life

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I think I might have a time-space continuum conundrum (it’s a thing. I’m sure) There were early warning signs; standing in front of the empty walk-in closet of our then-new home thinking how much extra space I was going to have (red flag! red flag!)

Similarly, when I look at a calendar with thirty or so empty boxes I see nothing but potential with room to move…and, there’s 30. Sometimes 31! (February, being akin to Daylight Savings Time, doesn’t count and it just screws with your watch) Thirty is a lot. I mean, thirty of anything else is abundance.

30 cupcakes is a party!
30 stitches is a trip to the ER.
The IRS gives you 30 days of grace to get your act together before an audit…ok, bad example.
But, you get it.

If I’m paying attention, once I begin to fill in those boxes of potential, they tend to crowd out all that room to move. Like shoes in that ever-shrinking closet.

When I last left you at The House of Disney Princesses, I was waiting on the green light to begin painting a mural outside the Arizona Baptist Children’s Services’ (ABCS) Phoenix location while preparing for a return trip to South Africa scheduled for the end of September.

Arizona Baptist Children’s Services, Phoenix.

We painted the mural over four weekends, with a couple days in-between, beginning August 17th and finishing up September 9th. Suddenly my mid-August gig ran smack into my September. Those boxes of potential disappeared like extra closet space.

l-r: B.Shook, F.Krevens, I.Flyer, J.Kelsey-Mapel, D.Ridley, J.Baron, T.Gledhill

As we finished up the mural, I began setting up The 3rd Occasional Cup and Mug Sale; knowing I would need to begin social media promotion for the sale while I was in South Africa. This event had been in the works since May, which further illustrates my time-space conundrum. How did everything get all bunched up? I would be jumping into one very tight schedule once we returned with the sale calendared for October 20 and 21 ::sigh::

And so it goes.
A few days ago my sweet husband helped me apply the sacrificial/UV coat to the mural at ABCS. We needed to wait for cooler weather and a free weekend. What a great time we had meeting the community while painting this summer. Thank you ABCS for the opportunity!

Our trip to South Africa was amazing!! We were privileged to partner with Hope Baptist Church again as they reach their community, encourage pastors and churches in neighboring towns and nations, and become more deeply connected to our brothers and sisters in Christ oceans away. Did I mention amazing?!

l-r: R.Brinton, S.Berzelius, R.Littlefield, A. Orlando, C.Applen, G.Swanstrom, S.Blain, S.Hodges, S.Brodie, T.Bailey, B.Zubler, S.Siegel, L.Speranza, D.Watkins, C.Johnson, C.Boren, J.Amiel-Bendheim, J.Forzano, T.Do, M.Farabee, J.Gamble, M.Johnson, M.VanDusen, K.Escobedo, J.Kayser, P.Green, A.Rassmussen, S.Luerhsen, J.Armstrong, T.Budzak, C.Hilton.

The 3rd Occasional Cup and Mug Sale was So. Much. Fun. 38 local ceramic artists participated in our occasional event. This year the sale benefited Pursue Life Adult Ministry, a ministry of ABCS. We collected (at last count) $1,210 in Home Depot and Lowe’s gift cards to help offset the cost of creating adaptive living environments (wheelchair ramps, pull bars, etc) for senior adults of limited financial means that desire to stay in their homes as they age.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m preparing a workshop scheduled for December 4th. I can almost feel those boxes being squashed like that over-committed hanger wedged between the grubby jeans and the sweatshirts.

If you’re interested in making a tax deductible donation to Pursue Life Adult Ministry, you can do that here*: https://www.abcs.org/donate/donate-now
*scroll down on the designation box to choose Pursue Life Adult Ministry.

Instagram@dessadogtoo



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say something

Failure’s such a creative gift. When the ability to fail is taken away, it fuels a lot of fear.

~Matt Bronleewe, Jars of Clay

 

If you hop into the carpool lane traveling west on U.S. 60, it’ll plop you smack into Central Phoenix. That’s 25 miles of freeway driving without the need to merge into the suicide mission we refer to as traffic around these parts. Glorious!

However, there’s this narrow overpass bounded by guidance pylons just before the transition onto Interstate 10 West (guidance is such a congenial word. it’s a trap!)

