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Clay Charlotte

Good memories! I dug this picture out of an old scrapbook. Taken at my first juried student art show in college., I am standing next to the sculpture that has become the iconic symbol of my business, Clay Charlotte. At the time the picture was taken, I was brimming with pride, feeling I was truly an artist. But only months before, when I had started the sculpture, things were quite different.

I remember taking the ceramics class for “fun”, thinking it would be a nice break from my other studies as a mental health and human services major. Things were going well in the class until my professor announced that we were to create a life size figurative sculpture as our final project. The idea of creating something so large was terrifying. “The gigs up,” I thought, “they’re all going to see I’m not a real artist.” Not wanting my classmates to see my insecurities, I charged ahead, hoping I would produce something that would at least pass for sculpture. I set to work concentrating on the details of tree bark. Then it was getting the right look for toes and ankles. Next came creating the flowing folds of a skirt. While working on the sculpture, I seemed to slip into a space where everything just felt right. Not to say that everything was perfect. I struggled with sections and tore them out, starting over, but as each piece came together, I felt as though pieces of myself were coming together, too.

When I looked at the finished piece together with my classmates work on the day of the final critique, I was filled with amazement. “I made that,” I thought to myself, and “it’s pretty good.” It was that sculpture that finally pushed me down the path that my heart had been longing to go for many years. Some part of me had always known that I was designed to create, but I had spent most of my life listening to the wrong voices. The ones that tell us “we’re not good enough,” “we’d be stupid to think we can make a career out of being creative,” or “we need to do something more important than art.” At the end of that semester, I changed my major to Fine Arts.

Looking at the photograph now, I’m a little critical of how goofy the woman in the striped shirt and short hair looks, but that woman in clay is still amazing.   A classmate once made the comment that my sculpture looked like me. At first, I had been offended since my intentions had not been to make a self-portrait. But later I learned that are creations often embody the attributes of their creators.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
~Henry Ward Beecher

I look at that clay Charlotte now and smile when I see a glimpse of serenity in her features.  Just as her body creates the completed form of a whole tree, I am reminded how my own creativity continues to bring wholeness and growth to my life. I am proud to say she is “Clay Charlotte” now, as she stands as a testament that creativity endures and when given the challenge to stand tall it can produce amazing things.

Little Boxes

I created these little boxes to take with me on an outing to meet some friends for coffee the other day. These friends had suggested on earlier occasions that they would like to join me in the studio for some creative time. Knowing that my messy studio is not quite ready for company, I decided to bring the creativity to them. I filled each of these boxes with little bits of paper, buttons, punches, and inspirational trinkets. I grabbed my bag of traveling art supplies and set out. When I arrived at the coffee shop, I was delighted to hand each of them a little box and encourage them to create something on their cardboard coffee sleeves as we sat and talked.

Of course thinking of little boxes brought to mind the delightful song by Malvina Reynolds. “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky…and they all look just the same”. The song was written as a commentary on the lack of creativity and individuality in our society, but the phrase ticky-tacky is what I find so endearing. It refers to the shoddy materials often used in industrial manufacturing. The term brings to mind the wonderful things that our culture sees as garbage, but, for me, are the inspirations for art. Whether it be a straw paper folded into an accordion or a beer mat decked out in glittery gel pen, the potential to create is there on the table, if you look for it.

One of the restaurants in town, serves their sandwiches in wonderful long brown paper bags. They even have a space for customers to write or draw on the bags and clip them to a line to be displayed. So, guess what I do after I’m done with my meal? Yes, you guessed it, I pull out my tiny traveling art kit and I pretty that bag up! Maybe, after a year of going to this sandwich shop I will have enough work on display to warrant a full fledge show. Ha-ha!

