Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Brigitta had long anticipated a magical day at the annual Medieval Faire. She had designed her costume with multiple frills, capacious bags and dangerously pointy shoes. Topping it off were the warrior gloves. Perfect! What she never imagined was the owl which at precisely 3:00 PM would plummet from the sky to become a living accessory.

brigitta5a10Brigitta never imagined it, but, from that day on, she was different. The story that she now told about herself included the experience of the owl. Her world was bigger. There were clearer windows, wide-open doors and lower walls. She had made a connection with mystery.

In my own life, I remember a few “owl” times that changed how I saw myself. Some involved interaction with a person. One happened while reading a book. One was a face-to-face with a squirrel. Funny thing is that the more that I pay attention, the more “owl” times that there are.

Who or what are the story-changers in your life?

NOTE: The pictured character was designed by me, Maureen Carlson, from Premo! brigitta7a10Sculpey Polymer Clay plus a bit of wire and foil. Tucked into the concept is a dash of  imagination, the influence of Harry Potter and James Christensen, a fascination with birds that was nurtured by my mother, AnaBel Zelenak Crowell Peck, and a delightful polymer clay technique that I learned from Maggie Maggio called Color Washing.

The face was created using a What a Character Push Mold #F27 that was created by me and produced by Wee Folk Creations: https://www.weefolk.com/molds_list.htm#moldf27 .

Polymer Clay is a heat-set clay that comes in a variety of colors.


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A Conversation
the Pippsywoggin
Addie Brianne






Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, like just last week, and in a place far, far away, on the river bench that overlooks my garden studio, I sat in some state of despondency and contemplated the little door that is nailed to the base of the old willow tree.


I didn’t really expect the door to open or anyone to come out of it, as I knew all too well that it was only a fake door, and that my friends from the edge of imagination, the Pippsywoggins, were not real at all. But I wondered, given a chance, what the Pippsywoggins might have to say to me, today, in the midst of the turmoil that is permeating our world.









And so I sat on the bench, by the little door and stared at the muddy waters of Sand Creek, feeling compelled to be there, but also feeling a bit like a fool.  And then it happened.






An image appeared before me, addiebposter157that of the 5-inch tall Pippsywoggin Addie Brianne, who plopped herself down beside me, crossed her hands under her chin, and looked expectantly over at me with a grin.

I grinned, too, for of course it would be Addie Brianne who would show up. I remembered her story, which begins like this.

Addie Brianne is content with life.  She doesn’t have any great ambition to be a dancer or a seamstress or a writer.  She doesn’t have urges to gather the largest strawberries or the sweetest nectar or the shiniest pebbles.  She is just content to relax and to respond to life as it comes to greet her.


Ah, but don’t think that she is lazy.  No, not for a moment.   Above her front door is a sign that says:  THE FIRST THING TO DO IS TO SHOW UP.  And this she does.  Every day.  With as many of her senses of sight and sound and touch and taste and smell as she can marshal together.

Her little house hangs like a basket in the middle of a clump of willows that grow on the edge of a small farm pond where cattle come to drink, where a pair of Mallards yearly raise a brood of ducklings, and where the neighboring Irish Setter routinely comes to bark at crabs.

Because she has made it a habit to show up, she has been there to see the new calf get his first wobbly drink.  She was present when the littlest duckling got swept through the drainage ditch by the sudden spring downpour, and she glimpsed the look in the Setter’s eyes when he came face to face with the giant snapping turtle.

She shows up, and because she does, opportunities for learning and growth and amazement are continually hers.  The other Pips are a bit jealous of her charmed life.  But, you know, the funny thing is that even though they have visited her little house in the willows many times, none of them have seemed to notice the sign above her door that says:  THE FIRST THING TO DO IS TO SHOW UP.


riverwestposter57I bent down to pick up a twig to throw into current as I contemplated Addie Brianne’s story.  Now what, I said. So what if I show up? How does that change anything in this messed up world and my messy life?

As I said this, Addie jumped up and ran towards the little door at the base of the old willow tree, throwing these words over her shoulder as she entered the door, “It may not change the world but it might change you.”

I hardly had time to think about the implications of what she said when Addie was back in front of me holding a sign that said:



Show up.

Keep it simple.

Keep it honest.

Be true.

Those Pippsywoggins! Always with something new to challenge me!  But I took Addie’s poster home with me and nailed it above my own front door.  You’re welcome to make copies for yourself, if you like. I’m sure that Addie B wouldn’t mind.



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I love it when people surprise me with their wit and humor, curiosity and imagination.  My friend Dawn-Marie Quinche does that quite often, as witnessed by her take on the ordinary rhubarb plant.  Dawn-Marie has been painting her kitchen cupboards, and what better image to put over the door to her compost bucket than the lovely rhubarb plant?  What better image, indeed.

