The Finish Line………sort of

It’s been almost a year since I decided to “climb that tree and venture out onto that limb” by registering for a three week stay at Ghost Ranch in Abuiqui, New Mexico.  With a much needed grant and a surprising emerging artist award, I was able to fund my trip and relax into the exploration of my artistic boundaries.  I had no idea how my experiences would influence or inform my work.  All I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, is that it would.  

Fast forward to today.  I just returned from delivering 24 new vessels, 3 wall sculptures and 13 pendants to The Gallery at Flat Rock, located in Flat Rock, North Carolina.  My one person show, “Sacred Ground, Bringing New Mexico Home”, opens on Friday, July 14th.  All of these pieces have been inspired by my trip – most of them created using micaceous clay which is indigenous to New Mexico. 

There is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and sadness in the completion of this grand adventure.  I have been so ensconced in the flow of the work, the evolution of my artistic voice and wanting to make those that believed in me proud.  It filled every waking, and most sleeping moments.  I have had revelations and disappointments, moments of “creative” orgasms and periods of obstacles that are all part of the process.  What I can tell you, unequivocally, is that it was all worth it.

I have learned more, pushed through fixed conditions, ventured into almost every “what if” moment with action and determination.  Did I make worthy art?  Did I do clay proud?  Honestly……..I have no idea.  That really isn’t for me to say.  What I do know is that, to this point in my life, given all that I am, I did my very best.  And that, my dear friends, is enough ❤️

Please visit my website for more information on the upcoming show and artist talk – http://www.lucyclarkpottery.com

The next adventure awaits!!!

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Finding my Voice

I have been touching clay for a little over 8 years.  From our “first date” to this moment, I have never, for one moment, lost my passion for this medium. Self doubt?  Sure.  Uncertainty and frustration?  Of course.  But the love for clay has always picked me up, dusted me off and kept me creating.  

Until this workshop, I have only used one type of earthenware clay.  It has let me explore the boundaries of the material and I have always enjoyed what she has allowed me to accomplish.  The clay body that I am working with at Ghost Ranch is called Micaceous clay.  It is softer than what I am used to and it has taken a few days to adjust my touch to her wishes.  Tonight I walked away from the studio feeling like I am finding a sweet spot.  Like we have danced and I was in step with fluidity and form of the movement.  I am not leading this dance – not in any way shape or form………and I am entranced.

I can’t wait to see where this takes me.  I have five more days in the studio to build my work before I have to stop, needing enough time to have all of the pieces dry before firing.  There will be sanding, application of slip, polishing, bisque firing and pit firing yet to come.  I feel like I’m in the middle of a creative storm that is sweeping me along – holding my hand – and whispering to me – “just wait……..it gets better”.

Be still my heart ❤️ 

A “Dear John” letter to my fears

Dearest Fears;

We have been together for such a long time.  I have found common ground with you.  I have found comfort with you.  I had you when no one else would listen, especially me.  We have had our share of dramas, conflicts, arguments and truces.  I thought we would be together forever……..but…….I have a confession to make;

I’ve met someone else.  I never thought there would be anything else in my life.  What’s their name you ask?  Well, um, it’s kind of awkward and strange, but, um, you see, their name, well there name is Clay.  That’s right – I’m leaving you for the stuff that comes from the earth.  The rich, earthy, slightly grainy and oh so fundamental part of life.  Grounding and comforting in a way that I never felt with you.  Where you would rile me up, twist me around, create worry and trembling, well, you see, clay just loves me.  It whispers to me that I can do it, whatever “it” is.  Apply to that show, submit for that exhibition, call that gallery, grow bigger, brighter and better than I ever thought possible.  Clay has released me from you – my beloved fear of failing.  It has released me from the painful fear of rejection,Natures Mantle from my self imposed chains of taking a chance, of taking a risk, of reaching for freedom.

Sweet fear, I have really enjoyed our time together.  You know my most intimate insecurities and self doubts.  Leaving you will be one of the hardest and yet bravest things I have ever done.  Believe me, I have cried many times over this decision.  I have reached and then withdrawn back into the comfort of your arms. But, if I am to grow into what I have only dreamt of, I have to go.  I have to learn to live without you.  I promise I won’t talk badly of you or put you down.  You and I have had a beautifully tragic relationship and I will, in a very odd way, treasure it.  I can do this because of what you have taught me.  Hard won wisdom has been gained by knowing you and I thank you for all of the lessons.  I don’t think we can be friends…….it just wouldn’t work out.  I would start calling too much and you would start answering.

So, I am setting you free.  I have to go now……..Clay is calling and I mustn’t be late.

I will miss you……..for awhile.

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Kiln

As happens with most of my pieces as they are waiting to be fired, I envision what they will turn out to be after the final step.  The building, carving, burnishing, sanding and loving have been completed.  One month of drying has come to an end.  It was now time for the piece to enter the final phase of creation – the slow, low fire of the kiln with a quick exit at 1000 degrees into a pillow of sawdust and smoke.  Unfortunately, for one piece, she never made it that far before tragedy struck.

