Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Out of the Fire Sculpture Studio

I am still trying to find a balance between creating art and marketing--even posting to this blog on a regular basis gets pushed aside.  I wish it weren't so--it's a lot of fun to chronicle activities in the studio and at shows.   Even though the comments are few and far between, several people have written me, so I know there are lurkers out there.


The posts also have been image-poor--it's a bit of a process (long story), so I don't post as many photos these days as I'd like.  

Anyway, thought you'd like to see a couple more images of the studio.  Earlier posts showed a teacher workshop in session, and how full every horizontal surface can become before a show.

Here is the studio before the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Show--I repainted door panels and pedestals.  There are other pedestals to the left and several short ones below that did not get included in the photo.  Preparing for a show can be a lot of work--and that's for the non-art stuff!

A sea of white

And here is the outside of the studio, decked out for the holidays.  Photo taken Dec. 14, 2009.

Out of the Fire Sculpture Studio

As I write this, the studio is very clean, after the first ever Saxapahaw Holiday Open House.  I'll try to get a photo of that--not very exciting, but the transformation is pretty amazing, considering it was a Sea of White a few weeks ago, then a storage unit for boxes after that--we could hardly move.

I have a gallery space here, too--will get a photo of that.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On the Cover of the Rolling Stones

Would you believe  in the Life section of the Fayetteville Observer?

Melissa Clement, who is an artist herself, and a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, attended the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Show.   She said my work "stands out," which was such a high compliment.  Melissa interviewed me and wrote an article that is in today's paper.

Guess I "did good"--she is usually allowed a very short article and only one photo.  They included one of me and one of Bodyguard.

Here is the url for the article.  If my photo shows up, hit "Next" in the photo box to see the art.

Thank you, Melissa!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The FIRST EVER Saxapahaw Holiday Open House!!!

On Saturday, December 12, I will be joining other artists and entrepreneurs in Saxapahaw for the FIRST-EVER Saxapahaw Holiday Open House!

I continue to be amazed at all of the things you can do in our small town--from the Saturdays in Saxapahaw music event and Farmers' Market (, to Oktoberfest, to volunteering at Paperhand Puppet Intervention (did that one day-much fun!), to eating at our Country Store (amazing food!), to visiting Benjamin Vineyards (great wine and art exhibits, too!), taking canoe rides, visiting our wonderful Roxy Farms Antiques shop (and meet the most wonderful Roxy herself!), spending the night at the gorgeous River Landing Inn--or attending their art receptions (complete with terrific food and live music), taking movement and dance classes, taking a class here at my studio, and many other things.

So we are hosting this Holiday Open House Tour to let people know.  Grab a friend and come on out.  You'll be able to share in holiday festivities, see demonstrations, taste local wines, attend free classes and other activities, and shop for one-of-a-kind gifts.  All within a community of a few square miles.  Amazing!

To date, businesses and artists and their offerings include: 

Benjamin Vineyards & Winery - Winetasting, including seasonal Spice Wine and two new dessert wines, Twelve Days of Christmas Art Show featuring more than 35 pieces, representing the work of over 20 local artists. 6516 Whitney Rd. 12 noon - 5 p.m. 336-376-1080.

The Bridge at Rivermill - free movement and classes from 9:30-10:30a.m. and 2:00-4:00p.m., acupressure sessions, available by donation from 1-4 p.m..  1647 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Rd.,,,, 919-619-6405, 919 601-1282 or

Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co. - Guest Appreciation Day: potluck, gear swap and free paddle trip. RSVP requested. Saxapahaw Community Center. Noon-5:00p.m. 336-260-6465,  .

The Hawbridge School, a tuition free public charter high school, will feature an art exhibit and the launch of its student-run microenterprise, Hawbridge Designs.  A wide variety of student-designed silk scarves, photo greeting cards, recycled art works, and large art pieces will be available for purchase.  Proceeds from the sale support educational programs.  Prospective students and their families are especially welcome from 2-4 pm when the school's music ensemble will perform.  1735 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Rd., 1-6 p.m.  336-376-1122 or

Out of the Fire Sculpture Studio - Clay hand building and sculpture demonstrations, free mini classes. Visitors will be able to create their own masterpiece, leave it for firing and pick it up at a later date.  6035 Church Rd. 10a.m.-5 p.m.  336-376-9091 or 

Paperhand Puppet Studio -exhibit of large puppets used in their productions.  1-4p.m.  Saxapahaw Community Center.