Brings back memories of those long-ago days when my sister and I would pick rhubarb to take in to our mom, then would use the discarded leaves to make lovely skirts and hats.  They were sooooooo BIG.  My romantic, nostalgic reaction to rhubarb is much different from my husband, Dan’s, who thinks rhubarb is best left in the garden all together.  But me?  I love Dawn-Marie’s rendering and the gentle way it takes me on a walk along that inner garden path of memory.

For a treat with words, click on the link to Dawn-Marie’s blog, and scroll down to the April 29 post to see what she has to say about Robert Frost’s Poem, “The Road Less Traveled”.  Made me smile!  And how about the earlier post about the rabbit being painted near the … ( I won’t give that part away.  You’ll have to click to read it!).

And be sure and scroll through her postings about her mural and faux finish work as well.  Delightful!  Dawn-Marie Quinche blog

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Humming the World into Being

leathe_1At the end of my last post I talked about defining the word creative, and how the phrase “I want to be more creative” is used to cover many different yearnings.  You probably already figured out that all of the expressions on the list are mine.  Yup.  It’s true.  I confess.  

But the idea that most absorbs me is the yearning to be more innovative and original.  There’s a trap there, though, for to use the words innovative and original could imply that the work is created in a vacuum, with no influence from the rest of the world, and I know that’s not possible.  The broader my knowledge is of the world of art and design, the more I am able to pick out possible influences and relationships between designs – and designers.  

So I’m going to use a phrase, rather than the words innovative or original, to express my creative goal.  What I strive for is to imbue my work with “the quality of being alive”.  For me that means that there is an energy inherent in the piece, due to a combination of factors, that calls forth an answering hum within me.  When that hum starts a-humming, then I know that I’m immersed in the creative process. 

Inherent within this definition of creativity is the acceptance that “there’s different strokes for different folks” , so what makes me hum may leave you cold.  And that’s OK.  I suspect that the same would be true of any other definition or description.  When I look at or listen to a work of art that calls forth a response from within me, that makes me stop and smile, or cry, or think or chuckle or stand still with awe, then it has established a relationship with me, just as if it were alive.  Which it is – to me at least.

I believe that some day it will be common to see vibrational energy, just as today we see trees or flowers or each other’s faces.   If I am still around, I would be curious to “see” if a copy of a masterpiece, such as the Mona Lisa, would have the same vibrational energy as daVinci’s original.  And I wonder if my work that I do for hire would have the same energy as a work that I created from within the midst of humming.

Well, I’m off to do some humming. 

Talk to you later,


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Creativity Revisited

A Secret Place


Last Sunday Dan and I hung my most recent collection of work at the Fireroast Mountain Cafe in Minneapolis, MN, which is about 35 miles north of where my retreat center is located. I loved hanging the show, and not just because of the great coffee that they gave us as we worked! I don’t regularly sell my work at art fairs or galleries – other than the one at Maureen’s – so this yearly show is an opportunity for me to step back and see what I’ve been doing in the past year – what has held my interest – what direction my thoughts are flowing – where I might be heading in the coming year.

As I looked at the show, whose theme is About Faces, I saw that I had stayed true to my January 29, 2008 post where I said that I am willing to accept that I have the right, and the need, to walk along a line that threads its way between varying degrees of opposites. For there on the wall, not too far from each other, were my serene driftwood sculpture, titled Remembering, and my funny little elves, titled A Secret Place, who were hiding in a shoe. And I loved both sculptures. Both portray part of the story that is me – and how I view the world – yet they surely were opposites in terms of style.

While I liked the selection of pieces that I chose for the show, I also missed the pieces that were still in my mind, not yet created.  Seems that I always have more ideas than time or skills or courage – or lack of it – allow me to produce.  As a result I usually have to step back a bit from my work in order to feel “successful” at meeting my goals – of being true to my creative vision.  Which brings me to the subject of creativity.

Recently I have been having conversations with a group of fellow artists about creativity, what it is and how it is expressed, encouraged, nurtured and honored. (more…)

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Back to the Source

I’ve been on inspiration overload for a few weeks (or maybe a lifetime!). First I was at the Cabin Fever Clay Festival in Laurel, Maryland, then at the National Polymer Clay Guild Synergy Conference in Baltimore, then at the American Craft Council Show at the Baltimore Convention Center, then back at my own dear studio and home where many unfinished projects and sketched ideas awaited my return. Yikes. Made me want to bury my head under a pillow to dream of finding my own voice (which I did, literally, waking up my husband Dan as I struggled in my sleep to give sound to my voice! Must have worked.  He answered!)

