Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

Hammered Copper, Paul Revere and July 4

I marveled aloud as I worked on my party favor for our Independence Day gathering.  I am quite fond of learning details of the lives of our founders…and I pondered that I was using essentially the same tools and methods to create my gift that Paul Revere used in his shop. I usually write a poem to commemorate the day, but this year I made my poetry out of metal and color.  As I pounded the copper into a formed, flat piece I listened to the high pitched strike. And imagined how different the noises of commerce were on those insufferably hot days in Philadelphia when that diverse group in the Continental Congress decided to pledge their belongings and their sacred honor to the cause of Independence.  I heard cars zipping by and they would have heard the clip clop of horses on cobblestones.

John Adams noted in his diary on the 2nd of July…after he and most of his compatriots had signed the document…that he imagined this day would forever be celebrated with gatherings and festivities, parades and illuminations.  And on that count, as in so many of his other imaginings, he was absolutely correct.  We celebrate on the 4th because that is the date on the document – the day it was formalized.  But the large portion of those signers had done their work, dipped their pen and cast their lot in with the Revolutionaries by the 2nd.

So on this day – I like to re-read the Declaration.  Take stock of what those men and their families will willing to lose for the sake of what we enjoy today.  I also re-read the Constitution and allow myself to again be dazzled by their language and thoughtful prescience.  Such an old document still stands the test of a country that has evolved beyond what they had been able to suppose.

I am honored to earn my living by the craft of my hands and my thinking.  And I was especially pleased to create something that had an element in common with one of our founders.  Happy Independence Day.  Enjoy these quotes which I have complied to celebrate July 4.

You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence.
- Charles A. Beard, 1874 – 1948

It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, independence now and independence forever.
- Daniel Webster, eulogy for John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, 2 August 1826

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
- Martin Luther King, Jr, 1929 – 1968

I often warn people: Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, ‘There is no “I” in team.’ What you should tell them is, ‘Maybe not. But there is an “I” in independence, individuality and integrity.’
- George Carlin, 1937 – 2008

America, in the assembly of nations, has uniformly spoken among them the language of equal liberty, equal justice and equal rights.  John Quincy Adams, 1767 – 1848, 6th President of the United States

The truth is, all might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they ought.  Samuel Adams, 1722 – 1803

Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.  John Adams, 1735 – 1826

To disagree with anybody or anything is to run the risk of taking oneself out of the money. All this is a country that was born of controversy – a country that wrote controversy into its Constitution, and set up its legislative bodies on the theory of controversy, that established its free press in the belief that controversy is vital to information, and that created s system of justice of which controversy is the heart and soul.    E.B.White – 1899, author, editor of the New Yorker

One Day Everything Shifted…

All through high school I wrote in my journal, “I want to be an artist.”

I kept writing it through my first several jobs after high school  Somewhere in the midst of becoming the Director of Public Relations at a private high school and coordinating all the graphics and newsletter and visual lay out work for the school I transitioned to saying, “I am an artist.”  One day everything shifted…

I asked Carmen Torbus about her experience identifying herself as an artist.  I’ll share her heartfelt reply with you.  Carmen’s book, THE ARTIST UNIQUE, is the subject of a series of ongoing posts.  I hope you are enjoying them…

Here’s Carmen’s answer and a piece of her current work…
I asked, “When did you first assert to the world at large, without qualification, “I am an artist?”  And she answered…

The truth is, I’m not sure I have without qualifying it.  (Suddenly feels the urge to hang head in shame.)  I still feel a little funny in my stomach when I say out loud that I am an artist.  I feel like an artist.  I paint and create and play with art supplies,  (and here comes the “but”) but what I love more than anything is the process.  I love painting.  I love making a ginormous mess with paint.  I love adding words and doodles and images and text.  I love learning new techniques, playing with texture tools and experimenting with color.

But does that make me an artist?  My heart tells me it does.  But my gremlins ask me questions like, “Who do you think you are anyway?” and then I question if I’m really an artist at all, and I compare myself to others and start the measure up game that never ends well.  Then something else happens.

I get the urge to go sit in my studio.  When that urge strikes and I lean into it, something deeper starts to stir.  I sit there in my chair at my art desk and I look at my art supplies and my art journals and my in-progress canvases and my blank canvases and my paint brushes…. and I instinctively reach for a tube of transparent yellow iron oxide paint and squeeze a little onto my palette and dip my finger in the paint and start painting.  And in that moment, I know, unequivocally, that I am an artist.

I may not always be fully prepared to assert it to the world at large, but if I assert it to myself often enough, and if I lean into my instincts enough, I’ll get there.

I think more than anything, my calling is to encourage, inspire and believe in other creative women on the verge – to empower them to lean into their own urges and instincts, until they are ready to believe in themselves.  That to me is another form of art – and that is the artist I am – to my core. 

 

More from Carmen and my ongoing exploration with Polymer Clay next week.

 

In the meantime…remember the words of Benjamin Franklin (although it is sometimes attributed to Thomas Jefferson)  as you creatively head into your own celebration of Independence Day…

 

Those who would give up Essential Liberty
to purchase a little Temporary Safety,
deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

 

 

The LEARNING Part of the Curve

I’ve addressed the unseen nature of the “curve.”  Now I’ll share about the learning part.  What Jenn did with her content on polymer clay and what Carmen did by offering it in a beautiful book was to get me curious.  Inspired.  Empowered.  The experiments each were important to my learning and each effort had different outcomes.