River Landing Inn - coffee, tea, Christmas cookies and snacks, exhibit of quilts by Violet DeKnikker. 5942 Whitney Road Graham, NC 27253. 12noon to 4p.m. (336) 376-1502 or

Roxy Farm Antiques - A Dickens Christmas Carole Open House! Fine southern antiques, including primitives, baskets, quilts, hats, vintage photos, brass candlesticks, tree ornaments from Mexico, and much more. Tiny Tim, Scrooge and the Ghosts from Dickens', A Christmas Carole, will be singing Christmas carols. Join us for some Yuletide cheer with locally-grown wines from Benjamin Vineyards & Winery, along with homemade holiday hors d' oeuvres. 5768 Church Rd., 10a.m.-6p.m. (336) 264-7731. 

Saxapahaw Artists Co-Op - wide range of unique items for holiday gifting 10a.m. – 6p.m.

Tour Maps are available at numerous locations throughout Saxapahaw.  Tour locations will be well marked and numbered. 

Getting to Saxapahaw:

From Chapel Hill/Carrboro take HWY 54 West, approximately 13 miles.  Turn left on Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road.  

From Hillsborough, take Orange Grove Road to HWY 54 W to Sax-Beth Church Road.  

From Mebane, take Mebane-Oaks Road to HWY 54, travel across to Sax-Beth Church Road. 

 From Burlington, take I-40 to exit 147 toward Pittsboro approximately 10 miles.  Turn Left onto Church Road.


I'll post updates as I hear about them, or you can call Benjamin Vineyards & Winery (336-376-1080) or check their website:


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Preparing for the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Show in Raleigh, NC

Just picked up my rental Metrovan.  Kevin and I will fill it up with art and booth furniture tomorrow and head to Raleigh.  Bodyguard, Caroline & Grace and Max & Gizmo will make their debut at this show.  I'll also bring new big dogs, teeny ornaments, and small dogs and llamas.  Also, my blackware--inspired by potters of the pueblos in the American Southwest.

I know I have not kept you up to date on studio happenings in the last several days--had so many things going on, I didn't have time to write about them!

We've put in some late nights, but it has been rewarding to see the work finally finished and the set up ready to go.

Hope to see you in Raleigh!

Sneak preview below--photos by Jason Dowdle

Bodyguard--the first in this new body of work, People and Their Companion Animals.

To give you an idea of scale, this piece if 21 inches tall.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my brother thinks the girl looks like me in high school--even before the piece was glazed.  I had not noticed it, but he is right. 

Caroline and Grace

Max and Gizmo

Caroline & Grace is 15-16 inches tall and Max & Gizmo, 17 inches in height.  

You would not believe how much time I spent picking out colors, including colors of the dog collars! I considered what the character would choose, what glazes are available, what works well with colors of dogs, enough contrast, not too much contrast, etc.  Made many, many test tiles and, will be doing more, as the new batch of clay has a different formulation, so may give different colors with my glazes.  Not such a big deal for clothing, but people's skin tones--wow--so many colors that looked good on the test tile did not work for larger areas.  So I will be testing a lot more.  I am currently using mostly Amaco underglazes, but if anyone has suggestions for good skin tones, of all colors, please drop me a line.

The dogs' tags have the numbers 2912519, corresponding to letters of the alphabet for BILES:  

The ladies' dogs have heart shaped tags, but Gizmo's tag is bone-shaped.  It is unintentional, but Max bears a striking resemblance to Kevin's father (though Max's face is much fuller).  Also, Kevin used to have a vest almost that color.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quick Update

Whew--I've been so busy, I have not been able to post lately.  Within the past week, I've taught many very talented second graders at a school in Raleigh--they made wonderful sculptures which we will paint on December 3.  

This past weekend was the Whimsical Women show, in Winston-Salem.  The show is legendary for its superb organization and incredible food (made by the artists).  All of the artists help with some aspect of the show--which gets us out of our booths and, yes, even do some shopping ourselves!

I got to visit with artists who I knew for a while, hadn't seen for a while, or met at the spring show, held in May, in the Chapel Hill area.

Many, many thanks to Luli Sanderford, our hostess, and her sister, Linda Palladino.  Also the many other organizers...I'm afraid to name them for fear of leaving someone out--except I have to mention Brenda Moore--who I met through classes at Sawtooth many years ago.  She makes exquisite maiolica.

As I write this , I am taking a break from unloading the van.  