I know that the thing that I have to do is to just MAKE A CHOICE AND DO IT. I can’t eat all the candy in the box or see all the movies that attract my attention or keep all of the ideas that float through my head. Life is about choice, and finding a balance line along which we can walk with a sense of equilibrium. So, I’m walking. Today I have to finish the 4th in our series of Puzzle-Face Push Molds, and then I will put my body into my studio chair and create. Art isn’t about dreaming the work, but about making it visible.

I admire those people like Val Daniels and Leslie Blackford who seem to work directly from their heart and souls to their fingertips, without spending endless time analyzing and revisiting and, like my high school Spanish teacher said, “chewing my cabbage twice”. I sat with Leslie for an afternoon at the Synergy Conference, while we both worked at our Vendor Tables. I think I’ll make a little doll in the image of Leslie and set her beside me on my worktable to act as my encourager. There, that’s a decision made!

And now just a word about inspiration. I’ve been seeing seeds and pods everywhere, not only in the “flesh” on the trees in Jordan, where my studio is, but in artwork ranging from doll making to ceramics to polymer clay to paintings and prints, as well as an interesting,though not verified posting, about the origination of the shape of the cocoa cola bottle. Fascinating: http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/bottle.asp

This photo represents work from one of my favorite booths at the Baltimore ACC show. The colors were mesmerizing and so calming. I wanted to LIVE in that booth! The artist is Andy Rogers, who also does photography for other artists. Check him out! http://www.andyrogersceramics.com


Other wonderful pod-related work is that of polymer clay artists Jeff Dever and Kathleen Dustin.

Now back to walking that line ….


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Who Am I, Anyway?

Sweet Fairies
I’ve decided to let go of this struggle I’ve been having about who I am. I’ve been muddling over this question, it seems to me, ever since I was a little kid. (I was a pretty serious kid!)

I’ve always liked questions. To me, answers never seemed quite satisfying, and they were never set in stone. I was always peeking under dogmas and looking skeptically at rules and rethinking decisions. Though I was quiet in my rebellion, I always had to have a solid reason to go along with what others said was true. So, when I tried to put myself into a who-I-am box, I was troubled at the inconsistencies that kept popping to the surface.

Now, finally, I’m making a stand. On a line. I’m going to walk along a crooked line. No box for me. I think, at least for now (no rules, remember?), it works to be riding that line between whimsical and serious, earthy and in the clouds, teacher and student, childlike and wise. To illustrate this point to myself (for isn’t that why we really write, for ourselves?), I chose two photos from my file, Sweet Fairies and The Moment of Choice. As I look at these photos, they seem pretty opposite to me. The casual viewer might not know that one artist created both of them. Yet I did. Yes, they were created at very different times in my life, but both still hold personal meaning for me.

The little fairies were created around 1990, and were purchased at the Minnesota Renasissance Festival by my mother, AnaBel Peck. When she died in 2005, I inherited them, and I was particularly happy to have them back, as I had always loved them. Why? I love their spirit. I love that they are alive with joy. I love that they give a glimpse into an unseen world of imagination and play. I love that my mother loved them! And I love that they still make me laugh.

And the framed piece? I made that one in 2007. I love that it reflects my serious side. It talks to me about stretching my artistic skills and about choosing to make a direct spiritual statement through my work.

Moment of ChoiceRecently I read the book Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I really enjoyed reading about her determination and resulting struggle to ride that line between seemingly conflicting values. Eat or pray? Love or pray? Love and pray? Pray then love? Eat then love? Love and love? Body and pleasure or spirit and godliness? Her life would have been easier if she would have chosen one harmonious, simple way of being, but it wasn’t her. On page 29 she talks about “the great Sufi poet and philosopher Rumi once advising his students to write down the three things they most wanted in life. If any item on the list clashed with any other item, he advised, then you are destined for unhappiness. Better to live a life of single-pointed focus, he taught.” Elizabeth balked at that premise, and set out to explore how she might live harmoniously amid extremes. And she did find success – or at least a riveting story to tell.

I’m not about to set out for Italy or India, nor settle into paradise amidst the aromas of intoxicating Indonesia, but I am willing to accept that I have the right, and the need, to walk along a line that threads its way between varying degrees of opposites. To help guide my way, I’ve chosen three things as what I most want in life, and by these I’ll measure what I choose to do in 2008. The three corners of my triangular guide are (1) the awareness and experience of the mysteries of spirit, (2) connections with people, and (3) immersion in the creative process. I don’t think there are any conflicts there, in principle, but there will be some hard choices. And, I think, much more clarity as I walk my path.

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