On Seeing FIRED UP STUDIOS

You could say I was pretty “fired up” to visit Saint John’s Pottery Studio last summer. Perhaps just as exciting was my discovery of Fired Up Studios in Golden Valley, Minn., which is just a stone’s throw away from my house.

Hundreds of original works of pottery grace the expansive gallery space of Fired Up Studios in Golden Valley, Minnesota.

Through the magic of the Facebook algorithms that peg me as an art buff, I received an event notice to Fired Up Studios’ Annual Holiday Open House. I expected to come upon a small storefront with a few clay artists peddling their wares around a tepid carafe of coffee. Instead, Fired Up Studios is a grand and expansive pottery gallery/shop, along with a potter’s dream studio (plus they had a huge spread of goodies—that earned even more “brownie” points from me, pardon the pun).

For a fairly modest monthly membership fee, artists enjoy twenty-four-hour, seven-days-a-week access to all of the equipment and supplies they could ever need to throw, spin, and form piece after piece. And for us pottery fans, the gallery/shop is open every day and features affordable art to purchase and enjoy at home.

What’s more, Fired Up Studios has a heart for the community. As part of its holiday event, potters donated works to a silent auction benefitting Haven Housing, a Minneapolis non-profit helping women in crisis.

Membership wouldn’t make sense for me at this time—especially since I have never thrown a pot in my life—but my husband and I hope to attend the studios’ beginners class someday. For now, I continue to ponder my observations from my first visit:

Horse hair becomes a medium for producing ethereal shadows and fine lines once a piece reaches the kiln.

More than clay
Sure, there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to working with clay alone, but my family was especially mesmerized by the pieces incorporating other elements, particularly fiber. One artist showcased work using horse hair. Yep, straight from a horse’s mane or tail. The hair is seared onto the clay in the kiln, producing fascinating fine lines and shadows.

Personal styles
I recently finished reading Lisa Congdon‘s latest book, Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic. It offers tips on making a mark as a creative person. More than that, it celebrates the unique and distinctive styles that all of us offer to life’s landscape. In my roaming Fired Up Studios’ gallery, it became apparent to me they do the same.

Creative mash-up
It was also through Congdon that I grew an interest in and tried my hand at some simple pen-and-ink patterns. As a result, my eye really tuned into pieces bearing geometric and whimsical designs reminiscent of her techniques. Such collisions make me giddy, when a medium or technique or source of inspiration I already appreciate appears in a whole new context. This is what makes my artistic adventures so fulfilling, exciting, motivating—all of the words that compel me to read, see, learn, and try more in the world of art!

On Seeing THE CREATIVE BRAIN

CreativeBrainThere’s nothing like a good documentary, and I ran across a winner on Netflix. The Creative Brain is written and presented by Dr. David Eagleman, whose twenty-plus years as a neuroscientist inspired this hour-long program. Watch The Creative Brain>>

Eagleman, who is also one of the authors of The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World, interviews actors and musicians, nanotechnologists and architects, to “unlock the secrets of creativity.” His findings are both fascinating and motivating to those of us who define ourselves as makers, artists, and creatives—or who simply want to make an impact…

Human beings are special
Unlike other animals, we can “disengage our instincts” to see beyond the usual uses of things. For example, we can turn off our automatic response to eat when we see food. All of the possibilities that we are able to see in the world are “the foundation of our creativity.”

Originality is “bunk”
One of Eagleman’s guests describes jazz as a “mutt.” In other words, “being original is not about generating something out of nothing.” I think of all of the teachers, muses, and artistic ancestors who prove this point in my life—all of the books read and movies watched and music enjoyed. The list goes on. As a result, my contributions are the sum of a lot of input from various sources. Any originality is born from my unique life experience.

Creativity requires intentionality
Eagleman notes that, despite our great creative potential, humans remain wired to take “the path of least resistance”—to do what is easy. This path is the arch enemy of creativity. Eagleman closes his presentation with three tips for fighting the urge to live and work the same way day after day; I invite you to watch the show for these inspiring insights!

The program also concludes with a profile on a fine-arts elementary school, how it was saved from closing and now thrives given how creativity is “at the heart of every subject.” It just so happens that my own daughter will soon start Kindergarten in a similar setting, and The Creative Brain further affirms that we made the right choice. I trust that her education will help her become successful, innovative, and creative—to grow into an accomplished artist, musician, nanotechnologist, architect, or whatever she dreams to be!

On Reading IN HER STUDIO

IMG_3490My friend Tami and I often exchange creativity-related resources. In a delightful package of goodies she sent to me recently, I discovered In Her Studio, a quarterly periodical by Stampington & Company.

