Sunday, March 23, 2014

more pottery

I mentioned a week or two ago that there are many reasons I like the paint-your-own pottery places, not least of which is that it's trivially easy to play with someone else's artistic toys and get out of it something that is both beautiful and useful.  Great for beginners, and good for more advanced artists who just need to get out of their regular spaces for a while, or even out of their own heads-- I personally find it to be very helpful when things are weighing me down to get into a different SPACE and away from my own regular art-fodder reserves, into creation with a certain amount of constraint.

So, last week, needing that kind of break, my friend and I went and painted at one of the local studios we hadn't tried before.  Just 'cause they're a little farther out than the ones we normally go to, so it requires a bit more of a time commitment; we'll certainly be back.

I had one piece in mind that I wanted to make: I wanted a butter dish.  My old plastic ones are falling apart, and I HATE the way cold butter shreds hot toast.  I even had an idea in place, waiting only a time when I would be at a studio that had a butter dish on the shelf. 

Friday I brought home the results: 

I gotta say, I'm pleased.  It came out prettier than I'd really even envisioned, and there's not much better that you can say about something you've made. 

It'll probably be a bit before I'm back to paint ceramics, because I've got a lot of other projects in the pipeline and taking a day out elsewhere doesn't just happen that often.  But I've already got thoughts of what I'd like to do, and heck, I've still got 9 boring cabinet knobs in my kitchen (did I mention some of these places let you paint cabinet knobs? my kitchen is SO much more colorful now!) and 7 in my bathrooms, and 5 boring lightswitch plates (although some of those may get paper or paint decorations, rather than pottery ones).  I can't believe I used to think that mugs and planters were the only things available!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Inspiration, and trees

Guild bios are due tomorrow, and as a lifelong procrastinator, I've been putting it off.  (I am a member of the Carolina Mixed Media Art Guild, which is one reason I'm writing this blog to explore my artistic side rather than just making necklaces while I watch TV.  They show me fun things to do, and then I want to do them. It. Is. Awesome.)   And I want to share and expand on it some of mine.

Given the question, "Tell us about your work, inspiration, and any other comments you may have:" I had a little trouble, because I find many many things to be inspiring.  Right now, not surprisingly, I find a lot of trees to be inspiring, because it is still the barest beginnings of spring.  The redbuds are starting, and the Bradfords are blooming (well, most of them; the one I moved a couple weeks ago isn't blooming but it is leafing, which gives me good hope that we didn't kill it and it didn't bloom last year either, so maybe it just needs to be more than two years old). The dogwoods haven't begun yet, and the saucer magnolias are just coming into their own.

What I'm trying to say is, I can still see the incredible structure of trees, everywhere.  Right now this is a lot of my inspiration, because what started out as a closer look so that I might be able to replicate has become a full-on almost obsession.  I can't NOT see it.  I can't not see it even when I'm supposed to be watching the road in front of me, which is difficult, because trees are everywhere and every one of them is an intimate complex amazing fractal creation of life, and rebirth, and solid persistence, and joy, and love.  They are glorious. I catch myself watching subtle shifts of color and trying to track up into the cloud of branches, and the way the light falls on some branches and not others.  I can't stop looking at them.  I don't know whether it will get less distracting once they're coming into full leaf or not, but for now, well...

I can see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower*.... but for inspiration, I dare you to outdo a tree.

*(William Blake: "To see a world in a grain of sand/And heaven in a wild flower/Hold infinity in the palms of your hand/And eternity in an hour")

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Just one more thing

Final note, something between a teaser and an enlistment of y'all to keep me honest and on-track.  This is my current workspace.  I'm not sure how it's gonna go, but whatever happens, I'll post it when it's done.  And what have I gotten myself into?

Getting Started

...and then getting started again.

Every art is new.  Every technique and medium and idea is new.  Sometimes skills make a good transfer, sometimes they don't.  Sometimes the skills you need for one medium actually hurt you in another.  (And sometimes you get knocked on your butt by a cold and don't do any notable art or updating for a week, and then you have to apologize to people for a long stupid silence, so, sorry.  oops!)

For anyone who's interested in learning whether they'll find painting fun, I highly recommend the paint-your-own pottery places--most cities have one nearby.  A lot of them carry fancy figurines and big platters, but you can also make more practical things--mugs, for instance, are generally useful; Christmas ornaments (and other holiday fare) can make great seasonal accents or small gifts; and a lot of them even have things like light switch plates and cabinet knobs.

This is where I got started again.  A friend took me to try the pottery once, and I was hooked.  Like so many of us, I'm trying vainly to declutter my house, and the last thing I'm looking for is more tchotchkes to collect dust.  (Dust is not a verb in my house, it is a noun.  A common noun.  And since I have a long-haired cat, it's also frequently an adjective, particularly in the term 'dust buffaloes'.) But finding out that they had light switch plates was brilliant--this is where I can make art that I can display, that doesn't take up extra room or need framing, that doesn't just sit and collect dust.  Awesome! Bring me more!

Here was my first switchplate:

and I learned a lot while making it.  I learned that I could make something fun even drawing freehand.  I learned that oh hey, the rocket looks weird because it's supposed to taper at both ends, but you've already painted it so go for it.  I learned a lot about different brush sizes and shapes, and how they work with the paint, and that even though it's a much better idea to use smaller brushes in the tight spaces I'm still going to end up using the big ones because I have all this paint already on it and it's the right color and everything, I'm sure it will be fine.  Yeah, don't take a page from me on that one, learn to use the right brush size even if it'll mean more cleanup later.  Heck, I'm still working on that one.

I made a few more switchplates.  I'm working on replacing all the cabinet knobs in my kitchen with fun ones instead of the boring ones.  I've taken my nephew to make mugs for his parents.  I know three different pottery-painting places within reasonable driving distance of my house, what their hours are, what their rates are, and what different colors, glazes, effects, tools, and regular stock they have.  And the last time I went in, I made this:

I took a lot more time with it than with the rocket--a lot more planning and a lot more brush sizes and I don't have to spend so much time just trying to figure myself out any more, which makes me happy.

I love that art can be practical--that you can take something as prosaic as a light switch plate, which exists for the sole purpose of hiding a hole in your wall, and make it something fun, or funny, or beautiful.  I love that you can make a personalized gift of beauty and usefulness, that you can paint for your house or your friends or your family, without ever having to invest in brushes of your own, or paints of your own, just to test the waters and see if painting is a thing you want to try.  You don't have to have a space in your house with great light, or excellent storage; you don't need an easel and a color wheel.  You just need a desire to play and a little time to go get some color on your hands.

Of course, I do have paints in my house now, and brushes, and canvases, and my poor husband despairs of ever getting the spare room back from my makeshift studio.  I have bits and bobs everywhere, and more ideas than I have time to actually do something with the ideas.  I firmly believe I share this with all artists.

And any artist who doesn't feel that way?  They're probably fibbing.