Clay Soup and Alan Watts

Riddle: You have 60 small clay faces drying in the sun, almost ready to be fired. What do they turn into after an expected thunderstorm?

Answer: Clay Soup!

If only I had loaded the kiln before we left for the afternoon! But noooooo – the sky was clear, so who would have thought that a gully-washer was coming?

Seeing all of those dissolved clay faces when I got home made me feel sad, but also a bit philosophical. After all, they were still clay. Only their shapes had changed. They were returned back to their primordial soup!

This experience got me thinking about Alan Watts, whose writings have been a huge influence and comfort to me all of my adult life.

Alan Watts often spoke about the nature of life and death in terms that demystify and de-dramatize the transition. The concept that when you die, you go back to being what you were before you were born, is a profound reflection on the nature of existence. From clay to clay? From soup to soup?

He encourages us to view life as a temporary journey through a realm of awareness, much like a bird’s fleeting passage through a lighted house. By understanding and accepting the cyclical nature of life and death, we can alleviate the fear of death and appreciate the transient beauty of our existence. (Alan Watts Organization)​.

If you haven’t read Alan Watts before, I encourage you to start with THE BOOK
On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. If you’re interested in The Book, there’s a PDF version available here.

This is all kind kind of a heavy-duty metaphor about something simple as melted clay, right? But there are lessons in everything. Living an artful life means looking at things through a different lens.

And the other HUGE bonus from this experience was the rain! Because I live in South Texas, I will willingly trade a couple of hours work for some welcome rain! I can make more clay faces but I sure can’t make it rain!

Thanks for reading – back to the clay studio 🙂

Lyn

 

 

 

 

Shards and Stories – Lessons from Greece (continued)

Taken at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

Examining shards of pottery in Greece, especially in historical museums, is a fascinating and often deeply meaningful experience. These fragments, bearing partial symbols and images, are remnants of ancient lives and cultures, offering glimpses into the past. Each shard is a piece of a larger narrative, a fragment of a story that once was whole.

Taken at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

The symbols and images on these shards might depict scenes from daily life, mythological tales, or intricate patterns that were significant to the culture that produced them. Even in their broken state, these fragments can tell us a great deal about the artistic styles, technological advancements, and social practices of ancient Greece.

One of the most compelling aspects of these shards is their ability to be reassembled with other pieces, even those from different pots. This process is akin to piecing together a complex jigsaw puzzle where the final image represents a broader cultural or historical narrative. When these shards are put together, they often reveal a more comprehensive picture, connecting disparate elements to form a richer, more detailed story.

Humans have always told stories with symbols and pictures and objects.Even a small scrap of of pottery gives a rich clue that inspires us to infer more of the story.

My personal artwork has  been strongly influenced by the idea of “shards” as a metaphor for human communication across time. A shard can be a found fragment of clay, a rusty nail, a scrap of handwriting – any little clue that becomes a “secret handshake” between the maker and the discoverer.

Lyn Belisle, Encanto Assemblage, 2011

Have you ever wondered whether fragments of the artwork that you create today might one day be discovered and displayed in a museum, offering clues to the creative expressions of the 21st century? Imagine a future archeologist unearthing remnants of our contemporary art, much like how we now marvel at the fragments of ancient Greek artifacts. Each piece, though incomplete, tells a story of its time, revealing insights into the culture, technology, and aesthetics that defined an era.

In ancient Greece, even the smallest fragment of a vase, statue, or fresco can speak volumes. These pieces provide invaluable glimpses into the past, allowing us to reconstruct the visual and cultural landscape of a civilization long gone. The intricate designs on a pottery shard or the delicate chiseling on a broken statue reflect the artistic prowess and thematic concerns of their creators.

Reconstructed Lion, National Archaeological Museum

Similarly, future generations might uncover fragments of our current artworks—perhaps a piece of a digital print, a shard of a ceramic sculpture, or a remnant of a mixed-media installation. These fragments would serve as tangible connections to our present, helping future historians and art enthusiasts understand the themes, materials, and techniques that shape our creative output.

Lyn Belisle, Shard Components

As artists, the possibility that our work could one day be part of an archeological discovery adds a layer of legacy to our practice. It encourages us to think about the durability and impact of our creations. What messages are we embedding in our work? How do our materials and methods reflect the values and technologies of our time? In contemplating these questions, we become part of a continuum, linking our contemporary expressions to the vast tapestry of human artistic endeavor.