The magazine’s tagline? Its whole premise is “spaces and stories of creative women.” The magazine features fascinating testimonies—and the coolest photography—on how female artists think, organize, work, and live. I look forward to borrowing a few pieces of their stories to shape my own…

Getting organized
Many of the artists seem to have a designated place—both pretty and functional—for their tools, supplies, books, etc. I hope to organize my own studio so it’s less like a storage closet and more like a sanctuary for all things creative. Even better, I hope to do so on a shoestring budget. I love the challenge of repurposing what I already have on a hand and hunting for funky baskets, jars, and bins on a dime.

Setting boundaries
I admit I’ve allowed my studio to become a playground for my daughter and her friends. Though I love seeing them explore their own creativity in that space, I need to set some boundaries in order to maintain its refuge-like qualities. I also need to devise a system for my undisturbed work—I hope some hanging paper art that I made last winter, hung on the studio’s doorknob, will alert passersby that Mom is “busy” in one of the best senses of the word.

Celebrating my studio
Last year, we invested in a Murphy bed so that our guest bedroom could become a creative studio. The room remains small and a bit crowded, but I’m taking to heart the words of artist Amber M. Jensen (page 114 of In Her Studio, Summer 2019): “I think we do some of our greatest work under limitations. If you can only carve out a small space to work in, perhaps that limitation could be an advantage. Be open to letting the space speak to you. Maybe your idea has to change a little, but that could allow for something really exciting and unexpected to be created instead.”

In turn, I have a new goal: To share my own story and to be among the women featured in In Her Studio. Who knows how my ongoing attempts to claim my artistic identity will inspire someone else to do the same!

Blog Posts 3.0: Reading, Learning, Trying, Seeing

I love blogging, but my approach to date has been a bit inconsistent. I began with writing little anecdotes related to the writing practice. These contributions were short-lived. I returned to posting after about five years of parenting and getting through the demands typical of infancy and toddlerhood. My inspiration for Take 2? A renewed sense of creativity upon reaching middle age—a more profound attention to and appreciation for art in all of its forms. 

I fell off the grid again last winter. I don’t really know why. I didn’t check out from engaging in creative pursuits and adventures. I didn’t stop reading and learning and trying and seeing. Aha! Perhaps the method to my creative madness is method indeed—that intrinsic method of how I ride the current of my creative flow. Reading. Learning. Trying. Seeing. This revelation gives me new motivation. So, today, I’m going to recommit to blogging and to posting regularly, probably weekly, on those very topics:

What I’m reading
I fell in love with the non-fiction work of Madeline L’Engle over the past several months. I discovered other authors, books, periodicals, instruction manuals, etc., that have enlightened my artistic knowledge and experience. My nightstand always features some kind of art-related read. 

What I’m learning
Earlier this summer, I invested in a three-month ninety-nine-cent Creative Bug membership. Through that resource and other online videos, I’ve watched people paint watercolor landscapes, stretch canvases, make collages—you name it! Such learning prepares me for the things I eventually take the time to try…

What I’m trying
Over the past year, I’ve dabbled in pour painting, poetry writing, graphic design, woodburning, etc. It’s fun to try new things and, as a result, I further discern my creative calling. I look forward to sharing my experiments here. 

What I’m seeing
I’m blessed to live in a city with such a rich offering of museums, exhibits, performances and all things creative. Such visits often spur what I read, learn and try next! 

I’m excited about picking up the ball of blogging again and approaching it with some more intentionality. Thank you for joining me on the journey!

The Advent Project 2018

baby-21990_1280It’s the first Sunday of Advent, an annual season of waiting for those of us who believe in the sacred origins of Christmas and believe in Jesus as Son of God and the sent Messiah.

I love this time of year, especially as a Minnesotan. Our surroundings take on a quiet, more expectant nature. No more rustle of leaves—the trees are bare. No more long days of summer—dim comes before dinner. Our homes take on a different, warm glow by firelight, candlelight, tree light.

I mentioned The Lent Project out of Biola University last spring. Now I’m excited to dig into The Advent Project, which “[t]hrough the layering of Scripture, prayers, and the arts, offers a wonderful opportunity for daily reflection, an occasion for us to pray with our eyes and ears as well as our hearts and minds.”

Like The Lent Project, The Advent Project weaves together personal expression, creative endeavors, and powerful stories of faith. Truly it’s the most beautiful experience I’ve encountered through a digital platform. I invite you to enjoy it with me as a special way to follow your artistic interests and scratch your creative itch. I invite you to join me in celebrating and welcoming the coming of Jesus!