With the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Show coming right up, I spent some time this morning repainting pedestals.  Had repainted the wall panels earlier this week--will take and post a photo if I have any time or energy left.  Needless to say, the studio is a sea of white.  Once dry enough to handle, we'll arrange all this "furniture" and set up a mock-up booth.  Would have like to have done this weeks ago, but too much going on!  All good problems!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Carolina Designer Craftsmen Art Show

This is my third year of running with the big dogs.  The Carolina Designer Craftsmen will host its annual  show at the North Carolina State Fairground in Raleigh from November 27 to 29 (Friday through Sunday).  The hours are:

Friday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. 
Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. 
Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

To learn more about the guild, please visit their website:

There is a two-year jurying process--you are accepted first as a probationary member, based on images you submit.  Once the jury sees your work at the show and approves, you are a member.  Still, there is a standards committee who reviews artists' work every three years.  So standards are high.

I am bringing what is the beginning of my new body of work, People and Their Companion Animals.  What with research, sculpting, glazing and at least two firings, each takes several weeks to create.  I hope to have three of those pieces completed in time.  One will be in the Masterworks section and the other two in my booth, number  N-3.  

Also, I've made a couple of medium-sized and smaller sculptures, as well as several dog and bird ornaments. (I have to admit, they are cute, and I'll have trouble parting with them!)   So, I'll have something to offer at all prices.

The cost to produce such an event is high, so there is an entrance fee--$7.00 for a day pass. Sorry about that!

So come by, no pressure to buy, but remember, I have a lot of hungry mouths to feed!  ;-)

Seriously, I've been out of the social loop for a while and would love to see you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saxapahaw Holiday Open House

I've been attending meetings with a group of other artists and business owners living and/or working in Saxapahaw. On Saturday, December 12, we're hosting a Holiday Open House. 

People will be able to see us in our studios or workplaces, enjoy holiday refreshments, see demonstrations, taste local wines, attend free classes, see art shows, share in a pot luck dinner, enjoy music, go on a canoe ride for free, and do some shopping.  And this is all within a few square miles.

We thought this would be a great way for people to see what our small community has to offer.  

So far, participants include: 

Benjamin Vineyards & Winery - Winetasting, including seasonal Spice Wine and two new dessert wines, Twelve Days of Christmas Art Show features more than 35 pieces, representing the work of over 20 local artists. 6516 Whitney Rd. 12 noon - 5 p.m. 336-376-1080.

Elementary Dance Education Academy. Rivermill.

Haw River Canoe & Kayak Co. - Guest Appreciation Day, with potluck, gear swap and free 2-hour paddle trip. RSVP requested. Saxapahaw Community Center. Noon-5:00p.m. 336-260-6465,  

The Hawbridge School (tuition free public charter school)- art exhibit and launch of student-run business, featuring sale of student-designed dyed silk scarves, photo greeting cards, recycled art works, and large art works. Proceeds from sale support educational programs.  1735 Saxapahaw-Bethleham Church Rd. 1-6 p.m.  336-376-1122 or

Out of the Fire Sculpture Studio - Clay handbuilding and sculpture  demonstrations, free mini classes. 6035 Church Rd. 10a.m.-5 p.m.  336-376-9091 or 

River Landing Inn - coffee, tea, Christmas cookies, snacks. 5942 Whitney Road Graham, NC 27253. 12noon to 4p.m. (336) 376-1502 or

Roxy Farm Antiques - A Dickens Christmas Carole Open House! Fine southern antiques, including primitives, baskets, quilts, hats, vintage photos, brasscandlesticks, tree ornaments from Mexico, and much more. Tiny Tim, Scroogeand the Ghosts from Dickens', A Christmas Carole, will be singing Christmas carols. Join us for some Yuletide cheer with locally-grown wines from Benjamin Vineyards & Winery, along with homemade holiday hors d' oeuvres. 5768 Church Rd., 10a.m.-6p.m. (336) 264-7731. 

Benjamin VIneyards and Riverlanding Inn have been great supporters of local artists, with multiple shows throughout the year.  Benjamin Vineyars has its Twelve Says of Christmas Show up, with a Meet the Artists reception on December 13, from 1-4PM.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

We Create What We Know (Even If We Don't Realize It)

In an earlier post I mentioned that my brother thought the girl in Bodyguard looked like me.  Recently, I saw the photo again and it was uncanny.  This has happened many times before--several pieces I've made resemble relatives, friends, etc.  Even hands and feet--though all unintentional.  

Here is the photo Dave was talking about:

Me, in high school, with hair almost down to my waist.

 And here is Bodyguard:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Update on Bodyguard and Caroline and Grace

As I write this, Bodyguard is in the kiln at a toasty 1200 degrees.  

Here are some photos of her just before she went in.  She received more layers of underglazes, including many fine details here and there and some very stylish highlights in her hair.  Don't worry, they won't be so contrasty after firing.

The girl's skin and tee shirt will be a little darker.

There are two shades of black on the dog's body.  The result will be almost unnoticeable.

Caroline and Grace have received their first layer of underglazes.