Lyn Belisle, Icon, 2020

So, next time you create, consider the enduring journey your art might undertake. Perhaps, centuries from now, a fragment of your work will be unearthed, sparking curiosity and admiration in a future museum, much like the ancient Greek artifacts do for us today. Through these fragments, our stories will continue to be told, and our creative legacy will persist, connecting us to future generations in a timeless dialogue.

Birds on columns, Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Learning from the past enriches our understanding and inspires us to create meaningful, lasting art for future generations to cherish. Or maybe just to wonder about . . . .

End of lesson from Greece !!

Lyn

 

 

 

So many thanks!

I am so grateful to you for re-subscribing to SHARDS. You are the reason I teach workshops, share ideas, and learn so much about our arts community. Thank you for being a part of my creative life! I look forward to staying in touch, thanks to you.

As promised, I did a random number pick of those kind people who subscribed yesterday to win a free workshop, and the winner is number 217, who happens to be my friend, Joanna Powell Colbert! Joanna is primarily responsible for my journey into Spirit Dolls and the Tarot. I hope you have a chance to look at her work.

Joanna, when you read this, send me a quick email and pick out a gifted workshop on my Teachable Studio space!

Don’t forget, there are also free workshop for everyone on that site.

In the meantime, thanks again, and please stay tuned for some SHARDS posts in the near future! If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to send those along!

♥Lyn

 

 

 

Artists or Artmakers?

Question – “What do you do?”

“Well, I’m an artist.”

Next question – “Oh, cool – what do you paint?”

Why does that “artist” description automatically conjure up someone who paints paintings? If you look up images for the term “artist” on Google, that’s what you’ll see, rows of people at easels painting paintings. (Hi, Bob Ross ♥)

If this sounds familiar to you, it’s no wonder we have a problem calling ourselves “Artists.” That term doesn’t describe what we do because it has so many associations and preconceptions.

But what if I answered, instead, “Well, I”m an Artmaker.” The next question would be, “What kind of art do you MAKE?”

This difference is HUGE!

Now I can answer, “Hmm –  that’s tricky, but basically I work with my hands in my studio on all kinds of artwork that connects us.” Then I can click a few photos on my phone that I have ready to go. And hopefully, a conversation starts. Maybe like this —

“I make sometimes paintings, but they are not traditional paintings . . .still, people seem to like them.” (click)

“I do assemblage work” (click)

I work in beeswax wax and paint for all kinds of different projects and objects: (click)

“Sometimes work with photographs and fiber” – (click)

And so on – not too many photos (if you get that far) – just four or five.

Or if you (like I) use MOO business cards that let you have as many as 50 different images, you can show several of those, and hopefully, your inquirer will take a card, any card. Ask, “What’s your favorite?”

The point is, we are ARTMAKERS. From the introduction to Melanie Falick’s wonderful book, Making a Life, “We make art to connect with others. To express ideas and emotions, feel competent, create something tangible and long-lasting. And to feed the soul.”

What do YOU do?? If you find yourself mumbling that you are “an, er, artist” (and thinking “am I a real artist, or what — why do I call my self that, what does it mean anyway, urg, it sounds so pretentious, I don’t even have a true studio,etc. etc., rethink that.

Tell them with a happy smile that you are an Artmaker. It’s more than semantics. It’s how and why you work to make beautiful things. Feel the truth of that through your heart and soul right down to your toes. Then get ready for an interesting conversation!

It’s the little things . . .

This wasn’t the post I intended to write this week. Instead, it’s just a short “thank-you” note – to myself!!

Take a look at this photo. It won’t mean much to anybody but me.

This is the work table in my small studio area off the kitchen. Yesterday evening it looked like this . . . . . .

It had been a loooo-oong day. I finished filming two hours of workshop videos for Painting With Fire, editing and uploading them. I also did some assemblage work in the middle of this mess that was left over from Art Stroll projects.

I wanted to go to bed!! But the Good Angel in my tired old brain said, “clean it up – you won’t be sorry.”  Sigh.

It took about ten sleepy minutes to put stuff away – not a great job, but enough to make me smile when I walked in this morning, coffee in hand, ready to work on a big clay commission. I could actually see the surface of the table!

If there is any message to this, it’s be kind to yourself! Even if you are feeling tired and grumpy, straighten up your mess just as if you were working in somebody else’s studio so you can be ready for the morning.  Put things back where you will find them the next time you look for them. You will thank yourself later.

