. . .that’s when I knew her name

One of my favorite poets and people, Pamela Ferguson, contacted me recently to see if I’d teach a Wax and Talisman workshop for her small group, and I said “Of course!”. Pamela had taken the Small Worlds workshop last March and I wrote about her work here in an earlier post.

Teaching this talisman workshop is so rewarding – it’s the subject of my latest ebook, and one of the most personal workshops that I offer. So I was excited to be teaching it “live,” especially when I found out that Pamela’s granddaughter Caitlyn would be in the group. It’s fun to see how different generations respond to an art challenge.

Pamela’s group came to the studio yesterday and we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. The workshop has three components:

  • Personalizing the earthenware face piece and painting melted beeswax wax on the surface
  • Making rolled paper “blessing beads” and adding texture, beeswax, and metallic enhancements
  • Tying symbolic ribbons and cord to the focal piece and stringing the beads

Every step has meaning and intention. I asked the students to let their intuition lead them and to see what would happen. I also asked them to name their pieces when we finished.

This is Caitlyn’s piece – she is a senior in high school and very perceptive about herself and others. She adores her grandmother, Pamela.

Her blessing beads are beautiful, and I like the way she has grouped them at the bottom edge of the face. During discussion time, I asked Caitlyn what she had named her talisman. She said the name kept shifting as she got deeper and deeper into the process, but it had ended up as “Venus” – not what she’d expected. We all understood what she meant !

This morning, I got an email from Pamela saying how much they had enjoyed the workshop. Then she told me that Caitlyn had started talking about her talisman as they were driving home. Her words were almost an impromptu poem, which Pamela wrote down.

Read Caitlyn’s poem and look at the talisman she created which inspired it – lovely.

Talisman
by Caitlyn
Venus is her name –
    the two sides of her face
    the two sides of love
 
The light side has golden glow
The ribbons are bright, peachy,
      lots of strands, beads, charms.
 
The other side is dark –
the walnut stain soaked deeply.
The copper tear by her eye was accidental
      but love can cause pain.
That’s when I knew her name –
      the tear, the dark side.
And those ribbons are thin, stringy –
black, gray – sadder somehow.
 
I didn’t mean for her to be Venus
      the goddess of love
but that’s how she came out.

It’s all about trusting the process – letting go of what we expect and letting the intuitive take over. I’m very glad that Caitlyn’s work and poetry expresses this so perfectly – she didn’t mean for her to be Venus, the goddess of love, but that’s how she came out!

But wait, there’s more! Pamela, a published poet, had her own insight about the process. She sent me her poem this morning, as well – it’s titled “Paper Bead,” but it’s about much, much more.

Paper Bead

     by Pamela Ferguson

 

Cut a strip of paper,

long

narrow

Write a secret word,

a power word

a sacred one –

a promise – a passion –

a vision word.

 

Glue the strip

almost end to end

side to side.

Coat your word

with protection.

 

Lay a skewer on the almost end –

roll the strip onto the tiny dowel

until your word is cocooned within –

held by the power of your hands

the dowel

the glue.

 

Bedeck the roll with ribbon

or string or yarn-

chain or silk or sinew.

 

Seal in place with that most

basic of adherents –

pure, warm beeswax.

Coat the cocoon.

Seal your word

in the unique world you make

and remake each day.

Add its shape and your word

to your memory’s bliss.

 

Then do another.

 

Don’t you love the way the creative process works with work and words? I especially like Pamela’s last line, “Then do another.” It means that we can do this any time, this expressing our best thoughts through our art and our poetry. It’s so comforting and liberating.
Thanks, Pamela and Caitlyn, grandmother and granddaughter, for sharing your artwork and your poetry.
PS I’m always happy to arrange a small group workshop for you – you don’t even have to be an artist or a poet!

 

 

 

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Lotus and clay

First, the Lotus – as in yesterday’s Lotus Book workshop at my “Studio Cinco(one of the participants told me that the address, #515, was very auspicious). Must be true, ’cause the workshop was really fun!

This is such a simple project, but it’s deceptive. Working with a small scale sometimes makes it  difficult to pull off a striking composition. However, fiber artist Mary Ann Johnson shared some absolutely gorgeous Asian papers that made us all look good! Take a look.

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One of the great things about these workshops is the sharing of information and sources. Yesterday while we were working on our Lotus Books, Leslie Newton from the San Antonio Potters Guild and I discussed our favorite new source for clay and tools, Roadrunner Ceramics.

It’s not just a store for potters – mixed media artists can find all kinds of stuff there. I was there last week and got some great stencils ($4 each) as well as some needle tools for incising wax.

stencils

Roadrunner also has these rolling pattern stamps that would be good for inking paper and texturing paper clay.

I found a teeny tiny stamp for my shard faces – they have all kinds of these little guys.

stamp

So add Roadrunner Ceramics to you list of cool art stores in San Antonio. They are located near DeZavala and 1H10 and they are super friendly and helpful.

Have a great week! Is winter over for good??

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How (not to) fire a kiln

Being away from the Studio for two weeks meant playing catch-up when I got back. There were a lot of things I could do art-wise while I was gone, but creating earthenware and firing it was not one of them. Sunday was Clay Day – I made about 60 small and large face shards and small sculpture pieces such as pendants. Monday was hurry-up-and-dry-so-I-can-fire-the-kiln day. I loaded the kiln Monday afternoon even though some larger pieces were still damp (gulp). This is a huge NO-NO. I don’t want to see you guys trying this.

Do you see the little face on top of the big face? It’s completely dry – you can tell because it’s white, but the big piece underneath is gray. It’s damp, and anyone with any sense wouldn’t fire it at this point, but I propped the kiln lid open, let it stay on Low for a few hours, and crossed my fingers that it would dry out and not shatter in the firing.kiln1

There’s really nothing mysterious about loading and firing a kiln. Most electric kilns like my Skutt have a kiln-sitter that uses a pyrometric cone made of clay. The cone is designed to melt at a specific temperature (in this case, about 1800F). When it melts, a three-prong device trips and turns the kiln off. That metal rectangular thingy has dropped down, indicating that the #05 cone on the inside has melted.

kiln2

The Kiln Gods were kind – nothing broke, amazingly enough. Here’s the first tray just out of the kiln, still very warm.

kiln3

Here’s the bottom layer, waiting to be unloaded. If you look on the right, you can see the slumped cone and the tripping device with the middle pin in the down position.

kiln4

So despite my Bad Practice of loading damp greenware, I got away with it – this time. These pieces are now ready for me to figure out how to use them – as Scent Shards? Sculpture pieces? Stay tuned 🙂

kiln5 kiln6

 

 

Sunday earthshard workshop

There’s something about the new studio space that is inspiring – either that, or I had some incredibly talented clay workers in yesterday’s workshop. Could be a bit of both, but take a look at some of the earthenware ornaments they made –

I love the combination of clays and the embellishments! These will be fired late today or early tomorrow, and then we will meet at Ann Pearce’s Jewelry Design next door to pair these works with beads, leather cord and findings to make one-of-a-kind necklaces and pendants. I’ll take pics of the final creations.

Next workshop, March 3rd, Spirit Dolls, is already full but I’m going to have a second one later in the month on March 24th – email me if you’re interested.