I did not add her pupils--creepy, I know.  Her irises are a color I haven't used before so I'm running a test tile in the kiln right now with Bodyguard.  If I don't like it, I can glaze over it.

Caroline and Grace, side view.  Max and Gizmo are drying in the background.

Looking at photos of fawn chihuahuas, I glazed Grace's nose dark brown instead of black.  Either color, or even more of a pinkish shade, would have been correct.  I love the curve of Grace's body--she is really cuddling Caroline!

Bodyguard--more glazes and second firing

As expected, Bodyguard needed a little dermatology to clear up her blotchy complexion.

I added more layers of underglazes to the piece to even out her skin tone.  To add depth and interest, I added underglazes in colors related to, but not the same as, the first layer to the girl's eyes, tee shirt & hair, put more dark brown and black in the dog's ears, and used a slightly different shade of black in the dog's body.

Kevin loaded her into the kiln yesterday--he was able to carry her from the studio this time.  We still set up a pedestal for her to sit on before he lowered her in.  Clay shrinks when it is fired, but she is still 20 inches tall.

As I write this, Bodyguard is warming up in the kiln, preparing for her second firing, today.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas Art Show at Benjamin Vineyards in Saxapahaw, NC

I live in a very small town, called Saxapahaw.  Pronounced SAX-pa-haw.  I love living here.  We don't even have a stop light, and I mean that in a good way. We are, however, becoming a destination for lovers of art, farmers markets, good food and good wine.

To see what I mean, check out the Saxapahaw-Rivermill web site:

This year, our local winery, Benjamin Vineyards, is hosting its second annual Twelve Days of Christmas art show.  Artists were invited to interpret one of the days mentioned in the song in any way they choose.  I had hoped to participate last year, but the studio was still under construction and the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show was coming up fast.  

Even though we get the invitation in July, somehow the time evaporates.  Due to the configuration of the winery, pieces that can be hung on the wall were preferred.  I had an idea, but there would be some challenges.  So I spent a lot of time figuring out how I would execute my plan.  

Here are some images of the piece, called "Rhythm Man," resting on my work table.   

Sculpted but not dry yet.  Later I will refine the beak.

 Top view

Can you guess which day it represents?  There is a clue on the bird's leg band.  

If you need a refresher course on the Twelve Days, here is the last verse:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, 
my true love sent to me 
Twelve drummers drumming, 
Eleven pipers piping, 
Ten lords a-leaping, 
Nine ladies dancing, 
Eight maids a-milking, 
Seven swans a-swimming, 
Six geese a-laying, 
Five golden rings, 
Four calling birds, 
Three French hens, 
Two turtle doves, 
And a partridge in a pear tree! 

The biggest challenge was to make Rhythm Man as lightweight as possible, yet able to support the weight of the bird.  The second biggest challenge was connecting the bird to the tree trunk securely.  As you can see, there are only two contact points between the bird and the tree trunk--I could have had the beak touch the trunk, but wanted to portray the bird looking around--if you ever watch them (or find videos of them on the Internet), they tap on the tree for a while, then look around--it's mesmerizing (or do I need to get out more???).

Anyway, lucky for me that they brace themselves with their tails.

To do this the tree started out as a solid log and the bird as two hollow pinch pots.  As they firmed up, I carved out the tree, leaving shelves inside.  Also, I cut the bird in half (that used to be painful for me, but I'm getting used to the idea of cutting open my work.  I did apologize to the bird for the invasive procedure, but he's better for it.) and hollowed it out as much as I dared.  The piece is still heavy, but manageable.

Below are images of the piece after underglazes and a little acrylic paint are applied.

Rhythm Man, front view (when it's rotated 90 degrees and hung on the wall)

Rhythm Man, side view. You can see the ever-present Bodyguard in the background, in the process of receiving more layers of underglaze before she returns to the kiln.  The little pieces of colorful ceramic are test tiles.  You'll see those blues in future posts!

I was pleased with the result and dropped off the piece yesterday.   At the winery, Nancy and Andy Zeman, owners, and Travis greeted me.  They brought me to the wine tasting room, where I got to see several other pieces--very nice.  Thirty-five artists, working in all mediums, will be represented.  It's going to be a wonderful show.

While you're here, check out Benjamin Vineyards and Winery's site: 

The winery is open Thursday through Sunday, 12 Noon to 5PM.  The Twelve Days of Christmas show runs from Nov. 5, 2009 through January 3, 2010.

I didn't have my camera with me, but can tell you the vines were beautiful--bright yellow leaves.

