home with art. But, one of Leslie's accent tables would be perfect for the smaller homes and condos that are becoming so popular these days. Paintings and 3D artwork make for wonderful conversation, and as soon as people learn how to have conversations face-to-face again fine arts could have a renaissance. I'm certain that the next generation will revolt against the Communication Machine and hold conversation in cellars of coffee shops. Maybe they'll have somebody accentuate their more important points with percussion instruments. It's a nice thought. Somebody is bound to do a painting about the Burning of the Devices. There could be a novel about it as well, akin to Fahrenheit 451.
In the meantime, feel free to ponder over these pictures I took this weekend. My plan is to do more in-depth entries on some of the individual artists – their history, their art... their stories. Stay tuned.
My friends and I attended a presentation by a ceramic artist, V. Chin. (I have written about him before.) The event was put on by the Greater Austin Clay Artists organization, hosted by St. Edward's University – Fine Arts Building.
None of us is a ceramic artist, so our attendance was questionable at best. Fortunately, we know Chin and a few other of the artists there, and they were kind enough to let that tiny detail slide. I mean, it was promoted on Facebook, so that means it's open to the public right? Maybe? In the end, it probably caused less of a commotion to just let us sit in than to have us forcibly removed.
Also, we decided to make an adventure of it and walk. Tamara lives near the university, so we left our cars at her apartment and set off – believing, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that it was simply going to be a matter of crossing Congress Avenue, which is an adventure in and of itself. In point of fact, her apartment is a few blocks south of St. Edward's and all of those blocks are uphill. There remained the matter of crossing Congress Avenue – quite wide at this section, particularly on foot. Having crossed with our lives intact, we continued to walk, because getting to the intersection of Woodward and Congress doesn't magically drop you into the lobby of the Art Building. It doesn't even mean that you've arrived at the university, per se. More uphill climbing got us to the campus where we did our best to look like lost tourists, in case anybody wanted to stop and give us directions. Most of the people we came across either didn't speak English, were only walking their dog through the campus or both. Combining the direction of two nice gentlemen (one of whom was a campus police officer who was very pleasant) we finally found the art building. Several spooky hallways later we came across the meeting already in session.
We quietly joined at the back of the class and did our best to use our inside voices. This is not something that we are particularly good at. I did manage to get a few pictures of Chin while he worked. Lots of cropping was needed because I didn't want to bring attention to myself by pushing my way to the front. (I kind of did want to, but decided that it was probably best if I didn't.)
I took notes (even though I am not a ceramic artist.) He talked a bit about the thickness of the wall and how that will play into the pot you're throwing. He mentioned that when he carves he doesn't want to have a beginning or an end – it should be continuous on the round vessel. Also, just like in a painting he recommends doing the background first and then the foreground. There were a few quotes that I thought were worth sharing.
"If you don't sell a pot today, you won't be able to throw a pot tomorrow." In other words, a professional artist has to survive and sell work, and as such, they should stay in touch with current trends and what people are looking for. He spoke about the frog that has adorned his pots for years. He said that if he adds a frog, the pot sells. If he just has a pot, it might not sell for months or years. Some of his work isn't conducive to having his frog on it, but he keeps his little friend around because he brings luck.
"To develop a style, you don't try to develop it. Throw lots of pots in lots of styles and your own style will come." (Loosely transcribed.) When trying to master a craft, this is always important. Quantity is as important, if not more, than quality – particularly when you are first learning. Throw hundreds and thousands of pots.
And here's one that really spoke to me. "Always carry a sketchbook." I do, I always have a notebook or sketchbook. (Unless I've left the silly thing somewhere.) He said that you never know when inspiration will come or from where, so always have your sketchbook. I would add to that, use it regularly. Make it a habit to open it and draw or write.
Thank you for visiting me at bemol Ardiente. I'll leave you with a piece that Barry owns, completely with frog.
It's Thanksgiving Day. I hear Barry in the kitchen making the dishes that we'll be taking to his mother's house. I should be in there making Green Slime (AKA Ambrosia Salad), but I'm still drinking my first cup of coffee.
I can reflect, though. I can reflect on the recent political upheavals and remember that I am thankful that we still have a free press, where opposing opinions can be published. I can be thankful that I am employed and I have a place to live and food to eat. There was a time, not too terribly long ago, when I wondered about these things. (Poor life decisions have a way of catching up with you.) Amidst the cat hair with which I live, I can be thankful for the feline personalities that have taught me to understand cats and myself.
I am thankful for art, now more than ever. As I slowly drag myself to the canvas again, I am grateful for the artists that I know. I am so honored that they consider me their friend. I am thankful for the studio that Barry has been working so hard to remodel, and the opportunities that it offers us – an opportunity to bring the community to us, to engage with us at one level or another.
So, I will share a couple of images from an artist that will be a part of our studio this year. I have been asking her for a few years if she'd like to join us, but she has always had conflicts with her own studio's schedule. This year, something cleared up and she said she'd join us. (I'm a little guilty that I feel grateful that a workshop she had planned didn't work out, but I'm too happy for her to be with us to be very guilty about it.) Barbara Francis combines two things that I love – ceramics and doodling. I love her ceramics and I love the patterns she incorporates into it. I saw her briefly describing methods she uses, and I hope to talk to her more in depth, so that maybe I can write a post all about that. In the meantime, here are a few of her images.