A Feast for the Spirit

A Feast for the Spirit

There are times in everyone’s life where an experience may not live up to all that we wanted it to be and yet, with enough distance and perspective, it is exactly what we needed. There have been so many unexpected events that have occurred during this trip – too many to bore you with – but I wanted to share an incredible event that I could have never imagined possible.

If you don’t know, the type of ceramic work that I create is based on the time honored traditions of the Pueblo Indians. Specifically, Maria Martinez of the San Ildefonso Pueblo. Her rich black, burnished surfaces of hand built work continues to inspire and entrance me. To be able to view her work in person while in Santa Fe is like breathing in the past and feeling the love and passion for the work wash over me and into the future.

I, along with my husband, students and staff from Ghost Ranch, attended Feast Day at San Ildefonso on the last day of our trip. It is a time to honor all the gifts that have been given to the tribe throughout the year and is celebrated with tribal dances, music, singing and, well, feasting. It has been said that if you are invited into one of the homes to join in their offerings you must not refuse; to decline such an invitation would be incredibly rude. To my utter astonishment and delight, through my pottery mentor, Clarence Cruz, we were invited into the Martinez home to share in their bounty of green Chile stew, red Chile stew, enchiladas, prune pie, fresh baked bread from the Orno and, and, and……….

As I entered the home, to say that I was humbled and awestruck would be a GINORMOUS understatement. I sat there, transfixed as I, along with Clarence, Rikki and my husband were led to a table and served. My first thought, I should be serving them! I should be telling them what a profound influence their Grandmother had on me as a person and an artist. I wanted to shout out from the rooftop how grateful I was to be allowed in their home to share this precious, precious moment with them. And yet, as I sat there, I physically restrained my enthusiasm and muted it into reverence for the food and the company. I thanked them nothing short of twenty times all the while having a silly, girl like grin on my face and wondering if they could see me bursting inside with gratitude and excitement.

It wasn’t until later that day, while I was sitting in front of the Labyrinth at the ranch and relaying the story to one of the students that I began to cry. Weeping for the chance to be a part of such a special moment, to be able to present with it, to embrace it.

My life has forever been changed by my time at Ghost Ranch and the opportunities that I have received and been able to experience. All of the other stuff that happens along the way is simply just transitory, temporary and nothing to hold on to.

This moment…………well, that was worth the price of admission.

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Sanctuary

One of the wonderful things about being back at Ghost Ranch this time around is with being an instructor instead of a student, I can visit other class rooms and gain insight and inspiration into other mediums.

This afternoon I was graciously given access to the creative writing group led by Pam Uschuk. I spent time writing a small piece about a pivotal point in my life where everything changed from one moment to the next. When she prompted the class to write I could instantly spot where that took place.

………..And he said, “Lucy, there is one thing you must remember…….the clay chooses you.”

I had agreed, to my initial chagrin, to attend a three, 2 hour workshop series on hand building ceramics. After almost 20 years as a massage therapist, I thought that I would have an affinity for clay. With wheel throwing, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I left class feeling frustrated, disappointed and dejected. How could I have been so wrong??? Returning home from these initial classes in North Carolina, I vowed that I wasn’t cut out for clay. I had been mistaken in thinking that I had the touch.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my life long love affair with mud and earth had another as of yet unearthed avenue for me to travel. When I agreed to take the hand building class from my dear friend, Worley, I thought I was helping him out with his studio and gallery. Again, I was wrong.

The simple truth of the matter is that I was waiting to be re-born into an ancient family of potters. With the first coil of my very first pot, I was transported. I was touched. I was chosen. And when he said those fateful words, I knew I was the one. I knew, sitting there in this beautiful, centuries old building, filled with so much past that it wrapped around me like a soft blanket, my clay ancestors had come for me. I, their apprentice, was willing to go.

And so, this evening, for the first time since arriving at the ranch, I returned to the studio; to the clay; to my sanctuary. No matter where I travel or what I choose to do with my time, I always come back to clay. I bring all that I have learned back to this earthy mother and lay the blessings at her feet. Because as much as the clay has chosen me, I have chosen clay.

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!!!

The Essence of the Earth

I have never processed my own clay.  Until this point, I have opened a fresh 25 lb., bag of earthenware, stuck my head deep inside to inhale its magic and started creating.  

Today was the day where that changed. We had an appointment with the earth – it was time to process the clay and dirt that we had dug a few days ago.  It was time for us to honor our commitment and make something wonderful from the gifts we had been given.  We swirled the muddy water with our hands, digging in deep and releasing the rocks, twigs and plant material from the clay.  We poured it through sieves, capturing more unwanted earthiness until all that was left was a muddy water concoction that will eventually reveal fine, silky micaceous clay.

Afterwards, as I was reveling in all that masterful muddiness, I realized that we humans, if we are dedicated and deiligent, do that as well.  If we are to live lives of honor, truthfulness and integrity, we too, must dig deep, examine our dark corners, our rough edges, and slowly release the grog from the gift.  What was so amazing to me today, was after sifting through all of the “debris”, the underlying and hidden bits of Mica were everywhere.  Even in the grog, there were shiny, sparkly bits of life that was offered up.  It is up to each one of us to see the beauty that is just waiting to behold.

My hands reveal my story…….

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

Resurrection

A few months back, a piece of art was stolen from my tent at a local art show.  To say that it was a surreal experience would be an understatement. After my initial emotional response of betrayal, shock, grief and anger, a very quiet calm settled over me.  It’s almost impossible to explain – it was if I intuitively knew that this event was larger than myself or my art.  It has turned out to be the start of a very poignant and profound phase of my life.

As a person, I tend to fall into my thought process.  Getting out of my own head can, at times, be quite a chore.  However, the more I thought about this event, the more I gave it up to the universe.  Somehow, this experience has allowed me to reach even further than I thought possible just a few short months ago.  When we lose something or someone we cherish, there are a number of ways we can respond.  I decided to respond as if I had nothing to lose.  I read a quote recently that said something like this……”Enjoy your life but don’t become attached to it”.  Letting go allows us to loosen our grip and ease into our future – not as a leaf blowing in the wind but as a person with intention and clarity who simply decides to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a flow to life.

Since I started touching clay just a mere 4 years ago, I have never attempted to recreate a piece.  My motto is to Let Go……Let Clay.  I simply start a piece and the clay takes if from there as long as I step out of the way and let the process unfold.  However, since all of this occurred, I knew Floating Lotus would reappear.  It only took 2 1/2 short months but she is sitting on my table, smiling at me.  She has been resurrected a little larger, a little more bold and confident, her petals standing a little taller and yet with more grace of movement than the original.  For that, she has earned the name Dancing Lotus.

I will have to wait one month before I can fire her.  If she makes it through the fire, I will post an “after” photo.  I am leaving that up to the universe.IMG_1344