Suddenly, you have The Fast and The Furious! Pylons to your right; embellished with vestigial paint and a smattering of headlight plastic within the gore point. On the left, concrete barriers with layers of cursive tire scuffs. If you’re claustrophobic, it’s certainly tight. And, if this isn’t the lane you really wanted to be in…too late. Even if you are in the correct lane, the visual history of panic coupled with speed is a little scary. It’s pretty messy in there.

~ Vin Diesel (source: screenrant.com, Universal Studios)

That overpass reminds me of the process of creating art. It’s pretty messy in there (truth: it parallels so much of life – pick an allegory)

Lately, I’ve read several articles that speak to what the authors believe art really is (Joe Q. Public has been asking that question for a long time – there’s a whole other conversation) Each writer concludes that the process of creating is the art. They state that there is a beauty in the process of creating which then constituted the creation as art.

Um…no. I disagree. These are the muddy waters that wash over the claim that a thing is art simply because I made it (those are participation awards, folks)

Art happens in the communication. There is a certain struggle – as there is in any attempt to communicate our passions. No one invites failures but, they happen. It’s messy. The beauty is on the other end of the struggle; after the panic and pylon slalom, after the white-knuckle turns and skid marks when you’ve traveled oh-so-many miles without compromising your work.

In the end, I just want to communicate well. There’s the art. Glorious!

go see art!

The Evidence of Hope

~an exhibition of ceramic drawings by Beth Shook~

~detail: The Evidence of Hope 13/33

That sparrows continue to sing despite the brokenness of man is a testament to hope.

The Evidence of Hope is a field painting made up of 33 individual compositions; a flock of sparrows on a field of lilies (see what I did there) with a few outlying observers.

June 1-30, 2017

Practical Art
5070 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012

 



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A few weeks ago I had the privilege to speak to a group of students from the University of the West Indies and Guyana, Martinique about their ‘big picture’ view; a discussion (I use that word figuratively since they spoke mostly French and my Spanglish was of little use) that really had much to do with God’s plan and purpose in their lives. Therein lies the big picture.

We began with a big question (or three).

What are you going to accomplish with your life?

then we broke it down a bit,
What is your five year plan?

A five year plan. Not a bad thing to have. In fact, beneficial…unless. No, until the plan becomes an obstacle to the big picture.

Allow me to introduce you to my friend, Bill.
Bill attended the University of Texas at El Paso when I was an undergraduate student there. He was an intellectual sort, a man of faith with a humble approach to every day. Bill was four or five years older than our motley crew that spent precious hours avoiding whatever we could around the dinner table each evening. He was a graduate student in geology (yes, I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from a top ranked mining school)

We always knew when Bill was on our floor (he was dating the RA) as he would announce, ‘man on the floor’ when coming through the door and then whistle a tune with incredible perfection as he walked through the hall (we owe a debt of gratitude to Bill for his chivalrous behavior; saving more than one of us from a ‘most embarrassing moment’ story when a risky dash down the hall from the shower to our room was averted by a show tune whistling through the air)

Bill was never without a book or two and a stack of papers. Always researching. When I enrolled my first semester, Bill was already there. When I graduated four and a half years later, I left him behind. I remember him applying for an extension at one point. Not because he needed more research time, he just didn’t know what he wanted to do when he finished. Bill’s plan was to study. He hadn’t given much thought to anything beyond school. His plan (at the time*) was an obstacle to the big picture. It happens a lot, getting caught up in the study – the process of studying to the neglect of application; the purpose (ceramic people – glaze freaks in particular, might recognize themselves…ahem)

In Martinique, my discussion with the students lent caution about getting caught in the five year plan without ever applying what they’ve learned to the big picture. The third question I posed; What are you doing today that points to the big picture?

To illustrate my point to the students, I showed a drawn study on paper for what would eventually be translated to an image on clay. As the image of the paper study and clay drawing were viewed adjacent to each other, they noted (I hear it often), what I refer to as studies are very finished drawings (on very bad paper) I understand. I see what they see. The drawings could easily be seen as an end in themselves.

~study: Why Do You Make So Much of Me?

Except.

Except, I use these drawings to study form, light and dark, textures, and technique. I practice seeing (really seeing) and record detail (stuff I know I’ll never realize on clay) They are only studies. Not my purpose. Not my big picture. The paper drawings are the means by which I learn line, shape, create texture, layer image and process the glaze surface for clay in order to communicate; tell my story. Really, God’s story through me. The big picture.