Using the time while waiting for a meal at a restaurant or drinking a cup of coffee is a great way to promote a creative lifestyle. Stick a few pens in your bag and decorate a paper napkin, beer mat or a coffee sleeve. It’s a limited amount of time with no expectations other than to enjoy yourself. Better yet, pass the joy on by leaving your creation for someone else to find. It doesn’t matter if it’s a masterpiece, it still has the potential to bring a smile to the one who finds it. And no one will know who left it unless you decide to sign your work.

I’m meeting another friend for coffee today and I’m bringing along another “Little Box”. I’m looking forward to sharing some creativity and making the world a little prettier, one decorated coffee sleeve at a time. Don’t worry Ms. Reynolds, even if they are made out of some ticky-tacky, I am sure they won’t turn out all the same.

“The Earth longs to kiss your naked feet”

I recently read this line in a friends post and was delighted by the visual it brought to mind. That of myself, faded overalls rolled to the knees, hoe in hand, and bare feet plunged into the newly turned soil of my garden. While I don’t generally garden barefoot, the notion of being so connected to the earth as to expose ones skin to the dirt is one I embrace. I love to get into the soil with my ungloved hands and sense the needs of my garden through my fingertips. Too much clay, not enough compost, a little more water, are things I feel are sensed more accurately by the touch of my skin than any high tech gardening device.  But then I have had years of practice in the studio with that beautiful earth I use to create my sculptures.

Touch is as essential to my work as a heartbeat is to life.  No matter how much creative thought goes into the development of a project, the work will not come to life without the touch of my hands.  And as my sight continues to fade in the coming years, my hands will tell me what my eyes cannot.  Feeling the firmness of the clay to determine if it is ready to stand on it’s own: exploring the textures layed out across the surface of a newly rolled slab to determine if it will be interesting enough, sensing the coolness of the clay to know how much time is left to finish the details, all things that my hands can do much better than my eyes. 

 And what an amazing thing it is to create from the very material God used to create man.  I often imagine the Masters hand scooping up the newborn earth , squishing it between His mighty fingers to test it’s properties, then forming the many features of that first human.  Maybe the earth does desire to kiss our naked feet as means to connect with its kindred spirit.

So, what are we waiting for.  Kick off your shoes and dig your toes into the loamy soil..  Take off those gloves and embrace that stubborn clay in the garden and ponder the humble beginnings of creation.   I’ll be in the studio letting the earth kiss my naked hands.  And maybe if I get a little extra creative, and flexible, I’ll even let it kiss my feet.


Thanks to all of you who visited my booth during the Anderson Township – A Fair of the Arts and the Hyde Park Square Art Show.  A special thanks to all of my customers who gave a new home to one of my creations.  Often as I am creating my houses I imagine the surroundings in which they sit as finished works.  Sometimes I envision an enchanted fairy garden or prestigious space on a mantle or shelf.  Ocasionally I even imagine one sitting on a desk or nightstand protecting spare pocket change and paper clips with a great deal of pomp and circumstance.   Whether indoors or out, I would love to see all the wonderful spaces they find to occupy, so feel free to send me an email with pictures.


Slow and Steady Wins the Race

August 31 is now a “yesterday” and I am embracing a new month.  My website is looking a little better, but hasn’t crossed the finish line.  And maybe it never will.  As with many things in life, especially art, it is a work in progress.

I am back in the studio working on new creations and delight in the changes I see developing in my work.  They are subtle when compared to work from a few months ago, drastic when looking back at my first piece.  When I set out on this venture I was not handed a photograph of what my work needed to look like in order to achieve finality.  I also wasn’t given a deadline in which to achieve perfection.  Instead the expectations were that I would create to my heart’s content and learn along the way.   My ideas of what makes a good piece of work grow and develop as my knowledge and skills do.  So why not take this approach with my computer skills as well.  And since I don’t hold a degree in computer engineering like I do in art, I expect the learning timeline to be slightly longer.

It is often said that the joy is in the journey.  I hope you will join me in watching the journey unfold with my work and follow along with this website.   Feel free to dialogue with me in this adventure and be inspired to start a project of your own.  We are never too old to learn new tricks!