Oh, and speaking of Painting with Fire, next Wednesday my lesson called Myth and Mist airs. If you are a member of PWF, look for it. I talk about telling stories that are veiled in beeswax and other media using this layered collage encaustic painting as one of the examples. It recounts a myth about crows and dragonflies:

And if you’re not aware of Painting With Fire, it’s never to late to join this amazing year-long encaustic extravaganza! You will even learn how to master encaustic without messing up your studio.

Well. . . . .maybe not that last part . . .

 

 

Pleeeeeze buy my art??? (whimper)

When I was a Girl Scout, we were supposed to go door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies as part of our merit badge activities.

I was painfully shy, and had to force myself to slink up someone’s front steps and ring the doorbell. When it was answered, I’d hang my head and mumble “You wouldn’t want to buy any Girl Scout cookies, would you?” People felt so sorry for me that I actually sold a few packages.

Fast forward about six decades to the Uptown Art Stroll which took place last weekend. It had been years since I had sold art in person at a large art fair like that, and I had forgotten how weird it can be.

First of all, when I got my art together the night before the Stroll to tag it and such, it looked like a whole lot of exciting stuff.

But by the time I got the table set up the next day at the sale, it looked pretty puny. Yikes!

You have to remember that there are about twenty square blocks of art tents in this event with eleventy-thousand artists packed on every corner, so there is a whole bunch of competition! Gulp. No wonder it looked puny.

And it’s called a “Stroll” because people walk around at the event, look at your stuff, pick it up, ask questions, and then stroll away. Actually, that’s a fib. They often purchase art, and I made a respectable number of sales. But it did bring back memories of Girl Scout cookie days.

When people came close to the booth, I tried to balance my expression somewhere between desperation (“pleeeeze by my art”)…..

. . . .and sophisticated coolness (“if you knew good art, you’d definitely buy one of these assemblages, dude”).

I want to give a high five to my fellow artists who do this kind of event with such ease and grace. And I want to thank the buyers who actually purchased my art – you will never know how much it meant to me! Want some cookies to go with that art??

And finally, thanks, Marta Stafford – you do a much better job selling my art than I do!

 

 

 

Five Easy Questions

Do you “journal”? To me, a “journal” is still a noun – I am just not disciplined enough to write down my thoughts everyday in a meaningful, artful journal-ese way. That doesn’t mean I don’t take notes and write out ideas and make outlines for classes and write/sketch constantly on scraps of paper or in my Lefty Date Book.

See? Look at these notes – clear, organized, legible. . . . not.

Seriously, though, since Michele Belto and I have started working with The Enso Circle group, I am learning the value of keeping track of my time just so I can see were it goes. I devised five questions for the group to fill out at the end every week for that very purpose.  I’ve started answering these questions for myself every Friday, and it’s helping me keep track of my projects and my processes.

Here are the five questions, below. They are specifically designed for our Enso art group, but anyone can use them by changing a couple of words. If you want to use them, feel free.

I suggest you print them out and put them somewhere, then answer them once a week on the same day. Don’t spend more than five minutes on this but do it every week. And save your answers in a file or folder so you can track them after a few weeks.

What took up most of your headspace this week?

What was your proudest art-related accomplishment this week?

What one specific step did you take toward your goals?

What was your biggest obstacle this week in moving toward your

goals?

If someone gave you a present to help motivate you next week,

what would it be?

_________________________________________________________________

So, one of the things that I have learned from answering these for the last couple of weeks is that “Life happens.” My headspace gets filled with unexpected family distractions, or appliance breakdowns, or an email that needs immediate attention, or an offer that is too good to pass up. We just have to balance our time in the best way we can.

The “biggest obstacle” question is related to this. Often the obstacle is something unexpected and un-preventable. I just got my flu shot today, and it may lay me low tomorrow just when I need to be working. Oh, well. It’s important to get the flu shot. Balance it.

It’s super-important to concentrate on the proud moments and those small accomplishments that nobody but you might understand. Today I taped the sides of six 24x24x2” cradle board panels with masking tape  – it was incredibly boring, but I did it! This kind of achievement is like prepping to paint a room – you gotta do it if you want the job done right, but it is spectacularly tedious.

The last question about a “present” is fun. It could be something silly, like having somebody show up at your door who loves to put masking tape on panels, or it could be something serious like a call from a gallery offering you a solo show. But by answering this question, you are allowed to wish (and therefore define) any short-term assistance that might move you forward. And by defining it, you might even figure out a way to get it, or something reasonably close.