FYI, the red bellied woodpecker is my husband's favorite backyard bird.  I'm partial to the white breasted nuthatch (so dapper in his little tuxedo) and Carolina wren.  While looking for images on the Internet, I came across Vickie Henderson's blog--she has posted an entry about the red bellied woodpecker after I sculpted the piece, but I was able to reference her images for glazing.  She has photos of the bird from many angles, which helps so much for 3-D work.

Vickie is also an artist and creates beautiful watercolors, among other work, including a whooping crane coloring book.   Check out her blog at
As you can see, she has a post on the Carolina wren--I'll be referencing that one someday, I'm sure.  Thank you, Vickie!

If you look at older posts on Vickie's blog, there is a video of an adorable baby whooping crane and its family--you can see how nurturing and protective it parents are.  It was so sweet, I had to watch it a couple of times!

Status Report

Many apologies for the lack of postings.   I've had some hardware and software issues.  I have added several posts and images to posts beginning with the Sept. 26 entry.  So, if you don't mind scrolling back to that time, you'll see in chronological order what's been happening in the studio.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Life and Times of Max and Gizmo

It's all about communication and support.  No, I'm not talking about relationships....

There is so much going on in these larger pieces that the viewer does not see.

 To facilitate drying and make sure air can flow out of the piece easily as it (the air, that is) expands during firing, I poke, drill or otherwise create holes between the compartments that make up the sculpture.  Also, coils (snakelike pieces) of clay are attached in places that will support extra weight, like the back of the neck.  You can see that in the above image.   Soon I will extend the coil up out of the neck to join the head, which is created separately.  I will also add a coil inside the top of the chest and extend that into the front of the neck.  Talk about an inside job!  (sorry, I couldn't resist.)

I come in peace....and my little dog, too.

Is there a draft in the studio??? 
[Do I need to get a life?  As you can see, it's dark outside--I've been putting in some long days.]

 Hear no evil, smell no evil.  (Keeping thinner areas, and places where I need to add clay, moist.) Wow, those chopsticks smart!

Kevin came in to the studio with a shirt and vest to model.  It was late, we were tired and my first try was close but not quite it.  So first thing I did this morning was remove most of what I'd worked on. 

After much tweaking and shifting around of clay, I was happy.  Turns out, the man's chin peeks between the dog's ears an his collar covers almost all of his neck.

Doh!  There were some great details in there that no one but me will have seen.  Kevin said, "Have you considered just doing a person?"  Definitely, and life would be sooo much simpler!  But this is an unusual topic and one that is close to my heart.  Angst, I can always count on you to be close by!

Anyway, it's hard to stop fussing with a piece.  I finally had to say, out loud, "Put down the clay tool and step away from the art."

Max and Gizmo, hanging out with "The Girls."  All are in different stages of development.

No doubt I will continue to tweak the piece as it dries and notice things I didn't see when actively working on it.

In the meantime, it was actually fun to clean up the studio and go outside to play with the dogs, who have been feeling very neglected.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bodyguard--Into and Out of the Fire

What I saw when I opened the kiln.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Caroline and Grace

How I started each of my People and Their Companion Animal pieces:

Humble beginnings.  This bottom rim is pretty thick, so I've poked holes in it to help it dry a little more evenly and relieve stress during drying and firing.

Any idea of where this will lead?
See those snake-like coils of clay climbing up her back?  More on that later!

Long story short, lots of stuff happened, and we are shaping up!

Bodyguard appears to be growing out of Caroline's head.

That is a chop stick in Caroline's chest, holding up a bottle of hand cream--many things in the studio serve as armatures.  Once her neck firms up, these accessories will be removed.  The dog is sporting wet paper towels to keep areas moist so I can work on them later.

Does this hand cream make me look fat???

"The Girls" often hang out together:

Caroline and Grace

Time to get cracking on Max and Gizmo!

My hope is to finish this third piece in time for the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show on Thanksgiving weekend.  

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Whimsical Women, Woo Hoo!

Last May, I visited the Whimsical Women spring show, held just west of Chapel Hill, NC. There I met many terrific artists, some I already knew.  I just didn't know they led secret lives--being members of this well known and wonderful organization.  (Visit their blog at:  Also, I spoke with Linda Palladino, one of the founders, showed her a photo of my cat fish, and described some of my other work.  She decreed that I qualify as a Whimsical Woman!  She could have said, Whacky, Way Out, Weird, even, but she said Whimsical--and I love that....

So I'll be bringing my work to their Fall show, held November 21 on the farm of Luli Sanderford (Linda's sister), in Winston-Salem.  Rain date is November 22.  Hope to see you there!

That's me, 10th from the right--does the red skirt make me look fat?   ;-)

Seriously, if you'd like an invitation, email me at: 

and I'll e-mail or snail mail one to you.