Now came the days of gathering information.  I talked to friends and found out what they knew about the material.  I started doing searches on the internet and enjoyed discovering tutorials: written and video.  In this process it became clear to me that I lacked the fundamental tools to really take advantage of this particular artistic expression.  I made some financial investments in this discovery processes. And I shared with some of my closest friends that I was exploring something that I’d been mightily poor at all my life.  I was surprised to receive an outpouring of enthusiastic support:  supplies, a special polymer clay baking oven (an early birthday gift) and numerous internet idea sites.

I ordered a hand crank pasta machine.  I learned that this saves the wear and tear on my hands when trying to mix and blend colors.  And! it produces a more even working surface than a rolling pin does.  I got some clay tools. I put in a brand new blade in my exact-o knife.   Some of you reading this who are not inclined toward art exploration may be wondering what this had to do with you?

Learning is learning.  Whether its physics, physical education or polymer clay.   So I’ll summarize a broadly applicable summary in this way:

1)   I declared I wanted to and I started to explore.

2)   I invited friends to explore and experiment with me and share their results (Carmen Torbus, Christine Mason Miller, Liz Kalloch, Christen Olivarez).

2a)   I dared to share with some of my closest friends what I was doing and they surprised me by providing a litany of resources, ideas and physical support.

3)   I experimented.

4)   I informed my experimentation with study (research & subsequent learning).

5)   I supported my learning by acquring the needed tools to manifest the knowledge I had just acquired.

I kept studying, researching and learning while I waited for all the tools to arrive.

Tomorrow I’ll show you what happened once that pasta machine arrived!  And, just to refresh your memory, here’s a picture of the book that kicked all this into gear. THE ARTIST UNIQUE by Carmen Torbus.  My polymer clay section was led by Jenn McGlon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever.  – Mary Jo Putney

 

That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.  – Doris Lessing -

Learning is always rebellion…Every bit of new truth discovered is revolutionary to what was believed before. – Margaret Lee Runbeck -

That’s the way things come clear.  All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along. _ Madeleine L’Engle

The excitement of learning separates youth from old age.  As long as you’re learning you’re not old. -  Rosalyn W. Yalow -

How Do You HONOR the Learning Curve?

There is a period of time for everyone that is called the learning curve.  Curve.  You can’t see around the edge of a curve, but you do know something is there.  Something just waiting for you to round that bend.

So it went on my journey of exploring Polymer Clay.  After the lump incident I learned quite a bit about the way the stuff felt.  I learned that the baking time is really important.  I learned to let it the varnish dry before writing on it.  And, the important model here is that I tool note of what I learned so I could make NEW mistakes instead of repeating the ones I had already made.

I referenced, again, the section in Carmen Torbus’s book dealing with clay.  It was whimsically presented by Jenn McGlon.  I knew, looking at those pictures, that working with Polymer Clay was a lot like ballet.  The best dancers make ballet look so easy. And Jenn’s articles looked so accessible.  Ha! I soldiered on.  I started to get a feel for the place in which the clay was “ready” to be formed.  I grabbed an old rolling pin at my local thrift shop and used that to flatten my clay.  I wanted to experiment with how the clay would accept marks….and how it would deal with paint.

I almost went in search of tutorials but I held myself back.  I was still in the exploration phase and I wanted to just act with the information that Carmen and Jenn provided.  Additional tutors could come later.  I formed one of my favorite shapes: hearts.  And I learned what I wanted, plus a whole bunch more. I learned about adhesives, time to dry, and how the clay would accept collage pieces.  And somewhere in the midst of it all, I stop furrowing my eyebrows into a single unit and started having fun.

I made dozens and dozens of different hearts.  And true to the process – I’ve been giving them all away.  Spontaneously.  At speaking engagements, Included in little packages to friends.  In fact, a friend of mine is recovering from a serious procedure and she’ll be in the hospital all week.  She’ll get a polymer clay heart, too.  Hers says on the back, “Take care of yourself.”

Today it’s not so difficult to show you a photo of my process.  I’m happier with the outcome.  But still! the lumps I turned out on my first effort served a very important purpose.  Those lumps were part of my learning curve.  At this stage in my discovery, I STILL couldn’t see what was around the curve…but I kept on going anyway.

One of the artists in this circle of discovery has begun sharing the steps on her curve.  If you are curious you can read about Christine Mason Miller’s journey here:  http://christinemasonmiller.com/2011/06/29/creative-tools/

I’m hoping the detail of this creative journey inspires you to be patient with your own learning curves…and maybe, just might be the impetus to pick up a creative expression that is unfamiliar to you.   Now, have a heart or two…

And here’s the cover of the book that started the journey:

Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.  – Paul Klee -

The purest and most thoughtful minds are those  which love color the most.  – John Ruskin -

Green is the fresh emblem of well-founded hopes. In blue the spirit can wander, but in green it can rest. – Mary Webb -

What an artist is for is to tell us what we see but do not know we see.  – Edith Stillwell -

No artist is ahead of his time.  He is his time; it is just that others are behind the times. – Martha Graham -

When you make any kind of artwork, you have to serve it.  You could easily call the artist a servant. – M.B Goffstein

The first prerogative of an artist in any medium is to make a fool of himself. – Pauline Kael -

 

 

 

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