If you are  journaler (and I admire your dedication) you can include these in your journal every week. If like me, you are more of a random note collector, you can answer these every Friday on your computer, or jot them down on a sticky note, or whatever you choose. But the point is to give yourself a consistent creative check-up. You’ll make better progress when you can reflect a bit on how far you’ve come that week. And no matter what your answers are, I’ll bet you’ll enjoy the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busted.

Busted. I got caught doing the very thing I warn everyone not to do. Copyright violation.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

THE STORY

Last month I received and completely unexpected email regarding an image that I used on this very blog in 2017:

Unauthorized Use of Boxist.com’ Images Cease and Desist / Settlement Agreement – Case #150421B

It has come to our attention that you are using an image (or images) owned by Boxist.com (Stock Photography) for online promotional purposes without our authorization or a valid license which is copyrighted work in accordance with the copyright law, We own the image(s) exclusively and have filings with the U.S. Copyright Office for said image(s) under: Registration Number: VA0002000962.

We have searched our records and have not been able to locate a valid license for the use of the image(s) under your name, Attached for your reference is a copy of the image(s) in question and the usage found on your website, Also attached is a payment demand representing a settlement that Boxist.com would expect to receive for the unauthorized use of the image(s) should no license exist.

Although this use might have been unintentional, the use of our imagery without proper licensing is considered “copyright infringement” and entitles Boxist Stock Photography to pursue compensation for infringing uses, the consequences of copyright infringement can lead to substantial penalties, and If you continue to engage in copyright infringement after receiving this letter, your actions will be evidence of “willful infringement”.

List of the infringement materials on your website:

(Digital cached data and printed proofs of this infringement have been preserved for our use as evidence in any lawsuit or litigation proceedings).

________________________________________________________________________

YIKES!! At first, I did what any computer-savvy person would do – I googled the sender, hoping it was a scam. Long story short, it turns out that they were right. This company does provide images but they require a license. They also do a thriving business in searching for people who are using these images without a license, and they found me, four years later.

The image was something I had found through a Google search. Here’s what it looked like in the 2017 blog post:

In my own defense, when I choose something from Google images, I do a cursory search for copyright, but in this case (and in every case) you need to look more thoroughly.

Boxist.com asked for $150 to use their photo – it didn’t matter that I had already taken it down. I had used it without permission. I also found through searches that this company catches a lot of people this way – but they are absolutely within their rights.

In the end, I went to their site and paid $50 for a license to use the small version of the photo which I wasn’t even using any more on a four-year-old blog post. But the law is the law.

I quickly heard back from Boxist.com – here’s the email:

Dear Lyn,

I appreciate your attempt in resolving this matter, the purchase of a new license subsequent to notification of the unauthorized use does not address the copyright violation, but since you have already purchased the image from us, and such action make me believe that you had no intention to harm our business and this is all just an innocent mistake, so in good faith I will consider this issue resolved and the case is closed, also you have been granted a perpetual, non- exclusive, non-transferable license “meaning the rights are non-sublicensable, meaning that you cannot transfer or sublicense the image to anyone else” to use the Photograph for your online and social media uses under our standard license.
This is to confirm: Boxist.com (Stock Photography) is ending all legal claims and does hereby release and discharge you from any and all claims for copyright infringement regarding this case, this settlement is effective and the payment for the copyrighted image(s) is completed, our invoice and confirmation for the payment has been sent with the order email.
____________________________________________________________
Apparently, I escaped by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin! Or at least with only a small financial penalty — and a big fat lesson! If you want to read more about this, check out this link (and be sure to read the responses).
Your Friend,
The Reformed Copyright Violator

 

 

 

 

 

What do you have to say for youself??

Jane Dunnewold is a consummate contemporary fiber artist and a beloved internationally-known teacher. Her Creative Strength Training program has helped thousands of artists (including me) to discover and define their authentic creative selves.

Jane Dunnewold: Altar #1 – Wooden altar form “upholstered” with botanical prints on 140 lb watercolor paper. Approximately 10″ tall x 8″ wide.

Jane is also a heck of an interviewer! Her sharp mind and strong background in the arts gives her genuine curiosity and insight, and she knows exactly what questions to ask people.

So that’s why I was both thrilled and intimidated when she asked if she could interview me for her CST Guest Creative Interview Series.  

It was great! I learned so much – read on . . .

Here’s a short clip from the interview (there’s a link to the complete 30-minute interview at the end of the post). Before you watch it, ask yourself what you would say if Jane asked YOU about how spirituality informs your art practice . . .

