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 Trying CROCHET-ALONGS

I knit. I crochet. I’ve made hats and sweaters and blankets and so much more over my past twenty-five years of experimenting with yarn and needles and hooks. But it wasn’t until recently—last summer, to be exact—that I tried a “crochet-along” or “CAL” for short (you guessed it, there are “knit-alongs” too).

IMG_1787

Just a few of the hats I made last summer as part of a crochet-along

Through the Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community on Facebook, I signed up to join thousands of other crocheters from around the world to work on different patterns together. The group’s organizer, Breann Mauldin, is an accomplished crocheter and pattern writer who shares free PDFs (for a limited time generally) of her original creations, thus rallying the rest of us to get hooking too.

During a CAL, a new pattern is released weekly, then we post photos of our finished products on the group thread. It’s amazing to see how the same pattern results in such unique works of craftsmanship—it’s fun to see how people put their own spins on it. Different colors. Different textures. Different adornments. Artistry abounds!

IMG_2815

Here’s my progress so far on the sampler afghan CAL pattern. Each week entails adding another few inches of a different pattern to our blankets.

The Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community is currently in the middle of another hat CAL, which I completed for the first time last year. In the end, I donated about twenty finished hats to the cancer patients of the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, which is where one of my dearest friends fought and won her battle with the disease. I also enjoyed taking part in a sampler afghan CAL over the winter. My blanket is still in progress, but I’m determined to get it finished before the snow flies again. Just a couple more sections to go and some kind of border, then I’ll be done!

There’s something special about knitting and crocheting, how versatile they are not only in what I can make, but also in where and with whom I can focus on my projects. In the quiet of home. At a coffee shop with a friend. Around a computer with the rest of humanity. There’s no doubt I’ll keep knitting and crocheting along!

An Artist’s Bookshelf – September 2018

So it’s not all books this time, but I can’t wait to dig into the resources I’ve got ready for the coming month…

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) by Bridget Quinn & illustrated by Lisa Congdon – This book provides a natural segue into my continued creative discussions with my friend Tami over Skype. We finished A Glorious Freedom recently (we both give it glowing remarks), and by Tami’s recommendation, we’re trying Broad Strokes next. It just happens to be illustrated by Lisa Congdon, author of A Glorious Freedom, and the first pages of our latest book quickly reveal Quinn’s wit, creativity and breadth of knowledge.

Wyeth (PBS) – I can’t tell you how pumped I am to watch this film tonight on PBS! I’ve been fascinated with Wyeth’s work ever since being exposed to it through Coursera.org’s “Modern Art & Ideas” class and the fictional book A Piece of the World inspired by Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World.” And I obviously have some catching up to do with the entire American Masters series “Artists Flight.”

The New Yorker – Through a sweet deal I spotted on Facebook, I’m getting twelve issues of this popular art-filled magazine for just $6. The first article I read today—“What We Know About Art and the Mind” by Paul Bloom—introduced me to a book that will likely make a future bookshelf post: How Art Works by Ellen Winner. More on that—as well as other New Yorker discoveries—later!