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!

Art & Halloween: Pumpkins & Parades

Halloween is not a holiday I care to celebrate. It’s dark. It’s gory. It’s based on rituals and beliefs that certainly aren’t mine. However, I couldn’t help but take notice of these fun Halloween-related and art-related posts in recent days. Not dark. Not gory. Just more great ways to get creative!

Masterpiece costume parade – Wow, oh wow! This video blew my mind the first time I saw it. There’s something very surreal about seeing something that’s generally still and flat become a moving, part-of-your-own-world form. How fun would it have been to develop and don these costumes?!?

Mandala pumpkins – Watch out craft stores, when fake pumpkins go on clearance this week, I’m making a run on them! I haven’t drawn mandalas, but thanks to the influence of artist Lisa Congdon and the inspiration of Marshallese weaving, I’ve tried my hand at similar designs. Now to apply that practice to a 3D object, such as a pumpkin!

Toilet paper pumpkins – I remember my mom making something similar with her homemakers group some years ago: pumpkins made out of toilet paper rolls. I thought it was super silly at the time… now I want in! Next step? To collect some funky fabrics, as well as some sticks from my yard (and to watch for some super sales on the ol’ two-ply!).

Gratitude pumpkins – There are the big pumpkins we choose to carve, then there are the ones that are just cute or cool also taking up festive residence on our front porch. This year, rather than watching them rot with the rest, I’m going to start a new tradition: making gratitude pumpkins for the much more important holiday of Thanksgiving. I have the perfect little white one on which to jot down the people and things and experiences for which we are grateful. Maybe I’ll even use some unique hand lettering on it to help exercise my art muscle!

 

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!

An Artist’s Bookshelf – February 2018

IMG_0729Procrastination… The struggle is real.

My kind of procrastination is often disguised as “research” or “inspiration”—after all, “Learner” is my number one strength according to StrengthsFinder 2.0. Despite my ill motives, the practice of reading does bear its fruit. As a result, I’m exposed to some great books and many thought-provoking ideas and philosophies as I slide other endeavors to the backburner. Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Letters to a Young Artist: Building a Life in Art by Julia Cameron
Yep, this is the same person who wrote the bestselling The Artist’s Way, which also makes its home on my bookshelves. In Letters, Cameron responds to a fictitious but relatable young artist “full of turbulent self-doubt”—relatable in the sense of apprehension, but rather annoying when it comes to the extent of his/her resistance to Cameron’s insight and advice (remember, the mentee is fictitious, so who should I really blame for this flaw in character?). I’m “young” in the sense of this new adventure as an artist, so I’m digging the read.

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
Photographer friend Tami Sojka recommended this book to me, and I finished it this morning. In less than 100 pages, Koren tries to put words and pictures to “the quintessential Japanese aesthetic.” He describes wabi-sabi as “a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete… modest and humble… unconventional.” Such a definition of art, then, gives a rookie like me some hope.

This insight in particular continues to play in the corners of my consciousness: “While the universe destructs it also constructs. New things emerge out of nothingness. But we can’t really determine by cursory observation whether something is in the evolving or devolving mode. If we didn’t know differently we might mistake the newborn baby boy—small, wrinkled, bent, a little grotesque looking—for the very old man on the brink of death… In metaphysical terms, wabi-sabi suggests that the universe is in constant motion toward or away from potential.”

A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon
I discovered Lisa Congdon a couple years ago through an online art class she teaches through CreativeBug. Talk about someone who embraces the beauty of imperfection—she really encourages me in my attempts at art by speaking this truth over and over again. When it comes to her work, I so admire her playful use of pattern and color, as well as her whimsical approach to everyday objects.

Her signature style graces the pages of A Glorious Freedom, a biographical delight about women who found or are finding new identity or purpose as “late bloomers.” I feel a certain kinship with these women as I discover the glorious freedom that comes with age and some long overdue self-acceptance and celebration.

If you feel so inclined, I’d love to receive your recommendations of authors and books who have made a difference in your creative life. Please share in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!