Jane was kind enough to provide me with a list of potential questions in advance,which was a big help. But it’s really HARD to figure out exactly what makes yourself tick, much less express it in words to somebody else.

One HUGE thing this interview taught me is that, as artists. we really do have to be able to define our aesthetic for our own sake. If we can do that, it keeps us on the right track. It keeps us true to our own vision.

OK, now here are Jane’s questions directed at YOU. I want you to get out your notebook and write down some short answers as you interview yourself. (The spirituality question isn’t on the list, but it’s also a good one).

1. What do you do to get into a creative mindset before you begin working on a
project?
2. Do you have a special “routine” that helps you prepare for a studio day?
3. What are a couple of ways you deal with getting out of feeling stuck, and if that
never happens to you, can you share the reasons why? We’re fascinated by how artists’ minds work when obstacles present themselves.
4. How do you describe yourself as an artist?
5. Can you tell us briefly what processes and materials you work with, or like best?
6. Anything else you have discovered about being “creative” that you’d like to share?

This is a great exercise. And since all of us have some unexpected thought-time during this strange summer, it’s a good way to organize your thoughts. For example, you might find that the project you were considering just out of boredom is not right an that you should go back to an unfinished work and complete it.

As an extra challenge, sit yourself down in front of your iPhone with a cup of tea and video your answers as you interview yourself. You’ll thank me for it later 🙂

I’m so grateful to Jane for inviting me to do this. It’s helped me understand myself better as an artist.

One of the things I admire about Jane the most is her generosity to other artists – her YouTube tutorials, her Creative Strength Training program, which is not all about HER, but about US — and especially her insightful body of work, which redefines “fiber art.”

Here’s the link to the complete interview

So, what do you have to say for YOURself??

♥Lyn

 

 

 

Lifting spirits with little gifts of art

Have you noticed that little gifts mean even more in tough times? I’m not sure I ever realized that before the “Age of COVID” smacked us all around and left everybody’s crystal balls all fogged up. But some things never change, like creative thoughtfulness.
When I published my new eBook, Postcards to Myself, I wrote it primarily for individual artists (beginners and seasoned) who needed an engaging method to discover, curate, and record their best techniques.

But those artists have taken the “postcard” idea and run with it.
I just got this note from one of them:
Just wanted to let you know that I really got caught up in your class “Postcards to Myself”.  I never really understood how to do collage until I took this class.  I was gathering quite the stack of them and finally decided to share them. 
I wrote words of inspiration on the Mat board before I started the collage.  I put them in envelopes and sent them out to friends and those who might be needing a little bit of encouragement during this pandemic. 
Creating the art helped me immensely!  I probably send out between 75 and 100 of them.  What fun I’ve had! Thanks for teaching the class!
Niki W.
Here’s Niki’s work table with postcards in progress:
This email was totally unexpected – and frankly, pretty exciting! Who wouldn’t want an actual piece of art in the mail? Niki, you are the best!
Another “giving” idea (from me to you) is my free workshop called The Lotus Book. Currently, there are 111 artists enrolled in that class, watching the instructional videos, and creating these art books. In the Lotus Book workshop, I encourage you to make these little journals a gifts for others.
Here are some emails and examples that artists have sent to show me what they’re doing:
Hi, Lyn,
I just finished my first lotus book! Thank you so much for a wonderful time, for sharing your creativity with all of us. Here are the pics.  Not the greatest, had to use a cat snoozie for a background and the light wasn’t quite right, but you’ll get the idea.Seems like a win-win during this Pandemic time. Stay safe! ~ Kate 
This book, from Anna, has such great pattern coordination – lucky someone, whoever gets this one!
And this note, from Carolyn, combines the Postcard book techniques with the Lotus Book! Brilliant!

 

Hi Lyn,
I’m having so much fun watching your classes and then working on the projects.  The first two photos are of the Lotus book.  I had cut out some 4×4 pieces from some scrap from the Postcards to Myself class and decided they would look great applied to a Lotus book.  The third photo is from the Postcards to Myself class but without the wax. They’re just the inspiration and distraction l needed. ~ Carolyn

 

My job in all of this is to encourage you to create with a purpose – creative thoughtfulness is a win-win.

 

Here’s the ink to the free Lotus Book workshop.

And here’s the link to the Postcard book – it’s not free but it’s  very affordable and will reward you will much gratitude fro your friends who are graced with your mail art!

 

Trust yourself, trust the process, and take good care this week –

 

Lyn