*My friend did eventually complete his thesis work, then on to receive his PhD.

• 




Mark your calendars

2017 Ceramic Studio Tour
February 25-26
10am-5pm

My studio is a host site, #12 on the tour this year.
~with:
Sarah Brodie, Sam Hodges, and Genie Swanstrom

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on being Piglet

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

~AA Milne, The House at Pooh Corner.

There are uncertainties that encourage reckless daring (those seem to happen mostly in the movies) Or doubts that make you question what you know (the goal of every multiple choice test) And then, the second guesses that manage to override your heart (like Piglet, I struggle here)

For a long time I’ve wanted to create a large drawing on clay – like, Gulliver-size large. OK. That might be a little ambitious considering Gulliver’s towering figure, but yet….

Gulliver's Travels, Johnathan Swift illustration, Arthur Rackham

Gulliver’s Travels, Johnathan Swift
illustration, Arthur Rackham

A work of significant scale is dependent on a few necessary components – not the least of which is an exhibition site. And then there’s the matter of engineering and subject. The more I’ve thought about how I might go about creating a drawing of this scale, the more I’ve wanted to make it happen. I’m not much of a public art artist. I love public art and percent projects that bring beauty to much of our functional every day. However, it’s not really the best venue for my current work (and it’s scary!)

After securing a location to show my foray into big drawing, I threw my motivation into drive. My thought is to get all the tiles bisgue fired so I can marathon glaze. But, some how collecting bisque ware runs counter to motivation. That growing stack of tiles is overwhelming. The lengthy process allows for considerable doubt. I’ve second guessed the initial design (too late to turn back, now), the feasibility of the installation (this may be an engineering nightmare), and the surface/glaze is now in such flux I’m not sure how to read my notes (not counting my indiscernible handwriting)

Most bothersome is the uncertainty that makes me question my intent.
Why am I doing this?
What am I trying to communicate?
Which lends itself to, where was I in the process?
Often followed by, why did I come into this room? (that might be a completely unrelated thought)

I feel like I’m in a constant state of righting my perspective (read: attitude)

So then, back to my original notes.
Reorient my thoughts to the initial vision.
Think beyond where I am in the process; making sketches and notes to keep moving forward.
Stop being Piglet.





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~illustration: Lee McCormick

~illustration: Lee McCormick

A couple weeks ago as I was headed to class I saw something I’ve seen a hundred times over; young almost-adult men on bicycles that are considerably too small for them to ride comfortably. I reason this boy/man to bicycle relationship comes about slowly and organically (read: unplanned). Somewhere around that 9th or 10th birthday, there awaits the gift of a bicycle. The best gift because it amounts to some measure of independence and freedom. Boys on bikes doing risky things: pullin’ wheelies, jumpin’ ditches, racin’ down ravines (events that precede emergency room visits) Life is great!

But, there’s this phenomenon that occurs sometime between the endowment of emancipation and four or five years down the road. The bike doesn’t change but the boy does. The boy use to stand on the pedals to produce the most possible downward force for his 70 pound frame to go as fast as the wind. Whereas, the young man stands on the pedals to keep his knees from relentlessly smacking the underside of the handlebars.

photo credit: Chris Harvey

photo credit: Chris Harvey

It’s a work-around. Instead of getting a new bike you make it work (besides, there’s hope for a beater car in the near future) It’s not as freeing. It’s not as comfortable. And, it’s increasingly more difficult to keep those low slung pants up when you can’t sit to pedal. I believe this is probably an imperative right of passage in American culture for boys.

The work-around is well rooted in our ethic; necessity being the mother of invention and all. However, when necessity finds itself in that slow, organic relationship we tend to spin our wheels (or maybe, smack the top of our knees on the handlebars) We didn’t see it coming. It worked before.

The pain and frustration we feel happens when it doesn’t work any more and there’s a realization that things are different now – girls become women overnight (like…overnight), I need God more than He needs me (but still, He chooses me), math gets really hard, reading glasses (’nuff said),…

I have students paralyzed in their frustration with clay; having employed the work-around far too long. It takes some time, but once they’re aware their battered knees are the result of not paying attention while the assignment became more complicated, grew increasingly sophisticated, the lesson is half learned. The rest lies in a different approach, a change in mechanics, a fresh perspective, a new bike.

Suddenly, the familiar taste of freedom.



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