I've been working on large pieces for Carolina Designer Craftsmen (which happens over Thanksgiving weekend), as well as a good sized piece for the 12 Days of Christmas show at Benjamin Vineyards, here in Saxapahaw, where we live.  With Whimsical Women and another potential show (the latter later this month, yikes!), I just started making more small dogs and some teeny cat fish, which was so much fun.  

It's been a tough summer, what with the loss of our last horse and my father, but I  have been plugging along with my art, as my father said he wanted me to do.  I continue to think about him constantly, and have had the privilege of meeting many people along the way who have lost a parent.  They assure me that my reaction is normal, and it will take time to feel like myself again.

Although I am thoroughly enjoying making the big pieces, they are challenging and require a lot of concentration.  Not constantly--I do have periods of autopilot and spontaneity, but there is also plenty of brow furrowing.  But last night was like a little vacation.  I was grinning, laughing and, yes, even talking to the small dogs that were materializing from the little lumps of clay in my fingers.  Great fun!

So, thank you, Linda--I hadn't felt Whimsical for a while.   You gave me a wonderful gift!

Caroline and Grace are Born and Another on the Way

Bodyguard stayed in the kiln for three days, soaking up the heat and releasing any vestiges of moisture.  That was probably way more than necessary, but I wasn't going to take any chances.  As she was nearing completion and still drying and getting underglazed in the studio, I started two other pieces, but intentionally did not progress very far, since I need to concentrate on one piece at a time.

These pieces start out as a ring  and are built up using coils or narrow slabs.

Then I build up from there.

Caroline and Grace.  See?  You can tell where this is going, right?

This will be a middle aged woman cuddling her dog.

The third piece in this body of work will be an older man and his small dog.  It was inspired by a photo I found on Bill Owen's blog.  Check it out--you'll be glad you did.

I love his sense of humor and his beautiful photos!  Bill is clearly an animal lover; that means he's good people.

Here is the photo, in a post entitled The Old Man (and Old Dog) and the Sea, dated Sept. 6, 2007.  It really speaks to me.  Two old friends, very comfortable with each other--so quiet and peaceful.  We have a lot of dogs and most are around 50 pounds and up.  No peace and quiet here!

There is a little work to be done from the ring to the finished product.....which I plan to name Max and Gizmo.

At this stage, Max and Gizmo look like a tank top.  
The tops of his shoulders are going to have to firm up before I can continue.  


I often bring a real dog to the studio.  Usually it's Toby.  He's got plenty of toys there, but I still have to keep an eye on him, as he likes to eat clay that falls on the floor.

Typically, he spends the first part of his stay playing with his toys, then looking out the door for squirrels and other visitors.

One of our many avian visitors, photographed through the front door. Last year it was a flock of guinea fowl.  This year it was this rooster.  Why they would hang out in a yard with barking dogs (albeit fenced in) is a mystery to me.

After a while, Toby's ready to call it a day.  He's not terribly concerned about my deadlines.

Mom, are you almost done?  I'm bored.  Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Behind the Scenes

Since this was first posted, I have added a photo.

I love living on the edge--for me, that means challenging myself to make new things and never getting too comfortable.  It's not obvious to witnesses but, on some level, I must love the little rushes of adrenaline that come with the stress during those "What was I thinking?!?!" moments.   For  you real thrill seekers, this must sound pretty lame, but it doesn't cost anything (except many sleepless nights).  What's she rambling about, you ask.  Why, getting Bodyguard into the kiln, of course!  

On Sunday evening (October 11) my husband, Kevin, and I (mostly him, with my "encouragement" and plenty of nail biting--don't you know he appreciated that!) loaded (I'd say "placed", but "loaded" is more like it) Bodyguard into the kiln last night.  She's probably dry, but I am taking every precaution.  

My kiln is in what used to be a tool room off the garage (my old working space), about 100 feet from the new studio.  The path is bumpy and Bodyguard is heavy.  To get her there, we placed her in the back of our van.  Kevin drove and I rode in the back with Bodyguard. Sorry, no photos, since we really needed to focus.

I was a little nervous about whether we could get her into the kiln without damaging her.  Since she'll be traveling, I made her a little thick, so she'd be sturdy.  However, until she's fired, she would be very fragile.

The piece has a lot of places to use as handles, but most would probably not support her weight at this stage.  And she is tall enough (21 inches to the top of Chet's ears, though she will shrink a bit during the firing) that it might be impossible to hold her from the bottom raise her to above waist height and lower her into the kiln.

I measured a lot, to determine the maximum height of the kiln shelf so we wouldn't have to lower her any more than necessary.  We went through a few dry runs of how to pick her up, what to do if she needed to be maneuvered in mid air, etc.