As I carried the piece out to the kiln, I sat her on a side table to prepare the fire brick within the kiln.  As I turned back around, out of nowhere, my two large, rambunctious dogs, came barreling toward me, running into each other and the table.  Before I could reach out and catch the falling piece, the large carved top of the piece hit the table and smashed into many, many clay teardrops………closely followed by my own.  In the early morning light, I screamed…….and cried……..and cursed the dogs, the timing of it all and most importantly myself.  The “should of, could of, would of”, inner dialogue began.  I started berating myself for everything and anything, as well as my husband for the way he set the kiln up all the way down to the uneven ground on which it sat.

I walked away from all of the emotional mayhem and drove to yoga.  My sweet friend, Anna, was teaching, and I felt relieved.  After class, I went home, and between some tense words and moments with my husband, he set about building a platform in which to create a level firing surface for the kiln and the table.  Meanwhile, I set about with a Dremel tool along with a whole lot of prayer, magic and cussing, and proceeded to transform the piece into something else.  The piece fired the next day, and to my amazement, I am pretty happy with the results.

The reason I relay this story is this………no matter what drama, trauma or invalidation occurs, whether it is given by ourselves to ourselves, from another to us, or witnessed out in the world, there is always a chance to create a new beginning. ALWAYS.  I had to forgive myself for my own invalidations; I did not deserve the treatment that I rendered unto my very own soul. So it is with others in our lives.  If we are being openly criticized, berated or otherwise put down, please, please, please remember this…….You don’t DESERVE it.  Don’t make excuses for the perpetrator of those words, no matter what they call it – whether it be “feedback”, “constructive” criticism or an other shiny, shitty term they want to use.  It’s meant to suppress, control and cage your soul.  PERIOD.  If you believe them then you have shot yourself through the heart and the lesson will come up again and again until one day, you finally stand up for yourself and realize that they are speaking of their own fears, regrets and insecurities.  If they can make you believe that it’s you that needs fixing, their job is complete.  They can take the spotlight of doubt off of themselves and place it securely on your shoulders and in your universe.

We can all be better than we were yesterday……….the question is, “Better by someone else’s standards…….or your own?”  If clay has taught me anything, it is to be kinder to myself and to listen to my own intuition and the soul of the universe.  Everything else will take care of itself………..and with that, we can begin again…….photo

The Addiction To Which There is NO Cure

I touched clay for the first time less than 5 years ago.  Since that glorious, destiny filled day, I have been addicted to it.  What part of clay, you may ask, is so intoxicating? Well, to make order of my addiction, allow me to take this from the top.

When I first open a new bag of earthenware, I plunge my head deep within the bag to take a big deep breath of all things earthy.  The scent of the clay is something akin to that beautiful sweet smell that happens just after the rain in the mountains.  It is at once filled with dirt, water, grass and sky.  The scent is so heady to me that I lose myself for a moment, lost in memories of all the hikes I have taken in my heaven which goes by the name of North Carolina.

As I roll out the clay to fit it into a bowl for forming, I marvel at it’s movement, the way it’s smooths out onto the canvas and the feel of it beneath my hands.  As I take the time to mold the clay, it is taking it’s time molding me.  I know, for certain, that clay has made me a better person.  A calmer, more patient, loving individual.  Earth has a way of doing that, if we just open up and allow it to do it’s work.

When I roll out each coil and sculpt it in to the body of the piece, I love the feeling of anticipation, never knowing where the process is taking me.  I always feel like I’m just along for the ride – never in control and, for once, not only enjoying the feeling but embracing it.  The stress of living is long gone by this point; it’s just me and the clay.

Next in my long list of addictions is the carving and burnishing of a piece.  This can sometimes takes hours, days or weeks.  I used to hurry through this step, impatient to see the finished product.  But you know what?  It just doesn’t matter anymore.  I have heard 1,000 times that the journey is more important than destination.  Now, I finally get it.  Each piece is a journey of it’s own as well as a pathway to the next creation just waiting to be born.

The firing, smoking and polishing of the clay is another step that is full of excitement knowing that the piece is never, ever finished until it comes through the fire.  Kind of like all of us.  We must all go through the fire to become tempered, smoothed, soothed and wise……

Who would want to find a cure for that?

My Love Affair with Clay

Although I have only recently begun creating ceramic art in the past 4 years, I have long since had a love affair with clay.  I remember as a youngin’ living in the mountains of West Virginia, sitting by the creek, scooping up mounds of mud in my pie pan and shaping it high until it fell back to the earth.  What a luscious feeling it was; the grit, the consistency, the earthiness of it all.

Even now, every time I open up a new bag of clay, I stick my head way inside and breathe deeply the smell of it……and realize that what I am smelling is not just the dirt and earth but the possibilities of what it will become.

All of us have an opportunity, every day, to move into our next greater self.  We have the endless ability to create something new and beautiful to share with the world.  The longer I am in this body, the more I realize that the power to radiate life has been within me all along.  Through all of my trials, struggles and challenges, the constant thread was me.  I get to choose every day how I see my world and the world around me.

Just as it is with clay, it is in the world.  To let go of control enough to allow life to happen and still be present to the possibilities. The choices we all have to create a life we dream of, a life we, as our higher selves deserve to step into. That’s a life well lived.Image