Kevin had worked in the garden much of the day, so didn't really need one more physically demanding task, especially at 8:30PM, when we hadn't had dinner.

We placed a pedestal in the kiln room to have a place to set her down before the last lift (and in case we had to stop and regroup during the process).  

We took a deep breath and with almost no help from me, Kevin got her safely into the kiln.  

She'll be at a toasty 150 degrees, sweating out every last bit of moisture in her dry sauna until I fire up the kiln.  And she's still smiling!

Bodyguard, safely in the kiln

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bodyguard--The Saga continues....

There are sooo many decisions to make after deciding on the general concept, even if the piece is finished in my head.

I am a big fan of the expression, "If a little is good, a lot is better."  I am slowly learning that, most of the time, "Less is More."  

With Bodyguard, my original plan was to stamp a pattern on the girl's shirt and have more detail in the bottom of the piece.  But those details would have detracted from the focal point, the faces.  So I opted to go with a solid tee shirt and keep things bold.

To minimize the number of firings, I decided to apply underglazes to the piece before it was fired.

Bodyguard, the first layer of underglazes on the girl.

Bodyguard, the dog with underglazes.

After firing, the colors will be close to what you see here.  The girl's skin will be a littler darker and her tee shirt a little brighter.  I put one coat of underglaze on more area, so she may be blotchy.

Some people can work on many pieces at once.  I find that when I have tried that, the quality of all the pieces suffers and I end up being unhappy with the work and destroying it.  I can, however, begin other pieces, as long as I focus on one at a time.

As this piece neared completion, I started on the next two so they could start to firm up and be ready when I was.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Clay Speaks--Update on Bodyguard

I have just finished the first layer of underglazes on Bodyguard.  To avoid having to fire the piece too many times, I applied underglazes to the unfired work (greenware).  

Although my plan was to have a fair skinned girl with red hair and blue eyes, the more I looked at the sculpture, the more I felt the need to go in a different direction--brown haired girl with brown eyes.  As you can see, the faces of girl and dog are at the same level, with facial features lined up.  Also, the dog's eyes are quite anthropomorphic.  I wanted the eyes of both to be the same color.  Although Boston terriers, like other dogs, can have blue eyes, I felt that might be a bit much.  So the brown eyes work.

Here is an early photo--I have more recent ones, but need to update my iPhoto.  In the meantime, I wanted to get this entry posted.  

After firing, the  girl's skin will be a little darker.  I'll layer on more underglazes (in slightly different colors) and refire.

Because these two "own each other," the dog has a collar, to which I will attach a bone-shaped license tag, with numbers that correspond to my name:

2-9-12-5-19 for BILES.


Well, here's something spooky--heard from my brother the other day, who had seen my earlier post (before any underglazes were applied) and said, "I see you in this piece."   That reminded me of when I was a Tween, had longer, straight hair and was thin--and, yes, there is quite a resemblance!  So that may have been a subconscious influence on my hair and eye color choices.  Growing up, we had only one dog, a cairn terrier mix my Uncle Gino rescued from the animal shelter.  His name was Mickey, after a dog my father had in his childhood.  Mickey and I were inseparable.  Spoo-ky....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sharing Our Passions

When not in the studio, I'm in the classroom, as an artist-in-the-schools.  For the past 5 years, I've been contracted by schools in Wake and Johnston Counties.  With a background in biology and anthropology, and a tendency (possessed by many artists and scientists) to find connections between things, I've developed several programs that integrate different subjects (the technical term is "content areas"), like science and social studies  with art, and, for that matter, math, reading, etc.  

It's been a great opportunity to share my passion of working with clay.  And to learn from very fearless creative people who are shorter than me--6 year olds!  Just kidding.  So far, I've worked with people ages 4 to 97 and have learned so much from everyone I've met.

Like being fearless and just enjoying the process, with little concern about the outcome (ages 4-6), what happens if you get too worried about the end result (a few kids here and there, ages 8-10), never to have preconceptions (all ages), the wisdom of enjoying the process with little concern about the outcome (yes, I know I just said that, but this lesson was from a 97 year old--amazing how it takes 90+ years to relearn that lesson, huh?).

On Saturday, 18 elementary school art teachers from Wake County, NC (Raleigh and Cary areas) came to the studio for a half-day workshop on clay projects.  The theme was animals and I set out several models I'd made for various grade levels.  

We had a great time.  Talk about dedicated!  My husband was a teacher for many years and we know teachers spend countless hours outside of the classroom preparing lesson plans, grading papers, etc.  Art teachers need tons of energy--they  have to set up for different projects many times a day and there is the potential for a lot of mess making that has to be cleaned up between classes (which are a few minutes apart) and at the end of the day.  I can make a pretty good mess with clay, but can you imagine paint, glitter and glue???

These teachers traveled an hour or more, so really gave up most of their Saturday.  

They brought wonderful food.  Sorry--no photo here  ;-)

We shared ideas.  

How one idea can work for different grade levels.

The teachers made several models they can use for projects with their own classes. 

What a thrill to be in the presence of so many talented people!

A creative use of tools.  This poodle was made by one of the participants.  

I used to be terrified to speak in public but it's not hard when you're passionate about your subject.

Even the clay models had a good time.

Afterward, I heard remarks like, "I can't wait to get back to the classroom to share my new knowledge."  One teacher said she now has a project for her fifth grade, studying Pre-Columbian art.

WhaddaYOUlookinat?  A jaguar pot for students studying pre-Columbian art.

Many thanks to Slater Mapp for taking and sharing the photos!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Body of Work

Nothing like a commitment or deadline to get ideas out of your head and into the kiln!

For a while, I've had in mind a new body of work that combines human and animal figurative sculpture.  So, way back in May, I signed up to create a Masterwork for the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show.  It's held every year in Raleigh, NC, over Thanksgiving weekend.  This is the guild's 40th anniversary.

Several ideas ran through my head, but I felt most passionate about creating a series of pieces on people and their companion animals.  Here is a brief overview of how the Masterwork piece came to be.  

People often bring their dogs to outdoor art shows and,  in recent years, I noticed a lot of pugs, French bulldogs and Boston terriers.  I hadn't seen a Boston terrier since childhood, a long time ago!  So I became interested in why these breeds are enjoying a resurgence.  Consensus is they are great family dogs, and do well with couples who live in apartments and can't let dogs run loose.

We have a lot of dogs, but all have pointy noses, so I challenged myself to sculpt the aforementioned breeds as part of my "Big Dog" series.  (By the way, if you read my previous post, 5 dogs, including pointy nosed Opal and a fictitious daschund I named Madge are currently at the show at the Center for Creative Leadership, in Greensboro, NC. ) 

The piece, entitled, "Bodyguard," is inspired by a photo I found searching the Internet (I think I keyed in "people holding dogs").  Up came an image of a girl holding a Boston terrier.  It made me gasp aloud, "That's it!"  OK, being somewhat compulsive, I continued my search, but this photo was clearly the keystone for the series.  

The photo was taken several years ago.  The girl, Phoebe Thompson, is the daughter of  Julie Zickefoose and Bill Thompson III.  The dog (or is he a person in a dog suit?) is Chet Baker, named after a famous jazz musician.  To me, Phoebe has a mysterious Mona Lisa smile, with a touch of attitude, and Chet has a "Just try and mess with my person" look.  Of course, I'm not sure what Phoebe and Chet were actually  thinking, but my initial interpretation was that these two would fiercely protect each other.

Phoebe and Chet--the photo that inspired the Masterwork.  (Photo from Julie's blog, included here with her permission)

Since the image is 2-dimensional and the sculpture is 3-D, I needed to be able to represent Phoebe and Chet from different angles.  After this initial discovery, I've been following Julie's blog (check it out at, where she posts many photos of Chet ("Chet fixes"), along with many other wonderful photos.  [Quick digression--Julie is a Renaissance woman!  Bill is editor of Bird Watcher's Digest--his blog is . (Check out the end of the telescope.)  They know everything here is to know about birds and Nature!] 

That has been most helpful.  However, it was obvious I needed a live model.  I didn't know anyone who had a similar look, but our friend Sheri did....

Savannah came to the studio and was very patient as I took some photos and measurements--if you stand like Phoebe, what do you look like from the side and back; how long are arms relative to hands, relative to face, etc.   Since our dogs are either too big or too wiggly, Savannah held a beach towel part of the time.

Savannah--a most patient model!

I incorporated a lot of realism, but also took some artistic license (see post on Harried Possum).  And, although my initial vision was a red-haired, blue-eyed girl that may change, too.  Hope you don't mind, Phoebe and Savannah!

Per the rules of the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Masterworks Program, Bodyguard may not be shown in any exhibition before the guild show in November.  However, I am allowed to show photos.  So here is a preview--


Bodyguard, close up

As I write this, the piece is drying slowly in my studio.  Please send good karma that it gets through its firings safely (and that I can get it into the kiln!  It's heavy!). 

Currently, I'm working on two other pieces (a middle aged woman cuddling a small dog and an elderly man with an old dog) for this body of work.  More on those later.